Saturday, January 28, 2023

Kavkaz Campaign - Disappointment at Gakhomela

Turcowaz camps laid out with 
field works
In the pause following the Izumrud-Zeleniya two-day retreat from Kutaisi, the Kavkaz Column and the Kars Command eyed each other across the small braided Tekhuri stream on the far side of which, nestled in a loop, lay the village of Gakhomela.  Successive reconnaissance operations by both sides proved only partially informative. But the week-long halt was partly owing to Count Ignatieff's concern for his vulnerable line of communications. 

To begin with, he could count on a line to Zugdidi, but the loss of that town loss left him with the road that skirted close to the right flank of the enemy immediately before him. Yet he dared not attack - not unless he was reinforced. That could come only from the Coastal Command of General-Leytenant M.M. Kutizedoff.  It was with remarkable promptitude that that commander sent the whole of his 1st Grenadier Division.  With it, Ignatieff undertook to push back Abdul Ameer - all the way back to Kutaisi, if possible. 

Izumrud-Zeleniyans on their start lines
The assault took some time to organise, not helped when news arrived during the night of 11-12 June that a Turcowaz assault had taken Zugdidi and forced Kutizedoff's command back up the coast road.  Now Ignatieff's corps was in a very parlous strategic position. However, for the moment the Turcowaz Trebizond Command seemed disinclined to move - it's own strategic position none too comfortable at that.
General view looking north

The country over which Ignatieff proposed to fight his 'Battle of Gakhomela' presented a stark contrast on either bank of the stream.  East of the river, where the Turcowaz  had laid out their camp, was low-lying and flat, dotted about with shallow meres and ponds.  West of the river was hill country, the more broken up as the road neared Zugdidi, two day's march away.  The forces available were respectively:


Kavkaz Corps HQ: General Ignatieff (Good)  6SP (Strength Points)

2nd Rifle Division:
    Div HQ: 1SP
    5th Rifle Rgt 2SP (Average) 
    6th, 7th Rifle Rgts @3SP (Average) = 6SP 
    8th Rifle Rgt (disbanded)
        Div Strength = 9SP

1st Grenadier Division (attached):
    Div HQ: 1SP
    1st, 2nd, 3rd Grenadier Rgt @3SP (Elite) = 9SP
    4th Grenadier Rgt 4SP (Elite)
        Div Strength = 14SP

2nd Light Cavalry Division:
    5th, 8th Lancers @ 2SP (Av) = 4SP
    6th, 7th Lancers @ 3SP (Av) = 6SP
        Div Strength = 10SP

2nd Mountain Artillery Regiment:
    I Battalion 1SP (Av)
    II Battalion 2SP (Av)

    1st, 2nd, 5th Medium and 1st, 2nd Pack Transport @1SP = 5SP

Total Units: 21.  Median 11(+1 for 'Good' Commander);  Activate 11/12/13
Army Strength Points: 47SP, Exhaustion: -16, Rout: -24


Kars command HQ: Abdul Abulbul Ameer (Average) 6SP 

4th Division:
    Div HQ: 1SP
    37th Infantry Regiment = 2SP (Poor)
    38th, 39th, 40th Infantry @ 3SP (Poor) = 9SP
        Div Strength = 12SP

5th Division:
    Div HQ: 1SP
    41st, 42nd, 43rd Infantry @ 3SP (Poor) = 9SP
    44th Infantry = 4SP (Poor)
        Div Strength = 14SP

6th Division: (off table)
    Div HQ: 1SP
    45th, 46th, 47th Infantry @ 2SP (Poor) = 6SP
    48th Infantry = 3SP (Poor)
        Div Strength = 10SP

X Machine Gun Unit = 1SP (Av)

Cavalry Brigade:
    22nd, 23rd Cavalry @2SP (Av) = 4SP

    V, VI Mountain Artillery @ 2SP (Av) = 4SP

    102, 103 Medium; 113, 114 Pack @1SP (Poor) = 4SP

Total Units: 25. Median 13; Activate 12/13/14
Army Strength Points: 55SP, Exhaustion: -19, Rout: -28

Contemporary sketch of the battlefield

Before continuing the narrative, I should mention that these events had largely been brought about by the card draws (see earlier posting). The battlefield itself was drawn from a Google Map area in roughly the right location in Georgia.  I ought perhaps to mention, though, that I got the road map hideously wrong.  Too bad: we're stuck with it now.  The above map shows Ignatieff's broad plan: 

Left: 3rd Division to take the water mill hamlet then push on to the field work beyond.  
Centre: 1st Division to cross via fords and the bridge towards the wood and field works north of the mere.  
Right: Cavalry, having crossed the southmost ford during the night, to engage the Turcowaz line south of the mere.

Turcowaz machine guns.

That he proposed to attack a force numerically stronger, Count Ignatieff was only too aware, not helped by the enemy making use of the week-long halt to lay out field works to protect his camp lines.  
Attack on the north flank.  The defenders outnumber 
their assailants.

The Third division's attack began well enough, carrying the water mill hamlet in short order and chasing the garrison back to the field works some distance beyond. Following up, the Division found itself attempting to storm fortifications against a numerically stronger enemy - not a good portent.

Cavalry attacking the southern flank 
The cavalry on the other wing undertook to take out the fortifications there. Having crossed a footbridge overnight, they were prompt to the attack at dawn. Closing in on a line of fieldworks, the horsemen used their lances to good effect, but during the cut and thrust of bayonet and lance, they could discern heavy reinforcements coming up through the wood behind. The Turcowaz 6th Division had been camping some distance behind the visible tents (i.e. immediately off-table) and was harrying up to join the action.
High hopes were placed upon the 1st Division's thrust towards the Turcowaz centre. Almost immediately things started to go wrong Coming under direct gunfire as they splashed across the fords, their advance became disjointed, not helped by the early demise of General-Major Ya.Ya. Diebitch. Caught by a shellburst in the middle of the stream, Diebitch was killed outright.

(What was happening was the Grenadiers were receiving 'retreat' results, and I didn't want to be too generous about converting them to 'kills'. So all along their line the push became a series of two steps forward and one back - a real mess. Then almost the first time the fate of the General Officer Commanding 1st Division had to be determined, he rolled a 12 - immediately fatal.  Ya. Ya. stand for Yakov Yakovitch.) 
Attacks have become disjointed
 and piecemeal
This was not to say that the Izumrud-Zeleniya had nothing to show for their attacks. On both wings they were handing out a few licks as well as taking them. Considering the protection their targets enjoyed from their field works, the artillery support proved fairly effective, knocking out some of the enemy artillery and machine guns.
The Izumrud cavalry heavily overmatched for numbers.

All the same, by the time the Grenadiers were approaching the woods that, astride the highway, were their first objective, it was already plain that too much was being asked of the Kavkaz Column. General Ignatiev sounded the recall, the Green tide receded, and, apart from the water mill hamlet, the Zrleniyans fell back across the river.

There they awaited the Turcowaz attack, but that was not forthcoming. So ended an action that turned out to be little more than an affair of outposts.
Somewhat surprisingly, losses were fairly similar on both sides, and amounted to a few hundreds. In the following tot up of losses, the only difference was the Strength Point represented by the deceased General - 6SP lost to Turcowaz, 7SP to Izumrud-Zeleniya. As I classed the battle as more-or-less drawn, the rallying of stragglers yielded a net loss to both sides of 3SP.  Of course, a replacement had to be found to command 1st Division - Colonel S. Yu. Malenkin of 1st Regiment being assigned. 
1st Division straggling into the attack, their 
lines ragged from artillery and machine gun fire

This was one of those battles that, from time to time, I get the balance entirely wrong. I had hoped that the qualitative superiority of the Izumrud-Zeleniyan regulars over the Turcowaz rabble would answer for the latter's superior numbers. But then, considering that the armies had been facing each other in this locality for some time, it seemed reasonable to suppose that they would both have built up some protection for their encampments at the very least.  
The situation moments before 
Count Ignatieff sounded the recall.


Readers might recall from the last paragraphs of a couple of postings back that the campaign card draw sequence had ended after this action with a joker. The result affected the Turcowaz (diced for), and led (a die roll of '1') to its paralysis for four card draws (their colour being immaterial). The sequel will be detailed next time, but we'll hint at the possibilities here.

Following this action, the Turcowaz settled down to await the Izumrud-Zeleiyan retreat up the Fort Ghori road. However, that night, the light of the campfires in the hills above the Tekhuri Stream showed no sign of the enemy moving. It was not until well into the following morning that Abdul Ameer was advised that the enemy had stolen away. And it was not until later in the week that they heard distant heavy gunfire and he discovered where they had gone...

To be continued...

I will admit right here that I made a right mess of this battle. Carried out with brain, the attack might have been feasible, given the greater range of the Zeleniya rifles. The infantry could have stood off out of musketry range and subjected the defenders to unanswerable rifle fire. The defenders might have been induced to come out of their earthworks, with who knows what result? Never mind, sometimes these things come to try us.


  1. Tbh, I have generally found unit quality makes very little difference in the PW. The main determinant of victory is numbers of units each side can activate each turn and how much artillery they have.

    1. H'mmm ... Yes, I tend to agree. The determinant here might have been the superior firearms range the Zeleniyans would have enjoyed - possibly. But the Grenadiers did count as 'good' and the Turcowaz semi-regular infantry 'poor', which might have made some difference too. Mind you, the Turcowaz had a machine-gun unit... And the fortifications, of course. Hard to pick... at least, I thought so before the action. And their arty was pretty effective!

  2. Count Ignatieff sounds like he’s the sort of chap who would “twist on 18”. Still, the assault went reasonably well - at least it wasn’t a disaster, and his forces were able to successfully “redeploy” (I’m avoiding the phrase “sneak away”). Another nice battle report Ion, with plenty of opportunity to get your toy soldiers out for a game. You have plenty of well painted, colourful toys πŸ‘πŸ‘
    More please.
    Your sketch of the battlefield is nice - it helps the reader visualise what’s going on. I think your sketch is somewhat reminiscent of those in the likes of Lone Warrior (Solo Wargames Association) magazine or even Battle for Wargamers magazine of my youth… πŸ˜‰

    1. Geoff -
      Well, maybe he'd 'twist on 18' if he figured he hadn't seen a deuce or trey for a goodish long while... Maybe. The battlefield sketch I think was due to my being too lazy to make up my usual hex map. But I might do more of those sketches. They do make a change.

      I've never seen 'Lone Warrior', but still have several copies of 'Battle' kicking around. When Battle merged with Mil Mod, I bought those for another 5 or 6 years. I was particularly taken with Robin Hunt's Spanish Civil War series...


  3. Great report, sir. Agree, love the sketch map ✔️✔️
    Games where commanders do the ‘wrong thing for the right reasons’ are fun, and are actually a good reflection of some engagements in history (all those random variables out there in the world…sh*t happens, as they say).
    This is proving to be a very interesting campaign…never sure what will happen next, or where! Thanks for entertaining us πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

    1. Martin -
      The 'what' sure took an unexpected turn!

  4. Great battle report. Have to say I really like this sort of battle where things don't go according to plan or expectation. The dice should always reflect real life and generate unexpected results in my opinion....Regards.

    1. Tony -
      Napoleon Bonaparte once remarked that the art of good generalship is 'knowing just how much to leave to chance'. I guess that goes for War Games design as well. It's nice to keep things plausible, possibly filling in some sort of rationale (what induced the Turcowaz paralysis that is about to occur?). But rule sets guided too much by caprice can be bally frustrating!

  5. Thank goodness I've never made a mess of a battle plan... I must admit that in the wake of the victory up the road I was expecting a Turcowaz attack. Another entertaining report, thanks for posting.

    1. Hi Brian -
      The armies' actions are guided by the draw of the cards, the results of which might, as I hinted earlier, be subject to some sort of rationalising narrative. That I draw them in sequences does give me some clue as to the immediate future, but beyond that, I have no idea.

  6. Another fine campaign game and AAR there:). Sometimes we all just get it 'wrong', but hopefully learn from it and move on. This is one advantage of playing a few rulesets and getting to know them well, which I find really helps with scenario creation etc.

    1. Steve -
      I rather think my imagination was lacking on the occasion of this skirmish. Still, it does add something to the overall narrative.