Sunday, 16 April 2017

GNW After Action Report test game

So yesterday we ran our second test game for Great Northern War using the Black Powder rules. There were a smaller band of us than usual mainly because we don't have huge numbers of figures just yet but also it allowed for more focus on testing the rules.

The table was 14 x 7 feet flat and open except for a small forest and river along one edge.

The allied army consisted of Danes, Saxons and Russians, this in itself would not be unusual for battles after Poltava in Northern Germany. However to bolster the smaller Swedish Army we gave them Polish allies, although the Poles did fight alongside the Swedes (and both the Saxons and Russians) they had effectively been knocked out of the War before the Danes re-entered so we had to suspend our belief for a while to allow the Poles to join in and assume they had not been corned and destroyed in Northern Poland.

To be fair I don't think may there noticed.

From left to right, standing behind the Swedes as the above shot, the Allies were.

12 battalion of Danish foot in three Brigades.
4 regiments of Danish Horse in one Brigade
4 battalions of Saxon foot in one Brigade
4 regiments of Saxon and Russian horse in one Brigade

And on the flank crossing the river

4 regiments of Cossacks in one Brigade
8 Battalions of Russians in two brigades

Facing them from left to right were:

6 regiments of Polish horse in two Brigades
2 regiments of foot Cossacks in a redoubt
13 battalions of Swedish foot in four Brigades
6 regiments of Swedish Horse in two Brigades

The allies had 4 guns and the Swedes 3.

Thanks to Mark for Providing the Danes, Dave providing the Russians, Paul kindly bringing along some of his Swedes and Chris, Howard and Steve for bringing an open mind and sense of humour.

So the Allies had 36 units against a Swedish force of 27.

We were using Black Powder with a lot of amends. Most of us had played it before so there was a degree of familiarity. We added a fair amount of amendments which we have found work in the past and also created some period amends which I felt would reflect the different armies strengths and weaknesses.

Firstly we changed the sequence so that units fire before moving and can only move a maximum of twice if they fire. We also have a brigade break test once the brigade reaches 50% of units broken rather than simply breaking the brigade.

I gave the Swedish foot ferocious charge, crack and steady along with an extra hand to hand dice to reflect their aggressiveness and ability to shrug off casualties. I did however reduce their firing dice from 3 to 2 as a third of their troops have Pike.

The Swedish horse and the Winged hussars had ferocious charge but no other bonuses, the Poles in general having low stamina levels to reflect their tendency to leave the battle field if things were not going well.

The allied foot were pretty much all standard foot with the first fire rule, other than one brigade of Russians being wavering so they had to take a break tests every time they took a casualty.

For the Allied foot I took some elements of Pike and Shot to make them "trotters" this meant that they moved slightly slower than the other cavalry and were not permitted to counter charge, using instead their pistols with closing fire. Not a very effective tactic but historically accurate.

For the Cossacks I gave them fairly low stamina and fighting ability and added the rule that they could only charge formed foot in flank and rear unless shaken or disordered. They were also considered marauders.

Figures were a real mix of makes with Ebor, footsore, Warfare, Foundry, Warlord and Wargames Factory all in some numbers on the table.

The game started with the Russian Cossacks trotting forward to block the Swedish cavalry near the river, whilst their foot failed to cross the river at all. The Danish Horse moved quickly forward against the Poles whilst the allied foot hung back initially. The Swedes and Poles took a typically aggressive approach and launched quickly forward against the allies right across the table witht he exception of one brigade in the middle which failed to receive its orders to advance.

The Poles did very well and after a number of moves destroyed all of the Danish horse before being driven off by the Danish foot, the situation not being helped as Mark through a blunder and then 5 one's for saving throws.. In the centre the Swedes looked to be doing really well until The guards brigade broke (first time on table) Paul proving that it doesn't matter how good your troops are if you roll a double one.

On the Swedish right the Cavalry charged the Cossacks destroying two regiments and then bounced onto the gun and first foot over the river, they penned the Russians in causing a fair number of Casualties but lost two regiments of horse in the process.

Unable to cross the river the Russian lined two battalions along the bank and began to fire into the flank of the depleted Swedish horse who repeatedly charge the small Russian foothold to keep them penned in.

In the centre the Saxon horse and foot and come to grips with the Swedish foot in a fierce melee lasting several rounds whilst the Danes pushed the remaining Polish horse back on the further flank.


Despite numerous small local victories, brave charges to take out the Russian guns, and Swedish foot charging disorganized Saxon horse that had just withdrawn from Melee, numbers now began to tell. Fired on from font and rear and already hurt front he previous melees the first Swedish cavalry brigade broke. Meanwhile despite hot work in the centre Howards ability to roll six's at will kept the Saxons in the fight and slowly driving the Swedish foot back. A lucky shot on the redoubt took a Swedish gun out and things were beginning to look very dicey indeed.

The Poles withdrew to try and reform but were allowed no space by the massed ranks of Danish foot who continued to press them back.

The last straw came as the advanced Russian battalion vollied a disorganised and shaken Swedish horse regiment and then charged and broke them, the last regiment of Swedish horse was forced to take a brigade break test and failed. In the centre the Swedes lost another battalion and were withdrawing with more battalions shaken or disordered. The Saxon horse was very badly mauled but the remaining Poles were in the wrong spot and in no shape to take advantage, with their right wing destroyed and the centre beginning to fold the Swedes had no choice but to conceded the day and begin to withdraw their badly mauled army.

A great game played in the right spirit and thoroughly enjoyed.

The various amends allowed the game to have the feel of the period and did work very well for the most part. However there were a umber of things we talked about which worked less well after the game. Foot charging cavalry just didn't feel right at all, more of a concern was just how sucessful that turned out to be. Units failing a command roll and not moving was a frustration but to y mind did reflect the poor command and control of the period. The biggest frustration was confusion over the rules, this because many of use Hail Ceasar and some also use Pike and Shotte, both of these rule sets are based around the same concepts as Black Powder but have fundamental differences,  This led to in-told confusion as players interpreted rules from the wrong rule set and in some cases didnt realise until the latter stages of the game. We use Black Powder very successfully for AWI and there was a feeling that Great Northern War needed a separate set of rules to give it a different flavor.

So whilst a successful play test up to a point the consensus is that we will tinker with GA PA rules and try these next time.

So a good day out and blooding for the figures. I think Paul may also be doing a write up on the game and it will be interesting to see his take on how it played, see his blog at!/2017/04/monday-night-at-grimsby-wargames-society.html

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings and I look forward to sharing some more pictures of the growing collection very shortly.


  1. A great looking game with fantastic looking troops on the table

    1. Thanks Neil, really enjoyed it. Rules just perhaps not quite 100%

  2. Sounds like a great game. As the forces grow it's going to be some epic battles.

    1. Cheers Truls. I think we will see about 3 more Norwegian, 4 more Saxon, 10 more Russian and 10 more Swedish units between us all. Oh and another 2 Polish cavalry too.

  3. Thanks for organising a great game and providing such an astute and accurate AAR. The spectacle presented by the mass of figures on a 14 foot table was impressive, and I thought your idea of three bases to a unit really works.

    1. Thanks Howard, not sure Steve enjoyed your uncanny knack for throwing 5's and 6's to save. Pleased you enjoyed it.

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  5. Great looking armies, waht a splendid collection! An impressive battle!

    1. Thanks Phil, it did look great, just what I was hoping for when I started 18 months ago.

  6. Roger,
    It was a real pleasure to be asked to join in such a great game. A wonderful day was had, despite my handling of the Guard. The figures were as splendid in real life as they look on your blog and it was a privilege to be allowed to play with them. Very many thanks.

    1. My pleasure Paul, but you wont be getting the guard next time unless you promise not to loose them before lunch! Giving GA PA a try early May in a small club game let you know how it goes.

  7. If you're more familiar with P&S, I'm confused why you don't just use those? It's got all the same stuff as black powder, plus pike company rules. I give Swedish foot ferocious charge, tough fighters, plus elite 4+ which allows them to shrug off disorder and keep ploughing on.