Sunday, 25 March 2018

Austria vs Russia WW1

I finally got to field my Austro-Hungarian army against Mark's Russian hordes.  We used Jono's excellent ACW boards for the battlefield (which I didn't take any photographs of but Mark did and I will post them up when I get them).

It was a basic encounter scenario with a river with 3 fords (the objectives) and woods to one side and open terrain to the other.

Frank, Mark and Jon faced off against myself, Ian, guest player Ben and Russ.  Ben asked to try a game last week so we gave him a regiment.

Me and Ian plan the downfall of the Russians.  Russ in the background at full attention. 

The Russians won the initiative and chose to come through the woods towards the river.  The river went roughly diagonally from the left hand side (where I sat) to the middle of the board and then horizontally across.  So tactically we already held one objective (where I was) and the other two were in the middle of open territory (which from experience of Great War Spearhead is not where you want to be).

Mark and his crew come up with their strategy - which apparently was 'die cheaply'

I parcelled out the forces based on the Army list for the period.  4 Regiments (two of 12 infantry, two of 16 infantry plus MG's and trench mortars).  One regiment was Green, the rest regular.  The Green we kept in reserve.  I took one regiment with attached 76.5mm artillery plus FOO to guard the ford.  Ian took the rest of the 76.5mm guns, the Divisional HQ and a FOO to hunt and blatter anything in the open (as well as command of the reserves).  Ben took one of the larger regiments and Russ the other (together with the remaining artillery - 104's, 150's and a 90mm mortar).

It was later discovered that Mark had not exactly built his army to the same level of adherence to period (1916) or troop quality.  he was asked which of his regiments were Green (in the period 1/3 of Russian regiments would be Green) to which the answer was "Errr harrumph...anyway, moving on".  As he later unleashed a few surprises (see below) I was half expecting to see him bring some T34's on!

According to Mark's army list, this is a platoon

So in order across the table : me, Ben, Ian, Russ.

Facing me was Frank, Mark the centre and Jon faced off Russ.

In the opening moves I moved my HQ forward about 3" to denote the command zone but didn't need to show any troops until the Russians closed.  I also moved my FOO into the 'killing zone' between the edge of the woods the Russians were occupying and where my troops and guns were deployed.

I set up and await Frank's troops.  One of my troops gets so bored he falls asleep...
Frank sets up and await my troops.  You're in for a long wait fellas!

Russ took the heights on our right and parked his artillery with the aim of flattening anything coming near the objectives.

Russ parks his butt and awaits Jon's attack

Jon duly obliges 

Ben moved his troops across the river and into the cornfields and woods next to me (so basically invisible until anything got within 3" of him).

As the Russians advanced, Frank occupied the woods in front of me and set up at the wood edge.  Mark moved ahead into the same cornfield as Ben was parked (ooops) and Jon bumped into Russ' troops.  Jon was saved by atrocious dice rolling by Russ (and I mean pitiful) who failed time and again to call his substantial artillery barrages in but Jon still took casualties regardless from infantry fire.

Here come the Russians!  Keep bunched up lads - it makes the artillery more effective. 

Mark too found moving into a line of infantry and machine guns basically hurts and he started losing troops.  The one bright spark for him was his counter battery fire against Ian's guns was quite effective and he slowly whittled down Ian's 76.5's.

Mark's artillery - the one bright spark in a day of misery

Meanwhile Frank and myself just gave each other harsh glances but neither of us wanted to cross what would be an absolute killing zone.  But as we held the objective we were 1-0 up regardless.

Waiting for Frank : Part Deux  I can hear them breathing...

As the battle progressed, Jon was slowly being whittled down (not by artillery obviously as Russ had a dice which apparently only had 1,2 and 3 on it).  Mark was finding the going tough (especially as Ian dropped some of his artillery on Mark's troops as well) whereas Frank and myself just let the others do the fighting.  I literally didn't move a stand or throw a dice in anger all night (and now I'm known as Stonewall) but the simple threat of firepower over a killing zone was enough deterrence to force the battle elsewhere.  They also serve who stand and wait...

We do a quick audit of the big shells Russ should have dropped on the Russians but failed to call in.  There's another 100 or so round the back...

So the Russians decided to up the ante - first with a bomber strike (which they failed to call in) and then a full cavalry regiment with a couple of armoured cars!  This force made a bee line for the gap between Ben's troops and Russ'.  However, they had to come across the open ground overlooked by Ian's FOO - who called in round after round of HE to blunt the cavalry attack.  Jon was taking heavy casualties in both infantry and cavalry forces.

Russ takes personal command of his MG to inflict more pain on Jon

Ben saw this as a chance to attack himself (against the sage advice of others who said he was in a good position, inflicting casualties on Mark and denying ground to the enemy).  He decided to attack anyway.  He also wanted me to support his attack.  If wishing someone 'good luck' is considered support, then I did my duty!  No way was I going to go into Frank's gun line.

Ben's regiment goes for it.  "It's OK, this corn makes us invisible"

So he attacked alone through the cornfield and thanks to the audacity of the attack and Mark's terrible dice rolling he started to inflict more casualties on Mark and also forced Frank to pivot some troops that way and shoot (albeit his support weapons only as he knew as soon as his infantry stands opened up my FOO would call in a storm of artillery on them).

Face-off between Mark and Ben in the woods
Seeing the danger of the 'gap' opening up between Russ and Ben we pushed the reserves in.  Just in time to be fair although Russ finally managed to start dropping his heavy shells onto the cavalry and armoured cars.  One was about to hose our Divisional Commander with MG fire when Russ dropped 2 lots of 150mm onto it and obliterated it!

We sportingly make our reserve troops easier to spot and shoot but it made no difference.

The cavalry decided to charge the reserves but a combination of artillery fire, infantry fire, mortars and MG's led to a double morale check which was failed. Almost simultaneously Jon's infantry also broke - leaving the two objectives uncontested but our right flank was clear.

Mark was in a death match with Ben (which Ben seemed to be winning comfortably) and was probably not far off a morale check himself.  We called it at 10:30 as a comfortable win for the Austrians.

I like to think my stoic defence was the rock upon which our victory was built - but it was all Russ, Ian and Ben!


  1. A Battle Report From Phil..... We must have won!

    Nice AAR Phil. My dice rolling was dire on the night. Enjoyed the fight with Jon and it could have gone either way.

    WW1 is a totally different game to WW2 and you really will die massively in the open.

    This was the second outing for the Russian Cavalry and I am still unconvinced. They just died again like the first time they were used.

    Looking forward to the Somme game, though I suspect it will be very tough for the British to gain any ground.

    We need Mark on the British side as he knows how to race across an open table and reach the other side with a grin on his face.

    I do keep that Machine gun in the shed, it comes in handy from time to time in our road with the locals.....

  2. Great AAR Phil. The troops, terrain and scenario were excellent. WW1 spearhead is such a unique game in which caution is usually the safest policy but seldom wins a game. Ben did well to secure a good position and secure an advantageous jumping off point. And in spite of Russ' and my artillery concentration we only just managed to hold the right flank. A very good Thursday night game.

  3. Nice write up Phil
    Open ground is definitely to be avoided .
    Like any good marvel superhero, the Russian cavalry will be back.