Tuesday, May 30, 2017

General d'Armee

We had a quick change of plans for our game last Saturday. I had planned on running a Black Powder Napoleonic game based off the Battle of Barrosa in 1811. But one of our gamers received a pdf version of Dave Browns new General d'Armee rules, so we decided to give them a try instead.

French to the left, British to the right with the Barrosa Tower off in the distance.

I have very high hopes for this ruleset; while I do have fun playing Black Powder, the games are lacking in period flavour. Our BP games just end up being fun games with miniatures instead of a fun Napoleonic game.

There was going to be four of us playing, so I divided the forces into five brigades for the French and four brigades for the British. This as it turns out is what a single person per side could easily run. I also believe this is going to be the main "negative" feature for me of the rule set, more on that later though.

BG Dilkes Guard brigade advances up the Barrosa heights to engage Ruffin's infantry division.
As this was a first play through of the rules, and a hasty one at that, we made numerous errors. Most were "fixed" in game, though I did find several other mistakes made after I re-read the rules the next day. Not an issue for me as I never get upset about mistakes in any game, especially one in which we are learning the rules.

French infantry from Leval's division advances upon the British lines.
In the opening moves of the battle the French occupied Barrosa Hill with most of Ruffin's division, while Leval's division cautiously advanced on the British "grand" battery. Just so, as Wheatley's skirmish line broke from the woods and started firing on the flank of the French columns. This forced several of the battalions to turn and face the skirmishers, though the bulk of the division advanced upon the rest of the Wheatley's infantry as it deployed from the woods ... supposedly under the cover of Major Duncans artillery guns. That was the plan, its just that Duncan's artillery brigade was consistently hesitant and provided no support!

This allowed the 1/54th Ligne in column to rapidly charge Colonel Barnard’s flank battalion, overwhelming and routing them. They fled back to behind several companies of the Coldstream Guard that just exited the woods. With poor command rolls on both sides, the rest of the battle for these troops became stymied and mostly limited to sporadic musketry.

The French battalions from Ruffin's division moved down the hill at the small guard battalions moving up the hill. They met in the middle and proceeded to volley and charge back and forth with neither side gaining an advantage.

While this was taking place French Dragoons had swept around Barrosa Hill and were looking to the turn the British flank, just as Colonel Whittingham cavalry and spanish infantry finally showed up along the coast road. The British Hussars fared well and drove back the dragoons, though the spanish cavalry not so much.

Both sides were starting to have more and more brigades falter, so we called it a day ... after five hours of gaming! Ok at least half that time was spent looking up rules or waiting on customers :) Overall it seemed that we all had a good time and are already looking at running another game.

So what did I think of the rules? Did it meet my expectations?

I did like the rules, and for the most part they met my expectations for a Napoleonic rule set. Even after just one playthrough I am feeling like they will replace BP as our go to rule set for Napoleonics.

They are fiddly, which I like, but suspect many people won't like them because of the tables/charts or the all the little variations on outcomes.

My main problem with the rules and ironically one of the interesting features of it, is the ADC command system. It is fun rolling for availability and tasking out the ADC's, I think most people will want to participate in it and as we get more familiar with the rules and stages of games, we will get more nuanced with when and what Tasking's we use.

But we play with 28mm figures where each player generally only has a couple of brigades ... thats two ADC's, so just one or two per turn. I suspect that having four or five brigades for each person will give enough ADC's to fully utilize the system. We'll see how it goes as we play more games, perhaps will just have one person per side roll ADC's and them hand them out.

The only other part of the rules that annoyed me was the obvious British bias in the rules, those however are very easy to take out. As an example, the mains rules state "Counter-charges by Infantry are not permitted. Exception: if defending British Infantry...". I don't mind the rule it self, but that it seems that only British infantry figured out how to counter charge :) I will just change it to read Veteran and Elite infantry instead of British. And of course there is a 60th/95th special rule ... which I will change to elite light companies and so on ...

I really liked the charging/melee sequence, though it does take some getting used to and you will need to use the charts most of the time ... which I do believe many people will not like. But I missed the rolling to charge/stand sequence that BP does not have and suspect charging will be used less than in BP.

We of course will have to play more games to confirm, but it seems that volley fire is much more effective than charging to disperse enemy units. Unlike BP, where you almost always charge right away, in GdA I get the feeling it is best to move up and engage in several turns of volley fire before charging.

Overall I am quite pleased with the rules and am already figuring out how to track hits, ADC's and other markers for the game.

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