Simple Wargaming - Simplicity in Practice
No rest for the weary as I find myself in the enviable position of having "too many games" to write about!
I've already played 4 total games in this little experiment so far, with Mr Neil Thomas' "Simplicity in Practice" being the third. I played the same scenario from One Hour Wargames' "Fighting Retreat" #20 that was featured last week. This is a nail biter of a scenario and one that lends itself to testing multiple aspects of a rules set, with fire, maneuver and assault coming into play. On the backfoot, the defending player (red) will really need to use his resources smartly and actively to stave off a blue victory. Likewise, the attacker enjoys a +2 unit advantage, but cannot "dilly dally" in getting to the enemy quickly to take the hill. The red player can naturally intervene to thwart the attackers plans, and is advised to do so! "Simplicity in Practice" is an extremely appropriate rules set for this experiment from the namesake alone, and a set of rules I have always enjoyed (and only played solo). These rules come from issue 23 of "Battlegames Magazine" published in what I believe was 2010, and are available for download for the tidy sum of $3.75 from Wargame Vault. (take it from me, pick this up to read his logic behind the rules, and while you're at it, pick up issue 22 as well where Mr Thomas introduces this project).
Mr. Thomas set out to prove that a "simple" and more minimal set of rules could be historically sound and did not necessarily need to be simplistic. He publishes first his design objectives and paramters in the previous edition, and then his rules in issue 23 (along with the justifying notes he is so famous for in his books). I think he achieved his aim! There is much abstracted in SiP, but not nearly as much as there is in One Hour Wargames, and those wargamers looking for more "Texture" or "detail" or "meat" would be well served to give this hidden gem a try. (there are also plenty of variants in the "Ancients & Medieval" Neil Thomas group on Groups.IO you can download for free, but I highly recommend purchasing the PDF so you can read Mr Thomas' thoughtful logic behind his decisions). Spoiler alert - I like these rules alot although I do think many factors have to come together to pull a successful attack off. Out of all of the SiP games I've played, including a big Peninsula one a number of years ago, the defender always won. Fighting Retreat....Again!
Same old story - an Austrian raid into Silesia. A Prussian counter stroke and Von Scwherin is getting tired of the routine and taking the same old hill.In SiP the movement is in centimeters and the units move more slowly than in One Hour Wargames. Both sides will have this going against them, as the Austrians race for the hill, and the Prussians race to cross the river and deploy to capture the hill.
|Austrians clear the river with the Prussians hot on their heels!|
Prussian Left on turn 2 striking for the bridge at high speed!
This time I planned the Prussian crossing much better, trying to anticipate the turns, leaving space behind the turning battalions, and also planning where the attacks should "go in" , hence turning all 3 battalions at the precise location they'd need to go straight at the Austrians. It actually shaved a turn of fiddling around in front of the hill like last time I played this.
Prussian Lights painted by Phil Kearnan - the Infantry Battalion behind them was painted by yours truly
Prussian River Crossing - with Precision!
Note the Austrian line forming up ahead. The Cavalry can shoot!Like usual, the Austrians attempt to use their cavalry as a battering ram again to spoil the Prussian attacks however these rules give you incentive to have supports within 10cm! The Prussians supporting their Light Battalion contribute to the combat. So much so that the Austrian Dragoons are sent packing with 2 Demoralization points! (units are knocked out once they reach 4 DPs).
The Austrians are almost at the hill.
Action on the left heating up! The skirmishers are harassing the Austrian gunners
|Turn 9 and Von Schwerin's noose is tightening around the Austrians!|
|The Austrian "last stand" is shaping up. They've moved everyone back to the hill|
|The final battle for the hill!|
A protracted firefight breaks out along the line and while the Prussians can spare the bodies, they cannot spare any time. The game ends with the hill contested and an Austrian Battalion still atop, with 2 x Prussian Battalions. Von Schwerin's men fall back to reorganize.
Well this was an Austrian Victory (2 x times over using SiP). There are a few things that happened which contributed to the Prussian loss.
Turning costs half movement for COI and so my Prussian Infantry Brigade on the right with 3 Battalions took a long time to get itself into position to attack the hill. Like in all of the other games, the Austrians reached the hill with their battalions on time. The Prussian manuevering took time to set up an attack on the hill. With a 15 turn time limit, they were hard pressed to get moving and Von Schwerin was not pleased. All of these maneuvers cost the Prussians dearly in terms of time. The final assaults against the hill see the Prussians eliminate an Austrian Battalion for the cost of one of their own, however the Austrians still contest the hill at the end of the game! Perhaps one more turn? Or 4 more turns, more appropriately. I wonder if the battlefield was reduced to accomodate the shorter SiP movement rates, the result may have been different? I continued playing and the Prussians knocked out the final Austrian battalion on turn 18. and so it took literally 3 more turns past turn 15 to "win."
How did the game play? I have to say that I did not feel as if anything was missing from this game. The rules presented me with everything I needed to know in order to play, and after about 3 turns I was playing from memory again. I know from reading other blogs, that there are probably things missing from the rules (NT's signature on all his rules is to leave some things out...), but I found them to play very smoothly and to have a different feeling than both OHW and his 4 base rules from his other books. readers of this blog know how much I enjoy NT's 4 x base rules and his WWII rules from "Wargaming: An Introduction", "Napoleonic Wargaming", and "Ancient & Medieval Wargaming."
These rules have plenty of dice rolling (opportunities, not buckets), and present a great challenge to a commander. I thoroughly enjoyed "planning" the Prussian advance against the hill, and the Austrian race to get there first. I had to figure out the best possible places and times to turn the battalions, and also set up fire support properly - your artillery is a great asset but it's easy to overlook it since your Close Order Infantry are very powerful. The Questions! OKay onto the Simplicity Questions! How Long did the game take to play? 1 hour almost on the button for 1 game. What was the scenario? Scenario #20 fighting retreat....Redux! What happened? This is addressed in the battle report above but if I had to sum it up in one (run-on) sentence? The Austrians slowly retreated to the hill, harassing the advancing Prussians while the Prussians tried in vain to deploy as quick as they could to assault the hill, resulting in a Prussian loss. Who Won? Why? The Austrians won because the hill was still contested at games' end. I attribute this to slower movement and the 50% reduction (in centimeters!) of movement when turning. Realistic? Yes, I believe so, but some thought would have to be put into the time limit if trying to use the One Hour Wargames scenarios. Perhaps 18 turns or a random roll to end the game after 15. Either way, your movement in SiP is 4" per Close Order Infantry unit, with OHW scenarios built for units with 6" movement. You lose 2" per turn and so for scenarios with a time limit or restriction, the turns might have to be adjusted to compensate? Did You Enjoy the Game? Yes. I am a bit biased because SiP calls for single-based units stands and I love single-based units. This game had the perfect amount of simplicity (it had better with a name like Simplicity in Practice!) and texture. More "meat on the bones" than One Hour Wargames, but not too much complexity where I'm flipping through rules (impossible because the rules are all on one page). I have to think more about why the defender has always lost in my games, but that could be my lack of skill and intelligence rather than a defect in the rules. I'm anxious to hear everyone's thoughts on that. I know there are ample AARs on SiP out there. Advanced Questions HOw many consultations occurred with the rules? Early on I had to check for the melee modifiers and process a few times but eventually had them memorized. Details and Chrome that's Missing (In my humble opinion) Leadership / Orders SiP is ripe for tinkering. I would love to see leadership on the table with maybe the ability to rally or even "push" units to move further. You could potentially add in command and control to these rules and have some kind of an orders-based system, like we did with EAGLES CHEAPER THAN BRAIN CELLS. Rallying Could be that it's beyond the scope of the rules, but the ability to rally off "demoralisation points" would be appreciated and might see the attacker have more of a fighting chance to win. FInal Thoughts SiP really hits a sweet spot for me and is always a fun game. It's easily overlooked because it's not "on the shelf" with its sister wargame rules, being somewhat hidden in Battlegames Magazine. The nature of firing and melee make it a bit more unpredictable (how DP's are scored and the melee modifiers are genius in my humble opinion).
The defender always winning thing "irks" me a bit and I want to get to the bottom of why that always happens. I believe the rules impart just the right amount of Horse and Musket "period flavor" to be really somewhere in between NOrm's "simple simple" and "simple meaty" description. I hope you can tell they've scored high with me, and I will play more SiP this coming year. Okay, next up is the one you've all been waiting for, and one of my absolute favorites - the ever popular rules you've never heard of unless you've read my blog - "EAGLES CHEAPER THAN BRAIN CELLS" Napoleonic Grand Tactical rules, which Alex and I co-developed and available for a price you can't refuse (the click of a mouse - see above). Worth mentioning here that we have worked on bringing it into the 18th Century and I've played a few games of EAGLES with SYW troops. Those gave excellent games and I'm tinkering with them to do an AWI variant as well. The engine "was" based on the One Hour Wargames model but modified with lots of chrome to where you are getting a really solid grand tactical rules set that gives a very exciting, tense, memorable and enjoyable game, and still delivers very satisfying results.