In this article I will provide the details for re-fighting one
of the battles in the Russian campaign of 1708 - 1709. The title,
"Mot Moskva!", means 'On to Moscow!' in Swedish and the
battle was fought in 1708 as the Swedes advanced into Russia.
The Great Northern War started in 1700 as a coalition of powers,
Denmark, Russia and Saxony / Poland, sort to take advantage of the
accession of a young, new Swedish King. They had though underestimated
this king, Charles XII. He rose to the challenge and by invading
Zealand forced Denmark out of the war. He then turned to the Russians,
who were besieging Narva at the time, and inflicted a humiliating
defeat on them. Deciding that the performance of the Russian army
at Narva indicated they were no real threat he turned to deal with
his last enemy Saxony whose leader was also King of Poland. The
years 1701 to 1706 saw a protracted campaign in Poland and finally
an invasion of Saxony before the Swedish King finally secured his
By 1707 he stood on a threshold. He had forced two of his enemies
to the peace table and the third, Russia, was trying to obtain peace.
The warring parties in the ongoing War of Spanish Succession were
trying to woo him to join them in their war. Sweden and the reputation
of the Swedish army were at an all time peak. Yet Charles XII was
not the kind of man to 'forgive and forget'. He did not think very
highly of the Russian army after it's performance at Narva and other
engagements with the Royal army. Also it seems that he could not
the Russian aggression of 1700 and he determined to teach Russians
Tzar, Peter, a lesson he would not forget.
So in 1707 the Swedish army rested and prepared for its invasion
of Russia in 1708. They were though not to face the same kind of
Russian army that Charles XII was expecting. Following the defeat
at Narva in 1700 Tzar Peter, who would be known to history as Peter
the Great, had used his time well. He had organised and trained
his army. Frequently detachments were sent to help the Saxons and
Poles. While in the secondary theatres of the Baltic States and
Finland the Russian area slowly reduced the Swedish position there.
These operations gave the Russians some experience and built their
confidence. The army was perhaps still not capable of standing up
to the Swedes in a 'fair' fight but it certainly was no longer the
'armed rabble' that Charles XII had crushed at Narva.
Charles XII had assembled the largest Swedish army of the war in
Poland, something like 35,000 men. In the face of this Peter the
Great adopted what was to become the classic Russian tactics against
a foreign invasion. First of all he burnt or took anything that
would be useful to the invader and presented them with nothing but
'scorched earth' to advance into. Secondly he used his light and
mobile forces, irregular Cossack and Kalmuck light cavalry, Russian
dragoons and mounted infantry to harass the Swedish advance. Finally
the bulk of the army took up a series of positions behind river
lines to try to block the Swedish advance. Two such positions had
been taken up but in both cases the Swedish King and his army had
rapidly outflanked them and the Russians had withdrawn deeper into
By July 1st 1708 the third of these positions had been reached.
The Russian army was now more concentrated than it had been and
they had taken up a position behind the river Vabitj. It was a strong
position that could not be outflanked as the earlier ones had but
it had what would turn out to be a fatal flaw. The Russian army
was divided into four divisions, 2 of infantry and 2 of cavalry.
One division of each type, the strongest two, under General Scheremetjev
and Prince Menschikov were deployed on the most likely attack route
for the Swedes. While the other infantry division under General
Repnin and the cavalry division of General Goltz were deployed on
the less likely southern route. The problem was that the two parts
of the Russian army were separated by a swampy, wooded are that
was considered impractical for the Swedes to use. Another problem
was that Tzar Peter was not with the army and the army had been
assembled from various detachments. This meant that none of the
Russian commanders had a clear idea of who was supposed to in charge.
Charles XII was quick to note the gap between the two sections
of the Russian army. So he paused for a few days to allow his army
to close up. Meanwhile he ordered detachments of his army to make
feints and other manoeuvre to confuse the Russians. He hoped to
convince the Russians that he planned to attack the northern section
of their army. In reality he was, with characteristic abandon, going
to assault General Repnin's southern position. He would go through
the 'impractical' swamps and woods and strike from Repnin's exposed
right flank. With all preparation made the part of the Swedish army
that was to under take the operation moved into position during
the early hours of July 3rd. As dawn broke, the Swedes rushed forward
to the river hoping to achieve surprise and eager to clear the road
Orders of Battle
The first thing to note is that there are an awful lot of Russian
troops in this list. The good news is though, you probably wont
need all of them! They just represent the potential troops which
could have reached the battlefield.
Charles XII, King of Sweden: Monarch (Ex 6), also in direct
command of Royal Command.
1st Brigade: 3 bases may have pontoon sections, see Special
Kunglig Majestats Livgardet till fot (Foot Guards): 4 Elite
Ga Pa bases
2nd Battalion, Dalregementet: 1 Veteran, Determined GA Pa base
1st Battalion, Dalregementet: 1 Veteran, Determined GA Pa base
Upplands regemente: 2 Veteran , Determined GA Pa bases
Ostagota regemente: 2 Trained, Determined GA Pa bases
Vastermanlands regemente: 2 Veteran , Determined GA Pa bases
Nishegorodski Dragoon Regiment: 2 Raw Dragoon bases
Light Horse Command:
Unknown Commander (P 1)
All units in this command are 'Uncommited' (see Kliszow 1702 list).
Kalmuck Brigade: 3 Trained Light Horse Fire bases
1st Cossack Brigade: 4 Raw Light Horse Mixed bases
2nd Cossack Brigade: 4 Raw Light Horse Mixed bases
3rd Cossack Brigade: 4 Raw Light Horse Mixed bases
There are a large number of Russian troops available but it is
likely that the game will be decided before all of them are needed.
In the historical battle only the first three groups from Scheremetjev's
Wing and the first two from Goltz's took any part in the battle,
see Russian reinforcement groups below. If you wish you can restrict
the available reinforcements to just these groups.
Schere's Battery: Unlimbered in the defences adjacent to entry
All units have 2 levels of Shaken at the start of the game. The
Russians have just realised the Swedes are attacking and are not
The majority of this command is deployed occupying the defences.
They are in line or unlimbered facing towards the river. The sequence
is from the southern end, near Visoki, to the point behind the unnamed
village is as follows.
The other battalion of Repnin's Grenadiers is deployed in line
occupying the northern section of the main defences, it is facing
north. One base from the Koporieschski regiment is occupying the
southern section of the main line, it is facing south west.
The missing battalions from the above list, one each from the Koporieschski,
Narvski and Lefort regiments, are deployed within 4" of the
rear of the other battalion or battalions of the regiment. In addition
the Narvski battalion may be deployed within 4" of the rear
of Kogan's Battery. All units are in line and facing towards the
Repnin's Battery is deployed, unlimbered, in the small village
in front of the Russian line.
Brigade artillery is deployed, unlimbered, next to any battalion
of the brigade.
Ifland's Command are deployed, dismounted, within 2BW of point
D. When activated (see below) they receive 2 levels of Shaken.
Charles XII, the 1st Infantry brigade, the Light Horse brigade
and the artillery start the game on table. They must be within 4
BW of point X and west of the river. Units may be in any formation,
limbered, unlimbered, etc. No unit may be within 1 BD of the river.
Historically the infantry were north of point X and crossed the
river there. The artillery and light horse were south east of X
to cover the crossing.
Russian reinforcements do not arrive automatically. Once a Wing
has been activated then units from that wing may start arriving
At the start of the game only Repnin's Wing is active. Both of
the other Russian Wings are inactive. Starting with the second turn
to activate a command you must roll a D10 and score 12 or more,
after modifications. Roll a D10 for each Wing during the Russian
players Tempo Allocation phase..
+1 for each turn after the second turn.
-2 if rolling for Goltz's Wing
+1 for each 2 TPs spent by the Army Commander this turn (sending
messages for help).
Once activated any on table troops from these commands receive
2 levels of Shaken. When a Wing is activated the Russian player
may act with any on table units from that Wing.
If any unit of a Wing is fired upon or a Swedish unit comes within
3 BW of a unit in the Wing, then the Wing is activated automatically.
Once a Russian Wing is activated the Russian's can roll for reinforcements
to arrive from that command, during the Tempo Allocation phase.
On the turn following activation roll a D6 for each activated command
with reinforcing units available. On a score of 0 a reinforcing
group arrive. You receive a -1 die roll modifier for each turn after
the first that you roll, but this is cancelled once a unit arrives
and you start again. Scheremetjev's Wing receive a +1 modifier,
Goltz's Wing receive a +2 modifier. An unmodified dice roll of 6
always fails however.
Example: It is turn 4 and the Russian player rolls for activation.
He gets +2 to the dice because this is the third time he has rolled.
He has also spent 2 TPs to give himself an additional +1 to activate
Scheremetjev. He rolls a 4 for Goltz and 9 for Scheremetjev, he
has failed to activate Goltz (4+2 = 6, not good enough) but succeeded
with Scheremetjev (9+3 = 12, good enough). In the next turn he rolls
for reinforcements but he can not succeed - he needs a score of
0 on a D6! On the next turn he receive a -1 modifier and manages
to roll a 1 on the D6, which with the -1 modifier for a second attempt
means that reinforcements have arrived. In this case the 1st Dragoon
Brigade. On the following turn he can again roll for further reinforcements,
the 1st mounted Infantry Brigade this time, but now he has lost
his -1 and again he can not actually succeed.
Russian reinforcement groups. Each time group must arrive before
you can start rolling for the next.
1: 1st Dragoon Brigade: Arrive at point B in march column.
2: 1st Mounted Infantry Brigade: Arrive, mounted, at point C
in march column.
3: Scheremetjev and 1st Brigade, d'Albion's Command: Arrive
at point B in march column
4: d'Albion and his 2nd Brigade.
5: De Deut and his 1st Brigade.
6 De Deut's 2nd Brigade.
Goltz's Wing: Only 1 brigade can arrive each turn and you may not
start rolling for reinforcements again until all of the Command
are on table.
1: Goltz and Heinske's Command: Arrive in march column at point
2: Von Hessen Darmstadt's Command: Arrive in march column at
3: Light Horse Command: Arrive at point E or F.
Each turn starting with the first turn a Swedish brigade arrives
on table at point A. They are in march column and may move for free
on their turn of arrival.
The sequence of arrival is:-
2nd Infantry Brigade
3rd Infantry Brigade
Rehnskiold and his 1st Cavalry Brigade
Rehnskiold's 2nd Cavalry Brigade
Rehnskiold's 3rd Cavalry Brigade
Rehnskiold's 4th Cavalry Brigade
Rehnskiold's 5th Cavalry Brigade
Rehnskiold's 6th Cavalry Brigade
So on the first turn the 2nd Infantry Brigade arrives. On turn
5 Rehnskiold's 3rd Cavalry Brigade will arrive.
Russian Army Command:
At the beginning of the game, and until Scheremetjev arrives on
table, Repnin is the Russian army commander. Once Scheremetjev arrives
on table he assumes army command and Repnin becomes a Wing Commander
The table should be 35 BW by 25 BW. If you are using 60mm as your
BW measurement this makes the table 210cm (8 feet) by 150cm (5 feet).
The Russians main defensive position is 15 BW long with a 1 BW section
angled back at each end.
Hill: Level 1 slopes.
Village: The villages are very open so count them as Enclosures
with a defence factor of 1.
River: In theory this should not be crossable by all units and
certainly the Russians should be told that this is the case. But
historically the Swedes proved capable of crossing the river with
out the use of their pontoon bridges in the area where the road
goes to the river north of point X. Within 1 BW of this point the
river is Obstacle Value 2 and may be crossed. The Russians did not
know this! Everywhere else the river is not crossable except by
using a ford or bridge.
Alternatively the pontoon bridges can be used. The infantry units
carrying them must start the turn next to the river. They then take
the whole of a turn to erect them and units may cross them as if
they were a standard bridge on the following turn.
Stream: Obstacle Value 1, Defence Value 1.
Ravine: Obstacle value 2, may not be occupied and do not block
line of sight. They have a defence value of 2 for Charges and Close
Combats if the attacker cross them.
Fieldworks: Obstacle Value 1, Defence Value 1 Vs Fire and 2 in
Total victory for either side is achieved by breaking their opponents
army. Only on table units at the time are considered. If the on
table part of a command breaks then any reinforcements are lost.
The Historical Battle:
Charles the twelfth of Sweden had hoped that his surprise attack
would not be discovered until the army had crossed the river. This
was not to be and as the Swedes reached the river a warning shot
was fired from the Russian side. Deciding that the emplacing the
pontoon bridges would take too long the Swedish army plunged across
the river and formed for the attack. Meanwhile on the Russian side
of the river confusion reigned as Repnin's Wing frantically manned
their positions. While the Russians took up position the Swedes
forded the supposedly unfordable river, not bothering with their
pontoon sections, and formed up for the attack.
General Repnin the local commander sent urgent messages to the
adjacent commanders for help but had not received any reply. To
the north Scheremetjev had detached a few units which he dispatched
south but they had yet to arrive. While to the south General Goltz
for a long time did not believe that the attack was happening and
refused to commit his units. Repnin's command meanwhile was trying
to do two things at the same time and succeeded in doing nothing.
Part of the command was ordered to defend the entrenchment's while
the rest tried to stop the Swedish advance. This though left gaps
in the line, as the confusion in the Russian ranks increased, which
the arriving Swedish troops exploited. While the troops sent to
confront the first part of the Swedish army soon realised they were
outclassed. A running fire fight was the result as Charles XII urged
the Swedes on but the Russians would not stand and constantly retreated
away from the Swedes.
So with his fortified line compromised and the other part of his
army in retreat Repnin's command began to withdraw. It was at this
time that help finally began to arrive. Goltz, in the south, had
finally realised what was happening and started to move his command
to attack the Swedish infantry's flank. So the Ifland cavalry group
(the on table dragoon units) moved to the attack. Help though was
at hand for the Swedes in the shape of the first of their cavalry
arriving. With initially just two squadrons General Rehnskiold charged
towards the oncoming Russian dragoons. This succeeded in halting
the Russian advance and soon with the arrival of more Swedish cavalry
this first wave of Russian horse was routed. With the Swedish cavalry
now massed the following waves of Russian dragoons proved little
problem as the victorious Swedes smashed into each in turn.
Meanwhile General Scheremetjev had arrived in the north and elements
of his command. He tried to organise a counter attack to aid his
colleagues to the south and hopefully to swing behind the Swedish
army and cut there lines of supply and retreat. By the time he had
sufficient forces though it was too late. Repnin's and Goltz's commands
were in retreat and part of the Swedish army was advancing to meet
this new threat. So fearing that if he did not move he would be
cut off from retreat his command also started to retreat and the
The battle had been a costly one from the Russians. Perhaps as
many as 5000 men were lost while the road east now lay open for
the Swedes. Yet it was also not a complete victory for the Swedes.
The Russian army had survived more or less intact to fight another
day. While the Swedes also had lost many men and these were very
difficult for them to replace, unlike the Russian losses. This would
prove decisive nearly a year later when the Russian army achieved
the decisive victory of the campaign, and indeed the war, at Poltava.
I would like to thank the many people who have helped me when I
was writing this article. In particular I would like to thank Thomas
Arnfelt for his encouragement, supplying information and answering
a lot of silly questions from myself, Johan Herber for his discussions
on the orders of battles and translations of Swedish text and Vladimir
Velikanov for his help with the Russian army. Although of course
any opinions, mistakes, etc are my own and through no fault of others.