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  • #47618

    My little group & I began with Napoleonics, dropped to the Seven Years War & are contemplating sinking without trace to the Great Northern War.

    Partly this is because suitable figures are available & one of our number has a burning interest in the period (though rumours he gave his youngest child the middle name Ga Pa! are probably untrue).

    As we are thinking of writing our own rules I will get to the point of the post: what tactics and organisational factors significantly make the period different from what came before & after?

     

    I would value your opinion.

    #47625
    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    Along with the WSS it was a transitional period. Most armies marched without their pikes now (Swedes being the exception). Cavalry was returning to being impact instead of firepower. Socket bayonets were prevalent and Platoon Fire methods were becoming standard. Armies were also becoming fixed units rather than raised at need, and standardisation of uniforms was now common.

     

    Ga Pa the rule set might be a good place to start, as is the 2 volume set on the GNW.

    #47671

    Thank you for your reply. One of the issues arising is grenades: how to & even if to fit them into a rule set.

    Funny you should mention the Ga Pa rules. My pal has them, of course. I’ve read them & will say they may well be definitive but IMO a bit unplayable: the GNW equivalent of the Napoleonic set “Empire”. My tiny brain is undoubtedly the problem.

    #47673
    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    des were specialist, mostly used in siege work and forlorn hopes, not sure I have ever seen them mentioned on a battlefield except when assaulting breastworks. Remember pretty much all infantry also had the battalion gun in this period as well.

    #47688
    Hwiccee
    Participant

    This is a massive subject and also one in which there is a lot of old and wrong ideas around. I also think that without know how you think the periods before and after were it will be difficult to say in detail how this period was different. So I think that as a general rule it might be better to ask about specific things you are unsure about, as you already have done a little. More on this later.

    I would say there are 2 main problems/issues with the GNW. The first is how to give an army (the Swedes) that were often vastly outnumbered, 2, 3 or more to 1, and facing an enemy in a strong position/defences a reasonable chance to achieve the victories that they did. Allied to this 1st point is how to do this 1st point without making the Swedes ‘superhuman’. Most available rules fail the 1st part and so typically greatly reduce the task facing the Swedes – it is common to half or more the forces they actually faced and often ‘vastly outnumbered’ translates into the Swedes opponents get an extra unit. Those few that don’t fail this test stumble often stumble on the 2nd part – i.e. the Swedes are unbeatable. So basically it is a tricky balance to allow the Swedes to do what they did and not over do it and make them unbeatable.

    So back to specific things already talked about.

    Pikes: The majority of armies used these in 1700 but the use of them declined over the next few years generally but not really in the GNW, or at least in a different way. They were a crucial part of the Swedes aggressive Ga Pa tactics but there use was patchy, especially in secondary theatres and after 1709/Poltava. This was because there was a shortage of pikes rather than a change of tactics. The Russians used pikes all the way through the war but the numbers used varied and also sometimes they left the pikes behind. Again the use of pikes was crucial to Russian successes. Most of the other combatants were some of the armies which had stopped using pikes before 1700. But the Danes re-introduced them in 1713 as a result of defeats and the Poles are basically unknown.

    Cavalry: The bulk of the cavalry were standard European types but also you had various ‘Eastern’ types. Light cavalry were always in the Russian, Polish, Ottoman armies and sometimes in the Swedish army. The Poles and Ottomans still fielded ‘Renaissance’ cavalry types – winged hussars and sipahi – not exactly the same but more or less.

    These apart the bulk of the cavalry used the relatively ineffective, or variants of them, cavalry tactics that had been in use for 60 or so years. These were the British/Dutch style tactics (used by the Danes) and German style tactics (used by the Saxons, Russians and Prussians) – no GNW army used the French style tactics. Each of these was basically flawed in various way and none was more effective than the other. They were all replaced later in the century by the Swedish style tactics, or versions of them – the Swedish tactics were  clearly superior to the others and are what we now think of as a charge.

    Russian and Polish dragoons commonly fought on foot but were ‘real’ cavalry. Other cavalry, including dragoons, rarely fought on foot. Except for the Swedes dragoon were often a little ‘worse’ than ‘Horse’ units, often because they were newly raised or relatively low status.

    Socket Bayonets/Flintlocks: As mentioned socket bayonets were now standard issue and also flintlock muskets but some units were still equipped with older weapons, particularly in the early stages of the war.

    Platoon Fire: In essence everyone could platoon fire at this time but in common with elsewhere this did not mean they actually used it that much – even the most famous platoon firers often fired using other methods. This is a complicated issue as some people still believe in the idea of platoon fire being superior at this time despite the lack of reliable evidence. I don’t have time to go into this so I will just give you a run down on methods used.

    Saxons used rank firing generally but used platoon firing when fighting Turks & might have used it in some GNW battles – most German armies used platoon firing against Turks but thought it was no use against ‘Western’ opponents.

    The Russians were probably as above – we suspect they used against Turks but didn’t use it in the GNW.

    The Danes initially used platoon firing, apart from the units that had fought with the Austrians in the WSS, but some units at least switched after.

    The Swedes kind of invented platoon fire but had abandoned it as ineffective. The Swedes very much favoured assaults with volleys as they went in. Firing tactics were basically pretty irrelevant because they didn’t aim to get into firefights.

    Grenades: These are really for use in sieges. No doubt they would feature in field actions, assaults on fortifications being already mentioned and the most obvious occasion, but they were not really significant.

    Battalion Guns: I have already answered this for you on another forum so just a quick overview. SYW style battalion guns do not yet exist – artillery is generally immobile. All armies in defence could use light field guns as close support spread in penny packets along the front, often these were called regimental guns. The Swedes did this  when defending but they didn’t often defend whatever the odds & so it is fairly rare. The Russians were of all the armies of the time the closest to having SYW style battalion guns – they were attached to units and had mixed artillery/infantry crew – but this was because they nearly always just defended. The Saxons and Danes often used regimental guns but as they often switched between attack/defence they didn’t actually always take part in the action.

    #47691
    Kaptain Kobold
    Participant

    These apart the bulk of the cavalry used the relatively ineffective, or variants of them, cavalry tactics that had been in use for 60 or so years. These were the British/Dutch style tactics (used by the Danes) and German style tactics (used by the Saxons, Russians and Prussians) – no GNW army used the French style tactics. Each of these was basically flawed in various way and none was more effective than the other. They were all replaced later in the century by the Swedish style tactics, or versions of them – the Swedish tactics were clearly superior to the others and are what we now think of as a charge.  

    I loved reading your summary of the key features of the GNW. But with reference to the above, what were the basic features of the British/Dutch and German cavalry tactics please? And how did they compare to teh Swedish knee-to-knee charge?

    Thanks.

     

    #47692
    Hwiccee
    Participant

    Hi Kaptain,

     

    OK so the Swedish charged at the gallop and knee to knee – i.e. in good order. So you can think of it as high speed and high order. This was the most effective way of charging but not everyone knew this/how to do it at this time. Later in the century Frederick the Great identified this and copied Swedish GNW style tactics. These Prussian/Swedish style tactics then replaced all the others & became the standard everyone used.

    The German style is also in good order but at the slow trot. Think of it as high order and low speed. The British/Dutch style is at the trot but with more disorder than the German/Swedish tactic. So it is medium speed and medium order. Just to round it off the French charged at the gallop but in relative disorder – so high speed and low disorder. Essentially the faster they went the better but also the more negative disorder they got. With the French and German styles you could shoot pistols as part of the attack but that was very much an option.

    Of course the above is general and individual units would vary in ability to actual do these things and also would on occasion fire say when they were not supposed to. So morale, experience, leadership, luck, etc were equally (more?) important.

     

    p.s. You might be interested to know an updated version (and scenarios) of Twilight of the Sun King is at the printers now.

    #47694
    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    Ummm this French charge, was this before or after the discharge of pistols that was their standard practice at the start of the period?

    Platoon fire, the biggest advantage to it, and the main reason it slowly got adopted as standard was the fact you could do it in 3 ranks, The rank fire system need 4 to 6 ranks to make it work.

    On British/Dutch/Danish Cavalry, they started slow and built to a collision speed (slower than would think seeing racehorses, but they had to hold formation), but only used swords. Many other cavalry were still intended to use pistols in the process. The finest exponents of the ‘at charge’ cavalry’ in this period were the Danes.

    Battalion guns were standard in the WSS, as they were introduced to beef up firepower now they no longer had pikes (more firepower helped keep Cavalry at range, was the thinking).

    #47708
    Hwiccee
    Participant

    Ummm this French charge, was this before or after the discharge of pistols that was their standard practice at the start of the period?

    I am not really sure when you date the ‘start of the period’ but at this time there wasn’t really a ‘standard practice’ for the French. The French cavalry from well before this date (TYW? I don’t have my reference stuff in front of me at the moment so I am not sure) was to walk forward until close and then spur forward into a gallop but with relatively little order. The idea that using pistols comes from English language sources while it is clear if the look at other sources that this is not true. At the time of the GNW and WSS they could fire (the first rank) their pistols before they spurred into the gallop but that was very much optional and from the evidence we have looks to have been relatively rare. It was also done when for some reason the unit couldn’t counter charge. It is difficult to put a number to it but I would say certainly less than 10% of the time and probably a lot less.

    Platoon fire, the biggest advantage to it, and the main reason it slowly got adopted as standard was the fact you could do it in 3 ranks, The rank fire system need 4 to 6 ranks to make it work.

    Well as already mentioned most armies at this time could platoon fire but didn’t for one reason or another. That said you could of course rank fire in any number of ranks and it was certainly done in 3 or even in 2 during this era. It was commonly used by the ‘Platoon firing’ armies in 3 ranks, some used 4 ranks, under various circumstances. There is for example some mention of it being no longer necessary in one of the later (1720’s/3o’s?) manuals. While rank firers often kept the same frontage and reduced the numbers of ranks when they were less than full strength, i.e. most of the time. So a unit that fought in theory in 4 ranks would fight in 3 ranks if it was at 75% of official strength (this would be common real field strength). While if the same unit was at 50% official strength they would be in 2 ranks (units in Spain were commonly at 40% or so).

    There is no reason why being in 3 ranks should be ‘better’ as such but assuming it was better to be in less ranks then rank firers would usually be too.

    Platoon firing was quickly adopted by all armies after 1740 ish by which time various changes had probably made it better than rank firing although maybe not the best system around by then, but that is another story. English language sources love to claim some great advantage for platoon firing but again I am afraid there is no reliable evidence for this at this time, i.e. GNW/WSS.

    On British/Dutch/Danish Cavalry, they started slow and built to a collision speed (slower than would think seeing racehorses, but they had to hold formation), but only used swords. Many other cavalry were still intended to use pistols in the process. The finest exponents of the ‘at charge’ cavalry’ in this period were the Danes.

    I think, but it is tricky to prove, they all understood that you needed to go fast and hold formation but the problem was they hadn’t worked out how to do it to something like the full extent possible. The Swedes had worked out how to do this and their number 1 fan, Frederick the Great, later brought the technique to common use when he copied the technique with the Prussian cavalry from the middle of the WAS.

    The British/Dutch/Danish basically went for a compromise and the French/German styles emphasied one thing over the other. The Swedes (and later everyone) did both.

    The Danes were certainly very good units in the WSS battles and arguably the best in Marlborough’s army/better than the British or Dutch/the best overall in the WSS. They had a 100% record in the GNW. Unfortunately that is a 100% record of defeat to the real “at charge cavalry” of the period, the Swedes. Often this was despite the Danes being in strong positions and ‘experienced’ and/or have other advantages, while the Swedes are 2nd class/new units and had other disadvantages. Of course, as always, there were other factors in what happened but I think it would be very difficult to come up with a strong argument for the Danes being better than the Swedes they faced and would have had severe problems if they faced the pre Poltava Swedish army.

    Battalion guns were standard in the WSS, as they were introduced to beef up firepower now they no longer had pikes (more firepower helped keep Cavalry at range, was the thinking).

    Many people believe this but I am afraid there is no evidence for it and a lot of reasons why it is not true. It took me a long time to realise this as well and also it depends on what exactly you mean by a ‘battalion gun’. But battalion guns like those used in the SYW were invented/developed in the 1720’s and became common in the period after this. I don’t really have time to go through it again and if you have some period evidence of their use I will be happy to hear about it.

    Practically I will just say what I say to players in my games who insist on having battalion guns. Generally real armies only had about 1 gun (of all types) per battalion & you are usually supposed to have 2 battalion guns per battalion. So I say to them, assuming we are not doing an historical re-fight, if you want to use battalion guns then you can give them to half your battalions and have no other artillery.

    #47736
    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    Rank firing by 3 ranks left you in danger of the whole battalion being unloaded/reloading at the same time, the sideways ripple of Platoon meant some men always had charged muskets. The French were changing over during the WSS at Colonels discretion. The Austrians and Prussians (Brought by the Duke of Anhalt-Dessau) both adopted it from collaboration with the British/Dutch forces.

    The French using fire then charge is listed as both doctrine and anecdotally from Blenheim through to Malplaquet. Only Berwick started to change it to the full impact style he had faced in Spain. It came from the 60 years of uninterrupted victories the French had racked up between Rocroi and Blenheim.

    The Swedes were almost suicidal in their charging and aggression. It is very hard to actually allow for them.

    Battalion guns are issued in British and Dutch service from the late 1690s and the Board of Ordinance issue books bear this out. They were a 3 or 4 pdr officially. However it would not surprise if they got ‘lost’ on march and campaign however.

    The Danes in the GNW suffered from top level leadership, in the WSS they had Marlborough or Eugene as army commanders, with their cavalry handled by Wurttemburg or Overkirk, both fine commanders of cavalry.

    It is my opinion from reading and researching that the French army was better in the WSS, but they had no commander to handle Marlborough until Berwick, and by then the troops themselves no longer believed.

    #47748
    Hwiccee
    Participant

    Rank firing by 3 ranks left you in danger of the whole battalion being unloaded/reloading at the same time, the sideways ripple of Platoon meant some men always had charged muskets. The French were changing over during the WSS at Colonels discretion. The Austrians and Prussians (Brought by the Duke of Anhalt-Dessau) both adopted it from collaboration with the British/Dutch forces.

    All units whatever system they used usually kept 1 rank in reserve to avoid being totally unloaded/reloading.

    While no doubt some French WSS units would have used platoon firing during this war and they certainly had the freedom to do so if they wished the major change over dates to later on.

    The Austrians used platoon firing in the 1680’s and 90’s in their wars against the Ottomans and possible in earlier wars. It was developed independently of the British/Dutch. It is probable that the Prussians and other Germans allies of the Austrians also generally used the Austrian system until Frederick’s time. Although those Prussian units in Marlborough’s army could have used the British/Dutch version during the WSS.

    The French using fire then charge is listed as both doctrine and anecdotally from Blenheim through to Malplaquet. Only Berwick started to change it to the full impact style he had faced in Spain. It came from the 60 years of uninterrupted victories the French had racked up between Rocroi and Blenheim.

    Where is it listed? What anecdotes? I suspect that both of these come from the usual English language sources and are based on the usually couple of examples mentioned in them. Even these when not trying to make the point that the French are firing usually say they charge in with sword only. If you look elsewhere you will struggle to find any mention of firing and lots and lots of charging with the sword. A recent work on Blenheim that uses non English sources is an example. This shows the Gendarmerie were involved in at least 9 actions at that battle, they fired in only one – the famous clash with the British cavalry – and then almost certainly because they were too disorganised to charge.

    The usual accepted view on the French over the period 1643 to 1704 is that their success in that period was because during it they largely abandoned firing. The basic outline of this idea is that the French largely abandoned firing in the later TYW era and it had gone completely by the 1670’s. This is supposedly why the French had success up to the end of the NYW. At this time the French supposedly switched back to firing and so their poor performance in the WSS. In my view this is not very reliable but that is a different matter. I don’t know about earlier but again it is difficult to actually find the French cavalry firing in the WSS.

    I have no idea what you mean about Berwick but I don’t think he changed the French tactics. I don’t think he  changed because of what happened in Spain – the French/Spanish cavalry generally won there & victory always went to the largest army. The two current theories on the French have them either changing back to pre WSS tactics in the 1720’s/30’s or continuing with the charging tactics they had used since circa 1643. Like everyone else they changed over to Swedish tactics as done by Frederick’s cavalry later on.

    The Swedes were almost suicidal in their charging and aggression. It is very hard to actually allow for them.

    Yes this is what I suggested in my original post. It is not impossible and some rules manage it but unfortunately many don’t and it will be the trickiest part of any set of rules.

    Battalion guns are issued in British and Dutch service from the late 1690s and the Board of Ordinance issue books bear this out. They were a 3 or 4 pdr officially. However it would not surprise if they got ‘lost’ on march and campaign however.

    The Board of Ordinance certainly issued 3/4 pdr guns at this time and indeed earlier. 3 and 4 pounders were a standard field piece at the time and everyone had them.They were usually 50 to 75% of any armies field guns but unfortunately they are not battalion guns. If they are then everyone has them and has had them for a long time by the WSS/GNW era.

    The Danes in the GNW suffered from top level leadership, in the WSS they had Marlborough or Eugene as army commanders, with their cavalry handled by Wurttemburg or Overkirk, both fine commanders of cavalry.

    and

    It is my opinion from reading and researching that the French army was better in the WSS, but they had no commander to handle Marlborough until Berwick, and by then the troops themselves no longer believed.

    I am afraid I wouldn’t agree on the details here (do you mean Berwick or do you mean Villars?) but I would certain agree on the general thrust of these 2 posts. The outcome of a battle was rarely the result of one factor and traditional factors like numbers, leadership, morale, etc, were important. I think it is also important to remember that winning battles and winning wars are/were not the same. You could argue that both the French and Danes lost their battles but won the wars.

    #47750
    Kaptain Kobold
    Participant

     The German style is also in good order but at the slow trot. Think of it as high order and low speed. The British/Dutch style is at the trot but with more disorder than the German/Swedish tactic. So it is medium speed and medium order. Just to round it off the French charged at the gallop but in relative disorder – so high speed and low disorder. Essentially the faster they went the better but also the more negative disorder they got.

    So in a very basic set of rules the German, British, Dutch and French styles would pretty much be treated the same as the effect of speed is offset by increased disorder; they would have an effect where order and impact were covered as separate factors. The ‘Swedish System’ would have a bonus for combining order and impact.

    p.s. You might be interested to know an updated version (and scenarios) of Twilight of the Sun King is at the printers now.

    I am thrilled to hear this, and look forward to ordering a copy. Thank you.

     

    #47770
    Hwiccee
    Participant

    So in a very basic set of rules the German, British, Dutch and French styles would pretty much be treated the same as the effect of speed is offset by increased disorder; they would have an effect where order and impact were covered as separate factors. The ‘Swedish System’ would have a bonus for combining order and impact.

    This is certainly what I do and is done in a set like Twilight aimed at doing full historic battles. For more detailed rules, usually aimed at smaller battles, they could reflect the differences between the styles. I guess it all depends on how it is done, what you feel is important, the scale of the game, etc.

    I am thrilled to hear this, and look forward to ordering a copy. Thank you.

    The above is the way the new Twilight works – only ‘Swedish style’ are different and quality/size/leadership/etc are what counts. The 1st scenario booklet are Western battles but the 2nd is Ottoman and GNW battles – that should be out soon after the 1st lot.

    #47772

    Great discussion.

     

    I’ve literally cut & pasted it & sent it to my pals & we’re discussing issues arising.

     

    Thanks a lot.

     

    donald

    #56041
    Paul Robinson
    Participant

    It’s one of my favourite periods and took quite a while to balance the rules for the period compared to the WSS which ran concurrently.

    I’d be happy to send you a copy of our rules if you want.  Big battalions (24-32 figures) with simple rules.

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