Display Game by Conrad Cairns
We had our annual Open Day on the traditional second Saturday of June. It is also traditional for the Trooping of the Colour, but with recording technology this is a good opportunity those those who like it to record it then watch and edit out the dull bits (as much as the cameras alllow).
DWG put on other games that day, and this is only about one, a wild extravagance between forces on the Sublime Porte and a party of Zaporozhian Cossacks on the banks of the Dneiper or Dneister in present-day Ukraine, taking place in the mid- to late-seventeenth century. The Zaporozhians are defending a village, which is itself unfortified, but outside which they have drawn up a gulai-gorod (Russian, “walking city”), a mobile fortification made up of armoured wagons and screens, mostly on wheels but with a minority on sledge-runners- the game is meant to take place in the first or last snows of the year, so troops can campaign without being frozen to death and boats can navigate freely.
The cossacks are almost all on foot. There is a unit of mounted men, but they are not of the highest quality, and are backed up by some Transylvanian horsemen-people from this polity were at times allied to the Ukranian proto-state of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Most are in uniformed or non-uniformed regiments of matchlock musketeers, with one (short) pike and shot group. The villagers are a band of badly-dressed “peasant cossacks” or “black men” (perhaps after the dark chornozem soil), armed with agricultural tools and such improvised items as cow or horse jawbones lashed to staves.
On the Cossack left are two regiments who have come ashore from three chaikas, desendents of the Viking ships that plied these waters centuries ago.
The Otoman forces are superior in cavalry, artllery, and numbers of foot. There are two units of armoured cavalry or spahis, one of delis (Balkan types with a plethora of wings on saddles, lances, hats, shields and backs) and one of mounted archers. In the centre are two guns with big hollow wheels to help in snow and mud, and three ortas of jannissaries with two more of the newer sort of regular musketeers. Some irregular musketeers make up the right flank.
The standard units are 20 for a foot regiment and 10 for a mounted one. The rules are Pike and Shotte-the Group has made a few modifications for the ItalianWars of 1494-1559, but as the evidence is much more scanty for the eastern wars they were just as written except for the that the array of large muskets and light battey-guns that can be seen on the wagons and ships, and the gulai gorod. This last provides cover against small arms, but its splinters make it a snare and a delusion for troops who hope to hide from artillery in or behind it-such unfortunates are therefore easier to kill with ball than normal.
The figures are all made by Irregular, mainly taken from their Cossack and Ottoman ranges of the period, with some Poles counting as spahi, eighteenth-century hussars as Transylvanians, and stradiots as Ottoman delis: the Orthodox clergy started off as Crimean War Russians! Two of the Jannisary ortas wear their parade uniforms, complete with a large model galley for one man from a marine unit, but more accurate perhaps are the third orta, in fatigue dress of jacket and trousers. The Ottoman foot all carry Janissary flags-some will be replaced when and if further and better particulars become available. Mounted flags include specimens captured by the Poles at Vienna. We do not know Cossack coat-colours, but blue (the normal colour for Polish infantry) and unbleached wool seem good guesses. There are numerous pictorial representations of the flags of Khmelnytsky’s army. The military band and big Cossack drum have no function in the rules.
The village is almost as bought from Warbases, with decoration on the inside of the church, and a little on the outside of the other buildings-flowers on shutters are popular in some of the vast region over which these wars flowed, but when did this tradition start? The vessels also come from Wargames, being very heavy conversions of their Viking knarr. Among the features of the Zaporozhian chaika were steering-oar fittings on the centre-line at both ends, and “fenders” of reeds lashed to the sides as bouyancy aids. “Chaika” translates as “seagull” so naturally they are named after the three sisters-Olga, Masha and Irina. In films cossack moveable fortifications are simply farm wagons with guns, but our gulai gorod in more elaborate-perhaps captured or loaned from the Muscovites. Some of the wagons, with folding armour over one side, are based on the 1950s Czech reconstructions by Eduard Wagner of Hussite specimens, including a full-size one in Tabor, Bohemia. The other sort, verical-sided and topped with spikes, as well as the screens, derive from the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia
Thanks to all at the DWG for putting on the show, moving tables and playing the game, and Astrid Ivkin for translations, information on things Orthodox and on-line research in Russian .
Souces. There seems to be little in English on the Zaporozhian army apart from general histories of the area and Khmelnytsky’s revolt. However, he is one of contemorary Ukraine’s national heroes (other opinions are far harsher) and I had no difficulty in collecting if not reading numerous illustrated books on the armed forces, including the Cossack Encyclopaedia. The mounted figure is based on the large equestrian statue of Khmelnytsky in Kiev. The weapons are mainly taken from surviving or excavated specimens, above all in the Lviv armoury. There has been at least one chaika built in recent years. There are active Zaporozhian re-enactment groups.
Armies were very carefully reconsructed for the films With Fire and Sword (Poland, 1999) and Taras Bulba (Russia, 2009). There is also a Ukranian biopic of Khmelnytsky made in 2009.
The Ottomans are rather easier. There is a particularly good collection of weapons in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, and in places such as Warsaw, Cracow and Vienna. The most usefull and-up-to date books are in Italian, and since this may find more takers than Ukranian or Russian I list them here:
- Bruno Mugnai, L’esercito ottomano da Candia a Passarowitz (1645-1718), Venice, 1997.
- Bruno Mugnai and Alberto Secco, La Guerra di Candia 1645-1969, Zanica, 2011-2012 (Soldiershop Publications).
- Vicenzo Mistini and Luca S. Cristini, Guerre Polacco-ottomane 1593-1699, Zanica, 2012.
- Bruno Mugnai and Chris Flaherty, Der lange Turkenkrieg (1593-1606), Zanica, 2014-2015.
All are in two volumes, are very well-illustrated and have captions in English. The whole of the last is bi-ligual.