Thursday, 20 August 2020

Bow and arquebus, getting it right in simple rules

Been reading around the subject of bows and guns in the sixteenth century yesterday whilst waiting in for a boiler repair man ( not a bicycle repair man ha, ha) who didn’t turn up. As part of my 1549 project I was thinking what difference there would be between these weapons in rules. I looked at a number - George Gush, dba,dbm, rough wooing etc as well as reading historical accounts.
With my focus being as narrow, ie Tudor Rebellion in the West Country in 1549 I wanted to show the differences, the positives and negatives, the quirks of these two weapons but in a simple way . Any suggestions as to rate of fire, comparative ranges and effects?


  1. As a student I read up on the bill and bow versus the new-fangled caliver/arquebus and pike mainly in relation to the expected Armada landing.

    The key questions are really about levels of training.
    The longbow really needs an athlete with a life times training:
    it's quicker to load and fire [but you could run out of arrows]
    more accurate
    longer range
    easier [because used by an expert] to judge trajectories for overhead firing etc.

    anyone can be trained to use them and don't have to be especially fit
    noise has a psychological impact
    wounds caused may not be deadlier but are certainly messier

    Both weapons can have issues in the wet.
    Both weapons have their own challenges to produce

    Conversely the pike needs more training then the brown bill because its more of a formation weapon. It's also more difficult to cope with in rough terrain etc. But it's more effective against horsemen. Morale wise both weapons are pretty scary. The bill is better if you're thinking of skirmish type actions.

    Both bow and gun have an effectiveness against armour, possibly in both cases more a bruising than a penetrative effect. hard to say which is better. Firearms probably better after your period as with muskets you get larger projectiles powered by more powder.

    My suggestion would be to make archers deadlier than firearms in terms of range and accuracy but make them more expensive in terms of points perhaps a choice between one archer being worth two shotte. Also make pikeman more expensive with higher morale as professionals and with a rule whereby say 4 or more can have a formation effect in the game combining their strength against those fighting as individuals and better against horse. Make the billmen cheap enthusiastic amateurs perhaps with something of a hit and miss effect in melee i.e. less chance to hit but deadly when they do]

    rth. Bon Chance!
    StephenWell that's my shilling's wot

  2. rth = that's my pennysworth. I seem to have been cut off part way through.
    For a skirmish [or battle] limiting ammunition could be an interesting part of the rules. I guess both archer and man with gun might both start with say 12 rounds but if the archer has the possibility of getting off up to say 4 shots [fire for effect] to the hand gunners one - resupply becomes an issue.


  3. Have a look on YouTube at the Tods Cutler tests on armour penetration by warbows. Although they are using Agincourt as the key date the bow and arrow data is drawn from the Mary Rose finds.
    You can also find some musket vs armour tests too.
    There is the question to consider: do the Landsknecht pike fight in their traditional manner (fast moving, slightly lose formation) and do the English pike fight in a close order formation in cooperation with supporting bows, bills and shot as per the earliest English 'drill' books?

  4. I found Montluc's opinions on the matter interesting although all such memoirs must be taken with a bit of salt. (1540's) Essentially he claims that his men were afraid of the English due to the stories they heard growing up but that once they encountered them they lost that fear and the they had initially had an exaggerated idea of the English courage because they had to come so close to shoot effectively (possibly lower quality of English archers or more effective armour by the 1540's? )

    One certainly gets the impression from his memoirs and those of...forgotten his name - an arquebusier who fought at the siege of Malta) that the courage, daring, initiative training and leadership trumped arms and armour in battle.

    Good luck!

  5. If it's any help I recall from the George Gush rules that longbows were not that effective in his rules as by the early 16th century archery practice was in decline. I think the last great longbow victory was in 1513 at the battle of the Spurs/Guinegate.

  6. I had to slowly figure this out for my Lion Rampant Italian Wars game (tho mainly in relation to crossbows and arquebuses). As of my last game, it was bows with a range of 24", hitting on 5+ up fo 12" and 6 at 12", but needing a 6+ on 2d6 to make a shoot action.
    Arquebus had a max range of just 6", but hit on 4+, and needed a 7+ for a shoot action. They also had a closing fire option, activating on 7+ in reaction to a charge.
    Idea was arquebuses become very strong if in cover, which matches success of the Spanish (who almost always dug their infantry in).

  7. Hi tradgardmastare -
    If you are being time specific, then you might consider downgrading, say, the longbow from its earlier effectiveness. The use of the weapon required continual practice (if only to maintain one's ability to handle the heavy draw weight!), but, despite ordinances that made such practice compulsory, by Tudor times this was being increasingly evaded.

    Having said that, it seems likely that the DBM rule sets that make archery more effective against mounted and shot more effective against foot, are pretty much on the money. Until the invention of the bayonet, shot really needed the protection of pikes to keep off enemy foot. If enemy foot got up close and personal, the metal-shod butt-end of the firearm would have been a sufficiently effective weapon (hence 'push of pike and dint of butt').

    You might want to visit the pistol-armed horse as well, especially the types that fought in deep columns, practising a form of caracole.

    When DBM first appeared, such types we labelled Pi(I) (inferior pistols) - not really able to foot it with Ordinary or Superior Pistols, but carrying considerable firepower. They could be formed up 3 stands deep, the supporting stands each going to diminishing the effect of enemy firepower. This made the Pi(I) a very effective troop type, but very brittle. In one wargames battle (I think in the 80 Years War), my force of 9 stands of Pi(I) took on a 4-stand unit of muskets [Sh(O)]. When, after several turns, the smoke cleared, the 4 muskets had vanished, but it cost me 5 of my 9 Pistol stands.

    Why the authors of DBM reduced the Pi(I) to 2 ranks only for shooting (they counted just one rank for close combat) is quite beyond my comprehension. Historically, cavalry commanders like Pappenheim favoured the really deep columns.


  8. Loads to think about, thanks for the suggestions one and all.