OK it’s been a little while since I posted a review of a game I’m playing and so I decided it was time to do another. This time it’s ‘The Pikeman’s Lament’ – which is another game by Dan Mersey, this time with a co-author Michael Leck. I don’t like doing reviews till I have played the game a few times to see how they really work on the table, so this has been out now for a month or two.
This is another game roughly based on the engine used in the ‘Rampant’ set of rules. So for most of you I suspect you know the basis for the rules. This one is no different and follows the same theme with some chnages. Each type of unit has a specific target number to roll over to do that action on 2D6. A failure means they don’t do that action and the players turn ends. A twist for this version is that a double 1 or double 6 allows a roll on another table to see if a special event occurs – bad or good respectively. Thats’ a nice touch for character and would be easy to copy into other rules. The tables would need to change but I really like that extra bit of story in the game.
Combat is rolling either 12 or 6 die if the unit is at or below half strength and counting the number of die at or above a target number – usually from 4 to 6. Different opposing units need a number of successes to effect a kill on them. This ranges from 1 success to a kill to up to 4. There are a few modifiers but it’s fairly simple and after a couple of turns it becomes easy to handle without looking things up often.
Units have either 12 or 6 figures and so morale checks are done on every casualty to a unit as well as some specific force some – such as when the officer dies or a number of units are lost. The morale check is again done with a 2D6 roll and a few modifiers, the biggest being a -1 for each casualty in a unit. If the final roll is above the units morale value there is no effect. If it is below but still a positive number the unit is wavering and needs to rally to do things. If 0 or even negative then the unit routes off the table.
The rules also have a little campaign system which allows you to link games – basically around your officers. The force commander (your officer) gets a starting skill an can gain more based on getting honour points. Winning battles etc allows you to gain skills. These skills don’t seem too powerful overall but add a flavor to the game as well. There are I believe 10 or so scenario’s in the rules and you also get to make boasts (mini-goals really) in a scenario if you like which provide extra victory conditions/honour points for a player if the tasks are done.
So overall the game is simple but very effective. It works for getting toys on the table and having every decision and roll is a serious effect on the game which is a great aspect for me. It’s just the kind of game I like really – tactical but the rules are easy to learn and your actions and rolls make the difference. If you like the Pike and Shot period I don’t see why you would not pick up and play these rules. They provide a great evenings gaming for medium sized games. One not however. If you don’t like the somewhat random control mechanism this is not the game for you. IMO that aspect of the game reflects the chaos of small engagements quite well but some people really dislike the lack of control in rules such as this. You control which units do what and when you roll so it’s very tactical – but your managing the game and making tactical risk choices vs. playing a chess game.
As I mentioned above I have played a few games now. So to give you a little flavor of the game I thought I would do a quick battle report as well. All the figures are from my fairly large collection of 15mm ECW figs – I have a few hundred bases now. We used the rules as they are written (with inch measures) but had 1 base of troops be 2 figures equivalent. This is because all the models are based on 40mm wide bases (for DBR originally). Thus, you’ll see a few red tokens which reflect a single hit on a unit. In the pictures you’ll see we used green tokens to mark wavering units and white ones to show the fire shot salvo was still available for that shot units. These markers are not required but they aid a great memory during a game.
I played the Parliamentarians with 2 units of trotters, 3 units of shot and a single pikeman unit. My opponent in the game was Hollis. He played the Royalist with 2 raw units of shot, a forlorn hope and 2 units of elite galloper cavalry. These are both 24 point forces – the standard size for the game. The scenario we rolled up was the rescue mission. So the Royalists had an important person held in the ruined building in the center of the table and my mission was to free them. Obviously, the Royalist mission was to stop that happening.
The game started with the 2 royalist horse units being on patrol which can come on the table after turn 2. You can see them right at the top right of the picture below. Meanwhile they had 3 units in the center of the table in defense of the ruins where the prisoners were secured. My forces were spread out with my cavalry on either wing and in the center the pikemen and shot facing the ruins which held the prisoner.As the attacker I had first move and successfully moved most of my troops forward – first the Pikemen and then the horse. My first shot was by the musket unit at the raw royalists waiting for us in the woods. This was a great roll by me and I managed to kill a figure on them. The raw troops did not like that and failed their morale check! They retreated out of the woods and so cleared the way for my advance. A set of rolls which very early affected the game in a material way – as now that blocking Royalist unit was removed, for now at least.In the Royalist first turn the wavering raw shot failed to rally and so continued to move back, losing another figure – which meant we could remove a base. This failure did not end the Royalist turn though. The Royalist Forlorn hope moved into the corn field for protection (we had agreed terrain impacts before the game and that was difficult going – limiting viability to 3″). The Royalist troops defending the prisoners in the building failed to shoot – which ended the Royalist turn.
The next turn saw my troops advance again and I even rolled two double 6’s for an activation! The resulting bonus of the first one allowed my shot in the forest to make a second move – which was very fortuitous for them. It allowed them to get through the woods in two turns of movement. The second double 6 allowed me the bonus of giving a unit back it’s first salvo bonus. So the unit of shot which had driven the raw Royalist’s out of the woods gained in first fire bonus back. Those guys were real marksmen is seems!
In the Royalist turn the wavering shot finally rallied. By now they were nearly behind the ruins. The other royalists took pot shots but really had little effect on the jubilant Parliamentary troops. Parliaments forces were on a mission of saving the prisoners and felt no fear at this point.
On my left flank the Royalist Forlorn hope in the fields faced my trotters and a firefight was attempted. It did turn out that way though because during the game went on these troops would fail more attempts to shot each other than succeed. These are not a priority for either of us so tended to only get an attempted activation if everything else we wanted to do had been done. Obviously, the corn fields made visibility to get a good shot off difficult for both sides without some command focus.
My next turn though started with disaster. I rolled double 1 for a command roll, followed by another 1! This meant I had to remove one of my units from the game – they having been ordered away from my command! I decided to lose one of the shot units which was in the woods. That felt the easiest one to deal with. So suddenly, I was down a unit and things were not looking so great.
In the next couple of turns I managed to even up this loss by the shooting the previously damaged Royalist raw shot enough that they failed a morale check thus routing and running for the hills. Obviously not their day today. My shot had stayed in the woods and the bonus of that cover plus poor Royalist attack rolls meant they had so far escaped any casualties. Meanwhile the Royalist cavalry patrol had entered the table and those 2 really powerful units were closing on the center of the table.
With the damaged Royalists unit gone my units in the centre could support the Pikemen who had continued to move up. This was not seamless though and the Royalist defenders were causing damage to the Pikemen. Even though they had taken a couple of casualties from the Royalist shot in the ruins they assaulted the building. They were not successful though and were repulsed with more casualties.
As mentioned the Forlorn hope had a hard time getting the 7+ to shoot for a couple of turns. Then they rolled a double 1 command roll and the ‘negative effect’ they got made them waiver. This not only ended the Royalist turn but also again saved my trotters from damage. I rarely got to active my trotters though as they were not a priority – getting the Royalist shot out from around the ruins was. So in the end these two units did not have much of a role to play till close to the end if the game.
So you can see the state of the game at this point below. The Royalist elite horse have come up to the rescue and are close to impacting the Parliamentarians. Meanwhile the pikemen have again bounced from the assault on the ruins once already. I had a shot unit really ‘in reserve’ and still under used. The next couple of turns looked to really decide the game. Would I be able to break the deadlock of the fight in the ruins and hold off and defeat those hard charging elite horsemen coming into the battle.
The advantage I had was I had the shot in the woods who concentrated their fire on one of the Royalist horse units. They managed to kill a figure of the unit. Then when the first attack of the Royalist horse came against my Trotters. I was very surprised that my dice were nice to me and in the end the trotters stood their ground and beat off the elite Royalist horse. This left both units damaged but as the elite horse were down to half it’s size it had lost a lot of threat as it was just rolling 6 dice not 12 in combat.
The other shot unit then fired on and inflicted losses on the Royalist raw shot in the ruins. That unit failed their morale check so retreated out of the ruins. This was the same shot unit of mine which drove the other royalists from the woods in the first turn. Obviously they are a skilled lot of guys.
Here finally though there was a chance to get to the prisoners and free them. This allowed my Pikeman to get into the ruins and free the prisoners! I made the activation roll of 5+ pm 2D6 and that was half the work done. Now just to get the freed prisoners off the table safely.
Was helped by the Royalist turn being cut short with a poor command roll. This allowed the rescue party started to make their escape, moving out of the ruins. But in the next Royalist turn they were jumped by the second unit of Elite horsemen. At least as Pikemen they had somewhat of a chance in this fight, as defense is where these troops shine. They did manage to inflict 1 casualty on the horse but suffered 2 in return. The Pikemen failed their morale test and although wavering they retreated as towards my base edge. Thats what I wanted them to do but, they would need to rally, or at least not route to ensure the prisoners get away.
In my turn the Pikeman failed to rally but did not route. The meant they did move close to my table edge but each time this happens it get harder to rally them and they take a an additional casualty. It was looking unlikely for them to make it off the table safely. Luckily there were two of my shot units close by to cover them. This would mean that the Royalist horse could not charge the pikemen as there was not enough space for them to safely pass between the shot units. This gave me a some time but the prisoners were not safe yet.That was a powerful cavalry unit.
On the other flank the cavalry fight continued. As by this point both units were under half strength – in a previous turn a great combat roll by the Elites had damaged my bit and again and taken it to half strength. In a bid to turn the tables of the battle the Royalist officers issued a challenged – which mine accepted. The death of an officer means all units on the side have to take a morale test. The duel took place and with a good die roll my officer cut down the Royalist! Huzzah, although non of the Royalist units even blinked an eye during the required morale check. That was a cool chance to take and very in character for a dashing Royalist who saw victory slipping from his grasp.
During the last turns my Pikemen managed one more turn to stay on the table but continue to head out of control for the table edge. Meanwhile I look a risk and the two shot units and the trotters who had been in reality doing little against the Forlorn hope all focused their fire on the remaining Royalist elite horse. For once my die were with me and each managed to do a little damage to the cavaliers. That took them well below half strength and they failed a morale check so were wavering – which took the danger level from them away for a while. Trying to activate the shot unit in the woods to finish them off though, I managed a double 1 again on activation. The negative effect was they began to waiver. So even at this stage they decided they were not that happy with the way things are going.
The Royalist Forlorn hope finally started to help their horse as well – damaging my trotters but this was a too little to late. The raw Royalist shot were back in the ruins but although good in defense their raw level makes them not great at shooting so they were not effective either at this point.
As expected the pikemen did fail to make their next morale check and routed off the table. But before the Pikeman routed they had got close enough to make the freed prisoners nearly safe. I moved one of my shot units up to them to keep them that way. That unit collected the freed prisoners and escorted them off the table, winning the game. There were still three units of royalists still around but their prisoner is lost.
So there we are. The Pikeman’s Lament is a great set of rules which provides a fun and tactical game without much book keeping or rules headache. Hopefully this also shows how easy the game can be played with 15mm figs as well.