Sunday, 2 November 2014

Pike & Shot - a last, muffled hurrah

Martin and I both like the so-called "Pike-and-shot" period for wargaming. Martin has a semi-generic Thirty Years War army which he has fielded as a French army and a German Catholic army. I've faced him with my semi-generic TYW army as Swedes. Beth has a great love for Cossacks in that period, but looking at the DBR army list, Cossacks by themselves have a snowball's chance against any army. So she's settled on Muscovite, which lets her field plenty of Cossacks as well as a goodly number of heavy cavalry lancers and decent infantry.

A week ago, Martin and I set out our DBR armies to have a bit of a fight; Catholic German Imperialists vs. Post-Gustavus Adolphus Swedes. It didn't work well for me. Martin had Derek as a subordinate general and I had Bear, although he had to leave to play another scheduled game, and Kevin took over.

My late Swedes have lots of "fast" pistol-armed cavalry as well as "fast" pikes and "fast" shot. I took about 5 battalion guns and one medium cannon to fill out the point values. Fast means that it hits hard in melee but the units can't support each other. I also made the mistake of putting a forest on one of the hills and not the other, which Martin promptly took and set his big and bigger guns there.


(Both Martin and I took the photos.)

Derek, Kevin, and I check our lists.

In a happier mood than I ended the day, I advance my left wing to face Martin's detached division.

Martin's centre and left --- Pikes, shot, light guns, and pistol-armed cavalry

Martin's right --- a pike & shot unit, dragoons, and Croats of the Imperial Army

The command stands were not actually counted as being there. They designated a unit and just looked good.

My Swedes - The Green Regiment on the left and the Yellow Regiment in the centre of the photo.

Murderer's Row ---- Martin's two heavy cannon and two medium cannon, all of whom laid much, much execution on my army's heads.

My left wing --- dragoons and mounted jägers, Finnish Hackapelli backed by cuirassiers, a light gun, and a 6-stand unit of German mercenary horse. Not that it did me much good.

The Swedish "light" horse has chased off the German Imperialist horse and threatened the Imperialist infantry, but the Blue regiment of infantry is stacked up behind it's leading elements. My only heavier gun is taking pot shots at the infantry and the Green regiment has slowed up and screened the light gun behind it.

The Germans have begun to curl back their flanks, but I'm having trouble moving up to get to him. The guns on the hill (far left of the photo) kept driving back my Yellow regiment and with it the light guns that accompanied it. They were even able to shoot up some light guns I had painstakingly pushed through the woods.

The mercenary horse face the pikes while the Croats advance.

Martin's dragoons bounce back and forth in the woods while the jägers fire on Martin's pikes. My Hackapelli and cuirassiers were pushed through a gap in the woods to threaten the left flank of Martin's centre command.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Kevin was rather aggressive and pushed the Blue regiment close to Martin's pikes.

Martin's dragoons mix it up with what is left of my cuirassiers and Hackapelli with the mounted jäger in for good measure and a flank attack. He got hurt but it messed up my advance. Martin refers to his dragoons as "the tar baby." Check your Uncle Remus references for this.

The Yellow Regiment is being whittled down.

Martin's pikes stand firm.

... and in better focus.
The Hackapelli having been disposed of and the jägers driven off, the dragoons make ready to wipe out the cuirassiers.
Oy! Such a thing!

This is where the game ended. The Swedish infantry was moving up but slowly while the Imperialists had crushed the Swedish left wing. The Croats were making ready to do an end run. We called the game and declared it at least a winning draw if not a marginal victory in favour of the Imperialists.
The major upshot of this game was to galvanise my dislike for DBR. I liked it for a time, but now if find a lot of cheese-y and game-y stuff in it. A number of my troops experience the "buttocks of death" where they could not retreat or push back a unit behind them, so they evaporated. I had gotten over my dislike of the idea of each stand being a discrete unit rather than a building block of a larger unit, but every time I play DBR I have to reset my mind on this. I believe Kevin shared my distress on these topics or at least his minor, low-key rants about Barker-ized rules led me to believe so.
Since then I have obtained a copy of Warlord Games' Pike & Shotte. With a little fiddling, we should be able to use our 15mm armies. I know I like Black Powder and I'm wanting to try Hail, Caesar! for my Ancients. All of those games flow and play in a similar manner to Warmaster, which is one of my favourite games systems. Of course, I'll let you know.

Since Remembrance Day is almost upon us...


  1. Sorry about that John. We'll find another pike and shot rule set eventually.

    1. I don't doubt it, Martin. There are no perfect sets of rules. I'm looking forward to Pike & Shote.

    2. I was looking though the rules tonight, and I'm not convinced by having the pike and shot as separate brigades when the drill manuals say that the pike and the shot were mutually self-reinforcing and synergistic.

      If I were to propose a house-rule, would be to have them as mixed units, but vary the level of melee dice with the amount of pike in the unit.

  2. I have long had a feeling that DBR was published in an underdeveloped form, and after a hiatus of not playing it for several years, discovered that its major issues hadn't really been addressed. The few changes I recall that were made (e.g. reducing the Pi(I) shooting ranks from 3 to 2), I disagreed with!

    I did think, though that the 'buttocks of death' gig had been fixed - it has, I believe in DBM. In my view the rule should be that that should be a disaster (pun intended) for the rear unit, unless, and only unless, a front corner of front edge is contacted by the unit being pushed back. In the latter case it is the pushed back unit that is destroyed.

    But possibly the really annoying thing about DBR is that it had a brief period of high popularity in Christchurch, at a time in which I had just written my own Old School set for my Revell armies (Imperialists and Swedes). After much hesitation I finally based my guys (nore or less) for DBR. Lo and behold, interest in DBR almost at once evaporated practically to nothing.

    I also found shortly before the demise of DBR (actually it still gets a very occasional airing from time to time at the club), that the game works better for some periods with 500AP forces rather than 400AP (I don't recall I ever tried the condensed form). In my view 30YW armies fit that category.

    This is particularly true of the Gustavus Adolphus Swedes. At 400AP if you try to field two Brigades, you have too few APs remaining to field a decent force of horse and guns (though you do get your battalion guns. If you want to beef up the horse and guns, you're left with one Brigade.

    At least with 500AP you can field 2 brigades, have plenty of AP to field respectable horse and guns, the whole looking rather more like a Swedish army.

    1. That all sounds about right. I used to use George Gush's rules and later switched to Newbury Fast Play, which one of our group decided needed "tweaking" from Newbury's Warfare in All Ages. Big mistake. Newbury rules seem to me to be more of an exercise in accounting than a game,

    2. We played at 535 points if I recall correctly.

  3. A very credible table and some lovely troops there, Pastor. I have never played DBM and confess I haven't really wanted to. It seems very much of an earlier era, like WRG Horse and Musket. Have you looked at Maurice? It ay be a little too late for the TYW period.