Thursday, June 2, 2011

Turkish Delight (Pt 1)

I really only intended to add a unit or 2 of 25mm Turkish Auxiliaries to my 30mm French army, to start with. Honest. But by the time I finished 2 battalions and a battery, looked at the force lists for the scenario that was selected  for this week, and then remembered that I still had a pile of my brother-in-law's old 25mm Medieval troops, including some Saracen/Moorish types, well, it suddenly seemed possible to do it the other way around. OK so a little ragged but I had great fun.

The scenario was #7  from Programmed Wargame Scenarios, "Two Sides of a River". We played the game twice, switching sides at lunch time. Each game having taken roughly 2 hours.

For the first game, Ron's Austrians were on the defence with 6 Infantry units, 1 Cavalry, 1 light infantry and 3 guns!!  (This was one of the army choices I had tagged in case I were to defend.)  A formidable firepower to face for the army I had chosen: 4 infantry units, (2 of them Syrian Volunteer Native infantry with melee weapons), 4 cavalry units, 3 light infantry and 2 guns.  I'll confess that I was a little unsure how to progress. I had lots of maneuverability but had to attack up a defile with a river on one flank and impassible mountains (aka the table edge) on the other. When it came to fire power, I was out gunned 3 to 2 in artillery and 6 to 5 in infantry but I did have an over all edge of 1 unit giving me 1 extra activation die to start with, and, since we had agreed that an army reduced to less than 50% of its original strength, including command units, I could also afford to lose 1 extra unit.  Quickly I devised a plan that  would make the least of these advantages (ok so that wasn't the actual intent).

Haven chosen to come on the wider side, with the river on my right,  I set out my order of march, 2 units wide, cavalry, light infantry, then regular (sic) infantry, artillery, melee infantry and finally a rear guard of cavalry.   Figuring out how to classify units had been a bit of a poser. My aim was to inject some feel of a Turkish army while making the games as well balanced as possible, and allowing me to use the scenario lists without jumping through hoops. We had agreed on a rule for light infantry so that part was easy, I decided that Jannisaries and Sekhans etc would count as ordinary infantry. Any deficit in discipline being made up for by numbers since my 2 ranks of figures probably represent 5 or 6 while Ron's only represent 3. Artillery was one of the stronger arms so I could let that stand, and the native melee infantry seemed reasonable for my levies, again assuming that each unit was a lot of them! (when I get to it, I'll probably mount 18 instead of 12 on a deeper base). When it came to cavalry, I was stuck, many sources suggest  that the Ottoman cavalry  in the 18thC couldn't stand up to European cavalry but at the same time, they seem to have been a major factor
in some of the wars with Austrian and Russia, causing these armies take special precautions  and of course in Egypt they seemed to have impressed the French. I also noted that some sources dismiss a lot of Ottoman irregulars as being useless for anything but skirmishing and plunder, leading me to contemplate calling them  Non-European Cavalry so that when pinned, they would be pinned rather than being forced to charge. Various wargame rulebooks classify them as impetuous however and certainly both Djellis and Mamlukes seem to have been given to rash charges so in the end,  I just treated them the same as the Austrians, assuming again that each unit represent more men than their Austrian opponents and that numbers and superior weaponry (sharp sabers etc) and individual skill balanced the superior discipline and heavier weight of the Austrian cavalry.

  As I started to accustom myself to my new army, I deployed my light infantry in reserve, moved my cavalry out of the way and started t bring up my "proper" troops, the artillery and musket armed infantry. Ron responding by moving artillery and light infantry into an enfilading  position across the river, reminding me of the French at Dettingen, and bring the rest of his infantry over the bridge to form a thick defensive line.
Fumbling a bit, I felt my way forward while Ron advanced his guns and unleashed "artillery hell". I deployed my allied French gun and then moved it to make room for my Turkish gun but Ron's gun across the river smashed it as I ceased fire to limber. I pushed troops up the road but the guns from in front with a thick target  were able to hit whether they were on or over and soon I had pinned units and then my brave Sekhans were bolwed over before they had really had a proper sight of the enemy, let alone fire off a musket. Some foes have no mercy!

At last in a desperate ploy I decided to try trading a cavalry unit for a gun and unleashed my Syrians to gallop up the road a double move. They sabered the gunners then advanced over the bodies, hoping to get the chance to finish off the 2nd gun on their next move. First though, came the Austrian counter attck.

Two musketeer regiments wheeled and poured in volleys then the dreaded Horse Grenadiers charged. The Horse Grenadiers would hit on anything but a 5 or 6. Surrounded by 4 enemies, the Syrians needed a 1 to strike back but they had been promised 12 Houris apiece if they took both cannon. The Grenadier rolled...5! the Syrians rolled 1! With loud cries of triumph they prepared to surge forward and take the last gun. Just have to survive one last blast of cannister........ Oh well, 2 losses inflicted for 1 taken. That was better than the 3 losses suffered for 1 inflicted against the enemy artillery and light infantry so far!

By now, losses were starting to cut into my activation dice. Even worse, it was clear that any attempt to push infantry and artillery forward to engage in a firefight was doomed since I was not only outnumbered 2:1 now in terms of fire capable units but I was going to have trouble moving more then 3 at a time vs the enemy given my reduced number of dice and the sorts of rolls I had been getting. Just enough for them to be shot apart by the stronger enemy. The effectiveness of the unsupported cavalry charge gave me pause for thought, My army was strong in cavalry and it could charge from outside musket range. Even better, any artillery fire that didn't kill them before they charged would just spur them on without using up activation points.  I started to bring up my remaining three units and the spearmen. At the head of the Cavalry rode my personal guard, The Valdurian Horse Guards, one of my oldest units, Minifig Rohirrim bought at the Wargaming tent at the Aldershot Military Show in June (iir) of 1974, (my first wide eyed brush with some wargaming greats and the highlight of my Europe on $5 a day, not exactly Grand, tour. Since I had no where to sleep my kind hosts allowed me to roll out my sleeping bag in the tent after the chariot races were over. I sometimes wonder who else had been there that day that I might have encountered since on the web).  A little tattered and battered as they await refurbishment, they were doomed to obscurity over the years by their S range 1/2 armoured ponies, amidst a sea of the new generation of steeds and historical armies. A picture of an armoured provincial Ottoman cavalryman  as I stumbled to fill out my OB. The plan is for them to be remounted on PA Sassinid horses and assigned to lead the resistance to the Medes but for 1 day at least, they were Ottomans and once again were Guardsmen.  

By the time the attack was in place, I was in a tight position, I was only 2 units away from being broken. The storm of musketry and artillery was found In the absence of a clever plan, I need to be both bold and outrageously fortunate. While the cavalry rode in on my left, I sent a lone unit of Spearmen, dog-trotting down the road to throw them selves on the enemy bayonets in a 3 to 4 attack. Could the brave Turks storm through the disciplined musket volleys and crack the line of bayonets to take out 3 enemy units without losing any?

Well, 3 turns later, Rossi Pasha was glad that the French attache was at hand and could be publicly  blamed for his failure to land disciplined infantry as promised. Well, the cavalry had charged bravely and made good stories, the Valdurians had even managed to crack an Austrian unit and survived the following blast of cannister..  True, final losses had heavy, a battery, 3 cavalry units, a spear unit, a line infantry and 2 light infantry units but there  are always more volunteers and mercenaries to be recruited. And his varnish had dried before the firing began!  Not a bad introduction to battle, all in all.
"But there wasn't quite as many as there was a while ago"

Once again the rules had proved themselves to me. There are lots of areas where looking at thing 1 on 1, a lot of detail, tactics and flavour seem to be missing  and the 1 shot and your dead approach is alarming, but at the macro level, looking at groups of 4 and 5 units over 4 or 5 turns, and if you don't equate removing a stand to being "all dead" but rather to being "combat ineffective" (even if a shattered remnant falls back and rallies stragglers towrds tomorrow's fight) they all fade away and it all works.

 The optimum formation for an 18thC army is in a long line of infantry battalions, shoulder to shoulder with a break here and there for batteries, with  cavalry on the wings, sufficient in numbers to launch an assault or repulse the enemy.  Behind this, there needs to be a 2nd line, stationed at musket range to the rear. Any closer and enemy artillery will cause disruption and losses, any farther and they will not be able to plug any gaps. Light infantry is only really useful for scooting about on the flanks or trying to disrupt and distract the enemy.  I've seen many a set of 18thC rules which has gone to great lengths  to capture period feel and detail but yet failed to make that sort of deployment a natural choice.

Next post, the second battle, the tables are turned and the Turks defend.


  1. Ross Mac,

    You really seem to be enjoying doing all my play-testing for me!

    I am really pleased that the rules are working in the way that I hoped that they would (i.e. as a simple set of rules for fighting battles to a conclusion in a reasonable amount of time and where the players are generals who have to make command decisions).

    I have been told by several people that my 'Portable Wargame' rules are better than DBA/HOTT, which try to do something similar; I don't know if that is true, but they do seem to be popular with people who have used them.

    All the best,


  2. Enjoyable AAR and colorful illos: thanks for sharing!
    As they are, the Valdurian Horse Guards don't look out of place in a 'Eastern European' 18th c. army.

  3. PS: the lancers following them look like 'regular French'?
    I don't see the Turkish lancers you illustrated in you previous post: next time, maybe?

  4. Ah, the relentless march of Hexon terrain! Looks a nice game.

  5. Bob, Oddly enough I was thinking about DBA the other day after playing the PW as the effect and intent seemed to be fairly similar. It didn't take long trying to parse through the rules and take in all the minor qualifications to how stands move, and the matrix of inter unit interaction that gives added texture to melee, to put them back away again.

  6. Jean Louis, that lancer was a prototype, hopefully a unit will appear in time for the next game, and possibly a unit of Circassians in sheepskin caps as well. For now the one lancer may be seen escorting the Pasha (along with a Polish lancer who really needs a back story).

    You are right that the Valdurians with shainmail, baggy trousers and pointy helmets don't look too far out of place. Who knows, maybe they will be refurbished as a guard for the Pasha?

    I have a feeling I might become attached to this army.

  7. Tim, have no fear, having, ahhh... acquired, a trace of a hex of roughly the right size, I have tentatively begun creating a scratch build 3d hex terrain using partially marked hexes and 1" stackable hex gridded wooden hills with OS vertical contours that will (hopefully) all mesh together into a flexible but useful system. (but that's another post)