Friday, 12 December 2014

The Battle of Bugaroff

I have friends... honest! And they like to play wargames. But we only get together once or twice a month which limits the number of games we play. It also seems that when we do meet, the game played is invariably Flames of War, although I've got a few games of SAGA in this year as well.
So with my latest little project, the Crimean War in 15mm, I have to go solo. This isn't as sad as it sounds. Gaming solo can be every bit as enjoyable as a face to face game, and only the cat looks at you funny when you make booming cannon sounds. And despite acting for both sides, so long as you have a good scenario and systems, games can be as tense and rewarding as playing against a real opponent.

So yesterday, to celebrate finally finishing the school year (ignoring the quick trip I had to make in today to tidy up some issues) I came home and played a game with what I have painted so far - 4 battalions of infantry a side.

The game is set during the siege of Sevastopol, on the allied cordon facing north to deter any attacks by a Russian relieving force. It is really just a large scale raid by the Russians, but with the aim of driving the British off the ridges that dominate the crossing at the river Bugaroff. The river itself is fictional, of course, but modelled on the Tchernaya.

The British have piquets from the 9th Norfolk and 63rd Suffolk regiments overlooking the Bugaroff river. On the next ridge south the rest of the 9th are in bivouac. Further south, over the hill is the brigade camp containing the Coldstream guards, Gordon Highlanders and the rest of the Suffolk regiment commanded by that redoubtable veteran of the Peninsular War, Sir Hew Fotheringay-Buttpimple. Crossing the bridge are four battalions belonging to the St Petersburg and Brest Litovsk regiments. It is foggy and although these regiments are running to time, the second brigade and artillery support has not yet arrived. General Aleksandr Verdlunchko, a thrusting, dynamic and utterly mad commander has decided to begin the attack anyway.

The Russian objective is to clear the first ridge-line and establish themselves on the road running through the saddle on the hills where the Norfolks are bivouacking by the end of the game. The British objective is to prevent the Russians from gaining a foothold on those same hills.

The Russian battalions cross the Bugaroff.
The British piquets guard the road from behind cover on the ridges
A bird's eye view of the battlefield with the location of the figures and the various objectives.
The view from the ridge line as the Russians come into view.
Battle is joined. The St Petersburg regiment deploys and moves to drive in the piquets.
The Russians find the terrain slow going and the British exact a hefty toll while their enemies toil up the steep ridges
As the piquets are driven off the ridge the Brest Litovsk regiment marches along the road
As the St Petersburg regiments continue their frustrating chase of the piquets, the Brest Litovsk deploys into attack column.
The Norfolks have been alerted to the attack and are deploying on the ridge, about to be faced by the Brest Litovsk regiment.
Sir Hew is aware of the attack now, and leads his column out of the camp to the rescue of the Norfolks.
The Norfolks unleash a devastating volley. 3 shots, three hits, three kills!
Depleted but undaunted, the Brest Litovsk regiment climbs the ridge in the face of the inferno of British rifle fire.
Another devastating volley as the Russians charge in! Although reduced to two elements, they started their charge with three and are thus able to get to grips.
The Russians are only human, and they are repulsed by the thin red line.
The British reinforcements arrive and begin to deploy.
But the Russians only know one way, and that is forward.
The piquets fall back and join the Suffolks, bringing them up to strength. The Norfolks finish off the Russians in front of them.
The Brest Litovsk regiment charges into the newly formed Suffolks and forces them to retreat, staggered! Sir Hew is caught up in the rout! He rolls a 1 - he's out of action! He rolls another 1 - it is a glorious death for the old chap! 
The Russians are on the ridge. But with their low strength what can they do? The Norfolks have turned to pour volley fire into the flank of the Brest Litovsk regiment, and the Gordons have deployed to knock out the remainder of the St Petersburg battalion.
The remaining Russians pour fire into the Suffolks. They rout!
Watch them run! It is our moment of victory tovarich!
It is a short lived triumph. The Norfolks charge the flank of the Brest Litovsk regiment, leaving only the depleted men of the St Petersburg regiment left on the hill. 
The Russians are heavily outnumbered and cut off. It is the end for them.
Although the Russians lost their brigade, the game was a draw. The British couldn't keep the Russians off the hill, and the Russians never got to the gap.
The game took two hours and was played using my amended version of Neil Thomas' 19th Century Wargaming rules. 
I was really impressed with the way that the piquets were able to hold the Russians up with the use of the terrain and by falling back just outside of charge distance. At the start of the game I read the wrong column, and so their fire was more effective than it should have been (they were hitting on a 3+ rather than a 4+), but this didn't take away from from some excellent rolling.
The Russians tried to stop and fire a couple of times, but this was not particularly effective. In hindsight, they should have simply pressed on as fast as they could pushing the piquets back to the ridge.
The Russians were right up against it in this scenario, and could have done with another two battalions or so. They were lucky that the Brits rolled poorly for communication so that it took the maximum three turns to activate the Norfolks and then another three turns before Sir Hew and the British camp woke up.
The highlight of the game was the death of Sir Hew (sorry Ms Fotheringay-Buttpimple). It was at one of the most dramatic moments in the game, and had the Russians had another unit to exploit the collapse of the Suffolks, it may have been a decisive turning point.
In terms of historiocity, the Russian desire to get to grips with the enemy and the effectiveness of the British fire all seemed to square pretty nicely with what actually happened in the Crimean War. I've got another Russian battalion and some skirmishers on the painting tray, so I'm looking forward to getting them into the fray for next time.



  1. Lovely stuff, a gripping read! I've been known to play solo now and again. A strong scenario with lots of random elements is a good foundation. Great to see the Crimean War project progressing nicely :-)

    1. Thanks Paul. I actually really enjoy playing solo. If I do get bored with a game or tired, I need to go away, it is really easy to come back to. Having said this, I played this one straight through because it was a lot of fun.

  2. Solo is also a great way to try out and learn new rules too. Had a giggle from the moment I read Battle of Bugaroff......... Clever write up thanks.

    1. Thanks Chris. glad you enjoyed it. I did find a few glitches in the rules which I can now iron out without my opponent feeling cheated!

  3. Great photos and report Nate!

  4. NIce report, beautiful pictures!

    1. Merci Phil. Not as pretty as your Franco-Prussian War game, but then I need to paint a few more units I think!

  5. Nate, have you noticed that when you make those explosion sounds the cat will give that "what ARE you doing" look that is far more damning than any look a human can give!

    Great Crimean story, for a great period. I have just started my first Russian regiment (in 28mm).

    1. Thanks Mark. As for that look, well let's just say that the level of disdain for humans that appears in his eyes is no greater than usual.
      I look forward to seeing your Crimean project advance.