Friday, March 15, 2013

Guest Post from Greg - AAR - 28mm WWI in Greyscale 'Encounter on the Yser' using 'Through the Mud & The Blood'

Wait, is that WWI stuff in greyscale? Yes, yes it is.
Hello again to the folks at the Analogue Hobbies blog. I am happy to document via this guest post a very special game that took place recently in Winnipeg.  Curt had to pop into the River City for business, so we took advantage and he ran a game for us with his 28mm WWI greyscale stuff. 

Those of you who have been following Curt's blog will have seen his incredible work on this project - and it has finally made it through to the game phase! Let me assure you the sense of occasion was palpable!

The Entente's objective - the canal locks
German Uhlan detachment scout things out.
Fawcett Ave Conscript "founding director" Curt was always a master of rolling out new, awesome projects. They were common back on Fawcett Avenue when he lived in Winnipeg. Although he now resides a few hours down the highway, he has not lost his penchant or passion for very unique, very ambitious and very compelling hobby projects that look really f***ing cool. Who else could convince me to paint 40-man 28mm Napoleonic infantry battalions?

German Uhlans charge the Belgian 'armoured' car
The Belgian Minerva bogged down with gun jammed...
The Uhlans close assault the hapless Minerva
Lone survivor of the Uhlans' crazy charge.
I lack the coolness or cultural depth to explain Curt's motivations and inspirations for this undertaking, but the photos you see in this post speak for themselves - and Curt articulated it very well when he first introduced it on this blog - see here. Curt is not one for half-measures with his projects, and he went whole-hog on this one. Troops, terrain, everything. Bottom line is that we got to have an awesome game, one the group will certainly remember for a while.

Most maneuvering early in the game is with blinds - you can see the Entente ones taking position, while sinister Kaiser-loving blinds move up from the opposite table edge at the top of the photo
A view of the blinds from the German side
We played using "Through The Mud And The Blood" rules.  The scenario was set in October 1914, during the closing stages of the early phase of WWI - armies on both sides were  trying to outflank the other, driving towards the sea.  Belgium, desperate to hold the Germans back, began to flood its own countryside in order to slow them down.  The scenario imagined and encounter between the leading elements of both sides but with slightly different goals - the Germans were out to capture a bridge over a Belgian canal so they could try and turn the Allies flank, while the Allied troops were out to blow open a canal gate to accelerate the flooding.  These mutually exclusive objectives would lead to carnage on the table...

German HMG team deployed in a shell crater.
Dallas, Frederick, Dave and Mike F would play the German side.  Kevin H and Byron M joined me on the Allied side. Curt ran the scenario with his customary meticulous attention to detail and well-developed, multi-layered plot.  The card-driven rules system seemed to lend itself well to narrative development as well as engagement in the game.  We would maneuver using blinds at first, which would be revealed either through spotting, or if they decided to shoot or take a similarly unmissable step that would single them out.  Cards determined if reinforcements came, and provided the chance for any revealed characters to add some extra oomph to attempted actions.

French troops occupy the buildings in the village - the flash of colour represents an officer
Another View of the French position with a Belgian HMG in support.
The rules revolved around the idea of "big men" - in this case unit leaders.  They are ranked at a certain level, with higher ranked leaders able to order more troops, or add more "oomph" to attempted actions.  The units themselves had two actions once activated, and could be either firing, moving, doing activities or any combination thereof. 

Some jocks occupy the woods to the front - that would not work out well for them...
The scenario imagined the ground already covered with mud, shell holes from earlier fighting, and a layer of water from the Belgian inundation   So it was SLOW going.  Both sides slogged through the mud, being reinforced as the cards allowed.

Germans move toward the village
Early on the Belgian Minerva "armoured car" made an appearance, as did the remnants of a German Uhlan unit.  The machine gun on the Minerva jammed and so the German cavalry, seeing an opportunity, managed to charge the armoured car, succeeding in knocking it out! A quintessential early WWI encounter.  A French HMG deployed nearby ensured the Uhlans would not live to brag about it, however.

Germans take cover in a church grave yard
Another view of the German advance - Highlanders in the distance
Eventually it became clear that we on the Allied side would not be able to make it to our objective - too much mud, too many Germans!  I managed to set a French squad up in the ruins of the village while the Germans advanced along both sides of the canal.  Byron set a squad of hard hitting Highlanders in a forward defensive position in a shattered wood, while Kevin drove his Belgian infantry and dog-led HMGs toward the locks.

Germans under fire in the ruins of a church - the "bullet impact" markers represent shock on the unit
Both sides ultimately contacted (I was needling/nagging everyone to drop the blinds and "reveal" themselves) and soon the battle was joined. My French troops and Byron's jocks were driven back by the weight of German fire, but eventually settled into defensive positions that the Germans could not unlock.  Kevin led the Belgians in a brave and futile advance/charge up the village side of the canal, but the weight of German fire was too much.

Kevin H leads the Belgians in a brave charge...
The charge goes pear-shaped, and the Belgians are driven back
In the end the battle was a draw.  The Germans got nowhere near the bridge, and we, after the failed Belgian charge, were nowhere near the canal gates.  Both sides stuck in the slow going, confused battle, fighting to a draw with serious losses on both sides...sounds like WWI to me.

Highlanders have fallen back to a better defensive position, supported by the French HMG
These photos really don't do Curt's WWI project justice.  I encourage you to check out his blog for more pictures of the various stuff he has painted (examples here and here).  His figures and models look unreal when you see them up close.  Just contemplating all of that relativity for the different gradients etc. makes my head hurt, but Curt has pulled it off.  It's really something, a totally cool and unique game! It was just great to have the chance to play with these awesome figures and terrain.  And as I mentioned earlier, these photos just don't reflect how frigging cool this stuff is up close and live on the table.

French troops, supported by Belgian HMG team
Thanks again to Curt for running such a magnificent game, and to the large number of Fawcett gamers who came out to play.  I hope Curt can visit Winnipeg again soon!  Thanks also to Dave V for helping with the photos for this blog post.  All the best to the Analogue Hobbies Painting challengers as the finish line nears - except for the people chasing me for 10th place...


  1. Looks magnificent indeed! I trust Curt wasn't too costs that he missed te irks touting of his masterpiece?

  2. Very nice pictures and sounds like a fitting result for WWI.

  3. This AAR is really nice; fantastic black and white collection!

  4. Lovely. Great to see them in action!


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