Sunday, 17 February 2013

Terrain is just as important....

While it is getting a little better these days, what with the internet to show beautiful miniatures, and of course the glossy wargame magazines to illustrate the best examples of the sculpting and painting art; but perhaps we put in too much time into the look of the miniatures and not in the setting in which we display them on the tabletop. Consider a beautifully chair sitting in an unfinished garage. 

But many times we see, and have done ourselves no doubt, putting nicely painted, well done, realistically based figures on a plain green cloth with a few haphazard trees on felt with a brown cardboard road.  Blech.

I am trying to look less at the lead-bin bargains and trying more at the terraining aspects these days and spending the money and time to build up the tabletop terrain.

I have recently bought ready made plastic trees (I will go with the less expensive make-your-own variety in the future but wanted to know if this is the direction of the 'forest' type I wanted).
I cut out random shapes out of hardboard glued the trees upon and did my usual terrain/basing technique.  Not much undergrowth so to allow troops to move through if required and the subtle outline will allow the large stand to work as only 'decoration'.  Better than just plain felt.  Storage is more difficult but sacrifices are sometimes required!

Now back to painting minis..... ;-)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

On the Road to Paris

Nansouty's big bad 6's Guard Horse

In 1815 after his abdication and exile to the island of Elba, Napoleon returned to France, challenged the King's force meant to stop him,  which promptly returned to his command. The Bourbon King then fled .
But what if the ex-Imperial army did not come back to Napoleon, and indeed did try to stop Napoleon and his small army of Guardsmen from moving to Paris? And if Napoleon pulls his "And France is me!!" stunt, would it work or the be the death of him?    This what-if scenario pits Frenchman vs Frenchman in this Napoleonic battle. 

Not a bad what-if battle..... considering I only have French painted at this time!  Hey, if King Louis XVII had any backbone....

So I hauled the figures to, for me is a rare club GameNight and had a few of the usuals want to command.  I took some time explaining the rationalization of these rules.  For the most part they got it but it is funny how some of the 'traditional wargaming concepts' still come out. 

Bonapartists on the left, Royalist on the right.  The nice 'village' model I took some time during the week to terrain was never seriously attacked...sigh. 
For some of the players the big advantage of the Guard morale/combat effectiveness was highly discouraging.  "Look at the math, I have not chance of hurting that element.  I will lose all the time!!"  But, I say, have you even tried to wear him down? You have more units, hit him in the flank.  Hmmpf, the player shrugs, not with the pips I am getting, he says.  Well, thems the break.

However on the other flank, with the much abler Andrew handling his forces  more adroitly, the weaker Royalists, managed to wear down the Bonapartist Guard units, blocking others with well placed cavalry, and eventually making hors-de-combat two Guard infantry elements ( their only losses however. The Royalists lost 11 !)

A change in the game occurred as, Jim, the player with Napoleon, really, really, wanted to test my, only for this scenario, "And France is Me!" rule.

Premise: Napoleon held great sway with the ex-imperial troops and so if an Royalist unit is in combat with a Guard unit with which Napoleon is attached may be called to return to the Emperor during the battle.
The “Napoleon” player may then call “And France is me!” He then rolls 1d6 and consults the following chart:

roll results

5 or 6 = The Royalist unit collapses in jubilation and cries of “Vive le Empereur!” throwing down their weapons to cheers. The unit is hors-de-combat for the remainder of the game.
4 = the Royalist unit is overawed by the Emperor and takes a -2 combat modifier this turn
3 = Napoleon is unhorsed and his health is unknown. The Guard unit takes a -2 modifier this turn
2 = Napoleon is wounded, the Guard unit angered by this injury to their Emperor receives a +2 combat modifier for the remainder of the close combat with this Royalist unit(s).
1 = Napoleon falls to a bullet and is killed. His dreams and the battle are done.

Thus he managed to roll for this most every turn! He actually never had old Nappy killed but one of the rolls was a 3 -- Napoleon was 'unhorsed and health unknown'. So I stated to all the players around the table that the rumor spread quickly through the army and hearts sank at the Emperor perhaps dead.  Thus I decreased all the Guard MP values by half.  The Royalists players, now seeing the odds a little more even, regained their own morale and in some instances, even went into the attack!  But like I said eventually lost 2-11.

The rules worked fairly well.  Many of the changes necessary were for the 'what you could or could not do' variety.  The MP values became very important (as they should be). Good troops will kick lesser troops butt most of the time.
Attrition seemed to be very important and the only way for lesser troops to deal with the Guard is to be a 'speed bump' after 'speed bump' until the Guard was 'slowed down'.  The players did use the General's "Rally Points" to influence some element's effectiveness but that was kinda the theory, so that worked. As they only have a small number of them, their use should be limited and have only local influence.  Again, like history, the timing will be the key.

Obviously, just in real military history, but not necessarily wargames, reserves are very important.  Fresh troops, with high MP factors, could certainly turn the tide of a battle, which is why the better commanders would keep them uncommitted for as long as possible.  Wargame players, not caring about strategic objectives or fight-another-day ideals, knowing that in 1 hour and 12 minutes the game will end because Fred needs to get up to get to work at 6am... will commit all and at once for the big victory.  For wargames defeat is only met with a small ribbing by the others and glib comments so battles are never done to their conclusions or retreats are conducted.
So unlike most wargames however I believe these rules could work into campaign games very well because of the swift and dramatic attrition in battle and will try to get some gamers to participate -- once I get enough miniatures painted that is!

Surprisingly the one issue which they did not comment upon was the use of only one move distance regardless of troop type, horse, infantry or artillery as all moved the same distance.  Good news that. No justifications required!   I made lengths of wood sticks for the purpose and for ranged fire and they were well used.
The "Royalist" array.  One can note all the bags etc on the table as we only used a 6 by 4' mat and had lots of maneuver space.  At only 6" a move, one can have a very tight battle even with the 28mm miniatures I used.      Obviously photographed early in the battle as only two eliminated Royalist elements are in the background.  The number of them did grow!
 One pleasing aspect was the compliments about the overall look of the bases and the elements.  The small number of figures on each did not seem to be an issue and many observers commented favorably on the effect.

Andrew used 'wave attacks' with one element replacing the previous to wear down the very stubborn Guard units.  One will need alot (!) of lesser troops to do the job.  One now can understand the battles of 1813 and 1814 as battles of attrition with more appreciation.