Several weekends ago WR and Daniel had an invited opportunity to play a Warhammer “The Great War” 1914 Marne scenario from David. Sort of fitting since the actual WWI started in earnest that same month 100 years ago. WR has never played WH “The Great War” (TGW) before but is experienced with the Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) and Clash of Empires (COE) game systems. So playing like an “ancients” player, the WWI German army I figured was in for a big shock but somehow seemed to work for the situation.
David and his son Sam have been collecting a small collection of 1914 era 28mm miniatures and been looking forward to a collection sized scenario game. David devised a meeting engagement action over some French ruined farms, a shallow river bridge and the BEF arriving to save the situation of the “plucky” French. WR cannot really go into or write about the TGW game rules or scenario as his inexperience with the game rules clearly showed during our scenario play. Overall the game was very interesting, close running and a true WWI bloodbath at conclusion.
German forces involved (WR and Sam as dice roller): The German roster basically was a weak battalion representation with attached Jaeger platoon and some support mortar and MG sections.
Battalion Commander Colonel with two soldiers and Battalion Major as his staff officer.
“A” and “B” Companies: Each company had one Captain with two soldier aides (flunkies) and three large full strength platoons. Each fielded platoon had 18 soldiers. Total of 57 soldiers per company.
Jaeger platoon Captain with four soldiers and one platoon of 18 jaegers.
Support sections had two MG sections (four crew each) and two light mortar sections (four crew each also). All told the Germans numbered 156 soldiers.
French forces involved (Daniel and David): A rostered detached Company with battalion staff encouraging the rear guard.
Battalion Commander Colonel with three soldiers.
“A” Company with Captain and three soldiers and three platoons. Each platoon had 11 soldiers. A MG section was attached. Total of 40 soldiers in the French company.
Arriving BEF forces (Daniel): Rostered weak English battalion with veteran Highlander platoon attached.
Battalion Commander Colonel with two soldiers.
“A” and “B” Companies: Each company had captain with two soldiers and three weak platoons. Each platoon had 9 soldiers. Total of 30 soldiers per company.
Highlander platoon of 9 soldiers. No support weapons. All told the Allies had 116 soldiers.
The soldier stats and equipment rating looked surprising like the Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) game. WR scanned the roster sheets and included them for viewing at summary below.
Scenario had eight turns with the classic WAB roll on the ninth turn for game turn extension if 1-3 rolled. If 4-6 rolled (d6) then scenario ended that last turn. Ancients anyone??? WR’s formations… linear and a bit loose but right at home for ancient open order infantry.
German platoons set up on the first 6″ of the tabletop board edge. From the right flank WR deployed the Jaeger platoon and staff, then two German platoons stacked up, another platoon alongside those two stacked platoons with the light mortars on the platoon linear ends. Moving leftward, the other German company had two platoons stacked up, then the MG sections deployed in line and finally the last German platoon on the left flank. All German battalion staff was positioned behind the light mortar supported platoon. (in the center). All platoon formations basically a linear loose order two rank formation. Germans have the opening first movement and turn for the scenario.
The French deployed two platoons in the river bridge ruins and the remaining platoon in the forward position farm-house. All BEF platoons march enter the tabletop along the dusty dirt road behind the French position.
Opening movement was a general rush forward with all platoons and staff. Marching on Paris and all that. Light mortars stayed behind and lobbed their shells on the French. Typical WAB… the WH scatter and direction die is needed! Direct hit on the French MG section. Daniel is rolling his eyes as he has never seen the “scatter die” in action before.
Recovering from the French MG section losses and pinned result, Daniel is looking posed for the French defense. Daniel’s first question for the game… where are my trenches or shovels? Red trousers? Must be special Follies Can-Can or urban camouflage uniform….as the mortar shells landed.
French rifle fire ripped into the German formation ranks at under twelve inches. Four soldier miniatures drop. WR learned there is no armor or shield saving throws…. only terrain saving throws if you hit the dirt and enjoy “crater living.” Also learned quickly that at 12″ or less the rifle fire effect is double dice throws. WR dodged a bad result with Daniel’s lousy dice throw.
German masses push froward as the French MG crew recovered from the surprisingly accurate German mortar shelling. French rifle fire picked off a few more distant Huns.
Turn two has the German infantry mass walking across the French countryside towards Paris. WR’s “Huns” must cross the river bridge and control the ground beyond for German scenario win per the written orders. Light mortars lob shells into the French lines….. more French dead especially from a wicked blast in the open field.
Frenchmen fire into the onrushing field crop stomping Teutonic hordes. Soon the Germans sound the charge and disorderly mob crash into the farmhouse ruin. WR learned quickly that there is no defensive fire during the actual charge (assault segment movement) but normal firing within 12″ is doubled in the IGOYGO system. WR was lucky on the last turn losing only four soldiers without even realizing it.
Brutal bayonet work. French had “first attacks” since they occupied a defensive terrain or position. Daniel tossed d6 dice (hit then wound dice throws) for only one dead German. The German reply was double since they charged with bayonets (2x dice to hit). German bayonets found homes in five French bellies. WAB morale rules in play… the difference caused the French to rout after a failed morale check, and the German pursuit caught them. French platoon destroyed as German platoon consolidates their farmhouse position. WR paraded the first French prisoners to the rear to nearby cheering German soldiers.
French MG crew woke up and “sweep fired” upon the advancing German ranks. Four more soldier drop to French earth. The German platoon “linear phalanxes” march forward.
Note: Sweeping fire gives 3x d6 rolls per German unit in the cone arc. Sustained firing gives 8x d6 rolls to a specific platoon target. Also, at this stage of the war, if a platoon moves, they cannot fire their moving miniatures that turn.
Turn three has German mortar shells raining down on the French river bridge defenders. One shattered French platoon suffer more losses and cannot take it any more. They broke and rout across the bridge into oblivion.
Note: No trenches yet in 1914 open fields so hitting the dirt gives a 6 save roll only. Hit the dirt and you cannot fire in your next turn segment. Craters, if present, give a 5+ d6 save.
French rifle fire dropped the occasional German soldier. Without concentrated fire the German human tide rolled forward and disdained the sissy terrain protection of hitting the ground or hiding in the craters. WR’s soldiers died standing up.
Another German platoon charged into the French ranks. As before at the farmhouse, the weak previous turn French fire didn’t stop the onrushing Germans. French bayonets stab one German soldier before his comrades, using their German bayonets, find Frenchmen. Hide your eyes…. many French dead lie on the ground as another French platoon was “bayoneted” from the battlefield. French defense has collapsed at the bridge with only their command staff groups remaining.
Turn four has the German horde unstoppable. Three French platoons destroyed, routed away or prisoners. The French command staffs used their rifles and pistols to chip more Teutonic dead while defending their last positions at the bridge.
Note: Bayonet fighting (ie.. close assault action) roll d6 for hit (4+), then every hit is rolled again for wound / kill, a 4+ in most situations. No saving or armor save rolling. Classic WAB rules. So charging in with bayonet as the attacker gives 2x hit dice rolls for every surviving soldier miniature. Defending soldier attempt their hit / wound or kill rolls before the attacker but their rolling is not doubled for dice. So if they don’t remove a miniature coming in…. the attacker typically seems to roll over the defending platoon. Remember that firing within 12″ is double dice rolls so the defender’s best defense is to shoot down the attackers before bayonet charge. WR is learning fast this bayonet game.
Germans open turn five with two platoon charges to clear out the last of the French staff groups. Speed bumps on the way to the river bank as German bayonets cut down the senior Frenchmen. A sole French captain was seen firing his last pistol shots at the Germans before falling to the German bloodied bayonet rush.
Germans have secured their river bank. Now to cross and complete the German victory on the road to Paris. But wait…. khaki colored uniforms seen across the river and lining the hedge-walls… accurate rifle fire drops soldiers preparing to cross the bridge. The BEF have arrived in time to contest the river bridge.
Reorganizing their strength, the German first platoon charged across the bridge and into the English ranks. Bitter bayonet fighting erupts as struggling bodies brawl or crumple to the ground. After taking losses, the German platoon destroyed the English platoon.
Welcome to France” taunt the Germans!
Other German platoons start the slow wading process across the shallow river (1x d6 for movement distance). Some are lucky and almost cross in one movement bound while others just start the process with wet legs.
Basic open terrain infantry movement is 6″ per turn or assault charge. If you march or charge across any terrain feature, or use craters for defensive terrain then roll two d6 dice (jaegers roll three d6), the “highest” rolled number is the distance maximum you can move that turn from either dice throw. River movement is only one d6 dice roll to determine movement distance. For the light mortar or MG sections the dice are rolled (2x) for every attempted movement, including open terrain.
English reply…. bullets smack into the German soldiers standing in the river. Bodies seen floating face-first downriver as the German pass their morale. Additional English platoons ran forward (up the dirt road) to join in battle. There will be no time for firing their Lee-Enfield rifle so the grim sustained bayonet fighting is fought over this patch of French territory.
Both sides primed for the scenario end game (turns seven and eight). Light mortar teams barely had the range to bombard the English behind the hedge-wall. First of many shells landed amidst the khaki uniforms. German platoons cross the river rolling good d6 movement rolls. or charged over the bloody bridge stones.
German mortar shells exploded around the English soldiers. Several are hit as they see the Teutonic horde struggle up the riverbank or slip on the bloody bridge stones.
Trumpeters sounded from all directions. German covered pickelhaube soldiers surged into the English platoon formations. Four platoons attempt to defeat the English regulars.
Note: For readers who don’t wish to stomach the sight of massed red body markers, WR recommends skipping to the summary section below. The next turns are extremely “red marker” heavy with entire platoons being wiped out, on both sides, every player turn. Utter bayonet ripping carnage are the only words to use while the brave English “unknown” Company captain tried to stem the German tide.
First the original bridge storming German platoon swing bayonets and riflebutt over the stone wall at the Highlanders. Several German soldiers are impaled on Highlander bayonets attempting to cross the low wall. Seeing a wall opening, another column of enraged Germans crash into the exposed Highlander right flank along the low wall. Their bayonets cut a Scot corpse pathway till the last Highlander defender sent running to the rear. Mortar shells exploding white-hot metal amidst English and German alike.
While the carnage flows behind the frontmost English platoon, Captain “Unknown” steadied his soldiers lining the stone wall. Two German platoons, wet clothing dripping water, hurl themselves on the wall defenders. More impaled Germans but the bayonet tipped rush is too much for the outnumbered English soldiers. They died manning the wall to the end as Captain “Unknown” and his soldier aides beat back the German to their front.
The Germans have broken the English front line and consolidated their temporary win. English Captain “Unknown”, still holding his ground surrounded by the Teutonic hordes, is heard shouting and firing his revolver till the short barrel is hot.
Two can play the bayonet game says Daniel…. English platoons marched up along the dirt road and charged from the nearby ruins. Lowering their seventeen inch bayonets, save the valiant English Captain is their war cry (according to Daniel).
Like a rugby game gone mad with long knives, the blood slaughter carries into the German platoons. Three Teutonic platoons disappeared from the German battalion strength roll. The fourth German platoon remains locked in bitter combat with Captain “Unknown” and his soldier aides. Any survivors were lucky to be matched towards the English rear as prisoners.
The picture below shows 25 red casualty markers from just the English turn and counterattack. Just in half game turn here on the western front.
Turn eight should end the scenario unless extra scenario turn(s) are rolled for. A rolled 1-3 (d6) grants one more turn. So both sides had to figure that turn eight could be the last turn for scenario unless the dice gods want more red markers.
German turn first. Their light mortars tried to range-in on the English platoons but fell short. Mortar shells exploded in the German ranks for one platoon near the river. The other mortar section tries to bombard the English in the open field but lands directly on Captain “Unknown’s” position. He was unharmed along with his two soldier aides but the German platoon nearby suffered losses from friendly fire. German MG crews had a clear enemy platoon target across the river. Both MG sections opened fire with their 16 dice worth of firepower…. half the English platoon simply was cut apart with only four survivors. Captain “Unknown’s” nearby “rally to me lads” call isn’t heeded as the English platoon decamp from the battlefield.
Shaking off the surprise German mortar bombardment, two German platoons charged into the English counterattack force. We have seen this before…. brawling, bayonet chest sticking causes the loss of the two English platoons for some German widowed families. Again Captain “Unknown” has shot down German soldiers at his feet but one of his aides “bought the farm” holding his back. “Another revolver reload” shouted the Captain.
Briefly the smoke of battle parts to see the situation… two weaken German platoons on the western riverbank. One English platoon is left plus the 2nd Captain, his soldier aides and the old man Colonel himself.
Daniel goes for the scenario draw. Defeat the two German platoons on this side of the river and hope the scenario ends before turn nine. Last English platoon charged forward into the melee. One Captain and his soldier aides joined in the charge while the Colonel opened fire with his revolver. Captain “Unknown” and aide make their last stand holding off the German platoon surrounding their position.
The fighting is bitter and to the death…. bayonet lunge was countered or found a home, revolver firing at point-blank range, bare knuckle and knives. Finally the two German platoons broke from heavy losses and rout across the river. The staggered English platoon and commanders rally near the bridge.
German high Command want this bridge. Will there be a turn nine for them to succeed? The d6 is rolled…. a two. Another turn in the scenario. English morale drops a bit knowing the Teutonic horde, much diminished, is coming for their position.
Here they come…. All pickelhaube infantry are charged forward across the body laden river. Jaeger and regular German platoons impacted the last English platoon. Another platoon sought out the valiant English Captain “Unknown” and his aide. The German Company commander charged the English Colonel’s position. This looked like the end for the BEF.
The fighting was brief… The English platoon died in place. The English colonel and German Company commander exchanged dead soldier aides. Captain “Unknown” fires off his last six round revolver volley into the faces of the German platoon. His aide is skewered by multiple German bayonets. Brave and valiant Captain “Unknown” revolver fires the last shot… moments later he was killed by a German soldier.
Future generations will pass by a small worn roadside war monument. The deeds of Captain “Unknown” will be hard to read from the old stonework. Captured English colonel was escorted to the rear and placed into some nearby German staff car, looted French champagne on ice and friendly “old soldier” German commendation on the valiant BEF’s action today.
“On to Paris” shouted the Germans. Forming their battered ranks, the two remaining German platoons, along with the Jaeger platoon, marched toward Paris. The light mortar and MG sections followed their singing comrades along the dusty road.
Summary: Well, that was a different game. Neither side had the opportunity to set up a proper firing defense or zones of fire etc. Just march, then charge, then crossed bayonets for the game win it seemed. Bayonet charges removed entire platoons from the tabletop each turn. Not so different from WR’s ancient gaming. Only fired the German MG sections once during the entire game but they did remove an English platoon from their concentrated firepower. The light mortar sections won the early battle with the French platoons near the river bridge, especially pinning down the French MG section at the crossroad which saved many German infantrymen no doubt. Daniel could have fired his English platoons and dropped Germans everywhere but the time delay wasn’t his to play. He had to advance forward and contest the bridge position so bayonets ruled.
In the end the French company and staff was destroyed, the BEF battalion was removed from the Flanders theater of operations and the Germans lost four platoons (out of seven) and suffered light losses in two others. Only with the 50/50 scenario end determination die roll for additional turn play did the Germans win the scenario. Otherwise the BEF would have been contesting the riverbank (end of turn eight) and the scenario a drawn result.
Thank you David and Sam for the interesting game. Next time maybe some trench action if we can round-up some trench sections and craters.
The TGW rosters for both sides are below and in file (.pdf) format.
Scenario rosters as (.pdf) file: WWI Marne scenario rosters
Cheers from the warren… and marching on Paris somewhat as WR actually is riding in the champagne stocked staff car. Being “Head Rabbit” rank has it privileges.