Monday, 1 November 2021

Spanish Civil War Campaign Turn 4 - If You Go Down Into The Woods Today...

Campaign Turn 4 turned out to have some interesting manoeuvring by both sides, some of which caught me by surprise, but then that's the fun of running a campaign. In broad terms, as can be seen below, the Nationalists focused their attacks North of the ridge to try and eliminate the isolated British International Brigade. To the South, the Republicans launched a spoiling attack against the Italian CTV forces before they could build up their strength. 

An overview of the battlefield, with the objective being to capture the town in square C1.

With two battles to be fought, I chose to play the 'easier' of the two from my perspective, that of the attack against the British International Brigade. The situation can be seen in the following image:

The British (Blue) will be attacked from three sides, but have the slight advantage of terrain in their favour.

Nationalist's Plan of Attack
Having set the table up based upon the map above, I sent images and info to Jon who then sent me back the following:

Republican Plan of a Fighting Withdrawal
I did the same for Norm, whose plan was survive first contact and do a 'Benghazi Handicap' style withdrawal as shown on the image below:

Overview of the Battlefield
So with the plans in, the troops were deployed as ordered and can be seen below:

An overview of the table, with a large wooded area in the centre. This was a mix of light woods and scrub, which I classed as Dense Terrain for AFV's (-1 to the command roll) and Line-of sight- was limited to 10cm for all troops.

Littorio 'C' Coy.

Blackshirt 'C' Coy.

Falange 'B' & 'C' Coys.

Falange 'A' Coy with CO and AFV support.

British International Brigade I & II Coy's.

The Brigade's Artillery and Mortar to the rear.

The Republican Brigade level Cavalry and Armoured Cars.

The British CO flying the flag.

The Republican air support in all their glory.

The Action Begins
As before, I'll allow the annotated images to tell the story of how the game unfolded:

At the start of Turn 1, the Nationalist air attacks begin. A Condor Legion Ju-52 begins its bombing run against the British Cavalry.

The Italian's join in with their bomber (you've got to love the camo scheme) ...

... with the mighty CR-32/42 adding its weight with a ground attack along the front of the woods.

The British I & II Coy's have a lot of units suppressed.

The Cavalry get off relatively lightly, but their HQ is suppressed.

The Falange 'A' Coy make a blistering advance with their AFV's on their first Turn, courtesy of their CO. The Cavalry are already under pressure from the off with their planned escape route already compromised.

An overview at the end of Turn 1. Only the Blackshirt's 'C' Coy failed to move onto the table.

The Littorio's 'C' Coy move smartly into the woods, making good progress to block the British Line of Retreat.

The Falange 'C' Coy moves forward and becomes involved in a fire fight with the British to their front. they take hits but have flushed out the British which was their plan. On their right 'B' Coy has moved up, albeit more slowly.

A fuzzy view of Falange 'C' Coy's advance. The British Cavalry have begun to try and withdraw.

At the start of Turn 2, the next Condor Legion air attack in the form of Stukas has to abort as friendly forces are already where their attack was due to be targeted. Some Blue-on-Blue has been avoided!

Once again the Falange CO with the AFV's plays a blinder, with the AFV's moving to cut off the Cavalry from their planned retreat route. Combined firing sees the loss of 1 Cavalry unit and another suppressed.

An overview at the end of Turn 2. The net is beginning to close in on the British, but they manage to begin withdrawing through the woods, after inflicting hits on the Falange Coy's to their front.

The Littorio 'C' Coy continue to advance and are closing in on the British artillery park. 

Both British Coy's begin to withdraw where possible, but have lost their MG supporting units to enemy fire.

Before they withdrew, the British managed to call in some artillery and mortar fire on the Falange 'B' Coy, destroying their MG support and suppressing two infantry units.

The British Cavalry have managed to exit all but one unit off the table, but not via their planned escape route.

The Falange AFV support has done its job and is nicely camouflaged against the stone walls.

The British artillery park unaware that the enemy is very close.

An overview at the end of Turn 3. The net continues to close in on the British escape route, as the Littorio 'C' Coy attacks the British artillery park and the Falange armour nears the wood edge to the North. However the British move off smartly through the woods and catch the Littorio 'C' Coy in the flank.

The Blackshirt 'C' Coy fail to move, but the Falange with little opposition to their front, begin to move forward.

The Falange FAO blundered and called in his artillery on his own troops by mistake, which only just avoided being destroyed (right hand unit). The lone British unit is barely hanging on at the wood edge.

The Littorio 'C' Coy have attacked the British artillery park and KO's one artillery unit and suppressed the mortar. In the process they are surprised by the British II Coy who attack them in the flank, KO'ing one infantry unit and suppressing another.

The CO who managed to inspire the II Coy to move swiftly and attack the enemy.

The view from the British artillery park.

The Falange armour at the woodland edge ready to try and close the net.

An overview at the end of Turn 4. The Falange 'B' & 'C' Coy's move to the woods as do the Blackshirt's 'C' Coy. The Falange 'A' Coy move forward and the Littorio 'C' Coy continue to fight with the British. The British manage to extricate their Artillery unit that had limbered up, but they lose their Mortar unit to assault by elements of the Littorio 'C' Coy. In return the British KO another Littorio infantry unit.

The British are fighting for their lives and are not ready to give up just yet.

The Littorio infantry have occupied the ground where the British Mortar unit was.

With the Littorio position becoming critical, the Italian FAO calls in an artillery 'Danger Close' strike and manages to suppress one British infantry unit.

An overview at the end of Turn 5. The net closes in on the British who are all but surrounded and in pretty poor shape.

The Falange 'B' & 'C' Coy's struggle to reach the woods.

The Blachshirt 'C' Coy finally gets moving and closes in on the British rear.

Falange 'A' Coy still away away from the woods.

The British position is getting desperate.

The Falange AFV's enter the woods and KO and infantry unit and suppress another.

The Littorio 'C' Coy blocking the last realistic line of escape.

End of Game
With the British almost down to the last man, the CO had not option but to surrender, as his troops were effectively hors de combat.

The Butcher's Bill
Littorio 'C' Coy - 2 x Infantry
Falange 'B' Coy - 1 x Infantry, 1 x MG

British - 2 x Infantry, 2 x MG, 1 x Mortar, 1 x Artillery, 1 x Cavalry.
British Surrendered - 1 x CO, 2 x HQ, 3 x Infantry
British Escaped - 1 x HQ, 2 x Cavalry, 1 x Artillery, 2 x Armoured Cars

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was an interesting game, with some twists and turns right from the off. Certainly not the sort of scenario one would expect to play, but then this is the joy of playing a campaign as it throws up interesting challenges such as this one. So as always a few thoughts on the game in no particular order:
  • Low command value forces are a challenge to play, especially when on the offensive. As most have the Rigid tactical doctrine, combining this with a possible Recce command value benefit really helps get things going, as it can add a +2 to the roll. Even with this, for large parts of the game the Nationalist troops couldn't get going and the same could be said for the Republican troops, but to a lesser extent.
  • In contrast to this both sides CO's played a big part in the game, with the Falange's CO being able to move his AFV's right around the British Cavalry flank impacting the game right from the off. On the other side the British CO suddenly getting the II Coy to move and the catch the Littorio 'C' Coy in the flank gave them a fighting chance mid-game to get off the table, but 'twas not to be.
  • The Nationalist air strikes got them off to a good start as the British had so many units suppressed, that they were unable to respond effectively to the initial Falange moves to their front. Had they not been suppressed then the Falange might have taken a bit of a pasting.
  • The large light woods and scrub area in the centre of the table gave a different dynamic, due to the movement restrictions for vehicles and the limited line-of-sight, which was nice to see and play out. Even though I had a God's eye view, I played both sides evenly in terms of them following their orders and then only being able to react to the enemy presence once they could see them, or hear the sound of gun fire to the front etc.
In campaign terms this has some intriguing outcomes. The Nationalists are certainly in control of the area North of the ridgeline, but they cannot afford to ignore the potential threat, albeit slight, from the remnants of the British units that fled North off the battlefield. With a large spoiling attack happening at the same time to the South, where the weight of the Republican forces are, the outcome of that may have an even larger effect upon the campaign than this victory. We will have to wait and see how that plays out but hopefully it will not be too long before we know the outcome.

Until then stay safe and keep healthy.


  1. Excellent stuff Steve, Norm and Jon. I really like how this campaign is working. Like you say, you would never normally see this scenario on the table top but for the campaign context. Great looking table by the way. It’s good to see it so dominated by woods.

    1. Thanks and it's great 'playing' alongside Norm and Jon. I'm glad you're enjoying how the campaign is unfolding as it's the first time I've done this outside of a 'Black Powder' setting. This certainly creates its own challenges with air support, off table artillery etc, but so far it seems to be broadly working out OK. I think by using the KISS principle, it allows me to be pretty flexible and go with what seems the most appropriate outcome given each sides orders etc.

      Having such a large wood was actually great fun to play in so to speak, as it brought up so new challenges, which was nice. Funnily enough reading about the Russo-Finnish War and the combat in the highly wooded terrain reminded me of this battle just played. But without the snow of course;).

  2. Another exciting battle report Steve.
    Lots of well painted toys on a lovely (crowded) battlefield. Thanks for including plenty of pictures. It’s always inspirational to see someone else’s set-up and kit.
    The Republicans really must be hoping the spoiler attack in the South goes well. Otherwise the Party will be less than impressed.
    I look forward to the next instalment of the campaign.
    All the best,

    1. Thanks Geoff and I made sure I took some close up 'eye candy' photos just for you, which I actually enjoyed doing on this terrain. I think the Republicans need a good result or else it could be game over, or near as dammit!

  3. Steve, you truly set an impressive gaming table. This is a real pleasure to view and read.

    My poor Falange were, I thought, were some of my better troops. My Falange 'F' Coys operated more like 'F' Troop on TV than actual hardened combatants. Sheesh. They call in artillery on top of themselves, fail to stir for several turns, and when they do move out they loiter in the open and get plastered my enemy artillery. I am not sure my 'F' Troop contributed much to this offensive. BTW, that enemy artillery fire that hit my Falange in the open, where did it originate and who called it in?

    Not looking forward to seeing what perils await in the south...

    1. Thanks Jon and a pleasure for me to implement your plan of attack. Your Falange as good troops but somewhat let down by their HQ's, but thankfully their CO kept them in the game.

      The Falange in the open were hit by the on table artillery using in direct fire called in by the infantry at the wood edge. Hopefully your troops will be able to do something similar in the next game...

  4. Thanks Steve for the ton of work that went into recording the game and presenting the AAR.

    Congratulation to Jonathan for a very effective attack.

    Brigade Diary - Today has been a terrible day for the Brigade with the loss of 1st and 2nd Company, who defending valiantly against overwhelming odds. The sacrifice of the Brigade will be remembered for their selfless role in the ‘big’ plan of drawing in significant enemy numbers, so that a Republican victory could be gained on another part of the battlefield, further south, where Dimitrov Battalion are currently striking against Nationalist forces.

    1. Hi Norm,
      I think it only fair that I try and show how the action unfolded so that both Jon and yourself can see what happened, plus of course other visitors to the Blog. The campaign diary I think reflects their sacrifice very well and it remains to be seen if it was in vain or not...

  5. Wonderful stuff Steve, a great looking game and good to see the campaign coming together. What a great collection you have built up.

    1. Thanks Stu. Some of the terrain I've had for maybe 10 years or more, others only a few. I still have stuff I want to add, but something seems to get in the way. Really I should concentrate on painting my lead pile instead!

  6. Norm - surely you have a few poets and other “artistic” types in your ranks?
    I reckon it would be fitting if one of your guys could write a short poem about the heroic struggles of the British brigadistas in their fight against the forces of Franco and the fa*cists.


    1. That would be cool Geoff! Let's see how the Muse is with Norm by the end of the campaign...

    2. Thankfully, the troops are ‘glass half full’ types, but even they are nervous as Dimitrov throw themselves at the Nationalists, in an effort to restore our campaign fortunes.

  7. A great looking game Steve but I am beginning to understand why Franco was in charge of Spain for around 40-50 years after the war ended.....!

    1. Thanks Keith. United we stand, divided we fall pretty much sums up the SCW, as the Republicans were very much in the latter camp.