Saturday 22 December 2012

Pike and Shotte - Second Play-test

With the first play-test four weeks ago, last weekend Ian and I decided upon a second play-test of Pike and Shotte.  For various reasons, Christmas and all the associated evening card writing, shopping and wrapping included, I didn't get to look at the rules properly again until we started playing(!)  This in itself was a test of the rules.  To my amazement we seemed to pick up where we left off four weeks ago. We just flowed straight back into it. (The above pic is from behind the Royalist Right wing on Game Turn 1 - The wall is made from cat litter layers on PVA glue!)

This time I added a bit more in the way of scenery, a few more enclosures, a stone wall and a few more wooded areas.  No open moorland this time but not First Newbury either.  I played Parliamentarian this time.  We settled for a standard layout - a centre of Infantry and a wing of horse flanking them.  Each was a brigade strength each (i'm not comfortable with the term 'Battalia' which the rules keeps using for a Brigade. I always thought a Battalia was a composite unit of Pike sleeved by musket, often by the breaking of a large regiment into two parts forming two Battalia...however I accept I might not be correct in this).  The term 'Brigade' is much more familiar for a grouping of several regiments for me anyway.

Game Turn 1

The dice was with me on the first throw. I got to give my orders and move first.  My first order was to my Infantry; 'The Infantry Brigade will commence a General Advance towards the enemy centre'. This bold order was unfortunately failed as the dice refused me.  Clearly the Trained Bands had some pay discussions to sort out first!  My cavalry and dragoons advanced on both flanks thankfully.  My two pieces of medium artillery started a long range barrage onto Newcastle's regiment of Whitecoats.

Ian's Royalists opted to hold the Infantry for the first move and also to push the cavalry forward. This gave a close stand-off as in the picture above.

The Parliamentarian Infantry Brigade above with gun battery between Infantry Regiments.

Game Turn 2

I gave my Infantry Brigade another order for a general advance and threw a double six (A blunder!!!)  This was my first blunder throw in any play-test, even solo efforts.  With some trepidation I threw again and checked the table. It was a move to the left side a full turn.  Not so disastrous. A rearwards movement would have been a touch embarrassing though, considering how I had set up so close to the table edge! My cavalry advance on both flanks in the meantime.

Ian's Royalists respond by holding still in the centre again (probably to allow his men to laugh at mine!) and by unleashing his cavalry in a full blooded charge on both flanks. I make a response counter-charge with my outnumbering units on the right.  Battle is now well under way. Both of my cavalry units on my right break and flee...carrying away Lt General Cromwell!!! Disaster!  The only positive being that the successful Royalist Cavalry Regiment has been left with sufficient casualties to make it 'Shaken', which appears to mean no more charges for this regiment.

The Royalist cavalry about to successfully charge Roundheads of twice their number.

The effect of the charge...fleeing Roundheads!

The marker says it all; 'Shaken not stirred!'

Haselrigge's cuirassiers on my left are forced to pull back. Only my dragoons on my left behind the stone walls give the Royalists any doubt as to how to follow up.  Things really are not looking good for the Army of Parliament!

Haselrigge falls back to regroup. So let me get this straight. My right has gone and my left is pulling back...It's a good job I still have a centre!

The Royalist Centre.  Newcastle's Regiment are disordered by the cannonballs hitting their ranks (puff of ubiquitous cotton wool!)

An overview of the centre from behind the Royalist lines.

Game Turn 3

My Infantry brigade in the centre at last makes a solid move forwards.  My artillery barrage continues to hit Newcastle's men. My cavalry on my right continue to flee off the board.  Haselrigge's cuirassiers re-group on my left. Things are looking slightly better now.

The Royalists order an infantry advance.  Things suddenly look dramatic as both brigades advance towards each other. Not all of the brigade can advance however. The artillery barrage on Newcastle's has disordered them so they cannot be ordered forward.  The Royalist artillery fire is ineffective.  Both cavalry wings hold to await developments.

Advance of the infantry

One Parliamentary Regiment swings left of the enclosure to block Rupert's Foote.

Game Turn 4

This turn appears to be crucial and so it proves.  I order a charge with my Infantry.  The Red Trained Bands launch into Pennyman's Royalist Foote.  Essex's Regiment give support on the flank.  Pennyman is supported by the shaken Royalist horse.

Up close and personal. The Trained Bands charge into Pennyman's blewcoats.

A wider view of the combat showing supports on the flanks.

All units in the combat add up their scores for an overall victor to be found.  The Royalist Infantry are overwhelmingly beaten in the combat and break completely.....and there we ran out of time!


So what can I say...what a superb game it was!  We couldn't quite get to a point where a clear victor was found.  I had lost a cavalry brigade on the right early on but the left was quite well drawn and the centre was being won by the Parliamentarian Infantry. Suddenly things didn't look so good for the Royalists.

I did make two mistakes with the rules.  With the infantry combat, even though all of the units in the fight combine score totals to find the winner, I should have thrown for a break test for each losing unit. In this case each musket wing and the pike block is a unit (thus 3 x units).  I instead used the break test and applied the result to all three.  I should also have thrown a break test for the supporting unit - in this case the cavalry unit you can see in the picture above threatening my flank.

The rules flowed really well, and with the small tweaks made in the previous game, this assisted in making it very playable.  I love the order system and how brigade orders make it important to keep brigades together so they are more cohesive and not receive penalties which could upset their orders being received.  This has the wonderful effect of battle-line being kept together and discourages those 'Firework Displays' of units which can happen in some rules.
A final view of the action at end-of-play.

I also like the 'blunder' aspect of the orders.  This is a fun element, but we know that blunders in orders do occur in warfare throughout the ages. This is a very simple way in which to make blunders a possibility.  The skill lies in how the opponent can exploit it quickly.

Movement rates and fire distances seem sensible. Everything seems to function how it did historically. For instance, Dragoons are very flexible, can give closing fire and evade and are great for taking ground like enclosures.  The hard part for them is maintaining ground when under pressure. They do not like hand to hand combat, but can sometimes surprise you!  I look forward immensely to using 'commanded shotte' with the cavalry as I think this will work really well.

There are a couple of minor things in the rules which I don't agree with and will change:  Firelocks should not out-range matchlock muskets. The fire-lock is a change of musket ignition system - nothing more. They do not add extra powder to the charge behind the ball!

The rules on shaken units in brigades not being able to charge need looking at. A small cavalry brigade will quickly become ineffective and may as well leave the table when it takes casualties.  I have read of various ideas of how to improve this situation, mostly in terms of reducing command points or melee dice instead for shaken units (I think I read this on the Edinburgh Wargames website). I'll need to research this further and tinker a bit.

The rules do lend themselves well to minor tinkering and adjusting and indeed encourage players to do so.

Overall I absolutely love the rules and I look forward to playing the scenarios presented in the Caliver Book's ECW scenarios series.  I can't wait for the next game now!


  1. Great looking game and really enjoyed the battle report!

    I'm looking forward to trying the rules out sometime next year.


  2. Nice report and table! Th cavalry and the pikes are looking impressive!

  3. This is a great looking game; great write up too. I'm planning on doing a Sengoku Samurai game using Black Powder with rules tinkering too. Best, Dean

  4. Great report! Can't wait to get my first game in!