|The Ottoman attack on Skull Mound builds cautiously but steadily.|
With very little cavalry available the Ottomans were relying on firepower in this battle. We upgraded the Janissary units to Veteran with two small units rated with the rare Guard level and all ortas with flintlock muskets. The three field guns forming a baseline would hopefully provide plenty of support fire. 152 infantry, 18 cavalry and 3 guns for the Turks.
|Support fire uphill against the little makeshift fort.|
By contrast, the Cossacks would hope their numerous lance armed light cavalry could run the slow moving enemy ragged, look for gaps and run riot in the rearward areas. Their infantry was all Raw and equipped with matchlocks. 72 infantry, 66 lance armed Tribal cavalry including two Veteran squadrons of Hetman's bodyguard, two light guns, a sniper and two fortified positions.
|Waves of Cossacks nudging into the Ottoman right wing and forcing a static battle line to form.|
In real terms, the Ottomans were actually outpointed but not by much.
As the Turkish commander I decided not to get ahead of myself! I was not going to try any crazy frontal assaults on the Skull Mound but moved two units of irregular musketeers and the archers up to wear the defenders down with fire. One of the field guns supported this attack.
|The Ottomans looked very impressive particularly in columns but the enemy proved very tough|
For a few turns I nudged both left and right wings forward. Each was very strong with three Janissary Ortas on the left and three more plus some irregulars on the right. Ottoman fire power was telling in the first eight turns with little in the way of casualties for me and several enemy units being hit or forced into retreat.
|Despite skilled horsemanship the Tatars proved no match|
Things hotted up when Mazeppa O'Brien moved some squadrons over the mound on my left, chasing away the Tatars and pushing on towards my gun line. This is when the seams of the Ottoman kaftan began to loosen.
|Cossacks chase the Crimean Tatars from the field|
By this time (around Turn 7) the struggle for Skull Mound was very hot and the defenders and some of the attackers were beginning to look somewhat ragged.
The Cossacks were compelled to start flinging risky charges in to break up the attack and several of these succeeded in shunting back irregular units of musketeers and forcing my right wing into a continuous and largely static battle line whilst the left wing ortas formed columns and advanced to try and assault the village before the rot set in.
|Aagh! They are through! Squadrons of Cossacks swarm behind the Ottoman battle line|
I was very aware that the further from my baseline I advanced the more vulnerable my gun line was to marauding Cossacks. This proved to be what actually occurred when Dave's fast moving and nimble squadrons burst through at four different points in the line.
|The Ottoman guns did a reasonable job but were not battle winners|
An assault on the Mound failed to charge but that didn't matter as the beleaguered defenders finally broke and ran when their losses reached fifty percent. The little makeshift fort lay empty for a few turns because the Ottomans where now finding several Cossack squadrons in their rear and charging them in flanks and from behind. Several units wobbled and broke with one being hit three times from different directions before being over run and massacred.
|The village was never assaulted but the garrison suffered heavily form Janissary fire and artillery|
The biggest shock came when a Cossack squadron thumped straight into a Veteran Janissary column and wiped it out! What!!!!! That was a kick in the head and came from losing a combat followed by a bad morale throw.
|The Cossack perspective as the battle begun|
The very strong Ottoman left was forced onto the defensive. Heavy fire from the village, swirling squadrons and adverse morale results wore down the three Veteran ortas until by Turn 21 a single stand of Janissaries cowered in a knot under the guns of the exhausted garrison with whom it had been duelling over ten turns.
|Just before the column at the extreme right shockingly broke and ran|
Victory looked possible on the Ottoman right but the Guards were destroyed in death defying charges the last of which went in on Turn 20 and wiped out a fresh Guard Orta which panicked, fled and was ridden down. Despite almost all of the Cossack infantry being blasted, beaten, bashed and bloody.. a little group stood just below the Skull Mound and stared down the mighty enemy. Meanwhile, Dave's roving squadrons had over run two of my precious cannon leaving a single piece isolated on the extreme right to take pots shots at rapidly disappearing targets.
|This, the largest Cossack infantry unit fought very well but finally crumpled have suffered badly.|
Despite thinking I had done enough for victory at least three times, the Cossacks pulled their nuts out of the fire and produced something spectacular - a push back, a rout a stalemate in combat every time.Dave thought he was beaten more than once and then astonished both of us with some outrageously successful moves. Slack jawed I watched my steam roller run out of steam.
|Devastation in the gun line - without protection the guns were destroyed.|
By Turn 15 I had decided to use my archers to occupy Skull Mound actually, it was the safest place for them to be and for the remainder of the battle they simply watched the horror unfold beneath them. My Pasha had to take refuge in there about the same time and this small band was my sole surviving operating unit by the end of the battle.
|Victorious? More like islands of safety. The Ottomans hold their prize.|
A few Janissaries clung on under the guns of the village and my field gun fired half heartedly at intervals when some of the Ukranian Wild Rovers hove into view. The Cossacks too were out of bullets. Dave had about the combined strength of three operational squadrons spread across five different worn down units and his infantry numbers were about equal to mine by the end - a dozen or so models each. Both sides were completely exhausted. I had the Mound, he clung onto the village. Our forces were in tatters and neither could threaten the other. I had lost two? three? perhaps four brigadiers although the commander of the archers had survived a ball through the turban and upgraded his toxophilites to Veterans! Worthy protectors of their soon to be executed Pasha!
|And the sun goes down.. This is the Ottoman Army at end of the battle.. all of it.|
We looked at each other.. it was 1945 hours. A draw? Yes indeed! Hands were extended and we acknowledged each others skill, luck and misfortune. Wargaming at its best - honours equal and both of us satisfied.
I'll make some observations about the rules in a third part to this short series. It was indeed a nail biter till the last throw of the dice.