A couple of weeks ago we played a second game of Pike and Shot. It was only a one night affair because the table would be required to organise our demo game at Fiasco (Leeds, 30 October). This wasn't a problem because the game had been set up to go through the rules, as a learning exercise, and to try out one or two ideas.
Firstly, colunellas. There were four colunellas in action. These were classed as Reliable units of shot with Pike Company and Swordsmen. They are not pike blocks; something I failed to make clear in the set up post. Consequently, they cannot automatically turn to face or use Hedgehog.
The colunellas went forward against some very tardy French who failed to activate on every turn except the last. The colunellas fired several effective volleys then charged.
Even a charge by a unit of Gendarmes into a flank failed to stop the onslaught. This was down to some appalling dice rolls on my part. I rolled a bucket of dice vs a handful and lost. I was duly repulsed in the Break Test. Crossbowmen are rubbish in melee. Gascon Crossbowmen are double rubbish. They fell back everywhere.
Not being able to deliver closing fire is a real disadvantage. I'm still not sure why this should be the case. Crossbows and arquebus have similar rates of fire, both use level trajectories at close range, etc. I'm not saying I don't like it from a game point of view, I do, I just don't understand 'why'.
As the game wound up, the French pike charged and, even though the French pike were not the best quality, they were rolling equal numbers of dice to colunelas, though they had to win well to offset the swordsmen.
I have a mind to make the colunella sword and buckler element Swordsmen +1 rather than Swordsmen D3. Otherwise, even though my colunella were not fully play tested, it was obvious that they were not super units. In fact, they are pretty average in many ways and especially vulnerable to flank attacks. I think they will work very well. I also think they will need defences to hold against good quality pike blocks and determined heavy cavalry.
Next cavalry. On the other wing, a ding dong battle between heavy cavalry soon developed between large French and regular Venetian units. The latter were supported by Stradiots.
The cavalry battle went back and forth in a similar manner to the first game. I liked the charge, counter-charge, and retire aspect of the rules very much. It felt like a cavalry battle, and all the time the cavalry were getting weaker and weaker. The Stradiots proved to be very effective. Their use of Fire and Evade, meant that the French cavalry were unable to bring them to hand to hand combat.
In the end, both cavalry were fairly weak and the infantry felt able to take to the open field to decide the issue with a whiff of sulphur. Where the enemy have Stradiots (or similar) a unit or two with arquebus would probably be the best solution.
Finally, the centre was a simple match up between Swiss and Landsknecht pike blocks. The rules handle this quite well but I still hanker after big units. At present I have 36 figures in a standard unit and 54 in a large unit.
At the Leeds show I talked about this to a couple of people, and the possibility of having huge units. Both people had far more experience with the rules than I and both thought the rules elastic enough for them to work. At some point I'll try it. I envisage having 72 figures in a huge unit which is a step towards the right size.
I also think I will introduce some form of “Bad War” rule for Swiss and Landsknechts when fighting each other. Having read the appropriate section in the rules I'm not sure that it has the effect I'm looking for. I don't think the rule should make units more deadly rather it should make them more tenacious and less likely to give up the fight.
I'm not able to say for sure, as I don't know the rules well enough, but I wonder if a bonus (+2 say) to the loser’s Break Test might not be a better way simulate what history tells us happened when Landsknechts and Swiss met at push of pike: a stubborn professional struggle.
That will be the last game of Pike and Shotte until all the players have had time to read the rules. Graham has them at the moment, Peter will get them next. I like the rules enough to know I'll want to play them again.