I am a fan of the ancient/medieval game in Neil Thomas’s ‘Wargaming – an Introduction’ and ‘Ancient and Medieval Wargaming(AMW) … so I was keen to see how he treats the Pike and Shot period when Treb invited us over for a ‘what if’ 1588 game.

The scenario pitted some of Bessie’s finest against a couple of Tercios and some supporting Reiters and light cavalry. The stats pretty much came from Neil’s lists.

Unlike the ancients period, the units are not all the same size … cavalry being the predictable 4 stands, mixed foot 6 and the Tercios twice that. As the deterioration system is the same as AMW (stands are worth 4 hits, the unit remains until it loses its last stand, and extra stands are lost in melee if a morale test is failed when losing a stand to hits) … it means foot are more durable than mounted and Tercios are virtually indestructible …

Treb’s 28mm Spanish

A Tercio count as 2 units for victory conditions – but you don’t get ‘1’ for killing half of it!

Taking one wing of Queen Bess’s array, the game went very much as I expected. After a very enjoyable and fun game, we managed to destroy the Reiters (just the Reiters, and then only with the second unit we threw against them) while elsewhere our forces were annihilated.

We got one of the two Tercios down to half strength by concentrating the firepower of three units onto it. Unable to stop its relentless approach, however, the assailants were trapped and cut to pieces.

Familiar with the basic mechanics from the ancients game, none of this was really surprising – it was obvious that the Spanish had better troops, more stands and higher morale across the battlefield. Balance never was a strong point of these quasi-historical lineups.

Although I understand why he does it, the casualty removal for foot incorporates an oddity … in shooting any stands removed are shot stands … in melee any removed are pikes. So the firefight mostly degrades firepower, the combat mostly degrades fighting power …

(Some of her Majesty’s finest – deployed about as close to a Tercio as you’d want to go!)

Ostensibly a good mechanism … But it does mean that eventually the last stand (literally and metaphorically) is of shot around the colours ... and these are the weakest men in the unit so are wiped out rather easily.

This seems to be the exact opposite of the deterioration and behaviour we hear in descriptions.

Of course there is a familiar ring to it: another system that has base removal and differentiates between pike stands and shot stands (and therefore must have a criterion as to which you must remove, and therefore builds in implausibilities).

Then again, this was an entertaining evening, and provided food for thought as well as a diverting game.

The rules need a good deal of refinement: more definition on turning, wheeling, lining up charges, when is/isn’t a unit a flank charge etc. Plus of course, proper command rules (always lamentably absent though utterly key to the warfare of most periods) …

Much like Warlord’s Pike and Shotte which was also sampled recently, there is a good game in it, if not a particularly historical one. It is a much quicker game than Pike and Shotte, I think – but the balance issues are pronounced when not using the same units on both sides (as would often be the case with, say, ECW) …

The mechanisms could provide the engine of a very engaging Umpire moderated historical refight, or for the quickfire resolution of a more elaborate campaign.

(or you could just borrow the bits you like …) …


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One Comment on “”

  1. Trebian Says:

    My reservations about the rules are the same as yours, and you can see them coming from the text itself. To them I would add the turgid nature of cavalry combat (although that is easily fixed).

    The Tercios are a problem, simply from their massive size. We’d need to play them through a few more times to work it out, but I think the first step would be to make some of them average rather than elite. I’d then, as discussed, downgrade the quality of the Spanish horse


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