Thursday 10 May 2012

The Bear and the Crescent, 1877....Game Number 9, Part 2

Setting the scene - the Turks are deployed in the foreground with the Russians nearest the bookcase! The newly completed 6ft x 4ft folding table is strategically stored on the left

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.

A trimmed version of the battlefield showing the dirt road that was key to the Russian assault. Note the central Turkish redoubt filled with a large (3 block) artillery battery and an infantry regiment. The Turkish 3 block infantry represent the reserve 'Redif' formations whilst the loose order unit of 3 blocks on the small hill is a light infantry regiment.

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 view from behind the Turkish centre - Pasha Cordery chose the small hill as his command post with a unit of cavalry as his sole reserve

The action started with an artillery duel which the Turks had by far the better of as they quickly disabled half of one of the Russian gun batteries. In the meantime the Russian cavalry, supported by the light infantry, probed the Turkish left flank via some woods and a couple of small hills. This particular fight remained a separate entity from the main event and culminated in the destruction of both the sole Turkish cavalry unit and one of the two Russian units. The remaining Russian cavalry penetrated as far as the main fortification but was seen off by a unit of Turkish reserve infantry that had retired from its forward position.

The Russian initial set up - note the artillery deployed on the hill with the waiting infantry regiments safely hidden from Turkish view on the reverse slope and ready to make use of the flanking road. the Jager are in the small wood with the cavalry flanking them. 

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.

With both flanks driven in the Turkish reserve infantry redeployed to the main fortification with the artillery following them closely behind. The shattered Russians were content to merely occupy the positions recently vacated by the Turks and to await the rest of the army.

The end of the action viewed from behind the Russian lines (this, and the next picture are the only two shots I took of the whole affair!)

A further view of the end of the action with the Turkish artillery (centre left) heading back to the main position with the exhausted Russians incapable of pursuit.

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....;-)


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


I really enjoyed reading your take on our battle ... and I hope that our next one will be in the very near future.

The blocks do work well for this historical era, and give the impression of masses of troops. I was also very impressed with your introduction of the 'exhaustion level' as this is a better indicator of success - or failure - than some artificially set 'victory conditions'.

It was a great day for me ... and I came away feeling that the rules worked well and that they had the flexibility I had hoped that they would.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Looks like everyone's a winner then which is the best result you can get from such a great day!

The Exhaustion Level can be a very significant part of the game to the extent that it can certainly shape how a commander elects to fight the battle. I have been giving some thought as to how this can be calculated both for one off games and for campaign settings and will drop you a line once I have ordered my ideas.

If MoMBAT works half as well I shall probably offload all my other sets of rules and just get down to some prolonged bouts of gaming!

It has also made me think about MoBaS again....;-)

Here's to the next one!


Kaptain Kobold said...

I'm sure it's in a blog post somewhere, but how does the exhaustion level work please?

David Cooke said...

I was amazed at how effective the wooden blocks are. But I guess you've heard that before. :o)

David Crook said...

Hi Kaptain,

Basically the Exhaustion Level is the number of blocks (or figures or bases of figures) an army can suffer before it is no longer capable of offensive action. Typically it can be one third of the total number of blocks in an army with the added caveat that at least half of the Exhaustion level must be taken from the most common troop type in the army - usually the line infantry regiments. This avoids going for easy targets just to rack up the 'bodycount' in order to be first past the post!

I will be writing a blog post to expand my thinking about this at some point, once I have clarified my thoughts on the matter!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi David,

Many thanks old chap! I have but it never hurts to hear it again!

I like to think of the set up as a 3d movable military map.

All the best,