Monday, December 10, 2018

And here's another game I didn't get on with

Command and Colours, this is going to be mild heresy, especially for many historical boardgamers; but I don't like it.

And I say this despite owning a copy (admittedly unplayed, as part of the Art of Tactic/CnC Samurai dual system set from Zvezda).

I've played, the Richard Borg engine to the game in several forms in the past, but clearly hadn't recalled details of the experience, so when Paul at the club suggested a game of CnC: Napoleonics, I was happy to give it a go.  So we set up the Battle of Corunna for an evenings' diversion.

Starting deployments
Which raises issue one, a minor aesthetic one that may not concern all I admit, but, as a board game on hex based terrain at a very large effective scale; it doesn't look much like the battlefield from what I can recall of it.  It doesn't look much like the battle.  It feels overly simplified even.

A legitimate complaint for any representation you say, and that might be fair, but personally I wouldn't try to refight a battle where I couldn't do a fair representation of the ground, and units at a key level of engagement.  For me that is Regimental as a minimum, Battalion preferred for Napoleonics (which means I'm doing the smaller battles mainly); in this game I couldn't readily say what things represented, but at a guess, each block would be a Battalion?  Without 100% recall, I wouldn't know anyway, but if smaller than that, companies say, there's no way this represented the whole battlefield....
Opening advances
The next issue for me is, here is a system that tries to shoehorn an awful lot into an unmodified dice roll.  Well, how it gets round that is by modifying the number of dice you roll, but given you will usually roll between two and five dice, and almost always only be removing dice from the pool, this gets punitive very quickly.  An infantry advance onto troops in cover quickly finds itself incapable of doing any harm.  But elites soon become disproportionately strong too, as adding a dice in combat of shooting is a huge advantage.  Then the British at least had some implausibly large units (Guards of 5, rifle companies of 3 bases) leading one to wonder whether this was the only way to reflect quality in game, or a laboured belief that paper unit sizes ever existed in the field....

I digress, perhaps.

French high-water mark
The dice themselves, you have a one in three chance of scoring an effect in infantry engagements, but only 1 in 6 of a kill; in short causing losses is hard, but equally rogue rolls of several hits at once feel terrible unfair.  But these are only comparatively minor gripes.

The Brits win mainly by staying still.
The main problem, and it's a biggie, a game breaker, is the card system.  I just, HATE it.  The battlefield is divided into two flanks and a centre, and you can only move units in those sectors when you draw the appropriate cards to play such an order.  Now there are a few for each sector, and a few that play across multiple areas, but never enough.

Oh but isn't that just replicating the fog of war you say; I like that, you say.  Well, if it worked I might agree, but it doesn't.  Having no control over the composition of the deck, you can't lean into simple tactics in preference over complex but deadly strategies - as one might in a deckbuilder - you are stuck with what you get.  Moreover, you are stuck with what you get.  You can't discard and replace a duff hand, in the hope of getting what you need, you must just play them out one card at a time and hope for better.  You will almost certainly go several turns where the perfect move presents itself, and you can't do it, because NONE OF YOU F******G CARDS LETS YOU!  It's not representing a battle where one of your subordinate commanders is poor, it represents an engagement where all of your commanders are recalcitrant halfwits.  It's like playing Black Powder by ignoring the Orders system and relying on the Blunder table instead.

It's bollocks.

Clearly the reader will have gathered two things from this.  That I didn't win, and that I don't like the game system.  SO, yeah, maybe the two are connected, but personally I don't see why winning would've changed my mind.  I many cases my opponent won because I was unable to make the right attack at the right time, not because they struck me in any devastating way; you can't seriously feel you won a game in that circumstance can you?  The system make punch and counter-punch virtually a lottery.

The third point however, is simply that the game was not fun, and finally, it didn't feel much like a historical simulation either.

Really not for me.

I'll stick to miniatures on this one.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A Grand, a General and a (tiny) Rant

Well I say!  It happens that this is my One Thousandth post; and it only took 12 and a half years to reach that stage.  It would appear I've done quite a lot of blathering on however.

Blogging is not always something I enjoy, but I've persisted.  Presently I'm not doing much in the way of think pieces, mainly as the internet is full of this:

which means you're wrong...
And I guess after 12 years, you get sick of people thinking their opinion is welcome in your diary!

Instead, lets just be safe and look at some painting wot I done to celebrate.  Here for your delectation is General Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole:

Over there... 
Cole Served in India, Italy (at Maida) and in the Peninsular, commanding Wellington's 4th Division.  In this role he fought at Albuhera, Salamanca and Vittoria amongst others.

Sorry, no.  Over there.
With him here I added a Colonel for the 2nd Guards, using a spare command figure from a mass of oddments I was gifted years ago, and an overcoat from the Victrix French set.  The combination looks really satisfying.

Unlike the combination of anonymity and strong WiFi connections....


Don't hold your breath for post number 2,000, it'll still be a while!


Monday, December 03, 2018

Recon 2018

So, I wasn't involved in putting on a display game this year, it was quickly made apparent that the show didn't have room for us, and a scan of the packed rooms showed this to be the case.  On that basis alone the show looked busier than in years past - given it is relatively speaking, tiny - but I'm not in with the traders so couldn't tell you how well they felt it was going.

For my part, myself and oppo Gav met up for a browse of the show and a game afterwards at my place.  I spent the princely sum of £26, on a pack of Spanish Light infantry in 28mm from Eagle Figures, an old Blandford Uniforms guide (always a personal favourite) and some 15mm artillery limbers from the Bring and Buy, suitably cheap and generic for my eye!  Gav picked up a copy of Dragon Rampant for a fiver, which was a huge win in both our opinions.

As to the games, Recon is as I've said before a very local event, and it is not where prize winning, double-page spread in WI (or even MW), games are ever likely to appear.  It is more your club fare, with handcrafted games, charity shop rescues and cardboard armies all making an appearance.  With that in mind, hear are some of the photos I took...

Harrogate's WW2 game possibly the nicest, certainly the biggest of the day

Some sort of 15mm Near future Sci-fi

ACW Skirmish

Decent figures and terrain

Someone ha rescued a complete set of Battlemasters from a charity shop!

Beautiful 15mm WW2 on a fairly basic table


Desert Rats(?)

15mm Ancients from one of the Game companies...

Nice figs, but do those neoprene gaming mats cut the mustard up close?
For me, it's a last chance to pick up some bits in the year, and it's right on my doorstep, so I'll always go along, but Recon really is a 'local show for local people' and so not really worth more than thirty minutes in the car to visit, as it was, myself and Gav were there scant more than an hour.

More on that another time.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Fire and Steel - cutting edge 20 years ago?

Andy, in my Thursday club, looked to me to try a set of skirmish rules, suitable for the Napoleonics erase.   Always looking for a decent set myself I was willing to give them a try.

The ruleset is called Fire and Steel, they are not particularly new.  Long out of print would be more truthful.

Circa 1996
We set up a simple encounter scenario from the rules, with two basically identical forces of troops, representing two dawn patrols.

Opening Dispositions - Imagine it's foggy
The rules are from Wargames Research Group, and so are familiar fare....   Tables and modifiers.
Both sides advance unaware the enemy is out there
In fairness there are a few neat mechanics, but they are hardly ground breaking.  soldiers activate randomly by drawing lots, and can carry out any three of a variety of actions in a turn.

Fog lifts; contact!
But it does come down to the combat table, and fistfuls of modifiers.  Compared to say, DBMM its farly simple stuff, but WRG can't let a dice fall unmodified.

The British begin to withdraw with heavy losses
There are other problems too.  The rules are staggeringly vague - lacking the legal clausing of Barkerese, that sees each rule in DBMM run for several paragraphs of 'ifs', 'ands' and 'unless''.  Several items were seemingly key mechanics, but barely referenced or explained.  Also the Morale system seemed to lack any ability to resolve a game, troops would keep running back and forth into or out of combat, as long as they lived.  Finally, it was apparent it was going to be token heavy, and from an aesthetic standpoint that didn't appeal.

So long as you are happy to concede when it is clear you have been beaten, and can come to some sensible conclusions about the intention of the rules as written, these are not a bad system, as good as Drums and Shako anyway.  But they would struggle with more than a dozen or so models each, and I don't see them as my solution yet.

The search therefore must continue...


Sunday, November 25, 2018

4th Bavaria: Sachsen-Hildburghausen

The joy of 15mm is the speed in turning them from bare metal to painted miniatures.

4th in Line 
Another regiment for my Bavarians, this means two units of foot have been swiftly established.

The rears are where all the detail lives!
Not a lot to add at this stage; next up for these will be some cavalry and a junior commander.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A modest addition - 2nd Glengarry

Formed by order of Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost in 1812, recruited from settlements of discharged Scottish soldiers (and some evicted Scottish highlanders) in Glengarry district.  Originally intended to wear highlander uniforms (kilts, etc.), they wore the dark green uniform with black facings of the Rifle Brigade instead, although they were armed with muskets rather than rifles.  Companies and detachments fought in several actions in Upper Canada in 1813, and the whole unit fought at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. The unit specialized in British light infantry tactics and thus was well-trained in duties such as skirmishing and concealed sentry duty.

Wikipedia (yes, I'm that lazy!)

As an interlude, I painted a few languishing models I found in my Napoleonics bits box, I was dipping in for another secret project as it happens, when I found enough of these to make use of; specifically for my War of 1812 skirmish games.

Although, the records say black facings, illustrations generally show red - more akin to the 60th American than the 95th rifles.  Scottish details were limited to the Shako tape.

These models having muskets are ideal for the Glengarry's:

The line troopers are Essex Miniatures so far as I can tell, whilst the Sergeant is from Wargames Foundry.  all fine models, despite the former's age (well over thirty years I reckon).  

A group of 6 is more than enough for most skirmish games, not least with my eye drawn to the latest iteration of the Lion Rampant system, due sometime after Xmas:

These cover the right period, at the right unit size to go with the units I've - oh so slowly - assembled (over the past 10 years!).  Given how much I've enjoyed the Lion/Dragon rampant rules, I hope these will fit the bill very nicely.

Not that I won't keep trying other rules for the period, but that's a story for another post...


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Villa Malparaiso 1811

We get only one or two really big games a year in at the minute, but each one is a looked forward to event and a couple of weeks ago was the latest, with myself and Gav unleashing the present entirety of my Peninsular War collection for a grand battle.

Aireborough Games Club was our venue of choice, offering us a Leisurely Saturday afternoon and evening to set up and play, as well as all the table space we could need.  In the end we set up an 11 by 6 foot table giving more than enough room for the roughly 800 figures.

The two forces were disposed by map deployment as usual, allowing plenty of uncertainty.  I took the French - who fielded 11 infantry regiments and 4 cavalry regiments - whilst Gav went with the British and their allies - 14 foot and 3 horse regiments, but with a lower overall quality due to the propensity of allies.  The battlefield was largely rolling plains, with some isolated farms and light woodland.  Long boundary walls and fences also broke the ground.  Once we had drawn up our maps we reviewed each others and got to setting up:

Looking south, with the French to the Left

Another angle, The French Cavalry set wide to the Right

Looking from the British lines, Spanish and Portuguese on the Right
 Both of us placed our cavalry on the Northern plains, Gav's centre was two British Brigade, whilst his Allies were to the right around the Malparaiso farm, stiffened with a Regiment of Highlanders.  For my part my Guard deployed to the farm, with a Line and Leger brigade in the centre and my allies to the North, adjacent to a small hilltop chapel.

We rolled off for initiative and I got first move.  It struck me that My cavalry advantage would be dependent on outflanking Gav first, and that I could expect an assault around the Farm; to this end I aimed to secure a solid defensive position on my left whilst my cavalry did their work.

The French Advance

The Portuguese and Scottish on the Far Right of the British lines

The Guard, Screened by Caribiniers, advance

One of the British centre brigades

The two lines close, French light cavalry outflanks the Spanish horse

The French form defensive lines as the Portuguese enter the farmyards

A long cavalry engagement begins

The French form a dogleg anchored on the wood in the centre

Spanish cavalry retreats.  A blunder sends French heavy cavalry on a fools errand 

The French Allies try to attack the British, probably ill-advised 
One Spanish Regiment had already quit the field.  The British made slow work of clearing the woodland

The Farm breaks up the Portuguese attack, opening it to withering fire.

The British threaten the centre.  Corsican Voltiguers cover the exposed line.

The Confederation troops fight hard, Whilst Spanish Dragoons mire the French Hussars 

Both sides suffer cavalry losses 
British Pressure in the centre starts to build

French cavalry is ascendant, but their allies are pushed back 

Maximum British pressure, but French guns finally act on an enfiladed target 

As the Portuguese attack falters, the French Guard go on the offensive 

Badly mauled, the French withdraw in orderly fashion from an exhausted British brigade 

Personal leadership keeps the cavalry at bay 

Battered regiments try desperately to gain control of Chapel Hill 

The Spanish attempt to face the French lines 

Carabiniers pursue the demoralised Portuguese brigade

Now the British right is dependent on the  Spaniards

The French allies are at their limit 

And then it is too much for them, and they rout 

At Malparaiso , the Guard turn their attentions towards the centre

Shattering fire and assaults smash the Spanish, the British too suffer losses
This would turn out to be essentially the final coup-de-grace, with the French causing enough losses to break the British army as a whole.  The final couple of pictures showing the ending dispositions:

French cavalry kept at bay, but the British had to draw troops away to shore up the centre 

The French centre is much thinned but the left flank is still full strength
Gav felt he was defeated by the complete failure of the Portuguese and Scottish to make any ground in the Farm, and I tend to agree. My Cavalry were effectively contained, and unit for unit his British outfought my French thanks to their greater fire discipline.  But I was able to disrupt the attack of both his allied brigades for very little loss; mostly degrading its impact with skirmish and defensive fire.  This gave me control of the flank, and crucially a fully fresh brigade at the end of the battle with which to turn on the tired British brigades.

An excellent game.  We made one more revision to our house rules for Black Powder to help things along, essentially that if a Brigade reaches its breakpoint it has only one turn in which to rally or it is permanently broken.  In the established rules, judicious use of rallying commanders could restore whole brigades to action several turns after breaking, in a way I ultimately decided was unrealistc at this scale of battle.  It tended to slow down a decision as brigades went back and forth out of the line.  Now if you can't restore order the first chance you have after becoming broken yo are done; this worked so much better and shaved an hour or more off the play time.

As an aside to this, I don't see us shifting to BP2 anytime soon, ultimately, we've tweaked our play of BP over the years to a point where we are both familiar with and very happy with how it plays.

A good old game, and moreover, we get a rematch soon.  We'll be taking these forces and a similar battle to Recon in December, for a rematch.

Stay tuned...