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, February 20, 2022

Franco - Prussian War: playtesting for Beaumont 1870! p.1

15s in their glory:
The Prussians have secured the objective on the dining room table!

Was pleased to make it to a fun game of 1:2400 WWI Dreadnoughts at my old club [forgot to take pics, duh] and was reminded that it was time to get back into the Franco-Prussian War again, after a long plague-caused hiatus. As I was knee-deep in naval matters again [CLICK], I was reluctant to break contact as I had the Weather Gage and the French downwind. Still, I broke out the rules and began reviewing from where things left off in July of 2019 [CLICK!]. 

A quick review of the fall 2019 goals revealed that all the projects got attention over the next several months except FPW which was sadly neglected. Yet another case of too much game goodness, but my excuse is the person for whom I'd worked the rules was not gaming live for a while, and I just had a sample of figures to playtest with. It is always helpful to have a goal in mind, and now we do!

A review of the rules draft with fresh eyes showed me a few clunky spots but much progress towards the goal of "a set of rules that are playable in 2-3 hours of a gaming evening, and do NOT feel like a Naps or ACW retread". Lots of playing had an interesting set of rules with solid mechanics that definitely put the "BANG!" in Napoleonic firepower with the same sartorial panache. I'd also worked out how to set up and throw a game, and how to use terrain at this scale that that was realistic [many of the battles were in rough and hilly country] and prevented firepower from owning the game. With a 1" is 80-100 yards, there SHOULD be plenty of places to get cover, if you are looking for it.

While my family went out to visit the in-laws, I pondered where I could do some playtesting. The office / gameroom was months uncleared from clutter... not an option!  Clearly, something to be done about this in the future, *sigh. 

I cleared the dining-room table and threw some wintry terrain and hills upon it, and some villages, and got to playing as quickly as possible.

Throwdown was a brigade of infantry with a skirmisher unit on the right, each, and a few cavalry regiments on the left, each, with 3 Prussian v. 2 French batteries in the rear and easily covering the battlespace. Victory is for the town occupied by the French at the right center. Next to them in the wood is their chasseurs, skirmishers. Racing to the rescue are three more battalions of Ligne, and two Hussar regiments and an uhlan cover the left.  For the Prussians, two cavalry and a battery cover the left, with an infantry brigade of four battalions, a skirmisher, two batteries and a dragoon regiment advancing - a couple more Prussian battalions are marching to the sound of guns, "Hail Blucher!"

View from the French side. It looks like 'pas de probleme' here folks! There should be more than enough to support the town, which is sheltered by the forest.

French left has a battery to the right off camera, and infantry support, which is more than the Prussians can say - this should be no problem, also, and I am planning to force the Prussians back with this superiority, and threaten their attack.
Featured Foto: Lemproski's Improbably Lancers, Nap'c Polish Lancers I believe, but who cares??  Last playtest in 2019, they single-handedly held a flank!

Battle got off to a smooth start with a new turn sequence that made Fire and Melee interactive in each player turn.  I liked it, had the "feel" of rapid-firing weapons. By turn 4, the French had seen off the Prussian cuirassiers [with difficulty], and rallied their losses, a nice job of economy and aggression! The Prussians were a bit indecisive but their hussars performed well. Unfortunately, they are presently surrounded at center. To the pic right, French ligne shoot up Prussian dragoons who would have been better used elsewhere, like as not.
Still a few more French Hussars to rally, and some infantry, too! Should also be noted that Mr. Winkie, who is a large lad at 12, has decided to drop by and drop some dice with "dad's toy soldiers" which he thinks are cool. He rolls well!

Close up below shows what bright paint schemes can do for 15s, small as they are.

To the right, the Prussians pushed two battalions into the woods, seizing them from the skirmishers [who never had a chance to hold it]. Their timing [and the game mechanics] worked well, and the pressure increased with a bit of fortune and they were able to charge the town and seize it, driving the French outside it. The survivors have no choice but to retreat and attempt to rally...or die.
To the left, French hold the woods and the open space. They are holding out quite well so far. The Prussians are taking their lumps along the way. They needed a couple more battalions to really push, as I wanted to get some charges in.
French casualties are piling up, but not much worse than the Prussians.

Below, the Prussians easily out-rolled the French, who took concentrated fire for a few phases before missing morale and losing a second base. Unfortunately, the woods should have been more strongly held by the French - as it was, the skirmishers were ultimately destroyed and the woods then provided a covered avenue of attack for the two Prussian battalions, who massed fire at the town, with a third battalion [center, a bit back] and a battery. At 50%, the Prussians were able to charge and evict them. They passed morale and fell back only 1", stubbornly remembering all the wine casks they had left behind...

Couple turns later, Prussians break through, destroying the French in the center area, behind which the town survivors were attempting to rally. Into the breach, they push more battalions, further isolating the objective from succor. The French in the woods are now pressed on Front and Flank, and will [wisely] have to retire. One briskly moving battalion - at 50% - is moving up to threaten the battery.
Closeup - they needed the additional battalion on the town attack, and one to secure their right flank from French cavalry.

Mr. Winkie, in a contemplative moment behind his Prussians. War is h-e-!-! His hussars have managed to extricate themselves from encirclement, but his cavalry kept the French fully occupied and not helping with the town.
The Lucky Lancers will charge and crush the dragoons, but the supporting infantry are more than enough to see them off. Plus there's those annoying Hussars to their rear.
The Prussian Infantry have trimmed down the French infantry with the help of the Krupp gun. A bit of a stalemate here, but only with the Prussian Infantry...

Well, lots of fun to play after these years, and much of the playtest rules went well. I prefer the sequence with movement after shooting, and tweaking a few of the hit numbers and putting in a few little bits of chrome while removing a few others has been beneficial. But there's room for improvement. The rules aren't "clean" enough, for one thing. It is unclear what a newer player should do with his troops each turn.

Other fine tuning needed:
- move rates and the cost to turn
- how to prevent artillery acting as snipers; probably solved
- the options for winners and losers after melee need to be more dynamic and present more historical choices than "stand there and catch your breath".
- what are the uses for a general?

All these seem to have some solutions, so will have to check the notes from the game and see what comes up.  This is definitely a fun game and very evocative of history, and "not just like retreaded Nap rules"!