Belleau Woods 1918 – Hill 142

Time for something a bit different from the normal rabbit horse and musket era gaming habits. Last weekend David K. invited several gamers to his Long Beach residence for a little “over the top and through wheat fields to the Hun’s woody hill we go” scenario gaming. David arranged a scenario called the Franco-American assault on Hill 142, near the famous U.S. Marines Belleau Woods battle several days later. The rules of play were the OOP Warhammer “The Great War” and “Over the Top” supplement plus David’s painted 28mm WWI miniature collection.

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A brief overview of the historical action from quick source Wikipedia… and YouTube link LionHeart FilmWorks production:  Belleau Woods 1918 LionHeart FilmWorks.

Attack on Hill 142
At 03:45 on 6 June, the Allies launched an attack on the German forces, who were preparing their own advance. The French 167th Division attacked to the left of the American Marine line, while the Marines attacked Hill 142 directly to prevent flanking fire against the French. As part of the second phase, the U.S. 2nd Division were to capture the ridge overlooking Torcy and Belleau Wood, as well as occupying Belleau Wood. However, the Marines failed to scout the woods and, as a consequence, they missed a regiment of German infantry dug in, with a network of machine gun nests and artillery.

At dawn, the Marine 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, commanded by Major Julius Turrill, was to attack Hill 142, but only two companies were in position. The Marines advanced in waves with bayonets fixed across an open wheat field that was swept with German machine gun and light artillery (mortar) fire, and many Marines were cut down. Captain Crowther commanding the 67th Company was killed almost immediately. Captain Hamilton and the 49th Company fought from tree to tree, fighting the entrenched Germans and overrunning their primary hill objective. At this point, Hamilton had lost all five junior officers, while the 67th had only one commissioned officer alive. Hamilton reorganized the two companies, establishing strong points and a defensive line against the German counter-attack.

In the German counter-attack, then-Gunnery Sergeant Ernest A. Janson, who was serving under the name Charles Hoffman, repelled an advance of 12 German soldiers, killing two with his bayonet before the others fled; for this action he became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in World War I. Also cited for advancing through enemy fire during the counter-attack was then-Marine Gunner Henry Hulbert.

The rest of the battalion now arrived and went into action. Turrill’s flanks lay unprotected and the Marines were rapidly exhausting their ammunition. By the afternoon, however, the Marines had captured Hill 142, at a cost of nine officers and most of the 325 men of the 1st/5th Marine battalion.

Hill 142 upper left marked and Belleau Woods June 1918.

Hill 142 upper left marked and Belleau Woods June 1918.

So, how does David’s Hill 142 scenario play out? Well, bloody in the short eleven turns of play but followed the historical action. The U.S. Marine correspondent, W. R., crawling back from the new front lines, filed his photographic report below.

The warm morning of June 6th, a date known for another famous U.S. & Allies beach landing, saw the lines of U.S. Marines and French poilus advancing from their dirt road start line. Their plan was to mass on the left side of the scenario table and rush the wooded hill. Simple WWI tactical planning it seemed. but did place two German platoons, and their HMG team, out of position till they marched over from the German left flank later in the scenario. Germans pre-deployed their forces using a map drawn hidden placement system. WR also elected to have two platoons and their Company command group held in reserve. Several improvised positions were available for WR to place anywhere within the German lines. These positions gave +1 saving roll for defenders behind the protective cover.

The German player can decide if the platoon starts on the tabletop (hidden) or roll for arrival. Each turn, starting with turn two, roll d6. If a six rolled the entire reserve has arrived and can march in from tabletop edge anywhere along the German rear zone. If roll failed, next turn a 5 or 6 for arrival…. then 4, 5, or 6 progressive steps till roll made.

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Opening scenario with the French in foreground, then the Marines along the dirt road start line. The hidden Huns lurk in the tall hill beyond.

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Well hidden Huns… look for the improved linear position lengths on the hill. The Hun deployment was done from a drawn map till they opened fire or moved.

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Multiple Tables Scenario AAR

This month the napoleonic group tried out the recently written up “Multiple Tables scenario” format for our monthly group December game. The scenario had two different side by side tabletop games (Tables A & B) running at the same time with the possibility of units exiting one rear edge table zone and entering the other table in a flanking position.

For team WR the armies involved were Austrian (Dave and Paul) and late period Bavarian (Bob, Daniel and WR). Austrians fielded their advanced guard division (mixed cavalry and light battalions), two-line divisions and corps headquarters (2000 points) for defending Table A. The Bavarians with 2600 points attacked on Table B with three infantry divisions, a small light cavalry division and Bavarian corps HQ. Should be noted that each of the Bavarian infantry divisions had two regiments of attached cavalry so the Bavarians had a marked advantage of cavalry against their Dutch and Polish opponents.

The opponents had French (Tim and Dan) and Kingdom of Holland (Ty and Andy) with attached Polish infantry. The French were the superior force against the Austrians with four infantry divisions, two light cavalry brigades, and reserve cuirassier division plus two corps headquarters (2600 points) on Table A. The defending Dutch with their Polish (DOW) allies had two Dutch infantry divisions, a Franco-Dutch light cavalry division and the Poles fielded an infantry division against the massed Bavarians on Table B.

Multiple Tables scenario design notes (link): Multiple Tables scenario

Starting deployment zone on each table was up to two squares in from the rear edge. Our wooden block movement system was used to create uncertainly on command type and unit strength. Dave and Paul’s Austrians had their advance guard division positioned in the center woods and line infantry division alongside guarding the LOC road exit. The remaining Austrian infantry division was reserve positioned behind the woods to march against the main axis of the French advance. The French split their corps with Tim’s two French infantry divisions crossing the castle hill led by his French light cavalry brigade screening in front. Dan’s French occupied the other half of the table with two infantry division forming his front lines and backed by the other French light cavalry brigade. Off board was the French cuirassier division strategically withheld to keep the Austro-Bavarians guessing which tabletop zone they would appear in.

Wooden block movement system (link): Block Movement system

Table A. The starting positions for Austrian vs. French scenario table.

Table A. The starting positions for Austrian (at left) vs. French (on right) scenario table.

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Multiple Tables scenario

Updated with recent scenario gameplay photos and commentary 12/20/2014.

While most WR scenario tabletop games are played on a single table set up, WR on occasion, has used a double “independent but linked” table setup to create a different feel for the action. A double (or even triple) table set up is simply two or three tables in the same or different rooms to have players play independent scenario games and have the ability to transfer units (whole commands in general) from the rear flanking edges of one tabletop to the open flank on another tabletop, with or without a timing arrival delay. Each tabletop zone is played independently to the other tabletop zone. Game playing speed and turn count  done independently. Weather and ground conditions should be the same for both tabletop zones. Players may or may not have the ability to see or hear the action from the other table. A dividing curtain is a nice touch to raise the battle tension. Armies used can be different or uniform to each tabletop zone. Tabletop unit density should be light to allow unit movements and quick sharp action with possible delayed reinforcements for each side on all, some or none per table zone. Cunning Game Masters (GM’s) can create a situation of starting weakness on one tabletop and allow that team side to pre-determine which tabletop zone will receive later reinforcement commands to change the fortunes on that tabletop… even after the enemy has transferred units to the other tabletop zone, thus a late resurgence to retake control or dispute a tabletop zone with their reinforcements.

Two table variant: The two table zone scenario variant uses two tables independent of each other but linked with the ability to transfer units from the enemy’s rear side zones into the enemy flank zones on the other table zone. Seems the old “orange” color on WR’s document diagram has faded over the years to near pink / crimson. The two table arrangement diagram:

Double Table diagram

Double Table diagram (.pdf) Continue reading

1914 WH Marne scenario

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 deployment and advance towards the French river outpost

German deployment and advance towards the French river outpost. Looks ancients like by WR’s starting setup.

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.

The French rearguard defending the river bridge.

Starting positions of the French rearguard defending river bridge. Another French platoon in farmhouse off picture. WR must neutralize that MG post early on. Red trousers alert!

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