Sunday, 14 April 2013

Renaissance Renewed

In former years, Renaissance gaming (aka 'Pike & Shot') was one of my favourite periods to game. I don't know what happened... Well, I do but I'd rather not pick that scab right now. In any event, when Martin broached the subject of playing Pike & Shot again, I was eager to play. This all came up in discussion of DBA and DBR rules. As I said in a previous blog, I was opposed to playing DBA for a number of reasons, but once I discovered the "big battle" system, and played it twice, I was hooked. Martin and I had been discussing a Thirty Years War game using DBR (De Bellis Renationis by Wargames Research Group) and on Saturday it came to be.
We decide on 500 points each. Martin chose a German Catholic army and I took the Swedes of Gustavus Adolphus. My army included Cuirassiers, "light cavalry" (not so light really - both Swedish and German), "inferior German cavalry", and Finnish Hakapelli. The cuirassiers and light cavalry charge at the trot and fire pistols just before contact, the inferior cavalry fire by ranks en Caracole (fire and retire by ranks) and try to use fire power rather than the sword in the attack, and contact is made at the walk. The Hakapelli attack at the full gallop... and they are nuts. My infantry was Pikes (one superior, one ordinary), shot, and a Warband of raw Irish/Scots with hand weapons only. Added in were two battalion guns, two ordinary field guns, and one superior field gun. Martin's troops were much the same - superior pistol-armed cavalry, some ordinary pistol-armed cavalry, pike and shot regiments, and six guns, including two siege guns. (Heavy, merciless SOB's)
Martin's left flank division - pike'n'shot, dragoons, commanded shot, and pistol armed cavalry.

My centre - Swedish pike'n'shot, a battalion gun, and the general.
The die shows how many "pips" the division has. Any sort of manoeuvre costs pips.

New German Cavalry fighting for Sweden with some commanded shot.
Rob commanded this wing which included Swedish and Hessian Cuirassiers
and German mercenary cavalry as well.

Martin's centre division, commanded by Derrick.
We all agreed that London Hydro wanted their poles back from the pikemen.
Derrick commanded the German infantry centre and Rob led the Swedish left flank division, mostly cavalry. We diced for aggression and the Swedes became the attacker. We diced for weather - FOG! Just what every Swedish player wants to see! Shades of L├╝tzen! Anyway, Rob and I gamely advanced and the fog blew away in the second turn. Both of our flanks, cavalry heavy, advanced quickly and the centre, anchored in more ways than one by the slow artillery, followed. The Germans (whom I had been originally told were going to be French) held firm, but their left came out to meet my Swedish and Finnish cavalry.
It didn't go well for us Lutheran types. Our command dice were very low. Through no fault of his own, Rob actually rolled three ones in one turn - triple snake-eyes!  Simpson snake-eyes!  (aka "a Homer")  My Finns tried to turn the flank of the German left but there were only two stands of Hakapelli and it wasn't enough. The Dragoons met them and shot at them from the woods, killing one stand. Martin later said the dragoons were the proverbial "tar-baby" to mess up my advance. (If you don't know your Uncle Remus references, a tar baby is a distraction that fixes a person's attention and action on a worthless struggle. You end up being tied up and unable to back away, since it's made of tar.)

Two views of the dragoons 'dry gulching' my Finns.
On the Swedish left, Rob was quite aggressive and moved his cavalry quickly. They came to grips with Martin's superior cavalry and some pike'n'shot. In the meantime, Derrick gleefully bombarded my infantry and right flank cavalry with 4 heavy guns. I detached my Gaels to support the right, but they stalled due to lack of command pips. Both Rob and I rolled horribly for command pips and that got frustrating.
Martin adjust his left flank division and dragoons.
He borrowed the commanded shot from me, hence the
Blue Bonnets on the end.

Two views of Derrick's infantry/artillery line. By the end of the game,
he'd picked off 4 out of 5 of my cannon.

That gap in my formation USED to be a battalion gun.
Rob and Martin fought a very confusing cavalry-heavy melee on the Swedish left. Meanwhile the Swedish right's morale was shattered and they began to fall back. In the end, by Swedish infantry in the centre never reached the German infantry formations. We had started too far away and there was too much ground to cover while being fired upon and while moving at artillery speeds. (We didn't check how wide the table was to be in the rules, so we'd been advancing from a line about six inches from the table edge.)
My Swedish "light cavalry" hit Martin's pikes and general.
We were cut up.

Rob's German Cavalry (Right) followed by his Curassiers meet
Martin's superior cavalry.

Cavalry engaged. Commanded shot firing at the French shot.
The New German Cavalry fires their pistols at a distance.

The melee continues and the bases thin out.

The Swedish and Swedish-employed Germans hack and slash
at the German-employed Germans.

From Martin's side, the New German cavalry attack the pikes
with pistol and sword.
In the end, we had to concede the battle. We just didn't have the stuff. I still find DBR clunky but I did enjoy the game and I'll play it again. One good sign (a second was Martin's pledge to cut his pikes down to a more realistic size.  "Can you get UHF on those things?" "Bucko, you can get Tierra del Fuego!"), he want to look over the old WRG Renaissance rules by George Gush. These are the rules I first played back when the Earth was young and I've still got them. It may be a while but we'll try them. Until then, I can deal with the odd things in DBR since I'll get to play Pike & Shot period
The raw Gaels advance futilely to support the Swedish cavalry.

My Swedish Light Horse begins to fragment.

Derrick - in his Evil Empire shirt - prepares to bombard me...
.Lessons ---
  • Don't ever throw all ones for your command roles in DBR... never, never, never.
  • Make sure your table is the right size. Very little is more frustrating than parading over a too-large field under heavy artillery fire.
  • Don't separate small units from the main body. It cost one 'pip' to move all the stands in a division if they are touching. It costs two "pips" to move a unit that not in base-to-base contact.
Next week: more Naval Thunder for World War I... or so I'm told.


  1. Next time - Cossacks on the march! Huzzah for Taras Bulba.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Ray. It was fun. Some day I'll win one!

  3. Crikey John, if you think DBR is clunky wait til you re-try the George Gush rules. Life's too short to add and subtract all those factors. Big Battle or Giant Battle DBA may be the way forward. Or the Pike and Shot derivation of Black Powder.

    Anyway, thanks for posting.

    1. I appreciate the advice, Keith. Originally I played Gush's rules and switched (because our group in the States did) to Newbury Fast Play Renaissance. Not THERE'S a misnomer! Especially when one of the group demanded we add some "details" from Newbury's "Warfare Throughout the Ages" which some of us called "Warfare That Takes Ages." I do like the Big/Giant Battle option and I have no reason to switch again. As with any rules, there's things that seem odd. I'm not sure I want to do Black Powder. I just read through them recently and I'm not convinced. New rules means new expense, but I'm keeping an open mind... except if it says "Newbury."

  4. Great looking game, with wonderful figures, your Swedish army is impressive!

    1. Thank you, Phil. I had painted the Swedish "Yellow" Regiment a while back, but could I find it? Most of the troops are 'generic' to be used for almost any Pike & Shot army, but I was originally trying to do an Irish Confederate Army for the ECW.