There is a lot going on in other parts of the world, and the study of conflicts there is equally worthy of wargaming (in fact, I have even published a set of rules for the Samurai battles in Japan (From the Sky we Came) which covered the Sengoku period, up until the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 AD. But, that is a different sort of warfare from what I am discussing here.
Here, I am focusing on warfare in Western Europe. These are the conflicts of the Italian Wars, the wars of religion that grew out of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The possible conflict between England and Spain. The battles of the Spanish Netherlands. The many conflicts making up both the Thirty Years War and the English Civil Wars (both in the 17th century), and so on. These battles and wars are marked by several broad features - the presence of gunpowder, the reliance of infantry (in many cases) on pike, the presence of armor (especially, but not only, for mounted units) and the existence of interesting mixed-arms formations (starting with the tercio formations coming out of the Italian Wars, and then moving to the more streamlined pike and musket formations of the 17th century, which eventually gave way to pure musket formations by the end of this period).
I've reviewed, and reported various battles, using several sets of rules for this period. I have read many, many more. Lately I have looked into Baroque, from the Italian wargaming company of Dadi & Piombo.
My recent (the past 2-3 years) renaissance wargaming was with a modified version of the Neil Thomas Renaissance rules, from his "Wargaming: An Introduction" (several convention games, and an Italian Wars scenario). While they produce a small, and satisfying game, they are a bit limited in troop types, and also in allowable player actions. While they are excellent for introductory games, and for small convention games (to introduce a period), they don't have the complexity or depth to keep more experienced wargames engaged for long. On the other hand, these days, I am not a big fan of very complex rules. While I admire the Field of Glory rules, and their Renaissance version, they are not the rules for me. Also, while I am a huge fan of the George Gush rules (mentioned here on Gaming with Chuck with some of my other Renaissance rules reviews), they don't play well with a modern audience. However, I think that Baroque might fill the sweet spot (at least until we try By Fire and Sword).
As mentioned, Baroque covers 1550-1700. The unit types it features are perfect for representing battlefields in that period. There are, roughly, two different types of units, plus artillery.
The first type are Mounted Troops, and include several classes of unit -
- Gallopers - Shock cavalry trained to charge at a gallop, may use a pistol, but more likely to rely on the sword or lance.
- Trotters - Cavalry that charge at a trot. These almost always will be pistol armed, and will discharge those during the slower charge, to follow up with contact by sword.
- Reiters - These are pistol armed (and perhaps heavily armored) cavalry, the prefer to not close to contact - but instead will keep their distance, and employ pistol tactics, like the Caracole maneuver.
- Sipahis - Eastern cavalry, usually armed with missile weapons. Sometimes present in large units (treated as a 'Massed Unit').
- Light Cavalry - These are fast, skirmish cavalry, often armed with missile weapons.
- Horse & Musket - In the later part of this period, some trotter units will have integrated foot musketeers, for greater strength on engaging the enemy in fire combat. This is a mixed unit with mounted and foot soldiers in the same unit.
- Pike & Musket - This is the mixed unit of pikemen and musketeers made popular with the advent of more, and more reliable, hand weapons that use gunpowder. Because a portion of the unit is armed with pikes, this reduces firepower, but also provides a strong deterrent to cavalry, and the ability to hit other infantry in contact.
- Early Tercio - This is very, very deep unit, coming out of the 16th century, with some integrated shot troops. Because of its extreme depth, and training in deployment, it is almost impossible to gain a flank advantage against this unit, but it is extremely vulnerable to artillery.
- Later Tercio - Not as deep as the earlier tercio, and sometimes employing a higher ratio of shot troops, the Later Tercio is almost as flexible as the Pike & Musket unit, but still a bit more unwieldy. It is not as well protected on the flanks and rear as the Early Tercio, but it has enough shot troops posted there that it can give fire out of those aspects of the formation.
- Pikemen - Deep formations of only pikemen, without integrated shot troops. These are popular in the earlier part of the period by those nations fielding pikemen, but not employing the Tercio.
- Irregular Infantry - These are (sometimes) fierce hand to hand fighters. Sometimes they are equipped with missile weapons. Sometimes they appear in large units (treated as a 'Massed Unit'). But they are not the disciplined mixed units listed above.
- Shooters - As with Pikemen units, these are from the earlier part of the period before the mixed units took over - these are units of purely missile armed soldiers.
- Skirmishers - Light troops, sometimes armed with good quality firearms, designed to skirmish with the enemy.
- Dragoons - These are mounted infantry, armed with missile weapons. They combine the faster maneuverability of mounted troops, with the ability of infantry to provide good missile fire.
- Artillery is available. In this period, as the science of artillery is being developed, there is a bewildering constellation of different types of guns, calibers, firing mechanisms, etc. These are all simplified in the rules to light, medium or heavy batteries. And further, they are classed as either Cannons (firing a relative flat trajectory), and Howitzers (firing a high arcing shot).
- Commanders - The army will be divided up into a handful (usually 3 or 4) of commands (or brigades). Each of these has a commander. One of these commanders will be the General (or commander in chief). A commander can be attached (if he wishes) to any non-artillery unit in his command. the commander-in-chief can be attached (if he wishes) to any non-artillery unit in the entire army.
- Baggage - All armies have immobile baggage. The baggage may be Fortified or Not.
Battlefield measurements in the game are measured (and listed on the charts) in terms of BU, or 'Baroque Units' - so named to distinguish them from the basic unit of measure from Impetus, which was the Unit, or U. In Baroque, the BU is equal to half the frontage of a standard unit (which is always 12cm). So, a BU is 6cm. Speaking of unit frontage...
For 15mm, the standard unit frontage is 12cm. Which is perfect for me, as my units are based on standard 4cm wide bases. So three bases wide, makes a unit. For Pike & Musket units that is perfect - a stand of pikes in the middle, flanked by two stands of muskets - looks great.
Using larger one piece bases would be nice, but I don't want to rebase my renaissance wargaming armies.
The depth of the units varies, with the deepest being the Early Tercio - it is 12cm deep. Since I mount my pikes in two ranks on a 3cm deep (or sometimes 4cm deep) stand, it is easy for me to model an Early Tercio - 3 stands wide, and 3 or 4 stands deep(!) - but it is the biggest unit in the game (and was quite large in history too). A more standard Pike and Musket unit is listed as 4-6cm deep - which means, for me, one or two stands deep for Pikemen in the middle, and two stands deep of Musketeers on the flanks. Easy, and it looks good. Cavalry is easier - one rank deep. Massed Mounted units are two ranks deep.
I'll follow this article up with a discussion of the turn sequence, and basic game structure.