John Stallard's Ottoman Empire Army
Trips to play games at John Stallard’s house are always interesting, but this trip had an extra little surprise in store. We were there to play a game set in the Crimean war but when I went in to see the set up, my eye was caught by the colourful army set up in the middle of the table, in complete contrast to the comparatively drab English and the Russians armies we’d be using for the game. I needed a closer look…
Temporarily set up on the table was John’s latest collection, his Turkish Ottoman army for Warlord Games' Pike and Shotte, and by goodness did they look superb! I grabbed a few photos and John promised to tell me more about his army so I could share it and hopefully inspire others to create their own Ottoman armies. With my knowledge of the Ottoman empire being virtually non-existent, I was keen to learn more about them.
and huge, gaming table.
Inspiration and a quick history lesson!
At Warlord HQ, John took time out of his busy schedule to tell me more about the Ottoman empire.
His inspiration came from the simplest of things; seeing his friend’s fantastic 17th century Polish army and his desire to field something as wonderful against them. Why then did he choose the Ottoman Empire? Quite simply that neither John or his mates in his gaming group knew much about them so had ever put an army together.
Even though John had studied the Ottoman Empire at school, he remembered very little about them, and wanted to know more. It was his purchase of the wonderful book: Wars and Soldiers in the early reign of Louis XIV: Volume 3 - The Armies of the Ottoman Empire - 1645-1718 by Bruno Mugnai, and its detailed information about their history and famous battles, that fuelled John’s desire to put together an army to be reckoned with.
Everything you need to know about the armies of the
Ottoman Empire can be found within these pages!
John’s army is based on the 17th century Ottoman Empire, when it was at the peak of its power covering 32 Mediterranean provinces such as the Balkans, Albania, what we now know as Greece, and parts of Romania. One of their famous battles, which despite their considerable power ended in defeat, came when the empire tried for the second time to conquer Malta. Their first attempt was a four month siege that saw them repelled. The second attempt came nearly 15 years later and once again saw them defeated in the last epic battle involving the Crusader Knights. So famous was the defeat across Europe that Voltaire is reported to have said that "Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta."
This famous defeat did nothing to dissuade John from collecting his Ottoman army though. Inspired by their huge armies made up of roughly half cavalry and half infantry he continued to read more about what they had done and how he would use this knowledge to create his collection. One of the most interesting facts is that, arguably, the Ottoman empire had the first regular soldiers known as Janissaries. These were made up mainly of Christian children who were taken, levied and converted to Islam. As part of the army, and what makes them regular soldiers, is that they were well fed and paid. They were highly skilled at using scimitars, bows and arrows, even when many nations had stopped using them, as well as the more modern muskets. Fighting alongside these elite Janissaries were huge amounts of levied recruits and peasants who filled out the ranks substantially, helping to form the huge forces that the Ottomans were known for.
Sulliman the Magnificent leads this Ottoman Empire army into battle.
As interesting as this was, there was another part of a typical Ottoman army that really captured John’s imagination. Artillery. Lots and lots of artillery. An Ottoman army would field more large guns and artillery than any other army of the time could even think of fielding, hauled into battle with innumerable mules, donkeys, horses, cattle, and oxen. It is this that makes armies really attractive in a wargame - there’s something satisfying about shooting the enemy down with barrages of guns!
John was almost as inspired by the other half that makes up these huge armies: cavalry, with armies having somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 cavalry, which would make them a sight to behold. You can only imagine how much looking after this number of horses would need. They were split into two main groups, heavy cavalry with barded horses known as the Sipahi of the porte which were paid for by the state and the less well armed and trained Arab cavalry. These less well armoured cavalry were mostly used for scouting, as they were easily beaten in combat, and were typically armed with javelins and bows. The Sipahi, whilst considerably better than the rest of the cavalry units, were still no real match for the other cavalry found in most other European armies of the time.
Arab Light Cavalry prepare themselves for battle!
Alongside these fairly typical troops, John’s interest was also piqued by other parts of the magnificent noisy armies. Firstly, the religious fanatics and zealots that would accompany the army into battle with knives pushed into their bodies, which essentially self-flagellating as they marched to war. How terrifying must this have been? Secondly, whilst the men fought under horse tail banners, which in themselves were pretty cool, it was the huge soup bowls that was even cooler. The Sultans would make sure that their armies were well fed with lentils, rice and pulses all served with a giant wooden spoon from the ginormous bowls. These would be closely guarded, taken into battle to rally around. When there was trouble brewing, they would turn the bowls over as a show of their displeasure and intention to not fight.
Building the army and buying miniatures…
The book had given John the confidence to put an army together, so the next stage was to plan the army and get hold of miniatures.
The army would be fielded using the amazing Pike and Shotte rulebook from Warlord Games. A quarter of the army would be made up of the Janissaries, this meant John would need three units of them in his collection. There was no need to call on his encyclopaedic knowledge of miniature manufacturers as the miniatures available from Warlord Games and Skytrex would be suitable for the majority of what he had planned. Starting with Janissaries, John picked up three boxes from the range by Warlord Games because of their lovely details and clean lines. Next up was artillery. The rules say that for each division in the army, of which you normally have 4 or 5, you can field four artillery pieces - an outrageous amount! So, with his planned 4 divisions, John would need 16 canons all in all. Whilst artillery in Pike and Shotte isn’t as deadly as in later periods, it still has a large influence. They force your opponents to come to you as quickly as possible to avoid being shot to death before they can impact the game in any way. John explained that, for example, his friend’s deadly Polish Lancers have 10 attacks, a huge save and a huge stamina, so he would want to hit them with as much grapeshot as possible before they cause too much damage! Of the 16 planned, John has 6 artillery pieces, including light mortars, in the army. He got these from the Trent Miniatures range that is now exclusively available from Skytrex. His choice of Trent miniatures was the beautifully sculpted heavy cannons that are cast wonderfully.
The wonderfully detailed and crisp casting on the barrels
by Skytrex really impressed John.
To flesh out the army, John added four units of Janissaries with bows and two with muskets. These are joined by two units of Sepahi of the porte, and two units of Arab irregular cavalry. These were picked up from Skytrex and Warlord Games*. To keep his army in line with how Ottoman armies were composed, John admitted that he’ll have to get more of the ‘rubbish’ troops. To add character, John delved into his ‘pile of shame’ and dug out some of the stakes from Games Workshop’s old Bretonnian Archers range to be placed in front of his guns.
Ottoman Janissary Arquebusiers firing
John was very keen to point out that mixing and matching the troops from the Warlord Games range and artillery from the Trent Miniatures range from Skytrex you can build a really impressive force.
Painting the army
John has mastered the art of painting armies and his Ottoman army is no exception. Some people are a little daunted by the number of miniatures in games like Pike and Shotte but with new paint products and using tips and techniques from other painters like John, anyone can get a fully painted army, battlefield ready in very little time.
John explained that the joy of painting Ottomans is that any colour is allowed, there really was no colour that they didn’t use. Red, blues, purples, greens were all very common with some troops with more exotic colours. John grouped colours together in units as the cloth was paid for and issued by the army. So, technically, they would be in uniform but there were many different uniforms in the army so it all looks very colourful indeed.
Ottoman Djiveleks Trainee Janissaries
John’s approach is to start with a basic undercoat of white. This allowed him to use the new Speed Paints from Army Painter, as well as inks, as they flow nicely into the crevices of the cloth parts of the miniature. This creates nice, vibrant colours with highlight and shade done in one simple step. John went so far as to time himself - taking just eight seconds to paint three quarters of each model when he’d set them up in a small batch. Pretty fast by any standard. The next step was to pick out the faces and other smaller details. These don’t need too much work when they are in an army as they are grouped on stands together. John is an advocate of getting the bases to match as much as possible as this helps tie all the units together when painting an army too.
The Speedpaints over a white undercoat allowed John to paint the army quickly and still get the vibrant colours that Ottoman Empire armies are known for.
Whilst John is looking forward to his first game with his new army, he’s unsure of how they will fare on the battlefield. One of his concerns is that the commander’s leadership is 7 seven which in John’s own words is fairly hopeless! Bearing in mind that his plan is to stay on the backline and let his cannons blast his opponent on their way over to him this might not be too troublesome.
Ottoman Janissary CommandSo I'm looking forward to my first game. how they're going to fight I don't know. The commander of the Turkish army of the Ottoman army is generally the leadership of the infantry as a seven which is fairly hopeless. But bearing in mind that I'm in general just going to stay on the back line. Yep, and shoot. Hopefully I should be able to do that. Let the enemy come to me.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did! Despite the numerous projects I have on the go at the moment, I couldn’t help myself looking through the Pike and Shotte ranges wondering if I could put together an army that could withstand John’s artillery long enough to stand a chance of defeating his Ottomans at close range…
* for anyone who wonders if, as the owner of both Warlord Games and Skytrex, does John buy his miniatures, I can assure you that he does!