Monday, 30 January 2012

"Your Not Dead you Rascal!"

A long awaited game of Black Powder last night between myself and Craig A.

The game was Napoleonic, French versus English. A straight forward slugging match fought on the edge of a town and with a road intersecting the battlefield diagonally from south west to north east.

Unfortunately we did not get to finish the game as most of the evening was taken discussing all things Napoleonic. Craig who is heavily involved in the 33rd Regiment of Foot is a fountain of knowledge on this period and I can never resist asking him questions on drill, formations etc which tends to mean the game is forgotten for long periods.

We decided to try and experimental “house rule” to introduce an element of ignorance of opposing forces. I suggested using the system in Principles of War where figures are not placed on the table but unit markers a deployed together with 3 or 4 “dummy” markers. The type and size of the unit is only revealed when within musket range. However we felt that this was probably a bit too draconian (unless  the game is meant to take place at night or in fog). So we deployed as cards instead of miniatures and units were revealed only when moved. I think this would be very interesting in larger games where you may want the enemy to think you have a whole Cavalry Brigade in reserve when really you have some half-strength militia but with this smaller  game where both sides had very few reserves it was a bit of a waste of time.

As suggested above, we both deployed with few reserves. I decided to occupy some woods on either flank and focus and frontal assault in the centre of Craig’s line. Craig moved off but deployed his Brigades in to a continuous line across the table anchored against the town. He had a single Cavalry brigade that took up a flanking position, echeloned out on his extreme left.

The Brigade occupying my extreme left moved off quickly and got to the wood on the left. They could not enter the wood as they were not light troops but I now had an opportunity to skirt round the wood and engage Craig on his right. My two central Brigades moved forward and formed in to Attack Columns to drive at the heart of the English Line. The Brigade on my right moved beyond the woods and formed square. The idea being they would block the English Cavalry from being able to charge the Attack Columns in the centre.

Unfortunately the Commander of my left Brigade trying to get round the wood had an attack of incompetence and for the rest of the game I was unable to get them moving beyond the wood.

My Brigades attacking the enemy centre in a traditional French manor got raked by Cannonade and Musketry and were soon stalling an taking casualties. However they pushed through this and smashed in to the English line. Unfortunately some disastrous saving throws (I only needed 3+ save and failed 3 out of 4) and an even worse break test saw my first column destroyed.

At the same time and error on my part meant that on of the English Cavalry regiments managed to get past my squares and charge another attack column in the flank, causing it to retire.


Things were not looking good for the French but luckily we had run out of time and so I did not have to suffer the shame of an all out defeat!

I enjoy playing Black Powder and there is no doubt that if we had not been gassing then the game would have reached a conclusion. It does lend itself better to larger games however with 7 or more Brigades which allows for a tactical reserve. When only playing with 3 or 4 brigades you can find that a large part of your force sits doing nothing which can be quite decisive.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

That's much more sensible than just Thorfin getting killed. Shall we all go and pack now?


I had been wanting to play these rules for some time. I downloaded them a few years ago and they looked good fun but I had never quite got round the trying them out.

Rob (B) wanted to try them before investing in some Dark Age miniatures and everyone else was at a bit of a loose end so were happy to give it a go despite the fact that nobody had read them. Too Much Lead had also popped down for a mooch so was happy to join in.

I don’t have a lot of Vikings so the numbers were made up by some Normans that I have.

We threw some terrain on the table, Rob (B) insisted on using some sections of Castle wall we found in the depths of our Terrain Shed plus some other bits and pieces. We wanted to keep things simple so I threw a load of “treasure” markers on the table and split the miniatures in to 4 Warbands. Who ever collected the most treasure won. Simple!

At first the game stumbled along as I poured over the rules and we got used to the mechanics of the game and the various statistics of the troops, armour and weapons. However things speeded up rapidly as everyone got the hang of it.

You roll for initiative each turn and then get to perform up to two actions for each warrior. Combat is simple and based on “opposed rolls” against the attributes of the warrior (each warrior has a list of attributes that look similar to what you would see in Warhammer). We found this worked really well, It was quite easy to score a hit but if the target had armour, shield and a helmet then it was quite difficult to wound. There were no tables or other references to make and once you got to know the modifiers for your weapons all you had to know was the Strength, Prowess or Fortitude of your warrior and roll a D10

Mick and Too Much Lead were very civilised and advanced on each other steadily before forming a Shieldwall and trading blows. Craig and Rob (B) on the other hand threw themselves at each other in a flurry of axes which had no order and was a effectively a large beardy scrum.

Of course this does not lead to a great deal to write about as there was little in the way of tactical nuances or manoeuvre. Basically Mick repeatedly beat Too Much Lead over the head with an axe until he ran away and Craig repeatedly beat Rob (B) over the head with an axe until he was dead. (not literally you understand).

The result a draw between Mick and Craig.

The game was fun and has a lot more depth than we explored here. In particular the campaign system which is based on you creating, maintaining and attempting to develop a Warband by raiding and other such scenarios.

There is also an optional mythical element which introduces random events (Fate Cards) and event Sorcery and fantastical beasts should you so wish.
Rob (B) was convinced enough to order some Gripping Beast Vikings and expect further posts about this game in the future.

Age of Blood is free to download and kudos of Tom Hinchelwood for creating and sharing a really good set of rules.

Thanks to Mick for the photo's as I left my phone at home.

Next week. Black Powder!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

"A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets"


Impetus Grandeur – Napoleonic Variant of the Impetus Rules.

Well Christmas is over and it was back to the Club to catch up with everyone and to focus on the important things in life like pushing toy soldiers around a table top. I did not have any new toys to play with as I don’t ask for miniatures for Birthdays or Christmas. This allows me to keep up the premise of “official” cost of the hobby compared to the “actual” cost.

I had a game of Dark Future with Craig last week with some brilliantly converted matchbox cars that Craig had "liberated" from his Children's sand box.

However it was back to historical games this week.  The Grandeur rules are available from the Impetus Website as a free download and provide rule variations to play impetus in the Napoleonic period on the grand tactical scale.

We were simply trying these rules out and so Rob (B) and Mick fudged together an Austrian and Russian army from old Great North War and Seven Years War figures. They were not too concerned over the accuracy of the miniatures but just to see how the rules played.

I have played the 17th Century and 18th Century rules supplements for Impetus and have found that they are really well thought out and easy to play. The 18th Century variant (Le Roi Soliel) is particularly well done and comes with extensive army lists for the War of Spanish Succession.

Granduer changes the game slightly as the units represent a Brigade sized body rather than Regiment size units so the scale is bigger. As such the “melee” phase actually includes musketry as well as hand-to-hand combat as it is simply representing one Brigade engaging the other. The only “shooting” phase is to represent Skirmishing between the Brigades.

I didn’t actually play the game. Bob and I looked on and we all discussed the rules and the issues raised while Rob B and Mick fought it out. The first thing that jumped out at me was unlike the other variants, the translation in to English was pretty poor. (Impetus is an Italian rule set). This led to a bit of head scratching over the rules.

Rob (B) and Mick set up in a more 18th Century formation with cavalry on the wings the Infantry in the centre along with large battery of Artillery. Then in a more 17th Century way the Cavalry both engaged their opposite numbers to try and sweep the enemy wings away before the Infantry engagement.

Mick had better quality cavalry with a lot of Cuirassiers supported by a second line of light cavalry. Rob (B) had Dragoons. Rob (B) had some early success on his Left but could not consolidate. His Right did not do so well against the Austrian heavy cavalry but a unit of Cossacks pushed wide on the kept the Austrian thinking and their concern about being charged in the rear stopped them turning in to the Russian Centre.

Unfortunately that is as good as it got for Rob (B). The Austrian Cuirassiers counter attacked on Rob (b)’s left and swept the Russian Cavalry away. The Russian Infantry were then pinned to the front and attacked in the flank from the left. A desperate charge by the Cossacks failed leaving the Austrian cavalry to envelope the Russian foot from both flanks. The result was an annihilation of the Russian forces. At the end Rob (B) had only his artillery battery left while Mick has only lost 3 Brigades.

I have to say that I was not that enamoured with the Grandeur rules. I love the Impetus Rules Set and the 18th Century Le Roi Soliel are really well made and work well but these are designed at Regiment level (ish) The Grandeur rules are attempting to be, well, grander and I don’t think this has been achieved. Firstly there is the issue of fire and melee. At this scale, Brigade coming in to contact represents two units engaging in combat whether this be musketry or melee. As such there is not firing aspect in the rules other than skirmishing which seems to be very effective.

However the combat factors and combat result are the same as at Regiment level. The result is that on the tabletop the figures and the aesthetics of the game look like a regimental engagement which is confusing.

The guys at Impetus have consistently come up with good ideas for their supplements and I am not going to critisise them too much given that this is one of many free supplement they provide and the figures we used would have looked better if based differently. I have no doubt that things will improve over versions 1.3 and updwards but will wait for a few updates before giving it another go.

Next week it is Age of Blood. The excellent free Dark Age skirmish game.