Saturday, October 13, 2018

To the Longest! (?) To the strongest modifications for the Renaisaance

Version 2 of To the strongest, not expected until mid 2020, will likely have two volumes, with the second covering warfare up to about 1580. Simon's thoughts on this are below, followed by some comments and feedback after our battle last week

To the Strongest – Renaissance
Although the To the Strongest! rules notionally run up to 1500 or so they don’t cover some of the new weapons and tactics that were introduced in the Italian Wars of the late 15th and early 16th century. This supplement will extend the period from the French invasion of Italy in 1494 through to the end of the Italian Wars in 1559. Conflicts after 1559 will use a different rule engine that I am developing for the pike and shot era. Although the rules are intended primarily for the Italian Wars, I have included troop types that will enable battles during most of the other contemporary wars in Europe to be fought.
I had developed some of the required troop types but am hugely grateful to Les Mansir who contributed many ideas and text for other troop types. Later on, we’ll add army lists and hopefully some scenarios.
This is very much a rough first draft and all of the ideas in it are open for discussion; certainly nothing is set in stone. Please feel free to comment frankly and critically!

Additional troop types for the Italian Wars
These complement the existing troop types described in the basic rules.


Arquebusiers represent the early firearms which began to be introduced towards the end of our period in the second half of the 15th Century and became important in the Italian Wars of the early 16th Century.
The arquebus used the newly invented matchlock firing mechanism which increased its rate of fire considerably over the old handgun. Armor provided little protection against an arquebus. Not only did it possess greater penetration than other missile weapons, its ball was less likely to be deflected by the curving armour designed to deflect an arrow or crossbow bolt. Another point in favour of the arquebus was that a soldier could become proficient in its use after just a few days training. This was a feature that gave it an edge over the longbow, a similarly deadly weapon, but one which took a lifetime to master!
Arquebusiers are organised in deep foot units and start a battle with six ammunition chits. They have a maximum range of three boxes. When they successfully activate to shoot, they discard one ammunition chit and play one to-hit card. The first time that they fire during a battle they may play two to-hit cards, removing a single ammunition marker. Mounted and dismounted knights and later knights suffer the same negative save modifier when shot at by arquebus as they do with hand gun. Arquebusiers save on an 8+.

Artillery (cannon)

The French artillery park of the 1494 invasion of Italy was large and generously equipped with cannon.
Cannon had cast bronze barrels and were mounted on wheeled carriages that could be pulled by horses and which consequently moved faster than the oxen-pulled bombards of the Italian armies. More importantly still, cannon could shoot further with much greater velocity than the earlier bombards. Walls were no match for cannon firing a ball made of iron rather than of stone!
An artillery (cannon) unit has a single hit, a range of 8 boxes and starts with 6 ammunition.
Units hit by artillery (cannon) disregard the benefits of cover, including fortifications, and knights lose the bonus they normally get when fired upon.
Cannon were particularly effective against massed targets. When firing at ranges of four or fewer boxes: -
  • Where there is more than one unit in the target box, the artillery rolls a to-hit against each unit.
  • A bonus to-hit card is played against deep or extra deep units.
Artillery (cannon) pieces are either placed during deployment, in which case they cannot move during the battle, or start the game limbered. Limbered artillery can move one box or unlimber as a doubly difficult activation. Once unlimbered, artillery (cannon) may not move again during the battle. Artillery (cannon) can never charge.
When artillery is charged frontally in a charge that is not across a linear obstacle or fortifications, the guns are removed without a save. When contacted by a charge across a linear obstacle or fortification, they have a save of 8+ (modified by the terrain in the normal manner) and can hit back on an 8+ - this represents the crewmen defending the gun and the firing of “hailshot” or similar.
Since guns were deployed with wide intervals between them, friendly units can move though or exchange places in a box with them during a move activation as if they were light units.
Ginetes and Stradiots
The Spanish ginetes and the Balkan stradioti fought as light cavalry equipped with lance and shield. Later in the period there were also Italian stradioti, who replaced the lance and shield with arquebuses.

Mounted arquebusiers
From the battle of Biocca in 1521 onwards, mounted arquebusiers were introduced; sometimes these were also called stradioti; a famous example would be the Medici “Bande Nere.” These highly mobile troops proved invaluable for scouting and, on the battlefield, harassing pikemen and gendarmes.
Mounted arquebusiers are light cavalry (arquebus) with have three ammo. They cannot fire their arquebuses when mounted. They can dismount as part of a shooting activation (dismount and shoot, or shoot and remount). When dismounted, treat them as light infantry (arquebus) If charged when dismounted, they evade as if mounted, remounting as part of their evade.

Reiters (early)
Existed from 1546 but possibly not caracoling during the period of the rules?


French Gendarmes
The French gendarmes of the Italian Wars were exceptionally well trained, superbly mounted, heavily armoured and highly motivated. They fought “en haye”, in a single rank (although supported by ranks of less well equipped knights and retainers) where their heroic deeds could be recognised.
They are later knights, lance, veteran. Every unit of gendarmes will have at least one hero marker. French knights can use a rally activation to replace their lance marker.
French foot
French infantry were notoriously poor in quality during the period suffered by this supplement. Gascons were the best of a bad lot; they are merely raw. Other French foot are raw with at least one “uneasy” marker (see special rules).


German men-at-arms

The men-at-arms of the Empire and German states didn’t fight the “a outrance” (an all-out charge in line) as did most of the mounted Gendarmes and men-at-arms of France, Spain, and Italy. Instead, German and Burgundian men-at-arms fought in deep, slow-moving formations. Their men-at-arms were arrayed in close-order with the wealthier knights to the fore and with the rear ranks composed of those who could not afford a full suit of armour.
German men-at-arms are deep units of later nights with three hits. If they are activated to move or charge two squares, and the activation card is an Ace, they receive a disorder, even if the activation card is replayed by a general.


The Landsknecht – universal soldiers, in their colourful and outlandish dress, are almost a symbol of Renaissance armies. They were primarily mercenaries. But, their professional approach to war and the skill with which they waged war ensured employment on every front in Europe.
Their formations were primarily composed of pikemen. Support for these large and often unwieldy blocks was provided by units of crossbow and arquebus-armed skirmishers. Halberdiers and two-handed “doppelsoldner” swordsmen led the pike blocks as a “forlorn hope.” The purpose of the forlorn hope was to cut holes in the opposing pike blocks that would be exploited by their own pikemen.
The Landsknecht and the Swiss were sworn enemies. Engagements between these armies were bloody fights “to-the-death.” Since neither was willing to give quarter, these battles were known as “bad wars!”
Landsknecht are always extra deep pike, and should be treated as fanatic when charging or charged by Swiss pike- they hit Swiss on a 6+, even when disordered. Their save, however, becomes one factor worse. “Doppelsoldner” are best represented by attaching heroes to landsknecht.


Spanish horse

Spanish horse, although brave and highly experienced, were much less well armoured than their French equivalents. They are consequently represented as knights, lance, veteran.

Peter: Early in the period, the Spanish Gienetes (Genitors) were probably the best Light cavalry in Western Europe; usually aimed with Javelins and a shield, leather armor.  I rated them as Veteran. More of an army list thing than a troop type. 

Spanish Colonelias

The Spanish Colonelia of the Italian wars was a mixed formation of pike, arquebusiers and sword and buckler men. During the early part of the wars, they were composed of pikemen, sword and buckler men in the ratio 2:2:1; later the number of arquebusiers increased and the ratio became 2:1:2.

Colonelias were dense, all round defensive formations. They are always extra deep units. Enemy charging them in the flank or rear do not gain the normal bonus card. Because of their great depth and close formation, they are slow to move, represented by a -1 activation penalty applied to all movement (but not charge) activation tests.

The Spanish were the first army to introduce large numbers of arquebusiers into their infantry formations. They can either upgrade their Colonelias with “extra arquebusiers” or they can deploy a unit of skirmishing arquebusiers with each Colonelia. Light infantry (arquebus) have three ammunition. Later in the wars, arquebusiers fought in separate formed units, up to 12 ranks deep.

Unlike doppelsoldner, the Spanish sword and buckler men joined the melee AFTER the pike have become engaged and attempt to capitalise on any disorder within the enemy’s formation. They are represented by a marker attached to the unit representing a small stand of swordsmen. They hit on an 8+, as if shock missile, but only after both sides pike (or other troops) have fought. They are only removed if the to-hit card is odd, so they may possibly survive to be used several times.

As the Wars progressed, Spanish Colonelias are increasingly likely to be classed as veteran.

The Swiss

What can one say about the Swiss of the Renaissance: deadly, ruthless, single-minded, and virtually unstoppable- until Marignano.
Their speed of attack surprised opponents such Charles-the-Bold and the French on more than one occasion. This ability for infantry to move so quickly across the battlefield was unsettling. The speed of their attack became a mark of their capabilities possibly exceeded only by their ferocity.
They would continue their unyielding attacks, apparently undaunted by casualties, as during their repeated assaults against the Spanish at Biocco.
Swiss pike are extra deep pike with four hits. They are usually both veteran and stubborn (see below).
The Swiss had a formidable reputation for the speed of their charge. Consequently, they gain a special +1 activation modifier on movement activations and charges directly ahead. Conversely, they are reluctant to retreat and suffer an additional -1 activation modifier when attempting to do so.
Special Rules
Defensive fire
In this period missile fire became increasingly effective and so certain units can conduct defensive fire. In the Italian wars these include only arquebusiers (and musketeers), but if this booklet is being use with other contemporary troop types, bowmen, crossbowmen and longbowmen would also qualify.
In defensive fire, such troops may shoot once (expending a single ammunition chit) when charged from one of the three boxes to their front.


Mercenaries formed a large component of all Renaissance armies. The Italian Condottiere of the Renaissance was a professional soldier for hire was only one aspect of mercenaries. Whole units would be hired soldiers. The Swiss and the Landsknechts were only two of the troop types employed for pay; large numbers of crossbowmen were also employed.
Even though they were usually well trained and led, mercenaries were not often inclined to fight-it-out when things started to go wrong. Mercenary units cost fewer points (to be determined) but an extra medal is surrendered when a mercenary unit is lost.

Muskets (from 1521)
Muskets were introduced by the Spanish from 1521 onwards, and gradually replaced arquebuses. They fire exactly as arquebus, except that the target’s save is reduced by one.

Stubborn troops, such as the Swiss throughout most of this period, continue to hit on a 6+ until they have lost more than half of their total hits.
Example: An extra deep Swiss unit would hit on a 6+ until it had lost three hits, after which it would hit on an 8+.

Uneasy units are those on the very cusp of falling into disorder. The cause of the unease may be that they are raw recruits who are facing battle for the first time- however more seasoned soldiers who can sense that the battle is turning against them may also become uneasy.
Uneasy units are indicated by placing a marker with a question mark (or suitable diorama) behind the unit. Units become uneasy: -
when specified in an army list or scenario. In some scenarios, more than one uneasy marker may be placed on a unit.
  • when sharing a box with a unit that is lost.

When an uneasy unit is shot at, is charged or has, itself, successfully activated to charge an enemy unit, it must immediately make a save. If it should fail the save, then it becomes disordered. The demoralisation marker is then removed. Where a unit has more than one uneasy marker, both tests are taken together- a unit may, therefore, suffer more than one disorder.


The arbalest (or arblast) as the “armour-defeating” weapon of choice before the advent of effective gunpowder. It was a heavy crossbow with a steel bow firing a small steel bolt. The arbalest was shoulder fired and a soldier could learn to use it with only a small amount of training and then fire the arbalest’s steel bolt with deadly effect.
It was slow to load, as a large time consuming ratchet-like tool was needed to cock the bow. While the bolt had excellent armour-piercing capability, its penetration dropped off sharply at longer ranges, especially against fully armoured knights.
SIMON: These are my thoughts:
  • Cannot move and fire
  • Does not have defensive fire capability
  • Armor do not have the +1 Save penalty only in the first square – possibly an optional rule?
Here is how I organized them into To the Strongest format. I hope this is a help!
Arbalest are organised in deep foot units and start a battle with six ammunition chits. They have a maximum range of three boxes. When they successfully activate to shoot, they discard one ammunition chit and play one to-hit card.
Arbalast units cannot move and fire. Arbalast units do not have defensive fire.
Mounted and dismounted knights and later knights suffer the negative save modifier when shot at by arbalests only in the first box. Beyond the first box this modifier is not used.
Arbalests units save on an 8+.

English Longbow
The English longbow, the scourge of French Chivalry during the 100 Years War was still very much alive in the Tudor armies throughout the period of the Italian Wars. However, it no longer dominated the battlefields of the Continent as it had in times past. Problems with the longbow, that were not apparent before, were clearly revealed by the time of the Italian Wars.
A longbowman could only carry a limited number of the large longbow arrows. They were capable of a high rate of fire. The result was drop in effectiveness as the arrow supply became depleted.
SIMON: These are my thoughts:
  • The longbowmen longbow units in massed formations fired high angle instead of direct fire. Since they were in several ranks, most longbowmen could not employ direct fire. Arrows shot as high angle rather than direct fire did not have the range of direct fire. High angle fire also lost some of its penetration.
  • Although longbows could quickly fire their sheaf of arrows, enough were usually still available to provide protection, hence the better Save value.
  • Longbowmen in massed formations were unable to move and allow all ranks to fire.
  • Shallow units of longbowmen do not suffer these penalties.
Here is how I organized them into To the Strongest format. I hope this is a help!
Longbows are organised as standard units, but have the option to organize as deep foot units. Longbow units start a battle with five (?) ammunition chits. They have a maximum range of three boxes.
When they successfully activate to shoot, longbows can discard up to two ammunition chits and play up to two to-hit cards. One turn in the game, deep longbow units can discard three ammunition chits and play three to-hit cards. Target units receive the positive Save modifier when shot at by massed longbow units due to the high-angle fire needed to fire from multiple ranks.
Mounted and dismounted knights and later knights suffer the negative save modifier when shot at by longbows at 2 squares or less.
Massed longbow units cannot move and fire. Longbow units have defensive fire. Longbow units save on 7+.
Simon - I do not know if longbow units used stakes in this period?

Bill and Bow Formation
The “brown bill” was the English version of the halberd. In addition to bill-armed units, it was common practice to form a mixed unit of two or three ranks of longbows behind the protective front rank of billmen.
SIMON: These are my thoughts:
  • The longbowmen of bill and bow units fired high angle instead of direct fire. Since they were in several ranks, and were usually behind the ranks of bills. longbowmen could not employ direct fire. Arrows shot as high angle rather than direct fire did not have the range of direct fire. High angle fire also lost some of its penetration.
  • The bills usually formed the front rank in Bill and bow units. In this position they were able to protect the more vulnerable longbowmen.
  • Although longbows could quickly fire their sheaf of arrows, enough were usually still available to provide protection, hence the better Save value. The better Save also takes into account the support the longbows provide in hand-to-hand combat. .
  • Longbowmen in massed formations were unable to move and allow all ranks to fire
Bill and bow units are organised as deep foot units. The bills are in the front rank with the longbow man in ranks behind the bills. Bill and bow units charged from the front fight with their bills. When attacked from the flank, they do not fight as in the basic rules.
Longbow units start a battle with five (?) ammunition chits. They have a maximum range of three boxes.
When they successfully activate to shoot, the longbows can discard up to two ammunition chits and play up to two to-hit cards. Target units receive a -1 bonus from fire from massed longbow unit.
Mounted and dismounted knights and later knights suffer the negative save modifier when shot at by longbows at 2 squares or less.
Bill and bow units cannot move and fire. Bill and bow units have defensive fire. Bill and bow units save on 6+.

Notes from TMP 19/4/18
@I'm curious what others think about the similarities and differences in small arms fire at the Battle of Ceresole in 1542 and the Battle of Lutzen (1632) almost hundred years later. I pick these two battles as proxies for the period. Would the volume and effectiveness of small arms fire be noticeably different if one could observe both battles? Are we talking about a slow incremental development of small arms over the roughly the hundred years or did something more radical occur in this period. I appreciate your thoughts.

Daniel S 12 Apr 2018 9:08 p.m. PST
Massivly diffrent, at Ceresole the majority of soldiers were armed for close combat only with pike or halberd among the infantry, lance and sidearms such as sword or mace among the cavalry. At Lutzen the majority of infantrymen were musketeers while the cavalry now made extensive use of firearms. The sheer difference in numbers create a much larger volume of fire.
The fire is also more efficient as the main firearm at Lützen was full-or demi-muskets that fired a heavier shot using a larger powder load, the use of musket rests would also have improved accuracy in the right hands. At Ceresole the typical firearm was an arquebus and 1540s arquebus often used fired smaller shot than say late 16th arquebus/calivers.
The Graz tests using actual 16th and 17th century firearms showed that arquebus caliber weapons had a sharp reduction in lethality past 40-50 paces while muskets only experienced the same reduction at about 150 paces. The high leathality zone for the arquebus only extended to about 15 paces while muskets had such a zone to about 50 paces. Of course neither weapon became harmless past these ranges but the poor ballistics of spherical shot meant that long range performance was rather erratic.”

Peter, with Simon's' comments:

1) French Gendarmes are TOUGH (Later Knights, Veteran, with Hero!) It is almost impossible to kill these things! Just plain knights and Later knights are bad enough!  :-) Maybe Veteran should either not be allowed for later Knights, or very limited by Army Lists.  {Probably the later]

I would say that if there’s a case for any knight to be veteran and have a great save, it would be the French gendarmes. �� Yes very limited in the army lists, and more vulnerable, in v2, to fire by pistols, arequebuses, muskets cannon etc.

2) Arquebus fire seemed too weak. We used a 2 box range for both crossbows and Arquebuses. 

Fair enough; a range of 2 seems appropriate. In v2 they will have a bonus vs. armoured types at close range.

3)  Would arquebuses be able to fire and withdraw 1 bow to the rear like bowmen?  Crossbows are listed as NOT being able to shoot and move. 

Yes- well the light infantry (and light cavalry) versions will need to be able to; also light crossbows.

4) Can deployed  Cannons change facing (as opposed to Move). We said yes but made it a difficult activation.

In v2 cannon and organ guns (but not bombards) will be able to move as a difficult activation, so this should get around it.

5) We used a couple of Colonellas, but no free standing Arquebus units. Was it your intent that regular (2 hit) arquebus units be able to double fire (for 2 chits) on their first shot, but Deep (three hit) Arquebus units be able to double fire at any time (reflecting fire by rotation)?

My current thinking is that formed arquebusiers won’t get a bonus on their first volley, but will instead get closing fire, which gives them an extra shot when charged. I think they should be generally be two-hit units (representing 6-8 ranks). We could also have three hit deep units with the ability to fire twice- this starts to get hard to remember, though. What do you think?

6) How to cost for the STUBBORN property of Swiss pikes (talk about TOUGH!)? I added 1 pt per hit, ie, 4 points for an extra deep unit. Not sure that;'s enough, maybe 6 points per extra deep unit, especially given the Swiss Advance rule, too!

I’ve made a note to look at it.

7) Forlorn Hopes (for pike units, mostly Landsknechts). I'd suggest the retained on EVEN hit cards and lost on ODD) as opposed to just treating as a simple hero. 

Heroes are coming out, in v2, so I’ll need to find a different way of representing this. Probably the best thing would be to give the unit a single shock missile.

8)  Should Extra Deep units count Difficult activations as Triply difficult (like Colunellas?) In other word, if the first activation of the turn, they need a 4+.  We played it that way and it seemed to work well

Yes I think they likely should. I think colunellas should have an extra -1 penalty; an extra penalty in exchange for the all-round protection they get.
"BTW, we didn't use the "Mercenary" suggested rule; didn't make sense to me that they would cost an extra VM when lost. What would make more sense to me would be a negative modifier to their Rout  tests.

Hmm, come to think of it, a more elegant (and severe penalty) would be that Mercenary units only get to play ONE card on a rout test instead of the usual two. That makes them twice as likely to fail, which makes sense - they fight just as well (or better) than normal troops, BUT, when things look like they're going down the crapper, they're the first to think "Feet don't fail me now"!

Yeah, i think I like that - it is significant, logical, and easy to remember!

I like that! I’ll give some thought as to what a suitable cost-reduction might be.


  1. Still not tried Ancients set but a set covering Thirty Years War might appeal

    1. I think Simon has in mind a separate TYW set; by that time, integrated like and shot units are the norm.

  2. I like your longbow option, I've had a game with these notes and yes the French gendarmes were hard as nails! I did think the Spanish coloneas were a bit overstrong if anything,did you notice that at all? I need to have a few more games and introduce heroes and whatnot.
    Best Iain

    1. Those are Simon’s ideas. We found the Colunellas weak, but that is probably because they were fighting the
      Swiss head on - that Stubbirn trait is a killer... literally!

  3. I'm still trying to plan an ancients game with the current version, but I like the idea of splitting the period up into two volumes. I'll also have to invest in For King and Parliament at some stage as well. Do you know if there are any plans to expand the renaissance period to Eastern Europe?

    1. There's no reason that the rules couldn't/wouldn't cover Eastern Europe, although the Thirty Years War and beyond are probably the subject of a different set. A number of the rules developments in For King and Parliament will likely make their way into TTYS version 2, and any TYW supplement.

  4. Great stuff! Though I pretty much agree with what you posted here I do have a few doubts and would like to give my two cents worth :)

    I watched a youtube video of some museum people testing heavy crossbows firing against armored breastplates and even they were surprised. At close range the quarrels bounced or barely penetrated at all.

    Also as far as arquebus fire goes, as the much esteemed Daniel S stated, their lethality only extended about 15-40 paces.

    Finally I was under the impression that colunelas were actually more shallow formations than either the Swiss or landsknechts employed. Check Olincanalad's blog for his views on what he did with the colunelas.

    Finally I definitely agree with you that the mercenary rule just doesn't seem right as stated. Your idea makes more sense.

    1. I think that Simon is using the Colunella here as a sort of hybrid concept between it and the later Tercio; even then, the depth and immobility of the Tercio has, perhaps been exaggerated. There are also suggestions that the Tercio was more an administrative formation than a tactical one.

      I'd be interested in seeing how the Heavy crossbows fared against Mail; my impression is that the evolution of armor towards ever more complete plate mail was spurred by the rise of the crossbow (and longbow; likewise horse armor. Armor probably reached it'
      s peak during the late Renaissance, and by the mid to late Italian Wars, the degree of armor began to decrease again, as the rise of the arquebus made the investment and weight of the fine suits of armor less and less practical.