Friday, September 13, 2013

The Muscovite Army of Tsar Ivan IV

And so my new project begins. I have been dropping hints about this for months, but I finally pulled the trigger on a new project that I am very much looking forward to - The Muscovite army of Ivan the Terrible. Russian history is and has always been a very important part of my life - I have a Master's degree in Russian history, I have published articles on Russian history, I once held a position teaching Russian history at a University and I speak and read the Russian language (although at a much more rudimentary level than I once did). I am actually surprised it has taken me this long to dive into a project like this from a wargaming perspective. I suppose I wanted to make sure I did it right.

Russian history is as immense and vast as its landscape, and I have chosen this particular period of time for a couple of reasons. First, it is during a period of transition in Russia in terms of politics, foreign policy, technology and military organization. Transitional periods of history are always interesting. Second, there is a very distinct Russian flavor to what is happening during this period prior to the grand westernization of the court and the military under Peter the Great.

The Muscovite army of Ivan IV was a reflection of the society that produced it. The Muscovite army did not develop along "Western lines", but this was not necessarily due to backwardness (as many casual observers suggest) or an inability to absorb new ideas and methods. The Muscovite army was created to fight in Russia's wooded steppes and plains, criss-crossed by huge rivers. Muscovy was the hostage of its location; there were no natural borders to keep out invaders. Muscovy was surrounded by series of states each jockeying for domination; Muscovy's ultimate victory, even her ultimate survival, was never inevitable. What made her successful was the creation of a large military force capable of absorbing organizational and technological change.

What rules will I be using? I'm not sure yet. I'd love to be able to use Warlord's Pike & Shotte, but that might require some rule modifications to capture some of the flavor, style and tactics of this army. Luckily, that would be pretty easy. I have also purchased the PDF version of the Maximilian! rules for evaluation. But rules and games are a long way off yet, so for the time being I will simply enjoy the research and painting of this grand army.

The Assault Group (TAG) has an excellent range of figures for this army that I plan on using with perhaps some supplemental pieces coming from other manufacturers as needed. The image below shows my first unit that I'll be painting: the strel'tsy. I will be providing more in-depth historical information about the strel'tsy in future posts, but for know it will be enough to know that they were the first standing, permanent infantry force. The conventional date of its founding is 1550.

This should be a an exciting project.

The upcoming strel'tsy unit. Figures by The Assault Group.


  1. Pretty cool, keep us informed as your project progresses.

  2. look forward to following this one figures look very fine
    Peace James

  3. Yes very unusual minis, I look forward to seeing them painted...

  4. Interesting period, a Muscovite army is not something you see everyday on the war gaming table.

  5. Very interesting. You might also look at By Fire and Sword, a new Polish rules set. It's a little bit later but it might capture the flavor.

  6. This looks like a great one. I know very little about this so it'll be following closely.

  7. Musket and big axe, they look to be feared.

    Looking forward to seeing you paint up these guys


  8. So, you're basically doing all the projects I'd like to do, but in 28mm? Did you sick a brainwurm on me, or something?


  9. Looking forward to your progress on this. Hope all is well!

  10. Painting Streltsi uniforms is fun. I did some in 1/72 scale and I'm planning to do some more. Looking forward to see these painted!