Thursday, 31 December 2020

Bavarian Chevauleger - Perry 28mm

 Last post for 2020, Bavarian Chevauleger. Also from Perry.

The two units are one from 1809 eara, and one from later. The only real difference apart from the pose of the command figures, is the silver and blue sash the 1809 era officer is wearing. This was discarded later for French style officer kit. However, I imagine some Bavarian officers might have kept it and nice to have the variation! Here's the 1809 unit.

As for the Bavarian Dragoons, much painful dog toothing of saddlecloths on these units! Many manufacturers have these included on the sculpt which makes painting theme easier, but these had to be done freehand, and around the front of the saddle blanket on Chevauleger also.

And a few pics of the later unit, and officer without the sash.

Glad to have these finished off! Best wishes to you all, and may 2021 be less plague ridden!

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Bavarian Dragoons - 28mm Perry

Next off the painting table, a unit of Bavarian Dragoons. After 1810 these were all converted to Chevauleger, but pretty while they lasted! Also necessary for some 1809 refights. Perry figures again.

Very large plumes on these!

Bit of a nightmare to paint due to dog tooth border on the saddlecloth. The triangles were done with Vallejo Andreas Blue and white. I painted the white border, then the blue triangles, and then touched up with white.  Perry page has them painted with diamonds which would be even more difficult to do, but reference material I have (Rawkins) has them with triangles. Thank goodness. The cords hanging down trumpeter's back have some quite fine detail too.

Weirdly I was sent three Chevauleger horses with this lot, rather than Dragoon horses. The horse equipment is different (see middle two rear horses). I assumed these Dragoons have had to requisition some spare Chevauleger horses so I just added them in!

Next up, and likely just before the end of 2020, will be a couple of units of Bavarian Chevauleger.

Monday, 28 December 2020

How long are your Napoleonic Rules?

I was recently sent a set of amendments a local group is using for the Blackpowder 2 rules. Many thanks John H, who also ok'd these for sharing below if you want to download. I was also rather startled by the length of this amendment list (20% as long as the rules themselves!), and ended up wondering just how wordy various Napoleonic rule sets are in comparison to each other.

Hence this post trying to answer that question, which I thought I would share on the chance anyone else is interested! Mainly I wanted to know the length of the core rules, and so I separated out extra material included in the full text, such as introductory material on the Napoleonic wars, army lists, scenarios and so on.  Making this distinction, I then used the word count function in google documents with electronic copies of rules I own to get an estimate of how many thousands of words they are. See the results in this graph (click it to see larger version). Below are brief remarks on each ruleset, listed in order of wordiness of the core rules, together with a link to purchase or download it.

Core Rules 1.6K words, 17 pages; Full Text 16K words, 172 pages. 
This is actually four sets of Napoleonic rules, a Brigade set of rules (which is about 14 pages and what I used to make this estimate here), and then a few extra pages for each of the variants to convert it into into successively higher levels of play (Divisional, Corp, Army - see 'Command level' on my Rules Review page for more about this distinction). Designed for play on a grid primarily. Extra detail includes sample battles and more rules options. Also available as a pdf version

Core Rules 4K words, 4 pages; Full Text 6K words, 6 pages. 
My own free rules available on this site. As others have commented these are short but also dense with detail. Let's just say WRG was a significant mentor. Extra 2K detail is army lists and tournament scenarios. There's an additional 2K of design philosophy/explanation on the download page I didn't include here, but this would be part of many rules and could be added to full text total.

Core Rules 8K words, 22 pages; Full Text 36K, 96 pages
These rules have the distinction of being the only set where it took less time for me to play the battle than it did to set it up! Very brief and brutal, and regimental/brigade level. Most of the text is campaign and scenario rules, which I think is a commendable diversion from the usual pattern you see with rules.

Core Rules 11K, 23 pages; Full text 26K, 50 pages  
Brigade level (i.e. each stand is a Brigade) set of rules based off DBX series of games. If you like those as I do you will likely like these. More detailed than DBA, but not DBMM level of complexity. Very accessible Napoleonic wargaming too as you don't need masses of figures.
Core Rules 15K, 60 pages; Full text 35K, 130 pages  
This is based off the first edition, which I did this review of here. A second edition is about to be released though, and the title links to the official site so you can keep track of progress on this. Extra text is mainly army lists and a few game setup ideas.
Core Rules 15K, 60 pages; Full text 36K, 139 pages
A ruleset I haven't played but I had an electronic copy and so I added it here for comparison. It is available as free download from the link. Extra text is some quite detailed army lists and campaign rules.

Core Rules 22K, 90 pages; Full text 44K, 186 pages
I wrote this review of these rules here. As mentioned they are rather messy, and the main New Zealand play group has another 4K of amendments on top of this (excluding commentary)! I've been given kind permision so you can download these  New Zealand amendments, which were written for a Borodino refight, so some of them are specific to that.
Note: To estimate the word count for Blackpowder I subtracted out the "historical detail boxes" in the main rules, and added in the Napoleonic section later in the book, ignoring all the non-Napoleonic material. Extra text is background material and the other periods covered by this ruleset. For reference I mentioned in the review that a local group also rewrote Blackpowder 1 rules from scratch to increase intelligibility - this got it down to about 14K words and 50 pages.
Core Rules 24K, 100 pages; Full text 30K, 116 pages
I recently wrote this review of these rules here. A popular set of Napoleonic Rules, and as you will note little in the way of extras beyond the core rules with this set. Also available as pdf version from same site.

Core Rules 24K, 54 pages, Full text 26K, 63 pages
A formative set of rules from the 1970's. These cover a wider period than just Napoleonics  (obviously given the date specified). Therefore you will find some of the core rules devoted to subjects like elephants, and also oddities (for those used to more modern rules) like quite detailed rules for capturing prisoners. Extra text is mainly sample Seven Years War Army Lists.

That's all the sets I looked at for now and I hope this diversion was interesting for some out there! 
And whatever rules you prefer, happy wargaming! :)

Edit - 29.12.2020
Ok here's details for further rules others have sent in, and will add more as I get them.

Core Rules 34K, 50 pages, Full text 44K, 96 pages
A well known Brigade set of rules based on the Fire and Fury American Civil War rules. Extra text is scenarios, unit and army data and sundries, and also comes with a DVD with further supplementary info. 

Core Rules 7K, 12pages, Full text 16.5K, 42 pages
Battalion level, but uses a Brigade level combat mechanism. Scroll to link at the bottom of the linked to page for these. 

Core Rules 16K, 25 pages, Full text 18K, 56 pages
Advertised as being for late 19thC but can apparently be used for Napoleonics. Resources available and in development for Napoleonics via the Group linked to.

Rules Review - General d'Armee

Next in my series of Rules Reviews is General d'Armee by David Brown.
For more detail on my approach to reviewing rules please see my Rules Review Index Page.

Command Level: Divisional Commander and above
Basic Tactical Unit: Infantry battalion, two or more squadrons of cavalry, or artillery battery.
Figures per unit: Works with any, units are just "small, regular, large", though note ground scale and consider that a battalion in line should take up roughly 150-200 yards (so maybe 10-20 cm in 15mm, 20-30cm in 28mm).
Ground Scale: 1mm to 1 yard/metre in 15mm, proportionally more in 28mm.
Time Scale: 10 to 20 minutes a turn

Organisation: 4/5
General d'Armee is a well laid out set of rules, in logical sections. That said, there's a bit much white space for my taste, and font could definitely do with being bigger in the charts. Pictures of individually based figures with no clear connection to the rules are scattered throughout, though mainly in the margins as a bit of Napoleonic colour. There are a few minor errors or clarity issues in places but a FAQ is available to help with these. The Quick Reference Sheets are also well designed, though at four pages in length one might debate the term "quick".

Positively there is also a forum on which the author himself regularly responds, as do other players with a couple in particular being very helpful. In addition there is a very good set of tutorial gameplay videos which puts these rules ahead of most competitors in that regard (though the Too Fat Lardies really need to sort their videos into playlists!)

Mechanics: 3/5 
I've seen the mechanics of General d'Armee have been described as quite "crunchy", meaning there are  a good number of procedures and rules to work through. At the same time if one compares it to General d'Brigade (a predecessor aimed more at the Brigade Level of Command as the name suggests), it is clear that much thought has gone into minimising the list of modifiers and streamlining systems so larger games can be completed more quickly.

The Brigade skirmish screen idea is one nicely done addition supporting this goal. In General d'Armee, you do have individual battalions, but the Brigade is the basic tactical unit for purposes of command and general effectiveness. Each Brigade has a skirmish screen consisting of a number of bases (generally one per battalion), representing the light companies from its battalions fulfilling this role. Thus there is no micro-management of the actions of individual light companies, but skirmishing is still an important part of the game. 

Some of the mechanics feel quite "old fashioned" (meaning 80's/90's rule complexity rather than the even earlier formative period in wargaming history). For example, typical firing involves a modified 2D6 roll on a chart, plus a bonus casualty dice or two in some situations, then sometimes another dice roll to see if a "half casualty" result is actually a casualty - so a bit clunky.  Skirmishers, garrisons and melee just use casualty dice, and I would have prefered volley and artillery fire to use a similar mechanism rather than a chart.

Looking at the forums, the charges section and all the potential rules around this appears to be the biggest source of confusion, as it can be somewhat convoluted. The FAQ contains further examples of charge procedures to help clarify the intention of the rules, and the videos mentioned above should also help with this.

When it comes to reaction tests there are a range of outcomes to get your head around that can also be confusing. For example, the three "R" words with similar names and meaning - "retire, retreat, rout", with fairly extensive rules applying to each, and I can't help but think I'd prefer something simpler here. Aspects of this also seem counter-inutitive, for example a retreating unit retreats once then halts, but is still classed as "retreating" until it rallies, even though it is not supposed to be withdrawing (moving) any further.

These various complexities of the rules produce more graduated outcomes compared to some other rulesets. Whether this extra detail is worth the time and process of working through the mechanics will be up to player preference of course.

Simulation: 5/5
Overall General d'Armee fits well with at least my own reading of Napoleonic history. The odds ratios and actions of forces feel about right and I feel confident to refight historical battles with them.  It's been argued that there are not enough "national differences", but I'm inclined to agree with the author that these have often been overstated, especially as armies became more homogenous later in the era. I'm also persuaded by his argument that some factors in Napoleonic wargames rules have persisted more for reason of Napoleonic wargaming tradition and assumptions (e.g. bonuses for higher ground or enfilading), rather than for reasons of substantive Napoleonic history, while other issues have been neglected. Skirmishers have due importance paid to them in General d'Armee, and the Brigade Skirmish line is nice idea to reflect their utility without complicated rules.  Similarly "massed column" rules discourage the solid wall of columns units you see in some rulesets - they work better if they are chequerboarded historically to have some deployment space.

Given the strength point system is said to reflect attrition in terms of morale, fatigue, and general disruption, in addition to casualties, it is perhaps odd that good quality units are no more resistant to this attrition loss from enemy fire than poorer ones. The only exception is rare elite units which have three more attrition points. Otherwise good units lose attrition points to fire as quickly as poor ones, in contrast to a systems where this loss is influenced by morale of the unit under attack. Moderating this slightly is the fact that certain results on a firing table will also result in a "discipline test" which is affected slightly more by quality (+1 or -1 on a 2D6 roll for veteran vs raw troops for example), which can result in units retreating or being removed. The General d'Armee attrition system seems like a holdover from earlier rules where you track casualties which were actually "casualties", and then had morale separate to this. I also feel that the certainty with which units are auto-eliminated as attrition is reduced might be perhaps a little too predictable in General d'Armee, though I personally prefer it to say the Blackpowder system which feels too random.

Another issue to be aware of in General d'Armee is it is rather easy for infantry to be overrun by cavalry unless you are hypervigilant for this possibility. The discipline test to form square as a reaction is quite harsh compared to many other rulesets, even when cavalry is quite some distance away. My understanding is that infantry were rather relentlessly drilled to form square quickly as a priority if threatened by cavalry. Instances of non-disordered infantry being caught out of square by cavalry is not a common occurrence in battle accounts I have read. French infantry in attack column could form square in under a minute according to Nafziger, yet in the rules you have approximately 40% chance of failing to do so against cavalry that would likely take two to three times as long to reach them on optimum ground. You have an approximately 60% chance of failing if you are in line or have reached your first demoralisation level (4 attrition points lost), and it gets worse from there. If you fail to form square you are also unformed and in a world of trouble against cavalry, and then breakthrough moves can easily tear through multiple units that will not get to react. I can understand that forming square is harder in the fog of battle, but one could say the same about organising a cavalry charge. All this is deliberate though, the author has commented that he really wanted cavalry to be more dangerous and unpredictable than they are in some Napoleonic rules, and they are certainly that!

Given it is so challenging to form square as a reaction test, during their turn players would be wise to check cavalry charge ranges, and form their units into square if in range rather than relying on reaction tests. Or just stay in attack column against lighter cavalry types, as this also offers protection and is less risky than trying to form square as a reaction to these. Forming square should likely not be as easy and non-influenced by circumstance as it is in rules like Blackpowder. However in General Armee you really need to be micromanaging this detail, which I'd prefer to be left more regularly to an automated reaction test in a game purportedly focused upon Divisional or Corp level command. As with everything in wargaming this is personal preference. 

Another criticism I've seen directed at General d'Armee is that the randomness to skill ratio can skew towards the randomness. For example firing a volley can hurt your own unit (as they lose "fire discipline", inflict no casualties and have to spend a turn reordering), or it might strip half the attrition points from a enemy unit (5-6 casualties) and inflict a rout test in a single turn. The chance of these extremes occuring is 1/4 for a veteran unit, with more graduated casualty outcomes being inflicted between those extremes.  The charge roll is also a nerve racking situation where even being significantly better quality than your opponent only gives you a +2 on a 2D6 rolloff to see who might hold to the charge or panic and become unformed (difference of 3 or more),  or even rout (difference of 6 or more).  Friendly units nearby let you reroll one of the D6 dice to reduce this variance, but it's still a high risk venture. The fate of an entire Brigade rests on a single dice roll after rout of a battalion, though an ADC allocation at least provides a reroll of this. My thought is that these outcomes are not unhistorical, though from a game perspective one might dislike the frequency of such butterfly effects of disaster.  However,  I can also see a case for the argument that Napoleonic warfare was more regularly slowburning and attritional in nature as Clausewitz described it, relative to the unpredictable firecracker effects many rulesets produce.

Anyway, despite some caveats or questions here, you'll note I still gave this category a 5/5, meaning I rate it highly and the results seem a very plausible interpretation of the Napoleonic period, that also takes a refreshing look at some aspects.

Friction: 4/5 
General d'Armee uses a simple but effective mechanic to generate command friction. Each Brigade must roll a 3+ on a D6 to activate otherwise it is "hesitant" and cannot advance. You can reroll these command roles by allocating from a limited number of ADC's available each turn, representing the influence of the commander and his chain of command. There is also the option to use special Brigade orders - like bombarding with artillery, ordering a quick advance, rallying the Brigade, and so on. These special orders add some nice character to the game.

The system doesn't scale well to lower numbers of Brigades, and it is best played with 5-6 minimum in order to have sufficient ADC's to use special orders. It's also not clear what the role of Divisional Commanders is in larger games, except I imagine they are abstracted into the command effects in Corp level games. It has been argued that the rules should perhaps be called General d'Division given the scale it is aimed at, though you could play a corp with more time, or players. Additional optional rules for higher level Corp or Army Commanders above the Divisional Commander are provided. 

Speed of Play: 3/5
The number of attrition steps (12 for a standard unit), movement rates (6" for line, 9" for column in 28mm), turns representing only 10-20 minutes, mechanics (e.g. reaction fire, reaction, melee, and reinforcement steps in a charge), and fussing about with counter clutter, means General D'Armee will take longer to play than some other rules.  On the forums the author has suggested taking a few attrition points off units if you want to speed things up. With the intuitively laid out tables and modifiers I would not characterise it as "slow", but there are definitely faster options at this same level of representation.

Clutter Avoidance: 2/5
General d'Armee requires a fair number of counters. 12 hits need to be recorded for most units (damage dials are good for this), and then there's a host of order and status counters. At least there is no need for order writing or record keeping beyond this. A four page quick reference chart is used, and it is in quite fine print. This quick reference sheet is well laid out though and the game can tick over just by referring to this most of the time.

Pickup Play Support: 2/5
There are points values in the rules, and I have made this Army List Creator to assist with use of these. Unfortunately there are no rules for setting up a game, terrain, nor victory or scenario conditions.  Lack of any system for generating pick-up battles is something that lets this ruleset down in comparison to popular wargames in other periods, though this is a not infrequent limitation of other Napoleonic rules at the time of this review.

Historical Scenario Support: 2/5
There is a single book of six scenarios for the 1815 period at the time of this review, and one Peninsula book, though these limited scenarios tend to be portions of battles rather than more comprehensive listings. These are also theatres already oversupplied with information by Anglophile enthusiasts. Earlier scenario booklets for General D'Brigade rules are also available and these are quite usable and have a similar format, and so this rating would be a 3/5 with those included. 

Overall: 4/5
General d'Armee gives a good game of Napoleonics and feel for the Napoleonic period. The tabletop counter clutter, slower mechanics and consequent time needed for a larger game prevent me playing it more regularly. However, I am happy to play it with experienced rather than casual players in smaller games, and I prefer it to many other sets of Napoleonic rules.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Battlereport: Lugo 1809

Here's another Michael Hopper test scenario played a couple of weeks ago. See the previous Battlereport of Santarem for more details of his upcoming Peninsula War scenario books.

FRENCH FORCES (Marshal Soult)

Merle - 1st Division
Reynard: 3 Light, 2 Line, 1 Recruit Line, 1 Skirmisher, 1 Foot Artillery
Sarrut: 3 Light, 2 Line, 2 Skirmisher, 1 Foot Artillery

Mermet - 2nd Division
Lefebre: 3 Light, 1 Line, 1 Skirmisher, 1 Foot Artillery
Gaulois:  2 Line, 2 Recruit Line, 1 Foot Artillery

Delabourde - 4th Division
Foy: 2 Line, 1 Skirmisher
Arnaud: 3 Line, 1 Skirmisher

Each Division also had 2 Sapper bases.

BRITISH FORCES (General Moore)

Artillery Reserve - 2 Foot Artillery, 1 Foot Artillery (1 base)

Baird - 1st Division
Warde: 2 Large Guard Line (6 bases each)
Bentinck: 1 Veteran Large Line (42nd, 5 bases), 2 Line, 1 Skirmisher
Manningham: 3 Line, 1 Skirmisher

Hope - 2nd Division
Leith: 3 Line, 1 Skirmisher
Hill: 3 Line, 1 Large Line (5 bases), 1 Skirmisher
Craufurd: 1 Veteran Line (92nd - 5 bases), 2 Line, 1 Skirmisher

Fraser - 3rd Division
Beresford: 3 Line, 1 Light, 1 Skirmisher
Fane: 3 Line, 1 Skirmisher

Paget - Reserve Division
Anstruther: 1 Large Light  (5 bases), 1 Line, 1 Large Light Rifles (95th, 5 bases)
Disney: 2 Line


This is an unusual scenario, in that a largely inferior French force (except for its artillery dominance) is  attacking a fortified British force.  The British are behind a low wall, in a valley with impassable hills to each flank.  The British position also has many fields, orchard trees, and low walls etc, with a series of enclosures that make it unsuitable for cavalry operation.

Historically the French advanced and did a couple of brief probing attacks on the flanks, and then called the whole affair off, which seems wise. But let's see what happens if they are not so wise...

The hamlet of Nadela is worth 1 victory point to the side that holds it at the end of the game, and the French also get a victory point if they have a unit on the road in C3 (which is the supply route) at the end of the game. You also get victory points for breaking Brigades/Divisions, so neither side wants to risk too much here.

The game was played with 321 Fast Play Napoleonic Rules.

The Game

So here is the set up. Given the above deployment instructions, the French have most of their forces on their right, but the left is where they really want to be to gain the victory points...

The British Guards and other veterans defend the critical point, as well as all the British Artillery.

The right is also strongly defended (some Portugese and even some Russians subbing in for rear British units). Hill's brigade is off table in reserve in the centre

Checker board of French units on the right. Many Legere.

Opening moves and both sides advance skirmish screens, and a battle between these begins.

The scenario notes state that French artillery can only fire in support of its "divisional attacks",  which may mean something in the (Shako?) rules the scenario is designed for. However to give the French more of a chance and produce an interesting game, we allow the French artillery to act as it will. I mass fire against the British artillery position, which has 5 guns to the 8 French.

About six of the ten turns are spent in this skirmish and artillery duel. The French get the upper hand in both due to their superior numbers with skirmishers, and luck with artillery (French have more artillery but British artillery is in cover so it was quite an even contest in the rules used).

This at least helps prepare the way for the French assault, and the French guns now target Nadela and the defenders in this general area, aiming to soften it up for the assault columns to head in. The rest of the British force will be pinned by the remaining French forces.

Guards and veteran Highlanders defend Nadela and the road. Another British infanty unit takes up the position of the silenced British Guns.

In move the assault columns towards the waiting British.

The French are repelled in disorder. A British line unit jumps the wall and charges the disordered French columns...

...breaking the first...

...and charging on and forcing a second column to retreat in disorder.

And with that it is turn 10 and the game is over.  British hold their positions and are victorious (with one point for holding Nadela), and the French retire.


Well I don't think there is much to say about this scenario, it is a very tough proposition for the French I think! I did forget to add my Sapper companies in the final attack (oops!). Under rules used they  reroll their attack rolls (to hit and to disorder) when assaulting or defending obstacles which could certainly help in the situation at Nadela. I did these rolls after the game just to check if it would have made a difference and it would not have done so in this refight. However, it does give the French a bit more clout in the critical assaults in this area, and the possibility of a somewhat earlier attack than I attempted is worth considering.

This scenario seems to come down to the French trying to weaken the area around Nadela as much as possible, before sending in an attack to take this area, and hoping they hold it against the British counterattack in the last turn or two. So it is rather limited as a game I think, but if you want completeness of Peninsula actions this is another one to add to the repertoire! Michael Hopper notes there was also some cavalry on both sides, but given the British are entirely behind an obstacle cavalry doesn't have much of a role here without some house rules for breaking down obstacles he thinks. Even then it is difficult to see it achieving much!

Friday, 18 December 2020

Flanquers of the Young Guard - Perry 28mm

More French Guard, here we have Flanquers of the Young Guard. These existed from 1811-13 I believe, being disbanded thereafter with survivors being distributed to other units. They had a different uniform and I understand that they were originally intended as specialist skirmishers, but they became just another Young Guard formation in practice.

There were two regiments, Flanquer Chasseurs and Flanquer Grenadiers. The Chasseurs were created first. For most or all of their existence, these units did not have short swords, unlike other French Young Guard. Nor did they have epaulettes, so Perry French Light Infantry figures are a good match. Flags are from GMB.

Most senior officers were from the Middle Guard and still wore their blue uniforms, but I preferred the more uniform look of having everyone in green, so more junior officers leading these units.

Flanquer Chasseurs, a fair amount of unpleasant to paint yellow piping!

Flanquer Grenadiers have a very similiar uniform, but cuffs and bottom half of pompom are red rather than green. 

Thanks for looking! I still have two more Young Guard units to do at some point, which will bring the total to eight.