The "Bloody Big Balkan Battles!" scenario book for the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 was published back in 2019. A lot of these battles were fought over very mountainous terrain that takes time to set up, so is not ideal for a club night and better done at home. My war room at home has been out of commission for a while but is back in action now. To inaugurate the refurbished war room, I decided to host the first game in the BBBB book: Sarantaporo (which I playtested in 2017). I took advantage of the Christmas holiday to run it twice for different groups of friends.
The scenario sees a thin Turkish cordon defence in the mountains facing a much larger Greek attacking force. The strategic situation is that the Greeks are racing to reach Thessaloniki (some distance offtable) from the southwest before the Bulgarians can get there from the north. Victory therefore depends on how long the Turks can delay the Greeks before being inevitably overwhelmed.
Fourteen annotated photos tell the tale, followed by some reflections at the end.
Too tough for the Turks? While a draw is very achievable, we found it hard to see how the Turks could win. Perhaps if the Greeks neglect to set up a grand battery initially and try to rumble their guns forward? But bar some such major error, it would be nigh impossible for the Turks to hold three objectives. Maybe they should be rewarded if, say, 4 of their 9 inf and cav units survive on-table at game end (as Crispin managed against me and Bob, a game that felt like a defeat to us even though technically it was a draw).
Variable objectives? Crispin suggested variable objectives are a good thing, not necessarily just here but in general. In particular, my scenarios for Gettysburg and Königgrätz both have variable objectives that are not determined until after deployment (and in the Gettysburg case, after the first day of battle). This is good for replay value and also for producing some fog of war, obliging players to plan for uncertainty. Maybe I'll try to do more of that in future.
The battlefield shapes the battle. Everyone remarked on the huge influence of the difficult mountainous terrain, not just in slowing movement, but also in breaking lines of sight and creating shadows below steep slopes. Thus it both hindered and helped maneuver. Crispin said that one of his biggest pleasures from our BBB games is the terrain: the complexities and idiosyncrasies of realistic battlefields generate rich tactical decisions and make each game a different and unique tactical challenge.
Free deployment vs strict historical. Following on from the point about terrain generating decisions, we talked about deployment decisions. Sometimes scenario writers allow very free deployment - any troops anywhere within a broad deployment area. Others are very prescriptive and stipulate that every unit must start exactly where it did on the day of the battle. Perhaps the ideal is somewhere in between: some historical restrictions about which corps can be in which sector, but a fair amount of latitude about how the forces in each sector can deploy. That gives players some interesting choices at the start of the game and also increases the replay value by allowing more variety of plans.
Game-themed refreshments! As it was Greeks vs Turks, what else could I do but offer my guests a large tray of tasty baklava (as if any of us needed that sugar rush on top of the stimulation of an exciting BBB battle!).
Bloody Big Balkan Battles! is available in both print and PDF from Brigade Games.