Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fighting in a blizzard

We're all hunkered down this weekend after a substantial snowfall Saturday night that prompted blizzard warnings in some parts of the New England and elsewhere.

With the fire crackling nearby and Christmas lights blinking a few feet away, it would be easy to forget the abysmal conditions that soldiers often find themselves coping with. Even in the rear area at a major headwuarters a soldier's life is full of minor annoyances and inconveniences, but the close you get tot he front the more you can be sure you'll be in discomfort. Indeed, I'd say that physcial misery is a greater constant in warfare than death and destruction. Battles last hours or days, but bad weather can last weeks.

Which brings to mind bad weather and how soldiers fight in it. Any kind of stromy weather or precipitation can bring problems, of course, but fighting in the snow and cold has to be among the most challenging. Currently we're in the anniversary weeks for the Battle of the Bulge, 65 years ago, and the Winter War, 70 years ago. Both were marked by a lot of fighting in the cold and snow, but they are hardly the only ones.

Before the modern era figthing duringt he winter was rare, but not unheard of. Winter fighting is difficult for modern, well-equipped armies, it's hard to imagine how much more difficult it was in the pre-industrial era when even summer campaigning could mean deprivation. So it's even more remarkable to see that there were a number of battles that did take place in snowstorms. Perhaps one of the most famous was the Battle of Trenton, which may very well have saved the American Revolution by giving Washington''s army a badly needed win. Another notable fight ina snow storm occurred a few years later on Feb. 7-8 1807 at Eylau, where Napoleon experienced a setback and check in his string of victories.

While it was difficult for black powder era armies to fight in the snow, it was possible. On the other hand, I'm not aware of any ancient era battles that occurred in the middle of a snowstorm. Possibly the logistics were too tenuous for an eancient army to attempt such a thing. Perhaps the most famous snowy campaign in ancient times was Hannibal's passage of the Alps, but that didn't involve any fighting, Indeed, the route was chosen because it avoided any fighting.

Generally in strategic or operational level games the weather conditions are incorporated into the basic mechanics. The major exception to this is East Front wargames, which generally have extensive rules about the Russian winter. Weather rules are more common in tatcical level games, with many such as Advanced squad Leader having special rules that would allow players to set a design your own scenario in a blizzard.

Some games I know of that incorporate snowy weather include ASL, Eylau, A Frozen Hell, Memoir '44 and nearly eveyr strategic level Eastern Front wargame.

Are there otehrs?

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