Friday, 31 March 2017

River crossing - an eastern renaissance scenario for Pike and Shotte

This week our game was 'out east'.  It was a fictional scenario from the Smolensk war between Poland and Muscovy (1632-1634).  The Polish forces are coming to the aid of a besieged city and need to establish a bridgehead over the river Dneiper.  Scouts have identified a suitable crossing point, with a low ridge half a mile beyond on the eastern side.  Unfortunately, the Muscovites have discovered the Polish plan and the local commander, (Prince Dimitri), has taken steps to oppose the crossing and requested reinforcements.
Initial table layout
The Muscovite forces in the immediate area consist of 3 'units' of noble levy cavalry, 2 units of streltsy, a unit of border muskets and a gun which has been 'requisitioned' from a local arsenal.  Prince Dmitri's artillery commander is of the opinion that it would have better to leave the rather antiquated piece where it was, but was over-ruled.  Some works have been constructed on the ridge facing the crossing and a unit of Cossacks have ventured across the river to provide warning of the Polish advance.  Prince Dimitri has been assured that reinforcements are on their way, but he does not know when, or the order of arrival.  His superior, Grand Prince Michael, has informed him that he is on his way with some of the 'new units' recently raised on the western model.  One unit of soldatski and 3 units of reiter, together with two further units of streltsy, and the Grand Prince Michael's bodyguard.

The Russian left

The Noble Levy cavalry
Shortly after dawn the Cossacks galloped through the ford and reported that the Polish army was approaching, led by a vanguard of cavalry, including Hussars and Pancerni.  Prince Dimitri readied his forces with the gun, one streltsy unit and the border muskets on his left, the noble levy cavalry in the centre, (opposite the ford) and a further streltsy unit on the right.  He anticipated that the reinforcements would come on his right, so that flank would receive help first.

The Polish vanguard
The first clash was between the rival scouting units, with the victory going to the Poles, perhaps their spears were more effective then the Muscovites'' swords?  Assessing the situation, the leader of the Polish vanguard decided the best strategy was to drive off the Muscovite cavalry, leaving the Poles to 'mop up' the infantry at their leisure.  To this end he led the vanguard forward against the Muscovite centre, with the Hussars leading the way.  Undaunted by their illustrious opponents, the leading Noble Levy cavalry unit advanced against the Hussars.  However, harsh reality soon made itself  felt. Although outnumbering the Poles 3:1, the Muscovites were defeated, being driven back in disorder. Encouraged, the Hussars swept on, charging a second Noble Levy unit.  This melee was less one-sided, both sides having to fall back to re-group.

The Hussars charge the Noble Levy

This allowed both sides to regroup.  The Poles were having some difficulty their Pancerni units to advance in support of the Hussars.  Also, their second 'brigade' of cavalry was having problems crossing the river through poor command dice!  Giving a breathing space, the Muscovite cavalry recovered and prepared to return to combat, Prince Dimitri's sole problem was the reluctance of his Cossack scouts to move to the right flank and cover the advance of the anticipated Muscovite reinforcements.

The Poles advance

Polish reinforcements arrive
With the Hussars falling back they came within arc of the streltsy unit on the Muscovite right.  Although more of an irritant than deadly, the fire did encourage the leader of the Polish vanguard to use his Pancerni to draw the infantry fire.  On the Muscovite left this resulted in one of the more dramatic events of the day.  A unit of Pancerni had been harassing the opposing streltsy with their bows.  Over time the streltsy suffered sufficient casualties to have to fall back to recover.  Sensing an advantage the Pancerni moved forward, in doing so they came within close range of the Muscovite gun.  Whatever the reason, over-enthusiasm, or carelessness, normal loading procedure  was not followed.  When the charge was ignited an explosion resulted and when the smoke cleared the gun was in ruins and the crew dead.  The explosion seemed to have stunned the Pancerni, because they failed to continue their advance and thus allowed the streltsy to regain their position on the ridge and prepare to receive the enemy cavalry.  When the Pancerni did charge, they were met by a devastating volley which drove them back before they came to contact.

The end of the gun
By now the reinforcements were beginning to arrive for the Muscovites, with the reiter regiments leading the way.  Grand Prince Michael ordered them to advance towards the ford and attack the flank of the Poles.  The Polish forces were also increasing in numbers.  The second 'brigade' of cavalry had crossed the river and formed up and behind them were four units of infantry.  The latter were sent towards the Muscovite left flank to remove the threat of the streltsy stationed there.

The Hussars attack again

The Soldatski stand firm

Grand Prince Michael's bodyguard are driven off

A second attack was now launched on the Muscovite centre.  Once again the Hussars led the way and once again the Noble Levy cavalry were defeated.  However, on this occasion, the Hussars were better supported and a unit of Pancerni charged with them and also drove off a unit of the Noble Levy.  A gaping hole had appeared in the Muscovite line.  Grand Prince Michael deployed his newly arrived streltsy units to face this threat, whilst leading forward his own bodyguard.  Behind the bodyguard were a small unit of Noble Levy.  The clash between the Hussars and the bodyguard was brief and ended with the Muscovites being driven from the field.  Grand Prince Michael managed to hack his way clear of the carnage and return to his infantry line, but the Noble Levy were determined to avenge their comrades.  They charged forward and must have caught the Hussars by surprise because for the first time that day the Polish elite cavalry tasted defeat.  Forced back by the onslaught, the Poles were driven towards the unit of Border muskets, who fired a salvo at them. Caught between two forces the Hussars were forced to surrender.

The Haiduk attack

More Polish success

The attack on the reiter
On the Muscovite left the attack by the Polish Haiduk infantry was halted by the streltsy, but only after a fierce and prolonged struggle.  The Muscovite right was now moving forward together, though the attack by the Hussars had diverted two units of streltsy and the unit of Noble Levy away.  Two reiter units, with the Soldatski regiment providing a solid flank had now moved forward almost to the river.  Opposing them was the third cavalry 'brigade' of the Polish army.  The Soldatski had manged to disrupt an earlier attack by a unit of Pancerni and the reiter had easily driven off the Polish light cavalry.  However, they now faced a sterner test as fresh units of Polish cavalry attacked.  With the Soldatski screened by one unit of Pancerni, the reiter were charged by a unit of Hussars and one of Pancerni.  Galloping through the ineffective close range pistol fire the Polish cavalry smashed through the Muscovite ranks driving the tattered units back in disorder.  Grand Prince Michael managed to establish a line of streltsy to give a haven for the battered reiter to rally, but with very little cavalry remaining he would be unable to hold his position for long.  The remains of the Muscovite force therefore began to withdraw eastwards, leaving the Poles to establish their bridgehead.

The scenario provided an enjoyable game which lasted for 4 hours.  In our 'post match discussion' we talked about the strength of the Hussars.  The special factors gave them a better morale rating, the chance to re-roll one failed morale dice, an extra increment when deciding the victor of a melee, and a lance which reduced the morale rating of their opponent in the melee.  Overall we felt that this was 'over-egging the pudding'.  As an experiment next time they take the field, the Hussars will lose the Heavy Cavalry 3+ in melee and instead win draws.

Also, the streltsy have a bonus for the double handed melee weapon (ie axe), whilst the Haiduk do not, so again as an experiment the bonus will be given to the Haiduks as well.


  1. Some good see-saw action, in which nothing it seems could be taken for granted. Enjoyed - thanks.

  2. Nice report, colourful photos to match. Thanks for uploading, I do enjoy your Streltsy games.

  3. Nice report, these armies are fantastic!