Monday, January 14, 2019

Battle Report: Blucher- Along the Danube

I have been wanting to play a game of Blucher for about two years. I know almost nothing about the Napoleonic Wars and have never really wargamed them before. In truth, it was a bit intimidating with all the foreign unit names, various army structures, and do not even get me started on the uniforms. However, the idea of the “Big Battles” (along with the big hats) was appealing to me.

When I first saw and heard about Blucher, it seemed like a good fit for a newbie to Nappies like me. Most of the square, line, column, stuff was abstracted due to the game scale. Uniforms and army structure were as well. In addition, it was designed to be playable with cards so I did not need to start a big new collection of models. Two years later, I finally got up the scratch to pick it up and the 100 Days supplement.

I gave the basic rules a quick read through and found them easy enough to understand. From there, I went to the Honour Website and downloaded Along the Danube the introductory game. This gives you a basic table lay out, some army cards, and a scenario to get you started. Since my usual wargaming buddy and myself knew almost nothing about the period and the warfare of the time this seemed like a pretty good place to start. Plus, the rules themselves encouraged starting here before moving on. Who was I to argue?

Normally at this point, I lay out the scenario and the forces, but you can find all of that on Sm Mustafa's website at Along the Danube so I am going to skip it this time. Plus, I don't want to embarrass myself too badly by completely screwing up the terminology.

As the attacker, I was the French with 3 infantry corps and a reserve cavalry corp. By opponent was the Austrian defenders with 2 Infantry Corps and a mixed reserve corp including Guards, artillery, and cavalry units.

As the French, I had to get hold of two objectives on the Austrian side, or cause them to break by routing 8 units. The Austrians had to stop me and could defeat me by routing 8 units as well.

I will spare you my usual turn-by-turn breakdown as I was not keeping track that closely. However, a typical game can take up to 30 turns with a turn consisting of everything one side does including moving, shooting, assault, etc. It is an I-GO-U-GO system. The turns are broken down into relative time of day, so on turn 16 you know it is past noon and you are onto early afternoon. At the end of turn 30 it is assumed to be nightfall. I thought this was a clever little timescale that allowed you to match up your fictional, ahistoric, or historic games to the timing of the period.

To start your turn, your opponent rolls 3d6 and keeps the score hidden. This is the amount of Momentum (or activation) points you have for your turn. Having units activate and move costs points. If you move as a Corp it costs fewer points than moving units individually. Units that move can not shoot. You keep moving until your opponent lets you know you are out of movement points. Therefore, the game has a resource management element and gives your opponent a reason to pay attention during your turn.

Units begin as blinds on the table, and are not revealed until they move, are shot at, or an enemy unit gets close enough to see them in Line-of-Sight. This was important during set-up and the very early stages of the game as you do not know exactly what your army will be up against. For example, in our game, I suspected that the top of a hill on the left side of my force would be Austrian artillery, however it was revealed later to be Light Cavalry that swept down on the flank of some of my battered units later in the game. Therefore, deployment is a bit of a game of Blindman's Bluff.

For this game, I decided to mass my II Corp to smash up the Austrian center with I and III corp screening the flanks to fix my opponent. The Reserve Cavalry would then move forward and exploit any breakthroughs. One of my objectives was behind a river on my right flank, while the other was on top of the heights in the center of the Austrian deployment zone. I was not sure what my opponent was planning.

I got to start off with the first turn, and moved across the board with I, II, and III Corps. I soon learned that you would not get enough Momentum to move your entire force, even with careful use of Corp movement. My opponent generally waited for me and kept his units concealed. We exchanged artillery potshots at each other. Artillery and units have an Ammo rating. As Artillery fires this number goes down and it becomes less effective and giving a decisive result, as you roll less attack dice for them. After the game, it seems reasonable that you may want to save your artillery for a decisive barrage, instead of just opening fire as soon as you have the range.

This game does not use a set movement distance, but is instead measured in base widths. Therefore, you can change the scaling as you see fit. In the base rules using the cards a base width is three inches. The minimum for anything is 1 base width with cavalry units being able to move up to 4, and artillery fire 8 base widths. This gives you and idea of the movement to firepower ratio. Musketry is most effective at close range, but is equivalent to charge range. However, a unit that moves can not shoot. Therefore, you need to time your moves accordingly for the maximum result.

Each unit has a starting Elan. As your unit takes hits or engages in close combat its Elan is reduced. It is possible for a unit to exhaust itself by winning close combat after close combat as every time you fight, win or lose; you will lose Elan. With the Elan rules for cavalry/infantry and the Ammo rules for artillery you can see that the name of the game is attrition.

The Austrians generally got to shoot as the French approached to soften them up. However, it was the French on the attack who eagerly throw themselves into close combat across the board, trying to form a break through. The lead brigade of the French II Corp was pounded by Austrian cannon fire and musketry and soon their Elan was reduced to the point where they routed and were removed from the board. However, the next brigade in the Corps dutifully stepped forward to fill the gap.
As a commander, you can choose to “Retire” a unit from the battle voluntarily. This is critical as a retired unit does not count towards your Morale breaking point. However, a unit can only retire in their own turn, using Momentum points, and if there is a clear line to their table edge. Therefore, a clever opponent or poor deployment can make retiring impossible.

By mid-Morning the French attack had come in contact across the battlefield. The weight of the attack in the center managed to tell and the Austrians began to crumble there, but the French Flanks were having a hard time holding their own. Plus, the Reserve Cavalry was having a hard time moving up do to a lack of Momentum. This allowed the Austrians to reinforce the heights with Grenadier units and use their own cavalry reserves on the French left. Soon, the French I Corp was essentially out of the fight and the main attack was blunted by the Austrian reserves.

Casualties on both sides were stacking up quickly. By early afternoon, the French II Corp had managed to force their way through the Austrian center. However, the Cavalry was unable to exploit the breakthrough as the Austrians were closing in on the flanks. By the end of the Afternoon (Turn 19) the French realized that they could not carry the heights. They had sustained to heavy of a toll and withdrew. The Austrians were triumphant!

At the end of the battle, the French had 8 units retire, and 8 route. That is what cost them the game. The Austrians were also on the knife edge with 7 units retired and 7 routed. It was a close fought battle, with the final turns being more of a series of localized skirmishes as the battle lines themselves had completely fallen apart. Therefore, neither of us could efficiently use our Momentum Points by the end and coordination fell apart.

As the game progressed, turns went by faster and faster as we got a hang of the rules and their were fewer units to do stuff with. The Austrians won because they made better use of their reserves and were better able to coordinate all arms of their army then I was. My opponent did a better job using his Momentum Points at the point of decision than I did.

The entire focus of the game is around resource management. There are strong attritional elements to the game combined with Momemtum Points means that success in Blucher is about managing “Friction” since you can not do everything you need to do, and even for the stuff you can do; it will wear down your own troops. Despite that, there are some cinematic moments to be found, like when the first French brigade was blasted into dust, when Austrian guards charged down hill into the flank of a combat and routed the French, or when the French Cavalry came sweeping across the field in a Reserve move and plugged the holes in the French line. However, the general “grinding” nature of the battles will not be to every players liking.

To try and fit this review/battle report into my standard style:

Things I Liked
  • New Player Friendly
  • Resource management
  • Cards as blinds and for play
  • Simple and straight forward resolution mechanics
  • Focus on managing friction

Things I Do Not Like
  • I-Go-U-Go
  • Can feel a bit like grinding

Meh and Other Uncertainties
  • This was just the basic rules so there is a lot more to explore in this game. I will post more about that as I begin to explore the 100 Days Campaign.

It is clear that a lot of thought and design work went into this game to get the right “feel” for the size of battles and the period by using the right level of abstraction and detail. I am pretty sure we did not do everything perfectly. But the author put a lot of working into making a complicated style of warfare into something easy to play on the table. This period seems prone to If This/Than That rules, but these rules are very tight and had surprisingly few of these types of situations.

This was just a quick overview of the basic rules using the intro scenario Sam Mustafa recommended. There is still a lot more to delve into in these rules such as the Scharnhorst Campaign System, Commander personalities, scenarios, weather, and more. I look forward to exploring further with these rules.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Random: Men of Bronze Pictures

This year, my blog will be spending some time (probably a lot of time) talking about Men of Bronze by Osprey.  This is completely selfish on my part as I am the author!   

When you are working with Osprey Publishing, you are lucky enough to have access to their amazing pool of artists and artwork.  It is great if your wargame rules cover a period that they have published on because then the editors can pull artwork from their extensive library.  This artwork serves to really bolster the rules and make them look very professional and cool. 

However, Osprey does not have a large library or range of miniatures for their war games series.  Instead, they ask the author to provide images and photos for the book.  That means as the author you need to have access to models, terrain, and photography equipment for your chosen period of rules. In my contract for an Osprey Wargame Series book they ask for at least 30 300DPI or better photos of models in action. 

This actually turned out to be harder than I expected for a couple of reasons.  The first being that I am not much of a photographer!  The second being I am not much of a painter!  The third being I did not have a great terrain selection.  Those that have followed my blog for a while probably realize that I am more of a Do-It-Yourself style gamer.  That is good enough for my basement and gaming group, but not good enough for publication. 

I purchased the models I would need through Victrix and got a talented friend of mine named Nick Heckel to start painting them up for me.  Then, I managed to buy a few simple Greco-Roman terrain pieces from a local pet store.  I also purchased a professional table covering.  From there I spruced my terrain collection up with some lichen and a few scatter terrain pieces. 

I borrowed a very nice Cannon digital camera, some lights, and a tripod.  I really didn’t know how to use it, but after some trial and error I got the basics of using the Macro lens down.  From there, I just took a lot of photos and tried to judiciously weed out the bad ones.  This left me with about 100 digital photos I sent to Osprey to choose whichever ones they wanted to use.

Here are some of that did not quite make the cut.

Unfortunately, my armies only consisted of 28mm models.  However, the rules themselves are scale and basing agnostic.  The only stipulations are that you need a "Leader" for some measurements, and be able to determine if a unit is in Phalanx or Open Order.  You can use a token to differentiate Open or Phalanx, and any model in the center of the Unit as the "Leader".  Some folks have asked for other scale models for the rules, but alas I just did not have other scales of models to take photos of.

I am interested to see which pictures actually do make the final cut into the book.  Plus, I am super excited to see the artwork that they select.  I have seen the cover art, and it was amazing.  It looks very different than the Work-In-Progress cover you see on the Pre-order pages!  I can't wait to hold it in my hand!  

I hope to have a fully painted Spartan, Corinthian, and Macedonian army for photos and battle reports soon.  In the meantime, you can see my painted forces in action in this Desecrate the Sacred battle report for Men of Bronze .  


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Random: 2019 New Beginnings... on Old Ideas

Welcome 2019!  

It will be a glorious year for wargaming and hobbys.  Well, at least that is what I hope!  Typically, this time of year I lay out my guidelines for the coming year and my goals for what I am going to accomplish.  This allows me to stay on track and avoid becoming a hobby butterfly flitting from project to project. 

If you look at my 2017 and 2018 goals lists, you will see that I tend to break them down into four categories:

1.       Purchases
2.       Painting and Modelling
3.       Rules Writing
4.       Miscellaneous Hobby Stuff

This process has served me very well and allowed me to accomplish many great things each year.  Despite this success, I think I am going to change the formula up a bit.  Instead of focusing on those four categories, I think I want to focus my year on game periods or genres.

I was looking at the By Brush and By Sword blog and I was taken by the idea of the 6X6 challenge.  Basically he chose 6 game systems to try and play 6 games for in the year.  I did not think I could do that, but I did like the idea of focusing my year on game systems or periods instead of the 4 categories I had listed above.  This is going to be tough to pin down! 

Period 1- Ancient Greeks
With the imminent, release of Men of Bronze coming out from Osprey it makes sense to me to focus on this period for 2018.  This is what I want to accomplish for this period:

1.       Create a Social Media strategy to help promote Men of Bronze including a new blog, Facebook Page, Youtube Videos, etc. 

2.       Complete painting for 2 of 3 new armies including: Corinthians, Spartans, or Macedonians 

3.       Purchase and paint a box of Victrix Greek Cavalry

4.       Use painted Greek miniatures to create two rival Greek forces for Of Gods and Mortals

5.       Create an Argonauts warband for Broken Legions

6.       Document and post 6 battle reports for Men of Bronze for the year, including 1 or 2 video batreps. 

7.       Create a Quick Reference Sheet for Men of Bronze

Period 2- Diadochi of Alexander
Assuming Men of Bronze sells well, Osprey was interested in potentially publishing Heirs to Empire as well.  This is an army scale game set in the warring Diadochi period after Alexander the Greats death.  It uses a variant of the Men of Bronze rules with a unique flavor for the period and army size. 

1.       Complete publishing process for Heirs to Empire

2.       Purchase, paint, and base two 6mm successor armies from Bacchus Miniatures

3.       Complete painting my Victrix miniatures for Macedonians and Successors including a unit of Successor Phalangites, Hypaspists, and Heavy Cavalry.

4.       Purchase and paint a Victrix War Elephant

5.       Take good photos of these models for Osprey

Period 3- Roarin’ 20s!
I have had a gangster game called Turf War that I am eager to try out and update for sales on the Wargame Vault.  To do that, I need some photos of miniatures to replace artwork in the current PDF.  I am also interested in some other gangster era games, especially Call of Cthulhu/Strange Aeons type games.  I think these types of small scale games can be popular with my group and family.     

1.       Purchase and paint enough 28mm gangsters for 2 gangs (about 20-25 models)

2.       Pick-up some 1920’s style farm for games in a rural setting or safe house.  This can be resin, paper, or MDF but the less work I need to do on it the better.  Any recommendations?

3.       Buy and paint Cthulhu-esque Lurkers from the Reaper Bones line

4.       Update the Turf War book with model photos and remove other artwork

 Period 4- Blood Bowl!
Okay, it is not a historical period but it is a genre!  My family has been very interested in playing Blood Bowl as a family game.  We have a small family league, and I have been slowly working getting teams and painting them.  Therefore, I am confident that my family will keep wanting to play this game in 2019.  Therefore, I should added it to my list of goals….

1.       Finish painting all of my current teams (Dwarves, Skaven, Chaos, Elf, Dark Elf, Ork, and Human) and hirelings (Ogre). 

2.       Pick-up the Dwarf and Skaven alternate board

3.       Pick-up and assemble two more teams to bring me to 12 total teams

Period 5- Napoleonic
In the end of 2018, I was able to finally get my start on my long time fascination with Nappies.  Sure, I am a noob that knows almost nothing about the time period BUT I picked up Blucher, the 100 Days Supplement, and La Salle.  Therefore, I have a start into the period. 

1.       Play a game of Blucher, most likely the intro scenario Across the Danube

2.       Pick-up the new Osprey Wargame Series book Rebels and Patriots

3.       Complete a draft verion of Mageloque

Period 6- Frostgrave
I have had all the Frostgrave books and supplements for some time.  However, my local group has been slow to adopt it.  They are more sci-fi than fantasy types, but I am interested in giving it a try.  With the new models that allow for all-female warbands I think I have the hook for my family to give it a go and start a campaign in our household.  This is the biggest wildcard on the list.    

1.       Purchase and paint enough plastic kits and fantasy models to make 3-6 wizard warbands

2.       Purchase the Maze of Malcador and Ulterior Motives, then post a review of them

3.       Build, buy, or create enough terrain for a frozen city board for a 3x3 table

Period- Random
This is all the other stuff that I would like to accomplish, but are of much lower priority than the periods I have listed above. 

1.       Finish OnlyThe Strong Survive dinosaur fighting game and get it in the WIP section of the Blog

2.       Keep trying to get 1 new blog post up every 2 weeks at least

3.       Buy two armies from Vanguard miniatures to use with Rampant Galaxies

4.       Buy all the Dracula’s America Books, Last Days, and all the Osprey Wargaming Series of books that come out

5.       Purchase the Gangs of Rome Starter set

6.       Start building a Victrix miniatures Roman Republic and Samnite army

7.       Play some Aquanautica Imperialis

8.       Source two fleets for Castles in the Sky

9.       Sell 1 new war game pitch

Looking at the guidelines for this year, it is clear that my eyes are WAY too big for my wallet.  The only way this will work is if I win the lottery, sell a lot of PDFs on Wargames Vault, sell a lot of copies of Men of Bronze, or some combination of events.  Last year, I set my sights pretty low.  This year I am setting them far too high.  Looking at the list, this could be more of a 5 year wish list rather than a single year plan!  It will be fun to see what happens.  

Wish me luck!  

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Down..... What Happened?

2018 is now passing away as the calendar is to be reborn anew as 2019.  But what madness has 2018 wrought?  Will its long shadow cast only madness and despair or will it instead fade away into a bright beacon of hope eternal for the future of my hobby dreams?  Only a bespoke few can tell….

So, that was some purple prose to herald a standard end of year goal review.  Each year I set some Hobby guidelines for the rest of the year and see how I manage.  They act as guard rails to keep me focused on the right things and not succumb to “Oh Shiny!”.  2018 I got a good start on and by the mid-way point I was in good shape.  Granted, I expected a lot of real life to get in the way of hobby stuff in 2018 so I made my goals pretty light this year. 

Typically, I break my goals up into the following categories:

·         Purchasing
·         Playing
·         Rules Writing
·         Miscellany

This year I had the following goals set…..

Typically, these are things I plan to spend money on for the year.

-          Purchase all new Opsrey Wargame Series Books- Thankfully, they only released a few books in 2018.  I have them and reviewed them both.  They were Kobolds and Cobblestones and Outremer: Faith and Blood.- Complete

-          Pick-up 6mm Successor Armies from Baccus- I got it all sorted and priced out and even put them in my cart.  However, I didn’t sell quite enough wargames on the WargamesVault to pay for these new armies.  However, I need to get them purchased, painted, and based soon so I have them for a potential Osprey Publishingof Heirs to Empire. – Not Started

-          New Professional Terrain- My main purchase here was nifty new terrain clothe for my table.  It looks great.  I also picked up some cool Greco-Roman temple terrain from Terrafin.  This really took my terrain game up a notch or two.  Plus, I got a ton of lichen for scatter terrain.  – Complete, but I want to add a decent river to my collection.

-          Purchase Blucher- I picked up the rulebook, the 100 Days Supplement, and a PDF of La Salle from Sam Mustafa games.  It only took my three years, but I have it now.  Look for a game early next year. – Complete Plus!

In addition, I also picked up a few other odds and ends.  When I dropped 6th edition I was pretty convinced that I would not spend money on Games Workshop games again.  However, they sucked me back in with the re-release of Blood Bowl.  I have purchased several teams including the Skaven team, Dwarf team, Dark Elf, Elven Union, and Chaos team.  I buy teams for Blood Bowl as this is a game my family is more than willing to play on a regular basis and we have 12 teams for our League.  Maybe if I had not bought so many Blood Bowl teams I would have had enough money to buy those Successor Armies!  – Bonus Points!

Painting and Modelling
In this category are all the items I am making a bold effort to paint, sculpt, build, etc. for the tabletop.  Typically this is the area where I fall the furthest.  However, this year I was very conservative.

-          Paint Mobile Artillery for All Quiet on the Martian Front- Two years later they are complete!  Woot me!  

-          Paint D.A. Thompson from Pulp Alley- Complete after….. far too long. 

-          I also painted some Blood Bowl. teams, but have not had a chance to show them on the blog before today….. behold! – Bonus Points!     

-          I did not paint, but did have some Greek Hoplites, Macedonian Phalanx, and some light troops painted up for Men of Bronze this year too.- Bonus Points!

-          I did some Re-paintson Nano Metal Super-Figs for the superhero genre. – Bonus Points! 


-          Painted the models for the Path to Woodbury Walking Dead: All Out War solo starter.- Bonus Points!

Here are the games I wanted to play in 2018 when I set out. 

-          Play 8thEdition 40K- Done and done!  There was a lot of positive buzz about this edition so I wanted to check it out.  Some of my old gaming group were getting back into it, so I figured “why not try it?”  I have been playing Warhammer 40k since Rogue Trader days and still have the old RT book nipping about.- Complete!

-          Finish the BalkanUprising Campaign for Castles in theSky- Complete!  I manage to complete the campaign this year.  It took two more games to wrap it all up, but it is won and the victors decided.  You can see all the games in the campaign linked here.

-          Play a Game I Have Not Played Before- I played a couple of new games.  The most significant for the wargaming world were Super System 4th Edition and Walking Dead: All Out War.  Surprisingly, I had painted forces for both games! – Complete with Bonus Points!

-          Blood Bowl Tournament- With my family we managed to play a small 8 team Blood Bowl tournament with our teams; the PrincessOwayanna Healing Spring Bottled Waters Tournament   – Bonus Points!

-          Played a Variety of Wargames- I played a number of wargames this year including Men of Bronze, Heirs to Empire, Conquest!Rome in Italy, Rampant Sun, Super System 4th Edition, and Aeronautica Imperialis. – Bonus Points!

Rules Writing
For this section of the list I put my goals for actually writing and producing my own wargames.  I am typically pretty productive in this category and I do not think this year was any exception.  It doesn’t take any money to do this category, only time and attention. 

-          Complete Two New Rulesets for the Blog- Complete!  For the most part, I just wanted two new works for the WIP sections.  I was pretty successful getting Fog of War, Rampant GalaxiesConquest!Rome in Italy, and Rampant Sun up in the WIP section over the course of the year.

-          Photos for Men of Bronze to Osprey- Complete!  I actual provided around 100 photos for the publication of the Men of Bronze rules.  It is up for pre-order and I expect it to be out late- Spring of 2019 in the Osprey Wargaming Series.  I am pretty excited.

This section is for random hobby related stuff that doesn’t fit neatly any place else. 

-          Blog Once Every Two Weeks- Complete with Bonus Points!  I have managed to get a post up once a week this year, and sometimes twice!  I do not know how long this can keep going, but enjoy it well it does!

-          Clean-up a Game for the Wargame Vault-  Complete with Bonus Points again!  I managed to get the dexterity combat game Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve up the first half of the year.  I rounded out the year with the mass sci-fi battle game Rampant Galaxiesand model-vs-model skirmish game Rampant Sun . 

Not a bad year if I say so myself.  12 out of 13 goals complete with 9 bonus point pick-ups.  This is one of my most productive hobby years yet.

I am also proud of my serious of Blogs about the process for building and designing a new game from the ground up as I work on the Dinosaur fighting game- Only the StrongSurvive.  Hopefully it can help other aspiring game designers figure out how to methodically tackle the process of building a game from concept to the complete rules.  There is still more to share on this topic, and I look forward to continuing the series in the coming year.

Well, next post will be 2019.  Time flies by while you are having fun!  See you next year where I lay out my goals for 2019.