Over the Stream and Through the Swamps
Fast Play Rules for the Battle of Lesnaya (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. Peter the Great ordered a "scorched earth" policy to deny supplies to the Swedish invaders. In September of 1708 Tsar Peter learned that a Swedish force protecting their supply train was separated from Charles XII and the main Swedish army. He pounced. Peter lead a flying column to attack the Swedes while the main part of his army blocked Charles' path to Moscow. The battle took place near the village of Lesnaya. For the first time Peter's new Russian army defeated the Swedes, forcing them to burn their supply train and abandon their cannons. After heavy losses the survivors made it back to Charles XII and the Swedish army.

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 battlefield included some woods. You should mark the outlines of the woods on the battlefield.

Deployment: This scenario begins shortly before the arrival of Russian reinforcements. Historically the reinforcements forced the Swedes to retreat to their wagon line around their camp, and the the Swedish reinforcements arrived too late to be of much help. The armies should deploy as shown on the map. Units should be placed at least 18" away from enemy units, facing their nearest opponents.

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.

Swedish Army (all units have 6 bases)

Gen. Lewenhaupt (Overall Commander)

Center / Left - ol. Meierfeld & Col. Stackelberg
8 units Infantry
2 cannons

Right Wing - Col. Armfeldt
3 units Cavalry

Reinforcements - Brig. Gen. Schlitterfeldt
5 units Cavalry

Russian Army (all units have 6 bases)

Tsar Peter I (Overall Commander)

Right Wing - Col. Roshnev
3 units Dragoons

Center - Maj. Gen. Golovin
6 units Guard Infantry

Left Wing - Prince Menshikov
3 units Infantry
5 units Dragoons

Reinforcements - Maj. Gen. Bauer
5 units Dragoons

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.

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 woods




Shooting Table




Infantry in open




Russian Cavalry




Cannon (3 dice)




Range 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

Dismounted Dragoons


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

Russian Dragoons: The Swedish and Russian cavalry fought using very different tactics. The Swedes didn't use their pistols or muskets. Instead they charged in a tight ("knee behind knee") chevron formation that hit with great impact and was very effective. The Russian cavalry fired their pistols at close range before finishing their charge with the sword. Some of the Russian dragoons dismounted during this battle and fought on foot. Russian dragoons can mount or dismount at the beginning or end of their move, but not both. When the dragoons dismount one base is placed behind the unit to represent horse holders, the remaining bases are replaced with infantry bases. While dismounted the dragoons move and shoot as infantry. The horse holders count as a base when testing morale, but not when shooting. If dismounted dragoons fight a melee they have a -1 die roll penalty because they don't have bayonets or pikes.

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.

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"

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