Piquet, Band of Brothers Medieval/Renaissance Supplement, 2nd Edition (1200-1600AD)

Piquet is a set of multi-period wargames rules by Bob Jones, first released in 1996. It consists of the basic rules and concepts, which are more or less applicable to all periods, called the Master Rules, now in its second edition, and various period specific supplements. The second edition is a substantial improvement over the first, with much better physical and graphic quality, better explanations of key rules and concepts, and some new rules that generally improve the system further. This discussion concerns the Medieval/Renaissance supplement, "Band of Brothers", or BoB for short. The first edition of this supplement was released in March of 1998, and a revised and greatly expanded 2nd edition has been completed and should be available by July 2005.

Basic Piquet Rules and Concepts

Troops in Piquet (phonetically abbreviated PK) are generally organized into units of 4 stands each, except for artillery which have 2 stands. The number of figures per stand varies from 2 to 4 for infantry, and 2 or 3 for cavalry. This determines the number of "hits" a stand can take before it is marked as a casualty; however, the hits do not carry over from one part of the turn to the next (but do add up if more than one unit fires on and scores "hits" on the target in a short period of time. Thus it is more the decline in combat effectiveness rather than actual numerical losses which determines stand loss. It actually doesn't really matter if you do mount your figures the same as called for in the rules, as long as all the troops are based with the same frontage. Therefore most gamers would, for 25mm figures, probably use 60mm frontage WRG-Gush or DBR mounting. So, little if any remounting should be required for those with existing Renaissance armies.

PK uses a sequence deck to govern the actions that your troops may or have to take. There are over 20 different kinds of cards in the Band of Brothers module; individual cards each for infantry, cavalry, and artillery movement, for reloading/firing, for melee resolution, for major morale checks, for maneuver, for formation changes, for wasted time, for odd events and stratagems, for fire and retire, for movement in difficult terrain, for uncontrolled charges and advances, for requiring troops nearby to the enemy camp to pillage it, and many more. The key concept is that, with a few key exceptions, the player can only do what they have the card showing for. If they want to move a gendarme unit to counter an enemy threat but they don't have a cavalry move card up, tough luck! It can't be done until you turn the card. Each side doesn't just turn the cards in turn. Each side's commander rolls a D20, the high roller gets the difference in pips as "impetus" to spend. Each impetus turns a new card, or allows an entire command group to act on most cards (Firing, though, and out of command units require one impetus pip per individual unit per action). When duplicate D20 rolls occur, OR one side goes through their entire deck (each army's deck is different in composition, and can easily be tailed to meet the needs of an individual scenario as well), a turn is completed. Thus the flow of events is quite unpredictable, with a marked tendency to ebb and flow!

Cavalry units are allowed to spend a morale chip (see below) and force an enemy unit to check morale (in effect, they have issued a charge threat). Also, cavalry units of the non-initiative side are also allowed to "opportunity charge" during their opponent's initiative against units that they do not need a "Melee Resolution" card to initiate combat. This would typically include disordered and routed units, flanks and rears, and, in some cases, skirmishers on foot. This "opportunity charge" also costs stored impetus to execute, which is in limited supply.

Each individual unit in PK is assigned its own basic degree of battle worthiness, depending upon a random roll, which is modified to a degree depending upon the army it belongs to. This will give the unit a base die type to use varying from a D4 to a D10. This die type is then modified according to the unit's weaponry, armor, and quality rating to give varying final values for fire, melee, and morale ranging from a D4 to a D12 +3 or more. Most PK mechanics involve competitive die rolls for melee, fire, and morale checks. The unit's basic firing die type (for example) is then modified by the range to the target, the target's formation, armor, the firer's formation, morale status, and more. These modifiers are summed up and applied to the starting fire die value to get a final die type. For example, a unit of Arquebusiers with a base fire value of D6 that has modifiers adding up to Up 2 shifts 2 die types up from a D6 to a D10 (steps are D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D12+1, D12+2, etc.). The D10 is rolled and the score compared to a die roll by the target. If the firer exceeds the target's roll, the difference in pips is the number of "hits" scored on the target. If the hits suffered equals or exceeds the number of figures per stand, one or more stands are marked as casualties. In some situations (melee and morale), if the die roll is double the opposition's, the opposition is routed; if tripled routed unralliable. This results in a pretty wide variability in combat, from devastating damage to nothing significant. Obviously, with a D4 against a D12, there's still a small chance the D4 will not only beat the D12, but beat it badly!

PK uses "morale chips" to model the morale/cohesion reserve of the army. They are VERY important. Morale Chips are lost for a lot of causes - each non skirmish stand lost as casualties, each routed unit, each attempted rally, each morale check you require of your opponent's troops, etc. The army only starts out with so many (determined randomly but based upon the size and quality of your army).When its out of chips, an army is much more vulnerable to morale failure and command disruption. Also, for every unit in the army that is routed or eliminated, on the following turn one of the (generally good) Sequence Deck cards is discarded. Thus, as the army suffers disruption, its ability to act gradually deteriorates. Eventually, retreat becomes the only viable option.

In all PK games, the same process that generates your morale chips can also give boosts to your troops abilities (army effects) and/or give you access to one or more stratagems. These later include hidden ditches, unexpected fords, hidden snipers, reinforcements, weather conditions, feigned retreat, and many others. There's MUCH more to the basic rules, but those are some of the key rule concepts.

Band of Brothers - II Edition

Piquet BoB2 uses 3 levels of disruption - Unformed (new from the first edition), which represents potentially transient minor disruption of the unit, Disorder, a much more severe state implying loss of control and cohesion, with loss of both ability and will to fight, and Rout, which is pretty self explanatory. While Piquet uses a "stand loss" mechanism to reflect permanent degradation of the unit's capabilities, there's no need to actually take the figures off the table - in fact the rules suggest that this not be done, but rather that unobtrusive markers be used to indicate stand "loss". See also the above. The only times a unit has to be removed from the table is when they disperse (lose all "stands") or retreat off the table. The new Unformed status, derived from Archon2, allows finer distinction in unit status, and often comes up as an effect of skirmish fire, a result of much voluntary interpenetration, and the status for victorious units after melee that do not pursue their foes - pursuers still suffer disorder after melee.

The organization of troops is for the most part as in standard PK. There are some larger formations, though. Certain well trained/superior pike units (mostly Swiss and Landsknechts) can be formed up into Pike Block formation. Pike Blocks have from 8 to 17 stands, with 9 being typical. One stand may be a "Forlorn Hope" of polearms or two handed swordsmen, which may be committed prior to melee against another pike unit in an attempt to disorder it. Pike Blocks have notably improved combat ability - in fact they are all but impossible to defeat in frontal combat, except by another Pike Block or a Tercio. They also have greatly improved morale, but increased missile vulnerability. It also moves at double speed its first move of the game, and maybe more if it can keep the initiative. Tercio (or Bastioned Square) formation has from 2 to 8 stands of arquebusiers and from 4 to 8 stands of pikemen. The arquebusiers can be arranged at the corners of the pikes, or around the edges - it has no effect on game play. Tercios have no flanks, and is also almost impossible to defeat in melee, except by another Pike Block or Tercio. It also gets improved combat and morale. It is even more vulnerable to fire than a Pike Block, however. . In the second edition, these larger formations are now treated as a single unit, which removes the ambiguity sometimes experienced when using these units in the first edition rules. Inferior pikes (early Spanish, hastily raised Italians, and some others) must deploy in battle mass, 1 unit at a time, 2 stands wide by 2 deep.

Some units are designated Fearsome (examples - Swiss Pikes and Polearms, French Gendarmes, Turkish Janissaries, Elephants and any troops armed with firearms that cause losses of a stand or more) These units trigger special morale checks on your army upon the appearance of a sequence deck card called "Courage!".

Missile weapons include simple bow, advanced bow, longbow, crossbow, early handguns, arquebus, musket, pistol, sling and javelins. They all have different rates of fire (determined by various kinds of sequence deck cards), ranges, and effect modifiers. For example, muskets have superior range and effect, but slow reload times. Caracoling Reiters are covered, and use of the Fire and Retire card can produce a very historical type fire effect for them and horse archers. Fire by skirmishers generally causes disruption only, rather than permanent casualties. In some ways, this actually makes them more effective against large deep formations like Pike Blocks and Tercios. It's best to screen these formations with your own skirmishers to keep them from being disrupted.

Mounted troops are now restricted to fire at Medium range or less, ensuring that they will be outranged (and usually out shot) by their foot brethren. Hand firearms now only ignore the effects of armor at Point Blank and Short ranges. This seems more in keeping with the data presented in Bert Hall's Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe and elsewhere. It also retains some game utility for the horse barding that persisted into the middle of the 16th century. Fire at mounted targets counts the armor of the horse rather than the rider. Barding developed in large part in response to the development and increased usage of effective missile weapons, as did the Hundred Year's War practice of dismounting heavily armored knights on the field of battle

The section of the rules covering War Wagons gas been revised and expanded (I now have a Hussite army!). Artillery is divided into Light, Medium, Heavy, and Organ guns. As was the case historically, these units are slow to reload and far more effective when firing at targets of deep pike armed infantry than linear formations.

Melee weapons include Pike, irregular sidearms, trained swordsmen, polearms (including 2 handed swords and axes), spear, and mounted heavy and light lance. The Weapons Interaction Table from the first edition has been deleted and replaced with a few key modifiers on the Melee Resolution table. There are no evade rules per se, but the Melee Qualification Table regulates how easy or difficult it is to close with another unit and bring it to melee. For example, EHC can't force LC or skirmishers into melee, which effectively creates an evade mechanism in most appropriate circumstances.

BoB2 contains new Pursuit rules which make sense and are useable. The original version in the Master Rules was so difficult to interpret that we never used them. The present rules are once again based upon Eric's work on Archon2. The Cavalry Morale Challenge has also been revised to make the heavy guys much more threatening to unsupported missile troops.

Leadership and the handling of Commanders have changed substantially from the first edition. For the most part, leaders will be attached to a unit, and will exert an influence on that unit's combat characteristics. They'll start in control of their units, more or less, but that control will become progressively less efficient as the chaos of battle proceeds. The army commander may or may not be attached to a unit - there are advantages to each. By the Italian Wars, the overall commander would often but certainly not always or exclusively direct the battle from the rear. As BoB2 covers 1200 - 1600 AD, obviously leading from the front was clearly the norm for the earlier part of the era, at least in most armies.

BoB2 also includes a simple introductory set of Renaissance rules, sort of a cross between Piquet and DBA. These are designed for play with armies of just 12 stands plus a gun. This is a great way to get started with Renaissance wargaming at a very reasonable cost for figures and with very limited painting time.

Another addition to BoB2 is "Beat the Drum", which offers a variety of different ways of selecting your forces for a given battle. Finally, BoB2 includes greatly expanded Army "lists", designed to be very user friendly.

An on-line system for generating the armies using "Beat The Drum" is now available .

Organized into Campaign Musters, "Beat The Drum" covers the following:

The Last Crusades: The Holy Land and the Near East (1171-1291)
Crusaders, Latin Empire, Byzantine, Turks, Saracens, Mamelukes, Georgian, Bulgarians

The Devil's Horsemen: Eastern Europe and the Mongols (1200-1280)
Mongols, Poles, Hungarians, Russians, Teutonic Order, Prussians, Cumans, Volga Bulgars

The Conflict of Empire and Papacy: Europe in the High Middle Ages (1200-1356)
French, Italian, Sicilian, Papal, Imperial, Lowland, German, Swiss

The Rise of England: The British Isles in the High Middle Ages (1200-1328)
English, Welsh, Scots, Western Isles, Irish, Norse, Anglo-Irish

The Hundred Years' War: Western Europe (1320-1455)
Early English, Early French, Italian, Free Company, Later English, Later French, Condotta, Burgundy

La Reconquista: (1400-1492)
Iberian Christian, Granadine

The Rise of Muscovy: (1400-1600)
Muscovite, Polish/Lithuanian, Cossacks, Mongols, Teutonic Knights

The Hussite Wars: (1419-1435)
Hussites, German/Imperial

The Twilight of Chivalry: (1450-1480)
Burgundian, Low Countries, Italian, French, English, Swiss

The Last Plantagenets: The Wars of the Roses: (1455-1487)
Yorkist, Lancastrian, Ricardist, Tudor Expeditionary, Pretender, Early Tudor, Scots

The Great Italian Wars: (1494 -1560)
French, Spanish, Hapsburgs, Ottomans, Venetians, Florentines, Milanese, Papal States

Late Ottoman Expansion: (1500-1600)
Ottoman, Hungarian/Transylvanian, Austrian Habsburg, Venetian Colonial, Wallachian/Moldavian, Kinghts of St. John, Persia

The Peacock Throne: The Indian Subcontinent (1500-1600)
Mughals, Rajputs, Afghans, Marathas

Wars of the Reformation: Western Europe (1500-1609)
English, Scots, Irish, French Catholic, Hugenot, Spanish, German, Dutch, Maurice of Nassau

All of the above would be nice, but of little importance, in my opinion, without the core features of Piquet :

The ability to easily customize the sequence decks both for different armies and for the unique circumstances of a particular battle;

The "Fog of War" generated by the ebb and flow of impetus, the randomization of the Sequence Deck, and variable unit base die types;

The game's focus upon the occurrence of decisive events and their sequence, as opposed to a focus on attritional degradation of the enemy;

The large number of decisions required of the player as the game progresses, something not always apparent to players new to the system;

And most importantly, the inherent rollercoaster fun of playing the game (and explaining all the decisive moments in the battle report afterwards)!

Here's hoping you enjoy exploring wargaming in the Late Medieval and Renaissance eras, whether with Band of Brothers 2nd edition, or otherwise. We're working on a series additional, smaller modules to cover Piquet based siege warfare, naval combat, raids and campaigns for this era as well. These may be sold as inexpensive pdf files due to the limited market. Of course, you can help there by playing Renaissance games, writing about them, and getting your friends interested too!

Peter Anderson

Page Last Updated On: 27 Aug 2007