A friend wanted to play a big game over
a weekend. I didn't have the time or energy to find a real battle, but
I still wanted to make it as historical as I could.
I decided that as I did not have enough troops suitable as Poles, and
didn't want to fight an assault on a fortified position, that the
North-Western Theatre provided the best opportunity for a game
involving lots of troops on a small frontage.
The town of Bolshoi Pustomerzha
is just east of Kingisepp, which is the first major town east of Narva
on the main railway line towards St Petersburg. It was therefore on the
main axis of the North-West Army as it attacked the Reds, and seemed a
realistic spot where large forces might have met. It also has quite
interesting terrain, which seemed to promise a good battle.
I laid the table (6' by 10'; 1.8m by 3m) using a Soviet 1:100,000 map
for the basic details. I did compress it a bit (perhaps 10%) to ensure
attackers were faced with surrounding pockets of forest.
The river is marked as small but with 2m steep banks. We therefore
agreed that troops in it could either hide completely, or use it as an
impromptu trench line, and that other troops could fire across the
valley over their heads. Cavalry had to dismount to cross, and it was
impassable to vehicles and artillery.
The railway line crosses the river just north of the town, and seems to
be slightly embanked on the eastern side. That suggests that the stream
there, so some of the land was made swampy. (There was also some swamp
marked on the map for the western edge of the table.)
The whole area is extremely flat, and the "hills" are no more than
gentle rises. I placed some smaller hill pieces in the middle of the
table basically at random: since the original map only has 10m gradient
markings and so small rises do not get marked. In any case, being a
was generally possible to see from one side of the table to the other,
with only a small "shadow" behind houses and the high crop fields I
The result was extremely difficult to photograph as the table takes up
almost the entire room, but I have tried to show how it was below by
pasting together two shots.
The town of Bolshoi Pustomerzha is in the centre: it is shown on the
1960 map as taking up the entire strip from the rail bridge to the road
bridge, but I assumed that 1919 village was smaller, and I broke it
two sections. To the north (top) is the edge of Old Pustomerzha; to the
east (right) the edge of Torma; and the road leading south-east heads
to Imenits, just off the bottom of the table.
I decided the Whites would have a division and rolled on my "Iudenich"
army list for four regiments. I got two
veteran, one officer/conscript and one complete conscript. (I decided
that I would use my Guard figures for the veterans and invented a
"Reformed Guards" Division to put them in.) The Guard brigade had one
regiment of 3-base battalions and one of 4-base, both with 2 MG bases.
Conscript regiments of the division again were split with 3-base and
battalions, but only one MG base each. In a display of completely
useless high rolling I
managed a field battery in
support of each regiment, so slightly over half of my force's 800
points was spent on 8 artillery bases.
The lack of cavalry and the huge amount of artillery forced me to adopt
a defensive strategy, but at least I had plenty of places to hide.
Having done that I thought the attacker would need some 1,000 or so
points to be competitive. To ensure that I didn't know what he would
get, nor where he
would be coming from, I wrote up the scenario as follows:
Yesterday the White
Guards" Division drove the Red 101st Rifle Division out of Pustomerzha,
east towards Torma, seizing the rail bridge over the river. A hasty
counter-attack ended up badly for the Reds, who ended up losing a
brigade – largely due to the White artillery support, which
the armoured train supporting the attack. The attempt did however
manage to partially destroy the rail bridge and a Soviet raiding party
to destroy a large section of the line further west, which hampers the
Whites from bringing forward their resupply, tanks and armoured trains.
You have been sent from
tasked with retaking the rail bridge – which effectively
Pustomerzha. You have to do this today, before the damage to the rail
line can be fixed and the enemy tanks arrive.
If you cannot take the
then burning it down would be good, because at least it will deny it to
rail bridge, if engineer support is available, is an option.
You have the remaining
of the 101st Rifle Division. It is in bad shape after yesterday's
fiasco. The neighbouring divisions have been ordered to supply you with
support, but they cannot be relied on. HQ will patch together something
as well, hopefully some veterans with heavy weapon support.
The enemy has a
some 12-16 smallish battalions. You know they have plentiful artillery
and that some of them are veteran.
You have a brigade of
Conscripts" (9 units of 4 bases
each, plus 3 MG bases, one field gun and 4 bases of regimental cavalry)
being the remnants of the 101st RD.
To this you should add
further regiments from the "Red Infantry" list,
being "shock" on a Western front, but ignoring table 2
many figures in the game that regiments of mixed morale class was an
You should also make two
on the following table to represent Army
assets sent to assist:
company of 4 veteran bases
The 101st is in the
Torma area, but the
additional regiments appear according to their source, either
neighbouring regiments or rushed up the rail line from the rear:
of 2 heavy howitzers
(2 mortars if re-rolled)
regiment of 3 x 4 bases
– 1, 2, 3, 4 from the Old
(north); 5,6 from Torma area (east)
– 1, 2 from Imenits (south); 4 from
Pustomerzha;, 5, 6 from Torma area
– 1, 2 from Imenits; 3, 4, 5, 6
from Torma area
Cavalry enter from the
eastern half of the table
Heavy support enter
along the roads from Old Pustomerzha, Imenits or
I considered giving the Whites a smaller army but allowing them
reinforcements to arrive by road or rail. I decided against it because
it would just have added unnecessary complication and been difficult to
work out the correct balance.
If we had had limited time then White reinforcements would have been an
ideal way of ensuring that the Reds attacked with total determination.
The arrival after a certain number of moves of tanks or an armoured
train could also be a useful way of signalling the end of the game if
Pustomerzha has not yet fallen.
My opponent rolled quite well
and got a sailor regiment and three of regulars: all but one of
which were 5-base battalions, the other being 4-bases each. His
artillery and MG support was minimal
however. He had one further unit of cavalry but drew a "Mob" officer to
lead them, so they weren't as useful as they should have been. His
heavy support was two howitzers – and an armoured car which I
with my first shot of the game, so he might as well not have even
I laid out my defence in a semi-circle, all of it hidden from sight
until it fired, moved or was spotted. There were batteries with
supporting infantry in each of the forest areas west of the village;
there was a battery behind each end of the village on the inside
corners; and the bulk of the infantry were in the village or hiding in
crops between the village and the artillery in the forests. A few rifle
units were pressed forward to the eastern bank to slow down the enemy
The Soviets attacked concentrically
he pretty much had
to really since
coming on that way thanks to the dice rolls he made. Unfortunately for
me his largest force was from the
south and my defence to the north was considerably stronger.
The actual game went too many moves to describe (perhaps 24 or so) but
basically his sailors were eventually able to assault the village. I
failed to stand and it was all over very quickly after that. My
inability to get reinforcements from the northern end of the village to
the southern was a large part of my problem, as he had MGs which
recoiled my troops whenever they tried. A few cavalry units would have
extremely useful as a "fire brigade", but sadly I had rolled only for
He had been trying to work his way in behind the village from both
sides even as he
assaulted it frontally: I held off
the northern attack fairly easily, but it was pretty tight to the
south. Fortunately my artillery advantage came to the rescue there, and
a couple of units routed just as he was about to press home. That meant
that my line of retreat was not cut off and my retiring (and, far too
often, routing) units were therefore able to withdraw to the west
without actually being cut off and forced to surrender. A solid victory
to the Reds.
The big assault on the
southern end of the town: the White units have
white coloured officer chits, and there clearly aren't enough of them!
I felt the scenario worked
pretty well for the amount of troops involved, though I think the
attacker was a bit too strong for a "balanced" game (not that either of
us cared if it was balanced). Although the benefits of hidden
deployment and defending in cover were important the position is not
particularly strong – it has two natural "corners", which I
normally try to avoid forming in my games, as they allow the opposition
concentrate fire and manoeuvre behind the flank.
Of course it wasn't quick: this took most of a weekend to sort out,
what with several hours setting up
and packing afterwards. Generally I don't like to
play Red Actions!
so many figures, but Warren lives a long way away and was keen to get
in as much action as possible. (We had played three shorter games in
his previous weekend visit.) He found the rules intuitive and easy to
As usual a defensive stance in the RCW just wasn't very effective, and
normally I would be trying to counter-attack rather than standing in
fixed positions. I felt tied to my strategy by my scarcity of decent
sized infantry units and total
absence of cavalry. But that's one reason why I like random lists
oblige you to fight with what is at hand, not just your favourite army
Another reason for the use of random lists (plus random entry points)
is that I wanted to be left in the dark about my opponent's
army composition until I saw it
attacking, despite having written the scenario (it helps that most Reds
all look the same, so that apart
from the sailors, I had no idea of the morale classes I was facing).
We limited artillery consumption to eight rounds (you can see the chits
beside the guns in the picture above). It's not necessary if you are
games, but once the number of rounds exceeds about 12 there needs to be
some limit on the amount of firing.
The northern end of the
town: the Red troops advancing are Conscripts,
and making heavy weather of it. Out of the picture to the left (north)
was another regiment, which had entered from Old Pustomerzha.