Friday, 25 February 2011

Banja Luka

Our most recent game was a first venture into the continuing eighteenth century wars between Austria and the Ottoman Empire using the Konig Krieg rules. The battle of Banja Luka was chosen, the attempted Ottoman relief of the Austrian siege of this vital fortress. The rapidly advancing Ottomans arrived on the field just as Hildeburghausen, the Austrian commander was moving his main force into position to attack. They therefore found themselves sandwiched between an Austrian force in field entrenchments and Hildeburghausen's force.

Ali Pasha, the Ottoman commander, decided to attack Hildeburghausen with two thirds of his force and directed the remainder towards the Austrian entrenchements. The walls of the fortress facing the river were weaker than the rest of the defences and this is what had persuaded Hildeburghausen to deploy his main siege battery facing that section of wall. A small bridge also crossed the river at this point and provided the defencescould be subdued it provided a good place to attempt an assault. It was this siege battery which was the target for the secondary Ottoman attack. There was also a smaller Austrian battery and camp on the other side of Banja Luka, communications with this were via a ford, just beyond the town.

As the main Austrian force began to deploy into line the auxiliary Ottoman forces of Azabs and Wallachs surged forward, followed by the Janissaries. Those facing the main siege entrenchments were into action first and ignoring the volleys from the defenders closed to close quarters. After a fierce melee the first wave was repulsed, just in time to be caught in the flank by Austrian cuirassier who had moved forward in support. This unit of cavalry had sustained casualties from a light battery which the garrison of Banja Luka had dragged forward to support the relief force, but undaunted, had charged home. Pursing the routing Ottoman troops the cavalry also overran a supporting unit, but was halted by the Janissaries in the third line.

More Austrian cavalry moved forward, but, just in time the Spahis arrived, though Ali Pasha directed most of those to the attack on Hildeburghausen, who was hoping the Austrian infantry would hold their nerve as the Ottomans continued their advance. All along the line the volleys rang out as the Ottomans came in range. Some of the units halted or fell back, but enough continued to come to close combat. Ali Pasha hoped to pin the Austrian line long enough to get

his cavalry on their flank and then roll them up. Hildeburghausen's only cavalry was a unit of hussars which although successful avoiding melee for a time, eventuallycharged the leading Spahi unit and routed it. They then dealt with a supporting light cavalry unit in the same way. It was just as well they did because the Austrian infantry had now to face the Janissaries, who charged home through deadly volleys. In the ensuing melee the Austrians prevailed, but the neutralising of the cavalry threat played a large part in their victory.

The threat to the siege works was also removed as the Austrian cavalry forced back the Ottoman troops. One unit of Janissaries was driven into the river and only a few survived the swim to the far bank. Ali Pasha himself only narrowly escaped capture, his lifeguard dying to a man to cover his flight. Looking around, Ali Pasha decided that the day was lost and ordered his remaining cavalry to cover the retreat of his battered infantry. As Hildeburghausen was receiving the congratulations of his staff for his decisive leadership, a rider from the hussar unit observing the southern face of the town rode up to say that the garrison of Banja Luka had sortied and were even now attacking the detatched camp in that sector. Catching the defenders off balance, the first wave suffered few casulaties as they swarmed over the works, routing the defending Puebla regiment. Von Browne the camp commander had moved his reserves forward, but the speed of the collapse of the battalions of the Puebla regiment meant that they were caught deploying and the lead battalion was all but destroyed.

The second battalion, personally led by Von Browne, managed to get into line, but even he couldn't get them to stand against the Ottomans. One battalion of Puebla did reform and covered the retreat of the camp followers and wagon drivers, but the camp was lost, together with the siege artillery.

Historically the Austrians were defeated, in our game they triumphed (in the main) with relative ease. It could be that the factors Koenig Krieg allocates to the Ottomans means that they are always going to struggle, especially against heavy cavalry.


  1. Superb looking game- well done sir!
    I put on a game of Bajaluka many years ago with my uni club at Claymore in Edinburgh...
    can you tell us more about the buildings you used and the figures too?

  2. Thanks very much Alan. The figures and buildings belong to my long standing wargaming opponent. Both figures and buildings come from a variety of sources, I will ask him for the details and post them on the blog soon.