Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAMERONE REFIGHT - APRIL 30, 2012 - AAR

Nick Stern and I spent CAMERONE DAY 2012 -- the 139th Anniversary of the April 30, 1863 battle -- refighting it in miniature on a 10'x6' table, using 5 of my 6 Maiwand terrain-boards, some of my buildings and fruit trees, Nick's terrific homemade 24"x24" Hacienda de la Trinidad walled compound, his beautiful Republican Mexican army and "Company Danjou."

I tracked down a pair of emails Nick and I sent after the game to Michael Montemarano, whose Camerone "Ruleser" we used to play our 149th Anniversary Camerone game.  Michael ran a number of more playtests of the scenario and rules throughout the end of Spring and start of Summer, culminating in him running the game several times at Historicon this past July.  It went so well there, that he won the "Best of Show" gamemaster award at the convention.

The scenario calls for THREE WAVES of Mexican attacks -- which is a pretty accurate version of the historical record of the battle.  In the event, we were only able to play our way through the first two out of the three waves. I believe I still have a copy of the "Ruleser" somewhere, and will dig around in an attempt to locate it.  If I find it, and Michael gives me the OK, I'll post it here on this blog.


First up, Nick Stern's excellent summary of the game...

Hi Michael,

By complete serendipity, my Camerone set up matched well with Ethan's Southern Afghanistan terrain boards!

Ethan, please feel free to comment or add details to my narrative!

We started the game with the Legion ensconced in the hacienda with barricades already built. That's my interpretation of the lull before the first assault while the Mexican lancers unscrewed their spurs and got ready to attack on foot and the French strengthened their barricades. First assault consisted of what I had: four units of twelve dismounted cav and two units of twelve peasant types with a mixture of firearms and farm implements. Plus, five Mexican snipers in the main building, upper floor.

The Mexicans fired one dice per three men, as written. Naturally, the Legion commander (Ethan) thought this was just dandy. The Mexican commanders (myself and Ethan's buddy, Matthew) thought it penalized the Mexicans too much, especially given the cover and saving throws the Legion enjoyed. In the first turn of Legion fire, Ethan took out all of the snipers - so much for that advantage! We started the other Mexicans 18 inches away from the walls. One unit of cavalrymen headed for the north side of the main building, one for each of the western gates, one aimed at the southwest corner and two for the southern breach. The attack on the corner necessitated the Legion to start putting men up on the roof of the stable. As the game progressed Ethan found that he needed to put more men on the roofs of the sheds to effectively use his firepower. I don't know how historic this is. It would be nice to allow the Legion to use loopholes, but, off the top of my head I do not know how to do that, given that their use was limited. Maybe allow 1 D6 per side of the wall?

Since the Mexicans started to straggle after 6 hits, it didn't take long to break up the attack. There were melees at the doorway to the main building facing the road, and at at least one of the gates and at the breach. Legion prisoners were taken at the door and then breach, but when the Mexican units in those melees straggled we figured they would give up their prisoners. We weren't sure how to apply the straggle rules so, in order to save time, each unit simply retreated upon reaching their straggle number. This made them very brittle (my favorite term) but also felt right, especially for the first wave, which, from my reading, was not followed through that enthusiastically by the cavalry. I missed the note to add an infantry battalion in on the first wave, so it was strictly a cav and irregular foot affair.

At the end of the first wave, there were one or two Legion killed and a handful of wounded (Ethan, you can probably give a more accurate count) We started counting Mexican dead and the total at the end of the first wave was 77.

My feeling is that the saving throws and wounded rules are too detailed and slow the game down without adding that much. If I were running the game, I would simplify the saving throws to 1/2 no effect, 3/4 wounded, 5/6 dead. Two wounds equal a death. I understand the desired effect, of the Legion moving their wounded into cover, but, in the heat of a game, that just doesn't happen and the play area simply gets littered with wounded. It also was a challenge to remember who was wounded to what degree. If there was only one wound state, you could just lay the figure down on its side. Up to you whether to allow them to shoot/melee or whether they are captures waiting to happen.

Melees seemed to work okay. Actually, we really liked the way the "locked in combat" resulting from a tie hung things in the balance. Very dramatic. Actually had a big effect on the outcome of the second wave.

Second wave consisted of all the first wave plus all of my Mexican infantry: four companies of 20 which attacked the east wall, three companies of 20 which attacked the south wall while the cavalry units of 12 plus the peasants attacked the west and front of the building. This seemed like plenty - I'm sure Ethan would agree. There was plenty of dramatic action during the second wave and Mexican fire, weak as it was, began to take effect. Danjou and the headquarters squad held the door to the road, barring entry to the building. There were several results of locked in combat around the door. Eventually one Mexican held the squad in melee when they were needed to reinforce elsewhere in the hacienda. There was also a continuing, multiunit melee at the breach due to the locked in combat. It was a little frustrating, but it also felt right. Mexicans started climbing over the east wall, which the Legion was too busy elsewhere to occupy. On the west wall, the defenders dwindled to a couple at each gate. But since the attackers were 12 man and not 20 man units and because they they broke as soon as the Legion spit on them (editorial comment) the attacks on the gates dwindled as well. When we called the game at 1:00 AM, after almost twelve hours of play (broken by a dinner break for - what else - Mexican food) the Legion were holding onto the gates and the main building, they were still locked in combat at the breach, but the Mexicans coming over the east wall had begun to infiltrate the courtyard and even joined in the melee at the breach, catching the Legion from behind. Total Mexican dead were 156, with, maybe half the Legion either dead or wounded (Ethan?) It was debatable whether the Legion could have ended the second wave. I'll give Ethan the benefit of the doubt (he's a very aggressive player) and say that the Legion could have ended the second wave, either in possession of the stables or the main building - not both. After that, the third wave would have been over very quickly - and very historic too.

It was a fine way to spend Camerone Day 2012. Thanks again for sharing the rules. Hopefully Ethan can add some more helpful detail.

Best,
Nick


And now my additional comments on the same game...

Excellent job, Nick!  I doubt there's much much for me to add, but that's never stopped me before, so here goes...

First of all, THANK YOU, Michael, for making your rules available for us to use!

Okay, re: Legion casualties, when we shut down towards the end of the SECOND WAVE attack (because Nick & Matthew -- his fellow Juarista C.O. -- were both unable to go on, unlike myself!) they stood at:

9 KIA
8 flesh wounds (the "Monty Python" nomenclature connection came up out of the blue via Matthew!)
13 severe wounds 

(30 total casualties)

18 in action

48 men accounted for (I believe that left 1 figure MIA from my starting strength of 49, though perhaps that was Dominguez, the Mexican muleteer - Nick...?)

There were 2 monumentally dramatic squences: first was Sgt. Morzycki single-handedly defending the Southern of the 2 Western gates against 6 Mexican attackers (after all his fellow Legion defenders had fallen in the ongoing mellee) and SLAYING ALL 6 OF THEM!!!  It was glorious.  Earlier Lt. Villain had fallen severely wounded and Morzycki himself had suffered a flesh wound -- giving a -1 modifier to offset his advantages as a Legion defender.  Unfortunately, on the next turn, a Mexican shooter hit him, and I rolled a "6" on the Fate Table - so he ended up dead anyway.  The second sequence was a lone surviving Mexican attacker holding up Danjou and his command section, plus at least one additional Legionnaire, at the door of the Hacienda facing the road, for something like THREE TURNS, thanks to the "Desperate Struggle" pair of die-rolls rule.  Grrrrrrr!  Sometimes I was on the winning end of that rule, sometimes on the losing end, but I agree with Nick, it worked very well indeed.  The high-point of this sequence came when Danjou himself rolled against the lone Juarista and defeated him with something like a 6 vs. a 1, signifying he had perhaps lopped his head off.  A cry of victory went up from the ranks of the Legion command section which had been trapped needlessly in the hacienda for so long, wasting their time when they should have been out in the courtyard, keeping the Mexican attackers from coming over the Eastern wall.

If we'd kept playing, I honestly believe I could have survived the second wave, but as Nick says, it would have been either by falling back into the Hacienda, or the stables (which of course would have been the more historically accurate way to go -- it's interesting, but the fact that the Legion ended up there makes perfect tactical sense after having played the game, as that spot affords effective fields of fire all around.  I would have taken more casualties while crossing the open ground, either from the hacienda to the stables or vice-versa, plus I would have probably had to charge the Mexicans who had ensconced themselves in the sheds just inside the Eastern wall, and taken casualties there as well.  If I was lucky I might have still had 10 men unwounded, but it could have gone as low as 6.  I only lost one officer -- Villain severely wounded at the South-West gate, but many if not most of my NCOs were down dead or wounded.

As Nick mentioned in passing, at least twice Legion prisoners managed to escape due to the Mexican units to whom they had surrendered STRAGGLING -- which was a cool twist, whether or not you meant for it to work that way in the rules.  Of course, the Legionnaires were within immediate reach of the walls at the time.  Perhaps there could be a rule where once a Mexican unit captures a Legionnaire, it may choose to break off its participation in the attack, in order to ESCORT the prisoner(s) to the rear.  This would be of use in case of a toss up in victory points at the end, if captured Legionnaires are worth a lot of points each.  If the Mexican unit is at or near its straggle number, or below, it might make sense to preserve the certainty of earning the points for the prisoners, rather than remaining in action where they could possibly return to aid the further defense of the compound.  Just a thought.

At first I was very unhappy with the built-in degradation of Legion firepower, from the 1-die per figure shooting FIRST WAVE, to the 1-die per 2 figures shooting SECOND WAVE -- but I think it was a very simple and elegant way to incorporate the ongoing debilitating effect on a handful of men desperately defending the compound without water or for the most part even shade, and under near-constant ferocious assault.  Nick seemed unsure if it was harsh enough, but I think it was.  The effect if we had reached the THIRD WAVE would have been truly horrible for whatever Legion defenders remained, which -- like it or not as the Legion commander -- is probably as it should be.

I believe the FIRST WAVE of Mexican attackers was wiped out on TURN 6, they were at the South-West corner of the compound, climbing the wall to attack the Legionnaires on the stable roof.  At that point the Legion had suffered:

3 KIA
5 severe wounds
2 flesh wounds

And no officers or even NCOs had gone down as casualties yet.  I think I was actually in very good shape at that point, but as is wont to occur, the game ebbed and flowed, and the launch of the second wave Mexican attack hit me very hard.

In the lull between waves, I moved my severely wounded to the upper floor of the hacienda, and posted 2 Legionnaires up there to fire at any Mexicans attempting to come over the undefended Eastern wall.  Unfortunately, both of them were shot down by good Mexican shooting dice during the second wave, which left that flank completely undefended (since Danjou and his command section were stuck in the "desperate struggle" mellee at the roadside hacienda door).

I somewhat agree with Nick re: Legion wounded rule.  Allow wounded figures who are knocked over to fire and mellee with the minus, until a second wound occurs, at which time it's either applied to them and they are removed as DEAD, or you knock over another Legion figure.  In TSATF those decisions are usually made by the player whose figures are hit, and since the Legion has the odds so stacked against them here, I would do it that way.  It's actually much more gut-wrenching to have to decide whether you're better off killing off your belolved wounded defender or spreading the pain out to one of you remaining fit troops, than for the opposing player to choose.

Hope this is of some use as you make your final preparations for Historicon, and THANKS AGAIN for sharing the rules with us!

Best,

Ethan


I took a lot of pics of this game, the first couple of batches of which I've already posted here.  More to come as soon as possible...


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