Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Muskets & Mayhem" Old School Rules AAR: 15mm AWI Game

I promised Duc de Gobin this week that I would post an AAR following a game of Muskets & Mayhem, our "old school toy soldier" rules in development.  I played a 15mm AWI game and, while exciting, I still found some things that need ironed out which I will address in this post.

4 American Battalions and a "Light' unit of Militia scouting ahead for Redcoats...
 This game featured a large British "Brigade" and an American "Brigade" in a meeting engagement, both sides advancing to capture a small hamlet somewhere near Philadelphia I guess...

British "light bobs" skirmishing.  They are still based for an older rules set I used to play (the excellent "Guns of Liberty" rules)
 Since I played with 15mm troops, I used centimeters as the units of measurement however I think the game would have moved a little faster if inches were used.

British brigade with their RA 2-gun section move out!
 The alternating moves might be nice for 2 person play but with 1 person playing solo it was a pain to constantly have to switch sides of the table, making me think about changing it for solo play only.  That being said, I still alternated for the entire game!  This means I don't have to go the gym...  I must have logged at least a mile moving around my table.

Massachusetts troops advance

11th Mass with some extras from other units thrown in.

end of turn 2 with the British spotted!
 Both sides advance deliberately.  Space management will be a problem as I have nowhere convenient to emplace my British artillery.

British advance through the forest.  Since this was all "light" forest, I diced for movement penalties which was a nice change of pace and made it brainless - no looking stuff up and no tables or unnecessary charts for movement penalties.
 The British advanced as a solid line with a Battalion of Guards anchoring their left (come on, this is a pickup game after-all so I can use mixed Brigades.  Who doesn't want Guards in their force?)

The American militia occupy a small cropfield surrounded by a low stone wall while the British navigate through a fenced in pasture.
 British lights are almost in firing range of the American militia and movement rates slow down or stop as each side jockeys for good firing positions.  Stationary troops fire and remove casualties before the moving troops get to fire.

The Guards advance!  They will meet the "elite" 1st Maryland Line
 So far, so good.  Besides a slightly choppy play sequence, there haven't been any major issues.

British battalions advance!  What a splendid sight!

American militia take up firing positions.  But the British lights are just out of range!

Meanwhile the Mass. troops advance to the village.
 Now the troops are ready to fire.  I found I needed to use tiny wooden markers to remember who would move.  that helps for stationary fire as well.  So one recommendation is to add some kind of marker that shows a unit moved.  This would be helpful I imagine for very large games with lots of Battalions.

British regulars unleash a devastating volley against the Mass. line and they lose a stand!
 Many units are now in firing range and open fire against the enemy.  One problem I ran into - when a unit loses a stand (takes 4 hits) it must make a morale check.  Do I roll with the morale of the unit prior to losing the stand, or the adjusted morale of the unit?

A "regular" 4 stand battalion has a morale of "4" or better on a 1D6.  A "disorganized" battalion of 3 stands has morale of "5" or better on 1D6.  So after losing a stand, which morale should I use?  I used the original morale of "4" since it was a "4" when it lost the stand.  Any thoughts on this?

Brazen Americans on the left advance up to the hamlet.

The British consolidate their line.

THe Guards lose a stand!

The 11th Mass evaporates, it's men headed for home.  (used their Disorganized morale as they started the turn with 3 stands).  Also - I did not use the "fallback" rules for failing a morale check.

The first and only bayonet charge of the game, successfully carried out by a British Battalion.  They pass their pre-charge MC and charge home - the American Milita fail theirs and make a full move to the rear, ignoring terrain penalty roll.

 With the disappearance of the 11th Mass, and the milita pushed out of the forest in the center, the British have excellent positioning with their forces and the day looks almost within their grasp.  The British commander faces an interesting choice - charge the left, or continue to trade volleys with the Colonials hoping they'll break first?

The RA finally getting into the fight.  Their section sets up to guard the British right from a marauding American battalion.

militia trade volleys with the British infantry.

The British commander chooses to trade volleys - a sure bet given the Guards hold the left.  Or is it?

The protracted firefight sees the British lose another stand in each formation on the left, forcing a morale check each, which they both fail, followed by the Americans losing a stand as well, taking a morale check, and failing this seemed a little "hokey" to me with both sides leaving the fight simultaneously.  the picture immediately below sums up the situation.  The red dice mark locations of units prior to their exit...

What the hell happened???  British General in the field, quite alone.

With the sudden collapse of British morale on the left, the battle seems like it could sway in favor of the Americans.  The British still have 2 strong Battalions along with artillery on the table at this point.

The remnants of the converged light battalion are annihilated by heavy fire and the other Massachusetts regiment moves in for the kill.

Final dispostions.  The British hold the center, the Americans hold the flanks.  Both sides disengaged - the battle was a draw?

Initial Thoughts:

This game was lots of fun and more importantly, simple!  I did note a few observations throughout this blog post that I thought I could re-post here:

Movement Markers: Would have been helpful to have movement markers from the start - this way I can more easily remember which units have moved and which remained stationary.

Morale Check Markers: That's another thing - playing solo it's easy to forget which units need to take MC's.  For the most part, I could remember this but if  I played a more significant battle, I'm not sure I would have remembered, especially with 20 Battalions on a side.

Consider movement all in inches: Playing with centimeters really opens the table up but it makes the game feel slow.  While not playing with splendid 28mm figures, I think 15mm figures can handle inches for movement.  6mm or 10mm may be another story.

Consider one side moves completely, then another side moves completely: For solo play, this dragged the game on.  So while I like the alternating formations, it would have been alot quicker if I could have just move all the Colonials, then all the Brits, depending on the initiative.

Morale Checks for Shooting: When a unit loses a stand, they must pass a morale check during the morale phase.  Which morale do they use?  A 4 stand unit has "regular" morale and passes on a 4+.  Suppose they lose a stand.  Do they check with the "disorganized" morale?  I say, for that turn, they use the morale they started with but is that too complicated?  Looking for suggestions!  Help!

What happens when you fail a morale check?  So Darren ran into this same question.  When a unit loses a Morale Check - does it simply "go away" as happened in my game?  Or does the unit fall back 1 move?  Well, my militia here who lost their pre charge/melee morale check moved 1 full move to the rear and I think that sounds reasonable. What happened to the Guards and the crack 1st Maryland was probably not reasonable, but both sides retiring after a firefight is plausible and I can deal with that easier than seeing both sides completely evaporate!

Chain of Command: I liked trying to force a cohesion distance between battalions or a command radius for all battalions.  So you could either remain 12 centimeters from the boss, or you could maintain 6cm from another battalion.  Terrain did not always cooperate with this scheme but the neat thing about that is it forces you to consider alternate formations for your units.  Still, units maintaining flank contact (plus or minus 6cms) makes the game "look" more accurate, especially with units of the same brigade.

I completely forgot the Duc's idea of attached leaders cancelling out 1 hit, which is a splendid idea because the hits represent more of the morale effects on the units as opposed to purely casualties.

All in all, this was a fun game and one I'm keen to revisit and re-tool.  If anyone has ideas, feel free to chime in.


  1. Wow - excellent analysis. I'll try to hit each of your observations with some initial thoughts. (My points are WAY out of sequence - it's late here lol)

    It struck me that leaders could actually help make a difference here:
    If the unit is inside the command radius it:
    1) falls back instead of disintegrating
    2) rolls its initial morale when losing a stand (4+ rather than 5+)

    This may add a little complexity that we have to note that units 'out of command' will disintegrate more easily (are lost rather than fall back) and are more difficult to have pass morale checks (hit 5+ sooner).

    As the battle intensifies, units get more spread out and fall back/advance etc. and commanders find it more difficult to coordinate them (I'm thinking Cowpens again actually).

    This could easily change the nature and relative importance of the commanders - and certainly for the corps level rules you are considering, could be a nice mechanic too.

    Alternate movement is definitely easier with two players, but could be an alternate rule of course. We found that the move - countermove activity really got quite exciting - though of course we had an attack defence game, so there was a greater propensity for the defender to 'pass'. This also meant that it was easier to gauge who had moved - so take your point about markers for more dynamic games.

    I use little cottonballs for indicators - and used red for casualties, though green/amber could be used for morale checks/movement etc.

    Of course, the alternate movement could be used by 'brigade' instead, which would give a similar dynamic - or, tying in with the command ideas above, by 'command', where the units are moved alternately by those who are within the commander's radius (obviously need multiple brigade leaders here).

    So those units in command move as per command radius - player 1 then player 2. FInally, units which are out of command can make their moves alternately. This will most likely be to try and move back into command radius - before they fail a morale check and disintegrate.

    (Tell me if this idea is mad)
    This would of course explain the disintegration of the two units simultaneously that you had - in that if the commander was elsewhere, focusing on another battalion, the two units would have been saving their own skins after taking a battering, and their effectiveness would 'melt' - thus removing them from the fight.

    1. I will read over all your points and comment on them tomorrow over coffee!

      Also I'm glad you mentioned the Corps level rules as well. I'm starting to think about a sequence of play for Corps level rules where a stand is a Battalion.

      Command and Control are very important and there must be penalties associated with falling outside of it. Your idea of allowing unit disintegration if outside is fascinating and worth play-testing.

      I think alternate movement is a great way to go as it is the only way to allow "simultaneous" movement. I'd like to keep it in the game as it adds an exciting element to game play.

      I think anything and everything are on the table for playtesting now - so no idea is too crazy.

      Okay, more thoughts on this in the morning. I would like to play another game, perhaps a SYW game with my whopping 4 Austrian Battalions and 3 Prussian ones!

  2. Oh yes - and I'm now inspired to finish by 28mm AWI.
    I won't tell you my speed painting technique for them yet. It's embarrassing...but there's a lot of inkwashing involved.

    1. Darren,
      The game you played of Muskets & Mayhem looked wonderful with those figures you used. I can only imagine what the AWI game will look like with 28s! If these rules work out, I could be convinced to build a 28mm force...even though that's the last thing I need right now - a new scale!