How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Sunday, March 24, 2019

BotM: "Germantown" by Decision Games, p.3 & last


let's hope we don't get mugged...

Couldn't resist another quick play of this game. Re-read the rules and have copies of both the Standard and Quick-Play rules on hand to clear up questions. NOTE: even if you're just interested in the Quick-Play Mini games, I recommend downloading the Standard rules for the era, also. Sometimes it helps further explain a rule that hasn't changed, or changed much, in the trimming down for quick play.

One that it did not, and it has not, is how Leaders recover from being Ineffective. I've sent a question to the designer via email - good dude, answers his email!

Anyway, raced through the beginning stages of the game, now that I am more familiar with both the rules and the tactical choices. This time the Americans did not roll as well for their opening moves and their initial attacks. This actually didn't matter much as there's a sweet spot where the fog clears and before the ammo problems start for them to attack.

This time, the Chew House was held for several turns until the Left Wing Light Battalion blew its morale roll on a '6' and was routed [if only history had been so kind]. I had pushed the Brits forward and they were solidly holding a line of Chew House and Kelly Hill, using the Chew House to channel the American attacks. With the collapse of the House, the Hill didn't last long either, as it literally opened up a new avenue of attack.

The Americans broke through in several places by careful management of attacks. The British lost the Market Square - which in itself is a victory for them - but I wanted to play on and see if the Limeys, Loyalists and Hessians could redeem themselves.

The critical moment came on Turn 7 or so [below], when the reformed British line had 5 ammo challenges to make against the American Units. Each American Unit the British pick has to make a morale check - if they fail, they are Disrupted as they run low on ammo. 

The Brits picked the 5 most forward and important Units, and despite their only having a morale of '3', they rolled a miss and then four passes! I think it was only Sullivan's Marylanders who failed [doubtless they had too much fun shooting up the British in an irresponsible undisciplined manner]. With so many American Units ready for action, it is unlikely that the Brits will stand, but let's see!

Above: Unusually good American fire discipline - four units pass their [low] morale of '3' to not run out of ammo; or are they just picking the ammo pouches of British dead, wounded and prisoners?

Below, the umpteenth time I blew a morale check for General Howe by rolling a '6'. I shouldn't be allowed to have him in my gaming life at all! Maybe they are panicking because the militia are about to loot the camp?

Yep, they fled all the way to Old York Rd. Nowadays they'd be mugged as well...

Meanwhile, the Guards are unflappable, with plenty of Grenadiers and Gen Grant on hand.

The militia boldly push North. How did I let them get in this far??

Soon, the pinch is being felt. The Queens Rangers cavalry try and do something about it, while Howe tries to reform various Disrupted and Ineffective units. Grant and the Guards, with 3rd Brigade, try to restore the situation somewhat. But it doesn't look good.

The QR pass their morale test, and Small's militia fail - that'll make it easy! Failure means becoming disrupted, and cavalry are doubled against disrupted charge targets.
having routed Small's unit, they continue their charge into Foreman's, who also fail morale.

The long blue line is looking pretty imposing here. A combination of quick advance, careful management of forces and some good dice. A disrupted, 1-step down brigade is not going to hold out for long, and Greene is holding off the strongest intact part of the British army which is Grant's Guard stack. Why are they way over there??

Grant attacks and there is a brutal exchange of losses, and Greene's killed. Things are looking up a bit [not for game victory, as the Rebels have Market Square] and maybe the camp can be held? It would be a shame to lose all that Sack, Port and Sherry to the Blues!

Some reformed British Units begin pushing at the American left where Greene's Brigade is becoming unraveled and losing ground. Meanwhile, Knyphausen tries to clear the vermin out of the camp [good luck with that!] as well as push the d*****d Rebels out of it!
Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Clearly, this was the replay where I had the most liberal interpretation of the somewhat foggy Fog Rules, and the Americans quickly advanced including getting the Militia in there.

A couple of house rules to tame the too-fast militia may be in order here. In reality, they were not very aggressive - and who can blame them since the British were between them and their Army? I also played the British poorly, getting them too bunched up and ineffective while leaving their flanks and rear too vulnerable. At least they killed Greene!

Chronologically, this precedes my post on Developing the Musket & Saber rules, and it will be my last play with the Rules As Written [RAW] as I like the game enough and the rules enough to work on them and get them smoother. There's plenty of drama and sweep to the fighting, and it is not too high on casualties - a fault with lots of games aiming to satisfy the bloodthirsty urges of armchair generals the world over.

Still, shows how a simple and inexpensive game can take an historically unremarkable battle and make it a challenge for two players. I think it is somewhat "loose" in its interpretation of possibilities, but will also work on some Scenario Rules that make the history a bit more likely to happen, so stay tuned!

Developing Musket & Saber QP rules by Decision Games

Three great games that go great together!!

All they need is one set of rules that plays cleanly...

Well, I do like playing these games, and I like the idea of using them with my Command and Colors blocks or even converting them to miniatures. Lots of potential fun here. But, they do need some work. The other evening, I just couldn't take it anymore, so I sat down and in three hours completely rewrote the Quick-Play rules for these mini games. Now I just need to try them out with all three periods to see if they feel right.

This phase of rules-writing is what I would term development - that's where the load of brilliant ideas the head-shed thought up are actually playtested to see if they work in the game based upon the time, complexity level, and other parameters that have been set by the publisher. What goes in and what does not is ultimately the key decision for a designer, and the ultimate ART of game design. It usually requires a lot of playtesting, even if you are an experienced designer. The bottom line is that MOST designers think of too many fun things to put in, and someone has to step back and say what is too much.

Made lots of language and other corrections to make the rules more understandable [to me at least - to others, we'll have to see!].

  1. Units that are subject o ineffectiveness are not also subject to disruption. The two are almost the same in their effect, and identical in thier restrictions upon units, and it is too much to have an ineffective battlaion running around, also disrupted!
  2. I added a Recovery Phase after the Movement Phase. I found myself often forgetting or confused about who was supposed to recover from what and when.
  3. I dropped March Movement completely. This effectively quadrupled the movement of units on roads away from the enemy. While 3.2 miles or so in 90 minutes is pretty plausible for a march, it allows players with total control to perform amazing flank marches on a whim, which really isn't very realistic from the command capability poin of view. The doubling of movement on roads is more than sufficient.
  4. Units that use the road rate are disrupted by other units that use the road rate passing thru their hex. Horse and musket era traffic jams were notorious. This isn't a super-highway network, these are crummy one-lane roads with ruts.
  5. An entire stack of units doesn't always have to retreat if the units that DID fight retreat. They take a morale check and if they pass they can hold their ground. This promotes the use of reserves within the - quite large - hexes. 350y deep is quite a lot of ground, more than enough for a steady unit to remain in order while the front line retreats behind. Plus, this promotes an historical tactic and the eternal question of "should I deploy deeper, or wider??" for the players.
  6. The free attack rule for defenders [7.2] was a bit out of hand - they were DOUBLED on their freebie, which is too much. I dropped any benefit at all; instead, it is truly a "free" attack in that they do not suffer any adverse results on the CRT. So even a weak attack at -4/-3 [2-1 odds] is worth it. Historically, opposed formations did regularly stare at each other and do very little - if it suited the purposes of their generals.
  7. I also made it that both bombardments and skirmish attacks satisfy the purposes of 7.2. Heck, the purpose of most bombardments and skirmishing was to test and discomfit the enemy. Whether they succeeded or not, they kept people busy.
  8. I re-organized Artillery Support Fire and Bombardment. I also grabbed a few rules from the standard rules to solve some unexplained questions.
  9. Tweaked Cavalry and Square rules a little. Need to playtest, and there's no big cavalry events with squares in the AmRev, so it'll wait until Saalfeld!
  10. reorganized and reworked Disruption, Ineffectiveness and Step Recovery. As they are redundant, I made Units that become ineffective not subject to Disruption [they become ineffective instead]. Both effects are the same the only real difference is just a bit in the factors of the units, which are so low that they aren't worth considering. In any event, in the new Recovery Phase, Step Recover happens first, followed by Disruption Recovery, and ending with Ineffectiveness Recovery. 
So you can't recover a step if you are disrupted, and leaders recover last with ineffective units for the specific reason that they cannot therefore help units with their morale. The net effect of this is to slow down step, disruption and ineffectiveness recovery, making those effects a bit more important. If you take both a step loss and disruption, you now need two turns to recover - one for disruption, one for the step - assuming all goes well.

This all sort of goes with the flow of battle I've been experiencing with "Germantown: Washington Strikes, 4 October 1777". There is a fair bit of terrain exchanging hands with the CRT, and disruption and ineffectiveness happens. However, it seems a bit to easy to recover to me - you can rout three hexes and take a Disruption and a step loss. If you are now out of enemy ZoC - and you should be - you lose Disruption automatically then regain a step while marching 3 miles around the flank of your enemy who thought you would need to get some R&R time.

Disruption was, and still is, difficult to recover from near the enemy.

One test I tried and it doesn't work is to allow a stack of Units to attack different hexes. Sounds like it should be OK, but it has lots of secondary and tertiary effects that make the game too complicated. Just have to settle with the proper use of a reserve for now.

I will be playtesting this draft [did one already] to see how it goes, and welcome anyone else who would like to join me. My goal is to get a standard set of rules for all three periods - AWI, Napoleonics, ACW - and the games I have for them, which will make my playing life a lot easier!  Interested parties can contact me thru BGG or my gmail, which is aama19147 and the usual ending.

Ultimately, I will compare this "quick-play" set with the so-called Standard set, clarifying a few things, and perhaps adding in a few mechanics that seem worth the trouble. If that works, I'd be tempted to buy some of the larger folio games in the future [well, I have one, Pea Ridge]. I very much like the tactics rules and giving the brigadier a chance to attempt a plan and show off his stuff! Keeps players busy with interesting tactical choices, which is a good thing.

BotM: Germantown by Decision Games, p.2

Battle is joined again...for the 3rd or 4th time!

First a quick comparison of the forces involved:

Patriots have 7 more 2-step units. However, in terms of Combat Factors, it is more like 6. The 1-point less for their units is pretty important, since in a straight-up fight, it drops them down a combat diffential [or odds] table, from 0/+1 to -2/-1, which is not nearly as good. So one thing we already know, the Rebels will have to work to stretch the flanks as much as possible and preserve forces while the British will seek to destroy as many units as possible to even the odds.

This is somewhat leveled by the British battalions, of which there are six. One is classed as Lights [the jagers - why not the left and right units, I don't know, as I think they were mostly light infantry battalions], the other four are in effect 1/2 strength brigades with high morale, including three '6' morale units from the Grenadiers. The great advantage of these is that they can stack with and add to the combat factor '8' of the brigades. So now you have British stacks with a CF of 11 for starters.

Each side also has one unique unit, an artillery for the Rebels and a Cavalry for the Loyalists. Each brings in a soft intro to those parts of the rules that are more important in the ACW and Napoleonic games.

For leaders, the colonists have 4 and the Kings Men have three [one Hessian]. Overall, the colonists are much more dependent on theirs due to 1) lower morale, 2) the low ammo rule [which is a morale check] and 3) lower CF on their 2-step units. That being said, I've managed to kill all the British leaders in one playtest, and half the Americans in another!

The reverse of all the leaders is identical - all zeros, like Mr. Sullivan above.

So, let's put these on the table, shall we?

Once again, the sneaky rebels are creepy up on those galant red-clad lads. The left and right wing Lights are occupying Mt. Airy and Lucan's Mill, as colonial columns enter. To the center-left, down Germantown Rd. are Sullivan's PA & MD column, followed next turn by Lord Stirling's column of NJ and NC troops.

From the center-right is Greens's Virginians with a CT regiment followed by Gen Washington Himself with Knox's light artillery, coming down Limekiln Rd. [which is a mile West of my house, incidentally]. On the left and right are two wings of two units each of militia, entering down Ridge Rd. and Old York Rd. The one choice for the Patriot player is where to put Gen Washington and the guns. They actually can enter with the militia columns, also, but those units are two weak to provide a stable formation for them.

The fog rules...a bit convoluted in that there is random d3 movement for Units, d3+3 for leaders. However, key terrain also costs more - roads are 1mp not 1/2mp. Unclear is if a leader can still give a unit his movement bonus. Interestingly, after doing lots of math and consulting the rules, it all pretty much cancels out, and the main difference is Patriots attacking lights turn 1 or turn 2. The faster they attack, the easier it is for Washington's army.

Above, Sullivan manages to reach and attack the left wing,Light infantry pickets [I allowed him to use his move bonus of '2'] and attacks from the fog. It is a 10 v. 3+2+2 v. the Lights [2 each for the building and the hill], so table +2/+3 [about a 3-2 attack]. They roll a '6' and the result is Dm(Dr) so the lights must check morale - a '5' - and if they fail they Rout, and if they pass they Retreat. The Rout means retreat 3 hexes disrupted, the Retreat is to hold ground disrupted OR retreat 1-3 hexes. The lights easily pass, so I retreat them a hex and Sullivan advanced onto the Mt. Airy plateau.

Below, Greene and Washington advance with the Virginians. They also manage a Turn 1 attack [again, using Greene's '3' Leader move bonus for a 4-hex total move], but they roll a '4' for a Dr result - the lights retreat a hex, and Greene rolls to get killed [anytime you roll a '4' on the CRT, you check for all leader's in the combat OR stacked with fighting's unclear...and on a 5-6 they are killed and removed from the game.

Below, end of Turn 1. I have been choosing to keep the lights involved, retreating slowly, which should work with the fog slowing the Rebel advance.  Meanwhile, the British advance one hex each [T1 special rule] and head into Germantown where they must defend the Market Square. The jager's to the left inflict a step loss and Disrupt a militia unit.

Below, working on Turn 2 - I entered the militia to right incorrectly, so I re-rolled for them.

Below, Turn 2, Sullivan dies! He attacks with his Pennsylvanians, and gallantly falls at the head of his men in the fog and confusion. Rolled a '4' for combat results and then a 5 for the Leader casualty check. The Lights pass their morale and retreat further into Mt. Airy. This is a pretty big problem as leaders are critical for the weak-morale Patriot units, and their combat factors are essential against the British brigades who are one stronger in CF to begin with [8 to 7] which drops you off the 0/+1 table to the -2/-1 table.
On the right flank lights, the Patriots inflict a Rout result [they rolled a '6' for morale - auto failure] and the right flank lights flee into Germantown to occupy the Chew House.

Turn 2 end. Militia stalk the flanks, while the main effort coordinates an advance against Germantown proper. The British have a solid line set up just behind the Chew house which acts as a funnel, channeling Rebel Units. Kelly's hill is often tempting to the British player, but STAY OFF IT! It's a trap that is not worth the +2 for defense. The Hessians have been pushed left to Rittenhouse Town to keep the militia out of the camp. The Queen's Ranger Cavalry arrive to protect the British right flank. 

Below, Turn 3-4-ish. Full battle is joined. The British dilemna is obvious - too many Rebel units, too wide a front! It's hard to protect the Market Square when the flanks are constantly being enveloped. Below, Potter's militia and a PA regt have routed the 1st Brigade, while the lights have retreated out of the Chew House which was subsequently re-taken by Lord Howe with the left wing Light battalion. I took Kelly's Hill - will probably regret later...

Turn 5, Washington Rallies a battered PA regiment in Mt. Airy. The Chew house plateau is firmly in Patriot hands. Lord Stirling hangs back to rally Units as needed [trying to minimize risk to my surviving generals after the demise of Sullivan.

Turn 5, more apparent British problems. The combat results have them getting scattered in a north-south line. While Market square is firmly in hand, their advances and retreats have left them quite vulnerable. How is rallying force south of town [Units recover step losses with a morale check - much easier for the British whose base morale is a '5'], while Grant and Knyphausen hold the line. 
Militia still threaten both flanks from woods. 

Also, the fog has lifted so everyone is much faster and more maneuverable.

Turn 5 - British start turn by challenging three key Rebel units with "low ammo" rolls - Rebels must pass morale or become disrupted while they re-supply themselves. Amazingly, all three units pass! This is a critical moment, as now a massive counter-attack can proceed.

Woods are something like bastions to militia - they do not have to roll morale [a '2'!] to enter enemy ZoC if they are in woods. This is a huge help to them. Below, the militia need to hold up the re-enforcing grenadier battalions, so roll and get a '1' and pass! 

They will now go toe-to-toe with the Grenadiers [idiots...] just east of the camp. Additionally, the left flank militia manage to close in on the jagers, also! The Patriots close in all around the strung-out British. This could be a big moment for them.

The Hessians take a step loss and retreat to Market Square. Howe works to rally a large stack of British Brigades that retreated from Kelly's hill and surrounds. Only Grant holds firm with the Guards and some lights that he has rallied from Disruption. The Militia attack on the Grenadiers results in a retreat back to the woods, unsurprisingly. Irving's militia occupy the British camp! The British must hurl them out or face a defeat [according to this game].

Bottom of Turn 5, British. A British counter-attack has reformed a line on Germantown, but farther back so that the camp might be better defended. Despite this, Irving's Militia is in the camp. Time to call in...the Queen's Ranger Cavalry!  This is a great time to try out the Cavalry rules, which are pretty extensive and a bit complex. First, the QR charge Irving.
Next, they roll and pass morale with a '2' [needing a '4']. Surprisingly, the militia also pass needing a '2' and rolling a '2'! Despite this gallant effort, the QR roll a '6' and the militia check morale and fail on a '5', routing behind Potter's militia and losing a step. The QR re-occupy the camp, saving countless loot and trinkets from colonial capture. Huzzah!
The QR are allowed to attack INFINITE times as long as they are successful, but their second charge against Potter results in less spectacular results [don't roll a '1'], and altho the QR take ground they are also disrupted and their foray into glory ends.
The QR advance to the rear post-haste [i.e. Rout] and settle down on the other side of the camp by the Germantown road. Still, a bit of drama! I don't think they did much historically, and certainly the limited light dragoon resources available to both sides was not hazarded much in battle in the North - they did a lot more in the South, interestingly. 

Meanwhile, the 2nd Brigade counter-attacks with Lord Howe to their right. They push the Pennsylvanians back towards Rittenhouse town, and Lord Howe does the same to the Marylanders, hurling the papists back towards Mt. Airy. But...there's now a gap in the lines and the key Market Square is now empty - Will the Hessians occupy it? They are busy reforming and rallying south of it.

Turn 7, a few Rebels run out of ammo [yellow Disrupted counters at top] but that doesn't stop them from coordinating a massive attack south against the limited and strung-out British brigades. 
The first attack is by the NC regiment against Lord Howe, with the PA helping. They score well and but the British pass morale and retreat in an orderly fashion out of Germantown. The NC follow-up, advancing into the town off Mt. Airy plateau.

On the right, a substantial Rebel attack with three regiments south of Kelly's Hill results in the death of Gen. Grant! the '4' result on the CRT followed by a '6' kills him. This is a 1/18 chance, if math serves me rightly. The 3rd Brigade retreats south into town. taking Grant's body with them during their orderly retreat.

British Turn 7, they push the Hessians right onto the Rebel objective, the Germantown Market Square. The militia have all been distracted attacking the ends of the now-solid British line, and are no longer threatening the camp. This is about as good as it gets for the British, except that the 1st Brigade [far right] is one hex too far forward...
In a bruising set of encounters, two exchanges take place that the British can ill-afford. The Hessians ill-advisedly advanced before checking their flanks - neither of which advanced!

Turn 8. Lots of Rebels run out of ammo, several units are Disrupted [this gives penalties to all values: combat, morale, and movement]. They are marked with the yellow "D" counters. Interestingly, Leaders allow most D effects to be ignored, a nice mechanic.
They may not be able to exploit their hard fighting last turn for ultimate success...
In light of ammo shortages, many units pull back. A major effort is made against the Hessians by Lord Stirling and the enveloped 2nd Brigade by Sullivan's men who, one presumes, are out for revenge! But will they have it??

No!  They do push into the British line, but are unable to seize the Market Square from the Hessians who conduct an orderly retreat.

At the end, the Rebels are held off from both the Market Square and the camp. Ammo shortages have lots of them Disordered [looting for ammo?] while the Brits are hanging in there pretty well. The thrust of the attack has been halted just south of Kelly's hill, and it is certainly a British victory. But hey, they lose the war, right?? 

Whew! a hard-fought an interesting scrap. The game system at its core has plenty of dramatic moments provided by CRT and morale rolls, along with making the best decisions possible to keep Units alive. This is a strong point for me - I much prefer games that reward players for husbanding their troops wisely instead of rashly expending them for victory.  

Overall, casualties in the game are pretty light if both sides rotate units that have taken a step loss out of the battle and concentrate on stacking them with leaders to give them the best change possible to pass morale, get back to full strength, and re-enter the battle later [about 1.5 to 3 hours later]. I think it's a bit too easy to lose disruption [which often comes with a retreat option, allowing you to recover from disruption automatically if you retreated far enough away from the enemy]. You are allowed to recover from Ineffectiveness, Disruption and step losses all in the same turn. Personally, I don't see how a unit that is suffering from organizational difficulties can also recover its straying Soldiers.

The rules are clunky at times, and generated a number of questions; this is the severalth tim I've played and it seems there's always another question coming up! I am toying with the idea of submitting them to Chris Perello, the designer, or checking them out for myself in the full, Standard M&S rules, or just re-writing the quick-play rules for myself [and anyone else who wants better-organized rules].  

One lingering tension I have is the large area of a hex compared to the small size of the units. You can only really fight with one Patriot unit in a hex, and a reserve is best left 350 yards behind in the next hex [which seems a bit far to me]. I think historically they'd stay a bit closer, more like 200 yards, which is still a ways back!

We'll see how much time and energy I have for this!

However, I do enjoy the occasional higher-level game wherein an entire battle is fought out. I certainly don't have the resources to fight this battle myself, and would have to wait months to do so with my gaming group that has more than enough 15mm figures. I like the level of abstraction and the 2-step process of many of the combat results, wherein a unit gets to check morale and if they pass they get a better result than if they fail. This is an easy way to use morale without getting bogged down into pages of rules.

Overall, I still recommend picking up this game - it has a lot of play for the buck, and if it is not perfect I think it is manageable for most experienced gamers to get through, including making a few decisions for oneself about how to interpret the rules.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Boardgame of the Month: "Germantown" by Decision Games

"Germantown: Washington Strikes - 4 October, 1777"

no, he wasn't "on strike", this isn't another Philly union problem...

So, with the recent excursion into "grand tactical" miniatures / gaming, it's occurred to me that there's more to this boardgame series than I thought. Overall, my thinking is that big Horse and Musket battles belong on a grid / hex, where the use of the grid is actually more realistic, and makes it a lot easier to have more realistic mechanics without slowing things down. After all, does the Brigadier General or Major General know what exactly is happening with all the battalions? Maybe, if he stops by to look around but

Ergo, miniatures should be saved for lower level battalion, regimental fights where one can really get into the Unit=battalion aspect of things, and the lack of a grid adds to realism. So if a Unit is a battalion, and the player is expected to manage 4-8 of them, then that is the right level for most miniatures games. But if you're going to play that a Unit is a brigade, then I think one may as well pay $25 and get a boardgame. , and it's one of the largest battles of the Napoleonic wars!

Also, it helps with wargamers megalomania – Decision Games has Leipzig as a $25 game, and the rules are free downloads, and seems even better than V&B in some ways [but a bit more complex]. Hard call, and I look forward to trying Volley and Bayonet soon, with both counters and the blocks in my newly purchased C&C Tricorne game.

Meanwhile, let's check out the back of this game's bag:

Back of mini-game - pretty good promo and reasonably accurate info.

This is the game at set-up. The Blue is the American forces, Red the Brits / Green the Hessians. The map is not terribly accurate [I live in the area...literally] including missing 50 foot steep drops into the Wissahickon valley - yes, they're flat on the map and one could barely climb them without enemy opposition! Still, we do what we can...

At top edges are the American columns, coming down the roads. A bit south are two wings of light infantry holding a few buildings in Mt. Airy and Lucas' Mill. South of them, on a hill is the British encampment south of Germantown, with Hessians to left, Brits to right, and southeast of them all the leaders at the Rising Sun Tavern [period perfect, n'est-pas??], including Howe, Grant and Knyphausen. I'm not too proud to say that in that era, if I was a general, I'd be at the tavern too!

Several turns later [1.5 hours / turn, a bit odd], a combination of "Exchange" results on the CRT and flanking maneuvers by the Rebels has resulted in the loss of two British Brigades, and two Rebel Brigades - but one was militia. Gen Knyphausen also fell, galantly leading his Hessians [on any roll of a '4' on the CRT, there's a 5-6 chance that Leader is killed].  Also alarming, several other British units have been routed and are reforming back at the camp. 

In this closeup of the same turn, the British line is being enveloped, but the Rebel center is having Low Ammo problems, resulting in "Disrupted" units in the center [yellow "D" counters]. Still, the victory conditions are to possess Market Square in Germantown, and the Rebels are right on it. Both sides have strong reserves forming up from retreated units.

Rebels advance Potter's Militia Brigade against the Hessian Jagers holding out near Rittenhouse Town in the Wissahicken Valley. They are +3 but roll low, getting a result of Defender Checks [Exchange], so if the Hessians pass, both Units lose a step.

They pass [on a '1' - low is good], and both are flipped. [however, it appears that the Jaegers are a 1-step battalion, and should just be removed, my error].
This battle continued to wear down the British, resulting in a very near win for the Rebels.

Components are attractive and effective. Some thoughts:
- The map is inaccurate in several obvious ways, but it is effective and arguably a better map than any possessed by either side at the time. 
- The placement of water features - streams, creeks, rivers - thru hexes instead along the sides is a nuisance. The rule for play is that it costs +1 to enter such a hex, and you are halved attacking into or out of such a hex. It makes defending a water feature pointless since both sides will be halved, UNLESS you ceded the feature to the enemy and pull back 350y, then let him "cross" and fight from the hex. Don't like it, wish they didn't do it.
- Counters are easy to work with and I like the little pictures of the generals enough that it still amuses me. They are mostly 2-sided with a step loss of around 50% for Brigades, and an "Ineffective" status for Leaders, Battalions, Cavalry and Artillery that has them reduced to "0" factors or at least very low factors. 
- I could occasionally use more Disrupted counters - not a big deal.

Rules are decent. These are the Quick-Play rules which are derived from the Standard Musket and Saber rules; each game includes a few pages of scenario specific rules. All the rules are available as free downloads [CLICK], which is very convenient, and means that Q&A and Addenda are easily incorporated. For my purposes, it is also easy to change or clarify rules for myself, so I'm happy with that.

The core mechanics are dynamic and have period flavor. However, at times they are a bit confusing and could benefit from better writing / editing. Many of the "flavorful" rules add complexity, are exceptions to the core mechanics, and don't add realism or real as I understand it, anyway. 

This constant "exceptionalism" makes for plenty of time spent with one's head buried in the rules. Fog for instance is a lengthy box of several points on the map, whereas they could just have said that all terrain costs are doubled and you can't force march. Actually, that's how I'm playing it now! Ditto the rules on Chew House, altho I find they do work.

At times, the quick-play rules give the impression that the full, Standard rules were trimmed down somewhat, but without fully exploring that that means to someone who has ONLY purchased the mini game rules, and is unaware of the designers intent. In other words, they shortened but did not comprehensively re-write the quick-play rules, and you can tell.

A few questions came up which I submitted to CD and I did get a response from the designer Himself, Christopher Perello. However, it is an unresolved rule question at this point [not that I can't resolve it myself, but...official is nice]:

- Leaders have no morale factor that they can roll against to recover from Ineffective status.
- Ineffective and Disrupted status are very similar; do we really need Ineffective?

Overall, the rules would have benefited from both better editing and a designer with a "less is more" mentality, who understands that too many exceptions spoils the brew.

Historicity. The rules give the Patriots too good a chance of winning, IMHO. They suffered all day from poor coordination, leadership issues and a plan that was too complicated. Every time I play, the Militia actually end up being a huge factor as they can move pretty quickly against the flanks of the British line, which is conveniently "protected" by woods areas. HOWEVER, the Militia actually fight well in woods, and the British end up with weak flanks trying to defend their entire camp and the Market Square in Germantown itself.

One solution would be to force the Militia to dice to move at all, much less move into enemy contact. They should also be held off pretty easily, i.e. they weren't historically very aggressive.

However, aside from this solvable issue, there is plenty to like about this game and the system in general.

Value. I think that the $10-12 price point for these rules is a great value. A valiant effort has been made to deliver a solid game to the community, and the rules issues are solvable for most experienced gamers, if not ALL gamers.

Target Audience. Due to all the above factors, I'd say that this was a game for experienced gamers who are ready to clarify and simplify the rules, or the solo gamer who wants an inexpensive purchase and an interesting rules design that is, unfortunately, still a work in progress [altho a GOOD work in progress].

Truth in Advertising?
"Minutes to Learn, Quick to Play, Historically Accurate" is the slogan on the cover. Overall, I'd rate this as follows:
Minutes to Learn - 2/5 implication is a few minutes. It's more like hours to learn.
Quick to Play - 4/5  if quick is an hour or so, then yes, after you've played it several times you can get it down pretty quickly as long as you aren't a Deep Blue thinker.
Historically Accurate - 4/5 again, this is a good overall summary of the fight, and if it favors the Patriots a bit, it is easily corrected.
FINAL SCORE: 10 / 15

Final Verdict: Recommended for the Target Audience.

Personally, I'm looking at buying the Saratoga game and other MINI-GAMES, so that should say enough!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Neil Thomas' "19th C. Wargaming"- 5th Franco-Prussian Playtest

Improves & sustains of K&P are discussed by French Soldiers and contractors.

It takes a village to make a set of good rules...

At this point I've made so many small changes and added so many necessary mechanics that Neil Thomas can no longer be held responsible for the rules. Accordingly, they've been switched to the 6D6 files and renamed "Kepi & Picklehaube". 

While I certainly want to give Mr. T credit for inspiring my direction in this period with his book, I've streamlined many of the mechanics and added many others. My latest design maxim is that "you cannot have tabletop tactics without tabletop mechanics". In other words, you can't have tactics on the table if the rule mechanics don't enable / encourage / guide / direct / force players to them. While I agree with Mr. T that you can't legislate every possibility or prohibit every stupidity, there needs to be enough mechanics to play the game in an historical manner yet still within the given resources of time, table, figures, etc.

With the above firmly in mind, the rules continue to be fine-tuned. Significant issues in the works are concentration / spreading of firepower [especially for artillery], balancing skirmishers, and table terrain considerations. 

Targeting. With Artillery ranges of 24-30" common, it is important that guns can't be used to sniper units. With that in mind and the significant problem of line of sight when multiple batteries are firing into the same area, I consulted with His Eminence, Bruce Weigle. As always, Bruce responded quickly with good historical and gaming insights on the use of massed batteries. Net decisions are:
  a) Declaring Targets. All Fire against a particular Target Unit must be declared and executed before going on to the next Target. Should the Target be destroyed additional designated Firing Units have no effect. 
  b) Supporting Fire. Additional Artillery batteries firing at a given target add one dice of attack per battery to the primary Artillery battery. This is largely due to the difficulty of coordinating Fire and seeing where shots are landing to correct following shots.
  c) Pre-measuring. An old gaming mechanic problem. I lean towards allowing it any time as being fastest, easiest and most realistic. For the moment, I'm disallowing it.

Skirmishers continue to be a classic gaming challenge. If they are able to fire and move, should they fire before the move, after the move, or both? If before, they are almost impossible to catch as they can fire then fall back out of LoS into terrain. If after, it limits their combat potential to offensive as they move up and shoot. Still pretty useful as it extends their range 4" thru movement.

Increasingly, I am reminded how important terrain will be to this scale - there has to be more contours and such to break things up. It is also very much the terrain on which most of the battles were fought - somewhat broken, hilly, and cultivated. At 1" = 100m, plowed fields  are only 1-3" square as are towns; hills have many spurs and valleys coming off their ridge line and they are pretty close making them a prime location for defense. With guns that effectively fire at ranges of 3000m, and rifles at 600-1200m, line of sight is a critical issue, even more so than in the preceding wars: Seven Weeks War [aka Koniggratz], American Civil War, and 2nd Italian War of Liberation.

This playtest introduced another long-term miniature gamer to the rules. Host 2K watched mostly while I played against another member of our club. As playtesting was the purpose more than winning, a scenario or terrain, a simple board was laid out with two towns and a central ridge. The Prussians outnumbered the French in Infantry and artillery while the French had a cavalry advantage. As I forgot to take pictures for the first several turns, we are entering about mid-game.

View left flank and down the table. Prussians to the left have been advancing against the French on the right. This encounter battle had the French outracing the Prussians to the central ridge and two center towns, but needing to stay back out of line of sight in some areas to counter the superior Prussian artillery. Below, the French hold the closer town with three battalions, a skirmisher and a battery, while their cavalry mix it up with the Prussians at the bottom. At top, the French have three Guard battalions near the upper town, a battery and two light dragoons in support.

above: Prussian cuirassiers [center] and light dragoons hold off twice their number of french hussars. On this day, the French were consistently outrolled by a hit or two and unable to maneuver well enough to trap the Prussians.

Far Right Flank closeup. Prussian brigade advances upon the town. Cuirassiers and lt. dragoons flanked by skirmishers to the left, with four battalions and a battery providing the main weight of attack. French opposing them have three Guard battalions, two lt dragoons, and one battery. Overall, the French didn't handle themselves very well, and the small edge in numbers and quality was transformed into a big advantage in the field.

Left flank town under pressure. Here, three line battalions, a battery and a skirmisher [to left, two stands] successfully hold off their numbers in Prussians - barely. The wood occupied by the Prussians countered the town held by the French.

Right flank town about to handle a Brigade+ of Prussians. The cavalry is just off camera to right. Prussian skirmishers [2-stand Unit] have four battalions to their left then a battery.

Far Right Flank cavalry action goes bad for the French. This was balanced by the Near Right Flank infantry fight also going badly for the French. The problem with trying to hold a town is that it is not a fortress and most towns are too small to hold 1000 Soldiers in full protection. Ergo, they can be take with superior firepower if the attacker gets the troops and position to do so. In this case, the right of the town was cleared away by the cavalry and skirmish Unit, and the left was poorly supported by French Units on the hill. This allowed a small advantage in Prussian Units to edge the French out of the town completely.

French Guard and supporting cavalry probably don't have what it takes to re-occupy the town. While there is one fresh Guard Unit to left, the jumbled positioning of Units give the Prussians a significant edge. This French colonel should go back to Algeria!

On the left center, French doing better. Not quite as outnumbered and the Prussians here are not being quite as well handled. Their cavalry have interfered a bit in the fight, and the superior firepower of a battalion has trimmed down the French skirmishers considerably.

Far left cavalry Action inconclusive. French had 4-2 advantage but did not use it effectively to pin and destroy Prussian counterparts. This wouldn't have been as big a problem if the French hadn't lost nearly every melee they got involved with! I'm also still learning how to back up a cavalry attack with additional cavalry - it is quite different from Infantry. The decisive nature of the melee mechanic means that it is usually better to do what was done historically, and have your second line of cavalry several hundred yards back, the easier to reinforce the front line should it have to retreat.

Once again, an interesting playtest and an enjoyable one. I am continually impressed by the nuances of play available with the relatively straightforward mechanics provided in a 4-page rule set. Granted, they are not written conversationally nor with lots of examples. Our blind tester gave them a thumbs-up and had little trouble being guided thru them. A few errors were made by me along the way as it is hard to both play and explain effectively.

Keeping the changes made for this test, want to try having the melee loser retreat 1d6" instead of one move. I think a retreat is pretty hard to manage and largely out of control of command of either the battalion itself or the brigadier. Stabilizing a retreat would be reflected in movement over subsequent turns.

These rules are ready for a lot more play including blind playtesting - let me know if you are interested. 

Must say that I'm pretty eager to bang out some of my 15s and play on the table myself! I may have to use some substitutes to band out more games at home while the laborious painting aspect of the project is in progress.