The Top 5 Late Renaissance Pike & Shotte Wargame Rules: An Overview

Now that one by one my main big battle armies for every era are getting finished, finally, after more than nine years painting, I enter a new stage in my hobby. I’ll try to make a choice for rule system(s) that I want to get proficient in.

I mean: really proficient. Not that I mix up old and new versions or that I, in doubt because a certain situation was so long ago, have to reread a rule that I could have known.

The cliché is the butterfly gamer, continually starting new projects, continually buying new rules. I don’t want to be a such a caricature player. I want to select, carefully and deliberately, a set of fastplay rules that are well written, simple to explain, for big battles or multiplay. A rational choice. That’s how I am – or pretend to be.

If I know a couple of sets fairly well I can host and umpire larger multiplayer games. Better be fluent with a few rules so that you can explain them to others and have fun with them, than to search for the Holy Grail in a very lonely quest.

I already published my list with top Ancients rules that I’m busy to review, with my thorough review system that I designed earlier and the Mons Graupius scenario. With a similar test drive approach, I will review Late Renaissance (1660-700) Pike & Shotte rules.

Why this specific era and not ECW? As Dutch wargamer I’m more interested in the Williamite era than in the English Civil War or the Nordic war. Fascinating period, a real World War (including the colonies) with Stadtholder / King William III as Churchill vs imperialistic Louis XIV. More dynamic than tercio warfare, closer to the heart than Italian wars, more Dutch than the War of the Spanish Succession, and troops with colourful but similar uniform combinations: thus the same unit can be Irish, Dutch, French, Danish, German or Italian. In other words, you can game every battle anywhere.

My Top-3 Lace Wars Rules: BtLB, TotSK and Maurice

No clear favorite, yet. The Via Regia blog lists 41 rulesets! But less is more, so I tried to make a Williamite selection. Tailor-made for the the League of Augsburg is Beneath the Lily Banners, with Donnybrook as skirmish variant. BTLB is said to be a good multiplayer system, for the larger battles.

According to the Warfare in the Era of Cynics and Amateurs Blog the BTLB-game brings period flavour. Other blogs that I found were more critical about BTLB. Disadvantages mentioned are the ‘pip’ system, slow play and a surplus of modifiers. Orkney Wargames, Angus Konstam, wrote:

“One of the problems with the rules is that you have to roll each turn to see how many units can move. The result is, it takes ages for the game to pick up speed, and you end up activating a handful of units, reacting to events rather than follow historic orders. It didn’t work – at least not into he game we played, on the level we were fighting at. I also found it hard to figure out how to manoeuvre, what with the large charge ranges, the limited movement options, the poor musket ability and all the rest of it. That said,  BTLB produced a reasonably enjoyable game. In fact, when the bullets started flying the combat system (both firing and melee) was quick and efficient. I just wish it had been a little faster…

Twilight of the Sun King is an official publication from the Pike & Shotte Society. I played it once, recently. The game is DBA-ish, all is summarized in a quick combat results table, fast play, fast action.

The Stronghold Rebuilt wrote, back in 2017:

“Well, there’s no denying that the basic mechanisms of Twilight of the Sun-king are excellent. They give a quick game which seems to encourage historical tactics and deployments with, theoretically, the minimum of mental effort. We had an enjoyable evening, really we did.”

The writer also noted that “the rules book we were working from was only part of the game, and that the rest of it was still in the authors’ heads (…) they were issues with what you would call basic game-play and which should have been covered at the playtesting or editing stage”

In their second playtest they were more positive: the game was ‘smooth’ and the rule authors had clarified some rules to them. My personal first playtest was good: fast game, easy to understand.

Maurice is written by my favorite wargames designer Sam Mustafa. The wargame is enhanced by a set of cards. Players collect and discard cards with a value that can be used for moving or for improving defense or attack scores, as modifiers/bonuses. Thus you constantly make difficult choices: do I move more, but cost of losing a useful ‘ability’? Do I pass to collect more cards? Disadvantage: Mustafa’s games are more 1vs1 games, and less tailored to multiplayer games. Hard to see how a card-driven game can work for more than one player per side.

Pike & Shotte? Renatio & Gloriam?

P&S is the main ‘commercial’ ruleset, designed and sold to give Warlord a foothold in the historical market. I’m not sure how many or few wargamers actually play Pike and Shotte these days: I haven’t seen a P&S AAR for a long time. I might be prejudiced because the rules disappointed me, once. However, the golden rule is that a good general doesn’t give up after one battle. The Via Rega-blogger likes it. R&G might be interesting as follow up to the Mortem & Gloriam system that is part of my Ancients review.

One thought on “The Top 5 Late Renaissance Pike & Shotte Wargame Rules: An Overview

  1. Very much hoping that Simon Miller’s pike and shot system ( a development of “For King and Parliament” and “To the Strongest” will be out in a few months!!!!!


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