Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tabletop Teaser - A War on Two Fronts

Permit me the indulgence of emulating the style of the great Charles S Grant.  In what may become an infrequent series of scenarios.

A War on Two Fronts


War on two fronts is a common enough military problem at the strategic scale, one only has to think of World War two for the most famous examples; but at an operational and tactical level it is not uncommon.  the distinction over a simple flank attack here being that the defender knows he is facing an enemy in more than one zone, and must choose to dispose his forces and battleplan accordingly.  Napoleon's situation at Waterloo being a fine example (though whether Napoleon made the right choices on the day, is another matter).

This scenario places the opposing sides in such a position, with the Red player(s) looking to link up smaller forces in an effort to extract a larger Blue force from a vital position.


For the most part the terrain is open flat pasture, with little to disturb.  A large, dense forest sits on the centre of the northern edge of the field, and is considered impassable to all but troops in skirmish order.  It is impossible to target troops inside it unless they are in base contact with its edge.  To the south and opposite the forest, stands the edge of an unfortified town, with a field complex to its East, and a small open woodland - suitable for skirmish and loose-ordered infantry - to its west.  A dirt track in reasonable condition leads to the Northeast from the town, but will offer no great benefit to marching troops (and need not be represented if players so wish).


Although written with ancient and mediaeval periods in mind, the conditions of this scenario make it suitable for any period up to the middle of the nineteenth century.  Longer range firepower and artillery, along with high mobility make more modern periods less applicable.

General Outline

Red has been advancing his force for some days on the fringes of hostile enemy territory, in the hope of connecting with the troops of a trusted ally.  The two forces have finally made limited contact, but find a substantial enemy disposed between them.  large impassable features to the North and South mean that any attempt by the two forces to withdraw in the face of Blue will lead to their advantage in numbers and mounted troops ensuring one or other ally is destroyed in a rout.  Therefore the generals decide to attempt to force the choke point and assimilate their forces.

For Blue - having harried and attempted to block Red for days -  a powerful and mobile force finds itself cornered on open ground between two minor divisions.  Either of these, it could confidently take on in open combat, but with a threat to its rear Blue must weigh up the risk of both.  It has hurriedly called up reluctant troops and has limited artillery support stationed on the outskirts of a largely undefended town to its South, but can otherwise look only to its own defences.

Blue Force

Within deployment zone A, Blue may field the following:

  • One unit of Elite Heavy Cavalry
  • Three units of Heavy Cavalry
  • Two Units of Medium infantry with missile weapons 
  • Four units of Medium infantry with hand to hand weapons
(Alternately for horse and musket periods replace the missile weapons with light infantry units, and the other infantry with line units)

Within deployment zone B, blue fields:
  • One unit of Artillery with suitable field fortifications
  • One unit of skirmishing light infantry
  • Two units of levies of poor quality
(Artillery may be Ballistae, Onager, Bombard or Cannon as period dictates, its defences should offer a last stand defence to the crew.  For later periods Levy infantry should be of very poor quality militia, Skirmishers as Jaeger's or similar.)

Each force should have at least one commander as rules and balance dictates.

Red Force

Within deployment zone E, Red fields:

  • One unit of Elite Heavy Cavalry
  • One unit of Heavy Infantry with hand to hand weapons
  • Two units of Medium Infantry with hand to hand weapons
  • Four  units of Light infantry with missile weapons
(Alternately for H&M periods, replace heavy infantry with Guard/Elite foot, and use 4 Units of Line and 2 Units of Light Foot)

Within deployment zone F, red should field
  • Three units of Medium Infantry with hand to hand weapons - distinct from any type fielded in zone E
  • One unit of skirmishing Light Infantry
(As force F is culturally different from force E - conditions apply to the infantry composition, for later H&M periods this distinction would be insignificant, treat force as 3 units of Line infantry - but see also notes below - and one of skirmishing Jaeger's or similar.)

Each force should have at least one commander as rules and balance dictates.

Playing the Game

Each player should use a copy of the map to indicate their initial dispositions.  If two or more players divide the red forces they may not confer on their initial deployments; in a similar situation Blue, may.  With the exception of skirmishers, treat the northern forest as impassable terrain, skirmishers will still treat it as difficult ground.  All templated areas of terrain to the south are difficult going, treat all other ground as good going.

Winning the Game

The game ends after 6 full turns for each player (unless preferred rules would not reflect a full game in this time).  Red wins if units from Force E and Force F meet on the field, this will occur when either of their units comes within a half infantry move of the other - so long as both units are steady (i.e. not broken, shaken, routed or similarly of low morale).  Blue wins if it destroys either Force E or Force F outright, or if after each sides limit of turns it has prevented the two allies from connecting up.


The game should be balance so that Blue at A has a more potent force than Red has in force E, but that it cannot ignore force F except at its own peril.  As E and F are intended to represent different nations they should each have distinct fighting styles (for example one might be Spanish, the other Iberian Celt; against a Roman army), these distinctions in troop type will fade into the black powder eras, but national personalities may remain distinctive.

Time should be a factor, as Red has much ground to cover, but the number of turns should permit at least some leway in movement rates for Red to have a fighting chance of making it if things go well for them.  Rule systems which make it difficult for troops to deploy between two enemy forces will need adapting accordingly (and probably won't suit this sort of game anyway).

We recently tried this scenario out with my Hundred Years War collection, and the Hail Caesar rules, a report will follow in due course.  I hope this scenario will inspire some of you out there, and I'd be happy to hear about any other plays it gets.

1 comment:

  1. I like your scenario, it looks challenging. Choosing which armies to use and will let you know how it goes. I hope this is the start of a new series of thought out scenarios!