Last weekend’s big game at Evesham, hosted by the fine chaps at Gripping Beast and organised by VBCWmeister ‘Mort’, was brilliant! Let me make that clear now, for after reading the following battle report, you’d be forgiven for thinking I had a miserable time!
The town of Causton and its environs was represented by two tables, each resplendent with lovely bits of terrain and buildings. One table represented the northern approaches to the town, the other the south, with the town straddling the gap between the two. This gap represented the largely impassable river, with the exception of when it meandered out into the southern table.
|The northern table|
|The southern table|
Having only recently started collecting and painting VBCW miniatures, I had my work cut out building up an army to the 2500 points size required by the scenario. In the end my force – the Herefordshire Expeditionary Brigade – consisted of my battalion of Blackshorts (command, three infantry companies and HMG and anti-tank rifle support), my LPA battalion (command, two companies of shotgun infantry, a team of snipers and a mob of scarecrow protesters) and enough figures scraped together to make a brigade command (including my Edward VIII and Wallis figures – impersonators doubling as morale officers!)
I then cadged two black-clad BUF companies, an HMG team and some command figures from Giles which, together with my hurriedly painted police company, made up another battalion. Finally I borrowed a Vickers MkII medium tank from Giles to supplement my two ‘Evelyn’ improvised armoured vans to create an armoured company. This force, while perhaps true to the amateur spirit of VBCW, was in retrospect severely lacking in heavy firepower, as I was soon to discover!
|The Herefordshire Expeditionary Brigade - note the BUf/police battalion bottom right and the circular 'redoubt' top left|
We fascists were allowed to set up our forces on three sides of the southern table and I rather unimaginatively elected to bring my troops on at the southern end, opposite the town, taking up the far left flank and thus lining up alongside my fellow bad guys.
Facing me was Rob with his socialist Chester Local Defence Force, complete with HMG-armed motorised Trachankas, LMG-toting sports cars and truck-borne socialist militia. Supporting him was a battery of artillery and a mortar holed up in Causton. My force, a third of which carried only shotguns or farming implements, was rather outgunned.
Facing me, having won the first initiative roll, Rob immediately and bravely took the battle to me by advancing his Trachankas into a circular hedged field that just screamed ‘redoubt’. Backed up by his racing cars, anti-tank rifle team and mortar, he proceeded to shoot up the Blackshorts, who lost their entire HMG/anti-tank support company.
|The survivors take cover|
I was left with nothing bigger than the cannons of the armoured company, who singularly failed to take out the Trachankas or indeed much else, and were soon facing fire from Rob’s forces not only in the redoubt but also the company of schoolboys he had placed further back.
|Socialist Trachankas begin to occupy the 'redoubt' and knock out the Blackshort support company|
My 'plan' was to decimate the redoubt, while the shotgun-toting LPA reserve, screened by the scarecrows, outflanked them. With firepower now seriously unbalanced in favour of the socialists, this sweeping action became a slow slog as the Blackshorts took cover in a nearby cornfield and returned fire against Rob’s machine guns. My only hope was to deploy my reserves only and try to get up close so that the shotguns could do their grisly short-range business. This move would also bring on the LPA sniper team, who, it transpired, were the only ones able to deal with the Trachankas by picking off their crew.
With the landowners forced to support my attack on the redoubt, the now reduced flanking move was slowed down by the scarecrows, who, while being an effective shield, went to ground time after time due to the withering fire they faced not only from the redoubt (now reinforced by a company of militia), but also a company of militia recently deployed along a hedge-line behind the redoubt.
|On come the LPA reserves|
Meanwhile my armoured company was taking heavy fire while not giving much back (at one point I was forced to declare my vehicles as ‘open hatched’ and thus vulnerable, so that they could successfully spot their targets!) These vehicles, together with the surviving BUF and policemen, did their best to hold the village against the schoolboys’ accurate (I say jammy!) rifle fire, in addition to mortar and HMG fire from the defences of Causton – not very promising since it was me who was supposed to be on the attack!
|It's not looking good in the village...|
Further along the table, Reiverdance and Giles had advanced slowly, eventually reaching the river but going no further as Red Rich’s dastardly artillery began to zero in on the BUF armour. Of the three of us, Giles was having the better time of it, but still could not crack the defences of his opposite number in time.
|The fascist advance stalls|
At the redoubt I had managed to deplete the defenders (forcing back the militia company) and silence most of the Trachankas, but only through judicious use of snipers and political officers to stop my forces from breaking. However by now I had lost all my armour to Rob’s fire, while the BUF and police were wavering. The end for them came when Rob’s Light Car Reconnaissance Squadron raced towards the village with machine guns blazing, causing the remainder of the BUF battalion to take to their heels and catch the next train to Hereford.
|Speedsters clear the village (bloody boy racers...)|
At last the battered but victorious Trachankas withdrew from the redoubt, leaving the route to Causton open for the Hereford Expeditionary Brigade. However they were in no position to take advantage of this. And thus the day ended with my forces well short of their intended target and the defences of the town still intact.
|Come back - you haven't finished thrashing us yet!|
On the northern table, things had gone a little better for the Royalists, who had taken the hotel (a major objective for one of the factions) and giving the Anglican League defenders of Causton a severe mauling.
However on day two the Anglican League and socialist allies managed to make back much of the Royalist gains on the north table, whilst successfully defending a further BUF attack in the south.
So what lessons did I learn from my first ever big game?
1 – Buy bigger toys. It is only natural that players will want to bring their biggest and baddest kit to these events and one needs to have an effective answer to this unless such big guns are limited in future scenarios.
2 – Don’t lump one’s troops together. You might as well paint a great big target over them!
3 – Be more imaginative with one’s deployment. I could have started at another table edge and thus bypassed such an obvious defensive position as the circular field, although this would risk me being cut off from the other BUF brigades. I would still have got battered but might have had a less static game!
4 – Big games are fun no matter what! Yep, despite being so utterly drubbed, it was great to meet so many VBCW fans and put the faces to the usernames. I was also nice to drool over other players’ toys and have one’s own toys drooled over in return – huzzah for big games!