As you may have gathered, I picked up Warlord Games’ Pike and Shotte ruleset this spring, along with a bunch of 10mm scale Thirty Years War models.
Two armies I have in the making – Imperials/Leaguists and Swedes with some other protestant friends to tag along (Saxons, Hessians). I intend to end up with two armies of 750 points each. Not overwhelmingly big but a first nice milestone. Also, units are rather cheap. What you see in the above picture is about 285 points and the table (slightly less than 6′ by 4′) felt pretty well covered already. getting 750 points a side onto that size table might get a bit crowded already, even at 10mm scale models. But I guess that’s how Pike&Shotte works. It, along with its brethen Hail Caesar and Black Powder, are notorious for taking up lots of space and very dynamic movement across the table.
Skirmish at Franzensmünde, 1631
Two enemy forces, both dispatched to raid a nearby village for supplies and “war taxes”, meet in a pitched battle. The scenario objective for either side is to drive off the enemy army, i.e. breaking more than half of their batallia. Batallia count as being broken if more than half their units are broken/destroyed or driven off the table.
So here are the army lists:
Army commander: Colonel Andreas Matthias Kehraus [command rating: 8]
1st Batalion – Commander: Colonel Andreas Matthias Kehraus
1 unit of Swordsmen
1 unit of Pikemen
1 unit of Musketeers
2nd Batalion – Commander: Lieutenant Colonel Philipp Hussmann de Namedi [command rating: 8]
1 unit of Pikemen
2 units of Musketeers
3rd Batalion – Commander: Colonel Heinrich von Holk [command rating: 8]
2 units of Cuirassiers
1 unit of Croat light Cavalry
Army commander: General Major Nils Brahe [command rating: 9]
1st Batalion – Commander: General Major Nils Brahe
1 unit of Guard Veteran Swedish Pikemen
2 units of Veteran Swedish Musketeers
attached Light Cannon
2nd Batalion – Commander: Colonel Carl von Bose [command rating: 9]
1 unit of Veteran Swedish Pikemen
2 units of Veteran Swedish Musketeers
attached Light Cannon
3rd Batalion – Commander: Georg Christof Taupadel [command rating: 8]
1 unit of Dragoons
1 unit of Harquebusiers
For commanders, as I have no models for those yet, I used coins and such. 10 Euro cent are the army commanders (and commanders of the 1st batalion respectively), the 5 cent pieces are 2nd bataltion commanders and the washers are the cavalry commanders.
So essentially the Swedes got relatively stronger infantry, more capable infantry commanders and light guns while the Imperials got their heavy cavalry. Despite the smaller scale I kept all the movement and shooting ranges the same. One thing about the pictures: The light quality was varying that’s why the colours may shift a little. Second, especially on the Swedish side, there were some unpainted models in there. On the catholic side it was just the musketeers that were unpainted. I’ll try to keep the descriptions clear and concise if possible.
The Swedes arrived on the battlefield early and set up defensive positions. All their units start in regular formation and set up in a battle line with the light guns in the front and overlapping areas of fire. The Imperial army set up more aggressively with all units in march column to get towards the enemy quicker. It also makes them more vulnerable to enemy shooting though. The Infantry sets up to advance in the cover of a forest on the left flank with the cavalry batalion setting up on the far right to put some pressure on the Swedish battle line.
Turn 1 – Swedes: Not much movement, only Taupadel, in true cavalry commander fashion, sent his men off to the right flank to tie up and harass the Imperials’ 1st Batalion.
Turn 1 – Imperials: Kehraus’ batalion storms for the forest on the left flank as well, moving at impressive speed to drive the enemy cavalry off and not let the dragoons set up position in the forests (because they would be hard to get out of there again). The Swordsmen take the route through the forest.
2nd batalion advances cautiously. They obviously don’t like the idea of running straight towards the veteran musketeers and light guns.
The Imperial cavalry wasn’t too lucky with their orders right from the start. The cuirassiers obviously didn’t like having to go with the very exotically clothed and wild light cavalrymen from the Balkans and also advance cautiously.
Turn 2 – Swedes: With Imperial cavalry threatening the left flank, Brahe orders his batalion to wheel around a bit to cover the flank. 2nd batalion also wheels around, fully trusting the cavalry to keep the enemy advancing on the forest side occupied. The cavalry batalion, eager not to get into close combat, change to line formation, fall back and the Dragoons dismount so the whole batalion can open fire at the somewhat isolated Swordsmen. With some support from the veteran musketeers from 2nd batalion they manage to completely anihilate the Swordsmen unit. Ouch.
Turn 2 – Imperials: 1st batalion changes from marching column to battle formation for some payback. 2nd batalion reculantly advances further whilst sending one unit of musketeers through to woods to look where the Swordsmen had gone. Together with 1st batalion’s musketeers they deal some severe damage to the Swedish Harquebusiers and disorder them. Meanwhile the Imperial cavalry advances at a brisk pace.
Just as a reminder – the red glass beads are “wound markers”. Each unit has a Stamina score which usually is three. If the number of wound markers surpasses the stamina value the unit has to start rolling break tests. Wound markers can be removed with special “Rally” orders but other than that they remain in play, symbolizing a mix of casualties, fatigue and dwindling morale. Blue markers (along with white dice showing the target sign) indicate Disorder which basically means “stunned”.
Turn 3 – Swedes: The cavalry again falls back so they won’t get charged by the enemy. The Harquebusiers’ squadron commander is busy trying to beat his unit back into shape. 1st batalion also fall back half a pace to form a solid battle line and to be more likely to get a good shot at the cavalry if they should really come around the left flank. 2nd batalion advance for the pikemen to take enemy charges, splitting their firepower with one unit firing to the right at the advancing enemy at the forest and the other unit firing at the enemy cavalry which still is in marching column which makes them a nice target. Shooting doesn’t do all that much. A few casualties on the Pikemen at the northern forests and only few casualties on one of the cuirassier units even though one unit of musketeers and both light guns shot at them.
Turn 3 – Imperials: With the enemy Harquebusiers struggling for order in their ranks they make a good target so Colonel Kehraus orders his 1st batalion’s pikemen to charge the enemy cavalry with the musketmen securing the flank against counterattacks. For their charge reaction the Harquebusiers wisely decide to leg it and retreat. 2nd batalion order their musketeers in the forest to advance a bit and give 1st batalion, who now are in the open, some fire support. 2nd batalion’s pikemen get orders to follow their comrades into the forests to support the charge on the left flank as all of a sudden the clouds drift apart and a trail of light leads the pikemen straight onward instead and the original order is ignored. In fact the command check for that unit was a blunder which usually leads to units doing something randomly generated.
The cavalry batalion’s commander decides to forfeit the original plan and instead rally behind the small forest, change to battle formations and wait and see how the Swede reacts to the threat on the other end of their battle line. Shooting doesn’t cause any casualties but the pikemen of the Swedish 2nd batalion are disordered by the hefty fire which opens them up for a flank attack the next turn.
Turn 4 – Swedes: Taupadel’s Daring Dragoons see their chance for enfilading the enemy musketeers (i.e. positioning to their side and shooting along their battle line rather than through it frontally which is much more effective) and position themselves right next to them while the Harquebusiers stay away from the enemy. 2nd batalion stay in place. 1st batalion decide that they won’t need two units of musketeers to hold the flank so one of them is dispatched to support the guns’ endeavor to shoot the enemy cuirassiers to bits. Despite an unholy (or holy, depending on who you ask) amount of firepower, the furthermost cuirassiers at the forefront take no damage but get slightly disordered. The Dragoons’ salvo against the Imperial musketeers is much more devastating, leaving the unit shaken and disordered.
Turn 4 – Imperials: The enemy pikemen are veterans but sitting out in the open makes them a nice target so 2nd batalion’s pikemen as well as their counterparts in 1st bataltion both are ordered to charge the enemy unit at once and both comply in glorious fashion, leaving the Swedish pikemen in a sticky situation.
This is the moment the cavalry commander has been waiting for. He orders his men to get into combat at full speed, however his orders are missed by the men in the hail of lead and cannonballs flying towards the them so they stay in place. Only one of the cuirassiers unit trots ahead. Imperial shooting causes one of the enemy musketeers units some damage and disorders them.
The push of the pike is a slow and bloody business but the Swedish veterans not only manage to hold their ground but also cause the attackers more casualties than they receive (if only barely) and win the round of combat! However, the Imperial pikemen hold their ground as well and the push will continue the next turn.
Turn 5 – Swedes: While the Dragoons stay in place for another round of fire, the Harquebusiers charge the flank of the enemy pikemen for relieve their comrades. Seeing how the enemy cavalry abandoned the plan to charge on the left, 1st batalion’s elite pikemen are ordered to rush to their brethen’s aid. The drummer boy must have gotten something wrong though and the unit prepares for retreat! Again, a blunder on the command check and a particularly catastrophic one too because the result would have made the unit to retreat and given how close they were to the table edge means that that would have fled the field! At this point I houseruled that the elite wouldn’t actually retreat off the able but just would be disordered instead, otherwise the game would have been pretty one-sided from that point on.
So 1st batalion stays in place. 2nd batalion is either locked in close combat or disordered so we continue straight on to shooting. Another enfilade from the Dragoons against the Imperial musketeers makes the unit break and flee, meaning that of 1st batalion only the pikemen are left and the batalion is broken which puts a serious dent in the batalion’s pikemen locked in combat, especially with the Harquebusiers attacking their flank now. The cannons and a unit of musketeers fire at the closer of the cuirassier units, again cause no real damage but disorder the unit.
The bloody fight, in its second round now, leads to several casualties on both sides but still no clear winner emerges even though the odds clearly are tipped towards the Swedes.
Turn5 – Imperials: Von Holk again tries to explain to his cavalry that now is the time to rush towards the combat taking place in front of them but again, none of his units seem to understand while some Croat cavalrymen start remarking on the quality of the supposedly superior heavy cuirassiers. The remaining Imperial musketeers do their best to damage and disorder the enemy but aren’t too successful either.
Close combat is entering the decisive phase as the Harquebusiers finally pay the toll for charging a pike block, even if only in the flank, and are wiped out – breaking the Swedish cavalry batalion! – while Imperial 1st batalion’s pikemen are broken and retreat from combat as well. The Swedish pikemen also start taking heavy casualties.
Turn 6 – Swedes: Rallied and seeing how their comrades are doing pretty well, 1st batalion’s commander is too fascinated with the ongoings of battle to give his men any meaningful orders and they remain in place. 2nd batalion’s musketmen are immediately ordered to attack the flank of the enemy pikemen. Some shots are exchanged between the Dragoons and the Imperial musketeers in the forest. The Imperials take some casualties.
Close combat finally comes to an end with the Swedes winning and the Imperial pikemen retreating. In fact though, both sides suffered heavy losses.
Turn6 – Imperials: The cavalry batalion STILL doesn’t manage to start anything worthwhile. Shooting goes much better though, hitting and disordering the battered and bruised Swedish pikemen, almost breaking the unit.
Turn 7 – Swedes: Commander Brahe orders his 1st batalion to fill the gap 2nd batalion’s pikemen left in the battle line. This time they comply, if only slowly. 2nd batalion’s musketeers pull back to form a battle line again. The remaining cavalry unit, the dragoons, are ordered to get into a better position to fire at the retreating Imperial pikemen but prefer to stay in place instead. Shooting doesn’t do anything.
Turn 7 – Imperials: Again, von Holk tries to remind his cavalry that they are meant to be the aggressive shock troops of their time but still, no order gets through and the whole batalion stays in place. What a horrible performance. Shooting won’t work any more either.
Turn 8 – Swedes: To add insult to injury, the Swedish units line up again in their original battle formation as if nothing had happened over the past seven turns. Shooting wipes out Imperial 2nd batalion’s pikemen as well which means that if just one more Imperial musketeers unit from that batalion was forced to flee or was destroyed the army would be broken.
Turn 8 – Imperials: Things are looking grim for the catholic cause at which point the cavalry batalion decides to wake up and at least one unit of cuirassiers charge ahead and into one of Swedish 2nd batalion’s musketeers who don’t manage to hide in the pike unit nearby. They probably are too surprised to see that the Imperials brought cavalry too. The rest of the Imperial cavalrymen aren’t impressed and still won’t listen to their commander. Then something wild happens: One of the remaining Imperial mustketeer fire at Swedish heavily damaged pikemen, cause a casualty marker and the unit breaks! So all of a sudden the odds are even again and whichever side would destroy an enemy’s musketeer unit first would win the game. With the Imperials just charging a horde of big, angry men in thick armour on big, angry horses into an enemy musketeers unit.
The cuirassiers charge the Swedish musketeers, win the combat by a large margin but most of the musketeers manage to flee. For their sweeping advance the cuirassiers follow the musketeers, charging again [cavalry can do that once each turn. If they charged and broke an enemy unit they may do a sweeping advance which can even be another charge against the fleeing unit which leads to another close combat round] but this time not really doing all that much damage and the Swedish Musketeers hold their ground.
Turn 9 – Swedes: With their musketeers barely clinging on to their lives (and the table edge) against the heavy cavalry, everybody in the Swedish army storms towards the combat to help their comrades out. The Cuirassiers end up being surrounded on all but one sides, do well but eventually ending up getting beaten into the ground with swords, daggers, musket butts, pikes, nails and teeth.
At this point I had to call it quits due to time. It most probably would have ended in a shootout between musketeers. Maybe the rest of the Imperial cavalry would have entered the battle as well, and if they would have had a good chance finishing it in their favour. But then, last round’s charge of cuirassiers against the musketeers looked like a dead sure thing too.
All in all it was a very interesting game. I realized some things I hadn’t in the earlier learning game: First, there is more to this game tacticswise than I realized earlier. Luck still plays a huge part, especially with break tests being pretty open to varying results any of course command checks potentially shutting down large parts of your army. Of course this can be countered with more and smaller batalions – however if you only got something like three units in a batalion I realized that they tend to break easily so you have to balance the number of units per batalion.
March column formation can be immensely useful but does come with downsides.
Cannons looked a bit underpriced to me on paper before but I quickly realized how they work or what potential they have. Cannons don’t hit squat but IF they do they can work pretty well. Nothing hugely devastating but nice as what they are – a support weapon. Cannons at that time were very inaccurate (as all black powder weapons were) but still nobody would want to get hit by those things. I can see batteries of these things being able to do quite a lot of damage.
As mentioned above, I used regular ranges despite the models being just over one third as big as what the rules are made for. I also played over the narrow sides of the table rather than the wide sides. I’ll try cutting ranges in half next time and see how it goes then but so far I was satisfied.
Pike and Shotte isn’t meant to be played solo and I’d love to try playing against a human opponent next time now what I’m pretty solid on the rules. It’s not a tournament system at all but then wargames aren’t too often and I really enjoy random or unforseen things happening on the table because this is how entertaining stories develop around a game.
I hope that you enjoyed this battle report and if you do, please let me know in the comments sections, via Facebook or e-mail. As always – if you happen to get into the thought of doing your own Black Powder era army (or any era really) but lack the time or inclination to paint all the figures just contact Battle Brush Studios. I always enjoy helping out with such things.