Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Holowczyn Project: the beginning
The first time I had notice of the Great Northern War was in the late ’70 when I read the 1971 Charles Fair book "From the Jaws of Victory" (translated in italian as "Storia della stupidità militare", 1973). The main objective of the book were indeed U.S. Grant and its 1864 campaign and the Vietnam War. However the author started his pamphlet from Crassus and the chapter "The small lion and the big mouse" was dedicated to Peter the Great, Charles XII and their duel. Buried in the text there was a paragraph describing a rather for me unknown and obscure battle on the Moscow Road. Not surprisingly, when I later found in an italian shop a game by the Swedish Game Production called “Holowczyn: the battle of the Moscow Road”, by Peter Englund, I bought it without further ado.
The game was simple and interesting to play at: moreover it had a full order of battle (each counter was named by Regiment and Battalion) and the historical notes were lenghty and detailed, endowed with a wry sense of humor (to explain the special rule forbidding Russian movement on the first turn, the footnote simple said "They were asleep"). It descrive the tactical situation as follow "The Russians are on the defensive in prepared positions but are surprised by a sudden Swedish attack through the marshes on the flank of the position. The Swedish units are much better than their opponents but there are few of them. The fight is therefore fairly evenly matched". After a couple of plays the game was put on the shelves and rested peacefully there for years.
When a three or four years ago I restarted to paint 20mm plastic soldiers, in a lull of the long-standing Torgau Project, the old boardgame, integrated by the Osprey title “Poltava 1709: Russian comes of age” and by the Lars-Eric Hoglund books on the Norther War uniforms, was the starting point for the Holowczyn Project.
Given the relatively small size of the battle (11.000 Swedish, 30.000 Russian, only a part fighting the actual battle), I decided to represent battalions of infantry and regiments of cavalry: each battalion of infantry was to be based with three figures on a 40mm x 30 mm base, whereas the cavalry had two horses on a 40mm square base, like the artillery (1 gun with three or four gunners). As a keen adept to the V&B religion, the order of battle was tailored for the so-called “battalion scale”, at 1sp for 200 men/4 guns, 1 inch:50 yards and 30 minutes for each turn. However, to make the battle suitable for the small size of italian house I opted for the so-called "half-scale". With this trick 1 inch was again representing 100 yards as in the basic game, two battalions have the same size of a full-scale V&B base but I obtained a more articulated OoB, down to the single battalion. Each base of cavalry was representing a full regiment. There was a small distortion: indeed a V&B base is 3”x1.5”, which in the metric system is 76.2mm x 38.1mm, whereas the full regiment on two bases is 80mm x 40mm. Well, I shall be sent to the gallows for this, sooner or later…