Foot combat pieces comprise about 70% of all the combat pieces available for use in the various wargames that I do. these are further divided into two major categories
Line Combat Pieces – These have six 10mm figures mounted in two ranks of three suggesting a trained and disciplined group. These pieces are always comprised of either muskets or pikes or a 2:1 mixture of the two. A few Line combat pieces have only four figures in two ranks of two placed near the four corners of the wooden base. This configuration indicates some exposure to training and discipline but without the practice to put it to good effect.
Warband Combat Pieces – these have four figures mounted in a loose diamond formation suggesting no attempt at maintaining structured line formations. Usually these pieces have a variety of weapons and are accustomed to fighting in a more individual style than the line combat pieces. Some warband combat pieces are formed that way simply because they have NO military experience or tradition.
LINE COMBAT PIECES
Although already starting to make their slow decline and ultimate disappearance from the battlefield, pikes still hold the center position in the typical line combat unit of the period.
Pikes have a better than average combat value (CV) and are useful in close combat, particularly as a counter against a similarly armed enemy piece (although historically this seems to be a fairly rare occurrence). Their principal function, however, is to help protect non-pike pieces from attack by horse (they have a combat bonus against horse and share part of that bonus with near-by friendly pieces). Pikemen were also occasionally used (often without their primary weapon) as shock troops against prepared positions since they generally also possessed better close combat weapons and had usually been selected as pikemen because of greater strength and agility.
Musketeers are the rising stars of the battlefield and by the end of the seventeenth century, thanks to increasing rate of fire, improved weapon reliability and the advent of the bayonet, will have all but replaced the once essential pikemen.
The term “musket” is used for the entire collection of shoulder-fired weapons of the period with no other variables (like caliber or ignition) introduced into the wargame. The over-riding purpose of the musket line combat piece is to deliver ranged weapon fire to the enemy. Still, they have a reasonable combat value and frequently engage in close combat where, ironically, their muskets likely became their most effective weapon being swung like a heavy club. In practice the muskets were not usually fired in a massed volley (a “salvee” or “salvo”) but rather through a cyclic procedure that allowed the front rank(s) to fire while the (several) rear ranks reloaded and advanced. In game terms, however, all musket fire is by volley, consecutively, by individual piece, making game play simpler but more closely resembling the “fire by platoon” of later years.
Some line combat pieces are both musket and pike. This was done to allow making slight changes in the ratio of weapons when assembling musket & pike units. These pieces are constructed to have pikes placed on alternate edges so that their “pike” edge can be placed to either side of regular pike piece(s) for reasons of aesthetics.
As a hybrid piece the mixed line combat piece has the functions of both musket and pike pieces and are used accordingly. This piece is ideal when using the small unit or skirmish rules to produce a standard company of two pieces (each representing about 18 to 20 men) with a ratio of four pikes to eight muskets. It can just as easily be used in the larger game to represent a small regiment of 200 men with the same 2:1 musket to pike ratio. A mixed line combat piece has the added advantage of having its musketeers always protected by pikes.
In addition to the more typical clan warband deployment (see below), highland clans occasional were armed and formed up as regular musket and pike units. A special set of highland line combat pieces was produced for that application.
This set is comprised of the same type of pieces already described for regular musket and pike combat pieces (above) but shown in characteristic highland dress. Since these were assembled mainly from the levy (servant/worker) rather than the warrior class, their various values are affected accordingly.
Since this blog deals with the happenings on the Celtic Fringe there is a need for a number of combat pieces that reflect the often improvised nature of some of the armies. Militia, insurgents, levied civilians, servant retinues and other ad hoc groups come into play in assembling the forces that were gathered for local emergencies (sometimes for a single day!). The piece closest to a regular line piece is the polearm line combat piece.
This piece is somewhat like a regular line pike combat piece but armed with a collection of shorter polearms – glaives, halberds, short pikes, even improvised weapons such as a scythe blade fixed to a short stave. These reflect weapons from an earlier period but may actually best be exemplified by some of Monmouth’s troops in the Sedgemoor campaign of 1685. While this piece is not protective against horse it does have a reasonable combat value (given its impromptu origins) and would normally form the center of an ad hoc civilian militia unit.
The mixed line (civilian) combat pieces represents the last piece capable of fighting as a line piece. It has an equal mixture of firearms and polearms but its smaller size reminds that it is only barely capable of functioning with other organized pieces.
Taken together this piece and the polearm line combat piece above may be combined to best reflect a barely trained militia unit that must provide its own weapons.
WARBAND COMBAT PIECES
The set of highland warband pieces represent the typical fighters of a highland clan. These combat pieces work as well in 1745 as they do in 1645 (or even earlier).
These combat pieces are often intermingled in clan combat units which may vary considerably from day to day. The best piece is the highland warrior combat piece which represents members of the clan’s warrior class which carry a bewildering array of weapons (offensive and defensive) reflecting their individual status and prowess. While they have a firearm (musket) capability they have a high combat value and a slightly better than average quality value which leads to using them as soon as possible in close combat. The highland bow combat piece (which are few in number) are of the warrior class but have the advantage of long range, indirect fire with their bows. The clan levy warband piece is mostly made up of the clan servant or working class (with a few warriors present for discipline and combat value). They are armed with an assortment of short pikes (spears), tools, axes, rocks or what ever else is at hand. While the clan levy combat piece has a reasonable combat value its quality is not as good as the other two pieces.
(these will be added at a later date)
These combat pieces represent disorganized groups of civilians that have armed themselves with what every is available (excluding firearms).
Their combat value is low and their quality is even worse. They best represent a large portion of the population that has either been caught up in events (much like a mob) or have been backed into a corner and must defend themselves, their families or their property.