Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The First Blacklands War - the Fourth Week

Three weeks of battle on land and sea, saw the Allies in a position none too encouraging. Eight engagements, and only one clear victory to be had - one dearly bought and indecisive, at that. Invasions of Turcowaz territory by Bejela and the Black Mountains Principality had both been thrown back, as had the Chervenian descent upon North Macedonia. The Black Mountains Army, however, was once more at large, marching though the Abilonian littoral without opposition. Only the garrison of Scutari represented Turcowaz military presence along the Adriatic coast.

For the moment only two Allied Armies were facing Turcowaz forces inside the Settee Empire itself, the Hellenic and IIIrd Chervenian - and both stood at the end of long and tenuous lines of communication.

Side Note: In the narrative that follows, I will outline the moves of the respective armies, then follow that with a map and summary of how the decisions were effected.

First Blacklands War: Situation at the beginning of Week Four
As the War entered its fourth week, the Turcowaz armies seized the initiative. Rather than pursue the defeated Ist Chervenian Army into Sofia, which city would have been much too difficult to take, and impossible to besiege given a second Chervenian Army at large in the province, Nazim Pasha had several other options available:
  • to seek out and engage Chervenia's IInd Army;
  • to move back into Vardar in anticipation of Bejela's second invasion;
  • retire into North Macedonia;
  • retire into Rhodope
Bellicose to the point of bullheadedness, Nazim Pasha chose the first course of action: to bring IInd Chervenian Army to battle.

The Second Turcowaz Army might have been expected to anticipate the Bejelan move, or perhaps to come to the assistance of Fourth Army, then facing the Hellenic, and whose rear, rumour ran, was menaced by the approaching IIIrd Chevenian Army. Instead, Ali Riza Pasha chose a third course: to march into South Macedonia to cut the Hellenians off deep inside the Empire, and thus, eventually, to force its surrender.

Having repaired its wounds and recuperated after its battle of  Week Two, Third Army once more marched in East Thrace to guard the western approaches to the capital.   

Fourth Army was in something of a dilemma - attack the Hellenic Army with Chervenians in the rear, or vice versa. Halepi Zeki Pasha intended to attack the Hellenes, but discovered they had absconded during the hours of darkness of a wet and windy October night.  Eager for action, instead he led his army eastwards. According to messages received, Second Army was moving to intercept the Hellenic withdrawal.

In view of the Turcowaz move against his line of communications with his own country, Crown Prince Constantine had in effect no real choice. So tempting to fight a great battle against the hated enemy immediately before him, but to do so would have been to invite disaster. The Hellenic Army began its trudge southwestward. They would be lucky to get by the converging Second Army without a fight.

For their part, the Bejelans were, in effect, beginning anew. The two armies had been merged into one, under the command of the able General Petar Bojovic. How to employ this army?  Ignoring Chervenian appeals to help repel the Turcowaz invasion of that country, Bojovic ordered the advance southward, once more into Vardar Province. Intelligence received indicated that First and Second Turcowaz Armies were employed in other enterprises, and would not be in a position to oppose the occupation of Vardar.

The Chervenians were rather constrained in their options. The battered Ist Army had no option but to fall back into Sofia, where, together with that fortress's garrison, they should discourage any attempt upon the place. With an enemy army abroad in the province, and Ist Army's resistance problematical, IInd Army had perforce to abandon a projected invasion of Thrace, and to march to face the the invaders. Only IIIrd Army seemed free to carry out its plan: to advance into East Macedonia and trap, if the Hellenic Army cooperated, the Turcowaz Fourth Army.

Finally, the small Blacklands Army, having entered North Abiloni found itself outside the fortified city of Scutari. The question was whether to attempt an immediate assault, or to lay siege to the place.  Or maybe to advance into South Abiloni. The last option seemed out of court on account of enemy forces, even if only a garrison, in the Army's rear. An assault stood to gain much, but the Black Mountains Army was hardly larger than the Scutari garrison. On the other hand, all the Turcowaz armies were so distant, and otherwise engaged, a siege was clearly indicated. So the newly appointed Major-General Iskander Bogotan ordered.

First Blacklands War: Moves, battles... and a siege.

What of the war at sea? The Turcowaz Admiralty had long had the notion of employing their fast light cruiser, Hamidiye, with its well-trained crew, as a commerce raider against Hellenic shipping, and perhaps as an ever present preventive against Hellenic descents upon Turcowaz coastal towns. Although the blockade had officially been broken, and in fact the Hellenic Navy could maintain only a discreet and distant watch upon the Dardanelles, it would be necessary to protect Hamidiye against the heavier Hellenic units should they attempt to intervene. Sufficient repairs completed to the battleships Hayreddin Barbarossa and Mesudiye, and destroyers S167 and S168 made available, they would make up the escort. 

For their part, the Hellenic Naval Council had long apprehended such a move by the Turcowaz Navy. Once into the open Mesogesean Sea there may be no knowing where the raider might choose to operate. Their one vessel fast enough to match Hamidiye's speed was this moment laid up in dry dock undergoing extensive repairs. They simply had to hope that timely intelligence from Ionople, an alert watch, and a huge dollop of luck, would lead to the interception of the cruiser's sortie. A small squadron of observation was to be maintained at Lemnos Island, comprising:
  • Lemnos, battleship
  • Spetsai, coastal battleship, sister to Hydra and Psara
  • Leon, destroyer
  • Aetos, destroyer

Campaign Journal

The manner in which the decisions were arrived at was as follows.
A.  The order of moves was determined by die roll, resulting in
  1. Turcowaz
  2. Hellenia
  3. Bejela
  4. Chervenia
  5. Black Mountains Principality
B.  Each army was presented with a range of options. Occasionally a given army's move might be mandatory.

Turcowaz First Army (In South Chervenia)
  • Move to engage IInd Chervenian Army in S. Chervenia (D6 = 1,2)
  • Move to Vardar to intercept likely Bejelan invasion (D6 = 3,4)
  • Move to North Macedonia (D6=5)
  • Move to Rhodope (D6=6)
Die Roll = 2: Move to engage IInd Chervenian Army 

Turcowaz Second Army (In North Macedonia)
  • Move to East Macedonia to engage Hellenic Army (D6=1,2)
  • Move to South Macedonia to cut Hellenic Army's LOC (D6=3-6)
(Note that I weight the responses according to my view of their likelihood)

Die Roll = 3 Move to South Macedonia 

Turcowaz Third Army (In Ionople)
  • March into East Thrace (D6=1-4)
  • Remain in Ionople (D6=5,6)
Die Roll = 1 Move to East Thrace

Turcowaz Fourth Army (In East Macedonia)
  • Attack Hellenic Army (D6=1-3)
  • Attack Chervenia IIIrd Army in West Thrace (D6=4-6)
Die roll = 2 Attack Hellenic Army.  However, this one was overtaken by events, and the army turned to attack Chervenia IIIrd Army instead.  See below.

Hellenic Army (In East Macedonia)
  • Stand and fight Turcowaz Fourth Army (D6=1-3)
  • Retreat into South Macedonia (D6 = 4-6) 
Die Roll = 4 Retreat into South Macedonia (without engaging Fourth Army).  This stood, but it left Fourth Turcowaz Army with a quandary: to follow up, or to turn about face to deal with IIIrd Chervenia. I could have let the army stand, recast the options, or simply gone with the option remaining. I went with the last. Probably better would have been to leave Fourth Army where it stood, and have an ATTACKER-DEFENDER action in East Macedonia, rather than on the border with West Thrace.  However, the whole point of the thing is arrange battles... 

Bejela Army (In East Bejela)
  • Invade Vardar (D6=1-4)
  • Go to help of Chervenia, move to South Chervenia (D6=5,6)
Die Roll = 3 Invade Vardar

Chervenia Ist Army (In South Chervenia)
  • Retreat into Sofia (capital) (Mandatory)
Chervenia IInd Army (In South Chervenia)
  • Attack Turcowaz First Army in South Chervenia (D6=1-4)
  • Invade East Thrace (D6=5,6)
Die Roll = 4 Attack Turcowaz First Army 

Chervenia IIIrd Army (In West Thrace)
  • Advance into East Macedonia to attack Fourth Turcowaz (existing plan).
Black Mountains Principality (In North Abiloni)
  • Lay siege to Scutari (only feasible option)
As it was fairly easy to bring the navies into some kind of action, the narrative was developed accordingly. So there will be a naval action off Tavsan Adasi (Battle of Pirasi) between the squadrons listed above.

The net result will be 
  • Encounter Battles in South Chervenia, South Macedonia and on the border between East Macedonia and West Thrace.
  • Siege of Scutari
  • Naval action south of the Dardanelles.
To be continued ...


  1. Exciting stuff Archduke; I'm looking forward to the next game reports!

    1. Thinking about it, Maudlin Jack! First up, the battle in South Chervenia...

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    Things are getting even more exciting!

    This campaign seems to be developing a life of its own, and will certainly end up being one of those classic ones people in the future will refer back to.

    All the best,


    1. Bob -
      I couldn't hope for better! I'm told this is one method - if method it be - of writing novels: set up a situation, and see where it leads.
      Archduke Piccolo

    2. Archduke Piccolo,

      I once read that this was the way George’s Simenon worked when writing his Maigret stories. He’d start with situation and let the story tell itself.

      All the best,


  3. Thank you for sharing the decision making methods you are using for the armies. They are very enlightening to me and will likely be "borrowed" (read: copied shamelessly) when I put together a campaign of my own.

    1. PatrickW -
      Shall we paraphrase Pablo Picasso, substituting 'minds' for 'artists': 'Good minds borrow; great minds steal'. I can't think of a sincerer form of praise. Do let me know, though. I'm always ready to read the wars and campaigns of others!
      Archduke Piccolo

  4. I like your dice driven options system Ion, this is a cracking campaign.

    1. Thanks, Paul -
      The 'system' has taken the campaign in some unexpected directions! I try to make the options plausible - even for the less talented commanders. Methinks Nazim Pasha might have got himself into some hot water, though...
      Archduke Piccolo.