Forum Replies Created
I like this bit: “The third turn was an amazing one, with multiple combats and exploitation by the French, followed by a three-round assault by the Brunswickers.” Any game that generates that kind of excitement has to be a good one!
You need to come further south next time: Blenheim Palace, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum and, oh yes, Oxford Wargames Society. 🙂
It may have been a big deal to the tiny British army but it was a tiny skirmish to the French empire. Why would Napoleon pay any attention to that?
Nice one, Konstantinos. Good to see you back in action. Any prospect of a playtest and AAR soon?
Also looking forward to seeing what you do for Gislikon!
My reference to ‘fun’ was shorthand for caring more about the journey than the destination, more about the process than the result, per my ‘Reflections on Wargaming’ essay here.
Consider two games. One is a remorseless predictable grind, one-way traffic throughout, in which it is clear how it will go as soon as both sides are deployed, and no surprises happen (or were ever likely or even possible) to disrupt that. The other is a ding-dong see-saw affair of ebb and flow, nip and tuck, with unexpected events causing major swings of fortune, the situation changing every turn, going right down to the wire, the last roll of the dice.
Some players would rather win the first game than lose the second. Others would make the opposite choice. Some would find the first game ‘fun’ but it doesn’t fit my definition. I prefer movies where you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Half of our club in Oxford is hardcore ancients competition gamers (I believe there are former World Champions in their ranks). I think they have been through DBMM and tried ADLG but are very into FOG which they helped to develop. OWS will have hosted four FOGR tournament weekends this year.
It has been suggested to me that the very complexity and fiddly detail that some respondents above dislike is exactly what appeals to many competition-minded players. If you can master those complexities and remember those fiddly rules, that helps you to beat naive players who can’t be bothered and are more interested in history and tactics. (This is gross generalisation and paraphrasing, but I hope it makes the point.)
Perhaps the question to ask, then, is what your local lads want out of their games. If they are really into that competitive tournament format, you are probably stuck with what they’re already invested in. If they just want fun games with phalanxes and elephants, I’m sure there are funner rules they could enjoy, if steered suitably diplomatically.
But you have to be sure about what the horses really want before you try to make them drink.
Nice one, Vincent. On those terrain questions:
“I believe the very width of the battlefield is too extreme” – where did that come from? You’ve reproduced the map faithfully to scale and the troops and ZOCs seem to fill it at a suitable density. Looks fine to me.
The road as an obstacle: were the hedges there at the time? I read an account that made no mention of them. An 18″ bank impassable to cavalry?? Willing to be shown any contemporary account that does suggest the road should be a linear obstacle, of course, but until then …
“The hills SE of the farm are quite sharp, and did not look cavalry friendly at all” – but didn’t Pire’s cavalry advance up those very slopes with no problem? In game terms, the slope is represented, albeit as Gentle rather than Steep, but that still gives a defender at the top of it an advantage. Probably sufficient.
“the stream insignificant”: but maybe not so insignificant in that soggy June? Enough soft ground along it to make it an obstacle?
Wargame tabletop terrain always entails abstraction and deciding what to represent and how is as much art as science. I reckon you’ve done a nice artistic job, Vincent.
Thanks for pointing us towards your fun report(s), Vincent. Nothing like a little embouteillage to ensure la débâcle … I do love your laconic style and carefully labelled photo-AARs.
The light / heavy distinction was very real. If I may, let me cite the Hungarian War of Independence – not a Napoleonic War but one fought with Napoleonic weapons and tactics by generals who had learned their trade as junior officers in the Napoleonic Wars. (One of the Austrian generals, Schlik, lost an eye to the [careless or drunken?] lance of an allied Cossack in 1813. Don’t know if that gives us any special insight into Cossacks’ tactics or effectiveness …) Anyway: when Hungary rebelled, all the Austrian army’s hussars ended up on the Hungarian side, leaving the Imperials with all the heavy cavalry, i.e., the cuirassiers and dragoons (plus a few uhlans and chevaulegers). When the two sides’ cavalry clashed in combat, the heavies generally had the better of it – definitely worth a +1 in melee. However, when the heavies were forced to perform all the scouting, picket, liaison etc duties for lack of light cavalry, their heavy horses carrying heavy men wore out very rapidly. Think Tiger tanks breaking down while the Shermans cruise on.
In the few rare exceptions that prove the rule – the famous isolated instances where cavalry used their carbines or musketoons for organised volley fire – I will wager there was some particular combination of favourable circumstances that made it a sensible option. E.g.:
– A commander who thought laterally enough to consider using it as a formal tactic despite it being no more than an afterthought in the cavalry manual (has anyone looked at any of these? I haven’t lately)
– His regiment having time and opportunity to actually practise with their weapons, rather than performing the myriad other duties that usually occupied them
– Fine weather (no damp or wind to cause misfires)
– The time and leisure in a battlefield situation to anticipate the enemy’s approach, load weapons, and deploy for volley fire rather than a charge
– A terrain feature (slope, ditch, soft ground, etc) that would slow the enemy’s charge, make them a good target, and give the volleying cavalry time to change weapons and brace themselves for melee.
For tabletop Napoleonic cavalry to be allowed to generate significant firepower on-table, I’d suggest they should have to make some sacrifice or be really lucky.
Clausewitz doesn’t go into low-level tactical stuff but he does have a few pithy things to say about cavalry, along the lines of:
– incapable of holding ground
– negligible firepower
– its only real value is mobility that enables it to achieve local numerical superiority quickly
– the most dispensable of the three combat arms
– beyond the small essential number needed for cavalry-specific tasks (reconnaissance, liaison, etc) it is an expensive luxury and you’re better off spending the same money on the more destructive artillery or a larger number of the more versatile infantry (he particularly berates the Austrians for sending a ridiculously large proportion of cavalry into Germany in 1799).
But what did he know.19/09/2023 at 12:28 in reply to: Banging my head against a brick wall at Malplaquet #190765
Thanks, chaps. I was back in my comfort zone last week, commanding the French wing attacking the Spanish at Ocana (Peninsular War, 1809). I felt much more at home in a game of sweeping manoeuvre, punch and counter-punch. How much of that was the less constrained movement rules and how much just my familiarity with said rules? A bit of both, no doubt.25/08/2023 at 12:17 in reply to: From 2mm to 28mm, Malplaquet to Spion Kop, FB to YouTube! #189981
Hi Thaddeus, glad you’re interested and sorry you’re going to have to be frustrated a little longer. I know that Scott at SkirmishCampaigns has a long-term plan to make BBB and the rest of the SkirmishCampaigns available as pdf. However, I think this is still a couple of years away yet.
Chris21/08/2023 at 22:06 in reply to: From 2mm to 28mm, Malplaquet to Spion Kop, FB to YouTube! #189845
Cheers, chaps. Yes, there are some very talented people out there creating beautiful games.
For myself, I could happily play games with the most basic of cardboard cut-outs, so long as the rules and scenario are good. That said, I have certainly come to appreciate the importance of the aesthetic and made sustained efforts to improve my own set-up. E.g., for a few years I had a rule of always buying some nice ready-to-use terrain items whenever I went to a show. Most recently I invested in a load of handmade rivers and streams to replace my ancient felt ones. Roads are next …
Well, I’m happy to have jogged your memory, then, Tony! If you search the BBBBlog for ‘India’ you should find a few game reports as well, to give you an idea of how the scenarios play.
I approve of ‘obscurely interesting’ as a criterion for purchase. It’s one that has served to empty my pockets and fill my shelves too.
Naturally I commend to you Mark Smith’s scenario book for BBB, ‘Bloody Big Battles in INDIA!‘. It includes Mudki, of course, plus another 15 Indian battles. We have had a ton of fun with these. Even if the BBB rules don’t appeal to your group, you might find the scenarios useful to adapt for whatever ruleset you do settle on.
Good luck with finding something that suits you and your mates.
Aber wunderbar fuer Deutschland, nicht wahr?
Cheers, Willz. I always like showcasing Matt’s games. They are works of art that show just how much is possible in 6mm.
You probably know it, but in case you don’t, his Pushing Tin website has lots of posts and lots of pics to drool over. He’s also done a tutorial for those who aspire to emulate his work.
I was certainly cheesed off. 😉
I’m sure Matt saves his custom battlefields and rolls them out again, just as our clubmate Crispin and others do with theirs. Most BBB scenarios are designed in such a way that both sides have a few different options, so apart from rolling out the same game for different groups of players, you can also get good replay value with the same group as people try out different plans.26/07/2023 at 15:41 in reply to: Waterloo: “I have never felt so emotionally immersed in a game!” #188877
Had that germanic mass not arrived it looks as though the French would have carried the battle.
Oh, no doubt about it. Without the Prussians, the two sides had about the same number of troops on the pitch to start with, but the French had a clear quality edge – plenty of aggressive veterans and no raw troops, whereas the Allies had a lot of raw and fragile stuff. This was really starting to tell, the Allied line was crumbling everywhere until the Prussians saved the day.
Normal rules dont always cater for extensive events
Dave, I guess that makes BBB an ‘abnormal’ ruleset! (We fought Borodino in four hours on 6’x4′ with 2.5 players, yet somehow it still felt epic. Report here.)
Norm, much to applaud in what you’ve done, thank you. I posted a fuller reply on Part II of your Borodino report.
Cheers, Guy. BBB is not to everyone’s taste, but it serves its particular niche: those who like it seem to really, really like it.
Would be great to meet you at the next Bash Day!
Someone was using ‘square’ in 1757 though.
And the Russians made considerable use of squares in the Russo-Turkish War of 1736-1739: offensively, defensively, and on the march. This was rather like the squares used in colonial campaigns in the late C19, for similar reasons, i.e., when facing fast-moving swarms of irregular troops. The Swiss at Rossbach were covering a retreat in ‘broken play’ against fast-moving swarms of Prussian cavalry. It was the right tool for those specific situations. Over time the tool was developed and improved and became more versatile.
Think of square as a technology. It takes a while to develop and refine it properly; it also takes a while for its use to permeate and its doctrine to evolve and become established. The Germans didn’t use Panzers and Stukas lots more because of Blitzkrieg, they developed Blitzkrieg because the technologies made it possible.
French revolutionary masses using the new technology may not have been particularly adept with it, may have taken longer to form square than well-trained regulars would have with the new drill, but must still have been sufficiently swift compared with the old drill. Also (I’m guessing here) they may have made more use of a quicker and easier column-to-square/facing-out-column than line-to-square.
So what does that do to Horse and Musket rules? Do we reflect a lack of need to form square prior to 1788ish and a compelling need to do so post French revolution until the breech loader? Is it a tweak to a whole period mechanism or a new set of rules for each subdivision? Does it constitute a ‘break point’ in rules writing? Or does it depend on the level of command/combat and therefore tactical abstraction being modelled?
The 1790s is a breakpoint, the transition from old-style ‘linear warfare’ to Napoleonic ‘impulse warfare’. Since you’ll find them on the same battlefield, it’s not a case of needing different rulesets, just some provision to constrain the linear armies, make them more anxious about exposing flanks and make flexible impulse maneuver more difficult for them, whether that be fewer command pips, an activation penalty, much slower movement when wheeling or changing formation, etc.
Vincent kindly mentions BBB. You might have seen Matt Bradley’s ‘Pushing Tin‘ blog reports of his gorgeous Marlburian games. His rule mods to adapt BBB do a great job of reflecting that constrained linear warfare. Could be highly amusing to pit an Austrian army using those mods against a French one that has shaken them off.
Those are effects, not causes.
Those things are the effects of squares? Sorry, don’t follow.
It sounded as though you were saying people formed square more because of other things creating new tactical opportunities. That’s true, of course, but my point is that the ability to form square (and other formations) quickly is what enables these tactical opportunities in the first place.
To add my two cents to Vincent’s:
The main cause is the larger armies and the resulting breaking up into discrete units, corps and divisions. During the SYW each army tended to march in on a single road and deploy in a single group, infantry in the center, cavalry on each flank. Prussian drill practice allowed them to deploy faster, an advantage. De Broglie figured French soldiers wouldn’t match them so he divided his infantry force into 4 divisions (before this division referred to a quarter of a battalion). Each division in theory marched parallel to the others and deployed simultaneously, rather than one grand procession. That’s how divisions were born, later merged into corps by that Corsican chap.
Actually I think I do know a little about this from the Austrian perspective. An early notable successful use of approaching in multiple columns was the Austrian victory at Hochkirch (1758). This became the template that I believe was written into the Austrian 1769 regs. However, I think these still prescribed as an ideal that the artillery should travel up the central road, infantry columns either side, and the cavalry in the flanking columns. (I haven’t read the regs myself and stand ready to be corrected.) Anyway, the point is that their purpose was primarily to facilitate movement into a pre-arranged conventional battle line at a pre-determined location (Rivoli is a later great example). This is a very different creature from Napoleonic combined-arms columns designed to move and fight independently, wherever the foe might be encountered, and hold on until the other combined-arms columns could march to the sound of the guns and flexibly join in. The Austrian model is primarily logistical in purpose, the Napoleonic one tactical.
Sorry, Guy, we’ve wandered a bit away from your original squares question. But insofar as it relates to what I think is a major transition between the 1750s and the 1790s, hopefully still relevant.
That makes sense, Jim.
It’s just simple geometry. If you’re the bloke at the end of the infantry line, two or three enemy cavalrymen can get at you, instead of less than one-to-one frontally. Add to that physical fact the morale effect of being exposed like that, and of course a line will crumple and be rolled up by cavalry hitting its flank.
Chris say the drill had not been developed but was that because they hadn’t physically worked it out? […] It would feel intuitively (often a wrong feeling I know) that if trained eighteenth century troops hadn’t developed the drill and the training to form square how much harder must it have been for Citoyen Carnot to do it?
They hadn’t physically worked out rapid transitions from line or column to square.
My tentative suggestions are: More open flanks at all levels, from bigger battlefields and more formations with more independence creating new tactical opportunities, at the cost of some vulnerability to surprise flank attacks – especially from cavalry.
Those are effects, not causes.
I believe the Prussians during the SYW had a tactical edge because they were starting to develop superior drill movements that enabled Frederick the Great to maneuver more rapidly than his ponderous opponents. Between then and the 1790s, everyone followed the Prussians to some degree and rapid changes of formation became possible. Those meant it became less dangerous to break up the solid line and, eg, advance in columns with suitable intervals between individual units and larger gaps between brigades, divisions or ultimately corps. Units could filter more easily between terrain obstacles. The threat of surprise flank attack was reduced because rapid response by suitable formation changes was now feasible. Especially as more manoeuvrable artillery enabled the creation of combined arms groupings that could fight their own small battles until the other groupings could join them.
Napoleon was the one who first and most brilliantly understood and exploited the full implications of these changes – effectively playing the new edition of the rules while the Austrians & co were still playing the old edition.
I’m no expert so I’m ready to be corrected, but as I understand it:
The drill movements for changing into and out of square quickly (or any other rapid formation change) just hadn’t been developed. That’s a big reason why SYW and earlier armies deployed entirely in long lines – they couldn’t change formation to respond to a flank threat in time, so being in one line left only two flanks to be protected. (Likewise why they deployed from column of march into battle line so far from the enemy, to avoid being caught in column.) A line can repel a frontal attack by cavalry – a square is just four lines, after all.
The long line deployment also dislikes being interrupted by cavalry or guns, because any interruption creates vulnerable flanks (qv the French at Minden, I think?). In Napoleonic times, forming your infantry division into squares lets it be punctuated by artillery batteries or cavalry counterattacks, etc, in a way that would have been dangerous/unfeasible for SYW armies.
I think your answer is somewhere in there
All sounds great. Good luck and happy gaming!
Great choice. I absolutely agree – 6mm is great for being relatively cheap, quick to create armies, easy to store and transport. But most of all, great for getting an entire battle on the table and still having room to manoeuvre, getting a mass battle visual effect, and still fighting the whole thing in an evening.
What periods or wars are you finding particularly interesting to refight?
Mechanisms for an uncontrolled advance or attack that might be contrary to the player’s wishes are by no means unprecedented. Thinking of Sam Mustafa’s Grande Armee, which had such things both at the basic brigade unit level and at the corps commander level (if he was defined as Rash); and of Black Powder‘s ‘Blunders’; and of the Mars-la-Tour and Gravelotte scenarios for Bloody Big Battles.
Terrific, Norm. Well done to you and all your willing volunteers.
Tabletop historical refights are good fun and can teach many interesting lessons. However, their major shortcoming is the lack of fog of war. Games like your Wavre campaign are much better in that respect. It’s not something any of us could do every week or month because of the time it takes, but it’s well worth doing occasionally. Your campaign seems to have succeeded brilliantly, especially the ingenious changing victory conditions. Great job!
Chris18/04/2023 at 18:50 in reply to: Quality beats quantity: Golan Heights (Nafah), 1973 #185278
Wonderful, thank you, John. Most illuminating.13/04/2023 at 21:19 in reply to: Quality beats quantity: Golan Heights (Nafah), 1973 #185114
Thanks for all the comments. I’m glad my post was so thought-provoking.
That sort of game is tough, and hard to balance when writing (if indeed balance is desired).
Actually, my experience is that getting the terrain and order of battle right and chugging the right troop ratings through the machine is usually all fairly straightforward, and that if you do that you will get a fair recreation of the action. The hardest bit to balance is the victory conditions. Bob has revised those but his scenario didn’t seem to need any other changes.
giving the Israelis a +2 […] probably hard wires the result to an extent.
No doubt. That’s adapting the model to fit the data, and it’s plausible, so I’m OK with that.
As for ‘Quality wins battles. Numbers win wars.’* it has a snappy ring to it. *It has a delightfully faux Stalinist ring to it.
Yes, a pleasing aphorism! And I find I can think of lots of wars won by numbers and not many won by quality. So it might even be true. It would indeed be nice if eg John were to chip in with some authoritative references to support or dispel.
War is still a card game and the quantitatively weaker side can still win (Especially if it has theater dominance, and the war remains limited).
Yes, I agree. The Russo-Japanese War was one example I could think of where quantity lost – is that in your theater dominance category? (Manchuria being a long way from most of Russia hindered the Russians from exploiting their quantity advantage.)
Troop training and morale and commitment is another thing and one of the problem areas in quantifying war. But who won the battles? Generally Israel, although the start of Yom Kippur was not so good for them. And who won the wars? Is the war over?
Certainly, training and morale and commitment are huge. Israelis’ backs are to the wall (OK, the sea) and there was and is more at stake for them than for the average Egyptian or Syrian conscript. I think a case can be made for regarding 1948 and 1967 and 1973 as campaigns in a war that is not over.
The peanut gallery says that logistics win wars…
The peanut gallery has a case. However, any logistic effort still needs troops at the sharp end. Is it better to have a few really good ones or lots of poor to middling? The UK began WWI with the former and ended it with the latter. Any examples of armies that went in the other direction during a war?
Keep the good thoughts coming!28/03/2023 at 09:00 in reply to: New Leadhead PhD: Taking stock of the Budget two months in #184530
My situation is easier as I have plenty of armies for the games I want to run, and the rest of the guys have lots more, so new armies and kit for new projects just don’t feature in my budget.
It’s therefore something like:
£2.50 x 25 or so club nights a year = £62.50
£??? for books about whatever battles I want to do scenarios for.
This last is a variable item that is impossible to budget. Luckily, contingency funds are always available for it!
Bash Day update – 11 March 2023
Here is the latest update for BBB Bash Day, 09:00-17:00, 1st July 2023, at
Leeds Wargames Club, Hicks Hall, 60 Bankfield Terrace, Burley, Leeds LS4 2JR.
1. Dedicated email. We’ve set up an email for booking the BBB Bash day. The address is: [email protected]
2. We are now opening the sign up lists for games – just send an email and we’ll add you to a game. As this is early, everyone should get their first choice. We’ll book people in to the morning session unless notified otherwise. (The idea is that each game should be run twice, morning and afternoon.)
3. We’re pleased to announce that Bruce McCallum will be bringing his 28mm Zulu game. Chris Pringle recently provided an AAR on the “Bloody Big Battles” blog. Bruce is offering Isandlwana or Nyezane. It looks fun!
List of games so far:
Napoleonic – Lutzen (1813) (this may change)
Anglo Sikh War – Gujrat (1849)
Crimean War – Inkerman
ACW – 2nd Manassas
ACW – Chancellorsville
Austro-Prussian War – Kissingen
Franco-Prussian – Sedan
Zulu War – Isandlwana or Nyezane
We still have room for more games, so if you are thinking of hosting a game, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We trust that this is clear. If not, let us know. Please sign up now!
Chris and Colin
Bleeding Big Bash Day Team
Promoted to a sinecure provincial governorship, surely? This is the Austrian army, after all!27/02/2023 at 22:36 in reply to: New Project and three “new” 19th century Scenarios #183756