Anyone reading our recent tweets will have noticed a bit of a Franco Prussian skirmish theme recently.
Why? You might ask when we’ve got a more than adequate 10mm corps collection that doesn’t get much of an outing.
Well there in lays the problem; our 10mm adventure was a bit of step out of the box for us as committed 25/28mm players and we’ve lovingly created MacMahon’s Army of Alsace to face off to the Prussian Third Army all down to battalion level, but even in 10mm it’s still an awful lot of figures/stands to move and more importantly control at a command level. The rules aren’t the problem, we use Bruce Weigle’s excellent 1870 set, the problem is consistently getting enough players to control both sides (we reckon at least 2 per side is needed and 3 would be comfortable) and 6 of us on a regular basis doesn’t happen. The fact is we made a rookie error; smaller scale doesn’t mean you can get to play grand tactical games any easier than a larger scale it just means you can get the unit representations onto the table space (in our case 8′ x 6′ – more than adequate). Our frustration has led us to consider selling the whole lot but in the meantime Dave suggested we look at a skirmish set up to try and keep the period alive, nothing major, a dozen or so figures a side, simple rules and away we go.
The figures bit was easy enough, one of the group had some old Foundry figures lying in a box somewhere which he dug out and a visit to Colonel Bill’s and e bay supplied the rest. Painting was designated to Gareth at ADC (always does a great job!) as we were all a bit busy on other projects. Generic European scenery we had plenty of (anyone viewing our game tweets will recognise certain buildings that have appeared in several guises) but rules? Nothing seemed to be available specifically for the period and our usual rule writer (me!) was too busy updating the Arthurian set and trialling ideas for the Villa v Pershing set so……
When we thought about it the answer was obvious, use a Napoleonic set. We had a couple of sets in the rules box from our ‘Retreat From Moscow’ demo’ game at Partizan some years back so out they came for a trial run.
The set that showed the most promise was ‘Sharpe’s Skirmish’ written by a group calling themselves ‘Durham’s Chosen Men’. No idea how or when we got hold of the rules or even who the authors are but they have proved to be a good basis for us to build on even though they are designed for a 40mm skirmish! Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous?
At their core the rules are very much along the lines of the Old West Skirmish Rules from way back where a figure has a range of attributes which encompass his strength, intelligence, weapon skill, etc, a player controls one figure or maybe 3 maximum and the order of play is in order of some high level skill (in this case Initiative) with that figure completing all actions before the next one etc. On our first play through we followed the rules as written but as it was 28mm we wanted groups of skirmishers not a single figure or two. This came unstuck pretty quickly as the dicing for the various skills was a bit of a ball ache for a dozen figures a side and then rolling through the order of play one figure at at a time meant that there was a lot of waiting time for some and it a little bit predictable if we kept to the same order of character play for every turn – part way through the first game we introduced a random dice roll to the Initiative to get a different order of play each move but succeeded only in confusing ourselves further!
Not surprisingly the ranges were way too far for our usual 4′ x 4′ skirmish arena (we’ve long since come to the conclusion that skirmish games fought over anything bigger take forever to get into contact and can be a little on the boring side) and of course the muskets have been replaced by early bolt action weapons so rate of fire was increased. Movement strangely suited the 28mm figures fine and the actual mechanisms for firing etc were simple and effective. Melee outcomes we can’t judge yet as in each of the 3 games we’ve played no one has got anywhere near the other guys!
Immediate fixes then have been reduce the ranges and differentiate between the longer range of the Chasepot over the Needlegun and reduction of effectiveness at longer ranges. The attributes we have amended so that each player has a ‘detachment’ of around half a dozen figures with the various skills pre-configured based on historic performance, so most soldiers would have the same strength, dexterity, firing skill, initiative but the officer/NCO would vary and different troop types would vary – so jaegers would have a higher firing skill than ordinary line. This then helped us simplify the order of play, at the moment each player nominates a figure from his detachment and with the aid of a random die roll just the nominees play out their respective bounds, then another bunch are chosen and so one until all figures have completed a bound. For two players it was much easier and even with four players we still got through a complete game to our satisfaction. So sorted for now……..
There is still more to do though. The detachments we have created need a bit of variety so now we’re going to look at a pre game roll to see if for that game only any one of the detachment can have an attribute improved or reduced. Should mention all die rolls are D6 – simple! The rate of fire is a problem so perhaps we are going to have to introduce a bound to re-load rather than fire every bound, this should enable more movement around the table and maybe harsher penalties for longer range firing.
The plan now is to do an errata sheet to go with the rules which I will put up on the blog for anyone who might be interested and then in due course a full version of the rules just for Franco Prussian – stay tuned!
In the meantime, happy gaming all and thanks for reading.