Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Russo-Turks and Rule Ruminations

This week's Monday Night Game was actually held on Monday. It'll never catch on, I tell you. The game came courtesy of our other Chris (not the NQM one) and was set in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, somewhere in Georgia. It was a fairy obscure refight. I say that as the battle doesn't appear in my "Dictionary of Battles" by Brigadier Peter Young, which claims to include all battles, ever, between 1816 and 1970 and is usually pretty reliable.

The game (described below) was fought with Neil Thomas' 19th Century Europe rules. They've given us a couple of interesting and enjoyable games, but we're starting to look at our view of them more critically. It occurred to me that there may be a cycle in respect of wargames rules like the Five Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger etc). In the case of wargames rules it goes something like:

1) Enchantment: eg "Wow, these look great and do what I want"
2) Learning: eg "Ah, so that means that and that's how that works"
3) Familiarity: eg "We all know how this works"
4) Criticism: eg "These don't really do what we want; that rules is silly"
5) Modification/Rejection: Either "We can just tweak this" or "These are actually rubbish, I refuse to play them again"

I think we're around about stages 3 or 4 at the moment with these rules. We understand them, but not everyone agrees with the design concepts. For example dragoons can only attack other dragoons if they outnumber them. Fine in theory, but in practice should this apply to an open flank?

Anyway, the game set up:

Firstly, ignore the crosses on the cloth. They have no purpose in this game. The Turks are defending the ridge line, behind the first stream. Their first line is in situ. We're waiting for the Russians to deploy. They then need to attack the Turks and push forwards off the road. I was playing the Turks, with Ian. Will & Phil got the Russians.

I'm using a new-ish technique for taking pictures. I'm using my big telephoto lens on my SLR, rather than a close up lens. What do you think of this shot of the Turks in their entrenchments?

It works pretty well, as long as I focus on the right thing. Moving on, when the Russians set up, there were a lot of them:

 It looked fairly scary from the Turkish position, as you can see from this picture:

Or at least it would have done if the auto-focus had picked up either of the Turks or the Russians and not the river line. Sort of like in this picture:

The Russians put together their collective imaginations and tactical acumen and decided to storm the position in column. We harassed their advance with our irregular skirmishers, just visible in the top tight hand corner of the picture below.

The Russian Bear lumbered forward, the stream providing little obstacle.

Even to those whose bases hadn't been finished properly yet. Our well aimed rifle fire and our superior artillery started to have an effect, but the Russians didn't seem to care. Their attitude to casualties seemed to be "plenty more where they came from".

Despite our best efforts it was clear that our ridge line defences were going to be overwhelmed. A fierce melee across the entrenchments ensued:

But the Russians turned the position by forcing the defile, and most of the defenders fell back, leaving a couple of units isolated.

Once the Russians had taken the ridge line they could see our reserve line, and were allowed to re-organise. They occupied our trenches, but as we had no intention of counter-attacking this was merely an academic exercise from the game point of view.

Chris temptingly told us to put the men who had run from the ridge on the baseline just in case they might return as reinforcements. Yeah. Right.

The next few phases of the game involved the Russians pounding our entrenchments with their artillery whilst they rushed their columns across open ground. We did a fair amount of execution with our rifle fire, as you can see below.

The final turn of the game saw the Russians charge home against every position, and actually break the line at one point.

This breaking of the line triggered a general retreat by the Turks, leaving the Russians in possession of the field of battle and, in theory, the winners. Although not with many troops.

At the top left of this last picture you can see the cavalry (sorry, dragoon) stand off that was bothering us. I had been able to charge a Russian infantry column head one and break it with my dragoons as it had been weakened by rifle fire beforehand. Although this had enabled Phil to get his dragoons onto the unit's flank he was unable to charge home as he didn't have a numerical advantage. This may be what Neil intends, but it doesn't look quite right.

 As is normal with Neil's rules we got an enjoyable game played to a conclusion comfortably within the evening with everyone pretty much knowing what was going on most of the time. This isn't too bad for a rule system we've only played twice.

Due to his work commitments Chris can only join us irregularly so it'll be a while before we can rejoin this campaign. This is a shame, as I'm quite looking forward to it.


  1. Nice pictures, especially the melee on the ridge ... the big camera gives an added richness to the pictures I think.


    1. I agree. I need to work on the depth of field issue, but I'm very pleased.

  2. Hi Trebian,

    Now this is something that gladdens the eye and spirit! Have you read Quintin Barry's book War in the East for a fantastic account of the 1877 war? Also, what scale are the figures you are using?

    All the best,


    1. David,

      Not my period, so I haven't read that book. Closest to any research on the period is "Turkish Gambit" by Boris Akunin.

      The figures are 15mm and belong to fellow MNG'r Chris A.