Nate Merchant
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Scott diBerardino diCummerbund of the Royalist Blockheads led me on my first romp through Ben Hull's famous Musket&Pike series: Edgehill, from This Accursed Civil War. Honestly, I didn't mind the civil war so much--I'm married, after all--but I did mutter on occasion, "These accursed rules!" That's what Scott's there for, though: he's got the Stephen Hawking brain for 70's era wargame rules, and in return I tell jokes, make puns, and quote film lines with a John Rhys Davies voice. But I digress...

The wonder of rules systems like Hull's M&P series and Bob Kalinowski's Seven Years War games (among others) is that through the course of the game a novice like myself actually starts thinking like a general of the era. You really feel like you are making decisions and dealing with the same kind of command constraints those generals did. The trade, of course, is in complexity, and that is my only bone to pick with the games of the two aforementioned distinguished gentlemen.

The battle lines for each side in TACW--and specifically Edgehill--are arranged in wings: left, right and center. There is a leader for each wing as well as an overall army general and order chits for each wing. These orders restrict what the commanders can do during a turn (leaders under Rally can rally their wing, Charge will allow unit charges into or closer to the enemy, and Receive Charge will allow leaders to reform their units after close combat.) The rub is that it is often very difficult to change orders when you want to; some changes require repeated rolling throughout the game. Sometimes it is simply better to remain at Make Ready, which is the most flexible stance. Although I didn't nearly understand all the nuances, benefits, and drawbacks of the Orders, I liked the idea very much, especially how they modelled the chaos of the battlefield.

Another design implementation that I particularly liked were unit Reactions, which in Edgehill basically amounted to cavalry being able to intercept approaching units and pike formations firing on closing enemies. As the Roundheads, I was able to disrupt the Royalist cavalry charges pretty consistently and thus save my weak flanks. However, the Reaction fire that the pike formations got was ridiculous. I closed with four units on a Royalist pike formation, and it got full reaction fire on each unit, which couldn't possibly happen as modeled.

The game is rather counter-heavy, unfortunately. There are counters to designate formation chaos, counters to designate morale, counters for losses, pistols fired, guns captured, generals shaved, and whether or not salvoes had been loosed. No kidding: some of my units were literally buried under five separate counters, and since I had an early edition of the game, we were even missing still more counters! I definitely felt that this was but one of the areas in which the designations could have been somewhat abstracted. In the last hour or so of the game, it was a chore to see what unit was suffering what effects.

I was also not a fan of the close combat matrix, which yes, abstracts the aggregate pluses and minuses to a single die roll, but also abstracts the attacker and defender results. Maybe it's just a Natus thing (see Rex, Crusader "Knights Charges"), but I hate rolling to do damage to myself. "Oh, look, I rolled a zero, and my units implode! Wheee!" Paradoxically, I have no problem whatsoever with my opponent rolling a lucky six and wiping me out. In this kind of hack-and-slash combat, I do miss the close combat rolling from Warhammer Ancient Battles. Oh, it's just as time intensive, but it doesn't feel as chaotic as this combat did.

Lastly, as has been mentioned before by others smarter than myself, there is a rules complexity barrier here past which I cannot go. I slammed up against this barrier both in TACW and in Prussia's Glory by Kalinowski, and only the calm, steady brain of Scott diBerardino diStuartino led me through the thicket of rules governing morale, formations, orders, rallying, etc., etc. It's not that I will trade TACW away, but it does mean that it and Sweden Fights On will see fewer plays as a result. I love Hull's modeling of the ECW command and morale structure, but I fail to see why it could not be abstracted just a bit more to help game flow and make the game more accessible to new players. Of course, in the fullness of time, after further perusing of the rules, I may recant, but during what was a very exciting game, the mud of the rules were more of a concern than the mud of the terrain.

Final gripe: the dragoons included in the battle scenario were all but useless. They could barely hit anything, and they counted for nothing score-wise. Were they really that irrelevant?

I gave TACW a 6.8. Had my poor brain been able to make better sense of the various rules and exceptions, especially regarding the morale and combat results, than very little except perhaps the threat of divorce could have stopped me from acquiring the entire Hull oeuvre. As it stands now, though, I shall have to proceed very carefully and diligently when playing other battles from these games, and the system is at heart so fun that I'd rather leap into them like Prince Rupert at full gallop with his poodle. Alas!


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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Thanks for the roundup, pardner.

Natus wrote:
However, the Reaction fire that the pike formations got was ridiculous. I closed with four units on a Royalist pike formation, and it got full reaction fire on each unit, which couldn't possibly happen as modeled.

Actually, what probably couldn't happen is four units closing on an enemy in any kind of organized fashion. I have no trouble seeing a defending formation giving shot to each attacker as they approached. Which is kinda how it's actually modeled.

Unit quality is key here. The effect of the casualty threshold, and also the amount of casualties before a morale check is required, should not be underemphasized. Poor troops may run from almost any fire, regardless of numbers.

Quote:
I love Hull's modeling of the ECW command and morale structure, but I fail to see why it could not be abstracted just a bit more to help game flow and make the game more accessible to new players.

Hull borrowed a good deal of his command system from Rob Markham's quads for 3W. I've been meaning to take a spin in those games for some time, but the poor development has put me off.

Quote:
Final gripe: the dragoons included in the battle scenario were all but useless. They could barely hit anything, and they counted for nothing score-wise. Were they really that irrelevant?

From what I understand, yes. They were skirmishers and not meant for heavy combat. Their "elimination" is probably more like dispersal, to reconstitute after the battle.

Having just watched the first part of The Devil's Whore, I want to get this or its ilk on the table again quite soon.
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Nate Merchant
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sdiberar wrote:
Thanks for the roundup, pardner.

Natus wrote:
However, the Reaction fire that the pike formations got was ridiculous. I closed with four units on a Royalist pike formation, and it got full reaction fire on each unit, which couldn't possibly happen as modeled.

Actually, what probably couldn't happen is four units closing on an enemy in any kind of organized fashion. I have no trouble seeing a defending formation giving shot to each attacker as they approached. Which is kinda how it's actually modeled.


Well, here we are at another di Berardino/Merchant barricade. If they weren't able to close on a pike unit in any kind of organized fashion, why can you do it in the game as I did? Why does the design punish a player for pulling off an elegant and complicated maneuver if it's not only totally ahistorical but ineffective? Call me crazy, but if there's one thing I've learned in my martial studies, it's that surrounding a unit on the battlefield is a *good* thing. Obviously, I've missed something somewhere.

sdiberar wrote:
Unit quality is key here. The effect of the casualty threshold, and also the amount of casualties before a morale check is required, should not be underemphasized. Poor troops may run from almost any fire, regardless of numbers.


Except, gameplay-wise, it's hard to be told, "Don't use those dragoons! They suck! Don't attack with those huge pike units! One hit and they fall apart!" Yes, I know the designer is modeling history here, but I wonder why I'm playing games (a la BSG) where the best option is not to do anything. Your units were so mauled mid-Edgehill scenario it was the perfect time for a counter-attack!

sdiberar wrote:
Quote:
I love Hull's modeling of the ECW command and morale structure, but I fail to see why it could not be abstracted just a bit more to help game flow and make the game more accessible to new players.

Hull borrowed a good deal of his command system from Rob Markham's quads for 3W. I've been meaning to take a spin in those games for some time, but the poor development has put me off.

Quote:
Final gripe: the dragoons included in the battle scenario were all but useless. They could barely hit anything, and they counted for nothing score-wise. Were they really that irrelevant?

From what I understand, yes. They were skirmishers and not meant for heavy combat. Their "elimination" is probably more like dispersal, to reconstitute after the battle.


Next time I'll borrow the Dummies cards from Condottiere and replace the dragoons. It would make me feel better.

sdiberar wrote:
Having just watched the first part of The Devil's Whore, I want to get this or its ilk on the table again quite soon.


I'd love to play Sweden Fights On, but some of these aforementioned rules issues are making me fail my morale checks.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Ah, Drama has returned! I almost missed it.

Natus wrote:
Well, here we are at another di Berardino/Merchant barricade. If they weren't able to close on a pike unit in any kind of organized fashion, why can you do it in the game as I did? Why does the design punish a player for pulling off an elegant and complicated maneuver if it's not only totally ahistorical but ineffective? Call me crazy, but if there's one thing I've learned in my martial studies, it's that surrounding a unit on the battlefield is a *good* thing. Obviously, I've missed something somewhere.

Me hazy memory may have been playing tricks on me, but I recall your infantry having numbers but not quality. Quality counts for much more. 6-morale troops are near useless, since they run at the slightest provocation. As to the rest, your final attack DRMs were low enough that rolling a zero was disaster. Unfortunate, but true.

I thought your counterattack was well-timed, but then I was more concerned about your numbers than perhaps I ought have been. I confess to not knowing what good tactics are in MPBS.

Quote:
Quote:
From what I understand, yes. They were skirmishers and not meant for heavy combat. Their "elimination" is probably more like dispersal, to reconstitute after the battle.

Next time I'll borrow the Dummies cards from Condottiere and replace the dragoons. It would make me feel better.

I note that stacking them with one's cavalry is a good defensive strategy, since you effectively double your firepower, but you do give up the opportunity to intercept. It's a more conservative doctrine than intercept-all-the-time, but not necessarily less effective.
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Nate Merchant
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sdiberar wrote:
Ah, Drama has returned! I almost missed it.

Natus wrote:
Well, here we are at another di Berardino/Merchant barricade. If they weren't able to close on a pike unit in any kind of organized fashion, why can you do it in the game as I did? Why does the design punish a player for pulling off an elegant and complicated maneuver if it's not only totally ahistorical but ineffective? Call me crazy, but if there's one thing I've learned in my martial studies, it's that surrounding a unit on the battlefield is a *good* thing. Obviously, I've missed something somewhere.

Me hazy memory may have been playing tricks on me, but I recall your infantry having numbers but not quality. Quality counts for much more. 6-morale troops are near useless, since they run at the slightest provocation.


I guess this is my overall point. Most of my troops were 6 morale and the dragoons sucked big, long muskets. Surprised I did as well as I did, considering.

sdiberar wrote:
As to the rest, your final attack DRMs were low enough that rolling a zero was disaster. Unfortunate, but true.


Another "wish i'd known before i ordered the attack" moment.

sdiberar wrote:
I thought your counterattack was well-timed, but then I was more concerned about your numbers than perhaps I ought have been. I confess to not knowing what good tactics are in MPBS.

Quote:
Quote:
From what I understand, yes. They were skirmishers and not meant for heavy combat. Their "elimination" is probably more like dispersal, to reconstitute after the battle.

Next time I'll borrow the Dummies cards from Condottiere and replace the dragoons. It would make me feel better.

I note that stacking them with one's cavalry is a good defensive strategy, since you effectively double your firepower, but you do give up the opportunity to intercept. It's a more conservative doctrine than intercept-all-the-time, but not necessarily less effective.


Well, I had them double-stacked, but the chances to intercept were just too good to pass up. I don't think you ran into a double-stacked unit.
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Ben Hull
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Thanks for giving her a spin.

You are correct that dragoons and skirmishers suck, they are best used to for lucky shots on enemy cavalry who are far more sensitive to casualties.

Morale 6 units are best used defensively, they do not have the morale to attack anything stronger than baby strollers.

Defensive fire is based on the historical reality that movements of adjacent brigades or squadrons were not well coordinated. As such it was preferred that you go 1 unit versus 1 unit and attack in echelon, so if your 1st unit fails, the weakened defender is attacked by your fresh second unit.

Yes, the system could have streamlined a great many things, but it was a deliberate decision made to highlight the peculiarities of 17th century warfare than an overview of the battles per se. It was also justified by the small relative counter density.

Thanks
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Nate Merchant
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Well, I've just received Under the Lily Banners, and I can't wait to get it on the table. I figure some ultra-strict rules reading should put me in good shape for the entire system.

Wait...I've now got three games in the M&P series...does that make me a Hull fanboy? Look for more reviews down the road!

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Stu Hendrickson
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I am taking a second look at this game..
Designers notes sez combat was not decisive, but cumulative over time. Really? CRT sez that 20% ofthe time- at least- someone gets eliminated. And given those incredible dRMs that cav can get, sometimes it is 50% DE..

But I really like the formation hit idea.
Stu
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Steve Carey
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I'm actually liking that Close Combat is often decisive - considering the level of detail in so many other areas, the last thing I want is a convoluted and drawn out Close Combat system.
 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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ratbulogg wrote:
I am taking a second look at this game..
Designers notes sez combat was not decisive, but cumulative over time. Really? CRT sez that 20% ofthe time- at least- someone gets eliminated. And given those incredible dRMs that cav can get, sometimes it is 50% DE..

On the contrary, I think his notes indicate it was decisive, but not deadly, which is how it plays out in the game (noting that DE is not generally piles of corpses, but rather a unit throwing down its arms and fleeing).
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