Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Pikeman's Lament

In looking for Border Reiver rules I had first envisaged a 'true skirmish' game In which each figure was autonomous and had initially alighted upon En Garde. I may return to it, but while I'm not looking for games with mass armies, the number of figures used in En Garde (up to 20 a side) was smaller than I really wanted for this particuar project.

Then I remembered The Pikeman's Lament (2017) by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck (Dalauppror), a rule set I had looked at after I had started playing The Men Who Would Be Kings but before I started playing Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant. I also came across the reports of Border Reiver games using Pikeman’s Lament on Angus Konstam's Edinburgh Wargames website. That clinched it, but before the headlong rush into hitting the 'Buy' button, I thought I'd better try out the rules and period by substituting my as yet unused Late Mediaevals and playing a Reiver game.

The Rampant games are commonly referred to as skirmish games, and one figure does represent one man, but the idea of skirmish needs some qualification. In wargame terms I tend to think of these games as squad games in which individual figures act as strength markers. That is not a criticism, just an observation, and it is a type of game I prefer to 'true skirmish' games.

We staged a stand-up fight (Scenario A) pitting a Reiver family, retainers and servants (commanded by my friend Ian who has Border ancestry!) against garrison forces of the March Warden supported by other Reivers (commanded by myself). The backstory is that the Reivers  were ambushing a Hot Trod (or pursuit).

The Reivers comprised:

1 Reiver Family mounted* (Dragoons – customised) @ 4
2 Reiver Family on foot (Aggressive Forlorn Hope) @ 6 = 12
1 Retainers (Clansmen) @ 3                   
2 Retainers (Commanded Shot) @ 2 = 4       
1 Lownes/Armed servants (Clubmen) @ 1               

The 'Dragoons' had customised values which upped their Attack Value and Stamina in compensation for losing their Shooting factor and Skirmishing ability.

The Warden’s forces:

1 Border Horse* (Gallopers) @ 4       
1 Garrison Pike @ 4                
1 Garrison Shot @ 4                
2 'Hot Trod' Reivers (Aggressive Forlorn Hope) @ 6 = 12

*Officers with these units.

The photos show the course of the game. In order to speed things up and maintain momentum we tended to make assumptions and bluff our way through on the basis of our knowledge of other Rampant rules. We inevitably cut corners and made a few mistakes but these were mostly corrected and probably didn't affect the outcome of the game.

Ian's force (far side) and mine (near side). My force was slow to start moving but I was relatively pleased about the match-ups. I hoped to out-shoot the enemy on my left flank, charge the Retainers with my Reivers and charge the enemy mounted troops with my lancers.
Ian's Commanded Shot 1 get the worse of a fire fight with my Garrison Shot. A Wild Charge by the Retainers and an Ordered Charge by Ian's Reivers 1 on my Reivers 1 is beaten off with losses on both sides. Both Ian's units are Wavering. The Retainers never recovered from this setback.

The Officers' units square up for a fight. The Retainers fail to rally and keep retreating.

The mounted Reiver unit attacks my lancers but bounces back.

The March Warden's unit attacks eliminating the Reiver mounted unit and the Reiver Leader. Tests all round for loss of Officer. The Warden's unit has ended up within 3" of a third party, the Armed Servants. We weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do about that illegality. We left it there.

Ian's Commanded Shot 1 is eliminated by overwhelming fire power.

I lose my Reiver 1 unit but the March Warden's unit ploughs into the Armed Servants who are chaff to the scythe. We should have gone on until there were only three units left in total on the table but the outcome was pretty certain at this point.
In conclusion:
  • The rules worked well (as expected) and there were no difficulties in stretching these Seventeenth Century rules back to the Sixteenth Century.
  • I probably wouldn't use the customised Dragoon option again. Any mounted Reivers will simply be treated as Gallopers.
  • Using substitute figures was surprisingly distracting and it would have been better to use MDF counters.
  • This is the first time I've played with my Late Mediaevals and I didn't like the rectangular figure bases as it's difficult to avoid lining them up. I'm therefore going to rebase all the infantry on 2p pieces like my other Rampant armies and this will make it easier to keep them in the prescribed clumps.
  • We both enjoyed the game. Reivers are a colourful option despite the Hodden Grey. I am going ahead with this project and have ordered some sample packets.


  1. I like the look of your game and your observations and conclusions on Pikeman's Lament. While I do not play the game, still a very interesting post.

    1. I think the Rampant games will hoover up more and more players, especially with the publication of 'Rebels and Patriots'. Although ostensibly focused on North America, it should be extendable to a wide range of conflicts elsewhere, and I already have some in mind…