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The Poltava Demonstration game project

by Ian and Keith of the Humberside Wargames Society.

The prime mover here was Keith Gendle. He wanted badly to do things on a large scale in 6mm and threatened Ian with incriminating photographs to join. Ian had started painting in 15mm for the Great Northern War but was dissatisfied with the look and feel of the rules then being used. We had admired – usually from afar- the Baccus ranges and the “unit look”. More by chance than design both took the plunge and started with Russian (Ian Cluskey) and Swedish (Keith of course).

We had dabbled (SYW) with Volley and Bayonet rules but we were introduced to Polmeos and stuck with them as we had some input into their development (not much as Nick Dorrell is our grandmaster of rules) and we liked the period feel balanced with fast play.

The fast play was matched by equally fast painting. This was as much to do with Keith’s obsessive Swedish order of battle compulsive disorder and not a little exploited by Peter (thanks Peter!). After the initial quite small play test games Keith’s big idea was to marry the perceived need for club publicity with the want to do demo games at the shows to fill his post competition gaming twilight years.

We then looked at what battle we should demo. The obvious one was Poltava as it is the one most people know anything about for this conflict. (It also meant Ian had to paint up to 4 times more figures than Keith).

Game development went alongside the playtesting of Nick’s rules so this again was the easy option.
While playtesting we decided to start taking a few pics.

The back board came about by a simple statement that most photos Keith had seen in mags etc were often spoilt by seeing the players crotches as a backdrop. Ian understandably was troubled by this lasting image and insight into Keith’s psyche and commissioned his daughter Jenni with some superb artwork (2 sets of backboards based closely on the Narva battlescape). This is used in our regular games at the club.

Problems to overcome for the demo were
1 The redoubts – these need to cause the Swedes enough of a problem without being impregnable and have some chance of sucking in extra brigades (as happened)
2 The Swedish cavalry pursuing the Russian horse to far and effectively leaving the battlefield.
3 The same cavalry taking a long time to reform and go back to support the infantry
4 The Swedish infantry stopping and waiting for the cavalry support
5 The Russian coming out of their fortified camp in time to deploy and not caught inside (which happened at Narva and lost them their first army 9 years earlier.

Keith has produced some capital “chance” cards to deal specifically with these aspects of the scenario to factor in an element of “what if?”. These are being tested now.

The pair of us have put Poltava onto 2m x 2m MDF on 3 boards and dremmeled key features.

This has been painted to give a “time commander” meets 18th century artwork or Kriegspiel look to the playing area. Not a bit of flock anywhere.

Liberties have been taken with the fort – but we wanted to be able to use the terrain for other scenarios afterwards. Woodland is being prepared to frame the game and villages will be based independently.