We have a plan for some WW1 action at Partizan next year and James is keen to use his 12mm Kallistra Germans. I like 10/12mm as a scale, so this was to see if I liked the game enough to get myself a British force for future gaming.
The game is played on a 6x8 square grid (hence the name). Now generally the idea of a gridded wargame is one of those things that makes me do a funny face, but both James and Scrivs had played a bit of this and I was assured it works well.
James has build a "portable" 3x4 folding gaming table which looks just right for the Arras/Somme bits of France, but less so for the rather hillier bits around Verdun that have been his chief interest for the last year or two. However it served well enough for our purposes.
The scenery fits into squares and then the entire square counts as that type of terrain, hilly, wooded or defended with trenches for example.
We scattered about a fair bit of terrain and placed three villages close to the centre line to serve as objectives.
James kindly offered me the choice of forces and I elected to be the Beastly Hun.
Before the game starts the defenders have to withstand a barrage. Each unit takes a number of casualties. The defender can opt to take those casualties - leaving his troops in the line but damaged, or withdraw them, meaning they can come on as reserves in future turns.
My barrage was pretty effective and James was left with some quite thin defences in places.
When the battle proper began I immediately pushed forward on all fronts, seizing the right hand village from beneath French noses.
At the start of each player turn you get to dice for support effects. I chose to start with another barrage, but failed to call it in. Later events suggested that a lucky French shell had severed the telephone line back to the artillery as none was forthcoming.
The game features a rather unusual mechanic in that it is the non-active player whose troops get to shoot. Which was tricky to remember at first, but we eventually got the hang of it.
In James' turn he likewise pushed forward and the game soon settled down into a pretty static firefight - all too redolent of WW1 so far with an initial dash across open ground soon bogging down.
The French eventually successfully called in a barrage (after both of us had tried to call in spotter planes to assist accuracy with no success). Unfortunately French artillery is not all that accurate and some of the shells fell into the central village on James' own men.
Over on my left I decided that I had the weight of numbers to evict the French from the shattered remains of the devastated village, but my attackers failed to push forward out of the woods and those that did drive home were mown down by defensive machine gun fire. Again, so far, so WW1.
In the centre one of my units had broken through and pushed on into the French rear attempting to silence the on field artillery. James frantically brought on reservists and my German attackers were hurled back. I reasoned they'd got lost in the smoke and fog of war, pushed on to far and been encircled and captured - another regular WW1 occurrence.
With time drawing on we played on last turn. In a desperate gamble James drooped another barrage on my centre - once again his gunners largely failed him and shells rained down on French defenders in the village on the hill. Sadly my time was up and I didn't have the resources to capitalise on this and assault the village.
The only German success had been to hang on to the village captured on the right in the initial rush, with a final French attack repelled with sword and bayonet.
A great game, with clear victory to the French.
So how did I like it?
Well, I've always been ambivalent about gaming WW1 - but James' passion and interest in the period, together with a bit of research has piqued my interest.
The game itself played really well - there's a few badly written bits that are a little tricky to figure out, but actually once we'd been through a couple of turns it was all running just using the QRS.
And (to my surprise) I didn't really notice the squares at all after the initial set up.
It seemed to me to represent WW1 combat pretty well - initial success, rapidly bogging down, artillery landing in the wrong place, lengthy static periods, waiting for a weakness to exploit, attacks stalling as troops get caught up on wire and mud.
I like the scale and the level of abstraction - this isn't a heroic battle where individual actions count - you just get to practice your best donkey impression as you direct your lions about the field.
So all in all it was a really good evening's gaming.
And the order's going in to Kallistra as soon as I get paid.