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Page history last edited by Guy Farrish 6 months, 4 weeks ago




I finally got round to playing a scenario with this set of rules.


I quite enjoyed them though I am going to pick up on a few nitpicks about organisation and presentation.


It is aimed at big battles and I like this level for Napoleonic games. After pushing hundreds of battalions into line, column and square while trying to fight Austerlitz and Aspern- Essling etc., I fell joyfully into the arms of Paddy Griffith's Army level rules when I found them and 24 years ago bought a copy of Volley & Bayonet from Duncan Macfarlane. I still use them.


V&B uses the Brigade as the manoeuvre unit, AE goes up one to the Division so I was interested to see if I could finally play Wagram on a 4'x3' board (Spoiler – you can't).


I'll get one criticism I've read out of the way first. He uses of the terms 'line' 'column' 'square' 'march order', and 'deployed'. These reflect the posture of the division rather than battalion level deployment and I don't think he has mixed up his aims at all. As he says, he 'had to call them something'.


Does it work as a game? I think so.


Why the hesitancy?


Finding the mechanics of the game as you play it is difficult. It probably won't be so bad after a few more runs through but I found it frustrating to hunt for bits and pieces I knew I had seen in the read through.


1. Shooting – Lots of descriptions of how shooting works, how many dice you get for different postures, modifiers for situations and opponents, a description of 'how to read dice modifiers' (adding and subtracting numbers of dice thrown. But nowhere in the shooting section from p.20 to p.23 does it mention the score needed to hit.

It's in the Activation paragraph on p.9 under Sequence of Play. And appears nowhere else in the book.

 It's easy to remember once you've found it and I will remember Conscript 5+, Seasoned 4+ and Veteran 3+ without looking anymore I suspect, because hunting for it drove me crazy.

It's in Activation because it is the score you need for activation tests and shooting and combat hits.  But put it in the Shooting section as well where simple souls like me will look for it.


2. Combat – see Shooting.


3. Waver Test – you'll get one for a bad shooting or combat result. You use the Activation roll – we know the scores for that now! But what happens when you pass or fail your test? The Waver test section doesn't say nor does it tell you where to look. The answer turns up in a section called entertainingly but unhelpfully; 'Save the Colours!' At least it is on the opposite page.


4. Élan – Command points or PIPs or Impulse points that Corps Commanders, but not the Army Commander (?) use to intervene in the battle. This feels a bit light to affect the battle but that may because I was concentrating on finding my way around the rules. In addition however army Élan totals determine victory. Because lost units transfer Elan point from losing Corps to winning Corps a few unit routs can lose you the game in short order in a small game. It may be more nuanced in a larger battle.


There were lots of other concerns – I'm using two half scale V&B bases (2x1.5 inch square)  to make a half scale infantry frontage of 3" and the same for cavalry and .75" base for artillery. This meant that my allies, laid out (tighter) as in the scenario in the book would not fit in the halved command radius of 4". I could have stuck with 4" – there doesn't appear to be much of a penalty for being out of command except for a compulsion to get back in range asap – but I went for a 5" radius. It would work fine with the 28mm radius of 8" because of the ratio of the bases to the command range but not if all measurements are halved.


And that brings me to scale.


This is supposed to be a set designed to allow you to play all those huge historical Napoleonic battles on the tabletop and Eylau, Wagram and Waterloo scenarios with maps are included. But what distance does the 6" frontage of the 'Division' represent? The notes on scale say the 'models and a unit's footprint represent approximate location locations and deployments in relation to other units'. But how many divisions can I cram into the frontage at Dresden? I've played that battle with V&B and there is a ground scale I can use to put on the table the terrain and the relevant number of units (1"= 100yds). I'm going to be bodging with these rules. It will probably not be difficult but it would be a whole lot easier if the rules made a stab at the concept themselves.


Another few runs through and a lot of this will no doubt be forgotten as barriers to learning the rules, but barriers they are.


I think there is probably a good set of rules in here. It's a shame they are having to struggle a little to get out of the organisation and format.

I'll definitely give these another try or two but I'm not sure they will replace V&B for me.





Having been slightly underwhelmed by my first play through of Absolute Emperor rules I wanted to be fair and give them another go. There were a couple of reasons for this in addition to an innate sense of fair play:

1.         It had been the difficulty of navigating my way around the layout of the rules that irritated me in the first game. I hoped I would be a little more familiar with where to look for things on subsequent attempts, and this would let me judge the mechanisms and flow without the distraction of flicking madly around the book finding stray key concepts in odd places (still a problem, but... read on).

2.         I really wanted to like these as I like the level of command being dealt with, and though I have an urge to dabble once again in the nuts and bolts of Napoleonic tactical shenanigans (Shadow of the Eagles beckons I think), I still want to play the big battles.  I love Volley and Bayonet but this purportedly moves things up a step.


I played the Bumville 3 scenario this time. I really think the bigger game (as one would expect) gives a better feel of things. How it will go when I move on to a full scale battle (should be better yet?) remains to be seen.

My 6mm Napoleonics are based up for V&B half scale – so on 1.5" square bases for Cavalry and Infantry, with artillery on .75"x1.5" bases. This means 2 of these bases make half scale AB frontage (recommended 6" for 28mm and therefore 3" for 15mm and below). This works to a point, but somewhat limits the anticipated AB 4 base Division postural positioning. I used two abreast for Line, one behind the other for Attack Column , one behind the other facing in opposite directions for Square and a mental note for one behind the other bases for March Order.

On with the game.

This is the set up position – French on the Hill, Allies (Brits & Portuguese) defending the town


First (small) niggle – General victory conditions state 'If at any time one side has twice the élan points of the opponent, the game ends immediately with a respectable victory'. As the scenario starts with the French having an élan of 4 and the Allies of 2, I assumed this rule was suspended for the duration.  There are to be fair scenario conditions for the French to take the town by turn 15, so no doubt this requirement overrides the other condition, otherwise it is going to be a very short game.

The set up problems with command radius persist (impossible to set up as per the scenario map with all units in command on the Allied side) but I shrugged my shoulders and got on with it.

I gave the Brits 'Defend' orders and the French 'Hold 3' which means they stay put until turn three when their orders automatically (no expenditure of élan) change to Attack. This was intended to give time for a bit of artillery bombardment before the French advanced to attack the town. In the event it did nothing (poor dice throws).

Why the cavalry are consistently placed behind woods in this scenario is unclear to me and a pain. Light cavalry can form 'squadrons' and go through cover (woods are cover) at a reduced movement (1" in my scale) and are disadvantaged in combat if they get caught in that formation. So I didn't do that. The Brits moved into the town (reduces effect of artillery) and moved a division to cover the gap between town and wood.

The French bombardment was largely ineffective and they moved forward with the arrival of turn 3.

The French line cavalry (Dragoons) advanced on their left, forcing the British right into square and the artillery to pivot to fir at the cavalry. I had a few niggles about the idea that cavalry are compelled to attack square but I reminded myself this wasn't a cavalry regiment throwing itself against a single battalion square, but a much bigger attack against a Division in a defensive posture and once you've unleashed them the attack will go in and the tactical fencing between the infantry and cavalry is subsumed under a broad brush approach.

The cavalry got bounced and I think some of my concerns here are the result of the scenario being too small for the mechanism.


I don't want micromanagement and I know this was a learning scenario where we wanted to use all the rules, but this had one corps commander with a mixed arms force with a cavalry division in an infantry corps. I think the place of squadron or regimental attacks forcing battalions to form square and those battalions being shot up by infantry and artillery are probably too down in the weeds for this set. What we should be looking at here is a Division or even a Corps being ground down by infantry and artillery fire then sending in a Cavalry Corps to smash that weakened Corps into oblivion. Yes, you'll miss the action of Corps cavalry attachments but that level of action is for another set of rules.

And that higher level of abstraction is what you get with the orbats for the Eylau, Wagram and Waterloo scenarios.


Meanwhile in this game the infantry got into a firefight around the town and woods

Which didn't go well for the French – shot at by the Brits in the town as well as the ones in line to its left. Meanwhile the other French Division closed on the Portuguese (unfairly, and unrealistically classed as unwilling conscripts here).

Despite losses the Portuguese remained in place. The French charged the Brits to the left of the town but were repulsed. The Cavalry were halted by fire. When they eventually charged home again they were destroyed by the 'square'.

The Portuguese infantry also broke and élan was swapped but to no overall change in the starting position.

The French crashed into the flank of the artillery who had already taken several hits and the artillery evaporated.

Leaving the French facing the right flank British infantry.

The situation to the left of the town from the British perspective had bogged down into a firefight and the French right wing cavalry eventually decided there would be no victory to follow up here so began the move to the other wing while the French artillery belatedly moved off the hill.

It was all too late for the French and both infantry divisions broke in the same turn leaving the artillery and cavalry stranded in front of the town.

This was a much more enjoyable experience. Knowing where to look for those bits and pieces (hit score requirements etc) allowed me to concentrate more on the game itself. I mostly remembered (although in the photographs I see a couple of occasions when I didn't) to stop movement towards the enemy at the 'Interaction Zone' (4" – 2" in my half scale game) which I forgot once or twice in the first game. It didn't make any difference I don't think, as I knew charge to contact was separate from movement but there may have been some geometric spin offs of my error I didn't appreciate at the time.


I shall try a bigger game sometime soon, but another niggle (sorry!) is with the maps for all the scenarios – nowhere does it tell you the size of table required or the scale of the map. Not insurmountable obviously, but an added pain flowing from the modern trend of concentrating on basing/rebasing and unit frontages with no reference to any real life on the ground measurements. This is a 'large battle' set with pretensions of allowing you to fight the big battles of the Napoleonic wars, yet no suggestion of ground scale?


The attack failed and I thought this was reasonable for an attack on a town with two infantry divisions against four, albeit one of the four was a conscript unit of unwilling allies. These allies hung around a lot longer than expected to be honest. Some of this was down to the dice throws – poor artillery shooting from the French. The French Veteran status infantry didn't overwhelm the Seasoned British troops and the British artillery at canister range proved understandably more deadly than the roundshot bombardment of the French. (I should have moved the French artillery forward earlier but I kept thinking I would chip away at the exposed line.


I look forward to trying a bigger game with separate cavalry corps and see if it gives a feeling of a big battle that compensates for the loss of that tactical stone paper scissors interaction. I am still a little unsure if I am doing everything right as I keep finding bits of procedure in (to me) illogical places. This set is not unique in this respect and may be partly an issue with the way I think. However there seem to be a lot more instances in this set than in sets I play that have endured the test of time. I shall play a few more times and see if they continue to grow on me.



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