Sunday 27 December 2020

Clausewitz 1799 Vol.1 is published

In a previous post I mentioned the very positive endorsements our latest book had received: 

'Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland'.

I am pleased to report it is now published.

It will shortly be followed by Volume 2, 'The Coalition Crumbles, Napoleon Returns', which is due out in February 2021.

With that, I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

Sunday 6 December 2020

A classic encounter wargame: Verona 1799

No doubt like many readers of this blog, as a young teenage wargamer I didn't refight historical battles. My standard fare was formulaic Napoleonic games in which the two sides would each line up a dozen units and head toward each other to fight over a couple of isolated terrain objectives on an otherwise fairly empty table.

The Verona battlefield
(Map probably circa 1860, hence the anachronistic railway)

The Italian campaign of 1799 provides us with an action that could virtually be the template for this stereotypical symmetrical encounter wargame: VeronaAs Clausewitz says, “It is hard to find another action in such equilibrium in terms of its situation, its course of events, and its outcome. Both sides were divided into two divisions, under the orders of a general who was not the commander-in-chief; both were equally strong; both advanced to the attack; neither could drive the other off the position. We can say that here one force completely neutralized the other, while neither of them contributed to general success. The result was virtually zero.” (Murray & Pringle, Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume1.)

I enjoyed this description so much that I was moved to write a scenario for it. I've deliberately kept it simple to try to recapture that teenage novice gamer feel, but at the same time I think it's reasonably historical. The scenario is in the BBB group files on Gaming opportunities are limited at present, so it has not been playtested, but its simplicity means it should be pretty sound and robust. I hope some readers will get some amusement from it.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Heroes of Normandie! - card/board game

Bar September's vacation trip to Mayenne, wargaming with actual miniature figurines has been a bit thin lately. However, that's not to say my dice-rolling muscles have atrophied entirely. My holiday included an excursion to Saumur tank museum, where I picked up the Heroes of Normandie! card/board wargame. Last weekend we finally got round to playing the game, and it was time to freshen up the BBBBlog with a new post, so here we go.


 The remarks that follow are based only on having played the starter scenario twice.

There was the usual learning curve to negotiate, made a little harder by the fact that the game was originally published in French and the translated rules weren't 100% clear in some places; also, some of its important game mechanisms were not immediately intuitive and took some working out. But it was worth the effort.

The game is a kind of chess with dice and cards. The board is a gridded map (the game contains several different maps and some extra terrain items to make for different battlefields). Each space on the board can hold one unit. Units are represented by cards. There are also some cards for special events and heroes.

The core of the game is an ingenious command mechanism. Basically (in the starter game, at least) each side gets to choose three 'tactics' per turn (a case where I'd question the translation - I might have called them 'Command Actions' or something) from a menu of five: activate a single unit; have two units swap positions; manage reinforcements (draw more unit cards from a Reserve Deck); rally off two Suppressions; or gain three 'Directive' markers (again a confusing name where an alternative such as 'Focus' or 'Leadership Bonus' might have been better). A player can choose the same tactic more than once in a turn.

An activated unit may move and then shoot, or shoot and then move. Activating an HQ unit gives a chance of activating two combat units under it. Some units can fire twice. Dice to score hits or suppressions. Some units die after one hit, others are tougher. Cover provides saving rolls. That bit's all fairly conventional.

However: the 'Directive' markers are bonuses to actions. A unit normally moves one space but can use a Directive to move twice. If it shoots and the dice fall one short, a Directive can bump the dice up by +1 to score a hit. If it attempts a saving roll and is one short, a Directive can save it.

The result is that you find yourself having to decide carefully which 'tactics' to use and when: do you launch that counterattack now, with maximum units involved? Or can you afford to direct your command attention elsewhere for the moment and muster reinforcements, or top up your Directive pool ... ?

Overall, a clever game, with the right mix of luck and skill to keep me amused. It whiled away a couple of hours on Sunday, and I expect it will while away a few more yet.