Apologies in advance for the duplication of some of the pictures contained herein - I still cannot believe I didn't take any during the actual game myself! Bob Cordery, noted wit, raconteur, bon-vivant and all round good egg, very kindly acted as the official photographer for the action and the full selection can be seen on his blog: wargamingmiscellany
This report will be a little bit of a strange one as I had broken with my usual MO of taking pictures at the end of each turn so that the action could be followed with the supporting text. In this case though I shall merely describe the action in general terms and support this with some of Bob's pictures.
After dicing for sides yours truly succumbed to the lure of the rhythmic stamping of feet and the tinkling of massed balalaikas and took command of the Russians whilst Bob donned a virtual fez to take charge of the Turks.
The scenario was a very simple one and very typical of the type of action that featured during the Russo Turkish war of 1877. Essentially, the Turkish force was deployed in the outer works of a major strategic objective (for which read Plevna) and was being assaulted by a numerically superior Russian force. Historically the Turks had superior weapons to the Russians who in turn had the advantage of numbers. The basic plan was for the Turks to hold the Russians off until they could retire back into the main fortifications. The Russians were tasked with taking the outer works; thereby enabling the rest of the army to move up and fully invest the fortified area with the option of a later assault.
The Russian commander decided on a lightning attack along the road with the intention of 'bouncing' the Turks from their position and also avoiding the murderous long range artillery fire. The road was shielded from the main Turkish redoubt by some low hills and some woods of conifers. Unfortunately for the Russians they had, in their zeal to attack the Turks, had allowed themselves to bunched up on the road and so presented the Turkish light infantry facing them with a peach of a target that they duly took advantage of. The gallant Turkish light infantry fought like men possessed and continued to inflict telling casualties on the luckless Russians. This unequal fight could have only one winner though as Russian numbers (two full infantry units of 5 blocks each to begin with) eventually told and so the light infantry (regular light infantry and not the infamous Bashi Bazouks) was destroyed but at a heavy cost. The Turks used an additional unit of infantry in support and after the dust had settled the Russians had lost one complete unit of line infantry and two of the others had been badly knocked about by accurate long range rifle fire. By this time the Turks had begun to pull back into the main fortification from their outer works and the Russians were in no shape to launch a meaningful pursuit as the sole untouched Russian infantry unit was too far back from the action to effectively intervene. In the end the Turks saved their artillery and the two units of Redif reserve infantry and the surviving Russians were able to walk in to the now empty Turkish positions unopposed.
Both sides were able to force the other to their respective exhaustion levels in the same game turn and so the action was deemed to be an honourable draw.
The game lasted a little over an hour and the rules were, quite simply, a triumph. Simple, but not simplistic, they managed to capture the feel of what the action was trying to represent in a playable and entertaining fashion. The use of the Exhaustion level for each side was a great idea and one which will add to the overall experience immeasurably. It can be adjusted up or down as required to allow for army composition, tactical or strategic considerations, supply status and all manner of campaign style issues.
For me personally the whole thing scored on a number of levels. The use of the blocks with the Hexon terrain as a gaming tool looked very impressive and I am really pleased that I persevered with the idea. They work best for armies that use ordered formations so are best for the typical 'horse and musket' period (say, 1700 to around 1900 although I will use them for the Balkan Wars) although I fully intend producing blocks for vehicles etc. The rules are a delight to use and and whilst I had no doubts about this aspect it was good to see them work as well as they did against a live opponent rather than solo. Bob has really hit the sweet spot with them in terms of detail, playability, speed and the all important 'feel' factor and as far as I am concerned they will be the rules of choice for all of my block based adventures.
The game could not have been the success it was without the invaluable contribution of Bob for the rules, photographs, comments and sheer all round 'good guy-ness' and so once again I would like to extend my very grateful thanks to him - also not forgetting the not inconsiderable mileage involved for the round trip.
Next time, and there will be a next time (and not in 30 odd years time either!), I will make sure that not only do I take some pictures myself but also that the local Fish and Chip shop is open.
Bob, the Cod and Chips will be on me....;-)