Here are a few pics that I arranged following a recent game of Spartacist and Freikorps. This is a game set in early 1920s Germany when revolution and rebellion raged. The figures are a mixture of Great War Miniatures, Tsuba Miniatures and Footsore Miniatures.
German civilians raising the red flag.
Heavy fire support for the revolutionaries.
Elements of the Volksmarine join the rebellion and provide much needed grit and determination.
German Police try and restore order? Not likely – looks like they are off to join the revolution.
Civilians venture out onto the streets, the newspapers are full of stories of unrest and red atrocities.
Bavarian Freikorps are on the hunt for rebels,
Deployment of horrific weapons on the streets of a Bavarian town, supporting Freikorps troops might want to stand back a bit when the flamethrower begins to spit fire?!
Lancer squadron from Freikorps Lichtschlag – well why wouldn’t you?!
Stormtrooper detachment, Freikorps Deutscher Ordensschild displaying their Teutonic Order insignia – time to hide those red flags and run!
Crowd control Freikorps style. Heavy armour takes to the streets and the rebels begin to melt away.
As promised here is the full write-up of our recent Battle of Varna 1444 by gaming pal and fellow Ottoman enthusiast Sam Marks. Sam created this excellent scenario and we used the Father Tilly rules for the game. We also went all out using 28mm miniatures! Over to you Sam…
You will doubtless have seen from this venerable blog in December, our fight of the excellent Battle of Oldendorf (excellent from the Protestant perspective, that is!) using Father Tilly. In that scenario, the Protestant forces have the possibility of committing a flanking force on a circuitous manoeuvre, made more difficult by the rough terrain that protects the Catholic wings, but ultimately with the chance that they might seize a favourable tactical position.
As anyone who has played Father Tilly knows, command points are the beating heart of the game – an indispensable, but finite resource. As Protestant commander, I ultimately decided not to commit to the flanking manoeuvre, so high a cost in command points it would have been; a decision to the fair consternation of the flanking player! As overall commander, I had the all-important control of the command points allocation – so, mysteriously, my centre was lavished with command points and war tokens; the flank, meanwhile, had to do more with less. Needless to say, from my perspective, this was highly amusing – to the point where the theatrical reaction of denying my fellow commander was more rewarding than actually trying to win the field.
This fractious interplay between commanders who were supposedly on the same sides was the source of inspiration for my recreation of the Battle of Varna, 10th November 1444. This pivotal battle in the story of the Ottoman expansion into Europe was fought between the Crusading forces of King Władysław III of Hungary and Poland, and the Ottoman Sultan, Murad II, and represented the final chance to aid the withering Byzantine Empire.
Not that refighting Varna needed much inspiring; war wagons – tick; janissaries – tick; a cardinal, a King, and a glorious and vain charge onto (into and through!) defensive stakes – tick. Nuff said.
In the historical battle, the Crusaders, caught with their backs to the Black Sea, without the assistance of the Venetian flight, and fighting an enemy that they hoped was in Asia, not Europe, were unsurprisingly divided in their approach at the counsel of war on the eve of the battle. From a wargaming perspective, this seemed like an opportune moment to allow for some (un)Christian skulduggery on the battlefield. First, each Christian player had an individual briefing. Vlad II Dracul, father of the more infamous Vlad the Impaler, was more concerned with surviving and punching through the Ottoman flank to safety. The overall Christian commander was the able strategist and general, János Hunyadi, whose objective was to use his superior cavalry to outmanoeuvre the Ottoman defences, and encircle the Sultan, as historically. But, unbeknownst to the Hunyadi player, once King Władysław took the field, his overall command would be stripped from him, and given to Cardinal Julian Cesarini, whose strong advocacy for the Crusade had encouraged the then 19 year old King Władysław to rip up his treaty with Murad, and invade the Ottoman Empire once again. The King’s plan, lacking the tactical finesse of Hunyadi’s, was, once again, dictated by the historical battle – to administer the word of the God to Murad II up close and personal.
This, anyway, was my theory; and it was interesting to see how it survived contact with our characterful coterie of gamers and the fickle dice gods.
The first part of the battle was thus directed by János Hunyadi, and the Christians advanced on both flanks. Cardinal Cesarini’s German Rytířs, who historically fought in a deeper formation, easily dispatched the Tartars opposite them. Their success was matched by that the Țărani, Romanian peasantry who had flocked to the Crusade, whose morale held under withering bowfire from harassing Akinjis, and Tufenki-handguns.
On the left flank, Serbian Plaiesi, woodsmen clad in black hoods and carrying double-handed axes, had infiltrated the wooded flank of the Ottoman forces. Springing from the woods, Vlad Dracul urged them to charge into the vulnerable flanks of the Timarli Sipahi… a command they promptly refused. This fickle turn of bad luck prevented the Christians from delivering a decisive blow to the Ottoman left, with a bloody and swirling cavalry engagement dominating the action for the remainder of the battle.
In the centre, Hunyadi committed his Hungarian Knights to support the Christian right. Ottoman Tufenkis caught in the open by such cavalry stand little hope of survival, except perhaps with their closing fire (more on that later). Racing round the Ottoman stakes, the lead cavalry unit swept into the Tufenkis. Seeing their morale waver, Murad II himself rode forwards to steady the line, using his once per game ability to ensure the line held.
In a bizarre series of rolls, Murad’s success turned sour, and in the confusion of the melee, he had been captured by Hunyadi’s knights! At this point, if the King had been on the field and had he been able to reach Murad, he would automatically have won. However, as Hunyadi’s objective had no bearing on Murad’s person, the differing Crusader victory conditions meant that this miraculous deliverance for the Crusaders went unrealised. Charging out from the Ottoman stakes, the Solaks, the highest-ranking division of the Janissaries, rescued their, presumably rather grateful, Padişah.
Almost simultaneously, the person of Cardinal Cesarini was in grave danger, his powerful Rytíř still absent from the field pursuing the fleeing Tartars.
This act provided the final impetus for the King and his Polish Retainers to take to the field, seizing control from Hunyadi, stripping him of all four of his command tokens, and implementing a rather different plan.
Władysław’s glorious reign was like a flash of lightning, energising and terrible, but gone in a flash.
Quickly the King gathered his retainers, the most elite and best equipped of the Crusading forces, to make for Murad himself.
En route to Murad however, the King decided to have a pit stop and a warm-up act with some Azabs who found themselves isolated and separated from their companions, having only just recovered from the onslaught of Cardinal Cesarini’s peasant hordes. As expected, the Azabs were sent packing, inflicting no less than 9 casualties upon the Azabs in a single charge – ouch!
The Crusaders’ elation quickly turned to despair. In the confusion of the charge, the King had disappeared – his body was tragically discovered a few yards back. Before the lances hit home, the Azabs had managed to fire a final shot – and a solitary lead shot had pierced the polished plate armour of Wladyslaw.
With Wladyslaw dead, and Murad alive (if still smarting from his capture), I felt the game had reached a position which reflected the historical outcome – an Ottoman victory.
It was also historical in one other sense – the final victory total stood at 64 Crusader dead (starting from 500), whilst the Ottomans lost 113 (of 600). As fellow player Graeme noted yesterday, it took Murad 24 hours to realise that he was actually the victor of the day, so severe were the Ottoman casualties and the difficult terrain preventing a clear picture of the battle from emerging. So ultimately, a bloody, hard-fought Ottoman victory.
Thanks for the write-up and the excellent well thought out scenario – terrific fun!
Following their previous bruising encounter the deadly duo of One Ball Barry and Parrot Sh*t Pete have a score to settle and they are out for the blood of that well known pirate Black Moustache Andy (he wanted to call him Blackbeard but I thought that was a bit too derivative). This vendetta scenario will bring victory to the character that kills Black Moustache Andy, or victory will go to BMA if he manages to avoid this fate. Having had quite a run of successful encounters BMA is now a somewhat improved character and will be quite a tough opponent for the less experienced One Ball Barry and Parrot Sh*t Pete. Unfortunately for Andy, his two allies that were supposed to be escorting him turned up late to the battle – claiming problems with their ship that transported them to this location.
Barry and Pete’s crew close in on their target – the vendetta is about to be settled!
Pirates from Barry’s crew become distracted by a marker – will this represent treasure or a nasty surprise. Lucky Barry – its treasure!
Having become distracted counting their treasure, One Ball’s crew take up a strong position behind wall and cheer on Parrot Sh*t Pete’s crew as they lay into Black Moustache Andy and his escort.
The brutal pirate fight continues. Although Andy is badly injured he manages to fight off the attackers and withdraws under cover of a fog bank that rolls in. Although there are losses on both sides, Pete’s crew have much the worse of the encounter and Pete and One Ball decide to let their vendetta go for the moment. Both sides withdraw to count their treasure, lick their wounds and pick a few native arrows out of painful lodgings.
More mayhem to report from the Golden Age of Pirates with the continued adventures of One Ball Barry and his trusty companions Parrot Sh*t Pete and Pirate Joe. This time these intrepid pirate leaders were intent on rescuing their colleague Dodgy Dave II from jail (a place he richly deserves to be). However an equally determined force of privateers had got wind of this jail break attempt and were moving rapidly to block this attempt.
As the pirates approached a strong wind that had been blowing for a while turned into a rain sodden squall which reduced visibility, dampened the black powder and the mood of the pirates. When the fight started it would be at close quarters with knives, axes and clubs – pistols and muskets would be of little use. Finding the jail poorly guarded Parrot Sh*t and his crew slipped easily inside the jail and overwhelmed the inattentive guards.
Outside the jail the opposing forces began to engage with some ineffective firing but in the dismal weather little harm was caused – and the raiders were already beginning to effect their escape. And following some brutal sword-play it became obvious that the pirates would not be stopped from making good their escape.
This was a good fun scenario that could have gone either way but which in this case was a victory for the attackers who displayed unusual levels of cooporation – which may have contributed to their success. We will try another scenario next week where hopefully the usual back-stabbing and bad behaviour will rise to the fore.
The second battle of day 4 was a sharp battle around the village of Dablice. The Rebels could hardly afford to lose this encounter because the road to Prague lay open and undefended beyond.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, located on the left hand side of the picture, they were heavily outnumbered in both foot and horse as the Imperial army arrives on the right hand side.
Three Rebel infantry regiments take up positions around the village of Dablice and await the Imperial attack.
Four hefty German tercios supported by cuirassiers to the rear line up ready for the attack.
Imperial cavalry including mounted arquebusiers and Croats sweep round the undefended flank of the outnumbered Rebels.
Realising the danger that they are in, the Rebel infantry tried to fall back but were caught in the flank by enemy cavalry – which caused considerable disorder.
A Rebel regiment breaks and is pursued by Imperial cavalry, elsewhere other Rebel units begin to lose heart and fall back. Even before the Imperial tercios were fully committed, the remainder of the Rebel army broke and fled the field.
With the decisive defeat of the Rebels at the end of day 4 the road to Prague lay open and although there were still Rebel units in the field, none of these could be assembled in time to prevent the Imperial advance. With the Imperial objective achieved the result of the campaign was a defeat for the Rebels and a clear victory for the Catholic forces.
Everyone really enjoyed the campaign aspect of the games, the way that the force strengths were frequently uneven during battles and players appreciated the need to conserve forces to allow them to fight another day. From my vantage point as games umpire it seemed to me that the Rebels had a difficult task trying to anticipate where the Imperial forces would deliver their main attack, this sometimes led to the Rebels spreading their forces too thinly in order to cover all approaches. The attacking Imperial forces made sure that when they delivered their main attacks, they did so in strength and made full use of their more experienced troops. Although the Rebels proved to be enthusiastic and aggressive troops they sometimes became disheartened too quickly when facing stern tests.
Following the post battle discussions, enthusiasm for future campaigns was clearly evident and a number of options were discussed. It looks like our next mini-campaign will be mid-period Marlburian – can’t wait!
After some rapid re-deployment of the Imperial forces and a couple of flanking moves by the Rebels, the map moves were made and day 4 of the campaign began to unfold. After both sides compared their forces movements – two engagements would be fought.
With the encroaching blue arrows of the Imperial advance clearly visible on the map, the Rebels are becoming hemmed into an increasingly restricted area – solid defensive work will absolutely be required. Because the previous battle was ‘won’ by the Rebels (the Imperial forces withdrew from the battle in the face of growing Rebel numbers) the Rebel players chose which battle to fight next.
The first battle had a small Imperial force (on the left of the picture) facing the combination of a number of Rebel groups that converged on the area (units on the right side of the picture).
The powerful Rebel group begin to advance with a strong cavalry force of Cuirassiers and Arquebusiers moving around the flank of the smaller Imperial force.
Rebel infantry advance around the village towards an Imperial tercio. With this overwhelming force the Imperial players decide that discretion is the better part of valour and try and execute a fighting withdrawal but with so much Rebel cavalry on the loose and delivering attacks from all angles, one tercio is sacrificed to allow the rest of the Imperial force to withdraw. With a run of successes beginning to develop, several hundred of the Imperial rearguard decide to throw their lot in with the Rebels. If the Catholic forces can be defeated in the second battle of the day – perhaps the rebellion succeed? The players prepare the table for the next battle and marshal their forces for the game.
It took only two turns to finish off the first campaign battle, with the Rebel infantry looking for an escape they proved easy pickings for the roving bands of Imperial cavalry slaughtered without mercy several Bohemian battalions. Away from this carnage the Bohemian shot that had held out in the village still offered stout resistance until the end and were offered generous terms for their surrender – and new employment in the Imperial army. The result of this battle was a handful of casualties (some of which were off-set by the new recruits) for the Catholic forces – but it was a costly defeat for the Rebels with the loss of 2 battalions of foot and a number of squadrons of Hussars.
As this battle was being played out, a few miles down the road another engagement was beginning to unfold. Both sides had moved their forces into the same territory and so a new battlefield would be set up. In this encounter, the Rebels occupied a village with 5 battalions of foot, the Imperial army was a mere probing force of one tercio of German foot plus 2 regiments of cuirassier and 2 of mounted arquebusiers. Despite being outnumbered the Catholic force launched an immediate and highly aggressive attack with both foot and horse.
Despite the Rebels having the advantage of defending from cover, the Imperial commanders spotted several weaknesses in their position and sent in the cavalry to exploit the situation. This bold attack began to pay off as the surprised Rebels began to panic as the enemy cavalry began to ride through their positions – 1 rebel battalion broke and were pursued for a distance by Imperial cuirassiers. Things were looking bad again for the Rebels.
As Imperial arquebusiers engaged Rebel shot sheltering in the village, the situation was beginning to change as Rebel reinforcements began to arrive led by a regiment of Dutch foot – veterans from Flanders. These disciplined troops could stiffen the resolve of the Rebels and give the Catholics a far more experienced and deadly opponent to deal with. In view of these new arrivals the Imperial players decided to call off the attack and withdraw before facing the stinging fire of the Dutch battalion. This encounter ended the third day of the campaign, both sides retired to consider their next map movement. The way through to Prague has not yet been opened and there is still plenty of fight left in the Bohemian soldiers. Will day four prove to be decisive? We will have to wait until next week to find out.
Kicked off our mini campaign last night for the Bohemian Phase of the Thirty Years War. Having spoken for some time with gaming pal Doug Knight who has a tried and tested campaign system that has been used for the Napoleonic period as well as ACW and SYW – we decided to give the TYW the campaign treatment. The campaign has an intentionally limited scope and focuses on seven days of manoeuvring around a very specific campaign objective. The idea of the campaign is to give players an extra layer of decision making to each tabletop battle but within a limited period of time with a definite conclusion. In this campaign the Imperial/Catholic League army are trying to defeat Rebel forces and break through to Prague.
The picture above shows the campaign map that Doug has kindly drawn for us, the map shows the various features such as woods, rivers, hills, villages and roads that the armies will have to negotiate.
The Rebel forces are marked on the map in red, unsure where the main thrust is likely to come from they have had to spread their forces quite widely in order to intercept any probes from the Catholic army. Each number on the map represents a group of units, the identity of which the opposing side will be unaware of. Both sides write orders for their forces and move their forces on the map. Each such move represents a day in campaign time.
After several days of Imperial advances and Rebel manoeuvring, the Imperial force launches an attack. At this point the battlefield is set up and the units deployed. The battlefield was set up as shown in the picture above. The Imperial force included a couple of powerful German and Bavarian tercios plus supporting regiments of mounted arquebusiers and Croat cavalry. The rebels fielded a force of similar strength with five rebel battalions of foot and supporting Hussar cavalry. The Imperial force can be seen approaching from the right hand side, the Rebels are deployed along the road and around the village. Both armies seem reasonably well matched and both sides are happy to test each others strength – the battle is on. Had both sides been wildly out-balanced (which is always a risk in campaign games) the weaker side would have to stay on the battlefield for at least six turns before they could withdraw.
The Imperial force attacks. In the centre of the picture, just to the right of the village, two tercios begin their attack. To the right of this Imperial and Rebel cavalry skirmish which results in one Hussar unit on the Rebel side breaking. The Rebel general did manage to rally this unit but not before losses are incurred – losses that will last for the duration of the campaign.
The results of the Imperial generals sinister laughter soon became apparent to the Rebel commanders as the Catholic army brought on powerful reinforcements in the form of four powerful German tercios and a couple of cuirassier regiments. These additional forces arrived in turn six and where the fruit of the successful manoeuvrings of the Imperials, sadly for the Rebels no such reinforcements were available – all of a sudden this was becoming a very unequal fight.
With two battalions of foot holding the line, the Rebels try to salvage the remainder of their infantry by withdrawing it to the rear. At this point the Imperial force sends its Croat cavalry and mounted arquebusiers to ride down these vulnerable units trying to make their escape. Sadly that was where we had to leave the game for the evening but we will be picking it up again next week.
Every one who played the game definitely got a sense of having an extra layer of involvement, with the need to husband forces rather than throwing units away in frenetic one-off battles being the overriding concern. And just as the routing Hussars fled for home (see picture above) we abandoned the battle but unlike the Hussars – we will definitely be back for the conclusion of the battle. I will report back next week.