Friday night after a busy week at work and another busy one to follow next week, with the weekend to look forward to; so how better to spend the evening than with Tom, Will and Steve M play-testing the latest set of Napoleonic rules to hit the streets.
I first mentioned getting a copy of these rules when I attended Colours last month and my glee at finding them waiting for me when I got back from the show.
I have been looking for a set of Napoleonic rules that would allow me to use my collection of figures with my friends who prefer a dice based set of rules to mine, Tom and Will's preference "Carnage & Glory II" on the computer.
The best aspect of C&G is the ability to have the effects of fatigue gradually erode the fighting capability of your army without having any annoying paperwork or mental strain at all. Thus commanders are able to just concentrate on managing the battle they are aiming to fight with the computer doing all the donkey work - love it.
So if I were going to spend time doing some of that donkey work to have the pleasure of rolling dice then I wanted a set of rules that could capture that fatigue aspect of G&G as closely as possible.
|View from the British lines in last night's play-test of Over the Hills
|The Contents pages made finding relevant sections through our game pretty straight forward
Caliver Books - Over the Hills
Last night was our first go with the rules to see how they play and to give you my first impressions.
So to test out the rules I put together a classic little ridge-line scenario on the Talavera table with a British brigade of three line battalions supported by a battery of 6lbr foot guns and a light cavalry brigade of British and a Portuguese light dragoons.
Across the valley eager to push the British "Rostbeefs" off their pinnacle was a French infantry brigade of six battalions of line infantry, supported by a battery of 8lbr foot guns and a light cavalry brigade of two regiments of chasseurs a cheval.
Each force was commanded by a divisional general.
We decided to play the game very much as we would a C&G scenario and then be able to compare and contrast how the rules model the game we would have expected to play.
|Fatigue Hit mini dice start to appear as the first shots are exchanged
The rules are written principally with 28mm scale figures in mind but with simple adaptions advised for the smaller scale gamer, namely to use centimeters or, as we chose, to halve the distances which are in inches. I immediately produced my own quick reference sheet with those changes and have a mind to move to paces so I can use my C&G range sticks in future.
The turn has a clear sequence of play with a simple die roll off at the start to decide which player starts with the initiative, with the higher roller deciding to either move first as Player A or second as Player B. Thus the player with the initiative (Player A) moves first but the defender (Player B) shoots first. The defending player then moves and then the player with the initiative shoots last. Thus the decision to close with the bayonet takes preparation as the defender shoots first and British infantry have a better potential than most at causing damaging hits on the way in.
Troop types are what you would expect, infantry, cavalry and artillery, categorised according to their training and experience as Guard, Line, Light and Skirmishers and are also classed on their 'elan' or willingness to fight and take casualties characterised in a numerical rating known as their Fatigue Score.
A typical line battalion of infantry 600 men strong (six bases) would rate a Fatigue Score (FS) of 7. This number can be adjusted up or down according to various factors at the start and during the game. Thus for example an over-strength battalion would increase the FS by one for every 100 men over 600 or vice versa for understrength units.
During the game the FS is adjusted by circumstances and damage collectively known as Fatigue Hits (FH) so crossing a small stream in our game caused units a one FH that reduced the units starting FS. Likewise hits from shooting similarly reduces unit FS ratings.
The importance of the FS rating is that this is the base number plus or minus situational factors that the player rolls against with a D10 when firing or rallying needing to score equal to or below to get a positive result.
Hits (FH) reduce the FS thus producing the fatigue effects of wear and tear throughout the game and they can be rallied off as commanders attempt to keep their units in the fight, however the total number of FH accrued throughout the game by a given side is compared against the total value of the Fatigue Score for a given force. When more than half that total has been reached the force is considered shattered despite the condition of its units at that time and either loses the battle or, if part of a larger force, becomes under compulsory withdrawal.
Example, a brigade of three battalions at FS 7 has a brigade FS value of 21 points thus when the total number of FH accrued throughout the game reaches 11 points the brigade is shattered and under withdrawal orders - simple.
|The typical historical stuff that fills modern rule sets today. Good background for the new student to the period
In addition commanders have a Control Factor (CF) number of between 1 and 5 indicating the number of units that a CO can influence at any given time such as during the rally phase, thus limiting what they can do at any time. The CF is also used to rally off FH on a unit, allowing the commander to allocate a number of D10 to the unit to roll to rally off the fatigue.
Finally, commanders can also have an Inspiration Factor ranging from -1 to +2 which can be added to a unit's FS rating during a rally test either having a positive or negative effect depending how inspirational or not they are.
|Tom pushes the French cavalry forward as the infantry close in on the British ridge
This is the basic game system for skirmishing, which was the least satisfying aspect for me and I would incorporate the advanced rule suggestions by looking to put my skirmish elements into combined light battalions and allow them to skirmish for their respective brigades which I think better models how these units actually fought.
|I have to say that I found the rules well written easily understood with the minimum of words used to set out each rule in an easy to follow order that mirrored the phases of play
Thus an infantry battalion in line can potentially move two segments forward or six inches but with the last segment of move putting a fatigue hit on the battalion. Conversely it could move just one segment of three inches without fatigue, or move one segment and change formation to attack column.
Infantry in assault column have three segments of movement with the third segment incurring a fatigue hit.
|The stream provided us an opportunity to inflict fatigue on movement and consider the difficulties of rallying it off whilst under fire. Off course having French infantry in assault column helps!
The FS can be further modified by the number of stands able to have line of sight to the target and thus able to fire and is calculated on 25 per cent increments of the FS.
Close combat is similarly calculated with the additional effects of what the target unit of an enemy move to contact chooses to do in response. The combats are resolved over a maximum of three rounds until one or both parties retreat or one side is broken.
|The British under pressure with their cavalry brigade shattered and their line unhinged whilst facing off French columns to their front. Steve's die rolling didn't help.
So on to our game and first impressions.
For our little play-test Tom and Will took the larger force the French and were offered the initiative by Steve who took command of the British.
I should say the players were encouraged to throw caution to the wind and put the units into the fray so we could assess how the rules would model given situations rather than play this as a typical scenario; although a loose objective was for the British to repulse French attempts to gain the summit of the British ridge position.
|Good use of pictures throughout the rules helped illustrate the various formations the armies can use
In addition both sides were quite aggressive bringing forward their light cavalry and getting into combat within a couple of moves.
We soon had fatigue hits caused across the opposing lines and general officers using their dice to get rid of them plus the odd unit halting for a phase and using their own Officers and NCO's to rally off the fatigue as an alternative.
|The book is full of easy to follow diagrams and tables with explanatory text to accompany. I have read poorly laid out rules and these are not in that category.
In one fire-fight with a British infantry battalion only needing to avoid rolling 0 on a D10 to inflict casualties on two French columns closing to combat, I don't need to tell you what Steve decided to roll.
We decided to play the Divisional and Brigade fatigue rules to determine game result and Steve threw in the towel with is cavalry brigade shattered and his division within two FH of losing and the French on a cushion of seven FH at the same stage.
|Several pages at the back provide the unit stats for the nations of the period which seem to me to pretty well cover just about any period or force most people would want to do.
In addition all the aspects a Napoleonic gamer would look for are built into these rules. These are not a Black Powder fits all sizes rule set and really strive to capture the feel of the defined period of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era with a basic game set of rules and plenty of add-ons in the advanced rule section.
The aspects alongside the fatigue that really ticked the box for me was the play sequence that kept both sides in the action of the game throughout. This is not your typical IGOUGO rule set and would, I think, be great in a large scale game in keeping all the players involved throughout.
The fact that combat, shooting and rallying are resolved with the use of a single D10 is also very appealing. I get that some of us like the old Gilder style games of picking up handfuls of D6 and scrutinising the roll result for fives and sixes but that is all very time consuming in the big Napoleonic game and this single die mechanic is very useful. I also like D10 as I find percentages of chance effects really easy to work with in my minds eye and very simple to adapt according to my taste.
|Our battle test reaches its climax with British morale teetering on the brink
The rule book currently comes with suggested unit statistics for the War of 1812 and the following;
Austria Hungary, Baden, Bavaria, Berg, Confederation of the Rhine, Brunswick, Denmark & Norway, France, Great Britain, Hanover, Hesse-Darmstadt, Italy, Nassau, Ottomans, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Spain, Sweden, Warsaw, Westphalia and Wurttemburg.
There is also talk of scenario books to follow with more specific force and unit stats. Personally I am happy to produce my own as these rules make such design very straight forward. We were playing with "vanilla" French and British forces last night, but were soon discussing enhancements to reflect different troop types.
|My re-write of the Quick Reference Sheet with half distances
for 15/18mm and the addition of the terrain effects table - see the link
below if you want a PDF copy.
As you might have guessed, I really like these rules based on the first game and I know there is more to them than we found last night. I always judge a good sign is when play flows along easily and players start to become unconsciously competent with only the occasional glance at the quick reference sheet.
Steve M is off to get a copy from Caliver Books and I am thinking of some games to take to club in the near future.
Don't get me wrong, Tom Will and myself are confirmed C&G players and for granularity and meatiness in a Napoleonic battle they are our rules of choice, but we would be thinking of this set if the computer broke down.
Definitely worth checking out.
Lots more stuff to come with some Dark Ages eye candy from Steve M Studios and some Spanish Dragoons ready for Talavera.