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"GNW Infantry Formations" Topic

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Simon the Squirrel20 Jan 2022 12:22 p.m. PST

I've been reading about infantry formations in the Great Northern War and Sweden seems the most straight-forward: one third pike in the centre, musketeers to either side, with grenadiers on the flanks. Ensigns in the centre behind the pike, with musicians to the rear.

However, the Russians are less clear to me. In the book, 'The Russian Army In The Great Northern War' by Megorsky, 144 pike were issued to each regiment in 1708 (I'm focusing on the 1708-09 campaign), which breaks down to 72 per battalion and they were issued at every other man in the front rank. Good so far, but were they always deployed in the front rank? Could they be deployed in the centre as with the Swedes? Were some regiments without pike?

Any help would be appreciated. I like the idea of having different formations across my battalions, as long as that was historical.

dbf167620 Jan 2022 2:42 p.m. PST

The Swedes did not always place their pikes in the center. At Fraustadt they were spread across the length of the battalion in the second rank, or maybe the third ( I dont have access to my books). You can see a similar formation used in the famous painting of the crossing of the Dvina.


dbf167620 Jan 2022 2:45 p.m. PST

I forgot to add that I use the regulation arrangement for my Russians and have a number of battalions with any pikes.

Travellera20 Jan 2022 3:26 p.m. PST

As I understand it, the Russian tactics was primarily defensive relying on firepower. Pikes were fewer and mainly used as a defence against cavalry. The Swedes were on the other hand extremely offensive only firing before charging with pikes and bayonets. I think the poses of Ebor miniatures captures this difference quite well.

dbf167620 Jan 2022 4:29 p.m. PST

The Swedes advanced in four ranks. When they got close, two ranks fired and they advanced I think another 20 paces. The other two ranks fired. The regulations stated that then the musketeers would draw their swords in their right hands, hold the musket with bayonet in the left, the pikemen would lower their pikes and all would charge.

olicana21 Jan 2022 9:21 a.m. PST

This is the reason I took GNW off my projects list.

The pike arrangement thing is a nightmare if you base by the multi-figure stand, and given my projects are on the army scale (usually around 800 – 1000 28mm figs an army), I wouldn't do otherwise.

It's a pity, because it's a perfect wargame period otherwise.

Travellera21 Jan 2022 11:07 a.m. PST

I donīt think the Swedish pike arrangement is a problem. A 24 figure battalion could have 4 bases of 4 fusilier figs =16 figs + 4 command figs + 4 pikemen =24 figs.

The Russkies could eliminate the 4 fig pike base and replace it with fusiliers.

My concern comes with the rules. I really like The Pikemans Lament and struggle with having a 12 fig pikemen unit. You then need to expand the battalion to 36 figs adding 2 x 12 man fusiliers units. Maybe other rulesets handle this better…?

Simon the Squirrel21 Jan 2022 12:36 p.m. PST

Initially I was going to have 24 figs on six bases, but after some thought, decided to go for 36 figs on 9 bases: the centre base can have the ensigns, drummer and an officer, the stand either side of that can have pikes, the rest muskets with a couple of grenadiers on each flank. I think it should look OK (still buying and cleaning up figures, so I haven't seen how this looks yet). I will likely have a mix of Russians: some without the pike at all, some with a central block like the Swedes and some with a few pike spread out in the front rank.

Just out of interest, how come both sides shoved the pike in the centre? Was this a case of keeping as many muskets in the firing line as possible? I would have thought the rear rank was the best place for the pikemen, that way, they can all move forward to counter any cavalry threat, yet keep out of the way of the firefight.

hornblaeser22 Jan 2022 12:26 p.m. PST

The swedish formation with pikes as a middle rank i a defensive formation against cavalry. I think it was a 6 rank formation. The pikes could then be turned front and rear.
The normal formation was a 4 rank, but not with a central block of pikes but as small block of pikes and muskets along the line as the were organised company wise.

Simon the Squirrel22 Jan 2022 3:21 p.m. PST

OK, thanks.

Travellera23 Jan 2022 12:30 a.m. PST

Good point from hornblaeser. This is thebtypical setup for each of the four companies in the battalion:


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