Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recent Napoleonic Game, Part 1, Do's and Don'ts

Recently, we played a large 28mm Napoleonic game set in the Peninsula (my favorite period for the last few years). Rather than write a turn by turn battle report, I thought some pictures, a report on how the "game" went as an event and some notes about the gaming room might be of interest. I'm doing it in parts so its easier to put on the Blog. There were ten players for the game, with 21 battalions of French infantry, three units of cavalry and a dozen guns with limbers from my collection. My friend, Miles, brought another 7 battalions of French infantry, some more guns, and some cavalry. The British force consisted of about 16 battalions total, mostly my collection, with a few nicely painted units from Mike and Dick on the British side. French battalions are typically 36 Infantry for the French and 40 for the British though this can vary by battalion, just like the real units. All of my units were origianlly conceived and are based on the actual units present at Fuentes de Onoro. The figure 'ratio' is designed around 1 figure equaling 20 men. The French and British both had overall Commanders "controling" the sub- commanders in actual charge of the troops. Each side had five players. We played the game at my house on my gaming table which made its "public debut" in the Black Powder rule book a few years ago. Everyone seemed to have a very good time. I thought it went well, but some things could have been better. I'll talk about all that after showing a few pictures. For more about the game, you can also visit Miles' Blog here: Almost all of the models were either the older Perry miniatures from the Foundry range or thier newer ones in both metal and plastic. There were just a few from Front Rank, Victirx, and Old Glory in the mix as well. All the terrain was either Architects of War, older stuff from my personal collection, Renedra, and a couple of Old Glory buildings that I believe are now OOP. We are hoping to release, thru Architects of War, some buildings suitable for the Pennisula at some point this year. For rules, we used a house set called Gentlemen of Rank. More on that later.

In short, the British Force under Wellington had its back up against a river with only two bridges at either flank available for reinforcements or escape. The French were out for the crossings, but were mostly interested in smashing Wellington's mixed force of British and Portuguese for good. The French certainly gave the British a pounding. The French plan was to demonstrate on their left flank, thrust forward through a village on their right where they became bogged down fighting Britsh light infantry, and thrust the main part of their force right at the British Center. Despite deploying all the elite units the British had, the combined effect of French cavalry pushes and a massive divisonal column did the trick.

French infantry are stopped by a unit of British rifles using a stone wall lined road to best advantage... This is on the right flank of the French line. Here are some British Infantry moving in from the British right, rushing past the center of the British line. The lads on the hill were in square having just repulsed two waves of French Cavalry assaults. How did they get those Belgic Shako's in the Penninsula anyway? French Hussars galloping about on the left flank of the French Assualt. They look dashing, but didn't engage in this game. Their demonstrating along with several French infantry battalions seemed to hold vital British reinforcements from the center.
The Dreaded French Divisional Column smashed right through the British. It was interesting to see the tension of the commanders in the middle. The British, intimidated by such a huge force marching right at them (who wouldn't be!) and the French Commander, worried his whole column might break on him...
Here you can see the British on the Right flank moving towards the French Column in the center. Alas for the British, it was too late.
The British Right Flank. Nicely organised and looking sharp in their ranks, they saw no real action in the battle.

ANOTHER column of French moving up in support of the first. They weren't needed...

  • So some Do's- Like I said above, everyone seemed to have a good time. The table, 14 feet by five with the "back tables" (more on this in the next post) was stuffed full of nicely painted , well lit models and terrain. My awesome wife, Barb, fed us all her homemade lasagna and there was plenty of soda and beer on hand for everyone. We did our best to provide a comfortable enviroment and a party like atmosphere. I think those things can make an ok game great. It's just 'good hosting'. I am fortunate to have a supportive spouse. Miles brought along a big pile of snacks and Chris brought homemade chili. Most of the gamers brought drinks to their liking. We finished the evening with a quick coffee and some brownies. Can't go wrong there. When I invite people over to game, it's important to me that they enjoy the evening regardless of the quality of the game (though I do my best). The size of the table, the quality of the painting, nor the number of troops are not the most important aspects of a good game. Common courtesy and good hosting helps alot with this. I want them to come back you know... This is a social hobby.

  • Some Don'ts- Well, the biggest mistake I made was being "rusty" with the rules. Though I was fortunate that all the participants are really nice guys and quite patient, being confused as the referee or gamemaster didn't help them understand the game at points. I hadn't put on a game of this scale with these rules for a long time, so next time I'll bone up with a little game before hand. The second biggest mistake I made was not "tweeking' the scenario so that all the players got a more even handed experience. All the action happened in the center and the right Flank of the French line. Poor Steve and Chris, the players on the other end of the table, just spent the evening looking at each other and shuffling their troops around. They were very gracious about it, but I should have made sure they had roles that got them more invovled. It could be considered "historically" accurate I suppose, but spending hours playing a game where you only get to fire a shot or two isn't the point to me. Thanks Steve and Chris, I'll do better next time! The last bit is about having a game that scales to the players experience. The British Commander had never played the rules before and found himself right in the middle of running four other players, figuring out the rules and fighting off a massively larger force. The British were commanded by Dick, a relatively new accquaintance of mine. I chose Dick becuase I have come to know him as an experienced gamer and a nice guy. He was incredibly gracious given the circumstances and a very good sport. Thanks Dick!

Final verdict-A good game that could have been better.

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