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.

Portable Napoleonic Battle of Lauerritz

I decided to give the battalion level rules in Robert Cordery’s new book Portable Napoleonic Wargame (Eglinton Books, 2018) a try. After I played a game with the Divisional rules from the book I was disappointed by rule shortcomings and strange combat modifiers. Shooting seemed very effective while melee wasn’t. Two units sharing the same grid space posed quite a few rules questions. The battalion scale rules field a maximum of one unit per grid space which alleviates one problem I had.

The Scenario

Somewhere in Germany during the Befreiungskriege. Two French brigades are sent to the village of Lauerritz to secure the army’s flank. The allies have Russian and Austrian troops on the move against the French. They have more men but leadership is not unified between the allies.

To represent the situation I opted for more strength points for the allies and the use of command decks. The turn sequence is still IGOUGO but sides draw from a deck of playing cards to see how many units they can act with each turn (much like DBA’s pips).

French Army

The French command deck consists of cards with the values 3, 4 and 5.

1st Brigade
General d’Brigade Jeunet (6 SP)
3 battalions of line infantry (each 4 SP average)
1 artillery (2 SP average

2nd Brigade
General d’Brigade Foire (6 SP)
2 battalions of grenadiers (both 4 SP elite)
2 battalions of line infantry (both 4 SP average)

Austro-Russian Army

The allied command deck consists of cards with the values 2, 3 and 4.

Austrian Avant-Garde Brigade
General Tannhaus (6 SP)
2 Battalions of Grenzer (both 5 SP average)
2 Regiments of Hussars (both 3 SP average)

Russian Brigade
General Fedorovitch (6 SP)
3 battalions of line infantry (5 SP poor)

The Battle

The battlefield with fields in the center and Lauerritz to the east of them. French will enter via the road from the south (bottom). The Russians will enter from the west, also using the road. Finally the Austrians will arrive from the center of the northern map edge.
The little green dots are painted 1 Euro cent coins to depict the square grid. I put coins down on every second grid point to reduce the clutter on the battlefield.
The allies arrive and fan out their troops. Austrians farther away to the top.
The french position their artillery behind the fields which stop movement when entering (my own rule) and grab Lauerritz.
Austrian Hussars dash forwards. In the back the other unit of Hussars move around Lauerritz in a flanking maneuver. Both units are shot to pieces without achieving anything in the coming turns.
Firefights erupt west of Lauerritz. Units are constantly pushing and advancing.
After several turns the french finally manage to charge but melee is actually quite harmless compared to shooting in these rules.
The end of the game. Russians manage to flank the french but melee stays indecisive for several turns. Meanwhile another Russian unit flanks around this combat zone and destroys the french artillery. A win for the allies who forced the French to retreat.

Thoughts about the rules

Given how many lightweight rules alternatives there are on the market and for free the portable rules are lacking too much to be played in my opinion.

The above depicted melee was what broke it for me. The way modifiers work, the Russian flanking unit is less susceptible to lose men when flanking. So far so good. But is the French unit in dire straights for being flanked and in combat against two enemies? No, it isn’t. In fact the rather slim chances of losing men are further reduced to a 1 in 6 by the general supporting the French. They can literally fight for a dozen turns without effect while on other parts of the battlefield a unit can be shot to pieces quickly. Not to say that the artillery and musketry modifiers are more to my liking.

Adding to that, I can pretty much play many rules systems with a 1-2 page rules overview (QRS) but the rules layout of this book is standing in the way of clarity in my opinion. Said modifiers are formulated in lists of whole sentences which have to re-read quite a few times to find the ones that apply. A QRS is not included. There are good parts though. The decisions to suffer casualties vs push back tied to unit experience is a clever mechanic forcing the players to make though choices. In the end, though, I will rather move on to other rules that work in my opinion.