Landsknecht (game)

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Landsknecht (game)
Landsknecht with his Wife.jpg
Landsknecht with his Wife
DesignerOriginated by Dnjkirk
Topic17th Century Military Tactics
No. of roles/players2
Archive of Simulations and Games for the Enhancement of the Learning Experience
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Part of The School of Strategic Studies>Universal Tactical Simulation

Description[edit | edit source]

A wargame, played on a chessboard or other checkered surface, with either miniatures or just bits of paper or cardboard. Loosely simulates combat during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance in Europe. It is a very simple game that introduces very basic military concepts such as formation, drill, enfilade, defilade, and battlefield manoeuver.

Object[edit | edit source]

To defeat, rout, or annihilate the opposing force.

Setup[edit | edit source]

The field of battle is an 8x8 checkerboard the same as those used in the game of Chess. Setup varies depending on scenario.

There are three different basic types of unit:

  • Infantry: solid in defence
  • Cavalry: fierce in attack
  • Ranged: long-ranged attack

Every unit is representative of a standardized Late Medieval German unit of heavily-armoured trained militia or mercenaries. Units can be represented on the board in any number of ways, from bits of paper to painted figurines. Ideas will be given along with this document. For example, printable flag pages (such as this one for the Holy Roman Empire) can be made to add colour to your board and help identify friendly pieces:

The size of each square is approximately 25x25 yards, making the battlefield 200 yards long and wide.

The people in each unit, for ease of play, are represented by "gleven" which were an arbitrary number and composition of troops that was the basis for the makeup and command structure of German mediaeval armies. A "Gleve" is a 'levy' in English.

Some gleven were 2 horsemen, some were up to 10 footsoldiers, but this game uses the term to denote 20 troops, meaning the average square fits up to 20 gleven of troops organized in two units of 10 gleven each. A typical group of German infantry would contain 2 Rotten (platoons) of 10 men in each gleve.

Each square can accommodate two of any type of unit, the maximum size of each unit being 200 people. This is based on the idea that each unit is 25 files across and 8 ranks deep. This is the standard for regular one-arms dressing, meaning every man is exactly one arms length from the other in any direction.

Open order is possible so skrmishers may be created. Open order cuts the number of gleven per square in half as the order is two arm lengths from each man.

Close-order or shoulder dressing packs men shoulder-to-shoulder, and this may be done for shield walls, pike hedges and nifty formations like the Spartan Phalanx or the Roman Testudo. This doubles the number of gleven in a square.

The only exception to this rule is that only one cavalry unit of 25 files with 8 ranks may fit into one square, not two such units. Cavalry can never be in any less than standard order, and cavalry skermishers can open their order as above.

The changing of order could be done such that a small number of men are holding a long front, or it can be used in skermishing. No unit in close order can charge. No unit in open order can set against charge. open order allows instant facing and direction changes without any penalty, skermishers can turn about as much as they want and change facing however they wish. Horse archers must ride in skermish order.

At setup, players may decide on the order (closed, open, regular) in which their troops occupy the board.

Movement[edit | edit source]

Generals will roll a die at the beginning of each round with the higher roller deciding who will move first in that round. The one who moves first may move all or none of their units to the maximum of their allowable movement each round, followed by the second mover. Units are not moved in alternation.

A troop of soldiers have a number of choices of movement which can be broken down into TURNS, FORMS, and MARCHES.

  • A TURN is where a unit turns 90 degrees or 180 degrees in place. The frontage of the unit on the battlefield does not change, but the facing does.
  • A FORM is where the unit makes a change of facing AND frontage. The entire unit remains in the same square, and can change their frontage to the right or left 90 degrees.
  • A MARCH is where the unit moves by marching forward or charging. A MARCH may be undertaken after a TURN, but not after a FORM.

Marches[edit | edit source]

There are two types of MARCH: a standard march and a charge. Each unit has different numbers of squares it may travel doing either.

  • Infantry:
  • March-1 square
  • Charge-2 squares
  • Cavalry:
  • March-2 squares
  • Charge-6 squares
  • Ranged:
  • March-1 square
  • Charge-2 squares

(but ranged troops do not gain an attack bonus for charging into combat)

Turns and Forms[edit | edit source]

Whenever a unit TURNS and then proceeds to MARCH in column of eights, the unit is considered to end their round by turning to advance or retire. For example, the unit may go back to facing their previous front or rear, but never will they face in column of eights at the end of the turn.

A unit may TURN or FORM 90 degrees, or TURN 180 degrees, but TURNing or FORMing cannot be done in increments of 45 degrees.

In order to give the units more freedom of movement, the incline (a 45 degree turn) may be used such that the unit may move directly forward, or to the forward left or right. The unit facing is returned once again to the way in which it began the round.

Combat[edit | edit source]

A unit's combat effectiveness is determined by its Facing, Depth

Frontage, Flank, Rear[edit | edit source]

Unit frontage.

The unit's frontage is defined as the front three squares of the 8 that surround it.

Its flank is the side two squares on either side, and its rear is the back one square.

There is some overlap of flank and rear, and it is described with the help of the picture to the right. The overlap of the flank and rear is resolved by the direction from which the attacker enters the adjacent square. If the attacking unit enters the adjacent square from the border that is coloured yellow, that attack will be considered a flank. If the attacker enters from the border that is coloured red, that attack will be considered an attack on the rear.

A unit may attack to the three squares of its frontage.

Combat happens in a square to the front of the attacker. Base-to-base combat requires that the squares the units occupy must be adjacent.

Depth and Dice for Attack[edit | edit source]

The strength of a combat unit is determined by its depth in ranks. Each rank which can fight is worth 1 die in combat.

For a unit composed of one gleven, there is only one rank. Two gleven is two ranks, three gleven is three ranks, and after this it doesn't matter because the maximum number of ranks that can enter combat is three.

If, for example, two units of Infantry are in pitched combat, they will each roll one die per rank in combat to a maximum of three.

If there are 4 gleven in one unit and three in the other, in combat they will both roll three dice respectively. The total amount of pips that show on the dice rolled by each side are added up.

This is the strength of the unit in attack, and for every four pips, one gleve of enemy Infantry is considered to have become casualties.

For every remainder of two or three pips, a gleve is given a "step loss" - that is half their number is composed of casualties. Place a step loss counter on the unit. Any less than two pips of remainder is discarded.

Modifiers to Combat[edit | edit source]

Different bonuses are given to the attacker and defender in certain circumstances. Follow these guidelines for awarding extra combat dice to the units who outmanoever others:

+1 die Defender (Infantry only) did not move this turn and was charged by Infantry (order: "set against charge").

+2 dice Defender (Infantry only) did not move this turn and was charged by Cavalry (order: "prepare to receive cavalry").

+1 die Attacker charges a foe that moved last turn (Cavalry gain a +2 dice bonus).

+1 die Attacker attacks foe on the flank. In this case, the Defender may not roll more than 1 combat die.

+2 dice Attacker attacks foe in the rear. Defender may not roll any combat dice.

Running Combat[edit | edit source]

Combat is run simultaneously, so all casualties are removed after all the combat has been done, not before.

The attacker must use one "move" in order to attack. This means that the attacker must enter a square adjacent the target and then still have one move left to enter combat.

Archers have a range of up to 6 squares. They roll 1 combat die for every two gleven of archers that fire, and then compare this result to the range table:

Range chart for Archers
Pips per gleve of damage754579

This suggests that at close range, archers are particularly ineffective due to the need for direct fire, and in their range "sweet spot" they are far more effective, as all ranks can concentrate fire on the target. Effectiveness then decreases again due to a lack of accuracy. To read the table, simply note that when a band of archers rolls a total number of pips N, at range 1, the total amount of damage done to the enemy is N/7, rounded down to a minimum of 0. At range 2, the total amount of damage done to the enemy is N/4, and so on.

Cavalry, once they attack an Infantry or Archer unit, MUST force their opponent back into retiring or else they are considered 'bogged'.

This means the cavalry are caught up in the mass of troops and cannot manoever. A cavalry unit caught in such a way is subject to a penalty of -1 combat dice to a minimum of 1 die.

Archers cannot charge or set against charge in the way Infantry can, but they can fight base-to-base like Infantry. All German Archers had to have armour and swords as well as bows.

Morale[edit | edit source]

Morale is one of the major determinants of battlefield loss or victory. Each full unit of men, mainly due to the cohesion of forces working in close quarters, is affected by one morale value. Every unit represented as one mass on the board will need a morale die to represent its morale level. All regular units begin at morale 5. All rabble and irregular units begin at morale 3. Specially religious or elite units may begin above four due to their fanaticism or contempt of death. Morale checks are required when a unit is attacked and ends up losing out in combat, when a unit retires due to stress, when attacked by weapons that cause fear, and when a unit is being rallied by its commander.

Phases of Morale
1: PanickedA unit which is panicking must be in open order. If it is not, it must be moved into open order. The troops of this unit still surviving will attempt as best as possible to get off the board, avoiding every unit in their way if possible. This unit is now impossible to rally, and is simply going to disappear off the board at a full run.
2: RoutedA unit in rout will form open order and retreat toward the closest map edge. This unit still has basic cohesion, and will not utterly disintegrate. If there is a friendly unit nearby, the routing unit may use one quarter of its allotted movement to move towards this unit. The routing unit can be saved by a successful rally.
3: ShakenA shaken unit is one that has been beaten back in combat. The shaken unit will move one quarter (round up) of its movement backward without changing facing. The enemy unit also maintains its contact with the enemy by matching this move forward. The enemy unit may make a morale check to improve its morale.
4: NormalA unit with normal morale is in good fighting trim. It will function with no penalties, and can be in any formation allowed to the unit type.
5: SpiritedA spirited group of troops has made a positive attack, and has gained some degree of impetuosity therefrom. Spirited troops gain bonuses to attack and perform generally with more tenacity on the battlefield than other units.
6: FrenziedFrenzied troops will not be affected by fatigue. They will gain a large bonus to attack. They will chase down any unit which they have caused to rout until it flees the field, then will attack the closest enemy unit. Frenzied units will charge wherever they go until reigned in by their commanders. Morale checks no longer apply.

Morale Improvement[edit | edit source]

Units which succeed against opponents have a chance to improve their morale by passing a leadership test. Any unit facing a unit that falls to “shaken” status may make a command check to gain morale. In addition, command checks can be made (as per the rally rules) in stationary and unengaged units to raise their morale back to “normal.” Highly skilled commanders may be able to rile their troops up in this way so much that they can become “spirited” or even “frenzied.”

Making a Morale Check[edit | edit source]

Morale is rolled against the unit’s combined morale rating. Typically, morale for any unit is 7, though veteran troops normally have 8 or 9, and rabble can have 5 or 6. The check is made with two dice. If the result is equal to or lower than the unit’s morale rating, then the check has been passed. In the event of the roll being higher than the rating, the check has been failed.

Modifiers to Morale[edit | edit source]

Modifiers to Morale include if the target unit is:

  • Attacked from the rear –1
  • At half strength or less –1
  • Attacked by a frenzied unit –1
  • At quarter strength or less –2
  • Successfully charged –1
  • Backed against an obstacle (wall or river, etc.) -2
  • Attacked by double the amount of men in their own unit –1
  • Not under the effects of a commander –2
  • Green troops, engaging the foe for the first time –1
  • Fatigued –1
  • Pushing back a foe +1
  • Forcing a foe to rout +1
  • Reloading ranged weapons –2

Effects of Morale[edit | edit source]

Effects of Morale
1: PanickedUnit is in disorder and will not rally. Troops must be placed in open order, no base of any one troop touching the base of the other. The troops of this unit will, each individually or in groups, attempt to retreat off the board, and cannot be rallied. They will attack all enemy units as individuals if there is no choice, but would prefer to run off without any interruption. *Attack -3 *Defence -3
2: RoutedUnit is in skirmish order and will retreat en masse to the closest map edge. If they contact an enemy unit, they will attempt to get away as soon as possible. A routing unit must avoid contact with all enemy units. One quarter of the unit’s movement (round up) may be used each turn to move directly toward a friendly unit.*Attack -2 *Defence -2
3: ShakenShaken units will “withdraw” from the attacker. Rules for withdrawal are covered above.*Attack -1 *Defence +1
4: NormalThe unit is in good fighting order and will proceed without positive or negative morale modifiers.*Attack +0 *Defence +0
5: SpiritedThe unit will function more cohesively on the battlefield.*Attack +1 *Defence +0
6: FrenziedFrenzied units always attack and are unaffected by further morale checks until brought back down to a lower morale by a command check. A frenzied unit can charge anywhere on the field without fear of fatigue, and will attack the closest enemy unit always. Frenzied units cannot hold close order formation, and must be formed in skirmish.*Attack +2 *Defence -1

Advanced Unit Types[edit | edit source]

Other types of troops exist than the basic three above.

Sword and Pike Infantry[edit | edit source]

Landsknecht with his Wife. Etching by Daniel Hopfer. Note the huge Zweihänder sword over his shoulder, and the smaller Katzbalger sword at his hip, both emblematic of the Landsknecht.

Infantry comes in both sword and pike varieties, but is considered for the sake of a simple game to be the same thing. In the case of making a differentiation between sword and pike infantry, the following is taken into consideration:

  • sword is a more versatile melee weapon than pike.
  • pike sets against charge where sword cannot.
  • swordsmen may carry shields.
  • pikemen will engage before swords, and more of them can attack the enemy, especially in a closed order formation.
  • swordsmen work best in skermish and in shield walls, there is no middle ground.

Therefore, to compensate for these problems, apply the following rules of thumb:

  • It is considered only the first three ranks of a sword unit may fight if the unit is in regular order. If in close order, only the first rank alone may enter combat. If in skermish order, the swords may attack with all three ranks.
  • Pikes may always attack with three ranks in any formation.
  • Pikes can never skirmish. You may if wished, but it is suicide.
  • pikes may set against charge.
  • Swordmen may use shield wall if they are so trained.
  • Every sword gleve gets a shield save when threatened with annihilation. A roll of 1-2 on a d6 reduces the damage to a half-loss only. A half-gleve may be saved completely from harmby a roll of 1-2.
  • When a sword unit attacks pike, roll the attacks. Generally, a pike unit will have more dice to bear on a sword unit as it can pack more densely. If the pike attack is higher than the sword attack, apply the damage immediately to the swords, and roll sword morale. If the number of gleven in a sword unit changes enough to change the amount of attack dice it has, roll again for damage against the pikes, otherwise run the first combat as usual.
  • If swords can hold against pikes for one turn, they gain a bonus of being able to attack with four ranks. The shield save is also changed: a roll of 1 saves the gleve, 2-3 the gleve is only cut in half.
  • Sword skermishers that have passed the first assault of the pikes may infiltrate the pike ranks, doing one full free attack and causing the pikes to withdraw automatically.

Arquebus[edit | edit source]

The Arquebus is a ranged firelock weapon with an effective range of about 40-50 yards. Though the ball from an Arquebus can continue for a much greater distance than this, the vagaries of air pressure (that also plague slicing golf balls) make the weapon highly inaccurate. In Arquebus troops, only the front rank may fire. This lends them to use in close order, from which a maximum of two gleven may bring their fire to bear. An Arquebus takes a full turn to reload, and an Arquebus unit cannot perform any other action while reloading. Arquebus do damage per gleven based on the following table:

Range chart for Archers
Dice rolled per gleve111/4

This table implies that arquebus units side-by-side may concentrate fire to be effective at long range. Arquebus, when attacked, if they are in good order and facing the attacker, may fire prior to entering combat. This damage is resolved before the enemy attacker makes an attack. In all cases when a unit is fired upon by Arquebus, they must make a morale check, because Arquebus cause fear.

Swiss Pikemen[edit | edit source]

Swiss Pikemen are so exquisitely trained that they can turn without effort, and face the direction of the enemy - even when it isn't their turn. In this way, Swiss pikes never have to turn, they can move in any direction the player wishes. When receiving attacks from different directions, Swiss troops suffer no derogatory morale, and if they are attacked from more than one different direction, they can form square such that all sides of their unit are counted as "front." Forming square occurs at any time, and the Swiss player can even do it when attacked in the opponent's round. If this is the case, the Swiss unit may only move half rate in the next turn. Swiss Pike units are formed of 40 gleven and fill a full board square, and should be represented by a Cavalry-size box.

Spanish Tercio[edit | edit source]

Spanish Tercio are a blend of Pike and Arquebus that is particularly effective. Represented on the board by a band of Arquebus with a unit of Pike behind, they may choose, at any time, to switch positions at the cost of only one movement point. If the Tercio player saves a movement point at the end of his turn, the Tercio may do this at will during the opponent's turn.

Scenarios[edit | edit source]

Make some!