Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Tarawera Week - Day Five (the last Day)

Apparently there was a brilliant sunrise on Sunday morning, not that I saw it, but by 8:00 it was raining. However the rain did not last long by the time we had finished breakfast it had cleared (although another rain shower came through a little after 9:00). 

I ran the final game of the week and had kept it a surprise until the night before. I had long been attracted to the Perry Miniatures Retreat from Moscow range and had concieved a game based on the Pony Wars rules that came out in the 1980s.

So after I got back from last year's Tarawera event I began planning. Readers will no doubt remember the collection of the Perry range and winter buildings that I built up earlier this year. These were all bought or made for this game.

So the details of the game...



The Retreat from Moscow game is a multi-player game where players command various French units during the Retreat from Moscow in 1812.


The French units are retreating along a road that weaves its way along the length of the table, passing woods, farms and villages until it crosses a river at one end of the table. The objective of each player is to get his unit across the river without losing more than half of his strength. 


As the French units march along the road they are liable to encounter Russian troops. There are a five trigger points along the road and as they pass in line of one of these the French will draw an event card that will declare whether any Russian troops arrive on the table and then, if they do arrive, a die is rolled and the Russian unit will arrive at one of four possible arrival points. If a Russian unit cannot arrive at the designated point, because access is blocked by a French unit, it will displace 500mm towards the river.


Russian troop movements are programmed and depend on the strength and proximity of the enemy, but generally speaking units that are in good order will always try to engage the French.


The terrain is snow covered but good going for troops on the road. Off road it is difficult going for infantry and cavalry, but normal for sleds.

The Forces


In this game the forces are:


The French

  • Five units of French infantry (4 stands each
  • One unit of French cavalry (4 stands)
  • One unit of French sled mounted cavalry (4 stands)


At the beginning of the game the French are deployed on the road with the cavalry in the front, with the sleds to one side and then the infantry.


A card is presented to each player that defines their command and the object of the game.

The Russians

  • One unit of Russian dragoons (4 stands)
  • Three units of Russian Cossacks (3 stands each)
  • One unit of Militia cavalry (3 stands)
  • One unit of raw Line infantry (3 stands)
  • Two units of Jagers (3 stands each)
  • Three units of militia (3 stands each)
  • Two units of armed peasants (3 stands each)
  • One field artillery battery (2 stands)
  • One militia 3lb gun (1stand)

No Russian troops are deployed initially, but on Turn 2 the line infantry will appear on the opposite bank of the river near the bridge, and may not cross the river unless the Emperor rule is envoked (see below).


As the French troops pass a trigger point a card is drawn and the entry point decided by a matrix within the rules.


A number of blank cards are included in the deck.

The Rules

The Pony Wars rules were to complex for what I wanted so I adapted my Napoleonic rules. In this game the French troops would be the equivalent of the US Cavalry in the original set and are pretty much free to do as they like, while the Russians are programmed like the Indians in the original and harass them all the way.


A full copy of the rules is located here.

The Table

The table was set up at 4 meters long and 2 meters wide. The map, with its trigger points, is as below - T = Trigger Point, A = Russian Arrival Point.



French units that are not in rout can recover status by the following means:

  • 1 status point per turn by moving at half rate
  • 2 status points by remaining stationary for one turn
  • 3 status points by eliminating one stand

Russian units cannot recover status.

Special Rule – the Emperor


Players are told that a special cache of supplies is located somewhere on the table that can restore up to eight status points on damaged units. Once the cache is found these points can be claimed by any unit as they pass within 50mm of the cache.


But the cache is a ruse. Instead in the centre of a village is a special trigger point that represents the Emperor and an escort of Imperial Guard troops. This force will be remain hidden from view until a French unit moves within 300 mm of the marker. At that point the Emperor and his escort are placed on the table.


The appearance of the Emperor has a number of special effects:

  • The game objective changes to getting the Emperor across the river regardless of cost
  • Any units within 600mm of him at the time of his discovery that are in rout or temporarily shaken or disrupted will immediately rally.
  • All units within 600mm of him at the point of discovery will immediately recover three status points.
  • All non-routing Russian units (including the raw line infantry unit) immediately move towards the Emperor and continue to try to attack him for the rest of the game

Once a French unit moves within 100mm of the Emperor, he and his escort will set off along the road to the bridge.

How the Game Ran

The table was set up with a white cloth. The road was marked with a brown Woodlands Scenic railway ballast. The trees were ones I had made years earlier for a game based in the Battle of Pea Ridge.

I changed the map a little, removing the mill from near the bridge and moving the church nearer the river.

Above and below, The French in their starting positions. The cavalry leads the way with Marbot's sleds on the right.

The first Russians arrive - a unit of mounted militia 


On the opposite side of the table some cossacks arrive and Marbot's sleds move to intercept. 

The Emperor has been discovered and sets off down the road.

The infantry column enters the village

The Emperor is well protected

The Russians are coming in from all directions.  A unit of militia has even had the audacity to charge the Emperor's escort - and nearly beat them!

Near the church the action heated up.

A Russian battery emerged from the wood and opened fire on the Emperor's sleigh, causing some damage, before one of the infantry units drove the battery off.

The Russians are everywhere...

The fighting rages all around the Emperor

But he is well protected and makes it safely across the bridge!

And so our fantastic week of gaming was over. We packed away the table, put everything back in the garage that we had moved to make space. We packed the cars, had a light lunch, cleaned up and closed up the house. 

Just before 1:00 we hit the road and had a easy drive home...that is until we hit the motorway into Auckland that is and we crawled along taking twenty minutes to travel two kilometres until we passed a small fender bender...welcome back to Auckland. 

The planning for next year has begun.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Tarawera Week - Day Four

Saturday dawned brilliantly sunny, although a little cool. After our usual hearty breakfast we stared our fourth game for this year that was set during the Spanish Civil War using one of our members' fabulous collection from various manufacturers (but chiefly Empress). 

I fought with the Nationalists with a command made up of two groups of Carlist Requetés and two of Falangists. I also had an armoured car. Supporting us were elements from the African army, a significant Italian force and elements of the Condor Legion. A Soviet backed force from the CNT, the Popular Front and the International Brigade opposed us. Because I was heavily involved in the early stages of the game I didn't pay much attention to what was happening elsewhere on the table, so this will be only a brief written description and I will depend largely images.

The Nationalist advance

 The Italians advance

My Carlists and Falangists advance 

The action centred on a small fictional village outside of Madrid that was occupied by the Popular Front and the CNT. 

The aircraft attack 

The Italian tanks sneak along the railway line

I don't remember which unit these were, but they look good!

The Italian artillery in action

My game started with an early encounter with the International Brigade in which I came of the worse. When two Soviet T26 tanks came forward my force was put to flight and the defence on that flank fell to the Italians, who also recoiled in the face of the Soviet armour before the the Russian tanks were destroyed.

Those damned Soviet tanks!

Assaulting the railway station

My Carlist Requetés come under artillery fire

The Falangists are attacked by the International Brigade...

...and the Carlists Requetés join the fight (the picture is taken just before the Soviet tanks dispersed my command)

International Brigade command

The Condors had a poor showing and their 88 gunners must had had too much Schnapps because they failed to score a hit all day!

The 88mm that missed every time!

Those damned Russian tanks again...

...and an armoured car

The Condor's 105mm finally finds a target 

And the Italian airforce flies over...

The contest in the village continued all day, although by the end of the day half of it was ablaze. In the end neither side held the advantage and a a draw was called.

Above and below, the fighting raged on in the village

Meanwhile the day outside was gorgeous 

Champagne closed out the afternoon, which I enjoyed on the deck with our host while others sat inside and watched a DVD. For dinner we devoured a fillet of beef, fresh beans with pine nuts and mashed potatoes, followed by a magnificent sticky date pudding, washed down by a few bottles of red.

It was pretty much a prefect day really!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Tarawera Week - Day Three - WWI in East Africa

Those who follow this blog will be aware that I have been working on this WWI East Africa game for some time, making buildings, terrain and completing a small Indian component for the British Empire forces. This game is the culmination of all those preparations and what follows here is first the scenario, then a review of the game.
The Narrative
It is February 1915.
After the embarrassing defeats at Tanga in November 1914 and at Jassin in January 1915, the British East Africa Command is anxious to get some runs on the board. While a major offensive is planned on the Taveta front, in March/April 1915 both British and German forces are looking to strike at opposing positions around Lake Victoria.
The Military Geography of the Region
The various settlements around the lake represent significant strategic assets to both sides. On the British side the lake provides access to the Protectorate of Uganda with goods being transported across it from Kampala to Kisumu, the terminus of the Uganda Railway that link the lake with Nairobi and Mombassa.

For the Germans there are three significant towns. Bukoba, located on the western shore, it is the largest and the most important of the towns in this north-western part of German East Africa. Its importance is two-fold. First a high powered wireless transmitter is located here and its loss would have a serious impact on communications between the colony and Berlin. Second is its importance for trade. The production of coffee here is a major revenue source and a strong trade in hides with Ruanda and Urindi is vital for equipping the Askari.
Shirati is a relatively small but crucial settlement located on the eastern shore close to the border. The German occupation of this place poses a real threat to the Uganda Railway and its terminus at Kisumu, 100 miles to the north. Equally importantly, the occupation of this place by the British threatens the German Central railway at Tabora 280 miles to the south.
Mwanza, located on the southern shore of the lake, provides the Germans a link between Bukoba and Shirati. Water transport across the lake is dominated by the British after they sank the solitary German gunboat on the lake. However, several small and fast German steamers are still available and have been able to maintain limited trade and transport throughout the region.
The British Briefing
Report of the Intelligence Section
The intelligence section has been active in the region, gathering information from local tribes and from traders who work the lake shores.
You can reasonably assume three companies Schutztruppen colonial (Europeans) volunteers, plus as many as nine companies of Schutztruppen Askaris. The Germans are said to be well equipped with machine guns and some artillery has also been reported.
There are strong reports that a naval contingent from the Koenigsberg has arrived in the region. It is variously rumoured that this force is intended to either bolster the European troops in the area or to crew lake vessels as gunboats. It is also rumoured that they have brought some naval guns removed from the warship Koenigsberg.
Locals have reported that there is much activity amongst the German forces around the lake. Rumours of an attack on Kisumu abound.
The location of German forces is impossible to determine with accuracy, but it is known that a permanent garrison of one Field Company is located at Bukoba and there are reliable reports that a well-equipped force of two or three companies is camped at Shirati.
To gain some advantage in this western region, Mombassa Command has determined that two missions will be undertaken around the lake:
  • The wireless station at Bukoba must be destroyed
  • Any German force at Shirati must be dispersed.
  • Above all Kisumu must be defended and its loss must be prevented
Task Force Victoria comprises:
  • 1 battalion (3 companies) British infantry, plus 1 MG
  • 3 battalions of Sikh infantry (6 companies), plus 4 MGs
  • 6 companies King’s African Rifles (KAR), plus 2 MGs
  • 1 company Frontiersmen, plus a sniper
  • 1 Field gun
  • 2 Indian mountain guns
  • 1 gunboat with pom pom gun 
The German Briefing
Report of the Intelligence Section
The intelligence section has been active in the region, gathering information from local tribes and from traders who work the lake shores. British have established a significant command at Kisumu estimated at between four to six companies of British troops, the same number of Indian troops, plus an undetermined number of native troops. Local traders have noted that they are well supplied with machine guns and artillery.

East Africa Command sees that success around Lake Victoria will not only force the British to divert troops from the Taveta front, but will open access to the productive region of Uganda.
The first step in this offensive will be the capture of Kisumu. This will cut all British military access to the Lake. Once Kisumu is taken a second phase of operations will commence to push a force up the western shore to take Kampala.
While Kisumu is the prime objective the retention of Shirati as an assembly point for troops and supplies is important and the protection of the wireless station at Bukoba is crucial for the survival of the colony.
Task force West comprises:
  • 2 companies Schutztruppen, colonial volunteers plus 3 MGs
  • 1 company of sailors plus 1 MG
  • 8 companies of Schutztruppen Askaris, plus 3 MGs
  • 2 field guns
  • 2 mountain guns
  • 4 Snipers
  • Unarmed steam launch (transport only - does not appear on the table)
Before the game begins both senior commanders are required to plan their missions with the following in mind:
  • They must specify the initial deployment of troops (number and make up of units at Kisumu, Bukoba, Mwanza and Shirati)
  • They must define the force allocated to each mission and the commander for each force
  • The British may move between Kisumu, Bukoba and Shirati by water while the Germans may move between Bukoba, Mwanda, Shirati and Kisumu by water
  • The British may move from Kisumu to Shirati by road, while the Germand may move between Bukoba and Mwanda, or Shirati and Kisumu by road
    • They must specify the start time for each mission with these options:
    • Set off before nightfall for a pre-dawn attack (involves a night march)
    • Set off at dusk for a dawn attack (involves a night march)
    • Set off at dawn for a mid-morning attack (involves a day march)
    • Set off after dawn for an afternoon attack (involves a day march)
    • NOTE: Night marches have an increased risk of the march being disrupted
  • They must define the location and intent of any reserves
Victory Conditions
British win outright if they hold Kisumu, have destroyed the wireless station at Bukoba, and either hold (or have burned), or have an upper hand in any contest at, Shirati. They can claim a partial victory if they hold Kisumu and have destroyed the wireless station.
Germans win outright if at the end of the game they hold Kisumu, otherwise they can claim a partial victory if the Bukoba wireless station is intact and they still occupy Shirati at the end of the game.
Any other result is a draw.
Technical Points
The game was played on three distinct tables. Since the game would be a series of missions against three potential targets I decided to divide the main table (2m x 4.8M) in two, representing any two of the target towns (determined by the size of the forces fighting there). A third table (1.6m x 1.5m) represents the town where the smallest forces would be engaged.
Movement between the various locations will take place on a map using the system I described in this earlier post ( with a series of movement steps between each point. A die will be rolled to determine the speed travelled and there are a number of possible speed retardants or enhancers (“go forward two spaces”, “go back two spaces” or “miss a turn”.

The Table
I had no specific table plan largely because I although I had a general mental picture of the layout. Specifically what I wanted was three distinct tables, each with a shoreline that the gunboat could appear on, plus various other features. The various pieces of jungle scenery I had produced over recent months were to be used to provide a visual divide on the main table.

The "jungle" divider
When we did the pre-game map moves it soon became evident that Kisumu and Buboka would be the centre of the main games and Shirati the smaller game. Here is how the table was set up on the day.

The main table with Bukoba in the foreground and Kisumu in the distance

The secondary table representing Shirati
The Game.
The German commander decided to defend Bukoba with 2 companies Schutztruppen, with 3 MGs, dug in around the wireless station and the company of sailors, plus 1 MG, in the garrison compound. Two mountain guns were in support. He chose to maintain the rest of his force at Shirati. His plan was to risk the loss of Shirati and move all of the forces there to attack Kisumu. The latter movement was to commence at daybreak for a mid-morning arrival.

The British commander chose to send the British battalion, plus the Frontiersmen and the gunboat to attack Bukoba, to defend Kisumu with the two Sikh battalions (and their MGs) and the field gun, while the KAR and would attack Shirati. The British were to depart in the afternoon before the day of battle for a pre dawn arrival.

The action started at Bukoba where rhe British troops landed north of the place while the gunboat sailed in front of the place and engaged the naval MG team in the tower of the garrison post with its pom pom gun.

The British infantry quickly engaged the Schurtztruppen around the wireless station. A lenghty fire fight ensued which, despite the high number of Grenan MGs present, brought them some success. They managed to disperse one German company and then swing around to the unguarded western flank.

The two mountain guns found that they could not get a line of sight on the British troops and turned their attention to the gunboat, scoring hits, but unable to cause serious damage.  When the Frontiersman joined the attack on the wireless station, the naval company sallied out of the garrison post, but they were too late. The British felled the mast and set fire to the wireless hut.

So the action at Bukoba ended, with a German loss and heavy casualties on both sides.

At Shirati the KAR arrived just as the Askari were moving off towards Kisumu. Two companies of Askari and a MG were held back from the attacking force in an attempt to prevent the KAR from returning to Kisumu. A sharp fight developed in the plantation and around the plantation house.

At first the Askari held their own, but then in an attempt to distract the KAR even more one company stormed forward and was repulsed and driven back in disorder. The KAR gained the edge of the plantation compound. 

It was only a matter of time before the plantation fell to superior numbers and the plantation house was put to the torch. The KAR then headed back to Kisumu.

The action at Kisumu did not start until mid morning. The Sikhs had taken a strong position in and around the railway station and the hotel (where unkind reports stated the Britsh commander was installed with large supplies of gin).

The Askari came out of the jungle at two points. The guns and three companies nearest the lake and three companies further to the east. 

It was the force in the east that struck first, storming in against an isolated Sikh company and drove it off. A second company of Sikhs attempted to intervene but were also driven off.

However it was nearer the lake that the real action took place. Two Askari companies rushed the area near Pigot's Store and scattered a company of Sikhs. 

For a moment it look as though the town would fall, but the Askari came under intense fire fron the railway station.

Although half the town was flames, when the KAR returned from Shirati the Askari could push no further. 

The game came to a conclusion as a resounding British success.