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Old 12-24-2013, 01:39 AM   #1
Vynticator
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Default Charging a pike formation

I'm trying to prep a scenario where the PCs (inveterate swordsmen) may have to try and break through a wall of pikes (historical setting, 1450s Florence). They are expert swordsmen with very good defences. However, I still feel this ought to be a tough challenge for them. Am I right? How would one model this so they can't just parry the pike head and then massacre the pikemen from within reach 1?

Clearly, reach is important. On the initial charge, how many pike attacks would each PC have to defend against, assuming a normal pike density? Once through the initial row of pike heads, are they home and dry, or do the next rows back get them? I expect stop thrusts might be helpful?

I know there was a very helpful post a while back from Kromm outlining the benefits of spear vs broadsword, but I am having no joy finding it via forum search.
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Old 12-24-2013, 01:45 AM   #2
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

The main thing which will cause problems when charging a pike formation (which, tbh, is not designed to deal with swordsmen) is that long weapons allow a lot of foes to attack you all at once. This is particularly exciting if they are taking wait options -- if you charge a two-deep pike line, a total of twenty people can attack you...
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Old 12-24-2013, 02:00 AM   #3
trans
 
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

One historical approach that developed a few decades later than that was using greatswords to break up pike formations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zweih%C3%A4nder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppels%C3%B6ldner

One story is that they used the greatswords to chop off the heads of the enemy pikes; another is that they intervened only after the opposing pike formations had tangled. Doubtless someone else on this forum has better sources on this.

An additional attraction is that you can get a certificate to do this from the Marx Brothers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx_brotherhood
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Old 12-24-2013, 02:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

Another theory is that halbardiers were employed to assault pike blocks.
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Old 12-24-2013, 02:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
The main thing which will cause problems when charging a pike formation (which, tbh, is not designed to deal with swordsmen) is that long weapons allow a lot of foes to attack you all at once. This is particularly exciting if they are taking wait options -- if you charge a two-deep pike line, a total of twenty people can attack you...
Yes, a ready pike phalanx should be represented with the soldiers all taking Wait. Allow them to advance a yard every second or two. A phalanx with Reach 5 pikes will get five attacks against someone who tries to run into an adjacent hex, at which point he has to worry about the katzbalger of the man in front of him and the attacks from ranks 4 and 5.

The historical solutions are charging something other than the even front of the phalanx, charging it before it has lowered its weapons, shooting from a distance, or making a lot of Parry, Block, Beat, and Attack to a Weapon rolls.
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Old 12-24-2013, 07:52 AM   #6
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

So I mapped this out using MapTools and assumed GURPS standard pikes with a reach of 3 hexes, and 4 heroes fighting a pike block with 10 files of 6 ranks each (historically, the ranks should be deeper).

Assume that first rank of pikes is taking a Wait maneuver to Attack with Stop Hit anyone entering a hex 3 yards away; all other ranks are taking Wait maneuvers to All-Out Attack (Double) anyone entering a hex 3 yards away from them, except the 4th rank which will is taking a Wait to perform an All-Out Attack (Long). The pikemen do not have Reach Mastery and have Pike-12, so they'll need to spend a ready maneuver to reset their pikes when the PCs push through.

The 4 PCs are in a single line perpendicular to their line of advance and are advancing with Moves (this may be sub-optimal). They all have Move 4+ and enough tactical positioning that they can move from outside the pike block's reach to adjacent to the front rank in a single maneuver. They're charging the center of the pike block (definitely sub-optimal).

When the heroes enter the hexes 3 yards away from the front of the block, the two heroes on the edges are each attacked by 4 pikes and the two in center are attacked by 1 each. On the next hex, the ones on the edges are attacked by 9 pikes (1 guy in the front rank and 4 guys in the 2nd rank making double attacks) and the guys in the center by 2 pikes. On the last hex that puts the heroes adjacent to the pikemen, the guys on the edges are attacked by 13 pikes (4 guys in the 3rd rank making double attacks and 5 guys in the 4th rank making long attacks) and the guys in the center by 3 pikes. So for the heroes on the outside, that's 26*.75 = 19 active defense rolls in a single turn, and the guys in the center have 4 active defense rolls. Assuming the PCs don't have Dodges of 14+ or armor sufficient to completely ignore the pikes, the two PCs on the edge are probably in really bad shape and the ones on the inside are probably more or less fine.

On the pike block's next turn, the first two ranks have to take Ready actions to shorten the grips. The third rank continues making All-Out Double attacks, and the fourth rank makes All-Out Long attacks. That's another 10 defense attempts for the guys on the outside (who are probably at half Dodge due to wounds), and 2 or 3 for the guys on the inside.

On the heroes' second turn, the one where they can make attacks, I'm going to assume that one of them, having been attacked 29 times, falls over, leaving 3 left. The remaining 3 heroes are bad ass enough to kill all 3 pikemen in front of them and step into the gap.

On the pike block's next turn, there's a mess of stabbing. It's a bit confusing, but basically the arc of pikemen who are 3 hexes away from the outside heroes all make All-Out Double attacks, and the guys immediately behind them make All-Out Long attacks, and I think it works out to around 17 pikemen making 27 or so attacks.

On the heroes' 3rd turn, we're looking at one guy facing 56 people, all of whom have significantly longer weapons than he does. He maybe kills two guys. Then he gets stabbed by 20-25 people and falls over.


The important thing to remember is that the pike block has depth, and that allies don't interfere with your own melee attacks but they do provide cover against enemy melee attacks. Every pikeman in the file that a PC is attacking can attack the PC, and most of them can perform All-Out attacks with relative impunity. Pike blocks also have width, and unengaged people in adjacent files out to the reach of the weapon can also get involved. So it isn't simple the case of "parry 3 pike attacks and now I'm home free". There are a lot of pikes, coming in from all angles.

I didn't put up the picture for the pike block, but I have a post on my blog with some images for a shield wall and Reach 2 weapons which should give you an idea:
http://noschoolgrognard.blogspot.com...our-reach.html
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Old 12-24-2013, 07:53 AM   #7
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

Another good tactic is all charge at the same spot instead of each one at a different place, this reduces the number of pikes hitting.
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Old 12-24-2013, 08:30 AM   #8
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

May I ask why they just didn't go around the pikemen?
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Old 12-24-2013, 08:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

Quote:
Originally Posted by DangerousThing View Post
May I ask why they just didn't go around the pikemen?
Because then they'll be flanked by the pikemen.
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Old 12-24-2013, 09:06 AM   #10
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Default Re: Charging a pike formation

Flanked is better than being a pincushion. Charging a pike formation's business facing was, historically, a good way to have your troops mutiny and kill the person giving the order. Nobody wanted to do it because everyone knew it was a quick way to suicide.

You might have a chance if you can fill the are with smoke before attacking or do an area effect attack. Otherwise use ranged attacks to soften it up first. At the very least get some really big shields that overlap and All Out defend until you get among them.
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