War Talk – Pikes Part 2

Hello again, Variants!  As promised, I have returned for week two of our pike tactics War Talk. Last week we talked about the use of the phalanx in ancient warfare, but that’s not the only time the pike saw widespread use.


The second was during the early Renaissance, with the proliferation of gunpowder weapons. These slow to reload weapons needed something in place between themselves and the very sharp pointy sticks of an enemy army. As a result, a revival of pike formations were seen across Europe. Some of the most famous examples of armies using pike formations were the Swiss (who’s mercenary companies made names for themselves across Europe during the Italian Wars and beyond), the Landsknecht, German mercenaries (the famous rivals of the Swiss), and the Spanish Terico.


A box of pike wielding soldiers would protects rows of musketeers, moving out while the gunners reloaded. This was a common tactic at the height of Spanish power near the end of the Reconquista.  Throughout the Renaissance, pikes and firearms defeated mounted nobles on various battlefields, using their mass and momentum to shatter levy infantry, and their pikes to repel knights. This drastic change to the battlefield heralded the end of the Medieval style of warfare centered around noble knights, as they could be easily defeated by a well drilled peasant with a musket. After some time, the ease of production of muskets and individual firearms changed the ranks of modern armies from levies to well trained, professional soldiers.


In your TTRPGs, having a group of soldiers use these tactics can show how well-disciplined they are, since the complex maneuvers needed to shift troops about the battlefield are hard to execute. These complex tactics can also mark them as a well organized military force. Alternatively, you could deploy a group of Goblins in a terico formation in the middle of your dungeon, and watch your players try to figure out how to handle them. Just be sure you have a means to dispel fireballs!

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