Saturday, February 10, 2018

1914: Live Playtest

Its good to have friends willing to kick the tires on my convention games and a regional association that welcomes us to join in their quarterly Table Top Games days.

Today 6 of them and I played a version of my 1914 game. From intro to end of game lasted about 4 hours, maybe a titch more and reached a conclusion after some 8 of 15 possible  turns including some heated fighting and heavy losses.

The Germans took a big chunk of the primary objective, the hill, but again lost it to a counter attack. On the woods in the far North the French were finally wiped out but at a high cost and a counter attack by the armoured car broke the back of the flanking attack.  On the other flank there was a prolonged long range duel which ended with the beginning of a French counter attack.

In short, it was Good but it can be Better!
After 3 hours and about 8 out of 15 turns, I called the game as the defending French began a pursuit.
The available table was around 5'x7' or about the same size as many of the Huzzah tables. I was able to lay out my 5'x6' (+ variable border) cloth with a few inches of bare table on either for paraphernalia. I always used to try and cover the table completely for scenic effect but I am starting to appreciate the practical uses of on table/off game-mat space and there was easily room today for more units than 3 players per side can handle in a 4 hour game slot and certainly room for a 4th player so I may plan for a 5'x6' battlefield for Huzzah.

The game slot at Huzzah is 4 hours and that has to include the rules and scenario briefing. I played all 15 of the planned turns but today we reached a conclusion 1/2 way through the game.

What I do need to do for Huzzah is to strengthen the attacking army and spread the objectives out or else find a way to get the game to play faster and that brings us to the rules.
Set up in progress.
Photo courtesy of Jeff of the Armchair Commander blog. 
When I resurrected the 1914 campaign I instinctively brought back 2 rules from that era of Square Brigadier: rolling for numbers of available orders each turn, and a Pin rule. Both of these had been dropped from my late 19thC rules after an intense internal debate. The last game had me wondering if that had been a mistake. This game confirmed that suspicion and my first act on getting home was to repeal them. 

Both rules slowed the game without adding anything really useful although they appear to reflect the command structure on one hand and the reaction of troops to heavy fire on the other. 

The  19thC rules I have been using assume that if a Commander is there then he is doing what he is supposed to be so I only test isolated units which is a big time saver and ends up having  similar effect. 

The voluntary pin rule allows a player to, cancel one hit in exchange for not shooting or moving that unit. In effect it made fire feel ineffective even though it wasn't for the defender and meant that less bold attacking players took that option too often thus had trouble making any headway. Its something that has to be learned but my years of GM'ing convention games tell me that few players will have time to learn the lesson during one convention game and rather than increasing "realism" it really just makes the game slower.

The alternative which I normally use is to allow a unit with multiple hits to try and remove one hit instead of shooting or moving. It has the same practical effect as the voluntary pin rule as heavy fire will usually stop an attack cold but it is less likely to be abused since it is an immediate choice of a chance of saving vs an immediate chance of shooting or moving as opposed to a guarantee of a cancelled hit now in exchange of not moving or shooting at some later point.

The new, slightly more complex, artillery rules also served largely to confuse everyone including me and have been trimmed back.

This puts things back to the well tested version and I feel like slapping myself up the back of the head for talking myself out of making the change before the game. 
Jeff's counter attack secured the main objective.Photo courtesy of Jeff of the Armchair Commander blog.
So far so good. With the rules in hand I need to turn my attention to reinforcing the German side by adding two battalions of infantry, a few squadron of Uhlans and another field gun and the Allied side by adding the 2nd half of the  British Battalion and a British squadron as well as the French heavy gun.


  1. A good day with friends and a nice table ... win / win. Yep, stay with the tried and tested.

    1. The temptation to get more literal and obvious can be strong but even when unwise.

  2. Wonderful terrain and figures, thanks for sharing Ross.

  3. I like that "voluntary pin" rule though the time constraint you have at the convention does negate it - good for a solo game though.

    1. The Rally is basically the voluntary pin but with a dieroll instead of automatic success.