Sunday, 22 November 2015

More Swiss and Philosophy

What I like about "early" Renaissance the most is, that it is not written in stone, how exactly the men were fighting. I like to think, the French Archer enigma set aside, the very term Tercio, as a fighting formation, was "evolving" out of the French-Italian wars itself. 

It was certainly also not like the Spanish suddenly had a clear idea: Ole, enough of oblong, let us form squares, but with the various formations names differences, clearly indicating generals were trying to find new ways of dealing with the pike phalanx, and the "new thing", the Shotte. One can argue this was  were even ongoing into the end of the century and beyond. 

Just 70 years ago, the Swiss revolution (ups, pike block!) made the Burgundian Knights look very over-rated and now here comes "Shotte", the black powder thing. How does one fit this together? How to group this? What are you going to to with this powerful phalanx, only strong, if not disordered? Weak in the flanks, if occupied elsewhere. And the "shooters" themselves, rarely overpowering on their own, weak in melee. Stone, paper, scissor, you might think, but how do you develop a strategy with this?

I'd like to think, naturally, we as late "20 century-table-top-creatures", are in a similar position, we have to find out how to effectively combine these different troop types and formations together to fight a successful battle.
Newly added Swiss heavy Halberdiers (Kanton Schwyz)
Secondly, the very linear ware fare (in war-games) has influenced me to a certain approach of tabletop warfare. Two armies with a dozen or or so number of units were meeting on a place and off goes the lucy! Even to the understanding of unit. OK, the romans / antiquity had them; conveniently the retainers of or another liege formed into some sort of units, but most of the time formation happened shortly before the battle. We can see this happening  for example with combining Grenadiers even into the Napoleonics.

I believe that even after the Swiss pike invention, the pike blocks were divided into Vorhut, Gewalthaufen and Nachhut, but that was about it, on differentiations; only "the more the merrier!" counted. Even the different Kantons are sometimes stuck into the same blocks. It might sound silly, but the tercios might be even the first "regiments", as in single units, developing into the checkered battle formations of the later period, we know from paintings of the 30YW.

I'd like to think as the late medieval way of waging war was: sieges, sieges and sieges, getting the fortresses!, avoid the open battle, as it was bloody and can rid of your men power quicker than you want, the renaissance men HAD to come up with something else.

Then comes along the Swiss "spider", with the pike men, cheap as chips, hurray, we can buy lots of men lets have open battles, but still the logistics are far away from late Rokoko escapades moving complete armies around the land. 

... and some more Swiss ("Schwyz") Pikes
Even in the Thirty years war Gustav's Swedes cut a mile long swath through the country reaching Bavaria (look up the depopulation and plague maps of the topic and you get the approximate extend one army's forage area and you might get an idea of the logistic horror of moving such an leviathan). When the French kings invaded Italy, that sounds so easy, but there were only battles maybe once in a year the rest must been skirmishes and sieges, slow progress and lots of camps!

And that is, what I want from the table top experience in this period. I believe that you can structure the  armies into units with lots of differentiations and your possible combinations are endless. But still its somehow siege themed, in the sense that the location IS important. Its not just two sides turn up in the open. For example a "blockhouse" at a river bridge suddenly can become important! (Maximilian's the "Weiss Koenig" come to my mind). You need the Swordsmen and Halberdiers because, they can fight in the woods, along the bridge and in a small Toll bridge house. But you need also the heavy gun to blow it apart, but "Sch§$%&" there comes the enemy's men-at-arms …

I'm still (re-)searching. :)


  1. I think you have just touched the problem, which every wargamer finally has to face. It is question between historically armies on the table and balance of the game. It is very hard question, because all armies are not equal, Some of them are better then the other in one thing and some are worst in other thing then others. Of course we all love to have strong and very effective armies, but this is utopia. I personally prefer to work with the balance, but the armies should looks like there was in the past, in the played period - which actually you perfectly did in the games you are organising. Those armies were never consist with only one kind of units, but there was many of them. Sometimes completely useless too. I think you are doing great job and you should continue it.
    By the way great figures.

    1. Thanks, Bart! I will continue to spread the Renaissance virus. :)