Thursday, 25 February 2021
Saturday, 13 February 2021
Despite my new found enthusiasm for Lasalle second edition for club games, Black Powder remain my ruleset of choice, particularly for solo game where my poor brain has to run both sides!
Friday, 12 February 2021
|Playtesting in 2020 - in 28mm|
|There are a variety of methods of keeping track of unit status and which units have fired...|
|More playtesting...Caesar (l) & David (r)|
|The Army Maker - free online - allows for a catholic variety of armies...|
|Brigade commander bases aren't necessary...(but look good and help delineate brigades)|
|Another way of keep track...|
|The baggage marker!|
Sam Mustafa’s Lasalle-II Napoleonic rules continue the broad scope of the first edition in that players use the ‘wargame-standard’ 12-20 units – in this case being battalions of infantry, regiments of cavalry and companies/batteries of guns.
Units are four bases of foot or cav, two of guns and are arranged to show specific formations; line, column square and so on. Units are organised into roughly three to six brigades – so call it a division or a small corps in scope. A standard game is expected to be of about three hours’ play.
For people familiar with Sam’s other rules; L2 draws inspiration from the first edition, Blucher and Maurice – but includes various new and clever mechanisms.
Yes, it’s a superb set of rules.
Our gang has over the past year or so tried and abandoned some of the recent new sets of rules (round up the usual suspects) aimed at a similar scope – but we kept playing L2 and are building new armies for it.
Firstly, the rules are spectacularly well presented and organised with diagrams as needed to explain concepts.
As with Sam’s other rules, factors and chrome are reduced to the bare minimum. This means we are playing from memory with the occasional glance at the QRS or even rarer check of the full text.
For our gang this is desirable. We have limited time on club nights and many play a variety of games across different genres – so rules with a high barrier to learn or play are marked down.
Having said that; we have tested L2 as large 4-6 player games and half-day historical re-fights and they work well in those settings too. An Advanced section of the rules has guidance for such larger games.
The lack of granularity may not be everybody’s cup of tea, and as playtesters we were pests in suggesting some more here and there. I won’t re-prosecute them here other than to say the rules are streamlined enough that bolting on house rules is pretty easy if you enjoy experimenting with such things.
The rules are fun to play.
The major departures from the first edition are key strengths of L2. Firstly there is a command system and it uses PIPs (a random total but within a pretty tight band) to limit options and thus generate player choices.
Secondly, the sequence of play is ‘flexible’. Players can issue a series of ‘Orders’ being; Moves (includes charges), Volley fire (includes canister), artillery Bombard, Formation changes and Rally (attempt to repair hits).
These Orders cost mostly one pip, called ‘Mo’ for momentum, but sometimes two or more Mo depending on a small number of factors that you soon memorise, some can be done by a brigade, or some by the whole army, for the same Mo. Units stranded from friends will need individual Mo.
The ‘flexible’ sequence is that you issue Orders in any sequence you like, however each unit can perform each Order only once per turn. The sequence of play is also ‘interleaved’ in that performing an Order with troops ‘near’ the enemy (roughly musketry range) causes you to surrender play to the other side.
Thus if I spend a Mo and volley at you, I have offered up an ‘Interrupt’ and you can now shoot back, charge or something else. Depending on what you do, you might now surrender play back to me, and so, on until we both run out of Mo.
This system of Mo and Orders/sequence of play makes the rules great fun. You have a stream of decision points for players and it generates historical conundrums – if the other side has advanced boldly with cavalry how late can I wait to form square, and will the other guy have Mo left to clobber my squares with his guns?
In confused late stages of battles you can’t do everything and sometimes troops get caught in the wrong place or in a poor formation.
As a hint, if you’re active and can spend a lot of Mo before the other guy gets to interrupt – it’s a good idea to pass leaving one or two in the bank. You’ll find out why. If players both pass in sequence the turn is over and Mo refreshed.
The system of Mo / Orders also binds other strands of the rules. If there was too much chrome elsewhere it would be a grind to work through Orders and turns. And the minimal granularity could be bland without the excitement generated by the decision points.
Another superb rule is the Rally order. It might sound strange to single out a particular rule in a broad-brush review but this one is deceptively simple and important.
Units have 7-5 ‘hits strength’ (2 if arty) which are lost in combat or when shot at. Lose all hits and the unit is destroyed / lifted / dead. The Rally order means you try to bring back hits, dicing for each - however any that fail now become permanent hits that you can’t repair.
This mechanism sets up several things; decisions points about when to Rally (remembering that it costs Mo and may surrender play to the other side) a risk vs reward puzzle – do you want to advance cautiously Rallying frequently to husband troops’ strength or do you concede strength in a bold attack or to gain position knowing you might have a chance to rally later.
It also drives a game ‘story’ and action – those units you relied on to hold a hill just blundered a Rally and are crippled, routing as the enemy now charges them. The conscripts in square holding the end of the enemy line has been battered by horse artillery but the buggers just heroically Rallied off all their hits and will take more time to shift.
For a quick précis, shooting is bucket of dice hits-and-saves, while close combat is a suitably bracing DBx-style single dice throw. Two-on-one melee gang ups provide a small sometimes important but not overwhelming advantage.
Troop moves are really free-form without requiring protractors and so on – just push the figs and have no point exceed its move distance. Charges get up to a 45 deg pivot at the start and then go straight ahead.
There are many ways table-top rules attempt to reflect skirmishers and all have strengths and weaknesses.
L2 has a standard system and an Advanced option. The standard system is abstracted to a contest of dice throws the winner of which is assumed to have a dominant skirmisher line and gains extra Mo to use this turn. The number of dice depends on troops’ skirmish rating and sometimes current formation.
The Advanced rule has more detail about tracing lines of skirmish to and from units and uses a system of markers to show which enemy are being hassled by skirmishers and how this is computed.
During play-testing the Skirmisher / Mo system was investigated, destroyed and rebuilt many, many, times with all manor of exotic options contemplated.
The rules have no morale tests at the unit or brigade level other than losing all of a brigade reduces your Mo quantum.
There is no emergency response to charges – plan ahead. Albeit there is a start-of-bound emergency intervention option for generals to command localised formation changes.
Brigade generals are not represented on table and the supreme general only positioned this bound if he does an emergency intervention as above. A frustrating point in the first edition was tracking all the generals and their various potential values – L2 has one general and only has characteristics as an optional Advanced rule.
There are no routs or retires – the point of contact is pretty static. Nominally routed units are put back in the box – if you want units to advance or retire in response to combat the design philosophy is to do it yourself with Mo. Look up the Huzzar! Rule at your leisure.
Squares not being at a disadvantage in close combat (but they are easier shooting targets) might raise eyebrows, but they can’t charge and the asymmetrical combat outcomes means you always want to be the charger in infantry clashes.
Some players have queried the balance between infantry shooting and melee – my experience is that individual games tend to emphasise either based on the tactical situation. It may be that there is a sweet-spot for particular armies or some optimal time spent shooting before charging, if so I don’t know what it is.
Troop / Army Balance
We have played armies of both crap and small elite forces, I can’t honestly yet tell if the rules tilt a particular way especially if you’re playing some of the provided scenarios. I’ve had my home-bake Persians with a fair bulk of poor troops swept away or sometime swarm over the enemy. Turks with a blizzard of modest cavalry can swamp an enemy or just be shot to oblivion, advancing into the teeth of an army maximising grand batteries is character building and educative.
Army Lists / composition
The army lists are a free download on Sam’s page. Armies are 1805+ in Europe but there are Advanced rules to cater for earlier ancen regime armies and an open-source points system to build non-standard troops.
There is a deal of design philosophy to contemplate in army building. There is an invitation to negotiate with your playing group about how permissive you want to be with allied troops and flexibility about particular troops appearing out of time or geography.
Lists might be an area where the lack of granularity irks some players. Troops are reasonably rigidly defined – for example all French Hussars are the same with no option to salt in an experience elite unit or raw newly-raised unit. Here again there is the capacity with the open source points to make such adjustments but many players will expect army lists to be a set menu.
A wise gamer once suggested that players spent more time tinkering with army design than actually moving lead – what else is there to do on slow work days?
Scenarios, options, back up etc
The rules provide a number of pre-designed scenarios to play, some equal points others not, and each sets out terrain, objectives and a game turn limit. There is other info for generic intro games or refights.
The Advanced rules include a palate of items to spice up you games, as a standard our gang is using many of them.
I suspect a traditional competition game format would be to generate a reasonably vanilla specific scenario(s) and a points system keyed to game time.
In summary these are an excellent set of rules that are easy to learn and provide an enjoyable fast-paced game.
From what we have seen they work well for club-night pick-up games and multi-player re-fights. I suspect with a little framing of game parameters they should be good for open competitions too.
David F Brown
Saturday, 6 February 2021
Whilst we've played Victory at Sea - Pacific at the uni with my 1:2400 scale minis, this game was a try out for my rapidly growing collection of 1:1200 scale minis. How do they appear and work on a 8 x 6 foot table, doubling all distances?
|The RN Task Force flagship - fast, well armed, but touchingly vulnerable?|
|With its after turret still in dockyard hands, the KGV was free to fight head on with a low profile!|
|The heavy cruiser York wasn't actually feeling all that heavy at this time...|
|The monster slips out from its French lair...|
As an aside, I would like to mention the late Lieutenant Ted Briggs RN, who, as a young Signalman, was one of the few survivors of HMS Hood's explosion and sinking at the Battle of Denmark Strait. As OiC RN Communications School, it was my great privilege to host Ted at several mess dinners, and great company he was too!