Thursday, June 26, 2008

House Rules

I can't think of any gamer who plays the rules straight out of the book...not for very long, at least. So, with Ober-Bindlestiff gearing up for a war against Saxe-Schweinrot, it's time to lay out the house rules.

First, the base rules - Volley & Bayonet, 2nd Edition. Where there are changes in those rules, the house rules will be reconsidered.
  1. Routing - when a unit routs it loses one hit; not going to do that with the Marlburians. The reason is that these units are only worth, at max, 3 hits. If they were worth more, then yes, we'd use it.
  2. Hamlets – a hamlet is a small group of isolated buildings, not enough for a garrison, but enough to provide cover from flanking fire. They do not break the line of sight.
  3. Small Wheel – a change of facing for Partially Trained troops of a 1" wheel or less costs 3" of movement, not half of the movement. This is not allowed to troops rated as militia.

Campaign movement will be with a new map and Freddie the Grouch rules referred to in a previous post. Oh, one thing missed in the post on losses. When totalling up the losses, count only 250 men/hit.


So, with all of that, orders are being sent out, the first battle is in the books, and both sides are frantically repairing their losses and mustering their strength. Nothing was settled by the first encounter. A true trial of strength is coming.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Campaign Nitty Gritty

One of the problems in any campaign system is to resolve losses. Here's the system that I developed and have been using.

1. All losses are calculated on the tabletop unit. This is brigade of horse, regiment of foot, and battalion of artillery.

2. Half of all losses come back the next morning. These are the 'just scratched', those who ran away and came back, and so on.

3. An additional 1/2 casualty can come back for a drop in morale grade. This does not apply if the unit only suffered one hit. A unit that lost only one hit cannot be restored to 3 hits, but has to remain at 2.

4. Artillery battalions that are knocked out other than by melee are allowed to recover, but they drop one morale grade. This is the only exception to the "one hit" rule above.

An example: the von Plotzdorf foot, MG=5, EFD, PT, EP (morale grade 5, early firelock drill, partially trained - i.e. don't march in step with drill to match - elites - grenadiers - present) lose 1 hit. They are now 2 hits, MG=5, etc. If they'd lost 2 hits, they'd get 1 back, and still be MG=5, etc. If they'd lost 3 hits, they'd get 1 back automatically, round the 1/2 up for a drop in morale grade. So they'd be 2 hits, MG=4, EFD, PT, EP. After a while on campaign, troops get run down and have to be sent to the rear.

5. There are no replacements except by whole units in the campaign.

An example: von Plotzdorf is reduced to MG=3, 1 hit. They cannot be recruited back up to full strength during the campaign. Instead they go to the rear to be recruited up. The Katzenjammer Fusiliers show up as a new unit, MG=5, EFD, PT, EP.

No provision is made in Volley & Bayonet for command casualties. I like them, Frank doesn't. Maybe we'll do it someday. That can be sort of fun.

Other things we'll try:
a) all of the neat rules in version 2.
b) subordinate commanders have their units "in command" by touching, not by 6". This is controversial (i.e. there was a lot of discussion about it). This also means that before we do that we'll have to try lots of small commands vs. a few large commands.

I can't wait to play some more VnB.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Battle of Ansell

The climactic battle of the campaign came after weeks of intricate maneuvers. Troops marched here, troops marched there, and then they marched somewhere else. It was all terribly confusing, and in the end the two sides stood staring at each other outside the town of Ansell, each determined to drive the other from the field.

A note here, battles in this period were more by seduction than brute force. Oh, the fighting was certainly nasty enough, but you had to lull the enemy into battle, you did not have the ability to force it upon him. That was what happened here. Each side thought they would gain by a victory, each thought they would lose by a defeat, and that the consequences of defeat, while bad enough, were outweighed by the dazzling promise of a victory.

Because of the woods on one flank, and a river on the other, this was going to be a head-on slugfest. So much the better, then neither side could claim that they were cheated of victory by some sly trick of marching. The ground itself had a few hills on the flanks that had not been farmed and so were rough. But most of the battlefield was flat and easy for the men and horses to march over.

The Elector interleaved his forces, wanting to throw a combination of attacks at his opponent. Most important of all, he kept a reserve back out of the fighting, putting it behind his right flank. The Duke went for a heavily weighted right of his own, but otherwise had his troops in a standard formation with foot in the middle and horse on each flank.

No battle goes quite the way it is planned, which might explain why generals prefer sieges. In the Battle of Ansell, both sides surged forward. The cavalry clashed in a repeated series of charges and countercharges before mosytly retiring behind the foot. The exception was the Rijktwats Te Paard. They got cut off in the enemy’s formation, and caused all sorts of consternation as they beat back attack after attack. In the end they too had to retire, but only after having repulsed all attacks. But on this flank the Duke’s forces had been so badly confused that night fell before they could sort out the tangle of units and press forward.

The decision, though, was on the western flank of the two armies (right for the Elector, left for the Duke). The cavalry did not have room to maneuver, and after several fruitless charges against the lone Electoral cavalry brigade in the area, they had to withdraw. The foot got engaged into a long series of musketry exchanges. The Elector’s troops shot a little straighter than the Duke’s. The latter’s troops clung to their line manfully, but in the end the punishment they were taken proved too much and they fled from the field.

The sun set on a long battle. Gallantry was displayed on both sides. The foot stuck manfully to their task, while the cavalry on both sides displayed an excellent espirit de corps that bodes well for the future. The Elector had brought 46,000 men, and lost 2,000. The Duke's forces suffered the worst (especially when their morale collapsed), losing 9,000 men out of 45,000.


Okay - this was a VnB ver. 1 linear battle. Some friends came over and I put out the troops. Almost all units were involved except the dragoons.

This did not include Partially Trained troops or Early Firelock Drill, both of which I'll use starting next month. We did not use the "when a unit routs it loses one hit automatically" rule. This seems to work for when units have 7 or 8 hits, but when they have 3 hits, nobody was sure it was needed. We might try it, though. But with commands going exhausted, a collapse was inevitable. Things sure go bad when half the army suffers a morale collapse.

One of the complaints was that there weren't enough generals. This is an issue in Volley & Bayonet, and a house rule might be put in. We also like the idea of offing these lead generals, and are always open to a house rule. Neither side had battalion guns. That's awaiting 2.0.

I'm going to upgrade my markers for various conditions. Colored slips of paper didn't do much.

The above description doesn't do justice to how the fighting went. In the future people will resume a practice of keeping a log of events. But this was very much a frontal battle with all of the losses that you get from that.

As a measure of the game, people were talking tactics at the end. Everyone was comfortable with the rules.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Brief Divergence

Campaign Systems -

I'm wedded to the Volley & Bayonet rules for my Marlburian miniatures gaming. This is (as of Historicon '08) the 2nd Edition of Volley & Bayonet (referred to from now on as VnB2). I've been lucky to have the playtest version.

At Enfilade! this year (2008) I got to watch Bruce McFarlane's Battle of Torgau using the Humberside Extensions of DBA (aka DBA-HX). I have been experimenting with them and how to convert back and forth between a favorite campaign system and the miniatures table. The first tests were quite successful.

The campaign system is the boardgame Frederick the Great. It captures much of the feel of 18th Century warfare. I've tried the box-to-box system, and while it is very good, and given to much calculation, I've settled on the FtG system because I can do it in my sleep, and it has a CRT for use if you don't want to actually game out a battle.

Some things don't quite transfer over from FtG and DBA-HX and back again. Think of them as something I'll deal with in the future. But for right now, they work quite well.

So what was this playtest?

I found a local gamer who knew the game FtG rather well and was relatively experienced with DBA 2.2 (and the unwritten rules thereof), and emailed him a map I made up with Campaign Cartographer 2 (copyright Profantasy). We dickered back and forth about die rolls and the size of forces. We settled on the long-awaited disagreement between Saxe-Schweinrot and Ober-Bindlestiff. There is some dispute about the exact location of the border, and Saxe-Schweinrot wants a barrier of fortresses. Since few, if any, of the fortresses on the border are fortified to any real extent (they have a curtain wall and covered way, but that's about it), this is an issue.

Both sides mustered the forces allowed by the map. This resulted in 12 brigades of foot and 5 of horse for Saxe-Schweinrot, and 14 brigades of foot and 6 of horse for Ober-Bindlestiff. What followed was "normal" for anyone who has played FtG. We didn't rush out and have a mighty clash of arms. Instead we each sought to snap off some towns and deny others to the enemy. There were a couple of stare-downs where we tensed for a battle, but it didn't happen. In both cases (at least early in the campaign) it was because the forces were too even. Experience with 18th Century miniatures and FtG suggest very strongly that you avoid battle if the numbers are close to even.

Then my opponent sent a flying detachment deep into my territory to snap up a couple of barely defended depots. He was successful, too, causing me to start suffering attrition until I could get back in supply. I ignored that when he made a mistake with his route and I was able to come down on him with most of the main army. In FtG terms I had 15 points, he had 5. We decided not to game this one out. The CRT gave him 40% losses, I had 5%. He lost 2 SP destroyed, and 2 captured. The leader got away with 1 SP, and was demoralized (no fooling!). I lost 1 SP.

With most of my troops snapping off that detachment, my opponent attacked on another front and captured two towns. By now I had my supply back in order, and marched out to fight him and regain the towns. He had 8 SP, I had 11. This one we put on the table. The dice ignored me through the first half of the fight. In the end I lost 20% (roughly) of my force, and he lost 25%. Each lost 2 SP, so there were no prisoners, and nobody was demoralized in FtG terms. But in miniatures terms I broke two of his three commands while he broke only one of mine. One of his fled, one was pinned in position. Mine refused to move. In miniatures terms he lost, but narrowly.

How to resolve this discrepancy (draw vs. loss)? We decided that it was a narrow victory for me. His force fell back grudgingly at the end of the day, not at all convinced that it had lost, and most definitely not demoralized. It had been roughly handled, but ended the day with forces still in hand. Our after-battle conversation centered more on tactics (neither of us were that familiar with DBA-HX) than on rules.

With both sides run down in numbers, we agreed to a truce for the balance of the season (only five more turns anyway). A ceasefire was put in place and we drew a line on the map to show the border. Neither of us is satisfied with it, so a future conflict is almost assured. Both of us have ideas on how the campaign system can be tweaked.

So, with that in mind, go to the DBA Resource Page at This is a great resource, and you can follow the links to the Humberside Extensions, aka

As for Freddie the Great, check around. There were two versions, one by Avalon Hill (bought out by Hasbro) and one by SPI. They are identical.

I admit that the report doesn't give much detail of the campaign. That might come later as we iron out the kinks (and create more elaborate maps).