Sunday, January 22, 2012

Field of Battle Napoleonics

Well, between work and being sick for a week, not much to post about lately. However, with a trip to Brent's house last evening that has changed. We played an excellent game of Napoleonics using Field of Battle 2.

There were six players. Myself, Greg C. and Greg R. on the French side and Terry, Chris and Ed on the British/Spanish/Portuguese side. Yes, this was a Peninsular War battle.

The forces in the battle were essentially even in size, the French had 1 more Army Morale Point and I think 1 more unit that the Allies. The French forces appeared to be of decent quality scanning the ratings. I really don't know much about the Allied quality except that the Spanish were not well rated. The Rifles and Highlanders were so I presume that the overall rating of the Allied force was respectable as well.

We began by using the Fate and Command rules to produce some variable conditions for the battle. From these, the French were able to gain some deployment advantages in terms of positioning on the field and a redeployment option of one command. Obviously, in terms of miniature history, Allied inactivity and French reconnaissance conspired to dictate these conditions. The only other condition to come from this was that the Spanish troops were delayed in arriving from the field. Perhaps due to incompetence in their command orders were not acted upon in a timely manner (in fact, the Spanish forces would never arrive at the battle).

So, after the deployments were completed, with a large French force aggressively deployed in the center of the table, supported by a grand battery - the Allied players seemed pessimistic about the pending course of the battle. Especially when reminded that a handful of Spanish units have not arrived at the field.

So, it was not with Allied enthusiasm did we begin the battle. However, the plans of generals are often dashed by events on the field - and this was to be the case with the French.

Battle Plans

Winning the initiative, the French began flipping cards. The first two cards were Leadership cards. Ouch. We're not going to be able to do much rallying of men in this first turn, we better make each action count! God forbid we should lose a commander to enemy action too!

Next card...Move. Excellent! Onto the attack! The center surged forward (except for one blundering command), the reserve for the center began to swing into position - aggressively advancing in march columns. The British and Portuguese began to shoot at the advancing French center, some losses were caused, but that is to be expected!

Next card...Army Morale. Ok, we've lost only a couple chips, no worries there. Let's check for commander risks. That's when it happened. The best French combat commander on the field, leading the largest infantry brigade in the main attack was killed! Crap! We have already burned 2 Leadership cards and have 95% of the deck still to go through!

Before the battle, the Allied commanders where thinking about how to write uplifting reports on a defeat of arms. Now their hearts were uplifted by the misfortunes befalling the French! Oh, and it is their turn now too!

Move One Command. The British flankers move out towards my columns of infantry moving to form the reserve of the center. Ok, cool, as long as they don't get another move card drawn. Next card? Yep. Movement.

The British crashed into my forces while still in column, easily routing them. Over the next few actions sequences, only one of my three regiments was able to put up any fight, but it was soon routed. Now, my aggressiveness (and excellent British leadership, Chris) has caused me to lose the reserve for the main fight...and the French center is exposed.

In my command were two French cavalry units marching with the center - hoping to be used as the mass of decision. I had to divert them towards the crumbling flank to try and stabilize it. I was able to do so over the course of several action sequences, but at the cost of good troops NOT advancing with the main force.

During this time, the center plowed ahead and was involved in a very difficult fight. Greg R. really did a good job. With his best commander killed and that command stalled and the loss of the supporting cavalry he still managed to advance and drive in the Portuguese. Harassed all the way by Ed's British that invested the town, there were many French losses. Morale chips flew away from both armies.

Near the end, we had 1 remaining morale point. We caused some losses on some British and drained their points, earning us 2 points in the process. Shortly thereafter, the British drew an Army Morale Card and with no points remaining lost the die roll and ended the battle.

What a great battle and a great gaming experience. Looking at the fight in the light of the next morning, I think that the British won that fight. Sure, they had to retreat from the field, but look at what was accomplished:

1. They were outnumbered since the Spanish did not arrive for the battle.
2. The French had a large and aggressive advanced deployment - with a grand battery - and a local advantage in numbers.
3. They fought the French to a complete standstill.

Good job guys...onto the pictures...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

SDS Scenario Idea

So, I was hanging out surfing various wargame blogs and I saw a post somewhere or another (actually, here) about an old bridge in England that had an awesome center building. And that sparked a fond memory of intense games of America's Army (a first-person shooter we used to play a lot of) on the "Bridge" map...

So, I began to think of a terrain board for Song of Drums and Shakos, set in Napoleonic Spain, of a bridge. The bridge would be the main focus of the board of course, and would be nice and wide and have a "castle" on the bridge too (like the one from the blog post I referenced).

But, the bridge would be set to the left of the center of the terrain board and allow me to build some town buildings and would create a firefight that takes place across the river. But, of course, we'd have to allow for a couple of small rowboats should one side or another wish to force a crossing on the water.

So, I sketched out the terrain board...

In order for a firefight to ensue with the SDS rules, the musket-shooters must be within about 22 inches, so from building to building going across the river is 20 inches. This makes the board itself only 24" deep. The board would be 36" wide.

This means that there are only 2" on either side of the board for the riverside buildings. OK, this presents a modelling opportunity - the backside of the buildings need not be modeled. They'll be open to allow players to place miniatures within them. This also means that I don't need to build removable roofs and detachable floors. See the lower left corner of the sketch for an example.

The height of the bridge means that I have two levels of terrain to work with...street level and water level. The water level has a stone "dock/walkway" along its entire course...with a post anchored semi-regularly to which to tie one's boat. This walkway would be about 2" wide on either side, leaving a 16" wide river. Access to the dock would be through stairways down from the street level and through the occasional doorway from the water-level buildings. The dock goes under the arches of the bridge too, providing some cover and access to the small portion of the board on the other side of the bridge.

The street-level buildings would be various constructions of the period, with windows overlooking the river. Perfect to shoot from onto the bridge or across the river at the enemy - be they in the houses or on the dock or rowing across the river boats.

The bridge would be 10" wide about 20" long, the last few inches on either side giving street-level access to the bridge. 2" wide stone pedestrian paths line each side of the bridgeway leaving a 6" wide stone wagon path down the center of the bridge.

The stone castle, in the exact center of the bridge, would stand three storeys high. The first level would be dominated by the main center archway and the two smaller pedestrian archways. Access to the second level would be by ladder - found in each of the two pedestrian archways.

The second and third levels would feature arrow-slits (presumably the bridge would have been built in medieval times) to fire through onto the decks of the bridge itself.

So, the question is, would this provide an interesting scenario? 

There would not be a lot of maneuvering, except for the race to get to the castle. That could be interesting given the unpredictable movement mechanism in the SDS rules. Better troops are more likely to get there before inferior troops, but there are no guarantees!

The fight for the bridge would involve some musketry until the sides closed in and then a lot of bayonet work. This would make for a lot of tension. A few barrels and hay wagons could be strewn about for cover at the ends of the bridge...maybe someone will get the wild idea of using the troops to push forward a hay wagon for cover on the advance!

The firefight across the river would probably be a little dull. Reload, shoot, repeat. But some interesting tactics could be used, like one solider shoots as another reloads then steps out of the way to reload while the other shoots.

To mitigate some lack of movement, one side could be given extra points and must make a push across the river in rowboats. This wold provide some tension as some troops stay behind to provide covering fire while others move onto the docks and row across to land on the opposing dock.

So...I don't know, something to think about. It looks fun to build...but why build it if the battle would suck. I'd appreciate any thoughts that readers may have. Leave a comment if you would please...