Thursday, June 09, 2011

Grand Battery: A Guide and Rules for Napoleonic Wargames Released

A new set of rules supposedly aimed at 15mm/28mm has been released.

Despite the fact that everybody and his mother seems to be releasing new Napoleonic rulesets these days, they are all welcomed, whether they fit my own personal preferences for Napoleonic gaming or not, they add more choice and for some reason in Napoleonic's we burn through rulesets at the speed of light, and you never know when a new 'gem' might come along, though I don't think this is that 'gem'.

As seems to be common these days for new rulesets this is a 'rules++' book where the rules occupy only half of the book, though it's not on the same level as the 'big' glossies like Lasalle or Black Powder but then neither is it priced as such.

Despite the reviews below there doesn't seem to be much (any?) detailed info on the game mechanics or how these rules play and personally I would like to see a lot more before making a purchase decision or not.

If I were ever to release a set of rules, which won't happen, I would give them away free to a couple of Nap Nuts on the condition they play at least 3 games with them and post an AAR. Reviews based on read through's are IMHO worthless, even more so when they don't actually convey any detail on the game mechanics. Failing that the authors themselves should have released something or failing that a sneak peek at some of the pages would be useful.

Apparently the rules are aimed at playing a divisional engagement which would pitch this set just about into the scale I prefer but I get the feeling it's really meant for larger multi-division grand tactical games, but who knows for sure with the current lack of info.

The book also contains an 'up-to-date' buyers guide, it's a nice idea for the novice but the problem with such guides is they never are and never can be 'up-to-date', ranges change too fast these days (and always did) and cross range comparison are too subjective and need side by side pics of figures to be of any real use.

Anyway, all that said, it doesn't necessarily make it a bad set of rules.

From their announcement:
How would you have fared as one Napoleon's marshals, or in command of a division of redoutable British redcoats under Wellington? Grand Battery offers you the chance to find out. This book includes all the rules you need to play miniature wargames set in the Napoleonic Wars, plus plenty of useful background information you need to get started.

There is a concise historical overview of the events and battles of the period, as well as sections on the weapons and tactics of the various armies. The buyer's guide gives an up-to-date survey of the wealth of ranges of miniatures available and advice on which are compatible with which. Organizational tables give a breakdown of typical formations for all the major combatants and most of the minor ones (any one for a Wurttemburg infantry division?), allowing you to structure your collection and also to organize hypothetical games quickly with 'off the peg' orders of battle. Three historical scenarios are also included, each with their own specific orders of battle, maps, objectives and victory conditions.

The rules themselves, which utilize an innovative card-driven turn sequence to simulate the unpredictable ebb and flow of battle, are designed for playability, while still giving 'realistic' results and rewarding sound tactics. Though designed primarily for division level games with 25 or 15mm figures, the command and control sysyem takes account of corps or even the largest army level games and they are easily adaptable to any figure scale.

Get ready to march to the sound of the guns!
More info and to purchase from Pen and Sword Booksclick here

Perhaps a little more informative is this review:
I was a little surprised to be asked to review the first of a new range of wargaming books by Pen and Sword Books, perhaps I should not have been.

The authors are husband and wife team, who have written a number of military history books; they also run a residential wargaming centre in Norfolk. The hardback book is produced to a good standard, as one would expect from Pen and Sword books, full of images, packed full of information and including a new set of wargaming rules Grand Battery.

The book has an introduction to European warfare 1792 to 1815 and discusses the armies. It was good to see that the weapons and tactics chapter covered more than the usual British/ French focus of many books covering the period. My stereotype is that standard Napoleonic books have pages devoted to British and French tactics and then a paragraph at the end saying the Austrians, Russians etc. had similar tactics. This work is much better balanced between the armies of the protagonists.

The Grand Battery Wargaming Rules are designed for the divisional level Napoleonic battle, though they will work for army games. They use a card driven activation system for corps, with each corps having a card in a shuffled pack. Their sequence of activation, movement and firing is determined by the drawing of the cards. The authors implementation of the card activation system has an interesting twist, the other player can challenge once a turn based on their leadership rating. This represents a commander attempting to seize the initiative back.

The rules aim to portray the battle from the divisional commander’s perspective, with emphasise on commander’s ratings, unit training and experience, giving orders, defenders resolve and morale. The rules are detailed, but are well explained and are supported by playing aids and play sheets. I have tried the rules and they work fine.

Like all academic reviewers, I realise the need to be pedantic to demonstrate whatever academic reviewers are trying to do by being pedantic. The contents page has two of the chapters in the wrong order. The excellent photographs lack captions to explain what they show. The Bibliography omits the key work on Napoleonic Wargaming Paddy Griffith’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun (but perhaps as the editor of the latter work, I was bound to say that). I could ramble on for several pages saying my whim would be add another paragraph here, or subtract a paragraph there, but there is no need. The book is a good piece of scholarship, with an interesting set of rules for representing the divisional level Napoleonic battle. I like it and have no hesitation in recommending it to my fellow enthusiasts.
John Curry, Editor of the History of Wargaming Project
I don't know about you but 'a good piece of scholarship, with an interesting set of rules' is not what I would be looking for, shouldn't it be 'a good set of rules, with an interesting piece of scholarship'.

There is another review over at 'A Year of Frugal Gaming' worth reading if your are interested in this ruleset.

I will say that it's not really clear if either of these reviewers has actually played the rules though one would hope so as otherwise it's not really a review more just an announcement as this post is.

Subsequently frugal has commented:
As an non-napoleonic player, I don't believe I would be qualified to discuss the details of the system as I have no frame of reference with other similar rules systems. I played a couple of small games to get an idea of the rules. All I could say was 'Yes, it looks great and I'd enjoy to play a few full games with friends'.
Well at least he has played the rules, but given the above you wonder why the authors sent him a review copy.

Perhaps the point to take from the 'Frugal' review is:
If I had a friend or older child who fancied getting into historical gaming, or an interest in learning about the period, this book would be an excellent starting point; steering clear of the ‘rules lawyering’ that is present in other systems. Though I wouldn’t attempt to take this along to my local club or try to win over some hardcore 40k players, but thats just me and my group and is no way a reflection in the book.
So good for your teenage nephew as an xmas present but not exactly going to find many takers amongst the Napoleonic aficionados?

Does sounds like it doesn't it, though I wouldn't dismiss a ruleset just because it's a bit 'lightweight', depends on how it plays, could be a great 'beer and pretzels' game, you never know but as I said at the start of this post, for me I will pass on this set for now, at least until I see some AAR's.

The rules are currently going for GBP15.99 from Pen & Sword Books which is not bad but watch out for the postage whilst UK postage is only GBP4.00, international postage is a minimum of GBP14.00!!!

Thanks to Anibal Invictus for pointing out this book is also available from Amazon here and at a cheaper price (cheapest is GBP10.99 new).

There is also an in depth review of the game mechanisms on Amazon here.
The review is not really positive at all, as Anibal mentions, and reckons they are more of a Corps than Divisional level game, old school, tedious, with some quirky results but read and judge for yourself, best review so far.

I don't know why but I still don't think there is enough out there yet to really write off these rules completely, though for sure there are enough flags to say at the moment don't buy the book. They do sound very old schoolish, which seems strange if they were really meant for the Nap novice but that doesn't automatically make them a bad set. It really needs the author's to step in and tell us more, who is this book aimed at, what is the background to these rules, which came first the idea for the book or the rules, who has played them and where are the AAR's.

All that said I get the feeling that probably this ruleset would have been better released as an ebook without the novice bits.


Anibal Invictus said...

You can get in Amazon UK for 10 quid plus 2 for postage. I read a long reader review there that basically did not entice me to buy it. I'm afraid another ruleset for the bin

Robert said...

Thanks for that Anibal!