Tuesday, May 6, 2014

151st Anniversary CAMERONE DAY Game AAR


Though my wargaming buddy Nick Stern and I could not manage to meet across a tabletop on Camerone Day 151 (the way we had the two previous years), Nick did manage to play a commemorative game -- lucky devil that he is -- and was kind enough to send me some very nice pics, as well as his own eloquent synopsis of the action.  So without further ado, I turn you over to the very capable hands of one of the most experienced -- and finest -- colonial game-masters and scenario devisers alive...

Like Ethan, I get a particular "historical rush" when I play a game based on a real battle on its anniversary. So when I found myself free on April 30 I decided to host a Camerone 151 game, even though we'd had a blowout game on the 150th the previous year.

I have a hacienda set up I made five years ago or so and I've been adding bits and pieces over the years. I made the discovery that I like the looks of the models the more debris I add to the courtyard. I have more than enough figures for the 60 men in Danjou's force, 49 if you start them in the hacienda after the skirmishes with the Mexican lancers. I have about 200 Mexicans and that was to present a challenge for the Mexican players, but more about this later.

I was able to persuade four friends to take the day off. Milton Soong, former editor of the Heliograph and Savage and Soldier, and Dave Love joined me in running the Mexicans. Alan Sissenwein and Lawrence Goslinowski played the French. I had an assortment of French cheeses, pate and nachos for appropriate snacking.

The rules: Michael Montemarano's Not Men But Demons, heavily favor the French, as they should. Anything on the table is in range and the French kill on a 4, 5 or6, with no saving throws. The Mexicans kill French in cover on a 6 and the French save on a 1, 2 or 3. 4 is a wound, 5 a severe wound and 6 is dead. As you can see, you need a lot of Mexicans. Not the 40 to 1 odds in the real battle but something close to 8 or 9 to 1. So with only 4 to 1 advantage, my Mexicans were in for an uphill battle.

I started the game with five Mexican snipers in the upper floor of the hacienda. The French used their first move to attack the upper floor with one squad while holding the ground floor with the headquarters squad. It took the French three turns to clear the upper floor but after they did, it put them in a good position to bring fire to bear from the seven upper floor windows. Meanwhile, the dismounted Mexican cavalry assaulted the south and west walls. With recycling, the Mexican cavalry totaled 120 men and that was all the Mexicans had until the infantry arrived on the fifth turn. At first the Mexicans made good progress, silencing the French who were stationed on the stable roof on the south wall. But the Mexicans units start to strangle at 50 percent casualties so the 12 figure cavalry units were quite brittle.

On the fifth turn, the 140 Mexican infantry arrived. Divided into seven companies, they started on the west, south and east sides, 24 inches from the hacienda walls. In the rules, it takes four men to aid one man to climb a wall. This seemed to result in just few enough Mexicans to provide targets for generally two or more French per man on the wall and the Mexicans suffered greatly trying to scale the walls. The Mexicans made some progress on the breach in the south wall which was barred by an overturned cart. In the firefight by the break they were able to take advantage of the cover and managed to inflict enough casualties to force the French at the breach to abandon it and seek cover in one of the ruined sheds along the east wall.

When we played the game last year, the French held out for fourteen turns, with Danjou being the last man down. In our game we called it after playing 20 turns for five hours and only half the French being either dead or severely wounded and without the Mexicans being able to establish a foothold inside the courtyard. I definitely needed at least another 100 Mexican figures to be able to gain the critical mass needed to succeed. Also, an earlier draft of the rules had the French fire become less deadly as the game progressed to model the historic French running out of ammo. I think it would be good to reinstate this rule. I know I've sounded very pro Mexican in this report. But I feel the game is only successful if the Mexicans ultimately succeed in taking the hacienda. Otherwise it's very unsatisfying as a Mexican player to continually make progress only to be knocked down and have to start over again and again. The Colonial Angle said that in a good game the defending side needs to continually feel that it does not have enough men to adequately defend and the attacking player needs to feel similarly that he doesn't have enough men to adequately attack everywhere he'd like. I think it's getting that balance right that is the challenge in this kind of game where the odds are so skewed.

As a final note, I'd like to add that Alan and Lawrence played the French very well, making the best use of their defensive qualities. And they rolled like demons!

Thanks to Lawrence for taking most of the photos.

Best regards, 

Nick

...AND NOW FOR THE PHOTOS:

1.  The CONVOY ROAD from Vera Cruz on the coast to Puebla in the interior, runs past the abandoned Hacienda de la Trinidad, in the deserted and forsaken village of el Camaron...



2.   View from the South, with the BREACH visible near the Eastern end of the South wall...


3.   Longshot view of the compound, with the Convoy Road to the North, surrounded by a scattered mix of cacti, scrub-brush, woods, and overgrown farmland to the East, West, and South...


4.   View of the two-story HACIENDA and its surrounding compound as seen from the South-East, with the WOOD-SHED built outside the North end of the Eastern wall visible just South of the road...


5.   Juarista Mexican forces swarm the North-West corner of the compound wall, with the Convoy Road visible just below it, and the exterior door to the Hacienda also visible (The lack of numbers on the Mexican side must have prevented them from sending troops to assault the Hacienda from the road via that door.)


6.    Massed attack on the North-West corner of the compound -- North gate visible at the upper right corner of this pic...


7.    Juarista regular infantry throw themselves at the East wall...


8.    Legion defenders -- including an NCO "HERO" -- defending interior walls close to the Eastern wall of the compound...


9.   Mexican regular infantry throw themselves against the North-West corner of the compound...


10.  Irregular infantry assault along the entire length of the South wall, while dismounted Regular Cavalry approach the West wall in the foreground of this pic...


11.   Dismounted Regular Cavalry -- who set off the battle hours earlier when they blundered across the Company Danjou on the Convoy Road -- make their last attack on the walls...


12.   Irregular cavalry attack South wall...


13.  Legion defends South wall from atop the stable roof...


14.  Only a severely-wounded Legionaire holds out on the South wall/stable roof...


15.  Assault on the East wall peters out without reinforcements...


16.  Holding the South gate against the first rush...


17.  Attack develops on the SW corner but is beaten back by Legion rifle fire (from offscreen)...


18.  The dismounted Cavalry climb atop the South end of the West wall -- with the awning above the South gate just visible at the lower left of this pic...


19.  Massed attack on the North-West corner cannot overcome accurate Legion marksmanship...


Many thanks to Nick and his fellow Bay Area gamers for enabling me to feel like I managed to get a Camerone Day game in this year after all!

















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