Wow it's been awhile since I've posted! No kidding. While that's not indicative of a decrease in gaming adventures, I have to admit blogging about all of the games was not in the cards given the last month. October saw a plethora of games on the table including Field of Battle 3 (which we loved!), Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells, and a few other games.
Looking to rectify the dearth of posts, I thought I would post on preparations and planning considerations for this year's Christmas MEGAGAME: Germantown, 1777. Celebrating the completion of my 15mm AWI project and last November's outstanding Germantown Hold the Line game put on by Bryan L at the "Fall In" convention, getting this tense battle on the table with my closest friends became priority #1 as the summer winded down.
|Uninvited Lunch Guests|
Long time readers of this blog will remember some of the titanic battles fought in the name of MEGAGAME megalomania including the Ponryi Station 1st May Collective Battle, Tassa Junction in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and of course Aspern Essling last year. I aim to put on entire battles that are at least memorable to me and the other generals playing in the game. Germantown, and the AWI, have long been favorites of mine. So with 2020 still gracing us with gobs of unpleasantness, I felt Germantown would be perfect for this year's MEGAGAME.
Some of the best games I've played recreating this fight could easily be described as "operational" level where I'm taking on the role of Washington, Knyphausen (thank you, Norm - still an unforgettable experience even if the damned rebels came through the back door on us) or another Division or Wing commander, and so the challenge of the rules, of the terrain, and of the very scale of the battle itself become questions to be answered and problems to be solved if we're to have a good and proper battle.
I've never struggled so much with the question of rules in a large multi player game before. The AWI is such an unusual conflict where the different theaters and campaigns take on different flavors. Some battles like Crooked Billet, Matson's Ford, and Edge Hill or Whitemarsh are appropriately played with smaller rules sets aimed at a much more tactical decision making. Games like "Guns of Liberty" or "Rebels and Patriots" are perfect for such games where a company of troops makes the difference on the field of battle.
For larger, stand up engagements like Brandywine, Germantown, or Monmouth, you need a rules engine that can handle large battles without bogging the game down with too much detail. As Lord Howe or His Excellency General Washington, do I care if the Foot Guards or the 6th Pennsylvania are in double-line, line, or some kind of skirmish order? Probably not. I'm focusing on avenues of attack, the timing and commitment of reinforcements, and the prioritization of fires.
Maybe some of my lead Brigades or Divisions are in rough shape, heavily attrited, and in wargame terms ready to be pulled off the line. Quite frankly, if you're focusing on formations, figure-to-men ratios, and complex calculations, you dont have the bandwidth for the task of command! You've become a staff officer. So in light of those general thoughts, I've considered a few rules for the Germantown game which I'll post here and you will see more of in upcoming blog posts:
Norm's Two Flags - One Nation ACW Rules: Norm's rules are ACW rules, but in multiple playtests this past month, I've found them to be a very good fit for my notions of combat during the AWI and Norm has provided all of the changes you would need to use these rules 80 or 90 years before the war for which they were intended. With rules for smoothbore-armed units, small units, elite units, artillery half-sections, and a wonderful Command and Control system, Norm's "TFON" are a very good fit for Germantown - if you have the time. Looking at the roughly 20-30 Regiments per side - the question becomes the time it would take to complete the battle and if that is a practical consideration.
|Playing Norm's TFON at the Battle of Hubbardton, 1777|
|Playing Norm's TFON with AWI forces - a match made in heaven|
Fields of Honor-AWI: A set that many of you will not have heard of unless you've followed the Palouse Wargaming Journal or tuned into my blog last month for a "Simple Wargame" experiment of FOH. I was lucky to pick up a set of them on BoardGameGeek in excellent condition. (there were copies on ebay for $40!).
FOH is a "dead simple" game that dispenses with much detail for the sake of brevity and scope. Case in point are the scenarios that accompanied the FOH rules - Monmouth, Brandywine, Guilford Courthouse and Breed's Hill! All large battles in their own right. The question - would FOH be "too" simple? Perhaps not if a sweet spot could be found. Again, more on this later. Ken and I have already played a game of FOH with hexes and this game was hypersonic-fast with units being gobbled up left and right due to them failing 1 morale check and evaporating off the table. But I have a plan...
Black Powder - (sorry Darren) admittedly still one of my favorite rules for tactical, Horse and Musket warfare, a set that is at mostly understood and mostly familiar with most of my group, "slack chowder" (copyright the Duc de Gobin - all rights reserved to their respective owners - no challenge to their status intended) is meant for large battles in a competition type setting. It is ideal for pickup play and has enough chrome to satisfy requirements for the AWI. It also has a super convenient OOB for Germantown in the "Rebellion" supplement which I happen to own...
We have not yet played an AWI game with Black Powder but I aim to. Whether or not it's the game for Germantown? Not totally sure. If I was to "bathtub" the units as Brigades of an impressive 6 x stands each, the battlefield would look lovely. Keeping things at Regimental level on a 6x4 table would be cumbersome and crowded with 60 total regiments on the table and would look more like a Napoleonic battle instead of a AWI fight.
Commands and Colors Tricorne - The American Revolution - Wow this has to be one of my all time favorite AWI games even if I've only played in 3 x battles. You can check out this epic Battle of Eutaw Springs I played in at Brian's house. If I'm honest, I've painted and based everything in my collection to play big games of CCT. While no CCT scenario exists for Germantown, there is enough out there to make one pretty easily. With my hexmat and dozens and dozens of Regiments, this would be a seriously good time on the table. But - is it MEGAGAME worthy? Most CC series games are over quickly. Really quickly. If I'm going to invite the whole gang over or to a socially-distant remote location, it wont be any fun if we start at 1100am and the game ends by 1pm! What's memorable or epic about that? Except maybe the pizza lunch?
Terrain and Scale
You'll notice that most of these games are hex based games. Not that I have any particular penchant for hex based games, but in a MEGA GAME that is perhaps one level removed from a Boardgame, I think hexes are perfect for managing forces and speeding up game play. There is no tedious measuring and no hassle or arguments over terrain. Players can focus on eating pizza and moving their units. The challenge becomes getting the terrain right. Alex has noted that my table with a ground scale of 1" equals 100 yards, we would be able to put the battlefield from the Chew House, through Market Square in Germantown, and to the heights beyond. Putting hexes down to the TFON scale of 200 yards per hex probably allows a bit more and I'm playing around with the battlefield now to see what will "look" right and "feel" right. Depending on the rules, combat will likely be adjacent, with players determining whether they want to charge or shoot. That should at least make the combat look right on the table. My players will be wing commanders, with one large or multiple small divisions.
So as you can all plainly see - I've got my work cut out for me! Right now I'm hatching a scheme to play a test game of Germantown using FOH rules with pretty much all of the Regiments that fought in the battle. Ken and I came up with a "big battle" hybrid system that dispenses with some of the modifiers, reduces firing range of musket armed troops to adjacent and cuts the artillery in half. I plan on sharing that with you all soon - and will absolutely post the test game from this weekend.
It's good to be back in the blogosphere!