Sunday, March 26, 2017

August 1914 - Russian advance makes early gains

Time to test another of the scenarios from the upcoming GWSH Scenario Book which focusses on East Prussia and the battles of Gumbinnen and Tannenberg. I chose the scenario that represents the fighting around Potschlauken on 17 August 1914.

Two regiments of the German 1st Infantry Division are defending against the Russian 29th Infantry Division.

Keith took command of the German 1st Division, and deployed fairly centrally to defend the villages of Potschlauken and Doponen, refusing his left flank.

I commanded the Russian 29th Infantry Division. Assessing the ground, I  felt that Keith would expect me to attack across the heights on my left/his right, and so opted to attack on my right where the ground was more open, hoping to challenge the deployment I expected him to make. You can be forgiven for thinking this:



As it turned out this was Keith's refused flank, and things didn't end as badly as perhaps you might have expected.

Historically the Russian brigades arrived on the battlefield at different times, and so it was with this game. My plan was to advance directly on Potschlauken with the first regiment. Second Regiment was to advance on the left, threatening the German right, but actually sitting in reserve. The third and fourth regiments were to advance on a heavily weighted right flank, pushing past Potschlauken to take Duponen.

Keith deployed his two regiments with a refused flank on his left facing the open ground. High right flank was reinforced with two squadrons of divisional cavalry. Each regiment was supported with a regiment of 77mm field guns deployed brigaded on table.

The battlefield with the Germans deployed on the right and the first Russian regiment advancing. from the left of the photograph

1st Russian Brigade advances past Potschlauken

The German right, with the flank held back here too, in anticipation of a flank march

By turn three all of the Russian brigades had started their advances. The weighted Russian right flank attack nearest the camera is immediately apparent

First contact is made in the centre. German artillery falls on the Russian 1st Brigade, and the infantry fire fight has begun
The Russian advance in the open on the right has taken considerable casualties from the opening rounds of the fire fight. The troops go to ground and begin to return fire.

The German field artillery is causing suppressions and casualties amongst the Russian infantry. The larger flame markers indicate artillery fire

The intense fire fight continues. Keith makes excellent use of the field artillery in support of his infantry in the firefight

The weight of the Russian right wing attack is very apparent from this image. The German defenders are losing numbers.
At a critical juncture in the fight, the 1st Russian Brigade in the centre takes sufficient casualties to force a morale check, and fails so it must retire for two turns and go into Defend orders. This leaves a large gap in the Russian centre, but simultaneously the Russian left flank reserve brigade has been ordered forward to apply continuing pressure on the German defenders.

The Russian centre retires

The Russian reserve brigade moves forward

The Russian right pushes forward to get in to contact with the defence. Russian guns have now come into play, firing directly at the German infantry

Action is joined between the German right/centre, and the advancing  Russian reserve brigade

Hot work for the Russian left flank, but critically they have occupied an important piece of terrain that provides cover

Russian guns firing over open sights at the German firing line

The centre of the German defence, with two companies occupying a small wood.

The Russian right flank sees the fire fight reach crescendo proportions, and the weight of Russian numbers is telling.

Similarly on the Russian left the fire fight has become very intense

The German defenders have taken such heavy casualties that they are forced to fall back (the regiment failed its morale check) leaving the way open for the Russian right flank to take Doponen.

The Russian left flank (2nd Brigade) is still engaged in an intense fire fight, but the German position has become untenable as their own left has collapsed

Wow! This is indicative of the sorts of smaller but really interesting and intense actions that we can expect from the next scenario book.

At first glance the scenario appears to be heavily weighted against the German defenders. However the German troops are all regular, while the Russians are green. While the Green morale breakpoint is lower and so the troops are more brittle, the lower likelihood of lifting suppressions is also very significant. The Russians struggle to match the Germans as the firefight develops.

In addition Keith did a fantastic job of maximising the impact of his artillery, focussing it's fire on the Russians, and coordinating it well with the rifle company fire in the following phases of each turn. At the end of the game, one Russian brigade had failed a morale check, but another two brigades were within one casualty of having to check morale, with every likelihood that at least one of them would fail.

So, overall this is a great wee scenario which is far more balanced than it might appear at first reading.

7 comments:

  1. Excellent photos and report of a most enjoyable game.

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  2. Lovely minis & table and a great read ! Its inspiring me to continue my GWSH2 (6mm) project, which is stalled.

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    1. Jacques - great to hear. Look forward to seeing photos of your own GWSH journey.
      Kind regards
      Robin

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  3. Interesting report, spurring me in bringing forward my sleeping manchurian 1904 project.
    Having no experience in GWSH yet, I'm trying to find out the differences between this rule and WW2SH.
    I can notice that there is abolutely no maneuvering on the german side, and little more than executing the initial plan on the russian side.
    That seem to suggest that the german better command abilities are not playing any part in the battle and that, unless poor troop management on either side, the final word on victory is left to initial attack plan and dice rolling.
    Am I wrong?
    Hopefully not all scenarios will offer so few choices.

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    1. Hi
      That's the way this game played out, but you shouldn't generalise from that. You do find is that being caught moving in the open is fatal, and once in contact the critical factor in the battle is to win the firefight (as it was according to the historical accounts). The use of reserves is vital. In this particular battle there is no scope for reserves for the German player. The Russian player had a reserve brigade which was committed at the vital point in the battle. The initial plan was still valid and so there was no need to change that.

      Hope that helps.
      R

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    2. From the German perspective there wasn't a reserve regiment, but each of the two regiments who were pinned in place by attacks had a very small reserve within each regiment. These were slotted in as gaps were created. They were small and comprised two to four companies.

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  4. Great read Robin, I have the game set up for Bryan and I to play today and should get an AAR done shortly afterwards.

    Nicola, GWSHII puts you in command of a divisional sized organization and up to multiple corps. Command structure comes into play with the ability to change orders if you need to. Initial layout is important and in shorter games critical - just like it was historically. We have done our best to eliminate the concept of satellite backpacks for each Regimental HQ and not make the player omnipotent in their ability to react without cause. This means you make a general order (1st Division Attack) followed by a command arrow along which your division HQ must now move. Your regiments must remain in Command Zone to the Division Commander so why you have some flexibility it is not universal. What you end up getting is as about an accurate portrayal of Divisional level combat during the period 1900 to about 1924 (Polish Civil war), though you could use it with some modifications for Spanish Civil War.

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