Zaporozhian Cossack Army List for Tilly’s Very Bad Day

This is the Zaporozhian Cossack Army List for Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

The Zaporozhian Cossacks

The Zaporozhian Cossacks were those Cossacks who lived downstream of the Dnieper Rapids in what is now Eastern and Central Ukraine. In fact the name Zaporozhtsi comes from the location of their fortress, the Sich, Zaporozhzhia means “land beyond the rapids”. The host was a strong political and military force from the 15th to 18th centuries.

The Zaporozhian Cossacks formed in the 15th century by serfs who escaped life under Polish nobles and fled to the the wild steppes. The steppes north of the Black Sea were already occupied by nomadic tribes such as the Cumans, Pechenegs and Khazars, and the Cossacks claim a connection with the Khazars although this is disputed. Escaped serfs, whether Polish or Russian, continued to provide recruits throughout the host’s history.

In the 16th century, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth extended its rule to the south and incorporated the Ukraine and the Zaporozhian Cossacks became nominal Polish subjects. The Zaporozhian Cossacks fought against the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Turks, and the Tsardom of Russia.

During a number of rebellions in the 17th Century, they also fought against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648-57) was the most successful of these revolts, and lead to a series of catastrophic events known as the Deluge.

Following the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, the Ukraine came under the suzerainty of the tsar of Russia, although initially the Zaporozhian Cossacks had nearly complete autonomy. The 18th Century saw rising tensions between the Tsar and the Zaporozhian Cossacks, and the Russians liquidated the main Zaporozhian fortress, the Sich, between 15 May and 8 June 1775, thus ending the Zaporozhian Host. However, the Russians allowed 5,000 to escape, and these formed the new Danubian Sich, under the protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted until 1828. Other Zaporozhian Cossacks fought for the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–92) and were rewarded with the Kuban land and migrated there in 1792. Kuban cossacks were still fighting for Russia in the October Revolution.

Zaporozhian Cossack Army List

A Zaporozhian Cossack army:

Must have one Commander for each command in the army (wing or battle)
Must have one Ordinary Dragoons and can have up to three Ordinary Dragoons [Mounted infantry]
Can have up to two Ordinary Light Horse
Can have up to one Ordinary Horse [Armoured Horsemen]
Can have up to two Ordinary Large Pike+Shot [Mixed formation infantry or Khmelnitsky’s trained peasants]
Can have up to four Raw Rabble [Cossack rabble]
Can have up to one Ordinary Cannon [Captured artillery]
Can have up to four Ordinary Tabor [Mobile wagon fort]1
Can upgrade up to two Ordinary units to Superior
Can have up to six Field Fortifications [Static tabor, earthen bank, etc]
Must fill rest of army with Ordinary Shot [Moloitsy or “lads”]

(1) Tabor is a new troop type for Tilly’s Very Bad Day and I’ll share rules for it shortly.

Commanders: The overall Zaporozhian Cossack commander was usually the Hetman, with other commanders were drawn from the Cossack officer class.

Infantry moloitsy: Unlike their neighbours – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ottoman Turks, Crimean Tatars and Muscovites – the mainstay of the Zaporozhian army was their infantry. The Cossack infantry were fierce and hardy, and excelled at night fighting, ambushes, forced marches, and defending fortifications (laagered wagons or earthen ramparts). Facing enemy strong in cavalry, the Cossacks preferred to defend field fortifications and/or skirmish in difficult terrain, however, if caught in the open Cossack infantry would form deep formations.

The majority the Zaporozhian Cossack infantry were the moloitsy (lads or young men), equipped with firearms and sabre, and formed into regiments of between 1,000 and 3,000 men (they increased in size over time). The best were the Registered Cossacks paid by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, however when these men joined the Cossack rebellions they were distributed amongst the regiments and did not fight separately.

As mentioned above the Zaporozhian Cossack infantry formed deep when caught in the open and I have made these deep formations large pike+shot. The “pike” bit is speculative but is based on pictorial evidence of mixed infantry formations including both men with a variety of pole weapons (pikes, half-pikes and axes) and men with firearms. (Note: From 1651 the preferred pole weapon was the berdish axe.) Also, during Khmelnitsky’s rebellion (1648-57), the “pikemen” would have been peasants who actually drilled with pike.

Religious tension fuelled some of the conflict with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as the Polish nobility were Catholic and the Ukrainians (peasants, serfs, townsfolk, and the Zaporozhian Cossacks) were Orthodox. As a result many priests and monks joined rebellious Cossack formations and some Zaporozhian Cossack units fought under religious banners.

Rabble: The Zaporozhian rabble were the lowest level of Cossack society and comprised escaped serfs, peasants, urban poor, herdsmen, and disenchanted clergy. They were motivated and tenacious, but undisciplined, untrained, inexperienced, and ill equipped. The rabble used a mix of hand-to-hand weapons (sabres, spears, maces, axes), farming implements (pitchforks, scythes) and makeshift arms (e.g. the maslak i.e. an animal jawbone fixed to a pole). These attributes meant the Cossack leadership used them as cannon fodder in frontal attacks, often against enemy field fortifications. As they gained experience, and acquired firearms, the recruits would join the moloitsy.

The rabble troop type in Tilly’s Very Bad Day would be used for the worst of the Cossack rabble. Normally the unit quality of rabble is raw, however, to reflect the motivated and tenacious character of the Cossacks, and their role as assault troops, you could consider using the superior upgrades for the rabble units. So consider superior rabble for your armies: Resolve 5, can melee but cannot shoot, cannot manoeuvre. Give it a go.

Mounted moloitsy: Zaporozhian Cossack cavalry had a supporting role. In fact they were part of infantry regiments and although used for light cavalry duties (e.g. reconnaissance, screening and pursuit), they typically fought dismounted. Mounted moloitsy used a mix of sabres, spears, firearms, and/or bows. That makes them a good fit for the dragoon troop type as mounted infantry. Mounted Cossacks avoided their Tatar and Polish cavalry as they could not beat them in a straight contest. Where they had successes was usually as part of a surprise sortie from defensive works, usually after a long days fighting. However, on the assumption their neighbour’s influence was more pronounced, I have retained an option for eastern style light horse and armoured horse. Although most Cossacks wore no armour, wealthy Cossacks preferred to wear heavy armour and I assume these could have been combined to form a heavy cavalry unit.

Cannon: Zaporozhian Cossacks did not manufacture their own artillery but made full use of any artillery captured from the Poles, Muscovites and Ottomans. The heavier pieces were positioned inside the defensive works in special firing positions. Any light guns were placed on the wagons.

Field fortifications: Like the Poles and Muscovites, the Zaporozhian Cossacks used horse-drawn wagons (tabor) to transport the army’s supplies. The wagons were arranged to provide a static defence for the camp. When necessary the defenders strengthened the wagons with soil or rocks, chained the wheels of adjacent wagons together, and built earthworks. Then they added men with firearms and artillery. These field fortifications allowed the Cossacks to successfully face their cavalry heavy neighbours. An improvised barricade of wagons allowed even Cossack rabble to stand off enemy cavalry. “Under the cover of the wagon train a hundred Cossacks will not be threatened by a thousand Poles, or even a thousand Tartars” (Guillame Le Vasseur de Beauplan). However, the Cossacks needed their enemy to attack and if they did not oblige the battle turned into a into a siege and the defenders would need outside help to survive.

Tabor: On occasion the Cossacks also used some of their wagons offensively, as mobile shooting platforms.

Example Zaporozhian Cossack Army

I’ve included an example army so you get an idea of what a Zaporozhian Cossack army might have looked like.

Example: Zaporozhian Cossack Army

  • Right Wing (6 Units; 24 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander
    • 4 x Shot [Moloitsy or “lads”]
    • 1 x Tabor [Mobile Wagon Fort]
  • Left Wing (7 Units; 24 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander
    • 1 x Large Pike+Shot [Mixed formation infantry]
    • 2 x Shot [Moloitsy or “lads”]
    • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon
    • 1 x Rabble
    • 3 x Field Fortifications [Static tabor, earthen bank, etc]
  • Reserve (4 Units; 16 Coins )
    • 1 x Commander
    • 2 x Dragoons [Mounted Infantry]
    • 1 x Light Horse
  • 17 Units; 66 Coins; 6 break point

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF).

5 thoughts on “Zaporozhian Cossack Army List for Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. Hi Stephen, I’ve printed out your Tilly’s rules which sound like they may hit the sweet spot for me- fast but with enough tactical grit 🙂 and I wondered is there a QRS yet as i could not find one on your site via search?

  2. Very interesting army list I am looking forward to test them against Polish. 🙂
    I have two questions. What would be coin value of superior rabble? 5? And how would the cossack “large pike+shot” formation work if a nominal unit size would be larger (i.e. 2000 per infantery stand instead of 1000)? Would the cossack formation be reduced to just single pike+shot like other large pike+shot formations?


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