Friday, 9 June 2017

Have Battle, Will Travel

Last night we tried an experiment. Gary set up a game of the new Travel Battle, but just using the rules to refight an historical battle using 'proper' figures. He chose Ligny, giving each side six brigades of 3-6 units each.

Here's the board. In the centre is Ligny, and the Prussians (Caesar and John) would be defending it from behind a stream. The French (Daniel and myself) would be attacking from the left.

The armies deployed. Instead of just Kill All Of The Enemy, there were actual victory conditions. If an enemy brigade was reduced below half strength, then a side scored 1VP. If  it was subsequently wiped out, then that was another VP. A side won if they reached 7VP. Both sides also had a Sudden Death condition; the Prussians won if they demoralised the French Old Guard, and then destroyed one more unit in their brigade, whilst the French won if they were the only side with at least one unit in Ligny at the end of a Prussian turn.

The French plan; attack with cavalry on their right, to turn the Prussian left. The bulk of the French army was poised to make a frontal assault across the stream in front of the Prussian left.

Prussians poised to move in and defend Ligny. The artillery of both sides covered the area around the town, making it a killing zone.

The opening cavalry action saw losses on both sides; these rules are brutal.

The French left was held by one brigade on a hill, tasked with delaying the Prussians opposite them for as long as possible. Here we see Caesar pondering the best way to attack them.

The cavalry action continued on the French right.

Realising how brutal the rules were we decided that our plan was too subtle, so just chucked in our army straight in against the Prussian left. We were luckier than we deserved, with the heavy cavalry brigade sweeping all before it.

Meanwhile, on our left, the Prussians were attacking hard, but Daniel was putting up a good fight, and holding them up.

In the centre the Guard assembled, ready to assault Ligny once the flanking force was in place. However Caesar's artillery rolls were outstanding, and he caused serious casualties amongst them.

The Prussians regroup for another attack on the French left.

And in they go!

The battle for Ligny begins, with the French attack strangely spearheaded by the Guard cavalry. At this stage the Prussian reinforcements had arrived; initially they only got to deploy five of their six brigades, with the sixth appearing via a die-roll

The fighting for Ligny intensified.

And the French got a foothold! But it wasn't exclusive occupation, so wasn't going to be a battle-winner.

Meanwhile the French flanking force had stalled. Caught in a bottleneck between the stream and the Prussian baseline, they were unable to shift a couple of stubborn Prussian units, delaying their ability to support the attack on the town.

With the French left contained (but unbroken), the Prussian heavy cavalry now attacked the French centre, hoping to break the now-battered Guard. They were opposed by the Guard artillery, and the survivors of the French light cavalry brigade. The Guard remained unbroken.

The end! The French had a hard slog fighting attacking the Prussians, but had managed to break a few of their brigades, picking up odd VPs as they did so. Concerted efforts those brigades, scoring more points. Eventually the battle boiled down to the French needing one unit kill to break or destroy vulnerable brigades, and a number of possible targets on the board. It was only a matter of time before they got it, actually with a long-range artillery shot at some reserve units massing behind Ligny.

That's not to say the battle wasn't close. Only a couple of French brigades actually broke, giving the Prussians a couple of points, but most French brigades were only one hit away from demoralisation, so each turn the battle went on would have seen the Prussians pick up more points. In addition the Prussians were very much in a position to achieve their instant win by breaking the Guard.

This was a very entertaining game; the Travel Battle rules seemed to adapt well to scenario play, and didn't seem to break with a few scenario special rules added - crossing streams and Landwehr Infantry. What is disappointing about them is how a set of rules so simple, and written for a game on a square-grid, where movement and unit positions are strictly defined, still has grey areas. Specifically we're still not sure how the arc of fire for artillery works, and units rallying at the board edge nearest their brigadier produces some situations we had to rule on the fly (for example, what if it's the enemy base-edge, and where on the base edge do you do it). One thing we weren't sure about was how, or more specifically, combat effects are adjudicated in order to determine whether units received extra dice. We stated which units were fighting each other, then the player whose turn it was resolved the combats in an order of their choice. If units fell back or were destroyed, and no longer  provided support to friendly units, then the loss of that support was applied. We found it added some thought to how combats were planned. But it could be that the number of dice a unit gets to roll is supposed to be determined for each unit before any combats are resolved. It's not clear, but it makes a big difference.

Be that as it may, with a few house rules to clear up the grey areas, we'd fight an action like this again.


  1. Nice report and pics. Gary's lovely figures turned this into a real wargame! A very fun game with plenty of tense moments, especially towards the end.

  2. Interesting and I would agree with your conclusions about grey areas in the rules. The rules feel like they have been written in a short hand by someone who knows the rules vey well, but makes some assumptions that the gamer has some similar insight (which of course they don't). These rules should have been written as though they are talking to a newbie, especially as this game would potentially be popular with that audience.

  3. I wondered how long it would be before anyone did this ... and your wonderful battle report shows how simple rules - with a few tweaks - can result în a very impressive end result.

    All the best,



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