Storm On The Danube – AAR From Dark Side Historical Gamers

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    Mark Stanoch

    This is a compilation of posts from the Dark Side Historical Gamers Facebook group summarizing our recent recreation of the “Storm On The Danube” scenario from the “Last Argument of Kings” supplement at Dark Side Comics in Sarasota, FL. It is divided into a number of posts separated by headings. A link is provided at the end which contains all of the photos referenced in these posts so that you may follow along at home. So sit back, relax and enjoy!

    I. Prologue

    I’m tired. Very tired. The kind of tired you experience after working out at the gym longer than usual with more weight than what you’re used to. But it is a good kind of tired though, knowing that you had accomplished more than what you had set out to do. Which is why after today’s Black Powder second edition game I must declare that I am indeed tired. Dog tired.

    We had a massive game this afternoon based on the “Storm On The Danube” scenario in the Black Powder “The Last Argument of Kings” supplement. Of course we played at Dark Side Comics in Sarasota. Three veteran wargamers – Matt Teeter, Leon Mason and his wargame buddy Jeff Brown- battled with almost 900 professionally painted 28mm figures for over 5 hours in a contest that was one of the finest wargames in which I have had the pleasure to participate. While everyone was familiar with 18th century warfare, no one had previously matched the Austrians and the Ottoman Turks during the early 18th century. Truth be told, this was the first time I had umpired this scenario as well. So both sides, and even your the humble umpire, really had no idea of what to expect.

    In order to do this AAR justice, I have decided to break up the action over a number of posts. In this first post I will review the situation and share the initial order of battle and terrain. In subsequent posts, I will provide a report of the action during the 5 turns we played. With over 100 photos taken, I hope to provide an entertaining and engaging account for your reading enjoyment.

    The situation is thus: the Ottoman Turks have laid seige to the fortress of Petrovaradin located in latter day Serbia. The Austrian forces are split between the Petrovaradin garrison (Jeff) and a relief force lead by Prince Eugene of Savoy (Matt). The Ottoman forces, under the wily Grand Vizier Damad Ali (a role masterfully assumed by our own Leon Mason) must try to capture the fortress while delaying or defeating the relief force. The photos below show the forces alloted to the belligerents as well as the Ottoman initial deployment. We decided that the entire Ottoman force should be deployed near their siege trenches. Eugene’s relief force enters on the first turn of the game on the side of the table opposite the Petrovaradin fortress. The river Danube runs behind the fortress.

    The Austrian garrison includes an Infantry brigade consisting of three infantry battalions, one of which is Untested (more on this later!). The Grand Vizier has 3 Cavalry brigades at his disposal each including 3 regiments of cavalry. Two of these brigades are Sipahis and Guard Cavalry of the Porte with the last being Tatar tribesmen. The Austrian relief force consists of 3 infantry and 2 cavalry brigades, also including 3 units in each. The following photos show the initial forces and the deployed Ottomans troops. I urge you to read my comments in order to gain more insights into each photo. Stay tuned for more!

    II. Opening Moves

    Turn 1 saw the Austrians enter the table with the Infantry advancing towards the Ottoman siege works. The plan was to have the Skirmishers confront the Ottoman artillery park but had advanced only a single move while the Infantry Brigade following it sped past it by virtue of a very low command roll. This would prove decisive in future turns. The Austrian Cavalry fanned out to cover the plains on the right. The Ottomans were hampered by the “There Can Be Only One!” command rule (see my earlier posts) but the wily Damad Ali cleverly put that to good use by instructing his huge Infantry brigade to assault Petrovaradin on the first turn. The Ottomans had also ominously deployed the majority of their available artillery in the direction of the relief force. Using “Follow Me!” orders a regiment of Tatars and a unit of Sipahis dashed out from behind the siege works and demonstrated towards the Austrian cavalry . Tension filled the air…

    III. Coming to Blows

    Turn 1 ended with the first Ottoman assault on Petrovaradin being stymied by the +3 Combat Result bonus for the defense. There were a few hits scattered among the defenders but the Ottoman ranks were quickly being decimated by closing fire. However, the front facade of the fortress was weakly held by the three Austrian artillery with the Untested militia in reserve. Thankfully, the Ottomans only assaulted two faces of fortress Petrovaradin at this time.

    A slight smile coursed Prince Eugene’s countenance as he gleefully planned on charging the Tatar and Sipahis in the open plains with his Heavy Cavalry brigade. But the wargaming gods would have none of it as the brigade, despite bring bolstered by the presence of the Austrian Army General himself could not achieve a command roll lower than a 7. So the honor of achieving first glory was passed on to the Austrian Hussars. As the Ottomans countercharged, a wild melee ensued with the Hussars emerging victorious! The Austrian Infantry Brigades advanced inexorably forward.

    Not to be outdone by the Hapsburgs, the wily Damad Ali launched an armored thrust of his own meeting the leading Austrian Infantry Brigade head on. But the Austrian Grenadiers in the front rank proved that they were made of stern stuff as they fought the elite horsemen of the Porte to a standstill.

    In the meantime, the assault on fortress Petrovaradin continued with mounds of poker chips beginning to appear….

    IV. Slugfest

    The next couple of turns saw the adversaries engage in a series of punches and counter punches as melees and firefights continued to rage across both fronts. The Ottoman artillery park was beginning to sustain severe losses, but the Azabs were quickly wearing down the stout defenders of fortress Petrovaradin. Several mobs had actually scaled the outer walls and were engaged in furious hand-to-hand melees with the artillery crews on the ramparts who bravely stood their ground. It was only a timely counter attack executed by the Untested Militia in reserve that allowed the heroic gunners to hold back the tide. The mobs were beginning to find their way to the far side of the fortress while a concerted assault was launched by two Janissary ortas on the wall nearest the Ottoman siege trenches. After repeated blows, the stalwart Infantry Battalion on that outer wall eventually became shaken.

    On the plains in front of the fortress, the Austrian Hussars continued to engage the Sipahis. Bolstered by their recent winning melee, they pushed the Ottoman horsemen back nearly to the gates of fortress Petrovaradin. And the Austrian Heavy Cavalry Brigade shook off its earlier lethargy and furiously charged the Sipahis to their front, forcing their opponents back.

    V. A Rising Crescendo

    The climax of the battle was rapidly approaching as both sides persisted in their violent attacks. The garrison was barely holding out even as the Austrian cavalry could be seen approaching the gates. Several Azab mobs mounted the walls but were pushed back in return. Yet the only hope stood with the resolution of the Untested militia as the sole unscathed unit within the fortress walls.

    The Austrian Infantry now wheeled abruptly left to assault the Ottoman siege works, but the wily Grand Vizier parried this move with a determined charge mounted by his most excellent and obedient Suvarileri. Many units became shaken on both sides as more and more units were removed from the table. Victory hung in the balance as both sides were convinced that one final, desperate charge would carry the day…

    VI. “What Manner of Treachery Is This?”

    Allow me to begin this post with a slight digression. I love rules authored by Rick Priestly and Jervis Johnson. In fact, they are my most favorite rules meisters. These two gentlemen were responsible for me devoting a good part of my wargaming life to the Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) tournament scene. For years, hardly a Cold Wars, Historicon or Fall In! went by without me or one of my brood participating in WAB tournament play. The appeal of these rules is obvious, at least to me. While being historical in nature and regardless of the supplement used, there was always a special rule which injected a fantastic cinematic effect into the gameplay. For instance the special attacks for Viking Berserkers in the “Shieldwall” supplement bore a striking resemblance to abilities of Snotling Fanatics.

    For this scenario, and in deference to Pete Brown – the scenario’s brilliant author – the GW DNA of Black Powder was very much in evidence with the “Untested” special rule. This rule dictates that the Stamina of a unit so described is unknown until it suffers its first hit. Now it just so happened that among the multitude of units in the game, there was only a single unit affected by this rule. But that particular unit had a crucial role: it was part of the Petrovaradin garrison. Furthermore, this unit – an Austrian militia infantry – was not deployed on the walls of the fortress. Rather, it formed the sole reserve of the fortress. As such, it was responsible for counterattacking any Ottoman unit which was fortunate or foolhardy enough to gain traction on the wall.

    During turn 4, the constant assaults by the Ottoman mobs finally succeeded in landing a hit on these nondescript fellows. And as luck would have it, a “1” was rolled assigning a corresponding Stamina of exactly “1”. So with just a single hit registered the unit became shaken and immediately cast doubt on the Austrian possession of the fortress.

    “Vot ist dis?” the battalion commander was heard to utter. “Und der kaiser expecks me to shtop dose oriental hordes mit dees knaves?”. So in the utter confusion, and being the end of turn 5, with both sides suffering from intense mental exhaustion, the game was abruptly called.

    VII. Outcome and Final Thoughts

    After the shock of losing the last and only reserve a cool assessment of the battlefield was warranted.

    Sure the fortress was on the verge of collapse. But the Austrian cavalry was close enough to water their horses in the Danube. So after considerable thought, it was decided to call the game a draw with a slight edge given to the Ottomans. But technically, the outcome was an Ottoman victory.

    Several tweaks immediately became apparent. The scenario was rather vague regarding the initial Ottoman deployment. So perhaps the Ottomans should be allowed to deploy anywhere within 18″ of the fortress. However, in an effort to counter this increase in Ottoman flexibility, the Turkish siege artillery, once placed, can not be moved. The game can also be timed awarding victory points for the number of turns the Ottomans remain on the table while severely penalizing the Austrians for losing possession of the Petrovaradin fortress.

    It isn’t very often one encounters a game like this. A unique combination of fantastic rules, an exciting and cleverly designed scenario, cherished miniatures, a wonderful venue and terrific wargaming colleagues all conspired to make this one game I will not soon forget.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed as I am in serious need of a good nap. After all, I’m tired.

    Link to photos

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Mark Stanoch. Reason: Misspell
    • This topic was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Mark Stanoch.
    Charge The Guns

    A fabulous looking, and sounding battle! Thank you for sharing all of the details. I have always imagined that SYW Austrians v. Turks would be a really interesting battle as the two forces are quite different.

    It is also great that the scenario provided such a balanced, yet exciting game, right up to the last move. Untested is a very clever special rule for new troops, as you say. I also like the Freshly Raised rule which is similar.

    Mark Stanoch

    Charge The Guns, thank you so much for your kind remarks. It was indeed an exciting game. Both the Austrian and Ottoman players’ mental disposition ranged from unbridled elation to abject despair throughout the entire game.

    I too feel that this was a contest between far different military systems. My goal in wargaming these day is to avoid games where the belligerents are rather similar. This “sameness” has quite literally driven me away from ACW and ECW games. I also find that Colonial games provide a good deal of differentiation between the opponents. Storm On The Danube is now my go-to scenario for 18th Century warfare. In fact I will be hosting this game at the upcoming HMGS-South convention in April (Recon 2019). So look for another AAR shortly thereafter.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Mark Stanoch.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Mark Stanoch.
    Mark Stanoch

    Here’s the link to the event at Recon 2019: Recon 2019

    Charge The Guns

    I look forward to hearing about Recon 2019.

    Cpl John

    Hi Mark,
    thanks so much for posting your battle report. I am always keen to get feedback on how the scenarios in LAOK play out. I played this scenario through a couple of times before it went in the supplement, but there are so many variables it is perfectly possible for one game to be a walkover if the dice all roll badly! I am glad it turned out so well for you. And I love the eighteenth century Turkish army. It certainly is not boring old lines of well drilled troops in tricornes!

    Mark Stanoch

    Hi Pete,

    Your scenario is one of the best games I have played in years. You have created a game which is both historical and extremely exciting. I am off to Orlando today where I will be hosting Storm On The Danube at Recon 2019 – the Spring convention for HMGS South. I will post an AAR after the event tomorrow. Stay tuned!

    Cpl John

    Good Luck Mark. Hope its a great success. Take lots of pictures. It would be great to see it in action.

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