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"Gumbinnen for the Potomac Wargamers on Sept 8th 2018" Topic

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Ponder Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2018 10:21 a.m. PST


Photos from my Gumbinnen game yesterday for the Potomac Wargamers. Fun times with six players. Thanks to Brian DeWitt for his hospitality in hosting the game.

Was busy refereeing, and did not take enough photos for a good AAR – so just a few pictures. The German attack on the Russians was halted, with casualties about even for both sides (Germans lost 16 stands and a gun, the Russians lost 12 stands and a gun).

Game Title: Battle of Gumbinnen, August 20, 1914
Rules: "Command Decision – Test of Battle"
Scale: 15mm

Background: The game is the second scenario in the book Great War East -1914, published by Test of Battle Games. The game is bathtubbed, as a battalion on the table-top is used to represent an actual division.

The Russian offensive in East Prussia began when the Russian 1st Army crossed the frontier in mid-August. The German I Corps commander, believing his troops to be superior to the Russians, advanced and attacked the Russian 3rd and 20th Corps in the open field near Stalluponen on August 17th. The Germans inflicted about six times the losses taken, declared victory and quit the field.

Buoyed be the victory, the German Eighth Army commander decided to launch a general offensive. The attack was not well planned, and the subordinate corps were not given adequate time for reconnaissance prior to the attack, much less time to deploy in assembly areas. On August 20th, the Battle of Gumbinnen resulted. The German I Corps attacked in the north, the XVII Corps was in the center, with I Reserve Corps in the South. The Russians had deployed the 20th Corps in the north, 3rd Corps in the center, and 4th Corps in the south. The Germans were successful in the north, were repulsed in the center, and had limited success in the south (near Goldap). The presence of Russian heavy artillery is often cited as a factor in the repulse of the German XVII Corps. However, the lack or reconnaissance prior to the battle is likely to have been a more significant cause.

The game portrayed the center and northern portions of the Battle of Gumbinnen.

Photo 1 – View south from the northern end of the table.

Photo 2 – View east of the southern end of the table.

Photo 3 – View east of the northern end of the table.

Photo 4 – Northern end of the battle. The Germans have broken through the first line of the Russian defense; they stall on the second line.

Photo 5 –North center, the German attack was crushed by the Russian defense.

Photo 6 –South center, the German second wave begins their attack.

I greatly enjoyed the game, and it sounded like the players did as well.

Ponder on,


pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2018 6:28 p.m. PST

Indeed we did, Jesse! Rules worked well, and seemed very WWI-ish!

monk2002uk10 Sep 2018 4:55 a.m. PST

"The Germans were successful in the north, were repulsed in the center, and had limited success in the south (near Goldap). The presence of Russian heavy artillery is often cited as a factor in the repulse of the German XVII Corps. However, the lack or reconnaissance prior to the battle is likely to have been a more significant cause."

I have read several German regimental accounts from this battle, plus the German official history. There was some success in north, as the northern most German corps managed to outflank the Russian right flank. This was achieved by a night march, based on the identification of the Russian flank positions on the day before. There was a very sizeable Russian cavalry presence (two divisions) further north, which was outflanking the German 1st Cavalry Division.

The regimental histories report on the impact of the Russian artillery. The fire was heavy and accurate, though mostly field guns rather than heavy artillery. The Russians were entrenched as well. These caused the major problems to the German attempts in the centre.


monk2002uk11 Sep 2018 11:23 p.m. PST

Here is the account from Grenadier Regiment Nr 4, taken from 'Geschichte des Grenadierregiments König Friedrich der Große (3. Ostpreußisches ) Nr. 4'. The regiment was part of Falk's 2nd Infantry Division on the German left wing. The translation is mine, as are any mistakes therein:

"Stirnlaugken was reached early in the morning of August 20. As a result of this advance, a Russian NCO post was taken by surprise and captured. The high ground around Ederkehmen [near Mingstimmen] was occupied by the Russians.

Our regiment was positioned on the extreme left flank of the 2nd Infantry Division to attack Werdehlischken. Storming forward, Fusilier- and II. Battalions captured Ederkehmen and Henskehmen. I. Battalion cleared [the village of] Abschruten of weak enemy forces and then extended the line of the regiment to the northeast.

Some sections were diverted to search farmsteads, under Unteroffizier Braun from 8th Company. As he was pushing forward, he spotted an enemy battery moving up. He ranged in a beaten zone at 1200 to 1300 metres, which brought down some of the horses. Two guns had been set up in position, firing off a couple of rounds. After a short burst of fire from Braun's detachment, the gun crew was rendered hor de combat, silencing the guns. Brauns called in artillery fire on some farms from which Russian infantry were firing, next to the Russian battery, setting them on fire. He then pushed forward with his riflemen towards the battery. He found the gun crew, about 50 men including three officers, sheltering under the guns. They surrendered. The guns were rendered useless by destroying the breechblocks.

After repulsing a fierce Russian counterattack near Mingstimmen, the regiment was holding firm in front of the line Wannagupchen – Mingstimmen by the afternoon. The right flank of the Russians was retreating hastily to the east. A large number of prisoners were taken.

Already during this fighting the Russians had shown themselves to be masters of the art of field fortifications. Their defensive locations were so well distributed and so skilfully blended in that you had to standing literally right next to the front of them in order to see them. The Russian [soldier] proved tougher in battle; his field craft and ability to shoot was up to the standard of a well-trained enemy. As soon as the German [soldier] came into close quarters contact, however, many Russians suddenly lost their resolve. Some fled from the trenches, others raised their arms and rifles high and begged for their lives saying "they were also Christians". Only a few would stand against an attack going in with the bayonet. The Russian field artillery fire was superb, albeit wasting great amounts of ammunition. This arm was, and still is, the elite troops of the enemy.

Late in the evening, the victorious troops received a completely surprising order to retreat immediately, which the front-line soldiers could not understand at first."

The German left wing was able to outflank the Russian field positions. Their colleagues in the centre were not so lucky because there were no flanks.

The action to the west and northwest of Goldap was more open, more in the nature of a meeting engagement as the Russian forces were advancing to contact and had not had time to dig in.


Ponder Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2018 2:08 p.m. PST


Link to pre-WW2 mapping of the area at 1:100,000, you can get an idea of the terrain for yourself.



1:25,000 scale mapping is also available if you want to zoom in on specific features or locations. At a glance, the terrain to the south seems denser.

Ponder on,


monk2002uk13 Sep 2018 4:10 a.m. PST

The terrain to the south is very different, yes. Here is a game based on the action around Gawaiten, not far from Goldap. The battlefield is built to scale, based on Prussian maps from the period. Hexon Terrain was used to get the contours right.



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