We were in Eastern Europe again for our latest battle, but much further south; not the Steppes, but the Danube basin neat Temesevar. Olaschin was the major battle of the Ottoman's 1696 campaign against Austria. The scenario was based on an article in Arquebusier, the journal of the Pike and Shot Society (http://www.pikeandshotsociety.org/arquebusier.htm).
Now, we don't have an Austrian army (or their Saxon allies), for this period so the figures from the Jacobite army for the Williamite Wars were used. This means that some non-Austrian flags will be seen in the photographs. We also created some additions to the Wargames Holiday Centre Malburian rules to cover the Austrian's use of portable chevaux de frise against the Ottoman cavalry. This allowed for a possible breakthrough the barrier by the medium or heavy cavalry, but it also carried the risk of them being stalled by the obstacle and subject to close range volleys from the infantry. The Arquebusier account also mentioned the undergrowth as inhibiting movement and so the scattered lichen represents this
Historically the Ottomans began with their cavalry probing for weak spots in the Austrian defences and then followed this up with infantry attacks. We followed this pattern, testing out our rule amendments.
The Austrian artillery proved very effective and the Ottoman commander could probably have done with a greater number of light cavalry to act as a screen. However, in spite of their losses regiments of Spahis charged foward and in two cases broke through to engage the Austrian and Saxon infantry. The melees did not go the way of the Ottomans, even though the infantry's pikes proved ineffective. Setting an unwelcome precedent, the Ottomans seemed unable to inflict any casualties, not for the last time their dice seemed to be specially modified, ie they had the 6s removed .
As the cavalry withdrew to lick their wounds, the Ottoman infantry advanced, preceded by a screen of skirmishers. Unfortunately, they were not close enough to the Austrian line to maintain the pressure and this allowed the Austrian commander to pull back the units which had been in melee with the cavalry and substitute fresh regiments from the second line.
On the Ottoman left, their light cavalry was attempting to draw out their Hungarian opponents. A swirling melee took place with both sides having success; indeed the Austrian commander had to commit extra units to hold the line. Eventually, numbers prevailed and the Ottomans routed, hotly pursued by the Hungarians, who disappeared from the field for the rest of the battle. This was only one of element of a larger conflict as the opposing medium and heavy cavalry clashed. Lady luck favoured the Austrians, time after time they prevailed over the gallant but "6 less" Ottomans. In only one sector did the Ottomans enjoy some success. Driving back two enemy units, one unit of Spahis almost reached the flank of the infantry line, only to be met by the last reserve horse, led forward by the Austrian commander.
Unlike the formed infantry the skirmishes were not delayed by the undergrowth and reached the Austrian lines unsupported. There they were almost wiped out by the volleys of the defenders and their artillery. On the Ottoman left the infantry attack was stalled by the threat of the Austrian cavalry which now had total control of that flank. Only on the right did they have any success. A second cavalry attack breached the chevaux de frise and threatened a breakthrough. All that was needed was infantry support, but the Ottoman foot failed to advance after coming under close range artillery fire (poor dice again) The cavalry also failed to make headway against the infantry and after the regulation three rounds of melee, with no decisive result they had to fall back. the chance was missed.
At this point we called it a day. Historically the Austrians, after repulsing the Ottoman attack, had gone over to the offensive. After advancing to and capturing the Ottoman wagonburg, they fell to plundering and were caught disordered by their opponents.
The scenario and the way it played out highlight the difficulties of finding a set of rules which encompass the different fighting techniques used in this and other simialr wars. We could perhaps have 'stiffened' the Ottoman foot, but that would have caused problems rating the Janissaries. Starting the two forces closer together would have given the Austrians less chance to recover from the initial cavalry attack and may have assisted the Ottoman foot. On balance, the rule for the chevaux de frise did seem to work and may well be used again.
On another day, with the right dice, the Ottomans may have succeeded. Perhaps, once the wounds have healed we'll try again.