Sunday, October 21, 2018

QUATRE BRAS with ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL!

Alex was over last night for a test game of ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL [click] , which is a "grand tactical" variant of Mr Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames rules.  We played scenario 12 from the OHW book "Surprise Attack" which is based off of the battle of Quatre Bras from the Waterloo campaign.  For the first game, I played the French under Marshall Ney, and Alex played the Allies under Wellington.  This led to me saying at the end of almost all my turns, "your move, Wellington."

We each chose a "special" extra unit.  So we diced for the usual Neil Thomas order of battle for 6 x units, but got to choose an additional unit.  I was already "blessed" with the OOB for having 2 x Artillery batteries, so I chose a unit of the Old Guard.  Alex wisely chose a skirmisher detachment of the 95th Rifles/South Essex!  We can only hope Sean Bean was in command.

Looking towards the village of Quatre Bras from the French stepping off point.  Field is 3' by 3'
The French start with the initiative for the game.  So on turn 1 they start but we contested it every other turn, with the reacting player needing to beat the die roll by "2" to steal the initiative away.

French stepping off from the road onto the attack.  Note the cavalry moving to the right 

French Brigades deploying for battle!  Ney directs the brigades personally!
 Alex uses a tried and true tactic for this scenario and retrogrades his Dutch forces back towards the crossroads with French brigades of D'Erlon's Corps hot on their heels.

Dutch Brigades falling back towards the village crossroads - note the artillery firing at the French down the road

Beginning of Turn 2.  Alex has fired his artillery at my cavalry who are crossing in the open.  French Cavalry has a casualty marker on it.
 Turn 2, my artillery runs out of ammo and needs to resupply.  Ugh!  I can scarcely afford to spare an order on artillery resupply but I need the guns to capture the village.

Red X is my out of ammo marker for the battery.
 End of turn 2, French Brigade under D'Erlon begins skirmishing with the Dutch forces on the outskirts of Quatre Bras.  The sounds of battle begin to escalate and Ney attaches to a Brigade to get extra reinforcements up to the town ASAP.

The Corps Commander's fight!  Getting these brigades into position and placing his artillery!

Cavalry having a tough time getting around Gemioncourt and my French Brigades are still shaking out to get at the Dutch.
 The French spend an order on resupplying the Battery and the artillery is ready for action now.
EN AVANT!

I dither for a few turns and just am not getting the orders to do what I need to do.  Meanwhile my Brigades are starting to get into trouble with the Dutch.  This has to stop and soon!  Beginning of Turn 6, the Dutch under Wellington's command steal the initiative from the French so in a sense, get 2 turns back-to-back.  It couldn't have come at a worse time!

Turn 6  Wellington steals the initiative away from Ney.

My Brigades getting "stuck in" while the Artillery just watches...
 
Lower left Brigade has 6 hits and is in trouble.  Alex is doing a great job of keeping them at bay.  Some good shooting drives off the Dutch Artillery Battery!  At least something goes the French's way!

Some hard shooting from the center Brigade knocks out the Dutch Artillery.  Thank heavens!

Ney heads back and grabs the artillery commander to get up into the fight.
 Heavy combat on the French left as a Brigade under D'Erlon melts away from solid Dutch shooting.  One facet of ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL is your shooting strength never diminishes even if your physical strength does.  Physical strength points are extremely important in melee and for the overall health of the force but brigades will mostly be able to issue fires well.

The left-most brigade is about to be annihilated.
 My center brigade goes in, in support.  The "good" news about the left most brigade being destroyed is it opens up a fire lane for my battery to shoot.  They whittle down the Dutch even more and my center brigade close assaults.  Timing in ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL is up to you with the more loose sequence of play.

You are sequencing things, so staff work is important!  Alex and I noted that we were constantly making decisions about the main effort and centers of gravity.

Center Brigade goes into the attack with artillery firing in support.  It's gratifying progress but I'm not where I need to be and Alex's reinforcements (the British) are almost here.

The Dutch scatter!

You would be forgiven for thinking things were going the French way right now.
  There are 2 French Brigades in the vicinity of the crossroads with a Dutch Brigade stubbornly hanging on.  My Cavalry is quickly approaching from their flank march, also.  In ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL, you can "MARCH" your units and add an additional D6 of movement.  Alex and I discussed at-length the ramifications this would have for units and the outcome of the game, especially regarding the "cost" of marching.
Finishing off the Dutch - or at least trying to.
 At this point, with no "fresh" Brigades in sight, I throw in the Guard!  [click here to watch the video]  Truth be told, I should have committed them right away, but I kept them in an operational reserve.

Guard in the lower-center of picture moving up.
 Alex's reinforcements march in in the form of the British cavalry and the Rifles.  Alex positions them very well to take advantage of cover and still threaten the lead French Brigades.  They're a great covering force while the British units get into position.  It was great to see you making "real" decisions about the timing and deployment of units IE screening forces, fire lanes and battery deployments.

The Guard marching up the road

The fight at the crossroads heats up.  We can still win this thing!

Alot resting on the shoulders of the troops at the Crossroads now!  The Cavalry is almost spent (they get 5 points) and the infantry, too.  
 It's SUPER important to note here that I totally forgot about writing in the RALLY order.  Which I most certainly used during the Talavera game.

 If a Brigade rolls a 4+ on a 1D6, they may rally off 1 hit.  If they roll a "6" they rally off 2 hits.  It's a vital order and can keep your units in the fight much longer.  Alex asked the question as the Dutch brigade withered assault after assault.  I'm embarrassed that I forgot it!!!  Alex starts rallying off the Dutch hits as the British get into position behind them.  Attached commanders lend a +1 to the rally, also.

Try as they might, the French were never able to winkle out that Dutch unit.



And just like that, there were more French regulars in the fight!



 Turn 9 I roll a "6" for initiative and I know this is it!  I've captured the initiative!  It's all good unless Alex rolls a 6....

Alex rolls a 6, too.  The British still have the initiative for this turn.
 The only hope now rests on my Guard and the artillery to punch through.  The Guard is charged by the impetuous British cavalry! [click to watch the video here]




British line units under Picton move into position.

Wellington moves to rally the Dutch.  I never could rid myself of this Brigade!

Wellington spends the rest of this battle rallying the Dutch, who gave a good account of themselves.


 Alex wins by a comfortable margin with all of my French units wiped out.  In retrospect, I should have moved in a more concerted and supportive manner.  I left my artillery behind which was foolhardy.  Additionally, the Cavalry should have been closer to the action directly behind the advancing infantry and artillery.

We switch sides and play a second time and Alex uses this exact same strategy keeping the infantry mutually supporting.  He also wisely uses his Cavalry to screen the advance.  In ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL, re-positioning a Brigade, pivoting in wargame terms, eats up half of your movement.  Alex chose to speed his Brigades into position and to protect their flanks, used his Cavalry to guard the road on which the British would show up.  It's a great move and it takes me a long time to knock that Cavalry unit out of position.

Alex taking over as Ney.  I'm on my way to Paris to meet the guillotine.  
During these 2 x games, we codified the role of the commanders and the mechanics of how they function on the battlefield, which is more as markers than as units.  They bestow a free order onto any unit they are with, as well as a modifier when rallying.

The fire combat aspect works very well, and I believe the close combat / assault aspect also works very well.  Scenario-dependent, most infantry brigades will be allowed to fire 1 "skirmish die" at 2 base widths, and 3 "volley dice" at 1 base width.  In honesty, your most valuable tool are your infantry brigades, who assault with great power if you've conserved them well enough.  They can run out of steam quickly, though, so combat power needs to be shepherded for the decisive blow.  Most infantry brigades will start a battle with 7 strength points and if going into assault at full strength will assault with 7 dice!  That's very powerful.

Artillery is potent and very powerful but cannot be unsupported with only 3 strength points, as they can be driven off by a single brigade or skirmisher detachment easily.  Cavalry, too, should be used appropriately as they only have 5 strength points.  Cavalry is blown rather quickly after a charge and so they should be committed to assaulting to break through an already weak unit.

Alex and I didn't play with GO STATIONARY but we did "try" it as an experiment and it would have been lethal on the attacker.  So GO STATIONARY is a useful tool for holding a position as well.  It enables you as the defender to fire a 3 dice volley at the enemy prior to close combat even starting.  If you roll well, this could be a huge boon to your defense and might just turn the tide in the combat.  It also makes rooting out troops in cover that much tougher as the attacker loses a die against units in cover.  Make sure you have the artillery when assaulting troops in cover...

Additionally, we discussed the MARCH order at great length.  If using a MARCH order, your brigade is sacrificing safety in the interest of speed and it will take a turn to "reform" into combat formations.  Some units will be better than others at this (IE French over 1806 Prussians).  Units utilizing a MARCH order cannot enter into combat on the turn they march.  Still working out the particulars of this, but as-played it gave Alex and I much flexibility on the tabletop.

These games showed some great strengths and nuances of the rules and we will definitely play them again.  I feel they should work well within the confines of Neil Thomas' scenarios, as well as for "open" play, however with some adjustments for orders if using a historical OOB.  There could even be more commanders / Aides markers on the table to enable even more flexibility.

Many readers have commented on a small, fixed number of orders based on the commander's talents and abilities.  So perhaps a solid French commander rates 2+1D6 for orders, while the Prince of Orange only rates 1D6.  Personally I love this especially for adding flavor to an order of battle.

The game gave a great time and I can't wait to play it again.  Already looking forward to applying it to more linear, 18th century games especially the Seven Years War and the American War for Independence.  Alex timed our second game and despite a small intrusion from rain, we were pretty much at 1 solid hour to play out the entire game.  Mission accomplished!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to go paint Orcs!

11 comments:

  1. Fantastic report. Loved the action. I can see how stationary troops would be devastating too ( a bit like V&B but worse!).
    Very nice set. Forgive me, but I was reading your comments on the rules again thinking how apt they would be for AWI - having just watched the Little Wars TV Princeton game.

    Do you think the rules would also work for small unit AWI actions, with a little tweaking?

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    1. Absolutely, Darren. I think they'd be ideal for small unit actions with the AWI. Units could equal battalions. I would make leaders even more important however, and somehow introduce a mechanic to make "lines" important and useful. (a DBA like mechanic with units within an inch of each other getting a free order, something like that, also receiving a bonus die for support?).

      I think these would be great for AWI/SYW and I'm thinking of trying them for that. I have suggestions on the OHWGT rules page for using them for SYW/AWI. Let me know what you think.

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    2. 'Brigade/Division Movement: Units “supporting” or starting turn within 1” of a unit that receives an order may move free (without an order of their own)...'
      This is very period suited and does force units to stay close, although as with other sets, first contact will create smaller units which have to be managed.

      'Command: Units within Command Distance may re-roll failed rallying attempts.'
      Perhaps for AWI - commander might have to be in contact for this.

      'No Skirmish Fire allowed from units – There are only Light Skirmishers Detachments who serve a skirmish function.'
      Yes - this works well for skirmishers and riflemen - though range would have to be advantageous, and morale - though would be brittle if meleed.

      There might also be rules that force British to bayonet charge - while simultaneously making the morale/staying power of American units more random. Again the command roll might help thi 6+d6 vs 2d6 or similar for activation.


      Going back to the lines issue - in Steiner's Field of Battle variant for Marlburian, he reduced a dice if units were nt within a friendly line when they moved/fired. Perhaps if two units are within a BW, they could be issued a single order or something like that. Hence - 12 units at the start of the battle might only need 6 orders, depending on their position. As they get separated, it becomes harder to manage them.

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    3. Awesome, Darren! Thank you for the insight and ideas. I love it. Already brainstorming for the linear SYW version. Think Leuthen or Lobositz refights! Or for AWI Brandywine or Freeman's Farm!

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  2. Excellent - I love a game narrative in which a defender is just about hanging on and both sides feel the 'one more turn' mantra in the belief that victory is almost at hand. Quatre Bras is of course the scenario for a tight fight.

    For MARCH mode, would it be worth considering a restriction to the effect that when in march mode (i.e. totally vulnerable) the unit cannot move closer than (say) a charge move from any enemy unit. It would tend to keep March mode as a strategic formation and be useful when units enter as reinforcements, but they will be under pressure to shake out into a combat formation when getting within charge proximity of an enemy.

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    1. Thanks Norm it was definitely tense (the first game- the second game was a jailbreak. My defense fell completely apart and the French walked into Quatre Bras through the front door :)

      Love the ideas keep them coming.

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  3. OK, I was present for all this [except for tehe 10-minute rain delay while I covered my jeep! Thanks to Steve's wonderful wife for mentioning it to me!] so I have a biased opinion. That being said...

    I think Steve's got the right "One-Hour Wargames" feel, at the right fighting level, and it gels really well with the scenarios in the book. This is one of the hardest parts of understanding OHW, and it's basically set.

    I think this level of battle, with a "Unit" being a brigade of a few thousand men is a sweet spot for OHW scenarios and simple mechanics. The most telling thing about the game is that Steve and I constantly felt like we were Division / Corps commanders managing a battle and making the necessary decisions, not a wargamer managing lots of game mechanics, charts and rules. The use of the General's marker accentuates the "you are there" feeling.

    This is yet another design concept vindication for Neil Thomas - simpler rules results in a MORE REALISTIC game than one with lots of details and complex mechanics.

    So kudos to Steve for comprehending and pushing for it. I look forward to future games, and I look forward to re-visiting my ACW brigade Unit rules also thanks to his enthusiasm.

    And I'm not just saying all this because he let me win.
    ;)

    To answer the Duc, I actually think this is not quite the rules for a battalion game - the AmRev is most interesting with lots of subtle differentiation of infantry, which we didn't really do much of. I DO think it would be just fine for big 7YW and other tricorne battles.

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    1. Damn well said, Alex. I could not have said better! Although i have to say i was soundly beaten both times in those games, and game 2 was a steamroller!

      I am really looking forward to playing more, especially the SYW battles IE the age of Frederick and big AWI battles like Brandywine where units are Regiments.

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    2. Yes understood - and perhaps not enough grainy variability at battalion level.
      I still get to do Brandywine and Monmouth though :)

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  4. Sure, I do think that it could be scaled down to a brigade that is more like 1-2,000 Soldiers, from the 4,000 plus of a Napoleonic Brigade. So Monmouth, Brandywine, Whiteplains, Long Island...Plains of Abraham, etc. I think that a Battalion / Regiment game is a different animal, or at least what gamers want from it is different from what ECtB is doing.

    I think it would be easier to scale it up to a Division per Unit, however. the ranges would get a little shorter, and the 2-3 brigades would be somewhat "chained" together as a unit.

    But I think that a Brigade for a simple game is a sweet spot. If we take a Division to be 2-3 Brigades, and a Corps to be 2-3 Divisions, we end up with between 4-9 Brigades in a corps, which is quite manageable for a player - Steve and I played 7 Units each in one hour, and I think we could easily manage a full-sized Corps of 8 Infantry and 2-4 supporting Artillery and Cavalry units. That makes the game playable by several people making up an entire wing of or key fighting of a battle.

    I think the ACW will fit easily into this scale and complexity level.

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    1. Yes, sounds like it would make an excellent and very manageable multi player game. Would suit Gettysburg or similar with 2-3 players a side, and perhaps more manageable than some of the other multi-player sets - with focus on play rather than rules flipping.

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