Sunday, February 7, 2016

Once more to the grinder: 2nd Pleven using Bloody Big Battles

Osman Pasha, Ottoman Commander

Onur and Emir, another friend of ours, came over yesterday for a Bloody Big Battle Scenario of the battle of 2nd Pleven.  This time it was decided that I will take the role of Osman Pasha and command the Ottomans, while Onur and Emir would command the Russians.
Lt. General Baron Krudener, IX Corps Commander

Unlike out last game, this time we had full complements for both sides (though we did conscript ACW Union gunners to reach the 13 batteries needed. The ottomans were serviced by a mix of mine and Onur’s collections. 

As in the last game the situation is as follows. The Russians are attacking with two corps (about 4- 5 divisions) the fortified Ottoman positions around Pleven, defended by one corps level concertation (3 divisions). There are 7 objectives and the Russians need at least one to get a draw, and more than one for a win. In the previous try at the game, the Russian army was broken on desperate assaults against the Grivitza and Ibrahim redoubts (you can read it here -Previous Pleven Battle Report). At the end of that game we postulated three potential plans of attack for the Russians in the face of the overwhelming Ottoman firepower. Thus it was exciting to see what Onur would do if he was the Russian commander this time. Emir, for whom this was the first full BBB game, would command Shahofskoi’s XI Corps. Onur would command the IX Corp. Emir arrived after the 2nd Turn (of 8), and thus in the two early turns the Russians were all commanded by Onur.

In the end Onur followed a similar plan to the one I had used in the last battle. He sent one Corps each against Grivitza and Ibrahim. The only difference is that he focused all units of each Coprs at one target (I threw more forces at Ibrahim redoubt). 

The Slavonic March, written for the 1876-1878 wars

The Battle started well for Onur with good command rolls and the Russian units briskly moving to their positions. Rounds 1 and 2, saw him forcing me to choose between firing on the concertation of artillery in front of Grivitza (6 batteries) or the concertation of Infantry for assault. I decided to break the artillery concentration and trust in defensive fire and the fort’s protection to help my survive the assaults. On the Ibrahim fort, the Bashi-Bazouks did some delaying action at the village of Radischevo, but they did pay for it with their miserable lives. At the same time I began moving reserves from Pleven towards Grivitza.

BBB Scenario map

At the end of the second turn, Emir arrived and we took a nice long break and had food, drinks, and merriment. 

Getting back to the table Onur made a nice push to assault Grivitza with 4 units, though in the end defensive fire, and the strength of fortifications saved the day. Emir begun deploying his artillery against Ibrahim redoubt, but in general my artillery fire was good enough to keep him from creating a grand battery. At some point in turn 3-4, Onur made the most decisive mistake as it would turn out. He placed both the cavalry of Loschkarev and the force of General Skobolev in a position in which I could destroy them. I did that. Now neither of these forces are going to be taking defended positions. But their presence on the field was a threat that did force me to keep troops in secondary theaters. With their destruction I could feel adventurous. The defensive positions west of the Janik Bair-Araba Tabiya line were stripped of troops. In the North these force permitted me to throw sacrificial units in front of the Russian  infantry and artillery and thus blunt any assaults on Grivitza. In the south one brigade made a large flanking maneuver and struck the Russian artillery deployed against Ibrahim Tabiya. Artillery batteries where forced of the table or reduced.

On turn 5 the Russians made one more concentrated assault at the same time at both positions. Grivitza was attacked by 3 units, and Ibrahim by 2. In the end good dice rolls on my part, and not so good on the Russian part carried the day for me. Around turn 6, most Russian infantry units had been broken from the field, and a Ottoman regiment was running amok among the Batteries of the IX Crop in Grivitza village. Onur called the battle. The Ottomans had held their position and shattered two Russian corps…once more. 

Retrospection: BBB is a system where every unit has a role to play. And for some units the most important role is to sit tight and just threaten an enemy position forcing a part of the enemy army to do exactly the same to keep you away. Onur pretty much fought the battle using the same plan as me (or his initial plan deteriorated by friction to what is essentially the most basic plan the Russians must follow in this scenario). However, he was more willing to use Skobolev and Loschkarev aggressively. And he paid the price. When those two units were naturalized, the Ottoman player was simply free to make really risky moves that meant that the Russian main thrust would now be fighting at terrible odds. It is very clear that those two units are better off hiding and being a constant threat for the Ottoman, then coming forward to die.

This is a contemporary mehter (Janissary band) song about Osman Pasha. It should be noted that during the time Osman Pasha was a general, Ottoman military music was western (though in itself western military music was influenced by Ottoman music), as the mehter had been dissolved together with the Janisseries by Sultan Mahmud II.

 He did a good job bringing his corps to action at the same time, thought I might had sacrificed one more turn for concertation. However the liberation of Ottoman units due to the destruction of the two cavalry forces, meant that I had not only enough forces to negate any losses, but even to go on the offensive. I took insane risks and they paid off simply because there was nothing to punish me. 

Having now played the scenario from both the Ottoman and Russian standpoint, I am more than ever persuaded that the Russian player must either go for a pressure along the whole front plan, or for a massive concertation at either Grivitza or Ibrahim, with just masking forces covering the rest. Whatever you go for you must accept that your decisive action will come late in scenario time (6-8 turn), and thus risk losing if it does not work. But I cannot see any chance of overrunning those positions if you do not take the time to either concentrate, or to send forces in the soft underbelly of the Ottoman positions (Pleven itself, and Bukova).

Our next goal is to slowly run the full BBB Russo-Turkish War scenario.

We all took photos, but Onur took the most thanks to his great new camera. Also Onur was kind enough to play the role of the game computer this time. All miniatures were 10mm Pendraken, painted by us, the terrain was built by me.

The Photos

The two forces

The table. Looking from West to East

Initial commander Ottoman

Initial Commander Russian

The IX Corps massing in front of Grivitza

The XI Corps coming from the South

The city of Pleven with the Ottoman reserve columns marching to the battle.

Russian Turn 1 (red arrows indicator moves)

Russian Turn 1

Turn 1 After Ottoman Defensive fire 

Ottoman Turn 1

Russian turn 2

Artillery duels at Grivitza

Russian units being scaling the hills.

Russian Turn 2-3

Fighting in Grivitza around Turn 3

The XI Corps arrives at its assault jump points

Situation at end of turn 2? or turn 3? (Cannot remember)

Ibrahim tABIYA


Panorama of the battlefield. 

The Ottoman southern defense line

Start of Turn 3? or 4?

Ottoman troops, freed by the Destruction of the 9th Cavalry Division begin marching to blunt any Russian assaults on Grivitza

Turn 3 or 4, Russian moves

Turn 3 or 4, Ottoman moves

Situation after defensive and offensive fire.

Russian Assaults!

Problems at Ibrahim Tabiya

Ottoman troops marching around Turn 5

Hills over Ibrahim Tabiya

Russian units of XI corps preparing to assault Ibrahim Tabiya. Towards turn 5.

Situation about turn 5

The decisive moment 1: Russian units fall on Ibrahim Tabiya

The decisive moment 2. Russian units assault Grivitza

Turn 4 or 5. The high mark for the Russians



God is Great! After Ottoman defensive fire. 

The situation south

The situation north

Around Turn 6

XI Corps not well

Russian situation bleak in the north. Allah is with me!

Allaaaaahh! Ottoman attacks

Ottoman attacks towards the end.

Ottoman attacks towards the end.

Ottoman Attacks towards the end.

The field at the end of the game.

The various Commanders. Good game!

The field at the end of the game


Chris BBB said...

Epic - thanks, Konstantinos! This is a battle where the Russian player really needs to choreograph his attacks with care and patience. A poorly prepared or poorly coordinated effort is doomed to destruction. But if he can mass his guns to bring enough concentrated weight of metal to bear, he can smash enough holes in the Turkish defences to let his infantry in.

Looking forward to more reports from the Bulgarian front!

Bloody Big BATTLES!

Konstantinos Travlos said...

I think ultimately you either must focus on one of the two points (Grivitza or Ibrahim), taking the time to concentrate there, or you must ignore them, just mask them and take the long road to strike at Bukova-Pleven axis. In this case you will be forcing Ottoman troops to leave their fortifications and fight you at the open. But its risky because it does mean you will be fighting on turns 7-8.

Steve J. said...

Nice AAR old chap. We played this last week as part of an intro game for a new BBB player. Very much a training game but at the end we also agreed the Russians had to concentrate either against Grivitza or Ibrahim. Otherwise the Ottomans, with the benefit of interior lines, can (hopefully) move more quickly to shore up their defences against piecemeal attacks.