Sunday, 11 November 2012

Novskya Zol

We're back in 17th century eastern Europe this week with a scenario for Cossacks and Muscovites.  The scenario comes from Scenarios for All Ages by Grant & Asquith; it is number 20, "Taking the Initiative - 1".  A small force is watching the crossing points of two rivers, when an enemy force appears they must decide whether to conduct a forward defence or fall back and hold the second river line.  The attackers must make a decision whether to attempt to force their way across immediately or wait for reinforcements.  They will have numbers in their favour but delaying may give the defenders time to make seizing the second river crossing impossible before nightfall.

The two players knew what reinforcements they would receive (3 lots for the Cossacks, 4 for the Muscovites), but not the order of their arrival.  This was decided by drawing lots.  If the Cossacks opted to make a stand at the first river, the Voyna, they had the chance to erect a barricade at their side of the bridge.  Success for the Muscovites was holding the crossings of both rivers, for the Cossacks it was denying the crossing of both.

[map scanned from "Scenarios for all Ages"]

The Cossack commander decided to contest the crossing of the Voyna and the officer in charge of the picquet passed the dice roll to construct a barricade.  His force consisted of a company of infantry (8 figures) and 5 skirmishing light cavalry.  He placed the infantry in the village with the cavalry covering their left flank.  The Russian vanguard was one unit of Streltsy and one of light cavalry.  Their commander, Prince Dimitri Pozharski, saw the barricade and decided to deploy his streltsy to fire on the village; hoping to reduce any infantry fire from there when he attempted to force the bridge.  His plan seemed to be working as not only did his men win the fire fight with the Cossacks in the village, but they also caused the Cossack cavalry to pull back out of range.


However, Borotnikov, the Cossack commander had gathered the rest of his force (the remainder of the Godicz Cossacks and a unit of cavalry) and was marching to the aid of the picquet.  Seeing the Cossack reinforcements, Pozharski decided to try and force the bridge.  His first reinforcements were now arriving but he sent forward the light cavalry.  They advanced quickly across the bridge, ignoring the ragged volley from the village.  When they reached the barricade they found that it had been too hastily constructed (they rolled a 6 on a d6) and did not delay them at all.  To the dismay of the approaching Borotnikov the Muscovites had crossed the river.  However, the Muscovites had no room to deploy and use their superior numbers and the Cossack cavalry charged forward to try and contain the incursion.  A swirling melee took place and against the odds, the Muscovites were pushed back in disarray.  As they streamed back over the bridge they impeded the advance of a cavalry unit Pozharski had ordered forward.

By now the Godicz Cossacks were near the village.  Their arrival was timely because the original defenders had been all but wiped out by the fire of the streltsy.  Behind the Godicz Cossacks two further units of foot were beginning to make their way forward.  Pozharski had received further reinforcements in the shape of a unit of 'German' mercenaries, some boyar cavalry and a light gun.  The gun deployed on the river line on Pozharski's left, where it could fire at the troops approaching from Novskya Zol.  The cavalry and infantry were held by the bridge, ready to advance.  First into action were the mercenaries who advanced with elan, expecting no resistance from the defenders of the village.  However, Borotnikov had re-garrisoned the village and as the mercenaries neared the ruins of the ineffectual barricade they received a sharp volley.  To Pozharski's dismay, the mercenaries stopped and then fell back, to the jeers of the streltsy units by the river.  Pozharski turned to his cavalry and ordered them to cross the bridge.  This they did and had some success, pushing back the light cavalry until Borotnikov countered with the cavalry he had brought forward from Novskya Zol.  Again a swirling cavalry melee took place in the confined space between the village and the bridge and again the Cossacks prevailed.  This time they pursued the fleeing Muscovite cavalry across the bridge and suddenly found themselves surrounded by enemy horsemen.  With no hope of regaining their own bank of the river they tried to cut their way out, but were overwhelmed.

The slaughter in the village continued.  Borotnikov needed to hold it to keep the Muscovites from crossing the river, but Pozharski was concentrating the fire of three units of streltsy on the defenders.  Even the fire of the Cossack light gun offered little help.  As the fire from the village slackened Pozharski pushed yet another cavalry unit across the bridge.  As they reached the far bank the Muscovites moved to their right, away from the Cossack gun.  They were charged by Cossack cavalry, but they had been weakened by straying into range of the streltsy.  As the Muscovite cavalry gained ground Pozharski led the boyar cavalry forward and then joined the melee.  Behind him, the Suzdal streltsy began to cross the bridge, to be followed by the mercenaries.

The Muscovite cavalry prevailed over their Cossack opponents and Pozharski could see only one unit of infantry between him and the ford over the second river.  Leaving the boyar cavalry behind he led the first unit of cavalry forward hoping to seize the ford. Unfortunately he had missed seeing the Cossack light cavalry close to the wheatfield and they charged the rear of the Muscovite cavalry, catching them unawares. Disordered and dismayed, the Muscovites routed, leaving Pozharski to cut his way free to rejoin the boyars.

Even though they suffered heavy casualties the Suzdal streltsy secured the village, allowing more Muscovite troops to cross the river.  Borotnikov could see that if he delayed any longer his force would be insufficient to hold the second river line and so he gave the order to fall back.  The infantry on his left was allowed to fall back unmolested as Pozharski struggled to restore the boyar cavalry to some semblance of order.  On the right the infantry, covered by cavalry fell back slowly, taking their wounded with them.

Borotnikov had lost approximately half his force, but he had delayed the Muscovite advance.         

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