Monday, 19 November 2012

Big Trouble in Little Hereford

The Battle of Little Hereford Bridge

I had a great game at Giles’ on Saturday, together with VBCW modeller extraordinaire Tym, and newcomer Alex (‘The Bombardier’).

The background to the scrap was this:-

Following the brutal but inconclusive siege of Ledbury, the opposing factions in Herefordshire were exhausted and a stalemate ensued.

The Anglican League, together with sundry other anti-government or anti-fascist groups, were unable to complete their goal of cutting off Royalist Hereford as an advance towards Bromyard and Leominster would stretch their already threadbare supply lines.

The Royalist and Fascist forces of government were similarly hamstrung – failing to regain the initiative as they struggled to simultaneously push back the Anglicans, deal with left-wing insurgents, ‘Twiggy Mommet’ protests and patrol the border with Wales; as well as keeping the peace within the county.

As the new campaign season began, another faction appeared on the scene to break the impasse: the Worcester Loyalists. Based in Tenbury Wells, this pro-Albertine group sought to create a Worcestershire Free State, very much in the same mould as neighbouring Shropshire. Seeking to establish secure supply lines, they had already brokered a deal with socialist forces in the West Midlands (a splinter group of which had begun operating in North Herefordshire), and now made contact with the Anglican League reconnoitring around Bromyard.

A plan was formed: if the Worcester Loyalists could co-operate with the Reds and the Anglican League, a large anti-government coalition could be formed along the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, linking nationalist Wales to the Midlands via the Forest of Dean, Ross, Ledbury, the Malvern Hills and Tenbury Wells.

The first step was to continue to cut off Hereford and allow the unsupplied Royalists therein to wither away without having to besiege the city. With this in mind the Worcester Loyalists proposed to seize the rail junction at Wooferton on the Hereford/Shropshire border, thus cutting the Leominster – Shrewsbury line and further isolating Royalist Herefordshire.

As is typical in this part of the country however, word quickly spread to the Royalists, who dispatched a force to deal with this attack, blocking the Tenbury – Wooferton rail line whilst setting up defences at the road crossing of the River Teme near Little Hereford. The stage was set for the latest chapter in the story of VBCW Herefordshire and Worcestershire as a combined Worcester Loyalist/Socialist force met forces of the King and Mosley head-on.

And so Little Hereford was recreated on the tabletop thus:-

We used the ‘Went the Day Well?’ rules, which call for initiative to be sorted out by the drawing of playing cards. I’d decided to make things interesting by getting the players to roll a D6 for each section of their opponents platoon:-

1-2 = irregular (not very well trained)
3-5 = regular (trained and reasonably competent)
6 = Veteran (elite)

Tym rolled for me, and vice-versa, whilst Giles and Alex rolled for each other.

I also allowed for the possibility of discovering fords across the river, by rolling a D6 when reaching the riverbank:-

1 = River level higher than anticipated - no further ford checks may be made by either side
2 - 4 = No ford found here
5 - 6 = Ford discovered - river may be crossed at this point (class as difficult terrain)

I had also knocked up a skills table, which allowed each player to roll a D10 and give one of his sections a little extra (for example ‘rapid fire’ - an extra ‘to hit’ die roll).

Giles and Tym, playing the BUF bully boys, set up defensive positions (including artillery, HMGs and anti-tank rifles) in and around the buildings on the south side of the river, with some cavalry and assorted black-clad meanies lurking behind to cover any flanking moves. They also had a film crew to record the event for posterity.

Alex’s Worcestershire Loyalists appeared on the Tenbury road to the defenders right, while my communists were arrayed directly opposite the river along the north side of the table. I decided to split my platoon into 3 with the vague intention of the central group (the close assault section led by the platoon commander, supported by HMG, steam lorry and a runner on roller skates) rushing the bridge.

To their left, the Worker’s Union militia, led by the platoon sergeant and covered by a sniper, were to advance under cover of some woods and link up with the Worcestershires. To the right the Communist militia, backed up by my T-26 tank, two tank bombers (redundant as the BUF had no vehicles on the table), platoon commissar and standard bearer, were to probe the river for crossing points and hopefully give some trouble to the Fascist flank.

That was the plan anyway!

And so we drew the first lot of playing cards. The BUF players got the highest card and got to go first. I however had drawn a joker, which meant I could go whenever I wanted. Rather than allocating this to my artillery-armed steam lorry and try some anti-battery fire, I squandered the advantage and began my probing move to the river.

Giles was not so dumb, and immediately let rip with his artillery, scattering my close assault section, killing the runner, knocking out the front turret of the steam lorry and destroying my HMG team (thus bringing back terrible memories of last year’s Evesham game – why do I insist on packing my troops together so closely?)

The Union Militia advanced slowly, as did the Worcestershire Loyalists, while the T-26 and co. raced sideways to reach the river under as little fire as possible.

As fire from the BUF continued to pour over the river, my steam wagon attempted to manoeuvre in order to bring its rear turret into play, only to be knocked out by a Fascist anti-tank rifle! In only two rounds I had lost my heavy support and had my main path of attack blocked by a blown-up vehicle due to a combination of dice rolls and tactical stupidity.

BUF artillery continued to pound the close assault team, forcing the survivors to go to ground and play no further part in the battle and the platoon commander to seek shelter in a nearby building. My punch through the BUF defences had turned into a vague wave of the hand!

To my left, the Union militia waited in the woods for an opportune time to cross the killing zone towards the river while the sniper took pot-shots at the defenders on the opposite bank. To my right, the T-26 and militia reached the river and discovered a ford!

However jubilation soon turned to disappointment as sustained fire from Tyms BUF immobilised the tank and caused the militia to almost run away. Luckily the female commissar managed to rally these wavering leftists, who dug in as fire from the now stationary tank forced the BUF opposite to retreat into the woods linking the riverbank.

By now the Worcestershire Loyalists had discovered another ford on the defender’s right and diverted a number of their forces to exploit it. After severely mauling the BUF right flank and almost killing the BUF commander through sniper fire, they rushed across the open countryside and over the river…

…right into the teeth of the hastily reorganised BUF defensive line.

The result wasn’t pretty.

On the communist right, the T-26 turned its sights on the central building (a pub), where a BUF anti-tank rifle continued to fire at its prey. A shell from the tank overshot the building, but managed to destroy the BUF HMG nest on the other side! This caused the BUF to vacate the building, unbeknownst to the Reds, who continued to blast away at the pub. The now rallied militia had to contend themselves with shooting at whatever they could see around the woods – mainly a unit of female BUF, proving that the white-hot sword of Socialism does not discriminate against gender!

It also doesn’t discriminate against civilians, for the militia also dealt with the BUF film crew, who had arrived to gloat at the stricken T-26 and paid for being part of the Fascist propaganda machine with their lives…

With the BUF defences pulling back in the wake of the Worcestershires’ flank attack, the Union militia rushed forward to the river bank and traded some heavy fire with their opposite numbers. The rest of the Worcestershire Loyalists were slowly coming up in support, attempting to bring the HMGs of their own steam wagon into play while their tankettes managed to find yet another ford (there must have been a drought on!) and crossed the river.

By now however it was getting too late to exploit this (I was starting to get ‘come back when you’re ready’ texts from my good lady wife and as any married wargamer knows, this usually means ‘get your arse back here now!’)  The BUF, while a little battered, were still in a strong defensive position whereas the Communist/Loyalist alliance had been given a good thrashing and, while the Union militia finally managed to cross the river and establish a toehold, little else could be done.

Despite this loss I had a fantastic game! Giles was as usual a great host (and makes a mean pizza) and he and Tym were honourable opponents. Alex was a great guy to game with, and seemed to enjoy his first wargame despite losing. Plus I got to use my counters, which worked reasonably well.

And so the narrative rolls on. The anti-government forces have failed to link up and cut off the county. The Worcestershire Loyalists and the Communists will retreat back to their core area and lick their wounds, while the Anglican League will be discouraged from advancing beyond Ledbury. The royalists, especially the BUF, have had a great morale boost with this victory. The ball now lies in their court and you can bet that they won’t sit idle for long…

An account of the battle from the BUF perspective can be found at Giles’ excellent blog here and here, while Alex’s more positive spin of our side can be found here.


  1. Nice AAR. As long as you had fun thats the main thing!

  2. What a tremendous looking game, one of these days I will just dive headlong into this.

  3. Wonderful game there Sir. Bring the world of VBCW to the World

  4. Thanks guys! It was a great game, despite the thrashing, and even greater company.

  5. I hope you don't mind by I have passed the Liebster Award on to you.
    Cheers Stu


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