Sunday, 8 September 2013

Lesnaya 1708

For the third trial run with the Ga Pa rules we moved to an historical scenario, one that would give a different slant on the rules.  The first two fictional scenarios had featured Swedish attacks on a Russian defensive position; this time the Russians were the attackers and we also included more wooded areas to the terrain.  Lesnaya formed part of the preparations which led to the battle of Poltava.  Charles XII of Sweden was attempting to move towards Moscow and called for reinforcements and supplies from the Swedish forces in Livonia.  Lewenhaupt set off to join the king with a massive convoy of c1000 wagons and an escorting  force of  7,500 infantry and 5,000 cavalry.  Tsar Peter left the main Russian army under the command of Sheremetiev and moved with a mixed force of infantry and dragoons totalling c10,000 men towards Lewenhaupt.   The infantry comprised his best troops, including the 6 battalions of Guards.
(All the details are from Angus Konstam's book on Poltava in the Osprey Campaign series).  Lewenhaupt had managed to get some of the wagon train across the Sozh river, but Peter's force approached whilst their were still a great number on the northern bank. 

General view of table from behind Swedish position
Using the map in the 'Osprey' I place the two Swedish infantry brigades in the woods, Meierfeld on the left and Stackelberg on the right.  The cavalry under Armfeldt was placed in reserve.  The front line of infantry units were all rated veteran, but the supporting line were rated 'green', (the OOB shows some of the battalions as 'tremmening' indicating they were part of the second call for recruits).  Russian infantry  were split into two brigades, the Guards under Peter himself and line units under Menshikov. The arrival of the cavalry under Meshtierski on the Swedish right would be determined by dice roll; (in the event Steve rolled a '2' so the dragoons made an early entrance).

Peter leads his troops froward
My games table is fairly small (4' x 6') so it did not take long before the two forces came into musketry range.  A prolonged firefight now developed between the Russian guards and the Swedish line.  The cover offered by the woods negated the Russian advantage in musketry and the veteran status of the Guards enabled them to stand up to the Swedish volleys better than the line troops under Menshikov who really struggled to maintain their line.

The Russian Guards come into musketry range

On the Swedish right the Russian dragoons made an appearance and Armfeldt turned his cavalry to meet this threat.  Although the Russians did not flee from the charge of the Swedish cavalry and fired a volley as they closed, the impetus was enough to force the Russians back.  A second charge drove the first Russian unit from the field.  Meshtierski attached himself to the second unit and moved forward, hoping to gain more ground to deploy his remaining units.  This unit was then charged by the Finnish cavalry, who not only drove the dragoons from the field but cut down Meshtierski in the process.  Their blood up, the Finns then pursued their foes off the table.

Armfeldt orders the Finnish cavalry to charge
Menshikov had by now managed to manoeuvre three of his units into position to fire on one Swedish unit.  However the Nyland regiment stood its ground and even managed to force the 2nd battalion of the Narva regiment to fall back to reform.  On the Russian right the Guards had gradually managed to edge forward and forced the Swedish line to give ground.  Once both sides were in the woods the Russian musketry advantage really began to tell and more of the Swedish units became disordered by the effects of the close range volleys.  Lewenhaupt, commanding Meierfeld's brigade, was everywhere, rallying wavering units and ordering counter charges to force the Russians back.  Stackelberg was holding his position and soon had the encouragement of seeing the remaining Russian dragoons driven from the field by Armfeldt's men.  The Upplands cavalry regiment then threatened the flank of Menshikov's brigade, but the 1st battalion of the Volgodski regiment turned to face them and then fired a volley which caused such casualties that the Swedish unit was finished as a fighting force.

Vlgodski drive off the Swedish cavalry
On the opposite flank matters had now come to a head.  Continuing Russian pressure had forced back the Jonkopings regiment into their supports, the Smalands regiment.  Already disordered by the wooded terrain and further disordered by the retreating unit, all control was lost and this green unit broke and fled.  With the grenadiers and Livlanski units also forced back only the Viborg regiment was holding firm. The Livlandski regiment formed the left flank of the Swedish position and it was vital that they fell back no further.  Lewenhaupt galloped to their position and rallied them. However, the 1st battalion Seminovski advanced further and began to fire.  As the volleys were exchanged Lewenhaupt was hit and fell mortally wounded from his horse. 

Lewenhaupt falls
 With the general lost control of the Swedish force was much diminished. Stackelberg was still holding firm but his left flank was now under threat as the other Swedish brigade began to break up.  Armfeldt's cavalry, now reduced to one unit would also have its hands full holding off the Russian dragoon reinforcements under Bauer.  In line with history the remaining Swedish units began to fall back to the  river to defend the wagons and the bridge.  A second battle took place there later in the day, perhaps a scenario for another time.

The rules seemed to work well with this scenario.  They reflected the difficulties of maintaining command in the wooded terrain and the superiority of the Russian musketry.  Swedish counter attacks were limited due to the disorder caused by this musketry, so the Swedish superiority in melee was nullified.  Swedish cavalry again performed well, though it must be said that Steve's inability to inflict step losses helped considerably.  Upgrading the Russians made the task more difficult for the Swedes, but that reflected the increasing experience gained by Peter's men.  One plus factor was that I managed to avoid using the playsheet for the Thirty Years War variant of the rules this time!

With a bit more work these rules could feature next time the Poles, Cossacks and Muscovites visit the table.

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