Sunday, 17 January 2016

Pike and Shotte; Poles versus Cossacks and Tartars

Steve and I have experimented with a few rule sets when fighting eastern european battles and the latest was Pike and Shotte.  The army lists we used were ones I had cobbled together and although they worked so so, there seemed to be something lacking.  Wandering down the leafy lanes of the internet I came across a blog where Thaddeus Urban had taken the time to put together not only the army lists for Muscovites, Cossacks and Tartars, but also a potted history and a list of historical characters.  (This is available to download from post 16 on the link above, and is called "Edge of Empires, early modern warfare in Eastern Europe").  Included were a few special rules, firing from the saddle, gun shy and spear company, which offered the opportunity to reflect more accurately the eastern way of fighting.  Inspired, I set up a scenario pitting a small Polish force against a much larger alliance of Tartars and Cossacks.  It was very loosely based on the battle of  Podhajce (1667).  The Polish position was flanked by impassable terrain meaning the alliance had to attack head on, nullifying their usual enveloping tactics.  Hildinger (HILDINGER, Erik, Warriors of the Steppe.  Spellmount, 1997) gave it as an example of the supremacy of firepower over the usual tactics of the steppe peoples.

Polish Levy infantry
The Polish force consisted of two units of Haiduks with a unit of levy infantry ensconced in a wagonberg.  The latter were supported by a light gun.  On the flanks were two medium guns in earthworks.  In reserve were two units of pancerni and one small unit of Hussars.  The goal of the Polish force was to hold their position and prevent the alliance advancing on the town of Podhajce which lay behind them.

Opposing them was a force of 7 units of tartar cavalry, together with a further 7 units of Cossack cavalry.  In support were 5 units of Cossack foot, 3 spear and musket Moloisty units, 1 unit of registered cossacks and a unit of 'adventurers'.  The force lacked any artillery.  There objective was to brush aside the Polish force and capture Podhajce.

The Cossack forces
A roll of the dice decided that I would command the Poles.  Steve duly sent forward the first wave of skirmish cavalry to harass the Polish infantry.  As they got into range my artillery opened fire to devastating effect - for the Poles!  Pike and Shotte includes a rule whereby any artillery fire which includes 2 '1's results in the gun not being able to fire again that game.  My first roll for the light gun put it out of action,  My second disabled one of the flanking guns.  In no time at all the very essence of Sobieski's strategy of firepower had been undermined.  On the plus side, the 'Gun shy' rule did manage to disorder some of the Tartar cavalry and force them to fall back to regroup.  Volleys from the Haiduks also drove off the first wave of Cossack cavalry.  When the Cossack infantry reached the front, one large unit of Moloisty targeted the Polish levy and charged home.  Even with the benefit of the wagons and supports the levy lost the melee and routed.  Unfortunately, that initiated a test on the supports.  Both units of Haiduks failed one routing, the other falling back in disorder.  The final blow came when the Hussars took their break test (as a supporting unit) and they also routed off the table. With half the army gone I had no option but to concede defeat.

The Moloisty attack
After lunch we replayed the battle, swapping sides.  Steve opted for a more aggressive defence and when opportunity allowed charged out with his cavalry.  My cavalry were unable to stand up to the attacks and one by one my units were forced back in disorder.  However, as Steve continued to push forward his losses increased, eventually resulting in them being 'shaken'.  This gave my cavalry the opportunity to charge and with this added impetus the tide turned.  Outflanked and outnumbered the Poles were forced back behind their infantry.  My further attacks made little progress against the combination of artillery and musket and in the end I had to concede defeat again.

The Pancerni broken by the Cossack horse
The special rules and lists seemed to work well (once my erratic dice rolling was removed from the equation) and we will try them again on a more open field which gives the steppe armies more freedom of manoeuvre.  My apologies about the photographs for this blog, I was struggling against some unseasonable sunshine flooding in through the window.

The Haiduks drive off a unit of Cossacks


  1. That's a very impressive array of cavalry.

  2. Nice to see your Cossacks and Poles return to the table. I have recently started raising Medieval Russian and Tartar armies, mainly using Hinchliffe. Have uploaded quite a few photos on my Scimitar and Crescent Wargames blog. Hope to see your collections taking on some Turks, as previously. Regards, Michael

  3. Hey, thanks for the shout-out! Glad you had a good time with it.