Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Games #1

Playing1: Rexdorf


Although as gamers we like to focus on the game, we do spend most of our time painting, unless you can afford professional painters or are prepared to pack it all off to Sri Lanka. But, every so often, we get to play with those little men into whom we have poured so much time and effort. I got a chance a few weeks ago when the other half was back home visiting the family (and returned with numerous horror stories, as usual) to set up a decent sized table in the living room. I had been painting like mad to have a meaningful French force in particular so I could have some solo games.

Art of Command

This was also related to play testing some ideas I wanted to suggest for the 200-ers rule set ‘Art of Command’. Now despite having thought up the title, imposed some sort of C2 system and having an identifiable picture of my ample stomach on the cover I am still having ideas about them. The basic issue is to drag a rules system that has a strong whiff of the Seventies about it kicking and screaming into the 1990’s. The whole thing is designed by committee, which has the usual strengths and weaknesses of anything thought up in that sort of atmosphere, and as I have been ill I have missed the last two games and rules meetings. Another thing about this process is intensely personal. By comparison with the other members I am relatively young. I am also pretty impatient with the grinding nature of this type of debate. I also have a very clear approach to any rules set; it has to allow things that happened in reality happen on the tabletop. This means I am keener on an evidence-based approach to form the basis of rules than the ‘game’ approach that emphasises the ‘fun’ aspect of things at the expense of historical constraints. With characteristic arrogance I feel that these people would be better going off and playing fantasy games.

What is important is that my views are tempered by playability. I do have a tendency to overcomplicate anything that is put in front of me. Any rules set designed by me would read wonderfully, be totally grounded in evidence and research and allow for a wide range of circumstances. It would also take 4 hours to play a turn. So the ideas of David, in particular, are very useful in grounding me in the need for playability. Professionally I never thought I would be complimentary about anyone from the Defence Procurement Agency but I may have found the exception that proves the rule.

Play testing

So, the key thing to test was my suggested Charge Sequence. I have mentioned in other posts my worries about both the number of infantry v infantry melees in the open and their inconclusivity and had worked on a way of making things flow better. I had done some small-scale tests back in October but here was a chance to test them at divisional level.

Other things tested were a new artillery band for 6lb guns with mobility for 3lb-4lb and 6lb guns set out. I also gave Generals at certain levels ADCs to give them a bit more flexibility when it came to command radius. It allows the French in particular greater flexibility when it comes to apportioning units.

French-Prussian game: Rexdorf 1806

The first solo game I set up was a French-Prussian game from 1806. The French at this stage only had one cavalry unit ready (a significant issue in the battle) and I set up a scenario that tried to take account of this. The French were all Veteran, the Prussians were all Raw and I laid down pre-set objectives for both sides to allow me to act in a solo context.

What became clear during this battle was that the new charge sequence worked insofar as not a single infantry v infantry combat took place in the whole game. The French launched virtually all their infantry at the Prussian centre which was drawn up in two lines with the Grenadiers in reserve. They were able to wear down the Prussians with skirmisher fire and the initial charges, pepped up by attached leaders, and forced the Prussians back.

What also was clear was that although they could knock them back there were not enough battalions to break through. The attacking French were worn down by volleys and disorder, allowing the Prussians to stitch together a new defensive line.

Although I gamely tried to break this one the Prussians charged up the French flank with one Hussar unit, the French Chasseur a Cheval having been thrown away by yours truly in a ‘try it and see’ charge early in the game.

The conclusion was that, taking into account the cavalry imbalance, the charge sequence had produced realistic and quick results. The worn Prussians had been bounced back but the French did not have the reserves to exploit. This made sense, as the attackers should need a superiority in numbers to make a convincing breakthrough. There were two more lessons. Firstly, the veteran French, bunched together with good leaders were pretty much unstoppable by the raw Prussian lines. The second was that, after initial attacks, the French were disordered and debilitated which left them open to a counterattack, in this case by light cavalry.

There were personal things too. I am a pretty well-honed Austrian player so I was less aggressive with my artillery than I should have been.

A player more ‘French-focussed’ would have been more direct in their use of the guns.


1 comment:

Fire at Will said...

Intersting comments. My experience with most Nap rules is that they are too cut and dried so provided you have superiority and play carefully you will always decimate the opponents army and they will have no realistic options of a fighting withdrawal.

Burn out/exhaustion figures in accounts of Nap battles but hardly appears in rules, except blown cavalry (and that can apply in cases where it wouldn't have happened in reality)

Quite interested in your deliberations