Friday, May 25, 2018

Square Brigadier in the Great War: Debriefing

This sudden, unexpected, WW1 game seems to have been with me almost constantly for months now and I'm looking forward to "changing horses" for a while. However, I plan to revisit the early 20th Century again before too long and have to write up a full set of rules to support the existing two-sides-of-a page quick reference. 

I will need to remember the observations that follow when I do!

The allies deployed for the first game. 
It really helps having someone else play your game. Always interesting to see where the rules work the way you planned and where they don't, where others pick up things as you intended and where they either don't 'get' something or see things that you had missed, whether that is good or bad. Its also interesting to see what sort of tactics and plans others try and how they interface with the rules, scenario and other players.   So a BIG thank you to the eight adults (and the two kids) who played in the two sessions  of My Grandfather's War. 

Scruby Foreign Legionnaires waiting for the enemy.
One of the things that had given me brain stress in the lead up was the question of how to handle the different way the two sides organized and used their machine guns. Basically, the allies distributed a pair to each battalion while the Germans grouped their machine guns into six gun companies, one  attached to each three battalion regiment (giving the same ratio), plus some which were independent companies for various purposes.

2/3 of the way through the 1st game. A prolonged barrage  by 2/3 of the German artillery backed by MG and rifle fire have finally cleared the unsupported British infantry from the hill and the Chasseurs have moved over to counter attack the advancing Germans.

What I had decided in advance was that the allied MG's would be treated like infantry but have an extra die when firing and have the defensive bonus in melee while the German MG companies would always have a "superior firepower" bonus but would not be allowed to assault and would taken fewer hits. However, by the time I got to the convention I had changed my mind and decided to treat all the MG units on both sides the same as the German units. Partly this was because it would be simpler for 1st time players to grasp but mostly because it seemed to have a more Old School feel which pleased me.

Game 1.The end. Robbed of the 2nd last turn by a Joker as a chance card, the Allies lacked time for  last ditch counter attack for  draw or win. The Germans ended with possession of the Wood, Hill and Farm for 15 pts while the Allies clung to the town for 10 pts.
During the two games the MG's had what seemed like just the right effect: deadly but needing infantry support. They were particularly effective in the second game when Rob tried throwing rank after rank of infantry into a hail of mg fire and lyddite. On the Allied right, Norman launched the Zouaves into a surprise counter attack with cold steel which swept away some already shot up German infantry but which eventually faltered in a hail of MG bullets as well.

I liked the feel of the MG's enough that I am adopting that approach as standard.

Game 2 getting underway.
Towards the end of my pre-game play testing I had decided to change the "-1 die" modifier for artillery changing targets to "artillery must cease fire for a turn when changing target". I then promptly forgot for the first game but remembered for the second game.

Over all I prefer the feel of the second approach and its effect on player's decisions. The quicker switching of artillery fire seems more suited to later artillery with radio and telephone communication.

I was initially uneasy at the delay when a gun had to switch from indirect fire to point blank fire over open sights at an attacking infantry unit but the infantry had emerged from cover at a very close range and ended up in melee range where the gun was able to fire in self defence anyway. If the infantry had approached in the open there would have been time to switch fire and give the infantry real issues, especially with the Bombardment rule.

Game 2: The Zouave attack up the right has been stopped by infantry backed by an MG hidden from the camera by a tree at the corner of the field.
Speaking of the Bombardment rule, which reduces the effect of shooting for units (including artillery) in an area under artillery fire (because they have their heads down) and forces units to test for hits if trying to leave, enter or attack the area, I'm really pleased with how it works as an alternative to a Pin and Rally rule. It now occurs to me that it could well apply to MG fire as well.

Game 2 end. The Germans eventually captured the wood and farm but never took the redoubt and have taken absolutely horrendous casualties. 
I'm not expecting to play many (any) more France 1914 games but luckily both figures and rules will see use in early 20th Century "Colonial" or "Back of Beyond" games in the years to come and the Great Atlantican War is still ongoing.

Gratuitous shot of the Cycle Company in action.
Next post: What to expect to see on my blog over the next month or two.


  1. Surviving the rigours of 8 (+2), the rules and the effect they give must be pretty much right. Introducing penalties against artillery for 'switching fire' is probably on balance the right thing to do, even at the distance Vs time scales that you are working with, particularly as the melee defensive fire gives the very fire that you want / need anyway.

    1. For the moment I'm finished tinkering anyway, that is at least a minor victory.

  2. Beautiful figures and terrain, bicycles are sooooooooooo cute!

    1. They are, I must work on some cyclist actually riding bikes!

  3. Always nice to expose the rules to outsiders , they sometimes spot things I don't .

  4. Looks most interesting. I have long fancied a 1914 game but have not yet done so unless you count the old airfoil on my bedroom floor

  5. Ross- well done on your report and thoughts on your WW1 Battles as presented at the CON at Portland. Yes- having other enthusiasts play your rules and assisting with changes and decisions certainly prompt a solidification of your efforts in devising a thorough set. Great work there. Look forward to your next update on what you'l be doing in the future with your hobby. Cheers. KEV.

  6. Replies
    1. Thanks Lee, it was certainly different in style from the rest at least.

  7. Great post, very inspiring! Thanks!