Friday, 12 October 2018

Steppes II

Steve has been working on his Muscovite army and our recent game provided their first 'outing'; an encounter battle with a Cossack force.  The two forces had both been engaged in a 'sweep' through a disputed border area on the steppes and the respective scouting parties had met near a small village.  The Muscovite force comprised 3 units of streltsy, 1 soldatski, 2 units of skirmishing light cavalry and two units of feudal cavalry, with 1 medium and 1 light gun.  Opposing them were 4 units of Cossack foot,( 2 of registered Cossacks and 2 Moloisty), 2 light cavalry and 2 units of tartars.  They were accompanied by 2 light guns.  Both sides have a number of wagons.

Taken part way through the action, this overview shows the terrain from the Cossack side .  In the centre the village and two small hills, a stream on the 'Cossack' side and two wheat fields on the Muscovite side.  A second small hill lies near the Cossack baseline.

Steve's left wing cavalry


I took command of the Cossacks and decided that I would hold the Cossack cavalry in reserve as they were both outnumbered and outclassed by the feudal cavalry.  The Tartars would be on the left to drive back the Muscovite scouts on that flank.  In the centre were the artillery and registered Cossacks who had good fire power, but would struggle in melee against the Streltsy with their berdysche axes.  I therefore planned to deploy the wagons in front of the registered Cossacks to give them a bit more protection.  On the flanks the Moloisty with their spears would hopefully be able to hold off any marauding Muscovite cavalry.

At first things went in favour of the Cossacks; the Tartars drove back the Muscovite scouts and even managed to push back the rather ineffectual feudal cavalry.  In addition, the Muscovite foot seemed reluctant to advance as did all the cavalry on the Muscovite left.  Perhaps I could secure the village after all.

Battle is joined
However, the Muscovite infantry suddenly awoke from their slumbers and advanced rapidly leaving me with having to make a decision, "Do I stop and form a firing line, or push for the village?"  The wagons chose this moment to 'do their own thing'.  One advanced at breakneck speed, even attempting to cross the stream, and another refused to move at all. Only two stayed with the infantry, where one unit failed to move and the other dashed forward, crossing the stream and occupying the nearest house in the village.  Boldly done, but the unit became disorganised by the move and thus was at a disadvantage when attacked by the leading unit of Streltsy.  Against the odds, the Cossacks held on and their comrades abandoned the 'stand and shoot' plan and went to their support.

Muscovite Streltsy advance onto the hill
The Muscovite left wing cavalry at last got moving and I needed to advance one of the Moloisty units to the right to cover my flank.  As the Muscovite scouts approached a Streltsy unit appeared on the hill to the right of the village (from the Cossack viewpoint).      I now faced a dilemma.  If the Moloisty advanced their flank would be threatened by the Streltsy.  I could attack the Streltsy with the registered Cossacks supporting their comrades  in the village, but this would deprive the defenders of support and open up the flank of the attacking Cossacks to a flank attack by the Soldatski massing in the village.  Whilst I dithered, the Streltsy on the hill fired a volley at one of my cavalry units which I had moved to the right to support the Moloisty.  This volley stopped the cavalry in its tracks and then a second volley drove them from the field in utter ruin.

The Cossack flank is threatened

The Soldatski prevail

Something needed to be done quickly.  Fortunately, my light artillery now intervened and managed to inflict sufficient casualties to shake the Streltsy unit and prevent it from charging.  Then the Cossacks defenders in the village gave way, eventually overpowered by the axe-wielding Streltsy attacking them. The registered Cossacks now found themselves in a quandary.  If they advanced they would be attacked by the Soldatski, if they held their ground they would be shot at by two units of Streltsy, if they fell back they would also be shot at.  The artillery played their part again and drove off the Streltsy on the hill, easing the pressure.  The issue was decided when the Soldatski charged the Cossacks.  Arquebus/matchlock musket versus pike melees tend to be very one-sided.  This was no exception as in no time at all, my Registered Cossack unit was streaming to the rear.  This left the Muscovites in undisputed control of the village and me on the losing side.  The question was, would I be able to withdraw my remaining troops in good order?

The Moloisty drive off the feudal cavalry
Over on my right, the Moloisty had seen off the Muscovite light cavalry, but now faced a large unit of feudal cavalry.  More menacing was the medium gun which had deployed in effective range and was preparing to fire.  Fortunately, after the artillery's first shots missed the feudal cavalry decided to take matters into their own hands and charged.  Although the attack was pressed home through a closing volley, the infantry prevailed in the melee and had to fall back to recover.  This gave the Cossacks a breathing space allowing them to fall back.  They were subjected to artillery fire, but the range lengthened and the casualties were not severe.

On my left things did not go so well.  The remains of the Tartar units were scattered by the Muscovite light cavalry and then the reformed feudal cavalry charged my remaining infantry unit.  The closing volley was totally ineffective and the Cossack formation splintered under the impact of the Muscovite horsemen.  Those who could fleeing for the baseline.  All my remaining cavalry unit could do was hope to hold off the Muscovites long enough to allow my last infantry unit to retreat from the field.

Not a good day for the Cossacks.  In retrospect I should have stuck to my original plan and try and prevail by musketry.  Abandoning the defensive in favour of an attack split up my forces and allowed them to be picked off.  It was however a good morale boosting outing for Steve's Muscovites, perhaps I should put up a Polish force as opposition next time.


  1. This is a lovely post, and its why I visit your page so often.

  2. A bloody and beautiful AAR, lovely minis!

  3. Thanks for your comments. This period gives such a variety of troop type and quality that the games are a real pleasure to devise and play.