Friday, 5 April 2013

Dare I say... My wife has beaten me.

After that provocative title, I must explain that my wife is quite non-violent... except on the game table. Since I usually take some time off after the rush of Holy Week and Easter, we played one of our favourite games on Easter Monday and Tuesday - Napoleonics using Shako as our rules of choice on two tables in our front room. Since we don't play often, our memory of the rules was rusty and we made some mistakes, but the game was fun and we -as always- pledged ourselves to play more.

Beth fielded her Italians with French troops (and Confederation of the Rhine folks) as allies. I took the field with my Ottoman Turks. This was the first time the Turks had seen the light of day on the field and the "new unit curse" was in full effect. More on that later.
Beth formed up with her best stuff - the Italian Guard and their buddies in the middle along with the Italian Guard of Honour, Italian dragoons and the Saxon Garde du Corps. She had dragoons, some French hussars, and Italian Cacciatori a Cavallo (Light Horse/Chasseur a Cheval) on the flanks. Her cannon were in double batteries on one flank (4! including two horse batteries) and in the centre. My Turks were in three divisions - all that's allowed by Shako, although I could have had a reserve division as well had I really read the rules. My left was Mamluk cavalry, medium foot batteries, and a large number of 2nd Rate infantry (Sekhans of the provincial governors). The centre was two medium batteries, Janissaries (2nd Rate), Guard Janissaries and Bostanci (Elites), and a number of good Sipihi regiments, including the elite Shillitar guards as well as some Bashi-bazouks to soak up casualties. The right was heavy guns, some 2nd raters, decent Sipihis, and 5 regiments of the Nizam-I-Cedid - the "New Order Army", all Western European trained with discipline and bayonets.
Beth's lines from the satellite

I consider my options... which are few for Napoleonic Ottomans.
Our troops advanced toward each other with the wings of both armies moving to come to grips. The terrain was minimal so there was little to set up an Ottoman-friendly defence around, so off went the Bashi-bazouks! Beth's style is quite aggressive so she moved to attack as well. As it happened, both wings exhausted themselves against one another.
Italian dragoons. I don't know the manufacturer, but they look properly aggressive.
In the Napoleonic era, the Kingdom of Italy fielded good troops, often as good as
the French, often better than the Austrians, and always better than the Neapolitans.

Sipihis backed by Circassians. Really old Minifigs from their Renaissance and
Crimean War ranges.

French Hussars mix it up with a unit of Bashi-bazouks/Yoruks. "Bashi-bazouk" means
"crazy heads" and that's the truth. It's a short-hand term for mounted 2nd rate light
cavalry. Believe it or not, the Turkes have WORSE cavalry. The next lower morale class
is "Unreliable" which covers many Cossacks, Arab cavalry, Turkish Fellahin (peasants)
... and... all the cavalry of the Kingdom of Naples. (Note to self: never paint THEM!)

Provincial Sipihis and Circassian Yoruks meet Italian Dragoons and Italian Cacciatori a Cavallo. Beth and I agreed that my cavalry wouldn't be lancers. That will NOT be an option next time. Need I say, my cavalry was either thrown back 18" or died where they stood.

Beth's Italian Grand Battery - horse guns (two figures) and foot batteries (three figures)
Our centre divisions moved slowly toward each other and my cavalry soon engaged Beth's in a swirling mass of sabres and horse flesh. Mostly I got thrown back.
The Nizam-I-Cedid advance behind a Raya skirmish line.
The Nizam are Old Glory and the Raya skirmishers are AB Miniatures.
The Nizam in blue are in their away-from-Istanbul outfits while the red-jacketed
troops are in their "dress" uniforms. They were the only Turk units to be uniformed!

The Janissary Odas advance.
First three ranks - AB Miniatures; last rank - Falcon Miniatures.
Shako rates Janissaries as Elites or Regulars. That's okay for the guard, but
most of the Janissaries were gangster scum, busily engaged in protection
rackets and extortion while hiring Yamak auxiliaries to perform their actual duties.
The Janissaries often deposed sultans and slaughtered the Nizam-I-Cedid twice,
as the new troops were "an offence against Islam" as well as a threat to their

My centre's cavalry advances. Sipihis of the Porte and a Shillitar guard regiment
(in red) follow a screen of Yoruks/Bashi-bazouks.

Beth's Italian Guards and other good troops face the onslaught of Yoruks

On the Turkish left, a regiment of Cacciatori a Cavallo attack a Mamluk outfit and get mouse-trapped by more Mamluks. The white circles are casualties and the stand of Mamluks is turned sideways to indicate they are disrupted by something. Coloured markers will come later. I don't think this went well for the Italians, but the Mamluks were hurt.

The Italian Guard of Honour flank some Bashi-bazouks... who evaporated soon
after this photo was taken. Guard cavalry vs. 2nd Rate cavalry? Taken in the flank?
I think you, gentle reader, can figure this one out.

The French Hussars and the Saxon Garde du Corps fell back to recover after slapping
Bashi-bazouks around for a while. In Shako, guard rated units take 6 casualties before
"breaking" (and leaving the field/evaporating) while French Hussars take four. By contrast,
2nd Rate units take 2 casualties before going poofters. The little circle on the ground behind
the unit indicates that the cavalry is "blown" and needs to rest/recover unmoving for a turn.
The game was held over two days, and after playing a few turns on Tuesday, my left flank - 2nd rate infantry and the survivors of the Mamluks - failed divisional morale and collapsed. That was enough. A lot of our powerful stuff never got into the battle. Still we enjoyed it and we pledged to play again.
I have a powerful Austrian army ready to go and Swedes ready to play. I'm working on British, Prussians, and Russians. A few years ago, a good friend of mine was moving and gave me a huge number of unpainted 15mm figs. So I have projects enough for a few winters. I also have US troops to face the Brits in War of 1812 games... one of which was in my blog a while ago. They probably could be used as Portuguese in Peninsular games.
Now some more photos:
Italian line infantry advancing   (Essex Minis and Minifigs behind)

The Saxon Garde du Corps cross swords with some Bashi-bazouks. After the melee
was concluded and the Bashi-bazouks destroyed, the Saxons wisely called back
behind their skirmishers to avoid being charged by the elite Sipihis you see in the
centre of the photo.

 Sekhans and foot guns.

"Tony, this maybe is-a not a good place for us, no?"

Turk Skirmishers - "Rayas" who were often Christian sharpshooters from the Balkans
recruited as irregulars to screen the formed troops. Let's not kid ourselves: In an
Ottoman army, most of the units are irregulars! Only the Guard cavalry, the Nizam-I-Cedid,
and the artillery would be considered "regulars." In times past, the Janissaries would be
as well, but their decline into paid brigandage, political extortion, pyromania (they constantly
set fires in Istanbul where they were also the fire brigade!), and indolence left them as
arrogant second raters at best.

Beth's Ambulance corps model.
Delightful table clutter. Since Beth was a US Navy Medic for a term, she likes to
put this on the table. She painted the models as well.

Turkish heavy guns - Minifigs from the Wellington in India range.
They are too undressed for Muslim troops, but the models are just too choice
not to use.

Italian medic at his business.

Turk foot guns - Minifig Renaissance gunners in hats that remind me of Jughead.
The Sekhans of their division have advanced beyond them as the entire division
recoiled and failed their divisional morale, ending the game.
So Beth beat me. This in not unusual: I rarely win against any body. And I'll keep playing. Interestingly enough, at the game ended, Andy showed up! He wanted to get out of the house and had some gaming magazines for me. I also had some Imagi-nations figures for him. Two of the magazines were old issues of the Courier with article on how to successfully play Napoleonic Turks! Post-Easter reading, it is!
So lessons learned:
  • Set up Turkish cavalry in waves with the slime up front and the good stuff behind. Same for the infantry.
  • Stop trying to advance over the entire field; refuse a flank or the centre until something disasterous happens to my opponent. (Wishful thinking, John.)
  • Read the rules again. And get new dice; my present set hate me. Sixes when I need ones and vice-versa.
  • Turk Cavalry get lances! (except for Djellis/Scouts, Bashi-bazouks, and Mamluks) I will brook no arguements on this issue!
Finally, my favourite figure on the table - my wife, Beth, leading her troops to victory.
"You're attacking with WHAT? Are you SURE you want to eat tonight?"


  1. At least I help take away the new unit/army curse. Yes, your dice rolling was some of the most pathetic that I've seen in quite a while. And you now know how to use a cavalry heavy army as opposed to the tons of Austrians you usually throw at me. Until next time....

    1. Yes, Dear. Thank you, Dear. Whatever you say, Dear. Some more wine?

  2. Nice, Love your models as well :)