a caveat emptor for new players !

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KeefM
Grenadier
Messages : 23
Enregistré le : jeu. 26 déc. 2019 07:59

a caveat emptor for new players !

Message par KeefM » dim. 11 juil. 2021 23:18

This little blurb was prompted after a game this past weekend where we introduced a long-time Napoleonic period gamer to the joys* of Bataille Empire. The person concerned owned a copy of the rules but hadn’t yet played a game, nor had spent too much time perusing the rules. For the record, this was an 1814 game between French and Prussians, with the new player in charge of a couple of French commands alongside an experienced player, facing two of us using the Prussians who are both quite experienced with BE.

As a pre-game briefing, I ran through what I considered to be the main differing features of BE from other rules sets that the new player was familiar, namely:

• The general mechanics are, by and large, what might be expected in any Napoleonic rule set, but also noting that there is quite a lot of depth to the various mechanics that takes some learning. As a result, BE can a complex game but that this lessens off after some experience playing.

• I spent some time talking about the crucial difference in BE being around the command and control system combining an Orders system on the one hand with a PIP (command points) system on the other hand. Both of these mechanisms put in place limits on how much each command might be able to do AND governed some minimum actions that are constrained by the Orders that command has. In saying this I had emphasised that sometimes as a player, you do end up with limited choices as to what you can do with any given command depending on the orders and the number of PIPs available.

• After that I covered off the additional complication of the inter-woven activation sequence by saying that this was not a simple matter of “I GO, YOU GO”, but rather a cascading series of activations driven firstly by the type of Orders and then swapping between players command by command. When your individual commands get to act is dependent on their Orders and secondly whether they then win the initiative.

Having done this, I thought I’d done quite a good job (ish) of laying out what I consider to be the most complex (and best) features of BE and giving a new player to BE a good “heads up” as to what they could in expect in the game ahead.

How wrong I was ! There is one other factor in BE that makes no sense whatsoever to a new player as we were all about to learn: the timing and process of Reaction moves and Opportunity Charges was about to put in a strong showing !!

We were playing an Encounter game and by Turn 2 our side’s advance command was pressing toward the opposing table edge and, along with some tight terrain on that side of the table, we were starting to constrain the arrival of the new player’s commands.

On my side, we had pushed forward with a Grenadier Brigade comprising 2 large veteran Landwehr infantry, 2 Grenadiers (A class maneuvering), a foot battery, and also having attached the reserves of Friekorps as 2 units of @rifle skirmishers and a unit of Don Cossacks (also nasty A class maneuverers). Just arriving on-table for the new player was a French National Guard command of 6 units of militia infantry and a foot battery, and flanked by another command comprising of 2 units of L2 light cavalry. The two French commands were separated by a large hedged field between them.

The new player brought on the infantry command in what they thought was a sensible array in two ranks each of 3 units of infantry with the foot battery to the rear. These being National Guard are constrained by only being able to operate in Deep Order so were all in columns. At this point (ending Turn 2), my Grenadier command having moved second were positioned at the edge of the fields, and their attached Cossack unit (in column) had moved to the far side of a large wood potentially covering flank of the advancing French National Guard command. The opposing infantry was a shade under 8 UD apart, and the Cossacks were maybe 13 UD away. One of the veteran Landwehr had just crossed the hedge into the field. Both commands were on Attack Orders.

Starting Turn 3, I won the initiative, swept the Cossacks 11 UD around the wood and then executed an A class reorientation to face the flanks of the French infantry columns and within 4 UD. Classic Cossack harassment and setting up an opportunity charge the instant the French command activated. One of the National Guard successfully reacted and formed column square the other didn’t. My veteran Landwehr rushed forward to be within 2 UD of the French; 1 frontally, and the other in the hedged field rushed to within 2 UD of the flank of the nearest French infantry unit thereby setting up another opportunity charge.

And this is where things unraveled for the new player.

What ? How can this be that these pesky Cossacks get to move again in my turn ? They’ve already moved and now they are charging before I can even react ? What is this craziness ? Oh, and the veteran Landwehr are charging me too ! How is this even possible ?

And THAT is exactly what makes BE so different. Yes, the command and control system really is different for other rules. BUT. What truly makes BE soooooo different from other rules is the constant action/reaction imbedded in the opportunity charge and reaction options, all of which take place in your opponent’s activation.

In our case, things managed to get even more complex, as one of my Grenadier units reacted twice more in the same turn to threatening French units approaching and all within the course of a single turn, and even well after they had actually moved in their own activation and had an action marker. You just have to love A class maneuver; it’s an absolute bargain for its cost !

So, next time I will definitely brief a new player on Opportunity Charge and Reaction moves in addition to covering the joy of the command and control system differences. I think the simple version is something like: whether a unit has already acted or not, it can ALWAYS react to any threatening move by your opponent, and you should be aware that an enemy unit can also launch opportunity charges on you if they get into the right position even in your turn, and even if they have already moved (though they may need to wait till next turn if they have an action marker). This is probably the single most important thing to understand about the mechanics of BE !

How did it all end ? Well, I think the new player was considerably non-plussed (unsettled) by the whole experience, and certainly wasn’t at all sure of the sensibility of the Reaction and Opportunity Charge out-of-sequence bits of the game.

Heck, later in that very same turn, the Grenadiers (by now in column square with French L2 cavalry sitting a mere 1 UD away) returned fire on a National Guard column and forced a firefight morale test onto the French militia (both having caused an attrition on each other) and which ultimately both units passed. Yet another, BE feature of when things get complicated ! That’d be a lesson called: don’t exchange fire with good quality units if you don’t have to !

Overall, in the game it didn’t turn out too badly (in the end) for the French on that flank notwithstanding some losses; the Grenadiers in the Prussian Brigade were hanging on in the hedged field albeit surrounded by walls of low quality French and both the Cossacks and veteran Landwehr had been sent packing by the time we called a halt to proceedings due to time constraints. But the game provided the most fantastic illustration of all of the complexity and richness of BE … all the reasons I like it so much !!

RogerGreenwood
Lieutenant
Messages : 194
Enregistré le : ven. 29 nov. 2019 20:55

Re: a caveat emptor for new players !

Message par RogerGreenwood » lun. 12 juil. 2021 10:30

Yes, BE is an excellent game. There are a couple of things in your report that looked dubious. If your troops advanced to within 2UD in their turn they would be in shooting range and must fire (p 50). This would get them an action marker. Hence they could not initiate fire or opportunity charge as a reaction.
Any successful reaction also gets an action marker. Troops aren't that flexible.
The rules are very restrictive. My advice for new players (well, any player really) would be not to attempt any complicated manoeuvres.
I won my last game when my opponent had one division enter behind another. When the first division rolled a poor dice, the whole corps was jammed up.

KeefM
Grenadier
Messages : 23
Enregistré le : jeu. 26 déc. 2019 07:59

Re: a caveat emptor for new players !

Message par KeefM » lun. 12 juil. 2021 22:37

The key issue wasn't so much the veteran Landwehr at 2 UD as the Cossacks at within 4 UD and behind the flank.

Also, FWIW, the Grenadier unit wasn't inside 2 UD.

In any event, having an action marker doesn't preclude Reactions. But, realistically, it is only good quality A class maneuverers who will manage to pass repeated Reaction tests (half chance even with an action marker !).

Plus, the Landwehr hadn't needed to close as their Orders had been complied with across the rest of the command. Previous lessons of never relying on militia units in column and all :-) !

But, yes, loving these rules !!!!

fdunadan
Lieutenant
Messages : 187
Enregistré le : sam. 5 janv. 2019 10:10

Re: a caveat emptor for new players !

Message par fdunadan » mar. 13 juil. 2021 06:10

distance for opportunity charge is 2 UD for infantry...so either the Landwehr ended their move at 2 UD, then must fire by Attack order and get an activation marker and can't initiate an opportunity charge, either the Lndwehr are at more than 2 UD and can't initiate an opportunity charge... The Cosaque could, but I2 units are less a threat...

KeefM
Grenadier
Messages : 23
Enregistré le : jeu. 26 déc. 2019 07:59

Re: a caveat emptor for new players !

Message par KeefM » jeu. 15 juil. 2021 03:17

Au contrare: we find that Cossacks on the flank are one of the great nightmares of the game. If you fail to react to them and they charge you in the flank, a failed reaction = disorder and no combat factors. The attacking Cossacks get +1 for Opportunity Charge, +2 for Disorder, +1 for Action Marker, +4 for Flank attack = +8 (ish); their opponents have just the morale/status bonus (only amounting to +1 for L3, +2 for E4, etc) = an absolute pasting in the combat ... followed by a pursuit by the Cossacks into something else.

Passing the reaction test for the opportunity charge itself is not a very good prospect if you fail the initial reaction test when the Cossacks move into position as you suffer a -1 for enemy behind flank and another -1 for cavalry charging from within 4 UD. C class can't pass the test at all, and B class only on a 6. Even Elite A class can only pass the opportunity charge test on a 4 !

Coupled with their Fast movement, and A Class maneuver, Cossacks are a potential scourge on a broken up battlefield. In 200 pt games with a lower density of troops, Cossacks need to be watched closely from the outset of the game. In a 300 pt game, Cossacks come into their own later in the game after the contact line breaks up a bit. If they move under Attack Orders, they can set up opportunity charges early in the turn sequence.

Indeed, any A Class cavalry can do much the same thing although Cossacks are nastiest with a +2 movement distance for being Fast. In column that gives them 12 UD movement less only a small amount for the reorientation at the end to place themselves behind the enemy flank.

Admittedly, Cossacks are easy to cover off, and their threat is lessened somewhat if you keep your flanks secure, but even then only if you remain constantly vigilant for the threat. Their poor I2 status/morale is not so much the problem as their Fast speed and A Class agility.

In our games, we watch them like hawks :-) ...

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