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!

2 comments:

  1. Very good analysis of the first scenario and very interesting proposal of modifications to make it more realistic...very nice review!

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  2. Thanks, Stefan. Seems like I end up tinkering with game rules a lot -- probably more than I should. But it's fun and I enjoy the hobby immensely. Thanks for stopping by!

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