Any time Warlord Bossman John Stallard turns up in the Studio saying “you have to come to my house and see my new army!”, you know it’s going to be good. As everyone who’s read any of the battle reports of the games John frequently hosts will know, he doesn’t do things by halves when it comes to wargaming, and this latest project is no exception. Cameras and notebooks in hand, the marketing team headed over to John’s place, and were confronted with a frankly enormous horde of brightly-coloured warriors! Pictures weren’t enough – I had to know more about the who’s, what’s, and whys of this project, so I collared John for a good old-fashioned interview! With so much on the tabletop, this will be a series of articles looking at individual aspects of the project – today we have an overview of how and what the force is, how it came about, and its first taste of action. Take it away, John!

JS – What I’ve got here is a host of early 17th century Ottoman Turks! These are the chaps causing so much trouble in the Balkans during the period – whenever the Sultan wanted to make a point about something, he’d order his Vizier to gather the army, go off into the world, and not return until he’d completed whatever objective had been set, which might be capturing more young slaves for the Janissary corps, or seizing a city or fortification. Either way, success was non-negotiable! The Ottoman army could be considered one of the first professional modern armies, but still looked like an absolute circus on the march, with an enormous number of camp followers and a huge baggage train. At the core of the force would be the heavy artillery – absolutely huge guns for the period. There would be a lot of them, as well – a hundred guns would be considered a low number! These would be hauled into place and very rapidly emplaced at the centre of the Turkish battleline – the Ottoman pioneer corps was particularly effective at works of this nature. The guns might even be chained together to prevent any attackers from carrying them off or moving them, and to provide a very literal barrier to an enemy advance. There would also be a huge host of cavalry, ranging from the excellent and heavily-armed Sipahi of the Porte to the numerous, belligerent, but ill-disciplined light horsemen from the Balkans and beyond. While the Janissaries formed the elite corps of the infantry, there were also large numbers of both Arab and Balkan footsoldiers armed with a mixture of bows, spears, axes, and muskets, this being very much a ‘transitional’ army from the earlier medieval to later renaissance style of warfare.

The Sipahi of the Porte heavy cavalry thunder into battle – they are a force to be reckoned with.

This is an example of the kind of force that could win fantastic victories, but that was also thrown back from the walls of Vienna by the Polish Winged Hussars. In games of Pike & Shotte, I’ve always found it best to adopt the historical tactics used by the army you’re fielding, wherever possible (although conducting a siege of your local wargames club is perhaps not the best course of action!), and the Ottomans definitely benefit from a defensive playstyle – especially given that their infantry has relatively poor leadership. Sitting back and not getting in the way of the big guns is definitely the order of the day here!

Some of Trent Miniatures Ottoman Artillery figures, now available from Skytrex.
An Ottoman Army is a visually striking one – a colourful mix of different troop types ensures that, even with a particularly large army, a hobbyist is not short of opportunities to flex their painting muscles with a wide variety of palettes.

I’ve never done an eastern army before, and when Warlord Games acquired Trent Miniatures (available from our sister company Skytrex), we got some fantastic Ottoman artillery figures, among other things. I painted a few up using Army Painter Speedpaints over a white basecoat, and very quickly realised what a colourful force this could be! Virtually every model has a kaftan or robe, and using Speedpaints you can get the majority of the model done in seconds – units can be painted almost in minutes! I always find that armies like this work en masse, as can be seen here. One of the other big reasons behind doing this army is that my mate Andy from my gaming club in Worcester (The Friends of General Haig) has a beautifully-painted Polish force, and I’ve been talking about getting a Turkish army together to give him a good thrashing for a long time – I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth was and actually do it! The army actually crept up on me a little bit, as they’re so quick to paint, and before I knew it, Andy and I were in a bit of a painting arms race!

John surveys his troops.

In the end, I went down to the club and found that I’d been double-crossed! While my Ottoman horde looked fairly matched against Andy’s Poles, another mate turned up… with another Polish army! Given that he’d driven a hundred miles for the game, it seemed rude not to let him play, so I ended up taking them both on at the same time. It actually went much better than I thought it might, and I was able to fight them to a standstill. Knowing that my infantry (particularly the non-Janissaries) could be a bit ‘iffy’ when asked to stand up to heavy cavalry and armoured pikemen, I had to lean on the intimidatory factor of my artillery and musketry. The Janissaries in particular gave good service, protecting my guns at a crucial moment from an assault by German mercenaries. All in all, a great game, and hard-fought throughout. I’ve also fought a couple of Scottish armies recently, just for a laugh, and the last one didn’t go so well – my Sipahi of the Porte were badly beaten up by Highlanders, of all things!

Believe it or not, it only took me ten weeks to take this force from box to tabletop! I’ve always been a huge believer in chipping away for an hour or so every evening, and with a scheme this quick I can get a Janissary unit done in about four hours! It’s not finished yet, though – no self-respecting Sultan ever has enough men! I need another unit of light cavalry, some more heavy guns, and a couple of regiments of Wallachian Voyniks to serve as disposable ‘speedbumps’ – really I should have much more low-quality infantry. It’s my favourite force at the moment, just because of how colourful and characterful it is, but of course that might change with my next project – who knows?

John’s army…so far. There’s a lot more to come!

MV. In the not-too-distant future, we’ll take an in-depth look at the cavalry and commanders of this army, as John has an interesting and unique trick up his sleeve to get them looking extra fancy. With so many units, you’ll be hearing more about this force a lot in the not-too-distant future!


Ottoman Janissaries Boxed Set
Sipahi of the Porte Heavy Cavalry
Wallachian Voynik Infantry

Feeling inspired by John’s example and fancy trying your own hand at an Ottoman army? We’ve got a wide selection of miniatures to help you along from both Warlord Games and Trent Miniatures (via Skytrex) and carve out your empire in Pike & Shotte.

1 comment
  1. Wow how big is that gaming board? Looks bigger than 8×4. I’m thinking of getting a bigger board for larger scale war games.

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