Monday, September 28, 2020

First Blacklands War - The Second Week

A good deal has happened since the battles of the first week, as the Allies invade the Western Turcowaz Empire all along the northern and southern borders.  Not only has the Blacklands War escalated into an all-out attempt to conquer the whole of Turcowaz west of the Sea of Marmara, but there have been development in how this war is being run in solo-gaming terms.

Now, I have been keeping a journal of moves, current orders of battle, and anything else that might occur to me.  Battle maps I draw up on paper and transcribe onto this machine using Microsoft Paint.  On this occasion, rather than my usual style of narrative, I thought I might transcribe what is in my journal for this, the second week of the war.  I have added explanatory comments in italics here.

Week 2:

Developments during 2nd week of the Blacklands War.

Move order (decided by a die roll, 'draws' decided by a further roll):

  1. Black Mountains
  2. Chervenia
  3. Bejela
  4. Hellenia
  5. Turcowaz  
1.Black Mountains Army: Retreats into the Black Mountains territory.


I Army (in North Macedonia) :  Options
                            (a) March into East Macedonia
                            (b) Lay Siege to MONASTIR (* This will require some explanation; 
                                  see infra on Garrisons)
                            (c) March into Vardar  (to help II Bejela Army)
(I didn't subject this to a die roll, deciding that the able General Vasil Kutinchev would have gone to the help of an ally in difficulties.)
Attempts to join II Bejelan Army for battle vs II Turcowaz Army. Roll 1xD6
1- 4: Fights a separate battle (after action between Turcowaz and Bejela armies)
5:  Joins battle already being fought.
6:  Joins Bejela Army before battle.

Rolled 5: Reinforce on T(urn)4 of the battle (1D6 die roll).

I Chervenian Army on the march through difficult country.

II Army (in West Thrace): 
March into East Thrace to bring III Turcowaz Army to battle.

III Army
(in South Chervenia):
March into East Thrace.  Options (roll 1D6 to determine;
                              (1) Lay siege to (or storm) Adrianople

                              (2) Lay siege to (or storm) Midia
                              (3-5) Bring III Turcowaz Army to Battle
                              (6) Join II Army to fight III Turcowaz Army
If '6' rolled, then roll another D6 with the result:
                              (1) Armies combine before the battle
                              (2-5) + 1D6 = Turn number III Army arrives on battlefield.
(Would you believe it, this supposedly 'poor' commander rolled a '6', which meant he actually linked up with the other army.  The subsequent die roll was a 5 to which a third roll was added +4, so III Chervenian army arrives on the battlefield on Turn 9.  I really did stack the odds against armies linking up, but they went and did anyhow!  I had merely added in the possibilities as possibilities, not really expecting either to occur.  But both did.  What are the odds, eh?  Well, 17 to 1 against, actually...).

I Chervenian Army order of march - nearer column
leading.  This will determine table-top arrivals.


I Army (in Vardar): Retreats into Western Bejela.

II Army (in Vardar): Offers battle to II Turcowaz Army.

The small Bejelan II Army awaiting attack.

Army (in Thessaly): March into Central Macedonia

Fleet (in Athens {Piraeus}): Leaves port and sails into the North Aegean Sea.
(It was held that the march of IV Turcowaz Army towards East Macedonia opened the possibility of the Turcowaz navy arranging for the transport by sea of that army from Salonika to Ionople to help protect the imperial capital.  Hence the Hellenes opting to anticipate that possible threat.)


I Army
(in Kosovo): Marches into Vardar. 
(I would have liked to have taken a different route, but the move into North Abilonia took it too far out of the main theatres of war.  Where the borders of four provinces converge to a single point, I have held to be 'obviously' at some inaccessible spot, such as the top of a mountain.  So movement from a province to the one 'diagonally' opposite is not allowed.)
No Battle.  
(This is a hard decision, but partly influenced by this army's commander being of considerably less than stellar quality.  I did consider doing the same as for the other two prospective battles, but that seemed a bit too much of a stretch.  If I Army is to fight a battle in Vardar, it will be in Week 3.)

II Army (in Vardar): Attempt to march into North Macedonia, if it can get past II Bejelan Army.  (Will fight II Bejela if (when) intercepted.)

Turcowaz II Army - on its 
start line...

III Army
(in East Thrace): Defend East Thrace against all comers.  
(I probably ought to have subjected this to a die roll, the other option being to march into West Thrace to meet the larger of the invading armies there.  But at that point I hadn't come to a decision (or even considered) the matter of garrisons.)

IV Army (in Central Macedonia): March into East Macedonia.
(This army might have marched into North Macedonia to face the I Chervenian army there, and that might have been a very good option.  But I didn't really think of it, the Chervenians would have left  anyhow, and keeping East Macedonia open seemed desirable.  The order of moves does affect the development of events!)

Fleet (in Sea of Marmara): Refitting and preparing for sail.

BATTLES: Vardar, East Thrace.

Map of II Turcowaz Army's second battle;
The Battle of Stalacz.  

This was brought on by Bob Cordery's comment last time concerning how the Sultan might respond to the parlous strategic situation that has developed in the last week. How about a popular appeal, and recruiting volunteers to aid the vital capital? It later occurred to me that maybe he could have drawn upon his armies from the Empire in Asiatica. Instead, I reverted to something that had crossed my mind a while back, but I had made no decision concerning.

The decision has been made; every major city or fortified place gets a garrison:

1.  Provincial towns have garrisons of 16SP comprising:
     Commandant - 6SP
     2 Garrison Infantry units @ 4SP - 8SP
     1 medium gun - 2SP

2.  National Capitals have garrisons of 22SP comprising:
     Commandant - 6SP
     3 Garrison Infantry units @ 4SP - 12SP
     2 heavy guns @ 2SP- 4SP

3. The Imperial capital has a garrison of 28SP comprising:
     Commandant (possibly the Sultan in person, or more likely his Wazir) - 6SP
     4 Garrison Infantry units @ 4SP - 16SP
     3 heavy guns @ 2SP - 6SP
The only imperial capital is IONOPLE.

All garrison units count as average (garrison troops are not the highest quality, but have walls by way of protection).

The purpose of these garrisons is primarily to prevent invading armies simply walking in and taking possession. An invading army, then, facing a fortified place,  has two options: to attempt a storm, or to lay siege to the place.  

A storm will be played out as a normal battle.

A siege will allow a bombardment by besieging artillery, each week the guns attempting to breach the walls or inflict casualties. Only medium and heavy guns can knock a breach in the walls. Field guns can cause casualties to the garrison. It will be imagined that the attacking army will fortify its gun emplacements.  

Each week, each gun fires off it own SP number of dice. 
Field guns can only cause casualties, a roll of '6' being required.
Medium Guns may score casualties OR knock a hole in the wall, on a roll of '6' (attacker's choice).
Heavy guns will score a casualty AND knock a hole in the wall, on a roll of 6.
Garrison guns return fire and attempt to knock out besiegers guns or cause casualties.
Once the garrison's SP has been reduced by a third or more, the place will surrender.  The besieged place automatically surrenders if the commandant becomes a casualty.
Battle of Stalacz - from behind the lines of 
II Army, Turcowaz.



Tuesday, September 22, 2020

First Blacklands War - Escalation

Situation at the end of the first week.  The three western
Turcowaz Armies have been effectively cut off
from their capital...


Further Strategic moves.
For the opening action, refer to 'First Blacklands War' label.

The Declarations of war came quickly after the Black Mountains Principality had set the ball in motion. The exodus of ambassadors from the Turcowaz capital increased the traffic along the main highways west for several days.  

The Armies were already in motion.  First Turcowaz Army had driven the Black Mountaineers back to their home country, and Second Army was ready to meet the Bejelans, whenever and wherever they crossed the border (see previous posting).

Eyes set upon the capture of Salonika and its inclusion into the Hellenican realm, Crown Prince Constantine was hastening up quickly though Thessaly with his army from Athens. But Fourth Army, under the best general Turcowaz had, Halepi Zeki Pasha, was just ahead of him, entering Middle Macedonia before the Hellenes could arrive.  

The Chervenian II and III Armies marched south. Rather than try conclusions at once against the strong, and well led Third Turcowaz Army (Abdullah Pasha was classed as 'average'), II Army entered West Thrace. Not far behind, poised in Chervenian territory upon the Turcowaz border, came the smaller III Army.  Meanwhile, some doubt remained as to where I Army, of but middle size, should march - Rhodope or North Macedonia? Events to the west determined the decision by Chervenian High Command. I Army should force march from Sofia, across South Chervenia, into North Macedonia.

Whether the forced march would succeed was determined by a die roll. General Kutinchev being rated 'good', the force march would succeed on a 3-6 score on a D6 roll. The roll was a '6' - I Army overcame vagaries of weather, mountainous terrain and difficult roads to arrive in North Macedonia within the week.

The incursion of the Chervenians placed the western Turcowaz armies in something of a dilemma. Only Second Army was in a position to do anything to amend the situation - to find and bring Bejela's IInd Army to battle and free itself to move on the Chervenians in North Macedonia the following week. Such a decision proved to be beyond the capacity of Ali Riza Pasha.  Requiring a 5-6 to effect the move ('poor' commander), he failed to rise to the occasion, rolling a mere '3'.    

For all their two victories, the Turkowaz Empire in Europeia was already looking to be gravely compromised. Still and all, First and Second Armies remained powerful after their battles, and Fourth Army was well led.  The situation was by no means desperate. 

Not yet...

First Blacklands War - Beginnings (2)


In the same week that the Turcowaz First Army entered Kosovo to recover the province from seizure by the Black Mountains Principality, Second Army was marching into the neighbouring Vardar province. Having reason to apprehend an invasion by the Bejelan armies, Ali Riza Pasha, the Army commander, took with him his whole force.

Aware of that their invasion had been anticipated, the Bejelans might have hesitated to carry it through at once. Informers indicated that the vast Turcowaz IInd Army might be a match for both Bejelan armies combined (see army lists). Upon consideration, the Bejelan government determined that avoiding action now might well lead to recriminations later, especially if their nominal allies had to bear the burden of the fighting.  

Both armies marched into Vardar, looking for trouble, Ist Army, under the formidable (i.e. 'Good') General Petar Bojovic, at the northern end: IInd Army at the southern. Marching up from the south, the Turcowaz troops might have been expected to encounter IInd Bejelan first. The two armies missed each other - possibly to the relief of General Stepan Stepanovic commanding the latter - as the Turcowaz marched north. Instead they ran into Ist Bejelan Army at a most desolate spot amidst mountainous country, far from any habitation.

The risky invasion by the Bejelan Armies I had already determined on, but which the Turcowaz had first to face was determined by a die roll. As it seemed more likely that the Turcowaz Second Army would find IInd Bejelan, I biased the roll: 1-4 IInd Army; 5-6: Ist Army. I rolled a '5'. The map was determined as before, using the Colonial Portable Wargame modified for my slightly larger grid area, and the country round about was again deemed 'mountainous'.  

'Wicked country to fight in', murmured Ali Riza Pasha to his staff, as the two armies met in what amounted to an encounter battle.  Several small but steep rocky mountains presented impenetrable obstacles, interspersed with only slightly less 'permeable' tracts of marshland and forest.  In the pictures following, the elevated terrain features crowned with trees were classed as 'mountains', precipitous towers of rock that were known occasionally to form the foundations of inaccessible monasteries.  
Now, it is true that the Ist Bejelan Army, the larger of the two, was still badly outnumbered by their powerful opponents.  But they did have a couple of advantages.  Ali Riza Pasha classed as a 'poor' commander, Petar Bojovic was classed as 'good'.  In the initiative rolls, not only was the Turcowaz down one on the median, but down one on the initiative roll as well.  The Bejelan commander was correspondingly 'up one' on both die rolls.  On a couple of occasions, a 5-4 roll was thus converted to a 4-5, but the Turcowaz still managed to win a few initiative rolls during the course of the battle.  The other advantage the Bejelans had: machineguns, in the shape of a unit of Maxim guns.

Limited as his capacity was, Ali Riza Pasha determined upon a thrust by his most trusted troops, straight up the highway - remarkably free of bends and turns as it ran up the narrow but flat valley floor. In the bottleneck between a mountain ridge and a loop in a small stream, the heavy fighting developed quickly.  

On the other flank, the Bejelans were able to filter through the thick terrain cavalry and field artillery, along with 2nd and 4th Rifle Regiments. Espying Turcowaz Sipahis in the distance, Bejelan cavalry incontinently charged, were met by lance and scimitar, and promptly fled back to the gun line. For the moment the projected left hook had been stalled.

The heavy fighting on the road proved costly to both sides.  3rd, 4th and 16th Turcowaz Infantry all took damaging hits; as did 1st and 3rd Bejelan Rifles.  The former was forced back behind the Maxim guns. Generel Bojovic took some risk joining the fight to encourage his men, but losses quickly mounted to 6 Turcowaz and 4 Bejelan Strength Points (SPs).  It was not long before the damage to the Turcowaz infantry compelled them to break off their offensive, but the Bejelans were too knocked about to follow up effectively.  This was not helped by the destruction of the Maxim guns from rifle and artillery fire.

The Bejelan's enjoyed a major success on the western flank when effective counter-battery silenced the Turcowaz field guns emplaced upon some rising ground. The situation seemed to promise interesting possibilities on this flank. Unfortunately, they proved difficult to realise.

Fourth Rifles attempted to flank the Turcowaz infantry astride the road. Their flank attack failed to move 16th Infantry, and within a short while were themselves struck in the flank by the albeit depleted but veteran 2nd Infantry. With little effected, 4th Rifles fell back through the woods.

This really was the signal, though not yet apparent, of a growing general withdrawal of the Bejelan army.  The Turcowaz 2nd Sipahi felt emboldened by Bejelan slowness on this flank to charge the lead field battery.  Inflicting little damage, the attacking horse fell back.  

On the right, the Turcowaz had fallen well back out of rifle range, but maintained a bold enough front, daring the enemy to come on. Badly depleted themselves, the Bejelans declined the invitation. Losses at about this point amounted to about 7SP on the Bejelan side - including the machineguns. Turcowaz losses had been so far the heavier, 9 on the right wing, plus 2 more from the field artillery on the other flank. But the Bejelan offensive on the west flank fared little better than  the Turcowaz on the east. It was not so very long before the Bejelans lost their 8th SP, which took it past its exhaustion point.
The to-and-fro cavalry fight came to an end with both sides broken and spent. Coming under effective rifle fire from 10th Infantry, the lead Bejelan battery was wiped out just as it was limbering up to move off. The inactive Bashi-bazouks were stirring themselves into motion, a force, whatever their quality, that were a match for depleted Bejelan units. With one last rearguard action from 5th Rifles, the Bejelan Army effected a well executed, unmolested retreat.
Another victory for Turcowaz arms! But this one had been dearly bought - especially among his veteran infantry. Outnumbered two to one in the infantry and cavalry arms, the Bejelan Army had acquitted itself well in giving as good as it got. 

Here's the breakdown of losses:
Turcowaz: 16SP total.
     10 infantry; 6 from the two veteran units.
     4 cavalry; 3 from the trained unit
     2 artillery.
Bejela: 15SP total.
     8 infantry; 3 veteran, 3 trained, 2 green.
     2 machine guns
     3 cavalry
     2 artillery.

The Ist Army driven back across the border with that country, there remained the question of the other Bejelan army at large in Vardar, possibly even now athwart the Second Army's line of communication.  

Now, the question arises whether the Turcowaz army gets to fight both Bejelan Armies in the same province in the same strategic turn. I had planned it that way, but now I'm thinking (a) it isn't really realistic, (b) it makes things strategically a lot more ... erm ... interesting (especially for the Turcowaz!) and (c) it rather makes the two-pronged invasion by Bejela the more sensible. However, as it seemed to be a kind of option, I decided the thing by a die roll.  The outcome will be discussed next time.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Blacklands War - Beginnings.

One might have been forgiven, perhaps, for supposing that, after having fought for and won their freedom and independence, certain states within the Blacklands region might have been content to develop their constitutional forms, infrastructures, industries, and such wealth and resources available to them. But the territorial appetites of the newly nascent states had been merely whetted by success. There seemed to be scarce room enough in the region accommodate four independent states and half an empire.
(Note: for the first postings in this topic, here's the link)

Initial locations of armies, and the first moves 
by the Black Mountains Army and the 
Turcowaz armies.
Squabbles among themselves proving bootless, the 'four independent states' settled upon the formation of a bloc, calling itself 'The Blacklands League', comprising Bulg Chervenia, Serb Bajela, Monteneg The Black Mountains Principality, and Gree Hellenica. Their primary aim: to secure more lands from the western half of the Ottom Settee Empire of Turcowaz. The King of Chervenia had his gimlet eye, withal, upon the greatest prize of all, the ancient city and capital, Constan Ionople.
The first page of my Campaign Journal -
an unused exercise book from my daughter's
Given the socio-religious tensions in the region, it was not hard to find a casus belli - not when four states out of five desired war - and that at the expense of the fifth.

It was Prince Nikola of the Black Mountains who declared war first, on 1 October 1883. Already his small army was on the march for the adjoining province of Kosovo, which it entered on the day following (see map above). At once the alarm bells were sounded in Ionople. This act of aggression signalling a likely general mobilisation of the Blacklands League, of which the Sultan and his advisers were acutely aware, the word went out at once to set his armies of the Western Imperium in motion.

First Army was ordered from Northern Abaloni into Kosovo to throw out the intruders. Second Army - the most powerful of the Turcowaz forces - was directed to safeguard the Vardar province; and Fourth Army was directed to abandon Epirus, and march into East Macedonia to safeguard Salonika from the likely move by the Hellican army marching up from Athens. 

(Note:  I had invited the Mad Padre to make the Turcowaz moves, but, it turned out that, perhaps unsurprisingly, he had a life.   Even before I figured that out, I had decided what moves I wanted the Turcowaz to make.  Perhaps another time, Michael!)
The First Army Turcowaz, advancing, in 
oblique order, up the railroad.
So it was that Kosovo was the scene of the first combat. Made aware that the approaching Turcowaz army was twice the strength of his own, and that it possessed a cavalry arm, General Zorghucz chose what seemed to him a fine defensive position in the mountainous region about the villages Istocno (east of the river Sitnica) and Zapadno on the west bank. A railroad, built a few short years previously, crossed the river just north of the twin villages.
(Note: the road, rail and river don't precisely follow the map, on account of the design of the pieces.  Just put it down to slight cartographical inaccuracies).
The small Black Mountains Army - defending
the river crossings.
Mountainous country:
The terrain for this map was created using 
Bob Cordery's battle-map generation system, 
slightly modified for the 10x10 grid area.

The above map was generated using the generating method outlined in Bob Cordery's book The Portable Colonial Wargame, slightly modified for my 10x10-square table. The region I deemed to be mountainous, and so the terrain was to be pretty dense.  The plain green circles are low hills, the concentric circles higher hills, and the ones with the white star (snow!) were mountains, and impassible. The 2nd 'Reserve' Infantry Regiment augmented its hilltop position east of Istocno with fortifications. The river was deemed to be a major one, crossable only at the road and rail bridges.

I should point out a habit that I formed long ago against the eventuality of the meeting of mismatched forces. It seems to me that a badly outnumbered force would seek out if it could a position that would at least partially offset its quantitative or qualitative disadvantages. One doesn't want, of course, the disparity to be cancelled outright - just enough to encourage the defence, and not so much as to discourage the attack. Hence the choice of a promising looking position, given the 'randomised' generation of the map.

Early Turcowaz advances.  No shilly-shallying here!
The whole Turcowaz army advancing up the east back of the Sitnica River, the Mountaineers formed a line based upon village, fortified hill and the cover of forest on the eastern flank. The open flank further on was a concern, but lacking the means to fill it, General Zorghucz hoped for the best. Flanking the likely attack against the line, the veteran 1st Rifle Regiment - the Royal Guard - occupied Zapodno village on the west bank. North of the village, placed so as to cover the approaches to his defence line, lay his sole battery of mountain guns, and there the General kept his own person, to supervise the practice.
The dangers of an open flank.
The Turcowaz infantry advanced in almost an oblique order system - the veteran brigade (1st and 2nd Infantry) on the right, two trained brigades (7th/8th and 13th/14th) echeloned  back in the centre, and the irregular ('green') Bashi-bazouks (23rd/24th) further back still on the left. The cavalry advanced behind the veterans. It was not long before the action became general along the whole front east of the river.  The unfortunate 23rd Bashi-bazouk Infantry, assaulting the east village, had to endure a galling rifle and gun fire from across the river. Early Turcowaz losses were already considerable, some 4 Strength Points (SPs) lost for no hurt to the defenders.
General view, looking towards the northwest.
Turcowaz determination was paying off, though. The veteran 1st Infantry forced its way athwart the Mountaineers' flank, placing the green 4th Mountain Infantry under pressure from front and flank. Although 13th Infantry were handily repulsed by the fort garrison (2nd 'Reserve'), the defenders were also beginning to feel the heat of action. Concerned about how the attack was going, Nazim Pasha, whose enthusiasm for a fight at least partially made up for a lack of military competence (classed as 'poor'), joined in 7th Infantry's fight for the forest. By this time losses were already heavy on both sides: Turcowaz 6SPs lost; the Mountaineers, 4.
13th Infantry repulsed, but 1st and 7th Infantry
attacks going in.
Very soon, 4th Mountain had been driven out of the woods, and 1st Infantry began an attack upon the hilltop fortifications.
1st Infantry forces the woods...
It was not the wisest of choices. (As it happened, it was 1st Infantry that drove the mountaineers from the woods, at which they followed up. I have an idea that at that point, Nazim Pasha had run out of 'activation points', otherwise, he might have sent in the fresher 7th Infantry instead).
...only to be thrown back out again.
The wooded area changed hands twice, 1st Infantry being flung back out again by 4th Mountain, which in turn were evicted, for good, by 7th Infantry. Nor were the mountaineers able to recover the place as the Turcowaz infantry continued to press them back. Now the fortified hill was under attack from front and flank. 
Led by Nazim Pasha in person,
7th Infantry carries the forest for keeps.
Gradually, the  Turcowaz riflemen edged the mountaineers from the whole position east of the river. 
Losses had been heavy on both sides, the Turcowaz having lost 8 SPs, the Mountaineers losing 6, including a loss to the Royal Guard in the town. Then the 'score' was suddenly equalised when the Turcowaz medium artillery's counter-battery fire scored two successive direct hits that silenced the enemy mountain guns. Dusting himself off, General Zorghucz joined the Royal Guard in the town, where he began directing the defence.
The whole line east of the river has been driven 
Until now, the artillery fire on both sides had been indifferently effective, but now the Turcowaz gunners hit their straps. The Mountain guns silenced, medium and field batteries turned their attention upon Zapadno, with devastating effect (both scored sixes, and both hits inflicted losses).  
Amazingly effective Turcowaz gunfire!
Possibly now was the time for the Black Mountain Army to pull out, whilst the pulling out was good. But the General elected to remain and to continue to engage the Turcowaz across the river.
1st Mountain Infantry reduced to 25% strength.

The pressure on the defenders is unrelenting.
This was something of a rearguard action, as the main body streamed towards the railway bridge crossing, followed in rather lackadaisical fashion by Turcowaz infantry. The Mountain Army were lucky enough to get a rare 'win' of the initiative, hereabouts, which helped them distance themselves - a little - from pursuit.  The retreat was not helped by the bridge being set at a diagonal, which meant the crossing was slower than it might have been (an therefore giving a more 'realistic' effect of retiring through a narrow defile).  

At this moment, General Zorghucz's luck ran out. Already he had survived four salvoes from Turcowaz artillery (two whilst with his guns, and the two the previous turn). Not this time. Another stonk from Turcowaz artillery caused the disintegration not only of the Royal Guard, but also a masonry wall under which the good general was standing. The collapsing rubble occasioned his demise.  In rolling for his fate, he threw double-sixes!
Devastating barrage eliminates 1st Mountain 
Infantry, and General Zorghucz as well.  

The remnants of the Black Mountains Army
make for the railway bridge crossing.

There was nothing for it, but for the remnants of the Black Mountain Army to retreat. The disaster to the Royal Guard and their general pushed the army well beyond its exhaustion point. The damage to their adversaries had barely taken then halfway.  

For the moment, the mountaineers have distanced pursuit, 
and the action ends.

This was an undoubted Turcowaz victory, and, in the event, a fairly easy one. But they could count themselves lucky their own losses were not worse:

Turcowaz losses (E.P. 17SP):
     Infantry: 9 SPs 
Black Mountain losses (E.P. 9SP):
     Infantry: 10 SP 
     Artillery: 2 SP
     Command: 6 SP. 

Comments on the conduct of this campaign:
1.  Losses to the armies may be partially replaced, on a pro rata basis by arm, and generals replaced for free, dicing for their quality: 1-3 'Poor' (inexperienced), 4-5 'Average', 6 'Good'.  
  •     Turcowaz receive 5SP of infantry as recruits or troops returning to the colours
  •    Black Mountain receives 5SP of infantry, 1SP of artillery, and a General Bogotan. (Out of curiosity, I rolled for General Bogotan: a six!  So the Army of the Black Mountains now has a brilliant commander!)  

2.  In this battle, the Turcowaz won a good two-thirds of the initiative rolls over maybe ten or a dozen turns.  Now, Nazim Pasha was rated 'poor' and General Zorghucz 'average'. It occurred to me that perhaps not only should this affect the activation rolls, but the initiative roll as well, 'poor' generals taking a -1, 'good' generals a +1 on the pip score. This was tried out in the next battle, fought in the nearby Vardar Province...

3.  I am starting to wonder if maybe I have included too much artillery with these armies....  

To be continued.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Relief of Tarnopol, April, 1944.

General view of Soviet positions.  Tarnopol
is in the far distance.

About a week ago, Paul 'Jacko' Jackson and I got together one evening to fight out a scenario based on something I had seen associated with the Rommel group. This was the attempted relief of Tarnopol, to rescue remnants of several German units trapped in the town, and cut off several kilometres behind the rather fluid Russian front line.  
Map of the battlefield as set up on my hex table.

This line was held by 15th Rifle Corps: two infantry Divisions, 9th and 366th. They were to be deployed in defensive positions, somewhat dug in, east of (i.e. above) the red line (inclusive) according to the above map. They comprised:

XV Rifle Corps:

Corps Command: General Officer, staff and scout car, see VI Guards Tank.
9th Rifle Division:
    Command: Div Cdr, plus Scout car = 3SP
    3 Infantry regiments, each 6 stands, 6SP = 18SP
    1 45L46 Anti-tank gun stand, with tractor = 2SP (light anti-tank)
    1 76mm Field artillery, with tractor = 3SP (counts as medium anti-tank)
    1 ISU152 assault artillery = 3SP
366th Rifle Division:
    Command: Div C.O. plus scout car = 3SP
    3 Infantry regiments, each 6 stands, each 6SP = 18SP
    1 45L46 Anti-tank gun stand, with tractor = 2SP (light anti-tank)
    1 76mm Field artillery, with tractor = 3SP (counts as medium anti-tank)
    1 ISU152 assault artillery = 3SP

These formations were permitted 10 hexes worth of defensive works, which were the eight earthworks and two barbed wire entanglements shown in the maps.

In support of XV Rifle Corps lay VI Guards Tank Corps just off the eastern (i.e. top) edge of the map.  This powerful formation comprised:

VI Guards Tank Corps:
    Command: Corps C.O. staff, scout car and jeep. 
    Counts as overall commander @ 6SP
    1st Tank Battalion: 4 T34/76 tanks @ 3SP (medium tank, medium anti-tank) = 12SP
    2nd Tank Battalion: 4 T34/85 tanks @ 4SP (medium tank, heavy anti-tank) = 16SP
    Motor Rifle Regiment: 4 SMG stands = 4SP
    Guards Mortar Battalion: 1 BM13 Katyusha rocket portee @ 3SP
    1 Field artillery battalion: 1 76mm Field artillery with tractor = 3SP (counts as light Anti-tank)

Totals: 102SP, exhaustion on -34.

The German start line was west of the map, 'below' the blue-grey line, exclusive. They will have carried out their relief mission if they successfully carried and held four of the five objective points marked by the white stars. Two of these, the Russian commander declined to hold in strength.
Map of the early action.  North is off the left 
edge of the map.

To carry out his relief mission, the German Corps commander was given a battlegroup of Fourth Panzer Army, comprising 8th Panzer and 9th 'Hohenstaufen' SS Panzer Divisions, with self-propelled artillery support, and a unit of Nebelwerfer rockets.


Battlegroup Commander: General der Panzertruppen, with staff and half-track command vehicle 6SP
8th Panzer Division:
    Div Cdr in half track 3SP
    Panzer Abteilung: 3 PzIVH tanks @ 3SP = 9SP (medium tank, medium anti-tank)
    StuG Abteilung: 3 StuGIIIG @ 3SP = 9SP (medium AFV, medium anti-tank)
    1 Panzergrenadier battalion gepanzert: 4 stands plus armoured halftrack = 5SP
    2 PzGr battalions motorised: 4 stands plus medium truck @4SP = 8SP
    1 Pioneer Battalion gepanzert: 4 Pioneer stands plus armoured halftrack = 5SP

9th SS Panzer Division:
    Tiger Company with:
         1 Tiger I tank @ 5SP (heavy tank, heavy anti-tank)
         1 PzIIIN tank @ 2SP (light tank, light anti tank, counts as infantry gun) 
    Panther Abteilung: 2 Panther tanks @4SP = 8SP (heavy tank, heavy anti-tank)
    Jagdpanther Abteilung: 3 Jagdpanther AFVs @5SP = 15SP (heavy AFV, heavy anti-tank)
   2 PzGr Battalion, gepanzert: each 4 infantry stands plus armoured halftrack @5SP = 10SP
   2 PzGr Battalion, motorised: each 4 stands plus medium truck @4SP = 8SP

Artillery Support:
    1 Wespe unit = 3SP
    1 Hummel = 4SP
    1 Nebelwerfer = 4SP

Total: 104SP, Exhaustion point -35SP.

1.  The 6-stand Russian infantry units represented regiments, and were given 6 strength points.
2.  The 4-stand German infantry units represented battalions, and were given 4 strength points, except when mounted in armoured halftracks, for which they were upgraded to 5SPs.
3.  The original Rommel scenario gave the PzIVs and StuGs to the SS Division, and the Tigers etc to the Wehrmacht.  As that seemed to me unhistorical, I switched them, though I admit I could be quite mistaken in this matter.
4.  The PzIIIN was my own addition to the Axis formation.
5.  The unit to which I assigned Jagdpanthers, was allocated in the Rommel scenario 'heavy tank hunters'.  It is likely that what was intended was anything from Nashorns, towed 8.8cm FlaK guns, or even Ferdinands. Jagdpanthers had not long entered service by April 1944, but I figured their presence just plausible.
6.  The Nebelwerfer and Katyusha rocket launchers were treated as mortars for range, were capable of firing only on alternate turns, but rolling double the dice.
7.  For this action I used SP to determine the number of combat dice rolled. In effect we used a kind of hybrid Portable Wargames/ Hexblitz game system. As a result, the action rattled along fairly crisply.
8. The Soviet Tank Corps arrived on the table edge on move 2, as called for in the original scenario. Upon reconsideration, it might have been better to have randomised the arrival time, say to a roll, from Turn 2 onwards, of a D6, with a '6' being rolled to arrive.
9.  The original scenario placed the Soviet HQ in the table edge town. Instead, I took the place to be Tarnopol, and placed a couple of German infantry stands therein to represent the garrison to be rescued.  They were not otherwise involved in the action; the Russians were not allowed to enter the precincts.
10.  In armoured duels, anti-tank shooting at 'heavier' graded armour subtracted 1 from the 'to hit' dice. In the duel between a T34/76 (3SP; Med Armour, Med AT) against a Jagdpanther (5SP; Heavy Armour, Heavy AT), the Russian would roll 3 x D6 looking for 6s; the German 5 x D6 looking for 5s and 6s.  The outlook for the T34 would be pretty bleak!

Germans on their start line.

The narrative will be brief. The Axis advanced with the 8th Panzer on the right and 9th SS Panzer on the left.  The Soviet 25th Regiment, exposed on its high ground ahead of the main position, came in for a heavy bombardment from Axis ordnance. Although they repulsed an early infantry attack, it was plain the regiment could not remain there long, Reduced to half strength, they pulled back, under continual pressure, until they reached the barbed wire. Unable to negotiate this obstacle betimes, 25th Regiment succumbed to a final barrage, to be stricken from the 9th Rifle Division's order of battle.

On the other flank, 1098th Rifle Regiment also found the pressure from German infantry and armour too much to hold their fortified position. Back they went, into the marshlands to their rear. German panzergrenadiers followed them therein, but soon left again to await developments from the approaching armoured battle.

General view of the battlefield, including the just 
arrived 9th Tank Corps, and some very welcome 
logistics elements.

During all this time, the Soviet artillery was subjecting especially the German infantry to a steady and effective gunfire from field and assault artillery. This considerably slowed the Axis advance. All the same, 26th Rifle Regiment was driven out of its partly fortified, partly forested position, well to the rear
By this time, 9th Tank Corps had entered the battlefield, the lighter T34s plus field artillery on the northern flank, the heavier T34s, Katyusha and SMG unit on the southern.  

When 26th Rifles were driven out of their position, two companies of T34/76s swept around the flanking woods to engage the German Jagdpanthers. This more or less went as might have been expected. I don't recall they hurt the German armour - possibly one platoon fell back, but the Russian tanks took 4 hits. Only one was damaging, though; the rest were treated as 'retreats', and back went the target company 3 hexes; the other went back later, during the Soviet turn. Thenceforth, German activity was limited to attempting to pound the soviet defence lines on the northern flank. Panthers drove the anti-tank unit out of the riverside village, but couldn't make up their minds to cross the stream to test the Soviet hill defences beyond. Meanwhile one T34 company had taken up position in the fortifications formerly occupied by half of 26th Rifle Regiment.

There was more action in the south. The defile between the forests and the marshlands wide enough to accommodate but two tank companies side by side, tended to limit the weight of the Soviet counter-attacks there. All the same, they did knock out one PzIV platoon, and damaged several StuGs as well. For their part, the German armour gave almost as good as it took, wiping out the lead T34/85 company.
By this time, a count indicated, to my surprise, that the Germans had reached their exhaustion point; the Soviets were still well short of theirs. It was the Soviet artillery that had done the damage, and that damage had been done to the German infantry.

As played, this was not a well balanced scenario. The odds are simply too stacked against the Germans, especially played in this format. Historically, both sides fought each other to a standstill. Only some 9 men of the Tarnopol garrison ever reached their comrades to the west.

Were I to do it again, I would make the Soviet rifle infantry 'poor' partly to suggest many were barely trained conscripts, partly to indicate units that had already been through the mill. The Guards Tank Brigade would be average, but maybe the T34/85s I'd count as 'Elite'. The Germans I'd rate as 'Average' across the board, with maybe the Tiger I and its companion PzIIIN counting as 'Elite'. These 'Elite' designations I admit to being quite arbitrary. 

Meanwhile, the First Blacklands (Balkans) War is awaiting its first battle, that the narrative may proceed.  I hope I can get that done shortly.