Marcus – Last time, we looked at the infantry component of John’s Ottoman Turkish army, and today we’re moving on to the big guns… literally! I sat down with him and a lot of artillery pieces to find out all about these whacking great boomsticks – take it away, John!
John – Artillery is, of course, the god of the battlefield, and when the Sultan marches, his cannon go with him and speak with his authority. Big guns, little guns, multi-guns, mortars, anything that can inspire fear in the enemy – it’s all fair game! The Ottoman armies fielded a bewildering variety of artillery, and it was not uncommon for a large army to have well over two hundred cannon – and we’re talking big, serious pieces here, not those piddly little six-pounders of the Napoleonic era. These would be hauled by bullock, mule, and manpower, and embedded in the centre of the Ottoman line with famous speed by their pioneers. Many times, they would also be lashed together with chains, and barricades, stakes, and all manner of obstacles erected in front of them to form a defensive strongpoint at the heart of the Ottoman army. The Ottomans suffered heavily at the hands of Western cavalry, and thus such a prepared defensive position was a must for any self-respecting Sultan or Vizier, particularly since the immobile nature of the guns meant that defeat tended to be accompanied by their loss, necessitating the long (and costly) process of producing a great many replacements.
The dirty secret of artillery in Pike & Shotte is that, while it may look very intimidating, its actual killing power is often a bit overrated! I think this stems from people having played other games like Black Powder, where the more modern artillery is rightly terrifying, but in Pike & Shotte we’re representing guns of a much earlier period and lower technological level – except for at very close ranges, they aren’t actually that deadly a lot of the time! Many of these guns would be carefully but somewhat crudely made, often prone to bursting, and with a significant amount of windage (gap) between ball and barrel, all of which contributed to a general lack of accuracy, while their huge size precluded particularly rapid shooting. Everything counts in large amounts, however, so when I field them I tend to have seven heavy guns in the centre, with four on the flanks, and any gaps filled with my light guns. With that lot in the middle, everyone forgets that I need a six to hit over half range, and no cavalry ever come near. A crafty opponent should be able to work this out quite quickly, but even my most experienced gaming buddies won’t often take the risk – heavy cavalry particularly don’t like being stalled and Disordered, and all it takes is one lucky hit to leave the horsemen floundering – easy prey for your Janissaries or light cavalry!
As is a great deal of my Ottoman army, my artillery is mostly from Trent Miniatures (available through our sister company, Skytrex!), and I’ve painted the crew and carriages using exactly the same technique and Army Painter Speedpaints as the rest of my force. The gun carriages in particular lend themselves really well to this and look very striking when lined up wheel to wheel. The highly skilled Ottoman gunners were known to fiercely defend (and were certainly extremely proud of) their weapons, and I’ve represented this by showing them in bright, freshly-painted colours. The heavy guns take paint really well, particularly the dark ironwork and twisted bronze barrels. My light gunners with their small mortar/bombard-like weapons are resplendent in their very, very tall hats, and I’ve scattered a few Trent Miniatures separate heads around the force to add variety. As Ottoman uniforms of the period are incredibly difficult to decipher or pin down with any degree of accuracy, I’ve painted the gunners in the same mixture of bright colours as the rest of my army, giving a kind of uniformity by variety, and I think they look absolutely cracking alongside their guns.
In my recent series of games with my Ottomans, my artillery has actually done rather well despite the aforementioned deficiencies, completely foiling any attempt at frontal assaults by sheer mass and intimidation factor. The closest anyone has come was a bold two-regiment attack by some well-armoured Polish foot, who simply ignored all distractions and went straight for the guns! I was wincing in preparation for my gunners getting a good kicking, but luckily we managed to break the enemy army just before they reached us – much brow-wiping and praising of the Dice Gods ensued! As I mentioned before, their intimidation factor is far and away their biggest battlefield impact (as well as looking absolutely fantastic), and using the historical tactic of ‘dig in and blast away’ seems to be working well for me! I absolutely need (and will have, in the fullness of time) more artillery in my army – no true son of Istanbul could ever have too many cannon – and I’ll continue to add to my baggage train now that we’ve got some baggage camels to make use of! There’s also the pioneers which we talked about last time, and of course more defences and general accoutrements of war to keep the increasing number of guns supplied and safe!
Marcus – Join us next time for the final instalment in this series, where we’ll be taking a look at John’s cavalry, commanders, and casualties, as well as a few new units he’s painted up since we started doing these articles. A writer’s work is never done – at least not when chronicling a project of this magnitude!
Get Your Guns
Trent Miniatures Ottoman Artillery models are available via Skytrex along with a selection of other fantastic models that perfectly complement the Ottoman models on the Warlord Games Webstore!