Thursday, November 17, 2016

Koenig Krieg - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This review is a little bit different from some of the others, in that KK is a ruleset that is currently available, so it is not out of print (a great review by Mark Severin at Deep Fried Happy Mice makes a good read).  It is, however, in a very different format from the wonderful set by Barry Gray that I bought back in the mid 80s for about $3 or 4.

The version I have, (actually I have two versions, the one from 1982, and the one from 1986) does not have much information in it, as to publishing info, etc.  There is a cover page that mentions Barry Gray by name, and inside the back cover, there is an advert for Mike's Models. The advert mentions Austrians and Prussians, and offers them at $4.50 for 18 figures (or 9 cavalry).  The good old days.

Admittedly, in the 1980s, I was not too interested in the Seven Years War in Europe, but I was interested in the North American portion (the French and Indian War), and also the American War for Independence.  It was with that in mind that I first approached the rules.  Later I would become a fan of Seven Years War era warfare, in Europe, and learning more of the history went arm-in-arm with the wargaming.

So what is KK like?  First, it uses rectangle elements for basing the infantry, with 4 figures on a base, 2 each in 2 different ranks.  Other than Johnny Reb, from Adventure Gaming, I do not recall other rule sets using similar basing.  Cavalry and Artillery were mounted much like many other rulesets.  But it wasn't the basing that made (and still makes) KK a good ruleset.  It was the turn sequence.

The turn sequence has five phases in it, which the players execute through in order, and roughly simultaneously, each turn.  I say roughly simultaneously, because while each side will do their part of a phase before progressing to the next, within each phase where order matters, the two sides will determine initiative through an initiative test.  Here are the phases:

Command Phase
Movement/Fire Phase
Close Combat Phase
Melee Phase
Exploitation Phase

Going through these is a great way to explain KK.

The Command phase 
This is when you check to see which units will be "in command" or "out of command" during the turn.  Any units out of command will have to dice to see if they can act during the other phases - Infantry will only act on a 1-2 (on a d6), and Cavalry (being more independent?) can act on a 1-4.  Out of command units can always fire, but cannot change formation or facing (even if it can move)

The Movement/Fire Phase 
This is when units (you guessed it) move and fire.  This is done by alternating Brigades.  The Phase starts with determining Initiative.  The player with initiative activates the units within a brigade, then it passes to the other player, etc.

Now is a good time to bring up Operations (OP).  Each type of unit has a number of operations that it can use during each of the Three Main Phases (Move/Fire, Close Combat, and Exploitation).  If a unit is Moving, it simply decides how many of its OP for this phase to put towards movement. Each one generates 4" of movement.  An OP also allows for a formation change, or a backstep (of 1").  Cavalry, of course, have more operations than Infantry, especially in the Move/Fire phase, so can move further.  Depending on current formation, etc, some units have a +1" modifier, that they might use to add to the total move they will get (for instance, Foot Artillery has 1 OP in the Move/Fire Phase, but it also has +1" - so whatever else it does, it can also move a bonus of 1";  Horse Artillery is the same, but with 2 operation points, and +1"; etc.).

Firing also uses an OP.  So, Infantry in Line, has 1 OP in the Move/Fire phase.  That means it can move 4", or it can Fire.  It cannot do both. This is what gives the game it's very nice feel for Linear Warfare of this period.  You can extend a unit out by moving it away from it's friends, but it won't be able to do much, quickly, on it's own - so you better be supported.

Special Rules for strategic moves for units well away from the front exist, as well as rules for retreat moves (which don't require an operation point).

Firing is done during this phase, and is adjudicated by determining the number of dice per figure (roughly, 1 dice per two infantry firing; or 1 dice per artillery crew firing).  The chance to hit (on each d6 rolled) is based on a Fire Table, and is typically a 5+ or a 6, but in some cases can be as generous as a 3+ or 4+.

Losses are marked with casualty caps, and when a stand has accumulated enough, it is removed from the unit.

So to recap, the available OP a unit has in the Move/Fire phase can be used in the following way:
  • Move 4" (except Infantry in Square)
  • Change facing/formation
  • Fire (except cavalry)
  • Backstep 1"
All very reasonable, which is suitable for warfare in this Age of Reason.

The Close Combat Phase 
The next phase is the Close Combat phase, which allows for charges, in certain situations, that will result in melee combats.   Again, the phase starts with determining Initiative. Then alternate Brigades.

Units that are within 2" of the enemy may activate during this phase.  Again, each unit has a certain number of OP.  The allowable ways to spend OP in this phase are as follows;
  • Skirmishers (only) can move 4"
  • Any unit may Change Formation or Facing
  • Infantry can charge an enemy within 1"
  • Cavalry can charge an enemy within 2"
  • Infantry and Artillery can fire at a unit charging them
  • Cavalry can counter-charge a unit charging them.
Each of these costs 1 OP.

The Melee Phase
The next phase is to determine the outcome of Melee Combats that resulted from charges and contacts made in the previous phase.

Melee combat is done by adding a dice roll to the morale of the unit involved.  This produces a melee total for that side.  Then both sides are compared, and the lower total loses the difference in casualties.  If there are multiple units involved, then the average morale is used, but each unit gets to roll a dice to add to the total.  There are, of course, situational modifiers.  The losing side then retreats, and if the winner was the unit that charged, the loser loses another figure.  If the melee totals were a tie, then both sides lose a figure, and all units involved have to make a morale check.  Losers will retreat, if both pass, then fight another round.

The Exploitation Phase
Units that charged, and won a combat, may now execute OP during the Exploitation Phase.  This begins, again, with testing initiative, and then alternates, one brigade at a time.  Of course, only the brigades that have units doing an Exploitation can move this phase.  Infantry and Artillery may fire, even if they did not earn an Exploitation move.  So the actions allowed for OP to be spent on in this phase are:
  • Move 4" per OP (exploiting units only)
  • Change facing or Change formation (exploiting units only)
  • Infantry and Artillery can fire at a unit charging it
  • Cavalry can counter-charge a unit charging them
In this way, a successful charge in the Close Combat Phase, that is resolved successfully in the Melee Phase, can result in an Exploitation Move that generates another combat.  There is a chance for Cavalry to become unhinged (er. uncontrolled - sorry, my infantry bias is showing through).  If so, they begin a charge to glory that might take them off the board, or might take them through any enemy units in the way.

There are some rules for morale, army morale, and some optional rules (weather, dragoons, etc).  The beginning of the book has a good section on setting up a table, basing figures, and organizing brigades.  Finally, an appendix has great information on army contents, and information on building armies (how many units, what types, ratio of guns to infantry, etc).

A great set of rules - always fun to play, represents the combat of the time nicely, plays quickly, and has an easy set of rule systems.  As I mentioned I played these first with AWI armies, so we didn't have a lot of cavalry - which really cuts down on things like exploitation and charges, and focuses on fire combat.  So when I first played a large Seven Years War battle, it was like *Something Wonderful* had occurred, and the game took on a whole new dimension.  And it never even required me to get some sort of thing about flutes.

KK is fun, and I still like it.  It, to me, was always much more fun to play than Warfare in the Age of Reason, but maybe a bit less specific.  I'll take fun over specific. 


Sgt Steiner said...

Good review. I remember having an issue with KK in that attackers especially Pussians could walk up and shoot first against stationary defenders. Also a sneaky Prussian could use his 2 actions with his Inf to shoot then back off out of range. Mine came with a sheet for Malburian period

Charles Turnitsa said...

Ahh, I don't think I ever had the data sheet for Marlburians, but I have seen a number of variants for that period, over the years.

They do have some warts, but overall a good ruleset. I will say that recently we have been playing For King or Empress (see link below), and they have been very satisfying. I still like KK but they are offer a different experience.