Star Wars: Armada

Still uplifted by the new Star Wars movie (which I quite enjoyed), I headed to Virago’s place for a game of Star Wars: Armada. This is basically the ‘bigger brother’ of X-Wing: Published by Fantasy Flight Games with the usual high production values, it deals with battles between the big ships of the Star Wars universe – yes, you can finally get a Star Destroyer onto the gaming surface!

Being a man of high aesthetic standards (and equally high levels of skill), Virago repainted the ships and fighters, which makes for a really stunning spectacle. Sigur donned the cap of an Imperial captain while I bulged my eyes to get into the role of his Mon Calamari counterpart.

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Me positioning the snack tray in Virago’s living room.

Sigur had a Victory Class Star Destroyer and a Raider Class Corvette, while I had two Correllian Corvettes and an Escort Frigate. We both also had a couple of squadrons of fighters.

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Full speed ahead!
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Virago’s beautifully painted fighters.

While Sigur advanced very slowly, I increased my speed by one and headed directly towards the Star Destroyer. I had decided to ignore the Corvette and throw everything I had at the big ship. My fighter squadrons headed forward, but Sigur was able to counter them with his Tie-Fighters. Soon, dogfights pinned my squadrons.

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The Rebel fleet closes.

I was more successful with the larger ships: While the Frigate was on a head-to-head course with the Star Destroyer, the Corvettes converged from my right flank. Pouring continuous fire into the big ship, they managed to take out the shields and then do some structural damage. When one of my Corvettes crossed the bow of the Imperial ship, however, it was blown to smithereens. As Admiral Ackbar – never one to shy away from voicing truisms – once said: “At that close range we won’t last long against those Star Destroyers!”

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Captain Sigur, somewhat worried.

Angrily, the rest of my ships opened fire with everything they had. The Imperial ship couldn’t withstand the withering fire and, after taking some more structural damage, blew up.

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And there goes the Star Destroyer.

The rest was just mopping up: The lone Raider Class Corvette didn’t stand much chance against two Rebel ships and soon was also destroyed.

This was a fun game. At first, I was a bit apprehensive, as I feared that the rules might be overly complicated. However, after a couple of turns they felt just fine, although I certainly didn’t get all the intricacies. While I pride myself to have manoeuvred the big ships quite efficiently, I failed abysmally with the fighters – I had no idea what to do with them, and Sigur managed to pin them with his Tie-Fighters and finish them one by one.

Star Wars: Armada is a game that captures the feel of the movies’ space battles very well and I’m certainly looking forward to having another go.

The Cavalry Maiden

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In 1806, 23-years old Nadezhda Durova ran away from home and joined the cavalry in order to escape the “sphere prescribed by nature and custom to the female sex”. Durova was the daughter of a Russian hussar officer and was brought up among soldiers. She was a very able rider and had her own horse, Alcides. At first, she attached herself to a troop of Cossacks, who were marching to join the army on its way to the Prussian campaign against Napoleon. When they arrived at Grodno near today’s border to Poland, she officially joined a Polish Uhlan Regiment under the name of Aleksandr Sokolov. She saw action in several battles and once saved the life of an officer, who was threatened by enemy Dragoons:

“Instantly I rushed toward them with my lance tilted. I can only suppose that this scatterbrained audacity frightened them, because in a flash they abandoned the officer and scattered.”

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Her autobiography describes several battle scenes, but even more interesting are the details on everyday life of the cavalry. There are fascinating passages on exercises, setting up sentries, foraging and the social life of officers and enlisted men.

Perhaps the most astounding episode of Durova’s life is her unmasking. Her close companions gradually became aware that she was a woman, but as she had proven herself to be a good and reliable soldier they didn’t care. However, she had written a letter to her father, telling him where she was. Her father immediately started an investigation and Czar Alexander I took a personal interest in the story. He collected reports from Durova’s superiors and in late 1807 finally summoned her to St. Petersburg. Confronted by the Czar himself, she admitted to being a woman but begged him to allow her to stay in the cavalry. Alexander not only presented her with the Cross of St. George for saving an officer’s life, but also promoted her to lieutenant in the Mariupol Hussar Regiment.

Durova served in the cavalry for several more years and took part in the Battles of Smolensk and Borodino. However, being a woman in disguise hurt her chances of promotion and she retired from the army in 1816. In her later years, she became a writer and published not only her diary under the title The Cavalry Maiden, but also several novels.

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Durova’s exploits would make exciting skirmish games. What miniatures are available?

As she was in disguise, the most ‘historically correct’ variant would be to just use an Uhlan figure and declare her to be Durova. However, this may be a bit dull from a wargamer’s perspective. For 28mm, there is the option of putting one of The Dice Bad Lady’s spare female heads on an appropriate figure. A dedicated female hussar is presumably available from Elite Wargames and Models, but I was unable to get any further information – please contact elitewargamesmodels@gmail.com if you want to know more.

Bibliography

Durova, Naděžda A.: The cavalry maiden. Journals of a Russian officer in the Napoleonic wars, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1988.

 

A Heroic Stand

It’s been a while, but suddenly K. and I were bitten by the sci-fi bug again and decided to have a spontaneous game of Wandering Star. We rolled for forces, K.’s TCO getting the better of me with one fireteam of Brunt and Sharkmen each, while I only had one unit of Auxies. I was luckier with support, receiving a team of Special Forces while K. got a light flyer.

We also rolled for the scenario, which turned out to be ‘A Heroic Stand’: Whoever achieved the primary object would have to hold it for two turns to win.

I decided to go for the secondary objective on my left flank first, so I positioned most of my forces there. K. went for the rightmost objective first, which was nearer to her table edge, but I hoped my Special Forces would deal with her Pasiphaeans.

My Quar, supported by Auxies.
My Quar, supported by Auxies.
K.'s Sharkmen and Pasiphaeans.
K.’s Sharkmen and Pasiphaeans.
Brunt.
Brunt.

However, K. also had a group detached to cover the objective I was heading for: Brunt! They made themselves cosy behind some barrels and kept firing at my teams. It would be a while until I was able to dislodge them.

Brunt bearing the brunt of my fire.
Brunt bearing the brunt of my fire.

Meanwhile, on my right flank, my Special Forces tried to stop K.’s Pasiphaeans from achieving her objective. Alas, the raptors once again didn’t live up to their reputation and couldn’t deal with the small guys.

Raptor Special Ops on the prowl.
Raptor Special Ops on the prowl.
Pasiphaeans in action.
Pasiphaeans in action.

With one secondary objective bagged, K. sent her Sharkmen towards the primary objective.

Sharkmen working their way towards the primary objective.
Sharkmen working their way towards the primary objective.

This time, my Special Forces were successful: When they poured Overwatch fire into the Sharks, the fish were done with. This made me cocky and I decided to go for an all-out attack, which swept the Brunt away and put me into a fine position to cover the primary objective.

Preparing the final strike.
Preparing the final strike.

Her Pasiphaeans did achieve it, but they couldn’t hold it, as my raptors led a final close assault and chased them away.

And they did it!
And they did it!

In the end, the flyer was the only asset left for the TCO – it decided to beat a hasty retreat.

After the game, K. rightly pointed out that I didn’t win the game, as I didn’t fulfill the victory conditions – I merely prevented her from winning. I admit that my tactics aimed at exactly this and were a bit cowardly, especially since we both agreed that the victory conditions were very hard. In hindsight, I’m not sure the scenario can be won at all – Wandering Star is a brutal game, and holding an objective for two turns without any cover is a difficult challenge.

Nevertheless, fun was had by all! The quirky units really start to grow on us and we agreed to break the sci-fi figures out more often.

My Little Barn – ACW AAR

This scenario was inspired by one written by Charles Grant and called ‘Reconnaissance in force, or “You can’t have your cake and eat it”’. It was published in Battlegames issue 14, which is available as a pdf via Wargames Vault.

In our game, both side’s objective was to occupy and hold the enclosed area with the barn. Each side got almost identical forces, three groups of infantry and one of cavalry, which entered from the Eastern table edge. The hills counted as heavy terrain and blocked line of sight, as did the woods.

Set up.
Set up.

While our infantry columns marched forward, the confederate cavalry galloped towards the barn as fast as possible. Jumping over the fences, they thundered into the yard.

Fido takes exception to the Rebel cavalry.
Fido takes exception to the Rebel cavalry.

Seeing this, the Union lieutenant spurred his horse and led his troopers in a charge towards his Rebel counterparts. A fierce melee ensued which saw the Unionists triumph, even though their cavalry had a lower Morale rating. This was to be the first of a stroke of bad luck for the Rebels.

Union cavalry attacks.
Union cavalry attacks.

The Rebels were thrown back and the Union cavalry retreated behind to barn – I wanted to keep them out of Confederate musketry and in reserve.

Meanwhile, the two columns of infantry clashed at the crossroads. A couple of volleys crashed, smoke obstructed visibility (this was a very fitting random event) and confusion reigned.

The troops stumble into each other.
The troops stumble into each other.

However, we both managed to extricate our men swiftly. K. pulled hers back and moved towards the snake rail fence, so she could get behind and claim cover. The well-trained Union men smartly formed a line – just in time, as the Rebel cavalry was getting ready to charge them. Seeing the row of bristling bayonets, they changed their minds and wheeled back.

Form line!
Form line!

The shooting now started in earnest and K. had her second stroke of bad luck: Her senior Big Man was hit and killed by a bullet. As her cavalry lieutenant had already been injured in the melee and was unable to use any ‘Grasp the Nettle’ cards, K. was down to a maximum of four initiatives per turn, compared to her original eight!

This also meant that the small group she placed in the woods was out of command range and didn’t pose a big threat for me, so I could move my line forward. My flank company was taking up position on the hill to my left and covering my advance by pouring fire into K.’s troops.

The Union advances.
The Union advances.

Still, K. managed to get her guys over the fence into the yard. Her second in command pushed and pulled his men into extended order formation. At the same time, her cavalry charged mine, which was still taking a break behind the barn – I was too slow to get them moving and missed the opportunity to drive out her infantry.

Rebel cavalry counter attacks.
Rebel cavalry counter attacks.

The Rebel horse took another beating (they really were in bad form that day) and retreated. However, when the Union troopers charged the Confederate infantry, they decided that they had had enough and retreated while the Rebels stood their ground.

For reasons of time we decided to end the game at that point. The Rebels were in a rather tight spot – I had a line and another group shooting at her, and my line was moving forward with the form intention to end the fight with cold steel. My cavalry was thrown back but still in better shape than K.’s and the small Rebel group in the woods was a nuisance but nothing more. Still, considering the loss of her senior Big Man, K. put up a tremendous fight, and you never know with Sharp Practice – things could as well have gone pear-shaped for me if we had played on…

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The situation when we ended the game.

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This was another great game, which provided several tactical challenges for us: First, it was the first game in which both of us used cavalry. Cavalry is fun as it is able to zoom around, but it is also quite fickle in its performance. Second, the unique terrain and deployment meant that we really had to work out how to proceed when the columns crashed. I think we both made the best of it: K. moving into cover behind the fences and me forming a line to build up a formal attack. It feels like we both start to get the hang of it and manage to move with the flow of the game!