The autumn of 1625 was a long one in Livonia – at least if our Pikeman’s Lament campaign is anything to go by. The first snowfall hasn’t even arrived yet, but the Polish-Swedish conflict is already at its sixth installment as the seemingly tireless combatants continue to fight it out.
After their recent glorious victory, the Poles have decided that the time has come for a proper assault on the Swedish aggressors’ own camp. Rotamaster Janosz Kowalski, being responsible for the aforementioned righteous redistribution of stolen gold back into Polish hands, has been assigned with the task of storming a Swedish redoubt outside Kokenhausen. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end of Gustavus’ totally unprovoked and unlawful annexation of Commonwealth soil.
I had recently fleshed out my ranks with a unit of Pancerni, and since I wanted to field at least two units of these supporting heavy cavalry I had now been painting like crazy to get the rest of them finished. Luckily I managed just in time, resulting in me fielding an at least partially historically correct Polish contingent.
The guy on the right will be fielded as Rotamaster Kowalski himself – quite the honor for the Rotamaster actually, as this model portrays Field Hetman Janusz Radziwill the younger (all models are from The Assault Group‘s lovely range).
The Hetman himself was of course only about 13 years old at the time of this particular campaign, so he will have to wait for his bona fide appearance on the battlefield. By then I’ll hopefully had time to remove that glaring mould line, as well…
This time the scene is a river crossing outside Kokenhausen, were the Swedes have made camp inside a partially finished redoubt. The Poles, aided by the infamous “Turncoat from Temse” (Flemish mercenary captain Van Köckenpanne) who has once again shifted sides for gold, are approaching through the surrounding marshlands.
It is the early morning hours and only a handful of tired Swedes, under the command of Fänrik Nils Skytte, are standing guard. But the cannons are of course manned, and just happen to be aimed straight at the barricaded bridge were Flemish troops now can be seen in the distance.
Cries of alarm echo through the camp at the sight of the enemy, and riders are sent to the nearby town for reinforcements. Will they arrive in time?
Well, the Poles and their allies will at least make a determined effort to make sure that they won’t. Eager to storm the redoubt as soon as possible, Kowalski’s men swarm over the river on the non-fortified side, while Köckenpanne orders his troops to demolish the barricades and attack the walled section of the encampment.
But the swampy marshes make for rough going and the Polish cavalry are struggling to work up the momentum they need.
Köckenpanne is having a similar problem, as he wants to avoid the chokepoint bridge as far as possible, but still finds it difficult to get his men across the river at any speed.
And now the Swedes have loaded their cannon. They aim just above the heads of those blissfully ignorant pheasants and then fire away…
But the Flemish pikemens’ advance across the bridge are not thwarted at all, as the cannonball soars way too high and disappears in the distance. Coarse laughter can be heard as the mercenaries mock the Swedes’ poor aiming skills.
And as if this wasn’t enough, the lone unit of Commanded Shot defending the bridge now come under heavy fire from Polish Haiduks. Things are looking bleak for Skytte and his small band of defenders…
…but all is not lost yet – the first of the Swedish reinforcements have arrived! It’s Scottish mercenary captain Edmund “Ye Olde Bagpipe” Darrcounter and his motley band of brothers. Will they save the day?
The Flemish troops, who fought alongside the Scotsmen as recently as last week, cheerfully wave at their mercenary colleagues and then push on, eager to blast their heads off.
But the Swedish cannonade, now aiming considerably lower, halts their advance across the bridge and forces the Cuirassiers to wade across the river instead, ducking behind the bridge as the cannonballs fly by.
Speaking of cavalry: the Polish Pancerni have finally managed to exit the quagmire and now gallop across the fields. The noble Winged Hussars hang back, expecting the the enemy to be a bit “softened up” by the Pancerni before getting their own well-manicured hands dirty.
But dirty they will inevitably be, as more reinforcements just arrived: notorious Swedish bully and braggart Henrik av Hunneberg, a.k.a “Hammar-Henrik” (“Henrik the Hammer”) has finally managed to tear himself away from the brothels and gambling houses in Kokenhausen, showing up at the last minute to defend his countrymen.
Fänrik Skytte throws him an angry stare as Henrik and his men lazily stroll into camp.
– Took your time, eh? Skytte grumbles, but “The Hammer” merely shrugs, being way too hungover to engage in a dialogue with a lower-ranking officer. Grabbing his pike with one hand and his wine-drenched beard with the other, he resorts to leading by example.
However, he is possibly a tad too late to save the Commanded Shot unit guarding the redoubt – the first unit of Polish Pancerni is thundering down upon them…
…as the rest of the Polish-Flemish contingent is closing in. The cannon is desperately trying to keep them at bay…
…but the crew soon have a bit too much on their plate to worry about loading and aiming. The Pancerni promptly annihilates the Commanded Shot unit and then moves on to smash the cannon to smithereens. This means that the entry point to the redoubt is now undefended.
Smelling the sweet odor of victory, the second Pancerni unit makes a reckless uphill charge against Fänrik Skytte and his men. But this maneuver ends up being a bit on the costly side for the Poles, who fail to drive the Swedes off the hill.
Instead, the Pancerni are pushed back – decimated and a bit humiliated – while the Winged Hussars try to close the gap and avoid being caught alone in the open.
While this might seem cowardly at first glance, it makes perfect tactical sense; the ultra-heavy, elite Hussars have the Wild Charge rule and thus constitute a formidable force under the right circumstances, but they’re also susceptible to getting baited into vulnerable situations where they lose much of their punch.
So they’re now trying to move into a more beneficial position, as their infantry compatriots – Haiduks and the blue-coated Krakow Militia – keep moving forward alongside the Flemish forces.
Spurred on by the sight of this mighty deluge, the Pancerni keep the pressure up on Skytte and his men on the hill, while getting bombarded by cannon fire from within the redoubt.
Yes, there is one more cannon present. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, the Swedes manage some lucky dice rolls and are now graced with extra reinforcements: a unit of Dragoons appears and start moving towards the enemy outside of the redoubt.
The cannonade is rapidly taking its toll, and the Pancerni finally break. But by now the Flemish have reached the redoubt.
Their infantry takes up a strategic firing position…
…while the Cuirassiers rapidly moves towards the hill, using their deadly Caracole move to drive the defenders before them.
Polish Haiduks and Flemish Forlorn Hope advance along the road, intent on confronting Henrik and his infantry, who are coming down to give them the traditional Swedish “Lead Smörgåsbord” greeting.
Unfortunately, this also means that Kowalski and his Hussars are cut off from the rest of the cavalry, and subsequently forced to charge a block of pikemen who just happen to be in formation at the moment – exactly the type of situation that the Hussars want to avoid.
The whole thing is an extremely bloody affair, as both sides suffer heavy losses. The Hussars eventually drive the remaining pikemen off, but at what price? The unit is now down to just Kowalski and his standard bearer, and since other enemy units are within range, the charge must continue, as per the Wild Charge rule.
In an impressive display of bravery (or perhaps suicidal tendencies), the Rotamaster throws himself at the Swedes in a doomed uphill charge. As you can imagine, the result is nothing to write home about.
And that last sentence is beginning to look like a summary of this whole scenario from the Polish viewpoint; despite our best efforts we’re having a hard time getting the bulk of our forces inside the redoubt.
While the Swedes have lost many men by now (and the Scots even more, due to some impressively poor dice rolls), we’re also drawing near the end of the scenario – when only fifteen units in total remain, you roll to see if that’s the last turn, lowering the required die roll for each subsequent turn.
The game is won by the side with the highest amount of unit points inside the redoubt when the final turn is over.
Some valiant pushes are made during the last turn, but in the end it’s not enough. The Haiduks and Flemish Forlorn Hope are spread out and shot down. The Krakow Militia finally manage to get inside, only to be pushed back by heavy fire. The Cuirassiers end up surrounded by enemies and unable to accomplish anything beyond the initial attack. A very anti-climactic way of ending such a forceful assault, indeed!
It was great fun, although we all agreed that things could perhaps have been made just a little bit easier for the attackers – it took forever to march our troops across the rivers and marshes, while the Swedish reinforcements arrived on the scene very quickly. This made it very hard for us to accomplish the coordinated push required to actually get any decent amount of troops inside the fortified area, especially with the cannons aiming right down at us.
But that detail aside, the whole thing was set up in a very entertaining way (as all Michael’s games are). I’m surely looking forward to the next opportunity to teach those pesky Swedes a lesson i Eastern manners – and the whole affair will of course be posted here on Hook Island!