Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TOWARD A MORE REASONABLE BAR

     Anyone who wants to add a little Frederician flavor to their next game of Battles from the Age of Reason, give these House Rules a spin, compliments of the My Daily Dragoon staff.

BAR HOUSE RULES

1) Attack column: Does not exist.

2) Square: A unit cannot enter square formation except as a Reaction move.

3) Reaction Moves: Units can react to the approach of enemy infantry in the same way as they can to enemy cavalry.

4) Target Size Fire Modifier: 1R per every 3 SPs above 6 in a hex.
0-6 = No Shift
7-9 = 1R
10-12 = 2R
13+ = 3R

5) During Fire Combat, units take a MC on both even and odd die rolls.

6) Close Combat: Only 4 Infantry SPs can attack/defend from a hex. 
Only 6 Cavalry SP s can attack/defend from a hex.
(All units in a stack share the same retreat/rout results.)



7) Infantry can stack and form line in 3 hexes, thus X-ST-X. (X = hex extended into. ST = 2 or more stacked units.) In this configuration, 5 SPs can fire/attack from a hex. (Otherwise, only 4 as normal -- or just make 5 the standard if that's easier.) Regardless of the size of the stacked units, spread the SPs as evenly as possible. (2 units of 700 each is spread 5-4-5.) A minimum of 4 SPs per hex. A stack must consist of at least 12 SP.
     When stacked, each unit is treated as a separate unit. When a Disorder Check is called for, each takes the check separately, etc.
     The unit on top of the stack is considered to occupy the left and middle hex. The unit on the bottom occupies the right and middle hex. If a middle hex is fired upon, randomly determine which unit takes a single hit. Split multiple hits evenly.

8) Army Morale: Keep track of casualties and morale on the brigade-by-brigade basis. Do not keep track of army morale or total casualties.
+5 to MC die rolls per 10% casualties. (For example, a brigade has 5 units of 6 SP each, for a total of 30 SP. When 15 SP have been checked off, all MCs for that brigade have a +25 ER modifier.)
+2 per Initiative level for a leader that is killed. (The death of a leader with a “4” Initiative incurs a +8 mod.)
Calculate morale at the beginning of each turn.



9) Command Control: An Out of Command Command Leader takes an Initiative check as normal to Activate. If it passes, its formation acts normally. If it fails, all units of this command (even units OOC) can make one action only – Change Facing (any number of hexsides), Change Formation, Move 1 hex (no facing change). Leader moves normally. Combat is unaffected. (So a unit could move 1 hex and engage in combat.)
     If a leader fails his initiative check by 1, roll a second die. If <= Initiative rating, the Leader's formation must Attack. All units move at top speed (use Rapid March, if possible) toward the nearest enemy and attempts to engage in Close Combat.
     If > Initiative Rating, the Leader's formation falls back. All units move away from nearest enemy. If facing the enemy, move backward. Otherwise, move normally (no Rapid March is required).

10) Automatic In Command: If all units of a command are in column formation, the command is automatically in command. Independent units in column/limbered can be included here.
     If >= ½ of the command's units are adjacent to an enemy unit, the command is automatically in command.

11) Light Infantry: Any fire combat number result obtained by Skirmishers, is not a step loss but a MC modifier. (Ex. A skirmisher unit scores a 3(!) against an enemy infantry. The enemy takes a MC with a +30 morale modifier and suffers no step loss. [I say (!) because it has actually happened. Yes, 300 men firing caused 300 casualties on a fresh unit...]) 




NOTES FROM THE HOUSE
1) Frederick actually got the idea for the Attack Column by witnessing it on the battlefield when something similar formed by accident. Thereafter, he considered it a "state secret" and would occasionally order assaults by cold steel alone, no firing allowed. These assaults were uniformly unsuccessful, with whatever success they achieved being due to supporting artillery fire and not the moral effect of the infantry charge.

2) Square was rarely used on the battlefield during the SYW and only then as a result of a cavalry attack on the flank of an infantry unit. The front of an infantry unit could easily repulse a cavalry charge and when charged in the rear, the rear rank would simply about-face.

3) If a defending unit can change facing to face a charging cavalry unit, it can turn to face the ponderous advance of an infantry unit, too. It's like being run down by a steamroller.

4) If you want to form 1600-man stacks in 100-yard hexes, have at it!

5) Not enough morale-checkin going on out there!

6 & 7) This is where we get back to linear warfare and not Napoleonic warfare. You can make frontage rules regarding 4-rank lines, too, if you want. I'd just be happy with the proper frontage for your basic Prussian infantry battalion. Sometimes, you learn to set the BAR low. (Get it?)

8) The extreme right flank doesn't always know what the left is doing.

9) The BAR command rules as written are backwards. In reality, it is hard to get a leader moving, but once engaged, hard to stop. In BAR, formations are easy to move around, harder to engage. The "failing by 1" thing is just for fun.

10) A body in motion stays in motion. A body in combat stays in combat.

11) A truer depiction of skirmishers than BAR's little killing machines.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

BORODINO 7AM


     What an eventful, and slightly crazy, first hour. Though making progress, the French are taking grievous losses to artillery fire -- mainly, but not only, from the Bagration Fleches. Their 12-hex range "Positional" artillery, the 27-18-9 guys, are killers. The French have lost a number of artillery increments to "ricochet" without ever having had a chance to unlimber. When that artillery chit is drawn, you can't help but wince a little.
     Here's the overall situation:


     The action is taking place in 3 sectors: Borodino, III Corps and the Fleches. Let's have a look at Borodino first.

THE BATHHOUSES ARE CLOSED!

   

     By rule, Infantry deployed in Skirmish formation must Retreat Before Assault. This spells trouble in a congested area like Borodino. After one of these retreats, the assaulting unit must advance and can, if there is a unit in front of it, declare that it is assaulting again. This led to multiple retreats and advances. This French battalion advanced all the way through the town and across the river, driving skirmishers before it. It is about to get a snootful of canister, though. Inside the orange square is one of those brutal 27 FP arty units. That'll be a 27:6 shot, +2 columns right, or -- gulp! -- 6:1. "Say 'ello to my little friend!"
     Red lines show French advances, light blue is a repulse along the steep bank, and yellow are Russian retrograde movements. Er, I mean "advances to the rear."

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET



     III Corps is just beginning to come to grips with the enemy. Skirmishers exchange fire. The artillery slogs through the rough terrain. Marshal Ney, now Activated, will be bringing the rest of the III next turn. 

ARE YOU SURE IT'S NOT TIME FOR A COLORFUL METAPHOR?


The brown lines show where some units have taken shelter in a gully.

     Just as in the real battle, General Compans, leader of the 5th Division, goes down with a wound. But, hey, a little shrapnel in the head never hurt anybody. He'll be back in an hour. 
     But in the meantime, the 5th is nothing more than a Russian pinata. (A little cultural appropriation there, methinks). General Rapp, an ADC from Napoleon's staff, takes command (as he did historically). He's an excellent leader, so I think it's just about "go-time" for the 5th. (Davout, now also Activated, is bringing up the rest of the I Corps, too.)
     Earlier in the turn, the route through the woods to the flank of the Fleches was opened by a squadron of lancers. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Here's how it went down.

LANCING A RUSSIAN BOIL




     Having last turn retreated before assault, this Russian Jaeger finds his hind end hanging out in midair. Something like that is hard to miss, and these Lancer's eyes light up like full moons. (Get it?) "Le Charge!!" they cry. 
     The Rooskies could have done a number of things, but they attempt to form square, which fails. This is actually a good thing, because the battalion "disrupts" back into the brush. The Lancers strike, but in the rugged terrain they are repulsed. 


     The French are calling this a moral victory, however, if not a decisive one. The path to the Fleches Flank is now open. 

     It is now 7AM. The Russians should have a nice response coming in the next hour. 
     Until then, don't take any wooden rubels!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

NEW FORUM UP AND RUNNING!!

The new My Daily Dragoon FORUM is now up and running!! Go to the top of this page and get clicking. Let's talk some wargaming, boys! Let's get this party started!

Click the button above "FORUM." This will take you to a page with a link called "CLICK HERE." That will take you to the forum. When you get there, be sure to register. The more the merrier!

Monday, August 7, 2017

FEU FIGHTERS: BORODINO 6AM

       The first couple turns of the full battle scenario of my new favorite game, La Bataille de la Moscowa, are in the books. Well, almost. I still have the 6:20 AM Fire and Assault Phases yet to play. The Assault Phase should only take a minute or two. The Fire Phase will consist of hot Russian cannonballs slicing through Frenchmen like ninepins. Maybe that's why I put it off until later. Gulp!
     Let's have a look at the early action.

Follow the bouncing balls.
     Speaking of ninepins, here's the bowling alley. The red lines are the trajectory of Russian cannon fire from the "Bagration Fleches." This is where I made my first mistake of the day. As the French player, I forgot to bring my artillery forward on the first turn (circled in blue). This leaves the 5th division at the mercy of the Russian guns. And effective they were, too. Several disruptions, 3 increments KIA and half-a-battery of limbered artillery all shot to hell.
     The idea here was to screen my advance with my light cavalry (the blue wavy line -- the screen on the French right has been dismantled). The problem is the cannonballs go right through them, causing all sorts of havoc to my infantry columns in the rear.
     On turn 2, I started to bring the guns up and spread out my infantry, putting all my battalions in line. This will help a little.
     I want to at least get in a few shots at the Russians before launching my assault. But standing still under that fire is going to be hard.
     The 61st Bde of the 5th engages the Russian jaegers in the brush. An assault will push them back. The idea here to get through the skirmish line and attack the earthworks from the flank.
     (The little blue arrow at the top of the picture shows a confab taking place between Napoleon and two of his marshals, Davout and Ney. Davout wants to hit the Fleches with his entire 1st Corps. I think Napoleon will go for that idea.)


     At the same time, Ney's 3rd Corps struggles through the rugged terrain toward the Great Redoubt. A steep bank of a dry streambed is defended by a screen of Jaegers. The Corps artillery has one path through the woods (shown in green) and then only a single path beyond the streambed. I'd like to set the guns up at the edge of the woods and blast away for a while, but it's pretty slow going through the brush.

The Marshals meet with Napoleon's vest in an open field. Getting the okay to unleash the I and III Corps. 
I pilfered some "General Order" counters from BAR.

     17 Bde/1st Div/I Corps crosses a swampy stream towards a steep bank guarded by Russian Jaegers. That's called "doing it the hard way." With Ney coming through the woods on the right, these guys look to make Raevesky's Redoubt not so great. 30 Bde crosses the bridge and launches an assault into the village.
     At the same time, IV Corps makes for the flank. The town is held only by some light infantry. The French catch them lounging ingloriously in the town's saunas. (Russian historians will cover this up for years afterward.)
    Russian VI Corps wants to push its Jaegers into the bend of the river at the top of the screen and into the village on its far bank. Cossacks approach from the top-left, off the screen.
     Also on the Russian side, Barclay and Bagration station themselves with various Corps leaders, awaiting their chance to "activate" for a counterattack as Kutusov can't be bothered. Other ADCs and Artillery leaders move to where they might do the most good. This is probably the most challenging part of the game, both mentally and physically. (It's hard to tell one leader from another -- this is the hunt-and-peck of wargaming. Slightly annoying, but awesome!)
     Until next time, don't take any wooden nickels!

Friday, August 4, 2017

DEPLOYING THE A-TEAM

     No more screwing around. This time, I mean business!
     La Bataille de la Moscowa on one table, Advanced Squad Leader on another. And even though I just bought Revolution Road and Redvers' Reverse, I have a feeling another newcomer will soon occupy the third: 1914, Twilight in the East.


On Table 1: La Bat. I'm still working through the Shevardino scenario. Huge amount of play value in this package.
     I like La Bat more every time I play it. The rules are what wargame rules should be. They don't force you into historic tactics. Rather, they encourage you to use them; i.e., you're a fool if you don't. Many games I've played lately simply dictate this or that. This happens. Period. Why? Shut up! It just does. By the way, you're banned.
     For example, in Washington's Crossing (not to just pick on this game, of course), Rall suffers surprise automatically when Washington makes his attack. Yawn! I think we can do better, fellas. I expect better.
     That's one of the reasons I've deployed the A-team this weekend. I want to play some games that I know deliver. These two are proven winners.

On Table 2: Advanced Squad Leader. "War of the Corporals," a scenario I downloaded from the net. The boards are from Beyond Valor and counters from the original Yanks
     Besides my beloved rulebook, all that was left of my original ASL collection were American counters from Yanks and British counters from West of Alamein. I repurchased the original BV ( before I even knew there was an updated one -- d'oh!) and downloaded a bunch of new and old scenarios from the internet. I just put in an order from MMP for mapboards 1-6, so I should be up and playing some of those old classics in no time.

What is left of my ASL stash. American and British armies in sandwich bags inside a shoe box. The light! It burns! It burns! The boys have been waiting thirty years for this moment.  
Here's a pic of a page from Chapter E that came with Yanks. It's all gliders, and paratroops, and air support and rubber boats and a bunch of other stuff I never used. Look at the page here: it's in totally mint condition. The little-used counters too. The bag they're stored in still has counter chaff inside. LOL! 
     I've only played a couple turns of "War of the Corporals" and the narrative is already strong and engaging. The first turn a German HMG and a 80mm Mortar broke down. The Yanks are rapidly advancing and Jerry's cussing up a schnitzelstorm trying get them fixed.
     The unknown this weekend is 1914, Twilight in the East. I will make no snap judgments. But it's giving me that "play-me" look. Brazen hussy!


Saturday, July 22, 2017

LITTLE BUNDLE OF JOY - THE 4 Rs

     One of the wonders of the age we live in is the brave new world of parcel tracking. I ordered a couple of items from NWS about 2 weeks ago only to wake up this morning to see that my package was "out for delivery." Ah, those three magical words! Ever since then, I've been busy preparing my game room for the new arrival. And here's the little bundle of joy now!

The 4 Rs in situ.
      I have a lot of gaming to do, but I couldn't resist these. In the case of Redvers' Reverse, the obscurity of the topic is what got me. The fact that it is a solitaire game is icing on any already awesome cake.
     As for Revolution Road, check out the video I linked to in a previous post. People this enthusiastic about their product just have to be supported. I'm happy to do it! The producers also invoked David Hackett Fisher's Paul Revere's Ride, one of my favorite books. I won't hold it against them that they also recommended Nathaniel Philbrick -- this time. Makes me wonder. That's a pretty big lapse of judgment there, boys.
     In the gaming world, I'm looking for new blood. And this is exactly what I got. This will be my first experience with Legion -- and, if RevRoad proves not so good, my last with Compass. My previous Compasses include End of Empire (3 out of 10); On to Paris (1 out of 10);and Fornovo (1 out of 10). I have bought -- but have yet to try -- Saipan, the Bloody Rock. But looking at the errata on ConsimWorld does not fill me with confidence.
     Anyway, this is meant to be a joyous occasion, so let's be positive, shall we? Oh, yes, let's!

     Revolutionary Road

     I mean Revolution Road, the Compass Games' "Shot-Heard-Round-the-World/Don't-Shoot-Till-You-See-The-Whites-Of-Their-Eyes" double header, and not the shitty Richard Yates novel, which he more or less rewrote verbatim some years later, calling it The Easter Parade. Sometimes a guy has only one idea....Oops, digression alert! 
     Anyway, Revolution Road is actually two-two two-games-in-one! Each has its own map and rulebook. It also has the most adorable dice bag and dice I've yet seen in a game. 

The dice in their little bag are just darling! The game with the lid off: cards, Bunker Hill rulebook, adorable dice, Compass catalog. Compass is known for their high production values. This game is no different.
      Compass makes a great first impression. I can't wait to play these games. What's more, they come with solitaire rules -- and solitaire AI for both sides (which they refer to as the British Bot and the American Bot.)

Two games in one. One countersheet, a shitload of player aid cards, and 2 rulebooks. Wow! Awesome first impression. (Fornovo made an awesome first impression, too. So did End of Empire. So did On to Paris! One must learn to temper one's enthusiasm.)

      Redvers' Reverse

     I'm assuming this game is about some guy named Redvers for whom things don't go quite so well. But I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know it is a game covering the Battle of Coleso, 1899, a  Boer War action. (This is the same year both of my grandsires were born. Neither is still with us, obviously. But it's curious how extended back in time we all are...Just a thought.) 
     Legion Wargames does not share the lavish Compass Games' production values. But it's close. Real close. Only the B&W rulebook sets them apart. What the game includes are a wonderful map and truly giant-sized counters, maybe 3/4" or more. (After having set up La Bataille de la Moscowa on my table, I can really really [that's 2xreallies] appreciate the big counters. My old eyes thank you, too.) The game appears to be solitaire only.  And that's good, since I am also solitaire only.
     What I love about what I've seen so far of Legion Wargames is the obscurity of the subject matter of their games. If I'd been paying closer attention, The Battle of Tanga, 1914 would have been in this box, too. If Redvers turns out good, we'll be shrinking the rip-rap off of Tanga next for sure. (I mean ripping the shrink-wrap. I got ahead of myself there. Shrink-wrap and rip-rap are different things entirely. Shrink-wrap is where you find awesome games lurking. Rip-rap is where you find awesome largemouth bass lurking. Why I remember one spot...Oops, digression alert!!!) 

If Legion performs well here, it will have earned a permanent place in my obscure-battle-loving heart!

      Total Immersion

     I like to immerse myself in the games I play. That means reading books. I've already read Paul Revere's Ride. (Early in the book, we learn that Mr. Revere wrote the word "marsh" as "mash." It's like having his voice tape recorded! I suspect his night ride to Concord would have gone quicker if he hadn't left his khakis in the pocket of  his khakis!) 
      For Redvers' Reverse, I picked up this (.99-cents for Kindle): 

A memoir of the Boer War. Mr. Reitz regrets going to war.
     For Revolution Road, I picked up this (.99 for Kindle -- don't let some 21st century charlatan sell you a "sensitively edited" version for $15.99):

A memoir of the Revolutionary War. Mr. Martin regrets going to war. See a pattern developing here?
        Keep an eye on My Daily Dragoon for play-throughs of both of these games.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ON TO MOSCOW!

     Preparing for the big one: The full Battle of Borodino.

The complete OOB, ready for deployment, suh!
My cardboard minions, awaiting orders.
In all its glory. 75 miles to Moscow.
First stop: Borodino. Appears to be lightly defended.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO PARIS

     There's a reason I'm generally leery of snap judgments. The problem is I wanted it too bad. Seems to be a recipe for disappointment. My head knew better. My heart said otherwise. (Lousy heart...)
     If my initial reaction to On to Paris! seemed too good to be true, that's because it was.
     Here's the problem in a nutshell: The French leaders are all vastly over-rated. Remember my last post when I wasn't doing too well against them. I thought it was due to my lack of experience with the game, that I just had to try harder. Maybe if I cut off their supply first... No, the French leaders are better at reacting than their opponents. Maybe if I concentrated on picking off isolated corps...No, only bad leaders would leave corps isolated, plus the reaction thing again. There's actually nothing you can do. With all those awesome leaders, the French should never lose a single battle, unless it's due to the French player's incompetence. Once he understands the rules of the game, he should never lose. He might even contemplate taking the offensive!

Heeeeeeere's Patrice! Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. (Apparently made Duke prior to the invention of 16-color EGA graphics.) The game treats him as though he were Napoleon himself -- and I mean I, not III! History has not been so kind.
      In every battle, you count all leaders on both sides. Almost every Prussian leader is a 0, so that's easy. 7 of 9 starting French Corps leaders are +1 or +2. So a 3 Corps per side, the Prussians start off in a -3 hole. In addition to that, the French automatically get a +2 due to -- get this -- Prussian incompetence! You've gotta be kidding me! Look, combat rolls are only 2D6. If you're getting an automatic +5, you're almost always rolling at max. 
     What's the big Prussian benefit? Artillery. At first this seems like a big deal, since the Prussians routinely double or triple the French. But while this looks impressive on paper, in practice it only accounts for maybe a +1 difference, maybe a SP or two.  

+'s are good. These look more like Napoleon I's army, not Napoleon III's.
      I don't want to make a huge deal about it. I went back and looked at Hozier's Franco-Prussian War book to see what the story is about French leadership. I highlighted a few passages until I lost heart. At some point you just have to say "F-it, I'm moving on."
     According to my reading of Hozier, most battles were lost by French leadership before they ever started. In one passage, speaking of De Failly, a leader in MacMahon's army (in the game, MacMahon is depicted as a military genius of the first order), Hozier says: "Trusting to a vague idea that the enemy were on the defensive, he neglected this obvious precaution."
     But wait! There's more....

     "A girl thirteen years of age gave, for a thaler, much useful information [to the Prussians] concerning the division of General Douay." The Prussians managed to find a source of info. It cost them a buck. Probably could've been had for some candy, if they'd had any. The French command couldn't be bothered with such trifles as reconnaissance and various forms of info-gathering. This was MacMahon again. Not Ed, either.
     "Although the fight lasted so long, no supports were sent to the French general from Marshal MacMahon."
     "For the isolation of his division [at Wissembourg] MacMahon must be held in some degree accountable."
     "[By doing this thing just mentioned] it is not impossible that a check might have been inflicted on the Prussian commander. Nothing, however, of the kind was attempted."
     "De Failly...misinterpreting orders....remained immovable while the German army was being concentrated." De Failly again. At least he's rated 0 -- the same as all the Prussian leaders who did not remain immobile (but that's another story). Note also that he is in MacMahon's army and MacMahon has a 4 reaction rating (the best on the board) and +2 re-roll rating (also best, similar to Alexander the Great presumably).
     "MacMahon...knew that the prince was marching upon him...[but] had no idea of that army's strength and was even unaware of its exact whereabouts." A 4 Reaction rating! "He had no scouts or spies thrown out, no organization of outposts, none of the precautions usually adopted by a leader of armies to warn him of his enemy's vicinity." 4!
     "Fortunately for the Germans, the French were left by their generals with a most inadequate supply of artillery -- one of those unaccountable mistakes which marked French generalship as a MAIN CAUSE OF THE DISASTERS TO THE IMPERIAL ARMIES IN THE CAMPAIGN." (Emphasis added.)
     I could go on and on. We're far from finished with MacMahon, and haven't even started in on Frossard and Bazaine and the rest of these Gallic clowns. A true comedy of errors. As a hopeful fan of On to Paris!, it just becomes too depressing.
     In the end, I can only say this: F-it, I'm moving on!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

ARE WE IN PARIS YET?

     I've been wanting to play On to Paris! since December, but it seemed like I always had something better to do. Too many games, too little time. A lot of us are in that boat. But do yourself a favor and learn from my mistake. Whatever you do, MAKE TIME for ON TO PARIS!


     I'm usually leery of making snap judgements, but I feel pretty safe with this one, even though I have yet to complete a full turn. Laugh if you want, but I've been playing for a number of hours now and these have been some of the most rewarding hours I've spent wargaming. Granted I've done pretty poorly for the Prussians. I'm definitely not blowing the French out of the water as I expected. Maybe it'll turn out that the Prussians can't win or something or the game is fatally flawed in some other area, but for now I can say that this is the best operational level wargame I've ever played -- and that goes for WWII games, too.

As you can see, I'm not exactly steamrolling the French.
     I think it is more likely that it means you're going to have to apply some brainpower to win this one. I find myself thinking about it in my downtime.
     It uses a Movement-Reaction mechanism that is both engaging, innovative and fun. I know, I know...It borrows from Victory Games' The Civil War. But that was 30 years ago, folks. Let's move on, shall we?
     I still love Alice Cooper, but I know nostalgic tender feelings when I see them. I had The Civil War back in the day, too. And guess what? I found it just okay. In fact, I didn't play it much. The way people talk, you'd think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. If it had been produced by -- oh, I dunno -- West End Games, people'd be saying The Civil What Now? Admit it! (Sheeple! But I don't mean that in a bad way...)

I originally had a problem with the size of the printing. But I turned the map upside-down, putting me closer to the action and I find that helps a lot. Every other complaint was just picking nits. I'm ashamed, actually. It's a beautifully produced game overall.
Sorry about the light, but I wanted you to see the whole picture. The manual suggests cutting out the Army Cards and placing them wherever is convenient. Those are what you see on the map (3 of them, a couple more on the side). I photocopied them first, though.
The Strength Points that make up the Corps are kept track of on each side's Corps Cards. Convenient and easy, better than stacks of SP counters on the map.
The piece de resistance (I use the French because I don't speak Prussian. All right, I don't really speak French, either.) The 10-step combat sequence. For gamers like me, this is Valhalla. My first battle took me an hour to go through. My last one, more like a half-hour. 
     Most readers know me by now. I like complex, process-heavy games with strong period ambience and meticulous historical veracity. This game has all of this in spades. This is really a Franco-Prussian War game, and not some generic exercise dressed up in pointy helmets.
     I feel a bit like a schmuck in carrying on like this, but I actually get butterflies thinking about this game. I think I'm in love!

 WHY DID WASHINGTON CROSS THE RIVER?

     To kick Rall's ass. 
     I'm taking some time off work this week. My goal is to learn On to Paris! and Washington's Crossing, another game that I just never seem to have time for. This one is from Revolution Games. This is another innovative system borrowing from a decades-old system by a decades-old designer I've never heard of. Look, good designers borrow; great designers steal. Okay? Lots of hand-wringing guilt out there. Just make your games and quit worrying about it!
     
Washington's Crossing has one of the best maps I've ever seen. Just beautiful!
     
The game emphasizes leadership and has a cool river-crossing mechanism. The game feels complex. It feels like something you can really sink your teeth into. Nice period feel. But a sort of skimpy production outside of the map and counters. On to Paris! includes nicely-produced army histories and leader bios. Washington's Crossing could use something like that.






BOOKS TO GAME BY

     I know more about Franco-Armerican Spaghetti-Os than I do about the Franco-Prussian War. But that is changing rapidly thanks to H.M. Hozier's 2-volume account of the war, The Franco-Prussian War. (Who names these things?)

     I got both volumes from Amazon for my Kindle for $1 each. Both are something like 600 pages. The actual war doesn't start until about page 400 of Volume 1. This is a comprehensive account, brother! An excellent read, too.



      Washington's Crossing is simply an outstanding book. Even if you're not playing the game, read this book. Just do it. Hey, are you still reading this? Go get the book!

MORE, MORE, MORE!

     Inspired by what I've been playing lately, I've just ordered a couple more, one from Compass and one from Legion. What I'm looking for is new blood. I absolutely believe that some of the designers who've been around a while have become a little jaded. (No! You think?) Well, they lasted a lot longer than I ever would have. It's a shitty business, even for big guys. It's even shittier for the small fries. Just sayin'. It's hard to put up with people like me. 

A solitaire game. Boer War.
     I forgot to mention....Another thing I'm attracted to are obscure topics. That's what made me look at this Boer War game from Legion. War is a dirty business. But even the Boer War is better than having to constantly choose between Nazis and Commies -- even though the Brits can be pretty nasty. You guys are awesome now, though (<<cough-cough>>not really<<cough-cough>>).
     Washington's Crossing has put me in a  revolutionary frame of mind, so....

     I'm supporting the little guys, the new guys. I'm giving them a chance. New wine in old wine skins and all that. Time for some fresh blood. (Don't tell anybody, but I'm actually thinking about giving End of Empire another shot -- AmRev style this time.)

     I love the passion of these new guys. Milan Becvar (of On to Paris!) and now these guys. Look at this video they produced. You have to support people like this!

     Until next time, happy gaming !

Friday, July 7, 2017

PRUSSIANS AND RUSSIANS

     I'm new to the La Bataille series of Napoleonic games from Clash of Arms, and so far I've been pretty impressed. Impressed enough that I've already added to my collection before I've even played the first game. (But isn't that par for the course? You guys know what I'm talking about.)
     Arriving this week were Lutzen and Ligny. No, not an eighties detective show, but two new La Batt games. New to me, anyway. Lutzen was published in 1999 while Ligny was published just this year.

      Moscow is a nice package, Ligny is even better. I found the Moscow maps a little thin, but Ligny's maps are definitely made of tougher stuff. The artwork on both is superb, and the counters are first rate, too. Lutzen is okay, as well, but showing its age, especially in the counter art.
     What is not so good are the rules that come with the games. Ligny comes with the "5th Edition" rules. The rules themselves might be okay, but the material quality is just about as cheap as cheap can be. Somewhere in the game, you are informed that you can buy a full-color digital copy of the rules -- which might not sit well with someone who just forked over $150 for a stinkin' game. (I paid $70 -- I'm getting smarter.) I've already had printed and bound a copy of the "Reg XXX" rules which to me are better than the either the "Marie Louise" rules (or whatever they're called -- these come with Moscow) or the 5th Edition. Both of these are streamlined versions of XXX. Talk about rules confusion! Why COA does this is beyond me.
     Worse for Ligny is that apparently COA is having some trouble with its box supplier and so the game ships in a ziplock bag. I got a $10 discount from NWS for this, but I was really hoping to snag an existing box before they're all gone. Too late, I guess. Anyway, NWS put the ziplocked game in a plain white box, so I least I have some decent storage for it. NWS is my new go-to supplier.

DOUBTS AND REDOUBTS

     Yeah, La Batt is awesome -- for the most part. I'm having a little trouble making the Shevardino scenario from Moscow work, though. It is impossible to duplicate the French performance -- and I think I found out why.

     In reality, the French captured the redoubt pretty easily -- at least by the standards of this game. That's not going to happen in this scenario. The book you see pictured above (which, oddly, is listed in the game's bibliography -- apparently no one actually read it!) asserts that the hastily-constructed redoubt was not large enough to accommodate more than 3 guns. The scenario has 3 "increments" of guns in the redoubt -- an equivalent of 12 guns. That's a short-range firepower of 27!
     What this means in the game is that if you're assaulting this position, you'll be facing at least an 8:1 shot, maybe a 10:1, depending on the size and formation of your assaulting troops. This will result in a minimum of 2 or 3 hits, for a final assault modifier of -12 or -18, a guaranteed failure.
     That's not how it happened historically. Not even close. It wasn't pretty, to be sure, but it wasn't no guaranteed failure either.
     I have a few changes in mind to make this scenario historically accurate:

1) Reduce the Russian artillery inside the redoubt from 3 increments to 1. 27 firepower becomes 9.

2) According to the book above, the redoubt did not shield the occupants from French fire from a hill 250m away. This hill is depicted on the game map, so I propose that the redoubt defenders taking fire from this hill do not get any benefit from the redoubt. (Historically, the French planted a battery here and did much damage -- not possible in the game as it stands.)

3) This is a pet peeve of mine and needs addressing in this game. As it stands, casualties are counted FAR too low in victory reckoning. This scenario becomes a blood-bath if played straight out of the box. The Russians can win easily simply by committing his elite grenadiers from turn 1. Why shouldn't he? There's no reason not to! Casualties mean virtually nothing. For example, the loss of 20 cannon is worth the same as the VPs awarded for the capture of the insignificant village of Doronino! Does anyone believe that place is worth the loss of 20 cannon or 1000 casualties?
     The formula for awarding VPs for losses is (# increments x Mod)/10. The Mod for artillery is 2. So you lose 1 VP for 5 increments of guns (the equivalent of 20 guns). The next time I play, I'm leaving the French VPs as is, but losing the /10 part for the Russians. The Russians would far rather preserve their forces (especially their cannon) than retain this rather insignificant position which half the Russian generals did not want to fight for in the first place. This will also encourage the Russian player to be cautious in committing his forces unnecessarily, something which should be a feature of EVERY game, not just this one.

BEST. DESIGNER. EVER.

     Wargame producers sure do talk a good game, but sometimes you wonder, don't you? With two pages of fine-print bibliography which includes references to "primary" and "secondary" sources (Oh, please, people!), you'd think someone might have noticed that the first introductory scenario is woefully unrealistic!
     So even my new favorite game is not without its blemishes. I'm a stickler for historical accuracy. I like to be put in the position of the actual commander and face the same decisions he had to make, and make them for the right reasons.
     I hate having to make house rules and hate having to test house rules for a game I paid good money for. I'd rather buy a game than make one any day. But, for cryin' out loud, people. How hard is this, really?

NAPOLEON ON MY MIND

     These are on my nightstand now:
All three volumes on my Kindle, 2-bucks each. Today, we're all Habsburgers!

The description of the battle for Shevardino starts on page 35.
Napophiles on Amazon seem to hate this book -- so I just had to have it. 900 pages. I like big, meaty books that Napophiles on Amazon hate. Anyway, The New Yorker says it's "successful." So there's that, too.
    Next time, we'll look at some more 19th century Europe. On to Paris! has finally made it to my table. Another Napoleon!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

ANATOMY OF A CHARGE

     As most of you know by now, I like complex games. I used to love Squad Leader, but I think I love Clash of Arms' La Bataille de la Moscowa even more.
     To those who might be uncertain as to the level of detail presented by this game, I thought it would be illuminating to take a close-up look at a typical cavalry charge.  This is from my recent playing of the Shevardino scenario.

The Charge, choosing a target and reaction.
      In the picture above, two Russian cavalry units are launching a charge, depicted by the yellow arrows. For this example, we'll concentrate on the one on the right.
     The unit (the New Russian Dragoons, a 600-man regiment, led by Colonel George Arsenyvich Emanuel) begins the turn behind a hill, out of the line of sight of the French infantry in and around the village of Doronino.
     The dragoons race out from behind the hill, and come into view of the infantry outside the village. The Russian skirmisher unit in front of Doronino screens the view of the French inside the village, so they cannot react just yet.
     When the cavalry reaches the hex with the hand-drawn blue square, the French infantry battalion outside the town forms square. This is not guaranteed, you have to roll for it, and the chances are better the further away the cavalry is when you make the attempt. So the French form square as soon as the charging horse comes into view.
     The green circle (this is starting to resemble a Play Station controller, isn't it?) is where the Russian must declare a target. Ignoring the square, the cavalry goes for the infantry in the village. This battalion is in line formation. It decides not to attempt a square. It would have to wait until the cav was adjacent and the chances of becoming disordered in the attempted formation change is too great (about 50-50). Instead, the infantry will attempt to meet the charge with muskets blazing. Perhaps its full firepower will see it through.
     The charge goes in! The infantry has excellent morale and its "Roll to Stand" attempt succeeds. A further die roll gives the defender a 1L column shift during the coming melee.
     Now it fires at double firepower. It has 3 increments of strength, with a 3 fire multiplier for type (it is a French Ligne unit), doubled to a fire strength of 18. The cav defense strength is 6 (because it is all in a single hex, giving it the defense of a column due to density), for a 3:1 shot. A disappointing roll of 23 (on a 2d6, a tens die and a ones die) modified to 26 (again for density) results in a single hit.
     Each hit confers a -6 modifier on the hitee, so the charge goes in at a slight disadvantage, a -6 drm, largely mitigated by Colonel Emanuel's +3 melee modifier.
     The ensuing melee's unmodified odds are 36:7. The dragoons usually have a "39" melee factor, but the loss of 1 (of 12) increments during the just-completed Defensive Fire makes this 36 instead.
     Then you apply the Melee modifiers:
     *Heavy cavalry gets a x2 multiplier for charging infantry from at least 3 hexes away.
     *The Russian player decides to "preserve" readiness by attacking with a single squadron only (the unit will become "tired" after melee instead of "exhausted"). This confers a mod of x 1/3.
     The final odds are (36x2)/3 = 24:7, or 3:1. A 1L shift makes this 2:1.
     So the attack is conducted on the 2:1 column with a -3drm.
     A great attack roll of 56, modified to 53, results in a DD3. This means the infantry unit Disorders and must retreat 3 hexes. The cavalry advances to occupy the defender's hex. The defender takes 1 hit due to its retreat.
     Now, we check for Pursuit.

The Pursuit
     Pursuit can lead to lots of trouble, especially in congested areas. Therefore, the Russian player decides to attempt a Recall (which, if successful, will negate the Pursuit). The Russian has a 1-5 chance (on a 1d6). He rolls a 6! The cavalry will pursue 3 hexes (equal to the length of retreat).
     The red lines above show where the pursuing cavalry is fired at along the way. Running this gauntlet of fire is exactly why the Russian attempted to Recall. As it exits hexes adjacent to the enemy, it takes fire -- twice from the square and once from an infantry unit in column formation. No effect. When it moves adjacent to the artillery, the art, originally facing upper-left, turns to face the threat and fires as the cavalry leaves the hex. This results in a hit (a 14:8 shot, with a 2R for canister, for a total of 2.5:1). The cavalry passes its morale check and continues its pursuit. The pursued infantry unit loses 1 SP per hex of pursuit and so is eliminated (red X). [Oops. The artillery shot should have been conducted on the 4:1 column, due to target density. A crappy roll of 13 would not have changed the outcome, however.]
     Now, having survived the gauntlet and finished its pursuit, the New Russian Dragoons get 5 MPs they can use to "regroup."

Time to regroup
     Having cut a swath of destruction through Doronino, the dragoons race around the rear of the French position heading back to the Russian lines. The unit is marked "Tired" and the cavalry charge is complete. I have to admit, I'm a little tired now myself.
     Anyway, that's how cavalry charges work. Personally, I love it. To me, this is what wargaming is all about. I can "see" the action every step of the way, from the cavalry racing into view around the hill, bursting forth through a screen of skirmishers, soldiers frantically forming square, muskets blazing and the gauntlet of fire through the village. What's not to love? It really gives the ol' imagination a work-out. And for us old guys, that's a wonderful thing!