Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last Century of the Ottomans: 3rd Battle of Pleven using BBB

Well after a bout of unneeded real world excitement, we decided to take a break into military history and toy soldiers, and got together with Onur, Emir, and Mortens who is visiting from Denmark with his family (this will be a vacation to remember!)  to run our next battle in our BBB Last Century of the Ottomans campaign. We decided to skip Katseljevo/Ablava, and will play it as the next one, and instead played the 3rd Battle of Pleven.  Emir hosted us at his home.

Emir and Onur took command of the Ottomans, with Emir as CnC and Onur as second in command. I and Morten took command of the allies. He controlled the Romanians and Skobolevs force, while I took on the IX and IV Corps.
The Romanians storm Grivitza

We discussed plans among three options. Option one was to strike at four different points, with each force targeting one redoubt. Plan two was a Southward thrust of the IV,IX Corps together with Skobolev using the Radischevo stream valley to mask the movement from Ottoman fire and striking the Milas/Talahat/Yunuz-Tahir Tabiya line. Plan three, was a Northern thrust with the Romanians and IX corps focusing on Grivitza, IV corps demonstrating against Irabhim Tabiya, and Skobolev against Milas/Talahat/Yunuz. We went with the third plan.

Initial set up

We envisioned a three phase battle. In the first phase we would keep the IV Corps safe from Ottoman fire inside the Radischevo stream valley. The IX crops would advance its infantry to the small hill in front of Grivitza and wait there for the Romanians to reach the level 2 hill to the north of the Grivitza heights.  Skobolev would hold the Green Hills.

On phase two, when the IX and Romanians were in position, we would storm Grivitza with the full force of the two formations. IV and Skobolev would still keep in position.

On phase three, with Grivitza fallen the Romanians and IX if able would either go for Janik Bair Redoubt, or Iktihat Tabiya. Expecting the Ottoamn Reserves to move north to retake Grivitza, we would then lunch the IV Corps on Ibrahim Tabiya, and Skobolev against Milas/Talahat/Yunuz.

Plan of the Battle (click for a larger image)

This was a rare battle were almost everything went according to plan. Both Morten and I, disciplined ourselves enough so as to be patient and not deviate from the plan.

Video AAR

In general our activation rolls were good and by the end of Turn 4 the Romanians and IX were in their staging grounds. Our gunnery was ineffectual but in general we expected that (despite the fact that for once I had artillery concentrated and sited well). Packs off and Hurrah!

The initial charge

The Romanians and IX crops surged forward in solid masses. Ottoman defensive fire was great, but unable to stop all of the units coming against them.

The redoubt falls

With a resounding hurrah the Romanians stormed the redoubts as in history. This time though their Russian comrades were right there to support the new position.

The Romanians storm Grivitza, from the romantic nationalist Causesku era epic movie "Pentru Patrie"

In phase two, Emir and Onur began moving one of the reserve units to the embattled heights. The brave Ottoman soldiers tried again and again to retake the redoubt, but the overwhelming presence of Russian and Romanian units defeated their desperate attacks. With the Grivitza redoubt taken, the action moved south. The IV Corp, massed in the valley of the Radischevo stream, went over the top. This time activation rolls were not as good and the corp was not able to mass. Massed Ottoman fire devasted its units and stopped them from pressing the attack. We decided not to call a night interval yet, in order to put some more pressure on the Ottoman units on the Grivitza heights. Knowing that the NI would permit the Ottomans to recuperate losses. This went well.

Pushing on at Grivitza

After retreats due to the NI we still held on to the Green Hills and Grivitza. We decided that in the final 3 turns, the Romanians and IX would go up the valley between the Grivitza and northern heights and storm Janik Bair. Skobolev would storm Milas/Talahat/Yunuz, and the shattered IV Corps would demonstrate against Tahir Tabiya.  The Ottomans did not send further reinforcements north, instead keeping troops south of the Grivitza river that now acted as a moat for the protection of allied gains.

While the IV Corps was destroyed, Skobolev was able to take and hold Milas/Talahat/Yunuz, while the Romanians stormed Janik Bair.

IV Coprs goes over the top

Skobolev earns his newspaper articles!

The Ottomans tried to, but were not able to change this. As a result the Battle of Third Pleven ended up as an Allied victory. This is my second personal victory in the campaign, and the first battle to have an ahistorical result.

Kurudere 1854, Russians (Onur and Emir) vs. Ottomans (me)-> Russian Victory (Historical)
Alexinac 1875, Serbians (me) vs. Ottomans (Onur and Emir)->Ottoman Victory (Historical)
Nikopolis 1877, Russians (Onur and Emir) vs. Ottomans (me)-> Russian Victory (Historical)
2nd Pleven 1877, Russians (Onur) vs. Ottomans (me) -> Ottoman Victory (Historical)
3rd Pleven 1877, Allies (Mortens and Me) vs. Ottomans (Onur and Emir)-> Allied Victory (Ahistorical)

Why did we win?
First, we had a plan and for once I disciplined myself and followed the plan.

Second, I finally understood the keys to a good assault in BBB i) proper choice of staging points that protect you from fire that can interfere with concertation ii) massive concertation, at least a 3 to 1 advantage in units, 4 to 1 against Forts (We had that against Grivitza and Janik Bair, not against Ibrahim Tabiya) iii) Patience, if it means you attack on turn 7 out of 9, you attack on turn 7 out of 9.

Third, Emir and Onur made a mistake. Their mobile reserve was simply too small to be able to turn back any Allied victory. Some of the redoubts might have been better off empty, with the units as part of the mobile reserve, rather than manned.

Fourth, friction and luck were better for us. Both sides got some good and bad rolls, but we got our good rolls where it mattered (close combat and activation rolls). The Ottomans had good shooting, but bad Close Combat dice.

What I learned:
If the attacker-concentration is paramount, and so is the careful choice of staging points. Do not worry too much about getting the guns into position. Our artillery got into positions, and we even had a grand battery set up, but the forts were essentially impervious to it. The bayonet used en masse won the fight. The key is to get your troops concentrated in a safe, or relatively safe, staging point, take your time to do so, and then strike.

As the defender- A mobile reserve is a must. It might be better to sacrifice defensive positions to keep more units ready for the crucial counter-attacks. Be ready to try and spoil concentrations by storming staging points (Though my defeat at Alexinac shows how that can go wrong).

Tons of Pictures Courtesy of Emir (random order)

The Russian IV Corps at the start

Skobolev in the south

The allies dominate the Grivitza Heights 

Ottoman central positions

Ottoman counter-attack in the south

Ottoman reserves and Osman Pasha

Remnants of IV Corps

Skobolevs force

The Romanian Army at the start

The IX Corps at its staging point

Skobolev and friends

First Kill of the battle!

IV Corps on the move

Skobolevs position

Skobolevs position under fire

Ottoman units running to plug gaps

Before the storm

IV Corps masses

Ottoman counter attack

Allies push on to Janik Bair

IV Corps stalled

General situation in the north around turns 7-8

IV Corps attack is broken

Romanians take Janik Bair


Joseph.Cade said...

Great report, love the video touches! Being I'm a Turk fan, not thrilled with the result but it sure seems the Russians did it right. Our local group has not played Plevna but have twice done the Caucasus battle of Aladja Dagh, getting a split decision there. Both sides felt challenged. Can't wait to see you gentlemen tackle that one!

Steve J. said...

Great report and nice summation of the tactics used to gain the win.

Konstantinos Travlos said...

Thank you all. Aldja Dagh is the next next game ,after the free scenario (I do not remember the name, but the one with the machine guns)