Tuesday 13 December 2016

Old School Napoleonics

So a few days ago I once again headed across town (all of 15 minutes walk) to Stuart's house. When Stuart proposes an afternoon of old school wargaming, you know it's going to be pretty hardcore - that is, Old School all the way. Terrain, figures, rules and ambience. The latter means a good amount of chat and putting the wargames world to rights before the game can commence, and such a prequel includes admiring and discussing the figures in use.

In this case, Stuart had set out a French(ish) versus Russian game, using his collection of Warrior 25mm figures. These definitely have solid old school credentials, with the designs dating back to the seventies, although the figures are still available at the Warrior Miniatures site. Unfortunately at the moment photos are a bit scarce online, but the pictures below will give you the idea. As you might expect (if you don't already know the range) they are what today would be termed 'small' 25mm, with very elegant proportions and poses. Stuart's usual cracking paint job finished with gloss varnish made them a fine sight.

The Game
The terrain was loosely based on H.G. Wells' 'The Battle of Hook's Farm', a battlefield which I had already had a taste of in an earlier engagement. The scenario was a straightforward meeting engagement, using a one-side-of-A4 adaption of the Charge! rules, with distances and moves reduced to take into account the 3' width of Stuart's dining table. They are also modified to allow for the change from individual basing to basing in groups.

These rules gave an excellent, quick and bloody game. As I have mentioned in the past, Stuart has been using Charge! for decades, so any gaps in our crib sheet that needed filling in could be supplied from memory. I had in fact brought my copy of the rule book over, but this proved quite unnecessary. Indeed, at one point, with Stuart briefly out of the room making some tea, I dipped into the book to check up on a particular point. I soon felt a fatherly hand on my shoulder. "Now then old chap, no gentleman would feel the need to surreptitiously check the rule book. That might imply a lack of trust between players!". Quite right! 

Anyway, my Russians had some extraordinary good luck with their dice rolls, and I was able to give Stuart's Frenchmen a bit of a drubbing. How this unfolded will be shown below.

Game deployment. French on the left, Russians on the right.
Without much ado, the 2 sides came together across the table. Stuart looks uncharacteristically serious.
Russian line infantry and grenadiers engage advancing French light infantry.
I pushed a regiment of cossacks through a gap in the French line trying to shake things up a bit.
More infantry clashing on the Russian left centre.
By a miracle of dice rolling, my left wing cavalry was able to see off 2 out of the 3 opposing French cavalry regiments on my left wing. The cossacks then darted into the gap available as my leading regiments reformed. Cossacks versus cuirassiers? Surely my overconfidence would be punished! But the dice gods gave me another triumph against the odds.
Stuart contemplates the collapse of his right wing with cheerful insouciance. Or is that a grimace of horror?
Time for my cavalry to fall on the flank of his infantry! By this time the room curtains had been drawn. Whether this was because of the early onset of darkness at this time of year, or whether a gesture of mourning for the demise of the French army, I will never know.
After an initial set back, a similar story of Russian victory had unfolded on the other flank. Here the surviving white-horsed French cavalry are the meat in a Russian cavalry sandwich. Yes, the unit to the right is Russian, having nipped past the church onto the French baseline.
In the centre, the infantry contest had been much more even, with both sides taking heavy casualties. My artillery had managed to destroy the opposing French battery after some hard pounding on both sides. With his cavalry flanks in ruins, Stuart decided it was time to concede.

Time Gentlemen Please!
Stuart has been kind enough to be complimentary about Honours of War, but also honest enough to say they make his brain hurt. I know what he means. The game described above was a pleasure to play, but was also an intensely relaxing experience, particularly due to its simplicity. It is a mistake to say that old school wargaming is just about nostalgia. On the contrary - it has much to teach us. The modern trend towards wargames that emphasise the 'game' (over misguided aspirations to be a simulation), and which tries to achieve this by using simplified mechanisms and more straightforward play, owes much to the old school tradition which radiates from the 60s and early 70s.

People sometimes describe Honours of War as having a slightly old school feel. I am always glad to read such comments, because that element of HoW is deliberate. It is also fair to say that there is nothing very old school about Battlegroup Blitzkrieg (the other rule set I am currently playing) which I also enjoy. It has a number of fiddly mechanisms which can occasionally make one's brain hurt, but the intensity of the process is part of the pleasure of playing. As Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames demonstrated, simplicity can be taken too far. The pleasure of old school gaming is that it respects the period and the players but doesn't pile on too much pressure when you are in the mood to chill out.

What a lucky chap I am to have good dose of variety in my wargaming at present, and this is particularly due to the varied approaches of the friends I am fortunate enough to play with.

And there I must leave it. 'Til next time!

Addendum 15th December


Prufrock said...

Nice report, and the kind of game I'd love to sit in on!


tradgardmastare said...

Great game and lovely figures.

tradgardmastare said...

OOphs I forgot to ask - what were the movement distances and adaptions for multibased figures?

Archduke Piccolo said...

That looks and reads like a very convivial evening! I picked up some Warrior figures once at a swap meet, enough to form 3 understregth 9in my terms) battalions of Austrian infantry, and some companies of jager that have been pressed into Brunswick service. Though they don't 'go' well with my Minifigs, they make a distinctive formation (Division or Corps depending upon which of my rule sets I use, and I am rather fond of them. One quibble, though. I find their muskets very delicate and apt to break off at the extended hand.

Steve J. said...

A great read as always and I concur with your thoughts. As a Xmas 'suprise', I have both Charge! and Battlegroup rules coming courtesy of Santa. I can't wait to get my grubby mits on them for some relaxed reading on the day:)

Keith Flint said...

Two excellent choices there Steve. I myself have succumbed to the temptation of the new full-size Battlegroup core rulebook, even though I already have the A5 version. I guess I'm just a hopeless fanboy!

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

An excellent looking game and interesting description and observations with which I concur. The photographs really make me wish I had gone with my first inclination way back when and purchased Warrior Napoleonics instead of the Jacobite and MiniFigs 15mm I ultimately chose at the time, Lovely stuff!

Best Regards,


Paul Liddle said...

Lovely looking game, right up my street!.

Keith Flint said...

Alan - I'll try and get the cribsheet added to the post in the next couple of days.

tradgardmastare said...

Thanks Keith!

johnpreece said...

A hand on the shoulder! You got off light. When I tried to check his artillery firing angle with my MilMod protracter he broke both my thumbs.

Still, he does put on a good game.

Keith Flint said...

I guess he was younger then, John. Age takes its toll.

tradgardmastare said...

That's great Keith,thanks for the addendum.

Red Coat said...

This has everything I want in a wargame - figures, terrain and rules are all perfect!

Mark Dudley said...

I enoyed reading about the game. Thanks for the playsheet. It will come in useful as since moving I have lost my permanent table and only now have access to a kitchen table.

Lincs said...

I’ve just started collecting the 25mm Warrior Miniatures Napoleonic range. I’m looking for artillery limbers that would fit well with the range – any ideas?

Bob The Old Painter said...

I have always loved this game and visit on occasions just to enjoy the images. A few months ago I spited some figures for sale on eBay and was sure that they were part of the collection used for this game. Well, as luck would have it, I made a successful bid and secured some of the Russian cavalry. They have now joined my collection and will be treasured.

Keith Flint said...

Well done Bob! The figures Stuart painted in his final 'Northleach' period were lovely and I'm sure will be a pleasure to own and hopefully game with.