Monday, 6 December 2010

The Race to the Canal

This week-end we have played Scenario 8 of Mud & Blood's companion book Stout Hearts, amended to take place in 1918 and renamed as "The Race to the Canal". It is probably one of the most interesting in the book and depict two platoon-size German and British forces entering the game table in a random fashion and with the objective of controlling a key bridge overlooking a canal somewhere in Flanders.

Map and terrain and features
The  map was the same included in the book, deployed in a 6" x 4" table. The table is cut in two halves by the canal bank, with two roads joining at the bridge crossing in the village of Dampf. "A" and "B" on the map are the German and British entry points respectively.

A view of our gaming table with "A" entry point located in the road on the left hand side.

The next photo shows the opposite side, with the  village of Dampf and the bridge.

The terrain is littered with light woods and tree copses, farms, and bocage that made very difficult spotting from one each road to the other. The terrain outisde the roads is considered difficult going for infantry (-1 pip) and the vehicles (all non-road movement is subject to bogging-down throw).

Forces and deployment
The main changes with respecto o the original scneario were made to both the forces lists and the random events tables.

The Germans included the following forces, entering along four turns either on a "German reinforcement" or after the "time for snifter" card:

Turn 1: Big Man II, 6 Rifles, 1d6 Bombers
Turn 2: Big Man I, 8 Rifles, 1 LMG
Turn 3: Big Man 2, 6 Rifles, 1 Flamethorwer (2 crew)
Turn 4: Big Man 1, 6 Rifles, 1d6 Bombres, 1 LMG

The random event table was activated with the blank card after the the fourth turn and included the following options (selection on a 1d6 roll)
  1. A runner from the Company HQ arrives; any unit or blind can take an extra move.
  2. Arrival of a  Gruppe with 1d6 Rifles; use any Big Man to activate (only one per game)
  3. HMG + 5 crew arrives in blind. Use 1d6: 1-4 Big Man is not included ; 5-6 Big Man level I included (only one per game)
  4. Sturm Artillerie!! Four 77mm guns available (4” radius area x 4 strike dice). Player selects impact point and rolls  4d6 + deviation dice
  5. Arrival of 2 scouts; any Big Man can activate to join another Gruppe 
  6. Pioneer Gruppe.  Arrival of 4 Pioneers with  Feldbewell Tundt and a dynamite charge to blow the bridge (50 working points needed on any one side of the bridge) (only one per game)
The British comprised the following sections and were activated (like the Germans) with a "British reinforcement" card or after the "Time for snifter"

Turn 1 (Fusilier section): Big Man II, 6 Rifles, 1d6 Bombers
Turn 2 (LMG section): Big Man I, 6 Rifles, 2 LMG
Turn 3: Big Man 2 in Rolls Royce Armoured Car (1 HMG)
Turn 4 (Bombers section): Big Man 1, 6 bombers, 1d6 rifles

  1. A runner from the Company HQ arrives; any unit or blind can take an extra move.
  2. A Rifle section with 1d6 men arrives; use any Big Man to activate (only one per game)
  3. 1d4  rifle-grenadiers arrives in blinds. Use 1d6: 1-4  Big Man not included; 5-6 Big Man level I included (only one per game)
  4. Stokes Mortars!! Four barrels (4” radius x 4 strike dice). Player selects impact point and rolls  4d6 + deviation dice (only one per game)
  5. Arrival of 2 scouts; aany Big Man can activate to join another Gruppe 
  6. Sailors.  Arrival of 4 sailors and Leading Seaman "Dina" Mite and a dynamite charge to blow the bridge (50 working points needed on any one side of the bridge) (only one per game).
The random event table was also activated with the blank card after the the fourth turn and included the following options (selection on a 1d6 roll)

Battle development
The objective for both sides was to control the bridge. Should anyone side had any temptation to blow up the bridge, the game would have been considered a draw; that was not explicitly clarified to any player who will have had the ability to do it if receiving the dynamite cargo on the ramdon events chart.

The game we played yesterday had three different phases with reversals of fortune all along the way, specially in the last final turns. 

In the first phase, both players decided to run to the village with every available force on the table, the British being the winner thanks to  getting a couple of additional moves in the ramdom table throws. After the first five or six turns, the situation on the table looked as follows:

The British player occupied the strategic road-bend just after crossing the bridge with the armed Rolls Royce, getting additional support from two sections at its flanks.

The German player occupied the house to the left of the road with a bomber squad, placing the rest of the sections on the table behind, in order to avoid the line of fire of both the Rolls and the British section sheltering in the house across the road.

As a British squad  moved behind the Rolls with the clear intention of both guarding the flank of the AFV and attempting to surround the German left flank should the occasion presents...

... the Germans counter manouvered deploying a section along the tree copses to the left of this house.

What followed was a long exchange of fire between the Germans and the British, with both sides gradually wearing down their sections with casualties and mounting shocks.

The second phase started when the German commanders decided to move both, the units under cover behind the house...

... and some reinforcements located at the entry point, to the field facing the side of the British main position in the house. These German forces included the  HMG section.

The increased German fire power resulted in fast decline in the size and moral of the British troops in the house, that finally were wiped out. A second British section entered the house, but it was also worn out and forced to flee across the bridge, taking shelter at the other end of the village.

The Germans now had full control of both houses across the street and were ready for the final assualt. But before that, it was the time to get rid of the Rolls Royce; fortunately for the British, a failed German flamethrower attack on the car, put out of action this feared German assualt weapon.

Depleted of grenades and despite some damage to the car caused in the previous attacks, it was really the Rolls that stood between the Germans and its victory. But the Germans had now a clear advantage in terms of number of troops vs. the British so the situation was net-net very good for them.

But then we had one of those reversals of fortune that suddenly change everything; and with this we entered into the third phase of the battle.

On the one hand, the British had a substantial  pool of forces located at the entry point of the map; basically three rifle-grenadier teams and several riflemen, but unfortunately leaderless. A Big Man had been sent from the village several turns before (see photo of our gallant British heroe running like hell on its heels while whistling the original soundtrak of "Chariots of Fire") to collect the reinforcements and now these were marching at the double towards Dampf.

The second event was the two accurate and devastating mortar-fire turns falling in the over-crowded field where the German HMG was located; these mortars not only destroyed the machine gun section but also put out of action  the accompanying infantry section (18 shocks on a unit with a Big Man level I leader!!!).

Being already 2PM and after 4 hours playing, we decided to take balance of the situation and finally agreed on a  draw. The British  Rolls-Royce and the infantry section already in the skirts of Dampf were probably enough to deny the Germans a decisive control of the bridge, considering that they had only one unit with full combat strength.

Both players made a very good use of the forces available and specially the Germans showed to have the most flexible approach to strategy with the change of the axis of attack (second phase). The British were to some extent fortunate to land two accurate mortar fire turns and to disrupt the German sections in the reserve ... they were lucky, but this is war(gaming)

In general both sides were quite happy with the scenario (congratulations from here to Max Maxwell, the designer of the original scenario) that everybody found balanced in terms of the forces involved as well as highly enjoyable.

Other photos


  1. Great game report and lovely figures. I must say, I enjoyed writing and play-testing the scenario so I'm pleased that you chaps did too. Max Maxwell

  2. Thank you Max; the game was extremely successful and so original versus the "standard" attack-on-a-trench that has reinvigorated the interest in M&B by some of the club members. Happy that no copyright-issues has been raised by you... :-D

  3. Pues que deciros cuando me encargué de llevar el mando británico de este escenario, pues parecía una mezcla entre los dibujos animados de "la carrera de los autos locos" y "carros de fuego".
    Primero por el "carrito del helado" (léase vehículo blindado) el cual llegó antes que los "boches" y se mantuvo clavado en su esquina disparando a todo lo que se movía. Aguantó cuatro (4) asaltos con granadas y ayudó a que las maltrechas unidades inglesas pudieran retornar al lado del canal aliado.
    El otro fue el oficial que tuvo que correr de un lado para otro para poder llevar y traer unidades al frente y que no colapsara.
    Felicidades Benito por el escenario.