Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Playtest - Tercio

A little while ago, a few of the club members got together to test a new set of rules for the 30 Years War period called Tercio.
We used the figures we've all painted for our ongoing Swedish-Polish War Campaign using the upcoming Pikeman's Lament rules.
While Pikeman's Lament is a skirmish game, Tercio is intended to depict large scale actions. The Tercio rules assume that the figures are on multi-fig bases, and our existing figures are mostly on single bases or based in twos and threes. But in practice this is not really a problem as long as the centre points of the units are readily identifiable. Tercio is originally written in Spanish, but we used the English version of it.
The armies in Tercio are divided into brigades, each with its own commander, all under the Control of a C-in-C.
At the beginning of each turn, units are assigned orders using order cards which define what the units will attempt to do.

The Swedish half of the combined Swedish/Scots army. A 'Squadron' of the very powerful Swedish infantry brigade have advanced onto the hill while rather less awesome mounted Arquebusier and skirmish Musketeers guard the flank. In the background a unit of Polish light horse has rashly advanced too far forward....
We decided to use a combined Swedish and Scots army vs a Polish army.

Swedish C-in-C
Swedish infantry brigade w 2 Squadrons of heavy infantry (pike and muskets)
Swedish cavalry brigade with 1 Unit of mounted Arquebusiers and 1 Skirmishing Musketeer unit
Scots cavalry brigade with 1 Curassier unit
Scots infantry brigade with 2 battalions of heavy infantry (pike and musket/arquebus)
Scots light artillery unit

Polish C-in-C
Polish Elite unit: 1 Winged Hussars lancers
Polish infantry brigade with 3 units of Haiduk Musketeers and 1 unit of close combat halberdiers
Polish heavy cavalry brigade with 2 units of Pancerni lancers
Polish light cavalry brigade with 1 unit of light horse
Polish heavy artillery unit

(Note: there are no polish army lists available yet, at least not in English, so we just made up our own based on our knowledge of the period and extrapolated something that seemed reasonable).
We used about 1000 pts per side, apparently a standard size game for this rules set.

The brave Scots infantry brigade with two battalions supported by some Curassiers.
Since we've only played these rules once before, we picked a straight up fight scenario and simply lined up our troops and went at it.
The rules for commanders are quite extensive with many different traits that individual commanders can have. We forgot a bit of it (and probably failed to fully use our traits, even when we remembered them). Proper use of commanders and the Order cards are really crucial here. Fortunately, the whole thing is expained rather well. At the end of this game I think we had it down reasonably well.

The Polish host advances. The C-in-C himself is in the foreground while the Pancerni and Hussar lancers advance covered by the Haiduk musketeer infantry. Note the order cards.
The Swedish infantry has the best firepower in the entire game, but is not that strong in melee (which is a fair assessment, the units were smaller and had fewer pikemen, but were optimized for maximum firepower).
The Scots infantry is pretty standard for the period with decent firepower and good melee strength.
The Scots had a standard Curassier unit with sword and pistol while the Swedes had a single unit of mounted arquebusiers. Both pretty good units, but not spectacular.

The Polish heavy cavalry is awesome, though. As one of the few armies still using lances in the 17th Century (combined with lots of pistols, etc) they are quite simply the best there is.

The Polish infantry consists almost exclusively of Musketeers. This makes for good firepower, but not so great melee capability. The firepower of the Swedish infantry brigades is still superior, though.

Another view of the Swedish battle line showing both 'Squadrons' of the infantry brigade.
The Swedish/Scots plan was simple: advance the infantry to a good defensive position and use superior firepower to blast anything that moves close enough. The cavalry was strictly a reserve/flank protection force.
The Poles had two wings, one of the few, but really good cavalry with the infantry at the other end.

The Scots infantry open fire at long range, but the Polish lancers just keep trotting forward.
Almost immediately the artillery on both sides opened fire, but to little effect. The Polish heavy artillery did score some hits later in the game, but the Scots light artillery had very little effect.
On the Swedish/Scots right flank, the Polish infantry trudged forward and engaged the Scots in a musketry duel. The Polish superior numbers began to tell almost immediately and the Scots infantry began to back away slowly.
At the same time, however, the Polish cavalry proved very aggressive. An initial advance by the Polish light horse was a mistake as it brought them into musketry range of the Swedish infantry, while still out-of-range of their own arquebuses. The Polish lights were not destroyed, but had to retire and would take some time to recover and return to the fight. Ouch.

An initial assault by Polish Pancerni lancers fail to make any impression on the scots infantry and the Poles fall back behind the Hussars. As it turned out, the Hussars were made of sterner stuff.....
In the background the second Pancerni unit try to attach the Swedish Arquebusiers while under heavy fire from the Swedish infantry brigade on the hill

In the centre, the Polish heavy cavalry moved forward as well. One of the Pancerni lancer units tried to move against the Swedish flank but was bogged down in bad terrain and subjected to surprisingly ineffective shooting while the second pancerni was forced to retire after failing a morale check.

But the Hussars were just behind the Pancerni and charged one of the Scots infantry units.

The Hussars charge! The scots proved no match for these elite troops and the scots wre immediately destroyed. Ouch!
The Hussars proved to be absolutely devastating as they charged and routed the Scots infantry unit and then went on to do the same to the Scots Curassiers. Ouch.
Things were really not looking good for the Swedes and Scots....

The Hussars just keep going after eliminating one of the the Scots infantry battalions. In this Picture they are just about tocharge the Scots Curassiers and will utterly destroy them as well. As some small consolation, the intense fire from the Swedish infantry finally destroys one of the Pancerni units.
And then came the deciding moment. The victorious Hussars had advanced past the flank of one of the Swedish infantry squadrons. If the Hussars were to manage a flank charge, the entire Swedish position would likely collapse. If, on the other hand, the Swedish infantry could react in time, the Hussars would be at a disadvantage when fighting the Swedish pike & shot formation frontally. Real nail-biting moments.... Both sides were aware of the crucial nature of this combat and comitted their respective C-in-Cs.

The climax of the battle. The Hussars have destroyed the Scots Curassiers, and are just about to charge one of the Swedish infantry Squadrons. If the Swedes manage to react, they will be able to pivot and face the ferocious Polish lancers, if not the charge will git the Swedish flank. Very tense moment here.....
The Swedes pass the reaction test and manage to pivot and face the Polish charge. Both the Swedish and the Polish C-in-C join this crucial fight to urge their men on.
As it turned out, the Swedish infantry (which has very good Discipline rating in the game) did manage to react in time and promptly destroyed the polish Hussars, killing the Polish C-in-C in the process. It could easily have gone the other way, though.
Victory! The Swedes roll quite lucky Dice, while the Poles roll abysmal ones (not to mention being tired from the previous two combats). The awesome Hussars meet their match in th eiron discipline of the Swedish infantry. The Hussars are completely destroyed and the Polish C-in-C is killed in the front rank.

With the loss of the Polish C-in-C, the Swedes were suddenly in the lead as in this scenario the C-in-C is Worth a lot of victory points and the Poles are suddenly very close to losing the game....
Final position. The Swedes and Scots win the scenario as the Poles are not able to inflict any more significant damage and the victorious Swedish flank press forward while the surviving Scots hang on with grim determination. It's all to much for the Poles who have taken terrible casualties.
In the following turn, the Poles failed to cause much damage to the Swedes and Scots, which meant that they lost the game as the Swedish victory point total was large enough to bring about the end of the game at that point.

This was a very enjoyable game, and we got to use our beloved 30 years war figs in the different setting in of a large battle rather than a skirmish. The Tercio rules also worked well.
My only tiny grudge is that I am not really that fond of laying the Order cards on the table as it just does not look that good, but as a rules mechanic it actually works quite well.

The movement and the results of the various combats all seemed quite plausible, leadership is very important. And the game did not last overly long, even with allthree of us new to the rules and having to look things up in the rule book quite often.


  1. Lovely looking game and have never heard of these rules. I've just received my copy of 'Baroque' which looks to be a very good ruleset. Only time will tell though!

  2. Fine presentable release,
    and a great topic..
    Long tercios story ended,
    reason cavalry, and new Swedish light artillery uses

  3. Thanks, guys. I enjoyed Tercio quite a bit. It also happens to be one of my favorite historical periods, which also helps ;-)

  4. Great report! It has helped me enormously. I'm quite taken by the Tercio rules, having looked at the basic game and read several reviews and AAp's. But I had a problem with basing, as I plan to 1-2-3 base for Pikeman's Lament.

    Nice to know it can still work with the Tercio rules as well.