Tuesday 16 July 2013

Battle of Tawan - 1904

Posties Rejects gathered in the Shed-o-War on Saturday for a very hot and sweaty day wargaming the Russo-Japanese War. It was hotter than Hades in the shed, but somehow we persevered, and at the end one side went home with a resounding victory under their belts!

Setting the Scene
The first Japanese army under the command of General Kuroki has orders to meet up with the second and fourth armies south of Liaoyang - a major town in the area - which is defended by a large Russian army. To make matters worse the First Army has been engaged in fighting a retreating Russian army. The main part of the Russian force has reinforced Liaoyang but a substantial part has dug in to await the arrival of the Japanese first army just outside the village of Tawan south east of Liaoyang.  The Japanese commander has orders to attack the Russians as soon as possible. The game begins just after noon (exact time determined on dice roll) and the Japanese assault needs to be completed before darkness falls.

The Japanese started the game behind a range of hills but with a wide open plain ahead of them.
Meanwhile the Russian Commander Lt General Slutshevski of the 10th European Army Corps must hold his position at all costs, if the Japanese First Army cannot make the rendezvous with the two other Japanese armies they will be seriously outnumbered and defeated and then the way will be open to relieve Port Arthur . This could effectively end the War, but only if the Japanese can be held back.

Orders of Battle
C/O 10th Army Corps Lt Gen Slutshevski (European Army)
   31st Infantry Division C/O Lt Gen Mau
      1st Brigade C/O Maj Gen Tshishevich
         121st Infantry Regiment
         122nd Infantry Regiment
      31st Artillery Brigade (3 Batteries)
   9th East Siberian Rifle Division C/O Maj Gen Kondratovich
      1st Brigade C/O Maj Gen Kravse
         33rd Infantry Regiment
         34th Infantry Regiment
      2nd Bridage C/O Maj Gen Sykow
         35th Infantry Regiment
         36th Infantry Regiment
      9th East Siberian Rifle Artillery Brigade (4 Batteries)
      2 Machine Gun Batteries (2 Guns)
Russian Reinforcements
      Cossack Cavalry Brigade
         5th Amor Cavalry Regiment
         4th Ural Cavalry Regiment
         1st Arenburg Cavalry Regiment
      Artillery Regiment (3 Batteries)

C/O 1st Army General Kuroki
   2nd Division C/O Lt Genral Nishi
      3rd Brigade C/O Gen Matsunaga
         4th Infantry Regiment
         29th Infantry Regiment
      15th Brigade C/O Gen Okazaki
         16th Infantry Regiment
         30th Infantry Regiment
         2nd Cavalry regiment
         2nd Artillery Regiment (6 Batteries)
         2 Machine Gun Batteries
   12th Division C/O Lt Gen Inouye
      12th Brigade C/O Maj Gen Sasaki
         14th Infantry Regiment
         47th Infantry Regiment
      23rd Brigade C/O Maj Gen Kigoshi
         24th Infantry Regiment
         46th Infantry Regiment
         12th Cavalry Regiment
         12th Artillery Regiment (6 Mountain Batteries)
         2 Machine Guns
Japanese Reinforcements
   Imperial Guard Division C/O Lr Gen Hasegawa
      1st Brigade C/O Maj Gen Asada
         1st Guard Infantry Regiment
         2nd Guard Infantry Regiment
         Guard Artillery Regiment (3 Field Batteries
         1 Machine Gun Battery

The Action
The Japanese have the advantage on initiative in this game and in all but one turn won the dice rolls to see who would go first. This meant that from the first to last turns of this battle the Japanese players were moving forward quickly, confident that their greater ranges rifle fire-power would keep the Russians heads down in their trenches. Of course the Japanese advantage in artillery would also come in handy keeping the Russians in their bunkers....

The Japanese Artillery were plentiful and lethal in this game.
For most of the game the Russian infantry were hiding in their trenches and could only be targeted by Shrapnel shells from the Japanese Artillery. However General Kuroki (a.k.a. Fran) decided to focus all his artillery on knocking out the Russian artillery first, either by destroying the guns and their crews or by destroying the bunkers they were hidden in. Only when the Russian guns were destroyed would the Japanese artillery switch to shrapnel shell and start targeting the infantry in the trenches. In the meantime the Japanese infantry would have to advance across open ground (for 8 turns!) and hope that enough intact units remained to mount an assault. To facilitate this objective the Japanese players converged their advancing infantry on just two of the enemies four redoubts (on their Left Flank), effectively ignoring half of the Russian army.

Its a looong way to the other side of the valley, especially when your movement rate is just 5" !

The Japanese infantry would have to cross a killing field unless their artillery could help them out
Meanwhile General Slutshevski (Ray) was unable to do very much at all. No sooner had his guns opened fire on the Advancing 1st Army than they were subjected to witheringly accurate counter battery fire. Within three our four turns there was no Russian Artillery left on the redoubts and what remained was forced to employ inaccurate indirect fire over the ridge line. The Russian infantry spent most of the game with their heads down and for the most part were too poor a quality to even contemplate leaving their trenches to attack the Japanese in the open. It would be a frustrating day for the Russian players.

The Russians stayed in their trenches, but even these hastily build earthworks provided little respite from the Japanese Artillery bombardment when it started.

After six or seven turns the Russians were almost ready to throw in the towel. I think they were being a little too hasty myself, but they had spent the morning being pounded by Japanese artillery and were beginning to realise that their plan (to whittle away the Japanese Infantry before the assault) was not going as hoped. Now they received reinforcements in the form of Cossack Cavalry and guns but these arrived at the opposite end of the table and were probably too far away to have much effect on the game.

Russian Cossacks trying and failing to outflank the Japanese.
Meanwhile the Japanese Imperial Guard also turned up as reinforcements but again the chances of them joining battle with the Russians before darkness fell was slim. They made use of the road to increase their speed but even so they couldn't reach the front before the battle was over.

The Imperial Guard arrive, but it'll take so long to get to the front they won't play any part in the battle.
As the Japanese Infantry advanced to within rifle range of the redoubts the Russians finally stood up in their trenches and they started to exchange fire with each other. By this stage the Russian ranks were already being thinned by shrapnel fire from the Japanese artillery and two units had failed morale tests and retreated disordered. However the Russians had more units hidden behind the hill ready to move forward and man the trench lines against the inevitable assault.

The firefight begins at last but the Russians are just outnumbered and outmatched.
One turn of rifle fire, and some 'hidden mines' (I think Posties was just trying to even the odds and give the Ruskies a reason to play on) had eaten into the Japanese ranks but not nearly enough to prevent then attacking the trenches with overwhelming numbers. The Russian players called it a day and conceded defeat.

By this stage victory for the Japanese was inevitable.
After the Battle
This game was using one of Posties hybrid rules systems he has devised. They are based on lots of elements from other systems, stripped down to the bones to make them simple and quick to play. Everyone agreed at the end of the day that the rules worked generally well for this game although some small tweaks to things like movement rates might be in order. One key area that may need to be looked at is artillery. The initial artillery duel was much more one-sided than anyone anticipated, although it has to be said that the Dice Gods were definitely with the Japanese in this game. The results of those first few turns of artillery fire, combined with the Japanese tactic of only attacking part of the Russian line, lead inexorably to the Russians crushing defeat and there was little they could do about it.

For an alternative viewpoint and more pictures (including some bloody awful shots of me) check out Ray's BatRep of the game


  1. A really enjoyable read. A hot day to be in a shed. Even worse if you are limited to not really fighting back and just taking casualties. I'm glad the rules worked. And I look forward to a few more AARs of this period.

    I am pretty sure you will be going to the "War and Peace show" if you can give me a heads up as to which day and I'll see if I can get down there as well. Just E mailed Fran as well on the subject. Best Wishes Clint

    1. I'm aiming to go on Friday to meet up with my Brother-in-Law.

  2. Looks really good. I like the colours. Apparently Hät (or someone) will be making some Russian/japanese war figs. Might be another period for me to collect.......mind you..if it´s hat I´ll have to wait a few years before they bring them out..the sassanids have only just come out after at least a 4 year wait.

  3. Excellent review and pictures! Thanks for sharing!


  4. Not being able to go to the game, but knowing Ray and David as well I do, your last photo appears to be a good shot of their personal morale collapsing.

  5. I just came across this article now (2019) as I'm blowing the dust off my own RJW figures for an upcoming game. Your battle is certainly inspiring, and I really like the paint job on your Russians.


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