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Sam Mustafa’s “Maurice”

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to play “Maurice“.  These rules from Sam Mustafa specialize in recreating battles from the 18th century and is suitable for games featuring armies from the 1710’s-1720’s, some of whom were still partially pike-armed, through the American War of Independence.

Maurice is about a year old at this point, so plenty of people have reviewed it already.  That’s fine, I’ll add my two cents anyway.

A key factor of the game for me, is that you can base your figures however you want.  I have a low tolerance for games that insist upon a particular basing style and/or number of figures per base.  Want to try a new game?  Fine, all you have to do is re-base all your current troops or paint new ones, your choice!  I won’t buy that set of rules.  An infantry or cavalry unit in Maurice is 4 stands of troops, based however you please.  Artillery is 1 stand.  Measurements in the game are in base widths (BW) rather than inches or centimeters.  So if you have your figures based on a 40mm square base, then your basic unit of measurement is 40mm.  The easiest thing to do if you have odd base sizes is to make some measuring sticks using dowel rods.  This makes it easy to game with whatever figures you have from 6mm up to 28mm; scaling takes care of itself.

The game is card driven and this concerned me when I bought the rules.  I had every expectation that the game would play more like a game of Pokemon (Pikachu I choose YOU!) or Magic the Gathering than like a ‘serious’ wargame.  I’m happy to be able to say my fears were unfounded.

Each player maintains a hand of action cards during the game and may have in their hand any number of cards from 0 to 10 at a given time.  Each card has a number known as its span, which is used to activate units, and also has either an action, which can be used to modify how a phase of play happens, or an event which a player can use in place of taking any action during a turn.  Some of these cards can be used to modify your own play, or to prevent your opponent from taking some action he wants.

In order to move a force (a group of units selected to activate together) a player must discard a number of cards whose total span is equal to or greater than the distance in BW from the commander to the force.  The player has a choice of actions he can have a force undertake: march, charge, bombard, rally or pass.  Passing does not require card expenditure, but does allow a player to draw the maximum number of replacement cards.  The other options are pretty much as they sound.  The only one that is a bit odd is bombard.  If artillery wishes to fire at long range (>4 BW) it must be ordered to bombard; it cannot fire long range during the free volley phase during which infantry is able to shoot; artillery can fire at short range during the volley phase though.

Needing to play cards, and the ability to activate only one force per turn seriously limits an army commander’s flexibility, and this is completely in keeping with the combat of the times.  Unless you keep your army in a relatively compact front (and even if you do), you are not going to be able to have all of your troops acting every turn.  This is very different from many games and I love the feel of it.  It really feels like you are struggling to maneuver a large army where your communications are limited to a guy on a horse with a hastily written note.  And the guy might get lost enroute to his destination.  Or the note might get wet and the ink smudged.  You get what I’m saying; command and control in Maurice is difficult.

Melee combat is short and sharp always ending with someone falling back, again this is in keeping with the combat of the period where long drawn out melees were uncommon.  In Black Powder, I have charged into combat at the beginning of a game and had the resultant combat last the rest of the game.  That isn’t going to happen in Maurice.

Musketry can be very deadly.  Each base that is able to fire rolls one die, so for the most part a unit shooting is rolling 4 dice.  Once hits are made, they must be confirmed by rolling again to see if they have an effect.  This is similar to Black Powder except there is no morale save.  Once a unit’s stamina (determined by the number of bases, 4 for most units, 1 for artillery) is exceeded it is broken and removed from play.  Hits can be removed from all units in a force by using the Rally action and doing so is essential to success in Maurice.

This was only my first game, but I can see myself becoming a big fan of Maurice.  There is more to the rules than I discussed above and perhaps I will cover it in a later post.  Suffice it to say if you are looking for a set of rules that will allow you to recreate combat in the Age of Reason and which will give you a good period feel and not be overly complex so you can teach you gaming friends the rules in an afternoon, Maurice is a very, very good choice.  If you’re the type who obsesses over the technical differences between a Brown Bess and a Potsdam Musket, what we called a “thread counter” back in my re-enacting days, Maurice might not satisfy.  For the rest of us though it is an excellent game.

Below are a few photos of the game I played with my friend Adam at The Whiz.  All of the toys and terrain were provided by Adam:

Armies in their starting positions.  My British/Hanoverian force is closest and Adam's d' Argent imagiNation force is opposite

Armies in their starting positions. My British/Hanoverian force is closest and Adam’s d’ Argent imagiNation force is opposite

After a few rounds of ineffective artillery fire, Adam starts the real fighting by advancing his cavalry on my left.

After a few rounds of ineffective artillery fire, Adam starts the real fighting by advancing his cavalry on my left.

Knowing my 2 regiments of Dragoons are outmatched by his 4 regular cavalry units, I move part of my infantry to help cover.

Knowing my 2 regiments of Dragoons are outmatched by his 4 regular cavalry units, I move part of my infantry to help cover.

As the cavalry forces bleed each other dry, a furious struggle over the town raged on the left-center.

As the cavalry forces bleed each other dry, a furious struggle over the town raged on the left-center.

As their comrades busily kill each other on the left, half of my and Adam's armies sit idly by, whittling, singing and swapping stories.  Neither of us can afford to divert the commander's attention for even one turn to get these idle wings moving.

As their comrades busily kill each other on the left, half of my and Adam’s armies sit idly by, whittling, singing and swapping stories. Neither of us can afford to divert the commander’s attention for even one turn to get these idle wings moving.

Ultimately I was able to break all of Adam's cavalry (at the cost of all of my own) and the majority of his right wing.  I wasn't able to close the deal and break his army though.  But given he was reduced to 1 morale point and I wasn't nearly so bad off, this was declared a minor victory for me.

Ultimately I was able to break all of Adam’s cavalry (at the cost of all of my own) and the majority of his right wing. I wasn’t able to close the deal and break his army though. But given he was reduced to 1 morale point and I wasn’t nearly so bad off, this was declared a minor victory for me.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Product Review

 

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Huzzah 2012 – Day 3

Finally the last Huzzah! post.  I hate having so much stuff that isn’t wargame related to do.

Day 3 this year culminated in the Battle of Dennewitz.  This event began as an idea put forward by, who else, Rich Claydon of Boston Trained Bands on the Black Powder New England Yahoo group months ago.  The thought was to play a large battle that board members would contribute troops for that we could use as a showcase for our outstanding brushwork (by ‘our’ I mean, ‘not mine’), show Warlord’s Black Powder rules in their best light (tons of models on a big table), and finally to get some board members fired up about painting troops that can be used in the once monthly ‘Black Powder Sunday’ put on at Adler Hobbies.

I promised to provide a Prussian infantry brigade consisting of 5 line battalions and an artillery battery.  I managed to actually finish 3 battalions, basing the last unit the night before the con.  Fortunately, other members weren’t so lazy and my brigade was fleshed out by 3 Landwher battalions and a foot artillery battery.

My brigade in their start position in the center of the Prussian line. The line battalions are Perry Plastics painted by me. Notice a problem with them?

Dennewitz showing everyone in their start positions. French to the right, Prussians to the left. Rich finished spray painting the cloth table top the night before the game, so I wasn’t the only one doing last minute work!

Having been beaten soundly by the Prussians the day before at Wartenburg, I was looking forward to sweet revenge today.  One of the great things about playing a game this large is that, much like a real battle, you don’t really know what’s going on except for the area immediately around you.  So I can’t give a good blow by blow of what happened everywhere.  I know that I faced two French brigades in my front with nothing but open ground between us.

The commander of the two French brigades was an aggressive type and he gave brigade orders to both units to advance on my position.  Thankfully one brigade failed its command roll and so did nothing on turn one.  This was excellent news for me as I would be able to deal with them one at a time.

One of the two brigades facing me advances, the other, having failed command remains in place.

I’m not timid either and advanced my brigade down the low hill they were on.  I faced off against the French to my front with 5 battalions having detailed one of the Landwher battalions to demonstrate against a French light infantry unit that had occupied a villa to my right.  My opponent wasted no time in hitting me hard, with his Frenchmen in their characteristic dense attack columns.

The melee begins. With supporting battalions to the flank and rear, one of my line battalions accepts a charge from a densely packed French assault column.

We each continued to feed battalions into the meat grinder, with unengaged units and artillery exchanging fire where possible.  We both held on with determination.  I broke two French battalions forcing them to flee, but my casualties were mounting quickly.  Before long my brigade was broken, forcing all battalions not actually engaged in melee to withdraw from the enemy, but lo and behold thanks to some supporting fire from Prussian units in the town to my left, both French brigades were broken as well!

The situation near the end game. My brigade has withdrawn to its start position except for two battalions still locked in melee. The French have been forced to withdraw as well.

At this point I felt quite good.  True my troops had been mauled but the French to our front were in no position to do anything about it.  I turned to the commander of troops on my left and suggested that if he moved out of the town and pushed the French, they would have to retreat and their center would collapse.  But, as I said earlier in a big game like this it’s hard to know what is going on everywhere.  It turns out the Prussian left had disintegrated early on and there was nothing on my left but broken units.  Since he was occupying a town, my compatriot was not compelled to withdraw, but he couldn’t advance either.

Just beyond my troops you can see the town occupied by yet another broken Prussian brigade. In the far distance you can see the last fresh unit on the board, a French cavalry brigade, moving up the middle about to sweep us all like chaff before the breeze.

All in all, another outstanding game at an outstanding convention.  I believe everyone had a great time; I definitely didn’t see any frowns around the table.  It’s a lot of fun playing in a game that you contributed to however small that contribution may have been!

Plans are already underway for next year.  I don’t think I’ll say anything about it here and now, but it’s going to be big.  You don’t want to miss it, so block off your calendar in May 2013 for Huzzah!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Convention, Feature

 

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Huzzah 2012 – Day 2

Day 2 of Huzzah was a very full day.  I made sure to register for every game session which left not much time in between for meals.  That meant eating at the hotel restaurant which, well, I wish I’d had more time to go out!  Still, if you aren’t going to play, why go?  It didn’t leave too much time for shopping either, but maybe that was a good thing.

For the morning session I didn’t want anything too taxing so I signed up for a wild west adventure game.  It was a blast.  The game was Incident at Prairie Creek using Legends of the Old West and run by Billy  DiGiulio from Maine Historical Wargamers Association.  The game was a free for all between six different factions and two wandering herds of buffalo.  There were US Cavalry, lawmen, renegade cavalry, outlaws (me), and two different bands of Indians.  Each faction had differing goals and no one knew what the other factions had to accomplish, except that everyone knew the Indian factions got a pile of victory points for each buffalo that survived.  Goals were quickly forgotten though as the game turned in to a general melee.

Some how the lawmen and the renegade cavalry troopers formed some kind of unnatural alliance against me, so I had my hands full trying to stay alive.  The different Indian factions ended up tied for the win based on the fact that only 1 buffalo ended getting killed by the renegades.  That was their primary goal, but they were too busy fighting me to bother with it.

The renegades in their starting position. See those boxes? That’s loot that nets me a lot of points as the outlaws, it gives the renegades nothing. They fought me over it anyway.

The lawmen, sneaking around on their bellies. I never saw John Wayne or Clint Eastwood doing that. Their intention was to snipe my gang as we tried to get into the fort. Didn’t work out for them. Four of ’em died right there!

My boys, making use of cover and trying to slip into the fort. We ain’t here to hurt no one, just give us the loot!

They made me do it. The Parson, bible in one hand and a sawed off shotgun in the other slips underneath the lawmen’s perch and erases 2 of them with a single blast. Two more lawmen went down to my gang, one to some fancy six gun work by The Kid and one to a looong range shot from a Sharps 50-90 buffalo rifle packed by Deadeye. The lawmen ran after that.

For the afternoon session, I signed up for The Battle of Wartenberg, a Napleonic extravaganza run by Rich Claydon and Chris Bergonzi from Boston Trained Bands.  This game was played using the excellent Black Powder rules from Warlord Games.  I can’t say enough good about Black Powder; if you’re a thread counter, the type that feels the difference in performance between a .75 caliber Brown Bess vs. a .69 caliber Charleville should be reflected in the rules, then Black Powder might not please you.  But if you want a fun, fast, action filled game that gives good period flavor you’ll love it.

How did the battle go?  I was on the French side, playing the role of the Wartenberg contingent with a portion of Bertrand’s IV Corps to my left.  We had a large cavalry brigade in support as well.  We got the snot slapped out of us.  Our cavalry commander was new to the field and he was a tad timid.  Not good for cavalry.  By the time he engaged the Prussian hordes it was too late.  I had been driven out of Bleddin by superior numbers and the French were fiddling around trying to decide whether to shoot or run thanks to some blundered orders.

I deployed one battalion of my Wartenbergers as skirmishers to harass the Prussians as they approached. I planned to fall back if engaged in melee but it didn’t work out. The battalion was broken by musket and canon fire and retreated.

Prussian infantry attacks the first block of the town of Bleddin.

Our cavalry finally moves up. We were hoping to bottleneck the Prussians at the bridge in the distance since it was the only place they could cross the river. The cavalry commander failed some early command checks though and so could do nothing. The French infantry on the left are in trouble and are about to be knocked off the heights.

For the final gaming session of the evening, I had signed up for the Aerodrome 1.1 tournament run by Andre Kruppa of MHWA.  This event has become a must do for me.  Andre is a great GM and the event, despite being a tournament, is the most enjoyable of the weekend.  The atmosphere is friendly and casual and the beer flows relatively freely 🙂  There’s a lot of good natured trash talking too and it all just adds to the enjoyment of the event.  Aerodrome is a simple game of aerial combat in WWI.  Sadly, I didn’t have my camera with me so I don’t have any photos of the game or the gorgeous models and control panels that Andre supplied.

Aerodrome features pre-plotted movement, but the plotting isn’t burdensome, and there are no dice involved in combat resolution.  You plot if you are going to fire at the end of a phase (3 phases per turn) and if you have plotted fire, if there is an enemy aircraft in your arc and range then you WILL damage him.  The amount of damage done varies based on the number of bursts fired, range and relative position of the two aircraft.  I ended up with 2 kills for the night.  Better than my performance last year, but certainly not tournament winning!

Day 2 ended with me exhausted, but that’s as it should be after a full day of warfare.  I had to be up early in the morning though because day three is the Battle of Dennewitz…

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Convention, Feature

 

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Most Awesome TotalCon Ever!

Hmm, seems my last post was in August.  I suck at blogging, but I hope people will keep checking back periodically anyway!

Go to your kitchen calendars (oh who am I kidding, open up your scheduling app of choice) and block off February 23-26.  Those are the dates for this year’s TotalCon.  The convention is held at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA and is always a very enjoyable time.  Lots of D&D, Magic, 40k, Warmachine and the like, as well as plenty of board games.

Why am I promoting a con which is not really geared toward historical gaming?  Well, for one thing, it’s just a fun, well organized event and I believe we should do our best to support gaming in all of its forms.  The second reason is my friend Jonathan Reinhart has been talking with the con organizers and they are interested in holding some historical events.  Broadening their appeal as it were.  In response to that, Jon, myself and our friend Cort Naeglin are going to be running a American Civil War themed Black Powder game.  We will be running a scenario provided in the Black Powder rule book, “Daybreak at Hangman’s Creek”, which is a hypothetical battle involving a surprise Confederate attack on a Union held munitions factory.

And that my friends makes this the Most Awesome TotalCon Ever!

We have been play testing the scenario a lot and think it will work well in a convention setting.  The units in it are pretty basic and it doesn’t make use of too many special rules, so teaching the game to newcomers  will be easy.  Black Powder is an easy game to learn anyway.  Pretty much all of the toys are being provided by Cort.  He has some very very nicely painted 15mm Civil War figures and 15mm terrain, so all thanks are to him because otherwise this event wouldn’t be happening.

I hope to see some folks come out for TotalCon this year and I really hope that you’ll consider playing in our event.  We are hoping to become historical gaming ambassadors to the 40k crowd, some of whom might not even be aware that historical wargaming exists.  Our hobby is reasonably healthy at this point, but without bringing in new blood it won’t stay that way!

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Feature

 

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Black Powder AWI demo game

Today a couple of friends and I got together at Battleground Games & Hobbies in Abington, MA to play a very small “demo” game of Black PowderJonathan, Cort and I are assembling armies so we can run some AWI era games using the Black Powder rules.  None of us have a huge number of units completed yet, but rather than wait until we had “acceptable” numbers of figures ready to go, Jon suggested we play a small scenario with what we had available.  I designed a small, simple scenario using the finished (meaning painted, not yet based) forces that we have.  These lined up as follows:

Hessians (Me)
1 Musketeer regiment

British (Cort)
2 British line regiments

Colonials (Jonathan)
1 Militia regiment
1 artillery battery

The scenario revolved around a hypothetical situation where the British were trying to move a strong column of infantry and artillery south from Boston.  One small regiment of Hessians, the Prinz Carl infantry regiment, was assigned duties as flank guard.  As the column passed the small town of Abington, the Hessians encountered and engaged a small rebel force found to be occupying the town.  The column commander detached two line regiments, the 9th and 62nd Foot to assist the Hessians in rolling up the Colonials.

The colonial militia started behind cover in the town.  The Hessians started out on the board, the British arrived on turn 2 as reinforcements entering on the east edge (from the right in the picture).

Being only one regiment, and a small one at that, I found the prospect of charging the colonials, even drunken militia, to be undesirable; especially given the fact that they were supported by artillery.  I advanced my troops to the edge of the woods and opened fire on the militia.  Unfortunately because the traitors were cowering behind a fence the fire had no effect.  Return fire from the colonials was equally ineffective.

On turn 2, reinforcements arrived in the form of Cort’s line regiments.

The rapid movements possible in the Black Powder rules enabled Cort’s brigade to arrive almost in the laps of Jon’s colonials.  On a small table like this, 4’x6′, it isn’t a bad idea to halve the movement and shooting ranges for units.  We’ll probably do this for our next game.  With the British on the table I decided it was time for the Hessians to charge.  My goal was to make Jon waste his closing fire on my small regiment allowing Cort to freely close in.

As expected, Jon’s closing fire was quite effective, forcing a break test on the Hessians, with the result that they had to fall back a full move.  This cleared the way for Cort’s crack British line regiments though, which was the goal.  At this point I fully expect that the rebels will be rolled up like a cheap carpet.

The British 62nd Foot is unable to engage, having been disordered the previous turn by musket and canon fire.  The 9th charges home however, yelling like banshees and inflict one, just one, casualty on the rebels.  The rebels hit the 9th for 3 casualties.  Even with the 62nd standing in support, this means that the British have lost the combat round and must take a break test.  They are unable to believe that the colonials have hurt them as bad as they did and, discretion being the better part of valor, the 9th Foot flees the field.

Using their initiative move Jon moves his colonials back behind the fence line and gives fire to the the 62nd Foot.  The British regiment takes a few more casualties and, having watched their comrades flee, can find no reason to stay behind.  The 62nd fails its break test and runs for the safety of General Lord Howe’s column.  Only the Prinz Carl musketeers remain on the field, and they are shaken and disordered.  The musketeers hold at the line of the woods and exchange some desultory musket fire with the rebels, but are finally convinced to retire after some accurate shots by the artillery.  The American militia wins the day!

This was obviously just a very small scenario, played mostly to keep up our interest in painting.  Jon is right that the danger of waiting until you have enough troops to fight a grand battle is that you’ll never actually get enough troops to fight a grand battle.  Better to use what you have and get familiar with the rules.  This game was a perfect size for that.  A very simple scenario, and not a lot of troops to get bogged down with, so it was possible to just concentrate on the mechanics of the game.  Cort in particular has never played BP and hasn’t had the chance to read the rules, so this was  a good introductory game.  Jonathan and I have each played before, but aren’t hugely experienced with the game, so it was good for us as well.

My hope is that by the next time we play, perhaps in two weeks, I will have a grenadier regiment and an artillery battery completed.  This will give a reasonable sized brigade.  Ultimately I want my Hessian brigade to consist of one grenadier regiment, two musketeer regiments, a regiment, probably small sized, of the Jaeger corps and an artillery battery.  Once these are complete, I will work on some British units or some Continental infantry depending on if Jonathan needs the help.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Feature

 

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Painting 15mm Flames of War

So in an earlier post I think I mentioned that painting some 28mm figures for Black Powder was going to be like a vacation from painting figures for Flames of War.  Well, this weekend I went back to FoW.  And I was right.  I painted some Sherman III’s and V’s, including a Firefly and one gun section of  a 25lb artillery battery (pictures when they’re varnished and based).  It wasn’t exactly painful, but boy do I like 28mm better!

I’m not building any specific unit, just Generic Mid War British Infantry/Armor unit.  I have the Motor Company and Medium Royal Artillery Battery box sets as well as the Sherman platoon and some Matilda Seniors.  It’s been slow coming together, but my motivation is back up as it always is post-convention.  I’m a bit tired of playing Germans in FoW and needed something different.  Right now I have enough units assembled to field an 800 point armor/infantry force, using the 600 pt build rules in the book.  That is a company hq and one combat platoon combined with any supporting units desired.

I will finish these guys up tomorrow and start the second gun section.  Also I will prep and prime some more Hessians tomorrow night.  I’m in a painting mood which doesn’t happen often.  Gotta take advantage of it while it lasts!

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Back from Huzzah!

Well I just got back from Huzzah 2011 and am pretty well beat.  It was a great event again, better than last year I’d say.  If you didn’t go, you should have.  Good vendors, great games and lots of fun!  And a good venue to boot.  I played in three games that I registered for, “Operation Windsor”,  a WWII skirmish game using the Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers rule set, “Battle of Olustee”, using the Black Powder rules and “Air Attack Bir Thamada” using Check your 6! Jet Age.  I also got into two pickup games, Raiders of the Sulu Sea using a homebrew rules set and an Airdrome tournament.

The games were all very well done and had a host of skillful and courteous opponents, which always makes for a great con, but sadly isn’t always the case.  The Disposable Heroes game encouraged me to pick up the basic rules for it and a box of Bolt Action German infantry to get started with.  And I’m thinking of getting Check your 6.  The problem with it is that although it’s a pretty straightforward game, it requires plotted movement and it is chart heavy, and my regular gaming group consists of a bunch of sissies who are frightened by charts, so it may not be worth my while…but damn it’s a fun game!

I took a ton of pictures and some of them are even good.  I’ll post pics and some more detailed write ups later in the week.  Right now I’m just kinda beat!  It was a long, good weekend.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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