On Tuesday this week Chas kindly invited me up to his place along with Steve H to see a play-through of a set of rules I have had in my possession for nearly a year and have been really keen to see played.
Unfortunately I don't own any Renaissance war figures, the period of warfare, 'Furioso' by Alternative Armies is aimed at.
The rules and Italian Wars supplement are available in paperback and pdf, together with their own range of 15mm figures that also incorporate the fantasy range of Da Vinci type creations including his design for a tank.
|A perfect day for an outdoors wargame|
Our game was sticking to a more historically factual approach and we were using 28mm figures to put together an Italian Wars scenario with a Spanish army versus a Papal State force and the range of troop types they might be expected to field.
|The odd breeze made set up slightly problematical hence weights needed to hold down those tabletop unit set up markers|
With the current spell of weather we are experiencing at the moment and not wishing to be gently poached in Chas' sun lounge we maintained the Italian theme by playing the game 'al fresco' under Chas' marquis in the back garden which made for a very pleasant experience if occasionally a little breezy which caused a few problems with the set up.
I thought rather than give you a blow by blow account of the game I would focus on how the rules play and my impressions which 'spoiler alert' were very favourable. So to give you an idea of how the game turned out I have captioned the pictures from the various stages of play up to where we called it a day.
As you will seen above, we were following the scenario creation and table set up process straight from the book that requires the laying down of unit markers, face down, prior to them being revealed and the units being placed in that position. This allows a certain level of hidden deployment, with the more aggressive/better manoeuvred force likely to be deployed further forward than its enemy.
Thus our table set up ended up looking as seen below with the Spanish line advanced with its three pike blocks and supporting missile troops advanced and with light cavalry to the flanks and with the the heavy stuff in the rear.
|The Spanish to the right and Steve's Papal boys on the left, both 300 point forces|
The Papal chaps, being outmanoeuvred, as explained in the set up system, were deployed nearer to the rear of their base line, with a force much more biased towards cavalry and with the inclusion of a medium sized gun. In addition the Italian force was allowed a couple of infantry trenches and some gabions to emplace their gun; as it turned out by the time the troops had finished building their trenches the battle had made them redundant.
|The Spanish force deployed a formidable array of pike blocks forward with their heavy cavalry in support|
The set up is very straight forward with a familiar process of laying terrain items and deciding on table edges that is very reminiscent of Peter Pig rules where players take nine dice and allocate a proportion of them to Terrain, Path, Approach and Events.
Terrain decides who gets to layout the terrain, with the loser re-positioning one piece. Path decides which side of the table the forces will enter from. Approach decides who gets to advance their deployment zone and Events allows the winner to decide which event table to roll on to decide a pre-battle event.
With dice allocated the players roll off for each category and the winning die roll takes control thus the number of dice allocated gently weights the players chances of winning or not as the case may be.
|The Papal army was principally a mix of heavy and light cavalry supported by a militia pike block, skirmish infantry and a medium gun|
In our game Steve (Papal State) won the terrain, path and events but although able to choose his table edge and the shape of the table saw the Spanish winning the Approach and thus extending forward their deployment zone and when choosing the events table that gave him the chance of getting a Papal Blessing for his army saw instead his army being on the wrong end of a Long March and thus forced to start back a further six inches.
|The cream of the Papal army was its unit of Famiglia Ducale heavy cavalry (right), that compared to the other stuff was as keen as mustard to get stuck in|
With the deployments sorted out we were off and the very straightforward design of the rules enables a very fast flowing intuitive game.
The sequence of play is designed around initiative with each unit rolling a d6 that can be modified up or down by commanders or other force specific factors with the final score determining when or if the unit will activate in the turn. I say if, because some of our units were occasionally reduced to zero, meaning they were pinned for the phase, unable to shoot but able to defend themselves if contacted in combat.
The highest scoring units move first with ties decided in favour of who moved second in the last phase and at the start in favour of the side with the highest group of best initiative rolls.
|The Spanish advance is confident as the pike blocks lead from the front|
The movement is quite straight forward with the unit either moving its full allocation or not, its full allocation being a standard type movement rate (examples are 4 inches for pike, 6 inches for foot crossbow or shot and 8 to 12 inches for various cavalry types) including modifiers for terrain. To this is also added the initiative roll which can add a further one to six inches.
This movement system can lead to some interesting decisions about how far forward to advance certain units without exposing them to rapid flank attacks by fast moving cavalry.
|The Spanish advance is met by a screen of Papal light cavalry armed with cross-bows and arquebus|
As with movement, shooting and combat is equally straight forward with a basic concept of hits being caused on a d6 score of 5 or more and a reciprocal saving throw requiring the same score with shooting worked out on the basis of 2d6 per stand at close range and 1d6 per stand beyond that, up to maximum range; and with saving throws for each hit added to for factors such as cover with, for example, a target in heavy cover adding 3d6 to the number of dice being thrown.
Likewise combat is determined by various units being allotted a unit specific combat factor of one to five. This combat factor determines how many dice to roll per stand in contact with the enemy unit, again various modifiers would affect the basic roll by adding or deducting dice to roll for hits and saves with factors such as armour adding to the saving attempts.
|The skirmish forces operate in a typical manner, picking off the odd casualty here and there - very annoying|
Following losses caused by shooting or a unit taking part in close combat a morale test is taken by the units affected, with the combat factor used to determine the number of dice to be rolled in the attempt again modified by situational factors such as having lost a stand, closeness to the general etc, with one of the die rolled required to give that five or higher result.
Failure of a shooting morale check means a player being forced to check their best scoring dice against a morale result chart that looks at the magnitude of failure with one difference causing one casualty and a fall back of one inch to a failure by four causing a unit to break and be removed from play.
|The Papal skirmish screen advanced and caused casualties from the start|
Given that both sides take a morale test after a round of close combat, their results need to be compared one to the other to determine who has to react with an equal result causing a continuation of the combat or with the one side having the fewest successful die rolls being declared the loser of the melee round and thus subject to a morale result check again causing no effect through being pushed back with casualties to a worse case of breaking and being removed.
|A little stiffening of the Papal skirmish screen|
The accrual of casualties gradually causes units to lose effectiveness and eventually break and be removed with four casualties causing the loss of a stand and with a unit losing more than half it stands being removed from play, with the exception of skirmish units being deemed broken on the removal of just one stand.
|The first clashes as particular Spanish units are engaged in close combat|
Finally the armies themselves are subject to an Army Morale which based on the number and size of units in the given army gives a number of Army Morale Points which is the start point for assessing a degrading of the armies effectiveness and eventual rout if 50% of those points are lost through units being removed.
|A Spanish pike block is engaged by Lanze Spezzate heavy cavalry after being disordered (note marker) by the Papal artillery|
Around this simple framework are built the rules that give this period of huge transition from the late medieval to the horse and musket era its flavour.
The name of the rules 'Furioso' point to this tailoring with units such as the Swiss and Landsknecht troops known for their vicious enmity towards each other likely to go into a state of furioso, meaning an impetuosity, leading to multiple combat rounds in the same round and the increased casualties that were likely to follow.
|A unit of Spanish arquebusiers gets attacked by a unit of aggressive Stradiots (raiding light cavalry)|
The rules come with basing and organisational guides together with the stats for several period specific forces, namely the Italian Wars (French, Italian, Spanish, Holy Roman Empire and Swiss), The French Wars of Religion (Huguenot, Catholic, Dutch and Spanish) The Tudor Wars (English and Scots) and The Elizabethan Wars (English and Irish).
|The Papal force begins to drive back the Spanish flaking forces out on the Spanish right|
As with most modern sets of rules these days, basing is recommended but not compulsory and we quickly decided on similar basing to other sets already out there with a decision to use the 40mm base for infantry with four figures in a double rank, and with cavalry on a 50mm wide base with two figures.
The look of such units is captured in the pictures with a pike block of eight bases together with a couple of skirmish stands and a base of doppelsoldner or sword and bucklermen.
Likewise the heavy cavalry operating with a usual four bases and with skirmish types in threes with a two up one back formation to indicate their role.
|The Spanish centre is formidable and the Papal forces are forced to call on all their units to attempt to stop the seemingly unstoppable advance|
I came away from our game even more enthused with 'Furioso' and went and got myself a copy of the Italian Wars supplement, together with a copy of James Roach's Pike and Plunder campaign rules which would I think work very well with them.
The Italian Wars supplement provides a wealth of background information to the period, a really interesting set of additional rules that allows players to bid for certain mercenary groups prior to play with some added flavour of named mercenary leaders and their stats.
There are also five historical battle scenarios included with suggested armies listed for Fornovo 1496, Ravenna 1512, Biocca 1522, Pavia 1525 and Cresole 1544.
Then you will find some ideas on solo campaigns and linking up Furioso games followed by several sections looking at the fantasy additions of 'wondrous inventions' and how to incorporate them.
Finally there are some additional flavouring rules around blessings and divine power followed by a very useful Q&A section that came out of the rules clarifying points of play.
|Eventually even the reluctant Papal militia pike are brought into the fight|
In addition several of us in the Devon Wargames Group are keen to commemorate our own local history from this period, remembered as the Prayer Book Rebellion with a series of battles fought around Exeter in 1549 between Devon and Cornish rebels and King Edward VI army under the command of the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Russell (boo, hiss, boo).
This was a time when England didn't have a standing army and the king would call on nobles to provide forces alongside county militias and hired foreign mercenaries, hence Devon being the scene of some vicious fighting involving Landsknecht troops.
|The Papal troops are successful on the Spanish right, driving their opponents back over the river|
I am still very much on the learning curve with this period in history but came away with ideas of building some forces to compliment others held in the club and the likely 28mm figure ranges I might start with.
Never fear though, all these ideas will have to wait whilst my current project is under way, but at least I have found a rule set to work with once I get started.
Next up Romans, Dacians, Chalke Valley History Festival and an Iron Age Hill Fort attacked by the Romans.