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, September 18, 2022

A Gentleman's War: Gone to France

After quite a bit of time reading the download pdf of the rules and playing around with 54mm ACW figures, I wanted to see how AGW plays with 15mm. While a "more modern" scale than intended by the rules, and a rare one for single-figure basing, I wanted to see how 15mm played and without individual basing. The unit size is about right - 16 figs for Infantry, 6 for cavalry. Gives the infantry battalions a bit more edge as they should have in this late period.

Also, I bought a nice shiny softcover of the rules. Basically, because I like real things. Howard will no doubt not only approve, but recommend I buy a few extra copies to keep around the house "just in case".

Astute observers will recognize "Scenario 8: Melee" from One-Hour Wargames. All I did was add a few more bits of terrain to get the feel of a higher scale battle. The road, the long hill and the medium sized woods at the southeast corner are the original terrain features.

The defending French have:
- a General, a smoothbore cannon, line infantry and light infantry starting on the hill
- a mitrailleuse [gatling sort of thing] and two infantry entering as reinforcements at the road.
- a General, 4 Light Cavalry sqadrons [entering as reinforcements at the top left]
TOTAL = 4 Infantry, 4 Cavalry, 2 Guns, 2 Generals

Turn 3 reinforcements:

Turn 6 Reinforcements:

The Attacking Prussians have:
- a General, two Infantry, a Krupp gun and two squadrons of lt. Dragoons to start.
- a General, two Infantry, a Krupp gun and two squadrons of Cuirassiers entering Turn 4.

Prussian Turn 4 Reinforcements:
All figures are available from Old glory 15s, I believe [CLICK], and are either Old Glory or Rank and File. The OG are more animated and have varied poses, usually 2 advancing and 2 shooting per pack, along with the command figs. The Rank & File are generally one pose, very clean casts, and something old school. I like them both for different reasons!

Initial card distro favors the French a bit, 4-2 Hold Cards, but both sides have 2 face cards.

Turns [card cycles] 1-2. Uncertain what the Prussians have planned, the French move into the woods with one skirmish unit - the rest of the force stands fast. 

In "One-Hour Wargames" Scenario #8, there's two plans with a chance of success in my experience...
First, go directly against the front of the hill, with 4-3 odds, hoping to destroy a unit or two. Turn 4, push the reinforcements up the road to stop the Red defender's reinforcements entering the same road. Somewhere between these two forces, secure the woods and clear the hill with fire.  \
Second, push up the road, securing the woods, and then flank the forces on the hill. This only works if you are fast as on Turn 3 Red gets reinforcements arriving on the road. It also largely changes the direction of battle from South-North to East-West. The final reinforcements for the defender enter from the Northwest.
Of course, anything can go wrong and overall I think this scenario is likely a draw as the winner must be in "exclusive" possession of the hill, which virtually requires the defenders to be destroyed.

The Prussians enter on the road and move quickly up it, attempting to clear and secure the woods that are the key to the position; from them, they can establish a base of fire to clear the French off the hill. They send one cavalry as far as possible to threaten the French left flank - which only has light infantry - supported by Infantry and the second cavalry. The other infantry takes on the woods frontally while the Krupp gun works to establish fire superiority and drive the French gun off the hill - spending a valuable Ace for a second round of Fire against the gun, killing half the crew. Clearly, I opted for the Second plan from above...

Prussian Card Cycle 3, another Ace appears! 
The Prussians take a second activation to position their cavalry for a charge on the flank or rear of the French lights on the hill....
But the French spend a card to turn the lights around, move within 6" short range and shoot, then the Ace to shoot the cavalry again!  The Prussians lose 5 figures out of 6. Being a small unit, the Squadron of Lt. Dragoons is not much use anymore. The question becomes academic when they fail morale and Run Away. First blood to the French!

Well, this certainly demonstrates the danger inherent in the card deck - at least until the Aces are spent!

Speaking of which, another red card comes up, and the French Infantry on the hill realize that they will soon be pecked at by the Krupp battery, so advance off the hill, then spend the last red Ace to shoot the Prussians engaging their lights in the woods - with deadly effetct!

Prussian Card Cycle 4 arrives, bringing the Prussian reinforcements onto the table. Note the Prussian losses - the lt dragoon squadron and a stand of infantry.
Soon after, French Card Cycle 3 arrives, bringing the French some important reinforcements.

At this point, it is worth remembering that the two sides are not necessarily on the same activation cycle. The Prussians managed to get in an additional cycle over the French. So instead of the French reinforcements arriving one "Turn" ahead of the Prussians, they are arriving first for the Prussians, and the Prussians can spend face cards to bring the entire bunch on at once. Note that the French can do the same.

It is worth emphasizing that - in my humble opinion - A Gentleman's War requires a player to work very carefully to maximize opportunities that the card deck brings, especially with the use of Hold Cards. Once a player's used all his Hold Cards, his units entirely depend on the card draw off the deck until the Joker's arrive and new Hold Cards are drawn. 

It is a very interesting turn sequence, and definitely gives the game some unusual [and realistic] dynamics above and beyond a *definite* I-GO, U-GO turn sequence. I like it, altho I lose track of things sometimes. Others may not like it as it disrupts skillful planning!  But I think it takes skill to manage the cards...

Another note: the way the turn is broken up can make the game feel a bit small and skirmish-y at times and that each unit is about a platoon, a troop or one gun, much like The Sword and the Flame. However, the use of Face Cards to move "brigades" can make it feel larger again. This interesting effect can be emphasized by reducing the number of face cards or number cards, so I think the game is quite easily customized to the level of combat you desire.

As the cycles continue, the Prussians use a Hold Card to push on the French left, threatening the French voltigeurs [lights] flank with a charge....
...but the French counter with a higher Hold Card...
...and use it to put face and put a Hit on the Prussians first - not enough however...
The French having played their final Hold Card, the Prussians can now have their way a bit. They charge the lights, take some Hits closing in from defensive Fire, then go into Close Combat.
In a shocking bloodbath, both sides roll lots of Hits, but the Lights are Beaten and Run Away, 5 to 3 Hits. 

The French get some revenge as their reinforcements enter the table, and the famed Marvelous Mysterious Mitrailleuse Machine vents its wrath! It only causes one hit, however, which the Prussians save. 
Of course, it jams, also.

As Card Cycles Prussian Five and French Four come around again, the Hold Cards heavily favor the French, 2-1. 

The French ligne infantry roll some devestating chassepot fire!
But the Prussians easily hold their ground on a '6'.

Card Cycle 6 comes around for both sides as the Joker arrives.

Both sides try to use a Hold Card, they tie on the dice off...

Then the Prussians win and advance into Close Range. The French then get a red Ace and blast the Prussians down to 50%. They roll for being Disconcerted and a measly '1' gives them a "Run Away" result...
...they roll a '12' for distance and are off the table. That hurt!

Prussian losses: Cav Squadron, Infantry Battalion, and a couple of companies.

The Prussians now decide to make a push on the center, the rallied lights, partially crewed gun and strong battalion holding off a battalion and a half of Prussians.
The Prussians add their Heavy Squadron reinforcements.
Charges are made against the gun...
but four French light squadrons arrive French Card Cycle 6.
Hold Cards are played to get the edge against the opposing squadrons
Prussian cuirassiers and French Hussars are all falling back, along with the French gun.

The other cuirassier attacks the French infantry, supported by the Prussian infantry, but are wiped out by defensive fire.
French hussars charge and destroy the last Prussian in one battalion, and their general.
But the Prussians then shoot the hussars to pieces. To their right, you can see the Prussians who have now forced their way into the woods - almost two battalions.

Card Cycle 8 for both sides, after Jokers.  The hands are even in size but favor the Prussians in quality.

A few more cycles passed, but it was already clear the Prussians weren't defeating the French much less clearing them from the hill. They advanced onto the hill but the French reinforcing infantry on the other side were able to shoot them off it. Meanwhile, the to-ing and fro-ing in front of the hill exhausted both sides, and the French ended with a draw in their favor.

The game was eventful and flavorful, but with ten units a side took a few hours longer than anticipated. Given the scenario and the Card Cycle I was on, the outcome was not certain and with 1 Card Cycle = 1 Turn there were possibly seven more Turns available.


A Gentleman's War is full of movement and action. Depending on the cards, it is usually punctuated by short sharp events with plenty of drama rather than coordinated activities by mutually supporting forces. 

While I can see how proper use of face cards to activate a "brigade" of up to four units can bring a decisive local result. However, these don't fall like leaves and if there is a run of number cards the action gets a very choppy and skirmish-y feel to it that doesn't suit a Unit = a Battalion action of a couple of brigades per side as I played here.

This is quite different from a phased game where all moves, shots then melee occurs. It can also be hard to remember what happened if you are interrupted [ah, family] or forgot to mark a unit as activated.

Aside: I wonder how the turn sequence would play as a skirmish game with one fig = one unit??

Firepower is relatively weak, intentionally per the design notes. But with any weapon - musket to breechloader - a large infantry unit has little to fear from a frontal charge from cavalry. Close Range Shots hit on a 4+ with all weapons, which is almost always the same 6", "capping" small arms effectiveness. This could easily be tweaked for more realistic firepower to a 3+ or even 2+, which in turn could be offset by more terrain for more late-period feel and challenges.

The game is entertaining but not quick. Each event involves a couple of steps and some looking at the rules and charts to calculate situations and modifiers and such. While the mechanics are easy to understand they slow the pace of each event. As such, they are more of a day off sort of game than an evening at the club sort of game, especially with new players or sides of several people. 

Interestingly, I can see it easily scaling up and down using no change of mechanics:
  • 1 fig = 1 man with doubled ranges makes a Unit a squad.
  • 1 fig = 5 men as is makes a Unit a platoon.
  • 1 fig = 10 men and halved ranges makes a unit a company.
Thus, with the one set of rules, you can play colonial scraps from a platoon patrol to a battalion action. I haven't tried all these bright ideas yet, but it has me rethinking plans for my 15mm French Foreign Legion v. Arabs....


  1. Thanks, interesting to follow and I like the idea of the Joker allowing for build back of hold cards. The OHW scenarios work extremely well with the OHW rules, but I think when you introduce other rules, the lack of Command and Morale rules in the OHW rules, puts some strain on some of the scenarios when replacement rules are used.

    I have just played scenario 17 (Encounter) and found this to be the case. If you use other rule sets with his scenarios for WWII, you simply have to add more terrain to the table, because in his rules, weapon ranges are significantly reduced.

    Anyway, as always, interesting to tinker and nice to see the napoleonics make the table.

  2. Hey Norm, nice to have you visit. I think that 15 Turns may be a bit long for an AGW game [well, 15 Card Cycles really]. I still have not played the rules extensively or continuously. I had Dreyse Needle Gun v. Breechloading [Chassepot] guns, with 18" and 24" range respectively, since it was FPW. This put most units in range quickly, but the decisive range is 6". I think that as Dale Hurtt has mentioned, the critical issue with a different set of rules in a OHW scenario is movement rates. In OHW for the Musket and Saber period, the movement rates should be half or the shooting ranges doubled. But overall, it is a great set to tinker with and certainly deserves a bit more attention.

  3. I am not exactly sure how card play and the game works but this is an interesting walkthrough and provides a useful flavor of the rules. Hope to see more so that I can get a better grasp of the design philosophy here. Good to see your 15mm FPW armies out on maneuvers.

    1. I don't want to give away TOO much of the design, as it is IP, but...

      It is similar to TSATF in that you turn over a card and if it is red, Red Side plays, and if it is black, Black Side plays. But some cards allow a group of units to move, and Aces - as you see in the post - allow a unit that has previously activated to take a second activation.

      All this has been done before in other games, but usually with special cards made for the game in question - WarmaHordes comes to mind for me.

      The interesting thing is that in a sense it is very realistic:
      - Like One-Hour Skirmish Wargames, the card deck has possibilities lurking in all the cards, shuffled into the deck. If you are required to shuffle thru the deck, then ALL possibilities will come to both sides [the red suits and black suits being identical], it is only the timing that differs.
      - But, using Jokers [one or both] brings both sides card cycles to an end and also replenishes the Hold Cards [which introduce planning]. This adds an element of unpredictability to the complete use of all cards of both sides - in other words, "What comes around may not go all the way around".

      The Hold Card allow some planning ahead - the initial draw of Hold Cards is random and therefore may favor one Side. But, the Hold Cards overall represent a "planning pool" of Activation possibilities, and with them you can put together a plan. Even MORE interesting, is that if you get zero Hold Cards, or crummy ones, you have to bide your time until you've built up a hand of better Hold Cards from those flipped - so therefore your opponent has seen them - and then when you are ready you can attempt to "unleash hell".

      All this to say that AGW is pretty much an Old School game mechanically - much like Grant, Featherstone, et al - except for the card mechanics of unit activation, which introduces the possibilities of:
      - One Unit Activating,
      - Multiple Units Activating,
      - A Unit Activating a second time,
      - Either Side interrupting the play of a flipped card to use a Hold Card.
      Thus you have the possibility of a simple alternating sequence of "I Activate one Unit, You Activate one Unit" up to "I activate every unit in my army and a unit twice" but without it getting out of hand.

      Hope that makes sense. Overall, I recommend buying the rules for the carefully though out Activation sequence, as it is not only quite fair and playable as is, but you can stack the deck for or against one side to reflect historical realities [like, Prussian staff work is superior to French staff work in 1870].

    2. Thanks for the comprehensive details, Alex! Much appreciated.

  4. For big battalion games, make use of your Generals and "brigade formations" to keep things moving. Per p.45 2nd column, attached Generals can activate the Brigade on any card, not just a court card.
    Of course, attached Generals are prone to be hit by shooting/combat. Such are the risks...

  5. Ooh, right, I do remember that now. I did fail to review the general section thoroughly. AGW has lots of ways to do things, and i need to play it more to get them under my belt.


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