Sunday, February 19, 2017

Raising the Levy - Muscovite Army in the Works

It´s time for a little update!  Since last I posted about my plans to raise my Muscotive Army, a lot of progress has been made.

My lovely little horses have indeed arrived a while ago and I instantly started raising the Boyar Son Cavalry unit. Obviously stratch-building them with only the horses, putty, some metal dollies and plastic strips is taking some time, hence the long intervall since the last update. But I´m finally able to show you the first results both painted and the next batch as Work in Progress:

Here is the first base of Boyar Sons, sculpted on AB horses:

And another base finished as sculpts, but yet to be painted:

I also put some thought into army organisation in order to figure out what I actually have to sculpt and paint before messing things up once again. So I grabbed a sheet of paper and the By Fire and Sword Rulebook to figure out what a suitable force Composition for a simple Skirmish Force would look like.

I´m pretty sure it´s not an ideal force composition but here´s my reasoning behind the setup: 
 (Skip the Italics if you are not interested in the game mechanics considerations)

The basic Muscovite Skirmish Force requires you to take at least 12 Bases of Boyar Sons, but offers to switch two 3-Base Boyar Son Sotnias for either Field Dragoons or Servant Cossacks. 
As fielding a pure cavalry force without any Infantry support element seemed very foolish to me, as it would be impossible to clear Infantry from difficult terrain it was clear to me that this option is a must.  I also opted not to field a Zasiezna Guard Skirmish Force, as these had no Cavalry and I really wanted to bring at least a limited amount of cavalry onto the field. 

Now, being obliged to choose between Field Dragoons and Servant Cossacks, my first impulse was to take Field Dragoons. However, I reconsidered the idea after reading that Pikemen from the Field Dragoon Company had to be combined into a force at least 3 Bases strong, otherwise I would not be allowed to take the Dragoons.  That means my Force needs to be at least 6 FSP strong without adding any other options. 

So I took a look at the unit characteristics to compare if taking the Dragoons over the Servant Cossacks was a good deal. Disclaimer:  I have never actively played the game, only watched once or twice and my decision was based on my theoretical understanding of the game... so: 
The major difference between the Dragoons and the Cossacks are:
  • Servant Cossacks have higher Armor (3 compared to 2) 
  • Servant Cossacks have higher Close Combat Rating (2) if compared to the Dragoon Musketeers (1) and the same Close Combat Rating as the Dragoon Pikemen (2)
  • Servant Cossacks have Spears, which means they will receive +1 effectiveness when charging mounted, which the Dragoons don´t. Granted, they are not supposed to fight mounted, but it´s a nice bonus if they get in trouble.
  • Servant Cossacks have a lower Shooting Value  (1) than the Dragoon Musketeers, but a higher Shooting Value than the Pikemen (0)
  • Servant Cossacks only have Poor Quality Firearms (Effectiveness 1/0) compared to the Half-Muskets of the Dragoons (3/1) - which means they will be much less effective on reducing the armor rolls of enemy units, but they will be able to shoot from horseback I guess, which the Dragoons cannot do?   And the range is worse, only 20cm instead of 25.
  • Servant Cossacks have the "Skirmishers" Rule - unfortunately it is not cumulative with Dragoons for Recon Point generation. I guess it´s actually more of a disadvantage, as it will force the unit to fight in Open Order even if it doesn´t want to - the main benefit is the -1 Skill modifier when getting shot. Unfortunately I just re-read the rules and it says this is not cumulative with the terrain modifiers on shooting, which I assumed. So I guess the only two scenario where it really applied are: 1) Groves (light Forest) and 2) Firefights on Open Ground  in which Servant Cossacks can be in Open Order while Dragoons cannot.  In all other terrain types, Dragoons can assume open order at no cost or limitation according to the rules as far as I understand it.
  • Dragoons can Countermarch, which means they can inch forward or backward while shooting without receiving any penalty. Nice if you want to fine-tune the range I guess...
  • Dragoons are Pike and Shot, so they can use Run behind the Pikes to protect the Musketeers when charged.

Now, tactical considerations based on these facts: 
  •  When keeping the Dragoons mobile, it has to use 1 per 3 bases as horse holders. Field dragoons loose 2 shooting dice,  Servant Cossacks lose only 1.  Only important if you want to stay mobile and do a shooting match
  • When fielding a skirmish force of equal size (say, 9 bases, as 3 pikemen + 2x3 musketeers is the minimum to field the Dragoons) .  Cossacks have 9 Shooting dice compared to 12 for Dragoons when fully dismounted. Depending on how many units are fielded the Dragoons will loose a bigger part of their shooting - probably 2 to 6 dice compared to 1 to 3 depending on the unit size.
  • The Dragoon Pikemen are just as good (or bad) as the Cossacks. They have 1 armor less but don´t suffer from the Poor Tactical Discipline when in the Open. They are more defensive in nature due to the Pike and Shot rule.
  • In order to make use of the Pike and Shot rule, the Dragoon Musketeers have to operate close to the Pikemen. This is nice and versatile when terrain is open, but forces me to commit forces into one place if it is supposed to be of any use. 
  • In general, the Field Dragoons are specialists - they require close cooperation of the different elements to be sucessful. 

Comparing all these different features, I still am not sure which makeup is better.  However, I made the decision to try the Servant Cossacks, mostly for three reasons:
  • I can field 2 Units of 3 bases without adding another unit of 3 bases that could be used for something else (more Cavalry?)  -  I can start with a smaller Skirmish Force that is quicker to field and allows me to play sooner, so I can actually adapt according to real gaming experience.
  • I think I can employ Servant Cossacks with more flexibility - I won´t have to think about positioning of pike relative to shot and I probably won´t have to worry about too many special rules in the first games. I can split my force on several key terrain pieces, I can probably take on enemy in Close Combat in these terrain pieces as well, if need be.
  • Cossacks are more readily available an I really like the models from Totentanz Miniatures - plus they are more characterful to sculpt. That´s a plus for me - I have had a hard time to find good reference on Muscovite Dragoons and sculpting them myself would take much more time than buying Cossacks that are available.
 After this lengthy discussion (did anybody really read it? Let me know if so!) here are the first pictures of some of my Servant Cossacks. I´ve placed an Order at Totentanz to supplement my force, but some minis will still be sculpted or heavily converted.

 That´s it for today, I hope I haven´t bored you to death ;)

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