Saturday, 29 April 2017

Nanshan 1904 using Bloody Big Battles

The battle of Nanshan is the second of Pat's scenarios for the Russo-Japanese War (RJW) using Bloody Big Battles (BBB). Most gamers have their favourite battles - Nanshan is in my top 3 along side Magenta 1859 and ... well it will be appearing on this blog sooner or later.
Port Arthur is probably the best known location of the RJW. It lies at the southern end of the Liáodōng Peninsula. Some 50 miles to the north is the isthmus of the Peninsula - a 3km wide strip of land dominated by a 116-meter high hill - Nanshan
From Sketches of Manchurian Battle Fields by Major Glasfurd

The hill was an obvious defensive position covering the approaches to Port Arthur and was was heavily fortified with trenches, barbed wire and minefields built by Chinese labourers who counted among their numbers several disguised Japanese Army Intelligence Officers.

I could go on but if you want more information then the Wiki entry isn't bad and there is an very good write-up on the Russo-Japanese War Research Society website

Initial deployment for the Russians

The Japanese force comprises 3 Divisions, the  1st, 3rd & the "Unlucky" 4th played by Dave M, Steve and Dave N

Each Division has 4 Infantry Regiments each of 3 bases of Skirmishing Trained Repeating Rifles and 2 batteries of Breech Loading Artillery

There is also an Artillery Reserve of another 2 batteries of Breech Loading Artillery. Furthermore the Japanese have a gunboat squadron counting at 0.5 BLA

That totals 36 Infantry bases and 8.5 Artillery bases
The Japanese enter the battlefield

To face them the Russians have the 5th and 13th East Siberian Rifle Regiments (ESR) plus supporting artillery, mgs and a gunboat. Shaun had the unenviable task of commanding the Russians.

The 5th ESR has 6 half bases and the 13th ESR has 2 half bases with another 7 half bases in reserve. There are 4.5 Breech Loading Artillery batteries that can be broken down into bases worth 0.25 of a battery plus 0.5 HMG and the Russian Gunboat Bobr worth 0.25 BLA.

Essentially it is 36,000 Japanese Infantry and 100+ pieces of artillery attacking 3,500 Russian Infantry and 100+ pieces of artillery in a fort.
3rd Division IJA take a hammering from the Russian artillery and the gunboat Bobr
4th Division IJA capture the walled town of Chinchou held by a single company of the 13th ESR
The Russian gunboat Bobr forced to withdraw in the game due to Japanese artillery fure
The first of many failed assaults on Nanshan
A concerted Japanese attack sees the 4th Division supported by Japanese gunboats in Chinchou Bay take the western flank of the fortifications.
The Japanese view of the same. Chinchou Bay is tidal so from Turn 5 a base width of mudflats allow the Japanese to outflank the defenses
The Russian commander, General Fock sits  idly by in Maoyitui with 4000 men of the 13th ESR. The general was court-martialed after the war for incompetence at both Nanshan and Port  Arthur
The Japanese begin to make headway on the hill helped by their artillery suppressing the Russian guns
With the supporting artillery gone Colonel Treyakov and his 5th ESR face the full weight of 3 infantry divisions
Following the death of Colonel Treyakov the 5th ESR collapses
The last stand of the 5th ESR, excuse the pun, pushed back from the fortifications leaving the Japanese in control of the hill

As with the Yalu scenario Pat was done an excellent job of tweaking BBB rules to give the desired effect including not allowing combined shooting from several units and going permanently low on ammo. In the actual battle the Japanese artillery fired over 30,000 shells  and both sides ran out of small arms ammunition.

I look forward to the next scenario

I'd seen a friend, Nathan, using BBB maps printed on pvc banner material so I persuaded him to sort out the Nanshan scenario map for me. Excellent value at a tenner and I can spill as much beer on it as I like.

The figures are all from Pendraken's 10mm RJW range

The sketch of Nanshan is taken from From Sketches of Manchurian Battle Fields by Major Glasfurd and was available from Caliver Books. If you are into the RJW this worth getting for the views of the various battlefields


  1. Nice report, thanks, Alan! Was that a Japanese win then? Did it have the right RJW 'feel'? It does seem to from your captions: repeated bloody repulses, but Japanese numbers and determination carried the day in the end?


    Bloody Big BATTLES!

    1. Yes the Japanese did win. At Turn 4, the halfway point, the 3 Japanese players were very despondent about even getting onto the hill due to repeated failed assaults. Once they had twigged that they had to take out the Russian artillery before overwhelming the 5th ESR they all cheered up. :)

  2. Looks cracking! Glad you're pleased with the map - they're pretty handy, I have to say, and shine even more for the complex terrain that BBB often models.

    And set up/take down is a doddle ;)

    How was General Foch so bad?! I mean, unless he was comatose drunk there's no way you could ignore the key defensive position being so close to falling, surely...

  3. He was merely incompetent like a lot of the Russian high command. He believed that the Japanese would attempt a landing (very unlikely) somewhere along the peninsula so thought Nanshan wasn't worth defending. As a result of this Japan captured Dalny - a state of the art port built by the Russians - which was key in bringing in the siege train for Port Arthur. Fock then went onto to instrumental in the surrender of Port Arthur

    1. I know autocracies don't select officers for ability, but abandoning a crucial piece of defensive terrain, guarding a crucial logistics point, leaving a dagger pointed to your heart strikes me as exceptionally dim :D

  4. Hi there
    I have shared your blog post on 10mm Wargaming Facebook Page ( and 10mm Wargaming Facebook Group (

    Why not join the 10mm Wargaming Facebook Group and post more about your project.

    Take care


  5. Great AAR and very useful battlefield sketch. I must follow this up.