game set up – before the doors open
This year at WMMS BAD wargamers put on a Squarebashing Demo, abstracting the 1st Day of the Somme. Peter the orgainsers notes were –
The massive casualties sustained on July 1st 1916 are seared into the public consciousness and for many define the futility of and incompetent conduct of the war. The truth is a little different. For Britain this war was effectively its first full scale engagement in the modern era. Despite earlier successes British armies had never been the main forces in European warfare. The French experienced similar losses in the opening encounters of the conflict at the battle Charleroi and by the opening of the Somme had suffered over 1 million battlefield casualties. Britain had launched offensives at Neuve Chapelle and Loos in 1915 but neither had the scale or weight of expectation that the offensive the Somme department bore
The British Empire had spent the previous two years building up its forces from the scale of the “contemptible” levels of the BEF to the point where large sections of the front were taken up by the newly raised four armies. The Bavarian forces making up the Second army in positon on the Somme
front found their daily ration of harassing fire switched largely to shrapnel as the British moved into place.
The first day saw 13 British divisions and 11 divisions assault after prolonged artillery preparation and met with mixed results . The battlefield divides nicely into a western British zone and a southern allied assault. The western offensive met with no real success and a massive butchers bill accounting for most of the 57,000 allied casualties of the day The southern front however resulted in a real defeat of the German forces by the British Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army and a significant penetration of the German defensive positions it was here that most allied effort would be directed in the future.The battle-campaign ground on in attritional warfare until November or February depending on who you listen to.
Why the difference in results on the first day? Many reasons are put forward but the themes we will try to represent are
1. The British forces were short of heavy artillery capable of smashing the dugouts in which German infantry and machine guns were held. The French had far more on the southern front.
2. British artillery shells had poor fuses resulting in forty percent duds. In the end we adopted a French design.
3. The southern front had more British Territorial troops and large numbers of French troops with far more experience of large scale engagements.
4. We will also try to represent other themes such as Allied air superiority, Allied mining efforts and successful bombardments of barbed wire entanglements.
Thanks all thoughts and prejudices are entirely the fault of the management in this case me , Peter Gregory
Southern Front – post depletions
Northern front, despite the punishing onslaught of rolling barrages and destruction of the sections of trench and damaging of on table MGs and artillery the German lines hold – reversing history !
The Southern front offers little defender resistance – reversing this outcome also!
Squarebashing is a set of rules for recreating warfare in the early part of the twentieth century where the battle field was dominated by rifle and machine gun fire before the development of mobile armoured formations allowed for deep penetrations of the enemy front and disruption of army level formations. Dominated by fixed positions and artillery fire it is often seen as a dull period for gaming.
Squarebashing brings some dynamism to divisional level engagements where the tantalising prospect of a breakthrough is snatched away by the arrival of reserves or a defensive barrage. Much of the action is abstracted to a degree but the feel is right and most aspects of the era are well represented.
The system is designed for pick -up games on club nights where matched forces can be brought and varied terrain deployed. The pre -battle system of asset allocation brings narrative, historical flavour and variety to each game. Games can be fought to a conclusion on a club night in a satisfying manner and so all is well and a growing number of armies have been painted up and deployed at our club. The only problem I have is that I want all the armies in the army list book. Each army comes with its own assets and potential historical events which makes them even more attractive to an addict like myself.
Of course, one is not constrained to play the game in this way. The game mechanics can be used as the basis for games with different objectives or specific historical refights. This provides the opportunity to do some research, act on the evidence or your prejudices and shape a game to your liking.
The games we are presenting are designed to be manageable: playable , enjoyable( to a point) and entirely reflective of the prejudices of the scenario designer Peter Gregory. I am fairly sure we will disappoint or annoy some people but since after 46 years as a wargamer I cannot find two players who agree on much this will not surprise us at Burton District Wargames Club