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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 27 February 2011

Russo-Japanese War

A new member at the club expressed an interest in playing 19th Century Principles of War today. This was a good opportunity to dust down my armies for the Russo-Japanese War 1904/05.

For those not familiar with this conflict it was the first major war of the 20th century. The main cause was the rival ambitions of Russia and Japan over Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, together with naval action in the seas around Korea and Japan. The Russians sought a warm water port on the Pacific as Vladivostok was only operational during the summer and Port Arthur would be operational all year. The surprise Japanese victory transformed the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage. The embarrassing string of Russian defeats undermined the Tsarist government, and proved a major cause of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

I first 'discovered' this conflict over 30 years ago when I was given a copy of The Tide at Sunrise by Denis and Peggy Warner. This is an excellent study of the war although a more recent study and probably easier to source is Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear by Richard Connaughton. There is also a useful Osprey essential histories. Of course the real inspiration is the marvellous TV series, Reilly Ace of Spies and the episodes that concentrate the siege of Port Arthur.

The starter for the Japanese army was the old Lancashire Games range that I first collected for the Boxer Rebellion. By modern standards these are not good figures. For the Russian's I had a good selection of Minifigs. I picked up the figures below at Salute  a few years ago. They came in 50 figure bags but I can't recall the company who made them. I haven't seen them since but I hope the molds are still around as the animation is superb for 15mm.

PoW is a good ruleset for this conflict. It correctly puts the Russian player in the difficult command position of controlling a sluggish force with poor fire discipline. I got away with it today, through a combination of a crowded table in terms of terrain and my opponents poor initiative dice. This led him into a piecemeal attack on my best units, without the opportunity to manoeuvre around me. An enjoyable game done and dusted in just over three hours.

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