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"Battle of Slivnitsa (Serbo-Bulgarian War, 1885)" Topic

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ChrisBBB18 Nov 2014 5:53 a.m. PST

It will not have escaped the attention of this group's erudite members that this week is the 129th anniversary of the battle of Slivnitsa. I hope you will forgive me using that flimsy pretext to write a few words about it.

Ah, the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885. This brief conflict is the setting for George Bernard Shaw's jolly amusing play, "Arms and the Man". Fine work of literature though the play is, don't rely on it as a source for the battle of Slivnitsa, as the cavalry charges and machineguns GBS refers to were notable by their absence.

A synopsis may be in order for TMP-ers who don't know the battle. Prince Milan of Serbia starts a war because he is jealous of Bulgaria's unification with Eastern Roumelia. 30,000 Serbs invade Bulgaria and head for Sofia. Heavily outnumbered Bulgarians fight delaying actions on the frontier, while the main body of the Bulgarian army travels as fast as it can from the Turkish frontier to Slivnitsa. Over the course of 3 days' fighting, the balance shifts in favour of the Bulgars, who eventually counterattack and defeat the Serbs.

This already sounds promising as a scenario. To make it more than just a frontal clash, there are secondary axes on each flank, separated by mountainous terrain. The Serbs are trying to turn the Bulgarian left via Breznik, but are also worried about Bulgarian threats to their communications on the other flank.

Historically the Serbs should have been able to overwhelm the few defenders they faced early on, but they were hampered partly by difficult terrain, more so by the indecision of their commanders, especially Prince Milan. For my BBB scenario I therefore rated their whole army Passive and gave them no generals, which seems to reproduce their poor performance pretty well. On the Bulgarian side, I considered providing a detailed, precisely historical, turn-by-turn reinforcement schedule, but since they themselves had little idea who would be arriving or when, decided on a semi-random approach instead.

For victory conditions, a standard hold-the-line formula of "best of 10 objectives" fitted the bill. Putting one objective on each secondary axis spices it up nicely. The forces on these flanks are small and unpredictable, so neither side can necessarily rely on taking or holding either flank, and both must make tough decisions about how many troops to commit there as opposed to in the centre. The game has a clear ebb-and-flow to it, as the Serbs are trying to seize enough objectives and inflict enough casualties to prevent the Bulgarian reinforcements from turning the tide.

This was therefore a real tabletop teaser. Dave painted up a load of Serbs and Bulgarians specially, to add to the Serbs I've had for 30+ years. All have served their countries well!

My scenario map is here:

SBW1 Serbo-Bulgarian War 1885 Slivnitsa map by bbbchrisp, on Flickr

Gallant Serbs on parade – check out the handpainted flags:

Serbian army 1876 / 1885 by bbbchrisp, on Flickr

The full scenario is in the newly published "Bloody Big European Battles!" companion book for BBB.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

KTravlos18 Nov 2014 6:07 a.m. PST

Thanks Chris. I got Altar of Freedom on pdf, and now I am axing to check your stuff but will have to wait until I can get it.

You called this war "The Fratricidal War" in the BBB yahoo forum. Where did this term originate?

Also what figure sources would you suggest for 6mm and 10mm

ChrisBBB18 Nov 2014 6:18 a.m. PST

Hi Kostas (if I may),

I think I got "The Fratricidal War" from this very nice book by Alexander Vachkov:

It is a kind of Bulgarian Osprey book on the war. It's in Bulgarian, of course, but has English abstracts. Some very good maps, and lots of lovely uniform pics.

As it was bitterly cold, I would recommend figures in greatcoats, any you can find with approximately the right headgear. Irregular Miniatures figures give the right effect in 6mm. I'm not familiar with 10mm ranges, sorry.


KTravlos18 Nov 2014 6:25 a.m. PST

Feel free to call me as you wish Chris. Thanks for the info.

vtsaogames18 Nov 2014 7:25 a.m. PST

When will the BBB rules be available?

I have Franco-Prussian troops that haven't seen the table in a while. And ACW troops too.

KTravlos18 Nov 2014 9:53 a.m. PST

For ACW vtsaogames you might want to check out Altar of Freedom. For FPW definitely BBB.

ChrisBBB18 Nov 2014 12:38 p.m. PST

Available now (unless they've sold out their first batch – apparently SkirmishCampaigns are having to reprint already) from Brigade Games or On Military Matters in the US, or from Caliver Books or (imminently) Irregular Miniatures in UK.


vtsaogames18 Nov 2014 3:50 p.m. PST

Somehow the arrival of these rules got past me, and I've been awaiting them. I'm going away for a vacation and will order them when I get back – otherwise the rules may sit in my mailbox and keep other stuff form fitting. Hmm.

vtsaogames18 Nov 2014 3:52 p.m. PST

KTravlos, my crew has played several Altar of Freedom games. We must not be playing right, because very few units get wiped out. Takes the zip out of the game.

KTravlos18 Nov 2014 10:23 p.m. PST

Well vtsaogames remember that your unit is a brigade. Now I am not a specialist in military history, let alone ACW, but wiping out whole brigades is very rare. Also remember a broken brigade might as well not exist. I.E until rallied it is wiped out.

From my reading of the rules, the real way to wipe out units is to take out HQs (denying them there rally point), or butcher the generals.

In many ways maybe that attritional warfare at the Brigade level is very correct.But it could be boring I agree. Have only read the rules and have not tried them to say. But I have liked what I read.

Now that BBB is available in merry old england, I can probably order it when I get paid (the pound and the lira are not good friends) so i need chok para to get it.

ChrisBBB19 Nov 2014 4:49 a.m. PST

In BBB, wiping out whole brigades or even divisions is very common. Obviously that doesn't mean 10,000 casualties, it just means that they cease to be effective fighting formations. You'd be amazed how many French garde mobile it takes to assist one lightly wounded comrade to the rear …

Anyway the point is that while BBB is appropriately attritional, it is suitably rapid for the scale of the game, with gaps appearing in the line, flanks collapsing etc, the situation changing every turn, meaning new decisions for the players every turn, and reaching a decisive result in a sensible time.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

vtsaogames19 Nov 2014 9:55 a.m. PST

wiping out whole brigades is very rare

The way to break an enemy force in the game is by knocking out brigades. If you don't knock out any, there's no decision. Or at the least, the defenders cannot be broken, maybe just forced back a ways. When we played Shiloh there was no real pressure on the Union. I lost two brigades, one by gross error. But there was never a real chance of the Confederates getting to Pittsburgh landing. Sound like the real battle to you?

And getting to the HQ when the front lines are going back in order isn't a real option.

Enough talking about another game in a thread about BBB.

KTravlos19 Nov 2014 12:05 p.m. PST

Fair enough. I confer to your actual game experience. As noted I only read the rules.

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