Ottoman Expansion in the 1400s
By Darren Buxbaum
In 1071, the Battle of Manzikert marked the beginning of the decline of the Byzantine Empire. Speedy Turkish horse-archers could outrun the heavily armored Greek cataphracts and raided Anatolia at will. With the loss of their territories in Asia Minor, the Byzantines lost a huge recruiting ground for soldiers.
Their solution to this problem was to hire mercenaries. These soldiers of fortune were sometimes Turks from rival tribes or knights from Western Europe. When Emperor Alexis asked for help from his Christian brothers in Rome, Pope Gregory created the Crusades. Unfortunately Alexis opened Pandora's Box and the westerners ravaged the empire. During the Forth Crusade, Venetians captured Constantinople and sacked it. The Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Christians distrusted each other. As time passed, after every military defeat, a civil war would erupt. One Emperor would be weakened and replaced by a smaller faction.
On the horizon loomed a greater threat. The Ottoman Turks were introduced to the region during one of these civil wars in 1345. They were called upon two more times and on the third they captured Gallipoli and were here to stay. The Ottoman Sultans took advantage of the destruction of central authority within the Byzantine Empire to capture many of its territories. The Ottomans under Sultan Bayezid conquered Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia, Albania and the Sultan had his eyes on Constantinople. They made many raids north of the Danube as well and destroyed a few crusading armies.
Everything came to a screeching halt in 1402. At the Battle of Ankara, Timur Lenk captured Bayezid. The Sultan died a month later without naming a successor. Civil war ensued and conquered lands rebelled and declared their independence.
Will the Ottomans suffer the same fate as the Greek Empire? On 5 July 1413 on the battlefield of Camurlu, Mehemmed, one of Bayezid's sons, killed his brother and claimed the throne as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. This is where this campaign begins.
The Campaign Game
The Ottomans are overlords of the Bulgarians. The Rumelian Beylerbey is the general for the Bulgarians. The Imperialists are the overlords of the Hungarians. This is due to the fact that King Sigismund is not only the Holy Roman Emperor but also the king of Hungary. Instead of concentrating on his Hungarian affairs, he puts his champion to guard his borders, the Transylvanian viovode, Stephan Laszkovic and then Janos Hunyadi. Serbia is independent, but has a one year alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor. This is to simulate Stephan Lazarevic swearing homage to Sigismund and being inducted into the "Order of the Dragon". After the year is over all bets are off and it is up to the player to decide where he will go.
Albania is independent, but has a one year alliance with the Ottomans. This is in place to represent the independent warlords dealing with the Sultan in their own internal struggles. To further reinforce this, I chose John Castriotes as the dominant warlord of the region. His son, George (aka Skanderbeg), was a political hostage serving in the Janissaries to cement this relationship. If John dies, one can use Charles Thopia from Durres or George Balshan from Shkoder. After one year, like the Serbs, all bets are off. Besides it may be in the Albanians best interest to remain aligned with the Sultan to kept the Serbs at bay.
I chose to start the game this way to give the players a historical starting point. After that, they can go their own way. It also evens the playing field, so the weaker armies aren't destroyed right off the bat (i.e. , Bulgarians and Albanians).
The player profiles are handed out to each player before the campaign begins. This way players get a feel for the military and diplomatic situation before the game begins.
* Contains general's element
About the map, the hex grid isn't for units of measure, but rather for the irregular shapes it could help me create. Movement is from border to border.
Players start the campaign in control of the following cities:
Ottomans: Edirne*, Thessaloniki and Varna
Use DBA 2.0 campaign rules as modified below.
At the beginning of each spring round, players roll a d20 to determine order of play. Highest number rolled goes last. Each turn represents a season beginning with the spring of 1414. All armies begin in their capitals.
Phases Within Each Campaign Season
Phase 1: Movement -- Each player moves his or her army. An army moves through 2 friendly territories or one enemy. If a player moves through one friendly territory and the second is an enemy one, he must stop at the border (on the friendly side) and wait the next season to invade. Everyone takes a move before phase 2.
Phase 2: Diplomacy -- Each player practices his diplomatic skills with the other players (make alliances. truces, hires troops, asks for help, etc.).
Phase 3: Action -- If in an enemy territory an action takes place by that army.
Later Ottoman Turks
Objectives -- As Mehemmed I you have eliminated your rival, Musa, in your claim as Sultan. After 11 years of anarchy, your Balkan despots have found some independence. Your Serbian vassal, Stephan Lazarevic, has gone so far as join King Sigismundís Order of the Dragon. This knightly order was formed in order to gather soldiers in a crusade against you. Also, Albania has broken away as well. Albanian warlords are warring with each other as well as Serbs and Italians. They may look forward to your help or join forces to resist you. The Serbs and Albanians must be brought under your control. Bulgaria is firmly in your grasp. You have placed your loyal Rumelian Beylerbey as their Tsar. When your vassals become obedient despots, you can turn your attention to besieging Constantinople.
Army Composition -- 4x3Cv*, 2x4Bw (Janissaries), 2x2Lh (Akinjis), 1x2Ps (Azabs), 2xArt, 1x3Kn (Serbs) or 1x2Lh (Albanians or Wallachians)
Territories or Cities -- Edirne (capital), Varna and Thessaloniki
Vassals -- Bulgaria is incorporated into your system with the Rumelian Beylerbey ruling their lands.
Objectives -- As the Rumelian Beylerbey, you have the Sultanís favor. You are instrumental in Mehemmedís success. You must protect yourself and Ottoman territories from Serbia and Western Crusaders. Personal gains are welcomed, but are second to the Sultanís demands. Taking territories along the Danube would prove vital to lead attacks into Hungary. An essential city is Belgrade.
Army Composition -- 3x3Cv*, 6x2Lh, 2x3Ax or 4Sp (city militia), 1x2Ps
Territories or Cities -- Turnovo*,Vidin, and Sofia
Vassals -- You have no vassals, but you are a vassal to the Sultan.
Objectives -- As Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, you have declared a Holy War against the infidel Turk. You have formed the Knightly Order of the Dragon for this purpose. Members are Janos Hunyadi, Vlad Dracul, and King Vladislav of Poland and Serbian Prince Stephan Lazarevic. You may even be able to persuade the Albanians to your cause. The Serbian Prince has formed an alliance with you for one year. Janos Hunyadi is your most trusted vassal.
Army Composition -- 4x3Kn*, 4x4Sp, 1x4Cb, 2x2Lh or 2x4Cb, 1x2Ps
Territories or Cities -- Vienna (capital), Zagreb and Sarajevo
Vassals -- Hungary is your vassal with Janos Hunyadi leading their army.
Objectives -- As Janos Hunyadi, you are the protector of Christendom from the Turks. You are in charge of the Kings troops in Hungary. You must keep on good terms with the Serbians, and then you should campaign in Bulgaria. Then onward to Edirne to knock the Turks out of Europe! You must save Constantinople.
Army Composition -- 3x3Kn*, 3x2Lh, 2x4Sp, 3x2Ps, 1xWWg or 1x4Cb
Territories or Cities -- Buda (capital), Cluj and Tigorviste
Vassals: You haven't any vassals, but you are a vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Objectives -- As Prince Lazarevic, you have taken advantage of the turmoil within the Ottoman Empire. First, you have signed a treaty with Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. That will make you his ally for one year. Second, you have moved your capital from Skopje to Belgrade to improve your position with your ally. Your position is one of damage control. You have the most to lose since you have the most territories. You have an old score to settle with Bulgaria, but Albania may make a move on Montenegro and/or Kossovo. Most of all the Sultan wants your head. What is your move?
Army Composition -- 4x3Kn*, 2x2Lh or 2x3Kn (Bosnian or Croatian allies), 1x4Sp, 2x3Ax, 3x2Ps or 3x3Bw
Territories or Cities -- Belgrade (capital), Kotor, Pec and Skopje
Vassals: You have no vassals.
Objectives -- As John Castriotes, you are one of three major warlords in Albania. You have gotten cooperation with the other two for now. In doing so you have thrown off Turkish rule. Your son, George, is fighting for the Turks only so that you may keep your ancestral lands. So you have a one-year treaty with the Ottomans. Your big threat now is Serbia. You have large populations of people that live in Montenegro and Kossovo. You may ask for the Sultanís help, but you donít want his troops to stay. You could also ask for help from Holy Roman Emperor but you arenít aware of his stance with Serbia is. The main task is to keep your people free.
Army Composition -- 5x2Lh*, 1x3Bd, 3x3Ax, 3x2Ps
Territories or Cities -- Kroje (capital), Shkoder and Durres
Vassals -- You have no vassals.
Last Updated: April 1, 2001
Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.