Last Friday afternoon will go down in our blog history as the first game played with our Project Auldearn units. Anyone who has followed our blog from the start may remember that we orignally intended to refight Auldearn using WECW. Earlier this year Warlord Games published the "Pike and Shotte" rule book - a modified version of "Black Powder" to cover the 16th and 17th centuries. We had both played a couple of games of Pike and Shotte and a game of Black Powder at Historicon back in July, and had enjoyed the rules, so we were keen to try them out with our own toys.
(Above left) Dispositions at the start of the game. (Above right) Covenanter Battle Line.
True to the spirit of Black Powder we fielded what we had on the day. So the royalists had a single brigade (battallia) of Irish foot comprising two standard size regiments (both pike and shot). Each regiment comprising two shot sleeves and a pike block. The covenanters fielded two brigades; a foot brigade comprising two standard sized regiments of scots infantry, and a mixed brigade comprising a standard sized regiment of scots foot and a standard sized troop of scots horse. The Irish were slightly better led, having a brigade command rating of 9. The Scots were well led (by the mediocre home-guard standards of the time), with both Scots brigade commanders rated 8.
(Above) Irish get the Covenanter wake up call once again
The scenario was simple. The Irish brigade has once again been caught napping by the covenanters, who are rapidly advancing on two fronts. We did not specify objectives, but in restrospect it could have been the usual 1644-45 caper with the Royalists attempting to escape to the saftey of the highlands after being caught unawares by the latest covenenter general.
(Above) Northern Levies - on the move before they had their porridge - explained the slow start
(Above) Drummond's Horse, keen to get stuck into the Irish, are held back behind the infantry most of the day
Table Size & Movement
We played the game on a 6'x4' table. One of the common criticisms of Black Powder, and it's offspring, is that you need a large table and huge armies. We fixed this very simply. Black Powder is designed for a 6' deep table. If you use a 4' deep table reduce all distances accordingly, so we modified distances and ranges, reducing them by 2/3 as follows...
- Infantry Move - 6" (modified to 4")
- Cavalry Move - 9" (modified to 6")
- Musket Range - 18" (modified to 12")
(Above) Lord Chancellors rally round the colours as the Irish drum the advance
(Above) End of the Lord Chancellor's firing line - wee Shugie MacPherson down with a lucky shot
The initial few turns saw the Irish Brigade advanced rapidly on the Covenanter Foot Brigade facing them, while the remaining Government Brigade attempted an out-flanking maneuver but with some reluctance (a few mediochre command roles slowed progress to a snail's pace). This gave the Irish time to rush up into range for a fire fight with covenanters.
(Above) The cornered Irish decide offense is the best defense and advance rapidly on the Scots
(Above) The second Scots brigade head out on their long "out-flanking" journey
(Above) Meanwhile the Irish continue the rush forward with the odds now locally in their favour
First blood is spilled in withering exchange of volleys (wounds were adding up and the dis-orders came thick and fast with the Covenanters getting the worst of it), combat was joined. O'Cahan on the Irish right charged into Chancellor's on the Scots left, while Lawer's brave lads took the fight to Laghtnan's Irish as they reformed after crossing the dyke.
(Above) Lawer's Regiment begin to feel the heat as Laghtnan's foot jump the wall and close for a scrap
(Above) Lord Chancellor's lads in a deadly firefight with O'Cahan's Irish.
With the Irish wearing down the Scots foot, it became a race against time for the second Scots brigade to come to the aid of their comrades. Some good command roles allowed the Scots reinforcements to advance on the Irish rear.
(Above) Meanwhile back on the flank, the scots close the gap with a double move.
Back at the melee, the Irish are getting the better of the Scots. Chancellor's regiment on the Scots left has lost both shot sleeves, but the pike are holding as the Irish, although severly beaten up, close in for the kill. Lawer's on the right have lost a single shot sleeve, and the pike have been pushed back, but a volley of Scots musketry dis-orders the Irish and keeps them in hedgehog, all buying a little more time for the relief force to reach them.
(Above) Scot's badly beaten up, but holding the Irish at bay as relief appears in the distance
(Above) View from Lawer's as the Irish press the advantage.
(Above) View down the lines as the fighting continues
(Above) Overview of the battle lines as the Irish rush to try and break the Scots before Drummond's Horse arrives.
The next few rounds of combat were the bloodiest and most spectacular. O'Cahan's Irish deliver a thundering volley into the Lord Chancellor's Pike. This is followed by a charge, but unbeleivably the Scots win the melee, but the Irish hang on in the push of pike continues for another turn.
At this point the relief infantry regiment rush up behind the Irish (with another Black Powder Triple move just when it was needed) to deliver an enfilading volley into the left shot sleeve (ouch). The cavalry are close behind and eager for charge but don't manage to close before the Pike are destroyed. As the charge comes in from the rear the Irish about face to receive cavalry. Even though the Irish have been well bloodied at this point, it's still a recklessly brave charge against all the odds. Unbelievably the Scots cavalry win the melee, break the Irish and destroy O'Cahan's pike.
With other melee against Laghtnan's Irish going badly for Lawer's, we agreed to call it there, with the Irish severely bloodied but having fought there way to back to the glen's harried all the way by Drummond's horse.
What's the verdict?
We both thoroughly enjoyed the game, all the more so to be playing with out own painted units at last. We had some familiarity with the rules from Historicon, so the game rattled along at a quick pace. We worked slowly through some of the more complicated melees to make sure we understood how the rules work, and it's fair to say that the basic mechanics are very straightforward.
The 6'x4' table is very small by Black Powder standards, and even with relatively small forces the game was great fun. Surprisingly this ability to have a fun small game on a small table is not something that is widely advertised, which is a shame as the rules are getting a reputation for being big-table rules only.
We used the lists provided in the book for Scots Covenanters and Scots Royalist forces and the seemed balanced. Stacked in favour of the Irish, but allowing for numbers and gutsy, lucky play to pull a victory of sorts for the underdog. The table was big enough for this game, but double the number of units and the table will get crowded - not a Black Powder problem, more a 28mm problem.
One of the more disconcerting aspects of Pike and Shotte (and Black Powder) is the relatively free and open movement and maneuver. WAB (and WECW), with which we are more familiar, are games where movement must be precise and large games often end up congested as units try and strictly maneuver around obstacles and other units. Pike and Shotte takes a less rigid approach to movement which makes for games that zip along quickly and don't get bogged down.
We did not find that the relative independence of the pike and shot sleeves within each regiment resulted in a-historical formations, as you can see from the photos. Shot sleeves are fragile so it makes sense using the rules to keep them close to pike, but there is enough flexibility negotiating obstacles, manning defenses and passing through tight spaces.
You do need markers or tokens to play Pike and Shotte. Wounds must be tracked, as must unit states of "shaken" or "disordered". The tokens used in this game are wooden Black Powder tokens from Laser Dream Works ($20 for a large bag of laser cut tokens). They are decorated for Black Powder Napoleonics, but the same tokens are used in Pike and shotte and they work great.
It looks likely that we will use Pike and Shotte from this point onwards, although we may still try WECW to see what type of outcome we get for comparison. As we get more experience with the rules we will tweak the army lists for Auldearn to reflect the characteristics and performance of the historical units and we will publish them here too.