Saturday, 30 August 2014

Return to the Crimea: The defence of the Beyaz Peynir redoubt.

This is likely to be almost the last game I play in my current games room. Perhaps a game next week one evening and another that has been arranged for Friday. Then, what's not already packed will be carefully boxed up and stored in safer parts of the house until the building work has been completed.....I hope, and I have faith that all will be well and my new man cave will be ready for action by the end of October.

Anyway, Clive and  John the Red came up this week. I'd originally planned for a game with each of them but I really can't cope with two games a week during the day at the present, so I set up a three hander, set in the Crimea.

The scenario has gallant Johnny Turk holding a newly-constructed 'fort', actually a quite well constructed  (and very nicely painted) earthen redoubt. The fort's position threatens Russian supply routes and communications into and out of Sebastopol.  Its not ideally located as although it controls the river crossing and the Russian lines of communication, and is bounded on one side by the river and another by the river and a marsh it is overlooked on two sides by hills and woods, some within musket shot. The Russians, ever ready to try and throw a spanner in the works of the allies efforts to continue the siege of Sevastopol, have decided that they need to drive the allies back over the river else risk having the beleaguered city's lines of communications with the interior of the Crimean peninsula threatened. The allies will have to stop them......mmmmm? On past showings not entirely likely but hey ho!

Forces available were as follows:

Turkish brigade (holding the fort): 4 small btns infantry, 2 batteries, 1 regt cavalry. Command 7

Allied reinforcements:

British: CinC command 6 (Lord Raglan on paper as we 'forgot' to bring him on, but actual command was in the hands of Major Generals Sir Colin Crookback and Lord Clively-Mercmarie)

Guards Bde: 3 btns, 1 battery, command 8
Highland Bde: 3 btns, 1 battery, command 9
Infantry Bde: 3 btns, 1 horse battery, command 8
Infantry Bde: 3 btns, 1 battery, command 7
Heavy Cavalry Bde: 5 small rgts, 1 horse battery, command 7
French brigade: 4 btns, 1 cav rgt, 2 batteries. command 9

Russians: CinC General of Cavalry Prince Makanovitch, Command 8

Hussar Bde: 2 rgts, 1 horse battery, command 8
Uhlan Bde: 2 rgts, 1 horse battery, command 8
Cossack Bde: 2 rgts, 1 horse battery, command 8

1st Bde: 4 btns, 1 rifle detachment, command 8
2nd Bde: 4 btns, command 7
3rd Bde: 4 btns, 1 rifle detachment, command 8
4th Bde: 4 btns, command 7

1st artillery Bde: 2 heavy batteries (4 models) command 8
2nd artillery Bde: 2 medium batteries (4 models) command 7

The forces available were numerically not too unbalanced, other than for a significant Russian superiority in artillery and cavalry. The Allies would have to rely on the better quality of most of their infantry and their superior musketry. As usual we used Black Powder, with suitable amendments to the troop characteristics and some game mechanisms in order to better reflect the Crimean War, or at least my take on it. The Russian infantry are quite tough especially when tramping around in assault columns but are hopeless at shooting. Their artillery, well placed, can be a killer as there's so much of it. Their cavalry, though numerous, is uninspiring. Their commanders are average at best. As for the Turks, I made them badly led but the infantry were tough fighters in melee. The British were a mixed bunch. The Guards and Highanders were a cut above the rest and quite resilient to damage, while the line battalions were good dependable troops. The cavalry? Badly led and supremely overconfident. The French were generally pretty good, but M'lord Raglan wasn't sure he could trust 'em to act as gentlemen! Anyway, to battle, but before that a note about the river. I decided it would be no obstacle to troops crossing it in movement terms, but that once troops emerged from the river, but not whilst they were in it, they were classed as being disordered. This is because in Black Powder, disorder is not really about being out of formation as we know it from other rules. It is more about being out of command as a result of factors such as weight of fire, officer losses, smoke, confusion, incompetence, or in this case simply the need to halt and dress one's ranks after crossing the river. You wouldn't want to stop and dress them in the river after all! And I do like any excuse to use my nice wide river, courtesy of Homebase!

 (Above, the redoubt and its Turkish garrison stood to arms while Russian priests bless the troops before their assault - the kneeling figures are actually GW Minis casualties but are ideal for this purpose).
The Russians and Allies were to be engaged in a race to see who could get the most troops on the table in the right place at the right time to achieve their objectives. The first Russian troops onto the table, marching on through the rocky defile on their right flank, were a brigade of infantry (actually a regiment but easier to handle than a brigade of 8 battalions! I tried it once and while its accurate it gave the Russians an even greater advantage when assessing brigade morale and even more incredibly difficult to keep under command; I might try it again next though....) with a half battalion of riflemen, supported by a brigade of two regiments of Uhlans and a battery of horse artillery.. Their heavy artillery (two batteries totalling 4 gun models to represent the 12-gun batteries used by the Russians) appeared on the hill along the Russian baseline within close cannon shot of the redoubt. First on for the allies were the Guards brigade who marched right over the bridge and into the teeth of the Russian army, and the heavy cavalry which appeared on the left flank, deployed into line and promptly refused to move for several turns! Meanwhile the lone Turkish cavalry regiment found itself with nowhere to go due to the speed of the Russian advance, so in desperation charged one of the Russian batteries. They almost succeeded and did manage to lance and sabre a few gunners before being driven off and broken. It provided a fews moments of excitement as if they'd done a little better the outcome of the battle would in all likelihood have been very different.
 (Above, a close up of the Turkish brigadier with his British military advisor - Clive brought this vintage Minfigs 'British officer in top hat with Umbrella' along; absolutely wonderful. Below, the first wave of Russians emerge from the mountain pass).
 (Above, the British reinforcements arrive, led by the Brigade of Guards, while below Russian uhlans and horse artillery appear menacingly on the heights overlooking the redoubt).
The Guards barely had time to get across the river and into line before the Russians were on them. The British musketry did serious damage to the Russians but didn't stop them closing with the bayonet. The Guards held on grimly but eventually one then another battalion were overwhelmed by shear weight of numbers. Fortunately for the British both the brigades attacking them had taken casualties that would see one of them falter and retreat shortly after the defeat of the Guards.
 (Above, the Guards barely had time and space to deploy into line before the Russians were upon them! Below, the Heavy Brigade making its entry on the allied right flank).
On the far right the Heavy Brigade looked on but didn't budge which was annoying as at that time there were no Russians apart from some artillery opposing them. The infantry following them on, a brigade of the Light Division led by the 23rd Fusiliers was delayed and made a very slow entrance onto the table.
 (Further British reinforcements from the Light Division while below, more Russians disgorging from the valley).
More Russians appeared out of the valley and thankfully their cavalry was unable unwilling to charge the flank of either the Guards or the Highlanders who came up to support and then replace them, even with the entire Russian Orthodox church blessing them like crazy! Another 'brigade' of Russian artillery also appeared alongside their other battery, making a total of 8 guns facing the redoubt, which they were steadily bombarding to pieces. The defenders facing this bombardment were shaken and a battery of guns was forced to retreat from the walls so heavy was the fire.
 (Above, the Russian uhlans receive blessings from the Priests and encouragement from their CinC, but faced with the Highland brigade seen below just across the river, they wisely stayed put after one order to charge the flank of the Guards failed).
 (Below, the Guards Brigade found themselves literally swamped by advancing Russian columns which they managed to hold at bay for some time before inevitably being forced back by the weight of numbers).
 (Above, the Russian artillery: in the background two batteries of heavy guns and in the foreground two batteries of medium guns. Below, the latter were manhandled to within canister range of the weakened redoubt; at one point I think John was temped to charge the fort with them!). 
The Russians had managed to drive off the Guards and the Highlanders and were able to assault the redoubt unhindered by any British troops. The Turks put up an heroic defence around the gate and drove off two separate Russian assaults before an attack on another face of the redoubt had more success and managed to break in, driving the defenders off. The Turkish brigade was shattered and forced to retire after a valiant defence of the redoubt, in doing so giving the British time to get further reinforcements onto the table and in a position across the river ready to mount a counter attack on the Russians.
 (Above, the Russian assault on the redoubt while below the final brigade of British reinforcements join the battle, but slowly as their brigadier blundered and held up their advance).
On the British right and in a moment of madness I ordered the Heavy Brigade to charge across the river at the Russian Hussars. My plan was to get them to countercharge, hit them, probably loose the melee and withdraw and then have the Russians pursue back across my side of the river where they would be isolated and crushed by the rest of my cavalry. Great plan foiled by the fact that Russians took the charge at the halt, beat me in the melee as I was disordered, after which my shaken and disordered cavalry and their supports had to withdraw, and John elected not to follow up with a sweeping advance. In a back-handed sort of way my plan did work as the Russian cavalry also withdrew and ceased to be a threat to the allies on that flank.
 (Above, the Heavy brigade's failed charge across the river to try and sting the Russian cavalry into some offensive action. Below, another shot of the remains of the Brigade of Guards before they were driven off and the timely arrival of the 79th and 92nd Highlanders who were unable to force the Russians back but did cause them some serious casualties). 
 (Above, a view of the action from afar, while below the gallant Turks beat back several assaults by the Russians before crumbling under the continual pressure).
 (Above, British reinforcements cross the river just as the Russians, just out of shot top right, are about to launch their final assault and break into the redoubt. Below, another Russian column and supporting artillery poised to support the final attack on the redoubt).
 (Above, British and French troops advancing on the far right flank seeking to cut the Russian lines of communication across the pontoon bridge. Below, the final and successful Russian assault).
 (Above, after the Guards and the Highlanders were pushed back the Connaught Rangers were left exposed and were attacked in the flank by the previously immobile Russian Uhlans and broken. Below, a shaky picture of the Russians bursting into the redoubt. It was all up for Johnny Turk at this time, but they did very well holding up the Russian steamroller). 
 (Below, the French brigade, led by two battalions of zouaves forge across the river while British artillery, infantry and riflemen provide covering fire, but too late to stop the Russians taking the redoubt).
So the situation was as follows. The Russians had one shaken infantry brigade and another within a gnats whisker of going the sane way having been repulsed twice in assaults on the redoubt. Elements of a third brigade had managed to fight its way into the redoubt but now faced the prospect of a counter attack by the French now pouring across the river. The Russian Uhlan brigade was lurking in the hills hiding from the British artillery and the Hussars were still being held back in the rear. The Russian heavy artillery was now too far back to defend the redoubt and would have ti move forward while the other artillery was threatened from the allies over the river. One Russian infantry brigade and two regiments of Cossacks were still to enter the battle. As for the allies, the Guards and Highlanders were spent and the Turks had been shattered, making three of their seven brigades out of action. One further brigade of British infantry had already lost one of its three battalions (the Connaught Rangers). The remaining battalions were left facing the now Russian-occupied redoubt alone and outnumbered 2:1. The last British brigade, the damaged cavalry brigade and the French were in a good position to sweep over the river and take the Russians in the flank but they faced the prospect of having to weather the fire of four, perhaps eight Russian guns! Sadly (?), t was all academic as we had to call it a day at that point. John and Clive thought it was a draw although John was almost ready to concede defeat. I wasn't too sure. I think that in strict game terms the Russians had won. They had taken the redoubt and had broken more allied brigades but a strong counter attack by the French brigade would I think have tipped the balance in the allied favour,   but, not forgetting that the Russians still had a brigade and more to bring onto the table and the loss of one more brigade would have seen the collapse of the allied army, IF we'd had time for another couple of turns, which we didn't.

I thought it was a great game and a very challenging one for both sides. Most of the action took place in the centre but that was more by accident than by design, and had the randomness of the deployment and entry zones been different the outcome, indeed the course of the entire battle, would maybe have been very different. Who knows?

9 comments:

  1. Great photos as always!
    Congratulations for the interesting battle report and figurines.
    The Crimea is a very attractive wargme.
    Hi
    Simmy

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  2. Great report and wonderful photos!

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  3. An entertaining ABR, fine pictures of a well balanced scenario. Excellent!

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  4. Inspiring stuff Colin! Where did you get your Crimean flags from?

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    1. Thanks Mark. The Russian and British flags are GMB and the Turks are home made.

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  5. Another great, spectaclular game! What wargaming is all about for me. Good luck in the new games room!

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  6. A view from the Russian side of the table. I managed to hem the allies into 75% of the table, as my host graciously put it. I would have liked to push forces across the far pontoon bridge and dispute the open fields on my left with the allies. However the limited ability of my cavalry and the rapid advance of the British precluded this.

    I settled for trying to evict the Turks from thier fort and hope to hold the river line. The Russian attack columns overwhelmed the British Guards and drove the Highlanders back into the river, aided by the deadground of the low hill opposite the fort, near the bridge. However heavy casualties were incurred. A combination of my 3rd brigade, who turned up in the centre and the artillery, managed to overcome the valiant defence and break into the redoubt. I do not think they would have had the chance to consolidate before the British brigade massed on the river banks behind the redoubt and the French storming over the river would have evicted them again.

    My sense, is that a draw was not enough for the Russians who needed to secure fort and bridges and hence i conceded the field. Although thats not what i would have put in the report back to the Tsar !!!

    The revised Hail BP reaction test rather than auto disordered on a D6 worked well i felt and as ever it was well hosted by Colin and a most enjoyable game



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  7. ps be ware of talking in the undesired outcome!! On what was the last throw of the (saving roll) dice, Clive required pretty much anything put 1s and then proceeded to get four of them which saw his Turks overwhelmed and the Russians enter the redoubt. Its very hard to evict defenders from hardcover in BP, but it can be done. I dont recommend artillery tackling forts in quite such an extreme way, but it was fun virtually rolling my 'light batteries' to the walls of the fort!!

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    1. The thought of the Russian 'light' artillery declaring a charge against the redoubt did worry me. Common sense would say it couldn't and shouldn't be done but it would have been fun trying to work it out and writ it up afterwards!

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