If you've been following my blog of late, I've become enamored with Hex gaming using miniatures on the tabletop and Norm Smith's outstanding "Tigers at Minsk" really scratched the itch for me for WWII gaming so I thought I'd try and peer into the vast black hole of Napoleonic grand-tactical wargaming with hexes.
Last night i threw some forces on the table reminiscent of the 1809 campaign. An small Austrian Division is blocking a road. The French need to open the road. Austrians have 2 "regiments" and an artillery battery along with their commanding general who has been given modest forces in an attempt to slow down the French steamroller.
The French have a brigade of elites, along with 3 infantry brigades, a light cavalry brigade, a battery of artillery and 2 officer stands.
The battle opens at the 11:00 hour and the French advance!
|French Artillery opens up a cannonade on the Austrians while their infantry boldly advance across the fields.|
The game turns open with the active player attempting to lose disorder/blown, and change formation with a command roll on a D10. Better troops have a better chance of passing. Worse troops, less chance. In this game, all troops were regulars with a value of "7" to beat or less on the command roll. Officers give you a -1 to the die roll to help out.
|The infantry cannot assault this turn as they advanced in the regular movement phase in line!|
My unfamiliarity with the rules enables some rash decision and my converged grenadiers advance right up to the muzzle of the Austrians but since they moved in line, cannot attack (had they passed their command roll in the beginning of the turn, they'd have been able to move into columns and assault in their own phase!). The opening of the Austrian turn sees muskets leveled (or lowered?) and a deadly volley unleased at the Grenadiers, who take a "heavy casualty" and retreat 2 hexes, disordered.
|My elites on the left fail their command roll again and are disordered as well as beginning to accumulate heavy casualty markers now. You do not want to roll high on that D10!|
|11:28am - I love the timed turns using cards to advance the clock! Like Tigers at Minsk, the clock really adds an element of realism to the game.|
|Thundering hooves and sabers raised - but is it enough to dislodge the white coats?|
|The Austrians successfully form square and my cavalry passes their command test but bounces back "blown" and "disordered"|
I played the square withdrawing, disordered, 1 hex and still remaining in square formation. I couldnt find where the rules addressed this situation (that doesn't mean they dont. It's been a long, tiring week).
|12:06pm and the Austrians are stubbornly holding on. My elites will be fully reconstituted and "rallied" at 12:28pm so they're not ready yet. that green D10 rolled 9 4 turns in a row so I got rid of it....|
|2 Austrian "Regiments" facing the French.|
Something else interesting happened - my Austrian artillery goes out of ammo (rolled a "1" on their firing which forces the out of ammo test, then they rolled another "1"). Then they're assaulted on the ground by a French column! What happens to them now?
Anyways I played the French assault out and they scored 1 hit against the Battery, which pushed the battery back, disordered. I know there are rules about running the battery down for cavalry, but what about an infantry assault, and how does the "Out of Ammo" affect the battery's combat?
|Note the stacked cannonballs for "Out of Ammo" for the Austrian guns. The French start to learn the value of their assault columns as well!|
|not sure if this was played out correctly but the battery was disordered and pushed back 1 hex.|
|An Austrian regiment is pushed back to the table edge and the battle is reaching its conclusion!|
|12:26! Almost time for the Grenadiers to be put back into action! (note the 28 on the dice behind the grenadiers) The battle is almost over now as one of the Austrian regiments retreats to the table's edge with 3 heavy casualties|
|I desperately want to attempt to set up a "Flank Attack" but the proximity rules don't allow yet! The flank attack allows the attacker 2 extra dice but there has to be a 1 hex separation between attackers, with no additional adjacent defenders.|
|Red Dice are "heavy casualties" and the yellow beads are disorder markers.|
|The final French assault masses and the Austrians are pushed off the table by another French assault column. The Austrians call it quits!|
A very satisfying game that has the right amount of period feel to it. There are some concepts you have to wrap your head about early on, but ultimately, Eagles at Quatre Bras is a simple, fun, and very challenging game. Even though you're in command, things happen that are out of your control, and you have to plan to mitigate the bad things that can happen when your plan doesn't come off as expected.
I like how assaults/combat are handled with units conducting their "combats" while adjacent and artillery and rifle armed skirmishers being the only units that have ranged fire.
I also like how there are technically no facings to fiddle with, however you can pull off a flank attack on an enemy if you set it up correctly. The methodology for cavalry charges and assaults is simply brilliant in my opinion. Cheers to Norm for developing a novel set of Napoleonic rules that captures the spirit of the era and the challenges that the commanders faced. Here's my list of things that I really enjoyed about the game:
Time clock. I love that the turns are anywhere from 8 to 60 minutes long, and probably closer to 25 minutes. I also love that some unit statuses (artillery resupply and some unit rallying) are tied to the game clock, which makes it relevant to the commanders and not just a novelty.
Usefulness of Formations. Players are rewarded for using their formations correctly.
Simplicity of combat. The D6 methodology, which is very similar to Tigers at Minsk, is lovely and refreshingly simple. Also the hit against the attacker for rolling a 1 is nice. Makes the game much more suitable for solitaire gamers like me.
Narrative. The ebb and flow of the combats, with units routinely being pushed back and "heavy casualties" being somewhat rare, really makes for a tense and exciting game that produces a narrative like a battle report would read.
once again, my hat's off to Norm. Please make a Seven Years War supplement!