A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (2b) – Mixed Foot Units - contd

It would probably be neater and potentially less embarrassing to do most of my thinking aloud and U-turning off-blog, but I would miss out on some valuable input if I did.

I am not back where I started – this is progress. On the subject of mixed pike & shot units I have gone from conveniently crude to more-correct-but-too-fiddly and now back to crude-but-justified, as we shall see. My thanks to Ross, again, and to email input from Ludovico.

The table produced in yesterday’s effort is not wasted – it gives a useful cross check for other approaches, and it served to remind me how much I dislike tables, when it comes down to it.

Here’s a mixed list of thoughts – some of them are useful, some are merely statements of policy (to keep me straight), some are blinding flashes of the bovinely obvious, and a few are the recording of some “doh” moments.

(1)   I don’t like look-up tables.
(2)   I don’t care much for rosters – I like to be able to see everything I need to know about a unit by looking at it, without worrying about what it used to be, or what it has lost, and without looking up any offline information.
(3)   Yesterday’s table demonstrates that shot-to-pike ratios of 3:2 and 2:1 may be regarded as effectively the same, given the rounding errors.
(4)   My foot units consist of 3 bases, usually, with 2 bases of muskets and one of pikes, so on a bases count this is 2:1, but in fact if you count the little men on the bases you will find that the pikemen are closer-packed, and provide 8 of the 20 figures in the unit, which is 3:2, I think. So take your pick – it doesn’t matter anyway. The units are structured like this because they are designed to work with Victory without Quarter rules, and because cosmetically it looks OK.
(5)   Going back to my original rules of thumb, a base of pikes gets 2 combat dice in a melee and gets none in ranged combat (firing); a base of muskets gets 1 dice for melees and one for firing.
(6)   My original idea was to allocate Casualty Markers, rather than remove bases, to denote attrition (since the troops are not homogeneous), and deduct 1 dice from any kind of combat for each such marker. The first “doh” moment was the realisation that removing a base of muskets would reduce both melee and firing dice allocations by 1, which is exactly the same as awarding one of the proposed Casualty Markers, however it might look on the table. With one stroke, that looks like the end of the Casualty Markers.
(7)   I am still left with the issue of “pike heavy” units – which I’ll define as ratios of 1:1 or less. 4-base or 2-base units can be represented in a straightforward manner, with equal numbers of pike and shot bases. Intuitively, a 3-base unit is less convenient, since the bases do not show the correct proportions of troops. The second “doh” moment was realising that a 3-base pike-heavy unit is simply a 4-base one with one base removed [cue spontaneous applause], and, courtesy of the first such moment, we know that the missing base should be a musket base. Since I probably wouldn’t have available troops to make up a unit with 2 pikes and 1 muskets, and since such a thing would look wrong, we just need to field a normal 3-base unit with some kind of marker to denote that it is pike heavy. Such a unit, as proposed by Ross a while ago, should get an extra dice in melee and lose a dice when firing.
(8)   I know that this all rather overstates the effect of casualties on firepower, but will live with it. In any case, it’s worth remembering that “firepower” means ranged combat in CCN terms, which means, in turn, fire at ranges greater than 1 hex, or maybe over 150 paces. The majority of effective fire would take place at ranges less than this, and CCN abstracts this as part of melee combat.

Right – where does that get me? The recycled rule for units of foot (FT) is:

Foot [rewrite]

In my ECW army a unit of Foot consists of 3 blocks (bases) – 2 of muskets and 1 of pikes. Other mixtures are possible, including all muskets, but the 2:1 mix appropriate to the later years of the war is the norm here. Any units which are specified as having a musket-to-pike ratio of 1:1 or less are termed pike-heavy, and are marked as such.

In CCN-speak, infantry units will be of classification FT – they may move 1 hex and Battle. In melee, pike blocks count 2 dice each, muskets 1 each; identified veteran units (which may not be more than 25% of the FT units fielded) count an extra dice. Identifed pike-heavy units get an extra dice in melee.

All losses for a mixed unit should be taken as musket bases – this is so that the fighting value reduces correctly.

In Ranged Combat (shooting), the musket blocks count 1 each, the pikes zero. Range is 2 hexes. Again, veterans may count +1 dice, and 1 dice is deducted for a designated pike-heavy unit. The number of Ranged Combat dice is not reduced if the firers moved (CCN does reduce it).

FT units which have pikes may adopt Stand of Pikes formation against cavalry – the rules and operation for this are exactly the same as for Squares in CCN.


  1. The marker denoting a pike heavy unit could be an extra (couple of) pikeman (drummer, officer, ...)standing behind the pike base.
    I agree a pike heavy unit should get a bonus for mêlee, but I'm not convinced a malus for ranged combat is appropriate. The deterrent of facing 200 or 300 muskets firing would be about the same I think, but extra pike would mean extra manpower to the push and greater chance of overlap and a higher pike per yard ratio against cavalry.


    1. Hi Pjotr - thanks for this - the logic was just that half a unit armed with muskets would be less than two-thirds of the same sized unit armed with muskets.

      Thank you also, by the way, for providing me with the word malus, which is such a brilliant word that I shall use it from this day onwards.

      I'm sort of comfortable with the malus of one dice for pike-heavy boys firing - I'm a bit more concerned that a single base lost renders a pike-heavy unit unable to fire at long range. Maybe it serves them right for using outdated tactics - maybe I just remembered these are probably 'Dutch' tactics....

      Cheers - Tony

    2. Lucky I'm not Dutch ...although, I would have been back then.
      But, consider this: in mêlee most casualties would fall between the pikemen, cowardly musketeers hiding behind them. When firing at an attacking enemy, you would probably be ordered to fire at the most dangerous part of a formation for the upcoming scrap -being the pikemen. Attacking you would do the same thus also aiming for the pike. My guess is that most casualties would fall between the pikemen.
      On the other hand it would be detached musketeers, lining hedges or other obstacles or cover, being part of a forlorn hope (from the Dutch "verloren hoop", meaning "lost hope")that would target passing cavalry and other musketeers.
      Thus, I would suggest not allowing units to fall without firepower, but always leave a base of musketeers, taking further casualties from the pikemen bases.
      So this raises another question: how to simulate small bodies of detached musketeers. Could this be done by using those small 2 base units of musketeers?
      Anyway, just remember it's you who has to play the game and you have to be happy with the rules, whatever I say or think.


    3. Hi Pjotr - first off, remember that "without firepower" in a CCN-based game means that they cannot fire at anything 150-300 paces away - there is still a lot of fire at ranges less than that implied by melee combat.

      Secondly, you have succeeded in making me think again about the rapid decline of firepower in a 1:1 unit - I mentioned that I was not comfortable about this. How would it be if the base removed for a casualty was a pike base if the unit was pike-heavy, or if the remaining bases were split equally between pike and shot - otherwise it's a musket base? Here's a little table to show the adventures of two units - each is depicted in miniature as 2 shot, 1 pike, but one of them is marked as pike-heavy.

      (A) The standard 2:1 unit - initial melee rating is 2 x 1 (muskets) + 1 x 2 (pikes) = 4; initial fire rating is 2 x 1 (muskets only) = 2
      (A.1) They lose their 1st casualty base - it's muskets, since they have 2 of those and are not pike-heavy. They now have 1 musket base & 1 pike - melee rating is 3, fire rating 1.
      (A.2) They lose 2nd casualty base - since they have equal numbers, this time it's a pike - they now have just 1 musket base remaining - melee rating 1, fire 1.
      (A.3) They lose their 3rd base - they are gone.

      (B) Pike-heavy unit - initial melee rating is 2 x 1 (muskets) + 1 x 2 (pikes) + 1 bonus (pike-heavy) = 5; initial fire rating is 2 x 1 (musket bases) - 1 malus (pike-heavy) = 1
      (B.1) They lose their 1st casualty base - it's pikes, since they are pike-heavy. They now have 2 musket bases only - melee rating is 2 x 1 + 1 bonus = 3, fire rating 2 x 1 - 1 malus = 1.
      (B.2) They lose 2nd casualty base - since they only have muskets left, it must be a musket base - they now have just 1 musket base remaining - melee rating 1 + 1 bonus = 2, fire rating 1 - 1 malus = 0.
      (B.3) They lose their 3rd base - they are gone.

      Sorry to plod through that - sadly, that is how I think! I believe it sort of works in this revised form.

      2-base commanded shot or forlorn hope units should exist in the armies - I hope the limited numbers of dragoons should also be useful for skirmishing and lining hedges.

      Lastly - the rules will have to state that any unit which ever had pikes can form "stand of pikes" formation if required - even if it looks as though they have no pikes left, there will still be some in the mix!

      Thanks again - naturally I would not antagonise you or your antecedents, whatever any of us may have called ourselves at various times! ;-)

      Cheers - Tony

    4. Afterthought - though it may seem odd, the only units which are to be marked as pike-heavy in this game are those for which the troop mix is not as it appears on the bases - therefore a 1:1 3-base unit is marked as pike-heavy, but (maybe bizarrely) a 4-base unit starting with 2 pike and 2 shot does not need the pike-heavy marker - they can just be treated normally, since the mix of troops is correct. I felt I needed to write this down somewhere...

    5. Yes and no, if after loosing a first base they follow case(B)and are considered to be pike heavy 3-base units, so you would still need the marker at the risk of treating such a 2:2 unit after first loss as a standard 2:1 unit.


    6. Good thinking, but I think that if a 2 pike + 2 musket unit lost a base, it would be a musket base they lost, so they would then have 2 pike + 1 musket, which should be recognisably non-standard, and the next loss would be a pike base anyway. Then the next loss would be a pike base, and the last base alive would be muskets - getting them 1 melee dice and 1 fire dice at the end. So I think we only need to mark units where the initial proportion of musket bases to pike bases does not match the official ratio.

      I think it's one of these things that seems fairly intuitive, though it's not easy to describe (as my failure here may prove!)

      Cheers - Tony

    7. I follow you, but in my case you would have the advantage of standardised unit formats, i.e. all pike heavy 3-base units would look the same and you wouldn't need an extra explanation dealing with non standard units. It would simplify the set up at the cost of a marker.


  2. Tony - I'm glad that you are doing your thinking 'out loud' as it were, this is great stuff and you are clearly getting more focused on the unique style of ECW battle. I'm sorry if on reflection I rambled on about my re enactment experience, I think I was basically trying to stress the way that mixed pike and shot units worked as a single entity, both dependent upon each other. I'm so inspired by what you are doing here that I have decided to try and use your adaptations for 6mm ECW games, but using 60x60 bases of mixed pike & shot.

    Casualties - I'm still not clear why all losses for a mixed unit are taken as musket bases, but I'll go back and read through again. I wish I could recall how 'Forlorn Hope' handled casualties from fire and melee, those rules played incredibly well for a 'conventional' rule set and gave a true period feel to our games.

    Keep this up, it's exciting stuff and has re ignited my old passion for the period after many years :-)

    All the best,

    1. Hi Lee - taking a base/block loss as muskets gives the same reduction in both melee and ranged combat dice (1 for each), which achieves exactly the same result as deducting one dice for an attached Casualty Marker (which I was briefly proposing to use). For a 6mm version of this, using a single base for a unit, you should reinstate the Casualty Markers idea, and deduct one dice for each in both types of CCN combat.

      Rambling? - I'm delighted to get all possible input based on re-enactment experience. If anyone out there has experience of the real Battle of Marston Moor, please do get in touch - otherwise, re-enactors are most welcome.

      I'm glad you're enjoying my fumbling about with the ECW rules, I'm certainly getting into it. If you haven't seen the White Mountain rules I linked to a couple of posts ago (in part 1, I think), recommend you have a quick read. It's interesting in its own right, but I think it's also useful as an illustration of throwing the baby out with the bath-water - in a couple of areas the attempt to enrich the underlying C&C game has actually impaired that precious playability which - to me - is the whole point. Since I have come close to doing the same thing twice in the last week - once for mixed foot, and once for ECW horse - it's a most useful resource.

      Cheers - Tony

  3. Now I like this approach! Simple to use, has the right effect. Next!

    1. Thanks again, Ross - wait till you see the drivel I've produced for cavalry...