Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Neil Thomas Pike and Shot

Ever since I bought Neil Thomas's 'Wargaming: An Introduction', I've been keen to try out the Pike and Shot rules and see how they compare to my own dubious attempts to put together English Civil War games. I've read mixed reviews of these rules on the 'net, but wanted to see how they played out. So this evening I sorted out two basic armies and gave them a go.

The Royalists had:

2 x Average Foot (3 Pike with light armour, 3 Shot with light armour)
1 x Elite Foot (3 Pike with medium armour, 3 Shot with light armour)
2 x Average Chevaliers (4 bases with light armour)
2 x Elite Chevaliers (4 bases with medium armour)
1 x Artillery

Their Parliamentarian opponents had:

3 x Average Foot (2 Pike with medium armour, 4 Shot with light armour)
1 x Elite Foot (2 x Pike with medium armour, 4 Shot with light armour)
3 x Levy Reiters (4 bases with medium armour)
1 x Artillery

I selected a few terrain pieces - two hills and some fields, then randomly placed them on a board, then randomly diced for sides and first move. This would be a straight encounter battle.

As you know, my ECW forces are paper figures with units on single bases, whereas the rules assume units made up of four or six bases. To track hits (actual bases lost) I drew up a roster for each side, but used small stones to mark the casualties scored.

Here are the forces of Parliament arrayed for battle.

And the Royalists.

I allowed the artillery to move at Pike speed. Deploying it used a whole movement, and once deployed it couldn't be moved again.

Parliament was strong in firepower, whereas the Royalists were better in melee, an edge offset a little by Parliament's better armour. But a bold push forward seemed to be the Royalist's best plan.

Royalist horse crested a hill, and came under pistol fire.

They charged.

I rather liked the initial stages of cavalry combat, with the Reiters being able to shoot properly and the Chevaliers being limited to using their pistols at the moment of contact. It forced an aggressive tactical doctrine on the Royalists.

The cavalry action expanded as more units joined in.

The infantry advanced. With cavalry in action near their flanks the Parliamentarians held their ground, but the Royalists were keen to close.

A unit of Parliamentarian horse broke, and the Royalists pursued.

The artillery was now in action as well.

The Royalist cavalry now turned onto the flank of the Parliamentarian infantry.

However the Royalists weren't having it all their own way; one unit of Parliamentarian cavalry was holding its own against and elite opponent.

The infantry melee in the centre became general. The Royalists had taken some shots as they advanced, but were still in good shape. Now pikes and armour would decide the day.

But with Royalist horse on their flank, the Parliamentarian foot needed to win quickly.

The Royalist artillery was lost to its Parliamentarian opposite number.

The push of pike in the centre was a long, hard slog for both sides, but with the flank advantage it was rapidly turning the Royalists' way.

And, indeed, they rolled up the last of the Parliamentarian foot on the same turn as their horse overran the artillery. The Royalists scored a fairly decisive victory, losing just their artillery and a unit of horse.

I rather enjoyed these rules, despite the oddities of how the mixed pike and shot units took casualties.

Of course they had the usual Neil Thomas issues. Basics such as how units turn, or how a flank attack is defined are left to experience or imagination. And they are delightfully random as well, but I rather like that in a game, especially when I'm playing solo. But if I persist with playing them then I will deal with the issues as I go along. For playing ECW games there's something to be said for writing out the rules to exclude weapons and troops not really in use, although I found that after a few turns I could remember most of the rules and factors anyway.

As I have stated before, this is not an era about which I have any kind of expertise, but I felt that I'd had a fun game, and that there was some good in these rules.


  1. Nice battle report, Alan. Thanks.
    I am always interested to see the rules in that book get an airing. Not sure why, they aren't a good match for my tastes, but I find them fascinating.

  2. Good battle report. I have some figures from that era, but being eastern European I thought the jump to using those rules might be a little more involved (no pike and shot units).

    1. It shouldn't be an issue. Mixed units are an exception to the main rules - foot are basically shot (which can include bows and crossbows), pike (long pointy things) or swordsmen (chopping things). The cavalry should translate OK as well. Give it a go.


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