Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Days 3 & 4

This is the situation at the beginning of Day 3:

The campaign already rewards me with an interesting strategic situation. French commander Ramille has I Corps in Bolkhov (C9) but his back is against the river and he is outnumbered 3:2 by the Russians around Ozyorsk (B11). II Corps is relatively free to move but if the Russians gain the initiative and act quickly, they can cut off the Prussians from I Corp’s flank or II Corps from supporting I Corps in a battle. Ramille writes three sets of orders. One for moving II corps up, one for moving the Prussians down and II Corps moving to Yartsevo (E11) and one where I Corps move back into a better position while II Corps moves up to give flank support.

The Russians have another problem. Although they have a better concentration of force, they have no idea where half of the French forces are. Nevertheless B9 and E9 seem to be strong blocking positions. Two alternative order sets will be about priority of blocking force movements while the bulk of the army advances to Bolkhov. The third option will be a passive one, where only the flanks advance.

French Orders of the Day

I Corps (A, B, C): Fall back to (north)west of Bolkhov.

II Corps (E, D, F): Move towards south of Bolkhov and secure the crossing at E9 as well as I Corp’s flank.

von Steuen (G): Fall back to A8 in support of I Corps.

Faltenbach (H): Swing east of Corps II towards Yartsevo (E11) but don’t overextend.

Russian Orders of the Day

Medhorovcky (3): Move between enemy G and Bolkhov into a blocking position.

Column Zimin (8, 5): Move into a blocking position so that enemies cannot advance north from E8-E9.

Column Koltsov (1, 2, 4, 6, 7): move southwest into battle positons for an attack against the forces in and around Bolkhov.

Day 3 Begins

Ramille’s orders for von Steuben get intercepted by enemy skirmishers and are lost. Corbin (D) receives orders after spending 4 pips, Faltenbach (H) after 2 and Pirot at the end of the day.

Vorodnin (1) and Koltsov (4) will receive orders after 5 pips. All other orders get through quickly, as the Russians are more condensed. Initiative goes to the Russians.

The Russians quickly achieve their blocking positions north and south of Bolkhov. While moving, they also spot some missing French forces. Meawhile the French slowly fall back behind the river. As Davydov withnesses the French leaving Bolkhov he uses the opportunity and takes the city (rolled for either passive or aggressive move, got the latter).

Note: Situations like these open up opportunities for skirmish wargames. Fighting at the outskirts of the city for example. If the Russians win Davydov advances. As I don’t like skirmish games I went with dice. But for anyone interested in such campaigns this tip might be helpful.

As Ménard’s Division (E) gets into gears his scouts report strong Russian forces on the other side of the bridge. With the bulk of II Corps behind him, he decides to don’t wait in position but to flank west to stay linked up with I Corps.

Up north Koltsov and Vorodnin stay in position for most of the day. As orders arrive they don’t agree how to read and act upon them this late in the day. While Koltsov moves west to stay in contact with force G, Vorodnin moves south towards the rear of other Russian forces.

The rest of II Corps and the Austrians split farther apart due to lost or late orders. Faltenbach was well on his way to I11 when he got new orders and is now in position to move into the opponent’s rear area.

This is the situation at the end of day 3. For the first time, both sides have battle options for day 4. The French foresaw strong Russian flanking moves but failed to counteract them. Still, they have managed to keep their forces at least somewhat connected, thanks to the fall back move and Ménard’s (E) own initiative. Russian aggressiveness came at a prize. Enemy forces suddenly appeared near the rear. The area should have been protected by Column Zimin (8, 5) but they moved west. What’s more, is that the Russians have not spotted D approaching and still don’t know where F is. In contrast the French only lost sight of force 4.

The French gain initiative to declare battles for the next day and do so twice! The upper one has been declared to keep Russian forces in place. Terrain and positioning is rather bad for both sides but the French want to keep the enemy from supporting the battle to the south.

The southern battle is what the French really want. They have only E committed and three forces in reach within a wide flanking arc.

Day 4

As the forces array for battle commanders hastily dictate their orders for the not yet engaged formations. The French orders all revolve around setting up the southern battle. Either they flank heavily or they set up a traditional battleline with only Falkenbach flanking or they block battlespaces early to constrict Russian battle spaces and moves.

The Russians have the opportunity to concentrate on the northern battle and only send a token force to the lower one. They can also try to block battlespaces in the southern battle early to have a strong initial presence on the field, albeit with many French flank marching troops. Or they deliberately concentrate their forces in the southern battle into a small area to prevent being outflanked.

French Orders of the Day

Corbin (D): Move to F10 to block enemy flanking movement

Pirot (F): Enter battle at F9.

Faltenbach (H): Try to flank from E10 or move towards F 9 if not possible.

Russian Orders of the Day

Vorodnin (1) and Koltsov (4) enter the battle at A9.

Ilyin (7): Enter the battle at E9 if possible, else at D9.

Nosov (6) and Beretschov (5): Enter the battle at B/C9.

Day 4 Pre-Battle Maneuvers

All orders went through. The Russians successfully hampered Faltenbach’s flanking maneuver by moving late. This had unforeseen consequences, however. Beretschov, slated to tip the northern battle in even more numerical favor was hindered by French forces moving to his flank and couldn’t reach the upper battle. In the end neither side got what they wanted.

This is the situation before the battles begin. 5, D and H will be supports for the southern battle.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Days 1 & 2

The campaign begins with initial orders for all forces. I wrote three sets of orders for both sides and decided randomly which one to implement. Here is the map again to follow along.

French Initial Orders

Commander Ramille issues rather careful orders:

I Corps (A, B, C): Enter from D1 and move towards Bolkhov C9. Capture if conditions are favorable. Von Steuben (G) will support north of Bolkhov.

von Steuben (G): Enter from A5 on day 2 to support I Corps (moving against Bolkhov C9) from the north.

II Corps (E, D, F): Enter from J1 and secure the crossroads at H8 and put pressure on the crossroads at E9.

Faltenbach (H): Enter from L6 on day 2. Move towards the crossroads at I11 but only to recon and probe. Fall back to II Corps at H8 if necessary.

Russian Initial Orders

Commander Kurkovik weighs his forces heavily in the direction of Bolkhov but doesn’t use the obvious attack routes. The surrounding area has to be secured first:

Column Koltsov (4, 1, 2, 3): Enter at G16 and capture Ozyorsk B11 and the northern area of Bolkhov.

Column Nosov (6, 7): Enter at A16 and defend the flank of column Koltsov south and east of Bolkhov.

Column Zimin (8, 5): Enter at J16, move to Yartsevo E11 and act as reserve for forces north and west of you.

Day 1

No changes to the initial orders are made on day one. This is the overall map at the end of the day. The Flags under C and left of 1 are the respective C-in-C markers.

Day 2

With no contacts no order changes are made. The French have the first move.

French I Corps moves unopposed into Bolkhov and sends out Merle’s Division to defend the bridge south of the city at D9.

Column Koltsov meanwhile moves up to capture Ozyorsk. In passing both forces scout each other.

Von Steuben’s Prussians meanwhile close in in the north and spot only some of the forces near Ozyorsk. They are under support orders so decide to stop well ahead of the enemy.

Column Nosov moves up to Ozyosrk as well.

II Corps secures the area around H8. They fail to spot Zimin’s column near Yartsevo F11.

Column Zimin also fail to spot I Corps as they move up.

Faltenbach arrives and moves towards I11.

End of Day 2

Above you can see the frontlines forming. The French map looks pretty much the same. They only failed to spot force 5 and II Corps in the south doesn’t know of marker 8 either.

The Russian map in comparison. Only half of the french army has been spotted so far.

With the last sunlight vanishing the respective generals and staff officers meet to plot the orders for day 3.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Setup

This is going to be one Frankenstein of a post. My recent game of BBB (Big Bloody Battles by Chris Pringle; Blog) left me in high spirits. I’m also reading Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming. The book hasn’t aged well in some regards but I constantly get new ideas while reading and that’s what counts.

So I’m starting a new campaign. Nothing on the scale of my ECW campaign, as I don’t need another huge time sink to keep me from progressing. the idea is to combine Blücher‘s (Sam Mustafa; Website) campaign system Scharnhorst with BBB as battle engine and enrich it with order writing mechanics. The basic inspiration is Napoleon’s Russian campaign near the Borodino phase. The map and forces will only very vaguely resemble the historical ones, though. The French get to field an Austrian and Prussian Division, although they are not happy to be there.

Scharnhorst has rules for a bigger, 10 day (turn) game surrounding the Waterloo campaign, which I will borrow as well. The map is four times the size of a normal campaign map and the forces involved are nearly as much as I can field miniature wise.

Around Bolkhov

This is known as the larger Bolkhov area where forces will clash. The city of Bolkhov is in C9. French enter from the left, Prussians into A5 on day 2, Austrians into L6 on day 2 as well. Russians enter from the from the right side and at least one force must use each road. The road leaving in A16 leads to Moscow.

Terrain shows only the major features. During a battle further terrain will be added to the six sectors of the battlefield.

Added Fog of War Campaign Rules

The campaign will progress as double blind game. Usually both sides can see all forces but not the contents of a force marker. Each side has eight division strength force markers. In my modification a marker can always spot enemies around it within one map sector (diagonally as well). Two sectors away it may spot enemies on a roll of 4+ on 1d6. Friendly forces can always be seen within a two sectors radius. Everything beyond can only be conveyed by orders from the C-in-C or adjacent forces. These test will be made for both sides every time a force enters a new sector.

To make matters more interesting for me I will use written orders for the campaign and all ensuing battles. On the campaign map, forces receive an order of the day at the beginning of each day which they then try to achieve during the day.

In order to model the difficulties of campaign command (around 50.000 bayonets per side alone), there can be a transmission delay. The C-in-C has its own marker on the map which has 10 movement points (normal force markers have 6). It moves after all friendly and enemy forces have moved in the day but has to end its movement within one sector of a friendly marker.

When handing out the order of the day it will arrive safely if the receiving force is two sectors away. If the force is farther away 1d6 has to be rolled. On a 1 the order is lost. Every other face indicates when the order will arrive in the force’s move. If I roll a 3 for example, the order arrives after the force spend the first three movement points that turn.

Added Battle Rules

During a BBB battle each C-in-C gets a stationary figure. Orders are written down either as instructions or as movement arrows on a map and have to be followed. They can be changed at the end of each turn on a roll of 1+ on 1d6. For every full cavalry move of distance between C-in-C and division commander add 1 to the difficulty. If the division commander is not in line of sight add 1. If the recipient is not French add 2. If the C-in-C from the map is not present add 1. If the dice roll fails, write the target number -1 on the order and roll again at the end of next turn.

The French use the Corps structure but Corps commanders are integrated into the C-in-C during battle. The Russians form impromptu columns.

Overall Goals of the Campaign

The main goal is to bring the enemy to battle in a decisive manner. Villages, towns and cities grant no points in this campaign. Unless one force is crushed in battle I will determine the winner at the end of day 10. Strategic position will play a factor but how intact one’s forces are in comparison to the enemy is the main factor.

French Forces

The allied Austrians were quite reluctant to fight their longtime allies and I classed the Fragile as well as Passive.

C-in-C Ramille

I Corps Lebeau

1st Division Lessard (Marker A)
6S Trnd Plante
4S Trnd Saindon
4S Raw Varieur
Foot Artillery

2nd Division Merle (Marker B)
6SA Trnd Condert
2SA Vet Émond

Cavalry Reserve Collin (Marker C)
2A Trnd (Dragoons) Salois
3A Trnd (Dragoons) Blanchard
3AH Trnd (Cuirassiers) Courcelle
Horse Artillery

II Corps D’Arconet

1st Division Corbin (Marker D)
4S Trnd Audibert
4S Trnd Durepos
3S2A Vet Fabien
Heavy Foot Artillery

2nd Division Ménard (Marker E)
4S Trnd Routhier
3S Vet Franchet
3L Trnd (Lt. Dragoons) Jetté

3rd (Guard Division) Pirot (Marker F)
3S Vet Minonde
3HA (Guard Cavalry) Penterre
Horse Artillery

Allied Contingents

Prussian Division von Steuben (Marker G)
5S Raw Müller
4S Trnd Wiczorek
2H Vet (Cuirassiers)
Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Austrian Division Faltenbach (Marker H)
4PFL Vet (Hussars) Beyen
6SPF Trnd Hain
6SPF Trnd Kaltenmaier
Foot Artillery

Russian Forces

The Russian infantry was quite difficult to command and poor at musketry but they had high morale. Therefore I gave them Passive, Ragged Volleys, no Skirmishers (apart from some Jägers) and Veteran. The Veteran status of course does model their morale, not their training.

C-in-C Kurkovik

Division Vorodnin (Marker 1)
3SP Vet Primakov
5RP Vet Esen
6RP Vet Demidov

Division Darydov (Marker 2)
6RP Vet Pugin
6RP Vet Abramaov
4RP Vet Bychkov
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Medhorovcky (Marker 3)
3RP Vet Sakharov
3RP Vet Tarask
Foot Artillery

Division Koltsov (Marker 4)
5L Trnd (Hussars) Zimin
5L Trnd (Hussars) Polunin
Horse Artillery

Division Beretschov (Marker 5)
3RP Vet Godorschenkov
3RP Rechensky
Heavy Foot Artillery

Division Nosov (Marker 6)
6RP Vet Bogdanov
5RP Vet Kravchuk
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Loginovsky

Division Ilyin (Marker 7)
3SP Vet Frolov
4RP Vet Katzbach
4RP Vet Kirilov
Heavy Foot Artillery
Heavy Foot Artillery

Cavalry Reserve Zimin (Marker 8)
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Popov
3H Vet (Guard Cavalry) Clazkovsky
2LA Raw (Cossacks) Grishkin

The 2020 To Do List

After my review of 2019 I will now look into my plans for 2020:

Modelling & Painting

Still more terrain to finish. Especially woods and painting houses. Town bases to but said houses onto are also on the list. There are two terrain types I haven’t covered in a satisfactory manner: Swamps and rocky terrain. I have concepts how to build them easily, though.

The packing chips I use as smoke markers lately are not the best looking solution but they are very practical to use and stow away (space is at a premium). Maybe cutting some shapes will make them look better.

Still lots of painting to do on my Sword & Sorcery dungeon crawling games. It progresses nicely but will need many month before completion at my speed.

The look of the 2mm figures from Irregular Miniatures is not what I was looking for in Napoleonics. I need to use some different period paint schemes to see if I can salvage them. American and English Civil Wars come to mind.

The movement trays I sometimes use for Blücher are really barebones. Something nicer with re-useable unit labels is on the list. Tests were disappointing so far.

I did some experimentation with a Kriegspiel-look DBA set. It did turn out Ok but is only a side project. Even if I don’t continue I should probably write a blog post about it.

Campaigns

The For King & Parliament ECW campaign will continue. If I can make good progress I will be able to finish it this year.

I have a new, smaller Napoleonic campaign in the wings. Several posts are already written up.

There is also an Ancients campaign with DBA 3.0 campaign I started but packed away for Napoleonics quickly. Not sure if i’m motivated enough to finish this.

Battles

Playing games is of course the main focus every year. I mostly play fictional battles or campaign games but I’m interested in trying out scenarios. There are several good Blücher scenarios here. As I like Big Bloody Battles I would like to give the Aspern-Esslingen scenario a spin. I have enough forces to field the armies but need more road crossings and bendy river sections to set it up.

Then there is 2 Hour Wargames. I quite like the scenarios of the book but I have one or two new ideas to represent encircling and interior lines. Another idea of mine was to randomly combine two scenarios into one larger battle. Some groundwork has been done but a test has yet to be conducted.

I have a large collection of starship miniatures begging me to use them. Maybe this year. Talking of maybe’s, Hordes of the Things arrived over Christmas…

Rules

Over the past years I have tried out a wide array of rule sets for Napoleonics and other periods. Lately I am more and more jaded about most of them. To a point where I’m thinking about getting rid of some. For a self proclaimed rules collector a sacrilegious thing to say! I will think more about this but so far here are my categories for Napoleonics alone:

Rule sets I currently play and like:

  • Blücher: It simply works.
  • Big Bloody Battles: With modifications that are not set in stone yet.
  • Black Powder: I’m using a fair bit of house rules. But this set is easily adaptable.
  • C&C Napoleonics: With the rule that a block can absorb two hits before it is removed.

On the fence:

  • 2×2 Napoleonics: I only played one game which I liked but the rules are all over the place. I started a re-write for my own purposes but it is not finished or tested.
  • General d’Armee: The rules are nice and give a good game but they simply seem less elegant and slower than Black Powder. If I had to replace Black Powder, this set would probably be it. The ADC system is a big draw towards General d’Armee but in order to really get it going you need sizeable forces on the table which is difficult for me figure- and spacewise.
  • Bataille Empire: Again, great rule set for people who want the detail and slower gaming speed. I still think I prefer Black Powder. The move away from YGO IGO will probably much more interesting for people who play this head to head. For solo play the sequencing is actually difficult to game through. Maybe I give it another try with a more traditional turn order, because most of the other rules are quite good.

Rule sets I tried and didn’t like:

  • Field of Glory: Napoleonics: The terrain generation and pre-battle rules are slick but the main rules are too complicated for me, given that it is a tournament set. I want to like them, but I cant.
  • Portable Napoleonic Wargame: Didn’t give me the period feel I’m looking for.
  • Polemos: Neither the small nor the large scale set convinced me. The rules are not written clearly and don’t give a satisfying period feel in my opinion. To be blunt, Polemos is probably the worst on the list.
  • DBN: It feels too much like DBA for me.
  • Age of Eagles: More detailed in scale and rules than Big Bloody Battles. It needs an absurd amount of bases and has some fiddly stuff that is thankfully abstracted away in Big Bloody Battles.
  • Twilight of the Sun King: Not Napoleonic but I tested them in order to modify them for the period. The concepts are great but the writing is quite vague and some details could have been omitted for my taste.
  • Several variants of 2 Hour Wargames Horse and Musket: All the variants I tried added more chrome to the rules but the game still felt very basic and too attritional in a sense that you nearly always inflict some damage to the enemy. Compare this with Blücher or Black Powder where fights can be over quick or last a long time with some regularity. There is no disruption or disorder of any kind which is key for the period in my opinion.
  • Shako: To be fair, I only started one game and it was Shako I not II. The order system is very good and has been nicked immediately for other games. All the other stuff… Somehow too fiddly for me. Hard to put a finger on though. It somehow felt too old school.

Rule sets I want to try:

  • Napoleon’s battles: Brigade scale and they don’t seem too complicated. Hard to obtain the rules or information about them, though.
  • Grande Armee: I already heard that it is very time consuming so I’m going into this to find new mechanics and ideas, not a new rule set.
  • Volley & Bayonet: Command & Control seems underdeveloped from what I read but it has a scenario system I ‘m interested in and maybe I like the combat mechanics.

Rules I want to write:

I developed my own starship combat rules quite often in the past. I even came up with something remarkably similar to early Starmada in the time of dial-up internet. I refrained from doing so for historical periods though, as my grasp on them wasn’t good enough and design space seemed less open. You can do crazy thinks in science fiction which are hard to explain in historical periods. Lately there are some ideas froming for a Horse & Musket rule set of my own:

  • Strong command system that makes it necessary to have a plan in advance. Some form of (written) orders which can be changed at a delay or lost in transmission or misunderstood.
  • A turn order that rewards the battle plan, not good initiative dice and moving unit X before unit Y to get into the building first. I have no solid idea for this yet.
  • A simple, free flowing movement system that is constricted by command and control and not by measuring degrees of wheeling.
  • A combat system a bit like Twilight of the Sun King but even more radical. There is no musketry, there are no charges! The driving concept is the proximity of units and the intensity of their orders and will. For example: My cavalry on attack orders, barely an inch away from your infantry is really hurting your infantry’s morale. Whether they fight or threaten each other is abstracted away in Brigade scale. This idea goes back to a quote I read about French infantry breaking next to Prussian cavalry (which didn’t charge).
  • A pre battle system for stratagems and terrain selection. My working idea is that one player has to offer battle at a battlefield but the enemy can decline, going to another battlefield.
  • Mechanics which allow strong period flavor and national differences.

Napoleonics with Bloody Big Battles

After I disliked Age of Eagles for its huge amount of bases required and too much detail for a brigade level rule set, I promised myself to give Bloody Big Battles from Chris Pringle (Blog) another go. It uses about 1000 men to a base and is primarily used for battles after Napoleonics and before WWI. I had some Napoleonic rule amendments which diversified artillery and cavalry a bit and made muskets more potent. In the original they are at the lowest end of the weapon scale and quite useless (rightfully so).

As this was more of a rules test I played a fictional battle with similar forces. The table was generated with Field of Glory: Napoleonics rules (my new favorite terrain generator). The battle pitted French against Austrians. The French used units of 4 bases with skirmishers, Dragoons and some artillery. The Austrians had the disadvantage passive infantry (harder to move and rally) but the advantage of larger units and a few more bases in general. All units were considered trained to keep it easier.

Disclaimer: This was a test, so there is not much flavor to it. Units are units and not the 5é Ligne of II Corps. Though the rules and the look on the table lend itself to it and I have seen other bloggers working with 1-2″ unit markers with flag and name and stats that looked quite nice. This you won’t see here, for now 🙂

Set up

A view from the French left wing and center. The cavalry command of the French was situated on the left, while the Austrian counterpart was deployed in the center (randomly determined).

And here we move over to the center-right wing. The Cavalry in the lower center of the picture is part of an infantry command. As you can see the roads leading to the enemy can be quite useful for the French here, as their side of the table is void of good defensive positions and the want to close the gap quickly.

The Austrian right flank. Two large ad passive infantry units and some Dragoons.

A nice quirk of random deployment zones. You rarely see the cavalry command of an army in the center. It is a small one, though. Two medium cavalry units and horse artillery. To the left you can see a steep hill which incurs movement penalties (important for later on).

Close up of parts of the Austrian left wing. This is the biggest command and it starts close to two hills. From there they will have a commanding view and artillery position.

The Battle Plan

Of course a simple rule set test is not complete without testing other ideas at the same time! This one is from Shako. In Shako you draw a map and arrows for your commanding officers. An arrow is an attack order and at the end of the arrow is a defend order. In theory you have to advance with your units on attack order into combat, apart form artillery which can support from farther away. The Commander of a formation ‘rides’ on the arrow and his units need to stay in command.

This is the plan for both sides (as I played solo) viewed from the French side. The Austrians are rather careful and want to deploy in defensive positions on and between the hills. The French are effectively trying to refuse the left flank. Their left flank Cavalry is ordered to attack the Austrian Cavalry in the center and the French center is ordered to move around the forest in support of the right wing. The ‘T2’ means that they start this on turn 2.

Each side has a HQ with an Aide de Camp. The Aide can be sent to give new orders to a commander at the speed of Cavalry. He also have to get back thereafter. In Shako you have two Aides but for only three commands I limited this to one Aide each. As the French are way better and facilitating orders, they change orders as the Aide arrives. The Austrians are more plodding. They need a full turn to change their orders after they arrived.

The Battle

A few turns in. The Cavalry forces are clashing in the center. Austrians are getting the better of it. They already caused losses on both French units and routed a limbered horse battery. The white packing chips are musket smoke or dust clouds and signify disrupted status.

Being disrupted in BBB affects movement, firing and melee but doesn’t make a unit completely useless. BBB finds a nice balance here I think. On the lower right you can see the Aide de Camp with new orders for the French. They are to defend in the position they are in. The French don’t need their Cavalry to win here but to keep the Austrians at bay.

The Austrian Aide can be seen as well far away. He brings new orders to switch from defense to pursuit of the French Cavalry.

The refused Austrian right wing has already been ordered to pack it up and move to the steep hill in the background. The gains of Austrian cavalrymen make this a safe move so they form in column to be faster. Still, with the turn long order delay they are already late.

And this is the reason for the order change. The Austrians were quite surprised as the central French formation swung right. Now there are close to 30.000 Frenchmen weighing down on a thin Austrian defense line. It is not all going to plan for the French, though. Their artillery support has been silenced for (has to retreat). The attack columns keep getting disrupted and halted before connecting. Space is also a problem as support and reserves try to find the right deployment area. Part of the problem is the Austrian Foot Artillery position top right on the hill. Fire support from the guns is key for the Austrian defense.

As the Austrian columns cross the battlefield, Cavalry still clashes. Austrian battery support is showing here as well. Not by casualties but by continuously disrupting French movements.

Another of couple turns in the French concentrated mass has done its damage. Assault columns have routed the central Austrian unit and are now closing on on the remains. In the top left an isolated Austrian Brigade deployed squares against nearby Cavalry but gets blasted by musket fire. In the top right Austrian losses are mounting off table.

At the end of the battle French troops have successfully stormed the artillery position.

Austrian left wing forces finally shaking into battle formation at the end of the battle. Even if the engagement wasn’t over (turn limit) they would have had a hard time attacking up hill against the basically intact French forces.

Verdict

My downscaling of ranges for a smaller table and Napoleonic amendments were off a tad and I made some mistakes. One Austrian commander should have been killed or captured twice! Still I really liked the game. Yes I know. Shockingly I like the rules.

Where the similar Age of Eagles complicates things for sake of realism, BBB moves a step further back. Which is a good thing for me, who favors less restrictive rules these days.

Units are big and can move quite far. Command friction is done via dice rolls and failure to move or rally disruption. All this give a game that feels strategic akin to its scale. Part of this stems from the battle plan rules I grafted from Shako on top of it. But this is basically a solo play mechanism, not a missing part of BBB in any way.

After the game I found another Napoleonics amendment that looks better. It incorporates skirmishers better. For example by limiting the effects of long range musketry (basically skirmishing at this scale) against Cavalry.

The Aide de Camp feature is a nice ‘realism’ feature but I think it will work better with some form of command dice roll to see if the orders arrive and when they can be executed. The whole turn delay for non-French is rather harsh from a balance perspective, though it gives some insights about the problems generals faced against the French system.

2019 is dead, long live 2020

Back in December 2018 I decided on a couple of wargaming goals for 2019. Time to review these. My status in italics:

  • Acquire a Napoleonic Prussian Army: This is a task bleeding over from 2018. I already ordered a fully based and painted army in 6mm Baccus. It should arrive by end of winter.

    Done!
  • Acquire a Napoleonic British Army: This is the last big army I need in my set of the five great Nations. I’m thinking about cutting down in size on this army though. I need to make a plan how many British and minor nation allies I need (see below).

    I wasn’t sure if I want to continue the 6mm scale and basing. But I think I will get them sooner than later.
  • Acquire some Napoleonic minor nations units: To add some color to armies and support the British army. I’m thinking about units with distinct uniforms and common presence in the age of Napoleon. Bavarians, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Vistula Legion, Portuguese

    See above
  • Play more test battles with Age of Eagles: Only played two so far which I didn’t enjoy that much. There are some AoE scenarios I downloaded and want to set up.

    I played another scenario but it felt weird. The units are brigades with thousands of men, they are quite big on the table but they feel more like battalions to me.
  • Play more test battle with Bloody Big Battles (Napoleonic mod): I downloaded two Napoleonic mods for the rules. I want to try them and compare with my AoE games. Playing the same scenario with AoE, BBB and Blücher (my go to rule-set) should give me some insights about the rules systems and how much I like them or not.

    I still need to do this. I think I will run into the same problem as with AoE.
  • Paint the remaining 6mm houses: They are sitting in the box where I primed them. No excuses this year!

    I’m on it. Slowly…
  • Test Twilight of the Sun King rule-set: I ordered it in December and waiting for it to arrive. If I like the rules I want to make them work for Napoleonics.

    I played two battles and had a lot of problems interpreting the rules. There is a long list of modifiers for morale (and effectively shooting) which I now consider bad design. These long lists slow game play so much that it isn’t enjoyable.
  • Set-up and play an ECW campaign with For King and Parliament tabletop rules: So many ECW blogger campaigns I follow. I desperately want to set up my own but it has proven difficult to find a campaign system I’m satisfied with.

    Ongoing. The campaign works, although not moving armies on the map is a bit of a bummer. For King and Parliament works well, too. I tried out other sets and they can’t compare.
  • Find suitable campaign rules for a Europe-spanning Napoleonic campaign: Yeah, good luck with that…

    Need more luck this year…
  • Make counter armies for Fistful of Tows 3: Some easy to read NATO-Symbol counters for WW2 armies. Probably for the eastern front.

    No progress and currently not much interest. I bought and played Rommel though. I liked it but not enough interest in WWII currently.
  • Play some Fistful of Tows 3 test battles: Read most of the rules and want to try them out. Something easy first like a WW2 eastern front tank battle without artillery.

    See above.
  • Base all remaining trees: I have about 40% done since yesterday. I single base them to be more flexible. I build a test forest template a few month ago, however. I have to decide if I like it enough to keep it or rip it apart to re-base the trees.

    I’m trying a new basing scheme but progress is slow.
  • Test a C&C Napoleonics variant: My biggest critique of the game is the time to kill. It is very easy to kill whole units off without much time to react. For the scale and time frame the game conveys to me this seems wrong. On top of that it strengthens the luck aspect of the card drawing. I’m thinking about a variant where each block simply takes 2, 3 or even 4 hits before being destroyed.

    Done that. Best C&C game so far. Have to play some more.
  • Design a random army generator for C&C Napoleonics: Either with dice or as a little coding project with Python (programming language). I already made a list of all available blocks for this and have some basic ideas. I want to tie it to certain periods though, like “French – Russian campaign” or “French – Waterloo campaign” or something along those lines.

    Thinking about this currently as I tried Polemos Marechal d’Empire and its force generator.
  • Design a random terrain generator: Already have a prototype which I tested once. I need to incorporate rivers and roads in a better way and tweak some stuff. Currently it uses playing cards. Maybe I should switch it to a program or custom terrain cards (according to my collection of terrain).

    Seen stuff in other blogs and have enough rule systems with good terrain generation so this is not necessary.
  • Make counter armies for ancients: This is a long term project. The problem is, to make counters that don’t feel too generic.

    Currently testing with a DBA campaign.
  • Get some ancients battles going. Preferably in a campaign setting: I have downloaded some campaign rules, mostly with DBA tied in. They require a set of multiple armies each though.

    See above.
  • Designing a cold war era social game: I began work on this in 2018. It is currently planned as a matrix game for six players and a game master. The setting is a spy war on cold war Berlin.

    Minimal progress
  • And last but not least: Play games!

    Did that

Reasonable progress I think. Apart from the terrain front where I want to step it up.

What Else

Beyond my set goals I did some other unplanned stuff as well. I played the new Field of Glory Napoleonics Second Edition, General d’Armee, Polemos Marechal d’Empire and the new rule set from Hervé Caille Bataille Empire.

Sad to say that none of them convinced me entirely. Being a competition rule set FoGN is to complicated and table heavy for me. General d’Armee was way better than I remembered it but ultimately slower than Black Powder and the results seemd to be similar. The same can be said for Bataille Empire. The rules are very well written and offer a good amount of detail for their speed. I have to try them again but I still think Black Powder can achieve similar results with way less rules clutter.

The Polemos rule set is just a mess. I didn’t create very complicated combat situations in my game but the rules couldn’t even explain the basic stuff fully. Apart from that it just looked like several DBA games played at once. Just blocks crushing into other blocks. Which is totally fine in DBA but looks strange in Napoleonics.

Speaking of DBA and Napoleonics. I also briefly tried DBN again and… see above. The game works but it doesn’t feel right for me.

In regards to miniatures I build some ECW proxies. Essentially lines of painted matchsticks for a rough 2mm treatment of the conflict. I have to play more battles with the buggers to see if I like the look.

I also ordered some 2mm Napoleonic blocks and did some prototyping. Haven’t found the massed Brigade look and feel so far. I’m thinking about using them for other stuff like Ancients, SF or fantasy.

Some of my gaming time, actually quite a bit, went into painting monsters for Sword & Sorcery. A Dungeon crawler boardgame with miniatures I play with friends. I’m making good progress and games with unpainted miniatures are quite rare now. I still have to paint a huge dragon with several heads and his minions. They should be fun.

For King & Parliament Campaign October 1643

Looking back at over a year of conflict, the war is going well for the Parliamentarians. After the Solemn League and Covenant treaty in September Scotsmen appear to bolster the ranks. With Oxfordshire captured some generals think that Gloucestershire is up next. Meanwhile the Royalists focus their attention on the midlands.

Although the rules are in the campaign name, I decided to try some other rule sets I have at hand. For King & parliament is a good set I enjoy playing but I’m curious how it holds up in comparison to other rules.

I decided to try Pike & Shotte from Warlord games. As this set depicts a Pike & Shot unit as two to three separate units I didn’t have enough units to play the game physically and switched to Battle Chronicler.

Royalist Northern Army

Command…40
General Tasker CR 8

Left Wing…196
General York CR 8
4 Cavalry (Galloper, Pistols)

Center…519
General Lehenard CR 8
4 regiments of 1 Pike block and 1 Musketeer wing each
General Higate CR 8
3 regiments of 1 large Pick block and 1 Musketeer wing each
1 Commanded Shotte

Right Wing…196
General Glenham CR 8
4 Cavalry (Galloper, Pistols)

951 points

Parliamentarian Northern Army

Command…40
General Peacok CR 8

Left Wing…190
General Oswyn CR 8
2 Horse
2 Dragoons

The Center…520
General Fienley CR 8
3 Regiments of 1 Pike block and 2 Musketeer wings each
General Maltoun CR 8
2 Regiments of 1 Pike block and 2 Musketeer wings each

Right Wing…197
General Bacon CR 8
3 Horse
1 Dragoons

947 points

Battle of Boddington

Royalists are on the offense and begin the battle. Parliament knew the terrain (Lay of the land event) but opted not to remove a terrain piece.

After set-up. Parliamentarian Dragoons (top) behind the forest.

At the end of turn 2 for both sides. Royalists blundered on the entire left half and their comanded shotte is already under fire. On the right their cavalry wing seems to be in a good position to strike. Some Parliamentarian foot is not moving.

After Royalist turn four. The blundered regiments were quickly realigned and the battle began in earnest. On the left flank Parliamentarian managed to beat back two of three Royalist cavalry units (red movement arrows are charge moves) but the third routed its foe, flank charged the next enemy and routed it as well.

On the other side Royalist cavalry is beaten back by musket and pistol fire.

After Royalist turn 5 the left is being mopped up. A cavalry engagement on the right has proven indecisive.

As the Royalists move into position in the center more and more hits accumulate. Even a well protected Dragoon unit in the forest has routed.

Parliamentarian turn 6. With some Dragoons skirmishing on the Royalist right the enemy forces are drawn out of position and exhausted. On the other side Royalist cavalry is beaten back and broken. Reserves are moved but from the Parliamentarian rear to give the buckling line some rest.

End of battle after 8 turns. With good rallying rolls and timely use of reserves the Parliamentarian forces have a stable front line and are pushing the Royalists back. But with the threat of enemy cavalry behind the lines they cannot press on. Although the Royalists have to concede control of the field in the end they inflicted more casualties. The battle ends in a draw.

Campaign Moves

With a draw and bad weather the campaign didn’t go further for either side.

Thougths on Pike & Shotte

It was a fun and fast moving battle, as I know most of the rules from Black Powder already. The major problem I have with the rules is that pike and shot regiments are not single units but several. The classic ECW formation in Pike & Shotte consists of three units: One Pike block and two musketeer wings. This makes command a bit more fiddly than in Black Powder or Hail Caesar and the armies looked relatively small for 950 points.

The underlying rules of the Hail Caesar/Pike & Shotte/Black Powder work best for Napoleonics I think, where sweeping maneuvers feel more ‘in period’ than in earlier periods. A Pike and Shot block or an ancient battle line rushing forward three moves is way harder to explain than a french brigade advancing rapidly in assault column.