Monday, November 21, 2022

A bit more applied history

Buoyed by some encouraging comments to my last post, here's a bit more about the campaign—you should not encourage him, you know!

I am becoming a bit obsessed with this! Over the weekend, I made some improvements to the document, a few additions and edits to the diplomatic events and national interest and began the lists for the initial military forces (army and navy),  and reinforcements. I have decided to call it the 'Campaign of the 'Greater' Great Northern War'.

This is one of the aspects of the wargaming hobby that I enjoy immensely; applied historical analysis, as I like to think of it. It involves compiling and synthesising information from secondary and tertiary sources (occasionally primary) to produced something that can drive and inform the applied historical analysis that is historical wargaming.

This tertiary (or perhaps quarternary?) level of historical writing involves very much riding on the shoulders of others. I have several books that I have been using to date and some others that I expect to use as we go along. They reflect my main focus of the northern and eastern spheres—I'll be relying on Julian to fill gaps for the west.

The Great Northern War Compendium

When this came out, I delayed for a long time before I took the plunge and purchased my copies (both volumes). It was at the upper range of price that I was prepared to pay for books (something that has moved further upwards since then!) and I wondered how much it would add to Höglund's books (thinking of them chiefly for uniform details).

I should not have hesitated, as I was really pleased with them once they arrived—still chiefly considering them for army and uniform details. They have really come into their own in the past couple of weeks. Some of those chapters that I thought were a bit 'tangential' to the main aspects of the Great Northern War have become really, really useful now that I too am considering it in it's widest context. An aspect that I really like about the compendium is that, while the chapters are quite brief they provide sufficient information to be informed about each topic, each provides a list of sources/further reading, most of which are readily accessible/available. Having read chapters here and there, I now have it on my reading list for the near future, to go from cover to cover.

The Great Northern War 1700–1721 Colours and Uniforms

Höglund and Sallnäs (Höglund, Sallnäs and Bespalow)'s books are a magnificent, detailed source of information about the armies of the nations involved in the Great Northern War, the battles and campaigns that each unit was present at, initial strength and, of course, uniform and colours. Introductory chapters (and to each army) provide background and some of the specifics about each nation.




 

Charles XII of Sweden

I came late to Ragnhild Hatton's biography of Charles. Boy was it worth the 'wait'. It is one of the best pieces of historical writing that I have ever read and the most engaging read since Alistair Horne's 'Price of Glory'—and I have only finished the first section 'Book One'. The information about Charles' character, background and family have been most useful in drafting the National Interest section for Sweden for the campaign. I have had to set it aside temporarily as a copy of Double Eagle and Crescent that I ordered through our library arrived sooner than expected, so I need to prioritise reading that. I look forward to getting back to Hatton!

Peter the Great

Robert Massie's acclaimed biography of Peter I is another book that I have come to late. I saw a re-release of it in a bookshop at the airport in Perth around the turn of the century but, stupidly, did not buy it. Ah well, I have a second hand copy of the original version now and it is on the current reading list.







Russian Rebels, 1600-1800: Four Great Rebellions Which Shook the Russian State in the Seventeenth  and Eighteenth Centuries

I found out about Avrich's book about three rebellions in Russia, including Bulavin's, when looking up a bit of information about it on the web. Second hand copy promptly obtained and it too is on the current reading list!






The Army of the Rákóczi War of Independence 1703-1711

I think that this is primarily a book of uniforms, but no doubt it will have some interesting background as well, perhaps even some army lists/strenghts? I have it on back-order. Hopefully it will be in stock and dispatched soon.







Wars And Soldiers In The Early Reign Of Louis XIV. Volume 2: The Imperial Army, 1657-1687.

A fine book that I'll do a review of in due course While it deals with an earlier period, Mugnai's description of the Holy Roman Empire, Reichsarmee and brief biography of Leopold I have provided some useful 'fodder'.






Double Eagle and Crescent

Like Mugnai's book, this one is from an earlier period (Siege of Vienna), but the impacts of that conflict are important background to this campaign. He also has a useful description/assessment of Leopold I





By Defeating My Enemies: Charles XII of Sweden and the Great Northern War 1682-1721  & Peter The Great Humbled: The Russo-Ottoman War of 1711

These two are also on the current reading list, but I won't get to them until I have read those above.












The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire

 

I read Peter Englund's excellent book some time ago. His mini-biographies of several of the Swedish generals will be most useful for the campaign.








Websites

Örjan Martinsson's Tacitus.nu website is an absolute gem. To an extent, I am re-treading the path that he has already trod in assimilatiing information about the various beligerents. I won't be producing anything that will be 1/10th of the quality and beauty what he has done though!

I stumbled on The War of Spanish Succession website (the name of the author is not given) when I began the document for this campaign. It is another wonderful compilation and will provide the starting point for information about the 'south-western' nations and their armies form which Julain can add or adapt.

The Wyre Forest Gamers site has an archive for the Great Northern War (amongst others) that is packed with useful information about armies and army lists (as well as scenarios for games of historic battles.

References

Avrich, P (1976) Russian Rebels, 1600-1800: Four Great Rebellions Which Shook the Russian State in the Seventeenth. First Published 1972. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. 309 pp.

Barker, TM (1967) Double eagle and crescent; Vienna's second Turkish siege and its historical setting. State University of New York Press, Albany. 447 pp.

Dorrell, N (2018) Peter The Great Humbled: The Russo-Ottoman War of 1711. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 #22. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 104 pp.

Englund, P (2013) The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire. First Published 1992. Reprinted 2013. I.B.Tauris Reprint edition edition. 287 pp.

Glaeser, M (2020) By Defeating My Enemies: Charles XII of Sweden and the Great Northern War 1682-1721. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 #60. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 190 pp.

Hatton, RM (1968) Charles XII of Sweden. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. 656 pp.

Höglund, L-E and Sallnäs, Å (2000) The Great Northern War 1700–1721 Colours and Uniforms. Acedia Press, Karlstad. 142 pp.

Höglund, L-E, Sallnäs, Å and Bespalow, A (2006) The Great Northern War 1700–1721, II. Sweden's allies and enemies Colours and Uniforms. Acedia Press, Karlstad. 142 pp.

Kling (Jr.), SL (Ed.) (2015) Great Northern War Compendium The Historical Game Company. 332 pp.

Kling (Jr.), SL (Ed.) (2015) Great Northern War Compendium The Historical Game Company. 304 pp.

Massie, RK (1982) Peter the Great: His Life And World. First Published 1981. Abacus Books. 909 pp.

Mugnai, B (2019) Wars And Soldiers In The Early Reign Of Louis XIV. Volume 2: The Imperial Army, 1657-1687. Century of the Soldier 1618-1721 No. 47. Helion & Company, Solihull, England. 301 pp. 

Somogyi, G (2018) The Army of the Rákóczi War of Independence 1703-1711. HM Zrínyi, 98 pp.

Websites

A Guide to Armies of the Great Northern War. Wyre Forest Gamers https://www.wfgamers.org.uk/great-northern-war/gnw-guide-to-armies

Martinsson, O. Armies of the Great Northern War https://www.tacitus.nu/gnw/armies/index.htm

The Spanish Succession http://www.spanishsuccession.nl/


 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

My head is spinning

I have completed a first draft of some rules for a campaign that will cover most of Europe between 1700–1721.

Karl XII and the Duke of Marlborough by Doyle
 

My recent reading has been around military history in the north and east of Europe in the mid-17th and early 18th centuries: Long Turkish War, Transylvania, Poland-Lithuania, Sweden, Ottomans, Muscovy, Deluge, Great Turkish War and, of course, the Great Northern War. The often complex intertwining and links from one to the other start to fall out. I wondered about an historical-wargaming exercise to run from one to the other. A look at a list of conflicts in Europe (my goodness haven't they been at each other for ages, is it all that they do?!) showed that it could perhaps be done.

I mentioned it to Julian ahead of our most recent catch-up (when he helped me to re-start the game of Klissow) and he jumped at the idea. For years he has been keen on a campaign to link the War of Spanish Succession and Great Northern War. He was not averse to expanding it further east.

We discussed some of the concepts when we caught up and made a few broad decisions: it is a goer, we'll probably do it as a two-player exercise, we want to capture the essence of the period(s), but want a pragmatic approach, not getting bogged-down in too much unnecessary detail. We left it that I'd work on a draft, slowly and we'd eventually progress to something that we might commence next year (sometime).

Where to begin?

I have rules for campaigns for the 1807–14 Peninsular War and western theatre of the American Civil War that were derived from ideas that I first read in Quarrie's Napoleonic Wargaming. The former Dad and I had played, off and on, over several years in the 1980s and 90s. The latter, derived from the Peninsular rules, I ran for a while at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society in the early 90s; until I went overseas for a while. Neither had been run to a completion, but they both had worked, well enough, and served the wargamer's purpose of producing table-top games.

This new concept is, of course, a level or three above those is scope; both space and time.

Not to be deterred (sensible?), I began by grabbing the most recent of those documents, the western theatre of the American Civil War, and, after finding software to open it(!), saved a copy for editing.

I began with a few edits of the rules, before reading and making notes about people and events of the years for this campaign. I wanted to have a timeline of events, both recent ones up to the beginning of the campaign (1th February 1700, Gregorian calendar) and others during the years covered that will be deemed to occur—the death of King Charles II of Spain being an obvious one. Oh, my goodness, how this expanded and blew out!

Despite, or perhaps because of this, I got a bit impatient so, over the past few days I have obsessed/focussed on this so as to produce a first draft. Very much a first draft.

I produced rules from my ’template’ of those for an American Civil War Western Campaign. Turns will be monthly (reducing to weekly or even daily if required for the movement of forces in close proximity). Independent forces are given orders (as broad as reasonable), new orders and messages are sent, forces move, supply and attrition are worked out and then any table-top battles resolved. There are also some rules for campaign-scale engineering and weather.

I adapted, simplified and honed the rules from the 20th century composition of rules for the 19th, but they will still require a lot of testing, adapting and even re-writing. I envisage that we’ll likely need to tweak them as and when we actually use them.

Most of my effort went into two appendices: the Timeline and National Interest.

The events for the timeline were far more than I initially thought, but they helped to direct some of the National Interest and some random events too (see later). I have included the following:

The National Interest is the key to it. It took me the longest and made my head spin! This information provides guidelines for all nations/groups regarding overall aims and some key characteristics of the ruler.

I included information for (roughly from north to south, west to east): Sweden, Russia, Ukrainian Cossacks, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Denmark-Norway, Holstein-Gottorp, Mecklenburg,
Hamburg, Brandenburg-Prussia, Hanover, Saxony, Bavaria, Dutch Republic, England (later Britain), France, Hapsburgs (Holy Roman Empire, Archdukedom of Austria, Kingdom of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia), Hungarian Kuruc, Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Empire, Spain, Duchy of Savoy and Papal States. I think that I will need a section for the Italian States.

This information provides broad guidelines. There will be a fair amount of ‘kriegsspieling’, which I think will be an enjoyable part of it. We can work out jointly what the other nations will do, each taking control of those most directly impacting the country that the other controls. I have also included some randomised, Diplomatic Events (Cévennes War, Bashkir Rebellion, Bulavin Rebellion, Jacobite Rising, Ottoman War (with Hapsburgs), Hungarian Kuruc War of Independence, Cossack revolt in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and left bank Cossacks siding with Sweden). Each of these is determined by a die roll, modified for events in the 'host' nation and diplomacy/undermining of that state.

There is still a lot to do. My next big activity will be Appendix III, the forces for each nation/group and initial positions—land and sea.

I expect it to take a long while to get the document to a point where we will be able to use it. Added to this, we do not yet have a map/maps to use as the campaign map! I also envisage that the campaign itself will be a long, hopefully enjoyable activity that we'll conduct over numerous years to come.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Klissow with Polemos Great Northern War (3): getting in deeper, ending and conclusions

You remember last time... (cue Batman music)

The Swedish infantry had finally come to grips with the Saxons, doing well on the left of the line, but either remaining engaged in mêlée or failing to come to grips on the right. Meanwhile, the Polish cavalry (in particular) were getting the better of the Swedes on their left flank.

We pick up the game/battle in the sixth stanza.

Tempo die rolls were '3' and '4' for Saxons and Swedes respectively, giving six and nine points to 'spend' on winning the initiative and/or sending to sub-commanders. 'Not a sausage' was Augustus' bid, while Charles bid three. Initiative to the Swedes.

The Saxon bombardment was ineffectual.

The Swedish infantry not yet engaged attempted to charge again. No go, but they were able to conduct offensive fire (an option that I had missed in previous turns).

The fire was ineffective. The on-going mêlées continued.

On the left the cavalry mêlées continued too, apart from a 'recoil' result for one of the bases of Swedes.

All of the Saxon infantry that were able fired in their turn...

resulting in a base (battalion) of Swedes breaking!

Flemming's cavalry continued to have some success against Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp's men. (The latter was mortally wounded early in the historic battle.)

After part two, I had commented to Julian that I had been rolling better for the Saxons than the Swedes. This all changed in turn seven.

The cavalry that had been made to recoil charged again...

breaking their Saxon opponents!

The Swedish infantry went in again, with a battalion from the second line filling the gap created by the broken battalion from the previous turn. This drew Saxon defensive fire, which was ineffective...

and the Swedes pushed back the Saxon line at a further two points.

In their phase, the Saxon battalions fired, but all without effect.

It was now a disjointed Saxon line indeed.

After two complete turns of mêlée with no result, these cavalry retired to re-order their ranks (a rule that I 'discovered' just in time!).

The number of bases that had routed was basically the same on both sides.

While this was going on, Raven (left) and Xena observe a bit of racing action as one of the shed's spiders tried out the chariot racing track.

Good tempo rolls by both sides.
I followed Julian's 'command directive', as I did not think that the Saxo-Poles were in a position to take advantage of winning the initiative. Swedes won initiative again.
In hindsight, this was a mistake.
The Saxon bombardment was once again ineffective (bottom dice roll).


Time to get serious. In went Rehnskiöld's cavalry,...

while von Liewen's infantry continued or re-entered the fray.

Rehnskiöld's cavalry had great success, breaking two opposing bases and driving others back.

The infantry attacks were less decisive, save for a Swedish battalion in the centre that broke.

On the Swedish left, Holstein-Gottorp's cavalry were looking weak and exposed.

This is the first of four photos showing the entire battlefield at this stage. Very much in the balance.


Augustus really had needed to win the initiative. These hussars/pancerni were in a great position to charge, but, with only two tempo points available to Lubomirski and three required for a non-tempo unit/group to charge, could not!
I had previously, erroneously, only 'charged' them two points to charge. At first I thought that I would let it go again, but decided to stick with the rules as writ.
At the time this seemed to me to be problem with the balance between the number of points likely available and those required for the non-tempo player. I came to a different understanding as I went on... (see 'Conclusions').

Being closer to Augustus, Flemming's cavalry were able to charge (above) and made good use of the opportunity (below)!

Back in the centre, Saxon infantry fire was once again ineffective.

The trend of the tempo die rolls continued in the next turn: no chance that Augustus could win the initiative with these rolls!

There was a change for the Saxon bombardment (ten on the two dice above). The result required the expenditure of an extra tempo point by the Swedish infantry and produced a shaken level for two units of the command.

When we had played the turn and a bit which began part two of this game, Julian had asked me about higher-level morale. I thought that it was done at an army level only. When I I re-read the rule, I found that I was wrong. It is done by command and the opponent 'invites' the other player to test one or more commands; at any time during the turn (only once per command).

Augustus duly 'invited' Charles to test for Holstein-Gottorp's cavalry. At just over 40% broken or in rout, he failed with a roll of 13.

Failure of morale for a command is not an all-or-nothing result as it is in so many rules. There are four levels of result depending on the level of failure. Holstein-Gottorp failed by the smallest margin, resulting in a 'shaken' command and an extra shaken level for each base—causing one base to break.

As intended by the rules, this was unsettling for the Swedish command. The Swedish right flank cavalry (Rehnskiöld) and von Liewen's infantry redoubled their efforts, both causing further Saxon bases to break (above and below).

What remained of Holstein-Gottorp's left flank cavalry had a go too, trying to steal a victory, or at least to inflict damage before a worse morale result occurred. Alas for him, no against-the-odds wins resulted.

With the losses of additional bases, Charles 'invited' Augustus to test morale for Steinau's cavalry and Schulenburg's infantry. Both passed.

In the Saxo-Polish phase, two more bases of Holstein-Gottorp's command were routed.

The rolls for tempo and bidding for initiative had been amazingly consistent all game. Swedes took the initiative again. It was back to 'normal' for Saxon bombardment too; no effect.

'Invited' to test morale once more, Holstein-Gottorp's command failed and broke.

More of Steinau's cavalry broke before the charges of Rehnskiöld's troopers (above), the Saxon commander was able to avoid being captured during pursuit (below), while more of his men broke in mêlée (further below).

Another two bases of Schulenburg's infantry were also broken (bottom right of photo).

'Invited' to test morale, Steinau failed.

Command broken.

Schulenburg's infantry passed.

It seemed time to call the game. I rolled for tempo once more, to see perhaps whether Augustus could win it and make some attacks on the Swedish left. He did not (I thought that I had taken a photo of the die rolls, but hadn't!). Game over.

This photo shows the parlous state of the Saxon left. The infantry would be encircled in one to two turns by Rehnskiöld's fresh bases (top left) as well as some of the Swedish infantry that were breaking through.


There were plenty of enemy cavalry on the Swedish left, but Charles had refused that flank and moved the cavalry reserve to face them. Having the initiative, he would be able to complete the job. For their part, being the non-tempo player, the Saxons and Poles would not be able to make many aggressive moves in their phase. They would though, be able to cover the retreat.

Stars of the show: these stout Saxon infantry in the centre of the line, had resisted attack after attack.
Despite that, without a left flank, they would not last much longer!

Wow, what a game and a see-sawing close thing it became. It really drew me in. My intention of simply playing a few turns to experience the mechanics and then packing it up went out the window completely.

Conclusions

After this, the Polemos Great Northern War rules remain very much 'in play'. I appreciated the mechanics more and more as I went on.

The integrated mechanics for firing, charging and mêlée take a little while to work out, but are quite brilliant. The roll of the die at first seems to be a big factor, but after lots of examples, the balance between the random factor and modifiers for quality, type and situation seemed appropriate. A result was not determined by the die roll of each side, but they impacted the level of the outcome. Having both sides roll is a mechanic that I like as it produces a random factor that is better distributed. There were no cases where, for example, a unit in a really poor position broke a better/stronger/better-placed unit. Some close situations were turned to decisive ones for one side or the other by a large differential in each side's die roll. I was not annoyed by this, as it allowed for tie-break results and the outcome was generally a 'recoil'.

Musket fire was not particularly effective in this game, even at close range. This did not seem too out of order. I was particularly good at rolling the same for both sides, often low for both. In addition, as the Swedes sought to come to grips on most occasions, there were not sustained periods of musket fire that could be expected to whittle down one side or the other (or both!).

The (mis-named) 'Army Morale' rule is one of the better versions of this that I have experienced. Too often such rules are quite blunt and have a huge impact, suddenly creating giant holes in a line that did not occur in reality. The levels of failure in Polemos Great Northern War allow for a more nuanced result, only becoming devastating when a command is in really bad shape. The rule also has a mechanic for a 'climax test' of an entire army. This would likely have been used if I had played a turn or two more and come to see Steinau's command broken, but I did not get to this.

The tempo mechanic, the defining one of the Polemos rule series, is the one that troubled me the most. Initially it seemed okay. The effect of too few tempo points, even for the Swedes, meant that either only front line troops moved or acted, or action needed to slow down so as to bring up the rear bases. The latter may be the intention, but I do not consider it desirable from a game perspective, nor in keeping with the historical version. My change to make basic movement 'free' seemed to fix this (for me) and did not produce any outrageous results (in this game). My next problem was the huge difficulty in moving bases of the non-tempo player. At first I considered using the same 'charges' for both tempo and non-tempo, but reasoned that this could be quite distorting and also undermined the importance of wining the initiative. This is the key to the mechanic. It is really important to win it, but it can 'burn up' tempo points to do so, limiting what the commander can achieve. I re-read the account of the battle in the Great Northern War Compendium and it seems that this is in keeping with the historical version. Charles had the initiative at the start, moved through the wood and re-aligned the army. Augustus then took the initiative, Lubomirski's cavalry charged, as did Steinau's, with Flemming's following out of sequence (next turn?). These charges did not go as well as expected, Charles won the initiative again and the Swedish cavalry counter-attacked. Taking the initiative again, the coup de grace was provided by the infantry attack in the centre. So, perhaps it is reasonable to put a huge weight on the initiative and to limit the non-tempo player. This helps to give me a greater appreciation of the mechanic, but I am not yet completely comfortable with it. I'll see how I go in later games using these rules.

I will definitely use the rules again. They are a choice of horse for particular course (level of game that I desire). That said, the next game with them won't be for a while, as another game of Klissow, this time with GåPå, is my next plan. For that game the armies need to be expanded for the ~50% increase in scale, which will keep me busy for a bit!