Basing Pike and Shot Figures for the 30 Years War

Roland Davis has been painting for me again – some Swedes for the Thirty Years War. So I’ve been mulling over how to base them. Part of the answer is obvious – on big bases. The potential dilemma is what figures to put on each base given these are mixed pike and shot units. Here’s a few options I considered and a bit of a journey to get there.

DBR 24 figure battalion on 40mm bases

My starting point was the wargaming convention for pike and shot convention. 24 figures on DBR sized little bases. Eight pikes and 16 musketeers with the musketeers in equal wings. My Dutch were originally based like this.

Dutch Infantry - Grey

Grey Regiment (x2)

Age of Gunpowder

I briefly flirted with Age of Gunpowder by Chipco Games. These rules have 40x40mm bases. For a pike and shot unit you put a base of pike in front of a base of shot. But I admit I never played the game and never had the courage to rebase using this scheme. None-the-less it was a very early nudge towards big bases.

Impetus with DBR bases

Back in 2007 John Mclennan suggested we have a go at Basic Impetus for the Thirty Years War. Normal Impetus bases are 80mm wide however at the time there was a big discussion on the Impetus forum about how to do renaissance and the suggestion was 120mm wide for pike and shot units. This was purely to be compatible with the dbr convention mentioned above. This offended me because it broke the Impetus convention – of course nobody listened to me. Except me. 🙂

So we used by DBR Dutch to make Impetus “units” of two cavalry bases or four infantry bases. These “units” would be a single big base in normal Impetus but I wasn’t going to rebase – at least not yet. For the pike and shot units we put two pike stands in front of two shot bases. Obviously ripped off from Age of Gunpowder but without the ridiculously deep formation of that game.

30YW Impetus
30YW Impetus

I liked the look – lots of figures – but not the game. This game was one of the reasons I eventually elected to go for big bases.

80mm Bases

What I’ve decided to do is base the pike and shot units using my normal big base convention of 12 heavy infantry on a 80mm x 40mm base. I’ve put four pikes and eight shot on each base. Two such bases make a brigade.

First up is the Swedish Yellow Brigade. This shows how the brigade would normally be deployed, i.e. more or less as a square. Apologies for the rough photography – I took the photos on my iPhone quickly so I could send Roland something. I’ll post better photos when we get the army finished.

Swedish Yellow Brigade
Swedish Yellow Brigade

Although I don’t think I’ll be using brigades in line formation this is how it would look. In this case a Scottish Brigade in Swedish service. Apologies for the bent pikes.

Swedish Scottish Blue Brigade
Swedish Scottish Blue Brigade

Now I just need to decide what rules to use. That, and the reason for brigades rather than battalions, is fuel for another post.

18 thoughts on “Basing Pike and Shot Figures for the 30 Years War”

  1. Hi Steven,

    As always these look great. I might have liked to see a few more figures, but that is personal preference rather than criticism.

    Remember we also looked at the DBRRR option – and I do believe it might be the way to solve your dilemma.

  2. Hey John. I’m considering a few options. I picked up ECW Polemos recently and wonder if they might do the trick. But I’ll probably try Twilight of the Winter Queen first. After all, it is based on my own rule set. The basing I’ve picked is perfect for that.

  3. Hi Steven

    Rules and basing options (not to mention figure scales) for TYW is one of those issues that I’ve often returned to but never resolved. The tactical formations used by the Swedes and others seem to have been varied, complex and flexible, and hard to capture on the wargames table. I concluded that representation at this level had to be pretty abstract, and that any wargame base or bases would have to be little more than tokens for a Swedish brigade or equivalent. In other words, the arrangement of the figures could be anything credible, but at the end of the day a base is a base.

    You’ve suggested a two-base square for the Swedes. How would you go about representing other TYW infantry in comparison?


  4. The phrase “varied, complex and flexible” seems fair to describe the formations within a brigade. Once you go to brigade level it gets a lot simpler. I’m following the Volley and Bayonet convention where a brigade is a brigade is a brigade. All square and the same size.

  5. I think the VnB approach is a very appropriate solution, i.e. a base is an area over which the different components of a brigade manoeuvre.

    My next question is: how do you propose to represent an historical army, i.e. would you treat each base as representing, say, 1000 men, or would each base represent an historical formation with a varying strength factor?

  6. Good Doctor you’re pushing me to the edge. I’ve been procrastinating about this for years and now you expect instant answers. I’m not sure I will cope. 🙂

    I am inclined to “each base represent an historical formation with a varying strength factor”. A brigade is a brigade. But there are strong brigades and weak brigades.

  7. Neither solution is entirely satisfactory!

    Are you planing to put cavalry and artillery on bases of the same size?

  8. Cavalry on same size square bases as infantry brigades (80×80). Representing a number of squadrons. Similarly for cavalry with commanded musketeers.

    Artillery on 1/4 sized bases (40×40).

    Less sure about dragoons. At the moment they are based on a 80×40 like other cavalry/infantry. Whether I put them in a matched pair as a brigade is the bit I’m debating with myself. Probably not as they seemed to function differently.

  9. I’m thinking of doing this period using the new 3mm figures from Magister Militum. I haven’t finally decided whether to use two rectangular bases or one square base, and whether to use an 80mm or 60mm frontage…

    I’ve thought about fancy options for arranging the strips, but it’s probably best to keep it simple and have the usual pike block and shot sleeves.

    • I laboured over what size bases to use for years. 40mm = too small. 60mm = good size but not too many figures. 80 = good size and more figures. I went with 80mm mainly because it is compatible with V&B, even if I don’t use V&B. And I’ve done this for all period before machine guns.

      V&B does squares, 80×80 in rounded metric measurements. I’ve gone for 80×40 because for battalion level games, e.g. Shako or Napoleon at War, I want a line to be a line, so two stands side by side. For V&B I put the stands one behind the other, as you see above.

      Much of that logic is because I want one basing scheme for multiple periods, multiple game scales and multiple rule sets.

      If I was just doing 30YW, and all bases were brigades, and I was using a small figure scale (e.g. 3mm), I’d probably go for a square. I do for 80mm if space was not a concern and 60mm otherwise.

  10. Basing demands are, thankfully, fairly forgiving these days. I know hex games aren’t to your taste, but I’ll probably want to try Hexon for one rules option, so the bases will need to fit but not rattle about within a 4″ hex.

    The MM strips are 20mm wide so that dictates a 60mm frontage with figures edge to edge or a larger frontage with the figures diorama style.

  11. Really interesting article and discussion. The forthcoming L’art de la Guerre Renaissance is planning to use 80mm wide bases for pike and shot. I wasn’t convinced until I saw your bases!
    Mike B

    • Hi, I play with these rules at the CLWC and they are fun and work. I like the concept of 80mm by 40 60 or 80. It allows you to have early tercios on the table that look right, are playable and the whole army doesnt cost much to put together. Sean


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