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.

Wargaming Everything in 2019

So much I want to do and try out in wargaming. In order not to forget most of it and motivate myself I wrote up a to do list:

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Paint the remaining 6mm houses: They are sitting in the box where I primed them. No excuses this year!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Find suitable campaign rules for a Europe-spanning Napoleonic campaign: Yeah, good luck with that…
  • Make counter armies for Fistful of Tows 3: Some easy to read NATO-Symbol counters for WW2 armies. Probably for the eastern front.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Make counter armies for ancients: This is a long term project. The problem is, to make counters that don’t feel too generic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • And last but not least: Play games!

Battle of Mialensk – Blücher AAR

I decided to play a (fictional) straight forward pick-up battle to test out a terrain generator draft and get some soldiers on the table. The battle has the early French under attack by Russians somewhere in the vast Russian countryside.

Terrain generation worked well and gave me a table with many features. I replaced a swamp with a lake and had to improvise a bit with rubble. I use most hills as flat topped, so only the outer crest is important for defensive bonusses of course hills block line of sight. One could imagine these as minor elevation present on most battlefields.

Russians begin and play on the odd turns, french on the even ones.

Turn 1 & 2

The battlefield. French deploy in the south and have the blue objectives. Russians attack from the north with Mialensk as objective in their control.
French left wing and center: I Corps is arrayed in front of Lesobkin farm, its flank screened by some light cavalry. Back on the road you can see III Dragoon corps in reserve. On the lower right IV Guard Corps in reserve as well. Napoleon rides in front of them.
On the french right wing, isolated by the woods in the center of the battlefield II Corps protects the objective.
View from the russian left wing and center. Two corps of infantry with heavy artillery formed a line over the entire front. Behind them left of the town of Mialensk the Guard Cavalry is waiting in reserve. Right of the town another infantry corps is held in reserve.
From the center to the right wing numerous line brigades are deployed and in reserve. On the outer right wing there is another heavy battery on a small hill and a corps of light cavalry waits for flanking opportinities.
Russian artillery in the center open fire and the battle commences. The rather unknown general Taikonov advances his center and right against Napoleon’s forces.
French I corps advances as well to take the hill, though they are outnumbered.
In the centre french light cavalry maneuvers into position for a flanking charge on the incoming russians.

Turn 3 & 4

As the russian infantry advance on the hill french brigades open fire along the whole line with some effect.
Overview after turn 4 viewed from the french side. While firefights break out in the center, french light cavalry is seriously outnumbered on the far left side. On the right wing russians move closer more carefully in order not to strain command (MO points) too thin. Napoleon has no command problems at all but has to think about his reserves on the left wing already.

Turn 5

Russian light cavalry stream down the right flank near the village of Sevechny and send the lone french division flying.
With his forces committed Taikonov has time write orders for his left wing corps. Some turn towards the center while others stay as token force or retreat due to telling artillery fire from the french.

Turn 6

French cavalry tries to throw the advancing russians into disarray but are beaten back with heavy losses. Napoleon’s centre is already under threat.
The emperor decides to counter russian maneuvers with an attack order to II corps. Cavalry is swinging around lake Nargut while brigades advance on the thinning russian left flank.
But there is trouble brewing everywhere. Trusted ADC’s are send to the left flank to release II corps from reserve. Two Dragoon divisions rush forward.

Turns 7-11

During the next turns both sides are hampered by low command rolls. Napoleon’s release of the cavalry reserve proved to be just in time. At least some divisions can engage each turn and beat the russians back after bloody fighting. Fresh Divisions are brought forward slowly to exploit the situation.
The firefight on the central hill rages on for several turns and both sides are exhausted. The russian brigade on the lower left side of this picture just eliminated an artillery battery though and the french position suddenly becomes dire. In the upper right you can see Napoleon behind his troops surveying the situation of the unfolding cavalry battle.
On the other fronts, the lack of solid command and disorderd ranks make progress difficult. General Taikonov sees french troops in the centre wavering and orders the guard cavalry corps into the breach.

Turns 12-14

Emergencies keep popping up for Napoleon. Only his right wing is strong and fresh but has difficulties getting their troops moving. Finally II corps is shifted through the woods to get to the endangered centre sector faster. Russian infantry engages them in the woods and buys time for the guard cavalry to arrive.
After much deliberation and pleas from his marshals the emperor relases to Old Guard. Their task is to build a new defense line around Lesobkin farm. Meanwhile most of I corps is on the retreat.
At least the french Dragoons keep on pushing the russians and threaten to turn the flank. Maybe they can delay the russians long enough for the french reserves to build a new line.

Turns 15-19

Russian guard cavalry rushes through the center and charge the preparing Old Guard head on. Retreating frnech streaming from the hill are trampled under the hooves of the russian guards. It is now midday and the french lost four units against only one russian. Although several russian units are low on morale and three have retired from the battlefield. The battle is far from lost however. Napoleon still has a firm grip on his army. Taikonovs troops are scattered all over the battlefield trying to exploit french holes in the line. Commanding his forces becomes increasingly difficult for the russian general.
French Dragoons appearing in the russian rear also add to the problems of general Taikonov. Some reserve brigades are activated to salvage the situation. The heavy artillery in the upper right is too far away, however. It will be overrun next turn.
Although the russian infantry conquered the hill, reforming took too long. Most of the retreating french manage to slip away.
Taikonov rides forward to push his forces onward but the Old Guard has managed to dig and and keep the enemy in check.
French II corps slowly pushes onwards and suddenly the strong russian position in the center is in danger.

Turns 20-29

French Dragoons also still gallop at everything in the russian rear, crushing retiring russian troops. Russian losses mount rapidly while the french stabilize a bit.
Russian reserves are massed in the center and supported by the guard cavalry to get the situation under control again.
After hours of battle II corps light cavalry manages to loop around lake Nargut and threaten depleted russians in the rear. Both russian flanks are now turned and exhausted troops are scattered around trying to escape. The Russians are danerously close to breaking.
The “Grumblers” defend Lesobkin farm vigorously. They throw back several attacks. One russian brigade (center of the image) is caught in deadly crossfire and rapidly breaks.
French II corps pushing the russian center in under heavy losses. Light cavalry moves in to flank.

Turn 30

This is the situation after the battle (all markers removed), viewed from the french left flank. Lesobkin farm to the right.

Conclusion

The french are three units shy of their breakpoint (thanks to Napoleons morale boost). The next russian loss would seal their fate. The french are still in command of two objectives versus the russian one. A narrow win for Napoleon by the skin of the Old Guard’s teeth. Ultimately General Taikonov overextended his army to expoit every perceived weakness. The french managed to counterattack with a few units here and there stretching russian command structure to the point of breaking.

A very interesting game. The russians had the initiative and were in a good position to win the game. Napoleon’s ability to keep his army together under heavy losses gave him time to recover from the early game. His superior command ability was the reason to counterattack successfully, while general Taikonov was struggling to keep his forces together.

The terrain generation worked very well. The battlefield was interesting and challenging. I’m going to refine the system and post it later.