I went over to my gaming buddy Martin‘s house the other day to let my Polish-Lithuanian forces do some target practice against his Imperial Habsburg army, using the Pike & Shotte rules from Warlord Games. My brave Polish lads have tried this once before and lost, so they were eager to get even.
However, we ended up playing an “escape” style scenario were the Poles are supposed to flee the battlefield in the face of overwhelming numbers – I needed to get at least three units off table in order to win. How very un-Polish! I really felt out of character the whole game to be honest…
But anyway, the whole things starts off with a quiet stroll in the countryside. A small Polish company under the commander of Rotamaster Krysztof Bielichowski is returning to a nearby township after some border raids to the west.
Then suddenly, the column comes to an abrupt halt. The road ahead has been destroyed by heavy rains, turning it into a swampy quagmire. Just as Bielichowski is pondering what to do next, shouts are heard from the rear ranks.
It’s an ambush! Two Imperial companies are closing in rapidly, both along the road behind the Poles and from across the fields to the north. They mean business, that’s for sure. And the Commonwealth forces are outnumbered two to one.
Rotamaster Bielichowski rapidly decides that his men don’t stand a chance out in the open, so he orders the infantry to leave the road and advance at the double across the fields, towards the township…
…while he and his brave Winged Hussars stay on the road, covering the escape. Unfortunately, the Hussars are having some trouble moving due to their unwieldy heavy armor, and fail to take up a proper position. They end up in the middle of the road, with their backs to the enemy.
Luckily, the light cannon is faster. It scurries into cover behind some large rocks nearby and also manages to unlimber, which at least forces the enemy to make a tactical choice.
Holding back the troops on the road to avoid cannon fire, the Habsburg commander decides to move his cavalry instead. The Imperial Cuirassiers thunder across the fields and make a devastating charge into the Hussars’ rear. The whole thing is just as dirty as it sounds – a cowardly move by cowardly men.
Meanwhile, the Polish Cossack light cavalry gallops away across the broken road and reach the town outskirts incredibly fast. Not that strange really; in town there are brothels, taverns and fireplaces, while the fields are full of Imperial dogs…
…who are now pushing the Hussars before them, right into the quagmire. The situation is looking rather grim.
But the infantry is making good speed, skipping across the hedges and running towards town.
And the Cossacks have now entered the town proper, singing and cheering as they head for the nearest ale house. That’s one unit off the board for the Poles. Only two to go!
The Imperials are feeling the time pressure and intensify their attacks. The Hussars make a brave last stand on the road, holding the aggressors off as long as they can, but not even wings and leopard skins are enough in the long run when you’ve got Cuirassiers up your behind. The unit breaks.
And on the right flank, a unit of Imperial Croat Cavalry is trying to intercept the fleeing Polish infantry.
But the Imperials are also having some serious leadership issues; the uninspired infantry company has yet to move an inch onto the field of battle. And to make matters worse, the poor commander manages to blunder away his last chance to actually involve his men in combat.
The lads have had enough of his poor charisma, bad breath and rude manners, and promptly leaves the scene. That’s Imperial discipline for you – stuff like that never happens in the Commonwealth!
The Cuirassiers try to reach the Polish infantry, but are slowed down by the messy mire.
And now the Krakow Militia have reached town. Two Polish units are off the table. Only one to go!
The Cuirassiers finally manages to exit the ruined road and make a desperate effort to reach the last remaining Polish unit …
…but it’s too late! The Haiduks are heading straight for the tavern to join their Cossack buddies, and that’s the end of the game.
A fun game overall, but perhaps a bit one-sided as all I had to do was run for it. The terrain setup made for some interesting dynamics though, and things were pretty intense and uncertain for a while. Also, Martin had some incredibly bad commands rolls – had he actually managed to get more than 25% of his forces into play, things would probably have looked a bit different.
Still, it felt rather good to slip out of those greasy Imperialist pawns and make their dishonorable plans crumble before their eyes. Next time we’ll bring the fight to them instead, rest assured. And it will be a stand-up fight, Eastern European style.
So stay tuned for more 17th century action soon!