Thursday, 20 February 2020

Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad 1916

It's Xmas Time, or it was a month or two ago, and Xmas means Mesopotamia here at YG. Over the years we have fought our way up from Basra to the outskirts of Bagdad only to be forced back to Kut where our last game saw the Turkish forces trying to break into that town.

With the Poona Division tied up in Kut we move to the newly formed Tigris Corps and their attempts to relieve the siege.

Highland Regiment waiting to attack
Historical Background 

South of Kut at Ali Gharbi, Lt Gen Alymer was putting together a force to save Gen Townsend and his besieged men. Pressure from above was strong to get the relief force in motion and Alymer set off on the 4th Jan 1916 with just three Brigades of Infantry and some Cavalry, around 10000 foot and 1340 Cavalry supported by 42 guns of various calibre.

British Cavalry waiting for the off
The Turkish Forces had settled into a siege at Kut, the German Commander Von Glitz over ruling the Turkish Officers who remained in favour of taking Kut by force. A substantial amount of the soldiers in the area were needed to keep the British hemmed in. It was down to Colonel Pasha and his XIII Corps to move down river and position themselves to block the advancing Empire Force digging in just south of Sheikh Sa'ad.

Turkish Lancers
The British and Indian Troops were advancing blind, the weather preventing any air Recon and the Cavalry not immediately available. Younghusband, in charge of the leading troops said "with no means of reconnoitering and the country as flat as a billiard table, the only way to find the enemy was to bump into them". On the 5th of Jan 1916 word came from local tribesmen that the Turks just up stream, the next day Younghusband did bump into the Turkish positions.

Turkish troops wait patiently for the Empire troops to advance into range
Set Up and Terrain 

The game was played on our usual 12 x 6 table using the Too Fat Lardies rules "If the Lord Spares Us" which are specifically designed for Mesopotamia Palestine etc using 28mm figs from a variety of companies, mostly Woodbine Design Company but with Artizan, Great War, East Ablaze and Empress added in.

Above shows the Turkish positions, empty of figures for the moment, the picture below is the Empire side.

The terrain is very sparse, the odd area of scrub with a couple of low rises randomly placed. The river Tigris has been considerably shrunk in width to give more playable area, it had no effect on the Battle other than splitting the attacking and defending forces. Below is the only map I have found of the battle, pretty sparse as you can see.

British Briefing and OOB 

The British task is simple break through the Turkish positions in front and race to Kut to rescue the besieged troops there. The game represents the initial attacks of the 6th.

Each Empire Battlion is represented on table by a 2 Fig HQ, 4 x 8 men Companies and 1 MG base, not all units present on the day are represented.

Army Command - 4 figs rated Eton.

28th Brigade - 2nd Leics Regt (with 1 Lewis Gun per Company), 51st Sikhs and 56th Punjabi, set up on the left bank (as viewed from the British Lines).

British Signallers with urgent Tea supplies
19th Brigade - Seaforth Highlanders (with Lewis Guns), 28th Punjabis with the 92nd Punjabis in support off table. Centre of the lines.

35th Brigade - 1/5 Buffs (no Lewis Gun Teams), 37th Dogras and the 97th Deccan Infantry in support off table. Right side of Empire lines, as shown in set up photo so flank is about 2/3 of the way down the table,  with 1 Sqn of Cavalry on right flank (thats all 1 have painted).

Artillery 4 Batteries (1 gun model each) , 1 with each Brigade and 1 spare.

Empire Supports arrive on a throw of 9 or more on 2d6 any turn after the 5th.

Empire troops are unaware of the exact location or strength of the Turkish Troops and at the start of the game all they can see are empty trenches. Turkish troops become visible at 20", and cannot be fired at from a range great that that by none artillery units.

British units are give a Rating of 0, Indian 2, Highlanders are classed as Aggressive.

Turkish Briefing and OOB 

Unbeknown to the Empire leaders on the 6th January they outnumbered the defenders quite considerably nearly 4 to 1. The Turkish troops initially will struggle to cover the whole frontage.

It's not Mesopotamia without some random Marsh Arabs 
Army Command - 4 Figures rated Young Turk

Initial on table units are 3 Battalions each with,

1 HQ Section 2 Figs, 4 x 8 Fig companies with 1 MG base in support.

Also there are,

2 Batteries of Artillery, 1 unit of Lancers (12 figures) and 1 unit of Camel Mounted Marsh Arabs.

The Infantry can set up (hidden) anywhere in the trenches, the mounted units on the left flank.

Turkish troops fire and spot as normal with no restrictions. Turkish Troops are all graded 2.

There are two Battalions of Infantry in reserve, organised as above. They are activated if the British get a foothold in any of the Turkish trenches. The Turkish Commander must decide which side of the river each battalion is before the game starts.

In the next post I will have a look at how our game went compared to the actual event.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Italian Wars Campaigning

An interesting question came up on the Twitters whilst I was chatting about my review of the Furioso rule set, what about a Campaign System ? You know each player is a Condottiero building his forces and manoeuvring for position, fortune and fame in late 15th Century Italy, that sort of thing.

Well sit back, I think I have found it.

I present Dell'arte Del La Guerra from a Company who are new too me Real Time Wargames. I found them during a random search on the Googles, I couldn't find much information or reviews about them on the tinterwebnet so I took a punt.

The book has a Campaign System for up to 6 players to take the role of a Condottiero in the late 15th Century in the years leading up to the French Invasion in 1495 (or invitation depending on your viewpoint), everything I mentioned in my opening paragraph.

They are avaliable as a PDF for around £10 from Wargames Vault (you would need to print and mount the game cards this way) or direct from the company as a printed version complete with gaming aids for £20 (link below)

I bought the printed version and if it's your thing I would go for that version as will become plain during the review.

The Contents

First thing to say is that the book also has some tabletop rules within them, this review does not cover that part of the publication, I am happy with Furioso at the moment. 1st off a video covering the physical content of the book.

For those who don't do the Utube here are some stills of content. The use of the cards becomes clearer when watched in conjunction with the game play video.

Above are the game mats included in the printed version, we have,

  1. A fast play sheet for the tabletop rules
  2. A chart for recording current financial details of the players and the City States involved.
  3. A campaign chart for army movement.
  4. A Chart for recording passage of time during the Campaign 

A set of Unit Cards for each of the Condottiero, defining two units from that army, they are printed on decent card and are good quality. Each of the 6 players have 10 cards each.

Next up are three sets of cards, one each for the two schools of warfare in the game. These are specifically for the tabletop rules and are used to influence game play, however I don't think they would be too difficult to adapt to whatever rule set you use.

The third deck are objective cards, these are drawn at random each game year and provide a focus for the campaign.

Above is a picture of the remaining cards in the set, there a unit cards for the City States (50 cards) plus a number of cards representing the French Invaders.

The rest of the cards are for use on the Campaign Charts shown above, things like markers for money on the finance chart, army position markers, debt markers for money owed etc

In fact everything you need, bar a few dice and a deck of playing cards. There are hundreds of cards here and for me, well worth the extra 10 quid.

Campaign Game Play

The next section covers an example of the set up and workings of the Campaign, I have done this solely on the Utubes as it's much easier to present that way.

Hopefully that will have given you an idea of the rule set and how they might work for you. Don't forget they include a tabletop rule set as well.

The movement map for the armies is very straight forward and some may miss a more traditional map based system but it's a nice simple way of working out Army Movement and we will definitely be giving it a go. 

I'm off to raise (ok paint) some more troops for his Holiness, "Viva il Papa"

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Book Review - The Italian Wars Part 1 Helion Publishing

Something I've not done before, a Book Review, Yarkshire Gamer is turning into Radio 4 I hear you cry !

To make life easier the extensive Production Crew at Yarkshire TV have done a little 5 minute feature on the book.

The book can be purchased direct from the publisher on the link below, £19.95 including post and packing,

There are 128 pages with black and white illustrations throughout and colour plates (example above) in the centre.

It contains everything you would expect from a Book of this type, history, armies involved, battle description etc, I particularly liked the modern day photos of the field and also the "orbat" in the Appendix.

So in short everything I needed a year ago when I started my army ! Is there a conspiracy 🤔 plenty of new ideas for units going ahead. Definitely Recommended

Monday, 23 December 2019

Op Compass Game 8 - Don't wake the Sergeant

After a few games clearing forts it was time to get back in the open desert, pack away those almost indestructible Matildas and break out the wafer thin armoured early Cruiser Tanks. Here is the scenario / orbat and AAR of Game 8 of our  Op Compass Campaign.

A9 Cruiser Tanks
If you want more information on the Campaign I have set up a separate page which is updated regularly with updates on rules along with links to all the previous games,

The games are based on an excellent book by Robert Avery which is available from The Toofatlardies, there is a direct link to purchase the 
book on the Resource Page.We use 28mm figures with this scenario taking place on an 12 x 6 table using a home brew set of rules, based on Iron Ivans Disposable Hero's.

A10 Cruiser Tank
Historical Background 

The Italian troops in the area had been bottled up in Sidi Barrani and the British paused to reorganise before making their attacks on the afternoon of the 10th December 1940. The defenders crumbled quickly and by night fall the last defenders of the town were pinned back to the sea.

Our game represents an attack by the Cruiser Tanks of 6 RTR against this final line of Italian troops. The original attack happened during the hours of darkness, I have decided to run the game under normal daylight rules.

Table Set Up and Terrain 

The photo above shows the table, we are playing on the full 12 x 6 layout. A flat area of desert with some undulating sand dunes and some areas of Scrub, a track runs down one edge of the table. I added two buildings post photo one in the far top right of the table and a second to the left of the green hill.

The following Special Rules are in force (see Resource Page for full details)

Bad Going

Italian Prisoners - when Italian Infantry become pinned roll 1d6, on a 5 or 6 the unit surrenders, add +2 to the die roll per additional pin. Once surrendered the unit will March towards the British entry point, it must be accompanied by a British Unit (within 9") until it leaves the table. 1 Tank can safely escort or hold 20 Figures of Italians. Once the prisoners leave the table the vehicles can resume normal duties.

Italian Artillery Crew Morale - they do not take morale tests and fight to the last man.

Dunes - all the hills are soft sand, any bad going rolls made on the hills are subject to a one shift on the dice. I.e. a roll of 3 and 4 on two d6 would not normally bog a vehicle down but a dune, the 3 is modified to a 4 to make it a double 4.

Italian Prisoners (marked with white counter) March towards the British 
British Briefing 

With the fall of the forts it's a case of mopping up the last bits of resistance in the area, Intel suggests there are some small Infantry units supported by a decent amount of Artillery. Be careful, your tanks are thinly armoured and not that reliable !

Squadron HQ 1 x A10 Cruiser Tank and 1 x A10 CS Tank
1st Troop - 3 x A9 Cruiser Tanks 
2nd Troop 3 x A10 Cruiser Tanks 

You have a two fold objective, One, destroy all the Italian Guns (Artillery and Anti Tank) and two, capture (alive) the Italian Captain who is sound asleep in the house at the opposite end of the table.

All units enter the table on the track, in column from the bottom left hand corner of the table (as viewed in the photo above).

A9 tank "Amos" in the dunes

Italian Briefing 

The lakes of Northern Italy seem a distant dream now and you long for home as this war goes from bad to worse.

You are in Command of a group of mixed Guns supported by some infantry units. Morale in the foot soldiers remains very low and you know they could break at any point. The pride in the Artillery units gives you some confidence but this is going to be a long day.

The Commander sleeps soundly whilst his driver waits outside.
Your Mission is to do as much damage as you can to the advancing enemy whilst keeping your Commander safe.

1 x HQ 2 Figures with Staff Car 
4 x 10 man Infantry Squads each with 1 Sgt with SMG and 9 Rifles 
2 x 47mm Anti Tank Guns and crew
2 x 65mm Infantry Guns and crew
2 x 75mm Fields Gun and crew

Free set up, all units begin the game hidden.

Italian Anti Tank Gun
How did we get on

The Italians set up with some infantry in the forward house, the oasis and the long sand dune, the final squad was guarding the Commander, the first three to act as Art observers. The Artillery was set up by the Commanders house whilst the Anti Tank Guns were both on the long sand dune. The Infantry Guns were split, One near the Oasis and one in the far top left palm grove.

Italian Infantry spotting for the guns

In what was going to be the first of many mechanical issues for the British one of the A10s broke down on the turn of the first event card.

A couple of A9s quickly located one of the Italian Squads.

Some sustained MG fire from the two tanks persuaded the Infantry to surrender and it was round 1 to the British.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Brits as Italian Guns rained shells down on the advancing tanks.

Things got a little hairy for the prisoners (and the A9s) when some random Artillery rounds landed close by.

It wasn't long before the Italian Artillery hit home as a 75mm shell landed on the roof of one of the A10s.

One of the A9s located some Italian Infantry at the last minute hidden by the Oasis and was safe in the knowledge that they only had rifles.

What they didn't see was the Anti Tank Gun hidden in the dunes behind the Infantry.

The first line of the Italian positions were clear after the Infantry in the house surrendered and the remaining 6 British Tanks advanced towards their objectives.

The CS Tank remained near the base line, it's ranged capability allowed it to both support the attack with its 3 inch Howitzer and remain near the base line to escort the prisoners away.

The Brits approached the last Italian positions and we were in for an exciting conclusion.

The slower moving A10 Tanks ended up in a cross fire from the Anti Tank Guns on the dunes around the Commanders house, the Infantry Gun in the Palm Grove and the indirect Artillery. It didn't end well for the British who lost two tanks in quick succession (see first photo), One A10 was lost to an Artillery round which went off under it's right side track turning it over, the other from an Infantry Gun shell in its side (boy those Cruisers are thinly armoured)

It wasn't all Team Italy though and the remaining Anti Tank Guns were taken out by the British machine guns.

It was desperate stuff, the Italians only had one spotter left for two Artillery pieces and as a last ditch defensive move one of the 75mm guns exposed itself to the machine guns so it could fire over open sights. 

Just at that moment the above A9 set off to get a better shooting position at the gun, only it didn't move, years ground and engine smoked but it was completely broken.

The British had three tanks left now but the A10 CS was about 10 feet in table distance from the action and the other remaining A10 was bogged down near it's destroyed friends which just left 1 A9, the ever dependable "Arnold".

In a rather unfortunate twist of fate as the final A9 advanced towards it's final objective an Event Card draw came up, it was a breakdown, the British roll for how bad it was, a 6 was rolled, total mechanical break down and a very rare total victory for the Italian Forces.

So a 4 point victory for the Italians narrowing the scores for the campaign to a single game span, British 18 Italian 14.

Another extremely close game, both sides had chances to win. On table now is our traditional WW1 Mesopotamia game, expect some more Compass early in the new year.