Table Top Wars and Warriors: Lets talk rules

220px-Maurice_de_Saxe_(1696-1750)So I have been speaking of the Grand Duchy of D’Argent without putting it in the context of any particular rule system this is intentional sine I do not believe there is a single war-game rule set you should play.  I’m going to discuss a few rule set that I like focusing on the 18th Century.

Let me start with the rules that inspired The Grand Duchy.

Maurice is rule set by Sam Mustafa.  Sam has a number of rules covering a number of different periods Maurice can be used to play battles any time from 1690 to 1790 but it probably best captures the spirit of war in the Age of Reason proper specifically the War of Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.  Maurice is a points based game with each army being built with 100 points up to 30 points of which can be used on special attributes for the army.  Units are rated Guard, Elite, Trained and Conscript and can move between elite, trained and conscript based on performance and luck in battles.  Maurice uses an elegant card based command system to simulate the difficulties of command and control in this period.  Battles tend to happen in stages with one part of an army fighting then another.  Sometimes large parts of both armies stand still this seems odd at first but it happened in real life too.  This rule set was written specifically to facilitate play with Imagi-nations but it also works well for historic scenarios.  I believe the greatest asset of these rules is a simple mapless campaign system that is readily adaptable to other game systems.  If Maurice has a down side it’s that it really does not lend itself to multi-player games.  Maurice is my favorite game for 18th century battles between smaller armies when you have one other player.   The game requires the least pre-battle prep work since it has a random map generating system worked into it.   If I have a few hours and another player with the urge to play I can be throwing dice in a minimal amount of time.

Black Powder  By Rick Priestly or Warlord games is probably the rule set I play most often for this period.  The rules themselves cover the period of time from 1700 to 1900.  I have a love/hate relationship with these rules.  They are a good set of rules in that play quickly and reasonably intuitively but they do not provide much guidance to players that are not familiar with the period with regard to building their army.  This confusion is magnified by the use of the term “Brigade” to refer to a group of units under the command of a particular leader.  Brigade has a very specific meaning in military terms which may or may not match its use in the game.  Also the large period of time covered by the rules leads to some a historical situation such as the use of “attack columns” in the American Revolution.  One of the best aspects of these rules are the many special unit attributes that are possible so you can truly customize you army for the right historical or imagi-nation feel you want.  Command and control in this game is done using command check against the “Brigade” or army commander’s command ratting.  He can fail or even issue a senseless command if you roll badly enough.  This system lends itself well to multi-player games.  Black Powder is strongest when portraying 19th century armies especially what the “colonial wars” of the British Empire and works quite  well for Napoleonic war-gaming.

The final rule set I want to discuss is a favorite of mine though not many people share my view in my local gaming group.  Volley and Bayonet: Road to Glory by Frank Chadwick is very similar to Black Powder in terms of scope. It also covers a period of time from approximately 1700 to 1900.  The Mechanics of the game are very simple units have two basic stats Strength Points (up to 6 each representing 500 men) and moral (also rated from 1 to 6, though some units can have a moral of 7).  Other than this units all have the same attributes a French Brigade will roll 4d6 dice when shooting and so will a British Brigade. The simplicity of the system can frustrate some player who insist that British Platoon fire should give them a better chance to hit.  V&B however assumes that armies of the period were more alike than they are different and that the factors that lead to the winning of battles was a combination of number (Strength points), discipline and unit cohesion (moral), luck (that’s the dice) and the generals tactical ability (that would be you the player).  V&B also frustrates some purist because the rules do not include any formation.  Infantry regiments are mounted on a base 3 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep while Brigades (both infantry and cavalry) are mounted on a 3 inch square  (some players reduce these sizes by 2/3 or even by 1/2).  Command and control is based on units being with in a certain distance of their commander if they are with in 6 inches or in contact with a unit within 6 inches the unit can receive orders.  The main rule book provides extensive lists (with points) for a variety of Napoleonic armies and full lists for the Seven Years War are also available on-line.   The game works very well for muli-player games (even better than Black Powder) because there are no command roll any mistakes are strictly your own.  I like V&B because it generally rewards the general who fights smart (if he is a little lucky) from a tactical stand point rather than the general who best knows how to exploit the rules.   I think V&B works best for wars with very big battles The US Civil War, The Napoleonic War and Seven Years War.  The down side is you lose some of the flavor at the individual unit level but you gain some thing form being able to fight huge battle on comparatively small tables.

We’ll explore these rules a bit more next time as I show you what the regiments of the Army of D’Argent look like from a stats stand point in each game.  I enjoy playing all three game rules and would encourage you to try any and all of them.

Don’t forget to visit my blog: to check out my Painting and modeling projects and to read AARs of my past table top battles.

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