Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Russians v Poles, an eastern renaissance Pike and Shotte scenario

Another Pike and Shotte game this week, but a long way from the Severn valley.  The scenario is based on the continuing Russian attempts to regain possession of Smolensk in the early 1630's.  A large Russian force is heading westwards to besiege and capture Smolensk, meanwhile, the local Polish commander has been ordered to gather what forces he can and slow the enemy advance, buying time for the Royal army to assemble.  The Polish force consists of 3 units of Hussars, 3 of Pancerni, a mixed bag of dragoons, plus one unit of haiduk infantry, one of levy infantry and a light artillery piece.  Facing them, the Russians have assembled  6 units of  feudal cavalry and a unit of skirmishing light cavalry, 2 units of Moscow streltsy, one unit of urban streltsy and one of the new 'soldatski' units comprising muskets and pikes.  The general's mounted bodyguard and a heavy gun complete the array.  In order to offset the disparity in numbers the Polish general has formed up with his right flank protected by the Ugra river making it difficult for the Russian general to use all his forces at once.

The Russian infantry advance
The battle began with a stuttering advance by the Russian feudal cavalry (rated as militia they found it more difficult to pass their command rolls),  However, the Polish general was unable to take advantage of this opportunity because the commander of his left wing cavalry also failed to move. (Whereas the chance of the Russian general failing to get his cavalry moving was roughly 1 in 3, the Polish general should have passed 5 times out of 6),  Fortunately for the Poles, the Russian feudal cavalry eventually charged the leading unit of  hussars and the latter were able to counter-charge and thus get moving. The elite hussars although few in number managed to beat their more numerous opponents and pursued them in a sweeping advance.   However, out-distancing their supports the Hussars failed to defeat a second unit of feudal cavalry and had to fall back to reorder their ranks

The cavalry clash on the Polish left
.On the opposite flank, the Polish general had manged to get his mixed bag of dragoons and skirmishers to advance over the fords to take up a position from which they could fire at the flank of any Russian move towards the main Polish battle line.  Although the effect of the fire was not significant, it did prove a nuisance, disordering one of the supporting feudal cavalry units.  Meanwhile in the centre the Russian infantry advanced behind the swarm of light cavalry skirmishers.  These easily absorbed the fire of the Polish infantry although their return fire was largely ineffective.  However, they did their job, ensuring that the Russian infantry advanced without casualties to a position from which they could charge the Poles.  The Russian general was just about to order the skirmishers to fall back when they were charged by the unit of hussars which had been kept as a reserve.  Totally unable to withstand the onslaught the light cavalry routed back and the hussars fell back to reform.  With the light cavalry out of the way the Barneskaya Streltsy regiment fired at the Polish levy infantry and the volley was so destructive that the levy routed, leaving the Haiduk infantry trying to hold the Polish centre.

The Russian light cavalry are driven back
To restore the situation the Polish general  ordered the hussars to charge again.  As they galloped forward the Barneskaya Streltsy fired a volley.  This volley was feeble and failed to have any impact on the charging hussars, who after shattering their lances in the first impact, took up their swords and hacked away at their opponents.  Soon a rabble of purple coated streltsy were routing back and the Russian general galloped over to rally them . Reforming the ranks, the leader of the  hussars saw that only one more unit lay between him and the rear of the Russian army.  He prepared to charge again.

On the Polish left the cavalry battle disintegrated into a confused melee with neither side being able to achieve a breakthrough.  Units fell back to reform after melee, charged again, but the fight was indecisive and the protagonists both had to fall back to reform.   On the Polish right the Russians were gaining the upper hand.  Against the odds two units of feudal cavalry had driven back the Polish right wing cavalry.  The Russian general now committed his mounted bodyguard and they joined the feudal cavalry for another attack.

The Bodyguard advance
Meanwhile, in the centre, the Soldatski regiment prepared to charge the Haiduks.  As they surged forward they were met by a devastating volley which stopped them in their tracks, a second volley proved too much and they routed.  However, behind the Soldastski were the Ivanov Streltsy regiment from the Moscow garrison.  They were seasoned troops and stood firm as the recently raised soldatski men ran past them.

The Haiduks repel the soldatski charge
 To the right of the Ivanov Streltsy the Urban Streltsy prepared to meet the charge of the Polish hussars.  They held their fire until the last moment and then delivered a telling salvo.  Even the elite hussars could not withstand the torrent of lead which tore through their ranks.  The charge failed and the remnants fled the field.

The hussars are driven off
As the Polish general struggled to recover from this body blow he saw his remaining infantry driven back in disorder by a succession of volleys from the Ivanov Streltsy.  A courier then arrived to say that the cavalry on his right had been driven from the field.  Seeking protection amongst his remaining left wing cavalry, the general left the field, hoping he had done enough to slow the enemy advance.

For this scenario the Russian feudal cavalry were rated as 'large' units, which in Pike and Shotte gives them extra combat dice.  It also gave them an extra stamina point and thus made them more durable.  The Polish Hussars were 'small' units, with two fewer dice, but being Elite and stubborn they are able to survive melees quite well. (If the dice are with them!)

We ran the scenario a second time, switching commands and the second time the Poles won, with their cavalry driving off the Russian feudal cavalry and then attacking the Russian infantry with the aid of the Polish infantry.