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Rearguard at Prune sur la Fouche, 1918


The Great War, Black Powder, 28mm

Chris Henry cancelled the game we were going to play, so I was at a loose end. Instead of just heading to the bar I sat in on this interesting little game, played by Michael and Campbell, and set in the closing days of the Great War. Michael’s smaller German rearguard had to hold its position until nightfall (or rather packing up time), while Campbell’s evil French had to drive the Germans off the table. I say “evil” because a  century ago this June they killed my teenage Uncle Rudi as he was harmlessly sauntering through the French countryside at a place called Verdun.Anyway, the guys have played a few 1918 games before, but this one was a little different. Instead of using their usual rules – the version of Chain of Command for the Great War (Cocking it up through the Mud and the Blood) published the Too Fat Lardies’ 2014 Christmas Special, they used Black Powder. Yes, you read that correctly. They used a set of Horse & Musket rules. Apparently they’d culled amendments from the Warlord Games forum, and added a few ideas of their own. I was intrigued. Would it give a better game than “Muddy CoC” as we call it? Let’s see…
This wasn’t a particularly big game. A typical unit was eight figures strong – barely a squad in Muddy CoC. In this game two of them counted as a platoon, and to give the Hun a fighting chance they were rated as stosstruppen. Michael had about four of these, plus a dug-in Maxim machine gun, and a rather nifty AV-7 tank – that big German affair that looked like an armoured train, without the need for rails. The French had tanks too – a big Schneider CA1, and then a runty little Renault FT. These tanks were supported by six units of infantry – three platoons – plus two more units of lancers, a field gun and a machine gun. Apart from that one on-table field gun nobody had any artillery available for off-table bombardments, as this was deemed an encounter battle.The game began with a general French advance – followed by a retreat. Campbell was moving his whole infantry force forward, and “Blundered” by rolling a “double 6”. That lead to the wholesale withdrawal of his troops for two turns. By the time they’d come back on the Germans had actually started to advance a little, a platoon clustered around the big tank. The French brought up their own tanks at fired at it, but nobody seemed to hit anything in this tank duel that lasted for the rest of the game. The French tanks also seemed remarkably prone to bogging down – both tanks did it, and the Schneider bogged down twice!  Then the French infantry got moving again, and plodded forward in little clumps.On the french right the lancers rode forward, and espied the German machine gun on the far side of the table. it was a no-brainer.Lancers really have to charge the machine gun – it has a suitably idiotic Great War ring to it… So far the battle could go either way, but as the advance got under way the French brought up their field gun, and deployed it facing the German tank (which was called “Lotti” by the way.The battle was now reaching its height. The two French units on the right of the road leading to the hamlet reached a small field enclosed by a stone wall. A German squad was on the far side, and the tow soon got into an exchange of rifle fire. Both sides had light machine guns, and so they blazed away at each other. Then, when the Germans were demoralised, the French charged forward, and took the position. That was the first German unit to go, but another would soon follow. “Lotti” was hit by the French field gun, leaving the French armour dominating the centre of the battlefield.The supporting infantry had closed to within rifle range too, but nothing was really happening – nobody was breaking. That was when Campbell launched his suicidal lancer charge. Amazingly Michael rolled really badly for his machine gun, and didn’t score any casualties. the Maxim was duly overrun, which left the German left flank hanging in the air. That’s when the game came to an end thanks to lack of time. Who won? Well, the French I suppose, but the Germans were still holding  Prune sur la Fouche farmhouse at the end of the game, and the French hadn’t brushed them aside.I suppose then, the game was a draw. although if it had gone on the German defence would have crumbled. The guys enjoyed themselves, but was it better than Muddy CoC? I’m not convinced, but it certainly made for an entertaining game.

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