Monday 26 August 2019

The Relief of Vienna, 12 September 1683, Part 2: The Wargame

As promised the other day, here is the account of the game we played refighting the relief of Vienna. Can the Holy League drive off the besieging Ottoman army and save Europe and Christendom? To recap, you can look here . The game was split into three distinct phases; the initial attack by the Saxons, Austrians and other Germans on Nussdorf, the arrival of Max Emanuel of Bavaria in the centre with more Imperial troops, then finally the arrival of the Poles. As is normal I shall let the numerous photos of the ups and downs of the battle tell their own story.

Phase 1: Charles of Lorraine's attack on the Allied left:

The Ottoman camp and reserve.
The main Ottoman entrenchments defended by a single unit of Janissaries, together with Tufceci, Balkan  irregulars and Azabs, and some big cannon.

The Holy League had thrown up earthworks during the night to protect their cannon. Now the Holy League left wing is poised to attack  Nussdorf.
The Holy League infantry advance down the hill, facing fierce fire from the Janissaries defending the ruined village.
No pressure Dave. The Allied commanders look on as Dave throws for a break test, and fails, sending one German regiment back in rout.
The cavalry attached to the left wing also advanced down the hill but came under fire from the Ottomans in the entrenchment.
Some Ottoman Dellis tried to charge a regiment of Bavarian cuirassiers in the flank but their target was able to turn to face and drive them off easily.
The Holy League infantry pressed home their attack, at one point driving the Janissaries from their earthworks, but only temporarily. A Brandenberg-Bayreuth regiment was broken, followed soon after by a Bavarian one. 
Dave's (Lorraine's) infantry assault had been bloodily repulsed, thanks largely to some completely dreadful break test die rolls by poor Dave. Over half of his infantry was destroyed or shaken so the whole command, or what was left of it, was forced to withdraw a spent force. The cavalry had also taken a battering from the troops in the earthwork and were close to breaking. It was all going wrong for the League.

A final look at the assault of Nussdorf, at the League's high water mark. The Saxon regiment on the left drove the Janissaries back but were unable to gain a foothold before a counter attack broke them. The Papal regiment on the right fared no better.

League cuirassiers clashed with Ottoman Spahi in a series of bloody fights, coming off worse in the long run, until, enfiladed from the village, the League cavalry command broken.

Phase 2: Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria's attack in the centre:

Turn three and the rest of the Germans arrived in the centre. Slowly. It had only taken three moves to demolish the League's assault on Nussdorf but with a bit of good fortune things could improve. Neil was facing a large number of low quality but entrenched infantry, some big cannon and several units of Spahi so he wasn't facing an easy task by any means.

League troops advance down the hill towards the entrenchment.
Ottoman feudal Spahi await their foe silently.
More Spahi move up in support.
Neil's German infantry advance quickly towards the entrenchment but walk into a storm of musketry and cannon shot. One regiment falters and another is forced to retreat.
The Elector ordered his cavalry to charge, driving away the Tartar horsemen barring his way from the Ottoman Spahi.

Christian and Ottoman cavalry clash in the centre. There is no clear winner.

The Elector's infantry charge the entrenchment. The red-coated regiment on the right were devastated by eleven hits from closing fire (unfortunately they charged artillery and infantry) and not surprisingly were broken.
The cavalry fight in the centre swung first one way then the other, but the League troops were golding their own, just, and had driven back their Ottoman foes.
The Elector's cavalry reformed and his infantry broke into the entrenchment.

There were now only three League infantry regiments left in the centre, although their cavalry was pretty much intact.

In a final fling the Azabs were charged by Neil's German infantry. Miraculously the Azabs passed every break test and stood their ground.
At this point the infantry command in the centre was deemed broken as more than half of its battalions were out of action. In fact four out of six had broken and one more was shaken but still locked in melee with the Azabs. The cavalry however were still a force to be reckoned with. Which was to be just as well as the game entered its final phase.....

Phase 3: The Poles arrive!

To recap, both brigades of Imperial and German infantry, totalling 12 battalions, had been broken, as had the left wing cavalry brigade of six regiments. One large battery of heavy guns had also been abandoned. Still, it couldn't get any worse......could it?

Thankfully it was now turn 6 and time for John III Sobieski to join the fray with rather a lot of Polish cavalry, and some infantry.

Whats this advancing through the trees?
The remaining League cavalry in the centre was still more than holding its own against squadron after squadron of Spahi.
The Poles threw well with their first command rolls and raced down the hillside and right into several units of Feudal Spahi which were quickly bundled backwards.
The Polish winged hussars, supported by Pancerni and 'regular' cossacks appear unstoppable.
Polish Cossacks, Tartars and in the rear Pancerni covering the flank of the Winged Hussars. The lead unit was charged by Spahi and annihilated.
A sea of cavalry on the Ottoman left!

The Poles have a breakthrough move/sweeping advance and hit more Spahi, again forcing them back.
Shaun and Conrad look on as the two units of Winged Hussars carve trough their cavalry like a knife through butter. Casualties were mounting among the Hussars however, so one regiment was withdrawn to be replaced by another that had been in reserve.
Neil swung his German cavalry around 90 degrees to face the threat from Ian's Ottomans who had marched over from the far flank. The Ottoman shad successfully riven the broken infantry off the battlefield and overrun all their cannon.
The last line of Spahi bravely faces the onrush of the Polish hussars, who overwhelmed them.
Neil's cavalry were still sparring with Ian's Ottomans but were able to contain them.

The Poles are victorious having driven all before them. 

The battlefield at the end of the game. More than half the Ottoman commands were broken so, thanks to the Poles, victory was assured. Lets not diminish the efforts of the Imperial/German troops as they held the Ottomans and wore them down before the Poles arrived. In fact the Polish infantry only arrived on the final turn!

What a corker! Early in the game it looked like the Ottomans would destroy the Holy League before the Poles arrived. The League troops and commanders did well and to be honest were incredibly unlucky when it came to break tests, especially Dave as Lorraine. The Ottomans fought well on their right as they did in the centre from behind their earthworks, but poor troop quality for the latter played a part in the final collapse of the army. Poor Shaun and Richard had a bad day, either not being able to move or not being able to stop the Polish juggernaut. The rules amendments and additions worked well, although I do think that Polish Winged Hussars are pretty unstoppable. Then again, they were, and there were not that many of them so maybe thats ok. Unless you were a Turk!

So, a great way to spend a hot Saturday with a massive and spectacular wargame played in a most gentlemanly manner throughout. Thanks to everyone for taking part.

Below are some more photos of the game. Richard and I took lots of photos of the game. Only a small proportion have been included in the body of the post but I've included a fair few more below to help fill in any gaps in the narrative, and because its a shame not to use them.


  1. What a lovely looking game and an absolute cracker to boot. I've seen the wooded valley that the Poles charged down when we were last in Vienna. The local park has a nice statue of a Janissary in, which marked the Ottoman camp IIRC.

    1. Thanks Steve. Never been to Vienna but it's on the bucket list.

  2. Absolutely superb sir!. An oft overlooked battle and campaign, in an oft overlooked period. Thanks for bringing it to us.

  3. Must be a contender for the most epic battle of this period, and your version certainly seems to have lived up to its cliff hanger billing! A nice touch that the charge of the Hussars tipped the balance as it did on the day. Just starting a Polish army for 1627 which has plenty of Hussars. Sounds like I may need to tone them down a notch or two?

    1. It was certainly a game of two halves. Yes, in Pike and Shot winged hussars are pretty unstoppable but I guess there shouldn't be TOO many of them, 30% I reckon for late 17thC, more for early 17thC.

  4. An absolutely lovely looking game and such scope! Great looking armies!
    Can I ask where did you uniform guide of the European armies?
    I have a good collection of western European units in 10mm but would love to do the eastern front

    1. Thanks Warren. There are so.e excellent if pricey books from the Pike and Shot Society that have the uniforms of all the imperial and German states. One good thing is that uniformity was still in its infancy so there is plenty of scope for doing what you want.

  5. Wow, what a game! So colorful and all those units, don't know how you do it what with all your historical periods/armies.
    It looks great and it is a grand feeling to play a battle that turns out so closely contested. Loved it!

  6. A very impressive game. Many thanks for the Report.

  7. Well up to the expected standards from the Burrow.