Sunday, March 12, 2017

To the last man: The Pikeman's Lament AAR

We played The Pikeman's Lament on Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland.

We were planning on a game later this month, but that date fell through and we moved it up. That brought about a flurry of painting in the last week or so to get some units done in time for the game. Even then, it wound up being a bit ersatz.

We played the river crossing scenario from the rule book with two 24-point companies per side. Each of us brought our own figures. It was a pseudo-quasi-30 Years War-ish mix. I used my Renegade/Bicorne English Civil War units, Troy Wold used a mix of units he'd purchased recently (included some Empress Miniatures ECW that were re-flagged as Saxe-Weimar troops), Mike Lombardy made a fearsome company from Polish cavalry figures leftover from another army, Pat Clifford made up a company of 30 Years War Swedes, which he dropped off before the game for us to use, though he couldn't stay himself. We talked John Kennedy into playing in Pat's stead.

Mike and I faced off on one side; John and Troy faced off on the other. The companies arrayed were:

2 x Aggressive Elite Gallopers (very nasty)
3 x Aggressive Gallopers (slight less nasty)

1 x Forlorn Hope
1 x Aggressive Forlorn Hope
2 x Dragoons
1 x Regimental Gun

1 x Gallopers
1 x Field Gun (death from afar)
2 x Shot
1 x Pike

4 x Shot
2 x Pike

We also rolled up officer backgrounds and traits. The cats and I got Lion of the North (re-roll up to two attacks in combat), and Fencing Master (hit opponent in a duel on 4+). Mike, opposing me, got the trait that his officer can only be hit in a duel on a 6—I'm not sure if that cancels my ability or my ability cancels his. In any case, we didn't duel.

We all deployed no closer than 12" from the river that ran through the center of the table. I had a small farmstead with seemingly defensible low stone walls. and I set my units up to go into position on the walls and stuck my officer in with the Forlorn Hope unit. On post-game reflection, I should have stuck him in with the Aggressive Forlorn Hope and used it as a reserve in my position. His Lion of the North trait is useful only in attack and the Aggressive Forlorn Hope was my only unit with a decent attack value (3+).

Me, the cats, and  forlorn hope deployed
I put my Forlorn Hope and one of my Dragoons in one section. Outside the farmstead walls I put the Aggressive Forlorn Hope opposite the river ford. On the other side, I put the other Dragoon and my Regimental Gun.

Contesting the ford, sort of
Ready to man the walls
Mike's Poles were up on a hill just above the river, ready to swoop down.

The Polish menace
John deployed his field gun well back with a good field of fire against Troy's units.

Ready to lob death
The field gun was to prove deadly. John estimated that 80% of Troy's casualties came from the Field Gun. My Regimental Gun, by comparison, proved to be a disappointment. I flubbed my first activation for shooting after which Mike's pancerni were upon me. Sitting way back 30+ inches away, John could fire at Troy with impunity with a 3+ shot (or 4+ over 12", but that's still better than any shot unit).

Shot ready to move forward
John and Mike got the first activation and set off coming at us. John got the blessed 6-6-6 activation sequence on his first roll. That's rolling double 6 for activation and then 6 again on the effect chart to get an additional 4 points of units coming on board. John added another Pike unit to his company.

Mike ran his Gallopers right up to the river in preparation for crossing. By this time, my Regimental Gun and Dragoons had taken position on the wall, which I assumed would be a suitable bulwark.

In our sights
At this point, as I related, I failed my activation for the shooting the gun. Next turn, I was beset by angry Poles.

Ramrods and gun-swabs against lances
The fight didn't last long. My bulwark was less redoubtable than I hoped. I lost three figures (half my unit) in the first round and got pushed back, but not wavering. I managed, however, to take one Galloper with me. Because all Mike's cavalry were Aggressive Gallopers, they followed up for a second round, which finished me off. I managed to get another Galloper in the second round, so I was able to reduce him a wee bit.

My Dragoon unit on the other side of the building got shellacked in the same 1-2 punch kind of way. I evaded him at first, but my shot (hitting only on 6s) was  pretty desultory. I tried another shot at 5+, but did no harm. He charged me and got me. After two rounds I was reduced down to a single figure wavering behind the far wall. I did no damage to him. At this point, it looked as if Mike was going to sweep through my position like I wasn't there.

Sweeping through
On my activation, I managed to rally my lone Dragoon so he could run away the next time Mike charged him (which he must—such is the fate of Aggressive Gallopers). I also took a very ineffective shot at Mike's cavalry with my Forlorn Hope. The men must have been distracted by mewling cats.

My shooting was pretty much a disappointment all game. I used my vintage 5/8" bakelite dice, which have proven to be disastrous for their users in the last several Quetzalcoatl Rampant games. I should have used my irregular, non-cubical faux-antique bone dice.

Mike next came for the Forlorn Hope. It looked like I'd have another fleeing or destroyed unit—taking my officer and cats with it—but I managed to take cover in a wee wood which suddenly evened the odds against the nasty cavalry. Reduced though I was, I managed to hold on and whittle down Mike's cavalry just a bit.

Hanging on
I got pushed out of the woods, but stall managed to pass morale even though I was now down to two figures in the units (but still four cats). The outlook was pretty grim.

Facing certain death
At this point, I counterattacked with my Aggressive Forlorn Hope. Mike failed his countercharge roll and I managed to finally get some revenge on the rampaging Poles.

Pike you very much
I didn't managed to break the Poles, but I took out a couple with no loss to myself. Those Poles are hard to kill.

Unbowed, but much reduced
With more cavalry pouring in, I pulled my Forlorn Hope back out of harm's way and interposed my other (full strength) Dragoon unit in the woods.

Protecting the officer (and cats)
As he must, Mike's cavalry rolled for wild charge and went in. With exactly even odds against each other in the woods, I managed to chew up the Gallopers, which bounced and then disastrously failed morale. It was the first of Mike's units to be lost.

At this point, I made my own blessed 6-6-6 activation roll. Since I had no other ECW figures painted, I pulled out my late 16th c. Irish pikemen and brought them on board against the pancerni who were bedeviling my lone Dragoon figure. I'd managed to successfully evade and even took out a figure, but he was sure to be a goner soon, so the miraculous intervention of the Irish Pike was well timed.

Even then, the Irish took a beating while slowly whittling down the pancerni (did I mention that the Poles were hard to kill). I got pushed back twice and became wavering once before prevailing. It took killing every pancerni to do it.

The fight between my Aggressive Forlorn Hope and Mike's Elite Aggressive Gallopers went on. I got pushed back over the wall and attacked again. Even then, with my stamina at 5 for defending the wall, Mike's below-half-strength hussars were dishing out death. On six D6, he rolled exactly five hits and whittled me down some more. I eventually killed the last hussar.

Still at it tooth and claw
Mike's last pancerni (Aggressive Gallopers) unit had been having a rough go. Troy managed to get some good shots at him early on with his leftmost Shot unit. The pancerni took losses, wavered, failed morale while wavering and found themselves at half strength without ever coming to blows.  They eventually managed to get an attack on my beat-up Aggressive Forlorn Hope unit, but they destroyed themselves doing it.

At this point, Mike's last unit, fresh and with his officer attached, came into the fray.

The final menace
All I had left were some very battered units. The last man in my wavering Aggressive Forlorn Hope failed the morale test and went away. I had one Dragoon at half strength, one Dragoon reduced to a single figure, my Forlorn Hope reduced to two figures (plus cats), and my Irish pikes were down to 9 figures—the only unit left above half strength.

Mike had lost four of the five units he started with. I can't imagine how that happened. I seemed to be hanging on for dear life every turn. However, I can't see that I could have prevailed against the last hussar unit (Aggressive Elite Gallopers). They outclassed every unit I had and would have swept me away if the game continued.

John eventually got the last of his units across the river; we never managed to get anyone across.

John and Troy had been bashing each other, though most of the casualties came from John's Field Gun. He seemed to be tearing chunks out of Troy's units every turn. In two shots he eliminated one of Troy's Shot units.

In hand to hand, Troy seemed to be holding his own. I don't recall how John's Swedish Gallopers fared. They were still on the board by game end, but I was so fixed on the battle between Mike and me that I paid little attention to what John and Troy were doing (and took fewer pics).

Swedish Gallopers
Post Mortem

I liked the game despite its early frustrations. My initial die rolls were painful, but I was actually rolling well had I been up against something less than superatomic troops. Aggressive Gallopers are fearsome enough, but Aggressive Elite Gallopers are like the Terminator.

In The Pikeman's Lament, the upgrade to Aggressive Elite Galloper makes them like Mounted Men at Arms in Lion Rampant—only more so. The Pikeman's Lament has a compulsory follow-up for certain troop types that Lion Rampant doesn't have. The one-two punch of Gallopers makes them much more devastating them their equivalents in Lion Rampant. As the punchee, you can't just retreat and lick your wounds after getting hit; you're gonna get hit again in your weakened state without a chance to react.

I'm painting Gallopers now.

I failed to use the terrain effectively, which might have much mitigated the shock and awe of the rampaging Gallopers. I had that bit of woods, but I also had two buildings, which I completed disregarded. They were cover and rough terrain. I could have retreated to them and fought the hussars of doom at even odds as they crashed against me with their wild charges.

My company was a hodge-podge made up of the only units I had painted and based—witness my reinforcements of Irish rebel pike ca. 1590. It was them or some gallowglass. I have many more units in some state of being painted, but I have a lot of competition for my painting time. I'm shifting focus to Mexico ca. 1520 now. I want to complete the figures I have in the works. There's probably 100 figures to paint for Enfilade! in May.


  1. Great report! Many beautful miniatures in there. Yeah those heavy hitters can be hard to handle. But as you say - and did - by using the terrain to your advantage and force them to make unfavorable wild charges you can be successful.

    1. Cracking game and great pics and commentary. Cheers David , regards Alan ( Hoka Hey Wargaming)

  2. Yes great report.

    Field guns are a little out of the skirmish genre. I only have two games using field guns as examples but I'm thinking they might rate an ammo limitation or two. Otherwise they throw the game out of balance.

    I'd paint those gallopers as elite, aggressive with panzerfausts and uzis.

    1. Bill, put the Shooting activation to 10+ and THAT should solve your concern.
      I know it would be nigh impossible for me to roll either a 5,5 or 5,6 or 6,6 on two d6 or in other words a less than 17% chance of firing that turn. Thus, if a player's rolling were in tune with normal, the gun would only fire once in every 6 turns. That would be limiting the ammo would it not?
      That is the great thing about the rules; the ability to tweak it in the direction you wish.

    2. That would certainly foil me, but the way I roll, making the shooting activation 3+ would be a challenge.

      I am, however, in the process of painting a big nasty field gun for those games when I just wanna sit back and throw thunderbolts from afar like Zeus on Olympus.

    3. Requiring field guns to take a turn and an activation to reload would probably work too and has the additional benefit of being dirt simple.

  3. I have bought a set of these rules and need now to paint an army.

  4. What a lovely looking table and set of figures. It's refreshing to see how Dan Mersey has almost single-handedly breathed new life into our hobby with simple and highly playable rules. My own group can't get enough of DR and LR. Thanks for this interesting post.

  5. A great looking game David, I will be buying these rules, they look like they play well.

  6. Newby to this blog and loving it. Where did you get the cat miniatures for your general/avatar base, please? Thinking of doing something similar. Cheers Greg