Wednesday, December 27, 2017

GWSH2 - Russians vs Germans 1914 Encounter Battle

I've had the Great War Spearhead II rules for several years now along with all the nice scenario books and I decided to try to run a game and see if our group likes these rules enough to keep using them. I haven't broken out my WWI figures in a while, so I thought I would give this a go.

The rules are well researched and I like how that the maneuver element is the regiment and each stand is a company. The companies can maneuver freely within range of the Regimental HQ once the enemy is encountered and fog of war is simulated via written (drawn actually) orders, spotting rules, target priority, and order change difficulty.

Phil and Jan will be the Russians while EC and EB will command the Germans. Roughly 1 division per side in this meeting engagement. This is loosely based on the RACE TO THE SEA scenario in the GWSH2 rules. All artillery will be on-board with one "brigaded" regiment for each side, while the rest of the batteries will be directly attached to the regiments and will fire over open sights.

Victory points were awarded for control of each village in the middle (Bossau and Soldau) and per enemy regiment broken. I'm going to look at adopting some victory conditions from the GWSH2 Scenario designer for our next game.

German Order of Battle

6th Bavarian Division

44th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

45th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

66th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

67th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 12 companies, 1 MG

3 x 76mm Field Gun Regiments (3) + 1 FO: qqqqqqqq


Russian Order of Battle


32nd Division

8th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

9th Regiment (Regulars): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 3 MG

108th Regiment (Green): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

110th Regiment (Green): 1 RHQ, 16 companies, 4 MG

Cavalry Brigade (Regulars): 1 BHQ, 8 Squadrons, 1 Cav MG, 1 Field Gun

2 x 76mm Field Gun Regiments (3) + 1 FO: qqqqqq


Map and Overhead Photo



I was originally hoping to just snap a photo and print it out for the map orders, but you can't see the hills in the photos on my new Cigar Box plush terrain mats. So, I drew out the map after I had setup the table. Players will draw arrows on the maps to indicate their plan of attack and defense. I think this makes you feel more like a general than a regiment command, and I think that is great.


The Plans

Russian



German




The Battle

What is interesting in GWSH2, is that your regiments move on orders so there is little in the way of thinking that has to go along with their movement until contact is made with the enemy. Most of the real brain burn is in the initial orders.


A wider view of the initial movement


Below the Russian cavalry attempts to flank the Germans in Soldau.


This is nice shot of the 108th Russian infantry regiment storming across the hill and through the woods during their assault on Soldau. This would prove very costly for this GREEN regiment.


The forces clash!


My German Brigaded 77mm field gun batteries started hammering the Russian 8th and 9th regiments where their battle orders intersected. The first bombardment was not that effective, but the 2nd and 3rd were telling.


Meanwhile the Russians bomb the 44th German Regiment in the open and have great success at destroying the German infantry, much to my chagrin.


View from the Russian side as the 9th heads towards Bossau


The 110th Russian regiment begins to move to their left to protect the flank after the 108th regiment was broken.


Massed pile of Russian casualties in front of Soldau.



At this point the Russians were unlikely to win as both villages (+2 vp each) and 1 Russian regiment (+1 VP) was broken, and no German regiments had cracked yet. We called it an evening and discussed the game and rules.

German Casualties (7)
3 companies, 44th Regiment (attacking Soldau)
0 companies, 45th Regiment (defending the woodline)
2 companies, 66th Regiment (holding Bossau)
2 companies, 67th Regiment (holding the right flank of the 66th Regiment.

Russian Casualties (22)
1 company, 9th Regiment (attacking Bossau)
6 companies, 8th Regiment (attacking Bossau)
10 companies, 108th Regiment (attacking Soldau, failed the 50% check)
2 companies, 110th Regiment (in support on the ridge)
3 squadrons, cavalry Brigade (51st\52nd Dragoons)

After Thoughts
This was our second playtest of GWSH2, with different players in each game. Same scenario. Here are my reflections on the rules, both pros and cons. I've enjoyed the rules enough to continue my game play and scenario testing.

Pros of GWSH2:
  • Fantastic support group on the GWSH2 Yahoo Group. Shawn and Robert seem to always be around to answer questions.
  • Each stand being a company or squadron, while the maneuver element is a regiment\brigade really hits the sweet spot for this period of warfare. Companies can move without taking the whole battalion with them.
  • Simple rules, but making the plan (orders) is the real kicker here.
  • Rules have very few modifiers, which I like, but I'm not used to. I guess they picked out the modifiers that they believed really mattered on this scale.
  • Drawn orders on a map force you to plan more than most wargame rules, as you don't have the flexibility to change your orders easily. You need to hold reserves.
  • I feel like a general rather than a colonel in this game, which I find refreshing.
  • Four (and many more in the works) Scenario books available on Lulu.com. I recommend full color printing or the full color PDF, as the black and white maps are hard to read when a lot of terrain is on table. 

Cons of GWSH2:
  • Having to hand draw a map for a game that doesn't have the same terrain as a published scenario. This can take time and you have to get it reasonably accurate or the orders will suffer.
  • Having played Piquet for decades, there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of drama generated by this set of rules. Following the orders, react when you meet the enemy, and fight when in contact. You can't get a real jump on the enemy as you know how far they will move each turn, you just don't know exactly where they are going. Still, definitely fun.
  • So far I don't have a lot of nationalistic flavor for each army in 1914, but as a general, not a battalion commanders I suppose that this can be overlooked. Time will tell.
  • Since break point checks are at 33% (Green), 50%, and 66% then larger units can take more casualties before they take a break test. Hence Germans will test sooner against Russians (if they are both rated as regulars) due to the unit sizes. (14 vs 20 stands). This keeps the game simple though.
Look for my next playtest with the Turks defending against Russian counter-attacks in the Caucasus mountains in December 1914. Since this will be an Attack-Defense scenario this will give a set of different challenges. (Snow, Mountains, etc). The true test will be if I can break out my late war armies for trench assaults and see how that works. I have Austrian, Russians, Germans, and USA armies, while Brian has late war British and French (and some Italians too).

2 comments:

Joseph.Cade said...

Interesting game, your troops look great.
I played GWSH way back at a one day con, late war - 1918 German offensive against British defenders. Maybe the GM was doing something wrong but supposedly any German stand could call in artillery. We were thinking sounded more like a modern US army situation than WW1.
Our local group uses Bloody Big Battles for 1914 battles and we enjoy that. I put on a game with 8 new players at a convention in the fall and everyone had good things to say about it. So currently that is my go to set for WW1 but then I only have troops for the early war.

Eric Burgess said...

I think you are right about calling in artillery in late war GWSH2, which I may have to make a house rule for, because it was just not possible in that era.

I haven't fought a late war game yet. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.