Friday, 20 September 2019

Trial and mostly error

There are many interesting and important things happening, both in the world at large and in the Casa Epictetus. I am however going to write about wargaming. We have spent a couple of Wednesdays on a playtest game of the latest version of the hybrid Piquet/FoB rules for the Peninsular War. Sadly, it turned out to be of fairly limited use in determining the current state of things because of a legacy element from each of the predecessor sets.

As I've mentioned before classic Piquet occasionally throws up completely one-sided runs of initiative. We put up with it because we rather like the less dramatic, but still significant, fluctuation that one normally gets. Unfortunately in this game one side didn't get to shoot for an entire evening while the other marched up and assaulted them, making it hard to determine how the ranged fire attack and defence factors were working out. In the latest edition of the newer rules there is a nice pre-game phase, which once again we rather like. This time around there was good and bad news for the Allies. On the one hand they were able to deploy across an area more than twice as large than that usually allowed; on the other hand 60% of their force was late to arrive, leaving only a small number of units to take advantage of this set up flexibility. The part which was left was itself half comprised of cavalry, hardly a balanced force. The rest of the army did eventually turn up, just in time to do nothing.

Where does that leave us? Well, I think we all agreed that the present skirmish rules were better in theory than they are in practice and there was once again much discussion as to why most other rules writers don't really bother with them. I think there is a consensus that we would like some Napoleonic chrome, but firstly not at the cost of unplayability and secondly not the sort of chrome that has more to do with wargaming urban myth than with what happened historically. On top of that, judging from James' parting comments, our hybrid is going to look very much like classic Piquet anyway.

This bit is really an aide memoire for me, but if I were to be asked which bits from FoB 2 that I would like to keep they would be:

  • Different defence dice based on quality
  • No difference between Cavalry and Infantry move cards (although I'd be happy to see Type III/IV cards)
  • Melees fought to conclusion
  • Ability to halt units with opportunity fire
  • Lull cards rather than Dress the Lines/Command Indecision
  • No Major Moral test until zero morale chips
  • The pre-game set-up (but I would prefer to see the return of the chance to gain extra cards in the deck)

Things in the hybrid from FoB 2 that I would be prefer to see go:
  • Losing morale for stand losses
  • Rallying back the first stand loss
  • Army Morale cards affecting the phasing player
  • Moving and manoeuvring on the same card 
  • Always having to remember if one rolled odd or even

The things that seem to have wandered in from elsewhere that I like:
  • Perpendicular beaten zone for infantry
  • Charging from a flank requiring the centre of the front of the charging unit to be behind the front of the charged unit (plus similar rule for charging the rear)
  • The firing from the flank definition, which I can't quite articulate at the moment, but is essentially the one from Lasalle.
Things I'm agnostic about:
  • Morale challenges
  • Superior numbers in melee (I think the FoB 2 system may work when we work out what tactics to use)
  • Rallying - initiative pip or morale chip

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