Thursday, November 26, 2015

Through the Mud and the Blood - Early War Second Battle of Ypres scenario

Earlier this month I headed out to visit Curt of Analogue Hobbies Blog Spot who was also a founding member of our very own Fawcett Ave Conscripts group.  The visit was for a weekend of random gaming fun with Curt and his merry band of followers, or at least his Friday night gaming group.  We played several different miniature games and even strayed into board games as well over the few days.

One of the games I took out was the excellent Through the Blood and the Mud World War 1 game by the Too Fat Lardies.  I ran a scenario set in the early war during the Second Battle of Ypres. While not historically accurate or set on any one specific battle it was one made up of elements of several fights, rolled into one to make a good game.  I had done this for a few reasons, one of which was to help with traveling light so that I could take less terrain and make it work on the new mat I got from Cigar Box Games.  It allowed me to not have to pack as many trees, no roads or rivers at all, and use whatever hills Curt had as they go under the mat. 

The game started with the Germans setup at the crossroads and the Canadians
coming on the board, everyone started concealed as blinds
The basic idea of the scenario was that the Canadians had broken through the German lines on their first night in battle somewhere along the front between Kitchener's and Sanctuary wood.  They made their way forward disrupting the German lines and pushed through to the German rear lines.  The Germans are caught by surprise at a small group of homes near a crossroad but know they have to hold our as long as they can to ensure that fresh troops have time to move up into position behind them to repulse the attack.  I borrowed the random game length idea of a "Tempus Fugit" deck that I first saw in one of the published scenarios from the Lardies to add a random nature to how long the Germans would have to hold. 

Curt and Jeremy played as the Germans, while Stacy and Sylvain led the Canadian forces.
The German HMG along with a rifle team, revealed that they had setup in the
woods and opened fire on the advancing Canadians, inflicting heavy casualties
on a section and driving that section back over the course of two turns.
The Canadian rifle team was quickly torn apart and reduced
below combat effectiveness.
The Canadians would score points for each killed or captured German, while the Germans would score points for each killed Canadian or escaped German.  German soldiers could escape based on how far they were from any Canadian soldiers when time ran out.  To represent the fact that the Germans were desperate to hold out and beat back the Canadian assault, they would need to do twice as much as the Canadians to win (so each Canadian "point" was worth 2).

A small German rifle team tries to prevent the Canadians from crossing
a small stream and flanking the German right flank.

Curt with his artistic flair insisted on an "action" shot.
 On the German left flank, the Canadians massed units in the woods opposite the crossroads and then tried to suppress the Germans before launching an assault.  The German forces were dug into better cover though and were therefor harder to both hit and hurt than the Canadians were. This meant that the firefight across the road lasted many turns despite the Canadians outnumbering the Germans by two to one.

Two Canadian sections already setup along the edge of the woods,
and three more coming up behind to support them!

The Germans only had one rifle section in the farm house,
and a section next to them in the woods, but that section was also
dealing with units coming up the road.
The game initially went very much in the Germans favour with them ripping apart one section very quickly, pinning two others, and getting lucky on both the activation and the time flies card decks.  It seemed like they would wipe the Canadians out in short order.

As is true in many battles though, the tide turned unexpectedly and swiftly on them as they suddenly ran out of luck about halfway through the game.  At that point for several turns in a row, the Canadians got almost every activation card they needed, before the German card for the unit they faced.  Worse than that (for the Germans at least), the Canadians got hot with their dice, and the Germans dice froze over.

After a few hot Canadian turns the Germans got word (the time flies deck ran out) that their reinforcements were setup behind them and they retreated from the field of battle.  It was a little too late for the Germans though, as the Canadians had closed in close enough to capture a majority of the German soldiers.

The final score was 52 to 28 in favour of the Canadians.  As the games referee I had worried early on that the Canadians would not even reach the German lines let alone get enough points for a tie, and due to a run of luck in the late game they completely turned the tables on the Germans.

The game once again reinforced for me how extremely simple the rule system by the Too Fat Lardies is, yet how well it seems to capture the real ebb and flow of battles.  It more than any other rule set for WW1 that I have played really gives me the feel of that grinding battle, yet allows for heroic changes in fate. 

Thanks to Curt for hosting and to Sylvain, Stacy, and Jeremy for playing.  It was an awesome visit and game, and one well worth repeating!


Dallas said...

Great report, Byron! I'm still grinding away at my early-war Germans...

Greg B said...

Great game guys! Loving those Cigar Box mats...

Curt said...

It was a great game Byron and thanks so much for putting it on for us.

At the start I thought the Canadians would be cut down at the tree-line by the 08 Machinegun, but they got the cards they needed while we were caught changing ammo belts. Once they got on our flank we were done for. A very exciting game and I very much look forward to the next one.

Sander said...

Great looking table and a nice report to read! I will be travelling to Ypres tomorrow with 122 schoolkids to make sure we will not forget!

Pete. said...

Great looking game- nice report too.



DaveV said...

Great looking game Byron! Those Cigar Box mats are the cat's ass.