On 3rd June Martin (Peter Pig) held a day in which a group of players refought the 1917 Battle of Cambrai (specifically the 27th Nov)
The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive and German counter-offensive battle in the First World War. Cambrai, in the Nord département(Nord-Pas-de-Calais), was an important supply point for the German Siegfriedstellung and capture of the town and the nearby Bourlon Ridge would threaten the rear of the German line to the north. Major General Henry Tudor, Commander, Royal Artillery (CRA) of the 9th (Scottish) Division, suggested trying out new artillery-infantry techniques on his sector of the front. During preparations, J. F. C. Fuller, a staff officer with the Tank Corps, was in the process of looking for a place to use tanks as raiding parties. General Julian Byng, commander of the British Third Army, decided to combine both plans into the attack.
Despite British success on the first day, mechanical unreliability, German artillery and infantry defences exposed the frailties of the Mark IV tank. On the second day, only about half of the original number of tanks were available. Subsequent British progress was limited.
The venue for the event was the Nothe Fort , which deserves a mention
Built by the Victorians to protect Portland Harbour, Nothe Fort is one of the best preserved Forts of its kind. Located at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour the Fort is a labyrinth of underground passageways and outdoor areas with stunning views of the Jurassic Coast. Constructed on three levels , which are easily accessed by means of a lift, the Fort is filled with displays, mammoth guns and cinema areas that chart the history of this large and magnificent Victorian structure which took 12 years to build.
So on beautiful June day we descended into the depth of the nuclear shelter to play our game.
The front was broken in 6 sections, each with a bespoke force and set terrain. The victory conditions were different to a normal SquareBashing game as the relatives sizes of the forces provides a target number. This target is what the allied has to beat to get what would count as a victory.
The forces were –
The tables were –
The teams were defined in advance , and the game would be played twice. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, with sides swapping so we get a accurate refection of the teams ability !
Here are some in games shots of the tables
For my part I fought on table E as Von Schussler , and with 4 units of reserves and a handful of machine guns was crushed by Stewart with the largest British force in the front. In The afternoon with the sides swapped I was on D as Douglas-Smith, and despite fierce assaults the Germans held on along the trench , with only a small breakthrough. I had two major loses contributing to the overall loss of my team
Games in Action
Martin explaining the nuances
more instructional advice
fierce fighting over the town in Le Pave.
lovely view for lunchtime!
Its no good Dene, 4 reservists won’t stop 6 tanks and 16 infantry
So, congratulations to –
Paul , Simon K, Dave , Dene Stewart and Miles as they won both of their respective games ! (British AM, German PM)
But everyone was a winner for taking part in a super day , as a great venue. Lets hope to see more of these!
game set up – before the doors open
This year at WMMS BAD wargamers put on a Squarebashing Demo, abstracting the 1st Day of the Somme. Peter the orgainsers notes were –
The massive casualties sustained on July 1st 1916 are seared into the public consciousness and for many define the futility of and incompetent conduct of the war. The truth is a little different. For Britain this war was effectively its first full scale engagement in the modern era. Despite earlier successes British armies had never been the main forces in European warfare. The French experienced similar losses in the opening encounters of the conflict at the battle Charleroi and by the opening of the Somme had suffered over 1 million battlefield casualties. Britain had launched offensives at Neuve Chapelle and Loos in 1915 but neither had the scale or weight of expectation that the offensive the Somme department bore
The British Empire had spent the previous two years building up its forces from the scale of the “contemptible” levels of the BEF to the point where large sections of the front were taken up by the newly raised four armies. The Bavarian forces making up the Second army in positon on the Somme
front found their daily ration of harassing fire switched largely to shrapnel as the British moved into place.
The first day saw 13 British divisions and 11 divisions assault after prolonged artillery preparation and met with mixed results . The battlefield divides nicely into a western British zone and a southern allied assault. The western offensive met with no real success and a massive butchers bill accounting for most of the 57,000 allied casualties of the day The southern front however resulted in a real defeat of the German forces by the British Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army and a significant penetration of the German defensive positions it was here that most allied effort would be directed in the future.The battle-campaign ground on in attritional warfare until November or February depending on who you listen to.
Why the difference in results on the first day? Many reasons are put forward but the themes we will try to represent are
1. The British forces were short of heavy artillery capable of smashing the dugouts in which German infantry and machine guns were held. The French had far more on the southern front.
2. British artillery shells had poor fuses resulting in forty percent duds. In the end we adopted a French design.
3. The southern front had more British Territorial troops and large numbers of French troops with far more experience of large scale engagements.
4. We will also try to represent other themes such as Allied air superiority, Allied mining efforts and successful bombardments of barbed wire entanglements.
Thanks all thoughts and prejudices are entirely the fault of the management in this case me , Peter Gregory
Southern Front – post depletions
Northern front, despite the punishing onslaught of rolling barrages and destruction of the sections of trench and damaging of on table MGs and artillery the German lines hold – reversing history !
The Southern front offers little defender resistance – reversing this outcome also!
Squarebashing is a set of rules for recreating warfare in the early part of the twentieth century where the battle field was dominated by rifle and machine gun fire before the development of mobile armoured formations allowed for deep penetrations of the enemy front and disruption of army level formations. Dominated by fixed positions and artillery fire it is often seen as a dull period for gaming.
Squarebashing brings some dynamism to divisional level engagements where the tantalising prospect of a breakthrough is snatched away by the arrival of reserves or a defensive barrage. Much of the action is abstracted to a degree but the feel is right and most aspects of the era are well represented.
The system is designed for pick -up games on club nights where matched forces can be brought and varied terrain deployed. The pre -battle system of asset allocation brings narrative, historical flavour and variety to each game. Games can be fought to a conclusion on a club night in a satisfying manner and so all is well and a growing number of armies have been painted up and deployed at our club. The only problem I have is that I want all the armies in the army list book. Each army comes with its own assets and potential historical events which makes them even more attractive to an addict like myself.
Of course, one is not constrained to play the game in this way. The game mechanics can be used as the basis for games with different objectives or specific historical refights. This provides the opportunity to do some research, act on the evidence or your prejudices and shape a game to your liking.
The games we are presenting are designed to be manageable: playable , enjoyable( to a point) and entirely reflective of the prejudices of the scenario designer Peter Gregory. I am fairly sure we will disappoint or annoy some people but since after 46 years as a wargamer I cannot find two players who agree on much this will not surprise us at Burton District Wargames Club
James Morris popped over to Burton on with his new game of Squarebashing. It was a upscaled versions of his lovely Fort Vaux game that made the rounds last year.
This was a playtest his new scenario that pitted an overwhelming German assault. The game ran all very smoothly I thought. As a German player it might have looked rosy, but you are attacking uphill all across the line into a fort, trenches or at best hasty defenses.
The defending trenches were garrisoned be a mix of reservists and regulars. All the terrain was treated as ‘shattered’ and required dice to exit. That resulted in the Germans taking ‘movement’ as their higher command order – very rarely seen in the modern game! That has the rest that the French asset order meant that they could be far more frugal with their barrage assets and while the Germans had more assets the French used them to better effect
We had 2 main assaults , one into the Fort, which was garrisoned by very paltry collection of defenders – who turned out to be very tenacious ( I think it was them always getting 2 dice minimum – and the Germans always taking -4 dice away ! uphill forts !!).
The second was on the end of the line against conscripts who had attracted the attention of the German artillery – however , Oberleutnant Boyles displayed exemplary dice to see the best of the Germans repulsed by the French conscripts
Great game – giving a very close result.
Played a 2nd game of Walter Schnaffs V2 .. this game was a bit one sided with the Prussians attacking with the French suffering fearful depletions. The revised version of skirmishers was probably a bit over powering and we’ll most likely go back to the prior iteration – and we don’t think it looked as good.
Pre depletions – French look strong on the Prussian left with a impressive looking cavalry wing
Post depletions – all the cavalry were late – and ended in up reserve! The French situation is perilously thin
The Prussian assets – now with a bit of corp artillery support – Baby barrage – combine with big full strength Prussian attack broke through the French line quite easily. The random millatreuse and Chasspot effects didn’t favour the French in this game as they had in the first – which was a great swinging battle
Over Rays dice were poor and that didn’t help. That said the Prussians only captured 2 of the 4 objectives – which given then the game level probably would have resulted in a mediocre Prussian win. “Von Bredows Death Ride” event worked a treat though
Squarebashing 2017 is to be held on 24th June
Battlefieldhobbies in Daventry.
It will be a team event (entries permitting). The armies are divided into 2 Pools. In each team – one player plays allies, the other central powers.
The lists and statuses are
There will be 2 games, Team against Team (Allies vs Central Powers). For each game the sum of each team score will be added to the team total. The army points are 620pts (standard game)
To encourage using under valued armies the sum total of army rating will be deducted from final score.
The terrain will be pre set , other than that, its RAW. You have the option to use the ‘Rays Stick’ method for countdown to battle. There will be no trench, canal or fort games. All painted figures please, we want it to look nice!
Any questions can be raised to me at Simon@lurkio.co.uk or via the RFCM forum
Tickets can be purchased using here
Can you please purchase tickets promptly , just so the venue has an idea on the lunch requirements. At the moment we are trying to get into the ‘big’ room which has meant that the cost has gone up a couple of quid (B/H need to put on another member of staff). But we need a dozen players to make that viable.
Tickets: £12.50 including lunch
Date: Saturday 24th June 2017
17 Brunel Close
09.00-09.25 – Players arrive, welcome.
09:30-12.30 – Games One.
12.30-13:30 – Buffet lunch supplied.
13.30-16.30 – Game Two
You can get a t-shirt to celebrate the event
1914 Squarebashing on Thursday. I fought using the Russians vs Bobs’s new Germans. We used Rays new ‘stick method’ , replacing the countdown to battle, which worked well – and we we determined the attack defence in about 5 minutes. Despite trying to attack, I lose that, and the stoic Russians were on the defence. I had imagined another cinematic Cossack sweep down the empty flanks. But I got neither the event nor the first turn! Defending also means you have to take the full brunt on the depletions. Its not like the small professional BEF who can cram into the object squares and hope to get lucky with the reduced dice.
With 7 depletion dice per square the losses were savage, with the Russians ending up with over 10 battalions off the table. Any plan for envelopment was put to the side, and it was a holding on game right from the start.
The game started slowly , both Bob and I did not get assets where we were committing 7-8 dice to the throw. This somewhat stymied Bob’s attack and the missing point effect barrage prior to his central assault meant that the attack was repulsed (just! a draw!) This had the usual bogging effect on the game and both sides sat back after initial loses, trying to blast somewhere with fire and artillery to gain advantage. The fact that the central areas of the table had villages lessened the casualties that were inflicted on the Russians. The Russian reserves dribbled on not in any spectacular way, but always a battalion or 2 arriving into the centre where the fighting was fiercest. The attack was very narrow , across only 3 or 4 squares and those columns became filled with troops. The game was quite unusual in that aspect, and has wide areas in the flanks that had very thin defences.
One German battalion has strayed out of the cover of buildings into the open and was the target of a glorious cossack charge. Isolated and unsupported the infantry were swept from the field and the cossacks wore their ‘winning the fight’ like a badge of honour – it doesn’t happen often!
With the German attack blunted it reached a stalemate. Where the germans had broken into row 3, it was not an objective, and either side defences and machine guns kept the worrying threat of a flank charge honest. The game to a close with little ground gained. The Russian losses were quite bad – and maxed out on 20 bases lost. But strangely neither side had lost any whole battalions. With the Russians still ensconced in 3 out of 4 objectives meant a solid victory for the czarists.
Another enjoyable game with the Russians, they seem to play out really well. Having a largely reservist list looks weak on paper and you’ve got to expect a lot of losses. But playing with morale higher command and a few judicious ‘hold the line’ orders and really they are not going anywhere. I suppose I was lucky when the the dreaded suppression barrage came, in as that is the reservist nightmare. If they take a casualty from that (likely) then you have 5 squares which with typically have a 3 dice test. This has a real risk of getting a ‘retire’ result, stuck under suppression meaning you can’t move and take the extra 6 hits. Whole bases are coming off in that way for Reservists.
Squarebashing always seems to give a good game, even it what might seem to be uninspiring circumstances 🙂
Well, given that I couldn’t find anything off the shelf, I guess I have to make my own higher command group
Bedouin ways were hard even for those brought up to them, and for strangers, terrible: a death in life.
Last night was the debut for the Russians. As part of a horse trade deal a long time ago I didn’t have many options of composition. The 620pt force being
- 3 regular
- 10 reservists
- 1 professional cavalry
- 2 regular cavalry,
- 2 reservist cavalry
- 4 MG
- 4 Artillery
So a veritable horde… with more cavalry than I’m used to.
The game was against Rays 1914s Germans, and his army was larger than normal with 3 units of his own cavalry and , no professionals at all.
With our usual lackadaisical start neither of use invested much effort in the countdown to war, just using the normal default values. Through slightly better dice the Russians won and ended up attacking – reconnaissance in force. Things to note
- Ray rolled low twice on the events chart and ended up deducting 6 from his artillery assets
- On the events I scored the opponent cannot deploy in the 2 end columns (on one side) & one turn of no scenery penalty movement.
So, the game. As attacker I tried to move all the terrain to my side of the table and hopefully time it well with the movement event. This worked reasonably successful. The master stroke was that having 5 units of cavalry allowed me to utilise the vacant columns in the first turn – this was a real game winner. Moving first meant big columns of Cossacks racing down the flanks with relative impunity.
The mob of Russian infantry lurched out of all the bad going, and was looking frighteningly powerful as after the depletions of the German left flank left them looking fragile. A well placed point effect on the German positions meant that they would have a rather painful morale phase. It might all be over for Christmas!
However, the cruel mistress that SB is had other plans. The German turn saw a suppression barrage placed skilfully over the whole Russians advance. With 13 units of infantry it hard to disperse them to reduce effect. While the suppression barrage is not ‘a killer’ in as much as the casualties it inflicts are smaller. The Reservist saves usually mean that there is a casualty and therefore cause for a moral test. This is really exasperated by the factors of reservists, under barrage with casualties… the morale dice just rack up. The Russian duly failed most of the tests – AND – then because they are suppressed cannot retire and take another 6 hits … again with terrible reservists saving throw. It started brilliantly and turned to **** in one turn. It looked like the entire infantry assault had stalled due to one suppression barrage!
The Cossacks were have more freedom running around the German rear. They had already destroyed one unit of German cavalry and were looking for targets of opportunity.
The Germans were holding on and took some rather risky strategy with their reserves which did not pay off, they ended up with their artillery exposed in the line allowing the stoic Russians to press in those two places. However , the dice dictated against it ,even with a couple of guns they beat of a sizeable Russian infantry assault. The guns had good support and the dice were wacky. So rather than breaking the German lines in two places, the Russians stalled and ended up standing right in front of the German lines.
The Russian cavalry in the rear delivered a textbook flank charge on the German reserves after a textbook point effect barrage preceded it – damaging the MG – UUUrah! The Germans scattered off table , losing bases left, right and centre. Moving off table was probably best thing for them as while taking a savage beating they were still ‘at strength’ and now safely in reserve so victory points that could be gained would be limited.
As the game concluded the game looked favourable to the Russians, and fate had seen big swings in fortune in this game. The Russians has achieved 2 breakthroughs , captured 2 out of 4 objectives and occupied the max allowed squares in rows 2 & 3. However, this was countered but a frightful 27 bases of ‘killed’ troops and Ray having some re-roll events on the objective scored. SO, it ended up with a +7 to the Russians – Minor Victory. The Russians, while on paper look poor and their army rating of 27 reflecting that, have some good synergies. The cavalry and empty flank zones is a great combination. The sheer mass of reservists gives them great resilience … but not for the feint hearted as you cannot make an omelette without breaking some of those Russian eggs.
Great game. Squarebashing always delivers a fun evening with lots of twists and turns.
With a drum roll….! The date for this is Sat 10th December 2016.
The venue is now Battlefield Hobbies in Daventry.
Hopefully the centrally located venue will help those on the periphery of the country. The entry fee is £10 per player. This includes lunch 🙂
The theme will be “up til the guns of August”. The period will from 1900 up to, and including 1914. It will be a team event (entries permitting). The armies are divided into 2 Pools, grouped by conflict. Each team must pick a pair of armies from a single conflict.
The allowed lists are –
There will be 2 games, Team against Team (As vs Bs). For each game he sum of each team score will be added to the team total. To encourage using under valued armies the sum total of army rating will be deducted from final score.
The terrain will be pre set , other than its RAW. All painted figures please, we want it to look nice!
If you want the full experience there is a t-shirt accompany the event. Profits from which help to finance the RFCM forums (£2)
Assaulting in Squarebashing quite often has many options, with some subtle nuances. Here is 1 examples with the options explained. Hopefully it will help to show which is best, and what the outcomes will be
The French are in blue. They are defending a trench D-E-F. They Germans in Green have options of assaulting in the following
Option 1 assault only from the front (B)
The dice are German (assaulting) 3 dice per unit at strength = 6 Fighting bonus + 2 = 2 Support square (F)+2 = 2 Assaulting trench -3 =-3
French (defending) 2 dice per unit at strength = 2 Support square (D)+1 = 1 G cannot support as under barrage
Total dice 7 assault vs 3 defence
If the Assault is successful if the barrage in G is suppression then the French regulars in E cannot retire and will take another 6 hits. If not suppression then it moves to G. Then at least 1 German unit from B must move to E – gains winning the fight marker
Option 2 assault only from the flank (F)
The dice are German (assaulting) 3 dice per unit at strength = 6 Assaulting flank = 2 Winning the fight + 2 = 2 Support square (B)+2 = 2 Assaulting trench to flank -2 =-2
French (defending) 2 dice per unit at strength = 2 Support square (D)+1 = 1 G cannot support as under barrage
Total dice 10 assault vs 3 defence
If the Assault is successful if the barrage in G is suppression then the French regulars in E cannot retire and will take another 6 hits. If not suppression then it moves to G. Then at least 1 German unit from F must move to E.
Option 3 Primary assault from the front (B) additional assault from (F)
The dice are German (assaulting) 3 dice per unit at strength = 6 Fighting bonus + 2 = 2 Extra assault units = 2 (max 2 units per face) Assaulting trench -3 =-3
French (defending) 2 dice per unit at strength = 2 Extra assault units =-2 (max 2 units per face) Support square (D)+1 = 1 G cannot support as under barrage
Total dice 7 assault vs 2 defence (actual = 1 but 2 dice minimum)
If the Assault is successful if the barrage in G is suppression then the French regulars in E cannot retire and will take another 6 hits. If not suppression then it moves to G. Then at least 1 German unit from B or F must move to E – gains winning the fight marker
Option 4 Primary assault from the flank (F) additional assault from (B)
The dice are German (assaulting) 3 dice per unit at strength = 6 Assaulting flank = 2 Winning the fight + 2 = 2 Extra assault units = 2 (max 2 units per face) Assaulting trench to flank -2 =-2
French (defending) 2 dice per unit at strength = 2 Extra assault units =-2 (max 2 units per face) Support square (D)+1 = 1 G cannot support as under barrage
Total dice 10 assault vs 2 defence (actual = 1 but 2 dice minimum)
If the Assault is successful if the barrage in G is suppression then the French regulars in E cannot retire and will take another 6 hits. If not suppression then it moves to G. Then at least 1 German unit from B or F must move to E.
So obviously best to multi assault especially against tougher (more dice opponents) . The only questions are around having to move units into the final square which may or not be advantageous to you.
On Thursday I had chance to trot out some new toys to play Squarebashing. I’ve just completely my late war French and Germans and it was an opportunity to experience the full fat armies of Squarebashing. After playing the last few games with the Belgians in 1914 the smorgasbord of quality assets was a luxury. What I failed to released was that both armies were kitted out to the gunnels with bombardments and therefore I would be on the receiving end of it also.
We decided to play the trench game. I’ve only really played this a couple of times and we missed a few things. However it did mean we didn’t have to worry about the countdown to battle phase. In the trench game its always ‘attack in force’ for depletions, and as the defending French we have a trench running the length of row three. The defender can be deployed in row 2 and 3, as per usual the attackers are in row 6. After deploying the position seemed impregnable (doesn’t it always) .
2 professional infantry
6 regular infantry
4 reserve infantry
5 professional infantry
5 regular infantry
1 Heavy Tank
Both armies were rated 47 … I think the highest in the book (no one would have a bonus for being a ‘better army’)
As defender the French has 12 infantry units and after depletions would have to have 1 on 3 off the table (4). Depletions were applied. It always seems horrific when you see a couple of 6s appear on your best troops and have the ultimatum of deploying them at half strength or in reserve. In the end it probably wasn’t that bad as I ended up only with 4 infantry in reserve (also 2 guns and 1 MG), which is just about the minimum. It did look that the front line of regular in the trench had taken the worse of it and were all ‘bases down’, while the reservists looked largely untouched.
However the trench game nastily also requires the defender to lose 1 base from 4 full strength on table infantry units AND damage 2 guns AND damage 2 MG…. also losing d6 of each bombardment asset!
After this the defending French looked threadbare and it might be the case for the Germans to walk through.
There is also a mine phase (forgot that !). The Germans also have the option to swap infantry for Stormtroopers (forgot that!)
The German lined up to advance. Ray had picked the ‘fighting’ higher command order (to bolster his attacks) and I pick ‘morale’ and I felt I might need it.
Turn 1 the German point effect barrage the line. It looked bad and I took a few casualties , but it was the centre of the line. My higher command would be close enough for his command orders to be of use (the French only have a command rating of 2 – boo – compared to the Germans 4 ). One of the objectives to fight over is a MG bunker in row 4 . The Germans did attack this , but the trenches and bunker do have a contiguous line of rough terrain in front of it so each assaulter does have to throw to exit (and assault). I was fortunate here as the professional German failed (on rolling a 1 ) leaving the regulars to advance on their own. This happened a couple of times in the game and did forge the narrative of perhaps why they were veterans. The initial assault faltered, but the MG bunker was damaged.
The next turn saw the French suppression barrage failed spectacularly. The Germans were all lined up nicely , but even with a good artillery rating I managed to throw 3 consecutive 6s to see the artillery to go over the heads of the advancing troops and fall harmlessly into no mans land. It clipped the end of the line, but the centre of the defending line was left under pressure.
The next German turn was a rolling barrage. With only 5 dice in the asset (needing to roll 1 6 ) it wasn’t guaranteed, but it was granted. This could potentially fill 15 squares ( a 5 x 3 section) with barrage markers. The German artillery is also rated as good, and they obliged by getting all the first 5 all on target , except 1 which fell short … on top of my MG bunker. It was the perfect shot. Luckily the rolling aspect of the barrage was minimal and it only rolled forward in 1 column. But the initial barrage was terrible. All the targeting squares took hits and combined with the barrage markers it looked ripe for an assault and a swift victory. This was the case. The MG bunker was captured and there was a breakthrough right in the middle of the line. The French teetered on defeat…
The following French turn saw them call for urgent arrivals. Not my favourite asset as it doesn’t ruin your opponents days as much as savage artillery barrage. But , the situation was dire. The centre was breached and I only had 1 damaged MG holding the left flank. I had to send my professionals from reserve to assist there otherwise it would be over very quickly. The French second line was mainly damaged conscripted with some field artillery. It would be a mainly static defence. The Germans breakthrough did take some withering fire as it pushed into the 2nd line. But some nice dice saw then shrug off the injuries.
There was a then a slight lull in the battle. The Germans didn’t have an artillery asset to support the ongoing assault and chose to erect some hasty defences (to facilitate a improved morale check that they were due to take) . The French followed up with successful point effect barrage right on the schwerpunkt of the attack. There was a glimmer of hope for the gallant French defenders. The Germans would have to take some nasty morale checks. However, their nerve held…. It all looked good, but they were professionals and in trenches (by this time), so in the end it wasn’t that bad. They stalled but it was only a brief respite.
With a master stroke the Germans then called up their suppression barrage. The was targeted just behind the lines (in row 2). This had the double whammy of denying troops in those squares giving support to the front line troops and also preventing and movement into those squares….. in the form of retreats from the front line!! The main assault went it. The French were weakened and could only offer minimal resistance, the Germans too had a bloody nose, but just did enough to win the critical fights which would have been OK (relatively speaking) , but the fact that the retreat was blocked by the barrage meant they took a lot of damage. This just crushed the French and a couple of units were just annihilated.
At this point we called time and added up. It was just one point from a decisive German victory (but we were only about ½ way down the countdown clock ) so given another hour it would have been a major German success.
Despite the feeling like a kicked puppy the trench game does offer a lot of challenges and makes what look like a drole gaming experience into a white knuckle ride – recommended.
We finally had our big battle of Squarebashing 1915 just before the anniversary year was out! The battle was a abstracted representation of the Anglo French attack at Third Battle of Artois. In reality that meant just using a normal Squarebashing trench game. There were some game specific rules to account for the large game. There were 8 players.
The table was 12’ , divided in to 6’ squares. Each army was 500pts (rather than 620) and could only deploy in a 6 square frontage (rather than 8) , but they could move and fire into the 2 either side of their deployment , thus allowing a potential 10 square frontage. This was to allow some interaction between the forces. As it turned out each section settled down into their respective areas and there wasn’t too much interaction between players.
While the Germans were entrenched with MG bunker, they has some fearful deletions. The trench game doesn’t use the countdown to war, but has a specific set of defender depletions on top of the dice roll. Trench games are always ‘attack in force’ (6d6), and1/3 of infantry need to be off table as reserves. In addition the defenders must damage an additional 2 bases of on table guns and 2 bases of MG. On top of that each full strength unit of infantry after depletions have been made remove a base. So at best all the Germans could only have 3 base units. The only full strength units were those in reserve. The defenders also 1d6 in each of their barrage assets. So while it started looking all rosy for the Germans the line looked remarkably thin after this!
The trench game is direct. The trenches are in row 3 , and the MG bunkers in row 4. With the attacking allies getting the first turn they can (and did) assault the bunkers on turn 1. The defenders also had to raise the onslaught of the allies assets with gas , rolling barrage and point effect all possible.
However the attackers don’t get it all their own way. There is a complete line of rough going across the trench line and to assault the trenches then everyone has to roll to exit the square. This means that 1/3 of any attack is likely to get stuck and not participate. Against MG bunkers its not quite so easy.
The game looking likely it was going to be very bloody, and indeed it was. The allies pressed on quickly before the defending reinforcements could come into play. But the Germans held them back. The French , with a lot of reservists, took a lot of punishment. Pete’s densely packed ranks got by some severe German point effect barrage , and Dene on the other flank looked OK, but then threw some fearfully bad morale dice and had 2 units quit the field (which I don’t recall seeing happen before – that is 3 morale fails and then throw a 5+ to rout)
The British were more stable but didn’t really achieve much either. After the initial onslaught with many of the assets depleted the game bogged down and it looked unlikely that either side would get a major result . On the far left flank Peter threw in the towel after 90 minutes, only to realise that he couldn’t go home earlier so after sitting out for a while continued. I’m not sure that he was role playing a little Gallic temperament , or just following his normally defeatist rout to victory. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. On the right Dene showed savoir faire and did get a breakthrough of some success, capturing a few square of trench and ejecting the Germans , but I think Paul will put that down to ‘bad dice’
We played for just under 3 hours , and ran out of time when the countdown clock was on 1 . So we should have had 1 more pair of turns. But game was up. The British has had limited success in the centre capturing 2 bunkers , but with troops in a state unlikely to press the advance. The Germans still had sections that were still in good order so there was no conclusive result there. On the left Pete did have some limited success in the end, but James has cunningly picked his higher command order of assets and seemed to taking full advantage of the re-rolls that it gave him, and the French were taking a pounding.
Dene was the bright light in the attackers story. He did achieve a breakthrough into the trenches. But could not achieve a breakthrough – in games terms – to row 1
As umpire my job was to keep all the sections of the game synchronised in the unusual SB turn sequence. The game moved along OK, we could have done with 1 more hour to conclude to a calculable point, but I think were we left it was obviously heading for a draw, at best a minor victory for the allies. The trench game does have dominate early phase where everyone is at strength and the barrages are flying. If an early advantage is not achieved then that it does dwindle down to limited actions with likelihood of any major success reducing, probably much like the real thing
Thanks to all participants! The Mansfield boys for making their period trip down. Shout out to Richard who have never played before and was drafted in at last minute. He was put right into the centre of the attack and marched his Tommies into the machine gun fire with good grace.
Vorwärts !to 1916!!
With a big game of Squarebashing lined up for Christmas~ it comes down to looking at the availability of the figures. The intention is to play a 4 player per side – 16′- of squarebashing. Nominally this will be based on the Anglo/French attacking in the Third Battle of Artois (sept 1915 – close to our 100th anniversary date)
So the British First army (60k) , French Tenth Army (48K) vs German Sixth army (50K).
With the figures available there will have to be some fudging of earlier French dress, so with that I decided to paint up some later war French. With Peter Pig re-sculpting their late war French, and Battlefront releasing their French, the decision wasn’t so clear cut. But in the end I decided on Peter Pig. I knew that they would be clean cast – as I wanted as little prep as possible, and my last experiences with BF figures wasn’t great. It probably cost me more in the end, (accounting for BF deep discounting from online stores) , but at least I go what I want and it would match my other figures.
With Peter Pigs normal speedy delivery the figures had arrived within the week, and I was lining up to prep them for painting. The prep was a dream , on a lot of the figures I actually did nothing. Some have nubs on the bases (likely a vent from the mould) but not too much. On the figure themselves I had to de-flash maybe 10 out of 200+/-
Rather than basing it on any hard research I decided to base the colour palette I would use on the art of Tignous, the political satirist, who died during the Charlie Hebdo shooting. He colobarated on the Art for the game Les Poilus (later The Grizzled).
So a rather playful, graphic blue. Rather than a washed out Horizon blue after weeks in the trenches! I was aiming to capture the essence of these illustration with its chalky backdrop and colourful uniforms. It rather suits 15mm which always benefits from a elevation in the colour register to give it that pop.
Prep stage 1 – lolly sticks
All the figures are loosing grouped into like poses and are stuck to hobby/lolly stick with hot glue (gun). This will be a production line !
GW Corax white. Great primer. Slighly off white but not so much that its noticeable. Only one coat needed. I did dust it with Skull white afterwards to get some natural shade. This was probably a mistake as the Skull white is very chalky by comparison and gave too much of a ‘key’ to the surface
I planned to use a wash colour base, then an ink wash. So sticking to the GW pantheon.
Base colour – Hoeth blue thinned with Lahmian Medium. I have tried most other acrylic mediums/flow improvers out there. But nothing seems to cut it like this stuff. So with a watery mix slap it on. At this stage don’t worry as it will shrink back.
Cut point here is to avoid any unnecessary finger contact with the primed figures. You don’t want greasy finger marks acting as a resist to your paint here.
Wash – Gulliman blue 70%, Nuln Oil 30% … again this is thinning to a 50% wash/50% Lahmian medium.. When the figures are fully dry (best leave overnight slap that on)
So picking up a strip sample ist just a case of face (normal triad) , rifle – just a dark brown, and the packs. All washed with a Army Painter strong tone (brown) ink.. another stalwart in this painters arsenal.
So that’s its just another 30 strips to go!
For our next game of Squarebashing we thought we’d try a canal crossing, this would allow Ray to use his newly acquired BEF. The canal game differs from the normal game in a couple of keys features. There is no countdown to battle, so that speeded things up a little. The table setup differs only that you put a canal traversing the tables (in-between rows 3 & 4) , it doesn’t occupy a square but acts as a barriers between the 2 rows. The defender gets to place the terrain as normal. The game type is always attack in force but with an extra depletion dice. The objective are different in that they are 3 crossing point on the canal. 1 is where the road crosses, and the other 2 are placed by the defender (each being at least 1 column apart) … AFTER the depletions are made. So the attacker gets to see where the weak point is and then placed the crossings there.
You can just see the BEF deployed above the canal here.Only 4 square of the 8 in the line have any occupancy
The plucky BEF only had 10 units of infantry , and after depletions only 5 were left on table, so the line was looking very thin. The defender also only gets to deploy in row 2 (so needs to move to occupy and defence of the canal crossing). So as always the defending position looked decidedly weak.
The Germans have raced forward to cross the canal quickly
With the attacker getting the 1st turn the Germans called for – and received – a suppression barrage. In a game of completely ineffectual artillery , which is very unusual, all but one of the suppression squares deviated. The only one that didn’t deviate didn’t have any enemy troops in. However, thinks weren’t so bad. The barrage fell largely short and into the squares adjacent to the canal. This has the benefit of preventing the British from moving into those squares in the British first turn.
The Germans lurked forward and occupied the canal bank, ready to cross in 2 out of 3 crossing point in the next turn. As the British were pinned and unable to move into the defending bank, things were looking rosy.
The British 1st turn was quite catastrophic. The higher command has been hit (during the prior suppression barrage) and an luck would have it failed to save (1 on a d6) and had retired off table to the reinforcement pool. Ray has picked ‘assets’ as his higher command type (which allows re-rolls on the asset attempts so means you can spend less dice to try to get assets). Being off table in the first turn meant that he didn’t get it. SO , to try and stop the Germans crossing the canal the BEF had to use nearly all of the dice pool to try and get their own suppression barrage. 10 dice were rolled needing a 6 ….. the result was no 6’s Suddenly with the BEF pinned back, and no artillery, there wasn’t anything that could prevent the crossing. Perhaps it would all be over for Christmas and there was talk of an early drink in the pub.
This was taken after all the bonus assaulting tokens were taken off. It looked so good to start!
The Germans second turn started well. They called and received a shock assault asset and rolled for a ‘fighting dice’ higher command. A large assault was massed on the leftmost crossing. This would be decided ‘a la bayonet’. Being that the assault took place one square back from the crossing the BEF didn’t benefit from any of the defended crossing rules. It wasn’t a completely perfect assault as the crossing was a pinch point and stopped other units supporting from the adjacent squares , rear support was also denied as it was on the far side of the canal. However I thought that the assault had a good chance . 3 full units (9 dice), +3 for shock assault , + 2 for fighting dice (-2 for attacking into hasty defences). The defenders had 1 unit (2 dice), 2 artillery (4 dice) and +1 for British firing. For a total of 7 dice. No –one had any supports . 12dice vs 7 dice … With odds like this there could only be 1 outcome. Yes, 2 hits each(after saves) and the British win (defender wins on a draw) .. the attack stalled. Further hits were applied and the BEF awarded the ‘winning the fight’ bonus for subsequent rounds. All of a sudden it would a lot harder to get past here
This was taken in the later turns where the Germans had spread out. However we do have some reservists having to fill in the line here.
On the central crossing as the Germans has less of an advantage they did not assault and crossed the canal and tried to fan out to establish a ‘beachhead’
At this point luck swung violently against the Kaisers boys. Ray rolled 4 6s for this reinforcements, so the majority of the infantry arrived. It should be said that prior to this Ray had rolled 22 successive d6s in various phases and not getting a single 6 (it was one of those were you count up it was so bad) . He chanced his arm on the central crossing and launched 2 assaults where the odds were even. He won both. The fact that the Germans has their backs to the canal was catastrophic . Being unable retired meant to take another 6 hits. So where we’d lost by 1 in the assault (1 casualty) , then there would be another 3 hits followed by another 6 hits (unable to retire). I’ve never seen so many casualties mount up so quickly. There were squares with 6 or 7 casualties in. Then the subsequent morale check was almost a guaranteed failure , which again because they couldn’t retire generated another 6 hits. In Squarebashing a unit can normally take a lot of punishment. Get caught in a position where you a unable to retreat … Well .. there is a lesson to be learnt!
Don’t get caught with your back to a canal
The rightmost crossing had now been reinforced. With a MG and riflemen in a defended position on the crossing that was shut tight.
The Germans on the left flank failed their single dice morale test – so got a no advance. This halted any further crossing their as the square was full occupancy. Things were looking grim now for the Germans and we could have called it there and gone for that early drink. However we played on.
In subsequent turns the Germans were given some slight chances. On the left they did rally and began to spread out on the far side of the canal and reinforce the crossing. However, were they needed a bit of luck none was forthcoming. All point effect barrage failed and therefore as best all further assaults were even , and nothing really happened.
So we timed out before the countdown clock reached the end. However the result was never in doubt. Not quite a massive victory, but a solid one for the BEF – well done Ray and his Brits (for their first outing)
Ray provided all of the terrain, and it all looks rather splendid I’m sure you agree. The carpet tiles from the 70s suddenly have come back in vogue!
The canal crossing game was good and provided some different challenges. The strange dice results we had were probably not indicative of a normal game would be like. After reading the rules I thought it would be tough as the attacker. But at the beginning I would see a route to victory. Squarebashing has this strange sensation where you think you can do a lot , and then when you make contact with the enemy everything bogs down quite quickly. Which is probably about right.
Paul and James came to play Squarebashing. Scrivs has documented it here –
Last night James and Scrivs came down for a game of squarebashing. Paul has diligently documented the event here !
Thanks to both of them for coming down and being pleasant opponents. Looking forward to the game you’re hosting soon ! 🙂