Baroque Bootup


Revised 04/19/2016

A week or so ago, as I prepared to wargame the Battle of Fyvie, the much anticipated new addition to the Impetus wargaming system –Baroque – arrived in the mail from Italy.  I had previously looked at the free releases of Basic Impetus and Basic Baroque – but had not played them. As I did a very quick read I found that I really liked many of the game mechanics and saw great potential for solo play.

Baroque has a DBx quality to it -a  point system for army building, a pregame battlefield setup procedure, relatively small play area, and fairly ridged unit types and basing. As I did rough play throughs (mainly thought experiments, but some actual situational play), I took the decision to use Baroque as my base rules.

I discuss some of why I took this decision here, but it is really about time savings and ending the welter of false starts and blind alleys in my own approach. Additionally Baroque gives me easy access to exploring the periods just prior to and just after my principle area of interest. As a bonus I can use it as the basis for wargaming the War of the Roses fantasy game (and world) I am developing here.

So, how do I go about switching my basing and game markers to Baroque?  It turns out it is fairly painless.

To come up with a standard base for Baroque I am using 80mm x 40mm sabots (trays) to assemble units. I had already made a couple dozen for other purposes and ran up a couple dozen more to start playing Baroque. Since I have everything mounted as 1″x 1″ combat pieces the sabot comfortably houses three of these with the added advantage that I can assemble them in multiple ways (Baroque actually suggests having some of your units subdivided in a similar way).

The sabot is also just deep enough to accommodate my half-round line command pieces so I can keep all my officers and flags without remounting (well most anyway) and still have sufficient space for several necessary status markers. Obviously other scenic features could be used on the sabot and different positionings front to back (as in Polemus ECW basing) can further specify unit types (as I have done with Trotters with point bank pistols).

Since the idea of “Commands” parallels my own “Wings”, the mounted officers (and their flag designators) are used essentially the same way. I will continue to use “CO” for overall-commander and “FO” (Field Officer) for the different commands.

The Illustration below details the markers and their use:

Impetus-Baroque markers
The ammunition counter (the red die) is NOT required by Baroque but is a near necessity for a war often fought in remote areas with difficult terrain where supply is a constant issue. As far as I can tell it will have no affect on Baroque game mechanics. It can also usefully serve as an indicator of whether a unit has fired its first volley (a requirement in the Baroque rules).

My own rules system was designed to handle in detail the varying sizes of actual units appearing in known Orders of Battle. This is somewhat more difficult to do with Baroque. It abstracts the units a bit more than I like (for the level of play I need for Celtic Fringe warfare anyway). The one area where I have had to “break” things a bit is to take the Impetus Grouping Rules and the Baroque Mass Unit Rules – shake them up – add a pinch of salt – and come up with a few (but only a few) house rules regarding units. They are just that and I would not propose them for use with the official Baroque rules. In cases were I can’t match the numbers in the exact order of battle, I’ll merge a few units or create ad hoc units to take up the slack thus avoiding the obsessive agonizing I spend over “getting it right”!

All of these house rules deal with doubling the size of units. And of the four new resulting units, only the first is completely required (and even it could be dispensed with if I were to play with a group of players using Baroque). Typically – on the Highland Fringe – a Musket&Pike full strength regiment fielded between 500 to 700 men (yes – there are many exceptions that might be higher!). Often, however, many units were perhaps half that and the multitude of indigenous warbands and quickly assembled levies usually fell well below two hundred men. So I had to deal with this variety of sizes and types to maintain the flavor of the time and place.

I have now added a reference page for house rules to keep track of updates

Play experience has shown that the shared casualties have given units doubled front to rear too much power. The use of shared casualties has now been reduced.

The first house rule is the ability to set up a 600 man Musket&Pike unit (P&M in Baroque notation) by joining – side-to-side – two 300 man P&M units to function as a single unit. Each still maintains its markers but reacts, moves and fires as a single unit (although range, angle, etc. apply to each flank separately). In melee’ it is handled as a multiple melee’ (one flank or the other acting as the Main Unit and the other as Support Unit).

Should it need to cross a bridge or ford it must form a column (B unit behind A unit) at the cost of one movement activation. On completion of the crossing it must again form line (another movement activation). Should it be caught in column by fire or charge the rules used with Clan Levy doubled units (below) apply. If one flank is routed the other stays in place put is disorganized. If one flank is forced to retreat the other must also go back. If testing is required it is done on the flank requiring the test or if for the entire unit on the A component (usually the right flank).

Impetus-Baroque IRCRA allowable doublings

The second house rule deals with doubling an all-pike (FP) unit which I simply call a pike block. Baroque makes provisions for early and late tercio formations which only barely overlap my period. They of course have a shot component but at the center is a pike block similar to how I am using the term. The only army that can employ a pike block is the Irish Confederation. Many of their officers served with Catholic Spain which would make them familiar with heavy pike formations. The overriding reason for their use, however, was the simple lack of firearms particularly in the early years of the wars.

The pike block is two pike units one behind the other. Their movement is 1 Slow and they are +1 to cannon fire but the 2nd unit adds +2 to the front line VBU for melee’. The greatest advantage is that the second unit can share reductions in VBU (occurring from a single event) from both fire and melee’ using the following table:

VBU shared reduction:
one reduction – front unit
two reduction – one to front and one to rear
A maximum of two casualties may be shared to the rear of a Pike Block and Doubled Trotters
A maximum of one casualty may be shared to the rear when a unit is doubled with a HWL


If the first rank is routed – the second remains in place but is immediately disorganized. If the first rank is forced to retreat the second is again disorganized but remains in place. In either case the doubled unit is now separated.

The third house rule is a doubling for Trotter type horse units. This rule is designed to give a higher degree of cohesion to some of the units that employ the slower advance and point blank pistols. Gallopers and lancers may never double. The doubled trotters are subject to the same rules as the pike block but do not have any reduction in movement. The second rank will only fire its pistols if and when it becomes the front line. Shared casualties are shown in the table in the second house rule

The fourth house rule allows a Clan Levy Warband (HWL) to double (as the second rank) any of several units including any Highland Warband (HW, HWE, HWB, HWA) or a Levy Musket and Pike unit. Such a doubled unit is +1 to cannon fire but adds only +1 to the front rank VBU. The shared reduction of VBU (the most useful part of doing this doubling) is shown in the table in the second house rule. Movement is that of the front rank. If the front rank is routed the second rank clan levy is also routed. If the front rank is forced to retreat the second rank (clan levy) is routed and removed.

Additional Notes:

Musket&Pike (P&M), Pikes (PF) and Trotters (TR) can only be doubled with units having identical M,VBU,D, and I. For all unit testing requirements when in column (front and rear ranks) the values of the front rank are used. Front and rear ranks may never exchange places. A doubled unit may voluntarily separate prior to activation becoming two discrete units and requiring their own activations. Once a doubled unit is separated (voluntarily or involuntarily) it may not be reformed.

The next post I’ll return to Fyvie and discuss the order of battle and the terrain features as they are now affected by the Baroque rules.


3 thoughts on “Baroque Bootup

  1. I got somewhat lost when reading this post. Maybe you need to ask your friends to come play again. It might make more sense if we’d played more often. Keep asking. Who knows? Your buddy might learn to like to play.


    • Yeah – I went full blown geek on this one. Baroque is a lovely rules set but designed for symmetric play and my world is pretty much asymmetric. As to the other the blog’s social secretary will be in touch!:-)


  2. Pingback: Fyvie : The Wargame | In Red-coat Rags Attired

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