Västmanland and Hälsinge regiments completed!

Looking through my old posts, I realized that I hadnt published any pictures on the fine Swedish regiments I finished in time for this years’ Salute show. So, here they are in all their glory, the first and second battalions of the Hälsinge regiment and the first of the Västmanland regiment. The paint job on the Hälsinge flags in particular were a bit rushed, as I did them the night before I flew to London. However, these pictures show that for all practical purposes, the results are good enough. It only goes to show that laborious blending of shades of black and white on these flags is really a waste of time…

Up until now I have painted small units of just 16 men. For the show, I needed to do 24-man units. Having played a few games with both, I have come to the conclusion that a compromise would indeed be a nice solution. 20-man units look very good on the table, while still being relatively small and fast to paint up. I should also add that when we play the Finnish war, we tend not to use the attack column formation, which might look a little odd with uneven numbers of bases.

Russian uhlan 1808

Heres a first attempt at a Russian uhlan, of the Polish uhlan regiment to be exact. To get all uniform details right I had too ask around a bit, because the Osprey book I had and various other sources had conflicting information. As always, the 1808 campaign lies between two better covered periods (1805 and 1812). Much of the early uniform was still in use at this point, with some new details added. The miniature is by Perry, but I added fringes to the epaulettes (with green stuff) and a different (older style) plume, taken from a set of Hussars by Casting Room miniatures. I am pleased with this figure; it did not take too long to convert and paint, even though it is probably the fanciest Russian uniform I will be doing for this setting. Doing a few more shouldnt be too difficult.

I also had some difficulties with Army painter’s Strong Tone wash (again). This time it was pretty bad. You can see some of the results on the base. I managed to cover it up on the horse itself, which was hit really hard – that is why I “chose” to paint it over, black.

Anyway, the really serious problem seems to be with some older bottles which I have now discarded. With them the cracking was so strong that it went all the way down to the metal! The newer batch (I had several at home) seem to work better, but they too give some cracking. I have experimented with drying times and shaking of the bottles, but I cant seem to be able to eliminate this irritating problem. Maybe its the humidity (or lack thereof?) in our apartement? It does seem to affect some colors a lot more than others: there seems to be more cracking over lighter colors, and perhaps there is more of a problem with the Vallejo colors than with Coat d’arms. It is too bad – apart from the cracking issue, the AP wash is perfect for my painting and I use it on all my miniatures.

Swedish model 1804 6-pounder limber

I modified a Perry miniatures Austrian 6-pounder limber to look like a Swedish limber for the model 1804 gun that equipped what may well have been the best troops in the Swedish army. There are numerous accounts of the effective use of this gun and its modern limber. The gun itself was a great improvement on previous models with good range and accuracy. Furthermore, it was a good deal lighter, because of improved design of the barrel itself and the use of fir (instead of heavy oak) in the carriage and limber. Most importantly, the 1804 system made the foot artillery into a “riding” (Sw. “åkande”) artillery, which means that the crew would ride on the limber instead of walking, something halfway towards horse artillery. This riding artillery seems to have been very effective and there are many accounts of it being used exactly as intended in the war in Finland: rapid movement, deployment, fire and repositioning. This approach was soon adpoted for all Swedish foot artillery.

Battle of Ruona 1 September 1808

A week ago we played another game of Black Powder set in Finland in the summer of 1808. But for the first time, we now played a scenario based on a particular historical battle. Credit goes out to the Finnish guys behind this site: http://www.the-ancients.com/gemigabok/suomen-sota-1808-1809/battles-we-fought/ who conveniently gathered most of the details for this and several other scenarios for the Finnish war. Also thanks to Oskar who hosted the battle and did most of the terrain!

The Finnish war started very badly for Sweden. First, the Swedes were somewhat surprised that the Russian invasion came in the middle of winter (in February), although the threat from the east was familiar enough. Second, the loss of Sveaborg fortress (outside Helsinki) in early May, was a severe blow. The plan for Finland’s defense was to retreat and await reinforcements, and to use this key fortress as a base for a counter-attack. Without the fortress, the Swedish strategic position was weakened considerably. Along with the fortress, a garrison of 7000 men, no less than a third of the Swedish army in Finland, surrendered, together with 700 cannon and a large contingent of the coastal fleet, numbering 200 ships. Furthermore, the surrender of Sveaborg occurred without a serious attempt at a siege, as the Russians had not yet managed to transport the required heavy artillery. There have been speculations as to whether the commander was bribed or otherwise persuaded to hand the fortress over ever since, but no conclusive evidence has been presented. The overall strategic situation certainly did not help, as Sweden faced a potential Danish-French invasion from the South (over sea into Skåne) and West (from Danish Norway), as well.

In the spring, the Russian army advanced swiftly through southern Finland, in three separate division-sized corps. The Swedish defense was divided into two corps, with the main force under commander Klingspor retreating over the main road from Helsinki-Tavastehus north over Lappo (Lapua), and the smaller Savolax brigade defending the road over Kuopio deep in the interior. The Swedish army retreated quickly and the retreat continued until the late spring when Swedish forces were just south of their intended base of operations at Oulu (Uleåborg) in Northern Ostrobothnia (Österbotten). In April the Swedish army made successful stands against the Russians at Siikajoki and Revolax, and thereafter, the Swedish army began a summer offensive.

Detail of a late 18th century map showing the area around Kuortane, with the roads from Karstula (in the right hand side of the map) and the road from Alavo (in the lower mid-left part of the map) faintly outlined. The farmsteads Takala and Heroja can be seen just north of lake Kuortane. This is where the first day of fighting, known as the battle of Ruona, took place on 1 September.

The Swedish counter-offensive advanced successfully enough to Nykarleby on the western coastal road, to Toivala on the Kuopio road and to Alavo (Alavus) in central Finland following the victory at Lappo on 14 July. However, in August, the Russians received substantial reinforcements, and the situation quickly changed. Swedish forces were defeated at Karstula, to the east of Lappo and northeast of Alavo, on 21 August. The Swedish position at Alavo became untenable, as the road now lay open from Karstula to Lappo and the Russians threatened to cut the main force off from its supply lines westwards. The Swedish army retreated. At the crossroads connecting the two main roads from Karstula and Alavo towards Lappo, lies the villages Kuortane, Ruona and Salmi. This area was the scene of two days of fighting, in Swedish sources referred to as the battles of Ruona and Salmi, and in the Russian as the battle of Kuortane.

Detail of a contemporary map in the Swedish national archives (Riksarkivet) showing the battlefield.

The road north, past Heroja, runs along a swampy area around a small stream. This stream was dry enough to cross on foot in summer, but the whole valley was flooded in the spring. The low area on both sides of the stream was in effect impassable to cavalry and artillery limbers could not be driven over it (the Russians did manage to carry their 6-pounder guns dismantled in pieces to deploy them). The stream drained into the mire or fen beyond the kilometres long bridge connecting the Karstula/Lintulaks and Lappo roads. On opposite sides of the mire were elevated areas of woodland. The north-south road, running on the eastern side of the stream, was covered by forest.

The Swedish first brigade had prepared defensive positions on the Swedish right flank, between the smaller lake (Nisous) to the south and the Takala farmstead on a low hill in the center. Fourth brigade defended the road and bridge on the left flank. The third brigade was initially positioned south of lake Nisous, but transferred to the north to assist. Our game took place in the area to the north of the lake, with the stream running in the middle of the game board.

The Russians saw their chance to outflank the enemy by heading north and capture the bridge. This would of course mean running the gauntlet along the front of the Swedish positions. Consequently, in our scenario, all three Russian brigades entered the board from the Alavo-road in the lower right corner, at Heroja farm.

Top, left to right: 1st, 4th, 3rd Swedish brigades; Bottom, left to right: 3rd, 2d, 1st Russian brigades.

The figures we had were not painted exactly as the historical forces (although close enough). The type of units involved were pretty much the same. Historically, both uhlans and hussars were present on the Russian side, but they do not seem to have affected the outcome, as they were constricted by the terrain. This was an infantry battle. We represented the Russian cavalry by a single unit of cossacks (incidentally this happened to be the only Russian cavalry we had painted!). All in all, there were around 150 figures per side, with slightly more on the Russian side. Please note that the Russian army was not formally organized into brigades in the way that the Swedish army was – the numbered Russian “brigades” mentioned here are wargaming constructs, not true historical units.

Russian army

MG Nikolay Mikhailovich Kamensky                                                    

First brigade

MG Nikolay Nikolayevich Raevsky/Col. Ivan Matvejevich Eriksson

2 large battalions line infantry (Azov reg.)

1 battalion line infantry (Velikiye Luki reg.)

2 small bat. jägers (23rd reg.)

2 small bat. jägers (26th reg.)

Second brigade

MG Ivan Fedorovich Yankovich de Mirievo                                                             

2 battalions line infantry (Belozersk reg.)

1 small bat. jägers (26th reg.)

1 sq. uhlans

1 6-pounder gun

Third brigade

Col. Yakov Petrovich Kulnev                   

1 battalion line infantry (Petrovsk reg.)

1 small bat. jägers (3rd reg.)


Swedish army

MG Carl Johan Adlercreutz

First brigade

Lieut. Col. Reuterskiöld

2 battalions line infantry (Åbo reg.)

1 6-pounder gun


1 large battalion line infantry (Västerbottens reg.)

Third brigade

MG Hans Henrik Gripenberg

2 battalions line infantry (Tavastehus, Nylands reg.)

1 small bat. jägers (Nylands jäg.)

1 3-pounder gun

Fourth brigade 

Col. Nils Cedergren

2 bat. line infantry (Savolax inf. regt.)

2 small bat. jägers (Savolax jägers)

1 3-pounder gun

The scenario was played with minimal special rules. All units were considered regulars, with no special traits other than the sharpshooters rule for jägers. In line with historical conditions, the Savolax jägers counted as having rifled muskets, with longer range. A couple of Russian line units and the Västerbotten battalion counted as large. The objective of the game was to control the bridge and the game length was set at six turns. The movement of cavalry and limbered artillery was restricted to the roads. The Swedish artillery of first and third brigades was considered deployed in fixed positions and unable to move.

A Swedish 6-pounder takes aim across the fen from its position by Takala.

The Russians made a strong start and soon advanced halfway up the road towards the bridge and crossroads. The Swedish third brigade foolishly marched straight into the fire of the Russian jägers. On the Swedish left flank, the Savolax jägers advanced across the bridge.

The Russians then began to advance over the mire to attack the Swedish infantry and artillery in the center, while Swedish third brigade hesitated and first brigade remained in its defensive position. Third brigade broke and retreated after effective fire from jägers and a Russian 6-pounder. This also secured a safe passage for the remaining Russian units to advance north.

In the center, as a small group of Swedish jägers rush to defend the gun at Takala, but is outnumbered by infantry and jägers of the Russian first brigade.

Two strong Russian units supported by cavalry attacked the Savolax jägers at the crossroads. The jägers were joined by the rest of fourth brigade who put up a magnificent fight, but finally broke. This meant that two out of three Swedish brigades were broken and the Swedes were beaten.

When six turns had elapsed, the bridge had just been taken by the Russians as fourth brigade broke. It was a win for the Russians and a complete disaster for the Swedish army. However, things were still a lot closer than it may seem. Admittedly, serious mistakes were made by the defending commander (thats me!), which rendered the counter-attack on the right flank entirely ineffective. The Russians on the other hand concentrated their forces at strategic points to make life very difficult for the somewhat weaker Swedish units.

Swedish infantry king’s colors, model 1766

My latest effort in painting infantry flags for my 1808 Swedish army is a livfana (king’s colors) of the model 1766 type. As in other armies of the period (e.g. Russian, Prussian, etc), Swedish infantry battalions carried a white flag with royal emblem in the first battalion. The first company would carry the king’s colors and the second, third and fourth companies would carry identical company colors with the emblems of the region where the regiment was based. Consequently, the first battalion would carry one white king’s color and one comany color, while the second battalion would carry two company colors. In cases where a regiment had third and fourth battalions (reserve (vargering) or converted cavalry (rusthållsbataljoner)) they did not carry flags of any sort.

The model 1766 king’s colors were used by most regiments, and they was identical for all regiments. Some regiments used older version flags of various models. Prior to the model 1766 the king’s colors were slightly different depending on the regiment (these were based more or less directly on the model 1686, which had the regional emblem in the top left corner of the king’s flag).

The model 1766 king’s colors were used from around 1770 all the way through the Napoleonic period. Most regiments used them, but there are some exceptions (I will try to go into details on this in a later post). It was only in 1819 that the Swedish army adopted what we recognize as the modern Swedish national flag for the infantry, with the blue flag with a yellow cross being used as both company and king’s colors.

On popular demand, I will properly scan this flag as soon as I can and make it available for use by you, the general public! I will then mount it on a figure and use it with my Västmanland regiment. Hopefully, I will also do a few company colors for at least a selection of regiments and put those up on the blog as well. Perhaps I will also try sending the images to a printer and see what kind of quality I can achieve.

Finnish dragoons

Updated this year-old post with some new pictures and a bit of background. I am also testing out taking images against a black background.

The miniatures are Perry 28mms. These are the Nyland and Karelia dragoons, the only Finnish cavalry regiments still active in 1808. In the early 18th century, there were three full cavalry regiments in Finland, the Åbo & Björneborg, the Nyland & Tavastehus and the Viborg regiments. In the course of the 18th century, the cavalry regiments were reduced by more than half, with much of the cavalry converted to infantry.

The Karelia dragoons had their origins in the Viborg cavalry regiment, which was dissolved following the Great Northern War (1700–1721), as Viborg county was lost to Russia. Thereafter, they were based in the region of Karelia in the easternmost part of Finland, on the new border with Russia. When the border was moved again following defeat in the war of 1741-1743, this regiment was reduced in size to just two squadrons, based in Savolax rather than Karelia.

Uniform of the Karelian dragoons (Vinkhuizen collection NYPL)

Together with the Savolax infantry regiment, the Savolax jägers and the Karelian jägers, the Karelian dragoons formed the independent Savolax brigade, a small army corps meant to defend the isolated and sparsly populated eastern part of Finland. It was understood that this region was a potential avenue of Russian attack, but it was also unsuitable for supplying large forces. As it turned out (in 1808), it was also more easily defended than Western Finland, as heavily outnumbered Finnish forces managed to hold up the Russians at narrow passes through a wooded, mountainous area cut through by lakes and streams.

The Nyland dragoons were the most numerous of the Swedish cavalry in the Finnish war of 1808 with 8 squadrons. On a whole, there were about 750 dragoons out of an army totalling almost 20 000 (in the army of Finland) at the outbreak of hostilities.

Uniform of the Nyland dragoons (Vinkhuizen collection NYPL)

The two Finnish dragoon regiments both had similar uniforms in blue and yellow, in line with the other cavalry regiments in Sweden proper, but in marked contrast to the Finnish infantry who were mostly dressed in grey uniforms at this time. The Karelian dragoons wore a bicorne while the Nyland regiment used a shako – both types of headwear were seen on other Swedish cavalry at the time. According to one source, part of the Karelian dragoons had received the shako as well by the time the war broke out. Aside from the hats the only real difference between the two uniforms is the jacket, which is open at the waist, showing the vest underneath for the Karelians, and the sabretache, which for Nyland has the regional emblem.

Both regiments were similarly armed with sabre and pistols. Carbines had been in use prior to the war and recently dropped. Instead, one of the two pistols was rifled, and both pistols had attachable stocks, making the pistols very much like carbines while relieving the troopers of the additional weapon.

Towards the end of the summer reinforcements arrived from Sweden proper, including some squadrons of the Horse Life Guards (Livgardet till häst). Interestingly, that regiment also had Finnish roots. It was originally raised as the Finnish Light Dragoons in 1770 and were elevated to royal guards as reward for assisting in the king’s coup d’etat in 1772. In 1777, this unit was transferred to Sweden, and was thereafter based in the regions around Stockholm. The regiment was renamed several times, for a short time it was in fact called a hussar regiment.

A dashing young officer of the Horse Life Guards (Wikimedia Commons), in the uniform that would have been worn in 1808. With minor conversion work, the Perry miniatures Nyland dragoons can be painted as Horse Life Guards – unless the Perrys release such figures themselves of course!

The miniatures and the uniforms are lovely. However, the Swedish army in the Finnish war used only light cavalry, and what little they had was used mostly for scouting, covering retreats and countering the Russian cavalry. A Some of the dragoons were also detached to serve the staff officers as messengers. The Swedish cavalry was both outnumbered and probably also out-classed by their Russian counterparts. There are some instances of fierce cavalry on cavalry fighting. But on the whole, Swedish horse was not used as battlefield cavalry, and there was nothing like the heavy dragoons or cuirassiers of other Napoleonic theatres.

The Russians employed somewhat more cavalry and they used them more aggressively. Don cossacks and hussars (Grodno regiment) were most common. Uhlans of the Polish, Lithuanian and Prince Konstantin’s (Guards) regiments also participated in important battles, such as Ruona and Oravais. Russian dragoons (Finland and other regts.) were present in some numbers, but did not take part in any of the major battles other than Karstula (21 August). However, even the Russian cavalry struggled with unsuitable terrain and, as the war progressed, increasing difficulties obtaining fodder for the horses. At various times cavalry (on both sides) also fought dismounted.

Russian 6-pounder limber

This artillery limber set by (sold by Perry miniatures) has been sitting half-finished on my painting table for a very long time. I finally got round to painting it, although I must admit I settled for limited highlights and a very basic paint job. I find limbers very cool, impressive models as they often are with several horses and the complex system for transporting the gun. For the same reason I have a hard time motivating myself to paint these sets. They are just such a daunting task in every respect – difficult to clean and build, difficult and time consuming to paint, and so on. In effect, the model takes almost as much time to finish as a full battalion of infantry. And it often has a modest role on the battlefield. At worst, it can even be in the way of the game because of its size.

Anyway, I finally managed to finish the model. The heads are plastic heads from Warlord’s 1809 style Russian set. I used them because the shakos are covered – in this way I can use them for both the 1808 campaign and a later setting, such as 1812 or 1813 (for which I also have a few miniatures…).

I wasnt very happy with the strings I used to hook up the horses – I used kitchen string, but this turned out to be a bit too coarse for this purpose. Once painted it looks quite nice, at least from a distance. But I have since invested in a number of rolls of metal modelling wire and will try them out next time I give limbers a go.

Because I will have to do this again sometime soon. I have several limbers just like this one, and also small limbers for the Russian 3-pounder guns, ammunition wagons, etc. I also have a half-built Swedish limber (converted from Austrians), and several more Austrian and Prussian sets for creating more Swedish limbers and ammuniton wagons…

Västmanland regt continued

Its been a while since I started painting these, but now I only have 8 more to do until I have done every figure that will be attending the Salute show in London in a little more than a month’s time. I am bringing around 250 figures to Salute, as part of a joint effort to put on a demo game representing the battle of Oravais (Sept 14 1808).

Back to Bolt Action

Tonight a game of Bolt Action was played between a panzer platoon with panzer grenadier support and a red army tank platoon with tankodesantniki, set ca 1943. The fight was over three objectives spread out evenly across a wide but quite narrow field of battle.

Bolt Action makes for a quick and simple game and it was enjoyable. The Russian method of riding on the back of the tanks proved far inferior to the German SPW:s which of course provide better protection. Also, the red army tank crews were quite inadequate in the gunnery department. The panzer IV on the other hand, with its powerful gun, made short work of first the heavy KV and shortly thereafter one of the T34:s. Soon three out of four Soviet tanks had been knocked out, while all German tanks were still operational. The Russian infantry was still relatively unscathed, but they were also trapped in an impossible position, and so the Soviet player (that’s me!) threw in the towel.

The German side had two panzer III:s, one panzer IV and three squads of panzer grenadiers in Hanomags. The Red army fielded three T34/76:s and a KV, with four squads of infantry riding on the tanks. In points terms, this amounted to ca 1250 pts for the Germans vs 1300 for the Soviets. However, the special rules favored the Jerries: the free squad that the Soviets are allowed in BA rules was not applicable in this case. The extra shots from German mg:s, on the other hand, gave a distinct advantage. The Germans fielded a total of 15 machine guns, either carried by the infantry or mounted on the AFV:s, all of which had an extra dice. The other special rules, i e for German NCO:s and Soviet morale, never came into play before the game’s end.

When I put together the forces for this game, I was a bit worried they would be unevenly matched and that the Germans would be outnumbered with valuable points wasted on the SPW:s, which I feared were no more than expensive trucks of little use. This turned out to be quite wrong. With so many proper tanks about, the Soviet player, in a scenario like this, is unlikely to waste tank gun shots on the Hanomags unless they are the only target. Although this meant that I lost the game very emphatically, it was nice to see all those SPW:s I had painted up to actually be useful in game terms.

But what decided the whole affair in the end was the respective performance of the tanks and tank guns of the opposing forces. With one or two lucky dice rolls, the Soviet advance would have been much more successful. Also, avoiding the pz IV might have been a good strategy, as the KV in particular should have been able to face up well to the pz III:s. In addition, a better use of the roads might have enabled the Soviets to reach farther up the table sooner.

Furthermore, a scenario involving so many AFV:s would perhaps have been interesting to play on a deeper table (the table in this case was approx 200×120 cms). The size of table meant that the tanks were within effective firing range as soon as they deployed. Also, as the scenario was meant to reflect eastern front conditions, it could have worked well with somewhat more open terrain.