Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Battle of Kliszow Great Northern War AAR

On Saturday four of us were invited to play a Great Northern War game as Paul's guests at the Grimsby Wargames club.

At the last minute Howard and Dave were injured (fortunately nothing too serious, hoping to get a game with them soon) and unable to attend so we were down to four players and Paul as Umpire.

So I picked Steve up in a dreary Wakefield and belted across the M62 to Grimsby.

We were not initially told which battle we were to fight and it was further disguised by replacing the Saxon army with a Russian army. Pauls newly acquired Polish army was a sight to behold.

Paul had a large table already set up with the Russian and Polish armies spread across in a magnificent array.  The Swedes were to march on the opposite table edge. Given the choice I elected to play Swedes having had the receiving end of a drubbing as Russians last time I played at Grimsby. Steve and Paul's son James took the Russian army and treasurer of the club Mark played alongside me with the Swedes.

The Swedish army had caught the Russo-Poles between two rivers, their army from right to left was roughly as follows.

14 large squadrons of Polish Horse (4 Hussars and 10 Pancerni 140 figures)
40 squadrons of Russian Horse (240 figures) a small number of these were on the left with the Cossacks.
18 battalions of Russian foot and one of Poles guarding the baggage.(450 figures)
7 Guns and crews ( 5 field and 2 positional)
20 squadrons of Cossacks (120 figures)

The front river bed was dry but dis-ordered troops attempting to cross, this extended about 2 thirds of the table from left to right leaving the right third of the table covered by the Poles and most of the Russian Regular horse. There were three small hamlets that could take a battalion each and along the Swedish edge two large woods.

The Swedes had larger battalions and much better quality across most troops but far less troops. From right to left they had:

12 Battalions of foot (360 figures) 8 line, 4 guard
40 squadrons of horse (240 figures)
No artillery

The Swedes had three objectives. King Charles must lead a cavalry charge. He would add a morale bonus of plus 3 to units he was attached to, however should he die the whole army would drop by 1 morale point. We must capture the Russian baggage and we must capture at least 5 guns.

The horse was split into a brigade of 14 squadrons and another of 26. Mark and I were given a free hand with deployments. We decided to mass all of our cavalry on our left facing the Poles and Russians in the hope of overwhelming them. 14 squadrons would be hidden in the wood.

Our Guards brigade would be next facing the weakest point of the Russian line in the hope of a swift break through, these troops would all be commanded by me. Mark took the thankless task of commanding 8 heavily out numbered Swedish Battalions of foot with cavalry on his flank he had nothing to counter with.

We would try and punch through with the guards, whilst the cavalry defeated their opponents and swung around to support the break through. Marks 8 battalions would keep the majority of the Russian foot busy and hang on until I could break through and relieve the pressure. It was a risky plan but typically Swedish and better we felt than no plan at all!

On the right Mark set off to capture the hamlet that sat next to the dry river bed on our side but James had the same idea and beat him to it. In the centre the guards trundled forward and the left both forces of cavalry surged towards each other.

troops on both wings were quickly in action, Mark initially struggling to lever the Russians out of the hamlet whilst Steve commanding the cavalry opposite me got the best of the initial clashes with his Polish larger squadrons and advantage of lances. The left soon dissolved into a mass of swirling melees with honours about even for the first few moves. The rest of the Swedish lines marched forward taking a small number of casualties from the waiting Russians.

In the centre of the Cavalry melee the Swedes were the first to break and a failed morale test saw 5 squadrons route and pursued by the Polish Winged Hussars to table edge. In the centre after a volley and a cheer the guards had charged into the Russian foot, whilst on the far right of the line Mark was still struggling to take the hamlet whilst fending off the Russian horse and Cossacks with his right most battalion and taking fire from a pair of field guns on his line of foot.

The Swedes were now getting the worst of the cavalry melees due to some poor dice on my part, but managing to pass their morale saves. Fortunately for the Swedes the 14 squadrons in the woods appeared at this point and drove straight into the swirling melees of horse.

The routing Swedes fled off table and whilst the Poles were able to rally on the spot they took a double dis-order. King Charles chose this moment to personally lead the reserve four squadrons into the Poles and put them to rout.

Over on the right Marks right hand unit had been completely enveloped by the Russian horse and Cossacks, whilst a one sided fire fight saw the Swedes begin to take significant casualties, two units of Russian foot were however routed,

In the centre the left most guards battalions were getting stuck into their Russian opposition which was putting up some remarkably stiff opposition, just to make sure I threw in my fourth battalion to help out., the unit on the right of the brigade was now engaged by 3 battalions of Russians and in danger of being swamped. Behind the foot the two big positional guns were being dragged forward to blast the Swedes should they break through.

To the left the Cavalry melee began to swing in the favour of the Swedes as the reinforcements began to tell and the Poles advantage of lance in the first round was no longer a factor.

With things in the balance Paul nipped out for Fish and Chips and kindly treated us to some Grimsby cuisine. We had a good chat about all things wargaming and plans for later int he year, then grabbed some coffees eager to get stuck back in.

I couldnt help but smile as I came back upstairs to re-start, I dont think I have ever seen a mass a cavalry melee's on this scale and certainly dont member playing in one. I hope the pictures capture the sight that greeted us.

On the Swedish right things were not going well for Mark. Outnumbered 2 to 1 and with no cavalry support his units were suffering, James seemed incapable of failing a morale test throwing 11's and 12's with 2 d6 at will. In the centre the left most Russian battalion broke but so did the right most Guards battalion facing three Russians. On the left the second lot of Poles routed and were pursued to the table edge, one group of Russians was entirely destroyed and the other two melees broke off. The first group of Poles failed to rally and routed off table leaving the Swedes in a very strong position.

Over to the right four of Marks battalions were now either routed or in serious trouble, however he had a last taken the hamlet at the end of the line and seen off several Russian battalions. Two battalions were back to back attacked by horse from two sides and Russian foot which had crossed the dry rive bed on th e third. His fourth battalion and pulled back slightly to occupy a hamlet which covered the guards and left them with the chance to finish what they had started.

The guards had seen off 2 battalions of Russians and broken through, they were hit by fire from the two positional guns but managed to shrug this off and charge home capturing both guns, swinging around now they had three battalions abreast intent on rolling up the Russian line.

The first two squadrons of Swedish horse were now past the Russian horse inten on enveloping the Russian centre whilst the now overwhelming Swedish horse charged home to try and finish off the Russian horse.

Things were very much still in the balance, nearly half the Swedish foot was gone, the Russians were still pounding the Swedish foot with their remaining 5 guns and there was a lot of Russian horse to deal with before the cavalry could consider coming to the rescue of the foot.

Mark hung on doggedly and destroyed the Russian horse after a very bloody melee, as the Cossacks were still in contact however the Russians were unable to use their guns and superior fire power on the Swedes.

The guards routed two more battalions of Russians before hitting a large Polish unit of foot. I didnt know it but this was the raw baggage guard which James had thrown in to slow me down, to my frustration this worked and badly trained Polish troops held my guard up for a move. The rest of the Russians were not in a good way however.

In the next two moves my two squadrons of horse were able to sweep around un-molested to capture the Russian baggage train, the main cavalry force finished off the last of the Russian cavalry and reformed on the flank of the Russian foot and a further two units of foot were routed by the Swedish guard.

Two of our three victory conditions were achieved and the last was half way there with not much to prevent us from finishing things off, with virtually no cavalry and half of the foot gone the Russians conceded defeat.

It had been a hard fought game with a number of points at which we thought the Swedes had bitten off far too much. Mark had hung on grimly with the thank less task of keeping 14 battalions, 5 guns   and a large force of cavalry busy with just 8 battalions Swedes and quality had told in the centre with the guards. Our plan had succeeded despite a few hairy moments.

I should apologise to Mark and James as I spent far more time taking pictures at my end of the table. The last three shots were staged of some my troops, Paul wanted a picture for an article he is writing and I decided to grab a couple of snaps myself.

At this point Paul shared with us the real battle this was based on and the historical outcome which was not dis-similar in the end.

A fantastic day and my thanks go to our hosts at Grimsby and in particular Paul. The vast majority of the figures were from Paul's own fantastic collection with just 6 squadrons of Swedes added from me.

Any inaccuracies in the detail are my fault and entirely intentional to make my part in te game look for important, sorry gents!

I look forward to the return match and hosting Paul in my turn.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Excellent report and big game! I congratulate and envy. Very well look the big number of troops on a table and a game very much transmits spirit of GNW. Swedes were faithful to the tactics, and Russians as pupils.
    I consider the GNW project in St. Petersburg now and your game very much inspires!

    1. Brilliant I am pleased it inspires you to work on the period, best of luck.

  2. Fantastic report. loved seeing sll of thst cavalry. hope my own refight of Klissow in October goes half as well

    1. Let me know when you have a battle report up Neil would love to see it.

  3. It was an epic scrap and no error. I'll get you next time!!

  4. Roger,
    An excellent write up. History belongs to the victor as they say. Glad you enjoyed your visit. Welcome anytime.

  5. Fantastisch! Truly amazing amount of cavalry! I really enjoyed reading the report of this battle. Chapeau!

  6. Inspiring!!!! These games days are the reason why we spend our free time painting miniatures. Thanks Roger for your great description of the battle and for the photos.

  7. Fantastic and inspiring report and beautiful figures. What rules did you use for this battle? GaPa again?

    1. Hi Stephen, no this was the Grimsby club house rules as it was their turf. Fun rules. If a little old school.