Sunday, 17 October 2021

Spanish Civil War Campaign - The Falange Attack on III Company, British International Brigade

Another game made it to the table a day or so ago, from the on going Spanish Civil War campaign that I'm running with Norm and Jon. Until a map is 'released' in a day or two, the situation is broadly that the British III Coy has been ordered to perform a delaying action against elements of the Falange Battalion. OOB and orders from both players can be seen below:

British International Brigade III Coy OOB
1 x HQ
3 x Infantry
1 x HQ
1 x Recce Armoured Car

Broadly - I would like my company to occupy the frontage of the woods to the right of the road (only - nothing to the left) …. So that they have an easier / shorter path of escape, which they should do before they get compromised. If possible, can the armoured car deploy out on my right, preferably in cover, so that it can give protection to my path of retreat and then retreat itself once threatened with something that can do it real harm. I think Jonathan will be manoeuvring early to cut my retreat path, likely with mobile forces, so I see this episode as one of potential high risk for my III Coy.

Falange  OOB
1 x CO
'A' Coy
1 x HQ
1 x Recce
3 x Infantry
1 x MG
1 x Pak 35/36 + tow
1 x 75mm Artillery Support Unit + tow
2 x Armoured Trucks
1 x Armoured Car with AT
1 x Schneider Tank
'C' Coy
1 x HQ
3 x Infantry
1 x MG

See image below (note that the III Coy are expected to be deploy in the woods as shown by the hatched oval):

With the orders in, the units were deployed as follows:

An overview of the table.

'C' Coy.

'A' Coy and support.

The armoured car ready to cover the line of retreat.

III Coy at the edge of the woods as ordered.

Let Battle Commence
The photo captions will give an idea of how the game played out.

The end of Turn 1. 'C' Coy moved swiftly forward to try and block the line of retreat for the International Brigade's III Coy. 'A' Coy moved forward, with the armoured trucks reaching their position. 

The III Coy used initiative fire at the trucks, but failed to hit and then promptly failed their command roll.

The flank move by part of 'A' Coy have reached their positions and have spotted the III Coy in the woods.

The rest of 'A' Coy move forward with their support units. The artillery support unit has reached the wall but is yet to unlimber.

The end of Turn 2. 'C' Coy reached the wall and the rocky outcrop and held their positions as ordered. 'A' Coy on the 'left' flank debuss from the armoured trucks and the Pak 35/36 unlimbers and deploys. The rest of 'A' Coy, courtesy of the CO, moved forward and opened fire on the British III Coy. The volume of fire was such that the III Coy lost two platoons and had their MG unit suppressed, but 'A' Coy did take a few hits in return.

With such heavy losses early on, the III Coy began to retreat PDQ, or at least the remaining platoon that could move.

'C' Coy in position.

'A' Coy on the 'left' flank have debussed and unlimbered.

The rest of 'A' Coy and their supporting units pour fire into the III Coy along the wood edge.

Time to exit stage left as it were.

The armoured car ready to provide covering fire as the infantry begin to retreat.

At the start of Turn 3, initiative fire sees the III Coy's MG unit destroyed.

The end of Turn III.

The remaining III Coy platoon retreats but takes some fire from the Pak 35/36, but is not suppressed.

'A' Coy suddenly have no enemy in front of them and then struggle to move forward in pursuit.

The end of Turn 4. The Falange CO blunders, leaving his units stranded and unable to pursue.

As the remaining III Coy platoons continues to retreat, they come under heavy opportunity fire from 'C' Coy and are destroyed.

'A' Coy on the 'left' flank push forward into the wood in pursuit.

End of Game
Suddenly the game was over almost before it had begun. The British international Brigade's armoured car unit moved off to the North West table corner and linked up with a supporting cavalry unit (odd board and relevant for the campaign).

Post Game Thoughts
Well I'm not quite sure what to say really, but I'll try and sum up my thoughts;
  • Both sides had good plans and their deployments were sound. Based upon previous experience with low CV forces (HQ's CV 7 in this game, but the Falange CO CV9), I expected it to be a drawn out affair, with the III Coy slowly making a fighting withdrawal and the Falange struggling to keep up.
  • But 'twas not to be. In one of those unusual events in a game, the Falange CO had a string of successful command rolls (3 including a double 1) and the die rolls were rather good, leading to the III Coy losing two units and the MG becoming suppressed, with their brief opportunity fire failing to suppress any of the enemy. 
  • Normally this sort of fire fight would have been maybe one or two rounds of shooting and that would be it. Maybe a unit on either side would be suppressed and then the III Coy could have retreated. But not so in this game!
  • I know this sort of thing has put gamers of the BKC ruleset, but honestly it's a long time since I've seen anything so effective, outside of British WWII artillery barrages or German Mortars. It's just one of those moments in a game that happen: 'c'est la guerre' I suppose.

So now it is time to update the campaign and pass relevant info on to Jon and Norm, with Norm maybe needing a stiff drink to accompany it after such a devastating turn of events in just one Turn. Hey ho! Hopefully the Die Gods will show their favour to the Republicans in another game...

Until next time stay safe and keep healthy.


  1. Thanks Steve / Jonathan.

    Another lovely table with an interesting situation.

    Brigade Diary - III Company had orders to deploy in cover on the left flank, to slowdown the Nationalist advance, with a view to making an orderly retreat and join other elements of the battalion. Regrettably, they were quickly overwhelmed by superior forces, who had outmanoeuvred our small force, cutting our line of retreat. The brave rearguard actions of III Coy have bought the battalion the time needed to solidify our defences.

    1. Thanks Norm. Sadly it took longer to set up the table than it did to actually play the game! I hope the Brigade diary entry has summed up what their sacrifice was for.

  2. Hi Steve - I dont necessarily see it as a disadvantage that a rule set can occasionally throw up an extremely unusual outcome - after all, there have been plenty of those throughout wars long history - two that come instantly to mind are the Battle of Dunbar and the defence of Rorkes Drift. I remember years ago I played an FIW campaign with my mate Julian and we had two games in one night because the opposed landing of British grenadiers at Louiseville was over in a couple of turns when the RN gun support dispersed the French defenders before the grenadiers flat boats even reached the beach!

    1. I agree with you Keith, but at my old club there were some players who hated the friction that the C&C system brought to a game. IIRC they were more used to standard IGOUGO systems, where they could plan there moves with inch perfect precision etc. Each to their own, but for solo play especially, the C&C in BKCII is great.

  3. Another interesting game Steve. TBF it is one of the things I like about BKC/CWC/FWC is the potential of unpredictable results. Luck play a huge part in warfare - there are so many unseen situations, incidents etc that can sway the outcome of an engagement that just cannot be factored into a set of rules. Ultimately the outcome here was never in doubt - the Brits would have had to withdraw eventually - they were overwhelmed and had no real answer to some of the Falange equipment (the artillery for example). All that happened was that their 'collapse' happened sooner than anticipated. I do like these small-forces engagements ... Great stuff ... keep them coming.

    1. Thanks Mark and I too love the friction inherent within the C&C system. As you say, the outcome never really in doubt, but in campaign terms it would have been beneficial for the Brits to have given the Falange a bit of a bloody nose.

  4. Nice to see the original plans and how that can change when the lead starts to fly. Lovely looking table Steve I do like how this plays out in BKC, nice not to see wall to wall armour in 6mm but more of a combined arms affair.

    1. Thanks Stu. It is fun for me seeing both sides plans and then implementing them as best as I can once the action begins to unfold. BTW the figures etc are 10mm and all Pendraken;)

  5. Steve, great looking gaming table and a very enjoyable battle report. Amazing how much more carefully one reads when one is issuing orders and guiding the campaign narrative. I think one HQ in the Republican OOB was actually a MG.

    As for BKC and friction, having watched many BKC battle reports, I fall into the camp of feeling there is too much unnecessary friction. For solo play, I can see how this is a big bonus when it is difficult to introduce surprise into a solo game. Otherwise, I find that play tends to be herky-jerky for no real purpose. I know, I may be in the minority on this but there it is. It just seems the random components of the C&C can dominate the fixed portion and I am left feeling that the game introduces a big tail for a little dog.

    In both of the battles fought, thus far, the random interruptions caused me to say, "huh? What would have triggered that event in battle?"

    Anyway, knowing that Norm and I are simply offering up our tactical solutions as a "seed" to your gaming engine, I am not too worried when the CO blunders or fails to pursue. All good fun.

    Looking forward to seeing the next version of the campaign map and situation.

    1. Thanks Jonathan and glad you liked the table and AAR. Your views are as valid as anyone else's on the friction within BKCII. I know some gamers allow a free order no matter the situation and then roll as normal after that, to avoid low CV battlegroups not doing much all game.

      I had a lazy book reading and film watching day today, so after some DIY shopping tomorrow it's back to campaign updates. I'm decadent I know!

  6. Another interesting battle report Steve.
    The British IB commander clearly understands the need to “spin” his version of events. That, at least, will satisfy the party - for now.

    How much time elapsed between this battle and the first one? Would,say, a Republican victory in one battle allow the IB “more time” to prepare for the next battle?

    Let’s hope the next battle is a good ‘un.



    Ps - and if you want to take any close up shots of your SCW toys, then I’m sure they’d be well appreciated 😀

    1. Thanks Geoff. This battle was a day (or campaign turn) after the previous one, so little chance of a let up for the Republican side. I'm going down the most plausible route for the campaign, within a broad and simple framework for movement etc.

      As for close up of the toys, I did post some pics a few posts ago of some vehicles and standard bearers, but will try and take some in game close ups going forward.

    2. Yes, I do recall seeing the pictures of your SCW armour and standard-bearers. Nice lookin’ stuff. Some images of the infantry and support weapons would be good, if you have opportunity during the next time out on the tabletop.
      I do think Spanish Civil War uniforms are nice and colourful - especially the Nationalists - with Legion, Moors, Falange, Requetes, Guarda Civil and regular army. And, later, Italians. Plus cavalry too.
      The Republican militias all look a bit same-y (it’s the “politics” that differentiates the different groups).
      Jose Bueno’s Uniformes Militares de la Guerra Civil Espanola is a top notch uniform guide for the SCW. If you can afford it - both Amazon and eBay prices are high £££££.

      Geoff 😀

    3. Yeah, that was some mighty good spinning!

  7. Nice looking game Steve. Picking up the friction point I am a great fan of BKC and we have used it extensively for my Eastern front games. It has never been an overriding factor in our games, where the Russians clearly do suffer from some poor leadership/ command roles. In hindsight and we haven’t played for a while, it could very easily be managed down with a house rule allowing failed command units to activate once, perhaps moving a half move but not firing. This would avoid the feeling of a complete stagnation in one particular area. For me the failed rolls always seem to have a plausible cause or context which adds to the battle. The key is to play without the overarching desire to win. In the heat of battle orders especially changed order frequently don’t get through 🤔

    1. Thanks Matt. The one activation house rule is a common 'fix' I've seen over the years. Not for me personally but it works and doesn't break the rules really. I like the CV friction as it gives the player the frustration of commanding say a 1941 Russian army that is excellent defensively, but pretty rubbish on the counter-attack, which is historically plausible IMHO. I like the 'Oh no!' moments that blunders bring to a game as they can be memorable, for good and bad reasons. In these smaller engagements that 'friction' can unduly affect the outcome, but in a bigger game it tends to even out in my experience.