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).


Fitz-Badger said...

The fanaticus site may be down. I'm getting "Page cannot be displayed" messages when I try to access it (either directly or through that wiki site).
I'm interested to hear more about the campaign system. I assume FtG is out of print (considering SPI and AH are long since defunct). Any idea what the going rate for used copies is?

Maj_Gen_Stanley said...

I'd check e-bay and maybe TMP. If not, I have two copies (just have to find the other one), and would gladly sell it to you at the cost of shipping.

Bluebear Jeff said...


I clicked on the Fanaticus site and it opened right up . . . so give it another try.

Maj. Gen., your account sounds very interesting . . . I might have to hear more.

-- Jeff