Renaissance Battles and Rules to fight them

19 May 2020
Plus a knight or two: what’s not to like?

Image above: Papal troops prepare for battle!


George Gush and his WRG ruleset was my first introduction to wargaming the Renaissance period. Mike Andrews – my ‘A level’ history teacher – did a good job of teaching me the background to the period, and so equipped, the adventure began. Yet again in my wargaming life it was George Gush with his Renaissance armies reference book published in 1978, which led to a flurry of releases for the period from Miniature Figurines, Hinchliffe and Connoisseur Figures. The wargames world had never seen armies like those of the Italian Wars: pike armed infantry wearing clothes that were multi layered and multi coloured; knights in full panoply with myriads of pennants and banners; war carts; big guns; little guns; organ guns. . . even crossbows and arquebusiers. Painting competitions throughout the land were full of Landsknecht units in psychedelic splendour.


Building an Army

One such painter was an old friend of mine, Dennis Coleman of Hovels fame, who – as well as supplying me with a brilliantly painted, but lethal pike block (the pikes are needles without the pointy end being trimmed!!) – also introduced me to Peter Gilder and the North Hull Wargames group. These guys introduced me to the black arts of pike and shot warfare. Peter, who was a great man, and hobby hero of mine, also supplied me with vast amounts of castings at trade prices, so the army grew… and grew. Some four decades on these self-same units are still doing service under my command.


Rules came in and out, as did the periods popularity. The units gathered dust until inspiration came from an unlikely source: Games Workshop! These fine gentlemen, released a fantasy range that looked – and were armed – as Italian Wars soldiers. They were very nice, and a joy to paint. As I only discovered these after that particular GW slot in time, I had moved on to pastures new and the internet was awash with cheap figures. But they were huge, especially the cavalry. Luckily, I am not a scale purist and I say that – from around two or three yards away – a nicely painted and based figure, loses the height difference. That meant that my huge GW knights (definitely the “three shredded wheat” men) happily cross swords with their smaller Hinchliffe opponents. The army continued to grow.


I now had enough forces to provide two armies, which was a good job as I subsequently left my two opponents behind, along with the club we all previously attended. I also had some scope to write a set of rules, which was more suited to my style of gaming, which is fast play, large armies, no serious book-keeping and fun. So here they are!


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I am a child of the Imperial age, so all measurements are in inches and the dice used throughout these rules are the ‘normal’ D6.


Armies are made up from commands, each of which is made up of between 6 and 12 individual units. A unit is a formed infantry or cavalry unit, a skirmisher unit of cavalry or infantry or an artillery piece. Only a French army can form Artillery batteries, and these can only be a maximum of two pieces. This ensures that no more than two guns can target a single unit, which reduces their effect on the battlefield. Artillery units must target a separate target unit, there is no concentration of fire allowed, with the exception of the French battery.



Reference to the Master Unit play-sheet (included as a download http://ttgami. ng/extracontent), shows whether the units are key to the army. The only book-keeping the player must do is to calculate the key unit total their force has, and then agree the total losses at which the army breaks.


For example, a force of three Gendarmes (key), two Stradiots (1/2 a key unit point), three units of skirmisher crossbows (not key) and six pike blocks (key) has a total of ten, so if players decide 50% breaks the army, once five key unit points have been lost, it is game over. These percentages can be the same for a quick pick-up game, or it can be tailored to scenarios as required. The sheet shows unit title and type, Heavy cavalry foot or skirmish infantry for example.


The next three columns show the units fighting ability when fighting to the front, the flank or in special situations, such as when in broken terrain or situations not envisaged by the rules!


Defence is the number of dice rolled to oppose ring. The highest roll is selected, and gives heavily armoured gendarmes, lancers and Reiters some advantage. All troops roll one dice only when fired on by artillery. A points cost is included if required.


Above Image: Italian Lancers, French pike, skirmishers, and assorted foot with crossbow and arquebus deploy for combat. All figures featured in this article are from the collection of Mark Pemberton and the author. 



Above image: The heavily armoured front ranks of pikemen look pensive before the off.





Movement is determined by troop type, and has some strict rules for moving and manoeuvring in the same turn. Some units, mainly cavalry and skirmishers can move and wheel and some can only move or wheel. A complex manoeuvre is one that involves changing formation or direction via a ninety degree turn on the spot, rather than a wheel. This has a 50% chance of failure, which causes a disorder, so is not for the faint hearted.



Ranges are as follows:



Firing is a straight opposed dice roll, with the following adjustments:

         -1 to the firers roll if Javelins, Crossbows, Longbows or Guns at more than half range.

         -1 if firing unit is disordered.

         -1 to the firers roll if light guns firing.

         +1 to heavy guns firing at any range

         +1 to all artillery firing at ¼ range (canister)


Do not forget:

         Some troops (Gendarmes, Reiters, skirmishers and Lancers) roll 2 dice and choose the highest as their defence.

         All the above additions and deductions are cumulative.

         Artillery must dice to reload after each shot. Roll a dice: 1-3 they have not yet reloaded; 4-6 they have and can fire next turn.


Units break and are removed from the field, when they have suffered the following hits from fire or from melee losses:






Melee is determined by adding the appropriate factor from the Master Unit sheet to a D6 roll, and comparing the total, to the enemy unit’s result, using the same procedure. The winner inflicts a casualty on the loser. If one side has a score of double or more on the loser, then three hits are inflicted rather than one. Units that are disordered deduct 1 from their dice roll.


If a general is attached to a unit in melee, the unit has it’s break point increased by one. If the side to which the general is attached loses, a further die is rolled, and on a score of 1 the general dies and is removed. He no longer adds one to the units break point, and his loss counts as -1/2 to the army break total.


Above image: The artillery open fire as the forces advance into range.


Situational Advantage

There are certain situations where one side has the advantage. In these circumstances the side that has the advantage will break its opponent if it wins the first round of melee.

The situations in which this result occurs are as follows:

         Cavalry charging skirmish troops or artillery.

         Cavalry with a melee factor of 3+ charging disordered pike or polearm armed troops.

         Cavalry with a melee factor of 3+ charging infantry without pike or polearms.

         Foot with a melee factor of 5+ charging disordered pike or polearm armed troops.

         Sword and buckler and Blood-flag charging Pike armed troops or Tercio.



Image above: These are some arquebusiers by Games Workshop.


Command & Control

The astute reader will have noticed that – so far – there is no mention of command and control. This is a subject I have wrestled with. There is little or no information on how troops in this period were marshalled, and commands transmitted.


Were written orders sent to individual commands? If so in what language? With Italians, French and Germans and the many derivative languages based on these, there is a lot of scope for error. Or did the generals meet, formulate a plan and then plough on as the mood took them? This last option appeals to me the most, so the following are our command and control rules. If you have a better system or do not like this one, substitute it for this one.

Our forces are made up of commands of between 6 and 12 units. Take the number of units in a command and deduct 5 from that number. Record the brigade command number on a dice to be kept by the force commander. The number is reduced by 1 each time a unit in the command is lost.

At the start of each turn, roll a D6, and this, added to the above score, is the number of units that can be moved in that turn, by that command. The more perceptive will realise that if a 6 is rolled there is one extra command point available. That extra point can be used to move one unit twice (but not to fire twice).



Commanding Examples!

A command of 7 units calculates its command score as follows:

         7 minus 5 gives a score of 2, the die is rolled and comes up as a 3, so – as 2 + 3 are 5, the command can move 5 of its 7 units that turn.

         On the following move it has lost a unit so the base score is now 6 minus 5 and so it is reduced to 1. However, the lucky general rolls a 6, so (as 6 + 1 is 7) it can move all of its remaining 6 units with one being able to move twice!

         A big gun fires at a Tercio, at under half range. The commander rolls a 4, +1 for a big gun firing at any range for a score of 5. The tercio commander rolls a 2, so 1 hit is marked against the Tercio. 5 more hits to go before it breaks!

         A unit of Gendarmes charges a unit of Reiters, Gendarmes have a factor of 6 and roll a 6 for a total of 12, the Reiters have a factor of 4 and roll a 1 for a total of 5. The Gendarmes double their opponents score, to inflict 3 hits and break the Heavy cavalry, who take 3 hits before being removed. Any other roll by them, would have meant they suffered 1 hit. Unlucky Germans! The command break total is reduced by 1 as it is a key unit that is lost.



And there we have it! We play these rules quite often, the combination of the Army break point total and the individual unit movement friction, gives an unpredictable game. Ours are usually tense affairs, which work particularly well as multi-player games, reflecting the disjointed nature of Renaissance Warfare. I hope you use them and enjoy the experience. 



Words by Dave Tuck

Pictures by Malc Johnston



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Many thanks! I don't use FB unfortunately, but, no problem I'm sure I can create a QRS myself....

Posted by Steve Giles on Mon 18 Jul 14:08:51

Infantry 6, cavalry 15 skirmishers 9 inches Knights reiters 12. 1/2 move after firing. Only light troops can about face as a normal move. All others can incorporate a q wheel as part of the move.Everything else is a complex manoeuvre. Heavy guns can only wheel to change target once deployed others spend a turn to limber or unlimber. Hope that helps can't sort the link out it's a TT issue.messenger me on Facebook with your email and I will email the playsheets to you.2 sides of A4!!

Posted by David Tuck on Tue 28 Jun 15:02:59

Just come across these rules - look to be a very good fast play set of rules. However, I cannot see any movement distances in here? Also I can't link to the master unit play sheet. Can you help? Many thanks Steve

Posted by Steve Giles on Fri 24 Jun 13:02:55