Yesterday (evening for me, late morning for him) Jon Freitag was kind enough to join me by Zoom, to give the Twilight of the Sun King [ToSK] rules a hefty workout. One of the strengths of the rule set is its ability to handle large combats, so I set up an action involving all my Brits (that was Jon), defending a ridge position against all my French (that was me).
I had tweaked the rules a little to give a battalion-level game, and had taken some trouble to simplify the amount of reading required by removing all reference to pikes, squares, light horse, Turks, GåPå and so on which are not relevant to my bit of the Wars.
I'll give a brief summary of our findings on the rules later. Here are some photos of the action. The French produced an elephantine attack in deep series of lines, with cavalry covering the flanks, and were well beaten. The attack on the right was far more badly disordered by the shallow river than I had expected, and never reached the ridge itself, suffering badly from the British guns. Much of the action in the centre was dominated by cavalry - the outstanding "special mention" has to be Schomberg's Horse, who eliminated 3 French cavalry units, one battery and two battalions in a remarkable tour of the field. They will appear here and there in what follows (well done, chaps... swine!).
Some of the main areas of combat were sadly bogged down by the slow rate of resolution of melee action - a lot of instances of units passing morale tests in unlikely situations, and the procedure of one lot of testing for each side every turn is mostly pretty turgid. Eventually a French surrender was necessary - we made very heavy going of the assault, and were slowed by the minutiae of manoeuvre, which I'm sure had a lot to do with my own incompetence. I did learn that getting your cavalry caught in column is not a good idea!
I was really very excited by these rules, so was looking forward to giving them a good workout. Like the old Huzzah! Napoleonic rules, they shift the generals' focus away from nonsense like loading and firing, and they must concern themselves with how the units are getting on. The commander's job is to get his army to where he wants it, and the assumption is that fighting will take place by itself. All combat is abstracted to a core series of morale tests, failing which can produce results ranging from loss of strength (unit morale) to "rout", which is break up and elimination of a unit. The manoeuvring involves "Action Tests" for complicated moves such as wheels or changes of formation, which depend on a very simple dice roll.
Jon and I had an entertaining few hours, let it be said, but we were left with some unease about how the rules worked. Some of the individual combat results were just plain silly, and the re-roll system tends to accentuate this [maybe the original 2-average-dice set-up would produce less extremes than the new 2D6 system?]. The morale tests are heavy going, though you do speed up as you get used to them, but a lot of the time not much happens, the rules are often unclear, and melees tended to drag on beyond what seemed reasonable. Manoeuvre is probably the most irritating bit - the rules to handle manoeuvre are quite detailed and really rather fiddly - on a non-gridded field there are lots of special situations which don't seem to be covered.
I was intrigued by what we learned, and there are some good bits in there, but overall the game is not something that either of us would rush to repeat. Each to his own taste, of course, but I found it heavy going, and the morale tests produced some questionable results and generally took a lot of time and effort.
Sorry, but I have bought the rules (including the scenario books which give updates), and spent some time studying them and following the Q&A on the Facebook page. I don't wish to be unfair to anyone, the booklet is a pleasant read and gives a refreshing view on gaming, but I am also left with the impression that the latest version of the game, as played by regulars, has evolved to something rather different from the booklet you buy from the Pike & Shot Society. No doubt someone will take me severely to task here, but that is my take on it. The Brigade Level game with 10mm troops might be a different exercise altogether, but the rules as we played them, interesting though the ideas are, do not tick the boxes I am looking for!
My sincere thanks to Jon, for his enthusiasm and excellent company; whatever the delivery on the rules themselves, it was a fun session, and also very educational! Mission accomplished, and we have agreed that we should meet again in the virtual world of Zoom Wars, and soon!