Saturday, 21 January 2012

March Attack - Napoleonic Rules

Mark Sims from Crusader Publishing has kindly provided me with set of his new Napoleonic Rules for review.

I have in the past played other rulesets from Crusader Publishing, namely Rank and File and Rate of Fire. His previous rules have been fast play rules, nicely presented. I have enjoyed several good games of Rank and File in both the Napoleonic and the American Civil War period. Some of those rules need interpretation and work fine if you have2 like minded individuals who want to play the period. I am aware of rule lawyers who have pulled the rules apart when playing them but that is not in the spirit of the rules as written.

These rules are 78 pages in length and are quite detailed and I thought they were more complicated than I would like, but I was pleasantly mistaken.

The rules are very clearly laid out with a very useful index which really helped on playing the first time. The rules are smattered with Design Notes from the author which gives a good insight to the reader why the mechanisms and decisions made by Mark were made. The rules are very liberally spread with examples of all the core mechanics in the game which really helps with understanding them. These are some of the best examples I have seen in a set of rules.

The rules are designed for games of a Corps a-side. Individual units are represented by 2 bases which represent infantry battalions or cavalry regiments. Although a base size of 40mm is recommended as long as each army is based the same it makes no difference. With units consisting of 2 bases the formations of line, columns and square can easily be represented. A number of units are then formed into a Brigade which in these rules are referred to as a Major Formation (MF).

Each unit then has a starting Combat Value between 1 and 10 depending on the number of men in the unit and their quality. Combat Values denote the strength of the unit (when reduced to 0 the unit is removed) and is used in shooting and melee. A MF has 3 states Steady, Shaken and Spent depending on how many units they have lost from the MF.

The turn sequence is split into 2 phases Strategic and Tactical. Both sides are involved with the Strategic Phase simultaneous and then in turn each side has a tactical phase one after the other.

Strategic Phase
Firstly both sides issue new orders. Once a MF has an order it continues with that order until it is changed. MF have orders of attack, defend, support manoeuvre, bombard, retire, retreat. A CinC has to score 7+ on 2D6 for a new order to succeed with various modifiers. The complexity of the orders is up to the players agreement before the game and the rules state the order writing are guidelines only.

Once MFs have lost 1/3 of their starting units they are subject of Morale tests. Interestingly MF's comprised entirely of cavalry are not subject of morale tests only Infantry or Mixed MFs. Each turn an MF loses a unit after the 1/3 loss and the MF is engaged they must take a morale test. The owner rolls 2D6 adds troop quality and leadership bonuses. This decides whether the MF carries on, retires or becomes broken. Once an MF is broken the other MF's in the Army have to take morale tests.

The next part of the strategic phase is Skirmish Combat. Once infantry or mixed MF's are within engagement distance they conduct skirmish combat. This is the way for skirmishers between the 2 formations to conduct their pre contact skirmishing. Each MF compares their skirmish combat value and subtract the difference. 2D6 are rolled and the effects are applied to the losing unit, this results in hits to the losing formation.

In the next part of the strategic phase both sides attach or detach their leaders to units. This can be handy for morale tests and in melee. It also means they vulnerable to being hit whilst attached to that unit.

In the final part of the strategic phase players roll for initiative. This is a result of 2D6 and bonuses for your Corps commander. The winner decides whether to be the active player or pass it to their opponent.

Tactical Phase
The game then moves to the Tactical phase. Each side will carry out a full tactical phase, followed by the opponent. Then the game returns to the strategic phase.

The tactical phase is broken into 4 parts. Firstly the active side declares any charges, the non active side chooses to react whether it is counter charge for cavalry or form square for infantry. To form a square an infantry has to roll less than their Valeur et Discipline number which is based on their quality. If successful they form square if the fail they stay in their current formation and become disordered. Then all other troops move.

There are 2 types of movement tactical and strategic. A strategic move is further in distance but the moving unit cannot change formation and cannot move closer to any enemy than engagement distance. This allows units to move around the battlefield quicker until they get into combat. Tactical movement occurs if units are within engagement range or if they want to move and change formation.

Next all units from both sides fire, this is simultaneous. The shooting phase is very simple. Each unit has a Combat Value which decreases through the game when a unit is hit. If the firing unit is in line it doubles its CV, other modifiers halve the CV. The firer rolls a D6 adds this to their CV. For each full 6 within the total 1 hit is caused on the enemy for any part or remainder of 6 roll equal or less than that score to cause an additional hit. Each hit removes one from the enemies CV.

Artillery fire works in a similar manner except that the modifiers instead of halving or doubling CV they add to the CV score. Once all firing is complete chargers move into contact and melee is resolved.

Melee is resolved by each side adding the units CV adding modifiers and rolling a D6. The side that loses suffers the result of the difference between the 2 scores. This will result in loss of CV and retirement or breaking of the losing side.

The final part of the tactical phase is the removal of disorder. Disorder can be disorder 1 or disorder 2, this is caused by units being in unfavourable terrain, failing a VeT test or losing a melee. In this part of the phase a disorder 1 is removed and a disorder 2 is reduced to a disorder 1.

At the rear of the rules are all the bonuses for leaders that fought in this period, there are lists for characteristic for the various armies and a 3 page quick reference sheet.

There is also an example of 2 armies from 1815, Prussian and French with a Scenario using these 2 armies in Battle for Plancenoit 1815. Another real bonus is that all the examples in the rules refer to these 2 army lists and the scenario. There is a full run through of this battle to see how the rules work. Finally there are 2 pages of counters.

These rules retail for £6 in PDF format which is an excellent price for such a well produced set of rules. Although at first glance they seem complicated the mechanics are quite simple. In the next article I will give our opinion of them having played the scenario from the rules.

On their website you can view the fastplay sheets, see some sample chapters and the 2 example army lists.

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