Monday, September 26, 2011

Tremble Ye Tyrants - Take II

I did a brief post on "Tremble Ye Tyrants" new ruleset a week or so back, mainly complaining about the lack of information. Since then the only additional information I have come across has been a concise review by vtsaogames on TMP with all due credit to vtsaogames I think it is worth repeating here, though you should note that this review is only based on a read through of the rules not an actual game.

I just got my copy of Chris Peers' new Napoleonic rules, "Tremble Ye Tyrants" in the mail. This is a first impression after having read the rules, no game played.

The rules are 38 pages with a glossy color cover. Inside the front cover are some photos of a very nicely painted 28mm infantry unit. The photos are nice and related to the rules. Inside the back cover are ads for other Chris Peers ‘Ruga Ruga' games. This is not the sort of coffee table book full of pictures that is standard these days but then the rules only cost 10 pounds.

The main reason the rules take 38 pages is because Peers explains his reasoning behind a lot of the rules decisions. I like that but without it the rules would be perhaps 20 pages.

The rules seem old school but with modern tastes accounted for. There are no saving throws. There is a points system and a basic scenario generator that produces either an offensive/defensive battle, an encounter battle with troops arriving on table during the game, or a set piece with possible off-table troops later on. There is no terrain generation system. That's up to the players. The game needs D6 for movement, melee and morale and D20 for shooting. You'll want 4 of each, and always prefer a high score. A peeve of mine is otherwise serviceable rules that reward a high roll one time and a low roll the next. It makes it seem even worse when you do the opposite. I'd also rather the game designer did the work so I don't have to remember which kind of roll is needed for what test. All high gets a good mark in my book.

Another peeve of mine that the rules cater to is two kinds of woods, open and dense. Many rules have good going and bad, period. It's nice to see a little more choice.

Units may be battalions, cavalry regiments and artillery batteries. But they also may be brigade and artillery battalions, without any changes to ranges or rules. There is no hard and fast time or ground scale. But musket range of 4 inches indicates 50 yards to the inch to me, more or less. At higher scales you can rationalize it as including skirmishers. Your mileage may vary. Suggested base widths are 60mm, but as long as both sides are based the same the rules should work. The rules say a good table size is 4X6 feet, larger if you can get it. Infantry and cavalry units have 4 bases each and artillery 1. I imagine that 15mm and smaller scales can be played on smaller tables by halving ranges and such.

Qualities can be assigned to infantry and cavalry. Some are dashing, some are steady and some are ferocious. There are others. Ferocious infantry can attack with cold steel any time. Other infantry must wait until their enemy has a few disorder markers on them. It's an easy way to portray the cold-steel penchant of the British infantry – who don't get a firing bonus in these rules! It's a breath of fresh air for those of us with reservations about Oman's column vs. line story. The rules treat all artillery the same, except well-led French artillery may fire while prolonging forward and British may fire shrapnel. I imagine it wouldn't be hard to finagle raw gun crews should you desire.

The turn sequence is Rally units, roll for off-table troops and move beaten, routed and pursuing troops. Player 1 moves a unit, player 2 moves a unit and so on until everything has moved. Resolve shooting. Resolve melee. Take morale tests. End turn.

Firing is one d20 per firing stand, the result most often a miss or a disorder marker on the target. Sometimes a stand is removed from the target. Artillery has a rather short effective range, but can fire 4 feet at long range. Long range fire is unlikely to produce anything other than the odd disorder marker unless the targets are enfiladed or bunched up. There is bounce through fire, which is also used against reverse slope targets. In many rules, troops on a reverse slope are impervious to artillery fire. Accounts of Waterloo indicate otherwise. Melee is one D6 per attacking unit. The result can vary from a bloody repulse to the defenders routing before contact.

There are some nice touches. I've seen many rules writers jump through hoops to solve the massed column phalanx steamroller – and even then fail sometimes. With some rules, you make an enormous massed column block which cuts through defensive lines at will. In Tremble, each unit makes its own attack. You might do better waiting until the next turn to see how the first unit did. If the turns play quickly, this will be valid. If the turns drag on then the tendency will be to put everything in as soon as possible so there can be a decision before it's time to go home.

It took several passes through the melee rules to decide that this is how multi-unit melees work. Since it's a very different concept it would help if the rules were more explicit about this. Most players expect two units on one to be a done deal. These rules presume that the attacks are not simultaneous. It is possible for a unit fighting two to rout one and be routed by the other – or to rout both.

Victory seems to be a kind of last man standing affair. But since units that accumulate too many disorder markers rout, perhaps the game ends sooner than that. If not, it's certainly easy to just hang a 50% breakpoint or other preferred mechanism on the game.

There are simple army lists. Any self-respecting Napoleonic gamer will of course disagree with some of it. I do. But my gripes are minor and easily fixed. I don't think the Tremble police will come get me if I rate post-1808 Prussian line infantry as dashing instead of steady.

Mr. Peers writes well and can spell. This is the first of his rules I've read. There seems to be a solid game in here. The proof will be in the playing.

PS – one beef – no separate QRS. There is one on the back of the rules, but you'll have to make photocopies of it. I hope they post one on the North Star site as a download so I don't have to back-fold the rules on the copier at work.

Nick also posted a response to the above review, which I think adds a little bit of worthwhile information.
Dear Sir

Thank you for taking time out to post this view of the rules. I'll get a download of the QRS on the website, that is a good idea.

Confession time, I haven't played TyT yet, don't have the armies. The figures on the cover of the book are the start of my French. But I regularly play the other sets, especially the African set, Death in the Dark Continent, and they are a bit of a hit at our regular club meet. I think it is because this series of rules are easy to follow and so you begin playing the game after one session without constant reference to the rulebook. And they are quick. Even mechanisms that seem over simple you appreciate they are so you get through the game in an evening, and actually come to the same result as a more complicated mechanism.

I've priced this latest set at £10.00 GBP in the hope people find that cheap enough to buy just to find out how they read and play.


PS On Military Matters and Brigade Games will have the book in the USA very soon, and Dave Thomas will have the book at UK shows, including Derby next weekend.

Let me also add that Nick at NorthStar has now added a QRS, available from the NorthStar site here. Though there are some formatting issues and I think the columns for movement are reversed (I think they are revising the QRS as we speak) the QRS gives you a good idea of how the game works.

What stands out to me is 4" musket range, movement distance based on D6 so average 3.5" for line, x2 for column, x3 for horse, so short firing range, longer unpredictable movement.

My $.02, very short ranges, very simple mechanisms, plenty of movement, plenty of variability, beer and pretzels type game should combine to work well on the confined (for 28mm) 6' x 4' tabletop and could be a lot of fun to play, don't start debating the historical accuracy of any part of these rules, your missing the point if you do, this is a ruleset to just have fun with, which is not a bad thing and can fit in even if you are a regular fan of some other more sophisticated set. I could see this being a set that generates a lot for 'house variant' rules which often adds to the overall satisfaction I think.

I will still stick by my view that I believe at this end of the market they should follow the 'lardies' example and offer a pdf version of the rules. You may say, as Nick does, GBP10.00 is cheap but I can pick up a copy of 'Grand Battery' for the same price off Amazon and that is 192 pages of a proper glossy hardcover book, which is another reason I feel that pdf would be a better route. They would be a no brainer then and they are IMHO missing a big opportunity if they don't.

There is nothing in particular that these rules have that sets them apart from several others, other than they are new and accessible, I think fun is the key word here, but seemingly in Napoleonics we are always on the lookout for 'new' so might be worth giving them a try and it does make a change from the 'heavy' rules we have seen a lot of in recent years... if they do them in pdf form.

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