In light of Poland’s modern history, it’s easy to forget that the country was once a major player on the European political scene, with a landmass comprising not only most of today’s Poland, but also the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine, plus parts of modern Russia.
Stretching from the Baltic Sea almost to the Crimean Peninsula, its size and geographical position – combined with a strong ambition – placed it in constant conflict with most of its neighbors, including Sweden, Muscovy, the Ottoman Turks and the Habsburg Empire.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army represented a unique and colorful (sometimes even flamboyant) blend of East and West, making it an interesting choice from a modelling and wargaming perspective.
So when my clubmate Dalauppror announced that he will start a Thirty Years War campaign based on the upcoming Pikeman’s Lament ruleset (which he is writing together with Daniel Mersey) the Poles were a given choice for me. And since The Assault Group offers an impressive range of beautiful models for this period, it was just a question of choosing the right combination of troops to suit the skirmish-style ruleset.
Haiduks are of course a main component of any Polish 17th century army. These tough types, fielded as Shot units, have the typical Polish look – Hungarian-style hats, Cossack haircuts and some hefty moustasches. They were mostly drafted from the poorer segments of society and constituted the core infantry forces of the Polish-Lithuanian army.
I also went for a decidedly more Western-looking unit of Krakow Militia. The city of Krakow had a mainly German-speaking population, and since it was a wealthy city, the town militiamen tended to dress extravagantly. Like the Haiduks, the militia will be fielded as Shot units, and like the Haiduks they are using a flag from José-Manuel Chasco’s awesome site. Head over there for some stunning paintjobs!
Another mainstay of the Polish-Lithuanian forces were the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Hailing from the “Wild Fields” beyond the Dnieper river in modern-day Ukraine, their anarchic social structure and fierce ways were infamous throughout Europe. For this project I’ve painted up two units that technically will serve as Dragoons – although that term hardly encompasses all the facets of the Cossack style of fighting.
And finally, perhaps the most famous Polish contribution to military history: the Winged Hussars.
These lance-wielding, leopard skin-cloaked noblemen were used for heavy cavalry charges, which proved to be very effective despite having become rather unfashionable in the rest of Europe by this time. But the Hussars were almost equally famous for their extremely pompous style of dress, which sometimes bordered on the ridiculous; for example, it was not unknown for them to wear stuffed eagles on their shields (these models are from Warlord Games, and although no eagle shields were included, they really are excellent).
Still, anyone finding himself on the receiving end of a Hussar charge probably had other things to worry about than questionable fashion choices.
Which reminds me of a last-minute addon to my Polish contingent:
Because we all do lose some – sometimes more often than we’d care to keep track of. Casualty models from TAG, dial markers from Warbases.
Updates on how the Commonwealth performs on the battlefield using the Pikeman’s Lament rules will be coming soon.