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


Saturday, 16 February 2019

FK&P - Heavy Going to Start With

I've had a couple of sessions familiarising myself with the For King and Parliament rules. Slow going, thus far - of course, it is possible that I have finally become too old and stupid to learn anything new, but mostly I have been having problems with the rule book.

Early experience-gainer tests. Everything vanilla - all the units are seasoned, no terrain effects to worry about, and so on. If you screw your eyes up you may see the pencil lines, which will be gone by lunchtime today. 20mm soldiers, 7.5inch squares, half-size playing cards, buckets of counters and wooden cubes standing by.
I would hate to say anything rude or unfairly critical of this game, so I must state right away that the booklet is enthusiastically and engagingly written, the style is pleasing and (a true rarity!) it is grammatically correct and the spelling is good, and the whole production is very attractively laid out.

I am happy to accept that the evidence is that this is a very enjoyable game, and that I will get up to speed eventually, and all will become clear. Good. My problem, I think, is that I have not come to this game after playing To the Strongest, so I am not quite on the right wavelength to start with, and also the authors - who have definitely come from the direction of TtS! - obviously understand the game and know what they mean, but sometimes I found it hard to pick up the key elements I need to get started from what is a mixture of design points, examples (which are useful and entertaining, but a couple of them seem to contain errors - or at least points which I couldn't find in the main text), tables, illustrations and playing tips.

Portent? - the very first activation card I played in this game - ever - was an Ace, which is a very bad card for activation. It makes a welcome change from bad dice rolls.
There are a number of examples of special exceptions to standard rules, which seem to be mentioned once only - some of them do not seem to be reflected in the summary tables, and often I found that I was unable to find the reference when I searched for it. The impression gained is that a number of post-prototype fixes were put in, and that an editor should get his head in there before the 2nd Edition appears. I am used to things being cross-referenced - especially if they haven't been mentioned yet. On a few occasions I came across terms I hadn't seen before (or at least couldn't remember seeing!), which a few pages later were explained and defined. None of this is serious, but I've found it a bit tricky. I like to remember rules in terms of norms which usually apply, with the necessary exceptions as a short and manageable list - if there are real weird cases which don't happen very often, then they are the things you know you have to check in the rules as and when.

The Quick Reference Sheet reproduces full details of unit properties - all or nothing - and undoubtedly lists some key information, albeit in a rather lengthy and waffly style - QRS's are usually brief and punchy. Oh - and they should be complete  too - rules for shooting and melees only appear here in the QRS by implication - and artillery ranges aren't set out (I couldn't find them, anyway). Since I've now read through the rule book four times, I would expect to have a better grasp of what is needed. I'll definitely produce my own QRS - that's a priority - but for some of the key rule sections - activation, combat, saves - I'll produce very short notes and tables of my own, with stuff explained as departures from a basic standard. I haven't got room in my head for amusing stories about all the features of Swedish horse - though I can maybe retrofit that sometime later.

So I shall plug away, but there is going to be a power of typing going on to get me up to speed! One further thing which is gently catching me out at present is that some of the TtS jargon is counter-intuitive to a newbie. In FK&P, "hits" means what in other games I would regard as "strength points" (or even "blocks"!), "disorders" means "losses", and there are a few other conventions I just have to get used to - OK - I can manage that. I also had difficulty finding the exact timing of tests for officer casualties, and thus far I haven't found out how far a melee attacker has to pull back if he doesn't eliminate the enemy.

Last night I did some cavalry melees, which were slow because I haven't got the hang of everything I need to know yet. First things I have to fix are:

(1) the tabletop - my original intention was to put pencil lines on to mark complete squares, pick out the corners of the square cells in black Sharpie pen, and then paint out (or erase) the construction lines. After I'd got the boards marked up, I reckoned I'd give it a go with the pencil lines still in place - they are not very visible anyway. Bad news is that it became obvious last night that the playing cards are going to get very grubby with raw pencil on the table (however discreet), so I have set about painting over the construction lines. We'll just have corners, as recommended, and as I originally intended.

(2) the half-size playing cards are OK - it is necessary to work at keeping things tidy and organised, or the result is a terrible mess, but I expected that. However, in the absence of proper counters to keep track of ammunition, "dash" (for horse), pursuits, "disorders" and all the other things you need to keep track of (and this is before you get to whether the cavalry are badly mounted, whether the units are raw/seasoned/veteran, the characteristics of individual leaders, the "gallant gentleman" classification...), I used a variety of coloured tiddlywinks, which won't stack without falling over and spreading about, which are not really very easy to handle and which look just awful. I can't be doing with very much of that, so some quick progress with proper tracking systems is necessary, or I'm going to shelve this. I'm thinking about it, and have had some useful ideas from commenters (thank you, chaps) and via email.

That's about it for the moment. I've started touching-out the pencil lines, and I'll do a bit of typing of CONCISE tables, and I'll be back on to trying out aspects of the game this evening.

Lots of Django Reinhardt on the CD player at the moment - that keeps the painting speed up! Just thought I'd mention it. Oh yes, and while I'm digressing, I've finally chucked out the remainder of the Nescafe - we bought two large jars of bog-standard Nescafe instant coffee a while ago, because they were on special offer with some rather handsome mugs. I am afraid that I do not like Nescafe - I realise this is entirely my own problem. I could, of course, have disposed of the actual coffee and simply regarded that as part of the cost of the mugs, but - no - this particular mug is far too mean for that. Eventually, halfway through the second jar, I have disposed of it. To be more accurate, my wife got tired of my complaining about it, so she threw it out on my behalf, and I've gone back to my preferred Douwe Egberts instant. Good. A bit like the relief when you stop banging your head on the wall. Some strange ritual, suffering, so as not to waste anything. Hmmm.


24 comments:

  1. Kudos for perseverance, I'm sure I've missed out on some wonderful rules over the years by not having that sort of dedication and patience while trying to learn them.

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    1. The basic ideas in these rules are very good, and the basic game could surely be described in a lot less than 80 pages (or whatever). I am not good at adopting new games - I am exceptionally good at starting to look at them, but even better at finding some aspect that kills my interest stone dead. I think these rules should be OK, but I hope I can avoid off-table rosters.

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  2. Prof De Vries emailed me with a suggestion that there may be parallels between (a) trying to convince myself of the merits of a new set of rules and (b) persevering with drinking my way through many gallons of coffee I don't like - supposedly in the hope that one day I may get to like it better.

    I can only say that I have no idea what he is on about, so that is an end to the matter.

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  3. It doesn't sound like you're having a whole lot off fun with these Tony? Full marks for trying but you're C&C variant for the period is a good set of rules. However, nice to see your troops off their sabots for once!

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    1. Hi Ian - I think the FK&P game will prove to be a winner if I can just sort out the paraphernalia excesses. I'm not planning to ditch the C&C based game, just add something else to the bag of clubs (so to speak, as it were, etc). First task is to produce very short version of the rule on activation.

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  4. I have a set of the rules on my bedside table, so am watching your attempts at a game with interest.. if it all goes pear shaped I at least will have saved some time... :o))

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    1. This evening's try-out session was curtailed by my watching a movie with the Contesse, with the log stove going. You know how it is. I'll get to it tomorrow!

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  5. Perhaps Douwe Egberts is using their instant coffee as a means of picking up the slack in their tobacco biz.

    I've had this difficulty of figuring out a new rule set. Probably largely due to my own limited attention span. For that it is worth, the one time I got through it understanding and then liking the rules, I did the learning while playing the rules with a (patient) friend. The social end kept my attention and the back and forth discussion became the means of learning.

    Hooray for playing lots of Django and for your lovely new Bavarians as well.

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    1. Hi Jim - hadn't realised that DE had a background in tobacco - their coffee is certainly pretty good. I am also very partial to "proper" coffee made with grinding my own beans - it keeps longer in a home where I am mostly the only consumer. I do drink instant, in the interests of simplicity, but I fear that some instant coffees contain ingredients which do not agree with me - certainly decaf always makes me feel unwell. Yes - I know, coffee is probably bad for me anyway, but we have to be serious about our pleasures - Django and good coffee and Armagnac and little soldiers all help take my mind off Brexit!

      I was lucky enough to attend some sessions of "Field of Battle" last year and, as you say, witnessing an unfamiliar game played by experienced players is a big help. My gripe against the FK&P rule book (probably unfair) is that it seems (to me) to be written primarily for people who already sort of understand the game. Taking it in small bites should help. Activation is first bite for tomorrow - I need to understand all about activation, as a priority - the rest of the game should follow more logically after that (it says here...)

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  6. Enjoyable Sunday morning read Tony - with the essential two cups of coffee without which I cannot begin to function . A Gold Blend style Spanish instant in my case, although of course the Spanish do not do anything instant, manyana and all that.

    Good effort with the new rules, I admire your dedication to the learning process, I know I would struggle with that. I think the cards will somehow work better on your boards, I'm sure what put me off was the pictures of the huge game the authors ran at SELWG (?), beautifully painted figures on terrain of model railway style realism that the cards really distracted from, I could not get past that, not of course, that your figures are not beautifully painted! I will enjoy following your progress.

    As a quick bit of useless information, I had not realised that Andrew Brentnall was co author of these rules, I met him several times when I was painting hundreds of 6mm ancients for him and he would drop in monthly to to drop off/pick up, very nice chap.

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    1. Hi Lee - I'm making more sense of the game now. I fear my days of sitting down with the rules for a new game (or new piece of computer software) and understanding it first hit are maybe past!

      I am reassured to think that some of your handiwork must be on view in the FK&P booklet!

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  7. Hmm, sounds like they should have had someone who didn't know the earlier set of rules to proof read or test them. Although you seem to be doing that job admirably. Well done for persisting with it.

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    1. I am actually having fun - though I couldn't just come right out and admit it, obviously! I was getting a little tense because I was sort of thinking of hosting a game at my home in a couple of weeks, but it was becoming obvious that my stupidity and lack of game bits and pieces was making that unlikely. So I've gone for a gently timescale, and we'll maybe do the new game next time!

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  8. I have also being looking at FK&P to use with my old ECW collection. I have played one game of TtS so so only have the most basic of understanding of the concepts.

    Rather than using playing cards I thought of using 20mm square mdf bases and marking them with numbers. They could then be drawn from a small bag.

    They would less obstrutive than playing cards and could be painted to match the playing surface to help blend in.



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    1. Good thoughts Mark. To be fair, the authors of the rules do take some trouble to describe other ways of recording information. It is obvious from comments here and other email conversations that there are a variety of approaches to this. I believe the game is sound and worthwhile, so will carry on working with it.

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  9. Question for the chef; how do you season your vanilla ? 😀

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    1. Very good question - no suggestions! When it comes to seasoning troops, I think an important ingredient is thyme.

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  10. The QRS for TTS! was the one notably weak thing in the rules- I wound up making my own, far superior version (in my own, humble opinion, of course) version. I am about to get my own copy of the published version of FK&P, but the final draft version changed the terminology for how activations are done in a fashion that I found rather more confusing than the original.

    Simon, of course sells MDF chits for those who dislike the look of cards.

    Some status elements, like Dash, could be fairly easily handled via the army roster for the clutter averse! :-)

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    1. Thanks Peter - interesting. It is a problem when the clutter averse are also not big fans of rosters - I'm getting there. Making better progress now - concentrating on separate sections of the rules is working well.

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    2. The game will make much more sense when you actually play out a few turns; I have run TTS! at many conventions, and almost everyone picked up the rules quickly once they were walked through a few turns.

      There is a detailed playthrough of the semi final; playtest version of FK&P on my blog at:

      https://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/2016/08/battle-of-montgomery-september-18-1644.html

      https://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/2016/08/battle-of-montgomery-1644-turns-3-and-4.html

      https://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/2016/09/battle-of-montgomery-1644-conclusion.html

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    3. Thanks very much for this - I shall follow this up straight away and have a good read. Working out where to put everything is also something I need to get the hang of! I'm currently tidying away the activation cards at the end of each brigade's turn.

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    4. We have being doing the same of late. That is, tidying up the activation cards after a command has completed all of its actions. During the heat of battle, the table does become messy with activation and Hit/Save cards piling onto the table.

      Game resolution is sure fast and after a few turns the mechanisms become almost second nature.

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  11. Hi there, author checking in.
    There are quite a lot of tokens. Several, as observed, are interchangeable (musket, pistol, artillery) but I thought some players might like to distinguish the types, plus a chap did me some great artwork. 😊 You could use dice or stones. The advantage of the tokens is that there is no book-keeping whatsoever.
    Victory medals- the replica ECW coins I sell are beautiful but, as observed, not cheap. I have a cunning plan to provide a cheaper but similarly attractive alternative, in the near future.
    Playing cards. You could use D10, or chits instead, but playing cards are such fun! In some unquantifiable way they are much more exciting than dice.
    Hope these help- by all means email me if you have any questions. Also the forum is very good and co-author Andrew is usually about to quickly address questions.
    Best, Simon
    PS we will have a participation Marston Moor at Partizan...

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    1. Simon - thanks for checking in. Points taken about the "equipment" side of things - this pretty much repeats what is suggested in the rule book. In my turn, I hope I have been quite clear in what I have written that most of the initial issues I have are to do with my unfamiliarity with "To the Strongest", so I am reading the book with no preconceptions at all, other than what I would consider a reasonable interpretation of what I think it says! I am sure your game will continue to be a great success, and it is my intention to be a disciple! All the best for Marston Moor...

      Andrew emailed me at the same time as your comment (orchestration or what?) - thanks for that too - I have replied to him, with a couple of odd questions.

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