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

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

ECW - Rules Tweak Scaled Right Back

I've had a most interesting few days' correspondence with Peter B, Prof de Vries, Martin S and, most especially, the Jolly Broom Man. As a result of all this enlightenment (and, by Jove, these chaps know their stuff), I've decided not to make the ambitious changes to my ECW rules, as sketched out in my previous post.

It all comes back to the issue of how the regiments arranged their musket fire back in the 17th Century. I was concerned that if (to put it in layman's terms) everyone fired at once (BANG) then subsequently they would be conspicuously unloaded, and, since the idea that they might manage to reload while rushing about seemed unlikely, they would arrive unable to fire if they attacked someone without having stopped somewhere on the way. This kind of thinking owed a lot to my exposure to the Victory without Quarter rules, which make a feature of loading as a necessary activity.

Well, as everyone in the world knows very well - apart from me - it all comes down to the way they conducted the firing. Because the matchlock was a cumbersome thing to load, the approved method was to arrange the musketeers in a lot of ranks - 6 or 8 was OK - and then fire by rolling the ranks:

(1) Intraduction, by which the firing line advanced, required the rear (loaded) rank to move round in front of the rank which had just fired - the sergeant, with his partizan or his half-pike, would show the newly loaded chaps where to line up and fire. Thus the rate of advance would be up to the sergeant, and the firing line would move forward.

(2) Extraduction, by which the firing line fell back, required the front rank, after they had fired, to nip round the rear (the sergeant would show them where) and get on with reloading. In time they would once again become the front rank, and it would be their turn to fire once more. Thus the firing line would gradually be moving back.

I apologise for the kindergarten explanation - it is necessary for me to envisage things in simple terms. Anyway, this means that the firing would not go BANG, as discussed, it would go bang--bang--bang--etc, and it also means that the Foot would never all be unloaded at the same time, which means that they would be able to produce some amount of fire while on the move. If, like me, you imagine that advancing or retreating by means of the rolling intra/extraduction system would slow down the attack to a pitiful shuffle then I am assured that this is correct - this is why the rules reduce the movement rate for Foot when close to the enemy, but I am also informed by the JBM that this was not a critical-path issue, since the unit closing up and the pikemen sorting themselves out was just as big a problem prior to a clash. [The Broom Man, by the way, apart from a life of monastic research, also has personal experience of re-enactment; never disagree with a man who knows how to handle a pike - especially one who may have been at the Siege of Bristle.]

I sense a lot of unrest - people with their hands in the air, protesting, "...but, Miss, Miss, Miss...". Well you are quite right, there was also the process known as fire by salvee, which was introduced by Gustavus Adolphus for his Swedish army, and which did, indeed, have everybody firing at once and thus being unloaded immediately thereafter. I am assured that this was beyond the capabilities of just about everyone apart from the Swedes during this period - thus it is not relevant for the ECW, and Peter B reckons that it would be used even by the Swedes in the 30YW as a short-range device, such that it should be considered as part of melee combat in rules of this type.

Gustavus Adolphus
Thus, after this long ramble, I am merely going to switch my CC_ECW rules back to allowing Foot to move 1 hex and fire at reduced effect, which is where I started a few years ago, in a manner similar to what Commands & Colors does for Napoleonic warfare. Peter B made the interesting point that this kind of reduced fire while moving actually makes more sense in an ECW context than it does for Napleonic warfare, which is a suitable topic for debate in the pub, but gets me off the hook anyway.

I am somewhat sorry that I didn't get to play with the cotton-wool smoke markers, as discussed last time, but no matter. Simple is good.

One other change I shall introduce in the revised rules is that Stand of Pikes formation will not be permitted in woods - in fact units armed with pikes will not be allowed to fight in woods at all. That was a stupid oversight on my part - the JBM assures me that big boys with pikes in the woods are going to get into bother, and someone will get hurt, for sure, so we can't have that. The upgraded rules will be downloadable in a week or two, once I've rehashed the QRS chart (which is the trickiest bit of the editorial process).

My thanks to everyone who contributed. There is talk of an ECW battle in these parts sometime in the nearish future, so a quick review of the rules was - how do you say? - opportune - yes, that's it. 


  1. Not a problem at all, but I regret to say I've received a most unhelpful, critical comment on this post. This from someone who thought it best not to contribute to the previous post (since anyone who has any interest in Commands & Colors is obviously beneath contempt) but now feels the need to be rude and dismissive about my "childish" presentation of military science. What can I say?

    This chap is clearly comfortable in his supreme wisdom and fame, so he requires no publication here, but if he sends me any further crap I shall name him on the spot.

  2. Tony - I think this makes sense, move 1 and fire at reduced effect is both in the spirit of C&C and I agree more realistic for the period, bit of a shame about the smoke markers though. JBM also follows my ECW blog, and I have noted his profile pic bearing his matchlock upon his shoulder. Just for information, WRG rules allow muskets to fire by rank each turn (front rank only) or by salvo (if points paid for such training), 2 ranks at increased effect, but only on alternate moves, so you were kind of on the same track there. One thing that struck me recently when looking at the famous 'Naseby' illustration was just how deep the musket blocks actually were, as you mention, several ranks deep presenting a rolling fire. Wargamers typically represent pike blocks deeper than the musket blocks (guilty!), but I don't think that is accurate. The period feel to your ECW adaption is about as spot on as it could be in my opinion whilst still remaining true to the basic C&C game, it is constantly in the back on my mind to make the change to these rules, but I have been pondering how to fit my units into my 6" square hex mat, would require some pretty serious tweaking as I like large units. Having the musketeers deployed on narrower frontages but deeper would be one solution.....food for thought.

    1. Lee - thanks for this. Peter B made the interesting observation that the number of ranks was directly related to the time it took to reload - the implication is that there is a direct descent to the later flintlock-armed 18th Century armies - by this time the reload time was short enough for them to have 3 ranks.

      I've assumed (from what I've read) that my 2 rows of musketeers represent 6 or 8 in real life!

      Good to hear from you - thanks again.

    2. By the way, I would follow your new ECW blog, but am having problems with Blogger again - it insists on my following blogs under my real name - sorry, I mean my OTHER name. When I sort that out I'll be present and correct!

    3. No worries Tony :) Things have ground to a bit of a halt on the blog, after several months frantic painting and collecting I am now the proud owner of a fine ECW collection but once again the rules have stalled things, far too slow and cumbersome despite the nostalgia. I know this was just what attracted both of us to C&C so maybe it's time to give nostalgia big boot up the butt and get with it!

  3. Thanks - an interesting post, it is fascinating to think about how they actually went about the business of organised combat in the pike and shot era. Now I admit I have not downloaded your rules, so you may rightly ignore all I say.. But one thing that always strikes me is how short a range they would be firing their muskets at (ignoring ill-disciplined premature popping-off by inexperienced troops); I get the feeling this would often be 100 yards or less. Which must have been terrifying, by the way. Now this makes me wonder, what is the 'range' of musketry in C&C, in hexes? And what distance does a hex represent? And how does that relate to movement distances?
    Another thing that only now strikes me is, if taking up a firing position at 100 yards from the enemy and then using 'fire by introduction', it can't take long to close the range quite considerably; how much discipline did it take to maintain that measured fire and reloading, and how tempting was it to just give all that up and get stuck in to a melee? I don't have any answers to these questions as yet, clearly I need to read more - or I need to get out more.

  4. Simple explanations that promote a lasting and easily reconciled visuals are sometimes the best. Interesting discussion and I hope these ruminations do prompt an appearance of your ECW troops.