Our Polish-Swedish War campaign for The Pikeman’s Lament continues unabated; we’re having so much fun with this WIP ruleset that we sometimes tend to forget that we’re officially still playtesting it.
Since the game features some light campaign elements – commanders have names and personal abilities, rise in rank, and so on – and since our tabletop alter egos have caused each other some considerable annoyance by now, a certain “now it’s personal!” atmosphere has developed. All on a friendly level of course, but certainly meaning that each game becomes rather intense.
This one was no different. The scenario was about a slight misunderstanding regarding a treasure chest – the Swedes seem to think that it belongs to them, but the Commonwealth begs to differ. And since those primitive northmen refuse to listen to reason, a slightly more direct approach is called for.
The scene is a country road, somewhere in Livland. The convoy carrying the chest has stopped in the middle of nowhere, and the armed escort seems to have vanished. A rather unwise move to be sure, given that these lands aren’t exactly safe. Who could be so reckless with the King’s property?
Well, here’s who: Scottish Mercenaries under the command of Edmund “will kill for some haggis” Darrcounter. For some bizarre reason these people have been given the important job of guarding Gustavus’ gold – a task that is obviously a bit too complicated for them as they have chosen to go down to the nearby river en masse to “water their horses”. Watering themselves with Scotch, more likely…
But anyway, now the whole force stirs as someone spots movement in the forest close to the unguarded convoy. “Perhaps leaving all that gold unprotected was a bad idea after all” Darrcounter muses as he jumps into his smallclothes and tosses the bottle away.
Well yes, it probably was, because dashing Polish hothead Rotamaster Kowalski and his trusty Tartar sidekick Shere Khan just happened to be in the area and are of course more than eager to relieve the Swedes of their hard-earned gold. Partly because most of it is probably war booty and thus Commonwealth property anyway, but also because there’s a score to settle here: those Scotsmen were partially responsible for our humiliating loss a few weeks ago.
So the game begins: Polish forces rush in from the woods to rob the convoy, and the escort will have to be really quick if they want to stop it.
Unfortunately, Darrcounter has had a few cups too many and can’t really seem to get his authority across to his men. Except for one single Shot unit, they all stay by the river…
…while the Poles are all willing and eager, moving ahead at full speed. There are three wagons, each worth two Honour Points, so the Commonwealth forces spread out. Cossack Trotters go for the front and middle wagon while the infantry – two units of Shots plus one Forlorn Hope move towards the rear one.
Too easy to be true? Of course it is. Just as the lads are closing in on the wagons, a horribly loud, vulgar and shrill trumpet signal echoes across the fields. Reinforcements have arrived, and they are not on our side!
Actually, the question of sides is a complicated one for Flemish mercenary commander Van Köckenpanne, a.k.a. “The Turncoat from Temse”. This time he fights for Sweden, but next week he might well be selling his men’s lives for Polish gold. A real entrepreneur, this one.
And he has brought his current employers to the party as well: the Swedes, led by infamous brute and molester of peaceful foreign nations, “Hammer Henrik”, are arriving at the scene. They look a bit concerned when they notice that their stolen gold is about to fall back into Polish hands. How will they be able to pay all these mercenaries if their loot is returned to its rightful owners?
A pressing issue indeed, and not one that the Scots are doing much to alleviate, either – they mainly stand around in amazement as the Polish Trotters swiftly retrieve the front and center wagons from right under their noses.
But they’re soon pulled out of their stupor as Shere Khan leads his Lipka Tartars in a full frontal assault straight towards Scottish ranks. Now the boys in blue have more pressing issues than Swedi… sorry, Polish gold; they need to act now unless they want to end up in a Tartar fire pit come sundown.
Meanwhile, the Polish Haiduks fail to live up the standard set by their cavalry comrades. They fire a salvo towards the approaching Flemish Cuirassiers, but can’t even make a dent in those heavy suits of armor. And now they come under fire themselves – Swedish Skirmishers and Flemish Arquebusiers team up to deliver a formidable wall of lead.
Not even Haiduk grit can stand up to such firepower, and they quickly pull back, shaken and rather stirred as well.
Luckily, this shameful display is shadowed by the heroism of the Tartars, who throw themselves against the advancing Scotsmen – they have finally managed to get their act together by now – in order to cover their wagon-retrieving compatriots’ escape. Both wagons are still firmly under Polish control, but Scottish Trotter horsemen are rapidly approaching, getting ready for that deadly Caracole move…
…but they are intercepted by Shere Khan himself, who risks death in the process and also has a close brush with Scottish Pikemen. Those sticks may look sharp, but Khan merely laughs. “Use real weapons next time, instead of those silly Western tooth picks”, he yells at the baffled enemy.
His inspiring laughter is heard all around, spurring this unit of Krakow Militia to try and retrieve the last wagon.
And coming to their aid are both the Forlorn Hope (in the center of the picture), a spare unit of Tartars, and the Winged Hussars, who are growing hungry for some bloodshed. This time they are both more dangerous and more unpredictable than usual, as they have the Wild Charge rule; basically they have to try and charge the enemy if they’re able to. Which means that they can easily be baited into ambushes and end up in potentially very difficult situations.
Consequently, Rotamaster Kowalski has put them under tight rein, holding them back until the right moment so that their charge power is not wasted.
But he needs to act quickly, as combined Flemish and Swedish forces are now closing in on the Militia and Forlorn Hope – the Polish troops will not be able to withstand such an onslaught on their own.
While things are indeed dire-looking on that part of the battlefield, the other two wagons are making good speed, keeping away from Scottish salvos and horsemen alike. However, the fighting is starting to take its toll on the Tartars, who are severely diminished by now. Shere Khan is trying to spur his men on, but he has lost his voice from all the taunting and half his moustache has been torn off by a stray bullet.
And as the old Tartar saying goes: “Who will respect a man with only half a moustasche?”
The reinforcing cavalry proved to be too slow to save the last wagon, however: Flemish and Swedish forces are now within fire range, and give the Krakow Militia and Forlorn Hope a taste of Western firepower.
The result is almost on an abattoir level. The Militia start to waver and then break…
…while the Tartar cavalry unit gallops ahead to set the enemy up for a Hussar charge. “Hammer Henrik” sees this obvious tactic for what it is and hangs back, letting his Skirmishers deal with the Tartars.
This leaves the Forlorn Hope utterly alone in a pretty hostile environment. Flemish Cuirassiers ride up, deliver a nasty salvo…
…and then charge. But these are indeed tough lads, and they hold even in the face of such overwhelming odds. The Flemish are flabbergasted by their bravery, and reluctantly pull back.
Now the final remnants of Tartar fighting morale have dwindled off and they are slowly being pushed back by the Scots. The wagons are almost at the table edge, but still not safe; that pesky unit of Scottish Trotters are still trying to catch up. This calls for a change of plans, Kowalski reasons. He rapidly turns his Hussars around…
…and slams right into the already battle-worn Scottish riders, who can’t do much against the full force of such a devastating charge. They inevitably break, leaving the field open for the advancing Hussars.
And since the Scottish Pike infantry is within range they can’t opt out of yet another charge, straight into those tooth picks. Perhaps not the most healthy thing to do, but you have to remember that we’re Polish, not Swedish!
Also, this last push means that the bounty is safe. The wagons are rolling off table and the stolen gold is restored into Commonwealth hands. A happy day indeed!
The Tartars and Forlorn Hope are of course overjoyed by this turn of events and do their best to reach the remaining wagon, but they’re up against impossible odds and it’s a doomed attempt from the start. The Tartars sneak by the Swedes, using their superior speed, but the lone Forlorn hope soldier really is a sitting duck as “The Hammer” finally makes his move.
This is the last picture of our nameless but proud and bearded Polish hero, just before the Swedes overtake him. The resulting carnage is not a very pretty sight, so we’ll just leave it at that, shall we? At this stage we had already won anyway.
On a side note, we did hear that “Hammer Henrik” got a promotion for his service during this battle. A bit strange perhaps, given that two thirds of the bounty ended up in Polish hands and the only “fight” Henrik actually participated in was him and his thugs riding down a lone Polish infantryman. I guess that this weird Scandinavian country’s idea of valour and heroism differs a bit from the Commonwealth’s…
But anyway, a very fun game overall. Things were never really decided until the last moments. TPL is indeed a fluid and open set of rules where things constantly shift and the most clever battle plans turn to dust in a moment.
Michael have posted a detailed historical background for our game (including some nice campaign maps), plus an OOB and some great pictures, on his blog – head over there for an even more detailed perspective on this glorious Polish victory!
More games are of course planned for the future, so watch this space for updates on the ongoing Swedish-Polish conflict!