Saturday, March 5, 2016

Last Century of the Ottomans: Kurudere

Battle of Kurudere 1853, A Bloody Big Battle AAR.

Last weekend Onur and Emir came over for the first game in our Last Century of the Ottomans Bloody Big Battles Campaign. It was decided that I shall command the Ottoman attack, and they would share the Russian defense. 

We even did a video!

Historically the Ottomans divided their forces and executed a Night March to flank the Russians at Karayal. A good idea on paper it failed due to the terrible leadership and quality of the Ottoman troops. My rule of thumb when leading bad quality armies is concentration. Thus I opted for a daytime approach and a condensed battle array.  On my right flank I placed the powerful 2nd division with one of its batteries. Its goal was to sweep over the Karayal mountain and pincer any Russian units between the mountain and the small stream together with the 1st Division under Hassan Pasha. The Hssan Reserve Force would keep any Russian troop deployed at Kurudere and Poldervan from helping the isolated troops. Once those were destroyed I would roll the flank and either win a draw or victory, with the chances of the draw higher.
Why did I choose to flank from the south rather than the north? My thinking was that the mountain would lull the Russians to a sense of security and thus leave a good portion of the Russian army in a position to be isolated and destroyed piecemeal. A flanking maneuver from the North would had made a draw more likely, but also be more resisted. The mountain which should had been a point of strength for the Russians would become a point of weakness, as overt relying on terrain has punished armies in the past.

The table

The Ottoman force

The Russian did as I hoped to. Their Southern flank was held by the Brigade of General Belyavski (2 strong units), the area between the south stream and Kurudere by the elite Grenadier Brigade, with most of the Dragoon Brigade in the far north, the reserve brigade in the ravine, and the Novorossiyski Dragoons and Cossacks behind the Grenadier Brigade.

Here is a map with initial dispositions, main axis of movement, and final front lines.

Initial Dispositions

I began with all my units in a steady and slow advance in columns, my goal being to not attack before the 2nd Division had taken Karayal. As to be expected there were problems of command, and the Cavlary supporting the 2nd Division was off to a slow start.  I arrived at artillery range and begun an artillery duel with the Russians, one which they had the better of it. The Russians send their powerful cavalry force forward to spoil my center positions and outflank me. My 6 bases Regular cavalry unit was unable to cover the flank and I had to order the Hassan Brigade to refuse flank to cover the forward advance of the 1st Division. A wild melee erupted in the North front.
Ottoman columns advance

The general advance

Deploying to firing lines

Russian cavalry counter-moves

The Ottoman push on the right, the Russians on the left.

The situation at the center
Along the two lines.

General Russian cavalry counter-attack

After some good command rolls the 2nd division arrived in position and I pounced on the Belayavski Brigade with both it and two units from the 1st Division. Repeated charges were beaten back by the brave brigade, but in the end my exhausted forces drove them into the ravine. Meanwhile my southern cavalry had finally moved, sweeped up the left Russian flank, smashed the Cossak cavalry of the Reserve that moved up to Karakuzi hill to intercept them, and attacked the Hospital. Alas it was too late and thus I lost the game holding only one objective

Situation about mid-game

Good command rolls. Ottoman right flank hammering begins

The center is on fire as the Russian cavalry runs amok. Notice Hassan's regiments refusing flank. 

The pincer closes.

The pincer closes another view.

Ottoman units prepare to attack Belyavski;s brigade.

Russian cavalry running amok
This was an interesting game and very different from the 1877 games. Musket ranges are very short, and artillery very weak. As result the firefight cannot decide issues. This gave an advantage to the better Russian army. The Russian Dragoon Brigade did a great job spoiling my center forcing the Hassan Reserve Brigade to remain immobile so as to protect the flank of the 1st Division. They also took 3 guns bases, breaking 36 gun crews. Not a small feat. The brave and obstinate defense of the Belyavski Brigade, that faced at time 2 to 1 odds, also was decisive in costing me time. 

Line vs Column
The defense aslo saw a textbook assault in which two Arabistani units poured hot lead into one Russian regiment, caused enough casualties to spent it and then charged with the bayonet en mass. But the Russians remained steadfast beating them back. 

Shot to pieces but still able to defend
Conditions in the final third of the game. The Ottomans press the attack on the southern Russian flank. Cavalry goes for the hospital.

5 units push Forward. The Ottoman center has collapsed.


The final successful push!
The final push, another view.

The sneaky cavlary goes for the hospital but is stopped by the Russian reserve.

Russian cavalry killing ottoman guns.

The smoke of battle

The multitude of markers bear witness to the ferocity f the fighting.

Conditions at the end of the game, showing Ottoman axis of attack.

Attrition gave the Ottomans a local victory, but too late for me to be able to translate it to a operational victory. One thing I think the Russians could had done to lock it even worse was to send the Guards Brigade to the attack. But generally I think their plan was good.

The Russian commanders

The Ottoman commander
Our protagonists. Jolly good game!

I also think my plan was solid. Perhaps a northern flank attack would had been better considering the quality of my troops, but I am not sure. I was careful to keep my forces concentrated and not to attack prematurely. My greatest mistake was overestimating the force to task ratio in the Northern side. My one cavalry unit could not had hoped to keep the whole Dragoon Brigade away from my lines of advance. I should had deployed all my cavalry there and forgone the wide flanking march of the cavalry in the South, instead focusing on a methodical turning of the Russian flank. It is  a race against time though and I lost.

The Kurdish cavalry for me, and the muslim irregulars for the Russians, both refused to budge for most of the game.

Last Century of the Ottomans
Ottoman Victory:0
Anti-Ottoman Victory:1

More pictures
End of game picture showing clearly axis of Ottoman Advance

The site of the main battle.

The Central front. Russian Grenadier Guards

The Russian Charge

Going after the Hospital

Ottoman attacks.

Refusing the Flank


Steve J. said...

A very good AAR which allowed me to follow the action throughout the game. Good of you to give details of your plan and how and why it failed.

Phil said...

Nice looking for a beautiful period to play!

Chris BBB said...

Smashing AAR. Always good to read your post-battle insights and assessments. I'd be interested to hear from Onur and Emir what they thought of it too. I understand your preference for concentration, but that does sacrifice one advantage the Turks have which is numbers. The historical plan does risk defeat in detail, but it stretches the Russians in different directions and improves the Turks' chances of their more numerous units finding a Russian flank exposed.

Bloody Big BATTLES!

Halil Onur Buyuran said...

Thanks goes to Konstantinos since he is burdening being host, providing terrains and all.
Well, I am not veteran of BBB with only 4 battles under my belt so far. What can I tell about system is solid, easy and clear. And still gives the feel of the period.
I was wondering how BBB will go with musket era but I donot feel anything awkard.
Scenario was both historically accurate and balanced. I am not saying both sides have even changes of winning since attacker is always need to depend on his/her move rolls but that is the same in real life. Generalship is that you decide, give order, subordinates or troop can or cannot do as you command. Both books were with Emir so I came to game clueless about scenario. I knew Turkish attacking with superior numbers to Russian positions but that's it.
Anyway as I checked before battle I saw both side has its shortcomings. Turkish troops were bad but not bad if used well and in concentration. That's another issue with bad leadership.
Russians are so few and being elite does nothing when you roll 1 in close combat while your opponent rolls 5/6! So delaying action and fight time to sacrifice troops was needed.
As Russian CiC, my main and first mistake was deployment. Turkish army deployed first then I deployed just facing them and forgetting upper two objectives (as per map). That way let Turkish troop to enter the close combat quicker. I also did mistake of placing my second reserve around hospital and kept loiter all around. It almost cost me the battle since Turkish cavalry hook was almost outrunning my reserves.
Our Infantry line did a good job. Thanks to good assault rolls of Emir. Even without good rolls they kept Turks long enough to deny objectives.
Cavalry were under my command. I think Konstantinos do the right thing to divide cavalry forces. In northern flank Russian cavalry prevailed. In southhern flank Turkish cavalry prevailed. Konstantions took the longest route to flank us that cost him lots of turns.
In norhtern flank I used cavalry immediately. I went against bigger Turkish cavalry with 3 units to overwhelm but only 2 units reached (Muslim irregulars!) Still Russian beat the big Turkish cavalry unit. My other small cavalry units went after artillery when they saw a flank which they saw many times. I think that was Konstantinos mistake on northern line.
In the south hook Konstantinos took the longer route to get only one undefended objective. That also cost him several turns even his move rolls were above average throughout the game.
In brief I should kept my lines narrower and around objectives. And Konstantinos should concentriate his forces at one place to crush Russian line.

Chris BBB said...

Hi Onur,

Teşekkürler! Really good to get your perspective on the battle, thank you. After a game it's valuable to reflect on what we could or should have done differently. I like to think of my scenarios as little tactical puzzles. The best ones are those where there is more than one 'right answer' and both sides have a few different ways they can fight the battle. Kurudere is one of these.

Anyway, I'm glad you're having such a good time with BBB. Congratulations on your victory, and good luck with the rest of the campaign!


Konstantinos Travlos said...

It was a great game and as I said BBB lents itself well to post-combat analysis. Next time I am bringing a caliper to being calculating approximate turns needed for flank marches. :p

emir yener said...

Hello Chris,

First of all, I owe you an immense thanks for designing the BBB. Unlike Onur, I'm a total newbie in the wargaming and Kurudere was my first real test of command. I hugely enjoyed it, never felt a dull moment. The rules are so reliable and the armies are so balanced balanced, that the players feel the tide can turn at any moment and no side has an overwhelming advantage to make the games frustrating or boring after some point. As I am a longtime watcher of other wargaming contests -chiefly warhammer and flames of war- I very well know the ambiguities in the rules which sometimes cause heated arguments between players. In my experience, BBB is the only system so far which is totally devoid of such flaws; making it the best operational level land warfare simulator ever.

Kosta and Onur wrote almost everything about our game and I can add only little to their analysis. Only thing is, as the Russian infantry commander; I was eager to launch an assault with the grenadiers -who sat on their a*ses for most of the game- as soon as the Ottoman textbook flank assault was thrown back for the first time; but my "generalanshef" Onur urged more restraint :) I'm eager for the next round, the battle of Alexinatz.

Once more huge thanks for the BBB. I already started to contemplate about how to adapt the rules for the earlier centuries of warfare and make it the universal game par excellence.

Chris BBB said...

Hello Emir,

Your comments make me really happy, thank you. May you have as much fun at Alexinatz as you did at Kurudere. I hope we will have a chance to roll a few dice together next time I'm in Istanbul!


emir yener said...

Eagerly looking forwards for it, Chris!