Monday, 28 May 2012

Foray into Wales


Me 'n' Giles forsook the sunny Herefordshire countryside for the bustling metropolis of Cardiff on Saturday, for a VBCW Big Game held in the massive gaming caverns of Firestorm Games, organised by GWP patrons Tym and 'Captain Bigglesmay'.

The ambitious Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire had decided to grab a slice of Wales for the Shropshire Free State. Since the Salopians had assisted the Herefordian royalists in the siege of Ledbury, it seemed only fair that they returned the favour. The royalist forces duly crossed the border from Shropshire into Montgomeryshire and advanced along the Severn valley towards Welshpool. It was along this valley that they met opposition from the Welsh nationalists.

The valley from the Welsh perspective
The table represented the valley - dotted with buildings, fields and defence works, hemmed in by rough hills and with the river and a railway line running along its length. The royalists' aim was to advance along the length of the table and roll up the Welsh barring their path.

'Captain Bigglesmay', 'Ciderfella' and I took the role of the royalists, while Giles, ‘Swiper Esq.', Tym, and some of his chums played the Welsh nationalists.

Various shots of the battlefield

The aim of the day was to try out the 'Went the Day Well?' rules in anticipation of the next Evesham Big Game. While ‘WTDW?’ is designed for platoon level (30-40 figs approx.) games, we played here with much bigger formations (over 100 figs per player). Tym also introduced a fog of war element borrowed from the Principles of War rules, in which each platoon was initially represented by a large piece of card. The opposing player had to successfully 'spot' this card to reveal the actual formation and put figures on the table (with an automatic reveal when the formation closed in on said opponent). Each side also had some 'phantom' cards, which would reveal nothing if successfully spotted.

Note the 'fog of war' cards
The Herefordian forces took the right flank and consisted of a platoon of BUF (2 infantry units, HMG, RASE motorised unit, tank busters, armoured car and command), a Blackshorts platoon (3 infantry, HMG, anti-tank rifle, 2 improvised armoured vans and command), volunteer famers (2 shotgun units and 2 groups of scarecrow protestors, 1 with firearms) and a platoon of militia (3 infantry, an improvised armoured van and 'Roaring Meg'). I also had the use of an armoured train, the arrival of which I had to dice for at the start of each round.

In the centre Captain Bigglesmay fielded the Shropshire royalists, including units from King Edward's Shrewsbury Light Regiment, the KSLI and the GPO while Ciderfella's Italian Catholic royalists took to the hills on the left.

L: KSLI advance, R: Welsh nationalists

L: The BUF, R: The Blackshorts

I decided to advance my Blackshirts/shorts along the right flank, roughly along the railway line, with the farmers in support. I held the militia back in the centre on the other side of the river to provide covering fire in the case of a counterattack.

The BUF advance
Facing me the Welsh soon opened up a withering fire, with my BUF taking two direct hits from Welsh mortars - once again I was in a Big Game facing superior artillery fire! Luckily the BUF's nerve held and despite taking casualties, they reached the Welsh first line of defence in some woodlands and returned fire, causing the untrained Welsh militia to waver.

Casualties taken
The Blackshorts also took casualties as they advanced, with the 'phantom' card I was hoping would screen them from the Welsh trenches in the centre being quickly spotted away. My two armoured vans were soon knocked out of action by artillery fire and ground to a halt on the railway line, joined by the BUF's armoured car which suffered a puncture, thanks to a chance card.

Blackshorts advance amid the wreckage
To my left, the Salopians crossing of the Severn over a bridge halted for a brew, depriving the Herefordians of the support I was hoping for. Meanwhile the Catholics slowly picked their way along the hills, trying unsuccessfully to spot the various Welsh formations that lurked behind the main defences and thus ascertain what they were up against.

Wavering Welsh
Undaunted the Herefordians continued their assault, pushing back the hard-pressed, jumpy Welsh on the flank. This was achieved with a combination of BUF fire, the threat of being outflanked by the farmers and scarecrows and possibly a growing dissatisfaction of the slowness of the game from my opponent (one of Tym's mates).

Armoured train arrives while the farmers deploy
By now the armoured train had arrived, giving me some much needed artillery support. My first worry was that it would mow down the Blackshorts advancing along the line, but luckily I was assured that it was travelling slowly enough to brake in time! Seeing that Shropshire's finest were not budging, I was also keen to bring my militia into the fray, but due to my poor initial placing, they were unable to cross the river as the only bridge was blocked by the stationary KSLI. I contented myself with bringing Roaring Meg within firing range of the central trench.

Back on my right flank, the BUF occupied the vacated defence works while the scarecrows began to clamber up the valley side. The Welsh had somewhat reformed and presented a formidable second defence line, with HMGs, artillery and mortars (perhaps my opponent wasn't so dissatisfied after all!). Luckily the BUF advance was aided by a heavy fog (event card) which reduced visibility and thus dampened the fire of the Welsh big guns.
The Welsh withdraw to new positions
In the centre, the Blackshorts were exchanging lively fire with the Welsh in the trenches and adjoining building. With supporting fire from the train and roaring Meg (which, after two misfires, scored a direct hit on the building!), the nationalists' backbone began to crumble. By now the Blackshorts finally had the Salopian support they required to press their advantage, with a veritable horde of GPO units crossing the bridge to engage the centre.

The central defences bombarded
An event card caused the GPO mounted rocket team to canter forward around the rear of the centre defences. Making the best of this involuntary move they charged a unit of supporting Welsh militia, spurring their infantry counterparts to make a head-on charge against the trenches. Not to be outdone, the Blackshorts' elite Sidcup Highlanders also charged, clearing the trench at bayonet point. The Blackshorts also cleared and occupied the adjacent building.

Charging the trenches

While the Catholics, save the occasional mortar shot from the Welsh, were still in the dark about the composition of their foe and continued to probe along the left flank, on the other flank the BUF and farmers began to shoot up the Welsh from their new positions. The Welsh HMGs were quickly silenced, while the farmers and scarecrows kept the artillery occupied with a largely inaccurate fire while their comrades continued to gather for a new assault.

Dealing with the 2nd line

By now time was running out as we had to make the journey back from Cardiff to meet baby/cat sitting duties and so a halt was called. While the royalists hadn't advanced along the full length of the valley, the main Welsh defences had been taken and with many of the unrevealed Welsh formations being phantoms it was decided that the nationalists would have withdrawn, leaving the valley under royalist control.

The trenches are captured
All in all I had a fantastic game. Yes the WTDW? rules proved too unwieldy for such a large scale battle, but in fairness they are not designed for this. Yes at times the pace was a little slow, but that serves us right for not familiarising ourselves with the rules as much as we could have done. Yes some of the players hardly got to put figures on the table, but this was due to the axis of advance and force deployment. Personally I got the lion's share of the action and showed that the loyal forces of Herefordshire know how to win a battle occasionally!

The Welsh withdraw
More importantly I got to catch up with some of my virtual chums on the GWP, and make one or two new ones too!

The GWP forum thread regarding this game can be found here, while Giles’ version of events can be read here.

2 comments:

  1. An excellent game report, and I love the eye-candy. Thanks also for your thoughts on WTDW. The use of 'phantom' cards is a good idea to represent the fog of war, although (just my 2 cents) I think they might be improved by coloring them so they appear less intrusive on the tabletop.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks AJ!
      I agree with you - if I ever get around to making some 'fog of war' cards I'll have to make them look like plumes of dust or somesuch.

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