Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Arras game - Battle report (second test)

Blog's not dead!... but to maintain a fresh stream of entries it's much harder that I anticipated: family life, work, painting and a lot of reading (about the Battle of Cambrai)... difficult to strike a right balance among so many interests and obligations.
On Sunday and after a long abscence from our club, I finally arranged  a game to test the Arras scenario with the modifications of my previous entry

Changes introduced
The first time we played this scenario, it showed to be somewhat unbalanced on the German side, which was mincemeat to the superior firepower of the two British platoons. For this reason, on the British side the main change introduced was to allow only 1 platoon to deploy initially, the second platoon being released once the trench line is reached by the former.

What I have not found yet is a convincing mechanism to introduce some time constraints for the British to be forced  moving forward to reach its objectives.

On the German side, the main change was to introduce a reinforcement section, with the idea of being released once the British controlled at least the first trench line, on the blank card.

Game development
The first British platoon deployed on blinds along the whole width of the table (see below). The artillery barrage plan was designed to basically eliminate the wire line (4 artillery turns were invested); the four remaining artillery turns were evenly divided between the first and second line trenches.

The Germans decided to place all units on the table in a forward defense sceheme, as shown in the photograph below (2 units in the first trench line, one reserve section  and the minenwerfer in the second line; the HMG in the bunkers; no units left in the rearguard area).

The artillery barrage indeed had a strong effect on the wire, reducing most of the line to low status or even fully destroyed, but the impact on the German units in the trenches was minimal, just sending one squad to the dugouts,  putting just a few shocks on the rest and none on the HMG.

The British advanced very cautiously, not profiting from the barrage that prevented the Germans to attempt spotting through six turns!. He also moved  too close to the first trench line the rifle grenadier section that (IMHO) should have been left in the rear and put in action much earlier.
With this and the murderous fire from the HMG located in the bunker at the center of the Geman line, the advance of the British troops was cut short suffering significant casualties and some of the sections desintegrating like an ice cream in the (Spanish) summer heat!

Therefore, the British not capable of even reaching the first line, the referee (that's me) decided to release the second platoon or otherwise we were at risk of concluding the game really early, in time to have a second breakfast that morning (not bad for hobbits but unproper for serious wargamers that meet from time to time).

The arrival of the reinforcements was  enough to rebalance the situation somewhat, but after the carnage suffered but the first platoon it seemed quite unlikely that the British were going to achieve any of its key objectives. We decided to call off the game after a few more turns and give the German the victory.


  1. I feel this time the British player did not play right their cards while the German forward defense did pay off this time.The British probably wasted too many artillery turns shelling the wire, which translated in a very light effect on the German combat units.

  2. In addition the British put almost no supressing fire on the HMG in the bunker that was free to wipe out the troops in the open or in the light-cover shell craters.

  3. The rifle grenadiers advanced position made them an easy target for the German units while entered into action probably too late in the game.  
Key takeaways
War(gaming) is hell, but even worse scenario design. I reckon it is my first experience in this field, but never expected to be so hard striking the right balance of forces and victory conditions in a scenario (not too easy, not too challenging).


  1. I maintain that holding off the second British platoon was right, as it provides some balance to the game; but instead of conditioning its release to having reached  the first trench line, I now think more appropriate to leave to the British player when to relase the unit after the bombardment ended (activated on the blank card or with some specific "reinforcement" card). 

  2. The additional German squad also provides balance to the game.
Next steps
I will rewrite the scenario with these final changes and put in the pdf form to retrieve. Hope you enjoy it. 

Next stop:  Cambrai  1917. For those interested in this crucial battle, I recommend pairing Bryn Hammond's "Cambrai 1917 - The myth of the first great tank battle"  (the view from the British side of the hill) and Jack Sheldon's  "The German army at Cambrai" 


  1. Very interesting scenario and I agree with you on trying to find the right balance for a scenario is difficult. I'm having the same issue for my scenario on Guadalcanal. I look forward to seeing how your fixes work in the next go around.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation of Cambrai 1917. I hope this is useful for the game and look forward to hearing more about this.
    Bryn Hammond

  3. Dr Hammond: Thanks for your comment and interest, it's a real honour. I have a very high respect for Britsh historians (Adrian Goldsworthy, Kershaw among others...) and would desire we had in Spain such a breed of talented people.

  4. I think this scenario sounded balanced but the British commander failed to use his assets correctly and paid the price. M&B has lots of good background on how the first world war tactics developed and what you should do with your supporting arms - rifle grenadiers, artillery etc. It seems that this is a good example of them being under-used. If you ran it again with the same commanders would they do things differently?