Wagon train raid goes bad... The Merchants of Venice

Swinging into the saddle for another day of riding escort duty, Alvise Marino Contarini muttered a silent prayer to the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark. He'd signed on to recruit and command the escort for this Venetian trading mission to neutral Croatia several weeks ago. His employer was the notably ugly and occasionally cruel Umberto Cristoforo Loredan, merchant son of a very wealthy Venetian Senator. At first all went well for the mission, with little to do but fend off an occasional half hearted attack by local brigands, as Umberto made ducats hand over foot trading with other merchants coming from the Levant. However, in the course of trading, there were rumors heard of a substantial Ottoman raising force having entered the area. He had advised heading back for the Venetian colony at the fortress town of Modone ("Mo-doh-neh") in Dalmatia as soon as possible, but the proud and ambitious Loredan was determined to make a killing in trading for a shipment of aromatics and fine silks due in any day, so he lingered on in Croatia for several days until the caravan arrived and the deal was made. With full wagons, the convoy had at last set off for Modone, but Loredan's dawdling was likely to have them now suffering the killing! The past several days they'd been pursued by a force of pagan Turks, and had lost several good men picked off by the Turkish horse archers. Now there was just about 1 days travel to the safety of the colony.... if nothing went wrong!

At the same time, Hassan al Rancid was fuming as he mustered his troops. He was one of the many younger (but more loyal) sons of Sultan Kalliman, and had been flattered that his father had allowed him to lead this raid into Croatia. As a special sign of his favor, he had even allowed Hassan to include a substantial party of his Jannissaries and some of the Sipahis of the Porte in his command. At first, the raid was successful but unspectacular. The some Croatian traders made him aware of a major Venetian trading mission in the area. By swift marching, he'd caught up to the infidels, but his troops were scattered across the countryside by the pursuit. Thus far, they'd been able to do little more than harass the Venetians as they made their way through the countryside. Hassan was eager to make good on the confidence his father had showed in him, but even more he wanted the rich treasures in the Venetian wagons! He'd lived long enough in a state not fitting for a son of the Sultan! With the spoils from this mission, he could set himself up in Istanbul in the style he had so long deserved! He had all of his troops converging on the routes the caravan would have to take. Singing a prayer to Allah as he mounted his charger, Hassan al Rancid spurred his troops on to the hunt!

This scenario is shamelessly adapted from Charles Grant's excellent "Scenarios for Wargamers", scenario #32, Convoy(1) - The Wagon Train. The terrain used was essentially the same as in the map for the scenario, with a large castle being used for the fortress. The Venetians enter from the East, and must determine which of the 2 roads they will enter by, and then set up their order of march, with the wagon escort troops starting deployed in whatever formation their commander desires. The roads each fork twice, giving options for which route to take to the Fortress. The wagons can only move on the roads! There are 5 potential entry sites for the Turkish units, which arrive randomly on the table.

Order Of Battle

Serene Republic Of Venice

  • Wagon escort troops: Commander is Alvise Marino Contarini, grand nephew of Giralomo Contarini, the now aged "Lion of Venice".
  • 1 unit of Stradiots, MC, 2/stand, Natives, spear, mace, shield, Leather armor @ 24 pts
    Fire: NA Melee: UP 3 Morale: DN 1
  • 1 unit of Cavalleria Leggeria, HC, 3/stand, Regulars, Metal armor, Lance, @ 40 pts
    Fire: NA Melee: UP 3 Morale: NC
  • 1 unit Musketeers, LI, 2/stand, Militia, Musket, no armor or helmet @ 15 pts
    Fire: UP 2 Melee: DN 2 Morale: NC
  • 2 units Schavoni, MI, 3 per stand, Natives, Arquebus, swordsman, Helmet @ 28 pts
    Fire: UP 1 Melee: UP 1 Morale: DN 1
  • Sub Total: 135 pts


6 Wagons: forming the trading mission. "Commander" is the Merchant of Venice, Umberto Cristoforo Loredan. 49 year old male and eldest son of Jacopo Loredan, a senator and wealthy Olive Oil magnate. Rather ambitious, he is ugly, slightly cruel, and proud. As employer of the hired guards, and by virtue of his position in Venetian society, he also has overall command.

The wagons will move at the rate for heavy artillery/ war wagons, namely 8" in road column. They may not leave the roads. They will move on the "Chariots Rumble Forth" card. 2 of these will be placed in the Venetian sequence deck (NOT the TAD deck). It is about 9 feet along the roads to the castle from the edge of the table. Each wagon takes 2 hits, and counts as an automatic D4 for melee and morale. They fight and take fire as battle line, no armor. They grant no army characterization cards, but cost no morale chips for their loss, morale, etc. and any of their losses don't count towards nor are they subject to Major Morale, either. Loredan, however, does have to take checks for their loss as per the normal officer check procedure. They do trigger off "Pillage and Loot" checks by the Ottoman troops. 3 wagons lost is a draw, more than 3 lost an Ottoman victory, less than 3 lost a Venetian victory.

Garrison of Modone:

Commander is the mercenary captain, Guisseppe Giardano. He's received notice that a Venetian trade mission is approaching Modone, and has been harassed by Ottoman raiders. He can afford to send his cavalry out to succor the merchants, but he must at all costs keep his infantry and guns on the walls of the castle, as they are all that protect the Venetian colony itself from the Turks. No troops can leave the fortress in any event until they can see the approach of the wagon train and/or its escort. The terrain is such that this will not occur until they are 2 feet or less from the gates.

Available to sortie out to assist the wagons once they come within sight of the castle:

  • 1 unit of Mtd Arquebusiers, LC, 2/stand, militia, Helmet, no armor, Arquebus @18pts
    Fire: UP 1 Melee: DN 1 Morale: NC
  • 1 unit of Reiters, EHC, 3 per stand, Elite, Plate, Pistols, caracole @ 44 pts
    Fire: NC Melee: UP 2 Morale: UP 1 (Includes EHC fire penalty)
    Add 2 "Advance, Fire, and Retire" cards to the Venetian (Italian City States) TAD deck. The Reiters only may use this card.
  • Subtotal 62 pts
  • May assist only by their fire from within the Castle:
    2 units mercenary Arquebusiers, MI, 3 per stand, Militia, helmet only, arquebus @ 28
    Fire: UP 2 Melee: DN 1 Morale: NC
  • 1 battery Medium Guns, militia, no armor @ 18 pts
    Fire: UP 1 Melee: DN 3 Morale: NC
  • Subtotal 74 pts
  • Total troops: 271 pts.
    Draw 3 Army characterization cards, and use the rules for Small forces engaged.

Ottoman Empire:

Raiding Units Available:

  • 1 unit Sipahis of the Porte, 3/stand, HC, Mail, Helmet, Light lance, adv. Bow, Elite, Unique. @ 46 points each.
    Fire: UP 1 Melee: UP 4 Morale: UP 2 (#1)
  • 2 units Akinjis, LC, 2/stand adv.bow, swd, no armor, helmet, trained militia. @ 12 pts ea
    Fire: NC Melee: DN 2 Morale: NC (#2, #3)
  • 2 units Azabs, LI 2/stand, adv. bow, no armor, trained militia. @ 15 points ea
    Fire: UP 1 Melee: DN 2 Morale: NC (#4, #5)
  • 2 units of Jannissaries, MI, 3/stand, Helmet, no armor, Musket, Swordsman, Elite, Unique. "Fearsome Unit" @ 42 pts each
    Fire: UP 4 Melee: NC Morale: UP 2 (#6, #7)
  • 2 units Azab Spearmen, MI, 3/stand, helmet, no armor, trained militia. @18 points each.
    Fire: NA Melee: NC Morale: NC (#8, #9)
  • Commander is Hassan al Rancid, 25 year old male, one of many sons of Sultan Kalliman "The Vengeful". Quite greedy, he is arrogant and bad tempered but absolutely loyal, and a loyal intriguer at court. He is a famous singer. He may choose one unit and enter the table when that unit enters. That unit will be in command. All other units will be Out of Command at the start of the game. Al Rancid may assert command over other units in the usual fashion if and when he is otherwise eligible. If the unit he enters with gets lost, he still will enter the table - roll for location in that event!
  • Total 220 pts

The Ottoman sequence deck will have a "Whim of the Gods" card added to its deck (NOT the TAD deck). On each turn, except the first turn, that the card comes up, the Ottoman player will check for entry of his units. The turn of entry and location (A,B, C, D, E, or lost and never arrives) are determined advance by rolling 2D6 for each unit for turn of entry, and a D6 for location of entry (1 = A, 2 = B, etc. and 6 = lost!) in advance of the battle. 4 different schedules will be prepared and sealed in envelopes prior to the game. Each envelope will contain 11 cards numbered with Turn 2 - 12 on the face. On the reverse are indicated any troops available to enter that turn. If the "Whim" card isn't played for several turns, when it is played, any troops that were available to enter on an earlier turn may be entered as well. Troops entering at the woods at "A" which is class III terrain, may be kept concealed (with their facing and formation recorded) until any Venetian troops come within 12 inches of the woods, at which point they must be set on the table. All other hills are class II terrain, all woods are class III. Any buildings (except the castle - class IV walls) and fields are purely decorative.

The Ottomans will use the 16th C. Ottoman Sequence deck plus the "Whim" card. Also add 2 Pillage and Loot and 1 Allah Akbar! card to its TAD deck. Draw 3 Army characterization cards, and use the rules for Small forces engaged.

The Action At Modone

Umberto Loredan was both pleased and anxious. His trading wagons were heavily laden with rich goods from the Levant - especially the fine silks and other fabrics that would help make him an even richer man if he could get them safely back to Venice and from there to the markets of Europe. But their safety was in doubt! Those miserable raiding Turks were threatening his life, and even more important, his fortune! And Contarini, the commander of his hired guards, had seemed entirely too anxious to protect the lives of his guards, rather than protect the treasures in his wagons. As a result, he would have to take over command of the entire party. As a son of a Venetian Senator, he knew that such a simple thing as military command was something he could do far better than these uneducated hired hands. Why, Contarini had never even read Livy or Plutarch! And besides, he alone understood the proper priorities in matters such as this.

Accordingly, he deployed his Albanian Stradiot light cavalry as skirmishers in the lead of his forces. These brigands were best left in front, with the wagons conveniently out of sight behind them! And besides, they were perfect for driving off any of those annoying hordes of Akinji horse archers that usually accompanied any Turkish force! Coming next, his musketeers, also in skirmish order, would supply supporting firepower, and could move forwards rapidly in advance of the wagons. The first Schiavoni arquebusier unit followed in deep formation for fire by rotation as well as possible hand to hand action with their swords, in whose use they were said to be most experienced. As troops recruited from the colonial territories of Venice, they were well familiar with Turkish tactics and barbarism, and could be counted on to put up a good fight. Next came his precious wagons, all together in one very long column. Loredan had ha a motivational discussion with the drivers early that morning, promising rich rewards for those who brought their wagons safely into the Fortress, and awful torture for any who panicked and tried to run! Behind the wagons was a second unit of Schiavoni, followed by his best troops, the Cavalleria Leggeria, armed with lances and stout cuirasses. At the first light of day, Loredan had the entire force underway. Forward for the glory and profit of Venice!

At first, all went well. The vanguard troops advanced and covered the front of the advancing wagon trains, and the wagons and rearguard followed closely behind. The wagons, with their recently motivated drivers and rested horses, made especially good time in their advance towards Modone. However, the first of the Turkish raiders made their appearance before the wagons had gotten more than 1/4 of the way to safety. At first smelled more than seen, a band of Azab spearmen surged out of a thick woods far from the trading mission, and rapidly headed for the high ground that dominated all of the routes to Modone. this caused Alvise Contarini to direct the lead unit of Schiavoni to turn towards to high ground in order to shield the wagons from the approaching Azabs. He also brought the trailing Schiavoni unit and the armored Cavalleria Leggeria further forwards to guard against any undue successes by the Turks. Unfortunately, as the attention of the Venetians was drawn to their right flank, a unit of even more odiferous Azab archers appeared in the rear of the Venetians! Evidently they had been following the wagons for several hours before finally breaking out into open ground where they were now suddenly visible.

The spear armed Azabs pressed down relentlessly upon the convoy and its escorts, which seemed stalled by a wagon that had chosen just this moment to break an axle! Simultaneously, the Azab archers moved up swiftly on the now unprotected rear of the long line of wagons, and loosed a hailstorm of arrows that killed the crews and draft animals of fully one sixth of the Venetian wagons. It looked very much as though this unit alone could easily catch and destroy half the wagons! In the center, the Venetian Schiavoni deployed into a firing line, in order to bring more guns to bear as well as screen a larger area from the approaching Azab spearmen, who had crested the hill, and were now poised to charge down it. Things were looking grim as the Siphis of the Porte, accompanied by Hassan al Rancid himself, also appeared in the Venetian rear!

Alvise Contarini looked contemplatively at the situation he faced. Something would have to hold off those pagan Turks from the rear, while the wagons were escorted to safety! The Azab spearmen he wasn't overly worried about, although if they smelled enough loot to be had they might fight harder than their usually poor past performances might predict. But the firing of the Azabs supported by the appearance of the Sipahis was a deadly serious matter. A page was sent galloping back to the rearmost unit, the Cavalleria Leggeria, and the situation explained to their officer, an aging condotiere named Alfonzo Vivaldi. Each of his four sons commanded one of the troops of the band. Named by their Epicurean father Parselio, Sagarino, RosaMario and Thyme, they were known throughout Italian mercenary circles as "The Four Seasonings". With an alacrity born of years of service together, the troops each wheeled around in succession to face the Turk!

In the center, the Azabs launched their charge into the thin but calm ranks of the awaiting Venetian Schiavoni. Their arquebusses thundered with such a great roar that the fearsome noise was heard well beyond the fortress (where it was attributed to a distant thunderstorm). Fully half of the approaching spearmen and 2 of their leaders, Abdul el Bullameer and Amro al Toushey, were laid low by their awful fire, but it still was not enough to stop the impetuous attack of Islam! However, the survivors seemed somewhat short of wind from their downhill charge, and the more disciplined Venetians pulled out their swords, and made short work of the remaining Azabs, only a few surviving the attack. By contrast, the Venetian losses were trivial.

It was all more than enough for the nerves of the already anxious Umberto Loredan. galloping up to the head of the column of trade wagons, he shouted for them to rumble forth as rapidly as possible. Needing little encouragement in this regard (beyond the Turks to their rear!), the wagons surged forwards in a mad dash towards Modone. So great was his anxiety to see his rare aromatics and fine materials to safety, that they completely outstripped their escorts. Only when they were within sight of the walls of Modone itself did their pace begin to slacken. This escape to safety was made possible only by the gallantry of the elderly Vivaldi and his "4 seasonings". After gathering the spoils of the destroyed wagons, the Azab archers had withdrawn behind their Sipahis to await the decision of the issue by their social betters. The Cavalleria Leggeria lowered their lances and began to trot towards the waiting Sipahis of the Porte.

As luck would have it, at that moment, a cloud of Akinji horse archers descended upon the field from the extreme south, threatening the left flank of the armored Venetian cavalry, and indeed the whole column. Galloping like the wind, the wild horsemen closed upon the infidel. So great was the threat that Contarini directed the trailing unit of Schiavoni to about face and assist in holding off the swift raiders. Thus thwarted from the booty of the trade wagons, the Akinjis descended upon the rear of the Venetian cavalry, and began peppering them with arrow shafts, which largely bounced harmlessly off the plain but stout Milanese armor the troops wore. "Allegro con brio, Parselio" sang out the elder Vivaldi, followed by "Molto Adante, Sagarino", "Allegretto, RosaMario" and lastly "Double Thyme, charge!"

Hassan al Rancid's swarthy face showed a hint of an avaricious grin. The infidel fools might have a fine quartet, but he doubted they'd be a match for his sturdy Sipahis. "On my word, arrows" he trumpeted, and once again a deluge of sharp shafts flew towards the Venetian cavalry. However, their cuirasses once again protected them from any real damage, and the Lances of East and West met with ground shaking impact. At first the Sipahis seemed likely to triumph, but al Rancid's face sagged, as ultimately the "Four Seasonings" were not to be denied, and the vaunted Sipahis were thoroughly routed, losing 2 officers, Magdy Rahmadan and Nagwan al Nakib. The Azab bowmen could do little more than cover their retreat.

As the trade wagons full of fine fabrics and materials rumbled slowly onwards towards the walls of Modone, a new threat appeared. 2 units of elite Jannissaries began to descend upon the Northern flank of the Venetians, and another unit of Azab bowmen appeared from the South. The swarms of Akinji horse archers tried once again to penetrate the armor of the Venetian cavalry, but again to little effect, despite the inspiration provided by the son of their Sultan joining them. Furious, Hassan al Rancid directed the horsemen to close on the rear of the remaining Venetian troops. As they advanced, the Akinjis overran a small farm that Alvise Contarini was using as a command post, and the gallant captain fell seriously injured, with a Turkish arrow transfixing his right thigh. Only after the battle was he found, unconscious from loss of blood. Command now devolved upon the commanders of the individual Venetian units. The Stradiots advanced, escorting the wagons to Modone, and picking up any stray booty that bounced off them as they clattered down the road to safety). The musketeer skirmishers advanced to screen the remaining Venetian units from the Jannissaries' approach, whilst one of the units of Schiavoni brought its arquebusses to bear on the Akinjis, and the other turned to face the still far off Azabs in the south. Deeming it high time to collect their booty, the Akinjis began to withdraw from the Venetian infantry and once again threaten the rear of Vivaldi and his Cavalleria Leggeria.

As dusk approached, the Venetian trade wagons began to enter the gates of Modone. The Venetian musketeers picked their ground, and awaited the onslaught of the feared Jannissaries, confident that their weapons would outrange the arquebusses with which the Apostates were customarily armed. However, the Sultan had newly re-equipped both units with new brand new muskets, and it was an extremely surprised body of Venetians who found themselves under murderous fire from the best trained firearm infantry in Europe. Their commander, Luigi Bocherini, and 3 of his captains were all killed, and the unit simply ceased to exist as a fighting force. In the rear of the Venetians, Prince Hassan decided it was time to cut his losses. He'd have to be satisfied with the booty from just a few of the wagons, still a substantial prize. Besides, loosing some worthless Azabs and Akinjis was of no real import, but losing many more of his father's prize Sipahis or Jannissaries without achieving more substantial risked becoming, err, rather lightheaded. A strategic withdrawal was ordered, and the Azabs and Janissaries slowly withdrew from the field. The Akinjis were not so lucky, as they became disordered and encountered Vivaldi and the Cavalleria Leggeria for the third and last time. Although themselves still with disorganization in their ranks from their victory over the Sipahis, the elderly condotiere and his "Four Seasonings" charged home with fire in their belly, and utterly routed the horse archers, scattering them to the four winds! With all of the Venetian wagons safely behind the walls of Modone, and the garrison preparing to sally forth, it appeared Al Rancid's decision had been the proper one. The raid was over. Time next week to face the music back at the Sultan's court.


In Venice, the Dodge, Bartolomeo Da Caprio, received news of this latest and boldest Ottoman raid with considerable alarm. Perhaps he should make peace with Duke Mendocino of Milan, who despite his recent victory over the Hapsburgs, was still in a precarious situation. That would probably suffice to maintain the conflict between both of them, and thereby allow some more Venetian troops to be stationed in the Adriatic, to guard against the Turks. The situation would bear careful watching and much thought. Sipping a fine Bulgarian wine, Dodge Da Caprio called for his master of Spies.

In Istanbul, Sultan Kalliman al Rancid was not pleased with the loss of so many of his fine Sipahis. "Since you enjoy music so much, perhaps we should preserve your precious voice by having you join my court eunuchs, eh?" fumed Kalliman. Prince Hassan had to use almost all of the slim treasures recovered from the Venetian wagons to influence the Grand Vizier, Ali Ben Pasha, to argue his side to the Sultan. His manhood spared, he spent the next year composing an instrumental tribute to fashion in which Arab custom pays homage to a fine meal, "The Four Winds".

In Modone, the Venetians rested and enjoyed some well earned libations. The brave Alvise Contarini slowly recovered from his wound, whilst Umberto Loredan, who had been within the wall after the second wagon, boasted about his superior generalship, as well as his obscene profits from the expedition. Loredan feel in love with one of the maidens of Modone, the daughter of the Governor. Although twenty years or more her senior he decided he must have her as his bride. A good Venetian, her father drove a hard bargain, and Loredan had to part with almost full wagon load of rare silks, cottons and other fine materials to convince him to consent to their nuptials. Known officially in court as Lady Modone, she was better known by the court gossips' appellation of "The Material Girl".

Game Notes

The Ottomans invariably found the "Whim of the Gods" card as the last one in their deck, or in the discard pile, which slowed the arrival of their troops. The Venetian commander was fortunate indeed to roll up as superior! With the 2 added "Brilliant Commander" cards it was thus possible for the wagons to move as many as 4 times in a turn. Although this never happened, there was at least one "heroic" wagon move. Once the Ottoman troops started to arrive, it looked fairly chancy for the wagons for a while! This is one battle which could be replayed many times, with even more variable outcomes possible than in the usual Piquet game.

Page Last Updated On: 18 Aug 2007