VIII Corps at the Somme : 1st July – A play test

This is a play test of the game I have developed to see if it works. Victory for the British is based on getting 2 Divisions through the final German Support Line. Victory for the Germans is in simply stopping them. Once the British have started their assault they have to keep winning, if they don’t, they have one more attack to win, otherwise the offensive is called off and they lose..

The game deliberately does not dwell on casualties.

So first up the Terrain, this represents the 3 Divisions that the VIII Corps deployed for the attack, from the South, the 29th, the 4th and then the 31st (another division the 48th didn’t take part in the 1st July assaults). In depth the terrain cards represent the 3 lines of defence – the Front line, the Second line including the villages of Beaumont Hamel and Serre, and the Support line further back. All these were objectives in the first few hours of the assault – indeed the Corps expected to be beyond the Support line by Noon.

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First Turn, Strategic Phase.The Strategic Phase represents the 5+2 days of Bombardment the British carried out on the German positions.

8 cards are dealt the British from their deck, and 5 from the German deck.

The British cards

The British cards

The German cards

The German cards

Both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases.

The British end up with 4 Strategic Cards, the Germans 2 – these must be played now, and represent the first wave of the Bombardment. The British play first, laying the Heavy Barrage on the Second Line – however the Germans play the Blinds card representing poor  ammunition, and negates the British barrage. Both cards go to the discard pile. The British then play the next barrage card, and the German play their reinforcements card – gaining 1 extra card – a Tactical Card. Therefore the British can play their next 3 barrages onto the Terrain, this also causes 3 cards to be discarded from the German hand (their choice).

End of the first Strategic turn position.

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Second Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases.

The British end up with 3 Strategic Cards, the Germans none. The British play their cards, however two were barrages against Wire – the Germans have no Wire in their hand so the barrages fall on nothing.

End of the second Strategic turn position.

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Third Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases.

The British end up with no Strategic Cards, whilst the Germans have 2. One is poor weather, which allows them to remove 2 British barrages from the Terrain. The Germans remove Front line barrages – these are the ones in immediate danger. The other card is Prisoners. This represent the numerous failed Trench raids the British undertook, which invariably left prisoners for the Germans to interrogate – this card allows the Germans to view a number of cards in the British hand.

End of the third Strategic turn position.

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Fourth Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases. The British deck has run out at this stage so the discards are reused – because the Tactical Cards have been pulled out they will now be getting more Strategic Cards as part of their 8 cards.

The British end up with 7 cards, the Germans 2.

The British lay their first card – a mortar barrage on the Wire – the Germans lose a Wire card. They then lay a Heavy barrage card on the Front line – the Germans can’t counter so accept this and lose a Tactical card. The British then lay a Medium barrage on the Front line – the Germans counter with a deep dugout card – which negates the barrage. The Germans could not use this card against the Heavy barrage because the Heavies were powerful enough to overcome the dugouts used by the Germans. The British then lay a Heavy barrage card on the Second line, the Germans don’t counter, but do lose a Tactical card.

The British then use their air observation card to view some of the cards in the German hand. They then launch their Gas Attack card, sadly for them having no effect. The British at this time launched Gas via canisters (they didn’t have shells) in the front trenches and it was as dangerous for them as it was for the Germans. Gas was used everyday against the German lines. Finally the British use their Trench raids card – however the raid failed. Historically the British raids were mostly failures, or caused more casualties on the British.

End of the fourth Strategic turn position.

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Fifth Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases. The British are left with 7, the Germans 1.

The British lay their first 2 cards – barrages against the wire – the Germans lose 2 wire cards. They then attempt to lay 2 barrage cards on the front lines – the Germans play a bad weather card which negates them. The British were hampered by bad weather throughout the Bombardment and beyond, and this was the reason for the Bombardment extension from 5 days to 7.

The British then play their Air Observation, Gas and Trench Raid cards. The Gas and Raids again have no effect.

End of the fifth Strategic turn position.

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The British could choose to start assaulting now, or keep to Strategic phases for another 2 turns. The British choose to keep bombarding. Historically the time was increased by 2 days because of bad weather affecting the power of the bombardment.

Sixth Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases. Again the British are left with 7, the Germans 1.

The British lay their first 2 cards – barrages against the wire – the Germans lose 2 wire cards. They then lay 2 barrage cards on the front lines – the Germans play a bad communication card which negates one of them. The British were hampered by bad communications. The Germans then play a deep dugout card which negates the other barrage.

The British then play their Air Observation, Gas and Trench Raid cards. The Gas again has no effect. However the Trench raid gets into the German lines – and 2 cards are viewed, sadly 1 British Tactical Card is lost.

End of the sixth Strategic turn position.

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The Germans have done well in keeping the barrages away from the Front lines. After all it’s this line that is going to be assaulted first – it makes no difference to the initial assault if the Support line is being bombarded. Historically the British used huge numbers of artillery bombarding areas that were not even captured until November.

Seventh Turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively. The German deck has run out so the discard deck is shuffled and dealt. This is the last Strategic Turn before the British must assault.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases. Again the British are left with 7, the Germans 3.

The Germans play their reinforcement card first, which gives them 2 additional cards, both Tactical.

Again the British lay their first 2 cards – barrages against the wire – the Germans again lose 2 wire cards (fortunately for them they had picked some extras up). They then attempt to lay 2 barrage cards on the front lines – the Germans, again keen to protect the Front lines lay two bad ammunition cards which negate the British barrage cards.

The British then play their Air Observation, Gas and Trench Raid cards. The Trench raid has no effect. However the Gas gets into the German lines – and 1 Tactical card is lost.

End of the seventh Strategic turn position

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The Strategic position hasn’t changed in the last 4 turns – this is as the Germans would have wanted – they have manged to entirely minimise the British Bombardment whilst building their Tactical Strength – both hands have changed in this time.

Eighth turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Again both players take the Tactical Cards and place them aside for the later Tactical Phases. Again the British are left with 7, the Germans 1.

Again the British lay their first 2 cards – barrages against the wire – the Germans again lose 2 wire cards (fortunately for them they had picked some extras up – the deck is configured to allow the Germans a chance of hanging onto a wire card). They then attempt to lay 2 barrage cards on the front lines – the Germans, as ever keen to protect the Front lines lay a deep dugout card which negates one of the British barrage cards.

The British then play their Air Observation, Gas and Trench Raid cards. The Trench raid fails and the British lose a Tactical Card. However the Gas gets into the German lines again – and 1 Tactical card is lost.

Eighth turn, Tactical Phase. The British decide to attack the German Hawthorn redoubt – they lay the Hawthorn mine card. Historically the mine did not completely destroy the German lines (the British withdrew at 12.30 that day)- so the card only adds to the Tactical score. They lay an ‘over the top’ card to start an assault – the Hawthorn redoubt has a Heavy barrage on it, and they add Stokes mortars, Bombers and the fact its a scouted position. The Germans place machine guns and higher ground cards, already fearing this line may be lost. The calculation is as follows:

The Heavy Barrage negates the Terrain defence modifier but because it is Heavy adds 2 to the attack.

The Hawthorn Mine adds 2 to the assault

The Stokes mortars and bombers add 3 between them

As its a scouted position it adds 1. Plus they also have training cards which add 2.

The British have a total of 10.

The Germans machine guns and higher ground count as 6 between them.

The British therefore have successfully assaulted and taken the German Hawthorn redoubt!! All cards are returned to the discard piles, as is the Heavy barrage card.The Hawthorn mine card is permanently discarded. The Terrain tile is turned to indicate the British hold it.

The British have 2 more ‘over the top’ cards so can assault another 2 times. Remember they have to keep winning. Next up they decide the 4th Division should attack the Heidenkopf Redoubt. As before they put their assaulting cards together and add the total.

The Heidenkopf has a Medium barrage on it – so its defences are negated. The British add wire cutters, Vickers Mg’s and bombers to the assault – they also use surprise (there were many hollows in No Mans Land which allowed hidden movement). They also have the +2 for training. In total the British have 8. Tight.

The Germans launch a surprise of their own – they blow the mines in front of the Heidenkopf. (The Germans acknowledged the Heidenkopf could not be defended so prepared this surprise)  They also add Mg’s and use a crossfire, for a total of 5. Again the British have won!! The cards are returned to their discard piles – the Heidenkopf mines card is permanently discarded.

The British have one more ‘over the top’ card to play – is it worth using that to see if they can take the whole Front line? Of course it is…..

The 31st Division launches its attack.However there is no barrage on its front line target. It uses some Vickers Mg’s, Stoke Mortars, Bombers and the use of a hollow to hide movement. Adding training that is a total of 11 – the strongest assault yet.

The perfidious Germans however have a wire card up their sleeve and deploy it – this card stops all assaults. The British fail and lose all their assaulting cards.They have none left to assault with. The presence of German wire was significant in the failure of the VIII Corps on the 1st July.

End of Tactical Phase and turn.

End of turn position

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Ninth turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Tactical cards are placed in the hand, and the Strategic cards are played. The British have 2, the German 4.

The British play a mortar barrage on the 31st Division front line target – the Germans counter with deep dugouts and negate it. The British then attempt a Gas attack – it fails. The Germans then play poor visibility and poor communication and remove 1 British barrage. The final German card is prisoners, and they look at some of the British hand.

Ninth turn, Tactical Phase. The British lost the last assault – so the next one has to succeed for them to keep going. They could assault this turn – they picked up an ‘over the top’ card – but do they have enough to make success certain? Is there anymore German wire out there? If they wait will the situation get better or worse?

hmmm…the British decide to wait. The Germans have an option to counterattack, and take it, figuring it will weaken the British if nothing else.

The Germans use their counterattack card, the crossfire and bombers cards, and the signal flares card (the British used the same colours as the Germans to obvious confusion), plus the change direction card (the British troops had to carry out parade ground changes of directions in Non Mans Land). Total is 4. The British use their Vickers Mg’s and the use of a sunken road, and a charge card, as well as the training cards for a total of 6. The British fight off the Germans, but are weakened.

End of turn.

End of the ninth turn position

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Tenth turn, Strategic Phase. 8 and 5 cards are dealt respectively.

Tactical cards are placed in the hand, and the Strategic cards are played. The British have 4, the German 5.

The British lay 2 barrages on the German Wire, removing 2 wire cards from the German hand. A blow to the Germans. The Germans play bad weather and remove the remaining British barrages. Trench raids from the British fail again, losing a card but air observation allows them to look at some German cards in their hand. The Prisoner card allows the Germans to view some cards in the British hand.

Tenth turn, Tactical Phase

Do the British go now? The situation has got worse, but the lucky strikes on the German wire might mean its all clear? The easiest place to assault is Beaumont Hamel (at this stage it wasn’t the fortified village it became) so the British decide to assault, bite and hold.

They put down 2 Stokes mortars cards, a Vickers Mg card plus the training cards. Total of 8.

The Germans place down village ruins and fog and mist to go with the Terrain modifier – a total of 4. That’s not enough (the players don’t see each others cards). The Germans place 2 redoubt cards and a higher ground card for an additional 6, making a total of 10.

Another failure for the British. That is two fails on the trot, so the assault is called off, and the British have lost.

End of Game.

End of the tenth turn and Game position

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If the British had won this one they would have been into the second line – and perhaps had the Germans on the back foot. However, maybe next time!!

An analysis later.

Edit please sign up to further info about the game .https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1zFKU8XNdwxLGXUHi2x3wG6RvpTM-PF-shEkqOqC6eVs/viewform

The Somme Series is published by Vexillia Limited.  For more details,

free samples and links to Wargame Vault visit the <a

href=”http://vexillia.com/common/shop_books.html#t-3″>Vexillia web shop</a>.

 

2 thoughts on “VIII Corps at the Somme : 1st July – A play test

    • Yes, I had some talks last week about doing that. A lot of work needs doing on the cards to get to a publishable standard first though – the pictures will be the main issue – copyright and royalties.

      Like

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