Sunday, 29 July 2012

The attack on the Hill People: A battle report

One film that made a lasting impression on me when I was young was Alexander Korda’s THINGS TO COME. The screenplay was written by H G Wells and is based upon his novel THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (1933) and his book THE WORK, WEALTH AND HAPPINESS OF MANKIND.

One particular aspect of the film that intrigued me was the way it dealt with the aftermath of a war that went on for nearly thirty years. In the end the war spluttered to an end when a pandemic wiped out a large part of the population and left those that remained living an almost medieval lifestyle. Through a combination of ruthlessness and guile one man rose to become leader in the south of England, and he mounted an attack on the Hill People (I assume that this is a euphemism for the Welsh) to take control of their very important natural resources … coal and oil-bearing shale.

The battle scenes in the film were short but very evocative, and reminded me of the sort of fighting that was seen during the Russian Revolution, the Russian Civil War, and the Spanish Civil War.




I always hankered to try my hand at recreating the battle between the Army of Everytown and the Hill People … and I decided that the figures I had recently finished basing would be ideal for the task.

All the figures are Russian World War II miniatures from a variety of different manufacturers. Some of them depict members of the Workers’ Militia, and I decided that they would make excellent Hill People. The more regular-looking troops formed the basis of the Army of Everytown. Neither side had any artillery, but the Army of Everytown did have a couple of Light Machine Guns.

As I had my recently acquired MEMOIR ’44 boards to hand I used one of them to fight my battle on, although I did also use some suitable buildings that I had in my collection. The rules were my own hybrid variant of BATTLE CRY/MEMOIR ’44, and I used the Command Cards from the latter game to generate each side’s tactical choices.

Scenario
The Second Great War started in 1940. After a period of growing tension, a sneak bombing raid wrecked the centre of Everytown. General Mobilisation followed and both sides attempted to break through the other side’s trenches … but to no avail. Despite the use of gas and ever more sophisticated weaponry, neither side could prevail.

The fighting continued until 1966, when a pandemic of the ‘wandering sickness’ (which was probably the result of a biological weapon used by one side or the other) decimated what remained of the world’s population. The vestiges of modern civilisation no longer existed, and people lived much as they had done during the Middle Ages. In southern England one man – known as ‘The Boss’ – eradicated the ‘wandering sickness’ by having any sufferers shot on sight. As a result he rose to be the ruler of a petty fiefdom whose capital was located in what remained of Everytown.

'The Boss' ... and his consort.

However not all technology had been lost. The ability to produce firearms and ammunition remained, and a small number of aircraft – grounded for want of petrol – were kept serviceable by a young technician who worked for ‘The Boss’. Realising that the ability to use aircraft would give his army an advantage over his rivals, ‘The Boss’ decided to invade the land of the Hill People who had abundant supplies of coal and shale that could be turned into fuel for his nascent air force.

The Opposing Forces
The Army of Everytown:
  • ’The Boss’
  • Two Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun
  • Three Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles
The Army of the Hill People:
  • ’The Leader’
  • One Regular Infantry Unit armed with Rifles
  • Three Militia Infantry Units armed with Rifles
Neither side has any artillery or cavalry.

Starting Positions
Hearing that the Army of Everytown is approaching, the Hill People have used their mining skills to throw up a number of fortifications behind which they intend to fight to protect their town and its access to coal and shale.


The Army of Everytown, led by 'The Boss', advanced on a broad front with their two Regular Infantry Units armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun on either flank.

Turn 1
The Army of Everytown advanced its two central Units.


The Army of the Hill People refused to be drawn out of their defences.

Turn 2
'The Boss' then ordered the Units on the left and right-hand flanks of the Army of Everytown to advance.


Again the Army of the Hill People remained behind their defences.

Turn 3
The Army of Everytown moved forward a Unit on each flank and in the centre.


As before, the Army of the Hill People refused to react, knowing that in the open the Light Machine Guns of the Army of Everytown could cause them serious casualties.

Turn 4
Frustrated by the lack of response from the defenders, 'The Boss' ordered a General Advance ...


... and for all Units to open fire on the Hill People's defences.




The Units at the centre of the Army of the Hill People's defences suffered significant casualties.


In response, 'The Leader' of the Army of the Hill People ordered his central Units to return fire on the nearest attackers ...


... and inflicted casualties on them!


Turn 5
'The Boss' realised that the Units of the Army of the Hill People opposing his attack in the centre were on the point of collapse and ordered the central Units of his army to attack the enemy front line.


The right-hand Unit managed to wipe out their opponents, but the left-hand Unit failed to inflict any casualties.


'The Leader' of the Army of the Hill People responded by leading his only Regular Infantry Unit forward ...


... and inflicting serious casualties on the attacking Army of Everytown Unit.


Turn 6
His hopes of a quick victory now dashed, 'The Boss' ordered the his two right-hand Units to advance. This gave the Unit armed with Rifles and a Light Machine Gun the opportunity to fire at extreme range ...


... and inflict a casualty.


At this point the Army of the Hill People had suffered over one third casualties and should have surrendered, but 'The Leader' thought that his men still had some fight left in them and decided to fight on.

He moved his Regular Infantry Unit forward and opened fire on the very weak enemy Unit to his front ...


... and wiped it out.


Turn 7
Despite the complete loss of an Infantry Unit, 'The Boss' three of his remaining Units forward to engage the enemy.


This had little effect on the right flank ...


... but on the left flank ...


... and in the middle the Army of the Hill People looked about to collapse!


The Army of the Hill People had been reduced to half of its original strength and its front line had been breached. 'The Leader' realised that his army was about to collapse and he decided to withdraw into the mountains, for where he could wage a guerrilla war on the occupying Army of Everytown.

'The Boss' of Everytown was more than pleased to have successfully secured a supply of coal and shale, even if he had lost an Infantry Unit in the process. Its numbers could easily be replaced as news of this victory spread and more people decided that life under the banner of Everytown (and the benevolent rule of 'the Boss') was better than the alternative.

'The Boss' looks skyward ... possibly in anticipation of the airforce he hopes to have under his command in the very near future.

Conclusions
This was a sharp little action and I really enjoyed fulfilling my long-term ambition to fight it. The newly-based troops looked great, as did the extemporised terrain the battle was fought over. In addition the rules seemed to work quite well as did the system I developed some time ago to use the MEMOIR '44 Command Cards when fighting solo wargames. They did constrain the actions (and reactions) of both sides to events as they unfolded and gave the feeling of unpredictability.

24 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    Absolutely loved it! It just goes to prove that their is no substitute for a fertile imagination. It was also good to see a game without all the luxury kit on display - tanks and artillery etc. The figures looked great but I have not seen that board before - I am guessing it is a Memoir 44 type but have no other ideas about its origins - is it from one of the expansions?

    All the best,

    DC

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  2. fun use of the minis and tabletop tools you have.

    Great that you have brought in Shape of things to come ... Wings Over the World is next, right?

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  3. A jolly little game. Is it wrong that I was rooting for 'The Boss'?

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  4. Looks like fun and I'll have to keep an eye out for the movie. I had not heard of it before.

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  5. I feel a little sad for the Hill People. I'm sure they will get their revenge on 'The Boss' at some point in the future!

    Jim

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  6. David Crook,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    The board is the standard green one that comes with the basic MEMOIR '44 game. The pit headgear is from the range of buildings made by Hornby and the buildings are standard 'Village in a bag' ones.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. MurdocK,

    Thank you for your complimentary comment.

    Who knows what will follow? 'Wings over the world' might be a possibility if I can find the right aircraft models.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Tim Gow,

    I am not surprised that 'The Boss' had your support. You share the same sort of entrepreneurial outlook on life ... or is it power mania?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Sean,

    The film is available on DVD and can be watched on YouTube as well.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Jim Duncan,

    You never know, they may get their revenge one day!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Interesting stuff - I'm a big HG Wells fan. Also a great use of your newly painted Russian forces.

    Regards,

    Pete.

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  12. I absolutely loved this one Bob,
    the use of Shape of things to come
    was inspired! I'm with Tim on this one I was rooting for the Boss as well, I guess we megalomaniacs have to stick together!

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  13. A brisk little action. Sounded like fun. Hopefully the freedom loving mountain folk will soon have a chance to seek revenge.

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  14. Pete,

    I have enjoyed reading everything that H G Wells wrote ... and did so long before I realised that he was also a wargamer!

    The 'new' Russian figures may look a little dark in these photographs, but I am certainly looking forward to using them in future battles.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Ross Mac,

    Sometimes these small battles end up being far more fun to fight than the bigger ones ... and in this case I was never sure who was going to win.

    I suspect that 'The Leader' might make an appearance again at some time in the future. Who knows?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Don M,

    I seriously wonder how many of us are NOT influenced or inspired by films when it comes to out wargaming? This was certainly the case with this scenario ... and with quite a few others that I have fought over the years.

    I had hoped that the result would be the same as it is in the film, especially as I think that Ralph Richardson did a great job portraying 'The Boss' as a personality and not just as a two dimensional megalomaniac. I think that this was helped by the acting of Margaretta Scott, who was very convincing as his 'consort', Roxana.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. I suppose now we'll see rules for 'peace gas'!!

    Jim

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  18. Jim Duncan,

    Maybe ... but probably NOT!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. Are those Brio houses by any chance? They're conjuring shakey childhood memories...

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  20. Buried on my hard-disk I have some 'Hordes of the Things' army lists for 'Things To Come'. I'm inspired to hunt them down now ...

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  21. Arquinsiel,

    I am sorry to disappoint you, but the buildings come from sets of 'Town in a bag' wooden toys that I have bought from various retailers over the past few years.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  22. Kaptain Kobold,

    I do hope that you can find them as I would love to see what the THINGS TO COME HOTT armies look like!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  23. Fantastic Bob. It's almost like you'd imagine a wargame to be in those times.

    Certainly given me food for thought.

    Cheers
    Mark

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  24. Mark,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I am glad that you enjoyed reading this battle report.

    All the best,

    Bob

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