David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occasional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Monday 10 February 2020

Canal crossing defence 1914

For our regular Monday game, despite the best efforts of storm Ciara - who dreamt up this daft idea of naming storms - Phil and I met up in GHQ for a game set in 1914. The game sees a small British force defending vital road and railway crossings over a canal. If the enemy can cross here in strength then two Corps will be split from each other and the retreat towards Mons placed in jeopardy. As usual Phil took command of the Germans and I took the British. As is usual, a photomontage to show the game unfolding ~
A general view of the situation facing the British defenders strung out thinly along the canal side. Two battalions of infantry supported by some dismounted cavalry and artillery.
To the East of the road bridge crossing the canal the South Stafford's are supported on their right by the dismounted cavalry and to their tear by s battery of 4.5" howitzers.
On the left of the British line the Derbys are making use of the cover offered by a ruined farm and the orchard to its west. The British infantry get the First Fire rule and the Sharpshooter rule to reflect the 'mad 5 minutes' of their shooting training.
On the German right a battalion of Jaeger's have made slow progress along a wooded ridge overlooking the British right. Their fire will prove a major problem for the British trying to respond to pressure elsewhere along their front.
On the German right flank progress is slow die to confusion over orders (poor Command dice) and the effects of the terrain.
Casualties begin to make their way to the Field Dressing Station past the British commanders poring over their maps.
The 4.5" howitzer battery scores a bit on the German 77mm. The batteries would indulge in a counter battery duel more or less all game with little damage to either battery!
Fire from the Jaeger battalion causes Disorder to two companies to the east of the road bridge. They were Disordered for most of the games turns, pretty much reducing their own fire effectiveness to zero in many cases.
A German battalion on the right advances on the railway bridge over the canal. The British defenders can be seen in the distance over the wheat field.
The battalion machine gun has deployed near a ruined house. It's fire will help to support the attack in the coming turns.
Casualties are beginning to mount for the South Staffords but they are doggedly holding on.
The Germans begin to cross the railway bridge despite the concentrated fire of the defenders.
The Jaegers do not need to advance, they have pinned the thinly spread British right with their rifle fire alone, making use of their Sharpshooter rule. The battalion machine gun is in the rear having been driven back by the British sharpshooting!
Casualties are becoming more noticeable for the British around the two bridges. The Germans are concentrating for an assault on both sites.
Despite the overgrown nature of the orchard the Derbys move two companies out on their left to try to fire into the flank of the attackers. A good idea undermined by slow movement (or poor Command rolls!)
Fire from one of the RHA batteries has damaged one German 77mm battery and an infantry company has received heavy casualties from machine gun fire. The attack across the railway bridge has been blunted.
"Charge!" The German battalion sends two companies over the bridge in an attempt to break through and support the attack across the railway bridge. Closing fire fails to stop the attack and vicious hand to hand fighting ensues over the barricades.
The Uhlans canter across in support of the infantry attack hoping to break through into the rear of the British defenders and wreak havoc.
Despite being Shaken by mounting losses the defenders drive off the first wave of attackers with heavy losses.
In Turn 10, the final turn, the German army morale breaks and the attack on the bridges has failed. In the end this was due to one failed melee on the British left where a Shaken company defeated a German charge lead by the battalion commander in person. Despite the odds British steel, backed by British pluck, saw off the Hun in short order!
We used Black Powder 2 with our own in-house developments for 1914. They were featured in a WI article back, I think, in 2018 sometime. They produced a close game which might at the death have swung either way.


  1. A lovely looking game and I like the idea of using BPII for WWI.

    1. Thanks SteveJ! We find BP works well despite our continuing tweaking.

  2. Excellent looking game David and highly enjoyable report!


  3. A splendid and challenging game, another that could just as easily gone the other way, a sign of a decent rule I think. Don't really understand those folk who bang on about not having big enough tables to play Black Powder.

  4. I think that looks fantastic.

  5. A great report, spectacular terrain!

  6. An enjoyable report and a lovely looking game... as always.

    All the best. Aly

  7. A love set up David. The early part of the Great War always looked very interesting to me but sadly I never traveled that path in my wargamins. Looking at your game I think I should have.

  8. Top notch as always, I do love all the little pieces of scatter which bring the terrain alive, gorgeous figures as well.

  9. Lovely looking game and always good to play a game that's close!
    Best Iain

    1. It was unclear right to the end who had the upper hand.

  10. That looked like a really good game.