Saturday, 31 October 2020

Vauban's Wars - the unboxing

I mentioned a couple of months ago the publication of 'Vauban's Wars', a set of horse and musket siege rules which had been long in the gestation. It had been my intention to take a look at James' copy - he's in the Piquet Inc inner circle and will undoubtedly get one - but given that I'd been waiting to see them for some seven years already, plus the likelihood that the way things are being managed in the UK at the moment it will probably be another seven years before the inhabitants of the Wharfe Valley are allowed to visit each other's wargames rooms, made me splash out and buy my own copy.

The man himself

So, these are my first thoughts:

  • The production values are good. It's a 98 page ring bound book in colour plus quick play sheets. 
  • Sheets containing the cards, which need to be cut out, are provided. Alternatively you can, as I did, pay extra for a playing card quality version. Either will fit the standard 63.5mm x 88mm sleeve.
  • There is a thorough list of contents, background information including a glossary, designer notes and game markers for photocopying.
  • The colour photographs are not, as is so often, merely to look good and inflate the price, but actually give a pretty good indication of what is going on, which is particularly useful given the differences with a normal tabletop battle. 
  • The game is a Piquet derivative - hence the cards - or to be more specific it's based on Field of Battle, the faster flowing and less swingy updated version of Piquet.
  • These rules cover the aspects of sieges such as sapping, mining and bombarding at the level of one turn representing three or four days. As and when assaults and sorties are indicated these will need to be resolved using a separate set of tactical rules, before returning to siege game. Rules to manage the transitions are included
  • Events such as weather, supply, espionage, disease, relieving armies etc. are covered, but all at a fairly abstract level.
  • There are no army lists as such, but some reasonably prescriptive constraints as to the minimum and maximums of each unit type. National characteristics exist - especially for the Ottomans for some reason - but don't appear to be that significant.
  • Everything seems straightforward to me from my first read through, although it must be remembered that I have played a lot of Piquet. 
  • Overall, I'm very impressed, but the proof of the pudding is of course in the eating. It will be a while before I can try them - and they have to take their place in the queue of new rules anyway - but there is a report of a playtest game here for those interested.
A couple of relatively unimportant points require mentioning. Firstly, the rules are printed on US size paper, which is unsurprising but irritating for those of us in the rest of the world. It makes it much harder to put the quick play sheets in protective coverings. For C&C, for example, I retyped them all on to A4 before laminating them. Secondly, and on a more positive note the rules contain an absolutely explicit definition of what constitutes a flank, which happens to be the definition with which I agree and have been pushing for some years, and the author supports this with no less than a full page colour diagram. It's all a bit superfluous because, by and large, units are behind cover in trenches and fortifications and impossible to flank, but it's the thought that counts.

I have a twofold interest in the rules. I would like to play them as written, although that would probably require James to acquire the necessary siege and fortress guns, which I don't expect come cheap in 28mm. As far as I know nobody makes them for 20mm Napoleonics, so any game in the annexe is going to see some substitution taking place. I am tempted to make some bastions to match my town walls in any event. One question would be how to interface the siege rules to the hex grid if using, as I probably would, C&C for the assaults and sorties. Which also reads across to my other area of interest. It seems at first review that there would be scope to straightforwardly amend these for the late medieval period, and in that case the same question of matching to a grid would come into play if I wanted to use them in conjunction with To the Strongest!. 

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