Saturday, 18 June 2016

Star Wars Armada: Encounter at base NS-207B

Admiral Dracip stood unmoving on the command deck of his Star Destroyer, Retribution. The greying veteran was lost deep in thought. Where could the Rebel fleet be? Dracip's task force had received orders to intercept and destroy a Rebel fleet active in the sector. The elusive enemy had already captured a number of Imperial supply convoys, but had thus far managed to evade Imperial patrols.

The Admiral's brooding was disrupted by a cough and some rustling from behind. There stood captain Krik, the fleet's chief intelligence officer. How long had the dark haired subaltern been there? Dracip disliked Krik, who was a cunning little thing that knew a bit too much and was probably out to supplant the elderly admiral. Unfortunately, Krik was too well connected to get rid off, and Dracip had to grudgingly admit that the younger man was good at what he did.

"What is it!?" Dracip barked.

"Sir, I have them!" The subaltern beamed proudly, undoubtedly taking credit for his underling's hard work. "My informants have indicated that the Rebel fleet plans to resupply at a remote space station on the fringes of the Nuthra system. A long range scan of the system indicates that several ships have indeed entered the area."

"Excellent! We must move out at once. Assemble the fleet and plot a course to this base. We shall wait until the Rebels have brought in their entire fleet and then come out of hyper space as close as possible. The enemy won't escape us this time!"

The encounter at base NS-207B

We played a scenario where the objective of both sides was to control the space station in the centre, while destroying as much of the opposing fleet as possible. I played the Imperials, fielding three Victory I class Star Destroyers (Retribution, Justice and Sentinel), 7 squadrons of Tie Fighters and 2 squadrons of Tie Bombers. The Rebel fleet consisted of an Assault Frigate Mark II (their flagship), two Nebulon B Frigates, a Corelian Corvette, two squadrons of A-wings, a squadron of X-wings, squadron of B-wings and squadron of Y-wings. The Rebels had the initiative (going first).

The Imperial manoeuvre catches the rebel scum off-guard (again)!

The opposing fleets close in on space station NS-207B

Imperial Star Destroyers advance menacingly

The Rebel fleet is a more motley assortment of ships

Space station NS-207B

This game was powered by Imperial lager

The Imperial fleet came out hyper space exactly as planned. The three Star Destroyers advancing side by side were a menacing sight, which threw the Rebels off guard. However, the supplies on station NS-207B were too valuable for the Rebels to abandon, and so they sped forward. In no time, the Rebel fleet had converged around the station and loading of the supplies could commence. The smaller, faster ships of the Rebel fleet were moving at great speed and started to bank right, with the obvious plan to by-pass and wheel around the imposing wall of death projected by the Star Destroyers' forward batteries. The Assault Frigate advanced more cautiously, apparently planning to defend the station while the supplies would be loaded.

On the Imperial side, Justice and Retribution advanced as fast as they could towards the station, whilst Sentinel on the right followed more slowly. Swarms of Tie Fighters were deployed and they hovered in front of the Star Destroyers, screening the capital ships from the Rebel bombers. As soon as the enemy came within range, the Tie Fighters sped forward to engage the Rebel squadrons. In no time at all, the Rebel squadrons were engaged and slowly both sides started to lose fighters.

Both sides scramble for the space station. The faster Rebel ships reach the target first.

Star Destroyer Sentinel, on the right flank, had misinterpreted the Rebel's plan and gets left behind.

Tie Fighter ace "Mauler" Mithel engages the Rebel A-wings

While the fighters engaged each other, the capital ships of both fleets continued on their trajectories. The Imperial Star Destroyers lumbered towards the space station whilst the lighter Rebel ships veered right. A few shots were traded at long range, but it was not long before the fleets clashed violently and true carnage could begin. The Star Destroyers were at their most effective at close range, while the nimble Rebel ships would have preferred to snipe at the enemy from long range.

The Corelian Corvette took a few heavy hits which dropped its shields, but the real punishment of the Imperial fleet was meted on one of the Nebulon-B Frigates, which lingered too long in the killing ground formed by the firing sector of two Star Destroyers. The Rebel captain tried to frantically weave left and right to avoid the shots, redirected his shields to the threatened sector and, when those efforts failed, attempted to increase speed to get out of the fire. It was all to no avail, and the short but deadly concentration of fire incinerated the overwhelmed frigate. The second Rebel frigate and the Corelian Corvette made it through the gauntlet and got round to the rear of the Star Destroyers. 

All hell breaks loose in the centre

One Rebel ship is destroyed, but the remaining Nebulon-B Frigate and Corelian Corvette make it to the Imperial rear.

However, the Rebel fleet had teeth of its own, and the Star Destroyers too started to feel the hurt. The Rebels chose to concentrate their fire against the Imperial capital ship, Retribution, which was situated in the middle of the Imperial line. Retribution was hit particularly hard by the close-range fire of the Assault Frigate, which continued loading supplies from the space station. Retribution returned fire and the squadrons of Tie Bombers started making bombing runs against the large Rebel ship. Star Destroyers Justice and Sentinel started to move up on either flank of the Rebel flagship. Meanwhile, the Tie Fighters had gained the upper hand against the less numerous rebel squadrons and slowly but surely eradicated the enemy fighters one by one. The Imperial fleet also gained control of the space station as their fleet began closing in from all sides.

The flagships of both fleets are locked in a deadly duel.

As the Corvette and Nebulon-B Frigate wheeled around the Imperial line, the predicament of Star Destroyer Retribution got worse. There was insufficient room for the Imperial flagship to manoeuvre past the Rebel's Assault Frigate, which kept pummelling its hapless prey from point-blank range. The ship's shields were down and the crew was hard pressed to put out the numerous small fires that had sprung up whilst trying to repair the ships systems, which were failing one by one. The lighter Rebel ships threw in their fire from the rear, which sealed the Star Destroyer's fate. With its hull breached in a dozen places, Admiral Dracip ordered all crew to abandon ship. Proud and standing tall, the admiral refused to abandon his station. One by one the lights flickered out and the engines died down. Slowly, the airless hulk continued on its trajectory and drifted off to space.

Star Destroyer Retribution is destroyed, followed shortly after by the Rebel flagship.

Remaining Rebel squadrons are swamped and destroyed.

The Rebels' elation was short lived, however, as they were in trouble of their own. Star Destroyers Justice and Sentinel drifted forward on either side of the large Rebel flagship, taking the beleaguered ship in a deadly crossfire. The hunter had become the hunted, and now it was the Rebel ships turn to frantically seek an escape from this trap. It was too late, however, to escape the wrath of the Star Destroyers. A well concentrated fire knocked out the Assault Frigate's shields on either flank, leaving the flagship a sitting duck. Sensing the inevitable, the captain attempted to contact the Imperial ships to negotiate a surrender.

The Imperial fleet did not heed this plea. It has been suggested that the Rebel ship's transmitters had been knocked out and that the plea for mercy never got through. Others say that the Imperial ships refused to accept the surrender. What the truth is, we don't know. What we do know is that a final, massive bombardment took the Rebel ship in both flanks simultaneously and that one of these rounds penetrated the ships reactors. The overheating reactors went critical and the Rebel fleet's capital ship disappeared in a brilliant explosion.

This was too much for the remaining Rebel ships: the remaining Nebulon-B Frigate and a Corelian Corvette. The Imperial Star Destroyers began wheeling about to engage the smaller ships and the Tie Fighters, having dispatched the remaining Rebel squadrons, moved to engage the capital ships. A few more shots were traded, but to little effect. The Rebel ships manoeuvred for a while and plotted the course for a hyper jump out of the system. In a flash, the remnants of the Rebel fleet activated their hyper drives and disappeared. The Nuthra system had been pacified - for now.

The Star Destroyers begin wheeling to engage the remaining Rebel ships

The Rebel ships move to escape

Imperial ships closing in, the Rebel ships engage their hyper drives and make a jump out of the system.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Black Powder: The Battle of Narva 1700

The battle of Narva in 1700 has been hailed as Sweden's greatest victory. A small Swedish army under the dynamic Charles XII managed to surprise and outmanoeuvre a much larger Russian force besieging Narva-Ivangorod. Under the cover of a blizzard, the Swedes launched a concentrated assault against the Russian centre. Historically the Russian positions were overwhelmed and a large portion of their army was either killed trying to flee across the only bridge over the Narva-river, or forced to surrender. Hundreds of cannons and standards were captured and the 18-year old Swedish monarch's reputation was made.

Yesterday we re-fought this legendary battle using Black Powder rules and a scenario I had written (which is made available on this same blog). I acted as the (very pro-Russian) umpire whilst two players commanded both the Swedish and Russian armies. The Swedish objective was to rout the Russian army and/or gain control of the terrain behind the siege works on either the left or right flank. The Russian army was strung out across the length of the table, but there was a very strong fortified camp filled with Russians in the centre. The Swedes were divided into two columns, with General Rehnskiold's division on the left and General Vellingk's division on the right.


The Swedes are eager to get to grips

Russian defenders of the fortified camp

More Russians (Veyde's division) ready to take on the Swedes

Swedish generals looking thoughtful

Russian generals playing with their artillery

Under the cover of the snowstorm, the Swedes started their assault. The left wing under Rehnskiold advanced rapidly under the competent general, with morale and discipline further buoyed by the presence of Charles XII nearby. Rehnskiold placed his men in a deep column, with one regiment after the other, which assaulted the fortifications in front of them. Unfortunately, the assault was poorly coordinated. The brave Swedes took lethal fire to their front and flank, which disrupted the assault and forced them to retire.

Rehnskiold's assault goes in, taking fire from left, right and centre

Rehnskiold would not leave it at that however, and a second assault was planned more carefully. This time the elite Dal regiment would launch the assault supported by grenadiers. The other regiments would fan out more in order to tie down more Russian defenders and support the assault. The plan worked, and with a terrifying scream the Swedes scaled the ramparts and overwhelmed the defenders. Several Russian regiments broke and a breach had been made!

Rehnskiold's second assault is better coordinated and led by his elite troops

The Dal regiment make a breach!

Meanwhile, things were not going as planned on the right wing. Vellingk was having trouble coordinating his regiments in the howling blizzard, which reduced his advance to a crawl. All the while Russian cannonballs kept hammering the Swedes, although the blizzard shielded the Swedes from the worst of the barrage.

Finally, much later than the left flank, the right managed to close with the enemy. Led by the King's Lifeguard, Vellingk's division assaulted the fortified camp in the centre. This assault was intended to support Rehnskiold on the left whilst minimizing the incoming fire from the right. However, this was also the strongest position of the Russian line. The Russians were definitely willing to fight dearly for this piece of ground, which they proved by giving the Lifeguard a thrashing (some pretty lucky dice rolling here!). The Lifeguard held, and with pure tenacity forced the Russians back. Another breach had been made and several batteries of Russian guns were captured!

Vellingk's division advances cautiously

View around turn 4

Vellingk finally manages to get his men to assault the Russian positions

After humiliating setbacks, the Swedish Lifeguard regiment breach the fortified camp

Swedish cavalry meant to tie down the Russians on either flank (off-board) were obviously faring badly, as the Russians managed to bring in four new regiments (four rolls of 6 on six dice!). This allowed the Russians to begin redeploying some of their forces from both the left and right to counter the breach in the centre. The blizzard also started to quieten down and, by turn 6, the skies were clear and the full lethality of Russian fire could be unleashed on the Swedes.

On the left, Rehnskiold pushed his advantage and continued the assault with the elated Dal regiment. The assault hit the Russians hard, but they held. Swedish reinforcements were direly needed in the breach and Rehnskiold ordered his reinforcements forward. This is when disaster struck!

Vellingk had failed to sufficiently tie down the garrison of the fortified camp (due to his delayed advance and some miscommunication between the commanders), which enabled the garrison to fire withering traversing fire at the Swedes trying to push through. This was enough to send one of the Swedish regiments back in disarray. Almost at the same moment, a second Swedish regiment routed after heavy pummelling from Russian canister and volley fire. 

Reinforcements were not forthcoming and Dal regiment was left stranded deep behind the Russian lines. The elite unit certainly gave everything they got, but there were simply too many Russian reserves and eventually the boys in blue were routed. Rehnskiold's division was now broken. The Russians had managed to contain the breach on this sector.

Russian left wing (Veyde) forces redeploy to the centre

Dal regiment push on

Where are the reinforcements!? Dal regiment gets cut off and overwhelmed.

Rehnskiold's reinforcements are obliterated by Russian fire.

Meanwhile, the slogging match in the centre continued. Västmanland infantry regiment also assaulted the Russians whilst the Lifeguard traded volleys with the Novgorod infantry regiment. Vellingk attempted to rally the shaken Lifeguard, who took affront at some of the generals cajoling and assaulted the Novgorodians (a blunder!). This Swedish Fury was too much for the battered defenders of the fortified camp. The Novgorodians routed and the brigade broke (4/6 units destroyed), leaving the position in Swedish hands. However, the cost had been great for the Swedes as well, and Vellingk's division broke at the same time (3/4 units shaken).

With Russian reserves pouring in and their infantry in tatters, the Swedes had little choice but to abandon the positions which had been so dearly won. Under the cover of their cavalry screen the Swedes would begin their inevitable and gruelling retreat across the frozen and ravaged countryside to Reval. With no hope of succour, the garrison of Narva would capitulate as well.

The Lifeguard launch one final assault to secure the fortification, but the cost is high and the Swedish division becomes broken as well

Russian reinforcements have bolstered the defences beyond hope of capture

Final positions

Closing thoughts

In my mind, there were two main reasons for the Swedish loss in this game. The first was the devastating fire borne particularly by the Swedes' left wing (Rehnskiold), which was a result of being stuck for too long in front of the fortifications and passing too close to the fortified camp (more guns to bear + lethal traversing fire). A better organized assault further from the fortified camp could have succeeded better.

The other mistake was assaulting the fortified camp in the first place. This was the strongest division the Russians fielded. The rules for movement in the fortified camp (rough going, -1 command if trying to move out of the camp) also meant that it was unlikely the Russian garrison could move out to support the flanks and that any Swedish success in capturing the fortified position would conversely have a hard time pushing past the camp to the objectives.

The Russians had around 7 regiments broken or shaken at the end of the game, but these were mostly from the large garrison in the fortified camp. Had these been inflicted on the flanking divisions and the assaults aimed further at the camp, there would have been more likelihood of the Swedes being victorious (capturing even one of the flanks or routing 2/3 divisions would have been sufficient).

This was also the first time we tried this scenario. Based on this test I adapted the scenario a bit to make it easier for the Swedes. The fortifications yielded +2 morale in our game but I changes this to only +1 in combat. I also made it less likely for the blizzard to end, reducing the roll from 4+ to 5+. We'll see how these changes impact the scenario the next time we try it. If anyone is encouraged to try it out, please let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Great Northern War - Moskovski infantry regiment + general

Another regiment finished for my Great Northern War Russians. This time it's the Moscow infantry regiment in their scarlet uniforms. The minis are once again from Warfare Miniatures, but with a few additions from Ebor (officer, sergeant, casualty) to add variety to the previous units. I also painted a general (Footsore miniatures) to command my fledgling division of three regiments.