Wednesday, 9 September 2020

15mm Napoleonic Naval Skirmish

Yes you read that correctly.  Local nautical enthusiast Andrew suggested we play a 15mm Naval game, and not quite believing what I was reading, I readily agreed. 

Andrew arrived with two spectacular fully rigged ships as follows!

Andrew couldn't remember the company that made these, but said they are out of production resin models he has had for ages. 

Andrew also brought along some more commonly used gaming pieces - super cheap and easy paper ships!

These actually look quite good I think, with 3D models behind.

Bit more obvious from this angle of course!

These ships are a scale more commonly used for naval gaming, 1/1200th Skytrex models I believe.

Size comparison!

With the Skytrex models Andrew also made them so the different masts can be removed to represent battle damage. Impressive but wait until you see what can be done with the big models!

So onwards with some testing of some rules. What Andrew wanted to try was using the large ship models to represent attitude of the ships to each other and damage, while two smaller ship models were used to represent the actual positions of them and movement.

Here's the two smaller ship models moving about on a 5x5 grid (marked out quickly with some dice). Alternatively we could have just used a bigger table for the big ship models (e.g. 8x6 foot rather than 3x5 foot area could be ok).

Rules were less than four pages, this one gives an idea of the gunnery and results:

I'll add this brief guide to some of the rigging here too...

First casualty, an unlucky gunner on Andrew's ship. Each crew figure lost represents maybe 15-20 lost, suppressed, concussed, attending to wounded, psychological casualties etc. Each gun model lost represents about 5 guns out of action.  We took each ship to be a 74 gun Ship of the Line.

Now the incredible thing about these 15mm ship models is that Andrew made them so that all the sails and rigging and masts are also moveable and removeable, as you either increase/decrease sail, have pieces of it shot away etc! A bit of effort in some instances to achieve this but looks great! Here we have furled lower sails to form battle sail (to reduce risk of self-inflicted fires from cannon and musket fire).

Crew manning their stations!

Some fires started on my ship by enemy cannon fire,  though the crew manages to put them out quickly!

Coming around, you'll note my ship has now also furled the top sails, and reefed sails on main mast and foremast to reduce speed. 

Casualites on Andrew's ship, four guns, the captain, a marine, a midshipman and two gunners, the anchor shot away. The top mainmast is also toppled and falls onto the deck, though Andrew hadn't written rules for  further effects of this yet - I helpfully suggested it should squash D6 of his crew but Andrew was more hesitant :D

My casualties, two midshipmen, a gunner and marine, lots of cannons, and the capstan smashed.

We ended this playtest without either ship striking its colours, as I shoot away the jib on Andrew's ship.

Fascinating stuff and we ended with discussion of potential rules modifications to improve the game aspect.  

Thanks for reading, and to Andrew, and hope you all enjoyed the pictures of these amazing models!

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Set Battle: Austrian vs Russian

A game between my Austrians and Matt's Russian Empire today in a tournament style game.  Historically Austria and Russia only fought in 1812 of course, but I can see this being a repeated contest...

Here's the Austrian list I used, which was made using the random army generator on page 5 of the 321 Fast Play Napoleonic Rules.  

Matt's Russian and Prussian Army was the following.

The Game

The randomly generated Set Battle scenario sees both armies deployed opposing each other, with only limited numbers of reserves still to arrive. The randomly generated terrain ended up in my favour, with two hamlets to help secure the Austrian line, and a hill on the right flank.

Light Cavalry on Austrian left.

Massed guns in Austrian centre.

Prussians opposing the Austrian right.

Guard Cuirassiers and infantry facing the Austrian left.

My left flank and centre, heavily reinforced with Grenadiers in reserve.

On the right flank though...  just the Austrian Cuirassiers, aiming to slow the enemy wing so victory can be achieved elsewhere. Perhaps not the best use of reserve heavy cavalry...

On the left, horse artillery batteries exchange fire, with neither side wanting to commit to an attack. An Austrian regiment takes heavy casualties and is withdrawn.  The Austrian grand battery in the centre eventually silences an enemy battery and starts to take a toll on the Russian infantry.

A newly painted Russian Cuirassier unit charges and gets lucky against an Austrian unit, breaking it.

The Russian Cuirassiers are spent but remain in control and retire safely to reform.

On the right my own Cuirassier charge is thrown back by Prussian squares.

In the centre, the Austrian heavy guns have been silenced by counterbattery fire and Jaegers. Austrian Uhlans ride forward to counter this enemy but are met by Russian Hussars.

The Hussars break the Uhlans, and charge on into the guns...

Sabering this battery too before retiring.

Two Russian cavalry charges have taken a significant toll, and the Austrian skirmishers are also lost. Both sides end up losing their Horse Artillery on the Austrian left flank.

Things are not looking good for the Austrians, and I commit the Grenadier reserve.

The Russians organise for an attack to push the Austrians to breaking point.

But the Grenadiers are awaiting them in line and deliver deadly volleys.

The Russians commit their own Guard who suffer heavily against the Austrian Grenadiers.

In the distance the problem on the Austrian refused right is evident though. The Austrian Cuirassiers have been forced back by the slowly advancing wall of Prussian infantry and artillery, and one regiment eventually breaks under this pressure.

With this loss the Austrian army also breaks, having lost a third of their force.
Austrian Losses: 3 Infantry, 2 Cavalry, 3 Artillery

Russian losses: 1 Infantry, 1 Cavalry, 2 Artillery


An interesting contest. Several turns were spent in a cautious artillery duel, before casualties amongst these batteries gave confidence to the advance of other arms. The Russians looked to be having a tough time of it, but then the new Russian cavalry did great work - if getting a little lucky perhaps! Some errors on my part didn't help. The Austrian Cuirassiers were put in an untenable position with no horse artillery to support them against infantry and artillery. My artillery may have been too attracted to counterbattery fire, though this was not without effect. Committing my Grenadiers earlier would have helped, but Austrian command problems hampered this movement from occurring as quickly as I would have liked.  The two regiments of Russian Cuirassiers opposing my left, nullified my four regiments of light cavalry, though the points value of these two forces was roughly equal so this was not a poor trade. And most importantly of course, much fun was had! :)

For reference, the game lasted nine turns at a sociable pace, and took four hours, including all the setup and interruptions from me having to attend to some urgent work calls. 

Sunday, 2 August 2020

321 Fast Play Napoleonic Rules - Version 5.0 update

It's been close to six months since I last updated the 321 Fast Play Napoleonic Rules. After many more games, tests and feedback, I've made the decision to upate them again.  There are a couple of significant changes, but many others represent a return to earlier concepts after experimentation and rejection of shiny new ideas.  The new version can be downloaded from the following page on the site:

As I mention on that page, these rules were originally written just to facilitate a particular Napoleonic niche for my own group. That being simple fast rules for big battles that kept lower level detail and flavour. It seems others out there have found some value in this approach, and consequently I have agreed to keep a record of development and changes.  Thank you to all who have provided feedback and asked helpful questions about unclear aspects. Feedback from people outside my immediate group has been particularly helpful, as they are viewing it with fresh eyes. Video tutorials are something requested that I have not yet managed, though I have done some initial experiments with video setups.

The two major changes in Version 5 are the following:
  1. Defensive fire and test to charge home has been discarded as a separate step and is now factored into melee resolution. This is simpler, faster and more in line with a fast-play philosophy.  This stand and shoot process was originally left in to add flavour similar to other rulesets, but I think it just slowed things down when a simpler process can produce the same tension. 
  2. Good quality units have been somewhat reduced in power and poorer quality units increased, via  a change to disorder chances, and reduction in frequency of break tests. This is because much playtesting has revealed that poorer quality units were rarely chosen given how easy it was to roll over them in actual battlefield conditions (as opposed to theroretical mathematical comparisons). Good units will still beat poor ones on most occasions but at the same time there are no supermen so choose attacks carefully. This also gives poorer quality armies a reasonable chance in point based games, which is more fun from a game perspective. They will still struggle in historical refights without a significant numbers advantage which is as it should be!

Below I have listed the changes to rules from version 4.4 to 5.0. 
There are also some minor changes to wording in places to improve clarity but not alter meaning.

Changes from Version 4.4 to 5.0 (August 2020)

Page 1 Break TestsUnits now only make a single break test in a turn, regardless of how many units in their Division break. Losing a skirmish screen no longer cause a break test (unless it is a full light infantry regiment that is lost). 
The previous rule where multiple break tests could occur is not uncommon in Napoleonic rulesets. However, feedback from multple players has been that these "chain routs" are too random and frustrating from a gameplay perspective. Therefore this been changed back to a less dramatic historical interpretation closer to Version 1 rules. Similarly, players disliked the loss of a skirmish screen causing break tests, despite my persuasion towards this in other rules I like (e.g. General D'Armee), so this has been removed.

Page 1 TerrainClarification added that you cannot move into contact with an obstacle defended by enemy except by charging this.  (Rules clarification)

Page 2 Command: Returned to a simpler and briefer Version 1 rule, except that Army Commanders continue to benefit all Generals in a radius rather than just one. The special orders are also closer to Version 1 of the rules, as this seemed more fun, and they are now listed at the bottom of page 1 (Advance!, Bombard! and Glory!). Additionally, cavalry out of command range may move full speed if they end their move closer to their general. 

Page 2 Limbers: Returned to Version 1 rule so artillery has option to move, unlimber, limber and move, or if horse artillery move and unlimber.

Page 2 Zone of Control: Rule name changed to this from "Near Enemy" as Zone of Control (ZOC) is the most common nomenclature for this effect in wargames rules. Restriction on charging is added so you cannot charge across a ZOC except to contact an enemy causing this ZOC, but cavalry now also get greater freedom of movement if in the ZOC of non-cavalry. 

Page 2 Interpenetration: Exception added that unlimbered artillery cannot pass through other units.
To stop u
nlimbered artillery using friendy units as an unrealistic speed boost!

Page 2 (and 3) Bombard!: Rule changed to allow option of more intensive long range fire at risk of exhausting your artillery.
Change back to an earlier version of this rule because it provided more interesting choices - and was actually used!

Page 2 Glory!: Order Changed so that a General in contact with a stationary unit can roll under either the units morale, or his command rating.  A General in contact still assists a unit in melee.  
Change back to a version 1 style rule. The chance of rallying is decreased, but now a good general as well as a good unit increases the chance to rally. 

Page 3 ChargesAs mentioned above, a key change is that the "stand and shoot" charge reaction is discarded to speed up play and remove some steps and rule complication.  Defensive fire and chargers closing (or not) is factored into the melee resolution. The new mechanism is a simple one, defending infantry and artillery reroll their melee attacks if charged from the front to represent their defensive fire advantage (all attacks if in line, and one otherwise). Additionally, defending artillery discard hits against them if they win or draw, representing the enemy charge faltering and failing to close effectively, and the winning side also discards any hits that would break them.  Factors have been adjusted to give a result similar to previous versions. So for example, charging a fresh line or battery will usually end in failure other things being equal, but is more achievable once the line or battery is disordered. (For reference the odds of a fresh attack column or fresh heavy cavalry frontally charging and overruning a fresh battery of the same morale grade is just under 25%, and worse if they have first taken damage from longer range fire).

Additionally, the "Form Square" rule is changed to "Repel Cavalry". The mechanics are essentially the same, but rather than infantry testing to form square, cavalry rolls to disorder them and there is also a chance to break heavily disordered infantry from this effect alone.  Similarly chargers roll to inflict a disorder hit on retreating skirmishers.  (This change to charger rolling the dice helps maintains the momentum of a players turn and also delays the defensive players option to form square to a more logical point).
A clarification is added that chargers must charge valid targets they contact if following retreating units. Positioning of chargers is clarified so that chargers do not reposition after contact if this would prevent them retreating.

Page 3 Flanking charges: Changed so these are easier to achieve, which is balanced by changes to the Zone of Control rules which help to guard against them. To flank charge now, rather than having to have your front edge behind the enemy front edge, instead your front edge must not be within 45 degrees of straight ahead of the enemy. 
This latter version of determining flank march eligibility is a common one in wargame rules. The reason it was not originally used is because I think "having your front edge behind the opponents front edge" is an easier one to see at a glance and thus it helps speed up play. However, I'm not sure the tradeoff is worth it in this instance. For example it makes it harder for a linear arrangements of units to exploit the  exposed flanks of  an attacker.  This change makes guarding flanks and having reserve lines even more important than it was before.

Page 3 Towns and Fires: Modification so long range artillery also has chance of causing a fire.

Page 4 Shooting and Melee Changes:
  • Modifiers to hit for shooting or melee are reduced to just a few negative factors while the few bonuses are all an extra die or reroll.  (This should be more intutive) 
  • Rolling to disorder with hits is the same format for both shooting and melee  and occurs on a 4+ in most situations, with exceptions to this listed by troop type. (Simpler and cleaner layout)
  • Squares get one die shooting in any direction when shooting (Simplified to speed up play)
  • Clarification to charging on procedure so that units must charge enemy or move full distance (Clarification to how charging on works added).
  • Units winning melee may end their move facing in any direction. (To allow greater exploitation of victory given time scale of a turn of 30 min to one hour).
Page 5 Army Creator: A link to a new and easier to use Google Sheet for Army Creation has been added. 

Page 5 Army Lists: Change to allow just small (2 base), standard (4 base) and large (6 base) units.
For simplicity of army creation, balance, and because it looks better than odd numbers of bases.

Page 5 Spanish Army List: Change of Spanish Cavalry to Raw rather than Recruit morale, except for Royal Guard cavalry.
Change to match new disordering rules, and reading more on performance of Spanish. Probably to be historical you should have no more Competent Generals than Incompetent/Cautious ones also, but likely it's already harsh enough!

Page 5 Austrian Mass: Cavalry roll to hit a mass formation as normal, but it counts as a square for purposes of inflicting disorder and break tests versus cavalry. 
(Changes to match new melee disordering rules)

Page 5 British Line:  Morale bonus changed to shooting attacks in line or square only given changes to shooting and melee (i.e. increased effectiveness of shooting againt veteran/elites in v4, and increased resilience of regulars with new melee disordering rules in v5.).

Page 5 Recruits: Changed so morale drops from regular to raw once they have taken two or more disorder hits (a change to align with new shooting and melee rules).

Page 5 Generals: Rule for Monarch Army Commanders added. They cannot contact units, but may instead rally up to two units within 6” that are more than 18” from the enemy. 
Rule change to stop Monarchs being used quite so heroically/recklessly. Monarchs boost morale but their staff and troops are insistent about keeping them out of danger. Army Commanders that should be classed as Monarchs include Napoleon from 1805 (possibly excluding 1813-14), Alexander I of Russia, Francis I of Austria, and Frederick William III of Prussia. 

Page 5 Rockets: Reduced chance on a misfire to harm nearby unit or self. (Balancing change

Page 5 Russian Line: Bonus resistance againt shooting attacks changed so they will still be outshot by enemy infantry in new rules, while remaining more stoic to infantry and artillery fire than other infantry. (Balancing change

Page 5 Random Army Generator: Removed line specifying General quality, added line specifying morale quality. If a detail is not specified in the random generation then you may choose (e.g. General Quality, or whether you have Cuirasssiers or Dragoons in a Heavy Cavalry Division). On average you will get about three divisions per 500 points, or four Divisions if Spanish. 
Balancing changes made after further testing of this feature.

Page 6 Rivers: Line added specifying that a unit crossing a passable river must spend one turn entering a river and is unable to shoot during this turn, and that rivers count as obstacles if trying to assault units defending the opposite bank. 
Rerunning some historical refights led to this rule change. It makes passable rivers more formidable obstacles to cross in the face of the enemy. Streams (or paltry rivers) should be treated only as rough terrain or ignored if judged to be insignificant. Use reading of historical battle to work out which category of water feature fits best.

Page 6 Victory Objectives: Changed attrition based victory in tournament game to one third of units lost. Generals do not count as units. New rules added for determining marginal victory in drawn games.  A simpler system to use.

Page 6 Reserves: Change to reserve rolls, rather than Defender having -1, they now start rolling turn three whereas Attacker starts rolling turn one. Additionally in an Encounter battle forces starting off table are rounded down rather than up. 
Balancing changes to attacker/defender in scenarios.