30/06/2021 at 20:39 #158260
I’m trying to sort out appropriate stats for use with Irregular warfare rules but based more on the descriptions of the various types of cavalry given in DBR. Particularly I am wanting some advice on how some of the heavy (read armoured) cavalry who also carried a bow as well as melee weapons fought.
Mostly I’m looking at the period between 1540 & 1600 but the edges are a bit moveable. Most of the cavalry types I’m interested in would charge enemy by preference – Ottoman Sipahi, Polish Hussars & Pancerni, Russian Dvor & Boyars and Steppe heavy lancers are typical examples.
Many Eastern European and non-European armoured cavalry carried a bow but, by this period, are they using it in open battle ? I’m reading some saying that the bow is retained as a tradition or status symbol, others that it is used in ‘small war’ or skirmishes, yet more that they are used in sieges but most say nothing about how they used the bow.
What is confusing me is that Irregular Wars gives many of this type of cavalry both a long and a short range shooting factor and DBR does not. I have scanned a few other rule sets I have copies of and some of them allow all bow armed cavalry to shoot at range as well.
To solve this one I’m looking to see if there is evidence that some (or even all) of this type of cavalry, in this time slot, did do so (not could have done) historically. Does anyone know of examples ?
Tony of TTT01/07/2021 at 10:29 #158283Alexander Hay-WhittonParticipant
Not sure any of those would have any claim to being renaissance! But as far as I remember from the days when I played DBR, the idea was that most shooting was probably at pretty close range anyway (which is not to ignore WRG’s signature attitude of “If the rules don’t match reality, reality is at fault.”).01/07/2021 at 10:56 #158285
Alexander – why would these types not be Renaissance ? All of them formed parts of eastern & non- European armies at some, if not most, of the time between 1500 & 1700.
I do agree with the WRG comment though, which is why I don’t accept their interpretation as law.01/07/2021 at 11:22 #158294
Good luck with the ‘what, when, where and how’ the Renaissance happened (if it even happened at all).
It was however, a European thing and Tartar, Turkish and other eastern cultures don’t really fit into the concept (Discuss among yourselves how far and when the idea percolated eastern European cultures).
As for the question I can’t think offhand of any descriptions of Boyar, Hussar etc using bows in specific pitched battles at this time – not saying they didn’t, just that I don’t remember any accounts.
As for Irregular Wars v DBR – Irregular Wars is aimed at smaller, (oddly enough, irregular ) conflicts on the periphery of European experience rather than pitched battle. So it makes sense for them to accommodate bow armed groups who may not have used them as their main weapon in formal battle but could use them to advantage in less structured combats. DBR is trying to represent something else, and from memory short range shooting is subsumed into the contact combat?01/07/2021 at 12:14 #158297
This isn’t about DBR v Irregular Wars but they do have a base representing roughly the same number of men, just less bases. Smaller battles with similar sized manoeuvre units should be fair game for comparisons though, which is all I intended to use DBR for.02/07/2021 at 04:32 #158331Alexander Hay-WhittonParticipant
It’s just so irksome to anyone who know even a scrap of history to see the word so misapplied. It was very much a western European movement, and very few of its attributes apply to Sengoku Japan, the late Vijjayanagar empire, or the Triple Alliance (meaning no disrespect to the first two).02/07/2021 at 09:16 #158344
Alexander. The meaning of my post was abundantly clear and I wish you would take your irrelevant whinging elsewhere if you can’t make a useful contribution.
The term Renaissance used as in my post merely refers to a period of history when used in the context of wargaming rules. To anyone who knows a scrap about wargaming this is obvious. It is in the title of the DBR rules that you happily played – did you whinge at Phil Barker on the naming of those ?02/07/2021 at 10:10 #158347
I can see both sides of this argument, but it seems a shame to fall out about it. All I am saying.02/07/2021 at 11:26 #158350Tony SParticipant
I can’t find much on the subject either (sources are quite difficult to find for many, many reasons)!
As a complete guess, perhaps the heavier armoured cavalry maintained carrying the bow as a weapon against the light Eastern cavalry that still existed, and still carried and used the bow, even for many years after this period. Without a distance weapon, the heavy cavalry wouldn’t be able to effectively counter the light skirmish sorts.
(And I agree with Sane Max. It’s just toy soldiers at the end of the day).02/07/2021 at 11:42 #158351
Agree with Mr Max (may I call you Sane?).
‘Renaissance’ is as I suggested earlier a contested term these days even in the best historical circles, leaving aside its use and abuse by wargamers as a ‘period’.
I like a free and frank discussion about Eurocentric misapplications of nineteenth century invented terminology to the rest of the world as much as the next historian, but on a wargames site I can live and let live as we do pretty much ‘all know’ what was meant. (although it hurts to see ‘early Enlightenment’ wars lumped under the ‘Renaissance’ banner).
Re Irregular Wars v DBR – I was using a shorthand to refer to the confusion about the two approaches to allowing or ignoring heavy cavalry bows to shoot at distance in eastern European warfare of the sixteenth century. My rationale stands.
I also note, having bothered to dig them out, that Irregular wars make distant shooting by such troops very difficult where allowed and in the case of Boyars and Polish Hussars there is no long range shooting. The short range allowed by IW would probably be subsumed under close combat in DBR because of the difference in size of battle and scale of resolution intended.
But as is my usual craven/all inclusive approach to wargames controversies – if you believe they could have done it and want them to – pinch some stats from another bit of the rules/make them up and carry on.02/07/2021 at 11:44 #158352
I can see both sides of this argument, but it seems a shame to fall out about it. All I am saying.
Unless comments are deliberately rude or inflammatory everyone is welcome to take part in conversations and no-one should have to go elsewhere.
There will of course be people who don’t get on with others and in this case the Ignore User facility may be of value?
You are both very welcome to post.02/07/2021 at 12:11 #158354
Mike : ” … to anyone who know even a scrap of history … ” is deliberately rude in my book.
Also hijacking a thread to express a view unrelated to the content of the post is considered bad manners on most forums.
I appreciate the information from those other posters who, while they may feel the same way about the use of Renaissance, do at least add to the discussion.
Part of the problem with IW is that it is inconsistent in how it seems to apply different factors to what are, on the face of it, similarly armed troops employing broadly similar tactics. It is however, much like DBA, an excellent baseline for a broad range of conflicts and has the option to ‘tweak’ company factors to match new types and revise those that exist.
I tend to agree that the short range shooting factor is subsumed into CC in DBR – actually I’m thinking of doing the same with pistol armed cavalry for IW too. I’m not familiar enough with battle tactics of the Eastern European armies to know if only the lighter bow armed cavalry used them in battle at longer ranges or whether the heavier cavalry also shot as well as charged.
It does seem that the evidence may be sparse, I expected that, but hoped there may be a few here who did have more extensive knowledge of the issue. I wasn’t expecting to be harassed over the use of terminology professional historians get paid to argue over.02/07/2021 at 12:15 #158355
Mike : ” … to anyone who know even a scrap of history … ” is deliberately rude in my book.
Fair.02/07/2021 at 13:28 #158359
Life is too short to respond to Barker’s versions of language, history, and arithmetic.02/07/2021 at 14:21 #158362
Life is too short to respond to Barker’s versions of language, history, and arithmetic.
That I think we can all agree on. subsuming so much missile fire into combat is a classic example of ‘It doesn’t work?… we will make it work and then argue ferociously that it’s more accurate.’
The DB games would be a lot less contentious if they were not so widely regarded for so long as the ‘One and Only Set of Rules’. I really Like DBA, if you treat it as what it was – a system written for some fun at a Society Of Ancients meeting, that got out of hand. Trying to extrapolate rules for a different system for it is a bad place to start, I think, dear author.02/07/2021 at 14:50 #158366
Hmmm. I liked DBR for a few years – only commercial set I’ve ever stuck to that long – but ended up with so many ammendments and house rules that I decided I might as well write my own, which I’m sort of happy with (apart from my wife’s bad habit of beating me with them).
My favourite (apart from Mr Barker’s strange capitalisation, indifference to punctuation, and reluctance ever to admit he’d been getting it wrong for six editions) was the DBR instruction to “subtract -1/-2 for a third or fourth rank of enemy pikemen”. Anyone ever drop a line to WRG and point out what happens if you subtract a negative number?02/07/2021 at 14:54 #158368
Genuinely not trying to be awkward but I’m not sure that ‘it doesn’t work’ is true.
There is a lot of argument about missile fire in pre gunpowder eras and at what range it was effective, usually used and whether or not it was really reserved to the last fifty metres of closing. Some would argue a much shorter distance – thrown weapons in particular – forget Olympic javelin distances – think more having a spiky thing chucked in your face at average bar room rumble distance).
As for the development or otherwise of a fun game – I wasn’t at the SoA but I certainly played a pre-production version of DBA at a Conference of Wargamers one July many years ago. Phil was in a state of flux and possibly ennui re Ancients – 6th ed had been – despite the hype – another iteration of the same ol’ same ol’ with too many bits bolted on. 7th edition was a massive change but had not been popular – except with some of the more vocal critics who had hated the charts tables and accountancy of 1/20 figure casualties. And he was looking for a simpler, more results down rather than a factors up approach. I still think DBA suffers from too much of the weapons obsessions of the WRG ancients era myself. However…
I loved DBA. But I do remember us saying it’s a great game, shame it has chuff all to do with Ancient warfare bar the figures. But you can’t blame Phil for people picking it up and running with it.
PS – Sorry Kitty/Alex – posts overlapped. Re DBR I wonder if Phil was responsible for that bit? – he was an engineer and would surely know? – then again his co-author is a doctor, so maybe we should hope it was Phil!02/07/2021 at 15:11 #158371
Genuinely not trying to be awkward<noscript></noscript> but I’m not sure that ‘it doesn’t work’ is true.
nono, what I meant was I suspect originally skirmishers etc had missile ranges – it didn’t work with the system so they changed it to the current version. I think it works fine, but it does annoy anyone accustomed to their light chariots or Psiloi* shooting and scooting
And if use of the wrong word annoys you, Psiloi is one that always grated on me. Ancient Greek Psiloi? Fine. Dark Ages Welsh Psiloi? No. seriously no.02/07/2021 at 15:28 #158372
Trying to explain nuanced meanings via forum posts is more difficult than it sounds isn’t it? Sorry!
Psiloi was/were(?) one of those things I always pretended wasn’t happening!02/07/2021 at 15:42 #158373
How about chariots as “knights”?!!?02/07/2021 at 15:47 #158374
To solve this one I’m looking to see if there is evidence that some (or even all) of this type of cavalry, in this time slot, did do so (not could have done) historically. Does anyone know of examples ?02/07/2021 at 15:48 #158375
I find skirmishers, both long & short ranged types, quite difficult to incorporate into relatively simple systems (such as DBA & Irregular Wars).
Part of this is, I think, that we get comparatively little from history as to their effect or even specifics as to what distances they shot at or how often they got caught out buy a sudden charge. Most rules seem to be built on assumptions, probably realistic assumptions but from very limited evidence.
Shoot & scoot isn’t as easy to implement in a rule set without it being easy for players to misuse it. To stop that you need very clear rules on who can, when and how plus realistic ammo limitations and damage opportunities. It seems to me that many players are no longer interested in adding complexity to cover as broad a range of historical tactics as existed.02/07/2021 at 17:48 #158383
Mike : ” … to anyone who know even a scrap of history … ” is deliberately rude in my book.
Disagree. It’s an observation, not an ad hominem.
Alex/Kitty also makes a fair point about the WRG (actually Barker) approach to history.
An example. WRG Ancients? Early Bronze Age to…Late Medieval/Early Modern? WTAF, 4500 years of ‘ancient warfare’? From Sumer to the Early Italian Wars? With all sorts of fudges to allow exotic armies from distant lands to fight and die in a distinctly Euro/Middle Easterncentric set of rules? With even more fudges to allow for gunpowder weapons?
‘Renaissance’ began as a perfectly cromulent ‘period’ involving blokes armed with pikes and muskets giving tabletop battle to other blokes with pikes and muskets. Then someone went “‘ere, there’s a lot of interesting 16th and 17th century Eastern European armies”, and so you got the mounted personal armoury that are ‘Renaissance’ Poles. Some other bright spark thought that Muromachi/Sengoku Japan was a perfect fit for ‘Renaissance’ rules, with a bit of tweaking of course…
Blimey, you can see why anyone with even a smattering of history would be a bit peeved.
When I began shoving toy soldiers around, ‘Lace Wars’ meant 18th century warfare. All of it, from Carpi to Valmy. Don’t even get me started on ‘Dark Ages’.
Want a rationale for ‘Renaissance’ Poles and similar being a horseborne arsenal? In the days before trained and drilled troops, the individuals in a body of armed men in contact weren’t all doing the same thing at the same time (this is obvious, I hope). Some could be shooting, some could be running the opposition through with a lance. Others could be in closer contact and using swords/axes/maces to batter each others brains out. All of this can be subsumed into that other wargamer favourite, ‘melee’. The idea of a body of heavily armoured cavalry shooting bows as a body is laughable to anyone with a smattering of history. Handy when pursuing a ‘routing’ foe though. Maybe.
Then there are mounted samurai armed with daikyu… Maybe we need a special rule for them.
I know cromulent isn’t a real word, so don’t write in. I was being more facile than usual.
Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.02/07/2021 at 19:26 #158388
NCS : Possibly you might like to check your own historical knowledge before criticising others. Byzantines used heavily armoured mounted bowmen shooting as a body before contact, so did Mongols (though in a different way) – not quite as laughable as you think !!!
If you are a lance armed horseman then you use your lance at contact, or just before, if thrown. Why would you carry a lance otherwise ? The Poles had a lot of different cavalry during that period and they evolved to a significant degree during it. Some were more mixed in their armaments but most were lance armed to begin with – except the early Hussars (refugees from Ottoman occupation) – and really did carry a lot of kit.
Plenty of Eastern European and other non-drilled soldiers were trained in the competent and effective use of their weapons and, usually, able to operate adequately as a body. Drill was a way of replacing the ‘warrior’ lifestyle to produce fighting bodies of men more quickly from a population that no longer, or never, had any martial traditions. It didn’t always produce more effective troops.
Using the bow outside the battlefield is certainly the most likely ‘other’ reason for carrying it but tradition probably paid a significant part too. You seem convinced that shooting was not done by any of the bow-armed heavy cavalry but fail to offer any evidence. I’m not saying I disagree but I’d much prefer to work with facts and not just assume my guesses are right.03/07/2021 at 00:12 #158398HwicceeParticipant
OK 2 things before I go into details. The first is that I think DBR rules and similar have very little basis in history, often at a very basic level. So trying to do anything historical in them is going to be diffiuclt. I have played DBR but not Irregular Wars but I am talking about sets which have 2 ‘balanced’ sides using a mechanism like points or similar. The second thing is a lot of what follows is based more on the later period 1600 – 1700 but I believe there are similarities.
The first thing to say is you can forget Polish Pancerni. They start being used circa 1650 so won’t appear in your time period. You also need to separate Polish Winged Hussars from the Sipahi, Pomest’e and I think Steppe lancer types (this last had largely disappeared by my time). The Hussars and the other 3 are doing different things.
So the first thing is that the overwhelming majority of battles were attack/defence battles often featuring positions that couldn’t be easily ‘charged’. In the context of this discussion these battles often involved attacking or defending ‘portable’ defenses – wagons, gulay gorod, etc – and fortified camps. Also real battles are generally fought on terrain nothing like typical wargames terrain in these kinds of rules. In real battles, as opposed to most wargames, bow, firearms or other missiles were useful things for the cavalry to have & got used. I don’t know about your period but in the later period it is difficult to find battles where cavalry wouldn’t in theory need to shoot because of the above – although later on it tended to be more firearms than bows.
Shooting was also a viable tactic when confronting infantry in ‘the East’ because of the generally lower relative firepower of the infantry there.
As far as tactics against mounted cavalry are concerned the Polish Winged Hussars were basically shock tactic cavalry when the army was attacking. Fire would be relatively unimportant but perhaps could be used more when defending. Polish Winged Hussars effectively ‘invented’ what we normally think of as a cavalry charge.
Sipahi and Pomest’e cavalry (and probably the Steppe guys) are not as you suggest charging cavalry as such. They were more of a multi-purpose cavalry who combined firing and moving into contact. When the army was attacking the Sipahi and Pomest’e would go forward in fairly loose waves aiming to cause the target to falter, break formation or something similar. This would include getting the target to break ranks and abandon their position with the kind of ‘sudden charge’ by the defender you talk about – that is close to suicidal against these tactics. If it did cause a falter/break/etc the attackers would individually use their mobilty and horsemanship to exploit this. It was not a ‘charge’ as such, more a move into contact to exploit a situation & a lot of the time only some proportion of the attackers would actually engage at all.
Commonly this wave attack wouldn’t cause any problems in the target and so the attackers would not ‘charge home’ and would instead convert the attack into a ‘feint attack’, shoot at the target and break off to try again. Usually another wave of attackers would be incoming by this time and the use of multiple waves was common. So the fire by the attacking cavalry was more designed to make the target falter/break/counter-attack so the succeeding waves can exploit these or have a better chance of doing them themselves. i.e. it wasn’t designed to actually ‘kill’ the target but to make it vulnerable to further attacks. Often these wave attacks would go over long periods.
In defence these cavalry would fire at the incoming attacks to break them up. They might do what we think of a ‘charge’ against weak targets and of course if the wave attacks succeeded something like a ‘charge’ would happen when the target was so fractured most/all of the attackers would go into contact.
I am not sure I have explained it very well but hopefully that will give you some kind of idea.03/07/2021 at 02:41 #158400
Thanks for adding to my vocabulary. Cromulent has a certain flavour to it!03/07/2021 at 05:28 #158401Mr. AverageParticipant
He certainly embiggened your vocabulary.03/07/2021 at 10:43 #158413
Thanks for that, it does give me more to go on and an excellent rationalisation of Sipahi tactics. I was aware that winged hussars were different from the hussars in Polish armies earlier in the period – my mistake calling them ‘Polish’ hussars, even though, by mid-century most of them were a part of the Polish military ‘system’. I didn’t think winged hussars carried a bow in battle.
Terminology is always a problem. Heavy cavalry, to my mind, is horsemen prepared and able to attack enemy with those not likely to do so being light. A bit simplistic as you say as it fails to cover those using tactical methods that rely on mobility to gain advantage before engaging in melee.
Tony03/07/2021 at 11:42 #158415HwicceeParticipant
OK I see where you are coming from now.
The earlier Polish (and Lithuanian) army didn’t have hussars in the sense you are talking about them. They might have mercenary/allied units. The supporting cavalry before the time of the Pancerni are usually called Polish Cossacks, this is a kind of cavalry and nothing much to do with actual Cossacks. These are cavalry which are a mixture of classic light horse and units using tactics similar to the ‘wave attacks’ I have talked about – these last could be armoured. The Polish Cossacks doing the light horse tactics were functionally more or less identical to hussars but they were never called this in the Polish-Lithuanian army.
In theory the difference in the Polish-Lithuanian army to other armies is that the Winged Hussars gave the option to put in ‘real’ charges into the mix. So the Polish Cossacks would soften up the target for the Winged Hussars to finish them off. Of course in practice this didn’t always happen or something else happened and & Winged Hussars would go in without preparation.
I am sure some of the Winged Hussars would have bows as there were minimum requirements for them but then it was up to the individual Hussar or unit commander what else they had. That said the use of bows generally was in steep decline at this time and once you get into the next era even ‘horse archers’ are actually using carbines & pistols and not bows. I don’t know for sure but by the end of the period you are looking at I would be surprised if any Polish-Lithuanian unit, include the Light Horse types, are still using bows as their main missile weapon. Similarly, I would expect all other armies to have at minimum significant numbers of firearms rather than bows – this includes the armies usually thought to be ‘traditional’.
On terminology here I think we are often victims of a ‘Western’ attitude/upbringing/focus of history and of course the errors in these things. I think the general view of cavalry tactics generally (sorry I am talking Europe and adjacent areas here) is flawed even about ‘Western’ tactics and has no idea about the ‘fringes’ from a Western point of view. Add onto that the things that are commonly done in gaming which are also flawed and many rules are not up to it.03/07/2021 at 13:02 #158417
However I don’t wish to become a willing foil to another Paskal, so adieu.
Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.03/07/2021 at 14:10 #158418willzParticipant
It seems to me that as this is all about wargaming, why not fight an imagination renaissance war / campaign. Then as they are your toys and your rules you can have heavy cavalry with bows. It works for me when I want to play something different. Its all about shoving our toys across the table in some semblance of military combat based on personal or collective interruption of history.04/07/2021 at 11:54 #158433
Willz : I agree that ANY wargaming rules are not going to reflect reality with much precision, even when that reality is well documented. In that sense all wargames are ‘imaginations’ – and not necessarily the worse for it.
It isn’t that I WANT to field bow armed heavy cavalry, they already exist. What I was looking for is evidence of how and if they actually used them. As you can see from the varied responses there isn’t much of a consensus – pretty much mirroring what I had found before I posed the question here.
Lots to think about but no real answers to my problem just yet.
Thanks to all those that contributed though.
Tony of TTT06/12/2021 at 18:13 #165693OliveroParticipant
Sorry for, er, almost resurrecting this post – and no I don’t have much to add form the historical evidence side. I just wanted to mention that as far as I can tell it is pretty clear what Barker / DBR has to offer:
“SIPAHIS, representing all mailed asiatic or east european cavalry equally ready to charge fiercely or to skirmish with bow, javelin, lance or later matchlock or carbine.”
Barker here clearly states that the aforementioned Cavalry DID use the bow. In open battles. But they did it at close range. Otherwise Barker would have classified them as Knights:
“Lancers in 3/4 plate riding good unbarded horses and sometimes with a single pistol or a bow, such as French archers and chevaux leger before 1590, Spanish and English demilances, Japanese after 1542 and Polish hussars before 1689.”
So Ottoman Sipahi yes, Polish Hussars no, again, as far as I can tell.
And regarding mass shooting of Cavalry I believe I read a discussion somewhere that Barker kind of chose to ignore possible barrage shooting by Mongol Cavalry (so NO long range shooting for Cavalry in DBx) because of the asumption “why should they”? Mass shooting against higly mobile cavalry seems useless and mass shooting against infantry ineffective – just ride till couple of meters and then shoot.06/12/2021 at 18:39 #165699
The Japanese had largely abandoned yumi on horseback when firearms carried by ashigaru started to appear in large numbers. The yari, of varying lengths, was the samurai weapon of choice mounted and on foot with daisho carried as sidearms.
Book 1 of the DBR lists categorises mounted samurai as Sp(O) before 1542 and as Ln(F) afterwards.
Kn. isn’t a troop type in DBR, knights would be Ln(S)
Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.06/12/2021 at 18:58 #165702Jim WebsterParticipant
My suspicion is that heavy cavalry had bows and occasionally they came in useful. In a more Eastern environment light cavalry horse archers could be a problem, and heavy cavalry skilled at archery could respond to them, probably keeping them at a range where they were relatively ineffective.
The bows also gave them the ability to goad other cavalry into attacking them (probably not something they needed to do much against western heavy cavalry)
Reading Islamic accounts of archery, if these cavalry had the same training as the Mamluks and ghulams of a previous century, they were probably good as a unit at putting a lot of arrows into an area in a short while. They probably didn’t use it all that much but against infantry without missile weapons, or against enemy cavalry reluctant to come to grips and in a good position, it could be useful.
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