A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 23 July 2012

A Nation Divided – into Hexes? (1) - Preamble

Just couldn’t leave it alone, could I? Having decided on Clarence Harrison’s Victory without Quarter (VwQ) as my rules of choice for my forthcoming dalliance with the ECW, I am building armies to suit these rules, and I’ve even produced a computerised manifestation of VwQ for solo play, incorporating extensions to the rules, some of which come from Clarence’s own notes, some of which are based on mods used by Prof Longuelade and his collaborators in the Northern Wastes, and some of which I admit I came up with myself.

I did briefly consider adapting VwQ for use on a hex grid, but put the idea on hold when I considered the damage which this would do to the finely-balanced variable movement mechanisms. My only (faint) concern about VwQ in the longer term is that, since it is designed to work best with actions involving maybe 12 units a side, I am uncertain how it will handle very big battles. However, I am reliably informed by the bold John C that he has used VwQ for a battle with 40 units a side (i.e. very big), and it worked well, albeit with some modifications to the activation pack.

So that really should be an end to it. Trouble is that I have become very fond of the swing and the commonsense of Commands & Colors, and the convenience of the hexes, and I hear tales of Richard Borg running test games for an ECW relative of C&C. So – damn it – I’m interested again in a C&C style ECW game. This is not intended to replace VwQ in my affections, you understand – it’s just something to think about.

White Mountain

I tracked down what appears to be just such a thing, in Anubis Studio’s White Mountain rules for the 30 Years War. I availed myself of the free download, and spent a few days reading them. I do not propose to criticise these rules, nor find fault with them – here are my thoughts on them – in the context of how they would suit me, given what I am looking for.

(1)   The card & hex & unit structure arrangements owe a lot to CCA, though the game uses normal dice in a slightly different way.
(2)   Losses are tracked in two ways – as (red) casualty markers, which lead to block(/base) removal, and as (yellow) disruption markers, which give a disadvantage in combat – by the slightly unusual method of giving extra dice to the opponent – and ultimately put units out of action.
(3)   The C&C turn sequence is complicated by options whereby (for example) units may elect to shoot before moving – timing of events is less straightforward.
(4)   A great deal of extra complication is added in the interests of defining the facing of each unit – units may face a flat side or an angle of a hex. This is mainly intended to cope with flank and rear attacks, as far as I can see.

Right. The game is nicely presented, clearly it works and is played successfully by some kind of user group, so I am not going to say anything bad about it. I think it is not what I am looking for, since for me it is a mixture of basic CCA and some fairly detailed areas of personal interest, and I think they have sacrificed a measure of the fundamental playability of C&C in the pursuit of a few hobbyhorses. I am not saying they have got it wrong, merely that it is not what I was hoping for.

Try Something Else

I thought further about this, and I decided to have a go myself – starting with CCN (the Napoleonics game), primarily since I am most familiar with it, but also because I have a feeling that some of the Napoleonic features would work well enough with the ECW – for example, the very effective rule for using squares against cavalry should work for stands of pike with very little change.

To put this into context, my initial requirement is for enough troop types to cover the ECW, though scope to extend it to the wider 30YW would clearly not be a bad thing. I will be using it with 20mm miniatures, based to suit my version of VwQ, which means muskets mounted in 6s (3 wide x  2 deep) to a base, pikes in 8s (4 wide x 2 deep), cavalry in 3s (single row) – each base 60mm square. A base will represent a “block” in C&C type boardgame-speak.

I’m currently on holiday, so the subject gives me something useful to chew away at in odd moments, or when I’m out walking. A fair amount of this has already been run past Lee, who, as a former re-enactor and as a current perpetrator of CCN, has been kind enough to offer some very useful feedback and alternative ideas, and I must acknowledge his contribution to anything that appears in the next few instalments of this. If there’s anything which seems particularly inept or just plain dumb, that’ll be my bit!

I emphasise that this is not likely to be earthshaking – primarily a discussion of issues – but there will be some first cut rules for applying a CCN-based game to my particular interpretation of the ECW. The next post will look at foot and artillery, the one after will look at horse (which at one point threatened to get me going off on a tangent) and those pesky dragoons, who – as we know – are neither foot nor horse and need rules of their own.

If I get that far, I’ll try to consider how the Command Pack might look for such a game. It goes without saying that I shall be very pleased to get any comments or suggestions! 


  1. Hi Tony - hope you are having a great holiday so far, good to see you are also continuing to work on developing your ECW ideas.The more I think about the possibilities of using C&CN mechanics as a basis for ECW rules, the more I am convinced it can work, not only just work, but could potentially offer an excellent way of fighting ECW battles. I am actually quite excited about this prospect as you know, and I'm really looking forward to watching this develop here.

    Funny enough, I was thinking about the command pack too, I suppose it would be a step too far (and not to say rather 'corny'), to produce a set of command cards written in the correct style and language of the period? I wonder if Mr. Borg will do this.

    All the best, I'm following with interest.


    1. Hi Lee - just been walking up a couple of hills - not very hard, but it will get harder...

      Command cards - if Mr Borg does not do an appropriate set, I fancy doing my own - never shirk from being corny - it's my family motto.

      Cheers - Tony

  2. Glad to hear you're not taking the easy way out.

    1. Guilty as charged! - if I'd adopted someone else's solution, I'd have had it in bits on the kitchen table by the second day.

      Cheers - Tony