Friday, 24 June 2022

Quatre Bras With Blucher

After a long break we dragged Blucher out of the rules archives last night. Rather than use figures we simply used the cards from the 100 Days box, and played a scenario based on Quatre Bras. Ralph did a good job of setting up what was a mostly two-dimensional game.

Here we are setting up. Dave and Theo on the left were deciding where to deploy the only two units they get at the start of the game. Meanwhile Caesar was organising the initial French attack. I also played French and Ralph refereed.

We were fairly rusty on the rules, but soon picked it up again; Blucher is not complicated. Here's the main French thrust. We also sent some cavalry on a wide sweep to the right in order to cut the road to Ligny, which was one of our victory conditions.

And a turn or so later this was the position, with the French mounting their first attacks, and Allied reinforcements coming up. We'd formed a gun-line along teh southern ridge, but needn't have bothered, since my dice rolling was terrible - I rolled over thirty dice for artillery during the course of the game and score precisely one hit (you need a six).

Two massed units of French went in against the advanced Dutch-Belgians. The French still lost.

My first success of the evening; Allied cavalry attacked one of our artillery batteries, but the gunners saw them off. Apparently they could hit things if they were at point-blank range.

More French arrive and we were starting to create a viable threat to Quatre Bras. We even got lucky and brought D'Erlon's Corp on. But time was ticking away.

Final positions. The French never got to mount their main attack, so Quatre Bras stayed in allied hands. But the French held the road to Ligny, which was the other objective. So the battle was a draw.

It was actually quite fun to get Blucher out again after what's been quite a few years. My die rolls for the evening were mostly awful, but this did translate into one advantage for teh French - we got to roll teh Allied PIPs each turn, and my low rolling didn't desert me there; with 3D6 they never got more than 10 points in a turn, and scored as low as 4 at one stage. Had the Allies needed to maneuver they would have been in a lot of trouble.

One small issue with the scenario is that arriving troops that are face-down can make a reserve move which can be over a considerable distance if it doesn't go close to a visible enemy. This makes the initial Allied setup quite tricky as it could leave the French able to slip through a gap and grab objectives on the first turn. We didn't really come up with an answer to this.

After we'd packed the game up, Caesar and I played a quick game of W1815. It was the closest game I've ever played, with both sides reaching their army breakpoint on the same turn, something I've never seen happen. Wellington had led a general advance hoping to break teh French, who held and counter-attacked with teh Guard led by Napoleon. This didn't quite defeat the British, who made a final push with Orange's troops. Both sides took a casualty and reached total army collapse, but it's the non-phasing player who checks morale first, so the French lost by a bee's dick. The Prussians were barely noticed.

Unorthodox 2

Following on from the previous game of Galleys & Galleons where I am trying out Unorthodox propulsion, I set up my three Ivory Towers against three galleys. The Galley and Unorthodox traits are very similar in that they require the vessel to spend activations in order to move. The Galley trait has a few extras though; the vessel doesn't have to move their full distance, which is always Medium, they shift their broadside to the front, but can't fire a more effective 2 Action 'broadside' and they get an automatic +1 in boarding actions. As a trait Galley is free, whereas Unorthodox costs points.

I ran three ships on each side. The Ivory Towers were the same as in the previous game, except that I removed the chasers. The Galleys were Q3 C3, and had the Master Gunner trait to offset the points the Ivory Towers spent on their propulsion.

The board had a series of shallows and islands, and wind was irrelevant. Both forces started in adjacent corners, and the battle mostly ended up taking place along one edge of the board.

The galleys advanced in line abreast, as this gives them the most effective gunnery options. The Ivory towers are best off moving in line abreast, because of their erratic movement, but still need to turn to bring their broadsides to bear.

A galley too the first shot and missed.

One downside of the galleys is that in order to shoot they have to present their bow to the target, and this leaves them vulnerable to being raked. And that's exactly what happened; a galley was shattered by the first raking broadside.

The Ivory towers shook out into a rough line, and poured broadsides into the advancing galleys. The galleys fired back, but despite their master gunners they didn't seem to be able to hit anything.

The galleys had potentially dangerous concentrated fire in one direction, so the towers attempted to work round onto their beams. A galley caught fire. 

And exploded. The galleys still hadn't inflicted any damage on the towers.

This changed. Spurred on by their consort's untimely destruction, the remaining two galleys actually made an effort, turned and starting firing effective shots at the towers

The towers turned in response and replied with their broadsides

One of the towers struck after taking a few hits.

The galley then sped forward, grappled another tower, and boarded. However despite an edge in the combat the galley lost, and was soon in trouble.

Meanwhile the other galley was taking steady fire, ended up holed, and sank.

The remaining galley cut grapples and fired, staring a fire.

This bought it time to pull away, and repair some damage. The tower extinguished the fire, and soon both towers were lining up shots on the lone galley.

A gunnery duel ensued, but it was obvious that the odds were against the galley.

Taking advantage of a moment's command paralysis, the galley closed up, hoping to inflict some critical damage on the of the towers. It wasn't enough.

The galley was steadily battered into submission.

This didn't turn out the way I expected, as I tend to regard the movement capabilities of the galleys as far superior to those of teh unorthodox vessels. However the fact that the galleys have to present their bows to raking fire, and that the towers get the ability to fire powerful broadsides whilst not having to move with the wind, did seem to offset some of this advantage. To be fair though the galleys rolled appallingly for shooting early on, and fluffed a couple of critical command rolls too, and that gave the Ivory Towers and early advantage they were able to exploit. 

For my next game I will dig out some suitable ACW vessels and pit the Ivory Towers against vessels powered by steam.

Monday, 20 June 2022


One of the fantasy/lacepunk elements of Galleys and Galleons is some alternative means of propulsion aside from sails and oars. You could have a primitive steam-engine instead, or be a flapping ornithopter. Or have a means of propulsion that is more ... unorthodox. This represents means of propulsion which are unstable or unpredictable. The ship may move twice in a turn, but each movement costs and action and the distance is random. It makes controlling a group of ships quite awkward.

I have reservations about the fact that this means of propulsion costs points whilst being, in many worse, worse than the Galley trait it most resembles and which is free. I have been considering some changes to it, but haven't settled on anything definite. What I thought I'd do is play a series of test games and just get a feel for how it plays. 

For my first game I set up two equal forces. The first consisted of three galleons. Their movement trait is Galleon-Rigged, which costs roughly the same as the Unorthodox trait.

Against them I pitted three of the Ivory Towers of Balnibarbi, propelled by the Unorthodox trait. All ships on both sides were Q3 C3 and had Chasers.

Naturally the galleons had to work with the wind, which was wildly changeable. But the Ivory Towers had to contend with maintaining a formation when movement required actions and the distances were not constant. Eventually both sides ended up on a heading towards each other.

Opening shotes - a galleon fired its chasers at an Ivory Tower, which closed up and fired its broadside.

The fighting became general.

Both sides were inflicting damage on each other.

The advantage teh Ivory Towers had was that they could choose not to move regardless of their attitude to the wind, whilst the galleons were generally in constant motion.

The Ivory Towers managed to double up on a galleon.

Unfortunately amongst the various damage being dished out, teh lead Ivory Tower caught fire ...

... and exploded.

However the vagaries of the G&G command system saw the lead galleon struggle to stay in the fight as the wind kept shifting back and forth, and it eventually left the play area.

An Ivory Tower and a galleon battered each other at medium range. The galleon had turned up into the wind, so both ships were effectively stationary.

The Ivory Tower took a seious critical, leaving it heavily damaged, and it quickly sank.

This left one Ivory Tower facing two galleons. All vessels were damaged to some degree.

Two of them ended up even more damaged, when a galleon collided with the Ivory Tower.

The ships separated and the crews of all vessels worked frantically to bring them back into action whilst undertaking what repairs they could. It didn't help that in the confusion one of the galleons fired on another, and took down one of its masts.

The offending galleon was in all kinds of trouble, with it's crew really not sure what it was doing any more. It too sailed out of the battle.

This left just one galleon facing one Ivory Tower, and both of them were badly damaged, including in their propulsion. They slowly circled each other, firing as they did so.

Eventually the Ivory Tower managed to edge onto teh stern of the galleon and raked it.

A second rake saw the galleon pounded into a sinking wreck.

So the Ivory Towers kind of won this encounter, although it was a pretty close affair. And, to be fair, two of the galleons simply sailed off the battlefield rather than strike or sink. However the Ivory Towers were unlucky to receive so many horrible criticals.

I didn't find the Ivory Towers overly disadvantaged against the galleons, but it will be interesting to see how the fare against an equal force of galleys, since the latter have a radically different style of fighting, having frontal gunnery and being much better at boarding.

Sunday, 19 June 2022


This weekend was, of course, the 207th anniversary of Waterloo, so I hauled out my copy of the classic little block-game W1815.

Here it is, set up and ready to go.

It is rather elegant in its simplicity, and looks lovely. The game is really driven by the cards - the blocks are simply used to show casualties and the status of objectives.

The French won the first game fairly swiftly when the allies failed their first morale test. Orange had been assaulted by D'Erlon's Corp which just couldn't roll low, and smashed them up without really offering a viable counter-attack for Uxbridge's cavalry. Lobau and Grouchy saw the Prussians off.

The second game went much the same way; the Allies failed their first morale roll again.

In this game they had stopped D'Erlon, but it wasn't enough; Uxbridge took one casualty too many counter-attacking the final French assault, and the losses broke the Allied morale.

The third game was a bloodbath, and the result was a lot closer. This was due to the French cavalry going impetuous and almost destroying itself on Hill's squares. But an earlier attack by D'Erlon (again) had sapped the Allied will to fight, and whilst both sides had to test morale on the first turn, the Allies had to test first. And failed again.

The final game saw an allied victory! The French stopped rolling so insanely well, and couldn't get a break. D'Erlon failed to break Orange, and Rielle broke against Hill's troops bolstered by the allied reserve. In desperation Napoleon committed the Guard, but it was a fruitless gesture, and the French were utterly routed.

It took less than an hour to play all four games.

52 Games - Game 45

Update - Apologies to the individual who posted a comment on this which I accidentally deleted instead of hitting publish. I shouldn't manage blog comments on my phone before I put my glasses on ...

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