Monday, 30 November 2009

Marignano and Piquet part 2

We left the battle at the end of turn 1 with the French (left) wondering where their next initiative pips were going to come from. The Swiss (right) were, having won most of the initiative, poised to assault the French main position.

At the end of turn one the Swiss add two milling around cards to there deck (1 for the retreating advance guard and 1 because the central pike block has lost a unit worth of stands). Both side shuffle their decks. The Swiss deal out 2 cards sight unseen.
I will continue with the description of the next turn using the format of turn 1, but I will give the abbreviation code again.
IP: Initiative pips.
OC: Opportunity chip.
MP: Morale point.

20 IP to play for:
S18 Vs F16 = S 2 IP
Infantry in open – move retreating advance guard (1IP). They are classed as ‘left the table’ due to their position relative to the enemy (umpires call) and will not spend IP for further retreats.

18 IP to play for:
F7 Vs S2 = F 5 IP
Courage, Missile reload – shoot a unit of Gascon crossbowmen (1 IP) at the left hand Swiss pike block advancing on the French right D10 Vs D6, causing 5 hits and a stand loss (1MP) . Buy back 2 OC (2IP).

13 IP to play for:
F16 Vs S10 = F 6 IP
Open reload card showing - reload the crossbows that just shot (1 IP) shoot and reload another (2IP) Vs the same target D10 Vs D6 no effect. Shoot and reload another unit of Gascon crossbow (2IP) Vs the Swiss pike block advancing on the French left D10 Vs D6 no effect. Buy back the last OC (1IP).
7 IP to play for:
S 18 Vs F 14 = S 4 IP
Infantry in the open showing – Swiss move their right and central pike blocks into contact with the ditch (2IP). French shoot their light guns Vs the Pike moving onto their left D12 Vs D6 for NO EFFECT!!! (1 OC). All of the front line French guns are now unloaded. Major Morale – pass, Artillery Reload.

3 IP to play for:
S 13 Vs F7 = S 3 IP.
Move in difficult terrain – the Swiss pike blocks on the right and in the centre cross the ditch. Two units of Gascon crossbows shoot (2 OC) at the one moving against their left 2x D10 Vs D6 causing 2 stands loss (2 MP). The French challenge the morale (1MP) of the pike block for losses due to fire D8 Vs D12+4, the score is 6 each. This is a fail for the Swiss and will mean they have to fall back over the ditch disordered, however this is a morale challenge so they can re-roll Vs the 6 for the cost of 1MP – they re-roll and pass (1MP). The two offending crossbow units are in contact with the pike block, wisely they choose to evade disordered.

20 IP to play for:
S13 Vs F9 = S 4 IP
Move the remaining pike block over the ditch (1IP) on the open difficult terrain card forcing the facing crossbow to evade disordered, but one fails to outpace the Swiss and is contacted as it turns D12+4 Vs D4 and is destroyed (4 MP). Cavalry move in open, Courage! – the Swiss use this to challenge the morale of the French pike and the battery on the French left D12 Vs D12+3 and D12 Vs D8. Both fail and go disordered; they are formed units (not skirmishers) so this costs each 1 MP.

16 IP to play for:
S14 Vs F2 = S 12 IP
The other flanking pike block test the two unit of crossbows facing it (2 IP) D12 Vs D6, 1 passes and the other, already disordered, is doubly disordered and routs. Artillery move card – the artillery moves up (1 IP), Uncontrolled Charge! – all three pike blocks fail their control test and, as the enemy are in reach, charge to contact (3IP).

The central pike block melees the guns D12+6 Vs D4, both guns are overrun (2 milling around cards, 4 MP).

The left wing pike block crashes into the French pike block D12+4 Vs D12 resulting in a 9 all tie – the Swiss have the higher morale rating so win by default. The French pike block goes disordered, it is already disordered, but it is a big unit so loses a stand instead (1MP).

The left hand pike block only contacts two units of disordered crossbow armed skirmishers which choose to evade (routed) rather than face annihilation.
4 IP to play for:
F9 Vs S5 = F 4 IP
Deployment – the Black Bands of Gueldres (a block 82 Landsknecht figures) deploys out of Ziuido and forms up outside of the town – Timely. Artillery reload, Buy back 1 OC.

20 IP to play for:
F19 Vs S1 = F 18 IP - Voila!
Cavalry move in open – French move 2 router (2 IP). Bourbon’s central Gendarme unit moves into contact with the central Swiss pike block. His left wing Gendarmes wheel and move to threaten the pike block there (2 IP total for the command group). Francis advances his retinue to add to the threat to the same pike block, whilst the Gendarmes on the extreme right of his main ward advance to cover the French pike block (1 IP total for the command group). No melee takes place because that requires a melee resolution card.

Leader Check – Flourange moves to join his his Stradiots and rallies them from rout (2 IP 1 MP). Infantry move in the open – move manoeuvre two units of Gascon crossbowmen 45 degrees (2 IP) to bring them into shooting arc (2 IP). Leader Check, Heroic Moment, Move in Difficult – move four routers (3 IP).

Melee resolution – 1 mandatory IP to resolve ongoing melee between French and Swiss pike blocks – D10 Vs D12+3, unbelievably the French win causing a stand loss to the Swiss (1 MP). The French challenge the Swiss morale D8 Vs D12=3 but the Swiss pass. The French must use a further 1 IP to resolve the contact between French Gendarmerie and Swiss pike blocks. Firstly the Bourbon’s central Gendarmes D12+1 Vs D12+3 – both score a maximum 12 and as both have the same morale rating (fanatic) it goes to the initiator. The French challenge morale (1MP) but the Swiss pass.

Melee Resolution,

2 IP to play for:
F12 Vs S9 = F 2 IP
The French must resolve the tw0 ongoing melees. French pike Vs Swiss pike D10 Vs D12+3, the French lose 2 stands (2 MP) and the Swiss challenge their morale (1 MP) and the French fail and are pushed back in disorder, they are so already so lose another stand (2 MP). The French pike block is now substantially weakened and no longer counts as a big unit. The push back pushes them into the French Gendarmes to their rear and both are disordered (2MP and a further stand loss to the pike). Bourbon’s Gendarmes and the central Swiss pike – D12 Vs D12+3, no stand loss but the French lose and not being a big unit are automatically pushed back onto the Landsknechts. The Landsknechts are disordered (1MP). The Gendarmes are doubly disordered and rout (2MP).

20 IP to play for:
F8 Vs S6 = F 2 IP
The French are losing. They must kill more Swiss so shoot the Gascon Crossbowmen into the flank and rear of the central and left Swiss pike blocks. D12 Vs D6, the one on the right takes two stand losses (2 MP).
18 IP to play for:
S12 Vs F10 = S 2 IP
Infantry move in open – the right wing pike charges into Francis’ Gendarmes.
Heroic moment.

16 IP to play for:
F20 Vs S20 = tied initiative die rolls – the turn is over.

The French won 37 initiative, the Swiss won 27. The French lost 19 MP the Swiss lost 6, before the cards are shuffled for the next turn. Both sides are running low on MP so the next turn should be decisive. Can the Swiss keep up the momentum or can the French stop the onrushing pike columns.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Why I like Piquet and how it is played.

Classic Piquet, pronounced P – K after the French card game is either loved or loathed. The loathing is generally down to one of three reasons:

First, because you are never in total control of your units when you feel you should be, or rather when other rules allow you to be; but Piquet is not a battalion commander game – you, the general, send your units along their merry way, then hope they can do what’s right at the right time.

Second, because players new to Piquet find the 'dynamic theory of motion and action in a flexible time construct' difficult to get their heads around (I'm going to use that line when out to dinner with non-wargamers). This is because there is no rigid move sequence, things happen within the bound of a turn in a random manner – some players like the comfort blanket of knowing exactly what units can do, like covering a specific distance, so they can, chess like, plan well ahead; but Piquet, like war, does not allow this luxury (see Clauswitz’s theory of friction in war).

Third, because there are times when the enemy is doing everything and you can do nothing much about it (I believe, in modern military parlance, that this is known as 'operating within the enemy’s loop'); Classic Piquet is a game about winning the initiative, initiative allows you to do things, and there are times when you don’t win any, sometimes at all, for long periods of the game.

Personally, these are the reasons I like Piquet. Piquet games are more tense and exciting than any other wargames I have ever played.

To illustrate how Piquet works I will go through a couple of turns of The Battle of Marignano scenario, which I am fighting solo; card by card, dice by dice. But before I start, there are a few things you should know.

Piquet initiative is always won by rolling off D20s, one per side, with the higher die result getting the difference in the rolls as initiative pips. Piquet initiative comes in phases of 20. The amount of initiative a player wins is deducted from what’s left in the phase until the 20 are exhausted. [See picture above showing the Piquet initiative tracking clock]. Initiative is used to turn cards from the sequence deck and act upon them. There are also a small number of opportunity initiative pips (2 – 4, called opportunity chips)) that can be stored by the player, mainly for shooting, during the other side’s initiative - they cost an initiative pip to buy back after use.

A turn of Piquet is governed by a deck of sequence cards. The sequence deck contains cards for movement, combat and command. Each deck is usually 24 – 30 cards strong. Armies have different decks reflecting their ability – good armies have good decks, rubbish armies have rubbish decks stuffed with ‘Milling Around’ (do nothing) cards. Every card costs an initiative pip to turn. Actions can be taken on cards for a pip per command (group of units) or unit (most combats cost a pip each). One type of card, ‘Reload’ cards, need a bit of explanation. It costs a pip to shoot a loaded unit, then a pip ‘reload’ a unit on a ‘Reload’ card. In my opinion the use of the word reload gives the wrong impression; the game assumes that a lot of firing is going on when units are in range – being loaded gives you the chance to actually resolve the effect of shooting. A Piquet turn ends when the deck is exhausted by one of the players (or on equal D20 initiative rolls). [The above picture shows some typical Sequence Deck card types].

Units: Like most wargames units have move distances and combat factors. Formation and type govern the former, weapons and training the latter. Combat factors for shooting, melee and morale are expressed as die types (ranging through D4, D6, D8, D10 and D12); a unit of mercenary crossbows, for example, would be D10 for shooting, D6 for melee and D6 for morale. Most Piquet units count as four stands strong with equal frontage – skirmish unit stands count as having 2 hits each, others three hits each. I allow no tally of ‘hanging hits’ to be kept from one card to another (house rule).

Dice: Combat factors are adjusted by tactical situation using fairly typical combat tables, but these change die type; a D6 adjusted Up2, for example, makes the D6 a D10 (two die types bigger); a D10 adjusted Down1 becomes a D8 (one type smaller). On reaching D12, any more Ups are simply added to the result as digits but the maximum result is 12; a D12+4 rolling 4 is 8; a D12+4 rolling a 10 is only 12 . Lastly, all commanders have a base die of D20 with Downs taking it down through the die types and Ups adding to the result. All die are rolled Vs another die to obtain results. Shooting die are always rolled Vs D6, Melees are resolved by rolling melee die Vs melee die, and in most other situations the required die is rolled Vs D8. In the blow by blow account of the following battle I will only give the final die types used in each situation (so I can’t get picked up on missing factors and save time writing!).

Each army is dealt a number of special morale cards (from the ‘Army Characterisation Deck’) at the beginning of the game. These cards express the army’s willingness to fight (expressed in morale chips) and any ‘on the day’ bonuses that the army has. Morale chips are lost for stand loss and adverse morale results; they are spent to rally. This is where I will start. [The picture above shows some typical Army Characterisation Deck cards].

……….Oh, one thing more before I do, Classic Piquet describes itself as a tool box. That is, it is there to be used to give structure to games but it is not the last word – Bible fashion. So, if you are familiar with Classic Piquet and the Band of Brothers 2 supplement, and you see things that you don’t recognise – don’t worry, I’ve had the Piquet spanner out. [I’m happy to post you my house rule changes on request].


Swiss: 7 cards total: Five morale chip cards 9, 7, 4, 4, 3 for a total of 27 morale chips. Two characterisation cards; 1 extra melee resolution sequence card, cavalry Up1 in melee.

France: 9 cards total: Six morale chip cards 10, 9, 7, 6, 2, 2 for a total of 36 morale chips. Three characterisation cards; 1 extra heroic moment sequence card, Up2 for cavalry rallies and assertion, Up1 for infantry morale challenges.


20 initiative pips [IP] to play for. Swiss roll d20 for initiative scoring 16, France rolls d20 and scores 4, Swiss win 12 IP- the difference between 16 and 4.
Infantry move in the open card - 4 pips spent to move all Swiss command groups. Deployment card, Artillery move card, Artillery reload card, Cavalry move in the open card - 1 pip to move Sforza's cavalry / artillery command. Move in difficult terrain card, Leader check card.

The Swiss have used all 12 pips to turn and act on 7 cards. You will note that 5 cards were turned without action, most were useless but as you play Piquet you learn to ignore some cards that don't fit in with your plan. OK, now you've got the format I will now dispense with the word 'card' and add some abreviation to speed my writing.
IP = Impetus Pip
OC = Opportunity Chip
MP = Morale point

Initiative rolls: F14 Vs S6 = F 8IP - economic rolling as there were only 8 left in the phase to play for.
Courage, Infantry maneuvre, Leader check, Deployment - 1 IP to start deploying the Black bands through Ziuido, Infantry move in open, Move in difficult terrain.

20IP to play for: S20 Vs F4 = S 16IP.

Melee Resolution (nothing in contact so can't use!), Uncontrolled charge - Swiss test, fail, and their advance guard and left pike block charge the skirmish cavalry facing them. The skirmish cavalry evade spending two opportunity chips [OC] - the French only have one OC left now - to shoot before they do so. The Stradiots roll D8 Vs D6, the mounted xbow roll D6 Vs D6 but both have no effect - the cavalry evades disordered [pic above]. Melee resolution, Infantry in the open - Swiss spend 4 pips and advance their units forcing the remaining forward mtd xbow unit to evade disordered - it does not shoot because the french only have 1 OC and they are saving that for emergencies! Melee resolution, Missile reload - the left hand Swiss pike block is in range of the Stradiots and shoots and reloads, D4 Vs D6 causing 2 hits, the Stradiots take a stand loss and lose 1 morale point. Cavalry move in open - Sforza's command moves.

4IP to roll for: F14 Vs S7 = F 4IP (only four left in phase).

The french immediately buy back 2 OC for 2IP. Light cavalry move - The Stradiots use this card to advance fire and retire for 1 IP Vs their Swiss tormentors D10 Vs D6 causing 4 hits - the Swiss pike block loses a stand and 1 MP. (Light cavalry move card only applies to Stradiots)

20IP to play for: F11 Vs S10 = F 1IP.
Artillery reload.

19 IP to play for: S13 Vs F2 = S 11IP.

Melee resolution (still nothing in contact!), Heroic moment, Cavalry maneuvre - heroic moment cards can change the next card if there is a good reason to back it up; the Swiss decide to use the heroic moment to change the Cavalry maneuvre card into a Cavalry move in open card for the cavalry only, citing the presence of Sforza as a good reason, the cavalry move into contact with the Mtd xbow (1IP) and as they are light cavalry declare an automatic melee unless they evade. As the French have their artillery reload showing, and given their lack of initiative thus far in the game, they decide not to evade - the Mtd xbow are already disordered and require an OC to evade without becoming doubly disordered (= rout) - thus 'saving their powder. In the resulting melee D12+3 Vs D4 the Mtd xbow are destroyed for 3 MP loss. Sforza's cavalry go disordered (fought a melee) and out of command (the artillery and cavalry can no longer move together as a group). Melee resolution (damn, last one), Infantry maneuvre, Heroic moment, Move in difficult terrain - I allow pike blocks of good mercenary stock, and not having taken casualties (stand loss), to move in the open on this card, the Swiss move their centre and right hand blocks forward for 2 pips.

8IP to play for: S16 F7 = S 8IP - the French are feeling desperate - as their lack of initiative begins to tell the tension builds.

Courage - The Swiss are fearsome units, anything within a move of them can be morale challenged for a pip or chip, and the Stradiots and Mtd xbow are within reach! D12 Vs D6 and D12 Vs D4 respectively. The Stradiots fail (dice roll beaten) and are doubly disordered and rout (Swiss gain 2IP), amazingly, the mounted crossbow, either fearless or clueless, stand! Infantry move in open - 4 IP to move the swiss forward, the advance guard gets to the ditch in front of the artillery - the French have simply got to use 2 OC to shoot - BOOM! BOOM! go the guns D12 Vs D6 twice for 9 hits and 3 stands killed and 3MP lost. The French having done such good work press their advantage by using a morale chip to test the morale of the Swiss; three stands to fire means they are rolling a D12, after factoring everything up the Swiss are rolling a D6. The French roll double the Swiss roll - the Swiss advance guard are routed; except of course they are Swiss so retreat disordered facing the enemy instead (lose 1 MP) until they are rallied (special rule for Swiss!) causing the following pike block to incline to the left. But the Swiss do lose 2 IP for the technical rout of a major unit and must add a milling around card at the end of the turn. Leader check - but out of pips!

NOTE: Oh yes indeed, as you lose units and leaders, skirmish units don't count, you add milling around cards (do nothing cards) to your sequence deck at the end of the turn, shuffle the deck then, face down, discard an equal number of cards before the start of the turn. You've got it - even if you win all of the initiative you might have dealt out every card you need and be left with a deck of milling around. Bloody amazing - Bloody exciting - Innit'!)

20IP to play for. F15 Vs S12 = F 3IP.
The French have an open artillery reload card showing that they have not used - the Swiss can't believe it - reload the guns for 2IP. Buy back 1 OC.

17IP to play for: S3 Vs F2 = S 1IP. The French can't even beat a 3.
Open leadership card showing try and rally the advance guard for 1IP plus 1 morale point, D20 Vs D8 - FAIL!!!!!

16IP to play for: S2 Vs F1 = S 1P. The French can't believe this!
Infantry in the open.

15IP to play for: S15 Vs F14 = S 1IP. What's happening!
The Swiss must retreat their 'technical router' for 1IP on the unused Infantry in the open card.

14IP to play for: S18 Vs F14 = S 4IP. The French are spitting garlic!

3IP used to advance the remaining Swiss units. This forces the remaining French Mtd xbow unit to evade without OC aid, it goes doubly disordered and routs. But the French have reloaded their guns and the Swiss are within point blank range. BOOM! BOOM! go the guns for 2 OC, D12=2 Vs D6 twice. This kills four stands of the central pike block, the French morale challenge it D12 Vs D12+2 and force it back disordered (in effect the front ranks were pummelled and slowed it up). The Swiss lose 5MP. Major Morale check card - D4 Vs D12 - pass.

10IP to play for: S9 Vs F 4 = S 5IP. Now the French are crying!

Cavalry move in open - Sforza wheels his men-at-arms 45 degrees and advances to the ditch (called a move maneuvre) for 2 pips. Heroic moment - the Swiss pike block on the left shoots heroically at the French foot crossbows beyond the ditch gaining an aditional Up1 for the heroic card (elegantly simple) D8 Vs D6 and kill a stand (French lose 1 MP) and morale challenge them D6 Vs D6 to no effect (Swiss use 1 MP). No cards left - for a final IP the Swiss close the turn.

Turn 1 is over. The Swiss must have had the factor of surprise with them. Certainly the initiative was with them, winning 58 pips to a poultry 16. Unusually imbalanced, but damn those Swiss had the French worried. No major damage was done, the Swiss having turned their move in difficult cards before reaching the ditch, but they are poised if the French can't roll better.

This is as far as I can go with this post. I'll try and get turn 2 done over the weekend and the write up shortly afterwards. It's a laborious process, playing solo, taking notes, taking pictures, and then tapping it in.

I hope, if you are unfamiliar with Piquet, that this has whetted your appetite for a set of rules that offers something different. The rules break everthing down into simply resolvable chunks so well, no firing along an entire line just because you can: Oh, the endless dice rolling and combat table fatigues in some games - in Piquet it all means something; because pips are such valuable commodities that they are not to be squandered - this is a game of decisions. For solo gaming you just can't beat it. The tension is killing me! Time for a cigar.

P.S. For some reason I can't spell check this post - sorry for any errors.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Marignano (the first day) 1515 Scenario.

Louis XII of France lost Milan after the Battle of Novara in the summer of 1513. Here, Maximilian Sforza, self styled Duke of Milan, and his army of mercenary Swiss gave the French a good licking by a surprise attack on the French camp. Almost at once Louis XII began plotting for its recapture. But, whatever his plans were, he did not to see them come to fruition - he died at the end of 1514.

Dynastic struggles being what they are, it was not long before the sword was taken up again by his successor, Francis I. In June 1515 Francis left Paris at the head of an army mustering 30,000 combatants. Crossing the Alps via the Col d'Argetier pass the French emerged into Italy outflanking the Swiss who had been sent to oppose him. The Swiss withdrew to Milan and the French followed up until they came to Marignano (10 miles from Milan), where they encamped, then entered into negotiations with the Swiss to sell Milan to Francis. Up to half of the Swiss took the money and departed back to their Cantons.

Francis was convinced that Milan would now fall, without resistance, for a little more time and money. So it would have done but for the extraordinary efforts of Cardinal Matthias Schinner. Engineering a skirmish with French pickets he manipulated the news, delivered a rousing speech from the steps of the cathedral in Milan, and convinced the Swiss who remained that, rather than negotiating, the French were attacking. Late in the afternoon, leading an army of 15,000 Swiss and a few hundred Milanese horse Schinner launched an attack on the French camp, arriving there sometime around 5pm.

The ground around Marignano is undulating arable farmland cut up by drainage ditches and canals, and dotted with small villages. The French had chosen the site of their camp well; it was naturally fortified (see deployment map) behind and between some of the drainage ditches.


Although the combined strengths of the army are known the exact breakdown and dispositions are a bit vague. These are my best guess numbers.

The Cavalry Screen: Commanded by Robert III, de la Marck, so called Floranges.
200 Gendarmes (omitted), 1,500 light cavalry, mainly composed of mounted crossbowmen with some Stradiots.

The Vanguard: Commanded by Charles de Montpensier Duke of Bourbon.
1000 Gendarmes, 3000 French crossbowmen, 4000 French pike, many heavy and light guns.

The Mainward: Commanded by Francis I King of France.
1000 Gendarmes, 6000 Landsknechts (Black Bands of Gueldres), some guns.

The Rearward: Commanded by Charles de Valois Duke of Alencon, called D'Alencon.
500 Gendarmes, 3000 Landsknechts, 3000 French crossbowmen.


This army was predominantly composed of 15,000 or so Swiss. These seem to have formed up in their usual three wards deployed en echelon with an advance guard. They were accompanied by a few hundred Italian men-at-arms and some light guns. The latter both took position on the right.

This battle is quite straightforward. I will not over complicate things with the special scenario rules I will use as you may not use the same rule set as me. There are a few things to note.
To win the Swiss must take and French camp and hold it until nightfall. As the battle started late in the day there should be a suitable turn limit put on the game.
The French Mainward should not come into battle too quickly. On the day it only arrived after the main body of the Swiss had reached and passed the ditch in front of the encampment; consequently it should not 'activate' until the Swiss reach the ditch - with a military possibility of 'what if' course.
The French Rearward should not enter the battle unless the camp is taken. In reality it did not engage at all.

The ditches should represent major obstacles that are passable with difficulty, but all other ground should be classed as open. The hill on which the village of Ziuido stands should represent a terrain advantage but not hamper movement.
I used C. Oman's The Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. Marignano 1515 by Moraitis, Pacou & Erskine (Lance and Longbow Soc.). Renaissance Battles 1494 - 1700 Vol.1 by Peter Sides.
Figures are by Old Glory, Foundry, Essex and Front Rank. All painted by myself.
Terrain. TSS terrain boards. Remaining applique terrain scratch built by me (mainly).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lights, camera, action! Dan of WI pays a visit.

Wednesday was an interesting day for me. Dan (UK editor / photographer) of Wargames Illustrated came up from Nottingham to pay me a visit. It was not a social call, he had work to do for an article on 'The Battle of Dorylaeum' for the magazine's upcoming issue themed on the Crusades. Dan is definitely a perfectionist and his photography put my happy snapping to shame. The shoot took about five hours - from which he obtained over 100 shots. Here he is in action.
It was a pleasure, I was proud to help out, and I hope to see Dan again. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the results.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Some Crusader elephants with minor conversions

Some time ago I purchased four elephants by Crusader. Although they had a certain charm I was not over impressed by their tusks, tails and lack of tower padding. Consequently I played about with some Miliput, spare shields and tassels (the latter from Front Rank 'flag pole heads').
This was the result. BTW, the elephants have been bolted to the bases with small screws.