Archive for April, 2009


White Mountain – rules update – infantry vs cavalry

April 20, 2009

Q:   If an infantry regiment is within movement range of a cavalry regiment unit in its turn (say if the cavalry were caracoling on their turn), can the infantry unit charge the cavalry and engage?

A:   No, sort of. It is unrealistic for infantry to ‘charge’ cavalry as the cavalry can simply move faster than the infantry and avoid contact if they choose to.  So how do we reflect this in the rules?

If infantry use their movement to advance on the cavalry, the cavalry can automatically, out of turn, maintain their distance (the same hex separation) and move away. There are two other possible outcomes from this:

1) the cavalry can stay in place and engage in melee, but this is not the infantry charging the cavalry as we are assuming that the cavalry are countercharging in response

2) if the cavalry cannot move away because their path is blocked by other units then melee occurs. Again we are assuming that the cavalry are countercharging.

In all cases where melee occurs the infantry are considered the ‘attacker’ and roll dice first, but this is just a sequencing convenience.


The Thirty Years War project

April 17, 2009


The set of rules we are designing and refining for the Thirty Years War is inspired by the now virtually standard hex board popularised by games such as Batttlecry, Commands & Colors and Memoir 44. At first it was no more than an expansion or modification, but as time has gone on what we have can truly be said to be new, but using those same elements: hex board and card driven.

The rules and units have been designed to closely model what we hold as the ‘feel’ of the period. The scales chosen allow us to play at the same operational level as the commanders of the day. that is: a unit, or regiment, on the board models a specific regiment with each block (or group of miniatures if you like) representing a historically probable number of men. Command and staff structures were primitive at that time. The commander asked individual regiments to do individual tasks and it was up to their own genius about how they achieved coordination. This informs both the scale of the game board, the unit representation, and the cards employed to model those limitations.

This set of rules and supporting material is a labour of love. Our findings and tools are free. We make them because we want to play the very best game about the topic: fast playing and easy to understand that captures the feeling of early 17th century warfare.

Over time complete card, counter, rule and supporting material will be placed in the Miniature Rules page. In addition we will give information on various regiments and formations, have commentary on tactics and strategy, analyze historical battles and campaigns, provide specific orders of battle and set up instructions for refights of historical battles, and present randomisation tables that will create historically reasonable armies and battlefields for simple competition.

If this period interests you then please drop us a line with your comments. If it doesn’t then don’t despair: Simon will be back soon with updates on the new and exciting That Samurai Game, and Greg will be placing more information on skirmish games and rules as we lead up to Little Wars 2009.



Thirty Years War in context

April 7, 2009

Historical events really only become clear later when historians look back and try to understand what caused all the fuss. As people live through the turmoil it is never quite so clear. As the saying goes, “If it makes sense, you clearly don’t understand it.”

From the perspective of 400 years we can divide the conflict known as the Thirty Years War into the following phases:

The Bohemian Revolt: 1618 – 1620.
The Palatinate phase. 1621 – 1624.
The Danish intervention. 1625 – 1629.
The Swedish intervention. 1630 – 1635.
The French intervention. 1636 – 1648.

Each of these phases has its own character with regard to the combant forces involved, the orginsation of the forces and therefore their fighting characteristics, and also the commanders involved.


Introduction to Kurassiers

April 7, 2009

yellow-kurhb_2002130a-pThe French called them Cuirassiers and this name continuied to be used into the 19th century. Oliver Cromwell’s Ironsides were Kurassiers. Most cavalry of the Thirty Years War period were Kurassiers.

These horsemen evolved from the earlier Gendarme, or true knight. They were still the priveleged arm because everyone was self-equipped. The horse and armour were very expensive still. These people continued to see themselves as the elite of the battlefield. However, their role as Queen of the battlefield had been eclipsed by the infantrymen armed with pike and musket. Gradually kurassiers had given up their lances and replaced them with a pair, or more, of long wheel lock pistols. They no longer anticipated charging directly into the infantry because bitter experience had taught that disciplined blocks could not be broken and the pike kept them at bay. Only when a block was shaken was there any hope of surviving the impact. But once inside, then the nobleman on horseback could do what he did best: slaughter.

The tactic evolved in Europe to break a block of infantry before contact was the caracole. In the caracole a regiment of kurassiers would advance toward their opponents and halt. The front rank would advance, sometimes as close as 50 metres, turn their horses to the left, extend their pistols to the right with the mechanism on the top (so turned on its side just as punk gangsters do in movies today) and let rip. Then they would retreat to the back of the formation to reload while the next rank had a shot. And this would go on for a while until either the target formation showed signs of weakening, or the kurassiers had had enough and would retire. If gaps in the ranks started to appear, or if the infantry blocks gave any signs that they were upset by the attention and started to shuffle away, the kurassiers would ideally launched straight into an attack. At this range such an attack could only be at a trot, if that. Often the horsemen would just retire, having satisfactorily shot up the infantry without following up with contact.

During the course of the war military theorists, and this is generally attributed to Gustavus Adolphus but it is unlikely that he had the idea by himself, came to criticise the caracole. It was felt that it was not decisive enough. And this may be true. But in the context of largely amateur armies and unsteady finances a commander’s primary concern was probably trying to preserve what forces they had rather than risking them in all-or-nothing gambles.

This change in perception saw a change in tactics. Instead of the caracole kurassiers were trained to reserve their fire until they were close to contact. A contact that occured at the trot, that had already been committed to beforehand. It required a new kind of bravery, and a lot of training. Chances are it appealed to the vanity of the men on the horses. After all, here they were charging again, just like the old days. As the war progressed this became the more popular tactic on all sides.

The English labelled kurassiers that used this tactic ‘trotters’.