"I Will Treat With the Tsar in Moscow"
Fast Play Rules for the Battle of Holowczyn (1708)

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by Matt Fritz

Historical Background: Charles XII became the King of Sweden in 1697 at the age of fifteen. He inherited a sizable empire and one of the best armies in the world. Sweden's rivals thought they could take advantage of the young King. The Great Northern War (1700 - 1721) was a military struggle between Sweden on one side, and Russia, Denmark, and Saxony-Poland on the other.The Swedish army under Charles XII was among the best in the Europe, and would win many victories. However the end result of the war was a defeat for Sweden that ended her run as a world power and cost her much of her empire. It also marked the rise of Russian under the leadership of Peter the Great. In 1708 Charles XII launched an invasion of Russia, determined to capture Moscow and force the Tsar to accept a peace treaty that favored Sweden. The Russians dug in behind the River Vabitch to try and block the invasion. Charles surprised the Russians by crossing the river and marshland at night and appearing suddenly on the right flank of the trench line. The disorganized Russians were forced out of their prepared positions and fought in the open and in the woods. The Swedes suffered heavy casualties but were able to succeed in opening the door to an invasion of Russia.

Battle 1: This battle has not yet been playtested.

Building the Armies: Right now there aren't many 1/72 plastic soldiers available for this battle. Strelets has a line of figures that includes Swedes and Russians. Revell made some nice Seven Years War figures that could serve, but they are now difficult to find. You could use some current figure sets as substitutes. The Accurate/Imex/Revell British Infantry from the American Revolution could be used for the Musketeers and artillery crews. Here are some paper soldiers you can print and use. Infantry and cavalry are mounted two per base. Cavalry bases are 1.5" square, infantry bases are 3/4" x 1.5". Commanders are based singly on 3/4" x 1.5" bases.

The Map: The battle was played on a 5' x 7.5' table. The outlines of the woods must be represented on the battlefield.

Deployment: This scenario represents the battle starting after dawn. The Swedes have have crossed the river and flanked the Russian trenches, forcing them to withdraw.

Orders of Battle: Swedish cavalry and dragoons have been treated the same because the Swedish tactic was to charge with the sword rather than shoot their pistols or muskets. The Russian dragoons did not dismount during this battle.

Swedish Army (all units have 6 bases)

Right Wing - Maj. Gen. Sparre
6 units Infantry

Left Wing - King Charles XII (Overall Commander)
6 units Guard Infantry

Reinforcements - Maj. Gen Creutz
3 units Guard Cavalry
3 units Cavalry

Russian Army (all units have 6 bases)

Tsar Peter I (Overall Commander)

Right Wing - Maj. Gen. Repnin
8 units Infantry

Left Wing - Maj. Gen. Schweden
8 units Infantry

Reinforcements - Maj. Gen. Goltz
6 units Cavalry

Turn Sequence:
1. Russians Move
2. Russians Shoot
3. Swedes Move
4. Swedes Shoot
5. Charges
6. Melees

Formations: Infantry and cavalry should be deployed in a double rank line, three bases in the front rank and three in the second rank. Cannons and commanders are deployed as one base units.

Movement: Infantry can move and charge 6". Cavalry can move and charge 12". Units must move to the front, maximum allowed oblique is 45 degrees. A unit may change facing at a cost of 1/2 its move. Commanders may move 12". Cannons can not move, but they may pivot in place during movement and still fire. Units may not move within 1" of an enemy unit except when charging. Cavalry in the woods can move and charge just 6"

Shoot: Infantry, cannons, and Russian dragoons can shoot (Swedish cavalry relied on the sword, even the dragoons). Range is measured from the center of a unit to the nearest part of the target unit. Units may only fire to the front and may not fire through narrow gaps between friendly units. Roll one die per infantry or cavalry base or three dice per cannon. The chart indicates the number needed for a hit. Remove one base for each hit rolled by the firing unit. It takes three hits in the same turn to remove a cannon. Note that you only use the 1" firing column when shooting at a charging unit. If a unit is reduced to a single surviving base then the last base is immediately removed.

Movement Table
Unit Type




Cavalry in open


Cavalry in open




Shooting Table




Infantry in open




Russian Cavalry




Cannon (3 dice)




 Range is limited to 6" in the woods

Charges: Both sides may charge during the charge phase. If it matters the Swedes charge first. Cavalry can charge 12", infantry can charge 6". Cannons do not charge. A unit may not declare a charge unless it can reach an enemy unit without changing facing or turning.. A player may measure to see if a unit is within charge range. One enemy unit must be chosen as the target of the charge. A unit that wishes to charge must first pass a morale check. If the unit fails morale nothing happens, it cannot charge this turn. If the unit passes its morale check then the target must pass a morale check. If the target fails it loses one base and immediately retreats 12" facing away from the enemy, the charging unit is moved into the position vacated by the retreating target unit. If artillery is the target and it fails morale it is eliminated. If the target passes the morale check it has the option of firing at the chargers or counter charging. Cavalry cannot fire at the chargers, they have the option of countercharging or standing in place to receive the charge. Infantry can not countercharge cavalry. If the unit counter charges the two units meet in the middle and fight a melee. If the target decides to fire at the chargers it does so at a range of 1". If the charging unit survives the fire it moves into contact with the target and they fight a melee.

Morale Checks: If a unit has to take a morale check Roll one die and add any modifiers. If the roll is less than or equal to the number of bases (plus a commander if one is present), then it has passed. If the role is greater then it fails. Cannons pass on a roll of four.

Morale Die Roll Modifiers
Guard Unit

Swedish Cavalry


Melee: If a charging unit contacts an enemy unit there will be a melee, unless the enemy is a cannon in which case the cannon is eliminated. Each side rolls a die and applies the modifiers. Highest modified roll wins. The loser removes a base and retreats 12" facing away from the enemy. If the roll is a tie each side removes a base and rolls again.

Melee Die Roll Modifiers
More stands than opponent +1
Hitting the flank or rear +1
Commander leading charge +1
Guard Unit +1
Russian Cavalry in open

Swedish Cavalry in open

Cavalry in woods


Removing Casualties: When a unit is reduced to a single base this last base is automatically removed.

Woods: The woods hinder cavalry movement. Cavalry can only move and charge 6" if any of their movement is through the woods. Cavalry that fights a melee in the woods loses it's melee bonus. Units in the woods have their shooting range reduced to 6"

Commanders: A Commander may join or leave one of his units during movement. This unit gets a +1 bonus on all melee rolls and the officer counts as a base when testing morale. Every time a unit with an attached commander is completely eliminated by enemy fire (last base removed), or is engaged in a melee (win or lose) roll one die. If the roll is a 6 the commander is a casualty and is removed from play. This is the only way a commander can be eliminated.

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