Saturday, 8 April 2017

Quick Looks: Won by the Sword

Won by the Sword went down like Fat Man over Nagasaki on most wargame forums when released by GMT back in 2014. Lots of misprints on the components and errors in the rules gave it a bad rep to such an extent that GMT decided to bail it out with a patch. James and I have played a couple of games reworked version, it still rides like a bike with two missing gears but its probably the most innovative and insightful design to hit the scene in the past 10 years.


The rules; they work fine for the most part, James is clearer on the gaps than me, he reads them, I'm the opponent. What I will say is that they work if you can put the daddy pants on and make common sense decisions to fill any minor gaps.



Forage; Some games are about movement, some about concentration of fire, some moral, others unit composition, some bluff or even supply routes. Won by the Sword is about burning peoples villages and taking all their food, mostly just to stop your opponent doing it. This is the 30 years war, armies are big and supply chains  are poor, so armies ravage southern Germany for food and booty. Each turn end every army has to consume a certain amount of forage tokens or take corresponding losses, equally large moves or deploying for battle all costs forage. Forage is generated by scourging the land. What this leads to is strategic deprivation of your opponents likely objectives and cat and mouse with the balance of your force. In English what I mean is this; You want to try and burn the areas your opponent is likely to go, even if they are your own country, and you want to split your forces up to maximize foraging but with out getting caught in a battle. Concentration of force is a big deal here.

At the most basic level this is a game where each player has 1-5 armies and has a set of target cities to take. The siege, combat and CDG elements of the game are all slick and well thought through. It's the forage that makes the game really something though. It leads to double think, moral ambiguity (a great feature in any game) and high tension gambits. Armies are made up of dozens of counters on display hidden behind a screen, as such you don't know who has run out of food, and how large a force really is until you drag it into battle.

Book I borrowed off Pete on fortress design in this era

The only major downside is the scenarios. They are fine, but they all boil down to start your armies here and take these cities. They feel rather samey given how easy it is to traverse the map. 

In many respects its a shame this system had such bad teething issues as this could the first game in a fantastic series. Who knows perhaps Ben Hull will come back to it.

Napoleon's Triumph and repeat play

I bought Napoleon's Triumph several years ago when it was cheap and life was easy. I found it pretty hardcore and only pulled it off the shelf once every six months so I sold it to some dude from Sheffield. Since then I've moved to Sheffield and that dude (James) is one of my main game opponents. Recently (relatively) we've been playing Napoleon's Triumph.

Image by Mitte_70, borrowed from BGG.
I think my initial feels about this game have been validated. If you play it regularly there is some thing really unique and excellent here. With single sporadic games you have to relearn the un-intuitive rules and live through the same mistakes. It becomes a game of who makes biggest blunder first.

In our most recent game James took me by surprise by effectively using his cavalry to screen. I know that this is the primary role of cavalry in most warfare but this was the first game I have seen it done effectively in. It tied down my best infantry corps more or less taking it out of the game. In the centre we pushed around, I avoided Jame's trap and even took the upper hand for me to lose it all in one large and badly thought through push. Things then went to pot pretty fast with the allied centre collapsing a few turns later.

We've played Rachel's other more recent game, Guns of Gettysburg, a couple of times too. Until this game of Napoleon's Triumph I felt that Guns was actually the better title, now I'm not so sure. Napoleon's Triumph is actually a little short for what it is. Normally brevity if a good thing in a game but with NT I feel that the room for mistakes is so great an extra hour of run time and a little more forgiveness may benefit it. Guns on the other hand is a little longer.

My main point in write in this post is this, only get one of Rachel's games if you have a regular opponent and you both want to invest in really learning the game. As dedicated games these are great, as one off experiences they are a frustration.

Found this in Vienna, nice holiday surprise after the boredom of Baroque

Metal Ships!

My friend Pete convinced me to buy some 1:1200 scale metal ships for fleet battle games. He picked up some Russo Japanese War Battleships and frigates and I being the most dapper of war gaming hipsters acquired some 30 ships from the well known Sino-Japanese War. I spent today gluing my fingers together and basing the ships.


Yesterday we played a short skirmish with the Russo Jap ships using a simplish rule set.

It is grey at sea

The game is pretty simple, ships are split in to squadrons, plays roll for initiative then take it in turns to move each squadron and fire with each squadron and there's a phase for damage control and spotting (no ships start on the table instead you move dummy paper counters around until you are spotted). Combat is bucket o dice with a mixture of better dice and modifiers for the bigger guns. It makes sense, does a reasonable job of simulation and plays quick. The game adds colour with some interesting critical hit tables and a wide range of weaponry. The odds are fairly long (roll a d10 hit on an 8+) giving the game quite a realistic feel.


Pete is a much better naval commander than me, he picked a better approach angle and managed to maximize his firing arcs on my ships, as such he scored a lot more hits and seriously crippled both of my battleships. In response I swung into the middle of his line rather suicidally, lucked out and managed to critical one of his ships with a ram and another with a torpedo strike. It ended with both fleets limping off in a draw.

As someone who has zero desire to own a large box full of toy soldiers or learn lots of rules this is a pretty good way into minis gaming. It is comparable to boardgame alternatives, such as Star Wars Armada or the rather silly Dreadfleet by GW but its a bit lighter on arbitrary nonsense and doubles down on the manouvre warfare.

I've started to put together a campaign map / simple system for our future Sino Japanese war game.


Status of the Blog

April and my first post for 2017. Like most blogs at some point the writer losses interest or time. I intend to keep posting but far less regularly as I spend more timing down the climbing wall and less time gaming, and when I do play wargames I feel less compelled to write about my experiences.

Solo gaming has sort of died for me, as has reading rules. Who knows perhaps it will come back but in the past 5 months all the games I have played have been short face to face affairs as I still enjoy the social aspects of the hobby. I do intend to solo my copy of the Dark Valley by Ted Racier at some point, and perhaps round of Quatre Batailles en Espagne but that's about it and that could take me a good year.

Having said this I do intend to publish several quick posts in quick succession.


I considered adding a meme, but the Battleship Yamoto is better than any I could think of.