Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Battle of Dioran, July 1913, Second Balkan War - a BBB AAR

As we have been enjoying Bloody Big Battles of late, this week we carried on exploiting this rich vein and decided to have a go with a scenario from the recently publish Bloody Big Balkan Battles by Konstantinos Travlos & Chris Pringle. We chose the Battle of Dioran as it fits perfectly on a 4' x 4' table, has relatively few stands and last 7 Turns.

Greek OOB
X Division
10th Infantry Regt
3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th Evzone Regts
1 x Artillery unit

III Division
6th & 12th Infantry Regt
1 x Artillery unit

Bulgarian OOB
3rd Bde, 3rd Division
41st & 42nd Infantry Regt
1 x Artillery unit 

2nd Bde, 6th Bdinska Division
15th Lomski Regt
35th Vranchiski Regt
3rd Ban Battalions
1 x Artillery unit

Broadly speaking the Bulgarians had better artillery with the Greeks better Infantry. 
Dave had chosen to play the Greeks, so I as the Bulgarian player deployed first.

An overview of the table, with the Bulgarians deployed along the heights, forward of the objectives of Dioran (the village to the right of Turn 1 card) and of Doldzeli (just in shot middle right edge of the photo).

The Greek right flank consisting of the X Division out of sight of the Bulgarians due to the hilly nature of the terrain. In the distance can be seen the Greek III Division.

Another view from the Greek X Division perspective, hopefully showing the hills and valleys of the terrain.

Turn 1
Due to the terrain and some low die rolls, the Greeks struggles to move forward, with the 10th Infantry Regt and the 6th Infantry Regts failing to move at all. With limited targets and being dug-in in rifle pits, only the Bulgarian 3rd Divisonal artillery fired upon their Greek III divisional artillery, destroying it. So first blood to the Bulgarians and a suprise to both of us.

The end of Turn 1.

The Greek right flank struggles with the terrain, steep sided hills and the stream. They are however still out of sight of the Bulgarians.

The remnants of the Greek artillery.

The Bulgarians can scarcely believe their lucky start to the game.

Turn 2
The Greek left flank, scared by the loss of the supporting artillery, failed to move or barely moved 3", again due to poor command rolls and the difficult terrain. The Greek right flank fared little better, with the 3rd Evzones no move, the 4th & 5th 3" only, whilst the 10th Infantry Regt managed a half move.

In response the Bulgarian artillery shot at the Greek 12th Infantry Regt, disrupting it and causing it to lose a base, with the 6th Infantry Regt also disrupted. With no other targets, the Bulgarians stayed in their rifle pits.

The end of Turn 2.

The slow advance of the Greek right flank continues, but they are still out of sight of the Bulgarian troops.

The Bulgarian right flank in the form of the 6th Bdinska Division looks on as the Greek III Division takes losses from artillery fire.

Turn 3
Once again patchy movement for the Greeks, with only half of their left flank able to move, with a similar story on the right. The Bulgarians disrupt the 5th Evzones, but Greek fire then disrupts the Bulgarian 41st Infantry Regt. In the Bulgarian turn they are only able to add some more disruption markers to the Greek infantry, but this can be enough given the difficult terrain being fought over to cause problems for the Greeks.

The end of Turn 3.

The Greek right flank finally crests the rise and starts to attack the Bulgarians.

The Bulgarian right flank still causing problems for the Greek left flank,

A view from the Bulgarian right flank towards the Greek attack on their left.

Turn 4
The Greek left flank continues to suffer, as a bad command roll on the disrupted table led to the 6th Infantry Regt retreating one full move (12"). Bereft of support, the Greek 12th Infantry Regt simply dropped into the valley out of sight of the Bulgarian troops and artillery.

On the Greek right flank, the 5th Evzones moved into assault the Bulgarian 41st infantry Regt. Somehow they survived the assault, becoming Disrupted & Spent, only to roll low in their phase, having to make a full retreat and lose a base!!! At the sametime the Greek 10th Infantry Regt managed to destroy the artillery unit for the Bulgarian left flank.

With things hotting up, the Bulgarian 35th Vranchanski Regt moved forward to attack the Greek 12th Infantry Regt, destroying it with rifle fire. The 15th Lomski Regt also moved forward with the aim to move into a position to help protect the Bulgarian left flank, as the Bulgarian 42nd Infantry Regt was disrupted by Greek defensive fire.

The Greeks manage to destroy the Bulgarian left flank artillery.

The end of Turn 4.

The Greeks suddenly surge forward.

The Bulgarian position is under threat.

The Bulgarian 35th Vrachanski Regt with no targets after destroying the Greek 12th Infantry Regt. The Greek 6th Infantry Regt can be seen in the distance on the road.

Turn 5
The Greek right flank being the only combat effective area managed mainly half moves, but this was enough to bring a huge amount of fire onto the Bulgarian 42nd Regt. anything but a Double 1 would see them in trouble and, you guessed it, Dave rolled a Double 1! Somehow they managed to survive, but became disrupted and spent. There was little action in the Bulgarian Turn due to failed command rolls and lack of targets.

The end of Turn 5.

The Greeks continue to try and press forward, despite the difficult terrain.

The Bulgarian troops have retreated into Dioran to support the weak 3rd Ban Battalions.

Turn 6
With the Greek 6th Infantry Regt effectively out of the fight, all the action was once again on the right flank. As the 5th Evzones assaulted Dioran, the remaining Greek troops finally rolled high, destroying the Bulgarian 42nd Infantry Regt, but at the cost of going low on ammo. The quality of the 5th Evzones showed as they destroyed the Bulgarian 3rd Ban Battalions and then exploited forward, pushing back the remnants of the 41st Infantry Regt. So now the Greeks had one of the two objectives in their control.

In the Bulgarian turn, the 41st Infantry Regt managed to rally and retreated towards the second objective, whilst the 35th Vrachanski Regt moved into a valley out of sight of the Greeks.

The end of Turn 6.

The battle has broken up but the Greeks are in Dioran.

A view from the Greek right flank.

End of Game
With both sides spread out and with around 50% losses in troops, the battle was effectively over, as the Greeks would be unable to reach the second objective in the final Turn. So the game ended in a bloody and hard fought draw.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was an interesting and very different game from our previous ones using Bloody Big Battles. It took us a Turn or two to get used to the massively increased ranges of the guns, given that we had played a Napoleonic battle only the week before, but we quickly got to grips with the changes and really enjoyed the challenge. So as usual some thoughts in no particular order:
  • In a reply to last weeks game, Chris Pringle mentioned " make sure you don't fight the last war." Very sage advice and post game Dave admitted that he did just that as he advanced his III Division in full view of the Bulgarian troops, only to be decimated by their fire.
  • The longer ranges of both the artillery and the rifles did come as a bit of a surprise, along with their increased firepower. In previous games it has been very hard to amass enough firepower to do any significant damage. In this game Dave was able to quite easily get onto the 20 and 25 columns with devastating effect. Seeing 3 bases disappear on one go is quite a shock believe you me.
  • Artillery. As with all periods, positioning artillery at the start can win or lose a game. Certainly in this period counter battery fire to silence the enemy guns almost becomes paramount due to the potentially destructive nature of it. We saw this in the first Turn as the loss of the Greek III Division artillery made it hard for them to advance without supporting artillery fire.
  • Concentration of force really makes a difference in this scenario as we saw towards the end. Post game we agreed that Dave would have been better moving his III Division closer to the X Division, this making it harder for the Bulgarians as they would have had to leave their rifle pits to face this combined force.
  • The nature of the Terrain which was classed as difficult throughout made it hard for the Greeks to get moving early on. If they had had some better command rolls early on, then the outcome of the game might have been markedly different.
  • The quality of the Greek Evzone troops really showed when they were able to get into the assault. Tought troops to face, especially given the poor quality of the Bulgarian troops.
  • The Bulgarian artillery was effective which helped offset the the Evzones above.

So an interesting and challenging scenario from a campaign that neither of us had gamed or heard of before. I certainly recommend getting the scenario book and giving the battles a go, as they certainly give a very different game from the norm, which is always good. We will certainly try out more of the scenarios at a future date, but our next game is likely to be in the Crimea. The exact details are yet to be sorted but it looks to be fun. So until next time...


  1. a really nice sized scenario with 4' x 4' and still plenty of space for units to move around:-)

    1. Certainly an unusual scenrio Norm in that it all fitted comfortable onto a 4' x 4' table. Again due to the small forces, there felt plenty of room to manouevre, although you do need to use the valleys to approach out of sight of the enemy guns.

  2. Amused to see my 'sage advice' ignored and the price dully paid! If you're going back in time to the Crimea next, beware of the opposite problem. I've done it myself, 'fighting the next war': after a series of Franco-Prussian War games, we fought a Sikh Wars battle. I found I was deploying my guns too far back to be effective, forgetting they were no longer Krupp breechloaders; and not giving cavalry enough respect, as they no longer died instantly in front of infantry ...


    Bloody Big BATTLES!

    1. To be fair to Dave I doubt he saw your 'sage advice'! Next game looks likely to be from the FPW rather than the Crimea, but will still need to mentally reset ranges etc after this weeks game.

  3. Thank you forcplaying my scenarios.

    1. You're welcome Konstantinos and thanks for all the effort in producing a great book.

  4. This scenario provides interesting tactical puzzles for both but especially for the Greeks. Advancing against an entrenched opponent holding interior lines and powerful artillery on two distinct avenues of approach is a tough task. With small forces engaged and the Greeks beginning separated to begin, a lot is left to chance, I think. Having the Greeks tardy on one flank and losing artillery support on the other did not help the situation.

    I would enjoy seeing a replay of this one.

    Good job!

    1. Thanks Jonathan and it would be a good scenario to replay. I think I would deploy my Bulgarians slightly further back, to trade sapce for time and also to allow for both flanks to support each other better.

  5. Would you believe that in the original draft I did not give the Greeks, Paraskevopoulos? Made it impossible fir the Greeks.

    1. Blimey, it was hard enough to get moving with him!

  6. Looks good Steve.
    An interesting conflict to game.

    1. Thanks Stu and certainly a very different conflict from the norm. Always good to give oneself a new challenge and all that:)