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Late Medieval Bosnia for WAB

Introduction

The recent Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) supplement Vlad the Impaler covers most of the armies of the Balkans during the late medieval period. A restriction on space means it is not possible to cover every army. This article, inspired by a recent visit (www.balkanhistory.com/bosnia.htm), seeks to fill one gap by describing the armies of Bosnia during the late medieval period.

 Medieval Bosnia

Medieval Bosnia consisted largely of the central and northern area of the modern state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It bordered Croatia and Slavonia to the north (mostly under Hungarian control) and Serbia to the west. Venice held possessions on the Dalmatian coast as did the city state of Dubrovnik (Ragusa). Later its nemesis came in the form of the Ottomans.

 In the early medieval period Bosnia largely came under Byzantine control interrupted by invasion from Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria. Following the death of the Emperor Manuel 1 Komnenos in 1180, Ban Kulin (1180-1204) emerged as the leader of an autonomous Bosnia. Religious issues formed the excuse for Hungarian interference in Bosnia with claims that the Bosnian church was controlled by heretical Bogomils. Recent research disputes this claim but it is true that the Bosnian church rejected papal control whilst remaining Catholic in dogma. Hungary successfully invaded in 1238 but withdrew when the Mongols crushed the Hungarian army. Another attempt was made in 1253 but after that Bosnia was largely left to its own devices for the rest of the century.

 Ban Stjepan Kotromanic (1322-53) developed Bosnia’s autonomy under nominal Hungarian rule. He defeated an invasion by the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dusan in 1350 and expanded Bosnia to include most of modern day Herzegovina, then known as Hum. Kotromanic developed the country economically through the expansion of towns and mining assisted by Saxons from Hungary.

 Bosnia’s high point came under Ban Tvrtko 1 (1353-91). After a difficult start due to noble uprisings and Hungarian interference, he consolidated the state and captured Serbian territory including most of the Dalmatian coast and parts of Croatia. In 1377 he even claimed the Serbian crown, although few Serbian nobles recognised his claim, and Bosnian rulers thereafter used the title King. After his death in 1391 the central authority of the King was weakened and the nobles gained regional autonomy particularly in the frontier regions. The religious split between, Catholic, Orthodox and the Bosnian church militated against state integration.

 The early 15th century Balkans were dominated by Ottoman expansion and Bosnian rulers played a role in the coalitions formed to resist them. The first raid into Herzegovina was repulsed in 1388 and Bosnian forces supported the Serbian Prince Lazar at the battle of Kosovo Polje the following year. Bosnian nobles reasserted their autonomy in the early 15th century some supporting the Hungarians and others were allying with the Ottomans or their vassals in Serbia. There were frequent small scale conflicts during this period.

 Despite this division Bosnia was one of the last states to resist the inevitable when finally conquered in 1458-63 and the last King Stephen Tomasevic was executed. Bosnia’s remoteness and difficult terrain caused as many problems for the Ottomans as it had for the Hungarians and Serbs.

 Organisation

In the countryside most people were Kmets (Serfs) who (sometimes) paid a tithe to the King and did military service for their lord. In the mountains there were herdsmen, including Vlachs, who were only loosely part of the feudal system. The senior nobles and office holders of the state were called Veomoze (magnates), or after Bosnia became a kingdom Ban, and the lower nobles Knez (baron). In towns the Knez was more of an administrator (often a merchant) who would appoint a garrison commander although in the later period a Knez could also be a military commander. The old regional title of Zupan, survived until the early 1400’s, to denote something in between these levels.

 The senior nobles held great power and had courts often on a par with the King. They were well connected with the rest of central Europe, including culture and marriage, despite the geographical remoteness. Families such as the Hrvatinici, Kosaca and Jablanic should be viewed as semi-independent principalities joined in a loose federation with the King to constitute the kingdom. There does not appear to have been any land for service arrangement like the Byzantine and Serbian pronoia.

 As towns developed so did a series of impressive castles many of which can still be seen today. They dominated trade routes that were important not just locally. Merchants from Dubrovnik controlled trade and organised custom duties, dealing directly with the senior nobles. Not that this stopped the local nobles from extracting revenues or the Vlachs from looting caravans.

 We know relatively little about how the armies were constituted and equipped. The army would be made up largely from the contingents of the nobility, supplemented by some mercenaries, funded from Bosnia’s mineral wealth. From the Bosnian stecaki (gravestones), royal seals and the limited exhibits in the National Museum it appears that they were organised and equipped similar to the Serbs, although with Hungarian and even Italian influences (via Dubrovnik) in armour. The army composition below is largely based on the Serbian lists in the WAB supplement and somewhat conjectural, but should give a flavour of the forces available. Essentially the Bosnian army is a lighter version of their Serbian and Hungarian neighbours to reflect the mountainous terrain.

 Army Composition

 Kingdom of Bosnia 1377-1463

This list covers the period from the formal independence of Bosnia as a Kingdom until the Ottoman conquest.

Characters: 0-25% of the points value of the army

Cavalry: 20-50% of the points value of the army. 1+ unit of Pronijar cavalry must be taken per 1000 points.

Infantry: Up to 60% of the army. 1+ unit of crossbowmen must be taken per 1000 points.

Special troops: 0-10% of the points value of the army.

 

Allies and mercenaries: 0-25% of the points value of the army. Mercenary knights are limited to 1 unit per 2000 points.

Additionally Bosnia may take one ally (cannot serve together) from the following lists:

Hungarian (includes Croatia)

Italian Condotta (representing Naples and Venice)

Serbian

Ottoman (not Kapikulu troops)

All such units are subject to the allies and mercenaries rule.

 

CHARACTERS

 0-1 General

                                    M WS BS S  T  W  I  A  LD  PTS

King/Ban/Veomoze     4    6   5   4   4   3   6   3   9    185

 Equipment: Hand weapon, heavy armour, and shield. May be mounted on a horse (free) or a warhorse (+4 pts); May have cloth (+4 pts) or plate barding (+6 pts). If mounted, may take thrusting spear (+2pts) or lance (+4 pts). If on foot, may have halberd or double-handed weapon (+4 pts). May take partial or full plate armour (free if mounted; partial plate is +4 pts if dismounted; full plate is +6 pts if dismounted).

 Special Rules: Army General. StrategistEastern Shock Cavalry if mounted with spear.

 

0-1 Army Standard Bearer

                                    M WS BS S  T  W  I  A  LD PTS

Standard Bearer         4   4    4   4   4   2   4   2   8    90

 Equipment: Hand weapon, heavy armour, and shield. May have a horse (free) or warhorse (+4 pts) if mounted. May have cloth (+4 pts) or plate barding (+6 pts). May wear partial plate or full plate armour (free if mounted; partial plate is +4 pts if dismounted; full plate is +6 pts if dismounted).

 Special Rules: Army Standard Bearer. Eastern Shock Cavalry if mounted.

 

Knez

                        M WS BS  S  T  W   I   A LD PTS

Knez                4    5    4   4   3   2    5   3   8    80

 Equipment: Hand weapon, heavy armour, and shield. May be mounted on a horse (free) or a warhorse (+4 pts); May have cloth (+4 pts) or plate barding (+6 pts). If mounted, may take a thrusting spear (2pts) or lance (+4 pts). If on foot, may have halberd or double-handed weapon (+4 pts). May take partial or full plate armour (free if mounted; partial plate is +4 pts if dismounted; full plate is +6 pts if dismounted).

 Special Rules: If no other Army General is taken, a single Knez may be upgraded to Army General -+50 pts, and then Strategist applies.  Eastern Shock Cavalry if mounted with spear.

 

CAVALRY

Pronijar

                                    M WS BS S   T   W   I  A  LD PTS

Nobles             8   4     3   3   3     1   4   1   7     22

 Equipment: Hand weapon, light armour, shield, thrusting spear, and horse. May have lance (+2 pts) instead of thrusting spear. May have heavy armour (+2 pts).

 Special Rules: Pronijar may count a +1 rank bonus.

  

Gusars

                        M  WS  BS  S  T W I A LD PTS

Light Horse      8     3     3    3  3  1  4  1  7     20

 Equipment: Hand weapon, thrusting spear, shield, bow, and horse. May have light armour (+2 pts).

 Special Rules: Skirmishers. Expert Horseman. Open Order if wearing light armour.

 

INFANTRY

 Crossbowmen and Handgunners

                                    M WS  BS S  T  W  I  A  LD PTS

Crossbowmen                        4     3    3   3   3   1   3  1    7    11

 Equipment: Hand weapon, crossbow or handgun, and light armour.

 Special Rules: Open Order. Every second unit may be designated Skirmishers (+1pt).

 

Vojnici

                                    M WS BS  S  T W I  A  LD PTS

Peasant Infantry          4   3     3   3   3  1  3  1    6     8

 Equipment: Hand weapon, thrusting spear, shield and light armour. May take heavy armour (+2 pts) and may upgrade from thrusting spear to bills or roncones (count as halberds, +1 pt).

 

Krajisnici

                                    M  WS  BS  S T W I A LD PTS

Skirmishers                5    2     2     3  3  1 3  1  5    4

 Equipment: Hand weapon; either bow or javelins and buckler. May take bow, javelins, and buckler (+2 pts). May take two-handed axes (+3 pts).

Special Rules: Skirmishers.

 

Zamanitchka Voysa

                                    M  WS  BS S  T W I A LD PTS

Levy of Freemen         4     2    2    3  3  1  2  1  5     4

 Equipment: Improvised weapons and shield.

 Special Rules: Warband Rule 1.

SPECIAL TROOPS

 Bombards

                        M  WS BS S  T W I A LD PTS

Light                 -     -     -    6  5  3   -  -  -    50

Medium            -     -     -    7  6  3   -  -  -    75

Crewmen        4     3     3   3  3  1  3  1   6    free

 Equipment: Three crewmen armed with hand weapon and light armour. Two additional crewmen may be purchased for +10 pts each. Crewmen may purchase light armour (+2 pts each). Mantlets may be purchased (+10 pts per gun).

 Special Rules: Artillery; Medium Bombard confers D4 wounds.

 0-1 Organ Gun

                        M  WS BS   S  T W  I  A LD PTS

Organ Gun       -     -      -    4   5  2   -   -   -     50

Crewmen        4    2      3   3   3  1   3   1  6    free

 Equipment: Three crewmen armed with hand weapon and light armour. Two additional crewmen may be purchased for +10 pts each. Crewmen may purchase light armour (+2 pts each). Mantlets may be purchased (+10 pts per gun).

 Special Rules: Multiple Barrelled Artillery.

 Mangonel – 75pts.

 

ALLIES AND MERCENARIES

 European Mercenary Knights

                        M  WS  BS  S  T W I A LD PTS

Knights            8    3     3     3  3  1  3  1  7    26

 Equipment: Hand weapon, lance, shield, heavy armour, and warhorse. May have cloth (+4 pts) or plate barding (+6 pts).

 Special Rules: Allies and Mercenaries. Count rank bonus of up to +1 in combat.

Vlachs

                                    M WS BS S  T W  I  A LD PTS

Horse Archers            8    2    3   3  3  1   4  1   6    17

 

Equipment: Hand weapon, bow, and horse. May take shield (+2 pts). Thrusting spears (+2 pts).

Special Rules: Skirmishers; Nomad Cavalry; Allies and Mercenaries.

 

Further Reading

Bianchi, John              Vlad the Impaler & Ottoman Wars in Europe             Warhammer Historical

Fine, John                   The Late Medieval Balkans                                         Michigan Press

Heath, Ian                    Armies of the Middle Ages (Vol2)                                WRG

Malcolm, Noel             Bosnia, A Short History                                               Papermac

Engel, Pal                    The Realm of St Stephen                                           I.B.Tauris

Babinger, Franz        Mehmed the Conqueror and his time                     Princetown Press

 

This article also appeared in the September 2006 edition of Slingshot the journal of the Society of Ancients.

 

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Last modified: 01/23/12