A Detailed Description of the Core Rules

What Piquet is all about is a revolution in game design. Designer Bob Jones simply believes that existing rules allow players to have too much control over the battle.

In many current wargames, all players have total knowledge as to the forces arrayed, their combat values and exact movement capabilities, and these 'generals' are guaranteed an immediate, unvarying, and predictable, response by their troops. They are in total control.

This NEVER happened on any battlefield throughout history!

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 75

These rules are designed to minimize predictability and to maximize the chaotic developments which characterize battle.

Building an Army

The army's leadership and quality will affect the number of cards in a sequence deck, and as these cards come up, an attentive commander will be able to take advantage of his opponent. As in poker, it's not the luck of the draw, but what you do with that luck.

- Piquet Master Rules, A Synopsis of Play, pg. 7

Two methods are provided for creating armies (in addition to doing your own research, or using pre-designed scenarios) - a point system and a percentage system. The point system uses a formula to determine the value of any unit. Alternately, the percentage system allows players to decide the total number of units in the army, then determine the makeup of those units using historical percentages.

Each army also has one Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), plus a number of sub-commanders (a maximum of between 2 to 8, depending on the historical period).

A dieroll is made for each leader, to determine his leadership quality: abyssmal, poor, average, skilled, or superior. The rating determines the leader's command radius. Better commanders-in-chief add "wild cards" to their Sequence Decks, while poor C-I-C's get cards which cause them to lose initiative.

This is followed by rolls for each unit, to discover their Battle Quality: vacillating, battle weary, ready, eager, or determined. The rating determines the unit's Base Die Value (a 4-, 6-, 8-, or 10-sided die). This value is modified based on the unit's type and weaponry, to determine three dice values - Fire, Melee, and Morale.

Depending on the size of the army, a number of Army Characterization cards are drawn. These cards award Morale Chips to an army, and may grant stratagems or unique characteristics. A Stratagem card allows a player to roll on the Stratagem Table to determine a pre-battle event (such as discovery of a hidden ford) or an in-battle event (such as a stirring speech which allows special cards to be added to the Sequence Deck). Unique Characteristics improve an army's fighting or maneuvering qualities (by inserting cards in the Sequence Deck), or grant modifiers for certain types of dierolls.

The army is then broken into Command Groups, with the maximum number of groups depending on the historical period.

Lastly, the Sequence Deck - including the standard cards, plus any cards added during army construction - is shuffled and readied for play. (Each army has its own deck.)

The Sequence of Play

Piquet is the only set of wargame rules where the sequence of play for the two armies changes on every turn, and may not only in sequence be different, but each army's deck may contain events not found in the opponent's deck!

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 78

The game is played in a series of turns. Each Turn is composed of a number of Phases, which in turn are composed of one or more Initiatives.

At the start of each phase, a pool of 20 Impetus Points (or pips) becomes available. Both players roll 20-sided dice. The high roller will get to play an Initiative, using a number of impetus points (won from the pool) equal to the difference in the dierolls.

Each pip can be spent to allow one unit or command group to perform one action. However, the only action allowed is that declared on the current Sequence Card. A given unit can only perform one action per card. A pip can also be spent to draw the next card in the Sequence Deck, thus allowing a new action type.

The initiative is over when the pips have been spent, or when a Command Indecision card comes into play (inferior C-in-C's only).

The phase is over when the impetus pool is drained, and the last initiative is complete.

The turn ends when:

The cards are then shuffled, and a new Turn commences.

If any army has any destroyed units, or any units which are currently routed, it must discard cards from its sequence deck after the shuffle. These cards are returned to the deck for the next shuffle, after which new cards will be discarded. This has a progressive dibilitating effect on an army.

Gradually an army will grind to a halt and be destroyed. At some point, retreat is the only viable option.

- Piquet Master Rules, Morale, pg. 53


Anyone who has tried to get their family into the car to start on a vacation knows that some things always take more time than they should (little Mary can't find her teddy bear) or less than we imagined (Jimmy and Jack have been in the back seat for 20 minutes, are bored, and have started to fight over who gets the armrest). If four or five people are hard to control, what about an army of 50,000 men?

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 75

The cards which allow movement are:

Rules illustrations of standard formations

Movement rate is determined by the unit type, its current formation, and the terrain. The standard rules recognize several types of formation: line, attack column, column of companies, column of route, skirmish order, deep formation, warband formation, and square/circle. Historical supplements may limit the use of certain formations.

Troops that come into base-to-base contact with enemy troops are considered Engaged, and are marked with tan cotton puffs ("dust"). Engaged troops are limited to certain actions: combat, rallying, and retiring.


The counter die roll combat and morale systems are designed to consider a number of pertinent variables - advantaging or disadvantaging one side or the other - and then deliver a decisive result.

This decisiveness is increased by a system that encourages "extreme" results. Extreme, in this case, means either combat results that eliminate large fractions of the targeted unit, or give a 'no effect' result. Since the time of a turn is up to a half hour, and we are interested in the general's view of success or failure, the system delivers clean, quick, and historically defensible results.

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 78

The act of firing is an interesting exception to the rule that every action requires the proper sequence card. Any unit can fire, spending one pip to do so, regardless of what sequence card is active. However, once a unit has fired, it is marked (usually with white cotton puffs) as "unloaded," and cannot fire again until reloaded.

These units await a reload card (photo from the core rules booklet)

In the design notes for the second edition core rules, Bob Jones explains that the fire/reload process is not meant literally, but is actually a way to regulate the firing rate of the units:

In retrospect, I wish I had opted for a card that said "Peak Fire Effect." Reload was such an easy concept that I went with it, only to have some literalist critics say "What! artillery or infantry run out of ammo and need to reload???"...

The best way to visualize this, is to think of fire going on at a constant low effect level until a reload card allows "peak effect" fire to once again occur.

...Above all, it brings home the point that commanding generals are not in a position to totally optimize and control tactical fire as they are in most wargames.

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 78,79

The possible combat cards in the standard sequence deck are:

When resolving combat, the attacker first determines what the unit's die type is. (Each unit is rated with a size of dice - from 4- to 12-sided - used for missile combat, and another size for melee combat.) The die type is then modified up or down, according to the modifiers listed on the Key Adjustments Table.

To resolve missile combat, the attacker then rolls the modified die type, while the defender rolls a 6-sided die. If the attacker rolls high, the difference in the results is the number of hits scored.

To resolve melee combat, both players roll their modified die type - the higher result wins, with the difference in the results being the number of hits scored. Depending on the margin of victory, the loser may suffer a morale penalty and be forced to retreat. A victorious cavalry unit must succeed at a prevention roll, or it will impulsively pursue the losing unit.

...the bulk of the effect being modeled is morale losses and the dissolution of the infrastructure of the unit that is absorbing firepower losses...

- Piquet Master Rules, Combat, pg. 45

As a general rule, a stand can take as many hits as it has figures. When the stand has taken its allowed number of hits, it is removed - or, optionally, eliminated stands can be left on the table until their entire unit is eliminated, thus showing that hits represent more than simple manpower reductions. Hits accumulate throughout the initiative.  At the end of the initiative, any remaining hits (i.e., not enough to kill a stand) are disregarded.

Artillery rules allow for high-angle fire, counter-battery attacks, smoothbore penetration (that is, damage applying to multiple target rows), and fire against structures.

Command Groups and Leaders

The most efficient way to spend impetus pips is to spend one pip to allow an entire command group to perform an action, rather than to pay pips for individual units. (Important exception: Firing and reloading is always done on a per unit basis, never as a command group.)

The increase in efficiency gained by moving as a command group is obvious. The lack of flexibility incurred by having only a few command groups is equally apparent.

- Piquet Master Rules, Command, pg. 29

A command group is a flexible concept which may represent a wing, brigade or command, depending on the period. An army can have as many command groups as its maximum number of sub-commanders (varies by historical period).

Units may be organized into command groups at the start of play. If a unit performs an independent action (other than firing and reloading), it no longer belongs to its command group. Difficult terrain may also prevent a command group from operating as a group. If a unit is farther from another unit in its group that it can travel in one move, it is no longer part of the command group.

The sequence cards which pertain to command and control are:


Piquet is about managing diverse, ever changing, variables in a fluid situation, not, as in many wargames, managing constants in a rigidly structured, flxed, situation.

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 79

Each army starts play with a random number of Morale Chips. Certain actions require the expenditure of a Morale Chip, and once an army is out of chips, it can no longer perform these actions:

Chips are also lost involuntarily for these reasons:

If a player is out of chips and cannot pay an involuntary charge, the opposing player instead gains chips equal to the unpaid amount.

Units may need to test their morale under two circumstances. The first is a Tactical Morale Check, which is brought on when the opposing player pays a chip to issue a Morale Challenge. The second is when a Major Morale Check sequence card is activated.

The Major Morale Check card does not begin play in the sequence deck, but is added once an army has its first routed or destroyed unit. If the player's army is in better shape than the opposing army, the card has no effect when played. Otherwise, the C-in-C must pay a chip and make a dieroll to protect his army - if he succeeds, nothing happens. If the C-in-C fails, then all of the sub-commanders must attempt the dieroll (and pay chips). If any sub-commander fails, all units in his command group must take morale tests.

As a result of a morale test, a unit may be disordered or routed, and a routed unit may or may not be capable of being rallied. A routed unit must move when any sequence card allows, using any available impetus points to do so.

A player wins bonus impetus pips for causing an enemy unit to rout, but only if this occurs during that player's initiative.


At the start of play, each player begins with a full pool of opportunity pips. The maximum size of the pool varies depending on the era and the army.

Opportunity pips are spent during the other player's initiative, and allow friendly units to:

Once a player has spent an opportunity pip, he can replace it during his initiative by transfering an impetus pip to the opportunity pool.

Unusual Events

It doesn't take too many history books before the novice wargamer finds some fascinating and colorful event that he wants to introduce into his games. He writes a rule to cover this rare, but exciting event. He has almost certainly triggered the Law of Unintended Consequences.

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 76

Piquet has an unusual approach to handling unique events. Rather than complicating the rules by adding special cases for those rare happenings, this game system allows a unique event to occur by slipping a special one-use-only card into the sequence deck. Players are encouraged to come up with their own cards for their own scenarios. A few "unique" cards are mentioned in the core rules:

In addition to the one-use-only cards, there is also a recurring card with a random effect:

Unique events can truly be unique....Upon its appearance, this colorful event can be enjoyed for its novelty, challenge, and fun, and then immediately removed from play. Rather than muddling up the entire game play, it only affects the one moment and then is gone, remaining as fleeting and ephemeral as its historical precedent.

- Piquet Master Rules, Designer Notes, pg. 78

Last Updates
18 September 1998page first published
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