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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Ouzo and the Crescent! Bizani 1913

My frivolous blog title belies a serious historical game that was seriously good fun, one of the best gaming sessions I've had in a long time. Our topic for the evening was the battle of Bizani, aka 3rd Yanya, a Greco-Ottoman clash close to what is now Albania, near the end of the First Balkan War. In honour of the occasion, we all had a shot of ouzo before the game. I suspect that contributed to this most convivial affair.

The flag on the north edge indicates the gateway to, er, Albania ...
the ouzo on the south announces the Greek army's approach.
The Bizani forts dominate the centre. 
 Ottoman positions in the foreground will face a major Greek flank attack from the west.

Not that it boded well at first. Both sides felt discouraged by the challenges they faced. The Greek players said OMG, we have to assault really well dug in Turks armed with Mausers and machineguns, and we only have 6 turns to take the objectives. Meanwhile the Ottomans were likewise thinking OMG, we're heavily outnumbered, our troops are rubbish, and that Greek preparatory bombardment will pummel us.

Actually, when both sides find themselves so daunted by the challenge, it is often a good sign that it will be a good testing game, and so it proved. Initially, and inevitably, it was the Greeks who suffered most. Advancing across the open mountainsides into the teeth of the Turkish fire, they took heavy casualties, several brigades rapidly becoming spent.

However, they had planned carefully at the start, and as they executed their bold double-left-hook plan, their situation improved. Notwithstanding a constant barrage of Turkish banter (in a strong Scots accent), they began to chew up Ottoman units and capture Ottoman entrenchments. As the Ottomans were so few, each unit lost diminished their fire significantly, and the Turkish commanders were running out of troops and options.

Meanwhile, though, the Greeks were running out of time. At one stage it looked as though they would not even get close to most of their objectives. However, some glorious bayonet charges and impetuous exploitations carried them over the last couple of mountaintops and into some key locations, routed the whole of the Turkish right wing, and gave the Greeks a sniff of victory on the last turn. The Greek Metsovo Brigade defied grievous casualties to lunge for Kastritsa. A hail of Turkish fire rained down on them from the Driskos and Bizani forts. A Turkish firing roll of 5 or less on 2D6 would see the Greeks snatch a remarkable victory - and the Turks rolled 6.

A draw, then! And it couldn't have been much closer. This was a really great evening. We embarked on the game thinking it would be a grim and attritional affair, and everyone was feeling a bit dour. But as it developed, the excitement mounted palpably. As the two sides traded blows, there were murderous volleys and dramatic charges, some units advancing boldly and others stalling, fortunes shifting, hearts leaping, faces dropping, repartee flying ... and then to have it all come down to the last couple of dice was the icing on the proverbial baked confectionery item.

Bizani was our third Greco-Turkish battle, following the Sarantaporo and Yiannitsa games. These will be part of Konstantinos Travlos's forthcoming 15-scenario "Bloody Big Balkan Battles!" campaign book covering both the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Konstantinos has done fantastic research, and so far these are proving to be fantastic games. Start painting your armies now!

Draft versions of all the BBBB scenarios are in the BBB Yahoo group files.