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Battle of Nicopolis (1396 AD)

By Ken Blackley

In the late 14th century the eyes of Western Europe began to turn to the east as the old enemy began to reassert himself - the Turks. With a fervour that had not been seen for decades, the chivalry of western Europe responded by marching east to their greatest disaster ever.

Eastward marched an army of English, French, Germans, Italians and Knights Hospitallers under the leadership of John of Nevers, son of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. It joined a Hungarian army under King Sigismund of Hungary. marching along the Danube, capturing Bulgarian towns, and advancing deep into new Turkish territory. But their advance was halted at the town of Nicopolis, which resisted the Crusader siege for over two weeks.

With the Crusader's stalled, Ottoman Sultan Beyezid saw his chance. He marched to the town's rescue, choosing a defensive position straddling the road to the city with his flanks protected by ravines. Sigismund advised a cautious approach, but the western crusaders would have none of that. Instead, they charged straight at the Ottomans. They hurled back the Turkish light horse, and pursued straight into a wall of Janisseries protected by stakes. Finally. breaking their way through the infantry, the disordered crusaders were attacked and destroyed by the waiting Ottoman heavy cavalry.

Far to the rear, the Hungarians followed up, slaughtering the disorganized Ottoman infantry. It almost looked like the Hungarians might win the day until Beyzid's Serbian vassals emerged from ambush to overthrown Sigismund's banner and throw the whole Crusader army into rout.

It was a devastating loss. Sigismund escaped by ship, but John was captured and later ransomed. John's ransoming was the exception; Beyezid, enraged by his heavy losses, slaughtered most of his prisoners the next day. The few that survived were given to his victorious soldiers as slaves.

The Armies

This battle is between the Later Ottoman Turks (#160b) and 166 Later Hungarian (#166). Players may select any optional elements as they see fit. However, two of the three Hungarian Kn elements must be designated to represent the crusaders.

The Terrain

There are hills along the Ottoman baseline, and a road running down the middle of the table, bisecting the hills. Woods and small hills can be scattered around the table.

Special Rules

Both crusader knight elements must be moved their maximum distance straight towards the Ottoman army before any PIPs can be spent on moving any other Hungarian elements. However, the crusader knights may be moved as a group with other elements, as long as these others match the knights speed and join the crusaders heading directly towards the nearest enemy.

Other Resources

Available from the De Bellis Bookstore: David Nicolle's Nicopolis 1396: The Last Crusade (Campaign Series #64) on the French-led crusade against the Ottomans in Serbia, with 14 color plates.

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Last Update: March 20, 2000

My thanks to Ken Blackley for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.