One of the spiffy things about being an officer (Honorable Webmaster; yes I get around and no, I don’t have a life) of the UK’s Pike and Shot Society (PSS) is the fact that I also run the digital archive for all their pubs. This means when PSS puts out new wargames’ rules, guess who gets a first look?
In this case the rules are an expansion to the Society’s uber popular Twilight of the Sun King (affectionately known as TWIGLET) that moves the game back to more pike heavy times. Called Twilight of Divine Right – Defenestration to Restoration (and now affectionately nicknamed by me as TWIDLET), the new effort comes with base rules and two scenario books, expertly compiled by two of the Society’s officers, Librarian Nick Dorrell and Secretary Ian Stanford.
Charge ye thy Firelocke
The base TWIDLET rules are a modified extension of the previous TWIGLET set, so if you want to get a complete look at scale, turn sequence or the nuts and bolts about game play, check out my 2016 review of the latter. Suffice it to say the heart and soul of the system, “the radical step of collapsing shooting and close combat into morale,” has been retained. To quote from my prior review:
The Morale Phase is where everything happens, and each turn all units have to take a morale test adjudicated by a modified die roll if under fire, in contact, etc. These DRMs actually take the place of a formal fire phase or a formal melee phase. For example if a unit is within short range of an enemy artillery unit, there is a -1 to its die roll. No, firing did not actually occur as a game process, but the fact that the unit was within range assumes it was under fire and thus the DRM applies. Likewise, if a unit is in contact with the enemy, it is assumed a melee occurs and DRMs such as -1 for being classified Raw, or Small or a +1 for facing inferior firepower foot or -2 for the enemy in contact with the unit’s flank are applied. Again, there are no small arms or melee procedures, the two are integrated into the morale system as DRMs. Brilliant! One die roll has adjudicated not less than three traditional game processes.
Otherwise this 44-page pub, of which only 25 are devoted to the actual rules (only 15 to gameplay), includes various updates that turn TWIGLET’s War of Spanish Succession environment into “push of pike” central. These include such things as dividing infantry troop types into Early and Late Tercio, Regimental or Swedish brigade systems and other chrome as mentioned in the sections on scenario books below. The base rules book also includes eight pages devoted to building your armies, setting up custom battles and two introductory mini-scenarios, the battle of Fleuris (29 August 1622, Protestants v Spanish) and the battle of Cheriton (29 March 1644, Royalist v Roundhead).
This publication is by no means glitzy, though the scenario maps are in color, but presentation is direct, simple and easy to understand. Prose style is conversational, typical for British rules I’ve found, and contrasts most favorably to the more regulatory, need a Philadelphia lawyer, style found in American pubs.
Ye Most Accursed Civil Warre
Along with the base rules set, PSS has also published two supporting scenario books. One of these is called By the Sword Divided and within its 28 pages are 10 scenarios from the English Civil War (ECW). The scenarios are:
- The Battle of Edgehill, 23 October 1642, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The Battle of Lansdown Hill, 5 July 1643, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The First Battle of Newbury, 20 September 1643, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The Battle of Cropredy Bridge, 29 June 1644, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The Battle of Marston Moor, 2 July 1644, Parliamentarians/Scots v Royalists
- The Second Battle of Newbury, 27 October 1644, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The Battle of Naseby, 14 June 1645, Parliamentarians v Royalists
- The Battle of Knocknanoss, 13 November 1647, Parliamentarians v Irish Confederate
- The Battle of Winwick Pass, 19 August 1648, Parliamentarians v Scots
- The Battle of Dunbar, 3d September 1650, Parliamentarians v Scots
The book begins with a number of interesting tables applicable to all scenarios and more. The first allows the player to randomize the quality of his units via a six-sided roll. Units are labeled best to worst from A to E, with for example, a die roll of 5 or 6 upgrading A/B units to Elite, but a 6 only for C/D class units. A second table conveys different unit characteristic designations, for example MX infantry referring to foot with a 2 to 3 ratio of pike to shot. Finally a third table gives sample unit strengths for those who wish to use the scenarios but game in another system. Using Small/Standard/Large categories, a unit of, say, Dutch type horse would have 400/500/600 troopers.
These all feed into the scenarios which uses a common presentation scheme. After a short background on the engagement, sections follow to specify game board particulars, terrain effects, scenario details (all infantry are Regimental, etc) and then victory conditions. Special scenario rules are also included here, followed by a color map nicely drawn with Campaign Cartographer software – the Newbury maps are intriguing – and divided into 1-foot by 1-foot squares.
Army setup is not granular to the individual unit level, but rather certain pieces of game board real estate are segregated within or behind red deployment lines. This is where you stick your army. Following that are the order of battle charts for the forces involved keyed to a left, center and right wing, then by subordinate commander and finally distinguished by the number of lines the units must occupy. Thus looking at Gerard’s Royalist foot brigade at 1st Newbury, we find it includes 1 Trained (D) MH Infantry unit in 2 Lines, and 1 Trained (D) MH Small Infantry unit. The (D) refers to the class for random quality die rolls while MH equals Musket Heavy, or a pike to shot ratio of 1 to 2. Small, of course, means small.
Its not flashy, but it gets the job done and I really like the random quality process and a level of detail that can distinguish different ratios of infantry pike and shot. Well done.
Der Löwe aus Mitternacht
The second scenario book covers the brutal and near genocidal Thirty Years War (TYW) and is aptly named Europe’s Tragedy. As with most rules covering this conflict, a lot of attention is paid to the greatest commander of the age, King Gustav Adolf of Sweden. Called the “Lion of the North,” or by the Germans the “Lion of Midnight,” and refusing to wear a cuirass because “the Lord God is my armor,” the King ranks as one of the greatest generals of all time, not just the TYW. That said, here is the scenario lineup:
- The Battle of White Mountain, 8 November 1620, Protestants v Catholics
- The Battle of Stadtlohn, 6 August 1623, Protestants v Catholic League
- The Battle of Lutter, 27 August 1626, Danes v Catholics
- The Battle of Breitenfeld, 17 September 1631, Swedes (and Saxons) v Catholics
- The Battle of Alte Veste, 3 September 1632, Swedes v Imperials
- The Battle of Oldendorf, 8 July 1633, Protestants v Catholics
- The Battle of Wittstock, 4 October 1636, Swedes v Allies
- The Battle of Tornavento, 22 June 1636, French (with Savoy) v Spanish
- The Battle of Montijo, 26 May 1644, Portuguese v Spanish
- The Battle of Jankau, 6 March 1645, Swedes v Imperials
- The 2nd Battle of Nördlingen (Allerheim), 3 August 1645, French v Bavarians and Imperials
- The Battle of Lens, 20 August 1648, French v Spanish
The structure of this 40-page supplement is the same as that for the ECW scenario book. However, the battles are larger, and this means more figures and larger table space needed, but none so large that the optional brigade level game rules are necessary. And while the scenario selection provides a great sampling of a war with a lot of engagements – I especially liked the later battles featuring the French, something often neglected in other rules – I did find them a bit lacking. Specifically some of the more well-known battles are not included such as Lutzen (16 November 1632) where King Gustav found God’s armor not impervious to well-aimed shot, and Rocroi (19 May 1643), the seminal battle that established the French army as the 800-pound gorilla in the room for the next several decades. Hopefully these will make an appearance in a future release, as well as other battles from the continuing Franco-Spanish squabble and perhaps the League of Augsburg conflict and more.
In another quibble that also applies to the ECW supplement, I was surprised that given the book is published by such a scholarly and research-oriented organization such as PSS, none of the scenarios included the historical order of battle. Yes, such things do exist, for example Breitenfeld where Colonel Erik Hand’s Swedish infantry brigade in the center fielded Regiments Ostergotland, Vastergotland and Dalsland. Given Gustav in particular designated a single color for the dress and flags of each unit, such information would be a boon for pewter pushers doing painting research.
Ruminations most Pithy and Faire
One of the best things about this series is the price, £12 public / £8 members(about $ 15.14 US for the public price). This makes sense given that PSS is a British non-profit organization dedicated to promoting study of this period of early modern warfare. Excessive profit is not in the DNA. Their research publications are part of this effort, and so are their wargaming books. Yet outside the UK they might be a hard sell due to the absolutely hideous postage costs. I’m not sure how the Royal Mail works this, but I do know that if I stick all three books into a US Postal Service Priority International flat-rate envelope and send it to England, postage will run around $32.00 US.
Damn. This is sad because more and more miniature gamers are looking to move into secondary fields of interest, and thus need simple but accurate rules that don’t require a lot of effort to master, or a second mortgage to deploy thousands of pewter soldiers for play. Like TWIGLET before it, TWIDLET fits that bill nicely. It successfully adapts one of the most innovative and elegant wargaming systems made backward in time to an era of military history too long overlooked. It also means that those already familiar with TWIGLET will need next to no time learning the ropes and will soon lead Spanish tercios into battle. Publishing two full scenario books simultaneously with the basic rules set was also a very smart move that other companies might want to emulate.
Bottom line – outside the cost of shipping, Captain Generals Dorrell and Stanford have done an exceptional job of making a great rules system even better. Their work absolutely deserves your attention and is worthy of anyone’s bookshelf. And for those in the in the low postage UK, TWIDLET is a must buy.