Last week Kevin, Beka and I tried a game of Pikeman’s Lament, which is a set of rules aimed as small combats in the 17th century. The rules were written by Dan Mersey & Michael Leck and use the basic components and ideas developed in Lion Rampant.
This Sunday we were joined by Lance, Randy and Vince, so we would get to try out the rules in a multi-player setting. This is a common situation in our group, so it is essential that rules hold up well with multiple players for the game to gain wide acceptance by the players.
In this battle, Lance’s Scots Covenanters join Beka’s and my late period Roundheads to face off against Kevin, Randy and Vince with the Royalist forces. I had set up a pretty dense battlefield with lots of hedges, walls, and fields. It was all centered around a bridge over a minor stream, along which we placed a mill and church. The northern flank was open and flat. Just the perfect thing for a cavalry action.
Each player controlled a small command of 12 points. (My command was actually 10 points, as we bumped up Lance’s command to allow for the use of a Forlorn Hope.) Both sides deployed their cavalry on the north flank, as expected. Kevin commanded two units of Royalist Gallopers and a Dragoon, while for Parliament, Beka controlled two units of Trotters and a Dragoon. In addition, on the Royalist side, Randy’s Regimental Gun was deployed to support Kevin’s mounted force. In the middle, Randy mustered a Royalist Pike unit on the road and a Shotte to support it in the adjacent field. To face him, I had two Shotte and a Commanded Shotte. On the south flank, Vince commanded for the Royalists three units of Shotte, while Lance’s Covenanting Scots comprised a Dragoon, a Forlorn Hope, and a Shotte. All of the units were normal, with the exceptions of Kevin’s Gallopers, which were Aggressive.
Special Multi-player Rule
For this multi-player game, we instituted a special rule using cards to activate the commands of a side. With six players we had six cards. Each player was assigned a card. The cards were shuffled and the top card flipped. Whichever player’s card was turned, that player moved and fought with his/her entire command. When that player finished, we flipped the next card, and that player moved his/her command. This continued until we had run through all the players. Then the cards were shuffled and we started over. I’ll give a review of that mechanism at the end of the game.
The Battle Begins!
The battle began with all forces pushing forward. The movement abilities of most units are better than in Lion Rampant, so pretty much everyone advanced. After pushing her Trotters forward on the northern flank, Beka eventually reconsidered that in light of the Royalist gun supporting their mounted force. On subsequent turns, she maneuvered with the cavalry, while her Dragoons slogged forward through the stream in an attempt to bring fire on the enemy gun. Kevin, meanwhile, delayed his attack to allow the gun to mete out some destruction before falling on the Roundhead cavalry. And so a chess game progressed on the northern sector.
In the middle, I pushed my two Shotte units to seize the church and the wall along the stream, while the Commanded Shotte ran up the road to face off against the Royalist Pikes. Randy had some poorly communicated orders, apparently, as his Shotte unit delayed the advance, while the Pikes drove ahead. This allowed me to gain the hedge on the opposite side of the stream to bring fire on his Shotte in the middle of the field and lacking any cover. His Pikers, however, pressed ahead, driving back my Commanded Shotte, whose fire was desultory at best.
On the southern flank, the Scots under Lance’s command pushed forward against Vince’s Royalist Whitecoat Shotte. Vince gained the hill first, but Lance’s Dragoons maneuvered through the woods to their flank and brought fire on them. It was a hot engagement, causing casualties to both sides. Vince’s other Shotte units occupied the mill and tried to press forward from there. There was some initial success, as the Scottish Shotte misinterpreted their orders and fell back from the strong position they held initially.
In the Thicke of It!
With the Scots Dragoons firing on Vince’s Shotte, Lance ordered forward his Forlorn Hope to throw Royalists off the hill. (In PL, Forlorn Hope are an elite force with good combat factors and many special abilities.) The Whitecoats were knocked back down the hill, while the Scots Dragoons sent more bullets after them to see them on their way. At the same time, the errant Scottish Shotte returned to the fray, loosing a salvo into the Royalist Shotte that had ventured into the field. Vince wisely withdrew the unit behind a wall.
In the middle, my advance to the church and across the stream paid off. While the foremost Shotte was taking flanking fire from the mill, we poured fire into Randy’s Shotte unit on the hill and drove it back behind the hedge. At the same time, the Royalist Pikes pushed over the bridge and deep into our middle. My Commanded Shotte were now pretty ragged. But the Pikes had attracted the attention of all the Parliament units nearby. Soon the poor Pikers were under fire from three side, with the Scots Shotte delivering a particularly devastating volley. The Royalist stickers were soon seen back across the bridge to shelter under cover of their Shotte in the mill!
After much maneuver, the cavalry, Dragoons and gun came to blows. The Royalist Regimental piece was relegated to firing on Beka’s Dragoons, as she kept her Trotters out of range. But the fire was negligible and soon the Parliamentarian Dragoons had crossed the stream, having driven back the Royalists in the woods. The Dragoon’s fire drove off the Royalist guns and now Beka was able to act freely with the Trotters. Kevin had pushed forward with the Royalist cavalry, and now Beka responded by moving to deliver a Caracole. While the Royalist suffered some hits, they did not Waver, and so Beka was not able to launch her charges. In response, Kevin then did launch his Wild Charges. In the first, both units were reduced to only the commands’ leaders after two rounds of combat! Then Kevin launched the second charge, wherein Beka’s Trotters beat back the Royalist Cavaliers with great elan!
That’s the End…
With Parliament having seized the hill in the south, routed the Royalist push in the middle, and bested their cavalry and artillery in the north, the Royalists had had enough. They quit the field, leaving the Covenanting Scots and Roundhead English in possession.
Everyone seemed to agree that it was a quite enjoyable game. We are all up to try again, and maybe use more of the commander rules.
There are a few things we did wrong:
- Routing – It was feeling weird that units were remaining with one figure. We forgot that if your modified morale roll is 0 or less then you remove the unit.
- Cover for Shooting – the first few rounds we were applying both a -1 to hit and a +1 to Stamina. I then remembered that cover does not affect your to hit roll and we corrected that.
- Duels – not really an error, but I did not tell the guys about duels because were were all learning the rules and it seemed more important to learn the combat rules.
I think we all agreed we really liked the card-based movement for a multi-player game. The advantage of this method was that all of one side did not sit idle while the other side moved. It also added a lot of uncertainty to the sequence. Sometimes a command got to move twice before the opposing command(s), but everyone seemed to think that was OK. In particular, for me, having a card specifically assigned to a player made this work. In my experience, card-based systems that allow one side to pick a unit/command to move result in a lot of delay, as the moving side debates which unit/command needs to move next for maximum advantage. We had no delay as there was no question about whose turn it was to move.
As I observed in a query to theminiaturespage.com and the duxbelorum forum, we noticed that Pikes have a difficult time actually protecting Shotte. The responses were to put the Pikes in front, which will mean the enemy cavalry may charge them first, and if not, then they can destroy the cavalry afterward. Well, to me, that is the same as not protecting them. The cavalry are not required to charge the nearest unit and if they charge the Shotte, then your Shotte are still destroyed. Others suggested various tactics of shooting up the cavalry, sending your Pikes in the open while Shotte hide in terrain, etc. And while these are all fine tactics, they do not reflect the idea that Pikes accompanied Shotte so that the Shotte could venture into the open against cavalry.
In any case, I am not too concerned. Pikes were generally not employed in these sorts of actions. If we ensure that the terrain is thick enough, then in the end, most players will not want to bring Pikes to a fight among the woods, hedges and towns. And if we want, we can come up with some optional rule for Shotte to shelter under the Pikes for specific scenarios.