Saturday, February 21, 2015

Assault at Plevna: Black Powder Report

Good day to all


Last weekend me and Onur had the chance to run a game of our Black Powder Army Lists and Scenarios for the 1877-1878 Russo-Ottoman War. (which you can find on this blog).
We decided to ran the first ahistotrical scenario from the Conflict book (Seems more appropriate than army book), which is Assault on Defensive works. This is based on the battles around Pleven.
The scenario saw a Russian Line Infantry Division assault a section of the Ottoman works around Plevna defended by a Ottoman division size force. (some of the pictures are a courtesy of Onur)

The Forces

The Russian forces were made up of
1 Line Infantry Division of 4 regiments of three battalions each (12 units, 4 brigade commands)
2 Cavalary Half-Regiments (Hussars) (under the direct
6 artillery units representing the 6 batteries that each Russian Line Division had in the war. (organized in one brigade of a large battery).
About 13000 men and 24 guns.

The Ottoman defensive position was made up of three redoubts. Two of them were small, and one of them was large.  The field was dominated by a large ridge on the Ottoman side of the map (towards Plevna), and a smaller ridge (that crated a valley) and a plain with village towards the Russian side of the map. Redoubt A (small) dominated the small ridge and defended the approaches to the large Redoubt B, which was the linchpin of Ottoman Defenses.  Redoubt C guarded the right flank of the  large Redoubt.   

The Ottoman force defending these works was made up of
6 Nizam Battalions
2 Veteran Nizam Battalions
2 Redif battalions
3 Cavalry Half Regiments
4 Artillery batteries.
All of them organized in 5 Brigades.
About  5000-7000 men, and 16-20 guns.

Disposition of Ottoman Defenders.
The scenario is built in such a way that the forward redoubt (A) is the key to the Ottoman Positions. The ridge it holds can mask forces massing for an attack at the center of the Russian position from the large redoubt (B). Thus taking it is a wise move for the Russian if they want to avoid attacking across the open ground on the Right Flank. Onur grasped that and deployed an elite brigade of 2 Nizam and 1 Veteran Nizam units, plus a battery to defend it.

The Left Flank of the Ottoman position and redoubt B was to be held rather thinly by 2 Redif Battalions, a artillery brigade and a cavalry half-regiment.
The center of the Ottoman Position was held by 2 Nizam infantry units, 1 Veteran Unit and 1 battery. It was obvious after the fact that Onur’s intention was to defend the approaches to Redoubt B as opposed the redoubt itself.

The Right flank was defended by 1 Nizam infantry unit, 1 Nizam infantry unit and 1 artillery battery in Redoubt C,  and two cavalry half-regiments in the far end of the flank.

Russian decisions
The Russian units would enter the game with commands, rather than deployed first. As a result the decision of the axis of advance and the disposition of the units to those axis was of paramount importance. It is here that the Russian Commander (me) made mistakes. The decision was to send half the division (2 regiments of 3 battalions each, let us call them 23rd Travlionski, 43rd  Rudckevichi) to assault Redoubt A.  One Infantry regiment (3 battalions , let us call it 30th Suzdal) would deploy in the center, between the forward ridge and the village, with the goal of either occupying the central Ottoman positions or swinging right or left depending on the tactical situation.  

The massed artillery was order to advance to the village, deeply in front of it and engage Redoubt C and the Ottoman center, while the last regiment (3 battalions , let us call it 50th Putinosvski) was tasked with assaulting C. Once Redbouts A and C were taken if unit condition and time permitted it the forces would converge on Redbout B from two different axis and take it. Even if that was not possible, the Ottoman position would be hopelessly compromised.  The two cavalry half-regiments would link the 23rd and 43rd regiments with the 30th.

As it can be cleared the most important task was that of the 23rd and 43rd regiments. Redbout A must fall as quickly as possible for this plan to have any chance of success.

The Russian Arrive

The battle
Since I do not remember the round by round events, I will describe what transcribed in broad strokes. The pictures though are in some chronological order.

The Left Flank: The Redoubt holds!
The Russian forces entered en mass the field in assault columns. The 23rd and 43rd threw themselves at Redbout A, while the 30th advanced towards the Ottoman center. Following the road the 50th advanced up towards the village, while the artillery moved forward as well. The Russian cavalry units advanced to outflank Redoubt A from its right.  Despite desperate charges by the Russian infantry and enfilading fire from the cavalry, the Ottoman units held. While one Nizam unit was broken, the Redoubt broke the 23rd and 43rd Regiments after a sustained set of firefights and hand to hand battles. Attempts by the Ottoman cavalry on the Left flank to drive off the Russian cavalry failed, and cost the Ottomans a cavalry unit.  At the end of the battle Redoubt A was safe from Russian threats.

The Russian general Advance

Striking the Left Flank

Into the meat grinder



The Attack begins to flatter

Russian Cavalry outflanks the Redbout and breaks one Ottoman unit

Last grasps of the Attack

The Center: The 30th becomes bogged. The Russian artillery bombards.
In the center the 30th regiment advanced in stolid lines across open gorund, but ultimately was bogged down by Ottoman fire from Redoubt B and the central Ottoman position. One of its battalions was broken, but the other two stoically stood under fire. The loss of senior officers did not even permit the units to deploy in firing lines. Thankfully the deployment of the Russian artillery alleviated the situation.  The 24 guns first assisted the happy result on the Right flank, and then began a continuous bombardment of the Ottoman center.  That said the 30th was unable to close in for bayonet charges.

Advancing on the Center and Right

Awaiting the Russians
The Center holds

The Right Flank: The 50th succeeds!
On the right flank the 50th regiment conducted an exemplary tactical operation. Deploying its units in firing line it engaged in a firefight the dismounted Ottoman cavalry holding the shelter trenches of the far right flank of the Ottoman line. Once it gained local superiority it requested artillery bombardment of Redoubt C. The 24 guns of the division bombarded mercilessly the small redoubt forcing the defending battery and Nizam units to break. While two of the 3 battalions engaged and broke the remaining Ottoman cavalry, the 3rd battalion took Redoubt C, planning its flag on the ramparts. Massive cheers arose from the Russian units. It then moved to flank the Ottoman Nizam units defending the center. But with the failure of the assault on Redoubt A and the center, there was not much more that could be done. As night came the Russian divisional commander ordered his exhausted forces to retreat to their starting positions.

Attack on C

Disaster on the Left Flank, bogged in the Center, Putting the Pressure on the Right Flank

Ottoman units under pressure 

Taking Redoubt C


Focusing on the center

Russian and Ottoman Dispositions at the end

Ending Score
The Ottomans gained victory points for holding two redoubts (A and B) and for each Russian unit they broke. That gave them 12 points ( 3 points for A, 2 point  for B, and 1 point for 8 units)
The Russians gained victory points for holding one redoubt (C ) and for each Ottoman unit they broke. That gave them 9 victory points (2 or C, and 1 point for 7 units).

We thus called it a Minor Ottoman Victory.

The game went well and lasted about 2 and a half hours.  We both were quite happy with the scenario rules and the army lists. We did forget some of the special rules at the start of the game, with the most crucial being the Ammunition shortages rule for the artillery (We used it from about halfway of the game and to the end). We felt the result was very historical, and that the battle could had gone either way.

The Ottoman Commander (Onur) grasped that a good forward defense was the key to survival. The Russian Commander (me) underestimated the task at hand. He should had deployed 3 regiments (9 units) against Redoubt A or given them artillery support, as the two regiments (6 units) were simply insufficient for the task at hand.  The game was dominated by firefights. It was firing that saved the Ottoman position, and it was good fire tactics that gave the Russians their only success. The Russian decision to mass artillery in one powerful brigade was right. Even though it denied artillery support to some sectors, it provided the Russians with a powerful equalizer for the good Ottoman shooting. It literally blew a hole in the Ottoman positions. Quite naturally assaults over pone ground unsupported by artillery will become bogged down. All in all a great game. We will be trying Big Bloody Battles and Nikopol the next time we play.

Round by Round pictures









Toxic Pixie said...

Attack everywhere, win no where!

Ok, win in one place you didn't need to :)

Looking good!

Phil said...

Nice looking game on an original period...

Konstantinos Travlos said...

Thank you guys! Yes indeed, the godess of victory does not smile when you want her.