Monday, October 08, 2007

Contact in the Fog (With Real Fog)

(Click on pics for a closer look)

This weekend we played some more of our Rommel's Route to Verdun campaign. The first part can be seen here.

Early morning the following day, August 22nd, 1914. Rommel's platoon of the 7th Company, 124th Infantry Regiment was part of the advance towards the strongly-held town of Bleid. They pushed forward at first light in the fog, with the limited visibility hampering the coherency of the advance. Isolated units from both sides bumped into each other in the mist and contact was made...

As the next few scenarios all take place in this troublesome fog, I figured we needed to simulate it visually somehow on the battlefield, as well as including its effects in gameplay terms. Suddenly it came to me: THE FOG MACHINE!

Provided by those nice people of F.W. Woolworth and Co., I had had this thing for ages, and never quite knew what to do with it. Wakey, a member of our gaming gang, had given it to me as a Christmas gift some years earlier. It had struck me then as a bizarre gift, but it seems our Wakey had somehow known that I would one day have need of it.

Cheers, Wakey. It's just the ticket.

Anyway, more of that in a bit. First let's introduce the players:

Lieutenant Arnaud St. Denis Mini-Babybel Sickerlie, commanding the French.

Leutnant Hermann von Plynkerhofen, affectionately known to his troops as Herr Schnurrbartmeyer, commanding the Germans.

The table layout. The Germans entered on turn one, the French could set up anywhere in their half of the table. As variable attachments we gave them a Platoon HQ and "may start dug in", giving them some light entrenchments. Slit trenches or rifle pits. Something of that nature.

The German objective was to exit at least ten men off the opposite table edge, so as to continue the pace of the advance on Bleid. The French had to prevent this.

French Forces. One squad, a four man patrol lost in the fog, the platoon HQ and a medic. The medic could be used to treat wounded troops to a level where they could be evacuated off-table. Wounded troops that made it safely off the table would not gain victory points for the Germans, if it came to a point-counting exercise to decide the winner.

The German force. Rommel's platoon HQ and two of his squads. Presumably he had been separated from the rest in the fog.

The Rommel's Lawn Cricket Screamy-Cry rule was still in effect. For details see the previous battle report.

The fog machine, in place and ready for action.

Sickers wanted me to take a photo of these sheep. He likes them because they are on Games Workshop bases. Yes, that is the only reason. He is impressed by anything to do with Games Workshop, those foul fiends have got him well brain-washed.

Okay, ready to start.


Wow, this is cool.

Excellent. Just what we need.

But then ... Pffft! Pffft! Pffft!

The damn infernal machine conked out. We had about ten seconds of really atmospheric fog, and then it stopped. The flaming thing could not be coaxed into producing more than tiny little spurts of mist. Bugger. I shall give that Wakey a piece of my mind when I see him. And F.W. Woolworth, too, for that matter. I bet it's revenge for my stealing sweets from the pick-and-mix shelves. Grrr...

Oh well, I guess the show must go on. We'll just have to imagine the fog. Things got underway with Rommel's Germans advancing across Hill 325, heading for Bleid.

These fellows were confident they could handle any straggling Frenchmen in their way. They had seen them off the day before with ease.

Rommel watched from the hill as the 1st Squad advanced towards a wheat field. 2nd Squad, meanwhile, made their way towards a small copse of trees.

Then, through the fog (!), they spotted a stray French patrol taking cover in the copse.

And on the other side of the field, a squad of French infantry, lightly dug in, in shallow, hasty entrenchments.

Contact had been made. Rommel made his way down the hill to direct the advance of his men personally...

... While the sheep watched, unpeturbed, from the hill.

Suddenly the sheep were rudely startled from their pastoral reverie, as French bullets came zipping across the field. Visibility was too poor for accurate shooting, but it was enough to make Rommel get his head down.

The two sides exchanged fire, resulting in quite a few fellows getting their heads down, but nothing in the way of actual casualties.

The French platoon HQ revealed itself by joining in the firefight.

The German left and centre had all hit the deck, but on the right 2nd Squad had suppressed the patrol in the copse ...

... and so advanced to drive them from it.

But the steady fire from the French soon began to take its toll, and the Germans were taking casualties. Eventually they were forced back by the sustained French fire.

Somewhat foolishly, the patrol opted to pursue as 2nd Squad headed for the cover of the woods on their far right flank.

This exposed them to fire from the hill, where 1st Squad had recovered their composure. One of the patrol went down. The patrol leader called for the medic, and, seeing him coming, urged his men on towards the woods...

... Which the remains of 2nd Squad had now reached.

The pursuit continued. They couldn't let Les Boches get past them.

Ils ne passeront pas!

Back among the corn stalks, the medic was plying his trade. Unfortunately he lost his first patient. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

And up on the hill, still with random rounds pinging around him, Rommel realised that without all his platoon to hand he wasn't strong enough to force the issue here. But the advance must not be held up. He would bypass this position and leave it for later following forces to deal with. He must try and pass around them and connect with the rest of the company, wherever they may be.

With that in mind he set off after 2nd Squad, still taking fire as he went.

Speaking of whom, they were making good progress on the extreme right, when they blundered into the French patrol ...

This time the Germans had the better of it, bringing down all of them in short order. The faithful medic ran to their aid, ran away again when he saw the Germans coming, and then ran back again as they passed by without molesting the casualties.

This is Chester, our historical advisor, watching the battle. You can see he is carefully scrutinizing the battle by his intense gaze. Obviously all of his attention is focused on the events unfolding on the tabletop. You can see that in his eyes.

Realising, perhaps too late, that his left flank was wide open, the French commander frantically tried to redeploy...

... Sending his men running across the open fields towards the woods.

In the woods, the brave medic had managed to save at least one patient. Two actually, but the third fellow would later die of his wounds.

Rommel had made his move just in time. His men vanished into the woods and were lost to the French. Hopefully he would soon be united with the rest of the company, and the advance could continue with a little more cohesion.

So the game ended. Rommel had achieved his victory conditions, but not in the time-frame laid out orginally by the scenario. As matters had seemed unresolved, and we were both having fun, the players resolved by mutual agreement to play for a few more turns. As the French held up the German advance for a while, but they had eventually continued on, we decided to call it a draw.

The book-keeping:
French Casualties
2 killed
2 wounded

German Casualties
4 killed
4 wounded

So, from a pure accounting point of view, you might say the French had had the best of it. The German advance had continued, though.

The game was lots of fun. Almost all the fire was of the long-range unaimed kind, due to the fog hampering targeting. Without the fog, it would have surely been a much more messy affair with many more casualties. The rules used were again Price of Glory. The human figures were all from Renegade games. The sheep were Gripping Beast (with GW bases!).

The real downer was the poor performance of the fog machine. But fear not, fog fans. We did not immediately cast it into a skip in a fit of rage, but opted to give it one more chance the next day.

How would Old Foggy fare this time? Would it redeem itself or be condemned to the executioner's block? Tune in next time to find out!


tim said...


Your battle reports are always a treat to view. Do please carry on!


Guido said...

Thanks, Tim. Likewise, yours is always worth a read, too. Especially liked the Vimy Ridge project.

Mike said...

Genius stuff again chaps

keep up the good work

Mike (aka the wargames butterfly)