Tuesday, 25 October 2011

10mm RJW Solo game using Battles for Empire

I'm currently painting forces for the Russo-Japanese War 1904-905 using Pendraken's 10mm ranges. As well their RJW range I've also used figures from the 1877 Russo-Turkish War, the RCW & WW1 and the 1879-1884 South American Pacific War.

I'm basing 4 infantry figures to a 30x15mm stand with 3 stands being a company and 12 stands being a battalion.
At present I have 4 battalions of Japanese infantry and 1 Russian battalion with a couple of Maxim MG (removed from their carriages) and 2 Putilov 76mm Artillery pieces.
I've been looking at shed loads of rules to see if any take my fancy. I've whittled it down to 3 sets which meet my criteria – simple, flexible and fun – Battles for Empire, Contemptible Little Armies and Future War Commander

I thought I would try all 3 sets using the same scenario – a Japanese assault on Russian trenches – to see which worked best.

First up is Chris Leach's Battles for Empire covering British Imperial Warfare 1870-1902 and therefore spot on for the RJW. I've used BFE for the Sudan and the Spanish American War and it works really well – certainly the best set of Colonial Rules I've played. Chris Salander had put up an RJW variant on the BFE yahoo group so I used that as well

As the forces were quite small I used a 2 foot terrain tile with a low ridge at one end occupied by the Russian artillery and Maxims with 4 companies of East Siberian infantry in trenches at the base of the ridge. This allowed the artillery and mgs to provide overhead fire support. I've not read any accounts of Maxims being deployed in the trenches other than at Port Arthur and even then they tended to be in the forts.

At the other end of the board were 3 battalions of Japanese just emerged from a field of kaoliang and in between a couple of pieces of rough ground.
BFE's game turn is Roll for initiative, winners decides who moves 1st or 2nd, once both sides have moved then comes simultaneous artillery shooting then simultaneous small arms shooting and finally close combat. Morale is combined with movement in a similar fashion to Fire & Fury

The first 3 turns were taken up with the Japanese advancing – initially by battalion (a group move) and then due to Russian artillery and MG fire by company as units became disordered or shaken and had to break off from the group.
I was surprised that the Japanese got to the trenches with very few casualties – they only lost 1 company – however they then stalled for 2 or 3 turns in front of them before charging in. I allowed the Japanese to do fanatic charges which helped them greatly – +1 to the dice. The close combat again lasted for 2 or 3 turns until the right-hand Russian company broke under a 2 company assault leaving the Japanese to roll up the trench line.

At the end the Russians had lost 2 companies plus the artillery and MG on the right flank – half their force – whilst the Japanese lost 4 companies out of 12.

I was expecting more Japanese companies to stop way before the trench line – Admittedly the Russians did have bad shooting and combat dice. However in Human Bullets by Sakurai in several instances the Japanese get really close to the Russian lines before getting pinned down by firepower and then eventually taking the position

The rules worked well and I'm tempted to say these are the ones for me but I'll try CLA & FWC.

My only dislike was the number of markers used – disordered ,shaken and casualty markers do leave a lot of clutter – especially as I aiming to have at least 3 times more troops on the board

Other photos of the game can be viewed here photobucket.com/rjw110924


  1. Thanks for posting this .. its good to see the same scenario played out with different rules.

    And RJW too ! I thought I was the only person in the world who built armies for this period :) I have a few irregular 15mm RJW troops stashed away in the cupboard .. I should get them out soon. Always stalled that project due to not being able to find a decent set of rules, but it is a fascinating period.

    Human bullets - great book too.

  2. Thank you - I'm in the process of writing up the Future War Commander version of this scenario

    There are a few RJWers around - the naval side is by far and away the most popular part of it

    I intend to do a post about RJW Resources - ie sites, figures,books etc - at some point and get on and have a proper game - I like the look of Nanshan

  3. OK, seen the FWC version now - that was a blast !

    Im using a similar in-house ruleset derived from Pz8, which has pretty much the same feel. There isnt really that much difference between the various rulesets ... mechanisms are mechanisms at the end of the day.

    Although the FWC game turned out unexpectedly bad for the Japanese, I got a real sense of forlorn chaos reading that report from the Japanese commander's point of view. Would have a been a right mess to be in their HQ tent when all this was unfolding ... eeeks !

    Its a pity about the tabletop marker clutter in this case, as that can get annoying as the game scales up. Other than that, FWC (like BKC) has a really good feel to it. Food for thought there.

    Great effort on the research there anyway - might be worth running the scenarios again a few times. Is there a correlation between the overall result vs the rules used I wonder ? Its hard to work out to what extent does each ruleset allow the player to step in and manage the chaos of battle, and exhibit a bit of 'generalship' ? That usually requires a game scale that spreads across several days of combat though. I suppose in 'real-life', there is little one can do once the troops leave the trenches and advance to contact.

    I think you might end up with some composite rules that take the best mechanics from each ruleset, whilst abstracting away the tedious parts. That would be the ideal, hey ?

    I figure that wargaming has been around long enough now that game rule sets are all derived from the same source of playtesting and experience over the years. The ongoing quest to refine rule mechanisms and get the right balance is certainly part of the journey, and not an end in itself I think.

    Very much worth pursuing, looking forward to the next installment. Great work !

  4. Also, very much looking forward to the RJW resrouces section.

    It was a while ago that I dipped into RJW, (probably 2005 I think), and I recall it was a pain finding detailed information on the ground battles, OOBs, tactics, etc.

    Doing the research was a real eye opener though - I had zero idea prior to this about what a pivotally important war this was. Memories of this war are still a big deal in Russia and Japan today apparently ... and I gathered that everyone but the German Army ignored the lessons picked up by the attached observers they sent over to sit in and watch events unfold.

  5. When I was hunting round for rules I looked at Pz8 but thought the ranges were a bit too small. Do you use the WW1 set with the squares?

    I must admit I'm leaning towards FWC for RJW mainly due to the Japanese debacle of piecemeal attacks. I'm going to order some Baccus 6mm causalities to if they are suitable or maybe use craters as markers