Copyright © 2019, Paul Scrivens-Smith

Copyright © 2019, Paul Scrivens-Smith

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Friday, 4 April 2014

¡En el filo! - The Probe

Yesterday evening James and I played our first game in the At the Sharp End campaign. My Moroccan Regulares were probing the Republican outposts defended by James with his Republican Militia stiffened with a section of Assault Guards in the Probe scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook.

We set the table out as seen in the aerial photographs, a fairly open plane was dominated by a substantial villa with walled gardens that stood on a road junction. In the centre of the table was a small hillock. The Republicans elected to defend in the area of the house and threw up a line of entrenchments north of the road.

We both rolled for Force Morale and both ended up with a value of 9 so set to with the Patrol Phase which ended up as per the photograph on the right with the Anarchist jump-off points shown in black and the Regulares shown in blue.

Durruti pisses up the wall!
As the attacker I then rolled for my supports and got four points, I enlisted the assistance of a Panzer IA commanded by FahnenJunker Schmidt of the Condor Legion and equipped my HQ runners with a VB grenade launcher. James chose to stiffen his Anarchists with a couple of WWI vintage Automatic Rifles and to give his small section of Milicianos three Molotov Cocktails.

The Moroccans took first turn and soon a Pelotones of Regulares was deployed on each of my outer jump-off points. James replied deploying the Asaltos in the building and a large section of 20 Milicianos behind the wood nearest my jump-offs. Teniente Arrojo joined the Pelotones of Sergento Hassan in the walled enclosure towards the top of the table while Sergento Primero al-Makudi joined that of Sergento Masfiwi.

al-Makudi and his men suffer the effects of tear gas
Leaving Masfiwi to direct the fire of the LMG al-Makudi took the two Escuadras of riflemen and made his way to the cover of the small hillock. Once the summit of the hill was reached the Asaltos in the villa let fire a burst of rifle fire and several tear gas canisters. Blinded by the noxious gas, al-Makudi rallied the Soldados and led them towards the safety of a large patch of woodland (seen in the bottom right of the aerial photo).

Teniente Arrojo made a similar move on his flank, deploying the LMG Escuadras in the cover of the walled enclosure and advancing with both Escuadras of riflemen. To counter this Durrutti ordered his squad behind the woods to move to cover the area that the Republicans were advancing into at the same time staying out of sight from their covering LMG.

FahnenJunker Schmid committed the Panzer I and was soon in the open ground between the field and the Republican barricades threatening any troops that rushed to support either flank.

Arrojo urges his men to advance from the cover of the stone walls
More Anarchists arrived behind the buildings and tried to stem the advance of al-Makudi but the Sergento Primero showed his worth although two of his Soldados were hit and went down. However some sharp covering fire from Masfiwi directing the LMG squad saw three Asaltos go down too. Another Soldado went down in the cross-fire while al-Makudi edged his troops closer to the objective.

Asaltos in the villa
The smaller section of Milicianos arrived to cover the two jump-off points behind the barricades from being over-run by the Panzer I but by now even though none of us had lost any Force Morale points James in his role of Durutti realised that the game was up. He was being enveloped on two sides and would struggle to stop me achieving my objective of exiting a team from his table edge so he called a general withdrawal and ceded the battlefield to me.

This was most likely the correct decision, if he had chosen to stay and fight he would still have been unable to prevent me exiting a team and would have lost many more men in the process - how playing in the context of a campaign changes your outlook on a game.

Situation at the end
Interestingly at the point where we called time on this mission I had acquired 13 Chain of Command points (and used none), while James had acquired none at all!

During the end of the campaign turn phase we rolled to see what had happened. The Communists at HQ were soon printing leaflets decrying the cowardly Durutti for giving up the ground so easily (Commanding Officers opinion of Durrutti goes down by 1 to -3) , while his men, thankful for not being wasted in a pointless sacrifice toasted his health (Mens opinion of Durutti goes up by 1 to +3)

On the Nationalist side it was good cheer all around. The Commanding Officers opinion of Arrojo went up 2  to +2 while the light casualties meant that his mens opinion of him went up by 1 to +1.

After doing all this we then played on in our 'normal' non-campaign manner, after another couple of phases James had lost a dozen figures and I had still managed to get my team off the edge of the board :)

The photos are a bit dark, the lighting is nowhere near as good at the White Hart as in the Polly!

Regulares deploy from their truck

Viva Espana

FahnenJunker Schmidt dominates in the centre
Sergento Primero al-Makudi urges the men on
The Anarchist try to cut al-Makudi off in vain


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Looks and sounds like a great game, Paul. Nice terrain - love the graffiti on the walls.

  3. Amazing pics as always, fabulous work, love the graffiti too!

  4. From James:

    Durruti lit a cigarette, his last, leaned against the wall to the rear of the house and considered the situation. He blew a plume of smoke in the air almost nonchalantly. The sharp crack of rifle fire emanated from the building to his front as did the chattering retort of a light machine gun somewhere towards the rear of the Regulares' lines. There was the faint taste of tear-gas in the air. Sooner them than us he thought.

    Sh*t! This wasn't the type of warfare he was used to. He was a brawler, a street-fighter - at home in Barca and used to running gun battles in the slums with the Falange scum. Not here in the outskirts of Madrid being ordered about by Communists of all people. He spat ...

    On his far right, his men gathered behind the cover of a wood but his runners had already delivered messages to the effect that they were under pressure from the hated Moros to their front and were also in danger of being flanked.

    To his near right, beyond the entrenchments, the Panzer I loomed large. Pedro, a good man, had been assigned a small group of men but all they had to combat the monster was a few Molotovs. He knew that they would do their very best but that it would be in vain.

    More small arms fire from the building shouted for his attention. Durruti grudgingly admitted that the Asaltos had fought well and he knew that there was at least one Moroccan lying bleeding in the dust with a couple more wounded and crawling for cover.

    He looked about the expectant faces of his men. They had been unable to prevent the North African invaders from circling around to the cover of the woods on his left despite deploying his solitary LMG.

    His entire position was in danger of being enveloped.

    He made up his mind. He was going to catch hell from his CO. Well, he didn't vote for him. He smiled at that thought ...

    Durruti whistled loudly, stubbed out his cigarette and circled his right arm in the air. It was now or never! He waited for the acknowledgement from both of his groups on the right and then ordered the withdrawal the Milicianos. He wasn't going to waste the lives of his men for anyone and certainly not for some jumped up Commie Puta.

    The Anarchists left their positions taking a pair of wounded Assault Guards with them. Durruti noted that his men also carried the body of an Asalto. He didn't know the man's name but he approved. Nobody gets left behind ...

    There will be another day.

  5. Scrivs, James, et al

    Excllent Batrep.

    As you know, historically what happened is pretty much exactly what did happen time and again on the road to Madrid! The Nationalists would pin to the front, make their ‘announcements of surrender’ whilst flanking forces would turn the position and render the defences untenable and hence cause a withdraw…so it seems the same happened to you!

    The Probe scenario in this guise kind of captures that aspect of the SCW, however we have found the Probe scenario (for any era) to be one of the hardest for the defender as the attacker can choose his attack points and needs only to exit a unit off table. We’ve played it a few times and found this to be the case. I’m almost tempted to ‘weight' this scenario with a some additional defender support points so they can set up Teams to defend in entrenchments, etc as an option to delay an attacker and make the game a bit more fluid.

    Anyway, the outcome form the campaign perspective made a lot of sense to the men though, not sure the local Politicos would be too impressed with Durutti’s decision …but as anarchist, what doe he care about politics!!!

    Happy W

  6. Thanks for all your encouraging comments!