Tuesday 23 June 2015

Fez and Furashka: Gorlov guns at Katseljevo-Ablava (BBB)

What an excellent way to end a month of wargaming drought! Four of us convened to try my 'Bloody Big Battles' scenario for the battle of Katseljevo-Ablava. This is a Russo-Turkish War action, hence my 'Fez and Furashka' caption, which I hereby offer up to anyone who wants it as a title for their own RTW rules.

The main motivation for writing this scenario was the fact that it is almost the only time that the Russians used a battery of their Gorlov guns - Gatling machineguns - in the field during the RTW. But it turned out to be a very characterful and interesting battle to learn about, and produced a really fun game. The scenario is in the BBB Yahoo group files as usual.

Russian Artillery Gorlov Gun Crew - Click Image to Close
Gorlov gun - available in 28mm from Askari Miniatures
I should pay tribute to my very excellent brother. He it was who for my birthday got me a set of Anton Springer's 7-volume Austrian history of the RTW, bursting with wonderful original maps and detailed accounts of the action. It was the map of Katseljevo-Ablava that alerted me to the presence of the "Mitrailleuse-batterie".

So how did our fight go? (No photos, unfortunately.) Dave as the Russian C-in-C chose to commit forces to a forward defence of Katseljevo. His hope was that this would delay the Turks long enough that they would not have enough time to take the objectives they needed south of the Black Lom river.

Seeing this, Bruce and John as the Turks duly obliged. They chose to mass forces against the exposed Russian advance guard first, before heading for the river. A succession of truly dismal movement rolls meant their 3rd Division took ages to blunder out of the woods, while 1st Div's nizams suffered heavily. At one point we thought a Russian win looked so certain we might be packing up early.

However, fortunes can change swiftly in a BBB game. The gallant defenders of Katseljevo were eventually surrounded and eliminated by the superior Turkish numbers. The Turks then rapidly closed up on the Black Lom in a solid blue line.

Even with the arrival of their reinforcements, the Russians were now down to just two regiments fit to fight. One occcupied Ablava and was sufficient to fend off the Circassians and mustafiz. The other barred the Orendzik road, the Russians' line of retreat, which was also commanded by Russian artillery in redoubts. The final turn; a final Turkish charge. Three Turkish regiments closed in to assault the one Russian, a fight they would surely win, and which would earn them a draw. Could the Russians' firepower save them? A volley of Berdan rifle fire from the infantry; shells rained down from the redoubts; and, crucially, a rattle from the Gorlov guns. The Turks reeled back, their attack failed, and the Russians had won.

(As I only played a minor part commanding the Russian reinforcement regiment, I won't take credit for the win, so this doesn't go on my tally for the year.)

We were all really happy with the game. It had plenty of movement, incident, and change of situation. The scenario seemed almost perfectly balanced, with interesting tactical options for both sides. The only change we thought it needed was the addition of a second General for the Turks. A thorough success, another one under the belt, and now I'm looking forward to some Franco-Bavarian action at Coulmiers next week.

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