A Trip Down Memory Lane with If the Lord Spares Us
It’s Great War month on Lard Island and, with Remembrance Sunday just gone, Nick and I tossed away all thoughts of our planned development session on Kiss Me Hardy 2 yesterday and got the toys out of the attic for a game of If the Lord Spares Us. It’s been years since we last played these rules; they were published ten years ago and, as usual, we found ourselves moving on to new projects as different rules went through their development cycle. So, it was with some trepidation that we got the rules from the archive and ran them out. How did they stand up? Well, here’s a game report and my thoughts on how the game went.
The scenario was a simple one, two under-strength Brigades faced each other in Palestine as the British attempted to push up to the North East of Beersheba while the Turks attempted to block the advance towards Jerusalem.
My force was made up as follows: Three infantry battalions, two of which had been reduced to three companies. One MG company, two artillery batteries and a Brigade HQ.
Additionally I had Biggles flying overhead on the lookout for Turkish positions.
Attacking onto the table from the right hand corner and attempting to advance diagonally across it, I decided to plan for a three phase operation, clearing Phase Lines Brown, Red and then Yellow in that order. At each Phase I would consolidate on the ground gained, move up my supports and then start again, shooting in my attack each time.
As the game started it took almost no time to realise that the village on Phase Line Brown was occupied by Turks dug in on the high ground. To the rear of the Hill you can see the Blue marker which indicates possible Turkish troops moving up. It may, however, be a party of herdsmen with their flocks. We shall find out fairly soon I am sure.
On the right my 2nd Battalion advances with its three Companies in waves. The curtain ring shown on the leading unit represents a casualty. Now that’s a mechanism I’ve not used for a while!
Here you can see the 2nd Battalion at the top of the image and the 1st Battalion near the bottom. This pincer attack is to allow my guns, on the high ground to the rear, to fire into the Turkish positions until the last moment. The green markers represent troops as yet unspotted by the Turks. This is my Brigade HQ, my MG Company and my 3rd Battalion which I want to keep fresh for the attack on Phase Line Red. As such these troops are all sheltering in a wadi.
With my artillery rolling well (and I do mean WELL) I knock the stuffing out of the Turkish position and close up with my 2nd Battalion, two companies to the fore and one in support. The 1st Battalion are still advancing but they are under long range fire from Turkish guns firing from Phase Line Yellow which slows them up badly. By now the potential shepherds have revealed themselves to be a third Turkish battalion which is firing from the houses.
The second Battalion commits its reserves to the firing line, the staccato chatter of the Lewis guns echoes across the desert.
Meanwhile the 1st Battalion are under intense artillery fire. The red mini dice are representing suppression and remove 1″ from movement. With the infantry unit normally moving 10″, you can see that the lead company is not going anywhere fast.
Working their way round the Turkish defences, the 2nd Battalion charges home and clears out Johnny Turn at the point of the bayonet. The remnants of the Turkish battalion flee.
As Phase Line Brown is achieved, Biggles spots Turks on Phase Line Red. Dropping his hand-written message, he clears off for tea in the mess.
With objective Brown in our hands, the Brigade HQ comes to life, issuing fresh orders. The reserves, thus far still unspotted, prepare to move up.
As the 2nd Battalion consolidates we can see that the Turks are on the Red Line. The blue marker to the right is a possible unit but as yet we have not identified what it is. However, we can see the Turkish HQ is located there so it will undoubtedly be held in some force.
The 1st Battalion has managed to work its way forward, rallied by its C.O. and with some expletives from Brigade HQ. They are now out of line of Turkish guns so are gradually rallying off their suppression. The reserve units move forward, still unspotted on the green markers.
My 2nd battery has been operating with great efficiency through the day and has now rushed forward to the village on the Brown objective. It now deploys and fires on the Turks who we have spotted around their HQ, a whole battalion with MG support.
My plan is now to attack Phase Line Red at one point, creating a schwerpunkt with all fire directed in that area. I deploy my MG Company in the trees by the village on Brown. This draws hot fire from the Turks at the position spotted earlier by Biggles, but I ignore them and fire onto the Turkish HQ position, Sphynx Hill, to the right in this picture.
My 1st Battalion leads the attack. The 3rd Battalion, now spotted has moved rapidly round and is just out of picture to the left (you can just see the lead figures)
The 1st Battalion clears the remains of the Turks who had defended Objective Brown from the wadi whilst shaking out into a firing line. At the top of the picture the 3rd Battalion pushes forward with its four companies in a column of waves.
By now my Machine Gun Company has been shot to bits, but their fire, along with that of my batteries, has degraded the defenders of the Sphynx Hill to allow a charge forward by the 1st Battalion. They sweep through the trenches, bayonets to the fore. The Turkish commander, Khardif Bey, flees.
The flashing of the heliograph tells the 3rd Battalion to push on immediately for Phase Line Yellow while the 1st Battalion consolidates on Sphynx Hill and clears up the remaining Turkish defenders. It’s all too much for the Turks and as their guns limber up and the Bey heads North in a fast car cries of God Save the King
Hurrah! A spanking for the baddies and sweeties for the good chaps. It was actually a fun game to play and I must admit that I was assisted greatly by having played lots of Boer War games recently. As the British commander I know that I had to work through the phases methodically. If the British infantry over-reach themselves and go forward without fire support they will be chewed up and spat out. That was seen only once in this game when a company of the 2nd Battalion attempted to clear out the Turks who had fled the village and got repulsed with a very bloody nose. Having learnt that lesson in the Boer War I attempted to be ahead of the Turks in the decision making cycle by pushing my supports forward as soon as the last shell fell on the position currently under attack.
Poor old Nick was really focussing too much on remembering the rules to make his plan and, having simply dumped a battalion plus MG support on each major hill he allowed me to defeat him in detail. If he’s ignored the village on my Brown objective and manned the wadi on the Red Phase Line he could have concentrated his fire and forced me to take a bit of pain. However, as it was I got away with just five bases of infantry and all the MG company being killed, so around 180 men dead or wounded. This is small beans when you consider that the Turks lost the bets part of two battalions.
How did the rules play? I think a big measure of their success was that we enjoyed the game immensely. There are undoubtedly some mechanisms in there which look less polished in their ten year old form than they do now having been through an evolutionary process. I would handle casualty distribution a bit differently now, I am not mad on curtain rings on the tabletop, and I would distribute casualties from fire across supporting units as well as the front rank of the formation. But these are very minor tweaks indeed.
Blinds are an interesting one and haven’t appeared in any game we have published since 2011. There has always been two trains of thought on these. On the one hand I know lots of gamers HATE them (and I do not use that term lightly) as they argue that having spent many hours painting their beautiful toys, they want to see them on the table, not represented by “a bit of cardboard”. Fair enough. However, I do have to say that I found it useful to keep troops hidden from the enemy as it allowed me to not telegraph him my plans. I found not knowing what he had deployed where interesting as I had to make my command decisions with imperfect information, and that is as it should be. I also liked the fact that it allowed me to rapidly deploy my reserves (Blinds move a bit faster than deployed troops) to the right point in order to move on to the next Phase of the battle. It’s a conundrum. I suppose you are either playing wargames as you like looking at toy soldiers, in which case don’t use Blinds, or you’re playing because you are attempting to replicate warfare, in which Blinds do add something. They are certainly a lot easier than marking hidden troops on sketch maps of the battlefield. I think some nice stands with a few shepherds on, or the odd Bedouin caravan would make nicer Blinds than “bits of cardboard”, but that’s a matter of taste.
So, a fun game of If the Lord Spares Us. Does this mean that we will do a version 2 soon? Who knows. More importantly, it does have me looking at my 10mm Western Front Armies which I have never played a game with. The Play the Game compendium contains an article about using ITLSU in Flanders and I am sorely tempted…as usual.