Türkenkrieg: The Russo-Austro Turkish War, Balkan Theatre 1737-39

Volume V in the Lace Wars series

Türkenkrieg Second Edition (TK) is the fifth volume of Red Sash Games Lace Wars series. This game opens a new subject, the little known war between the Russians and Austro-Habsburg led Imperials against the Ottoman Empire. A typical 'Cabinet War', it encapsulates many of the problems that would later dog Eastern European, and particularly Balkan, politics.

The Russians were continuing their drive for a warm water port and egress from the Black Sea, while trying to stamp out the Crimean Tatars - notorious slavers and allies of the Ottoman Turks. They bullied the Turks into declaring war in 1735, then suffered reverse after reverse - mainly from the conditions in which they had to fight. To take the pressure off, they roped in the army of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI of Habsburg, by virtue of a defensive alliance concocted in 1726. This treaty and this war would help cement an alliance between Austria and Russia that would last until the Crimean War.

Türkenkrieg looks at the efforts of the Imperial Army in the Balkans from 1737 to 1739. Charles' military machine was already on its last legs after the disasters of the War of the Polish Succession (in which the Russians had bailed them out). But the dreaded forces of the Sultan were no better; he had only just concluded a crippling war with the Persia of Nadr Shah. In the end, the Turks would win through bluff and diplomacy.

The Emperor's generals were fatally divided by service politics, but they agreed that only a defensive strategy was feasible - block the passes from Bulgaria by seizing the fortress of Nish, and block the Danube at the Iron Gates, isolating Muslim Bosnia and reducing it. Only Bosnia refused to be reduced. Mobilized by a dynamic ex-Grand Vizier named Ali Pasha, the Bosnian militia drove the invaders from their country. Threatened from the rear, the Imperial line of defense collapsed.

Grimly, the two sides fought on, hoping for a bargaining chip that would settle the ongoing peace talks in their favour. 1738 was supposed to be the year of decision for the Turks, yet it turned into a stalemate. Fortunes swayed this way and that. The Ottomans were hampered by a two-front war. The Imperials were hampered by chronic malaria and an outbreak of bubonic plague that threatened to engulf the entire region.

Nevertheless, by 1739, the writing was on the wall. The Turks defeated a rashly-led Imperial army at Grocka, only a days march from Belgrade, and then invested the city. Belgrade - Gateway to the Balkans, taken by the Imperials under the mighty Eugene of Savoy in 1718, heavily fortified, and made into a model German military colony. A bridgehead for the Imperials, it was also the lynchpin of their defense line. And it fell - fell through fear, not by storm or siege. The Emperor gave secret instructions to surrender the city if nothing else would serve to bring peace, and then indicted the men responsible for treason when they followed his instructions - how else to explain away his signing of a separate peace.

In Türkenkrieg, you will have a chance to change history. As the Imperials, you command a respectable force, but led by generals who are split into two factions that hate each other. You must try to keep the Eastern Hordes locked up beyond the plains of Hungary and the Banat - and don't forget to cover the Transylvanian passes. Oh, and the 30,000 Bosnians in your rear. As the Ottomans you command a powerful force, divided into semi-feudal provincial armies who must periodically return to their farms, supported by your own personal army, the Kapikulu, or Slaves of the Porte. Your generals are also divided - some are pro-war, and some pro-peace. Your cavalry outmatches your enemy's, but your infantry, even the famed Janissaries, is poor stuff against an enemy who won't fight hand to hand.

The Game

TK is a two-player game: Imperial Austria against the Ottoman Empire. The Turks have three provincial armies, composed of a mix of infantry and cavalry, and the Sultan's own army of heavy cavalry, janissaries, and artillery. They can also call upon Wallachian and Tatar allies. The Imperials have their core Habsburg-Austrian army, plus contingents from the Holy Roman Empire, and elements from the personal armies of Saxony, Bavaria, and even Modena. They also have the irregular forces of the Military Border.

Both sides are evenly matched - weakened by war but still dwarfing the forces of their neighbours. The Imperials begin as the aggressors, but will have to play cannily to avoid surrendering the initiative to the Ottomans. Playing for Prestige (like the other games in the series), your goals are modest, but can add up to significant gains that may influence the outcome of the peace talks. The peace process, more or less out of your hands, is the mechanism by which the game ends.

Map scale is 8.5 miles per hex. Unit scale is battalion/regimental. Units are rated for Effectiveness and Movement; raw strength is factored into Effectiveness.

Turns are equivalent to three weeks - 16 turns per year. Each turn is broken down into several phases - supply, operations, admin, etc. There are scenarios for each year of active operations - three in all - and a Campaign Game.

A few key concepts include Initiative and Operational Preparedness, Campaign Plans, Prestige, and Auxiliaries. This game uses the 3rd edition of the Lace Wars rules, amended to 3.75.

The heart of the game is the Operations Phase, where the players move their formations, lay siege to fortresses and engage in battle. The player with the initiative can dictate the pace of the game, but since initiative is based on operational preparedness, it can pass to another side, perhaps at an inconvenient time.

Auxiliary counters represent support troops and irregulars who had a major impact on operations, but cannot be adequately represented as traditional game units. Instead, a player might have a pontooneer auxiliary that he can play onto a stack to help it cross a major river, or a converged grenadier auxiliary that provides a morale bonus in combat. Because of the scale, many combat elements can be used either as units or as Auxiliaries.
[Playing cards could have been used instead of counters, but there are production issues involved, and besides, some of the auxiliaries' functions are hard to indicate with cards. In essence, however, auxiliaries are that kind of game asset, not "pawns" like the combat units.]

Leaders have an important role to play, as befitting an era where personal command was critical. They are rated for skill or effectiveness, personality, and influence (i.e. the chance they have of retaining command despite their incompetence).

The supply system incorporates lines of communication, the strategic placement of depots, foraging, and attrition. River and canal movement has been taken into account and will prove as critical to success as the use of rail lines in games that cover more modern periods.

The combat system has a tactical feel - while not a full sub-system with battlefield maps, it addresses the key issues of frontage, reserves, and supports, as well as firepower and morale. Winning a battle will bring you the acclaim of your noble peers, but may not gain you any strategic advantage; losing a battle can be catastrophic.

Components

1) Two full colour maps representing the Danube Basin and the surrounding lands, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, and from central Hungary to Bulgaria.
Here is a sample of the 1st Edition map; and here is a sample of the new 2nd Edition map.
[NB sample map image is low-res].

2) 1080 counters representing the forces of Austria, Saxony, Bavaria, Hesse, Cologne and other Holy Roman Empire states, Modena, the Sultan's Army, the Ottoman provincial commands of Bosnia, Rumelia, and Silistria, the Wallachians, and the Crimean Tatars.
[NB sample counter images are low-res].

Pic of TK components

3) A set of charts and tables, plus several display cards.

4) A series rulebook - 3rd Edition (3.75) - called the King's Regulations and Orders (KR&Os), a game-exclusive rulebook, scenario & OOB information, and an historical commentary.