Before I was so easily distracted by the Eighteenth Century, I had always meant to resume wargaming with the 'Pike and Shot' era, and in particular the English Civil War / Thirty Years War period, of around 1620 to 1650.
Like most British gamers I suspect, my first contact with the period would have been from reading about the ECW, which is of course the wrong name, given extensive Scottish and Irish involvement. 'The Wars of the Three Kingdoms' is a bit of a mouthful, but more appropriate. By the way, does anyone have a better suggestion? King Charles' Wars, perhaps? He was at the centre of most of them, and conveniently his successor after he lost his head was also Charles ('King Charles'- now where have I heard that recently?). I remember Stuart Asquith's series of articles in 'Battle for Wargamers' circa 1978 were quite inspiring. But for me, there was a turning point when I chanced upon C.V. Wedgewood's The Thirty Years War, when I was about 18. I had no idea of that war's existence beforehand, I had no knowledge of the political structure of Europe (especially Germany) at the time, and I was rather entranced by what seemed a ruritanian fantasy forerunner of the present polity. As Wedgewood described the multitude of city-states and principalities that made up the Holy Roman Empire, I couldn't quite believe it wasn't all just an invented story, and really happened - and it was fascinating. Sweden as a super-power? A fairy story, surely? And the characters - Gustavus Adolphus, Wallenstein, Tilly, Richelieu, poor Frederick Palatine 'The Winter King' of Bohemia and his plucky ( English ) wife , crafty old Maximilian of Bavaria, the Emperors Ferdinand father and son, dashing French Generals Conde and Turenne - I'm afraid Charles, Rupert, Fairfax and even Cromwell couldn't compete, I was always going to 'do' 30YW from then on.
I collected Pike and Shot forces in 15mm, which was quite new back then - I have some early Minifigs and a few Peter Laing figures, and quite a few chunky 'Mikes Models' ( predecessors of Essex Miniatures, I think? ). More recently I've added some modern Essex and Peter Pig figures - many of which still await painting. An Imperialist army seemed an obvious choice, but I managed to avoid picking Swedes as their opponent - with their salvo-firing foot and hard-charging cavalry, they seemed a bit too 'super-hero'ish. I plumped for the French - I think I liked the idea that they were perhaps rather showily-dressed, and of the elan that won their stunning victory at Rocroi.
So, now I'm ready to give pike and shot another go, and see how I get on. From the many rule sets accumulated over the years ( see my previous post ) I am going to give Philip Garton's In Deo Veritas a try. As stated before, it is heavily influenced by Frank Chadwick's classic Volley and Bayonet, and it allows 'big' battles to be fought - my current collection looks to be just about big enough to start playing. Helpfully, the rules have four suggested scenarios of historical battles to recreate, so why not use one of those? I think I have sufficient forces for the ECW battle of Cheriton - but of course, my troops are supposed to be Imperial and French. So, with a little help from Google Translate, welcome to Kirchendorf, somewhere in the Rhineland.. The (somewhat dour?) Imperialists will take the part of Parliament, while the Royalists become the (more flamboyant) French - that seems fairly appropriate.
To give an idea, here is a slightly wobbly photo of the page from the In Deo Veritas rulebook showing the suggested terrain ( I hope this is not violating any copyrights, if requested I will happily remove the picture ). Note the large wooded area, and that the Southern part of the table is higher ground.
Imperialists/Parliament deploy in the South , and French/Royalists in the North
The basic tactical unit in the rules is the Brigade ( smaller units designated 'companies' ), and for this scenario the opposing forces are as follows:
Imperialist ( Parliament ) : 10 brigades cavalry, 6 brigades infantry, 2 companies Dragoons, 2 batteries Field Artillery.
French ( Royalist ) : 8 brigades cavalry, 6 brigades infantry, 1 battery Field Artillery.
Each side has one of their foot brigades deployed as 3 'companies' of detached Musketeers, in the wooded area.
These forces represent armies of about 10,000 and 8,500 respectively, so we have a not-too-big 'big' battle, which should be a good introduction. I have just about enough figures to make up these forces, where a 'brigade' stand measures 75 by 40mm. I can get about 6 cavalry and 16 infantry figures to represent a brigade , with 3 dragoon or 4 infantry figures per 'company'. Fortunately my troops are based mainly in threes and fours rather than whole units for other rules, so my previous regiments and squadrons could be broken down into the multiple 'brigades' represented in these rules.
Having worked all that out, now here are the Imperialists :
Painters of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now. Please excuse the dubious painting, (especially the flags) - I was very young, and it was a long time ago, before highlights and washes were invented.. But I am going to keep them just as they are, as they are a connection with times long past. A little test of figure identification: I think the majority are Mikes Models, but the sky blue coated foot unit at the back is mainly early Minifigs ( the standard-bearer may be Peter Laing? ), the red-coated unit are later Minifigs, and the dark blue coated unit from Frei Korps, all late 1970s/early 1980s vintage. Not sure about the guns and gunners! I'm pleased to say that MacFarlane's Scottish Foot and Horse will make their debut too, the Scots having obviously agreed a good price for their services from the Emperor.
And their French opponents:
Another mixed bag of figures - I think the foot are mostly Mikes Models ( with a few more recent Essex among them ), this time it's the cavalry that are varied. The left wing horse units (nearest camera) include Peter Pig, Essex, and two generations of Minifigs. Over on the other wing, Cuirassiers are backed-up by the King's Musketeers, and some (perhaps anachronistic) Chevaux Leger lancers.
I think we can sum up the opposing forces as - a right old mixture!
Having sorted out the rules and figures, next we need the battlefield. The rules assume a 6 ft by 4ft table, but I have only 3ft by 3ft, so some adjustment is necessary. I propose to simply halve the movement and shooting distances, so I have the equivalent of 6ft by 6ft. I've kept the the unit 'footprints' unchanged ( Brigades 75mm by 40mm ) , so in effect they are double the expected size. I thought that making them half-size too would make a 'brigade' into a single rank of 4 infantry, which wouldn't look (half) so good. So, I just have to hope that doesn't cause any rules issues. We'll see..
I had a first go at setting a table based on the scenario map, and it looks ( with a somewhat creased terrain cloth, that will need sorting out! ) something like this:
Hopefully you can just about see that the Southern part of the battlefield is slightly higher ground, by dint of the good old-school 'books under the cloth' method. Having looked at it, I am wondering if the woods are a bit large, given the number of units each side has to deploy - and only the three detached musketeer units for each side will deploy in the woods. I may decide to shuffle the woodland to the East, shrinking it to give the main forces a bit more elbow room.
So there we are, the basics of a battle, I hope. A few variables that may or may not cause problems, but there's only one way to find out - give it a try!
If all goes well, my next post will be the battle report - though I'm afraid a lot of 'events, dear boy, events' may get in the way, as they have been doing for the past few weeks. So I apologise in advance if there is a bit of a pause before that next post appears. But I'm certainly looking forward to giving thse rules a try, and giving my polyglot vintage armies their first proper 'go' in a long time! Until then, keep safe, and well, everyone.