Battle #2 in our Balkan Wars campaign is Kirkkilise. In #1, Sarantaporo, we saw the Greeks attack the Ottomans on the southern front in an attempt to reach Thessaloniki ahead of the Bulgarian army coming from the north. Now we visit the eastern front, where the Bulgarians were attacking into eastern Thracia (that corner of Europe that is still part of modern Turkey).
No fewer than nine of us convened in my war room - fortunately the rest of the guys couldn't make it! Luckily, the scenario lends itself reasonably well to four a side, since it starts with nearly all the forces on both sides deployed on-table on a broad front. A very broad front, in fact: the battlefield is 60km across (one 12" grid square = 10x10km), with ~150,000-200,000 men a side engaged.
This time, the Bulgarians tried to avoid the fortress artillery, aiming instead for the soft centre: not so many Ottoman guns, little cover for the defenders, and plenty of rubbish redifs to bully. Far from being overawed, the Ottomans responded by pushing forward I & IV Corps to confront the Bulgarian advance. As the battle progressed, III Corps and Shukru Pasha's force also sallied from their entrenchments to capture the objective villages on each flank (representing threats to the Bulgarian line of communications). This was much less one-sided than the first game, as the Bulgarians made the Ottomans pay a much heavier price in terms of casualties. Nevertheless, it still ended in Bulgarian defeat as the Bulgars ran out of steam and troops.
Modern weapons change the rules! Most of our BBB games are nineteenth-century battles with muskets or single-shot rifles. The arrival of magazine rifles and plentiful machine-guns makes fire more deadly and manoeuvre consequently more difficult and dangerous. Whole units were swept away much more quickly than we are used to. You can see why by 1915 everyone was soon deeply dug in and bringing up ever more artillery. Illuminating.
Overstretched elastic? This scenario stretches BBB's elastic scale to its limits. That's OK, but I should really have limited ranges to maybe 12" for artillery and 9" for infantry: the guns being able to reach 20km were too much like airpower and it was too easy for defenders to concentrate firepower and kill manoeuvre.
Virtue of replaying scenarios I wrote a whole 'Reflections' essay on the pros and cons of replaying scenarios. As I said there, "if the scenario itself is unbalanced, playing it from both ends evens that out in a way". That was certainly true on this occasion. If we'd just played it once, I think we'd have left feeling a bit flat. Swapping sides meant both teams got to dish it out as well as take it and marvel at how bloody it all was but without feeling unfairly battered.
Importance of the reorg phase The luxury of a Sunday game meant we could then all adjourn to our favourite local curry house for a post-battle social. Good friends, good gaming, good times!