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Battle of Lesnaya (1708): 15mm Great Northern War

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

I put on my second Great Northern War game at the club on Friday using my tweaked Warmonger rules and 15mm figures.

The battle in question was a prelude to Poltava (1709). It revolved around Tsar Peter the Great's Russians attacking an isolated Swedish army led by General Adam Lewenhaupt in forested terrain.

The latter was escorting 4,500 supply wagons from Riga (in modern Latvia) through the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (now Belarus) - where the battle was fought - and on to join Swedish King Charles XII in Ukraine. The armies involved were 24,000 Russians vs. 12,500 Swedes.

Accordingly, Mal and Phil's Russians (16 infantry units, eight cavalry units, six guns - including reinforcements)...

...took on Doug's Swedes (eight infantry units, four cavalry units, two guns).

Needless to say, I did not have 4,500 wagons, and I had to use ersatz Russians (Saxon and Polish figures), but I did not let that deter me!

The whole table was filled with forest, apart from three clearings - one near the Russian baseline, one near the town of Lesnaya (Leśna - in Polish), and the so-called 'Middlefield' (garrisoned by at least one Swedish unit). The Swedes had to hang on, while the Russians had to destroy the Swedes.

Doug deployed in a line with infantry and guns in the centre, and the two cavalry brigades on the flanks. He placed a brigade of two infantry units in the Middlefield.

Phil and Mal divided their army between them. The turns passed quickly, but the Russian units on the left under Phil repeatedly failed brigade activations, slowing down his advance through the forest.

Mal's units got stuck in quicker on the Russian right, with the benefit of open ground.

Mal's Russian cavalry, advancing in the centre, was bruised by Doug's attacking Swedish cavalry, but survived...

The Swedish infantry in the Middlefield (foreground) fired off some shots, but eventually withdrew towards the town.

Mal's infantry was now advancing relentlessly on the right, while Phil pushed on in the centre and on the left.

By 9:30pm, the Russian reinforcements arrived on the far left, which I dutifully took charge of.

Doug's cavalry on the Swedish left was taking punishment from Mal's musketry and cannon fire, and was forced back to the outskirts of the town.

Phil eventually emerged from the forest, and began an assault on the Swedish right flank.

I supported him with my Russian reinforcements, but these proved to be quite slow at getting clear of the woods.

The Swedish right flank was about to collapse following Phil's cavalry attack there. Meanwhile, Mal's advance was pinning back the Swedish left.

Near end of play, the Swedes had been completely hemmed in near the town, with Russian units advancing on all sides and outflanking the Swedish infantry on the right wing...

The result was that the Swedes had lost one infantry unit, and the Russians one artillery battery. However, the Russians had taken 40 additional hits compared to the Swedes' 33 hits.

While the game was formally indecisive, the Swedes were in danger of destruction had play continued.

Thanks to those who turned out for an enjoyable evening's play. Historically, the battle was also indecisive, but the Swedish commander decided to abandon and partly burn the supply wagons, and flee the area the day afterwards, which led to chaos among his troops, and a de facto Russian victory.


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