April 2023 Report

Back from holiday we were into a multi command GNW game which saw two fairly evenly matched sides slug it out over a convivial afternoon of gaming.

The Russians deployed with half of their cavalry behind a stream on their right supported by a foot brigade and the rest in the centre hoping to use a patch of wooded scrub as an area where they could deploy their other cavalry dismounted to slow the Swedes. The Swedes themselves deployed all their horse on the left with the aim of smashing their way across the stream and thinly held the centre and right with their foot.

As always the Russians had the toughest job given the poor morale of their troops but the cautious advance of the Swedes rather played into their hands in the early moves.

On the Swedish left the massed cavalry attack was funnelled by the stream and marsh behind which the Russians were hiding and in the early moves they took losses from musketry fire but once they got going it was difficult for the Russians to hold on. The Swedish first wave were indeed repulsed but when the second wave crashed in the already weakened Russians collapsed and fled the scene which forced a morale test on the supporting infantry who decided that home suddenly sounded very appealing!

Across the Russian centre and left the plan of dismounting the dragoons worked and the Swedish advance in the wood slowed to a crawl but on the left where the village was located the Russian foot didn’t fare so well and after a stiff fight they gave up and fled.

All told, a strong Swedish victory. For those that are interested the bulk of the figures are Foundry with Old Glory in support.

Next up was another Successors game with the predominately Victrix collection, this time Eumenids v Antipatrid.

In this encounter Eumenes was significantly outflanked on his right so had to get on with it before the jaws closed.

Being superior in cavalry and elephants, as well as having the better quality infantry, Eumenes got a bit cocky and galloped his right wing cavalry across the face of his infantry in order to overwhelm the Antipatrid sole cavalry force on their right. Not surprisingly this was a fail, the cavalry got tangled up with the enemy foot resulting in the loss of the Xystophoroi and the slowing of the Eumenid infantry advance.

The Eumenid left wing cavalry did the job they were meant to do which was slow up the Antipatrid shock cavalry and in fact such was the accuracy of their volleys that they saw off the opposing Thessalians, although the nearby elephant might have been a bit of help 🀨

In the end, of course, it was the infantry centre that settled it and the better quality Eumenids burst through their opponents before the jaw could close about them although in reality this was more to do with over timid play by the commander of the Antipatrid left – problem of a Napoleonic player being more concerned about nice neat lines and not getting stuck in πŸ˜‚πŸ€£

After the intensity of a couple of big battles we changed the pace with a Franco Prussian skirmish game around two scouting parties coming to loot a monastery.

The rules were a set of amendments to an existing Napoleonic set held together by a rough narrative and making up stuff along the way that we hadn’t catered for – surprisingly it worked and both sides managed to get off with something although the French lost their officer and several troopers.

Although this was a bit of fun we reluctantly came to the conclusion that we just don’t get enough out of gaming this so the collection is going to have to be sold on. If you are interested then drop us a line on the site and we’ll get back to you with details and photos.

Another skirmish was next with a medieval away game which was a tourney to select those who would be sailing away on a campaign using the old Lamming rules. Nothing else to say really.

Final game of the month was an Ottoman v Swedes game circa early C17th.

The terrain was split by a stream which flowed between two large hills (on the Swedish deployment baseline) and had two formal crossing points (a pontoon bridge and a ford) although the stream could be crossed by anyone albeit at a reduced rate. A burnt out village and a wood anchored both flanks on the Ottoman baseline and a small village sat in the middle of the more open plain beyond the stream.

Both sides opted for the ‘smash through with all your cavalry strategy’ πŸ˜‚ The Swedes deployed almost all their cavalry to the right of the big hill (where the two landskap regiments spent the whole game) comprising 3 units of Danes, 3 units of Swedes & 1 unit of Finns covered by a skirmish screen of Transylvanians; on the other side of the hill, ready to cross the stream via the ford were 2 units of German cavalry and a Scots brigade on the other hill. The Ottomans deployed their 6 units of Feudal Sipahi and 2 units of Sipahi of the Porte in the centre, just short of the stream, screened by 3 units of Azabs, the pontoon bridge on the left was held by the Voyniks and the right by 2 units of Tartars.

In the initial stages it was all about the skirmishers; the Transylvanians got the worst of the shooting from the Azabs who had waded across the stream and retired hurt, the Tartars got tied up with the Germans in a back and forth which eventually saw the Germans retiring having been unable to get up close enough to fully utilise the caracole.

Out on the Swedish right the Finns avoided what would later become death central further over and in a brief, but too late, affair drove the Voyniks back across the bridge in rout – this was the single success the Swedes enjoyed.

In the centre the Sipahi’s took longer to get over the stream than their general would have liked but the Swedes & Danes were held up by the over enthusiastic Swedes pushing through the Danes and disordering everyone and then realising that being disordered as the arrows started to fly in wasn’t such a good idea!

The early Swedish attacks went well, sending the Azabs scuttling back across the stream but by then the Sipahi’s had dried themselves off from the crossing and, after a volley of arrows, charged in and the rot started πŸ˜“

The repulse of the initial attack wasn’t the end of the world for the Swedes and the units that retired would soon rally but in order to keep the Sipahis back the cavalry general committed his Danes to the charge rather than shooting (carbine armed). This just didn’t work out well, a couple of the units refused to charge which meant that their opponents were able to get the jump on them next turn and the one that did charge just got mashed up. Suffice to say the Sipahis “got their dander up” and were all over the Danish cavalry who then retired into the the Swedes who off course couldn’t get organised quickly enough to repulse the following on Ottomans.

Realising all was lost the Swedish commander and his downcast cavalry general conceded. A crushing Ottoman victory.

In other news some more figures were added to the future wars project, cheers Mark.

Extras for the GNW collection were recruited, thank you Neil.

Additions to our Mexican bandits for the western gunfight project, thanks Vlad.

Iraqi command stand stand for the Iran Iran Cold War Commanders project.

More for the modern skirmish collection, wonder if they’ll actually get used? This is such a rabbit hole πŸ˜‚

Well that’s it for the month, not a bad one, next month is Partizan and we’ll be taking the Successors on tour so if you’re going to be there find us and have a chat πŸ˜€

Holowczyn Refought

Swedish vanguard crosses the river

Many, many, years ago we fought Holowczyn as part of a convention tour, simulating the ‘tour’ of Russia by Charles XII, culminating in the battle of Poltava, so 3 battles, 3 conventions, but we’ve never played it since so we thought we’d roll out the collection and give it a go.

Bieltz’s Grenadiers

For those not in the know, Holowczyn was the opening battle in Charles XII’s campaign against Peter the Great’s Russia which kicked off in the summer of 1707. By the summer of 1708 the Swedes were well into Russia struggling to come to grips with an enemy that kept retreating and burning everything – that sounds familiar πŸ˜’ but on June 30th Charles and the Swedes found themselves facing a dug in Russian army over the river Vabitich.

The long line of the column

In what would become his signature approach to battle, Charles opted for the mad idea 😁, so in the early hours of the morning of July 3rd 1708 he and his men waded across the river at an unguarded point, advanced through a marsh, deployed on the flank of the enemy and attacked. The Russians were slow to respond, not being sure whether it was a full attack or a diversion, and ended up conducting a fighting retreat in a confused and haphazard firefight. Further infantry reinforcements merely added to the confusion and when the Russians committed their cavalry the outclassed dragoons were swept away and the field was clearly in Swedish hands. It was however somewhat of a phyrric victory, Russian dead were 4x that of the Swedes but most of the Swedish wounded (around a thousand) would succumb to their wounds and the losses were mainly among the guard infantry, losses that would be felt at Poltava.

It took a while!

The reality of the battle was that Charles was attacking one division (Repnin’s – the biggest, comprising 2 brigades) of the three positioned along the Vabitch and was inserting himself between Repnin on the left and Sheremetiev in the centre while Hallart was out on the right; to the left of Repnin was Goltz’s substantial cavalry division of 3 brigades. The only other troops to get themselves involved was a brigade detached late in the day from Sheremetiev’s division. The Swedes comprised the vanguard foot brigade, commanded by Charles himself, featuring the 4 battalions of the Guard plus 2 other battalions, then a 2nd brigade of 6 battalions and finally a cavalry brigade featuring the Guard Cavalry & Guard Dragoons and 3 other cavalry regiments.

Charles XII

Looking at our collection we easily had the numbers (and we’d sold a third of it back in 2020!) and even had most of the named regiments/battalions, unfortunately only 3 Guard battalions but we reckoned it wouldn’t make much difference (it didn’t 😊). Measuring up the space that would be occupied by the battalions representing the actual number of Russian battalions behind the earthworks we reckoned they would need about 5 foot, give or take, so the 8 foot x 6 foot standard table would allow us to deploy them, allow space for the marsh and give space on the table end for the later Russian reinforcements. Our trusty river section we positioned 2 foot in and used the section with a pontoon bridge on to represent the crossing point (the Swedes did have pontoons but abandoned them – why do it the easy way?) and at that crossing point we constructed a substantial marsh. Along the rear of the Russian table edge we put on plenty of trees and down part of the left flank; into these we placed Goltz’s cavalry division (on the left) and Renne’s reinforcing infantry from Sheremetiev (on the right) while in the centre behind Repnin’s division we put on the army camp.

Swedish field artillery

Our thinking with the Russians was that Repnin’s 2 big brigades would be positioned facing out across the river and wouldn’t start responding until the Swedes emerged from the marsh and then only the brigade that could see them (Schweden). The reinforcing cavalry and infantry could only be activated by Repnin finding out from Schweden that they were under attack and sending a message off to Goltz who would then roll a D6 for the number of turns after receipt for when he could start to emerge, said messenger would then carry on to Renne to release his infantry using the same process. The process was made deliberately slow (wargamers are very good at responding to things they can’t see unless you stop them πŸ˜‰) which is just as well because both reinforcement commands rolled a 1! Deploying the Swedes was more straight forward as they only had one route so we strung out the infantry battalions, led by the Guard, all the way from the table edge, across the pontoons and into the marsh with the 1st Guards on the edge of the marsh, somewhat disorganised, ready to go; this signalled the start of turn 1. As a side note, the Swedes, for once, out gunned the Russians so we placed some regimental guns next to the crossing point to fire in support and some big field guns on a low hill to pound the entrenched Russians, the Russians only had regimental guns strung out along the line.

Guards face off to the Grenadiers

Rather than go balls out, the Swedish commander decided to remain stationary with the 1st Guards to shake the accumulated disorder and wait for the 2nd Guards form up alongside and do the same, this gave the Russian grenadiers time to about face and wheel out of their entrenchments to face off and allow the Russian high command to panic and send for help.

Repnin and Schweden

With the grenadiers and Guards in range both opened up on each other at effective range, losses were even, so no morale failures and the rest of Schweden’s command started to turn about as more Swedes emerged from the marsh. Another volley and Charles decided it was time to force the issue so the 1st & 2nd Guards moved into close range and fired again forcing one of the grenadiers to rout and punching a hole in the the shaky Russian line.

1st Guards

First brigade morale test of the day (due to the grenadiers rout) and Schweden’s brigade failed spectacularly, hotfooting along the entrenchments and into the camp. Fortunately Repnin and Schweden were able to rally some of the units further back and start to restore order but they would now count as a failed brigade for any further tests which for Russian morale was always going to be a worry. The collapse enabled Dalcarian (2 battalions) and the 3rd Guards to get out of the marsh and form up with the 1st & 2nd into a fairly coherent line while Sparre and the other brigade marched on through the marsh to eventually emerge at the top end and march south on the other side of the camp.

Rallying the troops

As Repnin and Schweden tried to stem the flight Goltz received the request for help and rolled his 1 so Illfland’s brigade was first out of the woods and headed along the top edge of the camp in what would become a collision with Sparre. Back with the Guards, Charles went all out now and threw the 1st & 2nd into close combat with the rallied Russian foot, who of course had almost no losses at this point and managed to repulse the Guards, shouts of “huzzah”. Testing for losses the 1st Guards failed and routed but the subsequent brigade test was passed with ease (it helps having Charles XII as your brigade commander πŸ˜‚) and the 1st were rallied by him pronto but sat out the hard action for a while as they called in stragglers and tended to the wounded.

That’s a lot of cavalry!

While the infantry slogged it out on one side of the camp Illflands dragoons advanced on Sparre’s infantry, who due to the terrain could only deploy two battalions abreast, but non the less Vasterboten forced Narvski back and slowly ground forward – the dragoons were never going to charge the Swedish infantry so it became a shooting match which for a while the dragoons did ok in but eventually legged it for the woods.

Vasterboten v Narvski

Seeing how ‘well’ Illfland was doing Goltz realised that his other two brigades were going to be no use in the limited space so made the fateful decision to send them both into the woods to outflank Sparre and attack the rear of the Swedes; a bold plan which the Sparre player could realistically not respond to and was a calculated gamble by Goltz that he could be through and out before the Swedish cavalry under Creutz got through the marsh. An alternative plan could have been to dismount in the woods and fire on the flanks of Sparre’s command which might have forced him to stop and deal with the threat – we discussed this after the game and the Goltz player took the view that as the real Goltz didn’t do it neither would he!

If you go down to the woods today…..

Back at the real battle 🀣 Charles and his brigade were definitely in and amongst the entrenchments facing off to a hastily constructed second line by Schweden which Chambers was extending out to the right effectively forming behind Illfland’s withdrawing dragoons – the size of Chambers brigade (9 battalions) made cohesion quite difficult in the space available and we could see why in the real thing they just faded into the woods.

Guard cavalry

To force the issue in the main battle area Charles summoned the Guard Cavalry & Dragoons from Creutz along with Nyland to punch Schweden’s already weakened brigade; this was a risk, it weakened Creutz’s command and if the Guards didn’t do as well as envisaged they wouldn’t have their commander to rally on. Always willing to “roll the hard six” the Swedish cavalry blasted their way in and made some big holes although the Dragoon Guards did pay for a reckless pursuit and got themselves shot up πŸ˜’

Nyland

Unfortunately for the Russians the holes punched by the Swedes was in Chambers brigade and in the ensuing test for routing units and having Schweden’s failed brigade on their flank the big brigade failed and ran for the woods. Not surprisingly, Schweden’s already shaky brigade didn’t survive their test and they too duly headed for the woods.

“you’re going the wrong way!”

While all this was happening Heinsk’s dragoons emerged from the woods, somewhat disorganised, but all they needed was a bit of a breather and they could catch Sparre by surprise. Even better was the emergence of the lead battalions of Renne’s infantry from their wood. It could all be saved!

Oh dear

Unfortunately for Goltz and Heinsk, regiment Hielm of Creutz’s reduced command had other ideas and charged home smashing the lead dragoons off the table who routed through their brethren behind who were caught in the pursuit and equally smashed resulting in a brigade morale failure (surprise😁) and the end of the flank move.

Goodbyeee

That was really it, both infantry brigades were on the run, Illfland’s & Heinsk’s cavalry were shattered and running, while Hesse Darmstadt cowered in the woods; the fact of Renne’s arrival was insignificant, yes it was a substantial brigade (6 battalions) but what was it going to do? Clearly a substantial Swedish victory.

It’s all ours

When we analysed the game the Russians initially did better than their historical counterparts – well they stood and fought! but low morale and poor command levels meant they were never going to last that long once things went wrong. I think it’s interesting that wargamers will stand and slug it out even when the odds are stacked against them unlike the historical prototypes who couldn’t get off the field quick enough – mind you it wouldn’t have been much of a game if the Russians had just turned round and retreated! For the Swedes bold play paid off, so very historical but the casualty tables also equated to history with the Guards showing the kind of casualty figures that would make a general think about amalgamating regiments, everyone else was pretty much insignificant.

Guards

It was nice to give the GNW collection a run out, good job we didn’t sell the whole lot! The rules were our own ‘Ga Pa’ – oh how original, we hope you enjoyed the write up, feel free to fire in any questions.

Ian & Dave.