Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Campaign Game 5 - Hills Are For Heroes

This is the background to the fifth of the seven scenarios of the 'Russians Are Coming' campaign I'm playing through following a hypothetical Russian Invasion of the Colony of South Australia. This is a meeting engagement as both the South Australian and Russian forces attempt to occupy a piece of high ground to the west of the City of Adelaide, it's day ten of the invasion...

A picture of Staff Officer Putin posing with one of the invasion force's Gorloff guns manned by naval personal. Note these "Gorlov" Guns are actually British made Gatling Guns with Broadwell Drum magazines and ammunition bought through arms dealers in Hong Kong while the Russian army was preparing for the invasion at Vladivostok.

Much of the terrain between the Russian beachhead centred on Henley Beach and the City of Adelaide was relatively flat and underdeveloped lowlands. This meant that any piece of high ground without regard of its actual elevation was invaluable to both sides.

With Port Adelaide secured and Russian fleets remaining warships, the ironclad Petr Velikiy and two monitors Admiral Spiridov and Admiral Chichagov now past the block ships and safely within the confines of the harbour Lieutenant-General Lazarev began rolling out his plan to envelope the City of Adelaide and wear down the defenders. Beginning Monday August 25th his army launch strong company strength sorties to the north and south of the City of Adelaide. These raids targeted farms, rail lines and telegraph poles and their cables with the intention of drawing the defenders out of their cover so they could be engaged in open ground and defeated piecemeal. Lieutenant-Colonel Dawes however do not take the bait and held his troops back preserving them while the Russian's exertions were wasted.

During the nightly Russian Command Conference Laverez let all know he intended to change tactics and start to drive the South Australian defensive perimeter in with assaults this way their militiamen would be force to engage his regulars and they would be defeated in detail. To help facilitate this he decided that all the high ground that was unoccupied and overlooked of the South Australians was to be captured forthwith. He reasoned such positions would be invaluable to cover the advance of his troops on the South Australian defensive line surrounding Adelaide as they could act as observation posts for his ships forward observers or be ideal positions to locate his fearsome Gorloff guns.

One such small elevation that drew the attention of the Russians as it had a controlling view of Lieutenant-Colonel Downes South Road defensive line was Bill’s Hill. It was in fact not a hill at all but merely a low rise, still it was noticeably higher that all the surrounding terrain. The 'mound' was man made with the dross from the nearby fields and the South Road excavations. It was known as Bill’s Hill simply because it was located on William Copley’s farm, William was popularly known as Bill! The summit of Bill's Hill though not very high with gently slopes running down from its apex in every direction so it would be an easy location to occupy as it was undefended.

A detachment of regulars led by Staff Captain Ivan Putin from the combined East Siberian Rifle battalion was assigned this task of occupying Bill's Hill. It is interesting to note that even in this relatively early stage of the campaign to make up for shortfalls in troop numbers sailors from the fleet vessels were being incorporated into units to flesh them out so Captain Putin's command included a section of such troops. Jump off time for his men to launch their attack was Wednesday August 27th at noon!

At the same time as Lazarev decided to send troops to capture all the high ground surrounding Adelaide's defences including Bill’s Hill Lieutenant-Colonel Downes had coincidentally decided that this elevation was of importance to his defence of the City of Adelaide. Orders were drafted for it to be occupied, fortified and artillery to be emplaced post haste!

Wednesday dawned hot and as the sun reached its apex the heat of the day increased. The thirsty and sun burned soldiers of the East Siberian detatchment may not face any defenders but they still needed to move forward under the eyes on a well-armed enemy force which they expected would attempt to interdict their advance in every means at their disposal. They did not expect they would become engulfed in a tense engagement with the South Australians which was exactly what was about to occur. As Putin the Russian commander signaled his men to advance with a shrill tweet from his whistle the South Australians from the blooded Unley Rifle Company that had been skirmishing with the Russian for over a week now and supported by the fresh and eager men of the Norwood Rifle Company, noted for their flamboyance and √©lan began their advance on Bill's Hill too. The time the South Australians planned to move out and establish their defences on the mound was noon as well!

Next Time the Scenario Set Up Details for Hills Are For Hero's!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Stanley's Redoubt AAR

Siberian Infantry attacking the stoic Colonial defenders of Stanley's Redoubt...

This fourth Campaign Game Scenario for my The Russians Are Coming series was played a year ago so the AAR has been a long time in the coming! This scenario had four replays with the South Australians winning three to the Russians one. The first two saw the South Australians win comfortably and the second two where the Russian OOB was upped from four units to five saw a victory to each side. I listed the larger Russian force in the set up post as it seemed to make the game better balanced. Anyway this win for the South Australian defenders puts the Campaign Game running total at three wins to the Colonials and one to the Russian Invaders. So the Ruskies have some work to do in the next three games.

For this game the Russians elected to go with the Staff Officer campaign option to boost their morale and also because the chance of their Commander in Chief Lazerev suffering a heart attack grows as the campaign goes on and once that occurs this bonus is no longer available to them. So the Russian units all gained a big advantage on their morale rolls and even when several had dwindled to half strength they soldiered valiantly on when lesser men would have turned tail and fled! As with all the games so far played in the campaign the initiative rolls are crucial and being last player in a turn and first one in the next gives your forces four actions in a row and that can be decisive, I like this as it creates some variability in the game, players will never makes the mistakes often made by leaders in the field due to FOW etc...oops I had better get off the soap box and back on track. I have selected game two of the four for the AAR as even though the Russians were a bit short on resources in this one they came very close to a win! I believe the best Russians tactic is to swing a section to each flank and rush the centre with the rest of their men. The game in which they won they used skirmish formations to close on the palisade then when close formed line and attacked, the risk of losing a full phase redeploying was offset by the extra movement each turn they were in skirmish order, while a section deployed to each flank. Charging in a column down the road to close quickly and then redeploying could be another valid tactic but not one used so far maybe a fifth game may see that. Every game we played had a melee at the palisade as the Russians with the Staff Officer morale boost were able to press home attacks despite losses and the effect of the hard cover for the defenders negated with the Russians having a trained melee level versus the Colonials Raw melee ability. A successful charge and break through was always on the cards here. 

Well here's how the selected 'historical' game ran... 

The History:

Sunday August 24th was a hot day and the soldiers of the Adelaide Rifle Company were awoken by a thunderous barrage of artillery fire which to their relief it was directed not at them but far to the north around Port Adelaide. The men Sergeant Bruce's section had slept in position behind their fortifications overnight and had tea and breakfast brought up to them from the Rifle Company's bivouac. They enjoyed their repast and took up their places at the palisade in the blazing sun. They discussed what could be occurring at the Port from where the sound of battle emanated and were relieved no 'Ruskies' appeared to be interested in them. Two Privates, Rawlinson and Benjamin even played eye spy as they wiled away the time. The men became restless as the day passed and the time of their relief approached, they all anxious to get back to camp and the shade.

Little did they know not far away to their north west Captain Pushkin had been made aware of their location by one of his trusty Cossack scouts and he was in process of preparing to launch an attack on them. Three of his section leaders proposed a wide flanking manoeuvre to take the South Australians in the rear but with no mounted cavalry to scout out a secure path Pushkin resorted to a frontal assault with the Cossacks making a small flanking sortie on the right. He had confidence he could better these militiamen and extolled as much to his section commanders. The advanced was to be in open order to minimise casualties and they would close ranks at the last moment to charge. 

It was just after 10:30am that Private Rawlinson said to Private Benjamin "I spy....Russians...". Benjamin said "That's not how you play the game..." He cut his sentence short as his gaze caught sight of Russian soldiers in the distance. Sergeant Bruce was momentarily taken aback by the men's comments but quickly spied what they had seen and ordered the troops to stand to order which they promptly did...seconds later he roared..."Men now’s our time to be counted...pick your targets and fire at will!" The crack of Martini Henri fire started forthwith. 

Sergeant Nikolai Arkharov led the Siberians on the right of the skirmish line. The distant rifle fire did not concern him it resembled nothing more than fire crackers going off as the enemy redoubt loomed bigger in his eyes with every step taken. Suddenly he lurched...he had been grazed...curse the devil he thought as he reeled. He was only 'out of action' momentarily but once he recovered and looked around everyone was well ahead of him he scurried to catch up. Captain Pushkin seeing Arkharov hit moved over and took command of his section personally while cajoling everyone as the continued forward. 

Bruce's command cheered again and again as Russians fell from their fire but concern mounted as the enemy remorselessly approached them despite the casualties they had taken. After Private Jones yelled there were Cossacks to their right and both Rawlinson and Teagle also shouted their ammunition was spent Bruce could hear fear in the voices of the South Australians. The Sergeant knew his men were wavering he could do little but act as an example, he fired like an automaton and ordered those without bullets to fix bayonets while urging the rest of the section to maintain their fire. 

It was at this second the momentum of battle shifted, the Russian advance paused momentarily as their leaders tried to communicate to their men above the din of battle and simultaneously to their rear the South Australians heard the shouts of their fellow Riflemen coming to their assistance. Bruce enthused by these events yelled "Pour it into them lads we can't have the rest of the Company come up and steal our glory!" The lads cheered their fear evaporated in the heat of the moment and they stood firm continuing to fire at their foes without respite. 

At the same time Sergeants Bashilov and Dutov were at a loss, the fire from the palisade continued unabated and their men were shaken by the attempt to form lines, to remain in place or to try an continue their formation change would lose their forward momentum. They took the initiative and decided to close on their enemy in skirmish order, the order to charge the enemy was given. Pushkin seeing his centre and left sections charge without forming line could do little but order his men to follow suit. In what seemed to be an instant everyone was gathered at the Colonials palisade and engaging in the deadly work of hand to hand fighting... 

The South Australians were shocked that any of the Russians could have survived the inferno of fire they had cast at them and when they emerged from the smoke and were suddenly face to face they instinctively defended themselves. The sound of battle now engulfed everyone and it was a case of every man for himself, Jones fell dead, a Russian NCO was suddenly on the Australian side of the palisade and Sergeant Bruce put paid to him using his rifle as a club, Private Teagle fell...then suddenly Russians were to the flanks of the South Australians, they were working their way around the palisade! Bruce continued to inspire his men to hold the Russians back. Captain Pushkin saw his men climbing over and dashing around the redoubt and he roared encouragement to his troops urging them on again and again while firing his revolver and waving his sword frantically. From his view the battle was as good as won! 

Sergeant Abbott brought his section up behind Bruce's and formed a line, he watched in horror as the melee continued between the Russians and Bruce's men but held his unit back for fear they may be engulfed too. He steadied them and kept them at the ready, if the Russians broke through they would act. 

Almost as an aside to battle raging around Stanley's Redoubt there was a separate action taking place at a small rise covered with dense scrub and dominated by a single pine tree to the left of the palisade. Captain Scullin believed this rise was where a group of Russian Cossacks were headed so he commanded his men, "We must stop those Cossacks boys, head for the Lone Pine we'll make our stand there!” and so it was Scullin’s men met the Cossacks at 'Lone Pine' and after a brief melee and a few casualties on each side Cossacks retired. 

Meanwhile back at "Stanley's Redoubt" the battle reached its climax, Pushkin's men were close to victory and he believed it was within his grasp. Then Bruce's command broke and routed the three survivors bolted and Private Rawlinson was taken prisoner...the Russians cheered and flushed with success moved forward and were met with a volley of fire from Abbott's fresh men...the Russians tried a final lunge forward urged on by their surviving leaders but they'd shot their bolt...with more than half their number dead or wounded they faltered and fell back. Pushkin knew his men were done and he ordered them to retire which they did in good order taking their prisoner with them. 

Sergeant Abbott's section immediately occupied the palisade where they found themselves standing in a sea of blood with bodies from both sides strewn everywhere they had won the day but many a good men would never see another...

The AAR:

The Russians moved all their regulars forward toward the redoubt for a frontal attack in skirmish formation planning to form line when close enough for the final assault. A unit of Cossack launched themselves forward in a flank attack on their right. For three turns the Russians advanced and the South Australians fired for all they were worth. Despite a large number of weapons jamming and two Martini's breaking down/users running out of ammo they scored a several kills, wounds and grazes. Unfortunately for the Colonials the Russian Staff Officer morale bonus meant every check they made was easily passed. The Russian forces at the end of turn three:

Turn four and the Russians reached their attack positions opposite the redoubt. While the Colonials at the palisade fired two phases of effective volleys at the Russian regulars their reinforcements arrived one section to reinforce the palisade and the other deployed to cover the Cossacks:

Turn five and the South Australians bagged the initiative so after having the last 2 phases of turn four to hammer the Russians in front of them they now had another two phases...insert Russian groans here...again the Russian took casualties and now instead of wasting any time to reorganise and suffer further Colonial fire they charged the palisade hoping their superior melee value would prevail despite not being formed up:

Turns five and six saw a desperate melee break out around the palisade:

"Crikey Sarge they're all around us!" Cry of an unknown South Australian militiaman:

A short yet vicious melee broke out at a place known to the South Australian's as Lone Pine, casualties were light on both sides but importantly the Cossacks were defeated quickly in the words of Captain Scullin, "We sent them off In short order!"

In turn six the casualties finally exceeded everyone's level of acceptance, Sergeant Bruce's section fled leaving one encircled man behind to surrender and the start of turn seven saw two of the three Russian army sections and the Cossacks finally succumbed to morale checks:

The Russians at this point realised the jig was up. They came within a cat’s whisker of success but were just a handful of men short of success. They withdrew along the front and began to retire. The South Australians with one section completely routed and unable to rally and both the others with casualties were happy to see the Russian retire albeit in good order:

The newspaper caption to the below photograph was, "Take that yer hairy Cossacks!"

Positions of the troops at the end of the game after the Russian part of turn seven:

One last point comment adding to my above summary of the game, the 'Colony at War' rules being used have generous morale tests allowing units to stay in action longer than one would normally expect, I could adjust this but in keeping with the bravado of the Victorian Era 'regular fighting men' and 'militia chaps of standing' are expected to fight to (practically) the last it makes for better fun gaming...

Next up Scenario Five, this one puts everyone under pressure in a 'meeting engagement'. Everyone will be trying to secure a salient terrain position to gain victory with the bonus that gaining victory in Scenario Five sees your forces in comfortable defensive position for Scenario Six so the win is crucial!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Campaign Game 4 Set Up Details & Special Rules

Okay I've finally got off my butt and put together the stuff I have on game Four of my 'The russians are Coming' Campaign...this is about a year old!

so these are the set up details and special rules for the fourth of the The Russians Are Coming campaign scenarios. A map of the play area is included. Please feel free to try this scenario yourselves (you may have to adapt it for your rules I am using an adaption of State of War) and if you do please let me know how you go!

A period picture of Sergeant Bruce's 'Boys' manning the Palisade on Port Road the day prior to engaging the 'Ruskies':

The Forces:

Russians five units:

Siberians including NCOs fire and; melee as Trained
Cossacks including Leader fire as Raw and; melee as Trained
Staff Officer fires as Veteran and; melee as Trained

1 Army Officer (Captain Pushkin)
Four Army Units each of: 1 NCO and 7 Privates
One Cossack Unit of: 1 Leader and 5 Troopers

South Australians three units:

Privates fire as Trained and; melees as Raw
Officer and NCOs fire as Veteran and; melee as Trained

Palisade Picket Unit1 of: 1 NCO (Sergeant Bruce) and 9 Privates
Two reinforcement Sections:
One of: 1 Officer (Captain James Scullin) and 7 Privates
One of: 1 NCO (Sergeant Anthony Abbott) and 7 Privates


South Australians: The Picket Duty unit starts anywhere within 5cm of the Palisade and the other two other units enter anywhere along the south-east edge Turn 4

Russians: All units must enter Turn 1 on the north-west edge

Game Length:

The game ends after 12 turns then victory conditions are checked unless a sides units are broken before this

Victory Conditions:

At the game end the Russians must clear the ALL the South Australians from the barricade/roadblock to a distance of at least 10cms

Special Rules:

* Turn 1 the Russians have the ‘initiative’
* Russian have played their 'Staff Officer' option in this game morale effect for this are in play
* Cossacks can't use formed line and if their unit’s leader is killed they maintain skirmish order and move at half speed
* Cossacks may be up to 20cms from their leader
* The "hills" are actually rolling ground they block line of sight and give those on them melee and shooting advantages but cost no extra movement to climb as the slopes are gentle
* The rough ground areas cost double movement when actually traversing them and offer no cover
* The Fallowed fields cost double movement when actually traversing them in line only skirmish order troops unaffected and offer no cover
* The dense scrub areas cost triple movement when actually traversing them and offer no protection
* 'Lone Pine' offers light cover if directly behind it in the line of fire or melee
* Stanley’s Redoubt (the palisades) is hard cover and blocks line of sight unless the figure is adjacent to it.

Below is a map of the battlefield drawn by one of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Downes staff the day after the action was fought including a Legend:

The "historical" AAR will follow Tomorrow!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Mystery of the Darling Building

A small excursion from gaming this time to delve into a current story that links back to Captain Darling...

Currently in Adelaide, South Australia after remaining derelict for almost 20 years the modest yet architecturally beautiful Darling Building in Franklin Street is being renovated. The exterior is being retained as well as the salient internal features but this fine old building is becoming a modern office block.

However there is some interest to us dear reader in this building, does it contain some secrets relating to Captain Edward Darling himself?

The Darling Building was constructed in 1916 as business premises by a prominent mercantile firm, John Darling and Son and was the brainchild of architect E.H McMichael. This is a very impressive edifice and looks timeless, it is truly a classic building of the period being architecturally well balanced and featuring a symmetry which catches the eye!

At this point we move to themes of more interest to us...

Can it be just coincidence that the Darling Building built by John Darling and Son is believed to also be the residence of their namesake Captain Edward Darling? It is known that Captain Darling returned to the Antipodes after fighting through the carnage of The Great War but his actual dwelling has never been identified and confirmed. It was believed by many that a secret suite of rooms were incorporated into the design of the building for the good Captain to occupy. Backing this up this during the 1920's he was oft spotted in Franklin Street and his propeller driven roadster was seen parked in the adjacent Bentham Street. Fascinatingly at the same time it has being described that many eligible ladies often of quite high social status frequented the Darling Building's offices for frivolous reasons with the sole intention of meeting and befriending Captain Darling who was not only still a bachelor of good standing but his youthful good looks continued to shine even as he aged!

Reported sightings of Darling in the vicinity of Franklin and Bentham Street continued to be made right up until the beginning of the Second World War. All of them still included descriptions of the Captain's youthful appearance and healthy demeanour.

Moving to the present a completely unofficial source from within the workforce engaged in the renovations of the Darling Building inadvertently let slip that a secret staircase and living quarters were discovered within the building while the inside was being gutted for the renovations...very interesting! More thought-provoking still is an aside from an equally unofficial source that observes the new office space in square yardage still do not equal the full footprint of the building on each floor! This person goes onto say the internal wall dimensions of the building are substantially less than those of the exterior walls, especially on the top story! 

Well what are we to make of this hearsay and supposition I'll leave that up to you dear reader perhaps it is not just the ghost of Captain Darling that haunts the Darling Building, Franklin Street Adelaide...

Below; a period picture of the Darling Building and one of it nearing the completion of it's current renovations, both of these were sourced from the new fangled internet...

Next Time...back to gaming STUFF!