Saturday, 7 March 2015

Game 27 - 'Muskets & Mayhem'

We were always looking forward to playing Steve's 'old school rules' from over at Sound Officers' Call - and we weren't disappointed.

'Pour la Gloire mes amis! Pour la Gloire!'

These are older in style, yet not too simplistic, while giving some nice challenges in terms of managing resources on the battlefield.

The scenario chosen was a French attack on prepared allied positions (English/Dutch) around the Marlburian period (I removed my pike blocks from my Nine Years War units - purists will comment on the lack of Tricornes rather than flop hats, but mehhh).

There's a nice turn sequence which lets stationary units fire and apply casualties well before moving units can bring muskets to bear. This can make an attack really difficult - especially so against well defended positions - as it should be of course. The advantage of removing casualties at different stages of the game turn, depending on whether they moved/fired or not, is something that we see in other rules, though the turn sequence here really lends itself to making tactical decisions on that basis.

Some changes or revisions we implemented:

  • Leaders can force one re-roll if within a 12" command radius, or if attached to units, can remove a hit - although we found that the re-roll made things a little fiddly. Commanders move 30 movement units.
  • We used musket/close artillery range of 6", with max artillery range of 20".
  • Morale checks are used for charging, the 'chargee' stands if his is made. We adapted this for cavalry so that they could countercharge if passed, and both units would meet in the middle.
  •  We conducted melee simultaneously rather than use initiative to dictate anything. We noted that there is a morale check for stands lost to fire, though not to melee - although the fact that 2 hits difference will make a unit fall back, can decide most melees (we debated whether the unit should fall back or be removed - removal means a shorter game.) We insisted upon removal for any units which had lost stands, though cavalry was pushed back - we experimented with follow through charges..
  • We sped up firing and saving throws, by each player using a different colour of dice groupings - player 1 fire / player 2 save, player 2 fire / player 1 save.
  • The effects of shooting and losing part of the unit has a real effect on effectiveness. A normal unit has a morale / hit potential of 4+ per two figures in a 16 figure unit. Remove one of the four stands it goes to 5+ for 12 figures and saves are adjusted too. So a fresh unit fires with 8 dice for 4+, while a unit that has sustained 4 hits, fires with 6 dice for 5+. That makes a real difference, and once a unit falls into 'disorganised' morale - it really deteriorates fast. We discussed a rally rule here.
  • We had prepared Allied defences in our game - we allowed a +1 for units rolling morale and saves, and a +2 to their morale roll when charged in defences.
  • Units that interpenetrate friends due to push back from melee (assuming we use the non-removal rule) inflict a hit.
  • Units failing morale on pre charge or receipt of charge is clear - though we debated over what happens when they lose a stand and fail morale. We opted for pushback.
  • For elite cavalry we opted for 3+ morale rating. This made them devastating.
  • For flanking charges - we opted to have hits rolled as normal, but unit charged gets no saves, and total adds to requirement for 2 hits. In this case, a fleeing unit was destroyed.
Some pics from the action:
A little Marlburian action. Cavalry on each flank, and a determined (though of course outnumbered) defender behind some stalwart defences.

The first charge of the game on the Allied right. The by now familiar cavalry clash. (feels like we've been here before, though with these fast-play rules, that 'first clash' would set a pattern for a rapid erosion of the loser's chances - if the melee wasn't decided in the first round that is.)

Some musketry duels in the centre - the French commander of course, sitting on his bloody hill, too far from the action to affect any die rolls *sigh*.

 Another cavalry charge on the Allied left - though the French gain the upper hand with elite horsemen.
A mass of bodies in the centre as the elite Dutch guards charge into the French lines.

On the French right, led by French guards and Irish units, the assault against the prepared English defences goes in.

 ...but the French are getting the better of the cavalry clash on the right. (One example of how we used a push back as a result of a lost melee).

 Those Allied flanks are looking decidedly delicate...

As the French assault goes in, in the centre...infantry charges against prepared defences - ouch.

  'Pour la Gloire mes amis! Pour la Gloire!'

It's that French gunner again! He's still readin' the bloody newspaper. "Oy! Mate! Fire something!"

Allied cavalry flee in the face of fantastic dice rolls superior French cavalry.

 With a similar result on the French right. The Allied flanks are now officially 'open'.

The French have taken a mauling in the centre, though they have enough reserve units to assault again - and the Allies won't be able to take it, despite their defences - especially as French cavalry will be coming down upon their flanks within two turns.

View from the ramparts.

Even last ditch attempts by Dutch infantry to hold the flank won't be enough. Victory to la Francais.

A great game and great rules. We added a few things and clarified others. We need to clarify what happens to the loser in melee, and ranges and things like that, but the mechanisms are very solid and intuitive, with little time spent on minutiae.

These rules would also work for multiple periods within Horse & Musket, as nothing is period specific or set in stone. Squares, columns, AWI light infantry - can all be easily added.

Very good.


  1. Darren,
    So happy to see the rules in action! I am furiously copying and pasting your comments and amendments so I can incorporate them into the rules and add them to my own play-testing. I especially like the commander's radius and the ideas about rallying. I don't think adding rallying will slow the game down too much.
    These are terrific pictures and when we produce our final product, let's use your pics and in the rules :)

    It seems like this game makes you think about committing troops to an assault and makes you keep track of your more brittle units. I like that.

    If you don't mind, I will post a link on my blog to your terrific write up.

    Great looking game!

  2. Of course Steven, please post any links and use any pics you need.

    The game does make you think about committing units and most certainly makes you consider the reserve - always the cornerstone of any good ruleset.

    We might look at an ACW battle next, and play about with ranges etc.

    1. Changes added and posted to my blog! Looking forward to seeing an ACW version! I will post an AWI version this week.