Good ruleset for small skirmishes set during the French wars of religion?

Shipyard Locked

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Does anyone have an recommendations for a wargame ruleset?

I want to do small skirmishes set during the French wars of religion. I'm wondering if Osprey's En Garde! would fit the bill, or if there's a more popular option for pike and shot.

EDIT: Oh, and single man preferably.
 

Dumarest

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TristramEvans

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If you can find it, this one is absolutely fantastic. Scales easily from skirmish to big battle, rules are relatively simple but tactically satisfying, basing-agnostic and supports any mini scale, and the best c&c system I've ever come across in a wargame

 
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Shipyard Locked

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Anyone have an opinion on Flashing Steel by Ganesha Games? It's based on something called Song of Blades and Heroes.
 

TristramEvans

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I'm familiar with Song of Blades & Heroes, but haven't read Flashing Steel.

Song is basically a person-to person warband level game with 3-10 minis a piece, more akin to Warcry or Mordheim.

It's big "twist" is it's activation rules.Each time you activate a model in your turn you can choose to roll 1, 2, or 3 dice. Each die equals + the model’s Quality score results in an action the model may carry out. (“move”, “fight”, “fire a ranged weapon” etc). More complex actions require multiple action dice.

Each die you fail the activation roll on your opponent may use the number of dice you failed to activate models of his during your turn (and before your model may carry out their actions). If you fail two or more dice your turn is over and it’s your opponent’s turn.]
 

Simlasa

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My first thought would be Sharp Practice... but it's not specifically aimed at that conflict, but I'd imagine there are TFL fans who have tweaked it for that purpose.

 

Atelerix

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Sharpe Practice is a brilliant game - it would do well for the period. There's a Wars of the Roses mod for it floating around too, and it works well - shout if you would like a copy. Bills and bows had gone by the end of the period, and they didn't use pikes in smaller fights - maybe 14ft demi-pikes during sieges.

Gloire by Rattrap Productions is for very small groups. The rules are decent but there's a ton of special abilities. It's very scenario based - one has a couple of Roundheads and a couple if Cavaliers trying to catch Prince Rupert's dog, Boy! Couple of supplements too, including a pirate one.

A lot depends on the style you want too - I'd be very tempted to play it with Savage Worlds/Pirates if the Spanish Main.

How small a game do you want @Shipyard Locked ?

It's a thin period for wargames, doubly so for skirmish games - big, formed pike and shot armies hold people's attention, I suspect. Odd, because it's a good period for small games of intrigue and plot.
 
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Shipyard Locked

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How small a game do you want @Shipyard Locked ?
I think 7 to 14 individuals per side, not forced to fight in formation, able to run on rooftops and stuff like that. Street skirmishes, palace assassinations, bridge ambushes, that sort of thing.
 

Dumarest

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Hey Dumarest, can you tell me more about your experiences with this one? How well does it handle skirmishes with a dozen models per side only?
Haven't personally played it, only seen it.
 

Atelerix

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Not played En Garde, so can't comment on it.

Gloire is too detailed for more than a couple of characters on each side.

SoBaH is a nice ruleset - Flashing Steel won't be expensive. Not played it, but the whole series is good. Smooth-playing for bigger skirmishes of a dozen per side.

Savage Worlds/PotSM has a good range of options in and out of combat, and runs nicely as a wargame with the Showdown/battle rules. Couple of Wild Cards and a gaggle of minions?

There's a game called Donnybrook written by by The League of Augsberg, which covers 16th-18th Century skirmshes, but generally it's for larger games - commander plus 4 units ot 4-12 figures. My own take is that it rips off Savage Worlds and Sharpe Practice without understanding either, but seems popular .

SP itself tends to work on units of 6-8, but each unit can be a single character or small team of 2-4 followers. The focus of the game is command though - it may feel "off" with only characters.

Melee + some ideas from GURPS Swashbucklers could work.

There's an old GW game called Legends of the High Seas for pirates, but it's set a century later and has a lot of "piratey" detail (ship combat for example). It works, but it's not terribly inspiring. It's also long OOP and can command a pretty penny on eBay.
 
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Shipyard Locked

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So right now it looks like the likeliest candidates are:
Lace Warfare
Gloire
Flashing Steel
En Garde! (Osprey version, not the proto-RPG)
Savage Showdown
Melee

I'll have to think about it.

Lace Warfare
+ Comes highly recommended
- Hard to obtain and not available as a PDF

Gloire
+ Has RPG elements
- Too many RPG elements?

Flashing Steel
+ Has a solid track record
- Might be too gamy and doesn't seem to be anyone's actual favorite

En Garde!
+> Company I trust
- Combat might be too complex

Savage Showdown
+ High recommended by a loyal fanbase
- I'm skeptical of Savage Worlds and its wonky math, and it's a generic system

Melee
+ Very proven track record
- Generic, not designed with the era's particularities in mind
 
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TristramEvans

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TristramEvans

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Honestly, kinda sounds like the game you want would be perfect for Mordheim, if you ditched the magic/supernatural elements and just used the "Empire" list rules. It's the right time period, covers small warbands in an urban envioronment, lends itself well to mods. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a fanmade "historical" mordheim somewhere on the interwebs. You'd just have to add in the background.
 

Atelerix

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Mordheim would indeed just work.

The weird thing about this period is how the main battlefield weapons - cannon, pike, shotte, heavily armoured gendarmes (knights) and light troops - lance and javelin wielding horse, sword and buckler men (both often well armoured) are not your typical skirmish fighters.

Instead, you're generally looking at hand weapons, polearms, agricultural tools and bows. Guns are effectively single-shot in a small skirmish but have a huge calibre and are brutally lethal. Maybe a brace of pistols for the discerning gentleman? Gunpowder is not cheap... Crossbows still make their mark.

Padding armour is still around, some with metal or horn pieces stitched into it (bezainted or jak o' plaite). Heavier armour includes brigandine or plate breastplates, often highly angled to deflect bullets, and armour for the pelvis. Turkish troops still wear mail. The heaviest pieces, siege armour, is multilayer full plate, and is reserved for valuable commanders and engineers to manage siegeworks (there's still a suit in Malta). Helmets become highly angled through the period, for example the Spanish morion.

This is the period of warfare as a science and an art. Schools of swordsmanship, duelling and other fighting arts abound, and disagree regularly. Improvements in metallurgy produce some of the most amazing swords ever made. Manuals are written - my favourite has the joke instruction to unscrew the sword pommel and throw it at your foe if things are going badly!

So it should be clear that pretty much any game that can handle "medieval" combat can handle the 16th Century. The question is - what do you want to add to make it distinctive?

Swordsmanship and swashbuckling are the most obvious. What rules and level of cinematic action do you want?

Nobility can lose everything in war or trade, or lose royal favour and tax farmer status; at the same time, many gamble all to seek riches in the New World or the East.

Religious turmoil is everywhere in Europe - I guess you know about this bit, but it operates at every level, in families, towns and villages as well as great battles. Agents, spies and the Church are everywhere. Even in England, there are Catholic insurrections against the Tudors, and a wild northern borderland with Scotland.

The medieval mindset abides in many ways. It remains a brutal, bloody time.

Scenarios are the key, I suspect. Have a think about the activities you listed above and maybe look at some of the scenarios in different rulesets. Pitched battle or tavern brawl with an old foe or duelling rival. Escort or assassinate the VIP. Gather evidence of treason and return it to your sponsor. Raid or subdue an openly defiant enemy. Get the letter or supplies through. Simply escape

Who are your characters? Soldiers, duellists, churchfolk, courtiers, peasants, nobles, loyal retainers?
 

Shipyard Locked

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The weird thing about this period is how the main battlefield weapons - cannon, pike, shotte, heavily armoured gendarmes (knights) and light troops - lance and javelin wielding horse, sword and buckler men (both often well armoured) are not your typical skirmish fighters.

Instead, you're generally looking at hand weapons, polearms, agricultural tools and bows. Guns are effectively single-shot in a small skirmish but have a huge calibre and are brutally lethal. Maybe a brace of pistols for the discerning gentleman? Gunpowder is not cheap... Crossbows still make their mark.
That's a really good observation. I guess I'm willing to hand-wave a bit to make pikes, horses and gendarmes more common in skirmishes than they realistically would have been.

So it should be clear that pretty much any game that can handle "medieval" combat can handle the 16th Century. The question is - what do you want to add to make it distinctive?

Swordsmanship and swashbuckling are the most obvious. What rules and level of cinematic action do you want?
Any details that can be added to make this feel more like 'historic' rather than 'D&D' would be good, even if it's ultimately a bit superficial. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I'm after total 'realism', whatever that means, especially if it makes the game take hours to play.

I really need a palate cleanser from all the fantasy sometimes. Something more substantial, that I can really grasp as a normal human living on earth. Something I can study and explore, embellish with real detail.

As for level of cinematic flair, I guess somewhere between 1973 Three Musketeers and the Assassin's Creed video games?

Scenarios are the key, I suspect. Have a think about the activities you listed above and maybe look at some of the scenarios in different rulesets. Pitched battle or tavern brawl with an old foe or duelling rival. Escort or assassinate the VIP. Gather evidence of treason and return it to your sponsor. Raid or subdue an openly defiant enemy. Get the letter or supplies through. Simply escape
I'd love to be able to do any of those, but I guess ideological turf wars would be the bread and butter. I'm thinking 1574, the fifth war of religion, when the countryside was in turmoil as many smaller forces simultaneously advanced religious and personal agendas.

Who are your characters? Soldiers, duellists, churchfolk, courtiers, peasants, nobles, loyal retainers?
Mostly soldiers, mercenaries, duellists, nobles, spies, and assassins, with the possibility of doing the others as the scenario demands.
 

David Johansen

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How do you feel about written orders? FGU used to have Fire, Hack, and Run. A universal skirmish game.

Another old one that might fit is Yaquinto's Swashbuckler.

GURPS combat would function well, but you'd have to make some rulings about combat abilities verses non-combat abilities in building points values. I'd probably go with a fixed build for each troop type and a $ budget instead of doing points based character creation for everyone.
 

David Johansen

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You could hack Bolt Action for the job pretty easily. You'd wind up pretty close to Mordheim but with randomized alternating activation. Warlords of Erewhon is a fantasy Beyond the Gates of Antares hack with a number of human armies. Knights would probably be closest. The upside is that Rick Priestly has a certain amount of game design cred. The downside is that he's never really cared too much about points and balanced play and has no problem with men throwing wads of paper at figures, making whistling noises and explosion sounds. If you want to go a little farther afield, you could look at Fantacide, if you can find a copy. Rick Priestly, Allessio Cavatore, and Andy Chambers parody of fantasy wargames. It's got a unit building system so you can customize your army lists. Of course, if you're looking for force organization charts or anything like that, hacking a game isn't what you're after.
 

Shipyard Locked

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How do you feel about written orders? FGU used to have Fire, Hack, and Run. A universal skirmish game.
Not a big fan, I feel they mostly slow things down. The one I enjoyed the most was the original Epic (40k) because it streamlined the process to a bunch of tokens you flipped.

Of course, if you're looking for force organization charts or anything like that, hacking a game isn't what you're after.
I'm not too worried about hacking, I can do that and I have the period information. However, the less generic the original system, the better.
 

soltakss

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Renaissance might be a good fit. It is firmly set in the pikes and muskets era.
 

Atelerix

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I would pick one of the period rulesets and give it a try. That includes both Mordheim and Pirates of the Spanish Main. Do make sure that the different character types have some differentiating abilities, otherwise it can turn into a bit of a slugfest.

Flashing Blades may work - SoBaH has a lot of flavourful special abilities. I wouldn't give anyone Quality 2+ though - they just activate too well. The system works well for 3+ and 4+, then you really want to be using the Group rules to keep 5+ and 6+ figures (zombies basically) moving along.

Mordheim - limit the advancement, limit missile weapons.

Turf war is good. You can place certain resources that advance your cause or give bonuses in different areas of the map to be fought over. Maybe The Docks, The Market, The City Gate, A Local Church, etc. Plenty of maps of Paris in the 1600s online! The area can be mapped like a point-crawl (especially if you're playing in a city). Or you just fight to control a number of teritories or objectives through the campaign.

If you don't want cash, tonnes of better and better equipment, or sky-high stats to be the aim of the games, maybe make the currency of the game "Influence". Influence can also buy you things you need from your benefactors - a map of the sewers to allow you to skip past certain enemy controlled areas, a new ally who can provide supplies, an expert character for a single game (like a scout), or a small barrel of gunpowder. Characters can still improve, of course. GW's Battle Companies for LotR does this really well. Again, that will help you get the stench of fantasy out your nostrils!

There's a brilliant account of "turf war" during the English Civil War. A Lady named Brilliana Harley found herself in charge of her home manor while her husband was off fighting for Parliament. Unfortunately several local towns and villages were staunchly Royalist, and she found herself masterminding the defence of her beseiged home. When the siege was lifted, she sent her retainers raiding. Much of the war was conducted locally like that, although many games concentrate on the few big set-piece battles.

Mordheim may still be floating about on the Internet, as it was a free Living Rulebook for a while. Ditto for Battle Companies (although it's now a paid-for supplement). I can drop you PDF copies via OneDrive or Dropbox if you like.

As always, enjoy yourself!
 
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Shipyard Locked

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I'm starting to really see the limitations of Wargame Vault's selection. Why are so many games missing from it? Is it reputable?
 

TristramEvans

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I'm starting to really see the limitations of Wargame Vault's selection. Why are so many games missing from it? Is it reputable?
Honestly, I think it comes down to the fact that a lot of historical wargamers (and hence wargames) are from an older audience, one that largely hasn't adopted pdfs as a standard.
 

David Johansen

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GURPS has excellent support for weapons and their use, especially with High Tech, and the loading time for firearms will certainly make melee weapons matter.

However, it occurs to me that D&D might serve the purpose.

A starting warband consists of a captain who has 1000 gold pieces to spend on men and equipment.

Rabble 5 gp + 2 gp / month
Trained Recruits 10 gp + 5 gp / month
Veterans 15gp + 10 gp / month
Longbow men +10 gp training
Cavalrymen +15 gp training + 5 gp gp / month
Riding Horse 25 gp
Warhorse 100 gp

Dagger 3 gp
Mace 6 gp
Short Sword 7 gp
Sword 10 gp
Small Sword 12 gp
Rapier 15 gp
Spear 6 gp
Warhammer 12 gp
Pollaxe 15 gp
Great Sword 20gp
Halberd 12 gp

Longbow 5 gp
Quiver + Arrows 3 gp
Crossbow 12 gp
Bolts + Case 3 gp
Pistole 100 gp
Musket 150 gp
Powder and Shot 25 gp
Bomb 50 gp
Petard 100 gp
Cannonne 500 gp
Ball and Powder 50 gp

Buckler 5gp
Shield 10 gp
Gambeson 25 gp
Brigandine 75 gp
Plate 200

Okay, so 1d6 for initiative by side. Movement is in order of initiative. Men move 12 yards per turn. Horses move 18 yards per turn. Difficult round halves movement. Clambering over an obstacle halves movement. Attacks are in order of weapon reach in the following order Muskets, Crossbows, Long bows, Short Bows, Pistoles, thrown weapons, Pikes, halberds and spears, great swords and poll axes, hand weapons, short swords, daggers, and finally fists. Daggers, fists, and claws get two attacks. Bows and Longbows get two attacks. Muskets and pistoles take a full turn spent stationary to load once fired. Dual weilded weapons strike at -2/-4. Plate AC 18, Brigandine 14, Jack 12. Maces are +2 vs chain and jack. Warhammers are +2 vs plate. Crossbows are +1 against armour. Pistoles are +1 against armour at short range. Muskets are +2 against armour at short range. Small swords are +1 to hit verses chain. A buckler gives +2 AC in melee and +1 against missiles. A shield gives +2 ac in melee and against missiles. Ranges are in yards. Medium range is -2 and long range is -5 to hit. Thrown weapon ranges are 10/20/30, Pistoles and short bow ranges are 30/60/120.

Muskets, Long bows and Crossbows are 60/120/240. Muskets and pollaxes do 1d12 damage. Great swords, halberds, bills, and glaives do 1d10 damage. Swords and axes do 1d8 damage. Small swords and short swords do 1d6 damage as do clubs arrows and bolts. Daggers do 1d4 damage and fisticuffs do 1d2 but both allow two attacks per round. Peasants and rabble have 2 hit points. Trained recruits have 3. Veteran soldiers have 4 hit points and get +1 to hit. Captains have 8 hit points and get +2 to hit.

Morale is checked when a unit takes 50% casualties or a warrior 50% hp. Rabble must roll 10+ on 1d20 or flee. Trained recruits become shaken on 10+ and flee on 12+. Veterans are shaken on 12+ and flee on 14+. Shaken troops will not advance or follow orders until rallied. Fleeing troops run away from the enemy at full speed taking every opportunity to put obstacles between them.

Experience points are awarded after battles at a rate of 5 xp for rabble, 10 xp for trained recruits, 20 xp for veterans. +5 for long bow men or casualties. Captains recieve 100 xp for a clear victory and 50 for a draw. When a warrior has accumulated 1000 experience points they level up gaining +1 to hit and 4 hit points.

Optionally, 3d6 can be rolled for each combatants attributes. These give bonuses to specific things. 18:+3, 17:+2, 16:+1, 5:-1,4:-2, 3:-3. Strength adds to melee attack rolls and damage. Dexterity adds to armour class and missile attack rolls. Constitution adds to hit points. Intelligence adds 10% x bonus to experience gained. Wisdom adds to personal morale. Charisma adds to the morale of commanded troops within 12".
 

Shipyard Locked

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Honestly, I think it comes down to the fact that a lot of historical wargamers (and hence wargames) are from an older audience, one that largely hasn't adopted pdfs as a standard.
How very unfortunate. I feel a lot of good rulesets are going to get lost like tears in rain.
 

TristramEvans

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How very unfortunate. I feel a lot of good rulesets are going to get lost like tears in rain.

There is the History of Wargames Project

They don't do PDFs, but they have brought back into publication a ton of fantastic material. I've picked up more than a few of their volumes over the years, and they are always a treat.
 

TristramEvans

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I should note that I don't think Lace Wars is what you're looking for, despite my high recommendation. It handles "skirmish battles" in the traditional wargame sense, but not in the small team of individuals sense that I later saw you were looking for - still a great game, but not worth hunting down for these purposes.

I still think Mordheim is your best bet
 
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