Friday, 4 March 2016

Tae-chon - an RJW battle using Bloody Big Battles

This is another fictitious battle set in the Russo-Japanese War (RJW) fought using Bloody Big Battles (BBB). The rules are aimed at refighting very large battles from the 19th century but they work extremely well for the RJW.

Due to time constraints I tend not to refight actual battles. I know it is a generalisation but most of the battles of the RJW consisted of the Japanese assaulting Russian positions. Therefore this tends to be the type of game I put on. The variation comes in the type of terrain and the objectives.

This engagement is set just before the battle of Liaoyang with the Russians defending a line with poor fields of fire due to the nature of the terrain. This was to stop the game becoming a long range shooting match and to see if we could get some close assaults in.
A view of the battlefield looking north. The grey hills are steep and the brown hills are gentle. The kaoliang fields have not been cut down and are treated as woods. The 3 villages to the east of the north-south road are objectives.

Steve and I took the Russians organised into 2 corps, I Corps and II Corps

Each Corps has
5 Infantry Brigades of 6 bases each
2 Artillery Batteries
1 Machine Gun company
1 Cavalry Brigade

The Russian trained and raw troops were classed as passive, -1 to move roll if in good order

The Russians can deploy anywhere east of the road running north-south.  Our plan was to defend the centre and right flank villages leaving the left flank village to the Japanese
The Russian right flank with troops deployed in trenches to either side of the village
The Russian centre with the overall commander and artillery deployed on the steep knoll  The brigades to their front intend to take and hold the hill and the kaoliang field
The Russian left held by a Cossack brigade hiding in the valley

The Japanese under Shaun and Dave were split into 3 armies. 1st, 2nd and 3rd army

Each army has
6 Infantry Brigades of 6 bases each
2 Artillery Batteries

All of the infantry were classed as aggressive - on a move roll of 11 or 12 they must advance a full move

The Japanese can deploy anywhere upto the steep hills on the western table side

Their plan was the mirror-image of ours - attack along the centre and right-flank leaving the left-flank as a holding position.

Note that the Japanese are allowed to see the Russian deployment before deploying themselves due to their better intelligence network ie their spies dug the Russian trenches
The Japanese right and centre 
The Japanese left flank
The battle commenced with the Japanese 1st Army storming down the road to capture the village. The  Cossack brigade nervously await them
In the centre the Japanese 2nd army, also storm across the valley with the aim of capturing the hill dominating the village. The Russian I corps rolls terrible dice and fails to even move towards the hill.
On the right flank Russian II corps begins a counter attack against the weak Japanese 3rd Army
With the exception of an Infantry brigade and the artillery all of II Corps goes into the counter attack
An overwhelmingly reinforced 2nd army advances towards the Russian centre
The 1st army captures the hill overlooking the lefthand village, obliterating the Cossacks in the process by going low on ammo - the green markers
The 2nd Army prepares to assault I Corps which again fails to move - the yellow markers represent disorder - I make not apology for the smiley faces.
This demonstrates very clearly where NOT to put your commanding officer when the enemy is about to assault
The weak Japanese 3rd army lines up to face off II Corps attack
The 2 veteran brigades of I Corps supported by a MG company hold a very thin line
An Observation Balloon's view of the Japanese 1st & 2nd Army
As the Balloon becomes untethered it gently floats across the battlefield
The Balloon's view of II Corps counter attack against 3rd Army
I Corps left flank held by a raw brigade of sailors and infantry that absolutely refuse to move from the kaoliang field even if there is a +1 commander present as they get -1 for Passive and -1 for being in kaoliang 

The Japanese commander views the very soft centre of I Corps - the veteran brigades have retired, and the commander has been captured - only a brigade of sailors, the guns and the reserve brigade from II Corps remain
2nd Army launches an assault against the guns on the knoll. the brigade in the trenches are low on ammo and disordered
3rd Army or what is left of it - 3 brigades all disordered and spent - await reinforcements from the Japanese centre
Although the Russian guns on the knoll have been forced to retire the centre has firmed up enough to reoccupy the centre village.
Finally in the last turn of the game the Russian infantry in the kaoliang got their act  together and moved forward to hold the left flank

At game end ...

... the Japanese hold the left hand village ...
... the centre village is contested ...
... and the Russians hold the right hand village

A close run affair with the Russians then receiving orders from Kuropatkin to retire on Liaoyang!

I am not going to mention the Russian commander getting captured!

The Passive rating for the Russians and the Aggressive rating for the Japanese worked well even if it was irritating at times.

BBB handles a table full of troops very well and the game rolls along - once again we didn't notice the time go by. An excellent set of rules

Even though the rules are meant for high-level engamements I may well drop down a level and have the units representing regiments or even battalions instead of brigades.

My dilemma now is whether I rebase my 1859 armies from 40x30mm to 1" squares

Game Info
The rules can be purchased from Caliver Books
There is a Yahoo group for the rules here where the author answers queries
Figures are all Pendraken with the exception of some of the artillery pieces
Buildings are by Mura Miniatures

If anyone is interested in the Liaoyang campaign then  there is an  excellent book, freely available in several formats, at Archive.Org


  1. Excellent battle report, those well painted figures really do look like large units for this scale of battle. Our local plays and enjoys BBB too so I know what you mean about the frustrations of not being able to move when you roll like crap. Oh well, it happened a lot in real wars too where things did not go according to plan.

  2. Thank you. BBB does allow you to recreate the command and control or lack of it very well. The Passive trait works really well for the Russians. It's almost tempting to make them Passive Aggressive as they were as good as the Japanese in close combat

  3. In our games with Russians against the Turks in 1876, it's the Russians who are on the offensive against more passive Turks. We played the Ala Daugh (I know Im spelling it wrong but too lazy to get up to look it up in the scenario booklet) battle twice and the two sides split each wining once.

  4. Very nicely done, thanks, Alan. I particularly enjoyed the observation balloon's meander over the battlefield! Good-looking layout, and it sounds as though your game captured the right feel for RJW. Passive Russians is definitely going to be right for most RJW actions.

    My preference is for historical scenarios but I can understand why you go for generic fictitious ones. One challenge in trying to do historical ones is the sheer size of the battles. I'd like to do the whole of Mukden but even BBB's pretty elastic scale struggles to stretch to accommodate armies of 300,000 men fighting on a 90-mile front. I may have to settle for doing it in sectors.

    Oh and my command of Korean and Chinese is pretty limited but I find myself wondering about the names of your invented battles. Are they just randomly lifted from the map? Or made up? Or, as I like to think, are they translations of phrases such as "I couldn't have won anyway" or "Who writes these stupid rules"?

    Bloody Big BATTLES!

  5. It would be nice to do Mukden but at the scale I've done these battles , 1base = 1battalion, I would need to double the size of my armies and play on a 12 foot table. It was fought over 10 days so would probably be best to break it down into 1-2 day sections

    The names are generated by the Fantasy Name Generators website

    Besides Nuga ileon babo gat-eun gyuchig-eul gilog is way too long a name for a battle