Friday, August 28, 2009

How the Trenches were Taken

So here it is... the AAR from last Saturday's game.

The scenario was set up based on some of my reading on the Battle of the Aisne, which was launched in the wake of the German retreat following the Battle of the Marne. Reports from this battle contain some of the first encounters with German trenches, and so I decided to try and recreate this on the tabletop using Iron Ivan's Price of Glory rules.

The forces were:


  • 1x Headquarters: CO, 2 runners
  • 6x Infantry Units: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 7x riflemen (of which 1 or 2 per unit were bombers)
  • 2x Chasseur Units: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 6x riflemen
  • 1x Hotchkiss HMG: sergeant, gunner, and loader
  • 1x Dragoons Unit: 1x officer, 1x 2iC, 10x cavalrymen
  • 2x 75 mle 1897, 4 crewmen each
  • 1x Headquarters: CO, 2 runners
  • 4x Infantry Units: 1x 2iC, 7x riflemen
  • 2x Maxim HMG: sergeant, gunner, and loader
  • 1x FK 96 n.A., with 4 crewmen
I know these rules are supposed to be 1:1, but you play with what you've got...

I set up the board with a town at the far end and a road that ran up the length of the table. The French got a wooded staging area on the opposite end of the board, and there were woods positioned on both flanks of the board, with the central terrain being a mixture of farms, fences, and "dips and folds" (undulations in the ground that provide cover). The French deployed in an array of attack columns, led by officers and their white gloves. The artillery set up on a hill, and the cavalry unit was held as a mobile reserve.

Follow Me!

With the board set up and the figures grouped into units, we assigned players to sides, with 3 French and 2 German. I then gave the Germans some trench sections, barbed wire, and some crates & barrels to use in fortifying the town. In "assault" or "hold the line" type scenarios, I think that the defender really should get to design the defenses since they will not be doing much other than watching units maneuver for the attack for a while. The trenches were stocked, the HMGs dug in (one creatively getting a good LOS diagonally down the board - interlocking fields of fire FTW, hopefully!), and a unit of infantry was held in reserve. The setup is visible in the picture below.

Dug-in and Waiting

Under these rules, the terrain is important in that it is assigned a number (higher numbers for better cover) that both subtracts from the firing abilities of units firing into the terrain and provides a morale boost to the troops sheltering in it. This is one of the things that I had to work out, and here is what I went with:

Trenches: 3
Houses: 3
Bastions (crates & barrels): 3
Dips & Folds: 2
Fields (similar to dips/folds): 2

I chose these values for a couple of reasons. I started with the "light trench" value and decided that sounded good for what I was doing, and also keeping in mind that for this genre the trenches should be on the high end of the terrain cover sacale. I think that 3 was too low and I'll go with a 4 next time. With trenches at 3, and fences 1 (as per the rules), everything else fell somewhere in-between. Forests do provide more cover from the other 2-rated pieces, in that figures can't "see" more than 2" in. With the terrain set up and the units deployed, it was time to begin the attack. To the utmost!

The French plan was to seize the flanks with general covering fire from the central forest, and then to launch the overall assault once the German support (HMG, artillery) had been dealt with as much as possible.

The French moved out on each flank, with cover coming sooner to the infantry units on the right flank. Unfortunately, the diagonally-oriented Maxim had a clear shot into the gap between the forests and a lot of Poilus bought it in the open there. A single unit managed to eek through with a few casualties along with the Hotchkiss, but the other unit was wiped out. In fact, the entire second half of the unit fell to a single burst from the Maxim. The French 75s quickly pushed the crew of the FK 96 off the hill, and the survivors would remain suppressed for the rest of the game.

Follow the White Gloves

Things went slightly worse on the left flank, with a unit each of French infantry and Chasseurs being wiped out on the run to the orchard. The "covering" units in the treeline were being slowly reduced via long-range fire.

The climax of the battle started with the French Chasseur unit's lone assault on the German right, which they pulled off without taking a single casualty (including German snap fire)! The German unit holding the center behind the barrels and crates moved into the house to try to prevent the collapse of that flank. After securing the trench, the Chasseurs pushed into the mansion, suffering casualties but eventually defeating the German infantry. The Germans decided that prudence was the better part of valor, packed up their HQ, and made a break for it. Unfortunately, the Maxim HMG then began firing into the mansion, which was a harrowing experience for the French elites.

Staged for the Assault.

Meanwhile, on the German right, the 75s turned their attention to the Maxim in the house and the other trench. The German left-hand trench was reduced over a few turns by combined effort of infantry rifles, the Hotchkiss, and the 75s, so that when the Poilus assaulted there was minimal resistance. (1 German figure left. Poor guy.)

With the road clear, it was time to send in the cavalry! Their 20" speed really made the difference. They leapt the makeshift bastion and charged straight into HMG fire! (I reminded players of the ranges of the carbines, but they laughed that off! SHOOT with Cavalry? NONSENSE!) They suffered 50% casualties between the HMG snap fire and the assault, but were able to pass their Courage checks when it counted! The HMG fire was also pretty frantic, considering that the CO (who was helping them defend against the assault) did half the work!


The Germans were down to one unit holed up in a house and the French controlled the crossroads so we called it a French victory!

The French Take the Crossroads

This was my first experience running a public game by myself. There were a lot of rules that I thought I knew, but ended up botching sometimes. Oh, well, notes for next time! The main thing was that everyone had a good time, and that did seem to be the case. That is where my greatest sense of satisfaction came from.

More photos on the Flickr Set.

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