Thursday 14 November 2013

RJW Game Part 1

For the last 29 years a group of friends have travelled to Lake Tarawera, south of Auckland, for a weekend of wargaming. When we started out we would drive down on a Friday night, game Saturday and part of Sunday then drive home. The “Tarawera Weekend” slowly stretched to a longer weekend, gong down on the Thursday instead of Friday, to the point has now extended to nearer to a full week this year, where we went down on the Tuesday, played games on Wednesday through Sunday, driving home on the Sunday afternoon.

My contribution this year was the Wednesday game - a Russo-Japanese War game. My apologies for the distortion of historical fact here, but here is the basis of the scenario. Set after the fall of the Motien Pass and before Liaoyang, the scenario sees the Japanese First Army trying to position itself for the advance on Liaoyang.



Facing the Japanese advance is the 5th Siberian Division under General Barishenkov. Now Barishenkov had taken over command of the Division after it had been defeated at the Yalu. The Division was badly demoralised and had lost most of its artillery and machine guns. Barishenkov had done wonders to restore morale. He scrounged together a couple of batteries and some machine guns, but as the situation worsened to the south west one of his brigades was stripped away and he was left pretty much on his own to face the threat from the Japanese First Army.


When Motien Pass fell the Russian CinC, General Kuropatkin, recognized the threat to this left flank and moved to strengthen it. He had little faith in the Siberian troops and ordered General Gemmersheim’s newly arrived European Ninth Infantry Division to Barishenkov’s support, reminding Gemmersheim that a defeat here could have serious ramifications in European Russia, where the war was unpopular. Kuropatkin closing remarks to Gemmersheim were “Do not disgrace the Service.”


The dispatch of Gemmersheim to Barishenkov’s support set up a potential for conflict. First, Barishenkov had little respect for the European commanders who he seemed to have little understanding of the way this war was developing. Second, Gemmersheim and the European generals had little respect for the Siberians, whose record in the war was not good. Third, Kuropatkin sent his chief of staff, General Popolov, (with four batteries of artillery) to liaise between the two officers, both of whom were mistrusting of his intentions.


The Japanese side was far more ordered. The First Army was ordered to clear the mountains of Russians and prepare to advance on Liaoyang. The CinC, General Kuroki, advanced promptly and soon came up on Barishenkov’s position at Chaiotou and prepared to attack. However, before he could make his formal plans, he was called to an urgent conference at Dalny. Not wishing to miss the opportunity to drive off Barishenkov, Kuroki ordered his three divisional commanders to coordinate an attack.


The Terrain


I wanted a terrain that was both challenging to play on, but visually impressive. The area is mountainous with deep valleys. I read in several accounts in this area that described the terraced hillsides and fields of Kaoliang that stood six to ten feet tall. So I envisioned one end of the table as the end of a narrow valley that opens out into an area of broad cultivated ridges along the rest of the table.


I built two terraced hills that would sit on one end then a long narrow ridge that extended through the centre of the table. There would be three built up areas; a large walled housing structure - a hutong - in some parts of China - and a walled monastery that would make excellent strong points, and one small farm. Most of the area will be heavily cultivated (including some Kaoliang – for which I would simply use my existing wheat fields) and the fields surrounded with stone walls (based on a wartime photograph). Although the area is heavily wooded, I chose to have only a few areas of woods purely to break up lines of sight. A stream would run diagonally through the table.

The map of the table

The actual table layout



Since Barishenkov was in position he got to deploy first. His two regiments, two batteries and two machine gun stands were augmented by a Rifles regiment He was allowedpo  deploy up to the half way point in the table and within 1 meter of the ends. He could prepare up to 1.2 meters of trenches. Once the deployment was decided, any troops or trenches that could not be seen from a given location on the opposite table edge were to be removed.


The commander of the Japanese 2nd Division is the first Japanese unit to arrive on the field and would then be allowed to make a reconnaissance. To make this recon he will have a pieces of string 6 meters long. Fastening one end to the starting point on the table edge he would trace the route of the recon party back to finish point on the same table edge. The string could pass through any part of the table and it may be possible for the recon party to observe any trenches or troops that fell within their line of sight (a die roll 3,4,5,6 if in the open, 5,6 if covered or 6 of well covered to see.) If the recon party string passed within 150mm of an enemy position the recon party would roll a die and if a 1 was scored, the recon party would survive, report the position and move on, if a 2,3 they would be repulsed without gaining any useful information and could move on, a 4,5 the party would identify the position, but be repulsed with enough losses that they could not continue. A 6 the recon party is lost and does not return and the recon has failed to gather any information.


Once the Japanese recon is complete the three Japanese players will make their plan on the understanding that:

The 2nd Division will be on the table on turn 1 at position A

- The Guards Division will begin arriving on turn 2 (last units on turn 4) at position B

- The 12th Division will follow the Guards, but may take a different route to begin arriving at point C on the map on turn 3. But the arrival on turn 3 will not be certain. On turn 3 the player will be told he needs to roll 1xD6 and will require a 4,5 or 6 to arrive. Then on turn 4 he will require a 3,4,5 or 6 and so forth until on turn 6 arrival is guaranteed.

- The Japanese will have problems with their artillery. Each division has two battalions each of three batteries. Because I have models for only six batteries of the 18 that are available for the Japanese, only six can be on the table, the remainder having to be positioned off table. Both the Guard or 12th Divisions will march their forces with one infantry brigade leading, followed by an artillery battalion, then an infantry brigade and then an artillery battalion, so that artillery will be delayed coming into action.


Russian planning is less coordinated. After Japanese planning is completed, Barishenkov’s troops will be laid out again and he may change the position of one unit.


All other Russian units arrive on the table as follows:


Popolov personally arrives on the table and is informed at this point that during the night a mixed force that had been escorting a machinegun company has stumbled across his camp and he has ordered them to join him. This force consists of two machine gun stands and seven infantry stands. This force can be deployed anywhere on the table up to 1 meter from the friendly edge. His artillery is to be deployed off the table.




- 1st Infantry Brigade: Arrives at Position E on turn 1

- 1st Artillery Battalion: If Popalov decides to keep his batteries off table this battalon may arrive at E on turn 2

- 2nd Infantry Brigade: Arrives at Point E on turn 3

- 2nd Artillery Battalion: Is available off table on turn 3

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