Thursday, March 13, 2014

(Cold Wars) The First Battle of Vailele AAR

My final post from Cold Wars is the AAR for my scheduled game, the First Battle of Vailele from the Second Samoan Civil War using Contemptible Little Armies.

Physical Set-Up:  Special thanks to Mike Lung who provided the trees, the beach, and the snazzy water.  Blue cellophane, whodathunkit?    Two minor problems were the picket fence I was using was not the type I remember as a child that you could make a small fenced in areas or large straight stretches.  A drop of glue remedied the situation.  The second issue were the makeshift trenches that I had constructed last weekend.  For quickly dug trenches on a berm, they fit the bill, but using a cardstock base isn't wise when you're using fast-dry clay to sculpt it.  One picture here will show how the cardstock warped.  If I expected perfection, I would have dropped to much money for pre-painted trenches that wouldn't be appropriate for the scenario.  Oh well, c'est la vie.

Game Set-Up:  Following the historical events of the Siege of Apia, the American and British forces secured the capital and began organizing Samoans still loyal to the crown for military action against the rebel forces of Mata'afa.  Their first large offensive would be an attack on a rebel stronghold at the old German banana plantation of Vailele.    They marched up the coast from Apia, trading skirmish fire with rebels until ultimately reaching the plantations.  After a British naval bombardment of the fortifications, the troops moved forward.

Order of Battle
Samoan Loyalists and their Allies - Objective:  Seize and hold one of the trenches for one turn.
Royal Navy Sailors (8) Tactical 4 - Morale 4
            Lt Angel Hope Freeman - treat as commander-in-chief

United States Marines (12)   Tactical 5  - Morale 5  Marksman
            Lt Philip Lansdale - treat as a Staff Officer per the rules

Samoan Loyalists (2 units of 10)  Tactical 4 - Morale 3
Samoan Morale - first morale test failure, the unit moves d6 inches away from closest enemy,  on a second failure they move 2d6 inches away, and if not rallied by an officer with two turns will automatically rout.

Mata'afan Rebels - Objective: Prevent the Loyalist's objective
Mata'afan Elite Guard (8)   Tactical 4 - Morale 4
Samoan Rebels (3 units of 10)  Tactical 4 - Morale 4
One commander-in-chief and one staff officer

Rebel Reserves  - Reserves could not make an appearance until after the naval bombardment finished
Samoan Rebels (10)  Tactical 4 - Morale 4
Samoan Rebel Spearmen (2 units of 10)  Tactical 3 - Morale 4  Ferocious

One note on the officers for this game.  The British and American officers were represented by two Great War infantry figures.  I did this for two reasons (1)  I admit, I got lazy trying to find the appropriate figure without buying an entire new unit and (2) This allowed them to stick out, thus preventing them from being moved accidentally with an adjacent unit.  I did get positive responses from this, although for future games I will correct this anachronism.  The Rebel officers were represented by German Schutztruppe, the C-in-C in Tropical Dress Whites, the staff officer in khaki.  No Germans were actually reported in the battle, but there was some influence among the rebel leaders.

Vailele, April 1, 1899
The rebels deployed their units as expected, two in the trenches, one hiding in the banana trees, and one unit in reserve in the plantation house.  The loyalists took up only half the board, with the British sailors protecting the flank. 

US Marines, Samoan Loyalists, and British Sailors cut through the jungle

 After a turn of getting used to the CLA, the first bomb dropped, quite literally. The naval barrage commenced, hitting to the left of the one trench, but still killing two rebels.  The following turn it hit the other trench, killing six rebels, but sparing the staff officer.  The player's unit decided against the trench and pulled his unit next to the plantation house.  The unit took a morale hit, but the staff officer quickly removed it.

Naval Guns did the trick in some trenches...
 While the rebels adjusted, the Marines could only push forward faster if they were cavalry on open ground.  Faster than anyone could imagine, they were at the tree line, staring down the rebels and waiting for the Samoans to catch up before beginning their assault.

That would be easier said than done, as a lone shot rang out from the jungle, hitting Lt Angel Hope Freeman right in the head.  A second sniper opened up, but the loyalists continued their slow trudge through the jungle.  They weren't stopped until twenty Samoan rebels, armed only with melee weapons charged through the underbrush.  The British caught the brunt of the first ten, and by the time a unit of Samoans could get into position to counterattack, only two staggered behind the line to recover.  Despite not breaking morale, they were quickly picked off by the snipers.

The Loyalists were far braver than they were historically, trading blow for blow with these rebels until the last of the wildmen scurried back into the jungle.

The flank gets caught in an ambush, but the Marines keep pushing

Samoans race to secure the abandoned trench
 The Marines decided to forgo support and slowly assaulted the trench.  Their Marksmen skill (firing 6 inches further without any penalties) was offset by the protection the trench offered.  The rebels finally pulled their unit out of the plantation house to support the trench.

Of course, there was still the abandoned trench in the middle of battlefield.  It  was a  race between the Samoan Loyalists charging towards it, and the out of position Elite Guard, who attempted to flank them, but unfortunately needed to charge the trench in an attempt to expel them.    The Loyalist held, the Elite Guard fell back, conceding victory.  Lt Lansdale, who had been nearby the Loyalists in support ran over the trench post battle.  I'm certain he earned a medal for being the only white combatant who reached the trenches, even if the Samoans did all the work.

...and fight off Mata'afans Elite Guard to win the battle.
Historically, the naval support was ineffective and the Loyalist forces trudged through the jungle until they were ambushed by hundreds of rebels hiding there.  In game, I ruled the Marines had moved so fast that they got to the tree line before the rebels had gotten into position. I still had at least another rebel unit to appear in the jungle, but decided against bringing them out.

The only revisions I might make into the game are some slight variations to the naval barrage, and perhaps either dropping the morale of the Samoan Loyalist, or making them Irregulars, thus decreasing their hand-to-hand effectiveness.

For a six player game, it played with ten very smoothly.  One of the secret reasons I ran this game was to avoid the "amateur expert" who (supposedly) knows more about the subject than anyone else.  Ironically, the game did draw one fellow who professed an interest in the subject.  However, he was the best type of the amateur expert, nodding accordingly as I gave the back story, and even smiling early as I covered some amusing anecdotes, such as discussing the naval losses of the First Samoan Civil War.  All in all I was very pleased with the game and hopefully I'll work towards a historically accurate version of the Siege of Apia for next year's Cold Wars. 

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