Monday, November 19, 2012

'Worst Case Scenario #5' - The Action at Ursensollen, April 14th, 1809

The two screening forces probe for a weakness in their opponent's line.
A couple weeks ago we flew out to Montreal for a short four-day vacation.  On top of lots of great food, fun shopping and some fabulous visits to museums, I also had the great pleasure to meet up with John, Iannick and Nicolas for a Napoleonic game.

A bronze by Vincenzo Vela of Napoleon meditating at St. Helena. Behind him is a painting by Laslett Pott 'Arriving in Front of Moscow' - Weider Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Napoleon's bicorne worn at Borodino. Aso examples of his boots, gloves and shirt - Weider Collection, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

We had been planning this get-together for a few months and in the Tilsit-like preparatory negotiations it was agreed that I'd put on a scenario using my home-brew rules, 'Food for Powder'.


While chatting with the guys online I found that John wanted something historical-based while Iannick preferred a scenario that was fun and challenging (and Nicolas seemed blissfully amenable to anything). So I decided to do something a little different and put together a scenario whose main goal for the combatants was not to get drawn into a pitched battle, but rather conduct a cautious reconnaissance-in-force which could be escalated only if deemed appropriate.

I chose a very small engagement that occurred in the opening days of the 1809 campaign, near a little village called Ursensollen in Bavaria. For each side I wrote up a short preamble describing the central characters, the events leading up to the action, the forces involved and a map of the battlefield.


The French Briefing:






The Austrian Briefing:







Victory Points for Both Sides
+1 point for Identifying Enemy Formations (come within 12")
+2 points for causing an enemy unit to become Spent
+5 points for reaching enemy horizon (12" in from each sides' table edge)

-3 points for having a friendly unit become Spent
-1 point for bringing forward a unit from theTactical Reserve (per unit)


I have to say I was more than a little nervous about the whole affair. While I had chatted with the guys through email and the blogosphere I had never actually met any of them face-to-face. Also, as I was debuting my set of rules to an experienced group of unknown players. I was more than a little worried that they'd not only hate them, but that the scenario would also go pear-shaped and I'd basically find myself wrecking their hard-earned gaming weekend. So, with these paranoid thoughts racing through my mind, I began to have a small case of stage fright as we descended into Montreal.

Well thankfully all my worries were for nothing. You really couldn't meet a better bunch of guys. They were such a pleasure to hang-out with, were incredibly gracious and exercised infinite patience with my stammering and rambling through the game. In short I had a fabulous day out. 

We had a little bit of a late start, but I took my time explaining both the rules and the scenario as I wanted everything to be as clear as possible before the cannonade began. John took command of the French, filling the shoes of General Friant, while Iannick and Nicolas represented the fractious dual Austrian command of Fresnel and Klenau.

The French force stepping off from Kastl with Friant in the lead. The majority of the figures are from  Iannick's beautiful collection of 28mm figures.
At the beginning, both sides had very small screening forces which the players pushed out to see if they could probe and get past their opponents. John advanced aggressively and came very close to punching through the Austrian screen with several squadrons of Chasseurs, but bad luck fouled his plans as some Austrian Jagers managed to crash into square and see off the French probe.

French Chasseurs closing on a battalion of Jagers.
The Austrians unlimbered their 6-pounders and began to punish the approaching French columns but John (Friant) gamely pressed on. The French Chasseurs seeing another opportunity prepared to force their way through, but the Austrians uncharacteristically seized the initiative and ran-up some reinforcements from Ursensollen to stiffen their left flank. Undaunted, the Chasseurs focused their efforts to charge the bolstered Jagers but, in-turn, were taken in the flank by Austrian Uhlans who had forced their way through their own artillery train to come to grips (it was a little generous on the GM's part to allow this but nonetheless it was very cinematic). The clash was decisive and the French cavalry were sent reeling back towards their own lines.

Uhlans advancing with Hussars in support. (These are 'imports' I brought from home)
At around this point both sides brought forward infantry reserves but they chose to shield them from each other's vision by positioning them in dead ground so no intelligence was gained by either side. Very smart.


Just as the Austrian left became more secure due to the efforts of the Uhlans the French began to probe aggressively on the right. A French column pressed back the Austrian screening force of Jagers while one of it's sister battalions began to skirt on the far right flank, advancing towards Ursensollen.

It was around there that we had to stop for the day. The action was still very much up in the air. The Austrians had achieved some rousing local victories but they had not really moved forward towards their objective. The French on the other hand hand had suffered some casualties but were advancing across the entire front and were in a postion where they had a good opportunity to be able to unscreen the Austrian reserves. 

It was a very interesting game and I quite enjoyed watching it all unfold. All of the players did a superb job in keeping to the spirit of the scenario. Neither side wanted to bring up their reserves until they were desperately needed, which gave a very 'napoleonic' feel to the game. I also really liked how they both screened their forces to give nothing away to their opponents' prying eyes - again very characteristic to the period.



Above is a pic of us which I've shamelessly poached from Iannick's fine blog Clash of Empires. Check his blog out as it features many other great shots from the game. (From left to right: Nicolas, John, myself and Iannick)

The rules came off pretty well in the post-game discussions. The guys gave me some great feedback and I think I may have convinced them to try them again in the future. The best part is that I think I've found an excellent reason to have an annual trip to Montreal (as if the food and sights weren't enough)! 

Thanks to John, Iannick and Nicolas for being such great sports. I'm very much looking forward to our next game together. 

(For those who may be interested in taking a look at 'Food for Powder', my plan is to have a playtest version ready for limited release by the end of the Christmas break.) 


40 comments:

  1. Looks like a great game Curt! I can't access the two briefing, don't know if anyone else has the same problem, not sure if you meant to do that or not??

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    1. Just you. ;) No, they should be up and viewable now. Thanks for the heads up!

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    2. Me too cant access the two briefing..

      Your rules have the same skirmish system of Lasalle ?

      Cheers
      Stefano

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    3. Hi Curt interested in taking a look at "Food for Power". Suppose is a personal variation for BP.

      Ciao
      Stefano

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    4. Hi skordly. Sure, I'll put you on the list for playtesting. The rules started as a BP variant but have grown (mutated!) into its own set. Lots of borrowed ideas from several sets (yes, we've used Lasalle's excellent skirmish mechanic) plus a few that are new.

      I've changed the permissions on the files - can you see them now?

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  2. Nice battle report there, and glad that it went off without the worries that you had ingrained into yourself. Also cool that you were able to get a feedback session into the weekend as well, and look to improve the work you have done already.

    Cant see the briefings as it requires permission to your google drive account, but the photos you have up are great.

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    1. Thanks very much! Yeah, I think I tied myself too much into a knot about the whole thing but I guess I just wanted the day to go off well. Nothing like meeting new people and then presenting them with a lousy game (ugh).

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  3. I thought us Rejects had access to everything including those pictures of the nuns, obviously you can't have Ray having access to anything....I understand now!

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  4. Woops! I'm new to the Google Drive feature. I changed the permissions so hopefully everyone can see the PDFs now. Let me know if its still borked.

    Thanks!

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  5. Screening and probing is one aspect in our rules that isn't covered. I'd be interested in seeing how your rules handled it.

    Also can't access your army briefings. Otherwise, great batrep!

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    1. Excellent!

      The rules don't have specifics for screens per se, I just built it into the victory conditions for the scenario itself and encouraged the players to role-play the orders that they had been given.

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  6. An interesting scenario. I really like the idea of penalising the use of reserves, I think I will steal that one. It seems right for the period. I think the reconnaissance in force would be a good Sharp Practice scenario too.

    Similar penalising mechanisms are used in many board games, where one can 'buy' an in-game advantage but at the cost of victory points - you need to be confident you can cover the shortfall!

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    1. Exactly what I was going for. The players had the option to stick everything in but they would have to 'win big' to offset the fact that they had shown their dispositions and strength. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. I like the scenario and bravo to you for creating your own ruleset!

    How long do you think the scenario would take if you played again with the same players? One of my measure for good rules is they can be grasped in a single game.

    Miles

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    1. Thanks Miles! Oh, if we took another run at them, now that everyone knows the main rules mechanisms, I'd say the scenario would take around 3-4 hours. We played about 5-6 turns in 4 hours with 3 new players, beer and a supper break. All of the players were basically 'on their own' by the second turn, which is encouraging as they're a fairly detailed set of rules.

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  8. Nice write up Curt, it was a great game and many thanks for coming to Montreal. We have decided to use your rules for our next game in the new year. So expect some more emails.

    I can not see your briefings. I find that there are problems with pdf's in blogger. I suspect you use a mac, so I would convert the pdf's to jpg's in Preview and reload them, they will be seen by everyone them.

    Again many thanks,

    John

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    1. Thanks John! Convert the pdf's to jpg's? Hmm, I have not heard of that work around. I'm finding posting pdf's to be a real chore in Blogger and wish they would make it a little more seamless.

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  9. Great looking game and write up! Hats off to writing your own rules. Speaking of hats what a great thing to actually view Napoleons hat from Borodino!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher! Yes, the Weider Collection is a real treasure and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has provided a beautiful permanent space for it. Highly recommended.

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  10. Sounds like a great day. Good to see the h=guys playing to scenario as well - so well done the rules construct.

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  11. Great scrap guys! Always nice to see some Austrians putting some well-earned lead in the direction of the French!

    My apologies, but I cannot see the briefings...sorry to sound all "IT" about something that had been cleared for others...

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  12. The game looks great! Thanks for the heads up on the Napoleon collections at the Fine Arts Museam. I'lll have to head over there soon!

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    1. Definitely check it out. Its such a well-curated gallery and the best part is that its free to the public.

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  13. Can people see the PDFs now? I'm getting some mixed messages but I have the permissions set to 'everyone' so they should be showing up. Let me know, thanks!

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    1. The pictures work perfectly for me - thanks man!

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  14. Nice report Curt, and good looking minis.

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  15. Very interesting game, Curt, and your rules seem to work very well. I am looking for someone Napoleonic and, also, easy to learn and fun to play.

    Cheers!

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    1. I'll definitely get you a copy when I'm done, Juan. You'll be a good tester for their clarity as English is not your first language.

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  16. Excellent sounding game - I am assembling a bunch of new recruits and would love the opportunity playtest your rules - the screening element rules and other points sound like an interesting variant _ Can't seem to access the documents embedded in the post in a readable manner but will try again.
    Cheers
    VFW
    PS might have to the scenario with Russian s and French cause that's what I have on the table at the moment.

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    1. Ok I got them down loaded but pdf files would be easier in my book. Hope you might consider letting me playtest for you as well?
      Cheers
      VFW

      PS this scenario looks like it would be a good one for the Peninsular war as well.



























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    2. Thanks for the comments. The briefing notes were originally in PDF but some folks were having a hard time accessing them so I just stripped them down into separate image files.

      I'll definitely keep you posted when the playtest set is ready! Thanks again for your interest.

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  17. Curt,
    I'm so sorry to post in your comments, but I'd like to let you know that I put you in for the "highly prestigous" Liebster Award. I hope that it will send some more readers your way.

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    1. Very kind of you, thanks so much! And congratulations on being a nominee - very well deserved.

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  18. Yet another great write-up Curt. That's a really interesting scenario too. I have done Teugen-Hausen previously, but not this one, so it will be good to add it to the collection another from the 1809 campaign—thanks for posting the docs.

    Have you scheduled a return game?!

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