Tuesday night is games night at Oldmeldrum Wargames Club and over the last few weeks we've been playing using Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames Pike and Shot Rules. These are very simple and have straightforward mechanisms which give a good, basic, game when the scenarios in his book are used. Over the last few weeks I've added a few tweaks here and there, not to the rule mechanisms but more gloss on top.
Officers who can do a limited number of beneficial activities such as rallying off hits and modifying dice throws.
National troop types which are a little more representational of of the units which made up armies of the time, players being able to swap out swordsmen for artillery or units of "Loose Shotte" for example.
A card based activation system. Lifted from "Victory without Quarter" each unit gets a card allocated from a standard pack, each leader gets one, there's a random event card and a turn end card, so a little unpredictability enters the game.
And a very simple campaign system for tying games together. Casualty recovery, officer traits and a few other bits.
We've tried out some of these (officers, army break levels) over the last couple of weeks and they've added to the games but last night we tried the card activation system. We would probably have had artillery on the table too, but none of the armies rolled up got any swordsmen so no one had the option to swap. (The reason I picked swordsmen as the unit type to play around with was that by the mid and late 1500's most armies had dropped their sword and buckler types, polearmes, etc and moved to pike and shot. The Irish and Highland Scots being exceptions along with the English Billmen who still showed up when the levies were called up).
We played two games from the book with 6 unit armies. The Spanish with 4 infantry, 1 Cavalry (demilancers) and 1 Reiter and the English with 3 infantry, 2 Reiter and 1 Cavalry.
The games played out well with the initial friendly frustration of seeing red card after red card being drawn for the English being reversed then a few hands later the opposite occurred. The turn end came up too early sometimes and too late at others meaning the players were always quite able to do what they wanted when they wanted, a good way of representing the lack of control senior command had once battle was joined. It also meant that the second game was a tactical draw despite the Spanish being hammered by the English as the latter were unable to achieve their objective of seizing the crossroads.
4 players involved, two games played, nice figures shuffled about, battles that had a good period feel to them...whats not to like.
Almost! I was able to drive off the Spanish Cavalry which Dave commanded on that wing but the infantry proved to be too tough a nut to crack. Out of powder and shot, my LHS unit of Reiter galloped down the flank but couldn't quite seize the ground before the turn end card called end of play. On the English right John's infantry did a good job of whittling away the other Spanish units, led by Alistair, but couldn't get close enough to threaten the crossroads.
Had these been campaign games it's likely the Spanish losses over both battles would have left them unable to to fight a third battle. We will put that to the test next week.
Reiter units for the English also need to be looked into. At home or in Ireland I expect they'd be more skirmishing Border Horse, but in the Spanish Netherlands or in France they'd be more common, as part of an allied army. There aren't rules for skirmish cavalry so some thought is needed if I'm going to have games in Ireland or agains the Scots.