Following our first play test I thought I’d make some tweaks to my Small Kircholm scenario and try it again. In this play test the Hussars are just Superior Horse and there are five Hussar units, not six. Chris bravely took the Swedes for a second time, hoping to benefit from his experience in the first game. Adam took the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In Tilly’s Very Bad Day terms this is a small game on a small table with small armies.
Summary: A really good game. A better game balance than the first version. Both players played well with particular credit to Chris for quickly compensating for the crippling Swedish deployment. But the Poles took the day, again.
Phase 1: Game Set up
1.1. Agree game size
Small game, with small armies, on a small table.
1.2. Recruit armies
The scenario gives the armies. For this game I changed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s order of battle. The Hussars are just Horse and there are five Hussar units, not six, including the Dummy Hussars. The genuine Polish Hussars are also Superior, so have a starting Resolve of 4. The dummy hussars are inferior and so have a starting Resolve of 2.
Nominal unit size: 400 for Lancers; 500 for Horse, Dragoons and Light Horse; 1000 for Pike+Shot, Shot, and Rabble; 8 guns for Cannon
Adam chose to put two Superior units on each of the wings and only one unit, the inferior (Dummy Hussars), in the centre. Adam also chose a second Light Horse unit rather than the Horse option, so he had two Light Horse.
1.3. Determine attacker
The scenario specifies the Swedish as the attacker.
1.4. Place Terrain
The scenario specifies the terrain.
Adam’s Tatars/Cossacks (Light Horse) gave him 4d6 Scouting. He got three hits and delayed deployment, so Chris had to deploy his entire army first.
The Swedish centre deployed in a chequerboard but everybody else was in lines/columns.
This time around Chris was a lot more careful with his deployment. He lined up his foot so the German mercenaries (Ordinary) were behind the gaps in the line of Swedish recruits (Inferior). He could either leave them like that or move the Germans into the front.
Chris’s right wing deployed next to Kircholm. It was in a column, presumably to limit the frontage this wing occupied.
The Swedish left wing was deployed in front of the woods. The question was, would they advance or withdraw into the cover of the forest?
Facing them, Adam had a tight little command with two Hussar units at the front and a Horse unit in support.
Facing the Swedish foot, Adam had a long line of Horse, with the Shot and Cannons towards to the centre.
The guns roared but nothing meaningful resulted.
Having learnt his lesson from the first play test, Chris immediately started shuffling his army around. German mercenary foot forward, Swedish recruits back. He also put his right wing Horse into Kircholm.
The Polish marched ahead into the Swedish musketry.
And being Tilly’s Very Bad Day, there was melee on game turn 1. In this case a unit of Hussars bounced off some German mercenaries
Adam advanced on the left and right. This strategy left a giant gap in his line where the centre would normally be. All Adam had was his cannons and a unit of Hussars to defend them. And these were deployed way back. Chris didn’t know it, but might have guessed, but these Hussars were the the houseboys, i.e. Dummy Hussars.
Adam’s main attack was on the left and left centre. These were the troops taking on Chris’s foot frontally. Hussars and his unit of shot. He used his Light Cavalry to shield the Swedish/German horse in Kircholm.
On the right Adam advanced aggressively against the Swedes near the woods. Only to see them disappear into the woods.
In the centre Chris shuffled his units around.
He was both getting his units in the best position to face the approaching Poles.
He also wanted to exploit the giant gap Adam had left in his line. Swedish infantry wheeled in to threaten the flank of Polish left and centre.
They also threatened the Polish right wing.
The muskets fired without much effect.
And then the charges. Both Hussar units on the left charged. Chris also launched a change against the Haiduk (Adam’s shot unit).
One unit of Hussars routed the German mercenaries in front of them.
And the Haiduks forced their German opponents back.
On the right, the Hussars charged the cannon, but embarrassingly, Adam’s supporting horse got charged in flank by German Pike+Shot.
The Swedish cannon were destroyed on contact.
The Germans forced the Polish horse to withdraw.
Game turn 3 started badly for Chris. The Cossacks skirmishing in front of Kircholm managed to rout a unit of German mercenary horse inside the town. Inferior horse are flimsy.
Adam pushed forward where he could. In particular he started his reserve, the Dummy Hussars, forward.
They charged, along with some real Hussars, and some Swedes.
Adam had timed his move so the horse boys (Dummy Hussars) charged on a flank.
And they drove their opponents back.
The Haiduks also succeeded in throwing back their opponents.
Further along the Swedish foot had more luck and pushed the charging Poles back.
On the right the skirmish between the Pancerni and the German foot continued. Adam chose to pin the Swedish horse in the wood with one unit of Hussars. The other unit went hunting the Swedish recruits.
The commander and his attached Hussars charged the recruits.
And they got locked in melee.
The Swedes were still in the game, but looking a bit battered.
Game turn 4 saw the battle at its peak. The Poles are closing in on the Swedish centre. But the Swedish wings are still hovering out there as a distraction. And Chris had a sole unit of German pike+shot chasing the unit of Polish Pancerni.
On the left the two units of Hussars went in again.
Demonstrating that the Hussars are anybody but super troops, the Germans managed to rout a unit.
And drive off the other.
The Dummy Hussars got locked up with the Germans facing them.
On the right the Pancerni charged the German pike+shot and drove them back.
Near the wood the Hussars rode over the Swedish recruits facing them.
The Swedes now had a big gap between their reduced centre and their left wing.
And on the right Adam was successfully holding the Swedes – both the left wing cavalry and the wandering Germans – leaving the commander and the other Hussar unit a free agent.
The vice closed on the Swedish centre. The Hussars rode over from the right into the rear of the Swedish foot. Chris didn’t have a lot to turn to face them given they already had the Polish left and centre to their front.
But it wasn’t the Polish Hussars that won the battle for Adam. It was his cannon. They found a brief line of sight to the nearest Swedish recruits and routed them.
Mind you, to the combatants it probably looked like fear of the Polish cavalry rather than cannon balls. They were surrounded.
And that was the end of a truly epic battle.
Conclusions and Observations
A great game. Five game turns, so short by our standards (they tend to be six game turns), but not unreasonably short.
Both Adam and Chris played well. Adam took the victory but Chris did a good job. He successfully dealt with the awful Swedish deployment rules and made it a near run thing. He also managed to feed in reserves to hold his line. But did make a couple of mistakes. He used a unit of Ordinary pike+shot to chase a unit of Polish horse. The manoeuvre advantage was with the Poles and Chris couldn’t nail them. So effectively Chris lost that foot unit, one of his best, from his defence. Having that unit available to fill the gap might have tipped the game in his favour.
Chris also put his horse in difficult terrain. He didn’t have a lot of options on his left flank and skulking in the woods was probably their best bet. But putting his right wing horse into Kircholm might not have been the best idea. Their Cossack opponents, being light horse, operate better in difficult than they do. As it turned out Adam’s Cossacks just had to skirmish in front of the Germans and pick them off gradually over tiem.
Adam’s use of the Dummy Hussars was masterful. He calmly let a gap hole open in his centre, watched the Swedish foot gleefully exploit this hole and wheel onto his wings, then launched Dummy Hussars into their exposed flanks. A thing of beauty.
Having the Winged Hussars as Superior Horse worked much better than super troop Lancer type we tried previously. That extra resolve makes them both punchy in attack and resilient in adversity. They could take on Ordinary Pike+Shot frontally but were it was an even match and if the foot managed to get some shooting hits before contact, then the odds tipped towards the ground sloggers. It seemed about the right balance.
Next time I’ll be a bit more careful with the figures I use for the Polish Ordinary Horse. In this game I used Polish-Lithuanians but in the actual battle some would have been more western in appearance. It should be 1 x Pancerni Cossacks, 1 x Kurlander Arquebusiers, 1 x Horse Cossacks and German Arquebusiers. Plus Cossacks/Tatars of course.