Thursday, 3 December 2015

Testing some new ideas for Piquet - SYW battle report.

For some time Graham has not been happy with the morale rules we've been using in our house amended 'classic' Piquet rules for large SYW battles. Typically these battles feature 50 plus units, Zorndorf (see picture below) featured 88 units; this is well above the game size that Piquet was designed for - typically 12 to 20 units a side. Last week, with support from Peter, Graham convinced me to make some changes. 

To allow 'classic' Piquet style rules to cope with bigger battles one of the changes we made was to cut the amount of morale chip loss for units in combat. We have found that losing less morale allows the action in big battles to become more expansive, with more attacks, or multiple attacks, in more sectors of the table. To 'save' morale expenditure we had completely discarded morale chip loss in relation to stand loss. We only count a loss for destroyed, routed or shaken (disordered in 'classic' Piquet) units. This has worked well except that morale challenges, costing a morale chip each, seemed expensive. Graham's change was for morale chip loss for a morale challenge to be debited from the side that failed to achieve a positive result, effectively halving the cost overall. BTW, you still need a morale point in hand to issue a challenge, just in case the enemy succeed in passing the test. We tried this last night and it worked - I like it, thought the way re-rolls work needs more discussion.

A bugbear of many war games is the end game. Games either go on and on to 'last man standing', end abruptly with an army reaching an arbitrary break point, or by gentleman's agreement. In Piquet the end game is largely governed by the expenditure of morale chips reducing a side to zero morale chips and the Major Morale card but, the major morale check is cumbersome and often indecisive. We've tried to come up with a number of ideas to improve the standard Major Morale rule over the years and our last attempt was almost there. Now I think we have come up with something with its roots in 'classic' Piquet, but much more workable, and able to effectively end the game in a satisfying manner. It is substantially different to the classic Piquet Major Morale check rule on failure. It reads as follows.

When this sequence card is turned it is played against the enemy army. The enemy’s C-in-C must pay a morale chip and take a major morale check. He does this by rolling a d20, adjusted for command quality (-2 to +2 in this case) versus the total number of units his army currently has destroyed or routing. To pass the check the die result must be higher. If the check is passed no further action is required. If the die roll is equal or lower than the number required the army fails the check, adds a Dress the Line card to its sequence deck and the army must individually check the morale of each of its command groups.

If the army has no C-in-C or morale chips to take the major morale check it automatically fails, adds a Dress the Line card to its sequence deck and must individually check the morale of each of its command groups.

Command groups forced to take major morale checks do so by rolling D12, adjusted for command quality, versus D8. If the command is currently leaderless a D6 is rolled. If the die roll is higher the command passes the check. If the command fails the army loses one morale point; if the army cannot pay a morale chip all of the group’s units are downgraded one battle quality level and any units already rated as battle weary are routed.

Recovering lost officers. On the appearance of this card any command group leaders lost in battle can be recovered on a successful other difficulty check versus D8. Each test costs one initiative point. If the officer is recovered at the first attempt the replacement officer will be the original one; if not, the officer will be a new officer and his quality will need to be diced for.

Note the use of Dress the Lines sequence cards here. We do not add dress the lines cards to a sequence deck for lost units. In big games there are just too many units lost. We do add them for officer casualties, and also for any successful supersedence of command (changing command structure mid battle). We do not deal out cards at the start of a turn.

We have also tightened up the rules governing Cossacks. In the SYW these troops were useless on the battlefield. However, this is a game and I didn't paint up eight units for them never to be used. I think we have a balance now - Cossacks are only next to useless. The rule reads:

Cossacks always move as independent units. A Cossack unit may never close with an unshaken enemy unit that is facing it frontally. Shaken Cossacks may never close with the enemy. Unshaken Cossacks may only close with an enemy unit’s flank or rear, or a shaken unit, if they pass an ‘other difficulty’ test before movement. The unit rolls the army’s ‘other difficulty’ die, adjusted for unit quality, Vs D8. If the unit rolls higher it passes the test and may close. If the unit fails it stands in place. Each test, and any subsequent movement, costs a single initiative point. Cossacks are removed from play if they lose in melee. Cossacks count towards Army Characterisation / Morale card score but do not count towards unit loss for Major Morale checks.

Last night I set up a simple smallish game to test out some of the modifications. It was Russians Vs Prussians. Numbers were balanced by Army Characterisation Deck / Morale card divisor. Both sides got 7 cards - the Russians had 28 units (divisor 4) and the Prussians got 21 units (divisor 3). Except for deployment zone boundaries (marked out with coloured 'Jenga' blocks), players deployed as they wanted. 

The table was set up with a valley at one end, a town in the centre and a small hill at the other. There were also a few areas of woodland (bounded by lichen) and some intensively cultivated areas represented by corn fields; the latter count as type II throughout with cover and limited line of sight. The latter shot is the armies prior to deployment set out on a pasting table propped up from beneath with a wood plank - there is a lot of weight there and it was sagging dangerously.

 The Prussian deployment.

 The Russian deployment.

The Prussians got much of the early initiative and soon occupied the town with grenadiers. The Russians, seen advancing into the town were caught in column of route - bang, bang, your dead!

In the centre, the Russian infantry line advances towards the cultivated area.
The Prussian centre advances to meet them.
On the Russian right the Prussian cavalry, somewhat isolated from the rest of the army, come under pressure. The Russians support their cavalry with infantry. The Prussians try to get around them.... 
.....but the Russian infantry turns outward and with a vicious volley of enfilading musketry the Prussian attack is left in tatters.

I think this infantry command (four units), now free of the enemy on this flank, is going to have an impact beyond that already achieved. It just needs time to change the direction of its advance.
What remain of the Prussian cavalry are soon surrounded.
On the Russian left, the Prussian cavalry charges up the hill into the Russian cavalrymen waiting there.

In the town, Russian infantry, supported by heavy artillery firing canister, gain ground.
The cavalry melee on the Russian left goes back and forth. 

The Russians bring artillery support to the party.
The Russians and Prussians face each other over the cultivated ground.
The Prussians have most of the town and are reinforcing that position against a possible counter attack from the Russians beyond the stream to their front and on their left flank.
It will probably all come down to who wins in the centre, and the Prussians have lots of eager troops here.............


Dalauppror said...

Indeed stunning looking game !!!

Fritz II. said...

Very impressive

Fritz II. said...

Very impressive

Anonymous said...

Excellent, as always!

Jay White said...

Beautiful work sir. One question - in the first photo (game at a convention?) - do you know who makes the rivers visible towards the "near edge" of the table? Thanks!

Carlo said...

What a cracking looking game James. Very much enjoy all your posts and especially love your attention to detail regarding terrain etc. your figure collection all is so exceptional and I could wile away hours on the iPad magnifying units and drinking in the attention to detail. Thanks again.


Thanks guys.


The 'river' (also shown in pics in the post previous to this one) is some home made stuff. It is 2mm MDF. You can buy 2mm MDF by the sheet from picture frame materials suppliers - it's used as backing. I buy mine in a 5 pack of 3' x 4' sheets for about £25 from a local picture framing shop, but you can buy it by the 2' x 2' on line.

It's very easy to make. The only special tool required is a coping saw to cut the wiggly edges. After cutting, the edges were quickly bevelled with a Stanley knife.

The water texture is heavy body artists acrylic (tubed stuff), brushed on then painted a very dark browny, blacky, bluey colour and gloss varnished. I use artists acrylic for texturing lots of terrain these days, it's much easier to apply than 'plaster / filler', sticks like the proverbial, and doesn't chip off when knocked about in use. The banks are just sand and grit stuck to the edge with PVA, painted and dry brushed as per basing figures.

For something so quickly constructed I was surprised how well they turned out. They were made specifically for the Zorndorf game as a one off asset I thought I'd dispose of (literally bin) afterwards. I made about 9' of the stuff to represent the Zabern Grund and the Galgen Grund in just a couple of hours, now I wish I'd made several feet more.

Sgt Steiner said...

As ever eye boggling

Mad Padre said...

I don't know Piquet but I know what I like and I always think your games set the gold standard for SYW. As a Russian army fan of that era, I always leave your posts with inspiration.
Cracking good idea, that stream.

Gonsalvo said...

The MMC proposal seems like it should work well, without having to make a bunch of individual unit morale checks, which are very time consuming.

I notice that you have the card played on the *Enemy*; I like that as it always seemed a bit odd to have your actions interrupted by this card, or even worse, have both sides at zero MP and wondering whether you should let the enemy act in the hopes that *THEY* would turn the card before you do!

This would apply to "Field of Battle" family rules, too. I might try that next game.