Monday, November 12, 2012

Thirty Years War - Poles versus Swedes

Last weekend we had our second meeting of our wargaming group at the Lanyon Vikings Sports Club (a great venue!)   This time we had about a dozen players and four decent games - Greg's Zulu War Isandlwana scenario which he will feature together with an impressive piece of mountain scenery at the next Cancon. Mike and Craig did a Saga game with Vikings versus a Crusader military order. Leigh and Ian did a  Rapidfire 20mm refight of the WWII Corinth Canal (Op HANNIBAL).  Mike has posted some great photos and a two part report on his terrific Satrap Miniatures blog.  Doug, Mark and myself tried a Thirty Years War Pike and Shotte scenario - one of the earlier fights between Gustavus Adolphus' Swedes and the Polish Commonwealth (mainly) mounted army at some place with an unpronounceable name in Pomerania using the Warhammer ECW rules.

In the scenario the Swedes and their allies (mainly Scottish mercenaries) set up on a low series of hills opposite a low flat boggy fields with a road up the middle.  One regiment of mercenary pike and shot, my only gun (a Saker) and my cossacks were the only forces deployed with the rest of the Polish forces which included their German mercenaries marching up the only road as it emerged from marshland.  Rightly fearing the Polish horse, the Swedes had chosen their position well to restrict the Polish cavalry's maneuverability.

Polish cavalry including the famous Winged Hussars come on up the road through the marshland and deploy

I whinged a lot about the scenario thinking the hordes of Swedish artillery would just slaughter me as I came up the road - my only way on - but Doug assured me that artillery of that time was just not that good.  Well it was and it wasn't.  When it hit it did a lot of damage on the dense formations but it took quite a bit to hit - from trying to estimate the distance then a pretty good chance of a misfire of some sort.  The Swedes had only four rounds of shooting before using up all their ammunition too.  Not that it made all that much difference for my poor old Polish Pancerni cavalry who were first up the road.  

The German mercenary shotte advance with the Pancerni trotting up the road in column, an irresistible target for the Swedish guns.

The cossacks race ahead to form a skirmish screen for the cavalry coming up behind

Part of the daunting Swedish position - the right wing with Culverins on the hill, Scottish mercs in front and their heavy armoured cavalry anchoring the end

The Polish shotte come on right after the last of the cavalry (mercenary German Reiter) who have managed to mask the only Polish gun for a turn.

The Polish left including one regiment of the famous Winged Hussars. The much reduced Pancerni (about half left but still on the field!) deploy in front of the German foot.

The fearsome Haiduks (armed to the teeth with muskets, swords and dirty great axes) come on in front of the second regiment of German foot.  Unfortunately they didn't get close enough to get into action before the game ended.

After a bit of success with my own single gun firing straight up the road there was nothing for it but to charge in with my heavy cavalry and hope for the best.  On the right I started the right way with the cossacks skirmishing in front of the dangerous Swedish foot, trying to draw their fire and screening the other regiment of Winged Hussars deploying behind them and waiting for the right time to charge in.

 The cossacks skirmish with the Swedish foot - bows against muskets looks uneven but the milling cossacks are a hard target to hit!  Amazingly the losses were about the same!

The Swedish Culverins keep up a lively cannonade on the Polish cavalry.  These guns and the Petard (mortar) actually scored several hits on the hussars and the German Reiter deploying off the road behind them.

The lone Polish Saker in the far distance, when not masked by deploying troops, successfully targeted the Swedish troops at the other end of the road. No misfires for this baby!

I tried the same tactic on the Swedish right.  Unfortunately I did not have enough Pancerni left to screen my hussars properly as they had been decimated by continual cannonade and my hussars too started to suffer more hits from the Swedish guns. In a way the Pancerni had served their purpose by drawing the fire that could have otherwise weakened the hussars. The last of the Pancerni disappeared from the field after a massed volley by all the Scots mercenaries in the village virtually wiped them out. There was nothing for it but for the hussars to charge straight in.

The hussars absorb the shot and charge into contact with the pike, successfully discharging their pistols into the dense ranks of pikemen before hitting them with their own 22 foot lances!

After a ferocious melee the pike unit was destroyed and the muskets fled the field, with the hussars deciding to risk all by continuing their charge right into the guns and supporting shot (artillery guard)

It proved all too much for the artillery crews and their guard who broke and fled.  Unfortunately for the Swedes they had decided to move their heavy cavalry into the centre, otherwise the hussars would not have dared attempt to continue the attack

The last of the Pancerni - soon all but two were cut down by a deadly massed volley from the nervous Scots opposite (nearly half had already fled in panic after the successful hussar charge)

The fifth and final turn saw the last of three rounds of hand-to-hand combat between the other hussar regiment and the redoubtable Swedish pike in the centre.  The Swedes lost every combat, being whittled down to just the colour party and a few men surviving - but still standing their ground! The presence of their beloved CinC on the hill directly behind providing the incentive to fight to the last - and providing the Swedes with the necessary points to survive their morale rolls after each loosing round of combat!

Surrounded by heavy armoured hussars who hacked them down with their deadly three foot long Palasch swords, the pike stand by their colours to the last man!  Their courage saved the Swedish centre from caving in.

The final act of the game - the threatening Swedish heavy cavalry about to cop a massed volley from the famous 'Wiessfrocken' German mercs opposite 

The Swedish centre wavered but held thanks to the redoubtable Swedish pike.  The heavy armoured cavalry attempted to relieve the pressure by moving up the road against the German 'Weissfrockern' ('Whiteshirts') mercenaries advancing against the Swedish centre.  The Germans risked a massed volley (it means everybody fires at once) which gives you extra chances to hit but means you can't fire next turn - its a one shot option!  Their shooting was deadly mowing down half the front rank of cavalry who were so unnerved by it they failed their morale and fled the field.  At the same time the cossacks, although down on numbers, somehow managed to hold off Mark's Finnish madmen (light horse in the service of the Swedes - Poles hated and feared them!) long enough to eliminate the last of the threats from the Swedish position.

At that stage we had run out of time and had to finish up, awarding the game to the Poles.   I have to thank Doug and Mark for a great game and putting up with my whining about the scenario, given I was unfamiliar with the rules (and wondered how the heck they would work for the unique Polish hussars).  I should also thank Leigh and Ian for again organising a great days gaming at the club with its great counter lunch and wet bar (what more could a hungry, thirsty gamer want I ask you?).  A great afternoon at t'club with the lads -
and we'll be playing more Pike and Shot again!



  1. brilliant work, Doc.
    Speaking of battles, Here in Europe and Serbia we celebrate the end of WW1 Day today. It's a national holiday in Serbia too, since we lost one third of our population in that war including every other male citizen :(

    1. Thanks Dezzi - I am well aware of Serbia's sacrifise in WW1 - the greatest of any combatant nation - only the ANZACs (Australians & New Zealanders) came close. We too had a population of less than 5 million but suffered over 200,000 casualties out of the 300,000 who served in Europe - including 60,000 dead. Apart from Serbia, the highest losses of any of the combatants in WW1. The Sunday we held our game is Rememberance Day and we always observe a minutes silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day - Armistice Day. You can see the result of that terrible war still - nearly every town has its memorial and many country towns have more names on it than people in that town. We lost half that number in WW2 but are still traumatised by that. Nearly a hundred years on, its hard to comprehend the scale of loss in WW1. An entire generation of our youth decimated. Serbia suffered dreadfully in WW2 as well - proportionally nearly the equivalent to the Poles - but again this is all too often overlooked, particularly by Western historians.

      On a lighter note, I am sure you'd be delighted to know that the spectacular Polish Winged Hussars actually originated from Serbia, where the famous wings were developed, so they say, to prevent the famous Muslim Turk's Sipahi light horse from lassooing them, a favoured technique used by them. The eagle feathers also made quite an eery sound when charging too - completely unnerved the Turks at the Gates of Vienna.


    2. loved that piece of info on the winged Hussars. Love anything with wings :)

      Oh, I didn't know so many of your people took part in WW1. And it is so very true that even half a century or a whole century after both wars, many of the smaller countries haven't yet recovered which is why it is disgusting when Germany today, with its fuhrer lady councillor, looks so snobbishly on the poorer nations who are still recovering from what Germany did to them in the wars :( Very sad. Evil always wins, Doc....

  2. Great batrep Doc and a gorgeous looking table. The colours are splendid!

    1. Thanks Anne - actually had a bit of a problem with the colour as I stuffed up the hue and saturation when processing the images. There is a setting doohickey on the camera that fixes it but without an engineering degree I'm too dumb to work it out at the moment. What I'm trying to do of course I to get it as close to the colours we see in front of us when we game! [sigh] One day perhaps.

  3. Very beautiful stuff and a good batrep, I especially like the fog of war additions!

    1. Thanks Fran - yes a little bit of 'fog' goes a long way to covering any number of photographic blemishes too!

  4. Very impressive. I'm more and more interested in the East-european conflicts.

    1. Yes the Eastern conflicts of the period give a lot of variety - the Poles were up against just about every Eastern and Western type army at one time or another - you kinda get that when you're constantly at war for nearly 500 years! The Polish cav - particularly the hussars - dominated warfare being virtually undefeated for nearly a hundred years.

  5. Great looking AAR Doc. This is a period I'm very interested in.

  6. Great report Doc. Love the photos too.

  7. Fantastic battle images, Doc. Love those Winged Hussars! Best, Dean

  8. Super Post!! Grate work. Thanks!


  9. Great write up and pics too! Thanks for sharing.


  10. Thanks for the great comments guys - another TYW Black Powder game is on the cards again soon!