MUSKET & PIKE is a wide-ranging examination of European warfare during the period of sometimes muddled transition from edged weapons to firearms. This change would, besides completely overturning the traditional tactics and useages of European warfare, also fundamentally transform the way in which western society both viewed and organized itself for war; not surprisingly, it was a long and often bloody period of adjustment. To understand just how truly revolutionary was this transition from edged weapons to man-portable firearms, it is only necessary to briefly examine European history, starting with the Dark Ages.
During virtually the entire span of centuries that marked the Middle Ages, the mounted, armored knight was the dominant influence on warfare in Europe. In the period following the Middle Ages, the disciplined professional pikeman supplanted the mounted knight as the decisive force on the battlefield. The pikeman’s time, however, like that of the knight before him would also pass. By the late 17th century the individually-manageable firearm would finally bring to a close the infantry tradition of massed, well-trained spearmen that stretched back to the hoplites of Classical Greece. This is the central problem confronting the players in MUSKET & PIKE: finding the correct balance, during this awkward period of transition, between the shock power of massed professional pikeman, and the firepower of trained musketeers.
The game turn sequence in MUSKET & PIKE is simple, logical and easy to follow, although a “turn phase track” would have been handy. The turn sequence proceeds as follows: the first player executes fire combat, then moves his units, and finally executes mêlée combat; the second player then repeats the same sequence, after which the turn marker is advanced to the next game turn. The simple game mechanics and clearly-written rules make MUSKET & PIKE easy for new players to learn and play. The interesting and frustrating challenge posed to the player by the game’s design is finding the right balance between the firepower of musketeers and artillery, and the shock power of pikemen and cavalry. Players will find, I think, that no matter what deployment they try, it will never quite work out the way they hoped.
MUSKET & PIKE offers eighteen scenarios that depict actions from the Spanish-Dutch War (1568-1609), the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), the English Civil Wars (1641-1651), the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the Franco-Spanish Wars (1635-1658), the Austro-Turkish War (1663-1664), and the War of the English Succession (1688-1691). Among the many battles depicted in the scenarios are the following:
- Mookerheyde (14 April 1574)
- Coutras (20 October 1587)
- Nieuport (2 July 1600)
- Lutzen (18 November 1632)
- Nordlingen (6 September 1634)
- Dunkirk Dunes (3 June 1658)
- Brentford (12 November 1642)
- Grantham (13 May 1643)
- Staverton (4 July 1643)
- Marston Moor (1 July 1644)
- Aberdeen (15 September 1644)
- Nasby (14 June 1645)
- Dunbar (3 September 1650)
- White Mountain (8 November 1620)
- Fleurus (29 August 1622)
- Breitenfeld (17 September 1631)
- Szentgotthard (1 August 1664)
- Killiecrankie (27 July 1689)
In addition to the numerous scenarios, MUSKET & PIKE also includes a set of optional advanced rules that really should be used as soon as players become familiar with the game system. These optional rules add to the historical feel and excitement of the game, without introducing undue complexity. These rules include, among other things: cavalry caracolla; infantry squares; advanced road movement; dismounting cavalry; and artillery capture.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONMUSKET & PIKE is one of a number of games designed by John Young that spanned the period from the Napoleonic Wars, through the American Civil War, up to and including the Franco-Prussian War and beyond. I confess that I remain a big fan of Young’s many games, even after all these years. His designs are almost always innovative, interesting, playable, and fun. And despite his tragic and untimely death many, many years ago, John Young leaves behind a library of some of the best game designs that, in my opinion, SPI ever published.
Finally, MUSKET & PIKE is probably not the most sophisticated or colorful tactical game that a player is likely to encounter in today's marketplace. Certainly, there are a number of newer tactical offerings that are both more detailed in their simulation architecture and much more attractive in their presentation. Nonetheless, this is still a title that is quick to dive into and fun to play; for that reason, old as it is, I believe that it is hard to find a better, more exciting game than MUSKET & PIKE!
- Time Scale: 5 minutes per game turn
- Map Scale: 50 meters per hex
- Unit Size: each infantry or cavalry unit represents 100-125 men; each gun unit represents 4-6 artillery pieces
- Unit Types: militia pikemen/professional pikemen/elite pikemen, militia muskets/professional muskets, light cavalry/ heavy cavalry/Swedish cavalry/Reiter cavalry, dragoons, light artillery/medium artillery/early heavy artillery/late heavy artillery and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: low/average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3 hours
- One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
- 400 ½” Cardboard Counters
- One 6” x 11½” map-fold style Set of Rules and Scenario Instructions
- One 8½ ” x 11” combined Turn Record Chart and Errata (30 April 1973)
- One 6” x 14” Fire and Melee Combat Resolution Table
- One 6” x 9¼” Terrain Effects Chart
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Scenario Historical Background Sheet
- One 3¾” x 8½” SPI Customer Complaint Card
- One small six-sided Die
- One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet
Related Map and Counters Blog PostMUSKET & PIKE MOVE AND FIRE PHASE GAME CHART
SPI, GRENADIER (1971)