Saturday, 17 March 2018

MIght & Reason - Marlburian Action (aka Berwick's St. Patrick's Day Balls)

An excellent game played with Sgt. Steiner today. As always, great hospitality, rules and figures.

Might & Reason is one of Sam Mustafa's earlier sets, but you can already see the nucleus of Maurice and Blucher in some of the rules.

The focus here is on linear Marlburian warfare (with the Sun King expansion - the main game is aimed at 7YW) so the command dice, which allow a focus on activating key forces on the battlefield and thus avoiding staid tactics, really ignite the play - since, as ever, the ability to use them is finite and they have to be carefully managed.

There were a number of times when we were looking for command dice to help activation or a re-roll, and we had simply run out. Experience with the rules might help with rationing these, but I found myself wondering where I might influence the battle most, whilst trying to reason where I could hold back the enemy: a sign of a good ruleset. As with Maurice, you find yourself focusing on key things you want to accomplish, but you can't do everything - but the activation mechanism is very different - perhaps even better, as you're not relying on a card draw.

 A slightly different mindset and dynamic in comparison with Field of Battle too, but very much a 'big battle' set and focused on finding gaps in the line and exploiting them. Off the cuff tactics and attacking style can work in FoB. You have to be very careful with that sort of rash 'flank risking' play style here.

In the event, we found our flanks crumbling, whilst trying to shore up the gaps, and finding weaknesses in the enemy centre.

A lot of caution with these rules, and playing for time, and you do feel like the typical Marlburian commander, waiting for a break almost, whilst ensuring that you keep a reserve.

(I should also point to the fact the the French reserve, in the shape of Rohan's brigade, managed to spend the entire game shuffling from side to side, without ever being committed - they shall now be known as the 'Tallard's Formation Dance Team').

 View from the French lines.

The French right - which would become a hotly contested cavalry action.

Command dice placed to enable smoother activation...ration these! 

The French left - another cavalry action brewing.
 Early French attacks on the right through a bottleneck between town and river, were driven back, with Berwick finding his resolve in later actions.

...while the French left flank took a battering

The centre was being reinforced, and slowly pushing forward, with the reserve wondering what to do with itself.

The musketry phase - batches of 5-6 d6 which is a hallmark of firing in Sam's rules, and feels just right.

Berwick takes charge - personally leading 3 charges, and putting himself in considerable danger. I had to use all of my dice rolling skills to keep him alive ;)    I was mulling over the difference between 'valiant', reckless and just plain stoopid...and he did get called some less than affectionate names a few times for not activating ...ahem...

 Imperial troops moving to reinforce the centre as the French achieve some uncannily accurate small arms fire. Oh, and their artillery isn't half bad either.

Casualties were mounting as the large exchange of musketry and charging in the centre began to take its toll on army morale on both sides.

The French finally make gains in the centre...

...while just about holding their weak left.

Tallard's Formation Dance Team...who succeeded in moving the left...then right...then left again, depending on where the action was hottest, yet ultimately accomplishing bugger all.

 The attack in the centre...finally breaks the Imperial spirit, but it was very much touch and go, and a close run thing. (Truth be told, the Imperial troops should have had an initiative bonus which we missed).

 Berwick manages to secure the French right, enabling the thrust in the centre. Patience...patience...

Good old Berwick...young fella saved the day in the end. (Though I did call him all sorts of names for letting me down a couple of times ...ahem...) It must've raised a cheer back at St. Germain.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Field of Battle - Napoleonics - with 'Season of Battles' Campaign system playtest

An excellent return to FoB, and with the 'Season of Battles' campaign system that Sgt. Steiner is playtesting for the designer.

Usual FoB goodness in the shape of unpredictable battlefield and managing the chaos/fog of war that ensues - wargaming as it's meant to be!/?

Highlights of the campaign system :
for the first time, with the campaign end in mind, I was thinking about which units not to risk when things went sour. This changes your entire outlook in a battle, and a system can have detrimental effects on future use of fatigued units forces you to think of winning the campaign and series of linked battles - winning the war, not the battle in essence. Your outlook and focus on how to fight changes completely.

I was struck with the dynamics of choosing the battlefield and the mechanism by which strengths and weaknesses, surprise and key deployments are handled via the card game (Blackjack) system and miniature maps. This allows you to decide where, when and how you will attack - if you get the drop on your opponent, though does not guarantee full control, and is a great pre-game.

So then the ideas started going off for other games:
  • Nine Years War campaign - with months between battles (there were only about 4 major battles in Flanders anyway).
  • Pick all of the Irish built up areas during the same era - 1690s - and try to cross the lines of the Shannon over a three year - five battle epic, with the same units getting better/worse on the basis of performance.
  • Saratoga campaign - days/weeks between encounters managed on a 3 battle season.
  • ACW - practically begs for this treatment.
  • The WWII Corps/Division level campaign - Ardennes, Market Garden, Russian Front - this just writes itself for the WWII version of FoB.

 The basic layout of 'potential battlefields, with rolls allowing preferential selection, and the cards (via playing 'Blackjack' or 'Pontoon', and gaining advantage via your hand of cards, allowing strength of deployment and manoeuvre advantage before you set up. The French were able to force the Prussians to set up two divisions before they themselves had to deploy - they out-scouted, but were outnumbered via this pre-game.

 Laying out the battlefield... troops start to deploy. The French right would end up forming square against Prussian cavalry which would re-deploy from the centre - while the French cavalry on the left would surge across the centre when it eventually started to move - but by then the French had lost too much morale - and the French guard units on the left were too few in number and better kept to fight another day.

French units gain the town, but couldn't hold it.

French cavalry starts to get anxious. does the French right, deployed to (1) create a nuisance and (2) draw off Prussian reserves across the river, and thereby delay their getting back when things went south. It worked to a degree, but not enough to swing the tide of Prussian victory.

This is gonna hurt...

Although Sgt had added a rule for forming 'hasty square' during cavalry presence, the French were taking no chances. Form Square!

The centre looking inviting...

Pour La Gloire mes Amis!!! 

Morale points ebbing - first army morale check passed. Now truth be told, the French should have pulled out rather than stay to fight - so I wasn't always thinking about the next battle (clearly I had too much sugar).

 The French just can't retake the town - and even trying becomes expensive.

 Action on the French right.

As French cavalry surges across the centre - but it's all too late.

The French left gets to fight another day, though the army morale and will is severely depleted. Sack that damned commander! Sacre Bleu!