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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 22 March 2024

Russians and Ottomans on the Danube

 This week's gaming has involved a two-day multiplayer game using the Blucher rules in 15mm. Eight of us came together in Glasgow to play a scenario loosely based on Kutuzov's 1811 campaign. In my book, The Frontier Sea, I outline the war between the Russians and Ottomans from 1806-12. However, you can read more about this campaign in Alexander Mikaberidze's new biography of the Russian commander. We also used his translation of the official Russian history.

When Kutuzov arrived in Bucharest in April 1811, the Russian army consisted of four divisions plus Cossacks and the Danube Flotilla, totalling around 46,000 men. Several actions occurred during the year, and Kutuzov was constrained by Russia's need to keep one eye and resources on Napoleon's build-up for what became the 1812 campaign. Turkish numbers are largely guesswork, but the Russians estimate them to be around 75,000.

A typical action involved either the Russians or the Ottomans crossing the Danube, establishing a bridgehead, and then either side having to destroy or relieve the bridgehead. We played a generic scenario based on this. The somewhat narrow Danube is at the top, with an Ottoman garrison in the outer redoubts. Two Russian corps arrived on both flanks and three Ottoman 'corps' entered from the bottom. The reserve move rules in Blucher mean that the opening moves are fast, getting both armies quickly engaged. I was commanding Ali Pasha's 'corps' on the left, reinforced with a few units from the Kapikulu. 

The Ottomans managed to relieve the Bridgehead by the end of day one. The somewhat stronger Ottoman right flank was held up, but the army still had enough troops to secure the bridgehead. My defensive line was stretched, but it had repulsed the Russian attacks.

On day two, the Ottomans firmed up their bridgehead defences and counter-attacked the lost redoubts while the Russians tried to hold onto them.

There was a fierce fight on both flanks, but the Ottomans grabbed the redoubts back on the last move. The Janissaries' final charge was decisive. The Russians ran out of steam, and even with more moves, they would have struggled to rally and return.

It was a good game and the rules work well for big battles like this. The army lists for the Ottomans are not quite right. In particular, the Janissaries are encouraged to engage in a firefight in circumstances when a charge would have been more historically correct. The one classification for provincial infantry with conscript status feels wrong, too. However, in fairness, it is difficult to fit the Ottomans into Napoleonic rules.


  1. I'm interested what you think about the Ottomans troop stats, Dave. I've got an army but not used them yet. I thought the Elite Janissaries seemed too good for any traditional troops the Ottomans could field at this time. Even the veterans stats seemed too good but I've only played one game of Blucher. I was planning to use the provincial stats for Arnauts and Conscript Jannissaries for the other foot. I thought the western trained Arnauts could use Veteran Grenzer stats as I think we talked about of FB. Conscripts make the units weak vs cavalry if I remember correctly, which seemed okay to represent the lack of bayonets. Doesn't Impetuous encourage charging?

    1. Ottomans are difficult to fit into any Napoleonic rules. The Firepower factor for Janissaries encourages them to stand off and fire, which I did effectively at the Russians. However, I don't think there is much evidence that this is historically sound. While there were hastily raised provincial infantry a lot were regularly paid and had a fair amount of combat experience, even if only fighting their neighbours! I would have two categories with one closer to the Grenzer. The problem is that grenzer were being pushed into line tactics before Archduke Charles started the process of returning them to light infantry roles. I need to give it more thought, following the discussion I had with the other players (more experienced Blucher players than me) following this and a previous game.

    2. Thanks Dave. I should be trying a game soon, so I'll hopefully have some insights after that. I look forward to your further thoughts when you've had time to think.

  2. Nice. I especially like the Ottoman miniatures. The infantry in red (nizam?) are they Minifigs?

    1. I'm not sure, they don't look like the Minifigs I have. They belong to another player. They were used as provincial infantry in this game because very few Nizam were deployed in the Balkans. The Janissaries kicked over their soup bowls when told to fight with them and neither would the Balkan Ayans countenance them.