Wednesday 4 December 2019

Let's Play Italian Wars - Furioso Style

Regular readers of the blog will be aware of the last large project I embarked on, 28mm Italian Wars. It went remarkably quickly and I managed to plough through a big chunk of figures during the 2018/19 Analogue Hobbies Winter Paint Challenge, producing a pretty large Papal Army in the process. The figures went on to win the Challenge Choice Award, which was nice.

Swiss Pike clash with their fellow country men.
So over the last few weeks the collection has been out on the table getting to grips with some rules and getting a new period up and running here at Yarkshire Gamer. Along with my figures, regulars Harry (with his large French contingent) and Steve with his Landsknechts added to the weight of the table.

Landsknecht Shot
There wasn't much of a plan to the game, on the usual 12 x 6 table I set up a symmetrical layout with a couple of built up areas and some trees and lined the troops up ready to go.

Our troops are based on 60 x 50 bases, 8 Figures on a Pike base, 4 on a shot base and 6 on a "other" base (Sword and Buckler, Polearm etc). Cavalry is on a 50 x 60 base with two figures per base. This isn't for any particular rule set, it looks right to us and any rule set we use will just be adapted to this basing (I don't rebase !).

Papal Pike Block
So our chosen rule set for our playtest is Furioso, they are avaliable from Alternative Armies for £10 as a Pdf. Link below.

The company also do an additional supplement specifically covering the Italian Wars adding Mercenary Units etc but we didn't use that in our initial game so I won't comment further on that now.

The French
Just to give you an idea of the forces involved they were as follows,

French Right Wing 
3 x French Gendarme (3 bases each), 2 x French Archer (3 bases)
2 x French Skirmish Crossbow (3 bases each) 1 x Old Band French Pike (9 bases)
1 x Light Gun

French Centre
3 x Landsknecht Pike blocks (1 with 9 bases, 2 with 6 bases) each with skirmish screen bases.
2 x Polearm / Zwei hander units (4 bases)
1 x Landsknecht Formed Shot unit (4 bases)
1 Heavy and 1 Medium Gun

French Left Wing 
3 x French Gendarme (3 bases each), 2 x French Archer (3 bases)
1 Light Gun

Papal Centre
Papal Right Wing 
2 x Familia Ducal Cavalry, 3 x Condottiero Cavalry, 1 x Mounted Italian Crossbow, 1 x Italian Light Cavalry, 1 x Stradiots (bow) all 3 bases.
1 x Landsknecht Formed Shot unit and 1 Swiss Polearm unit (both 4 bases)

Papal Centre
1 x Landsknecht Pike block (8 bases, plus two skirmish shot bases)
1 x Swiss Pike Block (6 bases, plus two skirmish shot bases)
2 x Romandiole Pike Blocks (6 based, plus two skirmish shot bases)
1 x Swiss Guard (4 bases)
1 x Sword and Buckler unit (4 bases)
1 x Heavy and 1 Medium Gun
1 x Stradiot (with Lance) and 1 x Italian Mounted Crossbow, both 3 bases.

Papal Left Wing
1 x Familia Duca Cavalry, 4 x Condottiero Cavalry, 1 x Stradiot (Lance), 1 x Stradiot (bow), 1 x Italian Light Cavalry, all 3 bases.
2 x Landsknecht Formed Shot units (4 bases) 1 x Light Gun.

Papal Cavalry
With chucking everything on the table (and why not !) We didnt use the Army Morale System in the rules as we were about 3 times over the sizes mentioned, nothing like a "small" game to start with !

We didn't use the Generals rules (other than plus 1 in Combat Morale if in range).

So let's move onto the rules themselves. I am going to do a seperate post with some video examples of the mechanics of the rules just waiting for Speilberg to come free to finish the edit.

Landsknecht Pike
Firstly some basics, the rules are relatively straight forward and all units are in "bases" - each base having 4 hits before it is removed, units are built up of numbers of bases. Our figures are set up differently to the rules so we just played with the number of bases we had per unit and it worked fine. All die rolls are d6 and all rolls need a 5 or 6 for a success, so very easy to remember.

Run Away !
Each unit has a stat line to define it's character, they are as follows,
Type - e.g. Gendarme, Raiders etc this can give the unit a special ability for example units fighting Gendarme lose 1 d6 in combat if the Gendarme charge.
Tactic - Galloper, Skirmishers etc
Combat Factor - Base number of Dice per base when fighting (2 to 5)
Initiative Modifer - as it sounds
Weapon - defines type
Armour Class - None, Armoured, Heavy, Extra Heavy
Move - basic in inches (for 28s)
Size (suggested number of bases)
There is also a points value but as you know I hate points systems so this was immediately discarded !

Swiss Pike clash with Landsknechts
We (as usual) ignored the set up rules and just got on with it.

At the start of each turn each unit rolls 1 d 6 and adds (or subtracts) their Initiative Modifier from their stat line and that determines when they will move in the turn. We simply left the rolled dice at the rear of the unit as a marker to remind us of an initiative score.

Units such as Gendarme and Swiss gain +2 to their roll, if the net score goes over 6 the unit become Impetuous and charges of at the nearest unit, much as those units did if they thought the Commander was being a touch cautious.

Papal Pike to the rescue
Impetuous units remain so until they get into melee or fail a morale test.

Units with an Initiative of zero don't move or fire but can defend themselves in melee.

Each unit completes it's turn with the highest dice going first. So all Impetuous first, then 6s go then all 5s etc.

If a unit choses to move it's move distance is it's base move from its stat line plus it's Initiative Score, so a Gendarme moves 8 inches normally, if it had a 5 for initiative it would move 13 inches, simple really.

Papal Guard vs The World 
Each side should move one unit and then the next side and so on, I could see how over a club night table this would work fine but over a large table it became restrictive so we just broke the table down into areas of action and moved units in sequence in that area.

Each unit completes it's turn before moving onto the next unit.

It's wouldn't be long before we introduced a house rule (it never is !) We found that there was a problem when you have units in consecutive lines (Cavalry mostly) when the units in the rear end up with higher initiative than those in the rear, because of the move system the unit at the rear was effectively stuck and was therefore at a disadvantage due to it's higher initiative. We solved the problem by allowing units to exchange their Initiative dice front to rear, the payment for doing so was reducing both dice by 1.

Landsknecht pointy end
Shooting is done by base, 2d6 if short range, 1 if long or if moved. Roll the dice, 5 or 6 hits. The target has a save of 1d6 per hit with additional dice for cover and armour, saving a hit on a 5 or 6.

So a stationary unit of Landsknecht Shot with 4 bases firing at a unit of Gendarme with at short range would throw 8 dice, let's say for 3 hits. The Gendarme would throw 3 save rolls for the hits, plus 3 dice for their armour, - 1 for the fact they were fired at by a gunpowder weapon giving 5 dice to save 3 hits. Remember each base has 4 hits before it is removed.

French Pike on the move
Nice and straight forward and picked up in a couple of moves.

We added our second house rule for Mounted Crossbow and Bow, reducing their ranges. It's open to historical debate but I am in the "crossbows were used from horseback" camp, but they used a latch type loading mechanism which would give less draw weight and hence less range. So our house rule fitted that.

The other thing we weren't sure on was the basing for shot troops, skirmish units are in three bases, side by side which is fine, but formed shot is in 4 bases, 2 x 2 which to me doesn't look right, we have left it as is for now but might come back to that.

The Pope in action
Melee combat occurs when units contact each other and multiple rounds of combat can occur in one turn, for example a unit with an Initiative of six contacts and fights a unit with an Initiative of three, they fight once of the turn of the unit with 6 and again on the turn of the unit with 3.

Sword and Buckler unit 
Combat is based around the Combat Factor of each unit, each base in contact generates dice equal to the CF of that unit. So a French Gendarme unit with a C.F. of 4 will generate 12 dice (for 3 bases) as a start, there are additional modifiers (Cavalry charging get plus 1 to their dice, giving a total of 15 for our Gendarme example, these dice are rolled, with 5 or 6 being a hit.

The unit that has taken the hits gets the opportunity to save, 1 d6 for each hit plus a number of Dice to represent the Armour of the unit, with a 5 or 6 saving.

More Landsknechts
The outcome of the melee is determined by a Combat Morale Test after the casualties are calculated. This is based on the CF to start with modifiers to the number of Dice for most casualties, losing a base, size of unit etc. Both players roll their dice with a 5 or 6 (as usual) counting as a success. It is the difference between these results that determine the outcome. 1 difference pushes back the loser 1 base and causes 1 casualties, 2 difference, 2 push backs, 2 casualties. Three difference adds disorganised to the losers woe whilst 4 push backs kills the unit.

Units that have a traditional rivalry (Swiss and Landsknechts) can become "Furioso" when close to each other, this drags the units into combat and intensifies the fighting, which is done twice before any Combat Morale is taken.

We found that the system worked well but because there is no cumulative effect round to round melees went on until a unit ran out of figures. After the first day playing we decided this wasn't working for us and made the push backs add up, turn on turn, so a 1 push back this turn after a 1 push back the previous turn would count as 2.

Morale is done by a simple test when a unit loses a base in shooting or when a general is killed, the rules do have an overarching morale system which is based on the overall losses but this is designed for games a third of the size we were trying, it's something we didn't use during this play test but will be looked at again, next game.

So general impression is very good and we will definitely be using them again. We made a few minor changes but I have to be honest and say that only a couple of sets of rules survive intact after contact with the Yarkshire Gamer ! There are some nice touches in the rules, like hazards (when you throw 4 1's in any roll).

I've done a video run through of the rules which I will put up on the blog early next week.


  1. Very interesting! Thanks for reporting

  2. They sound like a pretty decent set of rules. Gotta say the figures look superb!

  3. Wonderful looking game and figures, plus a very useful overview of the rules.

  4. Brilliant stuff!!!

    Colour me impressed!!

    1. Thanks Bedford, always like the colour impressed 😁

  5. Ahhhhhh...
    Lovely awesome miniatures!

  6. Lovely looking armies and sounds like a decent set of rules, once tweaked!
    Best Iain

    1. Every set of rules is decent after a good tweak 😁 Except Black Powder that needs a flame thrower 🔥

  7. Great review, the rules seems worthy of trying out. But with such beautiful figures I guess you can make almost any game shine.

  8. Looks interesting. Ill have to check those rules out.

    1. Many thanks, welcome to Yarkshire Gamer, if you haven't seen them I've done some rule explanation videos which you can see on the Italian Wars the movie post or on the Yarkshire Gamer Utubes Channel

    2. I finished watching them the other day. And picked up the PDF verson. I am going to do a early Henry the 8th force. But I am going to have to pick apart their army list a bit. But still like what I am reading

    3. Yes there were a few unit types missing from the Italian Wars lists but it was easy enough to make up stat lines for new unit types and test them out. The Italian Wars supplement has a great list of generic mercenaries as well. The two big games we played went really well 👍

    4. Yep, I'll figure it out. My force will also be used with the renaissance supplant Stuart has done up for Lions Rampart.

  9. First off, let me say - these miniatures are absolutely gorgeous! They are just great to behold even in photos, and I can only imagine how nice it must be to see them all lined up on an actual table.

    Now, I do have somethings to point out about the review - I think it would have been helpful to point out some of the flaws with the system...or more precisely the system's rulebook. To be quite blunt - GOOD LORD this thing looks like it has never even gone first pass through an editor. There are typos everywhere, formatting issues like bolding of words missing, it is honestly kind of absurd that someone is asking money for something this unpolished. Sure, the rules themselves are straightforward enough (though at times it feels like the game just dives off the deep end with corner cases but hey, that's historicals for you), but the lack of editing makes some of it way harder to grasp than it should be.

    For example, off the top of my head:
    1. Dopplesoldners are listed as a type of Infantry on page 7, and yet they only seem to appear in the rules on page 22, where it says they are essentially just a part of Pike formations. Which means that they are not, in fact, a Type of unit at all, as no single unit in the book's army lists has the type "Dopplesoldner".
    2. On page 24 there are rules for testing morale if a unit sees another friendly unit break. The rules then reference a unit's "Grade Factor"- a stat which does not exist and is literally only mentioned in this one paragraph in the entire rules. I have reread that section 5 times now and I admit, maybe I'm just dumb, but I could not for the life of me figure out what a unit's "Grade Factor" is, since it has never been established in the game.

    Add to this the lack of basic stuff like suggestions on table sizes for different scales and/or scenarios the overall feel of the system is of a decent amateurish effort, rather than an actual professional product being sold for money by a respectable company. I am not writing all of this to just shit on the game, by the way. I just figured since this is essentially a review, that it would be nice for someone to include some of the less great elements of the game.

    Still, thank you for writing this, as it is what convinced me to buy a PDF of the game in the first place!

    1. Hi,

      Cheers for the response, many of the points you make a valid but in my defence this was a very early review after a read through and a couple of games, it's also nearly two years old.

      You can already read in the review some of our groups queries regarding the rules and in the very next blog Post "Italian Wars The Movie" I did 4 videos explaining in more detail the mechanics and some early house changes and in the two years since then we have mostly been in lockdown.

      The rules are "flawed" in the way they are written and can be quite difficult to cross reference in places, but the core of the rules work for us and that's what we look for. I would much rather have that (for 10 quid) compared to 3 pages of bad rules and 200 of background that I already know for 30 or 40 quid like most modern rules.

      What that 40 quid vs the 10 quid gives you is a greater margin for playtesting and proofreading and clearly that shows. These are a "amateur" set of rules but maybe it's my age but this is what I'm used to, at least they aren't hand typed and photocopied !

      As a group we like rules that we can manipulate to our style of play, we don't play competitions or points so the minute details don't matter, we just house rule it and move on (often finding the actual answer years later !).

      Interesting that you choose the Doppellsoldier as an example, there are lots of units missing from the lists (Landsknecht Shot, Italian Sword and Buckler, Italian Spearmen, Stradiots with Lance or Bow etc etc). We have just made new stat lines up for the ones that are missing. I actually agree with the book on Doppellsoldier they are a different type of unit within a unit. They don't act independently but as a sub unit of a Pike Block and have their own little face off prior to a Pike clash which has its own section in the rules, so I actually think that is really well done.

      Grade Factor is simply Combat Factor, badly written and not clearly defined I agree but I can't see what the alternative is.

      When you buy a new car, it's all shiny and lovely, when you have driven it 10,000 miles you start to notice the creaky seat and the annoying handbrake. It's the same with rules.

      Now lockdown is over we have played the rules a lot more and their have been a lot of discussion around various points in the rules (mostly on twitter) , it's my intention to do a follow up post to this and the Movie post covering all the amendments we have made, the new unit types etc hopefully that will help.

      Regards Ken
      The Yarkshire Gamer

    2. Hey, thank you for the exhaustive reply. I did also watch through your videos on the game (and in fact I found those first before finding this post!)

      The Doppelsoldner was an example mostly in that, like most games that do not have a tight enough game design, you have words that mean one thing in one sentence, and then another in another - in this case the word "type" which gets defined quite well in the beginning...except is then used differently later on - again in the case of halberdiers and dopplesoldners who are listed as a Type, but are in fact not - they are simply a special rule for the Pike unit Type.

      I do agree there are some odd gaps in the lists, the Sword and Buckler in particular I kept looking for, and couldn't find it. My confusion was, admittedly, compounded by it's presence in your post above, so then I just went "ok I must be missing the list somewhere!" and kept looking in vain. Hah.

      I would look forward to seeing your take on the missing units and how you've statted them up.

      And yeah, "amateurish" is honestly the best way to describe the rules. Anyway, thank you again for a really good series of reviews on this system!