The easing of Covid-19 restrictions allowed me to get my brand new Polish-Lithuanian Army on table. Chris, Jamie, and Adam came over and we played Swedish versus Polish using Tilly’s Very Bad Day. This was a pick up game with pre-generated army lists and terrain chosen via Terrain Cards. It was also the first time we played an Eastern Army.
Summary: A really enjoyable game. It see sawed but eventually the Swedes won the infantry battle and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth won the cavalry battle. Pretty standard outcome for these historical opponents. In this case the Swedes caused enough damage to take the overall victory. But it was a very near run thing.
Phase 1: Game Set up
I did a fair bit of the game set up before the other players arrived. This was so my guests could focus on playing.
1.1. Agree game size
With four players I wanted a big game.
1.2. Recruit armies
A big games means big armies. I decided about 24 units each would do the trick and made up a couple of army lists.
When the players arrived I gave them their choice of nationality. Adam and Jamie went for Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Chris went for Swedes and I took the empty Swedish slot. The players organised their units into the commands.
The Poles had 23 units including two units of Winged Hussars. I opted to field the Hussars as “Superior Horse” in this game rather than any non-standard house rules. All other units were ordinary. Adam got the two commands on the right, including the Hussars. Jamie commanded the infantry centre and the Cossack left.
Polish-Lithuanian Order of Battle
- Extreme Right Wing (4 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 2 x Superior Horse [Winged Hussars]
- 1 x Ordinary Horse [Pancerni Cossacks]
- Right Wing (5 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 4 x Ordinary Horse [Pancerni Cossacks and Petyhortsy]
- Centre (8 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 4 x Pike+Shot [Foreign (German) Mercenaries]
- 2 x Shot [Polish Haiduks]
- 1 x Shot [Registered Cossacks]
- Left Wing (6 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 2 x Light Horse [Cossacks]
- 1 x Shot [Registered Cossacks]
- 1 x Dragoons [Cossacks]
- 1 x Unlimbered Cannon
- 23 Units; 92 Coins; 8 break point
The Swedish had their 12 pike+shot organised into six large pike+shot representing Swedish brigades. There would be good justification to downgrade the Swedish horse to inferior, but for this game I ignored that and left them as ordinary. In fact everybody was ordinary. The Swedes got an extra cannon unit to compensate for the Pole’s superior horse. Chris opted to lead the cavalry wings so I got the infantry centre and reserve. And the cannons. Yay, I like cannons.
Swedish Order of Battle
- Left Wing (4 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 3 x Horse [German and Finnish]
- Centre (9 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 3 x Large Pike+Shot [Swedish]
- 2 x Limbered Cannon
- Reserve (7 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 3 x Large Pike+Shot Ordinary [German Mercenary, Finnish, Swedish]
- Right Wing (4 Units)
- 1 x Commander
- 2 x Horse [Swedish]
- 1 x Dragoons [Swedish]
- 24 Units; 92 Coins; 8 break point
1.3. Determine attacker
We rolled randomly for attacker and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth won the die roll. Strategic defender, given historical context, but tactical attacker.
1.4. Place Terrain
Before the guys arrived I used Terrain Cards to generate the table top. This was a large game, so on a large table, and that meant six terrain cards. I got a large hill, large rough ground, small hill, and a river. The river was a mistake as I should have removed rivers from the counter mix (along with the bends) before selection. But I thought a stream would be fine instead. The terrain card suggests a straight line stream, but it doesn’t have to be so I put in a bit of a wiggle. The stream cut the large hill into two small hills.
The Polish had the clear advantage for scouting with two light horse (2d6 each) and dragoons (1d6), making 5d6 scouting. The Swedes only had a dragoon unit, making 1d6. Ironically the Poles missed all their scouting dice and the Swedes scored a hit on theirs, so the Swedes won scouting. We chose to delay deployment, thus forcing the Poles to deploy a command first.
Both sides chose conventional tactics, with chequerboard infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings.
Chris and I wanted to smash through the opposing foot as quickly as possible. Chris volunteered to command the Swedish horse so I got the infantry. Smashing time.
Chris’s cavalry wings were very weak. He only had four units, including the Commander, on both flanks.
On the other side, Adam and Jamie also wanted a quick win, but in their case they wanted the cavalry to bring them victory. They put two cavalry commands out on the right, under Adam. This is where they hoped they’d win. Jamie had the infantry centre and the left wing.
Jamie knew he’d be hard pressed by the big Swedish brigades and did the best he could with the foot he had. He deployed in chequerboard, with the pike+shot facing my foot. He had shot, both Polish Haiduks and Cossacks, in the rear rank and massed on his left facing the central wood. It was a good deployment, but looked flimsy compared to the masses of Swedes facing them.
Jamie also had some Cossacks out on the wing. Cossack Dragoons, Cossack Light Horse, Cossack Shot and there was a fair chance the Commander was also a Cossack.
On the far flank, beyond the stream, Jamie deployed his only dragoons.
The Polish bombardment went unnoticed, but the Swedish guns started strong. The two cannon bombardment inflicted considerable damage on the em>Pancerni Cossacks and Petyhortsy of the Polish right wing. it was also rendered the Polish commander hors de combat. Those few cannon balls were really going to hurt the Poles.
Not surprisingly Adam rushed his cavalry wings forward.
Chris had his opposing wing escheloned back. He just wanted to delay the inevitable as long as possible.
And the Swedish guns kept pounding.
On Turn 2 Adam started wheeling his cavalry in towards the centre. He desperately wanted to get at those pesky Swedes.
At this point the problem with my strategy for the cannon was apparently. Put the guns forward and it doesn’t take long before the enemy gets within charge reach.
But the Swedish cannon kept hammering away and routed another unit.
The Polish Pancerni charged the cannon but Chris played his card right and counter charged with his horse. The guns were saved.
And then Chris’s horse routed the Pancerni!
In the centre the Swedish brigades trudged forward into the first of the opposing Poles (and Germans and Cossacks).
The Swedes closed to push of pike but didn’t do so well. Two stalemates (locked in melee) and one push back … on the Swedes!
A little skirmish was developing in the woods on the centre-right. But the Swedish dragoons go there first.
On the far right of the Swedish line, the Cossack dragoons made it to the stream.
On our left, Chris kept pulling back his cavalry. He wanted to be just outside charge reach.
But he couldn’t pull everybody back. One unit of horse had to stay forward to protect the guns. And it was facing both units of Hussars.
But Chris’s horse couldn’t stop a unit of Pancerni riding down one of the units of cannons. And angles and distances meant the Pancerni could not quite make it to the other unit. In hindsight we should have just given it to the Poles as near enough. Next time I’ll keep my cannon more separate.
The infantry battle ground on. By this stage it was obvious that Adam and Jamie believed in attaching their Generals to units, taking the risk of becoming casualties, so they could benefit from the recovering resolve. Chris and I didn’t do this. In hindsight, I should done more with my generals in the centre. Good use of the Polish generals, and poor use of the Swedish generals, meant the Poles had a chance of hang on.
Every chance they got, the Swedish brigades went in, trying to batter their way through the Poles.
On the Swedish right Chris was playing safe. Jamie didn’t have strong units on this flank. But he had more of them.
On the left Chris continued to withdraw but he was running out of space.
The Swedish Red Brigade charged the threatening Pancerni and saved the guns … again.
The infantry battle raged on in the centre.
Jamie got all fancy. He wanted to benefit from having more units. So wheeled a couple of shot units to get my Swedish brigades to his front. Against the Scots this was working. They were down to a resolve of 5.
It was working even better against the Yellow Brigade. They were down to resolve 3.
Of course I charged all my foot. I was determined to steam roller those Poles.
I won a couple and lost with the Scottish Brigade. They, and the Yellow Brigade, were looking pretty shaky. That is why I had pulled the Yellow Brigade out of contact. But stupidly I didn’t attach their commander to rally them. Doh!
On the right the Polish closed in on Chris’s thin Protestant line.
Chris isn’t a passive player, so he charged his horse into the Polish dragoons.
Finally a glorious charge by the Winged Hussars. Feathers versus determined protestants.
The feathers won. The Hussars rode straight over the Swedes.
Turn 5 saw still more charges by the Swedish brigades. Four of them. Even the wobbly Scots (Resolve 2) went back in. Although by this stage they were accompanied by their Commander. I kept the wobbly Yellow Brigade out of it, but Jamie had other plans.
Not a great showing for the Swedes. Two stalemates, a Polish rally back, and a Swedish rout.
The Scottish Brigade routed. It wasn’t a good day for them. And I got the commander to them too late to bolster their resolve.
With the Scots gone, I had a bit of a gap in my line.
On the right the Cossack light horse charged Chris’s horse.
And then they routed them. Mutter, mutter. Mind you, this was the perfect time for the light horse to go in as the Swedes were already on resolve 1, thus giving the light horse hits on 4-6.
Nearby Swedish horse pushed the Polish dragoons back towards the stream.
Turn 6 saw the final demise of the Swedish guns. I was surprised they lasted six turns. And they had done amazingly well.
Jamie turned his German pike+shot unit into the flank of my Grey Brigade. Sneaky mercenaries. But the Greys did alright.
Nearby the Swedish Blue brigade went backwards, but finally a success. The Green Brigade routed their opposing Germans.
On the right Jamie was starting to gang up on Chris’s dragoons in the wood. They now had shot to front (Polish) and flank (Cossacks). And Chris’s dice rolling didn’t help (double 1).
On the extreme right the Swedish horse and Cossack dragoons continued their dance.
But it ended abruptly when the Poles routed.
Turn 7 saw lots of flank attacks. The battle lines had disolved. And the Polish cavalry had made its way into the Swedish rear. The Yellow Brigade had Cossack light horse to their front and Hussars to their flank. But they held.
The Yellow still had Cossacks to front Hussars to flank. But they still held firm.
The German pike+shot unit that had charged the Swedish Grey Brigade in flank were now charged by the Green Brigade in rear. They routed.
And the Polish Shot (Haiduk) in front of the Grey Brigade also routed. Game over. Swedish victory.
Conclusions and Observations
Everybody enjoyed this game. It see sawed and we all felt we had a chance at victory. In the end the Swedes eventually won the infantry battle and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth won the cavalry battle. That was a pretty standard outcome for battles at that time, between these protagonists. In this case the Swedes caused enough damage to take the overall victory. But it was a very near run thing.
Chris and I were lucky with the pre-game bombardment. Taking out a commander before the game starts is unlikely but impactful. It definitely tipped the game in our favour but I lost this advantage through poor dice rolling with my infantry.
Chris did a great job with the Swedish cavalry. He knew he was never going to win. His job was to lose as slowly as possible. And he did exceptionally well. Withdrawing just outside charge reach of the Poles. Yet knowing when to charge, for example, to save the guns.
We experimented with giving the player who rolls initiative the choice to make the other player move first. I didn’t like it.
Jamie did very well defending with his hodgepodge of infantry, and put up a very credible defence. He used the pike+shot and shot to best advantage, putting his pike+shot up against my own and putting his shot in support or facing the woods. But wheeling his shot into my brigades, to shoot at them, was a bit odd.
We like the big lumbering Swedish brigades. The large pike+shot advanced rule makes for very resilient units, but units which also lack punch. They win on attrition. They should win a battle against smaller foes, but it’ll take time. As it happens, in our game, I rolled fairly badly for the Swedish infantry. I won in the end but it would have been quicker if it wasn’t for low rolls. And I shouldn’t have lost the Scottish brigade.
Winged Hussars are cool. This is, of course, why I built an army for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. We liked the Winged Hussars as superior horse. Being Superior does not create super troops but it is a potent advantage which players sieze gratefully. I think we’ll leave other non-standard house rules for Hussars to scenario specific rules.
Cossacks are cool. Come on, kaftans and furry caps. If that isn’t cool, what else is?
We definitely have two schools of thought on attaching commanders. Adam and Jamie believe in attaching their Generals to units. They think the benefit recovering resolve outweighs the risk of losing the commander. Chris and I tend to be more cautious, and keep our commanders detached until the critical moment. In this game I should have done more with my generals in the centre. Jamie’s use of his generals meant the Poles hung around much longer … and explains why I lost the Scottish brigade. This all makes me think that commanders are nicely balanced in terms of game effect.
A spectacular and fun way to celebrate the ending of lock down.
4 thoughts on “Swedish versus Polish – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Battle Report”
Great looking battle and report. This is a period I’ve often thought of doing. What figures are you using?
I’m really interested in this period. The 17th Century in general and 30 Years War specifically. I wrote Tilly’s Very Bad Day so I could get my rather neglected armies on the table.
The Swedes are exclusively Essex Miniatures.
Polish-Lithuanian are a mix. Old Glory 15s (from Time Cast), Essex Miniatures, and By Fire and Sword all contributed.
Great report! It was fun to read, and the Hussars and Cossacks look gorgeous. I am looking forward for more eastern armies and scenarios!
Nice Battle report.Looking forward to more. The Eastern armies are a lot of fun to play with. Lots of light horse and wagon lagers!!