The other day I received in the post a copy of the latest Osprey Games booklet "The Pikeman's Lament" from that very efficient outfit The Wordery an ebay bookseller I've used previously. Costing me a mere £9.65 including postage this looked like a bargain and it terms of the physical appearance of the book it was
Then I looked inside and all my illusions were quite quickly shattered.
Now as you know I'm a bit of a 17th century nut- mainly ECW but not entirely ignoring other wars of that tempestuous century either. It follows that any set of rules purporting to depict conflict from that period is going to interest me. The active phrase here is "purporting to depict".
The basic idea is actually pretty good- these are no rules, or perhaps I should say this is not a game, for refighting large battles. In theory it depicts the small war of outposts , minor actions and skirmishes that were a major part of much 17th century warfare. And so it does.... well sort of... maybe a bit anyway ..
There is some good stuff here most especially the almost role play of the officer selection process but each "Company" is only allowed 1 officer (and no NCOs) so an historical command structure is not allowed despite the fact that the officer character starts as an ensign- the lowest commissioned rank of the period-
It is pretty obvious that the authors are very prepared to butcher the actuality to achieve their desired results- these being a "set of simple and fast moving miniature wargame rules" . An awful lot has been subordinated to these objectives. Period organisation, period formations, period weapon handling, period drill and period terminology have all been given a proper kicking to make them fall into line with the authors "game". Now in some cases this is necessary . I suspect that these rules will handle small scale cavalry actions rather well assuming you can live with tiny units and non period organisations but the points based organisation places quite a bit of "negative freedom" on the system especially as the points system is also part of the morale mechanism.
A couple of examples
In these rules a "forlorn hope" is a troop type rather than a military decision. So I'm tempted to ask can you use a forlorn hope as a forlorn hope ?? Well yes actually in the game the term actually means "small elite foot unit" rather than the advanced party ( of either foot or horse as the situation demanded) the term was actually used to indicate.
Dragoons- now anyone with a basic grounding in the 17th century military art knows that dragons were mounted infantry who dismounted to fight. Here the term is used to indicate any type of mounted firearm cavalry as well as traditional Dragoons -no distinction is made Dragoons do not have to dismount to fight. They do not have to act as their historical namesakes did.
This misuse of terms is at best misleading for the newcomer, which you would think that this limited ,tightly organised and rather narrow focus game is aimed at. Let's face it if you are into 17th century warfare and know anything at all about how operations were conducted then this game will make you laugh- especially if you are not already a wargamer.
Also for the type of warfare these rules are intended to depict 2 of the troop types available would have been a distinct rarity and possibly - for certain of the given scenarios absent altogether- Pikemen and Artillery. In accounts of the various types of outpost warfare of the period I have Pikemen are rarely if ever mentioned. Artillery more as an objective than a unit- besieged garrisons would sally out to destroy or disable the besiegers guns if they could as at Basing House and Lathom house to cite just 2 examples.
Also this "game" is very dice heavy. Everything requires a dice roll moving, firing, reaction, orders, casualties and morale. Dice rolls are substituted for decision making. Great if you are 12. You might lose the will to live if you are an adult.
However above all else what really really gives me the hump in these rules is the unit structure. There are only 2 unit sizes 12 figures for some foot and 6 figures for all Horse and Dragoons and the remaining foot and gun crews. Why this should be so is never explained so despite the fact that we are told 1 model represents 1 real soldier (so what the hell use are 12 pikemen - a mere 2 files for much of the period. Why would they be involved in "outpost warfare" ). You get the distinct impression that this is done because the authors favourite toys are sold in factors of 3 or 4 or 6 or more likely that the system was lifted straight from the very un-medieval medieval "game" Lion Rampant without benefit of actually looking at 17th century warfare.
If you want a quick simplistic "game" with a very little 17th century flavour and an awful lot of dice rolling. A game that is quite heavily structured so you don't have to do anything as radical as thinking for yourself. A game that assumes you know nothing and doesn't bother to enlighten you then this is for you, straight from the booklet.
If you want a game of 17th century outpost warfare then these- after a good butchering may do the job but straight from the book they are just another same old same old skirmish- a- like. Frankly I could go on about poor points such as no weapon differences- despite the fact that these were viewed as important at the time (don't for instance use matchlock muskets for either sentries or night operations if yo can help it) but this is the kind of stuff the interested player or umpire can put in at need and IS nit-picking. Nevertheless the overall impression is that the authors have striven mightily to do as little as possible to produce a sequel to lion rampant- which wasn't that good anyway and in doing so have for me dropped the ball somewhere near the halfway line .... sort of a grudging 5/10