Sharp Practice at Steel Lard

Off to Patriot Games in Sheffield on 19th November 2022 for Steel Lard. The morning was taken up by a 4 player (2 a side) French and Indian War Sharp Practice game. Lovely terrain, the figures are Galloping Major. This was a relatively small scale affair. The models were mostly working in groups. Only 2 or 3 formations each of 2 groups came into being during the game. With small sized units and most of those being skirmish or light troops in cover a lot of the dice thrown had no effect. A unit of French Marines were, however, wiped out by long-odds missile fire. In the ACW and Napoleonic games previously described here there were big formations throwing out a lot of dice and consequent losses and shock building up. Here the pace was quieter with a lot of shots going nowhere. Close combat was more deadly but its a risk often not worth taking.

I commanded the boat on the left below. Both were full of 3 groups and a leader but it would be a push to cram them all in. Redoubt do some lovely period boats with rowers but how often would these get used in games?

The plan is to sail down the river, get out, burn down as many of the 5 buildings as possible and if there’s time find and rescue our commander’s lady friend. The British only have 1 man and a dog on the board. If the dog did not detect us in theory it is possible to do all that without anyone getting hurt.

Our luck went the other way and the boats did not get far before the dog heard our oars and the British cropped up all over the the shop. Time to get out of the boats but even that took longer than it ought to have done.

After some sorting out 1 house is on fire and the inhabitants of the other are heading for safety.

Our Milice think better of that, charge in and slaughter the lot. They later set the house on fire to rub it in. Redcoats have formed a good line behind the next fence making any further progress difficult.

Both sides settle into a firefight. Some of the British mission Indians break and run. Rogers Rangers dance about with little effect and our Coureurs du Bois loose off long range rifle shots with similar lack of result.

The end of game sees a stagnating firefight and the British decide to concede. They were 2 points lower in morale and in danger of breaking. Our French were not in a much better position and had only burnt 2 of the 5 buildings and failed to find the lady. On points I would have given it to the British.

The ‘winning’ French tactic had been to continually hammer the 2 badly hit British units (Indians and colonists) and see the British morale drop as they ran further away.

Rumour has it that the French also won the afternoon game,not that it really matters as long as everyone had fun (except possibly the British colonists).

Silver Bayonet for Flintloque

Having languished for some 20 years in their boxes the Flintloque figures find another route to the table with Osprey’s Silver Bayonet. Their other recent trip out being with Muskets and Tomahawks. Silver Bayonet is a very simple gaming system and 10 figures a side should be more than enough. The system is set in the Napoleonic Wars but would run for any horse and musket setting from the end of the pike and shot period until the proliferation of breech loading rifles. Gamers command ‘historical’ forces with a 3rd monster force run by the game system. With nothing being strictly historical the Flintloque nations fit in well and being large models work with the various Games Workshop style gribblies. Games of both systems involve roughly the same size forces so some of the Flintloque scenarios could be easily adapted for Silver Bayonet. There are a selection at Orcs in the Webb and more scattered through the Alternative Armies digital archive. The challenge is to track down those with the more interesting play value. ‘A Stroll in the Park‘ has the makings of a Silver Bayonet adventure after a few changes in force compositions.

There is little shockingly new in Silver Bayonet. The key combat factor is the use of 2D10s and needing to equal the target’s defense. The 2 dice are classed as either power or skill. If a hit is achieved the score of 1 die (usually the power die) is subtracted from the health of the unfortunate target. A basic soldier has a health of 10 so if hit has a 1 in 10 chance of being down in one. Models that survive gradually get better during a campaign and one of the best early buys is to increase that health to 11, effectively giving a model 2 wounds and negating the chance of an instant kill. There is no penalty to losing health above 0 except that fewer hits will eventually force an early bath. The twist in the tale is each player has a small bank of spare dice (usually 2 each of power and skill, plus 1 monster die). A player can use each spare die once as a re-roll or an attempt to reduce any damage. A common hit number is 14 so if 10 is rolled on the power but 1 on the skill (total 11) it is a good call to re-roll the skill hoping for a 4+ and a possible kill. In the case of 10 skill and 1 power it is probably not worthwhile spending a spare power die as the damage caused will be 4-10 but 1-3 will still miss (assuming 14 to hit). The spare power dice (only) can also be used to reduce damage, best saved for when those 10 score hits come in. There are very few modifiers to firing; skill, movement and cover, nothing for aiming and a rifle is no more accurate than a musket but has a longer range.

A typical Silver Bayonet scenario has the players moving on from the board edges with something bad in the middle. Objectives on the table will give an advantage in taking down the monsters or spawn more bad things (probably a mixture of both). The monsters are hard to put down, many are immune to just about any damage. Special weapons or ammunition overcome these immunities but you need the right tools for the monster of the day. The scenario set up should have some of the right kit hidden on the board although you can still end up with the right figures with the right kit but in the wrong place. The book scenarios have no end condition but do offer experience points for fulfilling objectives such as killing things, finding things and rescuing things. There will come a point where both sides realise that they have either achieved the optimum point score or that further losses would achieve nothing so both retreat off the board. When played as a campaign models improve a little between games so staying alive is a win. With the monsters being well-hard it pays to let the opposition wear them down a bit then finish them off (monsters and opposition) then get out of dodge.

Gameplay involves dicing for who goes first. The first player acts with half their models, then the monsters (with a basic automation), all the 2nd player’s models go then the remaining 1st player’s models. Going first can be an advantage as they can get out of the way of the monsters, allow the 2nd player to get mauled then clear up with their remaining models.

Of the 10 scenarios in the book we have played up to number 8 while trying to keep experience logged and used for a campaign. The plot was slightly hampered by losing the roster sheets after scenario 6 and having to resort to an earlier saved copy. None of the characters have massively increased in skill although there has been an experience gap that has led to the British being granted some extra game experience to keep up with the French. 2 games comfortably fit into a games night (just over an hour’s play in each) including set up and take down of the table and figures. Playing as a campaign is a definite benefit as it gives an incentive to cut and run if things seem to be going as well or as badly as they are likely to get.

There are certainly some problems with the rulebook. Most of it is fluff but the actual rules seem to be only detailed once but not all in the same place. This makes tracking down a particular rule tricky as the book lacks a comprehensive index. For example there is a section on the monsters, most of these have a list of special powers. Those are listed in another section and may modify standard rules scattered throughout the body of the rulebook. The monsters and traits sections are just about in alphabetical order. Some, however, are out of sequence causing some severe frustration: Inspiring is at the bottom of page 151 but indefatigable is over the page at the top of 152.

In summary a simple system that gets games played although it lacks the depth of decision making of some other games; such as the card system in Muskets and Tomahawks.

Muskets and Tomahawks and Flintloque

Shakos and Bayonets is the Napoleonic supplement for Muskets and Tomahawks. The base rules are still required to play as are a set of cards, official, proxied or made from the pdf file on Studio Tomahawks’ website. The Rebels and Redcoats supplement already covers the 1812 war in North America so it would be possible to run Napoleonic battles without the new book. The new card load out is different with the addition of 2 types of cavalry and changes in the infantry names and card quantities.

Shakos and Bayonets has lists for the French, British, Austrians, Spanish, Prussians and Russians. There is a also a generic minor nations list. The Portuguese are part of the British list. There are no stats for Ottomans. There are no specific rules for allies, for example stiffening the Spanish with some British but something could be worked out by customising the card deck.

The rules gave an opportunity to trot out Flintloque figures that have been boxed up since about 1998. Enough figures were found for about 300 points of Spanish and 500 of French and British. A solid coat of varnish has left them in good condition if overly shiny. They have now all had a shot of matt varnish. The Orks had been given green flesh. This seemed reasonable for Orks at a time when there was no cheap Internet and few colour images for inspiration. The flesh has now been over-painted pink to make the models look a little more ‘human’ at a distance. A full strip and repaint would have brought out more detail but that would be almost as much work as painting new models. The Flintloque figures are vaguely 35mm but as they represent Orcs, Elves and other fantasy races the proportions are all over the place. The castings are still available from Alternative Armies and there is usually a selection on eBay (many at higher prices than buying new from Alternative). It is pretty much a buyer’s market. The reason that your author still has Flintloque figures is due to a consistent failure in selling them off. A unit of dwarves did manage to make their way to a gamer who specialised in collecting the little folk. The quality of the models is spotty. The best have a certain charm reflecting the modelling style of the Wallace and Gromit films. Some of the worst have been re-modeled or dropped from Alternative’s line. Older versions of the Flintloque rules can be found amongst the Alternative Armies free downloads, look for the ‘free files stacks‘. The Elves and Orcs just about pass for historical but some of the Flintloque races such as the Goblins, Dogs and Toads are way off the scale. The Russians are undead and werewolves; so to start off we will stick to Spain.

This image is of a Reiver 28mm wagon. It looks acceptable by the French elves although the original heavy horses have shrunk to being ponies.

Here is the convoy scenario from Shakos and Bayonets. The wagon contains gunpowder and might blow up. The French are escorting the wagon but some of their troops have become separated from the road convoy. The wagon and its escort move on a clock card and the game runs until the 6th red clock card. As the deck is shuffled after the 3rd clock card drawn it is possible although extremely unlikely that after the 1st 6 cards every single card drawn could be a clock. Although unlikely the length of the game and how quickly the wagon moves are quite random. The size of the deck will affect this and it is governed by the variety of troop types fielded by each side. The wagon defender should prefer a small deck, hoping to rush the wagon through the board. In this scenario it would be best affected by running light cavalry only. Fast enough to get ahead of the wagon and keeping the deck size small will make the wagon move more often. This is a very reasonable convoy escort detail but not the best for a balanced game.

Trying it all out at 300 points; so on the small side for Muskets and Tomahawks. A unit of Spanish line (12) 2 of guerillas (6) and 1 of lancers (6) with 2 leaders. The Spanish could have fielded militia but the line unit stats were ropey enough. The lancers are recruits so rubbish but cheap. The French had 1 leader, 2 units of line (8)(centre company troops of a light regiment) , 1 guarding the wagon and 2 of voltigeurs (5).

This layout was fought over twice and seemed to fit the bill. An isolated finca surrounded by orchards and vegetable fields. As a game it worked less well as the fields hampered movement except for the lights and guerillas who had the scouts trait. This meant that most forces moved up and down the road. The hedge system also made it difficult for the wagon to move off road, either to avoid a Spanish block or for the Spaniards to capture it and drive the wagon away and off the road.

Trying for a more open set up here with lanes allowing the wagon to more easily get off road and reach the opposite board edge. The attacker has entry points on 2 board edges. Here the wagon finds the main road blocked and turns onto the side track (not benefiting from the road movement bonus) towards the edge furthest from the Spanish entry points.

The only unit that can catch the wagon are the lancers who bravely self destruct on it as it turns and heads for the exit board edge. A re-run of the game saw a similar result with few casualties and the wagon making its way off board, well ahead of its own escorts.

The problem is the relative speed of the wagon. It moves when a clock card is drawn; 8″ on road and 6″ off. There will always be 3 clock cards in a turn so except for terrain effects it will move 24″ or 18″ unless the path to the board edge is blocked. An infantry unit would draw 4 cards in a turn at best. Probably less due to shuffling and maybe more from activating through command points. 4 moves of 6″ with the road bonus would give 24″. A more likely case would be without the road or even with a terrain penalty as units chase the wagon through rough terrain. In the gunpowder scenario shooting at the wagon has the risk of it blowing up so the game becomes one of position with the ambusher trying to get units into blocking positions. The chance of additionally winning a melee and escorting the wagon away is low.

Having got the table and troops out here is a go at the first skirmish scenario from the main Muskets & Tomahawks rule book. The only force change is to ditch the guerilla leader and 1 of his men in favour of 4 more regulars and deploying the 16 Spanish regulars as 2 units of 8. The guerillas are skirmish troops, tending to run back rather than rout when failing morale. This is easily reversed so they do not get a great benefit from their leader. The ‘forward boys’ card is unlikely to come up before every shuffle making the leader less use than 3 more boots on the ground. Also a unit of 12 is a poor size as it needs 1 more command point to shift than a unit of 11. 8 is a good sized unit for line although it loses the juicy close order bonus when reduced to 5.

The troops deploy around their entry points. It is not clear exactly what this entails but they have been placed close enough but not overlapping. The sheep and cows are objectives. To win a side must control 2 out of 3 on a deck shuffle.

The Spanish lancers gallop forwards; soon to fall back under French fire.

Elsewhere the action hots up with scouting troops in the fields and line along the main road. The Spanish line get off a devastating volley on their French opposite numbers. The French commander runs off forcing the French to pay an extra point for all command point expenditures. The pig has appeared from the ‘standard found’ random event. There are command points for carrying it off but not enough to offset the cost of the unit that captures it.

The Spanish keep up the volley fire. There is another firefight between the guerilla and voltigeur units.

The Spanish line manages to turn and hose down the 2nd unit of French line. Note that there is another unit of Spanish line behind the first trying to nudge their way round and avoiding the path of the volley fire. The Spanish guerillas now control 2 objectives and win the game.

The message here is that even rubbish infantry can do well with volley fire if they have the close order trait and have a touch of luck with the dice. The lancers were consistently rubbish although they do look good, the unicorns might not be historic. They would have done better had they remembered that they had pistols as well as lances. The Flintloque figures as a whole looked OK. After 20+ years an order has gone off to Alternative Armies and they will be treated to another 12 new Elf models to buff up the Spanish army. These could run as guerillas or militia or even pad out the regulars considering the Spanish supply system and these being fantasy Napoleonics.

Sharp Practice 15mm Napoleonic

A run out of Sharp Practice with 15mm Napoleonics based as 3s on 3cm by 1cm strips. Each strip is a single Sharp Practice model and the game scale has been changed with 1″ measured as 2cm.  If we use 1cm as 1m in real scale a model is 1.6m high and short musket range is 24m.   In real life any shooting below 50m is dangerously close so the models should still be 2-4x shorter to match a believable ground scale.  The buildings are 15mm Hovels and a little on the small size for 1:1 type games. 

The Church is the French deployment point and the British win by capturing it.  Even as a small Chapel the 156 French troopers in the game could just squeeze in on the pews assuming the gallery could take their weight.  So the French could stuff their entire force in the tiny Church and call it a day.  Tactically that would be a poor plan.  Only a minority of troopers could shoot out and if someone played with matches it could all go horribly wrong.  A slightly less bad plan would be to line up in front of the Church as 3 rows, skirmishers, line, line; then taunt the British to go for it (or possibly round it).

Instead we aim for a more open game and see what happens.  There were a few false starts before the re-setting for the opening moves.  This clarified which units were best deployed first and the ‘virtual’ size of various openings in the terrain features.  The river is dry but rough going.  Units can follow the road and pass through gates 2 stands (6 men) abreast.  We assume some crunching up within the fixed bases.

The British have 2 deployment points but only the mule group by the house counts for ‘bad things happen’.  The other point has been deployed well forward but the mass of French skirmishers are threatening to shut it down.

The left field British skirmishers suffer withering fire.  A British formation of 2 groups heads across the bridge with skirmishers to their right.  French pile into the field ahead of them.

A column on road moves 3D6, up to 36cm in this scale.  They could be instructed to halt at some fixed point.  Forgetting that the British road column jogs up the road and ends up uncomfortably close to the French line by the Church.  From this point on it all starts to go horribly wrong for the British.  There are French in front, to the right and behind them.

The British sort themselves out but take serious shock from the French in line to one side and their skirmish cloud (who have shown off their British opposite numbers) to another.  Luckily the French line to the right are still in column and another British formation is coming up to try and deal with that threat.

The British cross the dry river as groups breaking up the formation.

The French drive the remaining British skirmishers to the right away from the wall.  The British charge up the road again forgetting how large a score might possibly be rolled on 3D6 and that they could have been ordered to halt.

The lead British group led by their leader drives the French back from the Churchyard walls.  The other 2 groups nominally under that leader’s command are across the river but without a commander will not be able to act as a formation nor recover any shock.

The British inflict some damage on the French in the Churchyard but those inside the Church are unaffected.  The British are suffering from severe shock.  From left to right below; 7, 9 and 1.  British morale is dropping.

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The British leader facing the French skirmishers can’t remove shock as fast as more shock is taken.  The British are starting to lose command cards leading to a downward spiral.  The French and British on either side of the wall trade volleys.  The French have the shelter of the wall and 2 leaders to no British so clearly are doing better out of it.

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As the British moral plummets to zero their remaining lines are pushed back.  There is still a British group in the Churchyard but they would have minimal chance of taking control of the Church.

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In game tactics the British made a major mistake in moving their best commander from his formation to push a single group into the Churchyard.   The remaining formation units had restricted activation opportunities and could not recover shock.  The formation of 12 French skirmishers under a leader 2 had good fortune in sending off the group of 6 British sent against them.  They rolled well and earned an extra shot from a shooting related random action.   With the British skirmishers out of the game the French could turn the British flank.  The British should have put both their skirmish groups on the same part of the field as the French skirmish formation.

Rules wise the same French skirmisher formation was too powerful.  It put out 12 stands of shooting and benefited from the skirmisher cover bonus.  This would not have occurred with fixed single model stands as the line of models would be set to reflect who could shoot.  It was assumed that the 15mm models might virtually move within their bases allowing 2 ranks to shoot.  On reflection if 2 ranks were allowed to shoot then the formation is in line as shot at as such.  A 15mm based skirmish formation is best seen as a single line of stands.

Blood and Plunder: All at Sea

Another potential 18th century ship courtesy of eBay and £6.50. This is a Simba toy in the Playmobil style but a little less robust. This particular model is more commonly seen in pale blue as Sponge Bob Square-pants’ ship. It is unlikely to have any collectible value. Some parts are missing but the core ship structure is all there. The plastic hull is thinner than the Playmobil model but is still robust and should be slightly easier to cut away.

The image shows the basic ship with original fittings stripped off. The core ship deck measures 35cm by 13cm.

A line up of the new ship, Playmobil conversion and Pressman Pirate game model

A close up of the deck. A good height for the 28mm sailor but something will need to be done to create a gun port. The rear area will either need the deck building up or the sides cutting down.

With this being the 3rd toy ship conversion for 28mm here are some lessons learnt.

  • You don’t need to start with complete toys, damaged models are a lot cheaper.  A complete hull and deck are the essentials.   Playmobil hulls are one piece but some Mega Block hulls come in sections so you could end up with some disappointing gaps.
  • If the deck can be saved do so.  Building up a new deck is a jigsaw where you have to cut the pieces up yourself.
  • Some bits are worth saving for structural integrity at a cost of ‘realism’.  Replacement masts are unlikely to be as strong as the plastic originals.  This makes the multi-mast toy ships particularly desirable.
  • Do any serious drilling and cutting (such as gun ports) before gluing on any new parts (such as decking) as the drilling and cutting may vibrate the glued bits onto the void that is the floor.
  • The final result may fall short of the commercial resin models but those are crazy expensive.  Never mind the quality look at the width.

This is the final result, relying on the original but extended mast and rear sail structure.  The original sails were present but boasted implausible jagged edges and massive skull and cross-bone motifs.  The cannon are oversized but make good use of the plastic cannon from the Pressman game.

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Although the crew fit onto the toy ships there is not much space left over to show who is doing what.  In Blood and Plunder the brigantine has 3 deck sections and the sloop 2.   Units move from section to section in 1 move either within 1 ship or onto an adjacent grappled ship.  2 units can exist on a section and the size of a unit depends on the points value of a game.  So in a strict rules interpretation the same ship could hold more crew in a larger point game.  This is a 200 point game and there is space for more than 1 unit in a section but it is not easy to see who is doing what or who has or has not been activated.  Possible solutions are to place the models in dense blobs, work out a marker system or use a paper plan.

The toy sloop has plenty of deck space but because it is not the official layout the space within the raised stern deck is a bit of a crush.  6 sailors and 4 soldiers aft together with 2 units of 6 soldiers forward (3 on each of the 3 medium guns).

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The brig still has plenty of space to swing a cat. 6 sailors and 6 soldiers aft, 8 muskets midships ( 2 for each of the light guns), 6 sailors forward.

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Setting up a basic battle of the 2 toy ships on a 3′ square table shows that there is not a lot of spare ocean real estate.  Luckily if it is all open sea the ships can slide along the table keeping their relative distance and simulating endless sea.  In this scenario the bottom edge is blocked but the ships can sail anywhere off the remaining 3 edges.

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Turns 1 to 3 see some maneuvering of the ships.  Cannon are shot but with limited effect.  The sloop might have got off a devastating volley at the end of turn 3 but unfortunately  their starboard guns were unloaded. It took  a few advanced manoeuvre die rolls to swing the brig round into the wind like that but needing a 5+ for the test and picking the best of 2 dice this was not a major issue.  The sloop is now within grappling range of the brig and with a first move card either ship could attempt to grapple and board.

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The brigantine goes first with 2 actions, grapples then charges in with the soldiers in the stern.  This does not go well as they are hit hard with defensive fire then wiped out by the counter-attack from the sloop soldiers.  With no soldiers on board the enemy vessel the brigantine does better by firing a broadside into it.

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The battle continues back and forth on the sloop deck with units jumping across and a gradual wearing down of both sides. Moving models from ship to ship, avoiding the rigging and deck clutter required care and attention. The English on the brigantine started and ended with more men so end up in control of both ships.  Some of the French sailors are still holding out but the writing is on the wall.

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Blood & Plunder: Amphibious landing

Having sorted some ships for naval games the next challenge is how many models should fit in them?  The toy boat below is loaded with 4 small cannons, 4 sailors, 6 Rangers and 4 militia.  The grassy bases on most of the models are out of place but ignoring that the whole is a bit of a mess.  Clearing away some of the deck structures would help, commercial gaming boats tend to have minimal deck features.  The Firelock Games Bark is only slightly larger but will load up 35 models and 4 guns.  Even approaching that number on this model results in unreasonable overcrowding and possible damage to models as they fall off or rattle around.

The smaller Firelock Games Longboat holds 13 and a swivel gun.   Our plastic ‘Bark-equivalent’ is crowded with 14 and 4 guns. Firelock Games provide a download and print longboat.  With smaller bases 13 models on that cut out would possibly work.  This jolly boat shown next to the Firelock cut out is a 3D paper model giving some compromise between utility and flatness.  The same site has other useful plans including a canoe for 2 or 3 models that shows up on the after action report later on.

The Firelock Games cut out does the job but is obviously flat.  These boats are made from a base of foamcore, foamcore seats and sides from cereal box cardboard folded double (for strength and leaving the grey side outwards).  They were measured for 2 * 20mm bases across with a 10mm ‘seat’ (which also strengthens the structure).  As can be seen 12 figures just about fit in having lost some inner space with the base texturing on the figures and the curve by the prow.

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In any approach to real life it would be possible to cram many more bodies on board together with a heap of equipment or baggage.  Redoubt do 28mm landing barges with 12 seated soldiers and 3 sailors and bateau with 7 crew both of which give us a standard to aim for.

A big plus of naval gaming at this scale is using the boats as movement trays with groups of units moving as a single blob.   Within the ship cannon are going to need crew crowded around them and if sailors are manning the rigging they ought to be somewhere near it.  The solution is either to have ship models that are overly large (a big plus for the Playmobil approach) or to add a token crew and keep the rest on a roster off-map.

The following report uses the off-map plan.  The French forces are the same as the last game.  The British have needed to buy a Bark, 2 long boats, 4 cannon and 3 swivel guns (1 in a long boat). 1 unit of infantry and 1 of Rangers have been sacrificed to pay for all this.

We envisage a raid on a French settlement somewhere around the Great Lakes.  The time limit is 6 turns.  Without that the British could anchor off-shore and shell the French flat.  We do assume some prior shelling reducing the fortitude of the block house to that of a large wooden building and encouraging the French to spread out rather than all hole up in the blockhouse and hope for the best (coincidentally that is what blockhouses are for).  Even so looking at the odds the British are hard pressed to win.  Playing as solitaire with random card draws sets a challenge for the British.

By turn 2 the Bark is within grappling range of the jetty, the longboats are still some way off .  Shore fire is desultory.

The sailors grapple in on turn 2 and switch to cannon fire at the French.  A cannon needs 4 actions to reload and a unit will have at most 3 actions a turn.  So the best the sailors can do is shoot turn 3 (shoot,load,load), 4 (load,load, shoot) and 6 (load, load, load on turn 5 then load, shoot, load).  The infantry storm ashore facing withering fire from the blockhouse.

1 British unit is wiped out but 2 units scoot past the blockhouse and ‘have at it’ with the milice in the field.

The other milice unit is wiped out by the Bark’s guns (the latest Blood and Plunder rules nerfed cannon against targets in the open but we are having none of that) which then turn on the blockhouse (which is hard to miss).  The Indians shuffle around staying out of the way but have little effect on the game.

An against the odds victory for the British.  A previous play of the same set up had seen the British take heavy losses and get nowhere.  It helped to get the vessels in close as quickly as possible and use the manoeuvrabilityof the long boats to concentrate where the French are weak.  In Blood and Plunder the limited range of the swivel guns makes them a poor buy.  The cannons are useful when they hit but they must be bought in pairs so while one side will get off some good shots the other is unlikely to get used.  It is quicker to reload one side than to turn the ship round.

 

Blood and Plunder: French Indian War

Blood and Plunder is aimed at the late 17th Century but as new material comes out is gradually slipping further out of the past.  The next planned upgrade is based around the age of Blackbeard so it will have crept up to 1718.  Even if not sunk by storms ships were susceptible to their hulls rotting away, especially in the Caribbean.  HMS Victory remained at sea and in-service from 1765 until 1824.  HMS Trincomalee is still in the water but only sailed from 1817 until 1852.  Many ships would be lucky to remain in service for 30 years without becoming wrecks or their hulls rotted ‘paper thin’ so there is only a slim argument for a 50 year old ship remaining on active service.  There would have been some change in ship design between 1718 and 1756 but not enough to annoy any but the staunchest of purists.  In short, the same model ships (which are probably a tad simplified anyway) will do for 1700 and 1756.

The Seven Years War in the American colonies is not just a conflict of Indians, woods and sieges.  The lifeline of New France were the rivers and lakes of Canada.  The largest of these were navigable by serious sized shipping.  The image below is from 1797 but is based on an eyewitness sketch by General Wolfe’s Aide de Camp of the 1759 landing at Quebec city.  It has all that a Blood and Plunder player needs, redcoats, naval rowers  in natty blue jackets, landing barges, larger single masters with sails furled and multiple masted ships of the line to the rear.

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South of New France there was conflict amongst the sugar islands of the Caribbean.  After the French forces in Canada were effectively neutralised the British were left with large forces surplus to requirements in the colonies.  The sugar islands were relatively easy to hold once captured and provided a useful bargaining chit for any future peace negotiations.  Despite the loss of Canada the French still supported and supplied their Caribbean territories with soldiers and ships.  The big loss of life was disease rather than combat

Example conflicts include the failed 1759 invasion of French Martinique by the British and the later 1762 capture of the island.  The painting below by Dominic Serres dates from 1766, note the sloops to the fore of the battle line and the landing boats forming up behind.

Serres, Dominic, 1722-1793; The Capture of Martinique, 11 February 1762

Serres, Dominic; The Capture of Martinique, 11 February 1762; National Trust, Ickworth; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-capture-of-martinique-11-february-1762-171909

The kronoskaf site will not win any artistic design prizes but has some solid hard facts on the Seven Years War in Europe and the colonies.  This all includes a summary of the land forces and ships involved.  The 1759 expedition to Martinique and Guadeloupe for example included 4 Sloops of War of 10, 16, 13 and 10 guns, the sort of size ships that we might simulate on the gaming table.  For further reading original sources are quoted such as this account of Caribbean operations which can be tracked down on-line.  As well as the larger actions there were attacks by French privateers on merchant shipping which would provide material for smaller gaming scenarios.

Pirate figures are not too hard to source but many of their costumes are pure fantasy.  Many sailors would wear civilian clothes and Galloping Major make some useful 18th century sailors.

For modelling ideas ‘bbprivateer‘ depicts a mix of historical examples and doubtful interpretations, thankfully it is easy to tell which is which.  In general male clothing would have changed substantially from 1650 to 1750 although a bareheaded chap wearing shirt and breeches would probably stand duty throughout the period.    For the British military the Royal Marine uniform followed the contemporary infantry pattern, with white facings.

On the weapon front Blood and Plunder does allow for matchlocks and pikes but firelocks are also present so with astudious choices from the force lists suitable ‘armies’ can be built up although these might not be the best lists from a competitive aspect.   It includes lists for North American British and Canadian French.  Some of the options such pikemen and bow armed Indians would no longer be in period but the basis of suitable forces can be worked up.   As an example of the tweaking required; the North American British militia troop type includes ‘Indian Fighters’ and ‘Boslopers’.  ‘Boslopers’ is a Dutch variant of ‘Indian Fighters’ doubtless included to reflect the Firelock Games available figures.  In game terms both are similar and have the same base points cost.  In a French Indian Wars game they would run as Rangers, either a regular unit or local troops.

To try out the system we have a 200 point game.  100 points is the recommended starting level but as these forces are using relatively sophisticated weapons their cost per model is higher than a force relying on bows, pikes and hand weapons to fill it out.  The solitaire rules were not used as the defender’s options were straightforward.  Instead each force was dealt a card and the high acting card played out first using the best available unit.  In a tip of the hat to history and Hollywood we see a British force in the wilderness that has been intercepted by the French and must break through to their own lines.  This is inspired by the film Northwest Passage (1940, in colour but the Indian and Ranger portrayals are of its time) where the Rangers are making their way home after a raid.  The film ending does not make much sense as the sequel (from the same book) about the Rangers moving on to explore the Northwest passage was never filmed.  The historical raid in question was that on St Francis by the Rangers in 1759.  After the raid the Rangers split up into small parties to avoid detection and to forage for supplies; some of these groups were found and ambushed by the French.

Our story starts with a force of Rangers and Provincial troops arriving at an abandoned blockhouse (the lack of roof is deliberate), hoping to find supplies but running into the French instead.  No ship action in this game but the ‘bateau’ on the table illustrates that the water is not far away.  This set up was played through 3 times with the same force and table but differing deployments.  Here follows the 3rd run through.  Figures are North Star, Redoubt and Galloping Major.

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The British need to get into the French deployment area or they will lose a ‘strike point’.   End of turn 2 shows them moving up but taking losses.  Yellow dice are reload markers and white dice stress.  The British Rangers (Indian fighters) move without penalty in cover so they make a strong showing in the woods.  Unfortunately they are countered by the milice who are also pretty good in cover.  The British colonial militia provide fire support although they are not much good at it.

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Turn 5 shows the British at half strength, down 2 strike points to one but it is kinder to call it a day here.  The key decisions being the face off of 2 milice and 2 ranger units (those 3 men are in 2 units).   Musket ranges are quite short (24″ tops and then hitting on 10s).  A key temptation at closer ranges is to keep loaded, allowing a shooting reaction as the enemy charges in.  If within charge range of an unloaded enemy the charger will not take any losses in their close combat.

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Previous games had seen a narrow French win and a British walk over.  The choice of starting positions being the key factor in each case.  Blood and Plunder is a relatively simple infantry game, allowing the naval aspect to work without bogging itself down.  It is however easy to forget to apply the unit or army special rules amongst all the action.

 

Sharp Practice 15mm ACW

Having got the new Muskets and Tomahawks on the table time was finally found to have a go at Sharp Practice 2.  This had been sat on the shelf for a while.  Muskets and Tomahawks are the sort of rules that once skimmed invite getting some figures out and giving it a go.   Sharp Practice involves rather more commitment and having played a couple of test games still requires a little more thought than just throwing the toys down and having at it.  It is not that the rules are complex but the mechanisms are out of the ordinary even in comparison to Chain of Command.  Some rules are present but not so easy to track down, a good case for having the searchable PDF on standby.

Despite owning enough models to do French and Indian War or Napoleonics; ACW was chosen as both armies are similar so there would be less to digest.  Lists for all 3 are in the Sharp Practice book and in time will all appear in the new Muskets and Tomahawks supplements.  The ACW figures are based for Fire and Fury and were last trotted out about 4 years ago for a Regimental Fire and Fury game.  A first Sharp Practice run through was with 1 figure per man and using 1 game cm as 1″ in the rules.  Regular infantry are in units of 8, the Fire and Fury basing is in 3s so the infantry ran as 9s, the effect on the game being minimal.  Tracking losses and shock was fiddly so the next run through was of a stand (3 models) as 1 game figure and a scaling of 2cm as 1″ in the rules book.  This allowed casualty removal and the 120 cm mat scaling up as 60″ square. 

Using the stands a basic infantry unit became 24 figures.  These units work best in formations so a formation of 2 units became 48 and 3 became 72 a feasible company strength and making more sense of the Sharp Practice formation rules than clumps of 16 or 24 men. It would be just as easy to get 24 men as 8 in house and still only count shots out through the openings.  Fitting all the models in place without tipping them into a heap would be the only way to do it with Fire and Fury bases.  The Fire and Fury basing did have 1 side effect as the bases are not square so when a unit turns to face its frontage changes.

The first thought when running a skirmish game is to put down as much terrain as possible.  This did not work out well due to the formation and movement rules.  As in Chain of Command a unit rolls a number of dice and moves that far.  That will generally be 2D6.  If a unit is in broken terrain it will lose 1 from every dice score, crossing a low obstacle will cause the lower die score to be ignored.  So moving out of light woods across the boundary fence will drop the movement range from 2 to 12 to 0 to 5.  In Chain of Command the units are blobs and can squeeze through gaps then expand again.  In Sharp Practice the units can do that but will need to sort themselves out to optimise combat.  The best shooting formation is a line, with 3 groups that is 12 stands wide and 2 deep.  Shifting that through a gate 1 base at a time is not going to work out.  Columns are more maneuverable but being deep will take longer to cross an obstacle.  Some thought needs to go into how much terrain is required and any effects for a specific game.  For example if a column crosses a fence it might be best to spend an action to tear down the fence so after the first stands pass it provides no cover or impediment to the troops behind.  Sharp Practice has no fixed game length so any movement restrictions will not stop the game but the more time it takes player ‘A’ to get into action the more time player ‘B’ has to set up the defense thus turning the basic encounter battle into a defend in place.  The game does try to reduce the approach time with deployment points.  Unlike in Chain of Command the majority of these do not move before the first units deploy so there could be a lot of moving up  time.  The order that units will deploy depends on how the cards are drawn.  Units can be held back off-table but unlike Chain of Command a player cannot guarantee that the first units to come out will be the scouts.  Skirmishing units are much easier to control than big formations so there is some incentive to get them out in front but at a cost of holding back the big formations and a loss of game time.

Activation is card based; each officer has a card plus there are 4 colour cards per side and an end of turn tiffin card.  Playing cards will do the trick with court cards for officers, pip cards for the colours and the joker as tiffin.  Counters might work better as a counter can be put against a unit when it is activated.  It is easy to trackback the court cards used but sometimes the colour cards will be used for activations.  When tiffin is drawn the pack is shuffled so there is a chance that a unit will only rarely activate.  The pack does attempt to mitigate this with the colour cards.  2 cards can be used to activate a unit without the bonus of its officer or 3 for any un-activated officer.  If tiffin is drawn with unspent colour cards these can be used to activate units that have not already been activated that turn; 1 card per unit.  The colour cards are, however, in demand to pay for various bonuses that officers can give to their men so could well have been spent before tiffin.  Another way to get units moving without cards is having higher ranking officers activate other units within their command range.  This could get up to 4 formations moving, although without the officer bonuses.  It does depend on the units being in the right place and the high ranking command cards coming out before the lower.  A unit can only activate once per turn unless 4 colour cards are spent for a bonus ‘free’ activation.

Here the CSA are attacking an isolated hamlet.  All the land to the edge of the board is light wood, the trees are for effect so will move about during the game to accommodate the troop models.  There are 2 big cornfields and several smaller fenced-in fields.  The downed fence in the Northwest does not impede movement.  The USA have 2 deployment points on the centre road and West edge.  The CSA have 3 deployment points to the East.  The CSA need to capture the rearmost USA deployment point to win although driving either sides’ morale to 0 will also do the job.  The force point totals are 84 and 83.  The CSA bought an exploring officer, hence the additional deployment point.  The USA have a wagon and priest who give a bonus for ammo and shock removal respectively.   The 2 forces are similar, there are 8 fewer CSA stands as their units are marginally more expensive (8 versus 6 a unit).

On the first card draw the USA get 1 skirmisher down on the board. It deploys well forward to thwart any possible CSA flank attack. After 4 tiffin cards the CSA get their 2 big commands down and decide to call the skirmishes’ bluff. Already it seems that the Northern half of the game mat will see little action.

All the units are on table. The USA deployed 3 units at their forward deployment point but needing to stay close enough to that point and far enough from the CSA they ended up as more of a clump than a column. Shots from 2 enfilading CSA skirmish units has piled shock onto them. The USA formation has had to split into groups to face the skirmish threat but still lining up for a potentially devastating volley at the flank of the advancing CSA main force. The other USA formation has sensibly deployed well back by the point they are supposed to defend.  The casualty markers are shock, 1 point for a man, 5 for a canon. Shock piles up slowly unless a unit is shot from the flank when shot results are doubled.  It is hard to get rid off, burning one of an officer’s limited commands.  If a level 1 officer (more probably a corporal) removes 1 point of shock he is done for his activation.

The USA troops in the village are in a pile of shock. One group has been driven back, another is behind a house that is now on fire. The main CSA line is taking fire and their supporting formation is lagging to the rear. The USA skirmishers are getting out of dodge or at least out of the cone of lead coming from the opposing main lines. At this point the chapter ended and the burning building collapsed.

The main lines are blazing away and the CSA is coming off worst, the CSA second line is coming into action but it will soak up some of the lead coming towards their colleagues in front. In the village incessant skirmisher fire has forced one USA group to break and run.

The CSA front finally breaks under heavy USA fire. In the village another house catches fire and the USA troops decide to vacate it. The CSA 2nd line attempts to rush the village and break the USA morale before the USA units there sort themselves out.

The CSA take the village with USA units running off in all directions. One 7 stand group has amassed an impressive 15 points of shock. The USA is now down to a morale of 2 but has moved up on the flank of the CSA force in the village.

The USA roll insanely badly for moving up in the village, the fence did not help. The CSA sort themselves out although their entire left is a mess.

Weight of firepower pushes the CSA out of the village. The USA even manage to reduce much of the shock on what is left of their force. They steadily advance flanking the CSA in the village and chasing the other retiring CSA troops. The CSA can do little more than rally. A chapter end event drives one of their groups off table and the CSA morale falls to 0. The USA morale was down to 1 but the CSA had run out of momentum to drive it down over the last few turns.

Mistakes were made on both sides.  For the CSA it was bad luck having their outflanking deployment point largely closed down by USA skirmishers.  Moving a formation from one side of the table to another could have taken the USA in the flank but that sort of re-jigging is hard slow work in Sharp Practice.  The USA troops in the village were a mess from the start as there was not the space for the nice straight lines that you want.  Thankfully they sorted it out before the CSA could capitalise on the situation.

Muskets and Tomahawks 2 – Raid and Protection

A 350 point game of Muskets and Tomahawks.  The British have 3 units of 8 regulars, 1 of 6 rangers and 1 officer.  The French have 2 units of 8 regulars, 2 of 6 milice, a 4 and 6 person civilian unit and 3 officers.  The British must set fire to 3 buildings including making 1 collapse by red clock card 4.   The French must keep the British away from the 3 buildings by red clock card 3 or 4.  The French could win on turn 3.  Presumably if a building is one fire it is not being protected.  The thatched building does not count for burning or protecting.

This is the set up with deployment points and civilians.  The civilians are inside the building but the roofs do not come off.  The trees represent an area of light cover.  The area by the boats inside the walkway is marsh.  A river runs juts off the West table edge.

The French deploy first then the British.  It appears that all the French have to do is hang about and they will win.  The British need to be aggressive. A previous play of the same scenario saw both sides blaze away with predictable effect but time spent shooting was time wasted that should have been spent on setting fires.

This game could be started in twilight but that would slow movement so the British start in full light.  2 of the British regular units are in line to maximise their movement along the roads.

At the top of the table a unit of marines dukes it out with the rangers.  The rangers are eventually run off but not before they set light to the top building which slowly erupts into a full blaze.

At the bottom of the field a unit of marines attempts to hold off the British.  They take casualties from British fire and despite being veterans bravely run away.  This leaves the milice to hold off the regulars, the civilians are not going to be much help.

One unit of milice charges in but with a unit of regulars on either side they don’t last long.

With only 1 building left to set fire to the British charge in and rout the civilians holding it.  They wisely leave the building and then set fire to it.

There is nothing the French can do to prevent a British victory.  2 buildings have collapsed and the third will be on fire next time the British regulars are activated.

Some thoughts on the system.  From a mathematical point of view the movement from D6 to D10 offers more detail in the effects of rolls but allows a slight chance of the unexpected happening, the veteran marines taking to their heels being a possible game changer.  The deck of cards depends on the troops fielded and is shuffled when the 3rd clock card is drawn.  This means that some cards will never be drawn between shuffling.  A force that wanted the game to last as long as possible might field more troop types, increasing the deck size and decreasing the chance of the clock cards being drawn.  In this scenario the British might want a longer game and the French a shorter game.  So it would be best to work out forces before deciding on the scenario.

In gameplay the movement trays (which  are not in any way required) make handling the figures relatively easy but cause some problems when turning or moving through narrow spaces.  The scenario was based on movement.  It could be won by driving off all the opposing units then moving into place but that depends on some luck and for the British is not a good use of their time.  The terrain was relatively dense, as it ought to be but led to units chasing each other round and moving into position ever so slowly.  As activation depends on drawing the correct cards some units stood about at crazy short range doing nothing. The base move is 4″ although some troops can eak out an extra inch or 2 so although units can be pretty close on the table getting them into combat or setting up a clear field of fire can take more than 1 activation.  The best use of the command points seems to be to activate a single unit and get it to do some good.  A unit can be set on overwatch for 1 command point but that is to allow it to shoot at an acting enemy, not to charge. 

Bataille Empire: An Introduction

Bataille Empire is presented in the same format and by the same author as ‘Art de la Guerre’ but beyond the concept of command points for generals the rules share very little in common.  It is a battalion level game with columns, lines, squares, skirmishers and interactions between all of the above.  The following is based on 1 trial ‘pushabout’, a solo 200 point game, observation and rules reference for a 300 point game between 2 other players and a face to face 200 point game.  The face to face game was played with the French on 3cm bases and Russians on 4cm.  The 3cm unit of measurement was used and the base size differences had no effect on game play.

A Bataille game is played at 200 or 300 points.  Half the book is made up of lists.  The major and minor European nations are included.  The Ottoman Turks are in but not the Persian nor Moghul nor new world armies such the Mexicans and USA.  A full breakdown of the points system is present so these missing nations could be worked up.  An average competent unit would cost about 12 points.  Commanders are in a similar budget range so for 200 points one would expect an overall commander, 3 division commanders and about 12 manoevre units.  At 200 points games are taking about 3 1/2 hours to reach an identifiable conclusion.  This is with some rules referencing and rolling back the game when events go off piste.  The2020 Roll Call event is setting 200 point game limits at 3 hours.

Table size is based around figure base width which also governs the number of ‘unit distances’ used for game measurements.  With a 3cm base width a 200 point game will play on a 120 cm by 90 cm (4′ by 3′) table.  Using 4cm bases a 300 point game will play on 6′ by 4′.  The image below shows a 3cm based 200 point  game in 15mm (the box lid marks the top playable area).   The terrain was generated by the rules book.  The hill should be the same width but less deep and a road that would have no impact on play has been missed off.  Each player has 3 commands.  The French commands at the bottom are deployed in line with each other.  The British cavalry is behind their 2 infantry divisions.

The divisions are allocated order tokens which constrain what they can do.  For example an attack order will force the division to try to move into close range shooting or shock combat.  If that involves cavalry charging onto formed infantry squares so be it.  Orders can be changed by passing a die roll, if this is failed the change will come into play on the following turn.

A turn begins by each overall commander rolling for command points.  This is D6/2 rounded up.  Better commanders add to the roll, worse ones subtract.  The better commanders also have a wider range within which they can allocate command points.  Good commanders are well worth buying but the army lists severely restrict their availability.

The divisions then activate in turn based on the division order and division commander quality.  The first to activate rolls for the command points of that division.  Neither player will know the rolls of the divisions that are yet to activate but the overall commander can transfer points from their own pool to the active division.

There are key distances with Bataille that effect how much can be done.  Using 3cm basing; beyond 24cm of formed enemy the player has considerable flexibility.  A single command point can move the whole division in a loose formation with units able to make up to 3 moves.  In practice a unit in column is likely to run out of that 24cm buffer in less than 3 moves.  Some orders will not allow units to approach within 12cm of formed enemy and within 12cm the non-active player has increasing reactive opportunities.  At 6 cm depth units can form groups and support each other in combat.  Beyond 6cm spacing it is going to be harder to shift an entire division on a single point.

It is certainly possible to get a division into combat with 1 command point if it is all lined up correctly.  Things tend to break down as the game progresses.  A unit that has taken losses and fled far from the combat will need 1 command point to put it back into good order.  The first loss is permanent but others can be rallied at 2 command points each if the divisional commander joins that unit.  The first divisional commander leader move of the division is free but it will still cost 3 points to sort out that fleeing unit.  In the following turn it will cost another point to get the unit back into the action.  If the division is subject to charge orders it must charge in with half its good order units if it can.  So the commander will be lucky to have 3 command points and even luckier to have some to spare for rallying.

The basics of combat are simple enough but there is a degree of action and reaction to take into consideration. In any combat there is only 1 attacker and 1 defender. Other  units within 6cm provide support and influence the combat.

Shooting is based on the roll of a single D6.  Units must shoot if they are able.  The defending unit fires back before taking into account any losses they may have suffered from that firefight.  If a unit takes a loss it makes a morale test which if failed will cause the unit to retreat in disorder.  If both sides take a loss in the same firefight there is a list of priorities to decide who will take the morale test.

Shock is between touching units.  Both sides roll a D6 with various modifiers.  It is possible for 1 side to chalk up enough modifiers to guarantee a win but the roll comparison will affect how bad the results are.  With a base difference in scores from 0 to 5 with no modifiers on the D6s there is a good deal of luck in who will come out best in a combat.  Unlike shooting there is some advantage in the order of shock.  A combat could drive off supports which would otherwise affect the modifiers of a subsequent shock roll.

It is the interaction of supports and reactions that dictate the game flow.  For example a cavalry unit charges infantry in line.  The infantry have a chance to form square.  If they succeed the cavalry can respond to that change of formation by halting their charge.  Note that an infantry unit in line that is supported on its flanks would be better off staying in line.  Also cavalry with an attack order can pull up if the infantry forms square but if their target is infantry already in square they are forced to contact and the results of the combat will not be good for the horses.

The rules include a basic scenario between evenly matched sides.  This is shown below, there is a virtual road between the houses.  It is not especially interesting because with everything being equal both sides bounce off each other.  It is worth some study to investigate how all the bits hang together.

Markers are an issue, they can pile up.  A unit that has performed certain actions will take an action marker, a puff of cotton wool is suggested.  This affects their subsequent actions, for example a unit can only fire by choice once but can fire back if shot at with a penalty if it has an action marker.  Action markers are removed at the end of a turn.  A unit may be disordered, it is at a disadvantage in combat, does not provide support and cannot be part of a group.  Jiggling the unit bases out of line can mark disordered.  A unit will take losses and attrition.  Any loss except the first can be removed so loss markers will remain.  D4s make good loss markers as a medium size infantry unit takes 4 losses and unlike D6s, D4s are hard to accidentally roll across the table. The same marker system could be used for attrition and loss as in effect an attrition is half a loss.  Casualty markers, wound dials or some sort of status sheet on the model base are possibilities.  On a brighter note players will not need buckets of dice.  One for the overall commander’s points, one for the current activated division commander’s points and one for the current combat will do the job.

A few points that can be missed.  Attritions are not losses so attritions can never be removed by rallying.   When a second attrition is suffered the morale effects of a single loss come into force.  Counter charges and opportunity charges have some effects in common but the restrictions of who can counter charge and who can opportunity charge are not the same.

Some examples follow to give an idea of game play.  Other factors such as quality and losses also come into the equation but to keep the examples straightforward it is assumed that these do not apply or otherwise cancel out. The lines in all cases would probably be a little further apart but have been closed up for artistic purposes.

Here 3 cavalry units from opposing forces face off.  Initial instincts might be to throw 2 units of attacker’s cavalry into a single defender.  You can’t do that as only a single unit from each side is allowed into combat.  Moving the bottom flanking unit into the side of the top defender is not going to work.  The supporting flanking defending unit will opportunity charge as the attacker begins to turn.  The result is still 2 units in combat front on but some shuffling of the units involved.  The 2 more likely results are of a single combat with all the supporting units moving up on both sides or 1 of the flank supporting units moving up with an opportunity charge and related counter charge for 2 combats.   Combat tends to mess up cavalry so it is more likely that just 1 combat occurs with both sides having charged in and both with 2 supporting units.  Even if one side were of substantially superior quality the result is anyone’s guess.

One side will lose and its unit will either flee or retreat.  A flee could be further than a retreat but in this case the loser will take refuge behind its rear supporting unit.  If the winner is not impetuous (like the British) it can try to hold otherwise it will take a pursuit test and probably slam into the defender’s old rear support.  The winner will be disordered (a bad thing) but not until the end of this second combat.  They do pick up an action marker as this is their 2nd move and the defender will probably counter charge.  The attacker is on +1 (pursuit), +2 support (the supports move up with the pursuit).  The new defender has +1 to +3 (charging, depending on the cavalry weight), +1 support (the disordered retreating unit does not count), +1 (the attacker’s action marker).  Either or both sides will get an additional +1 if they have an attack order.  Its all too close to call but the defender has a slight edge.  The attacker might win again, cause the subsequent defender to retreat or flee, they cannot take refuge behind the original defender and they are well away (but can come back).  A unit cannot make a 2nd pursuit and a pursuit cannot be opportunity charged so it won’t get any messier.

If the defender wins the attacker will act the same as the defender did in the original defender leaving both sides with 1 fleeing or retreating unit, 1 in good order (the flank support) and another in disorder (the winner of 1 combat).  Unless 1 side has a significant advantage in quality or numbers there is a lot to be said for standing around, glaring at each at 12cm other and waiting for some other event on the battlefield to present an opportunity.  If two relatively equal cavalry forces do ‘have at it’ they are likely to be both way back of their own lines engaged in rally and recovering losses.

Looking at cavalry vs infantry.  Imagine a lone heavy cavalry unit in line charging the exposed end of an infantry line.  The cavalry is coming in from the front, not side of the target infantry.  The infantry has 2 supports, 1 to the rear and another to the side.  The opposite side is ‘hanging’ without support.  The cavalry have +3 (charge), the infantry +3 (1 safe flank), +2 (support).  +3 vs +5 is not worth forming square unless the cavalry is of notably better quality.  If the infantry were to try and form square but fail they would be on +2 (support) only and the cavalry gain an additional +2 (enemy disordered).  A total of +5 (cavalry) versus +2 (infantry); still anyone’s game.  If the cavalry could hit the line in flank they would be +7 (+4 for flank) and the infantry +2 while in line (the supports no longer counting).  Looking at the picture and considering all that firepower these results seem reasonable.

Artillery is a major factor, thankfully somewhat restricted in the army lists.  The ‘mid range’ 8 pounder has a canister range of 15cm and effective range of 24cm.  There is also a long range of 60cm but at that range it is less of a threat.  Infantry in line charge 15cm, in column 21cm so you might get across that beaten zone in 1 move as a column.  Infantry still has a chance of being whittled down or even forced to retreat at effective range.  Artillery without support is dead meat but consider an artillery with infantry to either side and how to deal with it.

 

First lets sidle up to close range and shoot.  If the attacker is supported by units at either side and those shoot at the artillery supports then it is straight up 1 infantry against 1 gun.  The gun has +3 (canister), +1 (stationary).  The infantry (in line) has +2 (line), +0 or +1 or +2 (depending on the infantry’s skirmishers), -2 (target is artillery).  A final score of +4 against 0 through +2 with both sides on the same firing table and 1-2 on the raw D6 a miss.  The infantry can put out a skirmish screen that will reduce the artillery modifiers by -1 but the skirmishers will need a 4+ (3+ if rifle armed) to even put an attrition on the artillery.   The supports will shoot at each other with similar modifiers.  It would be quality, prior losses and luck that counts.

How about charging in?  There needs to be a 9cm gap to charge units past other units. If the artillery is exactly in line with its supporting infantry that is not a problem. If the artillery is set back a little the centre attacker cannot charge in. As regular movement and shooting take place after the effects of charging the centre attacker would remain in place for the time being or advance in support of the charge. The artillery can offer fire support to one not both of the infantry combats. It makes sense to pick that chosen first by the attacker. Should the attacker win that their victorious infantry will pursue into the side of the artillery. The first combat would be attacker; +1 (charging in line), +1 (support of the centre unit) the defender +3 (in line against infantry), + 2 (canister support). That is not likely to go well but the artillery cannot fire support the second combat which works out at +2 (attacker) against +3.

If there is space the charges will end up like this.

 

There are 3 separate combats, the attacker can choose the order.  One side will always be pushed away so each combat that is lost will pull a potential support away from the loser.  What if the artillery fight rolls off first?  The artillery is on +3 (2 safe flanks).  The charging infantry +1 or +2 (line or column), +1 (if it has skirmishers).  There are also factors for quality, losses and support.  If an infantry match off rolls first the defender’s have +3 (in line against infantry).  The attacker +1 or +2 (line or column).  The better skirmisher, if any will also get +1.  It is all on the odds to the defender.  Some quality difference or ‘softening up’ is needed to improve the chance of success.  If even 1 flanking infantry unit can be driven off the artillery will be on +1 (1 safe flank) and -1 (threatened flank).  A small bonus is that while infantry will move away from a lost combat beaten artillery is destroyed.

The core lesson is that all things being equal the defender has the slight edge. The fact that the rules allow the sort of interactions shown above rather than relying on ‘gamey’ or clever plays puts this set above much of the pack.  It is still too early to tell if the competition gamers will find loopholes and be able to exploit them.