Introduction to Baroque Rules (15mm ECW)

A project which has been on the back-burner for some considerable time is my 10mm ECW armies and part of the reason the project stalled was my difficulty in finding a suitable set of rules that gave the right period flavour.

While discussing this predicament with a friend, he kindly offered to give me an introductory game of his preferred rules for the period, Baroque, using 15mm figures from his collection.  Baroque are published by Dadi & Piombo from Italy and are based on their popular Impetus ancients rules (which I’d not previously played either)

Paul provided lists and figures for both armies which were approximately 600 points each (the standard size game for Baroque) and I choose Parliamentarian.  Since the game was an introduction to the rules, the army lists were slightly fudged to accommodate a wider variety of troops and the Parliamentarian army had a few more points.  We decided to forgo the usual pre-game procedure for terrain setup and just mutually agreed a simple and roughly symmetrical terrain layout.  Photos are all from my (Parliamentarian) perspective.

Mustering my forces and considering my intelligence of the enemy, I organised my units into three commands.  I decided to form up all four units of standard pike & musket in my centre, commanded by my best general (who was rated as Expert) on the basis they might have numerical superiority and the senior general could help to keep them in check while they slowly rolled forward though the large area of open ground which was just about wide enough for them.  I knew the Royalist cavalry would be much more aggressive and effective than mine so I took a gamble by splitting my remaining forces into two unequal commands – the first with one unit Reiters (cavalry with limited ranged capability) and two units of poor quality pike & muskets to provide a tempting target for the Royalist cavalry and to slow them down with a defensive action while my more effective cavalry (one unit of Cuirassiers and two of Ironsides) massed on the opposite flank for a decisive strike.

We diced for deployment and the Royalists deployed first, placing three units of pike & musket in their centre (X) and I responded by placing my own four units of pike & musket facing them (A).  So far so good.  The Royalists then deployed a mixed command consisting of one unit each of Dragoons, Pike & Musket and Cavaliers on their left flank (Y) and reasoning the main Royalist cavalry force would therefore deployed on the right flank, I kept back my mixed command and placed my cavalry command (B) on my right flank.  However, I got a nasty surprise when Paul didn’t deploy his main cavalry force (Z) on his right flank but instead squeezed them into his extreme left flank, directly opposing my weaker cavalry!  There was no room for my own mixed command (C) to face them so I was forced to deploy them unopposed on my left flank.

Infantry units have a 12cm x 4cm footprint and in this case were made up of six DBx bases.  Cavalary units were made up of three DBx bases and had and overall footprint of 12cm x 3cm.  Generals are based with a few command figures on 4cm x 4cm bases.

 

Baroque has a novel control mechanism with both players nominating a command that has not yet acted and dicing off to determine which command gets to act (modified by the quality of the general)  Each unit within that commend acts in turn and once complete, the players each nominate another command and dice again.  This mechanism allows you to prioritise which commands you want to act with first but you can still have a situation where one army acts with multiple commands before the other can act at all, although all commands from each army will eventually act in each turn.  During the command dice-off the general can spontaneously increase or reduce in quality by rolling double 6s or double 1s (only once per game) adding a little tension and surprise to the game.

In the first turn I was keen to press the unopposed left flank forward so double-moved my Reiters, but they become disordered as a result.  Meanwhile the poor quality infantry following them moved forward once but then stubbornly refused to go any further.  Both our centre commands advanced slowly towards each other across the open ground.  In  the Royalist mixed command, the dragoons advanced into rough ground to establish a fire position while the unit of Cavaliers began to move sideways across the battlefield.  Both our cavalry commands spread out a little and advanced cautiously – I was certainly in no hurry to contact the superior force that faced them.

In the second turn I further pushed forward the mixed command on my left flank, although both pike & musket units became disordered in the process.  I advanced my centre line and the cavalry on my right flank cautiously kept pace with them.  The Royalist centre did not advance and the rightmost unit of Pike & Musket wheeled to face my flanking Reiters.  Most of the remaining Royalists dressed their lines but otherwise remained mostly stationary except for the cavaliers from the mixed command which continued to move over to the right flank.

The third turn saw the multiple contacts across the battlefield.  On my left flank my poor quality pike & musket remained disordered so were only able to make slow progress forward and were left behind by my Reiters who advanced to point blank range to fire on the rightmost Royalist pike & musket unit who reacted to return fire.  Each unit has the opportunity to react to enemy actions once per turn and the available reactions and likeness of success vary according to the situation.   In this period pike & musket units fire is most effective for their first volley of the battle as the muskets will have been carefully loaded and checked in advance and the rules reflect this through additional dice.

My Reiter’s fire was ineffective and they took minor casualties from the Royalist return fire.  Both centre commands continued to close slowly and held their fire so as not to waste the first shot bonus on a long-range speculative volley.  In the Royalist mixed command, the Dragoons remained in the rough ground (which suits them) but wheeled to face my main cavalry force and the Cavaliers pushed further right towards my Reiters but this meant the attached general was at the very extreme of their command range to the Dragoons.  On my right flank my Cuirassiers advanced cautiously but blundered into reaction range of the Royalist’s Royal Cavaliers who promptly charged them.  The Cavaliers are the most effective mounted unit in the game and when charging an effectively stationary enemy with an attached general the effect was devastating and only fractionally tempered by charging uphill.  My Cuirassiers were reduced to half strength (indicated by markers – figures aren’t removed) and forced backwards while the Cavaliers halted disordered and did not pursue.  At this point in the battle, my cavalry weaknesses had been exposed and I had not been able to make  any use of my numerical advantage of pike & musket units.

 

In the fourth turn the poor quality pike & musket on my left flank continued to be disordered and therefore made slow progress and I realised they were unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the battle (they are really best left to defensive duties).  My Reiters regained their order and traded ineffective fire with the Royalist pike & musket to the immediate front which met my objective of shortening the main Royalist line so they were outnumbered by my own centre which had by now moved into effective range.  All four of my pike & musket units opened fire and the two remaining Royalist units returned fire, resulting in disorder and minor casualties along the whole line.  The Royalists attempted to redress the balance by moving the units from their mixed command in an attempt to negate the numerical superiority of the Parliamentarian pike & musket line.

Meanwhile the cavalry battle continued to unfold on my right flank.  The Royalist Cavaliers charged my already weakened Cuirassiers again but surprisingly neither unit inflicted further casualties so remained locked together in melee.  Seeing an opportunity to recover the situation, my rearmost unit of Ironsides performed an about-face to their rear while my other Ironsides wheeled to face a second unit of Royalist Cavaliers who were pressing forward up the hill towards them.

The Fifth turn proved decisive and ended up being the last as we ran out of time to complete the game.  My left flank remained locked in a stalemate but continued to tie up the rightmost Royalist pike & musket unit.  My centre line exchanged fire with their opposite units but their numerical superiority began to tell as one Royalist pike & musket unit was reduced to one third of their initial strength and their Dragoons became disordered and fell back.  On the right flank my rear-facing Ironside unit manoeuvred behind the embattled Royalist Cavaliers and charged them in the rear, sandwiching them between two of my units and wiping them out, including their attached general.  My other Ironside unit charged the Cavaliers opposite them who counter-charged but were beaten and forced off the table.  The loss of the general meant the last remaining unit of Cavaliers had to take a morale test and promptly routed off the table.

With two fresh units of Ironsides unopposed on their left flank and mounting pressure on their centre, things were looking very bad for the Royalists!

Many thanks to Paul for the use of his figures for taking the time to explain the rules and guide me through the game.  I felt that within a few turns I had sufficient grasp of the core mechanics to focus on the tactical decisions without needing to worry about the minutia of the rules.  It’s a credit to Baroque that historical tactics appear to generally give historical outcomes so the tactics remain the primary focus of the game.

Overall I felt that the rules were fast, fun and intuitive and gave a historically plausible result so I think they are probably the most likely choice for my own 10mm ECW project.  On the strength of that, I’ve ordered a copy from a local stockist and will do a proper review once I’ve had a good read of them.  In the meantime, if you’re looking for an innovative set of massed battle rules then Baroque are well worth investigating.

Most figures from Museum Miniatures (UK), 4′ x 3′ cloth from Ceri Design (UK) and scenery from the club’s collection.  The clear acrylic measuring widgets visible in some of the photos were a custom order from Battlefield Accessories (Australia).

 

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