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The Tide at Sunrise: The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Logistics Trumps Tactics rss

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M Evan Brooks
United States
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I played the indomitable Russians while my opponent took the cause of the noble Japanese. Several house rules were adapted before the initiation of hostilities:

(a) Any ranged artillery fire cannot be utilized to trigger the heavy artillery; at least one ground unit must be involved in such a combat.
(b) Despite having the naval rules as well as several variations, we decided that the naval rules were too broken for utilization so we simply used the default table.
(c) Ranged artillery cannot pursue; heavy artillery cannot pursue.

The war began with an assault by the Japanese against the Russian forces on the Yalu. Although there were several losses incurred by the Russians, they managed to fall back in relatively good order. Their transport points were converted into six replacement points earmarked for Port Arthur, and four available for the Russian Yalu Army (now in retreat).

Although the Vladivostok and Port Arthur fleets attempted to sortie on several occasions, there was little of decisive import. At first, Japanese transport points were slightly degraded, but it did not really matter given the paucity of land combat. Several times, the Russian fleet was damaged and forced into port for two turns, but again, it was of little strategic consequence.

What did matter were the Japanese thrusts: the Port Arthur attack was slow to gather steam, but it did so inexorably and by turn five was able to begin battering the forts; the Japanese Yalu Army was attempting to build up its strength and batter through the mountains, but the three combat shifts for controlling the peaks was a dauting task.

While combat operations were being conducted, Colonel Akashi's espionage operations in St. Petersburg were meeting with scant success. However, given the lack of active combat operations, this resulted in no real consequences.

What did matter was that Port Arthur was in dire straits. After Nanshan fell to a major assault, I decided that Darian was not worth defending, and fell back to Port Arthur itself. But there was little that the Russian Army could do to delay the inevitable. Yes, there was one assault which generated a "2EX" at 4-1(thereby disrupting 15 Russian strength points and 30 Japanese strength points). But in the grand strategic picture, it would simply delay the fall of Port Arthur for two turns. What was critical were the combat operations in the mountains.

As the Japanese attempted to penetrate both Yangzhi and Motien Passes, the Russians seized the offensive and literally isolated the Japanese Army in the mountains. Two artillery units and an infantry brigade starved to death, while three full-strength Japanese divisions were disrupted, and unable to break out before they too had to surrender.

In one fell swoop, the Japanese maneuver Army had been destroyed! This was the decisive battle -- and one decided by logistics and not by offensive oiperations.

While the Japanese Army was able to rebuild its maneuver Army, its losses and the time delay proved fatal. Although the Japanese cavalry attempted a similar move against the Russian infantry, it was too little and too late.

Although Port Arthur had fallen, it was obvious that the Japanese were incapable of securing another 40-50 victory points before the end game. Hence, a Russian victory.

Lessons Learned:

(1) The Japanese MUST keep up the pressure in the mountains. Allowing the Russian Army to build a defensive line is a path to defeat. Transport/Replacement points must be used to keep the Russian forces off-balance.

(2) Port Arthur itself is an attractive nuisance. Althougn Darian and Port Arthur are worth 25 victory points, this is only 35% of the victory conditions. It is better to take Port Arthur with a two to three turn delay and use the extra forces to maneuver in the mountains and attempt a breakthrough towards Mukden.


(1) Any resemblance between the game and history is tenuus at best. Historically, the Japanese fired more artillery shells in a single day of combat operations at Mukden than they did in the totality of their last war. The game does not really begin to show the consequences of twentieth century warfare.

(2) The naval rules are less than satisfactory -- there are counters which are not used, there are rules which do not make sense.

Overall, the Japanese face a delicate balancing act. They must mount two disparate and mutually unsupported offensives. The Russian can carefully husband his forces and only pounce when the situation becomes favorable. The poor historical cooperation of Russian leadership is not reflected in the game, and this makes the Japanese offensive that much harder to succeed.

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