It is with some sadness that Yana and I won't be able to join many of you at Pennsic this year, but we wish all the attenders a great War. We are also glad that Mordak and Jadwiga have stepped up to take care of seeing that we have the Slavic and East European festival this year. Hopefully, our absence from War will be a temporary thing and we'll be able to join you next year. We do expect to hear lots of stories and hope that some attenders will have contributions for the next Slovo (hint, hint).
On the subject of contributions, I am very pleased to report that I had a great wealth of submissions for this quarter's Slovo. I apologize to anyone who submitted but does not see their piece in this issue. I will be sure to put it in the Fall. However, this hardly means that I am not continuing to solicit new material. My appetite for new articles is insatiable.
By Mordak Timofei'vich Rostovskogo
Greetings to my fellow SIG enthusiasts from Mordak: With the drums and trumpets of War on the horizon, thoughts of the Pennsic SIG meeting are on many a mind in our illustrious band. Unfortunately, Paul and Yana are unable to be there due to other commitments, but that won't stop us! Jadwiga very graciously stepped into the breach and did the legwork setting up a date and place, while I am recruiting people to bring in their projects for the praise they deserve. Best of all, we are on the schedule for Monday evening, August 13 at 7pm in AS 5.
What we have in mind is a very informal meet and greet session, with some light noshing, laughter and a couple very brief announcements. Thanks to last winter's outrageous heating bills, I find myself with less funds for Pennsic than I had anticipated, so I'm asking for a little help. A bag of chips, any beverages like tea, juice or pop you can spare would be very gratefully appreciated. Also, in the interest of greater personal satisfaction, I'm opting for a BYOB, just to get the juices flowing and the conversation rolling (all liquor related laws in Pa. enforced, of course!). During all, I will be circulating, leading announcements and playing the Motely Foole so you can all relax and enjoy yourselves.
It should be a great time! I've been absent from Pennsic the last year or two, so I'm looking forward to seeing you, your artwork and if you feel outgoing, some helpful information or hints about your experiences, insights and stories about things Slavic or otherwise, your persona and your home Kingdom or area. Anyone who wants to offer their help setting up or tearing down, be assured you will have my grateful appreciation and thanks. Anyone who brings food, drink, music, projects or are willing to speak about them, I may actually kiss your feet! So don't be embarrassed, I'm just that sort of guy! Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (614) 268-3573. May your preparations be brief, your sewing light, your travel safe and your Pennsic beautiful!
By Liudmila Vladimirova doch'
Beading: Unfortunately, there is no evidence that seed beads were used on Russian clothing in period. There is plenty of evidence for fresh-water pearls, though, and they were usually doughnut-shaped (drilled horizontally) or baroque.
Belts: From the earliest times, Eastern Slavs used a belt buckle with a tongue, resembling modern belt buckles. They also used decorative fabric and rope belts, especially in female clothing. In any case, the traditional SCA belt with a round buckle does not seem to be appropriate.
Black: Though practical and attractive for the modern eye and for other cultures in period, black in Russia was (and is) a widow's color, reserved for mourning and some religious garments. It was also used in decorative elements such as collars, cuffs, and gloves, in which case it was richly embroidered in silk, gold and pearls, not plain.
Buttonholes: There weren't any. Button closures were of a loop type, with buttons usually fairly large and spherical or egg-shaped.
Cotton: Cotton was widely imported from Asia in late period (at least 15th century), and should be appropriate to use. However, most undergarments were probably cut of homemade linen.
Female head wear: Russian maidens did not cover their hair, nor did they always braid it. Oftentimes they wore head wear that left the hair showing, such as various wrap-around and crescent-shaped headdresses. Russian married women always covered their hair, but not necessarily with a kokoshnik or other hat. A simple veil, (or one embroidered in silk and/or pearls and gold) is appropriate, but it should be rectangular and worn closely draped around the head, with ends dangling over the shoulders.
Head kerchiefs: Platok, the square or almost square decorative head kerchief (known in the U.S., in some styles of wear, as a babushka) came into use in the XVIIIth century. It replaced the more ancient ubrus, a long rectangular veil that was a required part of many headdress styles. Coincidentally, lovely knitted Orenburg shawls are not period either (just like the city of Orenburg itself).
Lapti: Bark shoes (lapti) were worn only by peasants and lasted a week at the most. In the city, even the poorer people wore leather boots and shoes.
Male head wear: Men wore hats that were cylindrical and very tall, or round and close about the head.
Pants: In period, men did not wear wide sharovary pants known later and popular in the SCA. Period trousers (porty) were narrow and always worn inserted into boots or leg wraps.
Sarafany: The popular sarafan dress is not conclusively proven to be known until the 1600s. There is some evidence that sleeveless dresses appeared in late period as a derivation of shubka-type garments that lost their long sleeves. This means that a period sarafan was not held up on straps, but was a one-piece garment with a cut-out neckhole, put on over the head.
Shirts: A male shirt in period did not necessarily have an opening to one side. Left, right, or center openings are all correct. Female shirts did not acquire puffy sleeves gathered at the wrist until at least late 17th century. The cut of a Russian shirt for male or female was all on straight lines, rectangular construction, with some triangular gores. All shirts were either collarless or with a standing collar. A separate decorative collar could be attached as well.
By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski
[Editor's note: Lord Peotr missed Pennsic last year, but he had a fabulous reason to do so. Instead of Pennsic, he went to Central Asia. This article is part of a continuing series of pieces about his travels.]
Next our caravan climbed to a highland of eternal cold. Here grows neither trees nor grass and all the fodder must be carried or the draught animals go hungry. Firewood must be carried too, though the mountain people dry and burn animal dung. Due to the terrible cold, fires burn but dimly and food cooks poorly. For ten days we cross this difficult land. If the traveler moved too fast a pounding arose in the skull and sickness of the stomach. At night howling demons arouse. The Chinese who live at the east end of the world call these the Tien Shan, the Mountains of Heaven, but our guides said that the true name is the Roof of the World.
Even in this remote land there are occasional caravan inns -- caravansary. One of the best is in a remote gorge at a high place called Tash-Rabat. Here the traveler will see a massive stone gate and flanking towers with apparently nothing beyond -- but this appearance is but a trick. The caravansary is built into a sloping hill. The back walls and roof are covered with grass and are hidden. A domed ceiling spans the main room. It is connected to the portal and to galleries 170 yards long to both the left and right, leading to many small chambers for the traveler. The rooms could not be more safe and secure.
The main hall was full of warmth and bustle the evening we stayed there. A fire was built below the opening in the dome and mutton and horseflesh cooked there. We drank that strange sour milk called koumiss and traded stories as best we could understand each other's tongues. A band of Turki traders sang a kind of high pitched song and performed a sinuous dance wearing silk tunics with sleeves a yard longer than their hands.
Beyond the mountains is the region of Kasgar, a kingdom in former days but now subject to the Great Khan. The region is full of gardens and vineyard and they grow great amounts of cotton. It is truly an oasis city. From this country merchants go fourth to all lands to trade.
Beyond Kashgar is the most terrible desert in the world. It goes on for a great distance taking maybe thirty days to cross. Nothing lives here and there is nothing to eat is found in it. Spirits are heard calling the traveler and leading them astray. The region can only be crossed along its margin where rivers flow out of the bounding mountains into the desert. Here they soon vanish into the sand. The desert is called Takli-Makan, which means "things go in, but don't come out".
By Mordak Timofei'vich Rostovskogo
I fight in a used pair of aluminum legs that weigh a pound together and protect my lazy butt rather well, so I am rather loathe to part with them. However, if I were to part with them, I would make a pair of chainmail and aluminum plate serlaks worn over some hose legs with knee cops. You could also make pants with closed cell foam logs sandwiched between two layers of cloth. This would keep the weight down below that of 16 gauge steel or armor-weight leather legs and preserve a period look. Of course, hose legs with a knee length, short sleeved caftan would also look period, especially if worn with the bakherets overtop and the bozolbans (see my previous articles).
The tools needed are a Whitney punch to make evenly spaced holes along each side of every plate, a metal rod 5/16" in diameter and 24-36" long, a drill, a wire cutter or Dremel tool, a pair of medium needle nosed pliers, a file, and some kind of saw to cut the metal. The materials needed are a piece of leather, steel or tempered or 14 gauge aluminum 24" by 24" square to be cut down into 3" by 2" plates (some with a corner cut off at an angle). You will also need six lengths of coiled 16 gauge wire wound around a 5/16" rod and cut off into links using either a wire cutter or a Dremel tool with a metal cutting attachment.
The serlaks strongly resemble the plate and chainmail pants worn in the movie "Braveheart", but are knee length and fall over the kneecap. Strips of plate were also used in the same style as that used to construct the bakherets (see Economical Period Russian Armor I). While the look would be awesome, I fear the weight and durability would not match the simpler construction of the style outlined in this article. Another advantage is the ease of repair over the bakherets style plate system in a frequently hit armor piece like the leg.
First, construct whatever padding you intend to use, if any. Then cut a pattern over top, using either paper or cheap cloth, angling the cut to accommodate your crotch, the cleft of the buttocks and narrowing at the top for attachment to a belt of some sort, preferably a kidney belt. Next, use a ruler to make 2" wide by 3" long boxes along the length from hip to knee area. Number each box and mark a border 1/2" inside each box. Cut along those borders and use the pieces as patterns to cut out the plates. Punch evenly spaced holes using either a leather or Whitney punch along all edges of each plate. Smooth any burrs down with a file, grinder or edging tool, if leather. Saturate any leather pieces in heated paraffin and bake to make the leather cour boulli and resistant to rot.
Using a pair of needle nosed pliers in each hand, put a chainmail link through each hole and butt the link ends together as smoothly as possible. Next, connect the pieces together with a central link. It is easier to do this in strips running length or width wise. These legs should fall over the top of the knee cop but not the bottom to each falling to your knees. The top should be attached to a belt by whatever means you see fit to use.
By Jan Janowicz Bogdanski
My wife and I had the unique opportunity this past fall to visit Poland. All of the time we spent in Krakow was spent in the Old City (Stare Miasto). Luckily, Krakow survived World War II pretty much unscathed so that over one thousand years of history is intact. We parked on the northeastern outskirts of the Old City and walked in. For those of you who do not have a background in Polish history, Krakow was the seat of the Polish kings from Mieszko I (966) until the Vasa kings moved to Warsaw in 1609.
We walked past the Church of the Holy Cross (Kosciol sw Krzyza) and into the main square (Rynek Glowny) of the Old City, which dates from the mid-13th century. There are three things you will immediately notice - the Church of St. Mary (which was immediately next to us as we walked into the square), the tiny Church of St. Adalbert, and the huge Cloth Hall in the center of the square.
St Mary's (Kosciol Mariacki) is a large, brick, twin-spired structure in the gothic style. The original church was established in the 13th century, but has been renovated many times in the intervening years. The first thing you will notice as you walk in is that "Polish Gothic" is quite different from the gothic of western Europe. You will find the same architectural features as most any gothic church, but instead of the bare stone rising to the vaulted ceiling, the interior is entirely painted. From floor to high vaulted ceiling the walls are covered with paintings and frescos, and the crucifix at the rood screen is also stunning. The other astounding feature within the church is the ornately carved and painted pentaptych behind the altar - an incredible piece of artwork executed in the 15th century, taking a dozen years to complete.
There is a legend associated with the church. It is said that when the Tartars were approaching the city during the incursions of the 13th century, a lookout in one of the churches towers saw the approaching hoard and began to blow his horn. Upon hearing this, a Tartar archer shot him in the throat, thus ending the warning. Now, every hour, a trumpeter plays in the same window in the tower, and cuts off his song in mid-note, signifying when the lookout was struck. I have to tell you, looking at where that window is, that archer must have been one heck of shot!
Between St. Mary's and the Cloth Hall is the Church of Saint Adalbert (Kosciol sw Wojciecha) which was established in the 10th century, and is still an active church. To be honest, it is about the size of someone's living room, but is a beautiful space nonetheless.
In the center of the square you will find the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) which, during period was the mercantile exchange, but is now filled with shops. The walls are still painted with the arms of the various cities of Poland, and if you close your eyes, you can almost feel that it is still the 15th century, and you are listening to cloth merchants haggling the price of fabric.
Next to the Cloth Hall is the original tower from the old town hall, which dates from 14th century. If you wander down the street directly in front of the tower you will come to the campus of Jagiellonian University. Established in 1400 by King Jagiello (called Wladyslaw in Polish) and Queen Jadwiga, the university has educated scholars, kings, and a pope. There is a small museum on campus, housed in a 15th century building - with a beautiful courtyard - and the feel of the area is quite special.
Not far from the university is the Franciscan Church (Kosciol Franciszkanow). Another large stone, gothic structure, like St. Mary's the walls are covered with religious paintings. But, being an inner-city parish, the stained glass is far more contemporary - incredible examples of Art Nouveau.
It is an easy walk from the Franciscan Church up to St. Mark's Church (Kosciol sw Marka). St. Mark's dates from the 13th century and is another small church in the more Romanesque style. It has small stained glass windows, and the walls are all whitewashed, but it was incredible to think that this church is contemporary with my persona. It has been rebuilt several times, and the fixtures come from various periods, but the crucifix is from the original church.
From there, we walked north to the edge of the Old City where part of the original wall still stands. Follow this to the east and you come to the Barbican and the Florian Gate. Looking at the gate, you can see the different layers of building, as the height of the wall was increased, with the original wall being built in 1300. The Barbican, on the other hand, was a later addition in around 1498, and you can still see the impression of the moat.
The next day, we drove into the southern end of the Old City, to the base of Wawel Hill, parking next to the Bernadine Church (Kosciol Bernardynow). From this direction, we entered the grounds next to the "Thieves Tower" into an open courtyard. To one side is the foundation of buildings torn down by Prussian soldiers, and on the other is the Cathedral; before you is the entrance to the royal residence.
Wawel Cathedral (Katedra Wawelska ) is an interesting mix of both Romanesque and gothic architectures. The layout, and more rounded look to the architecture is mixed with high gothic construction. An interesting feature is the large number of copper "gargoyles" all around the cathedral. Though the first church was built here in the 11th century when the bishopric of Krakow was established, it has been renovated many times, by different kings, and now carries a very baroque styling. Many of the great monarchs of Poland are buried here, including Jadwiga, Kazimierz III Wielki, and Jan III Sobieski, as well as St. Stanislaus. Jadwiga's original orb and scepter are also on display within the cathedral, and were made of guilded wood, because at age fourteen, she was not strong enough to carry the actual ones.
There is access to the bell tower, which affords you an amazing view of the city, and allows you to see the eleven ton Zygmunt Bell, the touching of which is supposed to bring good luck. You can also go down to the crypt level and see the actual tombs of the monarchs.
Taking a left out of the cathedral, you will enter the Royal Castle (Zamek Krolewski). Entering the cobblestone courtyard is incredible, with the columned balconies all around, and my father and I just looked at each other and said, "Could you imagine having Crown Tournament here?!" Of course every king needed to put his mark on the castle, and now all the rooms are decorated in the style of Zygmunt August, the last of the Jagiellonian kings. The tour takes you through bedrooms, dining rooms, and the throne room showing paintings, tapestries, and Turkish art captured during the campaign of Jan III Sobieski. Though much of the decoration is late period, it is still a wonder to behold.
In the basement of the castle is the royal armory containing halberds, cannon, and assorted weaponry. The things to see here are Szczerbiec, the sword used in every Polish coronation since 1320, and the spear of St. Maurice, which was a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor to King Boleslaw Chrobry.
With a little time left in the day we headed out to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, outside of Krakow. This is a working salt mine that has been in operation since the 14th century, with guided tours, though few are in English. The most interesting part of the mines, though, is that the miners have always felt that being so far under the earth they were too far away from God. Therefore, they have carved out entire salt formations into chapels! The first chapel you go to, St. Anthony's Chapel, is indeed period but in somewhat decayed condition. Most of the rest of the sculpture in the mine is modern, but just the concept of mining this place in period is incredible.
Another day trip from Krakow is to Czestochowa, and the fortress of Jasna Gora. A word of warning: Jasna Gora houses the icon of The Black Madonna, which was supposedly painted by St. Luke, and the Chapel of the Virgin in Jasna Gora is probably the holiest shrine in Poland. As a result, you do not want to go there on a Sunday! The original monastery at Jasna Gora was established by Pauline monks in the early 14th century, and the icon was brought there soon after. The monastery was fortified in the early 17th century, and was the last holdout against the Swedes during the incursions of 1650. It also houses a couple of museums with a number of period artifacts including period needlework and manuscripts.
One last thing before we leave Krakow. The best restaurant in Krakow, according to the locals is the Wierzynek. We had an incredible meal that cost us about $25 per person, including tip - and we ate well - but that's not the most interesting part. The restaurant is in the Old City, and has been there for quite some time. As a matter of fact, during the 14th century it belonged to one of the city chancellors, and when Kazimierz III Wielki married off his granddaughter, Elzbieta, it was where most of the crown heads of Europe stayed, and dined, for the month they were in Krakow. How cool is that?
We made an excursion into the mountains before reaching our next destination of medieval interest, Warsaw. Though the capital was not moved there officially until post-period, it was a home away from home for all of the Vasa kings, since it was closer to their homeland of Sweden. The thing to remember about Warsaw is that the entire city was razed during World War II, and everything you are seeing was rebuilt.
Like Krakow, Warsaw has an Old City (Stare Miasto) which has a very medieval feel to it - narrow cobblestone streets with shops and churches lining them. There are portions of the old wall of the city at the entrance, in addition to the well defined moat. You will soon come upon the Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) with the column of Sigismund III Vasa (Kolumna Zygmunta III Wazy) and the Castle Royal (Zamek Krolewski). The castle was originally built by the Princes of Mazovia and expanded when King Sigismund moved in. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation while we were there.
Walking about the Old City we visited the Cathedral of St. John (Archikatedra sw. Jana) which was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Unlike Krakow, in this Old City the façade is one structure that extends for the entire block, so the Cathedral is built into all of this. For an extra few zloty, you can visit the crypt beneath the cathedral which contains some of the later Polish royal families.
From there, we walked down the Royal Route into the New City (Nowe Miasto). "New" is strictly a relative term, and the New City was started in the 14th century as the population began to expand beyond the walls. Along the Royal Route you will find the late 16th century palaces of the great magnates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, such as the Radzwill's.
The only museums we visited on our journey were the Polish Army Museum and the National Museum (Narodowe). The Army Museum has an interesting layout where you start at the bottom floor and work your way up, and the exhibits are in chronological order. In that ground floor exhibit you will find arms and armor dating back to the 10th century through life size statues of husari on horseback. There are also diagrams and descriptions of famous battles contemporary to the armor. The National Museum has a couple of astounding exhibits. The medieval section is full of paintings, carvings and statuary from the high middle ages, and is a rather large section of the museum. Another must see is the painting of the Battle of Grunwald by Jan Metejko. This huge (like the side of a barn, huge!) painting is full of historical figures and allegory associated with one of the greatest military victories in Polish history. There is a line of comfortable chairs, as well as diagrams to pick out the historical figures, so you can just sit back and drink it all in. There is just one problem with the National Museum…you can't take pictures, and they don't have a good tour book.
One other stop in Warsaw was the Wilanow Palace, which was built by Jan III Sobieski in the early 17th century. It is a fantastic complex with beautiful gardens, and contains an incredible number of paintings and furniture. Yes, most of it is post-period, but it still a must see in Warsaw.
By Peotr Alexeivich Novgorodski
The Viking Icelandic Sagas are among the richest and most accessible sources of the medieval secular literature. Written down in the Thirteenth Century they are poetic recounting of actual history of the peoples of Scandinavia and the surrounding countries. King Harald's Saga recounts the life of the Norwegian adventurer Harald Sigurdson, sometimes called "the last of the Vikings," during the period from 1030 to his death in 1066.
We first meet Harald as he flees from defeat in battle, "creeping from forest to forest with little honor." Harald seeks refuge with Yaroslav, ruler of Novgorod and soon to be Grand Prince of all Russia. "King [sic] Yaroslav gave Harald and Earl Ragnvald and their men a good welcome" The saga goes on to recount: "Side by side / The two leaders fought; / Shoulder to shoulder / Their men lined up. / They drove the Slavs / Into defeat / And gave the Poles / Scant mercy." This apparently refers to a Russian campaign recorded in the chronicles against the Poles in 1031. "Harald stayed in Russia for several years and traveled widely throughout the East." The Saga devotes the next chapters to Harald's service with the Byzantine Emperor. He fights, along with his men, as mercenaries. The Saga records campaigns in Sicily, Africa (although it may have actually been Asia Minor) and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
During these years (circa 1035 to 44) Harald sent money back to his friend Prince Yaroslav for safekeeping. As we see when Harald returned to Russia: "When Harald arrived in Novgorod, King Yaroslav gave him a most cordial welcome. Harald stayed with him over the winter and took into his keeping all the gold he had previously sent there from Constantinople, valuable treasure of all kinds. This hoard of wealth was so immense that no one in northern Europe has seen the like of it in one man's possession before."
Before he reached Novgorod Harald's mind was on treasure of another kind. He had been briefly imprisoned in Constantinople and made a daring escape. The Saga reports that as he rowed north he composed sixteen couplets about his adventures, all ending the same way. One is recorded: "Round Sicily we sailed our ship / With pride in all our hearts, / Running like a forest stag / It's not for any land-lubbers / To try that voyage again; / Yet the golden lady in Russia / Still spurns my suit." The last couplet alludes to Elizabeth, the daughter of King Yaroslav of Novgorod. Evidently the friendship between Yaroslav and Harald endured. "That winter, King Yaroslav gave his daughter Elizabeth in marriage to Harald; the Norwegians call her Ellisif."
Harald went on to capture Norway and become one of the most powerful kings of his day. Elizabeth has two daughters by Harald, Maria and Ingigerd. King Harald had many more adventures, he battled the Danes and internal enemies. In 1066 he attempted to invade England. In the Battle of Stamford Bridge, King Harold of England's army defeated his army and he died in the attack. Only weeks later Harold was killed by William the Conquerer at the Battle of Hastings. Elizabeth, Yaroslav's daughter had waited out the invasion in the Orkney Islands, she survived Harald and is reported in the Saga as having returned to Norway.
By Ryszard di Lis Sulima Suligowski
The Polish Nobility Commonwealth Guild is a not-for-profit Historical re-enactment organization of serious 'Living History' enthusiasts, and dedicated re-creationists who are interested in portraying the might of the great Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania of the 16th and 17th Century. They make scheduled appearances at Renaissance Faires throughout Southern California.
After identifying a noticible gap in the Renaissance Period Faire circuit (the lack of representation of Poland), I took my Polish descent to heart and formed the Guild to redress this imbalance. The Guild seeks to portray the rarely-told exciting historical accounts of Poland's military might in her Golden Age of the Commonwealth. The Guild proudly displays both the banner of the Polish Nobility Association Foundation and the heraldic srms of the Sulima Clan.
Our primary focus, is on the splendor, pride, and glory of what was, at the time, the greatest cavalry fighting force in the world: the Polish "Winged Hussars." They were both daunting and awesome to behold and compared to huge "avenging angels" of crimson and steel on horseback (the horses themselves were bred for swiftness and endurance, and their breeding stock was kept a military secret!). Our secondary aim is in the portrayal of authentically detailed costumes (and visual aids), a re-creation of the military, the lords and ladies, and other personalities of Polish/Lithuanian History, and to re-create the splendor of this historical period. During this time, the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest land empire in all of Europe and larger than Elizabethan England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, France, and the German states. Among her most notable battles, Poland was famously responsible for mercilessly crushing the advance of the Ottoman Empire, halting its invasion of Austria and the rest of Europe. It acheived this victory by strategically deploying several thousand of the famed Winged Hussars!
We portray the noble and courageous Husaria, the wealthy and powerful (and haughty ) Szlachta, together with the clever and witty chopstwo (common folk) of Poland. With our stage and street acting experience and fight choreography, we draw upon some of the influence of the Trilogy films of famed novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz (Ogniem i Mieczem [With Fire and Sword]). The result is a unique Slavic living re-enactment entertainment for the patrons attending 'Living History' events and Renaissance Faires. Recently, we went one step further and were invited to be featured participants in New York City's Pukaski Day Parade, appearing in full Winged Hussar armour on horseback!
Currently, we are focusing our efforts in the Southern California RenFaire circuit. It is also our aim to raise Polish National awareness wherever we go, seeking out Polish/Lithuanian communities, to share this exciting Historical information. Our Guild, although new and small, is growing and we invite new members. In addition to our reenactments, we are open to holding discussions, arranging vignettes, and organizing workshop classes in Polish living history. We are affiliated with the Polish Nobility Association Foundation (which can be found on the web at http://www.geocities.com/athens/atrium/9615/index.html).
As for our own activities, you can view them online at: http://www.geocities.com/Rik_Fox. Or you can contact me directly (Ryszard Suligowski [Rik Fox], 12647 Burbank Blvd, Apt 108, Valley Village CA 91607-1590, Rik_Fox@yahoo.com).
By Varaslav Rainchek
If you love the massive scale of Pennsic's field battles, you'll understand why I want to share with you a few insights about the computer game Cossacks - European Wars. As a SCAdian with a Rus persona, I just had to buy the full version of Cossacks - European Wars, once I had played the downloadable demo. Can you imagine building and controlling fighting units of the 17th and 18th centuries, with up to 8,000 units in play at one time? Can you envision sending the speedy Sich Cossack cavalry, waving their flashing sabers up hills and through forests to capture an enemy iron mine? Or placing units of pikemen or musketeers in fighting formations such as lines or squares, led by their own commander and drummer?
Play takes place among combat units and peasants from sixteen European nations, including Ukraine, Russia and Poland, each with unique national units, buildings, characteristics and fighting abilities. You can randomly or specifically select your nation and opponents, then test how your troops, cavalry, artillery, ships, defensive buildings and economy fare against the "enemy."
As your economy grows through mining, growing crops and cutting timber, so, too, can your technology develop. Evolving from the 17th to the 18th century, your fighting units may benefit from improved forging of weapons, better armor and training - all at a cost of your resources, of course. Buildings and defenses can become more impervious to attack. You can also enhance crop production.
Cossacks is a visually thrilling game. Individual units from grenadiers to musket-bearing Russian strelets show attention to detail, color, movement and reaction. Buildings struck by artillery rounds throw off shrapnel, showing smoke and fire. Near-misses cause clouds of dust and smoke. While an unguarded mine or artillery piece may be captured by an opposing warrior, a guarded mine that is overrun explodes and may kill some of the invaders.
Three-dimensional landscape modeling plays a huge role. From the top of a rugged hill, your units can fire further. Caught in a valley or a canyon, they may be trapped. Infantry or cannon may find their firing range blocked by buildings, hills or geographic features.
The artificial intelligence component of Cossacks will probe your defenses, seemingly learning your weak points as it sends enemy units to attack you. You should find it a challenging, real-time simulation that will entertain you for hours on end.
How authentic is the on-screen experience of Cossacks?
The game contains of five historic campaigns, including The Ukrainian Independence War (1648-1657), a Russian, French and English campaign and a tutorial. There are 10 smaller single-mission scenarios as well as numerous "death match" battle options. There are also several naval units available in certain missions. Besides individual play, you can game with up to seven opponents by modem, local area network or the Internet. I have not ventured that far outside, yet.
Buildings are also unique. There are onion-domed Orthodox churches that differ greatly from an English church or Turkish mosque.
As with any simulation that tries to accomplish so much, there are compromises and short-comings. You may find both advantages and limitations with your light-cavalry hussar units, for example. While in life they may have carried a sabre, pistols and a short musket, in this game they are limited to a sabre. With time, the outcome of certain confrontations may become predictable.
According to the manual, which covers over 160 pages of historic information and instructions, the game-creation team of GSC developed the game in Ukraine. Knowing that, it seems a little odd the game is available in several languages -- including Russian -- but not Ukrainian. It is distributed by German publisher CDV.
Although Cossacks may run on a lesser machine, be prepared to use at least a Pentium 266-mhz system with 64 megabytes of RAM and 4 megabytes of video cache. The more - the better. It will run on Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME and NT. Retail price is about $44.
By next year, a follow-up game by the same developers is expected to use the North American continent as a play-map, with native Americans, invaders, colonists and fortune-hunters competing for the resources.
While a plastic mouse may not replace the clang of duct-taped rattan as a battle instrument, Cossacks gives you an exciting, strategic adventure with historic draping. And after several hours of gaming, you may find that your arms are not bruised, but soreness is starting to creep into your other quarters. On the hallowed fields of Cooper's Lake, as you watch your next Pennsic field battle, bridge battle or town battle, maybe you'll feel the urge to tinker with the action. Picking up a copy of Cossacks after the war may give you the next best thing.
Final Note: You may also download a demo of the game from the Web site, but, if you do, encourage your modem to make all possible haste - and pour yourself a favorite beverage while you wait.
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