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Aspern-Essling 1809» Forums » General

Subject: First Impressions rss

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Aspern-Essling is my first foray into the Jours de Gloire system. These are some observations and thoughts about the system and game after playing the game once, solitaire, to teach myself the rules.

On the Jours de Gloire system:
I want to like the system. It has the characteristics I think I want out of a Napoleonic battle system: the 3 major arms, ranged artillery, cavalry charges and pursuit, infantry forming square, unit facing, limitations on command and control, in a package of modest footprint, playing time and counter count.

After one solitaire play of the first day scenario I can't say I enjoyed the game very much but I'm not sure how to apportion the blame between the system, this particular battle, or my novice status with both system and battle.

I want a system with facing but the drawback is the game becomes physically fiddly and, while maybe it's a silly OCD-driven critique, messy and hence ugly to look at. It is possibly a combination of vertex facing (as opposed to hexside facing) and the map hexes being stingily sized for the counters.

My first impression of the combat system is it's wildly unpredictable. I'm still a Napoleonic newbie but that sort of "safe" 3:1 or better (or 4 or 5:1 whatever level it is) that you find in many of the WWII games I've played doesn't exist in this game. I do suspect it's the era and the scale and not a fault of the system. Unless you've got truly overwhelming force, combat remains risky for the attacker.

I think the presentation of the rules while mostly adequate certainly could be better. When I had a question I often found myself having to reread two or three sections in their entirety to find the answer ... and while I was usually able to find the answer I wasn't always able to. In particular I recall an attack involving both cavalry and infantry raised questions the rules just did not seem to cover.

Setup is quite tedious despite the modest counter count as units are ID'd. I found the fact that the IDs are names as opposed to numbers made it more awkward.

On the Aspern-Essling 1809 game:
In this game victory revolves around the taking of the two towns Aspern and Essling. Infantry assaults on the towns without artillery preparation would not work. The only valid approach for the Austrians (that I could see) was to bombard the towns with artillery and only commit to an infantry assault when the defenders have been weakened and thinned out. The game thus hinges on the Austrian player's artillery rolls and the French player's morale test rolls. There aren't that many turns in the first day scenario. Hot artillery rolls and poor morale rolls could see the French blown away. Conversely cold artillery rolls and good morale rolls could see the French impervious to the Austrian attack.

The game specific rules regarding the crest line initially confused me because I couldn't visualize what the crest line represented. After a little internet research I realized it's some sort of flood plain levee and it made more sense.

The French in my opinion are better off staying behind the crest and in the towns. Partly because of the protection offered by the terrain but also because the biggest enemy the Austrians face is time and command limitations. Much of their force will spend most of the day just marching across the map. Then as the formations reach the front with the French it becomes challenging to leave a LOS open for the all important artillery bombardments. The best thing for the French to do seems to be to stay put and let the Austrians fight the clock and their command restrictions. The net result in my game was there was not a single cavalry charge which is somewhat disappointing for a foray into Napoleonic gaming. Maybe if you play into the second day the game is more dynamic.

Bottom line:
I don't have a bottom line yet. The above observations are mostly negative in tone but I'm withholding judgment until I play a couple more times. The problem is, since I didn't enjoy my first play, it's probably going to be quite some time before I play again.
 
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Redcap
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Its a shame as to your conclusions on the game. I'm rather fond of it. That said, I think you would have benefitted by somebody that knows the game playing through with you. As you say, the rules can be difficult to memorise and navigate despite the few that there are.

The combat system works fine and leaves a little wriggle room for the surprises that happened in real-life. Also, on the INF/CAV combo you found difficult to resolve, it is simply as the rules say... all mods are cumulative.

It would be nice to see what your views were given a game with a knowledgeable player. But I do sympathise with some of your points raised. I wrote a short overview of the game on a blog of mine elsewhere. I've posted it after this message here.
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A Look At Playing Jours de Gloire

Since I have been playing and posting the Napoleonic games series Jours de Gloire, it seems that there has been a number of gamers that are inquisitive about the system, either emailing or messaging me questions about it. It also seems to me that outside of France maybe, there are more collectors of the series than there are players? Not a statement of fact, but rather a personal observation from posts I’ve read on forums over the course of some time. It deserves more of its counters to be punched from their sprues and played.

The game has been around some time now and has covered almost 50 battles from the Revolutionary & Napoleonic wars. The basis of the game is a direct lift from the original system devised by Richard Berg that was used in Triumph & Glory. However, having held an annual tournament in France for around 18-19 years now with some 2500 match-ups hitting the table, the JdG system is a lot less ‘leaky’ and in my opinion, tighter than the original game. JdG has also added its own series modifications to itself using the experience from those thousands of games played. If you are aware of Vae Victis games, the artwork in JdG will be very familiar. No NATO symbols, but artistic ‘sprites’ instead from the pen/brush/computer of Pascal de Silva. The maps to each game are very readable and player friendly, using what I’d call a light pastel based colour for the artwork making the terrain easy to read and on a personal point of view, easy on the eye. No, they are not as handsome as some of the lovely Kibler work …. But they do work and are clear to play on. The quality of components in the editions I have received have always been good. Colour, thickness of counter and rule book paper quality have been value for money and have outstripped the quality of a few expensive boxed game titles that are out there.

The scale of the game is variable. Hex-yardage, strength points and counter formation size differ from game to game in the series dependent on the battle being portrayed. It also depends on whether it is a ‘magazine’ game in VV where counter numbers are lower than if you purchase a fully-fledged published separate wargame title. Recently, with Waterloo and Ligny, the counter numbers appear to have risen as they take on a bigger game persona.

The heart of the game is based on chit activation of formations as well as some special but rare extra scenario based special chits being available. Things such as combined formation activations, extra cavalry charges, rally chits and other some such. But normally, two chits for every formation are placed in a cup/bag and drawn one at a time with that formation then becoming activated. An activation sequence is then played through for that formation before drawing the next chit. When a formation activates, it will carry out artillery fire, move and charge units, carry out ‘shock’ combat (this is non artillery combat by adjacent enemies representing musketry and melee) and any rally attempts of disordered and routed units. Movement is like any other wargame and combat is calculated by adding opposing SP’s , terrain effects and situational modifiers. A roll of a 10 sided die gives the results which are then applied and carried out before moving onto the next combat. The results will yield one side giving ground as well as a morale (cohesion) test and any disorder suffered. To eliminate units, they need to go from Good Order to Disorder, to Rout, to eliminated. At times, this may take some effort. But other times, if the co-ordination is right, you’ll see enemy units disintegrate very quickly as they are hit by successive punches within a turn or have little room to recoil.

Generals skills are represented by their ability to put Tactical Groups (TG’s) ‘With Orders’. The better the general, the more TG’s he can Order (if within command range). It also gives him the better chance of winning the initiative each turn, meaning his side will get to activate a chosen formation first (instead of a random draw). His command ability will also assist those Without Orders to have a better chance of getting ‘With Orders’ should they wish to try that. Units ‘Without Orders’ are unable to carry out all the options that a tactical group With Orders can do. All this means that it is in a player’s interest to try and keep formations tight rather than ad hoc if they are to receive the best of command benefits. When a formation chit is drawn, all units of that formation are activated. Then, the formation itself is divided into the aforementioned TG’s. A TG is a group of units from the same formation that are no further than two hexes apart from the next unit in the TG. If you start spreading a formation wide and out of the two hex parameters, you’ll soon find out how difficult it is to place enough units With Orders. Integrity of formations is paramount.

The rule book runs 11-12 pages. This can con the new player into thinking he has a fairly simple game to learn. Unfortunately, this is a bum steer. The game is not difficult either, but rules can easily be missed. The font size is not that big, so there are a good few rules in there! Amongst each rule section, whether shock combat, charges, recoils, retreats and routs, there are rules that can be missed, forgotten or played incorrectly. Even when I felt confident after some solo play, an ftf play soon showed that I (and he), were misunderstanding the odd rule that the other had fortunately caught. I think there are two reasons for this.

The first being that the rules are not divided into enough headings or case numbers. A look at the Rout rules for example will show quite a passage of wording with just a couple of rules numbers. In my case, I think this can lead to reading through them and not catching important exceptions or points of case. Secondly, some of the terms used might have been made more definite. Using the Rout rules again, it is not immediately apparent that a Retreat after combat is not the same as Routing even though the Retreat rules use the term ‘Rout’. It may also be because in both cases, a rout marker is used and when trying to carry out an enforced retreat, you can easily read the rout rules believing these are the ones that apply …. And as I say, especially as the term ‘rout’ is used in the retreat rules section. A few plays and an explanation from somebody aware will clear up the matter, but for a soloist, this may get confused or missed (for years!).

But the subtleties in play within the ruleset are also its strength. Once the bullet and round shot begin to fly, it’s very difficult to get formations and TG’s to do exactly what you want, very difficult indeed. That is a plus for me as it stops the ‘perfect’ game by newbies and old hands alike. Trying to deliver the perfect attack is hard enough. The perfect follow-up even harder. There is also a large passage on charge and pursuit rules. Unleashing a charge can be a very exhilarating part of the battle. They can be decisive, but can also lead your cavalry, if they become overzealous into scenario oblivion.Just watch them disappear into the distance and lose all cohesion whilst merrily hacking away at enemy fugitives for fun.

The game, I would say is not a quick play game. It will of course depend on the scenario size too, but overall, most scenarios would take a day’s play. I find it produces quite a bit of thinking time as options are weighed up and guessing what chits may come out in which order after the current one. Commit or Hold? Recklessness or Vacillation? Could be either.

So that’s a rough outline of the game. Obviously, I like it. For those of you with a collection on the shelf or in stationery boxes, read the rules again (slowly), break out the game, clip corners if that’s something you do and start to push those units around the map. Many of the games are on VASSAL and with the size of the actual physical game, its more than easy enough to have your nice physical copy next to the laptop to use as you VASSAL as well.
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Jim Cavallari
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I've recently taken the plunge into the JdG system and purchased Les Quatre-Bras & Waterloo 1815: The Empire's Final Blows. I'm currently about halfway through turn 2 of the Quatre Bras game. I have high hopes for this game, and will probably add Ligny & Wavre 1815: The Empire's Last Victories to my collection as well. I just finished a combat round where French infantry attempted shock combat against some Allied guns. The guns employed reaction fire, ouch! The result? Disrupted and routed French infantry!
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Olivier Ramaille
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I loved that particular battle, rather a slaughter than a battle for both sides, historically speaking. And JDG provided the chaos of that particular battle fairly well. The rules seem disturbing at first but you need to think of it as pure logic and then it makes sense.
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Jim Cavallari
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Ok, I just finished my first battle of Les Quatre Bras for the JdG series. Overall, I really like the game system itself. The two gripes I have, and they're really minor, are:
1) I wasn't overwhelmed with the game specific rules regarding detached units (Voltigers/Skirmishers). It seems almost too abstract for me. I get the idea of putting a -1 SP marker with the original (detaching) unit, but to me, it seems the detached unit itself is pretty useless. It only exists to maintain control of a hex.

2) I enjoy the artwork on the counters, all the different uniforms, poses, and what not really adds to the flavor of the game. But once you start playing, units, or stacks of units, just get covered over with all kinds of administrative markers. It's kind of an eyesore.

Like I said, these are minor quibbles and it won't stop me from seeking out other games in this series.
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Steve Carey
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Redcap, that was an excellent summary above thanks for taking the time to post it.

JdG is not a simple system to learn at all (I was fooled at first), the rules are densely packed with enough exceptions to give pause. Still, JdG is the better system than T&G, it has real depth.

I've been collecting the games for a while (GMT has a nice selection in stock), and am only now returning to playing (solo, to start). The Early Glories main rules are good, and they apparently apply to all games in the series.

JdG has the potential to be a favorite, I'm excited to explore it more...
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