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!"

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!


  1. Nice review. I had some of the larger folio’s that had the full rules and struggled with them and I am a boardgamer of 40+ years! The Quick Rules, Therefore are lighter when compared to the full rules, but themselves could have done with a little more thought to make things more straight forward for the gamer.

    I really like the Germantown gaming situation and the size of the game is a real bonus, even the most space strapped person could keep this set out on a small pinboard and even play it in the chair, so ideal for hospital stays, vacations and very accessable for anyone with any disability that makes stretching over a table impossible.

    There was some important errata re the combat charts as follows;
    Rule 7.5 - Combat Results. Change the definition of Ax or Dx to read:

    Ax or Dx = Attacker Loss or Defender Loss. The affected unit loses a step (7.7); no advance or retreat is made.

    Also, bombardments satisfy the need to attack an enemy unit.

    7.6 Retreats & the SLR. Under the Unsafe Line of Retreat, a unit takes a loss before it routs again. Change the Unsafe Line of Retreat to read:

    Unsafe Line of Retreat: This is identical to the SLR but passes through an unnegated EZOC and/or ends in an EZOC. In this case, the unit takes a loss (7.7), then routs from the unsafe hex. A unit may take a loss and rout any number of times until it no longer has a line of retreat or retreats off the map.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Norm. Quick question: does Artillery bombarding alone satisfy the 7.2 need to attack defenders [the so-called spoiling attack]?

    I think the rest are in my October 2013 word doc of the rules.

    I'm actually going to re-write these when I have some time as I've two other games, Saarfeld and Salem Church that I also want to play in the series. I'm thinking it might also be good for a miniatures game for that higher level where a Brigade is a Unit.

  3. For the spoiling attack, the 2010 Q&A gives an answer, though it appears its reference to 8.4 is mistaken, anyway, it says;

    “Depends. If the artillery scores any result (retreat, disruption, step loss, rout) on the defender, then the bombardment counts as an attack. If no result is obtained (a no effect or any attacker result), then the bombardment does not count and the defender does get the FOW. See 8.4, last paragraph.”

  4. The reference to 8.4 is correct in the July 2012 standard rules.

    I disagree with it not counting as an attack for 7.2 for three reasons:
    - it adds yet another exception to the rules
    - all other combat counts regardless of result [what's the diff between an infantry or cavalry attack with no "discernable" result and an artillery attack with no discernible result??-
    - Historically, in reality, Infantry are always pretty darned concerned when someone is lobbing cannon balls at them, and this is "battle artillery" attacking not just some harassing fire like they did in WWII with a mortar or something.

    I finished re-writing my quick-play rules for the game and tried them last night - went really well and will have to post on it.


Thanks for your comment! t will be posted after it's moderated.