Last week we held our annual wargaming group’s “away” event. This was the 31st year of the event and took place at one of the group’s home on the shores of Lake Tarawera and there were eight of us attending.
There are many traditions that have grown up around this event, but central to everthing is that this is about a group of friends coming together to have fun and play wargames. As a result the games are carefully planned to be both challenging and fun, and although there may be disagreements on the table, what happens at the table, stays at the table.
Because games involve between six and eight players and we have all day to play each of them, they tend the large. The size of games creates quite a logistical exercise, as I mentioned in a previous post, to get armies (more than 5,400 figures and 120 gun models, plus wagons, limbers, etc were used in the various games this year), terrain, sleeping gear, food, wine, beer and people from our homes in Auckland to the venue.
This year four of us arrived on Tuesday afternoon and at once set about clearing out the garage and set up the gaming table for the first game. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent relaxing in this wonderful setting in glorious weather.
Two more of the group arrived in the evening and we dined, drank wine and talked until late.
Wednesday morning dawned fine and clear with the promise of a warm day. This day’s game was my Russo-Japanese War game. It involved five players with me umpiring. The game was based very loosely on the Battle of Yalu where the Japanese First Army was attempting to force a crossing of the river. To make it a little more interesting than just an assault on a prepared position, I decided that the commander of a Russian division had been spooked by the Japanese build up and had abandoned the position, retreating west. When his commander heard of this, the divisional commander was relieved of command and the division ordered back to its position with another division in support. The Russians therefore were to be bivouacked on the table, but not in their defences. The Japanese were to move onto the table. I also gave the Japanese the option of flanking the Russian position by moving through some difficult terrain.
The Japanese chose not to flank the Russian line (to my disappointment since I had allocated nearly a third of the table to enable this), but deployed the Guard opposite the works and the 2nd and 12th divisions against the Russian right. The Guard struggled to get any sort of fire dominance and eventually shifted right where that were able to bring a concentrated artillery and machine gun fire on the Russian works. The Siberian Division that was posted here held out doggedly and the two Russian machine guns in the trenches will go down in history because, they held on for three turns despite being under heavy fire and being shaken - which meant that to remain where they were they needed a 1 on a D6 ( so that is six "1s" that were rolled).
The Japanese 2nd and 12th Divisions struggled to make headway against the Russian 10thDivision, despite the advantage of numbers in infantry, machine guns and artillery. Finally the Guards charged the trenches and carried them after a bloody combat that involved two or three Russian counter attacks.
Finally the pressure on the Siberians was too great and four or five battalions that were shaken or severely disrupted failed to respond to their commanders orders and quit the field. With the Siberians gone the Russian 10th Division could hold no longer and the game came to an end with a decisive Japanese victory.
The rules used here, as in all but one of the games for the week, were homegrown.
With the game ended the armies were returned their boxes, the table was stripped back and then re-set for the next day’s game. It had been a gloriously sunny day and the temperature had reached as high as 24 degrees Celsius. We had a few drinks on the deck as the sun began to set and sat around a brazier until a cool breeze drove us inside. A dinner of venison washed down with red wine followed. Late that night the remaining two of our party arrived.
There had been a bit of rain overnight, but Thursday dawned clear. Always an early riser I went for a bit of a walk along the lake front a little after 6:30. It was cold out and there was frost on the jettys, but the walk was invigourating. The native bird life there is amazing and I saw dozens of Tuis, a number of Wood Pigeons and even a hawk sitting sunning itself on one of the jettys.
Wood pigeons in the tree outside the garage
After breakfast we started the second game, a Franco-Prussian War battle. This time there were seven players, three Prussian and four French, each of us commanding a division in our respective armies. The scenario was a simple one – take and hold the farm and church that crowned the two dominant hills in the centre of the table. I commanded a Prussian division and had all the reserve artillery and a cavalry brigade. My objective was to hold a position opposite the hills and occupy the enemy’s attention until our two flanking divisions could come up, then my force could move to the attack.
The French were quick to occupy the objectives and, although I out gunned them fourteen batteries to six (and two of those were mitrailleuse batteries), I could not get fire superiority and I was getting knocked around by French long range fire, and was threatened on the right by the arrival of a French division.
Suddenly, just as our attack was beginning to develop on the left, the arrival of a fourth French division in the rear of our flanking force caused the flanking movement to stall. At the same time a fresh brigade joined my command and I pressed it forward against the farm. This assault was repelled, as was a second assault. Meanwhile a desperate attack by the Prussian division on our extreme right against the French reserve artillery was bloodily repulsed and things began to fall apart on that front.
The middle Prussian division that had been diverted from its original task by the French division that appeared in their rear filled the gaps on the now collapsing Prussian right. But the end was nigh and when the French on my left finally sorted themselves out and began to press forward, even the massed batteries of the reserve could not hold them. The game came to a conclusion shortly after, a decisive French victory.