Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Battle of Montereau (part 2): Conclusion

When last we left off, the Austrians had just managed to neutralize the forward French advance. With a rattle of drums and clarion of horns the French Guard had just arrived on table. The duo of Austrian commanders let out an audible *gulp*, shrugged their shoulders and tried to guess how long it would be until they were crushed.

We had decided to play 20 turns (considering a turn is approximately 30 minutes), already have the game had been whiled away (meaning it was early afternoon).

 Luckily for the Austrians, a large block of Reinforcements had arrived on our side of the river. This was turning into a foot race to control the all important village of Montereau (hence the battle title no doubt!).

We can see that Doug and Seth are consistently turning out some finely painted figures. Part of their conscious design decision has been to encourage the visual spectacle of their game. This means 28mm on large bases. I believe many of these are Perry figs, with some other (older) lead found amongst them as well. The lead austrian infantry units are guard.....not as quality as the French guard, but it will certainly help slow the blue tide.

Given a dearth of command points, the Austrians hurry their guard to reinforce the town of Montereau, while attempting to place their cannon batteries (each base is (from what I recall) about 30 guns) flanking the bridge and commanding the village as well.

 To the right we can see the Austrians have managed to rush their guard to the town. The French guard can be seen in the top left moving down the road.

 The french guard included young, middle and old. There were so many elements that the force was divided into 2. Seth and Doug took control of this highly desirous command (game design hath it's privileges). Unfortunately (in hindsight) they split their commands in an inefficient way. Seth took the cavalry and cannon, while Doug had the infantry. Due to the high pip costs of moving and deploying artillery it meant that the cavalry largely didn't come into effect, and the cannon support was late to help the infantry versus the Austrian cannonade.

Above we see the french infantry is cleaning out the woods and outlying village (?name) of the advance Austrian garrison (line in the village, and a brigade of light infantry in the woods). This would let the depleted French flank resume it's march against the bridge head and create more pressure  on the Austrians.

The guard vs guard fight has started on the crossroads. The Austrians have manage to withdraw their horse artillery to the rise and the heavy cannon has been glowing red hot for a while now as they steadily cannon the guard advance. One of the more controversial discussions was shoot thru damage from cannon. A second unit can be damaged (with reduced chances) if right behind the primary target. Apparently this had made frequent appearances and disappearances in various forms in the rules.  

 Victor has started to get his troops moving again, the presence of the French chasseurs has created issues for the Austrians holding this area. The troops in the village are getting a hard handling but some horse cannon just out of sight behind (diagonal) the village.

 Back to the main event we can see the forest and village are cleared. There is still an incredible mass of french troops charging down on the Austrian thin white line. Besides the 2 guard there are only 3 bases of cannon (although this represents almost 100 gun!).

Note the french cannon to the left of the column which has started an artillery duel with the austrian heavy cannon at the top of the rise. The austrians would slowly be whittled down by this fight, as they were distracted with steadily cannoning the french infantry as fast as they could manage.

Even after the cannon are cleared the french face a tough battle against a final unit of guard holding in the village (with cannon across the river covering the approaches).

 The turn counter is running pretty high though......The french need to claim some solid progress soon.

 Another via of the left French flank with Victor clearing out the troublesome village by cannon.

Both the austrian infantry and the French guard are starting to look fairly worn under the intense crush of musketry and cannon from both sides.

French crisis! With a cataclysmic clash of force, numerous brigades are wrecked as fighting formations. Austrian and French fall back from the field dragging their injured comrade. The jewel of the french fighting formation has taken a rough handling this day. Napoleon eyes the depleted cannon on the rise, and the strong defensive position of the Austrians beyond. The day is late and the guard is needed elsewhere. A series of recall messages and trumpets are sounded as the dark of night is creeping across the field.  THE AUSTRIANS HAVE THEIR CROSSING. HUZZAH!

As with the historical event, Victor's command  was quite delayed but managed to eventually (after being relieved) take his objective. This was a tough nut to crack with the (unseen) austrian cannon off the bottom of the picture overlooking the village and road.

The final overview of the battlefield.

A huge thanks to Doug and Seth for posting the game with a great setup and figs. All the players were a treat to play with as well.

The rules continue to develop with each battle. Doug and Seth didn't like how the road rules played out and have decided to remove them again (it's questionable that the roads would help as many troops as each base represents on such a small time scale while being deployed). The new cannon rules seemed to work quite well, but changes to blow thru damage (bounce thru?) and the arc of fire  needs some tightening up as well (I will admit under the current rules I was managing some amazing sniping down narrow firing corridors).

More of Doug's great painting (closer up) on his blog Dots of Paint.


I forgot to put up the awards for the Austrian commanders! The historical result had the French come charging hell for leather down the rise above the town and panic the Austrians. They were flung back over the bridge forthwith. During the game we noted the fantastic job done by the centre artillery batteries and thought that they (and us!) deserved awards.

Rod was diligent in looking this up post battle....

Now, I think the Commanders that David and I got to play may have earned either of these below.  HOWEVER, I don’t think the Commanders were of the appropriate noble rank to receive the Order of the Golden Fleece…. 
Take care, and please pass the attached on to David!


The Military Order of Maria Theresa

Founded by the Empress Maria Theresa on 22 June 1757 as a reward for merit for senior military officers. The order was to be granted as a reward for acts of military valor and to perpetuate the memory of the brave officers receiving it. An officer had to command in a battle or a unit in a winning action to be eligible for the higher grades, and even Oberlieutenants had to perform prodigious feats of duty and valor to receive the knight's cross. Not often awarded in the Austrian army. As with many high orders the decoration was to be returned to the Chancellery of the Order on the death of the holder. This is one reason for its great rarity, especially of older issues. Almost all known copies in commerce are 20th century, most from the First World War or insignia made for holders of the Order after the end of the war.

Ribbon: Equal stripes of red, white and red.
Grades: Three: Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Knights

The Austrian Imperial Leopold Order

Established by Emperor Francis I on 8 January 1808 in honor of his father, and to provide the Empire with an order that could be used to reward noble subjects for service to the Emperor and the State. The existing senior orders before 1808 were too limited in their scope to permit rewarding sufficient subjects for their duty. The choice of Leopold for this order's name is not too strange, since he was Francis' father, but he is also the most shadowy of the modern emperors with his brief two year reign. The Knights Grand Cross were also addressed by the Emperor (as Grand Master of the Order) as "Cousin" as with Grand Cross members of the St. Stephen Order. Collars and insignia were returnable upon death of the member, the collar to the Grand Master and the insignia to the Registar.

Ribbon: Red with two thin white edge stripes.
Grades: Three: Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander and Knight Ordinary.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mansions of Madness: TPK

A couple of the nerds managed to get together for a boardgames evening last Friday. We choose mansions of madness as we'd played it a few times and had a good time. Our choice was once again vindicated as we had a hoot despite the TPK (total party kill).

Game overview
Mansions of madness operates similar to a few games out there (including descent) where one player is the opponent/antagonist/DM/whatever who attempts to kill off the other players who are working cooperatively.

Each turn the DM earns up points to pay for spawning monsters, causing horrible things to occur, creating poor environments for the Investigators (dark rooms, locked doors, etc). This typically scales up by matching the number of points per turn to the number of players, so that neither side gets steam rolled with too few/too many players.

As a 'call of Cthulhu' inspired game, it includes the mandatory 'sanity' value as well as health. Playing in a Cthulhu game is really a case of prolonging the inevitable rather than being a hero. Often the end destination for characters (literary as well as game) is in the mad house, shortly before death. Typically the horrors of contact with sanity blasting monsters and situations (and dark knowledge) causes a slip of sanity to the point where the characters get pretty buggy. Mansions of madness models this well by allowing the DM to inflict specific mental 'traumas' upon an investigator once their sanity goes too low. This can include kleptomania (stealing from other players), fear of the dark (unable to enter certain areas with taking additional sanity damage), fear of being alone (can't get too far from other players), paranoia (can't get too close to other players) and can include cards that cause the investigator to attack other players or even kill themselves.

A similar mechanic exists for physical effects, but somehow doesn't seem to come up as often in the games we've played.

Mansions of madness has a system that easily prevents endless game play, as there is a timer mechanic that causes cards to flip up that advance the plot (and often create terrible problems for the players). I suspect this is an updated mechanic lifted from Arkham Horror (another board game set in the Cthulhu-verse).

Latest game:
Our latest game had the investigators checking out a new university building (built on the ruins of an old tower) which suffered from strange heating/cooling and electrical problems. The DM managed to delay us enough in the early game that, despite clearing most of the map and loading up on gear, when we finally found the final clue the timer was running down. Careful counting of squares meant that we had no margin for error and had to run straight out of the building with no delay.....past the Mi Go that had been revealed with the final card.

Unfortunately the mental traumas loaded up on my doctor character meant that he would run out of sanity in the first turn of fleeing. The DM managed to play a card causing the Doctor to panic, and find the only true way of escape.......death. Given that he was only armed with a bone saw, we figured this would be a truly horrible suicide scene worthy of such tasteful films as hostel.

Despite hitting the auto loss conditions, we continued to play it out to see if the others could escape. It was not meant to be. One turn behind schedule they emerged from the be confronted by a horde of Mi Go which, no doubt, decanted their brains from their body for further study.

Stories to Remember
Mansions ends up with wonderful to remember events like this each time we play. The first time we managed to take a maniac down with the final die roll of the game before the timer ran out. For some reason that is hazy to me now (we may have actually lost but played out the roll anyway) the wandering bum with the axe ended up killing another investigator in the same round as the maniac. We decided that the follow through had chopped through both of them. Epic stuff really.

Our win loss is standing at 1:2 with the single win characterized by the players running roughshod over the monsters. My professor hobbled around the board (I think with a broken leg) nuking giant worms and cultists with a horrible dark magic spell, the shrivelling. This gave enough cover for the other characters to finish following up the clues. Perhaps there is something to be said for fighting fire with fire. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Battle of Montereau (part 1)

Lots of material to catch up on, but the latest is a game I attended in White Rock, BC.
Our host, Doug of Dots of Paint (some nice pics of close up on the figs there) hosted 6 of us to continue the development of the rules set he and Seth are working on. The rules (I don't know there is a working title) are primarily geared towards convention gaming. They look good (28mm), and can finish large battles to completion in a few hours.

The general idea is that the stand of troops represents multiple brigades and is, in fact, the ground that this mass of men would control. A corp would be represented by 8 to 12 elements.

Ranged shooting only exists for artillery (with 2 separate ranges for horse and foot artillery), musketry is subsumed into a base to base contact which would be short range firefights and assaults. The players major decisions are geared towards how to allocate limited command points (more later) and where to feed his troops in to die in useful ways.

Command points are determined by rolling a d6 for each commander with a bonus equal to the number of elements about 6.....this means that on a 6 you could give the most basic command, advance forward while in command range (~8") to your entire force (ignoring artillery). Artillery takes 2 points to move, changing direction 'radically' (basically more than 45 degrees) costs 2 as well. Outside of command range and things get rapidly more pricey.

One of the great features of the system is that at the end of a combat round, each unit in combat will suffer attrition of 1 factor (most units start at 3 or 4). This can't take you from 1 to 0, but otherwise your units get weaker as they fight, regardless of winning or losing. The original function was to prevent Guard from winning every fight and not suffering for endless combat, but it feels very 'true' to see your forces get slowly (or fast when they lose!) winnowed down.

The battle occurs in 1814 in France with the French attempting to throw back a bridge head the austrians were in the process of establishing over the Seine. The game table started with the Austrians split over the river, and holding the centre of the table. The french marched on from the left and right of the table.

The table is around 10 x 6 I think. The river is the Seine. Austrian rear is to the Left, the French come on from the Right.

It was known that the imperial guard would be showing up later to lay the smack down on the Austrians. Ian declared he wanted to play the French for a change and requested that Bob join him. Rod and myself took the Austrians by default while Seth and Doug would help GM/explain rules and take command of the Guard when it finally showed up.

 We can see (Left to Right) Rod, Doug, Seth, Craig and Bob (Hopefully I got the names all correct here). Doug has a great gaming room set up with super organized plastic bins that can be seen in the background. Transparent means you don't forget what you have!

Left we see the Austrians set up. I faced a serious issue with my command scattered all over the place. Most of my early turns where trying to pull my forces together towards the central town of Montereau. Right we see the other Austrian command attempting to slow the French advance. The french on the left flank would ultimately send their strength on a stubborn Wurtemberger unit and getting blasted by horse artillery. They were insufficiently strong to resume the advance until the Guard appeared. 

Here we see the Left flank french lining up to kill the Wurtembergers. The horse artillery is set to cause them considerable grief. Their own cavalry was a bit constrained by command distances and lack of pips so couldn't come howling down the forest road as they no doubt hoped.

Left we see Victors command on the right flank. This turned into a foot race to occupy the village. I gave my highest priority to getting their first, and despite some low command rolls manage to squeak in there first. You can see on the right the austrians in the town, beating the french by just under an inch. Off picture to the bottom on the far side of the river an austrian foot artillery battery could jsut cover the town and the edges. This made Victor unwilling to advance along the road, and constrained by the forest. As was historical, his advance ended up very tardy.  

 The wurtembergers are gone, taking a french unit with them. The horse artillery is well placed to deny an advance. The french cavalry is unwilling (unable perhaps, can't remember the cavalry against town rules) to attempt to evict the austrians from the town.

Here we see am Austrian battery moving to the rise North of Montereau. Artillery takes 2 pips to move, and auto limbers when moved. To unlimber it takes another 2 pips. This can by down by horse artillery the same turn it moves, but foot artillery takes must do it the next turn.

The advance was a bit painful for me to watch as I was sure I would be caught out of position.
 The small wheels on their side mark the limbered state on the artillery.
I have parked a unit in Montereau, and sent a replacement unit of foot to reinforce the village to the East.
The artillery up on the fill actually ended up playing a critical role in the later parts of the battle. 

Victor's Force is now ready to blast me out of town. The town is now unoccupied as they troops fighting for it managed to disperse each other.

MON DIEU! The Guard has arrived. Rod and I had just started feeling comfortable that the battle lines had stabilized when the Guard showed up.

Seth took command of the cavalry and the guns, and Doug the infantry. In hindsight it would probably have been better to split the guns as it's so hard to move them up. The infantry rushed foward to do their bloody work with insufficient cannon support. (More on that later)

The first turn of reinforcements. There are approximately double this number. Looked pretty scary from where we were sitting.

To be continued...