Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pike and Shotte: Pre-game Thoughts

[Editor’s note: this is a slightly edited version of James’ original post.  Isn’t it nice to see James using these figures again?]

This is one of my favourite figure collections and it has always needed a good set of 'quick fire' rules to spice up the games and encourage me to get the figures out more.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of Pike & Shotte at the Derby show. I've been reading, and re-reading, a section or two every day since. I found the rules quite well laid out, easy to navigate [1] and on the whole they look quite straight forward.

I particularly like the subtlety of the combat factors and the fact that there are not too many of them.  I think after a game or two most will be committed to memory and the quick reference sheet will become largely obsolete.

Anyway, I've set up a game between French (12 units) and Imperialists (15 units) both in three commands. This might be ambitious for a first game, we will see.

I've decided to put out units in unit sizes based on number of bases rather than the prescribed 'figures in unit' given in the rules. I've been advised that this is fine and generally looks better, especially for the pike blocks and, looking at the rules, I agree unit size isn't that important.

I've gone for standard pike in six stand units (36 figures); standard battle line infantry units in four stand units (16 figures) and small ones in two stand units (8 figures); all standard cavalry units in four stand units (8 figures).

I've kept terrain to manageable minimum. A couple of buildings to break things up; a few linear obstacles - some walls and a narrow stream; a small area of broken (boggy ground).

Initially I thought about playing on a completely open field, but aesthetic got the better of me. I hope doesn't confuse things too much.

I like the way that things worked out as regards the terms used for cavalry in the rules. My 'light horse' is based on deeper stands than my 'heavy horse'. I think it gives these guys the flighty look.

Another thing I like about the way Pike & Shotte is set up, is that most things look very "tweakable" at the level of the basic unit. I like rules that have the feel of a toolbox, and these certainly do.

Looking at the unit factors, I think that missile cavalry might be a little too strong in melee and useless at shooting. I guess the truth (or not) of this will be revealed in play.

I'm very much looking forward to this game. I do hope we like these rules. Without actually having played them, I can say they hold considerable promise. I will report on how we found the rules in the next few days.

[1] Some rules, however, are a little harder to find. This was particularly the case with the “proximity distance” rule and the possibility of "sexy sweeping moves around a unit to hit its flank or rear".  I thought they shouldn't be allowed but couldn't find the rule that stopped them. I looked at how other people played it and got several different answers, so it wasn't just me.

The answer has nothing to do with “proximity distance” but lies in a paragraph on charging in the middle of page 60 and the associated diagram just below. I read that page more than once and missed the import of the five words that hold the key.  They are "when the order is received".

A unit can only charge the enemy quarter it is facing when the order is given [Editor: and immediately received].  If there is no room to charge that quarter then you can't charge that quarter.  You can move to a into a position facing another quarter but you cannot charge home because the “new” quarter was not facing you at the start of your turn [Editor: presumably when the order to charge was both given & received]. It all makes perfect sense. It was just a case of finding the important text.

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