Saturday, June 30, 2018

Attaque a l'outrance August 1914

With the new war games room set up and christened with some fun Wings of Glory, it seemed like a good time to get down to some serious business. Keith, Andy, Jim and I managed to get together for a Great War Spearhead game.

The scene is eastern France in the opening days of the war in August 1914. French and German forces are advancing towards each other in some of the more heavily wooded terrain in the region. I wasn't able to replicate any specific terrain from any of the scenario booklets, so set up something like the sorts of terrain shown on the maps, and we pitched a division each of French and Germans against each other, with no Corp supports.

The game was played using 6mm figures, mostly from Irregular Miniatures. The buildings are mostly Hovels 6mm, with some smaller home made buildings representing village sectors


The French advance from the right, the Germans form the left
The French plan
The French plan concentrated on the left. The plan revolved around a central thrust towards the woods that dominated the centre, supported with a single regiment on the right to take the bridge over the river (one of the game objectives). A regiment was to advance on the left and sit as reserve between the regiment taking the village on the French left, and the regiment conducting a flank attack (scheduled to arrive turn 4). The plan anticipated a German hook on this left flank, but continuing towards the village on the French left. This was where the French attack was to come seriously unstuck.


German divisional cavalry advance

The French left

The German cavalry reach the village that was their objective

Overview at this stage in the game.

The German cavalry dismounted and took up position in and around the village on the German right/French left. 
The German right had reached the end of its command arrow, and stopped at the centre of the table. This proved the undoing of the French plan, as this was the arrival point for the French flank march, which had been set on the belief that the Germans would continue this advance and hook around to the village nearest the French advance. The French flank attack was set to catch this force in its rear.



In the meantime the action in the centre occupied most of the game. A single French regiment had rushed forward to get into the woods, but two German regiments had beaten them to it. They stumbled into each other and the fight began.

The firefight begins

The Germans close assault a single French company, taking advantage of the cover given by the forest

The French take heavy casualties


Having spotted enemy infantry, the French right flank regiment begins to push troops across the river in an effort to get on the German left flank.

Heavy fighting in the central forest

Heavy fire is taken and given by both sides. French 'soixante quinze' begin to bring fire down on German troops just outside the forest

After being delayed several turns, the French flank march arrives, but is displaced closer to the French base line as there are enemy infantry within 300mm of their arrival point (a scenario generation system rule)

The flanking French regiment takes heavy casualties from German infantry who are well supported by deployed batteries of 77mm field guns


Image result for France 1914 French dead
We imagine this when we think of the French advances of 1914 ... attaque a l'outrance'

Sadly the reality was much as it was on the table. I resisted posting any historical photos here.

The French regiment in the central forest is worn down

The fighting in the forest reaches a crescendo, with heavy fire and may troops suppressed

And the French flanking regiment is decimated, caught advancing in the open

The French regiment fails its second morale check (having passed the first, obviously) and falls back

Only two MMG detachments remain of the French that forced their way into the forest. The remainder of the regiment sits back.

The German left flank takes fire, but too little, too late. 
The French advance has been seriously blunted. There is little option but for the French forces to withdraw.

This was our first GWSH game in some time. For Jim it was his first game, a game well fought, a plan well devised. The action in the wood played out very much as one would read in the regimental histories, and the advance across the open ground by the French flank march .. well, what can I say? It certainly reflected the French casualties in those opening weeks of the war.

This all reflects some of the many reasons I like Great War Spearhead so much. The outcomes continue to mirror the evidence one finds in the regimental histories of French and German forces.