Mar 22, 2017

Project: Kliszów 1702

(Lengthy post ahead)
With good weather back and the GNW Swedish army bolstered in ranks, I hereby set out to play a rare historical scenario. Rare in both meanings: I rarely play historical battles (it involves lots of preparation), and Kliszów is rarely played, although it is an interesting clash in the initial stages of the wars of Karl XII.


I have Saxons, Poles and Swedes ready. The rule set is Maurice, my all time favourite: the table is 200 by 150 centimeters. I might have to make more buildings, bogs and streams.

The last of the Swedish cavalry in the process of basing, and some Pancerni with fresh paint jobs, all part of the project.

I'm still experimenting with a scale map to represent the battle area, you can read some of my notes on the field below.

Orders of Battle

The Swedes had a force roughly 12,000 strong, with a foot:horse ratio of two to one. The Poles of course tipped the balance in favor of the mounted arm on the enemy side. For aesthetic purposes, I chose to include a Polish foot unit in the OOB. 
The Swedish king was notoriously careless with artillery, so I included the regimental gun only for show. 
I had to compress both armies in size somewhat to have them all fit on the table.

CIC King Karl XII
Notable Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld: Prestige 3, Activation: Charge; +1 to unit's Combat value when attacking.

NA Á la Baïonnette
NA Great Captain

4 units of Elite Regular Infantry
2 units of Trained Regular Infantry
4 units of Elite Regular Cavalry
1 regimental gun (per Advanced rules)

Total force morale 11


CIC King August II
Notable von Schulenburg: Prestige 2, Activation: Rally; the unit he is attached to may re-roll its Rally die.

NA: -

6 units of Trained (Saxon) Regular Cavalry
6 units of Trained (Saxon) Regular Infantry
1 unit of Irregular (Polish) Infantry
5 units of Conscript (Polish) Regular Cavalry
2 emplaced cannon

Total force morale 18

Of course, the question must arise: how bad are the Saxon soldiers to take such a sound thrashing? I think, at least in this specific case, losing the battle so spectacularly was the fault of higher command. On the other hand, the Swedes are well trained and officered, so the Saxons must be at an average level to have a chance of victory.

Scenario rules
Advanced rules in play: Light artillery @p86 and Stationary Batteries @ p87. Two guns can't make that much of a difference: if the players feel they are too efficient, they can be placed further apart and the 'All Guns Bombard' variant can be used.

The Saxons are the defenders. The objective marker is placed in the Saxon fortified camp.

The Swedes are at a huge disadvantage (although not as pronounced as the historical 2:1), so those two free cards and free move for the King will come in handy. Although it was one of his early battles, I've included the Great Captain card for this purpose, and to reflect Karl's determination and Rehnskiöld's experience combined.

DYO cards: include DYO #1 and #2 in the deck. DYO #1 has a span of 12 and DYO #2 a span of 16. 

If the Swedish player draws the cards and plays them as an event:
#1 will result in two Polish units of choice not showing up for the battle.
#2 will result in three units of the player's choice never reaching the site.

For the Saxons, the Event cards are the following:
#1 negates the effect of Firefight.
#2 has the same effect as Death of a Hero, and must be removed from the deck after played as an event (to have a higher chance of the Duke of Holstein of the Swedish staff being killed).

The issue of Gå–På in relation to Maurice

By early 18th century standards this was not something easy to pull off, which must be reflected in the gameplay just as well. Gå–På is a high risk, high reward tactic that was borne out of necessity, e.g. the low manpower of Swedish arms - quick victory or no victory, as reflected by the actions of the late war, Poltava being the prime example.
There is a topic on the Honour forum just about this specific issue, and it did come up in two games I've played with my 6mm figures. The Swedish player must rely on a handful of cards and not let go of them until the crucial moment, otherwise the infantry attack fails. Otherwise, it's just marching up to the enemy and hit him in the face repeatedly.

The use of the advanced rule "Pikes" had also been extensively discussed, and I hold the opinion that the Swedes must deliver a powerful volley, as originally part of the tactic - having this advanced rule in play inhibits that. Instead, at least the units of the first line must be of Elite quality. Another solution is to have the Elite units spread evenly between the two lines, because the first one will take extensive losses.

The core of a successful Gå–På is the card "Firefight", used as an Interrupt card either way, and "Grenadiers Forward". This can be topped with Deadly Fire, or Thick Smoke if the enemy can still shoot a volley. 
This consumes a hand of cards in a rapid succession: three or four at least, and there is no refresh for a charge either. Right after this, the Swedish player has to think about a follow-up charge to deliver, for the enemy rarely breaks at the first charge.  
Again, high risk, high reward: even the steadiest foot rarely survives the second charge. No wonder a few decades later Maurice de Saxe had fawned over the use of cold steel and pikes instead of relying on firepower. And his dad was the one who's got beaten.

The Field Today

Google Maps& Earth are wonderful tools to observe a piece of terrain. In this case, they are not much help to us, as the river to the west of Rebów has been regulated, and the stream flowing into it from the east is a narrow, overgrown canal today. Three hundred years of agriculture put its mark on the lay of the land, but we can get a pretty decent overall picture of distances.
As you can see from the photo above, the terrain is pretty flat and much less marshy, river regulation does that. Both the attackers and the defenders sallying to meet them had been hampered by it back in the day, if the scant sources are correct. This photo shows an incline towards Kliszów, and was taken looking southward on the line of the Rebów stream, somewhere between the Swedish  right and Polish-Saxon left flanks' original deployment. Those hills are probably where the Saxon redoubts were erected (out of which then the infantry marched, bad move).

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