Piquet Variants

Piquet  Variants

One of the strengths of the Piquet system is the ability to easily tailor the rules to suit your vision of an army or scenario.  Being an inveterate and unrepentant rules tweaker, I've naturally been unable to resist such a temptation.

Surprise Attacks

Some armies, through incompentence or unlucky circumstances, allowed themselves to be attacked while they were camping for the night, or perhaps foraging.  Either way, the army was caught with their collective pants down.  The attacker must press home their advantage; the defender must quickly rally their troops in order to face the threat.

Piquet can simulate this for a scenario game.  Create the attacker's sequence deck as you normally would.  The attacker will play according to the regular rules.

The defender's deck will employed a little differently.

  • Create the correct army deck, again as you would for a regular game.
  • Shuffle and put half (or more, or less, depending on the severity of the surprise achieved by the attack) of the defender's deck to the side to create a "Rally" deck.
  • Put the same number of "Dress Line" cards as in the "Rally" deck into the defender's sequence deck.  The defender will play the sequence deck as normal.
  • As the defender encounters a "Dress Line" card, do not place it into the discard pile.  Put it off the the side.
  • When the turn has been completed and it is time to reshuffle, count the number of those "Dress Line" cards that have been encountered by the defender during the current turn.
  • Draw that number from the "Rally" deck.  Permanently discard the "Dress Lines" cards and replace them in the defender's sequence deck with the cards just drawn from the "Rally" deck.
  • Shuffle the sequence deck and play another turn.
  • Continue until the "Rally" deck is exhausted.

Here's an example:

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 saw the Prussians surround a French Army at Metz, which ultimately surrendered to the besiegers.  Let's fight an engagement where the French attempt a surprise breakout attempt.

French troops attack!The French (being the attackers) create their standard deck from the Hallowed Ground supplement booklet, as do the Prussians.  However the surprised Prussians shuffle their deck and, without looking at the cards, take 15 cards (roughly half of their total of 31 cards) away to form a Rally deck.  These missing 15 cards are replaced with 15 dress lines cards in the Prussian sequence deck.

During the first turn the Prussians are going to encounter a lot of dress line cards, wasting a lot of impetus points.  They're surprised by the French assault remember.  Every dress line card is placed off to the side.  Naturally, if the Prussians do turn up a useful card, they can act on it, at the usual impetus costs.  Let's assume the Prussian encounters a grand total of five dress line cards in his first turn.

At the conclusion of the turn it is time to reshuffle both decks.  The French simply shuffle their deck as always.  The Prussian player counts the number of dress line cards he has put aside (five in our example), and then draws the same number (five) from his Rally deck and places those cards into his sequence deck, and reshuffles that deck to begin another turn.  The five dress lines cards are now permanently (and thankfully thinks the Prussian player) discarded.

Play continues.  The Prussian player finds another eight dress line cards in the second turn.  Again, at the conclusion of the turn, the Prussian draws another eight cards from his Rally deck to replace the eight dress lines cards, which are permanently tossed aside.  Continue until the Rally deck is exhausted.  Finally!  The Prussian army is now fully alerted and able to drive the French back from whence they came.  Play now continues as normal.

French troops retreat!In most armies, there will be a point at which there are more dress lines cards put aside than there are cards in the rally deck.  That's fine.  Draw as many cards from the rally deck as you can, then permanently discard the same number of dress line cards.  The remaining dress line cards are put into the sequence deck.  Most armies contain dress line cards after all!  Hopefully, if everything has been done correctly, the sequence deck will now be normal, the same one as indicated in the supplement booklet.

Variable Terrain

Piquet does an excellent job of simulating the fog of war - we all know that.  (If you don't, then go out and buy the rules!)  Yet this fog of war does not extend to the terrain.  Players usually define the types of terrain before the game begins.  But should a general know precisely how his troops will behave in those woods beyond the hill, which he can't even see?  I think not.

Trees Lay out the terrain before the game as you always have.  Define the features as well - type II, III, IV or V.  Then shuffle an ordinary deck of 52 playing cards and place one card beneath each terrain feature, face down.  The first player to actually send any troops through the feature looks at the card to discover the real nature of the terrain.  Naturally, the other player will not yet know what the card is until he too sends troops into the feature.

A face card, of any type, means the terrain feature is shifted up one type.  A type II wood, for example, would become a type III wood.  Conversely, a playing card of ace, two or three means that the terrain type is down shifted one type.  That same type II woods would be downgraded to type I...open!  (Relatively little undergrowth, large clearings...obviously the woods are not enough to appreciably affect combat or movement).  Any other card leaves the terrain type unchanged.

In a scenario, as an option, let the defender look at all the cards beforehand.  It is assumed that a defender would have better knowledge of the ground he would be fighting on.


Statistically speaking, the opposed die rolling to determine initiative and impetus points in Piquet should be equally distributed between the players.  However, I have noticed that many of my games seem to exhibit a complete disrespect for the laws of probability.  Especially when a new player is being introduced to the system - they invariably lose every initiative roll and walk away from a great set rules with a bad taste in their mouths.

So, here's an alternative to the initiative method used by Piquet.  Slightly less realistic, sure, but probably a more fair game.

In Piquet players roll a D20.  High roll wins the initiative, and receives a number of impetus points equal to the difference in scores.  For the variant, the highest roller does not neccessarily win the initiative.  Instead, players alternate initiative.  Each player continues to roll a D20; the number of impetus pips the phasing player gets is still determined by the absolute difference between the die rolls.  A tied roll means the turn ends, decks are reshuffled, but that player loses his phase.

An example - The game starts, and Red will take the first initiative phase.  Both players roll a D20.  Red rolls a "3"; his opponent Blue rolls "14".  Even though Blue's score beat Red, Red still gets the initiative.  The difference in score is 11, so Red has 11 impetus points to use in his phase.

He uses his impetus, now play passes automatically to his opponent.  Again the two players roll a D20, but this time Blue gets the initiative and the impetus equal to the difference in die rolls.  He rolls "17" while Red rolls "13", resulting in 4 pips for Mr Blue.

Next phase, and now Red should get the initiative.  Unfortunately for him he rolls "10"...and Blue also rolls a "10".  A tie!  Red gnashes his teeth.  He loses his phase.  Decks are reshuffled, and Blue will get the next phase.

Turn End

In the rulebook, Piquet stresses the difference between a turn end and a phase end.  A phase ends after twenty impetus have been cumulatively used.  A turn end occurs after a player's deck has been exhausted, or both players tie on their initiative roll.  This represents twenty minutes of game time elapsing.

Unfortunately, this can lead to "card counting".  If an army's deck includes only one deployment card for example, turning it over early in the turn means that both players know, without a shadow of a doubt, that that army will not encounter a deployment card again in that turn.  Piquet does a splendid job of simulating the fog of war in other respects; yet players are able to predict that an army will not be able to form square for the next twenty minutes?

That just doesn't seem right.  As a variant, to introduce a bit more of the uncertainty that is war, convert a phase end to turn end.  After twenty impetus have gone by, regard that as a turn end.  Reshuffle the cards and begin again.  Card decks will never be exhausted, so players will not be able to card count.

This variant will lead to a bit more card shuffling, but it can create some interesting battles.

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