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loki100
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Fall of Sevastopol

Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:33 pm

Fall of Sevastopol, 20 Sept 1853

Maron was convinced he was to die.

He knew he had inconvenienced the Russians. And even in his dungeon, he could hear the sounds of artillery and musketry coming closer. He had heard his guards talking about the British invasion. How the covering Russian army had been outflanked and forced to retreat north.

Still even yesterday, they had been sure that the fortress would hold out. But today, he had not heard from his captors … but he had heard the sounds of battle.

Image

And could only assume the efficient, and ruthless, Collegiate Assessor Makarin had left instructions for his execution in the unlikely chance of rescue.

Well it would be a pity to end his life in this cell but at least someone had tried to rescue him. As he settled back on the thin mattress he smiled as he imagined the lies and excuses that Victoria must have invented to justify this expedition. All experience pointed to one simple conclusion, a state that relied on naval power really should not invade Russia.

And yet, outside – no, clearly inside, the walls of Sevastopol was an Anglo-French army. Victoria was clearly determined to keep him as an ally and to find her lost sister. She must be planning to be here for some time. As he settled back, he reflected that it would have been enjoyable to watch her carve out a place in a different world.

He tried to rest but it was increasingly difficulty to ignore the sounds of combat and the shouting. As he started to pay attention he found, much to his surprise, that he did not recognise the language. Odd for a man fluent in Greek, Arabic, Turkish, English, Russian, French and German. So he would not even have the pleasure of a final conversation with his executor.

Well, what did he want to say in any case?

At this, the door to his cell was opened and a man wearing a British army cap put his head around the door before calling back to someone else

Ann an seo

'S e seo an duine?
” [1]

Image
(Officers of the HLI in the Crimea)

Well one mystery solved. As He stood up he was roughly dragged out into the corridor. Someone thrust a drawing against his face and nodded. The soldiers pushed him quickly back the way they had come. Other inmates started to bang on their cell doors but it seemed he was the only person who was going to be freed today.

[1] Gaelic for … “In here – Is this the man?” The 78 Highland Light Infantry was notorious in the pre-WW1 army for the rank and file not being able to speak English (or refusing to do so).

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Death in the Forest

Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:03 pm

Death in the Forest

The Anglo-French landings in the Crimea had caught the Russians off balance.

Tactically, the initial battles had shown that the enemy had a key advantage. The new rifled musket used by the British was accurate at longer ranges than the Russian musket.

The advantage was not absolute. Tests on captured guns quickly indicated the British rifle tended to fire too high and needed to be corrected when aiming. Something that could only be done by trained troops with a good line of sight and who maintained their discipline on the battlefield. At closer range, or in the hands of less well trained troops, the Russian musket remained superior [1].

Strategically the Russians had been outmanoeuvred. The Crimean army had originally been designed as a reserve to support the invasion of Turkey. A second reserve, in the Caucasus, had already been sent east when the Khan of Khiva took the opportunity to avenge himself for the Russian attacks the previous year. Even reinforced, the army east of the Caspian was struggling to defend its own territory – never mind launch an invasion of its own.

On the west of the Black Sea, the Russians had agreed to hand over Varna and Constanta to their Austrian allies. Not only did this defuse any remaining tensions between the two allies, it freed up a small force to contain the British and the French. But a single corps would make no difference when the British attacked again.

The main army in Anatolia was too far away. Marshal Vorontsov argued that it would take 3 months for the bulk of his army to reach the rail lines in Armenia – and to do so would be to abandon all their gains since the capture of Kars. Admiral Lazerev stressed he could not protect a large number of troop transports in the Black Sea. With the arrival of elements of the Royal Navy in the region his fleet was fully engaged. Kornilov's recent victory over the French, with a part of the fleet, reinforced the reputation of the Black Sea Fleet but also supported claims that the fleet could not safely protect the army.

Image

That left the Tsar with two choices. He could send troops from St Petersburg but that would leave the capital vulnerable to a fresh British landing. Or strip troops from Poland and hope the Prussians did not take advantage. Lacking any real choice, orders went to Marshal Paskevich to march south.

Image

However, even at the best estimate, reinforcements would not reach Perekop until mid-October.

Image

[2]

Of no interest to the Tsar and his advisers was the impact of a large army marching through south-eastern Poland. Those who lived there had long learnt to fear armies – and not to make distinctions based on uniform or purpose. At their best, they would take food and livestock to feed themselves and leave money. Well money was of no use if the Shettl had no food left to see itself over the winter. Worse all armies bred stragglers and deserters. These were as likely to take food, more likely to attack the population and not at all likely to leave payment.

So the villagers adopted a long practised response. Younger members of the community fled with the livestock into the surrounding woods and swamps. The young adults disappeared into the surrounding region to escape forced conscription. The hiding places had been used for centuries but were known only to the villagers – or so they thought.

In the midst of all this chaos the rumours of a stryzga persisted. So far it had been content to kill small animals and scare the unwary. But now … now that communal safety had broken down it was free to hunt.

And Olga discovered she liked to hunt. Her appearance was in her favour, slight, attractive with long brown hair she could easily pose as someone needing help. Even the most cautious did not readily fear a lost young woman.

And last night, for the first time in this body, she had killed. It had been, to use her favourite word, ... delicious. The young boy had been wary. Initially more out of deference and fear of punishment from the authorities than because of her. But when she had come close, it seemed he had realised he was in more immediate danger. Well the brief struggle had made the ending all the more sweet.

And now, sat across from her father, she wished for more. But perhaps not here, on these rural estates where the peasants were always so watchful. Better in a city. Maybe he could be persuaded it was time to return to Moscow?


[1] all true …

[2] At this stage I was really hoping that Sevastopol would hold out. And that Prussia would remain neutral.

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The Battle of Ankara

Wed Jun 28, 2017 9:42 pm

The Battle of Ankara – 9 October 1853

30 September 1853

Marshall Vorontsov stared unhappily at his friend's hat. He too had heard all the rumours of the dalliance with Lusine Ardzruni. In many ways Mikhail Nikolaevich's hat had come to represent Russian policy in the region. Many of his own officers had enthusiastically adopted an approach of building similar close links with both Armenian and Georgian families. The war had probably saved several of his more zealous officers from being killed in duels with irate husbands.

The hat clearly meant that Mikhail Nikolaevich had felt he had no choice but to leave Yerevan. That he had felt he also needed his most formal dress uniform could only mean he brought bad news.

Still before the serious conversation, the conventions of politeness had to be met. His friend had braved the British patrols in the Black Sea to join the army at Sinope. So the samovar had been lit, tea was being served, the best rooms in town were being made ready. And while all that happened they discussed the small gossip of the court, how the Tsarevich had returned, chastened, to St Petersburg after his experiences in Iraq. And then conversation moved onto the war. Mikhail Vorontsov noted how carefully the topic of the Anatolian campaign was avoided as they discussed the British invasion of the Crimea, the recent Turkish victories at Adrianople, even the disaster at Khiva.

Finally it seemed as if the formalities were over.

'My friend, we … and I do mean both you and me … need a victory. The Tsar wants your army between the British and St Petersburg not stuck here. If you want to retain your command you must deliver a victory.'.

At this he raised his hand

'No let me finish. I know what you want to say. That the Avni Pasha has contented himself with delaying your advance and fallen back every time you tried to bring him to battle. Well you must, somehow, convince him to fight … and, of course, win.

I' and here he waved his hand towards his hat 'am here to ensure you understand these orders come direct from the Tsar. I am also here to negotiate our terms with the Sultan when you occupy Istanbul. So I come with the clothes one must wear on such an occasion. You, my friend, have the task of delivering me and my finery to the Sultan's palace'.

That evening the Marshall and his senior commanders planned their next move. The main Ottoman army lay to the south, well dug in near the small town of Ankara. They had no doubt that the response to a new Russian advance would be as before -fierce rearguard actions and then to fall back rather than risk an open battle. A sensible strategy for the Ottomans but not one that would deliver the victory they were seeking.

In the end, a plan emerged. The narrow passes and steep sided Karabuk valley limited their options. The entire army would advance in column. Hopefully, the Ottomans would trust to the strength of their fortifications and not realise that the entire Russian army was moving along a single narrow road. Mikhail sighed – let the staff officers try to sort out the inevitable chaos as 115,000 men and over 500 cannons tried to negotiate the poor roads.

Image

8 October

Pavel Gorchakov dismounted behind the small stone farm. So far the operation had been more successful than any of them had expected. The army had made a rapid march – helped by the Ottomans not contesting the river crossings. So his corps were already probing the Ottoman lines and the rest of the army filling in behind him.

Still, caution was advised as several of his staff officers had been killed earlier that day as they observed the Turkish defences. So far the enemy seemed confident in their defensive lines. In the fading afternoon light his two corps were deploying for the next day. Hopefully, hidden from Turkish scouts, the artillery would then move into the redoubts being prepared by the engineers.

The plan was simple – if brutal. His corps would initially attack with only a portion of their strength. Hopefully the Ottomans would imagine their opponents had misjudged the situation and not pull back. At midday the main force would attack, this time backed by the artillery, but in echelons in the hope that the enemy again failed to realise that the entire army was present.

9 October

The initial Russian attack had been the predictable disaster. All along the line of Turkish trenches lay clusters of green greatcoats dotted on the light brown earth. For the moment, the firing had died down as both sides re-organised. Although some sectors of the battlefield were smothered in smoke, the sky remained a clear blue as if to mock the efforts of those below.

As the Russians re-organised, everyone knew the plan. The next attack was to be prosecuted in such a way that the Ottomans would not start to disengage till it was too late. Or, more simply, the regiments leading the attack would be on their own for some time.

Polkovnik [1] Ivan Reavsky checked the organisation of his regiment. For the first time as an adult he appreciated what his father must have gone through at Borodino [2]. To be told that you were expendable was a sobering moment. Briefly looking behind he realised that the second assault wave was still to form up. They really were on their own.

The Russian infantry moved from the limited shelter of low stone walls and hastily dug trenches to form up their assault columns. As soon as they deployed the Ottoman artillery opened fire cutting gaps in the ranks. At this, the longer ranged Russian artillery opened fire. With the advantage of prepared and raised firing positions they were able to silence some of the short ranged Ottoman batteries. Equally, the siege mortars found their range and blew gaps in the line of Turkish trenches.

At that, the Russian infantry moved forward. Here and there men fell as the Russian columns pushed forward without returning fire [3]. Finally they reached the high tide of the earlier assault and briefly halted. Raevsky checked his regiment was aligned to the formations on his flanks and ordered the first round of volley fire [4]. Smoke from the cannons, muskets and burning scrub all helped blot out the clear blue sky – and any view of the wider battle. To all intents he was on his own.

The orders to prepare to charge were being shouted. Initially in crisp military language but by the time they passed down the ranks the language became more profane. Drawing his sword, he watched the front ranks of his regiment advance towards the Turkish trenches.

As they closed, the ranks rapidly thinned as men fell. Still they had already advanced almost to the first trench line. Stopping again to fire, their officers tried to keep the ranks organised. Raevsky ordered the rest of the regiment forward even as the 'hurrah' of the first charge was heard. Marching into the din and smoke was like closing a door on his previous life.

The first attack failed but a second desperate charge allowed some companies to make gains into the Ottoman trenches. At this, any semblance that this was an organised battle broke down. Damning his commanders for leaving him so exposed, Ivan quickly organised a small group of men and managed to reach his advanced companies. All around was the chaos of battle, emptied ammunition cases, cast away muskets and the dead – there were plenty of those wearing both green and blue [5].

Around 100 Russians were now within the Ottoman trenches but the neighbouring regiments had been less successful. As a result, the Ottoman forces on their flanks were able to concentrate their fire on any further attempts to reinforce the advance guard. In fact, his own regiment seemed to be falling back.

Well, who wanted to live for ever? In fact, he rated his chances of living through the day as non-existent. Safety seemed to lie in holding their current position. Quickly the men started to push deeper into the trench lines till they were stopped by Ottoman counter-attacks. Both sides now fought solely with the bayonet, pike, sword, even the fist and rock. Slowly his numbers dwindled. In a brief lull he estimated they had 50 men left who could still fight.

Expecting to be overwhelmed by the next attack he fell back to the strongest position they could find. Boxes and obstacles were hastily improvised in an attempt to protect their flanks as they prepared for the end. In this sort of fighting neither side was taking prisoners. His men picked up fresh muskets, tried to find ammunition and lay down expecting to die.

But the feared attack never came. Suddenly his own private space was invaded. Fresh Russian troops reached the outer trench line and overwhelmed the exhausted Ottoman defenders. His men looked for orders but for the moment Ivan was prepared to let others do the fighting. Finally one of the staff officers from his division reached their position.

'Heh, svinoi don't you know there is a battle going on'.

Raevsky shrugged, and ordered his men to advance. But by now the Ottomans were in full retreat.

Image

The Russian pursuit had been limited due to a lack of cavalry and the unexpected stubborn resistance of the small garrison in Ankara. Still a week later they were marching west and this time the Ottomans again evaded combat but then retreated southwards hampered by the desertion of most of their militia and irregular formations. The road to Istanbul was open.

Image
December

Looking back at the first snows of winter that now dusted the hills behind them, Polkovnik Reavsky briefly relaxed. The leg wound he had suffered at Ankara had still not healed but at least he could ride. So the prospect of wintering in Istanbul was welcome. Rest, even warmth and being clean were on offer. But first he suspected there would be more fighting.

Image


[1] Colonel, usually in charge of a regiment

[2] In so far as the Russians had had a plan at Borodino – other than to defend and then fall back – it involved Raevsky's Corp holding the Grand Redoubt and exhausting the French attack. If all the French reserves were committed, then the Russian flanks would have advanced.

[3] the doctrine of 'bayonets over bullets' dominated in this era - generally the Russians tended to stick to Napoleonic era tactics on the grounds that it had allowed them to beat the best army in Europe so why change things now?

[4] by all accounts partly due to weapon design and partly due to training, Russian musket fire was very inaccurate. By way of compensation the musket was designed to deliver a very heavy bullet so if it hit its target it tended to be lethal or at least inflict a serious wound.

[5] Most regular Ottoman regiments wore blue uniforms

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War with Prussia?

Sun Jul 02, 2017 9:31 pm

Konigsberg, November 1853

Vladimir Makharin reflected on the change in his luck. In September he had been condemned to a cell in the Peter and Paul prison. Since, of course, there had been no charges he had no idea how much this was to satisfy the Austrians and how much it was a sign of real displeasure.

Well the blundering of the Russian embassy in Berlin had given him the chance he needed. The court was panicking at the prospect of a war with Prussia – so was prepared to adopt unorthodox solutions. The Russian delegation was equipped both to negotiate and to blackmail if that meant war could be averted.

Image
[1]

So he had been released and promoted - he did feel the new rank of Court Councillor was just reward for enduring several months in jail. And now he was unofficially part of the Russian delegation trying to defuse the situation.

Outside, the cold damp weather of the Baltic spread across the city. Anybody with business outside tried to conduct their affairs as quickly as possible and return inside. Not that many residences were much warmer. The damp seeped into the very fabric of the buildings. Even in the hotel taken by Russian delegation it felt colder than in St Petersburg. It seemed as if the temperature reflected the depression of the negotiators as the situation steadily escalated. The Prussian delegation was clear – they wanted an apology for the recent Polish incident. Most of the Russians agreed, but could not simply apologise – not least for something they felt had not been their fault.

However, in one room, the atmosphere was much warmer – aided by the glow of impending success. Vladimir turned to his colleague, Maria Bogdanova.

'Are we sure our Junker has taken the bait?'

'Yes, he is … to put it mildly … rather smitten. Our performance has fed his imagination as to what might happen if he were allowed to carry out his desires – rather than simply to imagine them'.

'And he has Polish lands?'

'Yes, if he can be blackmailed, he will have no choice but to confess it was all his fault'

'Good' – at his Vladimir stared at his companion – 'you are ready to serve the Tsar as needed? Remember your family will be released if we do all that is required of us'.

Sighing deeply, Maria nodded. Under her breath she muttered 'and you too … if we fail you go back to prison'. Outwardly she smiled. 'Of course, what is my virtue compared to the needs of Holy Mother Russia'.

'Ah, Maria, you really are a woman after my own heart'.

As they sat, they heard a knock on the door and one of the junior clerks entered. Nodding to them both he turned to Maria 'I have a telegram, addressed to you'. Handing it over he left the room.

Vladimir was offended that the communication had not been passed to him. Looking up at Maria he demanded 'and … what does our Junker say?'.

'Oh he has taken the bait. He wants to see us at eleven tonight'.

'Good, prepare yourself'.

'Prepare myself … oh no Vladimir … Moya dorogaya, moya lyubov [2], it is you who needs to prepare himself. Apparently I only need to attend the tryst to give it a veneer of respectability. It is you who has attracted the affections of our Junker.

And … as you know, the Tsar will commute your sentence if you deliver success in these … what do we call them … of yes, negotiations. Come let us go, we need to prepare you for your interview'.

Image
[3]

[1] Ok this was a real oh damn moment. I can't fight both Britain and Prussia and was pretty much prepared to do anything to defuse the crisis.

[2] roughly 'my dear, my love'

[3] Basically I played every card that would both defuse the crisis and preserve my prestige pot. Since this started with a high risk of war (the 71 against the first set of cards), I was rather pleased that I managed to reduce tensions all through the process – that I came out ahead on prestige was an unexpected bonus.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Jul 05, 2017 4:58 pm

Very nice use of the screenshots to support the battle narrative. I am quite eager to see what happens when your large army reaches the Crimea.

i also enjoy the historical details you explain in the footnotes. it helps make the report come alive, even more.

I can really understand your worry when the crisis arose with Prussia. I had a similar moment in my last French game, when all my forces were engaged with the Austrians and it looked like war with Prussia could easily break out. I also took as conciliatory an approach as I could, and was successful in avoiding war. Unlike you, I lost some prestige, but it was worth it.

I know I have thanked you several times for this fascinating AAR, but I must do so again.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:02 pm

vaalen wrote:Very nice use of the screenshots to support the battle narrative. I am quite eager to see what happens when your large army reaches the Crimea.

i also enjoy the historical details you explain in the footnotes. it helps make the report come alive, even more.

I can really understand your worry when the crisis arose with Prussia. I had a similar moment in my last French game, when all my forces were engaged with the Austrians and it looked like war with Prussia could easily break out. I also took as conciliatory an approach as I could, and was successful in avoiding war. Unlike you, I lost some prestige, but it was worth it.

I know I have thanked you several times for this fascinating AAR, but I must do so again.


Yes the crisis with Prussia had me in a complete panic. My only reserve is 2 corps at St Petersburg and the rest of the army is horribly out of position. it would have taken at least 6 months to be able to contest an offensive into Poland and Western Russia.

And thank you for the comments - there is always a horrible fear that one is writing to oneself, especially by over-elaborating rather than sticking to the game as played

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Sevastopol, December 1853

Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:05 pm

Sevastopol, December 1853

Image

'And this man', here Wellington pointed at Maron, 'is not to be allowed into these offices again'. Turning to his adjutant Major James Estcourt, Wellington reinforced his words with gestures. 'Remove him … I will hear no lectures about how to command an army in the field from someone with no military experience. If it had been left to me, he would still rot in the cells of this fortress'.

Maron stepped back and turned to Estcourt. 'Well will you escort me … or do I find my own way out'?

Wellington bellowed. 'Stop … I have not yet finished. If – and of this I have real doubts – you and your fellow spies do find out something about the Russians then report it to the Major. He can then discuss with the other staff officers if you have found something of value. For me, I will be happy if I never see your face again … at least till we are back in London'.

At this Colonel Flashman, Wellington's chief staff officer, dared to raise his voice.

'Sir, I think we should take what he says more seriously. Russia is not Spain'

Wellington turned from Maron.

'No it is not. I know how to campaign in winter and … believe me, these Russian generals are not Napoleon. Their armies are disorganised and we deal with each in turn. What is there to fear?'

Image

'Even Blakeney' … here Wellington waved the dispatch … 'can win – we have nothing to fear. Our orders are clear, defeat the Russians in this region, break the link to their armies in the Caucasus and in Spring we will be in Moscow.

Image

Need I say, we have been re-assured by the Sultan that the Russians march to their doom at Istanbul, even as we speak'.

At this, Maron felt he had to try one last time.

'Field Marshall, I ..'

Only to be silenced by Wellington's bellow.

'Out … get that man out of here. Now send orders that the cavalry are to cut the Russian rail line at Rostov. And order Raglan to capture the city. And remind the French they are meant to support our march on Kiev'

Image

[1] Ok this was pretty disastrous. As my armies arrived they were beaten in turn. So I've opted to pull back and reorganise. I also will cut off resupply by a naval blockade but at the moment the fleet is low on cohesion after some recent battles. But to quote a popular book and TV series 'winter is coming' and fortunately Wellington is not minded to sit on his current gains.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:18 am

Nice touch to have Flashman as chief of staff. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue of Wellington. It sounded just like him, based on what I have read, which I must admit includes a number of novels about a certain impossible to kill rifleman...

The dialogue was not only entertaining, it was a nice way to lay out Wellingtons plans. I suspect that Mother Russia will teach him a thing or two about the horrors of trying to keep an army supplied during a Russian winter. General Winter is the Russian equivalent of Napoleon.

I enjoy commenting on this AAR, and am happy to do it.

Regards,

Vaalen

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:41 pm

vaalen wrote:Nice touch to have Flashman as chief of staff. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue of Wellington. It sounded just like him, based on what I have read, which I must admit includes a number of novels about a certain impossible to kill rifleman...

The dialogue was not only entertaining, it was a nice way to lay out Wellingtons plans. I suspect that Mother Russia will teach him a thing or two about the horrors of trying to keep an army supplied during a Russian winter. General Winter is the Russian equivalent of Napoleon.

I enjoy commenting on this AAR, and am happy to do it.

Regards,

Vaalen


Aye, I was briefly stuck for a name and always enjoyed the Flashman novels as rather fun slices of almost history in this era.

I'm assuming that Wellington is even more bad tempered. He must be in his 80s and here he is campaigning in Russia. His optimism is the only way I can explain the AI's actions - that and the fact that I was deliberately making it march as I mostly tried to avoid combat.

Like the French in 1812, his army for the moment has the beating of the Russians. But are going to really struggle with Russia.

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Rostov, March 1854

Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:47 pm

Rostov, March 1854

Image
[1]

By 1850 Rostov had long since faded as a site of military importance [2]. As a result the old fortifications had fallen into decay. In their place had grown up a town based around its port. Marking the highest point that sea going vessels could reach on the Don it was a natural point where sea and river transport met. In addition, here the Don was both broad and slow flowing. In turn, that made the city a natural point for cross-river trade and the establishment of both state and private run ferries provided ready access to the steppes to the South.

The arrival of the Moscow-Baku rail in 1852 had changed the complexion of the town and its importance. The very first trains had stopped at Rostov and their cargos were shipped across the river. However, just before the outbreak of the Crimean War, the rail bridge over the Don was completed. Suddenly the town became of far more importance than it had had before.

British and French cavalry were able to destroy stretches of the rails north and south of the Don, but control of Rostov, and destroying the new bridge, would isolate the Russian armies in Anatolia and Khiva from Moscow. All of a sudden a militarily unimportant town became the centre of the war for a month in 1854.

Blakeney's army had hastily marched from the Dneipr bend and, yet again, caught the Russians off balance. After a brief skirmish Osten-Sacken was forced to fall back north towards Kharkov leaving the small garrison and the weakly defended town at the mercy of the British.

Image

With a force mostly made of reservists and a handful of regular battalions, the Russian commander abandoned most of the town. Drawing up his meagre force on the heights between the town and river, he determined to defend the bridge if he could.

[3]

As his men occupied the hastily constructed trench lines, they heard the sound of explosions from the docks. But neither that day nor the next did the British attack. Finally on 16 March, the Russians cautiously sent patrols back into the town. They found plenty of destruction but no British troops.

Later it became clear the British had fallen back due to the threat to their supply lines but for the moment the defense of Rostov was deemed a miracle. Church bells were rung in Moscow in acknowledgement that divine intervention had saved Russia.

[4]


[1] I really that is a horribly composed image but its the best I have. At the time I didn't realise the significance of the next phase so was concentrating on events to the West. What it does show is the British were low on supply even before they marched on Rostov.

[2] For some time in the eighteenth century it had been the frontier between Russian expansion and Ottoman control over the Crimea and surrounding region.

[3] The same place elements of the Red Army made a stand in 1942 to cover the retreat back towards Stalingrad.

[4] I have no idea why the AI pulled back. It besieged Rostov for 2 turns with a huge army and then marched away. The garrison was just the standard automatic garrison and a regular division. They already had supply problems before arriving (see map at the top) and I presume two turns sat in the snow taking additional hits left them out of supply.

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Perekop, March 1854

Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:37 am

Death in Kiev

Kiev was a city in chaos. Fresh Russians troops arrived every day, needing to be fed and sheltered as they prepared for the campaign in the Dneipr bend. To the east, British, French and Russian cavalry were active. Scouting, gathering supplies, clashing with each other in fierce skirmishes. Villages were burnt or their occupants forced into the snow as men of both armies sought shelter.

To the south, Russian and British armies clashed along the lower Dneipr. Ekaterinburg was rumoured to have been burnt to the ground. Perekop was the scene of fierce battles. The population fled north, and arrived in Kiev.

Image
[1]

Image

[2]

As the refugees poured in, rumours swirled that British troops had been seen a day's march away. In the bitter cold of winter, food and shelter was in short supply, prices soared and too many preyed on the weak and vulnerable. Murder and robbery became a common feature of life.

Pyotr and Olga were trapped in the city as the rail lines to Moscow had long been cut. In winter and with the threat of enemy cavalry (or Russian deserters) no one would hire them a carriage. And in any case, the Russian army had taken every horse. At least they had shelter, staying in Pyotr's cousin's house near the Dneipr.

For weeks, Olga had revelled in the chaos of the city. That she looked like a potential victim made it easy for her to prey. A robbery here, a family dead in their own house there, someone left in mortal terror after encountering her on the deserted wharves of the docks. But, caught up in her enjoyment, Olga became careless.

Slipping back into the rooms she shared with her father in the pre-dawn hours, she was surprised to find him awake and fully dressed.

'Olga Dmitryevna… where have you been?'

'Out, father, I was restless'

'But I have forbidden you to go out in the dark – especially on your own'

In the silence that followed, both stared at the other. Olga gave a barely perceptible shrug.

'I do not fear the dark'

'No … well maybe you should remember to fear your father?'

Olga stepped away from the door and to the centre of the room.

'Oh, my father was a terrible man … and you really do not want to meet my sister'

Pyotr blinked

'Why, what has happened to Katja?'

'Her … I do not know and I care even less'

'Olga …'

'Shsss father. Sit back, let me tell you a tale. Shall we start in 1835 when I killed your father – well he had failed and was living long past his time. No … you do not believe me. You still think in such narrow terms'.

'Olga … what are you saying?'

'Oh father, did you never think about who your mother was. That witch, who never seemed to age? Well I am your punishment for her sins. I killed your daughter 18 years ago. And … to be honest … am fed up with the confines of this life. I think I am ready for my freedom'.

When the servant came into the apartment to set the fires, she found Pyotr Bashutsky dead. There was no doubt he was dead, blood was spattered across the walls and his mutilated body lay on his bed. Of his daughter there was no sign. Pyotr's cousin went to the military commander of the garrison to ask for help in finding a young woman – clearly kidnapped from her own home. Wearily, they agreed, and the patrols were asked to look out for a young woman held against her will. No one had time to spare to look for a young woman who seemed to be in control of her own fate.

[1] The British army at Perekop is the formation retreating from Rostov – seems to have taken a lot of cohesion hits. Ekaterinburg has changed hands twice, and there is a British army actually occupying Zaporezhe.

Note my fleet off shore, trying to stop supplies arriving in Sevastopol.

[2] The first battle I won decisively. Pretty clear the British have taken a battering from the winter weather and can't replace their losses – so start to lose complete elements.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:15 pm

Good to see that General Winter is starting to win the war. One of the best parts of PON is how it really shows the vital importance of terrain, weather, and supply. I predict it will not be too long before the frozen, starved remnants of Wellingtons army load up their transports and beat a shameful retreat back to England.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:37 am

vaalen wrote:Good to see that General Winter is starting to win the war. One of the best parts of PON is how it really shows the vital importance of terrain, weather, and supply. I predict it will not be too long before the frozen, starved remnants of Wellingtons army load up their transports and beat a shameful retreat back to England.


Yes, I think that PoN has one of the best renditions of Clauswitz's argument about terrain in any game. To him this wasn't simply the geographical layout but how that interacted with supply, weather and human additions (roads/cities) to create a unique set of military challenges. He based a lot of this analysis on Napoleon in Russia to explain how raw military force is not enough to explain the outcome and that his model of strategy needs to take more into account than notional strength.

Actually there will be a very impressive (by the AI) naval evacuation - if anything I thought this was even more impressive than the original Crimean landings. Have about 3 somewhat unfinished updates as I've been away/busy and just sometimes writing up my ideas rather than in order. Expect to find a very unusual use of an ice-pool as a diplomatic aid ;) --- in a few posts

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Istanbul, March 1854

Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:52 am

Istanbul, March 1854

Marshall Vorontsov did not think of himself as a gambling man, but tonight he felt he could win, even at 'fool'[1] and even when Mikhail Nikolaevich was also playing. The decision to abandon his supply lines back to Armenia had been justified when Russian domination of the Black Sea meant the fleet was able to resupply his army.

Image

Then the gamble of crossing the narrow Northern Bosporus had paid off. First soldiers and sailors had scoured the coast for almost every seaworthy (and some that were not) craft. With this, he had managed to send across not just the 5th Korps but almost all his guns across on a stormy night. Quickly establishing a small perimeter Gorchakov's troops had had faced the threat of an Ottoman attack.

The Ottomans responded quickly to the Russian move but did not press their attack. Later reports suggested they had feared an Austrian attack at the same time and were unwilling to commit all their strength against the Russians. So, the rest of the Russian army had crossed over and slowly the Ottomans fell back towards the city. Tomorrow, would see if his luck held.

Given the problems they faced, the Ottoman positions were well chosen. Their right flank rested on a high hill overlooking the Bosporus. The left on an area of scrubby woodland that made large movements difficult. Their centre was protected by a narrow but steep sided stream. Their weakness was to be badly outnumbered [2]. Riza Pasha had deployed his troops with skill but had almost no reserves. The challenge was simple, if at any point the Russians broke his front then his entire army was at risk.

Well when you are lucky at cards, it is perhaps time to rely on your winning streak. Vorontsov decided to concentrate the Guards, 1st and 2nd Corps on the Ottoman flank resting on the Bosporus. 5th Corps was to attack all along the front to pin the defenders. Russian reconnaissance had suggested that the hill while high actually sloped relatively gently towards their lines. All the guns were emplaced so as to be able to hit the defenders at the top of the slope.

22 March 1854

Polkovnik Ivan Reavsky felt unlucky. For the second time his regiment was to attack not to deliver the decisive blow but to distract the enemy. At least the low clouds, mist and light rain all helped to mask the sounds of their preparations and gave them some protection from Ottoman artillery.

So far the day had not been as bad as he feared. The Armenian sharpshooter battalion sent to scout the ford had reported that the Ottoman forces were weak and had fallen back after the initial volleys. Placing his regiment into march formation they had managed to cross the river and deploy back into line on the other side with little delay. Two other regiments had followed across the river.

Well his luck seemed to have finally given out. Scouts suggested the small village of Aya Zaga, covering the defile where the road ran out of the valley, had been converted into a strong point by the Ottomans. The problem was that the sides were so steep that only one Russian regiment could attack at a time and it was impossible to try to outflank the defenders.

A quick attack had been beaten back but suggested the enemy was poorly trained [3] even if well entrenched and determined to hold their position. The lead battalion re-organised and prepared to attack again. The order to fix bayonets was passed down the line.

Attaching these cruel spikes of steel told everyone what was now expected. This was not a probe but an all out attempt to gain the wall that surrounded the sheep-fold overlooking the valley. Once there, the Russians could make their superior numbers tell.

Rushing up the hill it was obvious that the Ottoman fire was more ragged than earlier. Despite losses, most of the battalion reached the wall. In places they were able to shelter and prepare for the next attack. Elsewhere small groups of Russian and Turkish soldiers fought at close range across the broken wall. However, despite still holding the village and the heights, the Ottoman commander was handicapped by having no reserves and poorly trained troops. Every attempt to pull back in some order led to a collapse of cohesion as the Russians steadily reinforced their troops on the outer wall.

Standing by a destroyed chicken coop, with the dead birds littered around his feet, Reavsky watched his regiment deploy for the next attack. For his men, speed was the key to both victory and survival, but he was limping badly from his wounds at Ankara.

Looking at his sword, he realised it was less a weapon and more a walking stick. Giving orders for a final re-organisation he felt something nudging his foot as a clearly pregnant farm cat was rubbing itself against his leg. As he reached down to rub her ears he felt a musket ball pass over his head – maybe he had been wrong, maybe today he was going to be very lucky.

The rest of the battle for the village was brutal and short. Now the Russians had the advantage of both numbers and training and steadily drove back the Ottomans. By the edge of the village, most of the surviving militia turned and fled.

Fresh orders arrived from Gorchakov arrived to exploit the victory by turning east and driving towards the Bosporus. The main attack had failed but equally the bulk of the Ottoman force was now fully engaged, cutting their line of retreat would lead to their collapse and surrender. Reavsky's regiment was ordered to rest and to escort the few prisoners back to the rear while the other two pushed on.

Finally at 3pm, the regiment resumed its advance. By now Ottoman resistance was shattered and they were almost unopposed till they reached the suburb of Ortabayir. Reavsky stopped to catch his breath, in front was the narrow Bosporus to his right the still formidable walls of the city itself.

Image


Mikhail Vorontsov sat in the merchants house that had become his headquarters and reflected on his luck. His plan had failed as the recent rains slowed any attempt to storm the hill and it was clear the Ottomans had reinforced this sector. Quite simply, numbers and training had allowed his secondary assault to break the Ottoman front and to encircle their forces on the Bosporus.

The battle was followed by a short siege and by May the Russians had captured Istanbul. The only problem was that when Mikhail Nikolaevich went to meet the Sultan it was clear he had already fled to their temporary capital at Smyrna.

Image


[1] A traditional Russian card game that involves bluffing and misleading your opponent as to the nature of your hand

[2] As ever the battle report is slightly misleading as it shows the Ottoman garrison in Istanbul as well as the field army.

[3] Note from the battle report the Ottoman field army was all militia.

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Moscow, September 1854

Tue Jul 25, 2017 12:30 pm

Moscow, September 1854

Chiara stood quietly on the Peterburgsky station. If she had been less absorbed in her own thoughts she might have admired the Italianate design of the main area. As it was she remained unaware even of the church bells celebrating the fall of Smyrna and the Sultan's flight to the southern coast.

Shaking her head, as if in animated conversation, she picked up her small valise and made for her train.

Returning to Russia may have been mistake, coming back to Moscow definitely was. Ever since the events in Italy her relations with Katya had been strained. If having to deal with her grandmother as a cousin of her own age had not been a challenge [1] … well the poor girl had also lost her (unloved) fiance, her much loved father and her sister in the war.

If this was not bad enough her reception in Moscow had been frosty. Having lost her husband (and to her clear glee, her much hated mother in law), Ilya Vladimirova was in no mood to hear Italian spoken in her house. It had been made clear to Chiara that her stay would be brief.

Well she was keen to leave. Picking through the stories of Pyotr's death she strongly suspected that Olga had been the killer. The stories first from Lublin, then from Kiev, showed her handiwork. Her sister, while as brutal, had always been more circumspect.

And Boris? Well, again there was evidence of what might have happened.

If she was right, it was inevitable they would both now be found in St Petersburg. Whatever, they were after, they would seek the centre of power.

Taking her seat in the first class carriage, Chiara vowed to herself. Olga would die, and at her hands. As to the other, well she had no particular reason to harm him – as of now. But being in St Petersburg would allow her to keep an eye on his activities.

She was sure that finding work as a governess to a suitably well connected family would be easy. Her colleagues were not the only ones seeking a position of influence in the Russian state.

[1] It does seem like family relations are going to become complex as this moves on?

[2] Short update for plot purposes – as you can gather, the war in Turkey is going well. That in Khiva is a frustrating disaster, my second invasion of Iraq has just led to another desperate retreat. I'll deal with the British in the next post.

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Taganrog, October 1854

Fri Jul 28, 2017 11:56 am

Taganrog, October 1854

Image
[1]

Maron stood on a wooden wharf overlooking the small harbour. Beneath his feet, rowing boats arrived and columns of British soldiers embarked. To his front the wharehouses burnt filling the air with dark soot. Almost no stores and no guns could be taken so the British were destroying everything – and burning the town as they left.

To his right, an elderly, now frail, man approached the beach. A boat had been pulled out of the sea for him to enter. Maron reflected that neither he, nor Wellington, was going to enjoy their reception when they arrived in London. Nor, thinking about it, would the journey be comfortable for them.

Wellington had been warned not to take the offensive in the winter. He had been warned again not to split his army in the summer. He might have taken one of Kiev or Kharkov, trying to take both was impossible. As his army spread across the Ukraine, his ability to communicate collapsed.

The Russians had clearly remembered all the lessons of 1812. Cossacks harassed every supply column. Every staff officer sent with orders needed a full escort. Even then, most simply disappeared never to be seen again.

In a way this evacuation was possibly the best organised action by the British and French armies in the campaign.

Looking down again, Wellington's boat had been pushed into the sea. The last rearguards were falling back towards the harbour. Clearly time to leave unless he wanted to spend more time in the Tsar's prisons.

Not that his welcome in London would be much better. He had failed in his mission to find her sister. The best he could report was that all the evidence from Kiev was that she was still alive but had been long gone before the British briefly occupied the city. Some signs were hard to hide, and she had not even bothered to try. Worryingly, she seemed now to be killing for sport – as if there was no longer a wider purpose.

Somehow they had to reach her, before she went too far.

Looking back at the town one last time, he reflected that not all the British army was leaving today. The rearguard on the retreat from Kiev had been cut off and forced towards the Crimea. The shattered remnants of the army that had attacked Kharkov was to be abandoned.

He had few illusions as to the fate of either.

Image

Image

Postscript

Having re-organised the Russian armies in the Ukraine, Ivan Paskevich steadily overwhelmed what was left of the invasion force.

Of note, every time a British column surrendered, the Russians separated men from the Indian regiments from the rest of the prisoners. In so far as anyone paid attention they assumed it was to treat them more harshly. The reality was many were offered their freedom and safe passage. Russia wanted nothing from them – apart from to go back to their homes and tell how they had been abandoned and how well they had been treated by their enemies.

Victory in the Ukraine did not mean the end of Anglo-Russian rivalry.

[1] I have no better image for what happened. But basically Wellington and the main British army retreated to Taganrog where a British fleet arrived and picked them up – and then managed to evade my navy. The Russian army you can see at Rostov was ordered to attack Wellington's stack – which is why I think the move order looks like it is into the sea.

I was even more impressed by this than the original invasion of the Crimea.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:01 am

Terrific description of the war, both in prose and with the use of screenshots. Nice job of taking Constantinople.

I have found Paskievitch to be a very successful general. It looks like he is doing a good job for you as well.

I too am greatly impressed with the evacuation by the AI. The way it coordinated movement between the fleet and the main army is amazing.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:50 am

vaalen wrote:Terrific description of the war, both in prose and with the use of screenshots. Nice job of taking Constantinople.

I have found Paskievitch to be a very successful general. It looks like he is doing a good job for you as well.

I too am greatly impressed with the evacuation by the AI. The way it coordinated movement between the fleet and the main army is amazing.


Yes his attacking stats are awesome. He lost some battles early on when the British were dominant but when it came to finishing off their battered columns he certainly was very effective. The only problem was he tended to go inactive which slowed things down.

The evacuation was impressive.

And now we move onto the pre-peace gambits

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St Petersburg, December 1854

Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:52 am

St Petersburg, December 1854

Prince Dimitry Petrovich Chepyzhin stood waiting for his guest. To his left a brazier gave out a fierce heat even in the cold of a December day. To his right was a samovar, waiting to provide warm drinks for the swimmers. Behind him the ice had been cut in the Neva to provide a swimming area. And, now walking towards him was the new British ambassador, the Earl of Cowley [1], Henry Wellesley.

Good, the man was not as foolish as he liked to appear. The offer of serious discussions, not overheard by his Ottoman or French allies and not involving the Austrians had clearly made it worth his while to travel outside St Petersburg for the day.

Though, judging by the look on his face, he was having doubts about the wisdom of being here.

Good, unsettled, he might be more amenable to a quick conclusion to these discussions.

Dmitry extended his hand 'Henry … I am so pleased you have found the time to visit my humble retreat. Please come, stand by the heat. How is your Uncle [2] – has he recovered from his sea voyage … a pity he left so soon, I would have liked to have met him'.

At this, Wellesley bridled. 'So you could treat him as you have Viscount Hardinge, thrown in jail while we discuss peace terms.

'Jail, no, the Viscount has so much freedom compared to those of us burdened by the demands of our rank. After all in Siberia one can walk a long way and still reach nowhere.

But let us not start this discussion on such a hostile tone. … Have a vodka to prepare you'. At this, Dmitry signalled for a servant to pour two glasses from the frozen bottle. 'Or would you prefer Champagne … a drink I think for the evenings, vodka … like a true Russian drink … will warm you even in the cold'.

As the two men exchanged small talk, Wellesley kept on finding his attention drawn to the open water. It was clear that beneath his fur robes, the other man was naked.

'Ah, you are keen to enjoy another Russian pastime?'

'Well, no, I mean in England we do not swim in the winter'.

'Ah, maybe that is why you misjudged us in the recent war. Come have a swim, understand more about Russia'.

'I am … I have not come prepared for such a thing … I have no suitable clothes'

'There are no clothes needed for this', Dmitry let his robes fall apart on his chest, 'whatever you wore would make you more cold'

'But there are ladies present'

'Ah, she could teach you much. She has only lived in Russia for six months and she understands us, not just the language but our soul. I am lucky to have such a gifted person to teach my daughters'.

Chiara looked up and lowered the furs from her face. 'My Lord, the only reason I do not offer to accompany you is for reasons of propriety. If I understand, you are here for reasons of diplomacy, not pleasure? In any case I am only here for the children'.

Wellesley looked around confused. There were no children. But suddenly he slipped on the ice as Dimitry grabbed his arm.

'Come, swim, then we can drink tea and resolve this silly war'.

At that Dmitry dropped his robes and strode to the edge of the pool. Dropping in his hands, he drenched himself before stepping down the ice steps. 'Ah, today I fear it is almost too warm … but maybe that is best for your first proper swim?'



[1] He actually was one of the diplomats at the Treaty of Paris which ended the real Crimean War.

[2] Henry Wellesley was the nephew of the Duke of Wellington.

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Peace in Stockholm

Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:57 pm

Stockholm, February – May 1855

For three short months, Stockholm became the centre of the World. Here the European powers tried to recreate the settlement they had devised at Vienna 40 years before. But if the social and political revolts of 1847-50 had overturned the reactionary policies of Vienna, the wars of 1853-4 indicated the international settlement was also dead.

By 1850, reaction appeared to have triumphed in Britain, Germany, Hungary and Italy. By 1852 France was again an Empire not a Republic. But too many had briefly seen the chance of change – and if many them emigrated to the promised land of America, many others stayed, planned, plotted and organised. It would take time, but those revolts would return, sometimes under the banner of nationalism rather than liberalism.

For the first time in those 40 years, armies of the Great Powers had clashed. And now, they met to deal with the consequences. That they could fight each other was again an accepted part of the international order. The remaining questions were the age old ones of acceptable cause and plausible goals.

But for now, the intent was to impose peace, rather than worry about the future.

The representatives of Britain and France wanted peace with as few concessions as possible. The Austrians and Russians wanted some tangible gains for their victories. The Prussians stood sullenly to one side – forced by the other powers to end their wars with Sweden and the Netherlands and to attend. This was to be a European peace and they were expected to make peace. The Ottomans paced nervously on the edges. The clear losers of the recent wars they feared what their erstwhile allies would concede as much as what their recent foes would demand.

Stockholm may have become the centre of the World but it also remained a sleepy backwater. Only months before Prussian warships had shelled the outer harbour, now the Prussians had to compete with the other powers for accommodation – and found themselves sharing a wing of the Royal Palace with the Swedish King.

However, this was not the Vienna of 1814. Not only had too much happened but the business of diplomacy was now different. The telegraph meant that delegations could communicate with their governments with ease. Indeed, it was not till May that the heads of state arrived in Stockholm and by then a deal had been constructed.

Equally it was not just diplomats who could use the new telegraph. The recent wars had seen the creation of a new breed of journalist – the war correspondent who could send reports to their newspapers in the evenings only for them to be printed the following day [1]. In Stockholm it was even harder to restrict the press than it had been in Russia, Anatolia and the Balkans. More than one government found out about a change in its negotiating position from the press before its own delegation had had chance to send the official notifications.

Out of this came a deal that suited no-one. The Prussians were told to stop, and accept the pre-war borders. Threatened by the French, the Austrians and the Russians they had little choice but to back down. But ill-will remained, as did their desire to dominate first Central Europe and then?

Austria gained de-facto control over Sarajevo and Bosnia. The Serbs were partly pacified by gaining lands along the Danube. Russia demanded and gained the fortress of Kars – opening the doors to Anatolia. France gained little, apart from to re-assert their traditional rights over the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land. Britain felt humiliated, having to back down and agree to Russian gains in return for its soldiers being released.

The Ottomans were furious, and left defenceless.

The Austrians felt they had learned a lesson. They were not merely a power clinging to their current lands, the next time they were threatened they had the ability to extend their borders and destroy their foes. The Russians also learnt a lesson as they eyed the Ottomans – even without a war there was much of their weakly held Empire that could be torn off. Equally, even as Sevastopol was being rebuilt, fresh guns were added to the walls and garrison increased. Within a year, fresh ships were to be added to both the Baltic and the Black Sea fleets.

The British vowed revenge on the Russians. The Russians schemed to undermine the British.

Thus was peace made in May 1855.

[1] An excellent summary of the birth of modern war reporting during the Crimean War can be found in Philip Knightley's The First Casualty. That the chapter is called the 'Miserable Parent of a luckless Tribe' may give a clue as to how he handles what was to become a serious challenge between states and armies keen to keep their secrets and journalists on the hunt for a scoop – and possessing the means to communicate almost immediately with their newspapers.

[2] Probably obvious I've been scripting. All the direct gains seemed reasonable and within the war-scores. The Ottomans had one large army left and all of Iraq and the Levant is in revolt. I justified forcing the Prussians to peace by framing this as a new Congress of Vienna and no great power would be allowed to be at war – at least within continental Europe.

As most players have noted, with the addition of the WoN diplomatic code its pretty clear the long periods of peace that used to mark PoN are no longer happening.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:17 pm

I like how you have used scripting to resolve the serious issues PON still has with peace treaties, especially when multiple nations are involved. The peace terms you scripted fits perfectly with the outcome of the war and the political realities of your AAR.

It will be fascinating to see how relations between Russia and Great Britain proceed. If it were me, I would be interested in crushing Khiva and its southern neighbors, maybe taking at least part of Afghanistan so as to be on the border of British India by the time the Sepoy Mutiny breaks out... Be very interesting to have that war between Russia and Britain over that area that was a very possible outcome of "The Great Game".

As is obvious, I am really enjoying this AAR.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:18 pm

Agreed!

I too have enjoyed reading this AAR.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:26 pm

vaalen wrote:I like how you have used scripting to resolve the serious issues PON still has with peace treaties, especially when multiple nations are involved. The peace terms you scripted fits perfectly with the outcome of the war and the political realities of your AAR.

It will be fascinating to see how relations between Russia and Great Britain proceed. If it were me, I would be interested in crushing Khiva and its southern neighbors, maybe taking at least part of Afghanistan so as to be on the border of British India by the time the Sepoy Mutiny breaks out... Be very interesting to have that war between Russia and Britain over that area that was a very possible outcome of "The Great Game".

As is obvious, I am really enjoying this AAR.


I think you will always need to do some scripting as the game is based around a very historical transition. Its clear there was a plan for a complex set of options for the Treaty of Paris ranging from the historical destruction of Russian naval bases and fortifications in the Black Sea to something that reflected a Russian victory. As it is the official peace is a fairly bland affair with some long term relationship shifts.

In addition, a war like this with 2 powers at war with the same enemy but not in the same war causes problems. I think I now know how to help deal with this using the event system but there is an almost endless number of potential situations and it depends whether the powers entered the war due to treaty obligations or simple opportunism.

Ah Khiva. I am having a nightmare there - actually I have been there (back in 1999 and it is an austere isolated place). In game i am just ending 1860 and the damn war still goes on. New techs giving me better rifles and more cohesion have finally shifted the advantage to me but I am sure there will be a new revolt soon. So it seems a long way to Afghanistan.

But. I have a different route to challenge Perfidious Albion's sea connections with India, and to bring in some useful goods for Russia ... more on this later but a quick study of Manufacturning Italy might yield some clues ;)

Husaria wrote:Agreed!

I too have enjoyed reading this AAR.


thank you, glad its not too self-indulgent but I fancied trying something different to another 'how to'

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Death of a Tsar

Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:31 pm

Death of the Tsar

Image

The Almaz lurched alarmingly. Caught by an early summer storm in the dangerous waters off eastern Finland it carried a precious cargo.

So far the crew were not worried. It was built for this sea, trading off stability for manoeuvrability so it could cope with the shallow waters of the Baltic with its frequent rocky skerries and small islands [1].

Equally, like all the ships of the Baltic Fleet, the crew had seen plenty of action in the last two years. If the Baltic had not seen the major naval actions of the Black Sea, the fleet had engaged in constant running battles with British and French warships as it protected Russia's vulnerable northern flank.

Still despite the white nights of early summer, the sky was dark with storm clouds and waves were breaking over the stern. The captain ordered the ship to turn south back to the open sea rather than stay close to land. This movement, combined with an unexpected gust of wind, had thrown any loose object – including people – against the wooden walls.

The concern was not for the ship, or really for the crew, but the passengers. The Almaz was carrying both the Tsar and the Tsarevich back from Stockholm to St Petersburg. The captain had no intention of losing either.

But his task was not helped by the Tsarevich. Excited by the storm he insisted on staying on the deck. Sooner or later, a sailor, trying to keep the ship afloat, was going to commit an act of lèse-majesté – knocking into or shouting at the young nobleman who was in their way.

Turning to the Tsarevich, yet again the Captain suggested he would be more comfortable below decks. He could keep his father company, and, of course, hot food and drinks would be made available. As he went below, the Captain relaxed.

Alexander had been reluctant to return to a long standing frustrating argument. Should Russia have demanded more in the recent peace, did the recent victory support claims of Russia's differences or would it have been greater had Russia modernised, what to do about Khiva, could Russia abandon autocracy? These and much else had become a constant background to any discussion with this father.

Slowly the ship moved to rely on steam rather than sail as it turned south through the maze of small islands. As the last slipped away, the Captain ordered another turn, this time to the east.

Again, the ship responded dramatically, heeling over, as the remaining sails caught the wind. Again, loose items were thrown around but less dramatically than earlier.

But the consequences were much worse. Suddenly the Tsarevich burst back onto the deck. Shouting 'my father, my father, he has struck his head and is not breathing'.

By the time the Almaz reached St Petersburg, the sails were covered in black. What should have been a moment to celebrate the triumph of the recent war became a period of national mourning … and major changes [2].

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[1] Russian naval design varied between the Baltic and Black Sea fleets. The Baltic Fleet prioritised a fast, easy to turn ship that traded off both protection and stability. As more modern ships became available, most of the older ships were deployed to the Far East as the seas off Kamchatka and Alaska made similar demands.

[2] Nicholas I has had an odd reception in Russian history. The Soviets tended to portray him as an unthinking reactionary – how harshly depended on how the Decembrists were being treated. He lacked the allure of his brother due to a victory over Napoleon, or of the relative period of reform under Alexander II. In the west, he tends to be overlooked apart from for his role in the Crimean war at the end of his reign.

A more balanced approach is that he was scared of radical social change – the French Revolution and then the Decembrist revolt confirmed him in that view. But he was an exceptionally able administrator with a real interest in technological development. He used conscription to the army as a means to offer widespread technical education to those excluded from any access to civil or clerical schools. The problem was that with the 25 years of service, this meant it was the state that gained rather than civil society or the wider economy.

When Alexander reduced service to 8 years he created a new problem. A lot of relatively well educated people were returned to a society and economy that struggled to use their talents. Add on rising demands for political reform and this produced a ready cadre for the various opposition groups.

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Sana'a July 1855

Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:54 pm

Sana'a July 1855

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The noise he could cope with, but the heat was almost impossible to deal with. And no longer was he working as a spy, an enforcer of the Tsar's will, a master of the darker aspects of diplomacy. The new Tsar had decided that he, Vladimir Makharin, was to be a merchant. Even worse, an honest one. Perhaps even worse, if he made bad purchases, forgot to haggle hard enough, paid too much, well then he was doing what he was told.

If there was one source of compensation it was that Maria Bogdanova had been sent too. To provide him with the cover of being a normal family trader simply testing out the options in a new region. At the moment she was in Aden, making contacts with other European merchants. In truth spying on the British, seeking to understand what they wanted in this region.

And here he was, former saviour of the Empire, catcher of spies (the heat was tending to make his imagination run wild), now waiting for his translator before going out in the evening to discuss purchases. Best, for now, not to show any knowledge of Arabic. To be but another European trader out of his depth in a strange land.

But Alexander had not stripped him of his rank. Indeed he was promised a promotion. One day he would be governor of this region.

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[1] Another short update, partly for plot, partly to set out a diversion from our history. As hinted earlier, I found this region very profitable in Manufacturing Italy. Combination of coffee, opium, gems (over on the Gulf region) and the strategic ability to threaten British supply lines to India is hard to resist. So start with the merchants, then the trade posts (quite handy for sending regular deliveries to St Petersburg) and then try to colonise. Also fits with taking advantage of the weakness of the Ottomans.

I do have a longer update but its proving very unwilling to finish itself, but hopefully done by later in the week.

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A shocking proposal

Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:09 pm

'We cannot spend any more time on this project. It has failed by any standards. Not just that the planned alteration to the time line did not happen but we now have … what one .. three .. five of our own people actively interfering.

Whatever comes out of it, will have no scientific value.

So we have two choices. Terminate that world, freeze it as it is. Or .. seal it off and let whatever might happen … well let them play their games and make their changes … it is nothing to do with us'

Most of the committee sat in silence. Some seemed to earnestly check over their papers. Others looked at their neighbours, at the clock, at the weather reports. The latest storm was probably the worst in a decade and there was no clear end.

Finally someone cleared their throat. Someone who rarely spoke.

'There is a third option. This world is dying, our last attempt to escape to another planet has been destroyed by the storms. We are … if I can be so brutal in my speech … doomed. I agree this experiment has no longer any scientific value. But .. this world might have other values. Maybe we can exploit it to our own advantages?'

The shocked silence that followed was answer enough. To understand if their current plight could have been avoided was the central reason for almost all in the room. To exploit their ability to experiment to their own ends was not just unethical, it was a breach of all they believed in.

Hearing the stunned silence .. she continued.

'So, no, we will not save ourselves. Then I leave you to your deliberations'.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Maron was becoming fed up with being lectured. On his return to London, he had faced abuse for failing to find the elusive Olga, for failing to restrain Wellington. Well neither was his fault. And now here, having returned to his home, he was being lectured again.

They .. and 'they' seemed to be him and 'Victoria' had to do this and that. Or the plan would fail. Well maybe the plan might succeed if they were told what they were trying to achieve. On this point their leader became evasive. 'Science, science, push the world to develop faster' was all he would say. If so why not focus on Britain, France, Germany or America – countries with already developing scientific bases. Why Russia and why challenge Russia to either reform or respond to external pressures. On this, there was no clarity.

As he prepared to return, he felt rebellious. For a moment he could understand Gabriella's revolt. This world was now as much his as the old world. Why not live in it, enjoy it, exploit it to his own ends? He had friends there, and if they lectured him it was more as equals. Damn the 'plan', enjoy his life?

Maybe, but he still felt some loyalty to their leader. Give it time, he had options, he could always change his mind later.

For now, back to London, back to the deadly game being played between Britain and Russia. This alone was enough to excite and challenge him.

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Diplomacy in St Petersburg

Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:33 pm

St Petersburg, March 1856

Prince Dimitry Petrovich Chepyzhin sat on one of the elegant chairs set to the side of his grand office. In front of him were various papers detailing this or that tedious action of the Russian state. Few, if any, interested him. In fact, if he was to be honest he was bored. With a new Tsar, and Europe at peace, it seemed as if the world slumbered. The Tsar twitched as if in his sleep. Now to the east, now to the West, but if he had a focus it was the south.

Yet another revolt had broken out. This time it had little to do with the British at first but it was clear they were trying to send guns to the rebels. So at least today he had a task.

A task that he had embellished to his tastes. He drew the file marked 'Ирландия' [1] to him and waited for his visitor. His instructions covered what he was to say, but not how he was to introduce the matter.

Shortly afterwards his staff announced the arrival of Henry Wellesley, the Earl of Cowley.

Soon the Englishman entered the room.

Dmitry rose, 'Henry, as ever a delight to see you. Now we are nations at peace, it seems I do not see you so often. In fact, I almost wish for a crisis so I can learn from you about your country and its leaders. Still, affairs of state make such demands'.

Dmitry deliberately did not allow his visitor to reply or speak as he led him to a chair at his table. Sitting down he arranged his papers and sat back.

'Clerks make paper, and it seems our new Tsar wants to make more clerks. Soon every tree in Siberia will be in a file somewhere in St Petersburg if we are not careful. …

Still I am afraid I have not asked you here for social reasons. Henry, I'm afraid we know you are sending guns to the rebels in the Caucasus'.

For the first time Cowley made to speak

… No, no Henry don't deny what we know. It maybe your Queen has not told you? But in any case … it must stop.'

As Dmitry spoke, Cowley was looking down at the papers. Upside down was an additional challenge for someone just learning Russian but he recognised enough.

'Prince Chepyzhin … I must protest. You lecture me on supplying guns to rebels while you plan' at this he waved his hand at the report … 'to set Ireland aflame'.

Ah Henry, your Russian lessons go well. You enjoy the company of my children's governess … yes? So you can read our beautiful language in which we write such an awful plan?

Well here is a simple offer. No more guns to the Caucasus and this report … well it returns to the clerk who made such an error of judgement in even writing such words. Do you agree?

Cowley nodded.

'Good, leave that region to us, it is not a place for Englishmen. Now, vodka … or would you prefer whisky … we have just received a fresh consignment'.

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edit: this bit got missed:

When his visitor finally left, Dmitry drew another file from the papers. This one was identical apart from the title: Индия [3].


[1] Cyrillic for Ireland

[2] Ok that ended that annoying Caucasus revolt, wanted a reason for why it just collapsed when I finally attacked.

[3] Cyrillic for India

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Playng cards with a nation's fate

Sat Sep 02, 2017 12:16 pm

Playing cards with a nation's fate – April 1856

Outside the window the typical spring rains created a screen that prevented any view of the world. Alexander had drawn back the curtains when he entered his study – a pointless gesture given the dark and the rain, but one he hoped might bring inspiration.

Or an end to frustration.

Being Tsar did not bring much personal freedom. His days were scripted, information was presented by his advisers. And now, again, the possibility of war with Prussia dominated all discussion in St Petersburg. And it seemed, his advisers did not want to hear his opinions, his role – apparently – was to agree to theirs [1].

Well this evening had been more informative than perhaps they had planned for him. The fascinating young women who had danced with him had given him an idea – more than an idea, a means to act.

Sitting at the desk he unwrapped the pack of tarot cards she had given him. Apparently this would allow him to understand the correct response to the crisis now facing Russia. Well using them would be no worse than reading another lengthy set of proposals from Dimitry Petrovich as to how Russia might build a wider alliance. Or from the army pointing out the limits of the railways in hampering any deployment to Poland.

He drew a sheet of paper towards him and prepared to write his instructions to his advisors. Let them now who really ruled Russia [2] .

Turning over the first card … Justice:

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The Empress:

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The Emperor -

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At this Alexander started to relax, suddenly he could see a solution to the crisis that had evaded all his advisors. Sometimes one just needed to ask the right person and so …. he selected the next card:

The Tower

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And carried on writing his instructions even as he selected the next card.

Well no time to pause now ...

Death

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The Magician:

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He finished writing and called for an aide. 'Take this to Prince Chepyzhin immediately, this is what we will do with the Prussians.

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[3]

As news arrived the next day that the Prussians had backed down, Alexander basked in his new authority. He, and he alone, had led Russia through this tricky period. Something his advisors would do well to remember.

As he relaxed, he remembered the young woman. Olga … he must invite her to a private meeting soon.


[1] This was Wilhelm II's regular complaint at the outbreak of the Great War when he read in the non-German press that the Kaiser had ordered such and such a thing to happen.

[2] All this is pretty much made up …

[3] So a fairly risky set of plans, designed to yield prestige at the risk of a war.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:22 pm

just to say this is not dead - just I have had no telephone/internet connection for the last 8 days and it won't be repaired till some time next week.

I really really hate British Telecom

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Kazan, September 1856

Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:09 pm

Kazan, September 1856
Katja shivered. Not just from the cold wind flowing across the steel grey Volga. Though she had reason to be cold. By late September, the chills of Siberia were already felt in this eastern town.

No, some of it was her own mind. This town had long been a place of exile [1] and she was not alone in wondering if the new Tsar understood this. A railway to the empty lands of Siberia would ease the process of going into exile and it would also demand labour that did not exist among the current population of Siberia. Her father had passed this way into exile, her mother often complained at being exiled from her native Siberia to an alien Moscow.

And Katja herself? Born in Siberia, brought up in Moscow, she always felt herself as both belonging in both worlds and exiled from both of them. At least her younger brothers saw Moscow as their home. They never seemed to have any feeling of not belonging.

Shaking her head, she forced herself to listen to the speeches.

The Tsar's older brother had seen the railway as a tool of military power. The recent war with the British and the Ottomans had proved the wisdom of this. But this one, had a different vision. The rails would knit together his vast lands. Already he was replacing the hastily laid tracks from his brother's reign.

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And now they were here to see the railway leave Russia on the way to … where? Siberia, the Pacific Ocean?

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[2]

So she had reasons enough to shiver. Cold, and the ghosts of the past, those who left their old lives on this riverbank. But she also felt she was being watched.

Most of the crowd were the nobility from Moscow, brought here to provide the Tsar with an audience, but some had also come from St Petersburg. Katja glanced at that section of the crowd but saw no-one she recognised.

At last, the interminable speeches were over. Glancing up at the station clock she was surprised to see it showed 4 in the afternoon, even though they were all now walking away in the gathering dusk [3]. Finally she turned the corner to the narrow street that housed the rough pension she was staying with her mother.

At this, she halted as a shape detached itself from a doorway in front of her.

'Katja, we …'

'No, go away I never want to see you again'

'Please, you are at risk, listen …'

'No, is this more of your lies, more of your plots and games .., leave me alone'

Suddenly Chiara stood back as if to go away, and then threw her weight at Katja. As the two young women stumbled into the mud, a knife stuck into the wooden frame just where Katja had stood.

'I tried to warn you … your 'sister' is trying to remove all traces of her past'.

Gazing up at the knife, Katja shuddered.

'Will I never be safe in my own world, now you are here?'

'Yes, … but first Olga must die'.


[1] The Volga had for a long time been the border between the nascent Russian state and the Mongol/Tartar Khanates. Thus Kazan was a place of exile in itself and then became the place where those sent to Siberia traditionally left 'Muscovy'.

[2] I'll reach the Pacific some time in 1862

[3] All stations and times on the Trans-Siberian rail link have always been set to Moscow time

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