Yesterday we played the first game for the year. The era chosen was the Russo-Japanese War, an era we had not played for well over a year. We only had three players rather than our usual six. I took the Russians and the other two players the Japanese.
The scenario was a simple one based loosely around the Battle of 174 Meter Hill in the early stages of the siege of Port Arthur. The Japanese were charged with carrying the hill as quickly as possible. If they could take it they would gain access to the Wantai Ravine that led directly into Port Arthur and potentially avoid a lengthy siege.
The terrain was pretty much barren. The 175 Meter Hill stood in the centre of the table on which the Russian has two lines of trenches. Two further trench lines ran back from the hill on each flank. Two or three small wood lots broke up the blandness of the table.
The Russians defended the position with a single division of 16 battalions, supported by ten batteries and six machine guns. Each of the trench positions were held by two battalions forward in the trench and two battalions in support to the rear. Two MGs were placed in the forward trench and two in the trench on the left, while the remaining two MGs were placed behind the second trench line. The gun batteries were to the rear, out of sight of the Japanese. A brigade of Russian reinforcements might arrive from turn three onwards.
The Japanese attacked with a force of three divisions. On their extreme left was a single brigade of six battalions, supported by four batteries and two MGs intended to flank drive off the Russian batteries opposite and flank the main position. To their right was the Guards Division of twelve battalions, two batteries and six MGs. Next in line was a brigade of six batteries then a reinforced line division, with three infantry brigades – a total of 18 battalions - and six MGs. A further six Japanese batteries were supporting from off table.
This was pretty much a straight assault and the Guards got into the spirit of it from the word go.
One regiment was pretty badly cut up by artillery and MG fire and was driven back, but a second regiment stormed to the front line of trenches and drove one Russian regiment out.
But they struggled to drive of the MGs. A Russian counter attack retook the trench, but the Japanese came back and retook it.
When one of the line battalions to the right of the Guards took the opposite end of the trench the Russian MGs also fell and the whole trench was in Japanese hands…but not for long another Russian counter attack took it back. But again the Japanese came back and drove them out, capturing the front line trench for good.
On the Russian right flank the second brigade of the Guards attacked with vigour. Here the two Russian reserve MGs had been deployed in support of the infantry. Two Japanese battalions were badly knocked around in the advance, but a determined rush by another two saw then capture one end of the trench. An intense tussle then developed to drive off the MGs. Eventually they cleared the Russians from the trench, but the guards were pretty much a spent force.
On the Russian left the Japanese, slowed down by the Russian artillery and MG fire, advanced cautiously. Here the Japanese assisted with the capture of the front trenches as described above and attempted to drive the Russians from the side trench with artillery fire. But the Russians held on desperately (assisted by my phenomenally good saving throws) and not until the very end of the game did the troops this trench give way.
On the Japanese extreme left the flanking force made slow progress, harassed by Russian gunfire all the way, but with nothing too seriously to oppose them the Japanese overran the exposed Russian gun position and forced the retirement of two more batteries. This left the Japanese infantry of the flanking force free to move against the main hill, providing support for the damaged Guards.
On the main hill the Russian second line was untouched and held its ground. One Russian battalion, in a desperate last effort charged down the hill at a shaken Guards battalion. The Guards broke and the Russians broke through onto a second Guards battalion, breaking that too. But the Russians now found themselves well ahead of any support, with three MGs to their flank and two battalions to their front. The Russian pulled back.
Here we ended the game. It was a costly Japanese victory.
The Russian reinforcements had failed to arrive. Their arrival would not have prevented the fall of the front line, but undoubtedly would prevented the fall of the flanking entrenchments.