Friday, April 8, 2016

Last Century of the Ottomans: Aleksinac

Last weekend, Onur, Emir and me joined at Emir's house to play the second battle in our linked Big Bloody Battles campaign. This campaigned includes all the BBB Scenarios in which the Ottoman Empire was one of the two sides. Our last battle saw a Russian victory at Kurudere during the Crimean War. This time we moved forward 20 years. It is 1876 and since 1875 the Ottoman Empire is at war with its vassal state of Serbia. The Serbs are fighting to force the Empire to end the vassalage of the Principality of Serbia and to expand into the contested areas of Old Serbia and Bosnia (itself in revolution). After a series of Serbian attacks, the Serbs are forced back into their borders. At Aleksinac (Sumatovach) the Ottomans try to encircle and annihilate half of the Serbian army.

This time Onur took the role of AAR writer, so I am posting his AAR with my own remarks in italics. Emir took the photos, I did the video. Last time I commanded the armies of the Sublime Porte and Emir and Onur the armies of Slavdom This time I took the role of Serbia commander, while Emir and Onur took the role of the Ottomans.

This map by Onur gives a good idea of how the battle went.

Here is Onur's AAR( my notes in italics)-video report after the text report
"On a sunny Sunday of April 3rd we played our second battle of Last Century of the Ottomans campaign.
Kontantinos played the Serbs, while Emir and I played the Ottomans. We did some rule mistakes but biggest was Turk's deployment.
We (I) deployed all 4 divisions up East of river Morova. Sorry Konstantinos (no problem and not sure if it would had changed the situation that much. Perhaps it would had given the Ottomans a tighter time table, but with the lack of any Serbian cavalry, I cannot see any issues of maneuver)

Serbs deployed at the back and wait for Turks to tackle the ground. Emir took 2 divisions up East and I took 2 divisions that came up from West (still East of river Morova which was a mistake on my part).Turkish plan to join forces before objective Sumatovac and attack en masse. Overpowering that part of the Serb army and continue on other part to get another objective. (which is a good plan)

First four turns Turks struggled to move in difficult terrain (each red arrow is a division).
Turks sent a Redif Brigade (we called them Albanian Redifs-white fezes) toward Bujmir as a diversion but did not commit them too close to the enemy. They were only there to keep some Serb units busy (which they did very very well).

By the turn 4 most Turkish units were on attack position to Sumatovac but Night Interval pushed back all to cover positions. It was our first time using Night Interval rule. We all enjoyed and used it well  (Note that red arrows are moves of Turks in first 4 turns, pinks are moves of Turks in turns 5 to 8. Serbs position and moves are in purple).

In first 4 turn Turks had not suffered much casualties so we spared another brigade (one Nizam infantry and one artillery unit)  for another diversion, to the West of Morova. They did amazing things (yes they did. They pretty much kept 1 Serbian gun, and three brigades stuck around Aleksninac and south of the river).

By turn 5 Serbs got bored and attacked Turks with a right hook (not bored per se :p . I was seeing the concentration and decided to risk a flank attack in the hopes of either dispersing it or eating up time. The flank attack came before the first NI. I think Onur is talking about my decision to exit the Sumatovac trenches and attack. That was John Bell Hood stupid of me) . Turks were numerous so Turkish left flank turned to receive charge. For a couple of turns South of Sumatovac turned to a hell pit. Big Turkish units supported by flank charge of Turkish Cavalry first stopped the Serbs then rolled them over. Sumatovac was taken in same fashion but it was still a bloody business.

Albanian diversionary brigade made a long-range fire exchange with two Serbian units and an artillery and in the end gained much ground.

The west-most diversion was another story. Nizam Infantry had full move two turns consecutively and occupied the objective at Trnjani. They sit there till the end of battle. Serbian reinforcement tried to close but could not challenge their position.

After Sumotovac's fall, Serbs did not have many units to organise a feasible defense. We played the second Night Interval to see if situation can be manageable or not. But Serb moved first then Turks moved in Night Interval so the situation only got worse (ie some Turkish units regained their lost bases!) for Serbs and Kontantinos called it. (pretty much I could only defend Aleksinac. My army was divided in half, with three units in the north of the map, and three around Aleksinac and the whole Ottoman Army in between)
It was a very nice match for me. We wondered why Chris included the West of the map since we did not use most of it but then it turned out our deployment was in error. (still not sure much would had gone on in the West. It makes sense for the Ottomans to concentrate against Sumatovac)

2 cavalry units of Ottomans managed to kill some units first time ever in our games
But in true Circassian fashion I used them in wild dashes so in their second charges both perished.
Taking of Trnjani objective was mostly luck. But Serbs had not much units to cover everything. After Sumatovac's falls there was not much to do.

I liked the scenario, objectives and the terrain layout. I agree with Kontantinos that Ottoman units are powerful. Redifs are Trained and all units are 6-base strong. Yes that army was veteran of recent years but it should have some smaller units (attrition?).  I do not know about the real historical side of the battle but to balance things 2 or 3 units would be reduced to 4-5-base strong. I loved the Night Interval rule.  Another note, many units became Low on Ammo which made the battle more realistic. "
One thing this battle taught me is the worth of cavalry in this game. Even one Serbia cavalry unit 
would had permitted me to threaten one of the objectives taken by the Ottomans and thus perhaps kept at least some Ottoman units out of the main attacks.  This is really the role of cavalry in BBB. To threaten and to pin. Not to charge (though the Circassian had a field day in charges to be frank :p)

Here is the video battle report

Pictures are not in chronological order I am afraid.

The Serbian positions around Aleksinac. The Morava is on the left.

The Serbian positions at Sumatovac

Masses Ottoman columns moving on Stanci. Sumatovac in the background.

Serbian positions around Aleksinac, early in the game.

Ottoman columns advancing from the South

More Ottoman troops

Close up of Sumatovac


A overview of the game.

The Serbian positions East of the Morava

Ottoman troops entering the map

The field at Aleksinac

Setting up

The Ottomans arriving at staging points for assults.

The beginning of the right hook

Rolling dice!

The Ottomans begin their assaults on Sumatovac

Receiving fire

The right hook as seen from the Ottoman side.

Impressive concentration of forces.

Spent Ottoman unit far to the south.

The Right hook progresses. Serbian troops vacate their trenches around Aleksinac.

Ottomans holding Katun

The John Bell Hood moment. Serbian brigades vacate the works in Sumatovac, and assault the attacking Ottoman columns.

Sumatovac after being vacated. Second echelon troops moving up to hold the line.

The exceptional Albinian Redif. West of the Morava, Ottoman reinforcements race towards Trnjani.

Massed Ottoman assault under fire.

View from the South towards North-West

Serbs in Panic around the Morava.

Serbian reinforcements arrive behind Ottoman front line. Katun in the foreground.


Battle for Prugojevac

The Ottomans take the works at Sumatovac

The Ottomans threaten Aleksinac

Serbian units after the second night Interval threatening the Eastern flank of the Ottomans

Sumatovac falls while the Ottoman war machine pushes on!

Ottomans hold Prugojevac

And Katun.


Chris BBB said...

Great to see this battle on your table. So the campaign score is Ottomans 1, Enemies 1, right?

I had another thought about Onur's comment that the Redif units were too strong. In an earlier draft of the scenario, I made all the Ottoman infantry units Tactically Inept, because their assaults were quite unsubtle and incurred a lot of casualties. I took it out because I was unsure about scenario balance but perhaps my first instinct was right and it should go back in. The units would still be big and powerful but would become significantly easier to stop and to hurt. What do you think?


Konstantinos Travlos said...

I do not know. I would have to play it once more as it is without the Serbs going crazy to say if the Redifs are too powerful as they are. I mean the Serbian defeat has an obvious cause here that is independent of game or scenario mechanics. So not a good test.