Polemos: Great Northern War -
The early years of the eighteenth century were a time of great,
and long lasting, changes in Eastern Europe. It saw two former 'Great'
powers decline; for Sweden it was a cataclysmic experience as they
were reduced to a small or medium power. While Poland-Lithuania
started on the path that would lead to extinction later in the century.
It saw two medium sized powers, Denmark and Saxony, fail in their
bid to gain, or regain, 'Great' powers status. It saw two powers
rise; for Brandenburg-Prussia it was an important stepping stone
to Great power status later in the century. While for Russia went
from being 'an obscure barbarous nation' to a Great power thanks
to its victories.
Warfare in this area and period saw many competing tactical ideas.
The latest tactics from Western Europe competing with traditional
Eastern European tactics, as well as more recent local innovations.
It saw stunning victories against the odds victories such as Narva
in 1700, and catastrophic defeats such as Poltava in 1709. Battles
came in many different varieties. Some were assault on fortified
positions, some were assault river crossing, some were joint land
- amphibious actions, etc.
Polemos: Great Northern War is aimed at gaming large scale actions
from this time. It is quite possible to stage, play and complete
actions in an evening and even the largest action should be relatively
easy to play. The emphasis is on the Great Northern War but other
actions from this period can also be fought. The wars against the
Ottoman Empire, the Polish Civil War and other actions in the period
1695 to 1725 may also be fought. You can be Peter the Great of Russia
and face the cream of what was probably the best army in the world
of this period - Charles XII Swedish army. Perhaps instead you could
as Peter battle the Ottomans on the river Prut.
The Great Northern War has perhaps not been gamed as much as would
be expected for such an important conflict with many interesting
battles and armies. To a large extent this is because of the lack
of information about the war and its battles. Polemos: GNW will
introduce information and army lists that will rectify this. You
too will be able to command the combined Saxon, Polish and Russian
army at the battle of Kalisz (1706) or re-fight the Polish civil
war battle of Koniecpol (1708).
The basic playing piece in Polemos is the Base. An army is comprised
of a number of Bases and can be built either using historical orders
of battle or on Army Lists. Bases are grouped into Brigades of about
4 bases. Armies can vary in size from around 20 bases for smaller
battles, to well over 100 bases for the very large battles.
Polemos:GNW is designed to allow the player to represent an army
using a limited number of bases, each of which represents a tactical
element that may act individually. Each base is designed to have
enough figures on it to look like a real unit. The design focus
eliminates fiddly lining up, precise numbers of figures etc in favour
of a broader approach.
Unit Representation and Organisation
A single Base represents the smallest unit that contemporary generals,
(who were, after all, in a position to know), thought worthwhile
to deploy as a discrete formation on a battlefield. In the Great
Northern War, these were:
- A base of infantry, except skirmishing infantry, represents
between 400 and 600 men. They can be a single battalion, a pair
of smaller ones or a group of sub-units up to this approximate
- A base of cavalry, dismounted dragoons and skirmishing infantry
represents 2-3 squadrons or similar group, representing 200 to
300 men. A cavalry base is assumed to include wide intervals between
squadrons, allowing friendly cavalry bases to pass through each
- An artillery base represents four to eight guns. The number
of guns that a base represents varies depending on the size of
the real guns. Four heavy guns will be represented by one base.
While eight light guns will also be represented by one base.
In actual play the tactical unit is the Brigade of about four bases.
The Brigades are in turn organised into Commands of 2 or more Brigades.
Ground Scale and Basing
All distances in Polemos games are expressed in Base Widths (BW)
and Base Depths (BD) in order to aid the use of differing base sizes.
A BD is half a BW.
- One base width (BW) represents 200 paces.
- One base depth (BD) represents 100 paces.
This system means that any size can be used for bases, so no rebasing
is required providing both sides are consistent. We have found that
a 60mm x 30mm base gives the best results in both practical terms
and also in giving a good level of visual impact. All Baccus 6mm
Polemos Army and Booster packs are organised on this basis.
Using a BW of 60mm a table of 1.8 x 1.2 metres (6' x 4') represents
6000 x 4000 paces. As a rough guide this is the area of the main
action at Poltava, including the Russian camp and smaller redoubts.