Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wargaming Review: "Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878"

I am a fan of the rules from Neil Thomas. I have his earlier books, and recently acquired his newest publication, Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878.

First, I'll say that the rules are similar to his earlier publications (Wargaming, An Introduction; Ancient and Medieval Wargaming; and Napoleonic Wargaming).  Second, I'll say that I like these rules, and this time out is no exception.  For a nice basic review of the rules, take a look at Jonathan Freitag's Palouse Wargaming Journal.

One of the things in the rules that I really like is how Thomas has handled the army lists, and scenarios, this time out.  First of all, he covers a lot of conflicts from the period of interest.  And rather than doing generic army lists (except in a very few cases, such as Revolutionary Army 1815-1848, which represents a number of forces for which, in this particular case, there is very little documentation), Thomas provides us with paired opponents (or several armies) from individual conflicts, or campaigns.

Additionally, rather than laying out a basic army list that is good for all uses, he instead just details what the different categories (in general, these are Infanty, Cavalry, Skirmishers, and Artillery) are for the different armies.  Each army has one or more troop types for each of these categories, or some reason as to why it is not represented (for instance, in the Crimean War lists, the Russian army does not get any skirmishers; instead, the would get artillery units replacing skirmishers).

Finally, the third thing concerning armies and scenarios is that each scenario gives a method for determing a number of units, for each side in the scenario, that correspond to Thomas' basic categories that he has provided.  So, for instance, a number of Infantry, Skirmishers, Cavalry and Artillery might be generated for side "A" in a scenario, and these would then be replaced by the units matching that category for the army being used for side "A".  This allows the scenarios (which are pretty general, but still quite interesting) to be used for all of the conflicts, and for participant armies to take either side.

Some examles: For the Franco-Austrian war of 1859, the French Army has:
Line Infantry (Average, Rifled Musket, Loose Order)
Chasseurs (Elite, Rifled Musket, Loose Order)
Skirmishers (Elite, Rifled Musket)
French Cavalry (Average)
Piedmontese Cavalry (Elite)
Artillery (Smoothbore)

So we have the Infantry Category covered (Line Infantry, and Chasseurs), the Skirmishers, the Cavalry (both French and Piedmontese), and the Artillery.  Then there are some special rules that go along with it -
  1. Infantry - When Infantry units are called for, 1-2 of them will be Chasseurs, and the remainder will be Line Infantry.
  2. Cavalry - When Cavalry units are called for, 0-1 of them will be Piedmontese, and the remainder will be French.
  3. Infantry Elan - Infantry always charge their counterparts, even if they have fewer bases.
  4. Rifled Artillery -  0-1 units of artillery have Bronze Rifled guns, rather than Smoothbore.
  5. Command Level - Average.
  6. Broken Terrain - All units in open terrain have a saving roll of 5-6 when shot at.
This gives a good representation of the French Army for this conflict.  There is also a similar treatment for the Austrians (different composition, and different special rules).

So, lets say we are using this army for Scenario #1 in the rulebook (pp. 51-54).  The player, having determined (by dice toss) if he is on offense or defense, would then roll 1d6, and consult the table in the book, determining how many units of each category he has.  Let's say, for example, that the player rolls a "2".  This means that his army will get 4 units of infantry, 2 units of skirmishers, 2 units of cavalry, and 2 units of artillery.  For this army this means -

The army will (50/50 chance) either have 2 units of Chasseurs and 2 units of Line, or 1 unit of Chasseurs and 3 units of line.  The army will have 2 units of Skirmishers.  The army will have (50/50) either 1 unit of Piedmontese and 1 unit of French Cavalry, or no Piedmontese and 2 units of French Cavalry.  Finally, the army will have (50/50) 1 Bronze Rifled Gun section and 1 Smoothbore section, or 2 Smoothbore sections.

So, the simple system of generic scenarios, with force level determination, along with army lists detailing the contents (and special contents) of each of the basic categories, gives some really nice scenario driven wargaming results.  Hats off to you Neil Thomas - I already plan to "steal" the system for a game design I am working on.

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