Friday, October 9, 2020

First Blacklands War - Battle of Nicatiye

View from behind Chervenian lines, looking east.
As active events were being played out far to the west of the Turcowaz Empire, far more sinister movements - at least from the Settee point of view - were developing much closer to the centre of Imperial power. Entering West Thrace without opposition, Chervenia's IInd Army had swung eastward into the other Thracian province. There awaited the Turcowaz Third Army in comparable strength. Tipping the balance, Chervenia's IIIrd Army - not as strong as the IInd, but powerful enough - was marching directly from East Chervenia into East Thrace.  

Learning of the approach of IInd Army, the Turcowaz advanced to meet them.  At no great distance southeast of Adrianople, the two sides met in what amounted to an encounter battle. No mean commander (he counts as 'Average'), Abdullah Pasha was counting here upon a victory, so that he could then deal with the other Chervenian Army he knew to be at large none too far distant. Indeed IIIrd Army was a deal closer than he had been led to believe. Against all probability, the usually unreliable General Radko Dimitriev ('Poor'), acting in cooperation with his colleague (General Nicola Ivanov, 'Average'), was near enough to hear the sound of the guns as the Battle of Nicatiye opened, one sunny October forenoon.

He might instead have elected to lay siege to one of the provincial towns close to the border, or independently have sought out the Turcowaz Army regardless of his colleague's plans and moves. Displaying a spirited burst of active cooperation apparently alien to his usual character (only a roll of '6' on a D6 would have had this result) he not only acted in concert with IInd Army, but, when the guns to the south began to rumble, at once ordered the 'march to the guns'.   (See Second Week moves).

Battlefield of Nicatiye.  Chervenia II Army approaches
 from the West (top), Turcowaz from the East (bottom)...

In the above map, the Chervenian IInd Army approach from the top (begin deployed in the first row of squares; whilst the Turcowaz are arrayed along the bottom row. The approach of Chervenian IIIrd Army is from the north, that is to say, the right side of the map, within a couple of squares of Kuleli village.
View from behind Turcowaz lines, looking west.

The Armies:

Chervenia IInd Army:
  • Command: General Nicola Ivanov (Average) = 6SP
  • 5 Infantry Regiments (8th - 12th, Trained) @4SP = 20SP
  • 4 Infantry Regiments (16th-19th, Green) @4SP = 16SP
  • 1 Machine Gun detachment (2nd, Trained) = 2SP
  • 2 Cavalry Regiments (3rd, Trained; 5th, Green) @3SP = 6SP
  • 2 Field Gun Battalions (3rd, 4th, Trained) @2SP = 4SP
  • 1 Heavy Gun Battalion (7th) = 2SP
  • 2 Transport Columns (3rd, 4th) @1SP = 2SP
Totals: 18 units, median 9.  58 Strength Points, exhaustion point -20.

Chervenia IIIrd Army:

  • Command: General Radko Dimitriev (Poor) = 6SP
  • 1 Infantry Regiment (3rd Royal Guard, Veteran) = 4SP
  • 3 Infantry Regiments (13th, 14th, 15th, Trained) @4SP = 12SP
  • 2 Infantry Regiments (20th, 21st, Green) @4SP = 8SP
  • 1 Machine Gun detachment (3rd, Trained) = 2SP
  • 1 Cavalry Regiment (4th, Trained) = 3SP
  • 1 Field Artillery Battalion (5th, Trained) = 2SP
  • 1 Transport Column (5th) = 1SP
Totals: 11 units, median 6-1=5.  38 SP, exhaustion point -13.

Turcowaz Third Army:
  • Command: Abdullah Pasha (Average) = 6SP
  • 1 Infantry (5th, Veteran) = 4SP
  • 3 Infantry (11th, 17th, 18th, Trained) @4SP = 12SP
  • 6 Infantry (29th-34th Bashi-Bazouk, Green) @4SP = 24SP
  • 1 Cavalry Regiment (5th Bashi-Bazouk, Green) = 3SP
  • 1 Field Artillery Battalion (5th, Trained) = 2SP
  • 1 Medium Artillery Battalion (6th, Trained) = 2SP
  • 2 Transport Columns (5th, 6th) @1SP = 2SP
Totals: 16 units, median 8.  55 SP, exhaustion point -19.

(A side note:  Owing to a staff error, Abdullah Pasha was commanding the wrong army: it should have been the Second; and the Third, under Ali Riza Pasha, to have been the one posted in North Macedonia. It was only after the War had been declared was the error noted. There was nothing for it but to carry on as things were, and to visit upon the staff officer responsible such admonishments as events might suggest.)

As if by mutual consent, both sides began their advances on the flanks. Early on Turcowaz troops seized the Kuzuku village, the ridge alongside and the orchard nearby.  They also occupied Nicatiye, close by the river.  On the far (northern) bank, the 29th and 30th 'Bashi-Bazouk' Regiments lost the race for Kuleli.  A quick attempt to carry the place met a swift rebuff, whereat the Bashi-Bazouks withdrew out of rifle range. There was no escape from Chervenian gunfire, however, which meant an uncomfortable day for the Turcowaz north of the river.

Their centre having to negotiate a tangled tract of country of steep hills, marshy vales and forest, the Chervenians were reduced to somewhat piecemeal attacks against Kuzuku.  Third cavalry made several charges against the Turcowaz 18th Regiment on the ridge, on one occasion even forcing the enemy right off the feature.  But the absence of infantry to consolidate this success permitted the 18th twice to retake lost ground.  

Meanwhile, infantry attacks against the village hardly dented the garrison's defences. Awkwardly placed with ridge and marshlands to the flank front made the place difficult to come at. Following up 16th Infantry's attacks, 17th (Chervenia) entered the marsh, but the open ground to their front being covered by 34th Turcowaz from the orchard, were forced to settle down to a firefight, rather than to press forward to close combat.

Already losses on the Chervenian side in this sector were becoming worrying, especially in the light of the whole of the Turcowaz artillery drawn up in battery - with Abdullah Pasha at hand to supervise.  It grew very uncomfortable in the swamp for 17th Chervenia. That discomfort was not ameliorated by the advent of the veteran 5th Turcowaz swinging to the left to engage the 17th in flank at medium range. The Chervenian attempt to bring up his machine guns was frustrated by enemy gunfire that put paid to half the detachment, and the intervening ground being (potentially) swept by flanking rifle fire discouraged their coming forward. Unless and until reinforcements could be fed through the wild country in the centre, the whole situation on this part of the field the Chervenians were finding frustrating altogether.

Not so on the northern flank. At fairly trifling cost (1SP) the Chervenians (11th and 12th infantry, backed by 5th Cavalry) were holding off the enemy infantry without trouble, helped by gunfire from the heavy and field batteries across the river. It was plain that the outnumbered and out-trained Bashi-Bazouks could not hold.  Falling back, 29th Turcowaz found there was no shelter in the lee of the low hill east of Kuleli from the advanced field artillery that had established themselves on the rising ground a short distance from Nicatiye.

Lacking targets north of the river, the Chervenian heavy guns began playing upon the railway station at Nicatiye itself, soon forcing the 11th Turcowaz to evacuate the place.  Hit; retreat - pointless sticking around just to be shot at.  The garrison commander figured upon re-entering the village when and if the place came under direct threat - which for the moment at any rate didn't look like developing, for a while at least.

For a considerable time, the Turcowaz found themselves for the most part on the defensive, and the Chervenians lacking the strength, it seemed, to make good on attacks. In the absence of any pressure upon their centre, 5th Infantry, followed by the 11th were able to swing towards the left, where their flanking firepower discouraged the Chervenian attacks upon Kuzuku.  Thirty-fourth Turcowaz Infantry drove 17th Chervenia out of their swamp, which sufficiently emboldened the sole Turcowaz cavalry regiment to join the front line. 
The place of the 11th was taken over by 31st Bashi-Bazouks, supported by the 32nd, in the lee of Nicatiye Station, which tended rather to complicate the Chervenian situation on the other side of the river.

It was becoming apparent, though, that if Chervenia were to enjoy any success, something should happen on this flank, where they had a sufficient preponderance of strength.  Rifle fire had forced 30th Bashi-Bazouk out of range, to a point that was masked from Chervenian artillery by Nicatiye village.    
By this time, seven turns having gone by, General Ivanov must have been informed of the approach of IIIrd Army from the north. From almost the moment he had been informed of the sound of gunfire to the south, General Radko Dimitriev had ordered his army to march to the guns. Once fairly under way, he despatched a reliable aide-de-camp to discover the whereabouts of the action and to inform Ivanov that help was on the way.  

For their part, not wishing to have the enemy interfere with the arrival of approaching friends, the Chervenians at last emerged from their village to drive back the weakening and depleted 29th and 30th Turcowaz. Losses were heavy on both sides, but much the heavier on the Turcowaz (5SPs to 3). Having begun the drive, the Chervenians continued to press until at last 29th, then 30th, disintegrated and fled from the field.

All the while, the Chervenians on the south flank were struggling to bring forward reinforcements and supporting weaponry. As the 34th Bashi-Bouzouk began to line the edge of the marsh, the machineguns at last found a target. The only time in the whole battle they got to shoot, and it was woeful: three 'ones' shown. Shortly afterwards return fire was to drive the whole detachment back out of range. They were never to get another chance to do damage.  

By this time, 9th Chervenia had at last joined the general action - enough from their wooded position to distract the Turcowaz infantry that had been galling the inner flank of the Chervenians in front of Kuzuku. It was probably too late. Losses among 16th and 17th Chervenia had been prohibitively heavy, and except north of the river, the whole offensive was beginning to flag.

Well over four hours had gone by (9 Turns) when at last the leading elements of IIIrd Chervenian Army began to flood onto the field along the Kuleli road - four infantry regiments, and 3rd Machine-gun detachment, accompanied by General Dimitriev in person. Having by now driven off the Turcowaz north of the river, 11th and 12th infantry from II Army were lining the riverbank to engage the enemy elements behind Nicatiye. But it was already plain that the depleted 11th Infantry could not for much longer sustain its position in the firing line.   

Very soon they fell back, still retaining its order, leaving the 12th in a lone firefight until it should be relieved by IIIrd Army units. Sure enough, the 12th fell back, with just 50% of its strength still in action. Their losses, along with those sustained all along the front were enough to exhaust the offensive capability of the whole IInd Army. It was certain theirs had been somewhat heavier than their opponents'.
Their relief was soon enough achieved, as 14th and 15th took up the action. Third Royal Guard and 13th Infantry pushed towards the bridge, the plan being to assault the Nicatiye village from the west, whilst the machine gun detachment engaged the enemy from the north bank.  The exhausted IInd Army continued to support as much as it could by fire action the IIIrd Army offensive.  

For their part, 33rd Bashi-Bazouk Infantry emerged from Agayeri village, to join their brethren of 31st and 32nd, engaging the enemy across the river.   Thirty-first had entered Nicatiye, whilst 11th Infantry occupied the woods nearby.  This brought them rather close to enemy occupying a steep hill a short distance to the southwest, calling upon 5th Infantry to deal with them. Though they were still capable of counter-action, there were signs the Turcowaz army was beginning to tire.  And 31st Bashi-Bazouks were finding billets in Nicatiye uncomfortable, with small arms and machine gun fire incoming from the north, and gunfire from the west.  

The imminent attack from enemy infantry was enough to persuade 31st Bashi-Bazouk to leave the village, and evacuation that the Chervenians were in no position to exploit at once. To come at the village, they had first to clear the woods to the right of it. Into the woods went 13th Infantry, driving out the enemy, as 3rd Royal Guards swung onto the town.    

With a final effort, a counter-attack by 11th and 31st Turcowaz halved the strength of 13th Chervenia, but that success came at considerable cost.  Turcowaz Third Army had depleted its offensive power.  In anticipation of this, Abdullah had not long before ordered the gradual retreat of the army, beginning on the left, with the Bashi-Bazouks lining the riverbank as a combined flank and rear guard. Despite the pressure, this rearguard action held the line until it became clear that the whole of the Turcowaz army could get off.

For all the fine performance put up by some of its units, especially the poor Bashi-Bazouks, there was no question that this was a significant Turcowaz reverse. After the series of victories in the west, this defeat in the east bade fair to undo them all. Yet in his report to the Sultan, Abdullah Pasha was inclined to take the optimistic view: a tactical defeat, yes, but, given the odds against his army, not a total loss. He had damaged one of the Chervenian armies, at least.

The casualty lists told at least some of the story:

Chervenia IInd Army: 58,000 strong, lost 11,000 (22SP, against E.P. of -20)
Chervenia IIIrd Army: 38,000 strong, lost 2000 (4SP, against E.P of -13)

Turcowaz Third army: 55,000 strong, lost 10,000 (20SP against E.P. of -19)

The defeated, exhausted Turcowaz had but one reasonable option: to save the capital, and retreat into Ionople. Joined with its garrison, at least that vital centre would be impervious to attack, at least for the time being.
Nicatiye Station falls...
For the Chervenians, their tactical victory might yet turn into a strategic defeat. IInd Army had been badly enough mauled that further operations had to be deferred by that army to refit and reorganise. Back to South Chervenia it would go. That left the much weaker IIIrd Army in East Thrace. Far too small to take on Ionople, what might this army do otherwise? Attack or besiege one of the East Thrace provincial centres?  Adrianople, was a likely target. The garrison was small enough that it might be overcome by a coup-de-main. Perhaps instead march through West Thrace and on into Salonika, where the Hellenic army was in pursuit of  the fourth Turcowaz army? Decisions, decisions; General Radko Dimitriev was not the most imaginative or decisive of commanders...

To be continued... Week Three.

Post Scriptum:
So much for note taking:  I forgot in the main report to mention that a late counter-battery strike by Chervenian field artillery had knocked out some of the Turcowaz field artillery, where Abdullah Pasha was standing. A small piece of jagged metal struck the army commander in the chest, breaking a collarbone, and inflicting a moderately serious wound (rolled a '3' for severity).  Carried from the field, he accompanied the army's retreat, and a brigade commander took over command. 


  1. A costly victory for Chervenia, and an interesting situation with Turcowaz being (nominally) forced onto the defensive.
    Great report of the battle Archduke; do you keep notes as you play?

    1. Hi Maudlin -
      Yes - the IIIrd Army arrived perhaps just too late to push the Turcowaz over the edge before IInd army fell over. Again - a rather unexpected result, but the Turcowaz have so far been enjoying the favours of Hexahedra, the goddess of war games battles, rather more than the Allies.

      Much of the narrative is from memory, with the pictures an aide memoire. But I do go through the pics and note down a selection, with brief notes on each. I've just begun putting in the Pic number as I upload the photos as a kind of text 'stub' for my own orientation purposes.

      Even then, this particular narrative 'got away from me' a bit!

      The action here is not a result that Chervenia would find satisfactory - for the time being just one of its three armies remains in the field - and that the weakest, and worst led. But ... there's still a range of options for the Allies...
      Archduke Piccolo.

  2. More to the point do you stop and take photos after every move?
    Must make for a lengthy game.....
    How do you keep the motivation going if you pause to write notes and take photos?
    I've always just played the game and relied on memory to recall the battle.....a bit like real life participants! One can see why discrepancies creep in and accounts differ!

    1. Hi Neil -
      I don't stop after EVERY move to take photos - just most of them. But I usually take several at a time. I really should do more close-ups, though, or at least mid-range shots.

      Apart from pre-game notes and battle-map generation, I very rarely take notes during the game. If it is something significant enough to note down, I usually remember it (e.g. the wounding of an army commander).

      I do examine the photos afterwards (downloaded from my camera onto my PC hard drive in a folder marked for the battle) make a list on paper of the pics I will use, with a brief note. On this occasion I placed a large die actually a dice box made to look like a die) beside the table to identify the move number, in order to keep track of IIIrd Chervenian Army's approach.

      By and large I find that, once begun, the whole action rattles along very nicely, pictures and all - maybe two or three hours, not more, to play out.
      Archduke Piccolo.

    2. ... Actually, the hard bit is the writing up!

  3. Thanks for all the work that is going into sharing this. Top blogging :-)

    1. Cheers, Norm. Even after just two campaign moves, the situation has taken a course I hadn't anticipated. Keeps it interesting to me, at least!
      Best -
      Archduke Piccolo.

  4. Archduke Piccolo,

    I read your excellent battle report during a break in what will be the final battle of my mini-campaign.

    What I like about your current campaign is the fact that winning a battle but not destroying your enemy can almost amount to a strategic defeat. The Chervenians may have won this battle, but have left themselves too weak to exploit their victory ... and the Turcowaz still retain an army with which to defend Ionople.

    The Turkowaz army seems to be fighting much more effectively than one might have expected, and this has helped to make this campaign even more exciting - and unpredictable - that one could have hoped for.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      These last two battles have certainly shown the Turcowaz Army in an unexpectedly favourable light. I'm inclined to attribute this to perhaps the light of Hexahedra's countenance shining upon them.

      But it might also have to do with the more aggressive stance being taken by the Allies, who, from the start, had rather the smaller armies, though with a SP superiority of 4:3 overall.

      The 'poor' Bashi-Bazouks have certainly given a good account of themselves, though several units have had to be disbanded as a result of the more recent battles. Third Army was the 'greenest' of the four (the Fourth, as yet unengaged, is the 'high quality one, but also the smallest) with 6 out of 10 infantry and its sole cavalry unit classed as 'green/poor'. But that army does have an 'average' general.

      I'm looking forward to reading how your own mini-campaign pans out. Not looking good for the Russians, but you never know...
      Archduke Piccolo.

  5. Immensely enjoyable as always. One area that really impresses me is the amount of forward and backward movement of units and the way your narrative explains it all. Many thanks

    1. Thank you for those comments, Johnny. I had intended a much briefer narrative, but, as often happens, it 'got away from me' a bit. Concise terseness has never been my long suit - not in writing, anyhow.

      But I also like 'things to happen' in my war game battles. Quite a bit has happened so far!
      Archduke Piccolo.