Last friday we took Pike & Shotte out for a spin in Utrecht. We decided to use our DBR 15mm collections of the early 16th century.
Some considerations of practical use: For "converting" the DBR elements into P&S units we opted to try using 2 elements wide for standard units of pike and shotte. Large pike blocks we made 3 elements wide as were the cavalry units. Our table was of classic 180x120 DBx size and we used our old DBR yardsticks for distances. The distance conversion was 4cm per 3". This worked out splendid. The sticks are still very handy in use and on this type of table yields a good deal of room while still allowing armies to quickly come to the heart of the matter. For casualty markers one of us had the idea that in the end all troops of this period were mercenaries and took 1 & 2 euro cent coins to the field; thus adding new meaning to the term 'dead man's pay' and the markers now also representing a captain's post-battle profit.
As it happened I took my copy of Sir Charles Oman's 'A history of the art of war in the 16th century' with me and after some browsing we started setting up the terrain based on the battle of Dreux. In addition, one of the armies was indeed French and with that all links with the historic battle ended. Still we felt good and were good to go. Against the French an impressive Imperialist force lined up and looked nicely polished, dressed and manicured.
The imperialists decided to use large pike blocks supported by some units of shotte. On their left flank the cavarly stood firm and consisted of 1 unit of gendarmes supported by 2 skirmisher cavalry units and 1 unit of shotte.
The French quickly realized how expensive the Swiss were but the king had a bit of gold and thus could afford a few. Of course the largest part of the king's gold stayed in French hands and went into 2 units of gendarmes d'ordonnance. The king had also managed to hire some landsknechts.
The battle was opened by the king and he first send forwards his stradiots in order to rid the field of the imperialists light horse. The intention was to start a joint effort of the stradiots and les gendarme bleu. Obviously the gendarmes had a different opinion and many a 'PARBLEU' was sounded by the king.
The imperialists opted for a steady advance along the line which was peacefully observed by the landsknecht and Swiss. Perhaps they were still making up their mind or checking their bank accounts. The artillery of both sides played their tune and thanks to some sixes the imperialist line became a bit less of a line. Still the advance continued and was admired by the king mostly because this is what he had intended for the landsknecht and Swiss. Eventually the landsknecht advanced. The shotte made itself heard until the pike blocks threw themselves into the opposing imperialists. Pikes against pikes can be a quick and dirty affair in P&S and this time it wasn't going to be any different. Thanks to the support of the shotte units the landsknechts defeated the imperialists who, with many thanks to the god of the dice, broke.
This must have inspired the Swiss who finally made a few reluctant steps towards the imperialist line. That encounter proved to be a prolonged and bloody affair. The imperialist shotte were quickly rolled over and removed from play and although the imperialist pikes won nearly every round of combat the Swiss stood firm.
In the end one block of the Swiss broke but the imperialist unit was shaken by the fight. At that time a unit of landsknecht shotte turned towards them and fired away in addition to the French artillery. This broke the pike block and thus the battalia. Because the right wing was previously broken this proved to be the end of the battle and a French victory.
So what about those fearful French gendarmes?
Well, they did advance... eventually. Still, most of the fighting was to be done by the stradiots. The cavalry battle only came to the stage of a skirmish as a result of reluctant gendarme d’ordonnance and who retained their freighting reputation at the imperialist gendarmes.