Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 22 May 2017

Another Solo Campaign? - Looking at Boardgames...

GMT's "Wellington"
In the last few years I have played out a couple of solo campaigns - one set in the Peninsular War, one in an unknown part of Lancashire and Cumbria during the ECW. I enjoyed them both - I mean really enjoyed them - there is nothing like a campaign to throw up interesting, assymetric miniatures battles, or hopeless defences, or tricky withdrawals, or games of a size and a format that normally I would not consider - might not even think of. Also, of course, as a solo player I need not worry about the one-sided nature of many of the resulting actions.

I documented these campaigns quite thoroughly, and still get a lot of fun and interest out of revisiting the narratives and the photos.

The mechanisms for supply and map-moving are always tricky - and then there's intelligence - despite my best endeavours, I didn't get either of these campaigns quite right - too much admin overhead, and the map systems forced the action into the same areas too frequently. For the ECW I used a map based on a customised set of The Perfect Captain's famous Battlefinder cards - it worked OK, but only just OK. For the Peninsula I used a map derived from Don Alexander's monumental (and terrifying) boardgame, War to the Death.

I have been thinking about a return to the Peninsula, later this year. I have been reading about the use of proprietary boardgames to provide the campaign framework - an obvious enough solution. One big advantage is that, apart from handling the logistics, the boardgame has its own inbuilt battle mechanisms, which you can use as defaults, so you can place whichever bits of the campaign you wish on the tabletop for the toys to fight out.

A number of sources were enthusiastic about the Pacific Rim game, Wellington's War, to manage a Peninsular campaign. I have never seen this game - I've read reviews, and seen pictures, and I was once quite excited about it, but there was a strange period of a few years when it was always just about to be published, during which I lost interest. It is very expensive, and I am unlikely to rush to buy such a thing unless I am convinced that it is worth the cost. I mean worth it to me (and I can be very difficult, I admit it).

It did get me thinking about two games which I own already, though I have not attempted to play either of them seriously. Firstly, I have the aforementioned War to the Death, which is so fantastically complex that I shall just reject it out of hand as a campaign driver. However, I also have GMT's Wellington, which is a smaller brother of their Napoleonic Wars and uses many of the same mechanics. In fact I also have the Napoleonic Wars game - and I haven't played that either (this is getting embarrassing...). The NW game has a replacement, de-luxe folding board, which is a major enhancement. At the time I bought Wellington, that was due to get an upgraded board as well - I don't care for the flimsy paper jobs, especially if the game is going to lie around for some weeks while I fight a campaign. However, GMT decided not to go ahead with that, for some reason, and the game has sat in its box at the back of my big walk-in cupboard for a long time, still unpunched, still waiting for the posh map which will never come.

I fetched it out at the weekend, and have been re-reading the rules in odd moments for a couple of days. It does seem a bit complicated, but the kit includes a Play Book, which walks through some detailed game-play examples, and that looks pretty good. Time permitting, I hope to set up a demo game and walk through the Play Book examples, to see how it goes. Customer reviews I've seen sometimes make reference to the game's being rather hectically interactive, which suggests it might be a dead duck for solo play. I don't normally do hectic anyway.

So what? Well, I just wondered if anyone had experience of the Wellington game (it doesn't have hexes, by the way...) and/or had any views about its suitability as the driver for a campaign. I'm not committed to using it, but it is lying in the cupboard...

Or should I splash out on Wellington's War? - or do you have good experience with some other boardgame for this purpose? All thoughts and suggestions welcome!


  1. I can offer not much help on this front. For operational/strategic foundation, I would suggest either TAHGC's War and Peace or perhaps even Empire in Arms. I am not familiar with any other Peninsular War boardgame at this level for use as a campaign game. For other Napoleonic campaigns, Kevin Zucker's Campaigns of Napoleon series including 1807 (Poland), (1809 (Danube), Napoleon at Bay (1814), Struggle of Nations (1813), etc. would make excellent campaign foundations. I would enjoy using any of these as a battle generator. I enjoy SoN best of all. All old games but so am I!

    If you are tempted by another ECW game, I suggest The King's War by Clash of Arms Games or the campaign in Bruce McFarland's For God, King, and Country.

    1. Jon - many thanks for this - you've put a lot of thought into it, and I appreciate that very much. I've taken due note of these games, and will read further.

      For the ECW I do own the 1978 Ariel game, appropriately titled "The English Civil War" (the creativity department at Ariel may have been struggling for a budget at the time) - the basic game is pretty sound, includes a cunning battle simulator and has been recommended before as a campaign driver. Snags are that the geographical areas are kind of vast, so that you may find you are fighting the Battle of Yorkshire (needs some external source of detail in this respect), the approach is kind of holistic, though I might consider having an enlarged board which includes Scotland and maybe Ireland (good idea, but the scope is getting ominous), and the counters are famously awful - you push around heaps of flimsy counters, which you have to count and add up constantly. For this last failing I have discussed with the man from Supreme Littleness the possibility of making up miniature peg-board rosters - like tiny MDF cribbage boards - to give an instant readout of the structure of the armies. Again, you can hear the faint drone of an inspired but impossible project....

    2. I too have that Ariel ECW game, alas little played since 1978, I think. It might well be improved by replacing both board and counters - it could then be called 'Trigger's Broom'.

    3. I had to look up Trigger's Broom, but I recognise it as the Executioner's Axe - same conundrum! Those original counters in the Ariel game must be about the worst I've ever seen.

  2. Can I suggest the Marechaux series, from Vae Victis. It's also point-to-point system, and seems suitable for solitaire game.

  3. Looking forward to your deliberations on this subject. I am toying with the idea of using the Empire in Arms map, combine it with the Pax Baltica Rules, and play with either the Might and Reason's Grosser Feldzug campaign rules which convert a similar game to actual Tabletop battles. Actual tabletop rules are oscillating between GaPa, Beneath Lily Banners, Stone, Steel and Shot.

  4. Chorch and Rittmeister - many thanks for this - I'll look at these - I understand that Empire in Arms is pretty extreme - like War to the Death. I know I'm going to be ashamed when I find out, but what is GaPa...?

  5. Got a vague feeling that GaPa has some sort of Swedish connection? Other wiser heads will no doubt enlighten you. Maybe it was the name of that table lamp I bought from Ikea?