Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Thirty Years War in 3mm?

My interest in the Thirty Years War periodically resurfaces, and I started this article some months ago the last time it did. I haven't taken things any further, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

I was waiting to see Impetus Baroque at the time, but at the Cavalier show last year (February 2016) I caught sight of the Liber Militum: Tercios rules. The rules emanate from Spain and the English-language version is not as good as it could be. Nonetheless, it appears to be easier to follow than some rules allegedly originating in English.

Suggested 15mm basing on full-size bases.
Basing follows the Impetus precedent of being quite large - 120mm wide for pike-and-shot units, 80mm wide for cavalry and 40mm wide for artillery. Regardless of figure scale, I immediately thought of reducing the base sizes so that a game could be played on a compact 48'' x 32'' playing area. A 120 mm base would become 80 mm, an 80 mm base would become about 53mm (say 60mm) and a 40 mm Base would become about 27mm (says 25 mm).

My campaign for open-handed pikemen in 10 mm or 6 mm didn't get too far, so I began to consider the Magister Militum 3mm figure strips. These do not look clipable, so I needed to see how complete strips would work on the desired base sizes. With the strips being 20mm long, this exercise may also applicable to unclipped Baccus strips.

Tercio Square, Classic, Reformed and Modern
 formations using  Magister Militum's 3mm strips.
Tercios has four types of pike-and-shot unit: Tercios, Classic, Reformed and Modern. I've played or looked at a number of Renaissance rule options over the years. These definitions seem to be a good as any and better than many.

There is some disagreement as to whether the distinctive Tercio formation with shot at the corners was actually used in the TYW. As I understand it the Tercios were not entirely inflexible, but capable of various arrangements. If the shot on each flank were to close up a Tercio would present a simple pike block with sleeves of shot, albeit a large and deep one.

The illustration above shows suggested basing for 15 mm figures. The diagrams (right) show how I would do it with 3 mm strips in a way that would best reproduce the relative numbers and proportions of the 15mm figures.

The iconic T formation for the Modern (Swedes) was my own idea. It may not have been commonly used but it's distinctive and a convenient way of arranging the strips.

I'm not sure of the exact depth of the strips. If they are deeper, then the Tercio square in particular may look better than the way I've depicted it (i.e. squarer). In principle the strips seem to work.

Anyway, this was an entirely cart-before-the-horse exercise as I still haven't even read the rules properly, let alone played them. And I do have some reservations. I'm a bit wary about committing to a rules set that uses bases with different frontages. And I don't think Magister Militum's 3mm range yet has all the required figure types.

Two other developments have also recently occurred. Firstly, I've bought a copy of the new edition of Twilight of the Sun King (more anon) and learnt that a TYW/ECW version is also planned for this year. Secondly, I've seen the first releases in the new 6mm TYW/ECW range from Baccus. Notwithstanding the cast pikes, these are superb figures...

Baccus: Fragile cast pikes but very nice effect.


  1. Nice idea. There's also a renaissance version of the Art de la Guerre (ADLG) rules in playtesting at the moment which may be of interest.

    1. Hi Tamsin

      Thanks for the tip off. I have to admit I'm currently spending more time speculating about options than actually doing any painting or wargaming...but dreaming is still fun.


  2. 80mm bases would be a good fit for a 4 x 3 table and I can understand an artillery base being half that, but the comparative cavalry frontage is unusual and I would have thought it would have equalled the infantry base if anything.

    My experience with the 3mm is that the figures have been made from a very hard metal, so I imagine that cast pikes are going to be less of an issue than with other scales anyway.

    1. Norm

      Yes, I'd be happy with artillery on half-sized frontages (you could put two together if the chosen rules required it), but I'd expect infantry and cavalry to be on the same frontages, whether that's 40mm, 60mm or 80mm.

      I'm really keeping an open mind about figure scale. It could be anything from 2mm to 10mm. 2mm won't work on big bases because the blocks are too small and difficult to combine, but they can look good on small bases (maybe 30mm wide) and you could quickly knock out a lot of generic bases and cover the whole of the pike-and-shot era.


    2. Not having read the rules, this is just speculation but I think the cavalry bases are squadrons (100-120 men) vs infantry battalions (500-1000 men) in which case the relative base widths would be about right

    3. I guess that putting the horse on smaller bases makes them easier to manoeuvre and there may be merit in that.