Updated: Jan 28
Last night’s club game saw the first trial of my new eastern Renaissance rules, Gangs of Ruś: a multiplayer skirmish-roleplaying wargame inspired by the history and cultures of the mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (c. 1569-1683). The setting is the Palatinate of Ruthenia (Red Rus), a religiously diverse border territory now in western Ukraine, with a rich history, transnational links, and many different resident communities.
We played the ‘Devil of Łańcut’ scenario: being the last stand of Stanisław Stadnicki, a volatile Polish Calvinist nobleman (and real historical character, d. 1610), against his encroaching opponents led by Jan Zamoyski, the Crown Grand Hetman. Philip played as Stadnicki, with Theo his co-religionist ally, Zborowski. Rob played the role of Zamoyski, with Doug supporting him as Stadnicki’s antagonist Opaliński. Phil elected to play the role of Mellechowicz, a Polish Muslim Tartar Colonel and noble, allied to the Zamoyski faction. The objectives were to take/hold the Reformed church, sack the town, capture or kill Stadnicki, and capture the hidden treasure.
The Stadnicki faction - initially made up of two gangs - held Stadnicki’s town of Łańcut, and occupied several buildings with musketeers, holding their cavalry back. The Zamoyski faction, with three gangs, advanced steadily to the river-line, which they had to cross to enter the town. Philip’s Reiters and Doug’s Pancerni cavalry fought it out on one flank, while Rob took a few casualties from a gun position but advanced across a bridge in the centre, with Phil’s Tartars holding back for a suitable opportunity.
About halfway through the game, Rob’s Winged Hussars burst into the town and pillaged a number of townsfolk. The Stadnicki faction looked to be losing, but happily a Turkish contingent arrived in their rear as reinforcements. The townsfolk (controlled by me) were in uproar at the chaos, however, and attacked the Janissaries, but to little effect. Yet, another Zamoyski ally, a Transylvanian gang commanded by a mercenary captain, also played by me, arrived on Theo’s flank. The Turks promptly stabilised the situation for Stadnicki, with several melees between them and the Hussars. Yet Phil’s Tartars and my Transylvanians finally managed to wreak havoc on Theo’s flank - weakly held by a few Hajduks and some Ottoman irregulars - opening a path into the town.
As a trial game it was successful frolic, with Stadnicki escaping justice, the church and treasure safe in godly (Reformed) hands, and only minor damage to the town: all this only through the intercession of the dreaded Turks!
Overall, I believe this was an enjoyable game, using only small numbers of figures (about 20 per person). The rulebook includes three new elements: diplomacy (allowing deals to be struck between players before the main game), honour (key to garnering repute and glory), and religion (holy men, faith loyalties), as well as the baser motive of enriching one’s gang, all of which adds depth and flavour to the familiar and fairly simple combat system.
With 20 troop types and 12 ethnic factions (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, Tartars, Moldavians, Turks, Muscovites, Wallachians, Hungarians/Transylvanians, Mercenaries, and Bandits), enabling countless variations and scenarios from the Commonwealth’s fascinating history, there is plenty to explore and unpack in the future.
Looking forward to the next game!