The Wearing of the Green (October 1500/March 17, 2001)

By Peter Anderson, with Joe Fish


As his ship pushed off from the beach at one of the many small harbors that line the coast of the Adriatic sea, the Venetian commander decided that he would have to try to complete his mission today, or the chance might not come again in time to help succor the garrison of Durazzo. Under siege by the invading Ottomans, the city and its citadel had been a center of Venetian power along the Dalmatian coast for centuries, and it was vital that it not fall to the Turks! Although the Venetian armed forces under Niccolo Urlife had pushed the Ottomans back along the coastal road at the battle of Lezhe, the heathens were yielding only slowly, and the garrison needed new supplies of food, powder and pay if they were to be able to sortie out in support of Urlife's advance. Therefore the Dodge and the Senate had entrusted him, Zuppa de Mari, with the command of a small squadron of the Serene Republic's warships. It was made clear to him that he and his warships were to be considered expendable, but that the safe arrival of the supply ships he escorted was vital to the Venetian cause. If his mission failed whilst he himself survived, it was likely that he would meet a gruesome fate similar to those of past Venetian admirals whom the Senate judged had done less than their utmost for La Serenissima.

On paper, it didn't sound that hard to slip a small squadron past the Ottoman ships patrolling the waters around Durazzo, but unfortunately war was not fought on paper. Battle on the water was even less predictable than that on the land, given the vagarities of wind, tide, and ships, and the situation was made worse by the fact that whilst the warships would be under oars, and thus fairly maneuverable, the supply ships were 2 great tubs, one of Cog style and the other Nef style construction. Familiar with their type as well as the two specific examples he was charged with guiding, de Mari knew that their ships were both difficult to control and prone to slip downwind horribly. To make matters worse, he had the distinct feeling that the merchant captains of the ships were more interested in preserving their own hides than aiding the cause of the Republic. Despite his reservations, the wind had finally changed such that it was moderate in strength, and blowing straight down the Adriatic, and was thus as favorable to this insane attempt to run the Ottoman gauntlet as it would ever likely be. With a deep sigh, a fervent prayer to his Lord, and a last lingering look upon the miniature portrait of his wife done by that overcharging upstart artisan, Titian, de Mari gave orders to set out down the Adriatic towards the port of Durazzo.

The Forces

Venice: Admiral Zuppa de Mari

  • Gran Saltire , Laterna (large Galley), Flagship - Captain Asti Spumonti
  • Pegasus , Galley - Captain Osso me Bucco
  • Leopard , Galley - Captain Alfredo Fettucini
  • Commerce , Cog built supply ship, carrying a few defensive swivel guns and a months pay in gold for the garrison of Durazzo - Captain Anthonio Pasto
  • Necessity , Nef built unarmed supply ship, carrying grain and flour for the garrison - Captain Paolo Gosti

Ottomans: Admiral El Sherif Mustapha Benholden

  • Holy Crescent , Laterna (large Galley), Flagship - Captain Ali Gaz `aleen
  • Lion , Galley - Captain Ali Oup
  • Wyvern , Galley- Captain Ali Ti `npan
  • Griffon , Galley - Captain Ali Wishous
  • Flower , Galley - Captain Ali O'ber

The Scenario

The Venetian ships enter from the far northern end of the table, with the wind at their backs. The Ottoman ships enter at the middle of the long western end of the table. The Venetian ships must reach the southern edge of the table in the eastern half to be considered under the cover of the guns of the fortress and thus safely arrived in port. If the Venetian Gold arrives safely in the port, there will be a bonus to the BDV for morale for the garrison in the upcoming battle of Durazzo, and if the grain arrives, more troops will be available to sortie out. The opposite applies should either fail to arrive. We used a 6 foot by 9 foot table. The ships are about 10" long w/ 15mm crew.

The Deployment

With strict instructions to stay behind the cover of the war galleys as long as possible, de Mari stationed his 2 supply ships to the far east, heading due South. The warships were stationed in a line abreast headed Southwest, hoping to intercept a squadron of Ottoman galleys that had just been spotted heading towards Durazzo town. The Leopard was farthest to the West, then the flagship, Gran Saltire , in the center, with the Pegasus farthest to the East. The Ottoman squadron was deployed in line abreast heading due East, with the Lion farthest to the North then in order the Holy Crescent , Wyvern , Griffon and farthest South, the Flower . The wind was from the North and of moderate intensity.

The Battle

As the battle opened, it soon became clear that the captains of the supply ships had their own ideas about how best to accomplish their mission. Rather than cower behind the Venetian warships, they set full sail and ran South before the wind as fast as they could, easily outdistancing their escorts. Seeing this, de Mari maneuvered his ships towards the Southwest, attempting to intercept the Ottoman vessels. As the supply ships slipped beyond the bows of their companions, the lead Ottoman ship, Lion , loosed a long range shot with its heavy bow gun. Amazingly, the shot hit home on the Nef Necessity , and still more surprisingly, it must have been guided by the Hand of Allah, for it heavily damaged the keel of the ship, which began to trail grain from an ominous hole below it's waterline.

As the supply ships continued on their reckless dash across the front of the entire Ottoman squadron, the Lion reloaded, and joined by the bow canon of the Holy Crescent , fired yet again upon the slowed and leaking Necessity . Captain Paolo Gosti inspected the damage to the hull of his ship, and announced to the crew that the ship would likely founder within the hour. He wailed that their only chance was to run the ship aground on the upcoming headgrounds of Durazzo before then. Unfortunately, this shot then took the hapless captains head clear off, and his crew sunk into a state of utter despair. Made of sterner stuff, Captain Anthonio Pasto and the Cog Commerce continued to forge forwards across the bows of each and every Ottoman galley in succession, running a gauntlet of fire from their heavy bow guns. Everywhere timbers cracked and splinters flew, but the ship surged ever forwards.

Unfortunately for the Lion , the Venetian galleys continued on a Southwestern heading, and all three rammed into the port side, the timbers groaning loudly before being smashed into kindling by a combination of cannon fire and ram damage. The captain stayed at his post until the deck, awash with blood and seawater, assumed such a steep angle that footing was impossible to keep and Ali Oup went into the sea, with most of his crew dead or dying. Admiral Zuppa de Mari allowed himself a faint smile. Things didn't look auspicious for the supply ships, but now it was just 4 Ottoman galleys to his 3. He knew his ships were both handier and sturdier, his canon heavier and better served, and the soldiers onboard them better armed and equipped. It would have to be enough to redress the disparity in numbers.

While the sinking of the Lion left the Venetian fleet on the exposed port side of the Turkish flagship, the wily Mustapha Benholden had a trick or two up his sleeve. The two galleys on the starboard side of the squadron were more than enough to take on the merchant men, so the Flower and the Griffon went for the gold and the grain respectively, whilst the Wyvern rowed ahead, planning to swung around to come at the Venetians from the shore side.

The Necessity sank under continued fire from the Flower and the Griffon , with a few stray timbers and a large grain spill marking the site of her watery grave. Meanwhile, captain Anthonio Pasto, his Commerce carrying the paychest, attempted to beach the craft and make his way overland with the paychests. The captain of the Flower decided it really should be Ali Ober for the paychest, and led a drawn out but ultimately successful boarding action resulting in the Turkish ownership of the paymaster's charge. Between the gallant resistance of the hopelessly outclassed Cog, and the need to prevent the troops from Pillaging and Looting the treasure, this meant the Flower played no role in the showdown between the remaining 3 galleys in the Venetian and Ottoman fleets.

As their supply ships were being lost, both the Christian flagship, the Gran Saltire , and the Pegasus managed to ram the Ottoman flag, the Holy Crescent , but this time no real damage was caused by either making contact. A prolonged and bloody see-saw deck to deck battle then took place. Initially. the heavily armored Christian boarding parties gained the upper hand, cutting down half of the Turkish swordsmen and sending the rest of the troops on board back in disorder. However, Admiral El Sherif Mustapha Benholden was no coward, and he and his personal retainers charged into the fracas, thereby stabilizing the situation. Being the flagship had some advantages, as his ship carried part of the Marine Orta of the Jannisaries as a special mark of the favor of his Sultan, Kalliman al Rancid, "The Vengeful". Unlike the other galleys, which were provided only with relatively ineffective bowmen as missile troops, these were crack troops armed with the arquebus. The heavy armor of the Venetians was hardly proof against the point blank fire of these firearms, and the captain of the Gran Saltire , Asti Spumonti, fell to their fire, blood bubbling up from his mouth. Discouraged, the Venetian halberdiers were gradually weakened and then pushed back onto their own flagship. The arquebusiers on board the Gran Saltire and the Pegasus , stationed in the bowcastle of their ships, both fired at the Turks on the Holy Crescent , but without much discernible effect.

Meanwhile, one of the Venetian galleys, the Leopard passed the stern of the Holy Crescent , and then turned to the East, threatening to challenge the captor of the paychests. Feeling that there was no glory in plying the water near the sunken grain ship, the captain of the Griffon , Ali Wishous made use of the remarkable turning properties of a war galley, and spun her around to meet the new Christian threat. The Griffon and the Leopard came up to ramming speed heading directly for one another, but at the last minute it was the Griffon which rammed the Leopard bow on to bow and eventually sank the Christian galley, which had been heavily damaged in the collision.

The Wyvern , having circled all the way around the swirling battle raging `oer the Holy Crescent and its Venetian opponents, managed a great effort after a quick change of direction and rammed the Pegasus amidships on the port side while the Venetian ship was still grappled to the Holy Crescent . The Venetian galley was heavily damaged by the ram, but boarding parties from the Wyvern made no headway against her defenders, so instead, cannon shots from her bow guns completed the destruction of the Pegasus at about the same time the Griffon destroyed the Leopard .

This left the two flagships locked in deadly battle. The swivel guns and arquebusiers in the forecastle of the Venetian Gran Saltire proved to be too formidable for the Turkish troops to make much headway against. As the battle raged, The Gran Saltire was holed by fire from the now victorious oncoming Wyvern , and had over sixty percent casualties form boarding action. Admiral Zuppa de Mari then saw the Griffon also rowing towards his ship. Knowing that the Holy Crescent was also heavily damaged, and not fancying almost certain death at the hands of Turkish torturers, de Mari drove his bow gunners to fire one last round into the flanks of the low-riding Turkish flagship. Shattering what was left of the fragile timbers of the Turkish Laterna, the ship broke up and went to the bottom of the Adriatic, with the grapple pulling the heavily damaged and already doomed Venetian flagship down along with it. There were no Venetian ships left afloat. The whole violent action had taken little more than an hour to be decided. Only a few of the unarmoured crew of the Commerce managed to jump overboard and swim to the shore, there to carry the news of the action to the garrison of Durazzo.


As his Wyvern glided over the final resting place of the Holy Crescent and the Gran Saltire , Captain Ali Ti `npan spied something shiny floating on the water. Motioning to his helmsman, he brought his ship alongside and had one of the crew dive in to fetch it for him. He grunted appreciatively as he opened up the gilded case. It was a painted miniature picture of a pretty woman with red-gold hair. If Allah granted him the occasion to participate in the sack of Venice that his Sultan was planning, he would have to find her. She would make a most ornamental slave for his household...

Game Notes

This was a first playtest of Ken Baggaley's No Heaven For Cowards Renaissance naval rules, using the ship scale adaptations designed for roughly 3 to 10 larger scale ships a side. They are based upon Piquet's Medieval/Renaissance supplement, Band of Brothers. Although as usual, there were issues needing clarification, the rules are well thought out, and a hoot to play. I had the ill fated Venetians, whilst Joe and the green favoring Ottomans had the luck of the Irish. Galley warfare is very different from the Age of Sail! The combination of the bow canon and ramming make being taken in the flank very dangerous, and yet these ships can turn on a dime *when* they get the right card. Despite having more and better troops, I just couldn't finish off the Ottomans on board the Crescent, and that eliminated what little chance I had to salvage something from the action. I also hadn't considered how poor the control of sailing ships of this era was - once set in motion, there was little I could do with those darned supply ships except keep them going full speed ahead. No precise Nelsonian tactics in use here! Joe also scored critical hits on the Neccessity with each of his first two shots of the game. They were also the only critical hits of the game!

We used 7 old Bill Abrams' scratch built Renaissance "25mm" galleys (featured some years ago in one of his "Sapper Reports" in the Courier some years ago IIRC) that I was fortunate enough to see advertised for next to nothing on RMGH about 2 months ago. Suitably refurbished and gussied up, they made an impressive show. The method he used for the sails and banks of oars on his ships is most ingenious! The ships were rounded out by some additional Merrimack "15mm" ships (the two are essentially the same scale as it turns out) - 1 Galley (the Pegasus ), 1 Transport Cog, 1 Nef, and beyond the headland a Merrimack Galeass can be seen in the harbor (used for scenic effect only). The crew and troops were all 15mm (ugh, I hate painting that scale!). An additional bonus from all this was learning that Mr. Abrams lives a little over an hour away, so we hope to get together sometime later this year. Thanks again for the great ships, Bill!

Page Last Updated On: 18 Aug 2007