Horizon Wars Battle Report: The Ambush at Celakli

The Ambush At Celakli

One of the earliest battles of the Third Meravian War was fought over the remote town of Celakli; Albay Bourak bin-Asard had been sent to occupy the town until the remainder of the invasion force caught up with the rapidly-moving front, and ended up fighting a fierce defence against an impetuous counterattack from an armoured force led by Oberst Hugo Albarea. Albarea had been en route to rendezvous with Isla Clausell’s Novis Eger Rifles, freshly returned from a period of rest and resupply at the fortress Novis Racik, when he had received news of the fall of Celakli. Presuming this would present an opportunity to cut off the Meravian advance, Albarea brought his tanks around to attack the town.

Military historians describe Celakli, with the benefit of hindsight, as a double trap. Asard was able to effectively draw in enemy vehicles into a battle on his terms, with the estates outside Celakli providing an effective firebase for his artillery – but it is widely believed that his entire presence there was part of a wider trap to draw out Prenzeran forces and set up Asard’s actions, against his knowledge, as a casus belli between the two nations.

The battle itself was inconclusive, despite heavy Prenzeran losses of materiel. Asard returned home at its conclusion with almost a full complement of vehicles, but almost all were heavily damaged and it is believed the logistical disruption the return of a vast number of wounded men and damaged vehicles caused on Meravian supply lines disrupted their advance far more than had Albarea wiped the enemy out. This was, however, small comfort for Albarea himself, who saw the heavy losses sustained in Asard’s trap as a personal failing.

The Forces

Grand Empire of Meravia, Asard Forces

Commander: Albay Bourak bin-Asard (Played by Phillip Preece)

Order of Battle:

1st through 4th Berkant Heavy Tanks of the IX Corps 12th Armoured Company

3rd and 4th Osman Bombards of the IX Corps attached Artillery Brigade

IX Corps 2nd Brigade 3rd Rifle Company, with attached field artillery (12lb. Abus Guns)

Meravian Air Army 607 Squadron Iskandar strategic bomber

Prenzeran Northern Border Army

Commander: Oberst Hugo Albarea (Played by Raymond Webster)

Order of Battle:

1st, 3rd and 4th Akten Platoons of the Arolan Armoured Uhlans

3rd and 7th Graf Platoons of the Arolan Armoured Uhlans

2nd Dran of the Arolan Heavy Armoured Dragoons

1st and 2nd Sturm Batteries of the Imperial-Royal Artillery Regiment

1st Special Air Squadron Valon VF1

The Mission

Following the capture of Celakli by Meravian forces, an armoured force headed to relieve the Novis Eger Rifles has diverted from its mission to relieve the town. However, it has walked into an enemy ambush and is pinned by heavy artillery fire and aerial bombardment.

Turn 1

The game began with an exchange of artillery fire, as the 1st Sturm battery opened fire on the Osman bombards and dealt one a point of damage. Counterbattery fire from a battery of Abus guns emplaced in a villa on the outskirts of Celakli dealt a point of damage back to the 7th Graf platoon, and in return a reaction from Oberst Albarea’s superheavy tank wounded a number of the Abus gunners (-1M). The Dran failed to hit with its subsequent activation, and the subsequent exchange of fire was inconclusive; a Meravian Berkant missed Albarea twice, while a flanking maneuver from the 3rd Grafs achieved nothing. The 4th Akten platoon, hull down by a rocky mesa, damaged the advancing Berkant and weathered the return-fire admirably.

The second Sturm battery failed to hit the damaged Osman, and then the heavy Meravian artillery tanks opened fire, putting two damage on the 4th Aktens. The sound of the barrage attracted local Prenzeran air support as Prince Valon himself joined the fight, but he was unable to score any hits on the Berkants. In return, AA machine-gun fire from the Meravian tanks and infantry damaged Valon’s fighter and he was put on the defensive. The 1st and 3rd Aktens advanced to support the 4th Platoon and put some more damage on the Berkants,but in return were heavily damaged by Asard’s own Berkant.

Although both sides were currently smarting from the initial exchange of armoured power, things looked even – until the Iskandar made its attack run, putting four damage on the 1st Aktens and two on the 4th. Taking the behemoth down was a priority for the Prenzerans!

Turn 2

Prince Valon, seeing a mighty prize in the form of a lumbering Meravian strategic bomber, pulled a spectacular loop and opened up at point-blank into the enemy plane, downing it in a single salvo with a critical hit and four normal hits for six points of damage. Spurred by this valourous display, and panicking at the apparent strength of the Meravian defences, the Prenzeran tankers tried to push home the advantage with a knife-fight, driving close in to assault the enemy tanks with their superior numbers and speed – to no avail. The 1st Aktens and 3rd Grafs were annihilated, although in the process they dealt heavy damage to enemy Berkant units – including Asard’s own tank – which seemed like it might open up a breach in the Meravian defences. However, it was not enough; the Osmans and Abus guns, as well as the solid firing-line of infantry entrenched in buildings, took all the momentum from the last-ditch Prenzeran attack. In the process, Albarea finally destroyed the villa where the Abus guns were fortified, wiping out the battery – but the sluggish Dran was too far back, and the Aktens too damaged, to capitalise on the respite.

Epilogue

The battle ended after this turn; it was felt in narrative terms that neither commander would press the combat with their remaining forces. The Prenzerans had lost most of their tanks and were well-positioned to retreat rather than press a suicidal attack, while the Meravians’ line had held and there was little incentive to counter-attack with their damaged vehicles and infantry-heavy forces over open desert against the surviving Prenzeran artillery. Celakli remained in Meravian hands, although not one of Asard’s units had survived unscathed; the sheer number of wounded men and crippled tanks would put a major dent in the army’s supplies of spare parts and medicine, as well as stopping the advance until new vehicles and troops could be brought up. The final score (based on a modified form of Adventure scoring) was 19VP to the Prenzerans (thanks to a late-game rush by the 3rd Aktens securing them points for being far from their deployment zone to 17VP to the Meravians (mostly gained by killing Prenzeran tanks).

However, the destruction of the Iskander was decided to have been a major blow to Meravian morale; our narrative had Asard as an unpopular lower-class officer with few allies in HQ, being set up as a scapegoat by his more ambitious superiors – his judicious defensive tactics would have been seen as cowardice, and his loss of the Iskander would have seen the commander of 607 Bomber Squadron facing a number of awkward explanations!

On the other hand, the patriotic and blue-blooded Albarea would have rejoined the Novis Eger Rifles in a foul mood – his tanks had been found lacking against an enemy well-entrenched with a terrain advantage, superior artillery support and apparent air superiority and had it not been for assistance from his object of disdain Matthias Valon he would have likely died. Clausell herself would have been less than pleased to receive a crippled, routed armoured group rather than the promised fresh and combat-ready tanks, too…

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