My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Battle Report: Auerstadt 1806 using Ein Ritter Spiel

In the last blog post I provided a review for a set of rules by Chris Engle that cover a number of periods and genres. The rules were Jabberwocky, Ritter, Fusilier, and Ein Ritter Spiel. I decided to play a game using a modified version of Ein Ritter Spiel (my game used a hex grid rather than the square grid specified by the rules), with a few additions from Fusilier due to the period being Napoleonics (I added in a troop type to represent the Cuirassiers, which never came into play).

The scenario is Auerstadt – 14 October 1806 (7 am to Noon), from GMT Games' Command & Colors: Napoleonics. The background of the scenario is as follows:
Napoleon mistakenly believed that most of the Prussian army face him at Jena, and ordered Bernadotte and Davout to concentrate and attack the Prussians from the rear. On the morning of the battle, the majority of Prussian army was marching away from Jena and towards Davout's advancing III Corps. As Gudin's infantry division advanced in a dense fog, it clashed with the Prussians in the village of Hassenhausen and drove them out. As the fog lifted, Blücher rashly led forward with the Prussian cavalry. Gudin's men formed square and repulsed the assault. Davout could now see he was greatly outnumbered and ordered Friant and Morand to march to his aid immediately. He also sent urgent appeals to Bernadotte and his I Corps to support him. Bernadotte, most likely out of professional jealousy, left Davout to fight alone. Meanwhile Emperor Frederick and Brunswick, the Prussian commanders, were surprised to find French units to their front. Their indecision delayed massing the Prussian infantry and artillery to drive the French from Hassenhausen till 10 am. By that time, Friant, with his division and the corps artillery, arrived to secure the French right and repulse the Prussians. During the attack, Brunswick was killed and Schmettau was wounded, causing more command confusion. A full hour elapsed before the next Prussian attack went in against the weak French left. Davout personally  led the counterattack, reinforced by Morand's division, whose timely arrival preserved the left flank and drove back the Prussians. The Prussian high command remained passive, and did little to bring up fresh troops. Davout on the other hand, wasted no time attacking and driving the Prussians from the field in the afternoon, winning the most signal victory of his career. For many years thereafter, the III Corps retained an aura of invincibility. Napoleon was justifiably furious with Bernadotte and meant to court-martial his, but he never did – a mistake in retrospect.
I made a game board for this scenario some time ago. Why this particular scenario has been lost over time, but the idea was that it would make game setup and teardown much easier. My gaming buddy Don and I have always liked the Memoir 44 printed maps that came with some scenario packs, like Hedgerow Hell. We thought "why don't they do this with all the scenario maps?" I would have certainly bought them. They were convenient. So one day I decided to do the same thing, only with a scenario for Command & Colors: Napoleonics. I think I just wanted to see how it would turn out. I was right. It is handy for quickly setting up a test game.

I pulled out my Baccus 6mm Napoleonic troops that I have been collecting for a while. I have had a hard time settling on which rules to use for them so they are currently in about five different basing schemes. The basing scheme I seem to use the most – 20mm squares – seems the least visually appealing. I think I am going to end up with two schemes – one dioramic with 6" x 4" bases and one with 40mm wide bases – before it is all over. My hope is that I will be able to limit my dioramic basing to the Waterloo campaign troops only with all of the other troops on 40mm wide bases. We will see. For this game I am using either four 20mm infantry bases or two 40mm infantry bases and four 20mm cavalry bases or a single 40mm cavalry base. The artillery units are all 40mm square bases.

My French are the worst when it comes to being on different basing schemes. So I had to improvise with them. I recently bought some painted French and have not been able to rebase them yet. Some are on 2" wide bases, and others on 60mm wide bases. I had to bring in my Spanish in white uniforms and bicornes to fill in as French. It is a mess, but it is all functional. The Prussians look much better. I had to improvise a little bit for the Grenadiers and Guard Grenadiers, but they never really got into the action anyway.

Here are the troops in their starting positions.



You can see the village of Hassenhausen in the center with three Prussian units (top of board) in close proximity to the French. Everything else pretty much starts on their baseline. Note that the village of Hassenhausen is worth 1 Breakpoint to the side holding the majority of the village's hexes. As the Prussians hold one hex at the start and the French hold none, the Prussians have an additional point added to their army Breakpoint.


Fusilier grants the French army with 3 Moves, 3 Attacks, and a Breakpoint of 3 while the Prussian army gets 2 Moves, 2 Attacks, and a Breakpoint of 2. This differential seems appropriate for the scenario, so I keep that as the base. However, if you are using a larger army than standard (10 units) you need to adjust those numbers. The rules indicate that the increase in army capability is not proportional to the increase in units. For every doubling of the army size the army capability only increases 50%.

The French have 23 units so the additional 13 units add (3 * 0.5) * (13 / 10) points or 1.95 (rounded up to 2) points. So the French have 5 Moves, 5 Attacks, and a Breakpoint of 5.

The Prussians have 24 units so add (2 * 0.5) * (14 / 10) points or 1.4 (rounded up to 2) points. So the Prussians have 4 Moves, 4 Attacks, and a Breakpoint of 4. I had thought about not rounding up, but rounding to the nearest, but I am glad I did not. I think only three moves and attacks would have been too hampering.


The French first turn is pretty tame, with no attacks. Although I am starting to surround Hassenhausen, and have taken one of the village hexes thereby denying the Prussians an additional Breakpoint point, I haven't quite figured out how to dislodge the Prussians from the village. Artillery will definitely do it, but they will simply retreat from the village. I need the French infantry in the village to make the attack, so it drives the infantry into the cavalry unit behind it, eliminating it. (Remember, units forced to retreat into friendly or enemy units or into terrain are destroyed. That is how you eliminate units.) Infantry needs a 3:1 ratio in forces to defeat units in towns, however, so the safest bet is to swing the infantry to the left of the village into attack position. Next turn...


The Prussians move off of the baseline, leaving behind some reserves (which also serves to create a sufficient gap for the front line troops to retreat, if necessary). The Prussian light cavalry at Hassenhausen shifts position to threaten the French flank attack on the village. Meanwhile the artillery opens fire, forcing the French infantry on the right of the town to retreat.

Now you may be wondering why I forced the French infantry to retreat. After all, it did not really do anything substantial, like eliminating it. For those of you who play DBA a retreat in that game is typically a recoil – a backwards movement, but still facing the enemy. A retreat in Ein Ritter Spiel is directly away from the enemy causing the retreat and the unit ends its movement facing away from the enemy. Further, its next movement is a Rally, so the unit can only turn about; it can't move in any other way. This has the effect of causing a much more substantial disruption in the enemy formation than in DBA. In both rules, in order to move a group of units with a single point/PIP all units must be touching and facing the same direction to be considered a group formation. Because the retreat in Ein Ritter Spiel changes the unit's facing, the group formation is broken, while in DBA it often isn't, especially if more than one unit recoils.


Another shot into that retreating French unit will force it into a friendly unit, eliminating it. Because it can only turn about, I need a way to block the shot by the Prussian artillery. The French move an infantry to block the shot even though it cannot defeat the artillery in combat. Instead I line up a French light cavalry unit on the right flank so it can charge the artillery from the flank on the following turn. Meanwhile the French move light infantry into the woods to the left of the village and together with the infantry beside it they drive off the Prussian light cavalry.

It is so easy to get tunnel vision in this game, focusing on your next turn's attack and not thinking too deeply about the enemy's potential moves. The French made two mistakes. Can you spot them?


The Prussians moved up their infantry into a position where they could flank the light infantry in the woods. As light infantry retreat two hexes, they ran straight into friendly lines and were destroyed.



On the opposite flank the Prussian artillery unit fires into the flank of the French light cavalry, who have no retreat path. (If I had moved the infantry forward and to the right one hex there would have been an open retreat path, so that was an avoidable error.)


The other Prussian artillery unit fires cannister at the French infantry forcing it to retreat. The area around Hassenhausen is jammed with French troops. This looks bad. This looks like a quick French defeat.


Friant arrives with the corps artillery and drive the Prussian artillery away. (Each artillery unit attacks in turn forcing the retreat of a single hex. By expending two attacks the French were able to destroy the unit, rather than simply force it to retreat.)


On the far right flank Friant's division is in a position to attack next turn.


The rules are pretty minimalist and do not consider topics like zones of control and whether a unit was in a flank position at the start of the turn versus at the time of attack (like many rules do), so the attack on the left flank (Prussian right flank) is perfectly legal. Despite being at melee range at the start of the turn the Prussian infantry advances and turns onto the flank of the French in the woods, which dislodges them. The Prussians pursue, taking the position, and allowing them to drive the French into the windmill (different terrain), thus destroying them.

Meanwhile, the Prussian artillery forces one of the French batteries off of the hill. Things are looking bad for the French. They are two units away from breaking, while the Prussians are still three away.



This is how quickly a game can turn. While the French corps artillery rallies the French take advantage of the five attacks. On the right three infantry units combine to destroy the Prussian infantry in the woods by the village of Speilberg. Note that by attacking with the leftmost unit and having the other two units support the unit is forced to retreat into the Prussian Cuirassiers rather than through the gap. Selecting which unit attacks and which supports is very important.

The battle in the village of Hassenhausen illustrates that idea further. First the French infantry attacked it in the flank from the right. Once the Prussian infantry was dislodged from the village the French infantry on the left fired into it, forcing it to retreat into the Prussian cavalry, destroying it. (Note that I moved a French unit into the woods by the windmill on the left. This was the same position in which the light infantry was previously flanked. Sometimes it is worth making a risky move into such a position.)

The third unit loss came when the French artillery fired into the Prussians twice, forcing them to retreat into their reserves.

With four units lost the Prussian army is in a broken state. This means that units in the army can move no closer to the enemy than any other friendly unit is, but can still attack. (That may be a little hard to explain properly. Individual units can move forward, essentially to counterattack as part of a rearguard action, but they cannot move beyond where the current "front line" is located. In this case I moved the Prussian cavalry forward in an attempt to hold off the French and allow the Prussian infantry to escape. It did not work.)


Prussian artillery pounds the French infantry in the village of Hassenhausen, catching it in a crossfire and destroying it. Unfortunately, the French breakpoint is 6 (5 for the army and 1 for having the majority of the hexes in Hassenhausen), so they are not close to breaking. Had the Prussians broken the French the game would have pretty much ended as neither side could close with the other. Nonetheless artillery can do some damage on a retreating army.


The French artillery destroys two Prussian units, pushing them into other retreating troops, while musketry from French infantry destroys another two units. The Prussians have now lost eight units – double their Breakpoint – so they are now in a Routed state. No Prussian units are allowed to move closer to the enemy or even to attack. It is not "sauve qui peut" for the Prussians. Now the game is simply about how many Prussians will survive the day for purposes of the campaign. (If you are not playing a campaign game you probably would stop here, noting that the French have achieved a major victory.)


The Prussians start moving units off of the board. That is about all they can do. Despite being in a rout state, units still rout in "formation" so trying to maintain groups allows you to move more units per Move point. (Unfortunately it is hard to see which way units are facing in these pictures. Suffice it to say that not all units were facing the rear, so this turn was an attempt to rectify that.)


The French make the last effective attack, forcing the light cavalry covering the retreat into a friendly unit. Again, which unit attacks is critical in determining the direction of the retreat.


After the Prussian turn it was obvious that there was nothing that the French could do to destroy the remaining Prussian units, so the game is called as a Decisive French Victory, pretty much as it was historically.

Points to Ponder

The following events in the rules gave me some pause.

  • Artillery can move and attack in the same turn. My first thought was that horse artillery would be able to do that, but that foot artillery could not. But that would make horse artillery a super weapon, which they were not. The idea should be that artillery bombardment should get the high rating it receives in the game and that you cannot bombard if you move.
  • Units cannot retreat through friendly units even though they can interpenetrate them during movement. This concept is not unique to these rules, by any stretch. All of Neil Thomas' rules are like this. It is a significant way to destroy units in those rules and a primary way in these. Eleven of the thirteen units destroyed in this game came from retreating into friendly units. Only two unit destructions were due to retreating into terrain features. If you did not destroy units when they retreated into friendly units then this game would take a lot longer to play out.
  • Successive, timed attacks are powerful. Having one unit attack, forcing a unit into another hex which in turn makes it vulnerable to attack by a second unit is an exciting part of the game.
  • Successive attacks by a single unit, however, feels wrong. This happened twice, once in which infantry flanked the enemy in the woods, pursued, and then attacked again and the second time in which a single artillery unit simply attacked twice. I did not like either case. In the infantry attack I felt like the second attack should not have been allowed for two reasons: 1) infantry should not be allowed to attack a second time, after a pursuit; and 2) no one should be allowed a second attack after pursuing into woods. Infantry should not be allowed to make an attack after pursuit; only cavalry should. In the artillery attack I realized that if I could make as many attacks as I had points, and because artillery in the attack defeats everything simply applying all my attacks to a single artillery piece would ensure the enemy's destruction. The only limitations would range and angle. An artillery unit should only be allowed to make a single attack in a turn. In fact, the only unit that should be allowed to attack more than once in a turn is cavalry in pursuit.
  • The lack of zones of control means that units can slide around the flank of units after moving into melee range. (By the way, being in melee but not attacking does not mean that nothing is happening. It simply means that the fighting is not conclusive because neither side is pressing the issue.) I am not sure if I like this or not. This happened twice, once with the infantry in the woods and once with the infantry in the village. Both events might be justified as they both had a 2:1 ratio of troops, so you can say one unit occupied the enemy while the second made a decisive, tactical flanking move. Further, it cost 1 Move and 1 Attack, so it took a substantial number of resources. Where I think I would limit it might be that you must stop as soon as you hit a hex in the enemy's front melee range, i.e. adjacent and to their front. This would stop cavalry from charging from the front of a unit and hitting them in the flank, something we do in Richard Borg games all of the time.
All in all I really enjoyed the game and did not find it being diceless a problem at all. I might employ the optional rule of throwing 2D6 for each combat – with a '2' resulting in an inconclusive result and a '12' resulting in the winner losing – but I did not want to introduce that for this test game. I believe in the concept that you need to apply sufficient force at a point in order to ensure victory and these rules absolutely reflect that. I think too many times we rely on the luck of the dice to carry us through a poorly planned or executed attack. That just does not happen in this game.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rules Review: Jabberwocky, Ritter, Fusilier and Ein Ritter Spiel

Last weekend I played the first miniatures game in a long time. Too bad the rules ... sucked. But it did help reinvigorate me to get back into miniatures gaming. I have started painting and crafting again, and of course, obsessing over rebasing my 6mm Napoleonic troops. Part of the problem is deciding over which rules to use, all of which seem to have different basing requirements. More on that another time.

I have been using a set of rules for a while that I have never reviewed before. Not sure why I have not reviewed them. Maybe because they are pretty obscure and are relatively hard to get. Maybe because they will not be everyone's cup of tea. I think they have some interesting ideas, which is why I decided to finally review them.

What is it all about?

Chris Engle of Engle Matrix Games and Hamster Press has been around the gaming world for awhile. If you have ever heard of matrix games, you were probably reading about one of Chris Engle's games. But these rules are not matrix games. Rather, they are the rules that Chris used to fight out the battles that resulted from playing his military campaigns run as matrix games. Here is the history from Chris:
Starting in the late 1980's I began running military campaign games at conventions using a Matrix Game. This allowed players to run whole wars, with a minimum of rules, in under four hours, battles included! Because of this I had to develop miniatures battle rules that would allow players to play a small battle in five minutes and a large battle in fifteen or twenty minutes. A hard standard to meet, but the result is the game presented here.
So, if you are not playing a campaign game, why would you want a set of miniatures battle rules that play the games out in 20 minutes? Well, perhaps one of the reasons why I have not played many campaign games is because the battles themselves take so long to complete that players lose interest well before the campaign completes. In the last two campaigns I played – both using Memoir 44 – it took us at least three gaming sessions of about four hours each to complete each one (and these were published campaigns). There were at least four campaigns in each of the books – so about eight campaigns – and we never even got to the other six because of fatigue.

But that is not why I bought the rules. I saw a copy in some random hobby shop while I was traveling for business somewhere. What caught my eye was the subtitle on the rules: "a diceless battle game for miniatures". The first copy I purchased was Fusilier, which is the third in the Strategic Spectrum Series, and covers the Horse and Musket era. (If you see this title online be careful, as there are several other rules out there with the same name. The odds are great that it is not this game unless it says the author is Chris Engle.)

The first miniatures game I purchased that had diceless combat was The Compleat Brigadier. No one liked them but me. It had you writing order and there was that whole "diceless" thing. Everyone wants to roll dice. There is the physicality of the process and the suspense. But I feel that with some games the rules author clearly weren't paying attention in a couple of their math classes when they were kids. Some of the variations are wild. Some don't roll enough dice in order to try and smooth out the die rolls, resulting in games that are simply die rolling contests. Generally speaking, if you don't roll dice, you pretty much have to have your math correct (or at least, reasonable). So I wanted to check out Chris' ideas and see how he made it work, if at all. Here is some of Chris' rationale for going diceless:
At first I tried to make a game like other miniatures games, with dice and tables. They were not fast enough. It appears that the fastest a dice game can get is thirty minutes, not fast enough. For a long time I could not think of what to do. The it hit me. Why do I need dice? In most games it is pretty obvious who is going to win a fight without rolling a die. I began experimenting and found it works! Not only that but it produces a very fun game that has all of the subtleties of chess while looking pretty as a wargame.
This made sense to me. Why? Because about five years earlier I had come to the same conclusion with role-playing games. Think about it. You are the Game Master and you have built this adventure. You have put in all of these goodies and thought up a story line. Honestly, the last thing you want to have happen is either:
  1. The players run into some enemy group (or worse, a random wandering monster) that was only supposed to be a speed bump, but due to a series of unfortunate events ends up trashing the party.
  2. The players run into something you don't want them to fight (maybe it is the entrance to the next adventure, which you have not completed yet) and after a series of extremely lucky rolls end up trashing your monsters. They then open the door you did not want them to open yet and say "Okay, what next?"
I knew what encounters were fillers, or supposed to provide an item they needed for the next segment of an adventure. I knew when I wanted the players to win and when I wanted them to lose. I knew that Game Masters would, when seeing their design start to go up in smoke, pull out that extra Fireball spell or that potion and suddenly start rolling dice behind the screen and come up with critical hits. Game Masters always had the option to "smooth out" a weird string of dice rolls, so if they could (and would) do that, why bother with the dice? I found a set of rules called Amber (a diceless role-playing game) and used the principles set out there and ran a couple of very successful campaigns using no dice for combat at all. It was actually pretty fun because you essentially had to create a narrative for the combat. But back on point, many situations were simply "pre-determined", so why let dice mess that up?

When it comes to warfare, Chess follows the same mantra. If you can maneuver a piece to a specific position, you automatically take the opposing piece. The combat is a foregone conclusion, so why dice for it?

Fusilier, et al essentially provides a set of conditions that define when an attacking unit forces the defending unit to retreat. Units are destroyed when they retreat into a "killing ground", which is essentially into a friendly or enemy unit or into new terrain. The battle is one of maneuvering units to make conclusive attacks that drive the enemy into killing grounds, destroying them. When enough units are destroyed, the army breaks.

In Fusilier, et al each army is 10 bases strong and has three ratings: Movement, Attack, and Break Point. The Movement rating determines the number of units or groups that may move in a single turn. The Attack rating determines the number of attacks, on single enemy units, that the army may make in a single turn. Finally, the Break Point is the number of units that the army may lose before it breaks in morale. A typical army has a Movement of 2, Attack of 2, and Break Point of 2 (i.e. 20% losses). These numbers may seem really low, but it actually forces the player to focus on only those attacks where they can win, and win strongly.

As a note, the Attack and Break Point ratings are defined as:
  1. Bad troops, poorly led, trained, or equipped.
  2. Average troops, neither inspired nor cowardly.
  3. Good troops, we armed, trained, and led.
  4. Inspired troops, exceptionally led and trained.
  5. God-like troops who are destined by God to win an empire.
For the Movement rating, cavalry armies tend to have at least a 3 with great cavalry armies having a 4. Infantry armies have a rating of 2, with particularly sluggish armies (like Early Greek Hoplite) having a 1.

Movement

The rules Jabberywocky, Ritter, and Fusilier all use free, measured movement; Ein Ritter Spiel was written with a square grid in mind. All use essentially the same system: each unit is a single base and all bases are a standard width. Any grids are one base width in size. Infantry move one base width and cavalry moves two base widths. When units retreat light infantry retreat two base widths, heavy infantry one, and cavalry two. Special units (elephants, monsters in Jabberwocky, heroes, etc.) use some variation of the infantry and cavalry rules.

Maneuvering is where a lot of the differences are in the units. Light Infantry units are the most maneuverable, by far, with everyone else fairly limited to how they can move. Given that this is a game of maneuver, this is the section of the rules that players have to place the most attention. Once you get into a bad position, it is very hard to maneuver out of it.

The Movement rating of the army indicates the number of units or groups that can move. This is very similar to movement in De Bellis Antiquitatus (DBA). If units are grouped together (bases touching and all facing the same direction) then moving that group only uses one Movement point (like a Command PIP in DBA). So grouping units together is very important and as time and the effects of combat and terrain come into play, your forces will fragment into smaller groups, therefore limiting how many units can move each turn.

Terrain has little effect on movement. No "1/2 movement" or -3" type stuff here. You can either move through it or you cannot. I can see adding some extra rules, however, like woods and towns breaking formation, but currently the rules have none.

Combat

Combat is conducted by indicating a unit that is attacking and the units supporting the attack, and the unit being attacked. The players then go down a list of combat results, finding the situation that matches the condition of the attack, and read the combat results (which are almost always "are defeated"). Now I cannot give you the whole combat results lists – that is the intellectual property of Chris Engle and why you buy the game after all – but I can give you a sense of it.
  • Missile unit with two unopposed supporting missile units defeat everyone.
To count as "supporting" a unit must be be able to attack the same target. So if it is melee, they have to be adjacent and facing the target unit; if missile combat they have to be in range, line of fire, and line of sight.

In order to count as "unopposed" the supporting unit cannot be adjacent to an enemy unit other than the target. I had (incorrectly) taken it to mean that a unit would also be opposed if opposite an unengaged enemy missile when using missile combat, and quite liked it that way.

The list of combat results is in a specific order, ranking from most likely to least. For example:
  • All troops defeat troops attacked in the rear or flank.
  • ...
  • All troops defeat civilians.
If a unit of Peasants (civilians) attack a unit of Knights from the rear it wins the combat because the rule "All troops defeat troops attacked in the rear or flank" has higher precedence than the rule "All troops defeat civilians". If the Peasants were attacking from the front it would be a disastrous attack, resulting in their defeat. (Not much of a reason to make that attack then!)

All of the combat results lists are pretty much the same from rule set to rule set; each just provide variations based on the period and genre reflected by the rules. For example, Jabberwocky is a high medieval fantasy rule set so it has to have rules for Monsters, Heroes, Wizards, magic, and flying creatures. Those sorts of rules, however, would not be in Fusilier, which is set in the Horse and Musket era. Those rules, however, would have rules about arquebuses, musketeers (with and without bayonets), and artillery, which Ritter, set in the ancient and medieval times, would not.

All in all the combat works pretty well and you get the hang of the order in the list, so often you don't even need to reference it except in special circumstances. Generally speaking, if your attack has support you will defeat the enemy; if not, it is sort of a rock-paper-scissors drill as to which unit types defeat which enemy under what circumstances.

There are also a number of optional rules, including those who cannot do without their dice. (Throw 2D6 and a '12' means the loser of the combat becomes the winner, a '2' means the combat was a draw, anything else means the results as indicated stand.)

Break Point

This is another area where the rules stand out from most games. Other rules state when the game is won. Players play until the victory conditions are met, which is largely when the enemy breaks in morale. Then they pick up the game, chat, and talk about shoulda' coulda' woulda'. Not in these rules. When you hit the Break Point (remember, an average army will hit that after the loss of two units, or 20% casualties) you then have the choice of fighting on or retreating. In fact, it might be necessary to fight a rearguard action with a few units in order to ensure that the remainder of the army makes it off safely. If you lose units equal to twice your Break Point, your army then goes into Rout state. Everyone then is forced to make a beeline for the board edge.

Why would you want to play out the rout of an army? Remember that these rules are to play out the battles in a larger campaign game. Rather than rolling dice for how many units get swept up in the rout, you actually play it out. It also makes you think about how far you are extending yourself on risky attacks. If the attack fails it could spell the destruction of your whole army as it is scattered across the board. (Remember, you only have a limited number of moves per turn.)

Game Ratings

So, using the review system from before, here are the game ratings for Fusilier, et al.

Drama – do the rules create tension during play?

Not rolling dice does remove some of the drama. Nonetheless, the lack of dice does not remove drama entirely. Chess games can be exciting as they go back and forth. Where the drama comes into play is when your opponent carries out unexpected moves, especially ones that you did not see coming.

These rules rate 3 out of 5 in Drama.

Uncertainty – are there enough elements that introduce uncertainty into the game?

The one thing about deterministic combat is that it squeezes uncertainty out of the game. Uncertainty largely comes from your opponent, and how he uses his army, rather than from dice or other elements of chance. That said, two games exactly the same will not play out exactly the same way because each player's decisions are meaningful. Games with these rules does lower the noise of combats that play no significant role, it discounts them completely. These rules cut to the heart of the action. It is up to the players to find out where that heart is.

These rules rate 2 out of 5 in Uncertainty.

Engaging – do the rules allow the player to make meaningful decisions that lead to consequences?

The very elements that lowers the uncertainty in these rules are what makes them engaging. Just like in DBA which elements you use determines where the fight will be and who has the advantage. Moving units that never make it into the fight are essentially a waste of precious resources. Attacks that don't lead to units being driven into killing grounds are usually also a waste although sometimes it spoils your opponent's attack. But is that a good use? Those sort of decisions – how to use scarce resources (Movement and Attack points) – is what determines who wins.

These rules rate 5 out of 5 in Engaging.

Unobtrusiveness – do the rules get in the way?

The rules are very simple; not even a dozen half-size pages. Most of the information consists of diagrams so that you understand the terms used in the combat results list, like "support", "unopposed", "solid line", "flank", and "rear". Also, there are a number of pages of advanced and optional rules, along with a number of army lists for the period that the rule book covers. All of this is pretty simple to remember as there are very few exceptions to rules.

These rules rate 5 out of 5 in Unobtrusiveness.

Heads Up – are the rules playable without frequent reference to a quick reference sheet?

The quick reference consists of one thing: the combat results list. Most games will use only a few unit types. For example, Napoleonic armies will largely consist of Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry, and Artillery. So you can ignore the rules on arquebuses, pikes, non-bayonet armed muskets, bows, elephants, warbands, etc. What I often do is produce a shortened combat results list that contains only those results that apply to the unit types I am using that game.

Memorization of the basic combat results list is thus pretty easy. After that you will only need to reference it for odd situations, like attacking defensive works or units in terrain, and perhaps some cavalry battles. But pretty rarely. If you attack in force (2:1 or especially 3:1 odds) there is little reason to refer to the card.

The only reason it does not score a 5 is that some maneuvers are not allowed to certain unit types, so unless you play with them a lot, remembering whether a Knight unit can turn in place or must wheel, etc. can require looking up at least once a game.

These rules rate 4 out of 5 in Heads Up.

Appropriately Flavored – do the rules 'feel' like they represent the period or genre being played?

Each book represents a specific period or genre. Jabberwocky covers high medieval fantasy, Ritter covers ancients through medieval, Fusilier covers from the Renaissance through percussion muskets, and Ein Ritter Spiel covers all the other rules except Jabberwocky, but in less detail. The differences in each book represents the flavor of that period or genre. Given that the rules are on the simpler side, they naturally are not going to get deep into that period's feel, but they do a pretty good job nonetheless.

Differences are largely defining different unit types and specifying their maneuver and fighting capabilities. Jabberwocky goes further by defining magic spells for the wizards to cast,  for example. In all cases the primary flavor is contained in the army lists. These lists define what unit types and proportions make up each army, plus the army's stats for Movement, Attacks, and Break Point.

These rules rate 3 out of 5 in Appropriately Flavored.

Scalable – can the rules be scaled up or down – in terms of figures or number of units played – from a 'normal' game?

Jabberwocky and Ritter have optional rules for five and twenty unit games, but curiously Fusilier and Ein Ritter Spiel dropped them. All the rules have a points system. So the concept of larger and smaller games is there, but the rules are pretty basic. Then again, the same was true with DBA, yet Big Battle DBA and Giant DBA are very successful, so there is no reason why this cannot scale up and down.

Further, my next test is going to be using a Command & Colors: Napoleonics scenario (Auerstadt 1806) to try out a Fusilier/Ein Ritter Spiel fusion. I will use the units indicated in the scenario one-for-one and figure out if I should adjust the Movement, Attack, and Break Point any.

Given that the Movement, Attack, and Break Point values are bound to the size of the army, as is its composition, I give the Scalability rating an average score.

These rules rate 3 out of 5 in Scalable.

Lacks Fiddly Geometry – do the rules require fiddly measurements or angles?

One base width tends to be a small distance. Small distances tend to lead to fiddliness. The angles are either 45º or 180º, so that is not too bad. The problem lies with units contacting terrain or units during retreat. I could see that being a fraction of an inch away could lead to some discussions. Grids get rid of all those problems, so Ein Ritter Spiel gets a bonus. All of the rules state that rules lawyers and people who care too much about winning probably should not be playing these rules. Fiddly geometry is one of the reasons why.

These rules rate 3 out of 5 in Fiddly Geometry. Ein Ritter Spiel rates 4 out of 5.

Tournament Tight™ Rules – are the rules clear and comprehensive, or do the players need to 'fill in the blanks'?

Let me start by saying that my preference is towards tighter rules, where everything is spelled out clearly by the author, not looser rules where the author leaves certain mechanics up to the individual players, gentlemen's agreements, and a roll of the die where agreements cannot be found. So a high value means 'tight' and a low value means 'loose'. If you like looser rules, subtract my rating from '6' and that would probably be your rating!

The earlier rule sets clearly suffer from less clear diagrams and structure. Ein Ritter Spiel clearly shows that questions and clarifications over the years have made their way into this set. Because these rules were meant to be used for working out the battles of campaign games quickly, they were never intended to be used for tournament play. That said, Ein Ritter Spiel specifically mentions using those rules for tournament play, so certainly some thought was put into the possibility. As cited in the rules, they are good for tournaments because decisive conclusions are reached pretty quickly, so a player can play several games in a round, rather than just a single game. This allows more player game time even if they are knocked out of the earlier rounds.

These rules rate 2 out of 5 in Tournament Tight™ Rules. Ein Ritter Spiel rates 3 out of 5.

Solo Suitability – do the rules have elements conducive to solo play?

There are no hidden elements to the game so that alone usually grants the rules high solitaire suitability. However, just as with Chess, these rules depend more upon the player planning several moves in advance. Unless you come up with a system for "programming" one or both of the sides, enemy plans will be easily "discovered" as soon as the player switches sides!

These rules rate 2 out of 5 in Solo Suitability.

Component Quality – are the components provided made with quality?

This is a new rating, meant primarily for board games, which addresses the quality of the physical components.

These rules only come printed. My copy of Jabberwocky looks as if it were copied on a copier set at 25% reduction, so the margins are wide and the print is very small. You cannot read it in a very poor light. The printing on Ritter is nice and clear with no issues. My copy of Fusilier includes a cardstock quick reference chart, listing the combat results. The print is bolder, but smaller than Ritter. Still very acceptable. Ein Ritter Spiel, which the author sent me for free (thank you Chris!), has not quick reference card, but has clear and clean print. It does not have a cardstock cover like all of the others. (If I recall correctly he stated that these were new and he wanted me to test them out, so they may not have been production copies.) All acceptable, if a little old school. Feels very much like the rules from the 1980's and 1990's. (Other than Ein Ritter Spiel they were all printed in the late 1990's.)

These rules rate 2 out of 5 in Component Quality. (Ein Ritter Spiel rates 3 out of 5.)

Summary

Although the author does not think they are particularly "realistic", I rather like the game they produce. They are very tweakable, especially in terms of when the game ends. Don't like a Break Point of 20%? Fine, double it. Want to differentiate French Napoleonic Guards a little better? Fine, let them maneuver as Light Infantry but still fight as Heavy Infantry. (Light Infantry has much better maneuverability, but fights worse. To reflect the better training of the French Guard, maneuvering as Lights and fighting as Heavies work well. Obviously other Guards would also benefit from this rule, like the British Guards.)

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").