Thursday, 18 August 2016

3rd October - Fall of Port Arthur

No matter how much you rub your chin, we won't win this...
The siege is all but over!  After sucessfully storming the New Town, General Nogi has recieved the surrender of the garrison now commanded by General Maximov.  The defenders have lain down their arms.  The bloody siege is done, and Port Arthur is in the hands of the victorious Japanese Imperial Army.

We fought a 2mm game to determine how long the Russians could hold on for - not long, as it turned out.  After three turns the defences collapsed and most of the defenders fell back towards the town.  However, with a cunning but risky flank march, the Japanese managed to seize the town with a bloodless coup de main.  We then fought a quick 28mm Trench Raiders game to decide what happened to the dramatis personae when the Russian HQ was overrun!

The deployment, facing north.  The Russians elected to try and hold the trenches and remaining two machine gun nests, with nothing garissoning the town.  The Japanese send one regiment off on a risky flank march, but it pays off and they manage to set up just a few hundred yards from the objective.  This battle is a mere formality - the Russians are completely starving and barely capable of fighting by this stage.
Despite this, the Japanese take a fair number of casualties on the first turn, mainly from the machine guns.  But not enough to check the advance.  A detached battalion makes a half-hearted attempt to retake the town, but...
The position soon collapses.  Limited to a morale level of Shaken at the highest, the Russians fall back in disorder and prove impossible to rally.  We stopped the game at this point, but then switched to a 28mm Trench Board to see what happened when the three Russian players' HQ at An Tzu-Shan was overrun!
The Guards Brigade's commanders.  In this mini-game, we must hold off the Japs for as long as possible then escape after a certain number of turns.  Anyone left on the board when the game ends is captured!  (Those who escape will still have to surrender shortly afterwards, of course, but just for bragging rights...)
The Russians (bottom right side) and Japanese (top left) as the latter approaches the last bastion of Russian resistance.
Colonel Hartman personally directing Maxim fire, which was devastatingly effective.

In the end, only General Maximov managed to escape.  Colonel Voronov fought off a Japanese soldier with his revolver then cut another down with his trusty sabre before being beaten to the floor and captured.  In a mad display of insane courage, Hartman leapt from the trench, shot down two assailaints with his automatic pistol, before braining another with its butt and finally surrendering.  Not only did he fail to make it off the board, but he actually finished inside the Japanese deployment area!
There we have it!  An inevitible, inexorable end which was foreseen from the beginning - but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless!  My thanks to all the participants, in particular Paul for his engagement and enthusiasm, and Mike for his dutiful field command of the Japanese forces.

Ollie and KB were magnificent colonels, really engaged in the whole campaign despite very busy lives for all of us.

This campaign didn't quite pan out how it was originally intended, mainly on the admin side, but I think it worked out well in the end.  Three months of very enjoyable manoeuvre, countermanoeuvre and battle.  We still of course have the final chapter to wargame as an epilogue, which is the fate of the few Russian ships that managed to escape the harbour.

Looks like I have to surrender again...

Final Request 

I hope everyone has enjoyed the campaign, I certainly did.  We still have the epilogue to fight, but I think that's an appropriate point to call a final Japanese victory.  I am now working on creating the book version of the campaign, so can I request that we each make a post on this blog detailing your perspective on the campaign (out of character), feel free to introduce yourselves properly since I know the Russian and Japanese commanders have been incommunicado.  Perhaps you could gloat over your respective victories / reverses, ask questions about why the other side took certain decisions, and give any feedback you may have.

If Paul doesn't mind, I will also be sharing the very extensive, beautifully written, in-character War Diary he created for both the land and naval aspects of this campaign.


  1. What a Stirling campaign! thanks to all involved in particular Ed for admin and Paul for being a fantastic opponent. To introduce myself formally I'm Ollie (Col. Hartman). This campaign was an interesting challenge as its a fresh period that I was keen to get stuck into. Personally from my point of view I was worried my lack of knowledge on the naval side of things would handicap the Russians and was much more confident on dry land!

    The campaign from Hartmann's eyes:

    As a general strategy for the campaign was an offensive one. The Japanese were closing in and simply holding ground would have allowed them to assault on their own terms (i.e. Lots of mines and heavy arty!) so the plan was to be active as early on as possible and create as much chaos as possible. On the initial siege plans I noticed a gap in the Japanese lines (Shu-Shihung Gap) and my plan to to break through to the rear and through the siege back a week or two. In the end my plan to see my pioneers burning Japanese supply wagons and spiking artillery appeared to be a little optimistic. Still I was happy with the outcome of the battle and managed to cause some casualties before pulling back.

    Battle of the Tiger Peninsular was a big turning point for us. I think we got too focused on destroying the block ships which was our objective but at the cost of the Retvizan was a huge set back.

    The Battle for 203 was an interesting one and similar to Tiger Peninsular was a tactical victory but a strategic failure. I threw my pioneers into the flank of the Jap advance but at the cost nearly my whole battalion, but they men performed well in the thick of battle and (somehow) Hartmann survived! The finial fall of Port Arthur seemed inevitable but wanted to go down fighting. In hindsight (a wonderful thing) we deployed too far forward and would have been better off diffing in to the town. Still, with the combination of the 28mm trench raiders it was an appropriately climatic battle. Hartmann wasn't going to go quietly!

    All in all its been a very fun campaign and a new challenge. The distance gaming was new as well but I thought worked really well. Thank you everyone one again for the time and effort in pulling this off

    1. I didn't want to try and rewrite the game while it was being run, but if we did this again the naval aspect would definitely be my main change. Just like in real life the Russians had far more to lose from a defeat than they could ever hope to win from a victory. That pointed to a defensive strategy, and the possibility of using naval artillery to support the land engagements meant that a breakout was never really seriously considered. It relegated the naval aspect to a bit of a side show, which was a shame, but I hope we can redress this with a little 'early Tsushima' game to follow uo.

      I was quite judicial and aloof with the tactics - I didn't think it would be fair for me to weigh in since I knew something of your plans Paul - but I think the Russians certainly decided early on that our best hope was to await more frontal assaults. We never quite managed it, but towards the end the Russians had almost the same numbers as the Japanese!

      We knew it would be a defeat in the end, though - and we were a little disappointed that we couldn't hold on as long as Stoessel did in real life.

      Stoessel! He was a huge problem - there is a 'personality' roll for each character, which you fail on a '1' and results in some unforeseen personality clash. Stoessel failed this THREE times, hence the massive confusion that arose with some of the Japanese peace overtures. The garrison effectively split in two, the 'holdout' faction and the 'surrender' faction, and Stoessel pretty much went to bed after Hill 203 with a little bit of a mental breakdown. Unforeseen and unplanned, yes - but a great challenge to deal with.