Friday 19 April 2024

The Guns of Naverhon, the Final!

Alas for the Zentan cause, the janissaries continue to treat the battle like a long weekend away. Having done some additional sightseeing to the rear of the Albanian positions, the slave-soldiers clearly conclude that a sight definitely not worth seeing would be the enemy firing line. Some of the Albanians rally and push forwards again. Others recommence their fire upon the lead unit of Pandurs (below).

The Zentan commander is understandably frustrated at his inability to get his best troops into the fray. Various colourful metaphors are uttered; hand gestures, not all of them supportive or child-friendly, are also made; and some frustration is evinced over the rules of war. 

(Above) Nevertheless, the Albanians continue to fight on manfully. More Pandurs tumble to the ground! (Below) The Pandurs' morale, never terribly high, crumbles at the sight of blood. They flee the field, leaving the remaining engineers dangerously exposed!

(Below) Alas, the Albanians are unable to take advantage of the situation. The engineers manage to run backwards before the Albanians can open fire on them. More mercenary infantry move up and open fire on the Zentans.

Any plan that relies for its success primarily on the efforts of  Zentan irregulars is never likely to be one in which the chances of success are high. Given the continual failure of the janissaries to move or act, the performance of the Albanians has been commendable. However, without the help of the Zentan elite troops, the chances of Zentan success were always going to be lower than a hedgehog's gonads. 

(Below) Many hits are inflicted, and the remains of two platoons of Albanians rout the field.

Having lost more than half their troops, the Zentans find themselves having to test morale. They fail, of course, as is the Zentan way and the attacking force must now retreat! The engineers are safe!

Sunday 14 April 2024

The Guns of Naverhon, the Fourth!

War, as a rule, is known to be quite a stressful activity. It's not, of course, the most stressful human experience. That accolade would be reserved for those circumstances in which one has been asked that sort of particular question by one's partner in which a fate worse than death might come from giving the wrong answer: questions such as: 'Do you think I should I wear the green or the blue?'; or, 'Do you think I'm putting on weight?'; or 'Do you think that my sister is attractive?'

Nevertheless, and not withstanding the physical harm that can also come from giving the wrong answers to the previous questions, war is generally a worrying state of affairs. There are the physical traumas that result from being hit by musket shot or cannon balls; the mental traumas that derive from discovering that not all of the latter have been fired by the enemy; and the moral dilemmas concerning whether, as a good Mittelheim Christian, one should bayonet civilians and then set light to them; or whether they should instead be lit and then bayoneted. Having said all of this, there is one kind of warfare that it much less taxing, physically, mentally, and morally: and that is Zentan Janissary warfare. Zentan Janissary warfare has more in common with such non-military pursuits as sleeping, drinking coffee, or going on holiday. 

And so it is that, as the Zentan struggle to kill or capture the enemy engineers intensifies, the main concern for the janissaries seems to be whether there will be sufficient sun loungers available: a question of concern given that their enemy are Germans. (Below) The Albanians have driven back one of the units of Pandurs. Another unit sidles outwards along the road, trying to cover the engineers. The unit that has been driven back rallies on a nearby hill.

(Below) The mercenary musketeers are now unobstructed by the Pandurs. Using formed fire they pour volleys into the Albanians: although, in reality, applying words such as 'formed' and 'pour' would probably be stretching the meaning of those words somewhere near breaking point. The mercenaries are 'formed' in the sense that they are noticeably more clumped together than the Pamdurs; and they 'pour' fire in the same way in which something that was recently happening quite slowly is now beginning to occur a bit faster: like the panic that might start seizing a gentlemen when he realises the consequence of saying something like: 'Well, you know, as it happens your sister is actually quite saucy'.

(Below) The Albanians take more casualties and one of the remaining units is forced to retreat from the edge of the woods. The dilatory janissaries have now managed finally to get close to the action. One platoon is now behind the wood containing the Albanians, a position that they have reached in their search, no doubt, for a quieter stretch of beach in which to unwind.

(Below) The rallied unit of Pandurs now move up again. Their intention is surely to advance to the left of their compatriots and so extend the screen of troops that will protect the remaining engineers as they attempt to exit, stage left.

 With the remaining engineers close to escaping, surely now is the time for the Zentan janissaries to step up and demonstrate their elite status!

Sunday 31 March 2024

The Guns of Naverhon, the Third!

The Zentan's janissary dysfunction continues. Try as the Sanjak's commander does, he just can't get his slave-soldiers up. (Below) The Albanians have moved to the edge of the wood, and they are at least on the right side of field of battle to cause some mischief to the engineers, if they can reach them.

(Below) Whilst hanging around in woods and skirmishing from a distance is probably the Albanian way, there is quite a lot of open ground to cover if they decide that it might be necessary to close with their adversaries.

The Zentans decide to open fire, and a contest of musketry begins. It's a rubbish contest, of course: Albanians versus pandurs is the military equivalent of an under ten's recorder contest. The wily Zentans then decide to switch targets and focus on the slowest of the groups of engineers. A few hits are sufficient to rout the latter and they quit the field! (Below) the surviving engineers cower behind the mercenary firing line.

The Zentans switch targets back to the enemy pandurs. As the firing continues, the accumulation of casualties begins to have an effect. (Below) One unit of Albanians recoils back into the woods. More significantly, however, the lead platoon of pandurs takes hits and then routs backwards.

(Above, right) Suddenly, there is a large hole in the Rotenburg line, and the lead element of engineers is now exposed!

Wednesday 27 March 2024

The Guns of Naverhon, the Second!

Fate smiles upon the Rotenburgers; gormlessly, perhaps, but favourably, nevertheless. As the Zentan troops hang around, admiring the local scenery, the mercenaries are able to begin executing their plan; although the word 'plan' might be stretching the meaning of the speculative guesswork that underpins their activities.

(Above) The engineers start making their way off the road. Behind them, the pandurs and musketeers attempt to form a firing line; or a firing wiggle at the very least. This line will provide cover as the engineers make their way up towards the road exit.

(Below) The pandurs are masking the fire of the musketeers, of course. The musketeers use the opportunity to form a two-deep formation ready to fire by ranks.

The Zentans continue to dawdle, handing the initiative to the mercenaries. (Below) As the engineers bathe in the luxurious safety of the cover of their infantry support, the pandurs begin loosing volleys off into the woods to their front.

Most of the casualties are squirrels, of course, but the odd Albanian is also taken out. The Albanian wounded are unlikely to be well treated if they are captured by any of the woodland animals. 

(Above) On the other flank, a platoon of musketeers and the remaining pandurs form up ready to fire. The pandurs find themselves a handy wall to hide behind. Thanks to the dilatory behaviour of the Zentan janissaries, things are already beginning to look a little difficult for the Zentans. Still, there's plenty of time for the mercenaries to knock loudly upon the door of Mr Cock Up. 

Saturday 23 March 2024

The Guns of Naverhon, the First!

In the wild northern reaches of Zenta, near the village of Naverhon, we turn our gaze to a small encampment of Rotenburg mercenaries. These fellows have long been employed in the service of Hospodar Casimir, their skills being applied to the production of high technology weapons; although the term 'high technology' mainly refers to the height of what has been produced, rather than its sophistication. A prime example of this are the WMD, or 'Wagons Moste Destructive', that have been produced by adding cannons to ox carts. This blending of artillery and sub-optimal transport has had the effect of producing a weapons system that makes the cannons less accurate and the wagons slower. It has also made the ox even more truculent by giving them the self-confidence that comes from access to small-bore artillery. 

At this moment, some of the mercenary artificers are standing around one of their latest creations.

'What's this?' asks one, with interest.
''My latest creation', replies another. 
'It's very small', adds a third.
'Indeed, that's the point. It is a miniature mortar produced according to a design drawn up by my grandmother'.
'Miniature weapons designed by your grandmother?'
'Why yes - I call it "Nanotechnology"'.
This scholarly exchange of views is interrupted by the sudden sounds of drumming. Alarm! Alarm!

(Above) A little way to the east, Zentan troops seem to be approaching. By the silly cut of their caps and the sourness of their demeanor, these must be janissaries. Taken from their parents at the age of seven and then converted to Islam, these troops are just as angry as one might expect if one were looking at ex-Mittelheim children who have suddenly been prevented by their new religious strictures from drinking strong alcohol.

The general air of military indiscipline is reinforced by the arrival of some Albanian mercenaries. (Above) To describe these troops as badger-biting loonies would be to have caught them in one of their rare moments of quiet reflection. 

(Below) The Rotenburg mercenaries exit their tents and begin to try and form up.
'I don't understand', says one. 'Why are the Zentans suddenly so angry with us? I thought they liked us?'
'Hmmm', replies another. 'I had noticed the mood changing over the last day or so. Didn't you see those lasses yesterday who mouthed obscenities at us and then drew a finger slowly across their throats, before pointing at us'.
'I thought they were just saying how much they liked us', replies the first. 'My wife often does the same thing when I come back late from the tavern'.

The Rotenburg mercenaries consist of two parties of engineers, two platoons of Rotenburg Pandurs, and one platoon of Rotenburg reserve infantry. Being poor quality, ill-disciplined sweepings from the sort of prisons where even the cockroaches suffer from depression, these troops are a cut above the usual Rotenburg soldiery.

The mercenaries try and put themselves into some kind of order. (Above, right) The engineers are the key troops. In order to succeed, the engineers must exit from one or both ends of the road.

The mercenary commander decides to try and shepherd the engineers to the west. In the trees to the front, the Rotenbergers can hear the sound of angry Albanians. The is indistinguishable from just hearing the sound of Albanians. The Pandurs and infantry begin to try and form a firing line behind which the engineers can shelter. 

Meanwhile, a third platoon of Pandurs appears. They have been hanging out with the bears in the woods. It is clear that one issue of importance to the battle is whether these Pandurs can get to the scene of the fight before the janissaries do ...


Tuesday 19 March 2024

You've Nailed Him to His Perch!

'As you requested, my lord Casimir: behold! The Rotenburg ambassador!' cries Radu Pasha, gesturing.
There is a moment of silence as the assembled court look at the contents of the floor in front of them.
'Hmmm' says Hospodar Casimir finally. 'He doesn't look very well'.
'Has he lost some weight?' asks Sihirbaz Agha, the Sanjak's Chief (and to be honest, only) Scientist. 'He looks a bit peaky'.
 'He's dead', says the Hospodina Eudokia Asanina. 'He is, to use the English vernacular, "brown bread". Indeed, given how very dead he looks, one might say that he is "seven-seed multi-grain bread"'.
'Are we sure?' asks Sihirbaz. 'Because I had a long conversation with him yesterday in the gardens'.

'He's dead', says Radu Pasha sighing.
'No, he's just resting ...' replies Sihirbaz vehemently.
Radu snorts. 'Look, I know what a dead ambassador looks like; and I'm looking at one right now!'
'No, he's not dead: he's definitely resting!'
'Well, if he's resting, then we should wake him him up!' says Radu. 'Wake up mister ambassador, I've got a lovely cuttlefish for you!'
'There!' cries Sihirbaz. 'He moved!
'No he didn't!' says Radu. 'That was you poking his head with your foot!'
'He's resting!' insists Sihirbaz.
'Wake up! Wake up! See?' replies Radu, thrashing the ambassador with his stick.
'I think he was just waking up when you stunned him with your cane' insists Sihirbaz.
'No!' cries Radu. 'This ambassador is demised!'
'He could just be pining ...'
'He's not pining! He has passed on!'
'Pining for ... some fjords'.
Radu gesticulates. 'He's not pining for some fjords! This ambassador is dead! He's a stiff! He is an ex-ambassador!'

The hospodina raises an eyebrow. 'Cease this! Look at him: he's shrunken, naked, skeletal, and also, and this should be a reasonably strong clue, he's not breathing'.
'He could be breathing softly', says Sihirbaz, unwisely persevering.
'I doubt it', say Eudokia, 'because he hasn't got a nose'.
Sihirbaz sighs. 'He's dead: and I thought that he was just a good listener'.
'This is inconvenient', snaps the hospodar. The assembled courtiers, minus the hospodina, shift nervously. Whilst the phrase "this is inconvenient" doesn't sound much like the phrase "I am unhappy, and I intend to manifest this mood by skinning all here assembled alive, before then dipping them in a pot of chilli salt", in Casimir's court the two sentences were functionally identical. 'I wished to inform him of my intention to massacre the Rotenberg mercenaries currently stationed in my territory', continues the hospodar. 'But now I can't'.

As has been noted in an earlier edition of this modest publication, it had been the case that Rotenburgers had been employed to aid the Sanjak in its search for technically sophisticated weapons. This had never delivered much of use. The equipment produced by the Rotenburgers was indeed technically sophisticated; as opposed, that is, to being actually sophisticated. The northerners had seemed incapable of producing anything that didn't either spontaneously combust or result, on construction, with a product in which several small, but as it would transpire, quite important, unidentified parts were inexplicably left over. Flat-pack wooden artillery did indeed reduce many of the challenges of military logistics; but the weight and roundness that caused such problems in transportation it turned out also made quite an important contribution to their ability to project large metal cannonballs. The Rotenburg artificers simply declared this discovery to be 'some inevitable bumps in the road' before going back to playing cards and drinking port. Even after some of them were subjected to a few inevitable bumps on the head with some wooden clubs (none of which were flat-pack) it was difficult to induce in them any real sense of urgency or, indeed, competence.

'Goodness, husband!' says the hospodina tartly. 'It cannot make a jot of difference if one declares one's intentions before the ambassador or not. I'm sure it will be quite as much fun to surprise the Rotenburgers and massacre them in their beds. We are, after all, at war with Landgrave Choldwig!'
'Hmmm', replies the hospodar, mulling this over. 'I suppose it increases the chances of capturing some prisoners. And entertaining them would pass the time whilst we waited for the Vulgarians to besiege another town. Where are they heading?'
'By all accounts, they are moving their forces by river to Bachscuttel'.
'Excellent! I really don't like Prince Rupprecht: and it doesn't help that there is so much of him to dislike'. Casimir looks at the remains of the ambassador. 'You know' he says philosophically, 'I think I prefer the ambassador like this. He's much less argumentative'. He peers forward. 'Is that a hole in the back of his head?'
Radu pasha also leans forward. 'I think it is indeed my lord'.
Casimir nods. 'And what do you know - he's also much more open-minded'.

Thursday 29 February 2024

My Grandfather's What?

'Your wooden clock!' says chamberlain Fecklenburg with evident relief. 'You wanted to show me your large wooden clock. Thank goodness!'
'Yes', replies Prince Rupprecht of Saukopf-Bachscuttel quizzically, 'what did you think that I said?'
'It ... it doesn't matter, my lord. It really doesn't matter. Suffice it to say that my morning has improved significantly'.
'Well, there it is!' says Rupprecht, pointing.
'Splendid, sir: although, and forgive me for being picky, but there don't seem to be any numerals on the clock-face'.
'Oh no', replies the prince dismissively. 'If there were numbers then the clock would actually tell the time; and then I would have to concern myself with un-princely things such as being on time. And then, before you know it, I'd have schedules, programmes, appointments. I have', says Rupprecht waving his hand generally in the air, 'a post-temporal mindset'.
'You mean you're late for everything'.
'Not at all, Fecklenburg. As a prince, I am never late: everyone else is just inconsiderately early'.
'Quite so, my lord', bows the chamberlain.

'While we are here, sire, it would prudent to talk about some matters of state.' There is an audible groan from Rupprecht.
'Sir, here I need to be frank', continues Fecklenburg.
'No! I have trouble enough remembering your name without you trying to change it. You can't be Frank; You’ll just have to remain Fecklenburg'.
'No sir, I mean that we must be honest about ...'
Rupprecht blows a raspberry. 'Look, I appreciate your honesty in opening up to me about wanting to change your name; but the answer is still no. Anyway, if you were going to change your name then it has to be a name I can remember: like Rupprecht'.
'But that's your name, sir'.
'Hmmm, you're right: and if we were both Rupprecht then that would be very confusing. Well, I suppose I could change my name to something else that was easy for me to remember: like Fecklenburg'.
'My lord, then I'd be Rupprecht and you'd be Fecklenburg. Imagine the problems ...'
'You're right. Well, then perhaps you could be Rupprecht, and I could be Frank?'
'Sire, I think that we have drifted from my original intent. In fact, it's less a drift, and more a vigorous paddle. I simply wanted to say that I think that, respectfully, things on the frontier are likely to get a tad difficult'.
'A tad? Is that bad? It sounds bad; or at least the tone of your voice leads me to think that it's bad'.
'Sir, I fear for our frontier towns. It seems likely that the Vulgarians might have a go at them'.
'But why would the Vulgarians come all this way and lay siege to one of our towns?'
'Well, sir, probably because they have all of this siege stuff and they want to use it again'.
Rupprecht snorts. 'Well, let them come. Our towns are locked up as tight as my mother's virtue'.
'Exactly sire: almost anybody might be able to get their hands on our bastions'.