Thursday, August 27, 2020

Simple Wargame #4: Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells SYW Edition

 Simple Wargaming - "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells"

Admittedly I'm running a little late in my posting as this game was played last weekend.  A weekend that featured a gaming double header with mutliple "simple" wargames including another game of my "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" Grand Tactical Horse & Musket game, and a game of Worthington Publishing's "Hold the Line" American Revolutionary war board game but played with my 15mm AWI minis.  (Hold the Line) will be another post, as this one is all about addressing "the questions" for "Eagles..."

Scenario 2 - Pitched Battle!

The battlefield.  The Prussians must capture the hill and hold the crossroads.  

Tough looking troops!  The Austrians have dedicated 2 infantry regiments and a battery of guns to hold the hill.

Prussian infantry ready to advance!

It's important to note that I played this with my single-based Seven Years War 10mm forces and NOT Napoleonics (which Eagles was originally made for). I thought it was a nice time to show off the single based units since I've been talking up the concept so much lately.

There were 3 easy-peasy mods used - infantry were "sluggish" meaning no pre-move turn.  All turns had to be completed at the end of movement.  Also the Prussians got their volley fire rule, meaning if they were ordered, they fired with an extra die.  The Austrians were "resolute" meaning if they were assaulted and retained an order, they could use it in the assault combat.

This is a "set piece" engagement with multiple objectives - the hill and the crossroads.  Winner holds both by the end of turn 15.  The Austrians (red player) hold the initiative.

The Prussian Battery and a single Regiment hold the crossroads - meanwhile the Prussian Dragoons ride out to meet the Austrian Dragoons!

The Prussians start the battle leaving their artillery battery which can range the table, and an infantry regiment to guard the crossroads.  They set out with 3 infantry regiments to assault the hill.

Similarly, the Austrians set a detachment aside to capture the crossroads consisting of 2 x infantry regiments and their cavalry (dragoons).  Both sides rolled the same amount of units:

4 infantry regiments, 1 dragoon squadron, 1 artillery battery.

Both sides score low for orders initially with the Prussians outscoring the Austrians and moving their infantry up to the hill on a march order.  The cavalry will meet in the middle and do what cavalry does - charge!

The Prussian Cavalry riding to meet the Austrian cavalry!

The Prussians are starting to regret leaving a token detachment at the crossroads as 2 Austrian regiments bear down on them. Meanwhile, the hill confers cover for the defenders (Austrians) and Prussian fire is 1 less D6 effective. One of the Austrian volleys against the Prussians scores 3 out of 3 possible hits, leaving the Prussians "disorganized" (yellow die).

The yellow die on the left Prussian regiment denotes a "disorganized" regiment that has taken serious casualties.  in this case 3 hits in a 3D6 volley - ouch!  They will fire with 1 less D6 for the rest of the game.

Blue dice are orders.  Note the unit with the commander does not have an orders die as the commander confers a free order.

The Prussian Dragoons are charged by the Austrian Dragoons. Since the Prussians are "ordered" they can countercharge - which they do to good effect. The combat is so violent that both sides are gobbled up in the ensuing cavalry battle.

Dragoon vrs Dragoon combat on turn 4.  Note the significantly reduced strength of the Prussians assaulting the hill.

Austrians are bearing down on the defenders of the crossroads now!

A valiant defense at the crossroads but the Austrians eventually gain the upper hand. 

After some fool hardy assaults, the Prussians smarten up and use volley fire to soften up the Austrians. Their volley fire rule will help by allowing them to negate the Austrian cover advantage on the hill. Meanwhile a knife fight is going on further south as the Austrians assault, fall back, rally, and assault again. The Prussians are holding on by a finger nail.

This reaches an incredible climax when the Austrians, with the initiative, attempt to rally from 6 hits (one more and they're toast), and fail their rally attempt.  The Prussian battery has retained an order and so can fire.  They do so and EVERY SHOT MISSES.  This was probably a defining moment of the game as the Austrians moved in to assault the crossroads and the battery next turn.  Once the Austrians seized the crossroads, victory for the Prussians became impossible.

The Questions!
OKay onto the Simplicity Questions!

How Long did the game take to play?
1 hour and 26 minutes due to the fact that there were only 6 units on a side.  More would have been outstanding.  Eagles takes a bit longer than OHW due to the orders and initiative phases - which are both instrumental to the game.  I have a full complement of medium and heavy cavalry, as well as elite infantry units with plenty more on the painting table.  my aim is to fight a mid-sized battle like Lobositz or Prague with EAGLES and see how that goes.

What was the scenario?
Scenario #2 Pitched Battle from One Hour Wargames.

What happened?  
Prussians assaulted the hill.  Austrians assaulted the crossroads.  The Prussians got the worst of things and should have left more forces to guard their rear area.  

Extraordinary Events
There were many.

The Prussian battery firing a bombardment at close range and hitting absolutely nothing was shocking and opened the door for an Austrian regiment to assault.  Again it was fun watching the steam go out of the Prussians almost entirely at this point.  They lost a Regiment next turn as well at the crossroads.  INteresting how the timing and a few casual decisions made in the beginning of the game regarding the rear-guard at the crossroads sealed the fate of one side completely!  I love this stuff!

The Austrian Dragoons charged the Prussian Dragoons.  The Prussian Dragoons were "ordered" but did not have the initiative and so when charged, they used their order to "counter charge" the Austrian Dragoons.  Both sides then got the extra d6 for "cavalry charging" and both Regiments were destroyed after this round of melee!

The Austrian volley from the hill early-on which disorganized the Prussian Regiment (3 hits - yellow die and a permanent -1 firing dice) was tough to cope with as the Prussians, who needed solid volleys to dislodge their Austrian rivals.

The Prussians literally had the initiative for a single turn - 1 in 15 times!  It just wasn't a good day for the men in the blue coats but this is war.  In EAGLES, one side will start with initiative.  It can only be "stolen" away winning a dice off by 2 at the start of the turn but AFTER you place your orders.  This gambling aspect of the game is fun and makes a difference where you place your orders.  The Austrians kept the initiative for the entire battle which has literally never happened in a game of EAGLES before.

Who Won?  Why?
I briefly discussed this but besides some bad luck, the Prussians made a few bad decisions, including launching numerous foolhardy infantry charges into assault combat against a defender with clear terrain advantage.  This caused a singificant degradation in combat power and ranged fire would have been incredibly more effective.  Also worth mentioning another departure from the Napoleonic game - no skirmish fire.  So the 18th century linear formations must get up close and personal.  Here is where the Prussian additional volley die would have helped - shooting against the defenders on teh hill would have been -1D6, however the Prussians could have negated this with their volley fire rule.

Did You Enjoy the Game?  
Yes very much so.  The EAGLES rules for SYW really capture the flavor of a pitched horse and musket battle and the movement restrictions make planning a much more essential ingredient for the general.  I also loved showing off my single-unit bases and like the "feel" of them in combat, especially for a grand-tactical game like this.

Advanced Questions

HOw many consultations occurred with the rules?
quite a few, actually.  I had to look up a few things regarding firing arc, movement, and assault combat (artillery bombards at 3+ in regular Eagles (SYW modified to 4+ for bombardments) but defends itself in melee at 5+.  I had to confirm this).

It's also worth mentioning here that for the first few turns, I forgot it costs 2 orders to order a unit that is within 1 basewidth of the enemy.  The idea being that these units are decisively engaged and extricating them or making them do things is much harder.  I started doing this at turn 8 again and it made the game tougher on the Prussians, not the Austrians.

Details and Chrome that's Missing  (In my humble opinion)

As Erik pointed out in his Napoleonic Friedland 1807 game, EAGLES has some restrictive movement rules that can cause traffic jams and it's hard to get a unit out of trouble.  He suggested taking a look at how Blucher handles this and I am in the process of doing just that!

Final Thoughts
While EAGLES was made for Napoleonics (think games like Volley and Bayonet, Blucher, and Grande Armee) the slight modifications make it perfect for the more stately, slow nature of battle from the 18th Century.  

Artillery has a slightly reduced effectiveness, and infantry units are not nearly as flexible.  All of these changes were super easy to implement and I loved the effect they produced.  I've been doing much thinking about an AWI variant of EAGLES which will have some departures from the game now but will still retain the excitement of the base game.  Stay tuned for a "Hold the Line" simple wargame report soon!  I also must write up another battle report of Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" but played on my old Squad Leader board with Squad Leader counters - let me tell you that was a match made in heaven with the OP FIRE markers and "Broke" squads on the back side of the counters it really lent itself nicely to TaM play - but it's still not my 15mm minis :)

I hope everyone has had a great week.  I'm ready for some more outstanding simple gaming this weekend! 


  1. Very pleasing to see your 10mm SYW troops out for battle! Single basing works well here and as you know, I am a staunch proponent.

    Very interested in seeing your TaM and HtL replays. Is HtL straight from the 2008 boardgame or is this a later version?

    1. Thanks Jonathan I love the look of the 10mm troops on their bases. The Napoleonic ones I'm working on are even nicer as they are in differing formations on their base.

      The HtL is the "remastered" version of the 2008 release. I'm not sure maybe 2015?

    2. PS Jonathan - I just sent payment to the BGG seller for FOH AWI. The Ebay ones for sale were 40 and 50 dollars with shipping!

    3. FoH AWI: Good news on the BGG purchase. I hope you are not disappointed and find at least something of use therein. If you are disappointed, let me know. I take responsibility in leading you in this direction.

    4. Remastered HtL: I am interesting in seeing what has been remastered. did the rules change?

    5. Jonathan I dont think the rules changed. Mostly the graphics that changed a bit I think I never had the original so I'm not totally sure. Also ko worries re FoH I am an insufferable rules collector and hoarder! All of the responsibility is mine alone!

  2. Steve, nice AAR, the rules seemed to produce a dynamic game that would hold the interest of both sides. With two separate engagements on the table (hill and crossroads), each seemed to have a life of their own and while one could guess which way things would go, the dice systems kept things tense.

    You bases look very nice, a very good balance of numbers, frontage and looking like a formation in line.

    Your extra rules for Eagles seems to be getting the 'lighter' OHW more to a place that pleases you and if I were to take a guess at this stage, it wouldn't surprise me if you examination of simple games for better hobby time falls around this mark.

    1. Thank you Norm the rules definitely gave a good game and im glad I had a chance to break out my 10mm SYW guys on their stands.

      Funny as I'm going through all of the information so far, I'm finding out what I want for myself in a wargame. This has been a valuable exercise for me.

      Also, even though I'm only half through the playtests, I cobbled together a draft of a "white paper" for this whole study. (Much of the data I have coming in supports the themes and has not yet differed). I plan on going back and citing examples with actual game play or comments from the players, commenters, and contributors. I will send you what I've come up with so far. At first glance, youd think these points are obvious, but I cant say as I've ever seen all of these points in one place before.

    2. There is something of an irony that ‘simple’ is such a tough act to write about. Very much looking forwards to how you go about it.

    3. Watch this space, Norm! Also I think simple is tough to pin down because there are such varying degrees of opinion on simplicity. My paper will attempt to narrow that a bit or at least define what it means to us wargamers.

  3. Thanks for a great AAR and the die Gods seemed to have favoured the Austrians in this game. Not that I'm complaining as I play the Austrians in our SYW games. In this period mistakes in deployment are almost impossible to rectify, as I've learnt to my cost many times. I do love the SYW though and your single bases really look great. I must dig out my OHW book and try some of the scenarios as I forget how many interesting challenges there are inside.

    1. Thanks Steve. I do t know what it is about the Prussians lately on my table but they keep losing! Even when I switch attacker and defender.

      Yes I've found that taking the decision lightly as how to deploy the infantry and cavalry can be disastrous if you guess wrong as these armies do not "turn on a dime" so to speak.

      The scenarios from the OHW are very challenging and interesting and I'm realizing that the scenarios and the force builder are some of the most valuable tools in the book. I've played some of the engagements over and over trying to figure out how player red or blue wins.

      I've even played them with other rules sets like Black Powder, Honours of War, etc and they're still very fun and satisfying games.

    2. Most reviews I've read site the scenarios as the best part of the book as, as you say, they work will with so many other rulesets.

  4. Superb stuff.
    These rules produce such a good narrative.
    Your analysis protocol really works Steve. I must use this for every game.
    Speaking of simple rules - have now completed my GDW 'First Battle' collection - so am looking at using AoF style traits and turn clock mechanics in WW2 and modern theatres. Will then use you analysis protocal to analyse results.

    I'll adopt it for the next game too - I have Saratoga almost set up but I think you might get your HtL report out before I do :)

    1. Cheers Darren, hoping to amass more data for the eventual "deliverable" for this project. The questions are meant to get player feedback in a specific way so I can use responses for what I have planned in the pipeline. Very interested to see what you come up with on the first battle front :) I've always had a soft spot for those rules that are the ultimate in simplicity and playability taking a complex topic and boiling it down to where pretty much anyone could pick up a box and take command.

      I'm going to try to play another HtL game this weekend.

  5. Great report and figs look great on the bases - the monobase will also protect the little guys from rough handling.

    I can't remember traffic jamming, but the question is was that a problem with the gamer and his plans or is it a rules problem? If the former, then nothing is needed, except perhaps a rule that says a unit *turning* can cross over a base, but not *moving*. So you can't move through a unit, but you can turn, move and clear the friendly unit, then move on.

    One rule that might solve all of it would be to say that you can turn over a friendly base as long as you end your move off of it completely, BUT it also costs an additional order, same as being within a BW of an enemy unit. That should prevent players from overcrowding, which they love to do. Just a quick thought.

    Meanwhile, I must get back to painting NW Frontier skirmish figs...

    1. I like those rules for turning, Alex. We'll have to play around with them.

  6. Great writeup Steve! And interesting answers to the questions. I like the double cost for orders close to the enemy. It makes the "commander order" more interesting as you can chose between play it safe or "save 2 order but risk the commander" etc.

    And the single base units look really nice.

    1. Thanks, Erik. To be honest, I forgot about the double cost when within 2 BW also until turn 7 or 8!

  7. Nice report and write up. Not a single base guy in general, but for 10 mm in the Tricorne era, where formations other than lione were rare, it works great, as you've shown.

    1. Thanks! My single bases will serve a host of more grand-tactical rules which I normally play when gaming Naps.

  8. Nice AAR and the analysis continues. 😀 I forget; is the idea to find “the perfect simple rule set” or to create a stable of such titles?