Jonesy, DeadEdd and the Thin Red Line
This weekend I was under the mistaken impression that Jonesy (mi hermano organizado) and I would be heading up the road to visit with an old wargaming friend of his for a weekend of Force on Force modern gaming. What I didn't realise was that old friend had put us back a week, leaving this weekend free and clear. After a week of Family Duty and having made a big effort to get this weekend off, it seemed a shame to waste it, so with the realisation that it coincided with a Manchester Area Wargames Society meeting (first, third and fifth Sundays) we decided to play an impromptu GASLIGHT game there. It was too late to organise any sort of a multiplayer game, but we were able to get in touch with our old friend DeadEdd, who was available to join us.
As I might have mentioned previously, since I was last involved with the club, focus there has shifted almost entirely over to competition-style wargaming. Similarly, since the club now opens every Monday night as well, the Sunday sessions have fallen out of favour - where there used to regularly be a dozen games today there were only three, including us. So we had no problems grabbing two tables for the game and a couple of spares for drinks, record sheets, casualties etc. (On Monday nights apparently it's frowned upon if you use more than one table per game.)
Everything was pretty much put together on the fly for the game - for forces I assembled basic British & German forces so that everything could be carried in one KR Backpack (two multicases) and an Aquila (which held the cavalry and a selection of character figures).
3 units of Regular Infantry
1 unit of Guardsmen
1 unit of Lancers
4 Landships (aka the Atlantis "Spanner" tank)
2 Gun Trucks
2 units of Regular Infantry
2 units of Jaegers (purely cosmetic, statwise they were identical to the regulars)
1 unit of Uhlans
3 Landships (the "not A7V" tank from Ironclad)
3 Ludwig class walkers
I had the vague idea of putting the built-up area in the centre of the table, but from there pretty much left the terrain layout to the other two. Because there were three of us and only two sides I offered to run one side myself while Jonesy and DeadEdd split the other side. In the course of play they also shared the card-wrangling duties which made my life easier. We played mainly from the original GASLIGHT booklet, but bearing in mind the cases where I've learned the rules in the Compendium have changed. We did however house rule a couple of things, as always.
1. A vehicle may take an action on a turn where it makes a successful Start roll.
2. A vehicle with fixed forward-firing weapons may make a Sustain roll in order to rotate up to its Spin before firing. In practice this usually only results in a slight "lining up" with the target
3. A vehicle may, in place of moving or firing, rotate up to 180 degrees in any direction. (AKA The "three point turn" rule)
4. The Ludwigs were only able to fire one of their two weapon systems - machine guns or main cannon, per turn. The MGs being fixed forward required a Sustain roll to bring on target as per 2 above. The dual Main Cannon may both be fired in one activation if the Ludwig passes a Sustain roll, if not the turret ring must be manually cranked into alignment and only one gun may fire.
5 We agreed to use both the new rules for catastrophic hits (natural 20 on the Save roll) and the original rules (rolls modified by SRM that are 20 or higher) as we agreed that the original rules meant heavier guns were more likely to get catastrophic hits, and just generally the more BOOM the better.
We also generally forgot about vehicle Morale rolls, but that wasn't so much a deliberate house rule as us genuinely forgetting to make the checks.
Jonesy and DeadEdd took the British and decided to try for a cavalry sweep round their left flank, while keeping their landships to the centre and right with supporting infantry. I decided to put my Ludwig walkers on the right where I knew they could wade across the river (a decision we'd made last game), have the Landships and cavalry in the open space in the middle with some supporting infantry, and put the Jagers on the left flank to slog through the woods and croplands (we ruled the golden fields as easy going but with soft cover, while the brown represented ploughed fields that offered no cover but were difficult going.)
Disaster struck the British early when HMLS Penzance failed its first Sustain roll and would find itself unable to restart until nearly the end of the battle. By contrast the German advance was a disciplined, orderly affair, except possibly for the Uhlans who decided that an advance across open fields that were already under the British landship guns was a bad career move, and repositioned in the shelter of the woods.
Over on the far British left, the "Fast Brigade" of the Lancers and the two gun-trucks got themselves into a bit of a traffic jam heading for the gates onto the lane. It was here that they came under fire from the Imperial Landship Lohengrin that did minor damage to Gun Truck #1 "Stanley". The lancers made a break down the lane, only to come under fire from both the advancing Ludwig walkers and one unit of infantry who had formed line along the river bank.
Meanwhile in the centre, Imperial Landship Parsifal had fallen prey to enemy fire, and HMLS Mikado had made a daring dash to outflank the stalled Siegdfried. On the next activation the lancers came through the middle of town and out the centre to charge the unit of German infantry huddling between the two Landships (DE: "Can you charge around corners?"... Me:"Meh, why not." - it was that sort of game.) They made both the morale roll for their casualties, and their morale roll for charging, and when I picked up the die to roll the "receive charge" morale check, I uttered the fatal words "I've not taken any casualties and have my unit leader. Pretty much anything other than a 20 would be OK."
Guess what I rolled?
Now By-The-Book I'm not sure that even that 20 would fail - halved to 10, -1 for Unit Leader = 9 . BUT working according to the spirit of the rules and the "natural 20 is always bad" dictum, I don't have a problem with natural 20 being an auto-fail for morale checks. The results scattered the unit, with only the officer and a couple of soldiers standing firm (courtesy of "charge nearest enemy" and "fire at random enemy" results. They actually gave a pretty good accounting of themselves for the next couple of turns, despite repeatedly failing morale checks they still managed to take out a couple more horsemen before being forced to retire. Revenge was dished up by the other platoon of infantry who flanked round behind the Lancers and with a round of volley fire, wiped them out completely.
Over on the German left flank I was aware that I had a purely infantry & cavalry force facing a landship supported by infantry. I decided to go for the "Hail Mary" play and after a couple of rounds of cautious advance the Jagers in the cornfield let loose a volley at the Landship. It was just outside short range for breechloaders which left me needing fours or less to hit and any that did would need a natural 20 save roll to have any effect. Three shots hit, and when Jonesy rolled the saves....... a 20 came up! Rolling on the Catastrophic Damage table resulted in the landship being destroyed and a huge fireball extending 12" to the front just missing my chaps who were just outside range. That was the second time that damage result had come up - the first had claimed the Imperial Landship Parsifal (and the fireball, we decreed, had consumed a tree on the edge of the town). Who knew it would happen a third time...
Two of the Ludwig walkers engaged in an extended gunnery duel with the two Gun Trucks and a unit of infantry (who desperately tried to emulate the Jager's feat for several following turns.) Gun Truck #1 "Stanley" took a catastrophic hit that actually knocked it off the side of the hill and sent it toppling over, but #2 "Oliver" was able to hold its own. The third Ludwig actually pulled across to the centre to support the stalled Siegfried and the be-lancered infantry against the daring HMLS Mikado. It was here I made a mistake, mixing up Ludwig #1 and #3 so that I acted with #1 when #3's initiative card came up... but #1's card came up two cards later and when I pointed out my mistake, everyone agreed it hadn't affected the results of the action.
Anyway, #1's main gun spoke and scored a Catastrophic hit on HMLS Mikado. The result.... vehicle destroyed and 12" fireball to the front.... Ludwig #1 was in range of this and so took the hit, failed the Save and suffered a steering jam, forcing it to turn constantly to the left. Although I could have legitimately remained stationary and used Ludwig #1 as a static gun position, I decided that would be un-sporting, so my next activation I made a "compulsory" move which effectively took it off the table.
Back on the German left flank, the Jagers and Uhlans suffered from some hellishly effective rifle fire from the firmly dug-in British infantry. The cavalry first failed a morale test and were spooked, three troopers charging the British behind the wall and suffering an undignified fate. The Jagers picked off a few British troops but the weight of fire was against them, and eventually both failed morale tests resulting in the collapse of the German left.
All was not quite lost - two British Landships were destroyed and two were out of action through failed Sustains. I had two Landships and two Ludwigs, the latter of which are pretty good anti-infantry platforms, plus one remaining unit of infantry. I pushed into the town on my right with infantry and the Lohengrin and we all agreed it was still a little too close to call.
My infantry came down Main Street, and the Grenadier Guards who had been on the edge of town exchanging fire with the Jagers, turned to face. There was a brisk exchange of rifle fire down the length of Main Street. Meine tapferen jungen gave a decent account of themselves but the weight of fire was against them, and a few turns later the three survivors dived into the nearby pub to find solace from the firestorm. The celebrations of the Grenadiers were cut short however by a round from the recently restarted Siegfried, which wiped them out to a man.
The Lohengrin had pushed forward through the town and was engaged in a point-blank knife-fighting gunnery duel with HMLS Pinafore. A lucky shot from the britishcher sweinhund jammed the Lohengrin's throttle full forward, and it barrelled forward out of control until it was nearly off the table. Finally Gun Truck #2 "Oliver" took a hit that jammed its steering left. As with Ludwig#1 it could legitimately have remained in position with its gun already laid in on its target, but when DeadEdd heard that I'd voluntarily moved Ludwig #1, he promptly did the same with Oliver, which took it off table.
It was at this point that I offered a "GG" and yielded the day. One of my Landships was totally out of position and bracketed by two of the British 'ships. One of my Ludwigs had suffered a turret jam on its main gun and wasn't really combat effective against vehicles. I'd lost all my troops, while the Brits had three relatively intact units of infantry left. It was, everyone agreed, a very close run thing.
Although Jonesy and DeadEdd had split the British command, on the whole the game was setup as a conventional two-player head-to-head wargame rather than the large umpired multi-player participation games that I think the rules were written for. Even so, the game flowed well and any fuzzy areas of the rules that would normally call for Umpiring calls were agreed in a gentlemenly fashion in the spirit of the game. Apart from the one mix-up between Ludwig #1 and #3 (not helped by the fact that the decal identifying #1 has somehow been rubbed off the model) I didn't have any problem handling five units of troops and six vehicles. I don't think I'd have a problem with a few more units of troops, but a couple more vehicles of different designs and statistics might start to become a little more complicated.
Jonesy is now talking about possibly putting together a little GASLIGHT force of his own. He mentioned that he'd wanted to go for British, but since I had them pretty well covered he might be thinking of a French force. Of course, mon brave, but consider this. All my British troops are in Home Service kit, leaving an opening for somone to collect foreign service troops in sun helmets or even, God forbid, that frightful khaki nonsense.
Once you realise that, it's just one step further to "Well why not get both French and Colonial Brits"....