Saturday, June 12, 2021

Lasalle Second Edition: First Playthrough - The Battle of Eselbach

 The usual suspects, Ken, Dave, and I, got together last week at Ken's house to play through our first game of the second edition of Sam Mustafa's "Lasalle" tactical Napoleonic rules.  A completely revamped game, Lasalle features an innovative turn and initiative sequence, governed by player decision and momentum points, and a very straightforward combat sequence which we all agreed was much fun and quite decisive.

Same body, but different engine under the hood!

We played the introductory "Battle of Eselbach, 1809" scenario from the Honour website.  Yours truly played the French, and Dave played the Austrians, with Ken as umpire and ref (although none is needed for a game).  We played with Ken's outstanding 15mm collection - always a treat!  This is a meeting engagement to seize a village in the center of the table.

Ken (r) and Dave (l) at the table.  The French coming from upper right.

My plan is to deploy a French brigade to cover my left flank and the creek crossing, while another Brigade swings wide around the right and captures the village.  My Cavalry, all light, will swing widely around and capture Dave's baggage train, costing him 2 momentum points per turn (you get 1 per brigade, 2 for your baggage, and if you so desire, a variable amount from your commanding general).

All is prepared - French assault columns ready to move out and dash toward Eselbach!

My left-most Brigade deploys to cover the creek and my left flank.

Dave has a similar plan in mind and will send a Brigade straight to the town, while another swings around my flank!  Let's see what happens when we get stuck in!

Long lines of Austrians trudging up to the front!

Smart French Battlelines deployed for action!  We'll open fire on those KaiserLicks!

I told you Ken's figures were excellent to game with!!  

The Battlelines are drawn around Eselbach!  The Austrians enter the village but do not "Garrison" it.  Note the French columns top-center "Swinging around".

French Cavalry on a wild end-run!

Off the bat, each turn is chock-full of decision making.  Youre not just sitting around waiting for your opponents to finish.  Instead, you have a decision to make if an action occurs within close proximity to your troops, enabling you to perform an action if you would like to.  There is much leeway in the actions you may perform, however you may not have the momentum points left to do so.  It's an elegant system and it just works.  

Hard fighting around Eselbach as both sides engage in a murderous firefight!

Thick musket smoke conceals the positions of both sides as they trade fire across the Esel.

Epic fighting amongst battle hardened battalions.

The slogging firefight is certainly going my way at the creek and I'm pleased with how the firing is going but I'm not able to get my assault columns into range fast enough due to their proximity to the enemy and my own troops.  It's gotten too crowded!  While interpenetration is allowed, it's expensive and costs you another momentum to get it sorted out!

Dave's Cavalry facing the REAR of my troops!  This will not end well for me!

Fighting to get a toe-hold in Eselbach.  Dave's left battalion has almost had it here after turns of trading volleys through the cornfield, but they're keeping my assault columns from assaulting the village.

Close proximity to the enemy you may only move 2 BW.  Ugh!  Slow going.

You can almost hear the drums and the chanting of  Vive l’Empereur
More Austrians on the ropes!  Dave's lead battalion in a huge brigade mass formation takes grapeshot going into an assault.

Dave's holding onto the town well and I'm trying to crack an opening to get in!  Do I have the turns left to do it?

Beautiful picture!
Finally I get my cavalry engaged and they tear into the flank of Dave's depleted left flank Battalion and are destroyed.  It's a perfect setup for an assault, but Dave's Battalion in the village, which he's kept back for most of the game deploys smartly.  They're fresh and eager for battle, while my weary troopers are getting worn down.

textbook assault into the flank of a worn-down Austrian battalion!  The kaiserlicks would evaporate after this gallant charge!

Ken sent as tactical advisor sent from the Archduke Himself.  General Dave looks at him bewildered.  "Who told the Archduke we needed any help here?"

Dave is hanging on by his fingernails, but holding back the fresh battalion in the village is a thing of genius, and therein lies the genius of Lasalle.  You can completely decide on the order you want to do things in.  Meaning you can carry out your plan, but the enemy gets a vote in your decision making.  You need to pick the right time to charge, to hang back, and you need to bring your artillery with you!  THe game feels like a well written history book, and it plays quickly.  

Not lighting fast, but if you have been reading my battle reports over the years you know that we rarely get to finish games.  I'll say this - we played through all 8 turns of the introductory scenario and they played faster as we went on.  We started at 1 and ended at 430 with a clear decision.

Speaking of decision - you're dying to know what happens eh?  My columns approached Eselbach through the cornfields east and north of the village.  THe Austrians were able to re-orient their flank to fire on me.

The massed brigade moves into assault Eselbach!  Will they make it in time?

Assaulting the village

In heavy fighting my assault columns are beaten back on turn 8!  The game is over!  Hard-earned victory to the Austrians!  This was an excellent game and very much enjoyed by all of us.  We will most certainly play again for tactical battles, and it's even got me thinking about collecting a 15mm army to fight Ken's armies!  

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

BAOR Neustadt Junction Redux: Team Yankee 50 Pt Battle

Cold War month grinds inexorably forward like a Soviet tank division as Dave and I linked up on Sunday for some much-needed face to face wargaming.  The battle?  Neustadt Junction - again!   For those needing a quick orientation, see my Tactical Decision Game post here. 

This time Dave and I refought the battle with different rules.  The rules in question?  BF Team Yankee.  The minis?  GHQ's 1/285 micro armor.  The war?  The big one that never happened - World War III on the North German plain.

T-62s split into 2 "companies" of 6 tanks and 4 tanks.

Dave and I played a smaller Team Yankee - 50 points.  I have to say with a smaller number of points, the choices one must make to support are critical!  How do you weight your force?  Tanks?  Mech infantry?  How much artillery or is there even enough in the budget to support artillery?  I had much fun building a force of a Company-sized element from the  BAOR's 1st Staffordshire, as well as an older Soviet tank division with T-62M models.  The reader will also note we had much fun with "special" weapons such as Krasnopol guided projectiles, tank-launched ATGMs, and Harriers!

The motor rifle company in BMP-1s and ZSUs in support 

The Soviets brought in the "big guns" in terms of supports and had a battery of 2S3 "Acacia" SP howitzers in support, which could fire the Krasnopol laser guided projectile!  Cool!  The reader will also note Dave brought his excellent 6mm tree stands along to populate the table with.  Love those trees!  

British Milan Teams sit and await Ivan from their fighting positions

The British have a company-sized element with a troop of Chieftains from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in support, as well as RAF Harriers in reserve.  Dave naturally placed the "Jocks' " Chieftains in ambush!

British GPMG (jimpy?) teams in fighting positions - unpainted Blowpipe section behind them.

Scimitars lie in wait - ready to shred any Soviet recce that comes through.

I step off onto the attack in the same way from the first thrust against Neustadt Junction - BMPs up the middle, and the tanks on the right.  The armor's job is to isolate the powerful hilltop position, and the BMPs will go straight up the middle as fast as their tactical movement speed allows - I need them to move and shoot constantly to keep the resilient British infantry pinned inside their foxholes.

Soviet Heavy Guns pound Le Haye Saint, er, Neustadt Junction pinning the Brits there.

Meanwhile, Soviet recce is shot to pieces by the Scimitars in the cornfields

THe Soviet guns bring a very good firepower total into the mix and the artillery is crucial to whittling the numbers down on the objective.  Guess where those guns will fire next?

Progress on Turn 2 - note the BMPs only successfully "crossed" through the treeline with 7 BMPs from the MRC.  There are 3 more bogged at the treeline behind them.  Meanwhile the T62s fan out to knock out British forces on the hilltop.  Important consideration here - the T62 main gun is "brutal" meaning I should have made the Brits reroll their successful saves against it.  I forgot to do that.

BMP company struggling to stay together - "we'll be good provided British artillery doesn't start dropping on us now"

Right on cue, British Artillery plasters teh BMP company in the open, with a direct hit on one of the tracks, knocking out the BMP and killing a team of dismounts.  

Turn 3, the Soviets continue to plaster Neustadt Junction with shelling and the BMPs grind forward, with their stragglers racing to catch up.  The T62s are forming a cordon around the hill to keep the pressure on the infantry.  THe MILAN gunners take the bait and start destroying T62 tanks instead of going after the BMPs.  Perfect!

LITKO destroyed/burning markers are perfect for KO's vehicles playing with microarmor

I'm biting my nails so far and incredibly pleased that the Soviet plan is working.  The BMPs will be at the doorstep of Neustadt Junction in a turn with almost all of their dismounts present and ready to over-run the town.  I can almost taste the German bread raided from a "liberated" bakerei now.

One important consideration is the "danger close" aspect which is 6" for falling artillery.  I have to get my Soviet troops in far enough, blast the British to oblivion, dismount, then assault during the assault step.  Bear in mind that the British also must be pinned because their unpinned rate of fire is devastating.  

Doctrinally, I'm going to use smoke from the artillery to cover my infantry's advance, also.  

You have to sequence and time this dance perfectly for it to work.  

BMPs fanning out to assault Le Haye Saint / Neustadt Junction

Dave is still banging away at the tanks, knocking out 1 or 2 each turn as the BMPs edge closer to the junction.  Am I actually going to be able to pull this off?!?!?

Viktor "Suvorov" once said in his "Inside the Soviet Army" book - tanks are grapes to the USSR - made to be squished!  

Soviets isolating the hill with fire

British are getting whittled down but is it enough?  
DAve's outstanding painted Timecast 6mm German modern buildings adorning the table - what a pleasure to game with!  The British are going to be supporting in the fight of their lives in a few minutes as the BMPs come into view.

The Soviet commander calls in the smoke rounds and they fall in a beautiful line, protecting the dismounts as best they can.  The BMPs move up in perfect, parade-ground precision.  They've practiced this maneuver many times.

I should also mention that the British have sprung their RSDG ambush last turn finally and the Chieftains  join in the slaughter of the T-62 companies!  UNfortunately, my Soviet FOO is tied up with the smoke mission and cannot target them this turn with the special Krasnopol rounds!

The Chieftains pouring fire into the Soviet companies 

The BMPs quickly lurch to a stop - the commander squinting through his field glasses, only able to see through fleeting gaps in the smoke.  "This is it" he whispers to himself and keys the radio - "ADVANCE!  ATTACK!  ASSAULT!" The BMP doors spring open and before he can even put the mike down, throngs of men are moving forward in a surprisingly coordinated and violent fashion, firing bursts and moving forward towards the village.  Murderous British tracers spring from virtually every direction as the ground in front of the village becomes a killing ground of defensive fire.  "Even while pinned the Tommies are a dangerous foe" the commander snarls.  British FV432s were brought up in support and the town opens up with fire from concealed positions.  The men's momentum is sapped and they go to ground or fall back to their BMPs!

Soviet dismounts make their way along a hedgerow inching towards Neustadt Junction

The brave defenders from the 1st Staffordshire are successful in defending the town from this wave!  Soviet troops fall back, pinned!

Bigger picture.  Ivan is still dangerous, but the assault has lost its momentum!

The heavy defensive fire really saps the assault, even though "only" 3 teams are lost.  The British turn is up next and the FV432 machine guns along with the abbots and infantry exact a high toll on the Soviets in the open.  Meanwhile, I am able to take out a Chieftain with a side shot from a T-62 that appeared around the corner of the right hill.  The Chieftains adjust and prepare to even the odds a bit with the armor next turn!

The next 2 turns would see much of the Soviet infantry eliminated trying to get back to their carriers, etc.  

A bit confusing on the "tank attachment" rules here and figuring out when and how the Soviets would bug out due to morale.  Dave kills the Soviet Battalion commander with a well placed Chieftain shot, and completely shreds the Shilkas with 30mm rarden fire from the Scimitars.  This is ugly, but pretty desperate fighting on both sides.

Turn 7 the Soviet motor rifle company retreats from the field due to high casualties and failing its "good spirits" morale check.  The tank battalion ceases to exist as a fighting force with only 2 tanks left in total.  The British have successfully defended Neustadt Junction against tough, determined Soviets!  A tough, near-run thing!

Lessons Learned
So a gripping and edge of your seat battle - but what did we learn?  Well for starters, we were a bit rusty with the Team Yankee rules, especially rules around morale and transport units, as well as some of the myriad of "special" rules for certain weapons like the "brutal" feature of the tank guns, etc.

While many balk at bringing artillery due to points, or the high cost of tanks, I find that the combined arms approach is extremely important and validated.  Mechanized infantry are a great bet to bring along and are worth their weight in points.  Artillery has its use simply in pinning enemy troops (unfortunately the Soviets still need a 5+ to range in, so having your TRP smartly placed is important)

Ruthlessly, I find the tanks are great "throw-aways" to bring with you to attract fire of the infantry and the AT guns, while trying to over run with dismounts.  Artillery is wonderful to have to root out dug in troops and much better than relying on your infantry with direct fire shooting (but combine if you can - again - combined arms is key here).

Unfortunately we never got to test the AAA fire against the Harriers as the flyboys never showed up but the British were able to save the junction from being over run.  

All in all, a perfect and relaxing game for a Sunday afternoon and a great Cold War themed battle to close out May.

The 2021 Gaming Calendar lists June as another World War II month and frankly I can't wait to get some Flames of War, Battlegroup, and maybe even some Iron Cross 15mm games back onto the table!  

Stay tuned as I am in the process of building out some American Armor in 15mm - perfect for some Kasserine Pass games!  Work also marches forward on painting some 15mm Ancients, and it looks like Napoleonics are coming back to the workbench and gaming table soon.  All great stuff going on here.

Many thanks to Dave for showing me how to "Brew up" a "proper" cup of tea for the game (Fortnum & Mason with milk and sugar.  Fancy!), and also bringing his splendid terrain to fight over.