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.