Saturday, 31 October 2015

Captured T34s in German colours

As I like variety and doing something a bit different now and then I decided to do a platoon of T34s (76mm gun) in German service. I could just have stuck on some large crosses or just repainted then added crosses, but having seen some versions on-line I decided to do them with something more of a German upgrade and so added Panzer cupolas. 

The base model was the 1/144 Takara T34/76. For the command tank I added some Russian stowage I had from Pithead then added a Panzer cupola to each tank. Painted in German sand, repainted the tracks, wash in Games Workshop Agrax Earthshade then some mud effect on the wheels. Lastly some large crosses from a sheet I had from Pendraken (goes from very small to large so useful for all sorts of things).

I am half way through some KV1 conversions but as I have to cut out the gun and add a Panzer IV gun it may be a while before I get round to finishing them

For an easy way to see all my WW2 posts check out the WW2 Summary page.

Perfect Six Napoleonic forum - painting competition entry

I posted recently on some Italian Velites des chasseur de la Garde as I was about to put them in an an entry to the Perfect Six forum painting competition. I would recommend this forum as a great place for discussing all things 6mm Napoleonic. As I already have a post on my Poles and Saxons I have no done a full post on the Polish foot battery I have entered but you can see it on the forum competition pages here.

Also for an easy way to see all my Napoleonic posts check out the Napoleonic summary page.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Italian Velite des chasseurs de la Garde

I haven't managed to do anything on 6mm Napoleonics for a while and will hopefully do some posts soon but in the meantime a short one as I am putting this unit into the Perfect Six forum members painting competition so thought I would do a few more photos and put on the blog too.

These are Adler 6mm French collectors skirmish figures painted as Italians: Velite des chasseurs de la Garde. They are based as a skirmish screen.

Click on the photos to get larger versions.

Also for an easy way to see all my Napoleonic posts check out the Napoleonic summary page.

Napoleonic 20: Hundred Days review part 1

I came across Victory Point Games a few years ago now - I think there was an advert on Board Game Geek. I then happened to find someone in the UK selling all the Napoleonic 20 series (as it then stood) on ebay and manage to get them all. In the early days the games were cheap and cheerful and came in zip lock bags. Due to customer demand they have upped the quality of all the components (e.g. thick laser cut counters) and they now come in a box (a bit like a box from a chip shop but as I was happy with plastic bags no problem for me but a few people complain). For me it is more about the game and they have always been excellent.

The games have standard and exclusive rules but the bulk is in the standard set. The exclusive rules are mainly the set up and scenarios with a few battle specific rules. I have done a separate post reviewing the rules and how the games play in general so it would be best to read that before the review of this particular battle / game.

For the last year Victory Point have released Napoleonic 20 games as two battle boxes. The newest was for the Hundred Days and this post is concentrating on the Waterloo game. I will do a review for Tolentino later (Murat in Italy against the Austrians). I will then work my way through the other games even if just a brief review - one of the great things about the series is that the extra little bits in the rules, the cards and the low counter density mean that each battle plays very differently (it is not just the same old thing with a different name).

To note, throughout click on a picture if you want to see a larger version and you will then be able to read the counters etc.


First a quick look at the game as it comes out of the box:

Here is the Victory Point page for Hundred Days.

The components are:

  • maps in stiff glossy card, comes in two halves for each battle;
  • player aid sheet with all the tables and charts needed (CRT, terrain effects etc.);
  • one counter sheet of units for each battle;
  • one counter sheet of generic markers;
  • standard rules booklet;
  • exclusive rules booklet;
  • set of event cards, most are specific to one battle;
  • a die.
The rules booklets are quite thick now but that is because they have spaced everything out massively and they are certainly not complex rules.

This is the counter sheet for Waterloo (to note you get a tissue with a Victory Point logo to wipe the edges of the counters when they are punched out which you do need to clear off the black stuff from the laser cutting).

A closer look at the pack of event cards and the bottom corner of the player aid sheet.

Two halves of the Waterloo map unfolded and put together.

Play through

The standard scenario starts on turn 9, the afternoon turn of 16th June, although it is possible to play other scenarios starting earlier than this. This is the opening position of the standard scenario. The Prussians are set up around Ligny with the French massed ready for battle - two units are already engaged. Around Quatre Bras the British and French are both sparsely deployed.

I am playing the Allies and a friend is the French. To note though that these games play very well solo just with the normal rules - I quite enjoy the odd solo game and not just to learn the game.

This is the position after the first French turn. The French go first and as such do not draw an event card. No morale was used to force march or commit the French Guard.

French 3e attacks Prussian 1st corps at minus 1 odds (both strength 3 but across a stream). The French put in a morale point to increase the odds but I put one in too to bring it back to minus 1. The French roll a one and rout but only 1 hex so no morale loss.

The attack of French 4e on Prussian 2nd corps is at minus 2 and again the French put in a morale to improve the odds but I don't this time. With a six though the Prussians need to withdraw.

On my turn I pull the Prussians back into a defensive line and bring up the British to defend around Quatre Bras.

My event card means Fredrick's corps may arrive. I don't toll a six so the variable reinforcement moves on to the next turn to try again.

On to dusk of the 16th June. It is light rain so all infantry have one less strength (attack or defence). The French event is a good one - they can either commit the guard for free or force march all units for free (no units to rally so that is not a useful option). As the French intend to both force march and commit the guard then the card means that this only costs them one morale point for both actions.

The French move up for an all out assault on the Prussians but don't yet move to contact the British.

I realise I made a mistake where I put the Prussian cavalry - with a stream behind their retreat path is a hazardous retreat. I should have put then in 1110 or 1111. I still decide to use my reaction move to charge the guns. They would be doubled when attacking plus the infantry are reduced in strength so a healthy attack. When I counter charge (selective attack on one unit) my strength is doubled to I am at minus 1. I am hoping to push the guns away but I roll low and get a withdrawal but the cavalry break when retreating across the stream and are removed for later rallying (if I had let the French cavalry attack me they could have advanced after combat so on the whole I am still better off).

The French 3e unit gets a no result while 4e and the guard rout the Prussian 2nd corps sat with Blucher. Fortunately I roll a 2 for rout and so no morale loss (you lose a morale if the rout is more than the unit's movement points). Prussian defences looking rather sad now!

On my turn I draw the event which allows me to add a good ground marker - not the best thing I could have gotten at this stage. I stick it on the British unit to the left of Quatre Bras and choose the +1 defence rather than protection from artillery. I roll for Frederick again and again fail to get them.

Two of my Prussians were left engaged after the French turn and long story short they both routed, but again I rolled low for rout and no morale loss. Although apart from 4th corps that has just arrived all the Prussians are routing.

Evening of the 16th June - no rain. The French draw an unhelpful event card but then realise that everyone can get where they need to be with one less on movement - drat!

I realised after that I had forgotten to take a picture after the French move and before the combat. 1st corps routed again - but again my luck held out and only by one hex. On the far left the two French cavalry and the artillery attacked the Prussian 3rd corps but rolled an exchange! Quite a choice for the French, lose both cavalry or the artillery. He chose to lose the cavalry which I thought was the right choice but it did limit the extent to which the Prussian flank can be threatened - however, having checked though my general article again before publishing this I remember now that by taking two units as the loss the French would have lost one more morale and the allies gained one more morale, whereas losing the artillery would have meant a net change of nothing on morale. If we had remembered then he may have taken the artillery as he could not afford to lose another morale or perhaps not and then a later combat could not have the bonus?

Not very useful event again for me - didn't see anything that was helpful.

The Prussians have one unit recovered from rout - the other is still in rout until the end of my turn, the rout marker had not yet been changed in the picture on the French turn (you place the colour of the other player in your turn so that routs come off at the end of the next player turn).

I move up the British cavalry to try and help the routing Prussians push the French cavalry away - night next turn so having the allied units staying there stops the French moving closer during the night (can't enter ZOC, and the rout comes off this turn so the Prussians regain their ZOC). The French are forced to withdraw and have to go back two hexes as they can't stack.

No interesting event cards during night. The French move a few rear units up but can't move further forward. The  British cavalry and Prussian 1st corps then pull back over the stream.

During the night the French lose one morale as the allies hold Quatre Bras then gain one due to rest (they lose it first and that put them to one morale and then increases back to two - so if the French had been on one morale to start with they would have lost before gaining the morale due to rest). The French rally one cavalry but the other is destroyed - the rallied one comes on right at the back.

The allies gain two morale due to rest but spend one to improve rally chances. All three allied units rally (one Prussian cavalry started in the rally box at the start of the game). But with only two lines of communication (LOC) hexes only two can be brought on.

Morale levels for the next day are two for the French and three for the allies. The difficult positions mean that morale gets spent in combat more often than many games. While the Prussians were pushed back they did not really crack and the British were undisturbed and the two armies are still more or less in touch. All still to do for the French.

Morning of 17th June is sunny but the French need to move up to get into a position to attack across a wide front and don't have spare morale to force march. The allies just move some Prussians up and switch round the two British cavalry. Neither side draws an event of any consequence.

Mid day of the 17th and it is light rain and all infantry reduce strength by one. Event cards are shuffled in at the end of night. The French draw their card - oh, no, not that again! The French get to commit the guard for free.

I forget that all infantry are reduced in strength so I think the French attacks are better than they are and so again choose to counter charge in the reaction phase. But again fail and withdraw (safely this time!).

Doesn't look good but then I remember it is light rain. This is worse for the French as they lose more as each unit is affected. The Prussians are in a village so still have 3 strength. The French have four (one for the cavalry, unaffected by rain, and one for 4e and two for the guard). Plus 1 is not terrible but also not great, particularly because if the guard can not advance the French lose a morale (don't have to advance just need to be able to). The French go for broke and put in a morale to push things up to plus 2, I spend a morale to bring it back down (if the French had not put one in I would still have done so and that would have pushed the odds down to zero and increased the chances of a rout as well as a guard recule).

The French roll a 2 and lose a morale as the guard are held. I win! (NB Frederick never made an appearance).


This Waterloo game is actually the third edition of the game. I have the first edition too but not the second. It is essentially the same but the new version has some extra chrome and some more map space. Plays fairly similarly as far as I can see from one game. In the first edition I would always commit two morale on turn one to get the French to force march and commit the guard and put in a big attack on the Prussians. Seeing how this went I still think that is the right strategy - the French actually spent two morale on the first turn to stop the two combats being too bad so may as well of just gone for it. I think with this it is essential to push the Prussians back quickly to make the British position untenable otherwise it becomes a slugfest. 

This game was a good illustration of the use of morale points as we used them so much - and hardly had anything that reduced them due to combat (just my cavalry breaking when retreating over the stream and the last throw of the game when the guard were held).  You can get too aggressive with morale and once you are down around two or three then a couple of bad routs and the game is pretty much over. It also shows that a big push with a couple of morale is likely better than gradually whittling them away boosting individual combats.

This game could still have gone very differently. I rolled terribly on all combats - don't think I rolled above a 3 all game except for my rally rolls in the night. But I also rolled one or two whenever I had a unit routing and hence I never lost a morale due to a rout. If I had rolled higher not only would my units be retreating further my morale would have been reducing and I would have had to fall back with everything to get away from the French to recover.

This third edition has the new components and so better quality than the original I have - not that that was ever a big problem - but there are some nice new bits of chrome that just add a little bit of flavour without complicating or skewing the game. There are more scenario options too and weather can be fixed or variable and like all the Napoleonic 20 games you can chose to play concealed (with dummy units too) or open. Combined with the variability created by the event cards these games are hugely re-playable. 

So I enjoyed the game and would recommend it. If you are interested in these sorts of games I would also suggest getting several as they vary so much with some being set piece battles and others being fluid manoeuvre games and often parts of battles moving form one type to another.

Victory Point Napoleonic 20 series - system review

I have been playing these games for a while ever since I accidentally found out they existed. They are small, quick and fun and with the adaptions to the sorts of rules you would have seen for these type of games back in the 1970s and 1980s they are incredibly re-playable. I thought I would do an overview first so that any review of a particular game could focus on what that game is like and just refer back to this post for a general overview of the game system.

I played SPI and other games back in the 1970s onwards and they did various quad games including for Napoleonic. They were simple but a very predicable game and basically after you had worked out the best initial moves it all went along in the same old way and just depended on the rolls on the combat results table (CRT) - i.e. it was all down to whether you could cut off and kill defenders by surrounding after advance after combat from earlier attacks or you ended up getting yourself surrounded because some later attacks failed.

There are a number of elements that make this system different:

The combat results table - CRT

It does not look that different from those early games on first look but the differences are quite profound, particularly as there are interactions with other parts of the rules. The traditional CRT had a mix of defender or attacker retreat (DR and AR), exchange (EX) and defender or attacker eliminated (DE and AE) results with a few 'no results' on some odds columns. The CRT columns for the Napoleonic 20 series are strength point differentials though rather than odds (mostly odds in older games). That works better as no rounding or wasted points.

The first change is that there are now two types of retreat - withdrawal and rout (DW, DR, AW and AR). A withdrawal is just like a traditional retreat result - fall back one hex. A rout is a more uncontrolled retreat and the length of the retreat is rolled for on a D6 with some modifiers to reduce the roll (e.g. in a fort or an elite unit and if the modified roll is zero or less then it stays put, if it is one then it is a withdrawal rather than a rout). The unit then goes back that far and gets a rout maker that removes the zone of control and halves the combat value -marker is removed at the end of the next players combat phase. If the rout length is greater than the unit's movement points then the army loses one morale - morale is key to the game as described later.

Next, retreating through a zone of control is not an automatic elimination but is a 'hazardous retreat' and has a 50/50 chance of the unit breaking (removed from the map for potential rally during a night turn). If a unit does break then that side lose one morale point but the other gains a morale (a routing unit that then breaks due to hazardous retreat just means losing a single morale point though).

Defender or Attacker break results (DB and AB) are essentially just like DE or AE results except that there is an immediate morale impact and the ability to rally during night turns. On a break result the losing side has their morale reduced by one and the winner get an increase in morale of one. So breaking and routing units is the way to win by reducing the opposing army morale to zero.

Exchange is just like the traditional games - kill the defender and at least as many attacker strength points (possibly in more than one unit). The difference is that the destroyed units break (and can then rally at night) and causes morale changes. Net result is actually all morale goes back to where it started if the exchange means the same number of units go on each side (best to avoid losing two for one!), but the effects apply to the defender first. So if each side loses one unit then the defender morale goes down one and the attacker's up one, if this does not put the defending army to zero and hence a game loss then the attacker loses one morale and the defender gains one.

Terrain effects are always adjustments to strength points not odds (as the CRT does not use odds but strength point differentials). Also they are not cumulative, you just get the best one - so defending over a stream in a town is no different than defending in a clear hex behind a stream. Defending in a fortified position behind a stream is just like defending in a fortified position without a stream. Streams and bridges/ fords over major rivers count as a hazardous retreat. This means taking a position behind a stream is a risky proposition - if you get pushed back after initial successes then it is back over the stream and a potential for the retreating unit to break.


Those traditional games either had nothing on army morale or a fairly crude army break point based on the number of strength points eliminated (or sometimes individual corps break points). Some games (such as OSG Leipzig - mine is the later Clash of Arms version) then have the potential to rally at a reduced strength. For Napoleonic 20 games, Morale is really the driving concept for how the game works.

Each army has a morale track from 0 to 10 (usually it is between 6 and 8 at the start of a game depending on the particular game and each side may start off at different points). You can't go over 10 and you lose if it goes to zero. Certain events change morale levels and you can also 'spend' them. This last part of the game is what makes it really interesting.

Things that change morale

  • routing more than the units movement, morale down one;
  • unit breaks, morale down one and opponent gains one morale;
  • a guard unit couldn't advance after an attack, morale down one;
  • some card events;
  • if morale low enough and no activity in a turn (a' lull') then can gain back one morale point;
  • during night having one of your objective hexes occupied by the enemy;
  • during night having two or more Line of Communication points (LOC) enemy controlled;
  • gain one due to rest at night.

Things you can spend morale on

  • a forced march - spending one point (at most) to give all units plus one movement this turn;
  • local commitment of reserves - spending one morale (at most) in a battle to add one strength point. Attacker decides first then the defender;
  • to commit a guard unit (there are differences between elites that get various benefits and guards that get them too but have the commitment rules). Committing means being able to move into a zone of control. If your army morale is one then you can commit the guard for free - but also if your opponent's morale is one you can commit your guard for free too;
  • to add one to a roll to rally a unit during night turns.

I have played a number of games when one side is well ahead on morale and the other side close to zero. But it can then often be tricky to force a result in a combat as usually less units around (and a very low unit density to start with) and hence less options. The temptation is often to add a morale point in combat to increase the differential and try to get a good result - ideally to break a unit. But it can never be guaranteed and if you are too cavalier with your morale point advantage you can suddenly find you are not that far off zero yourself and the result of the battle can then but much more in question that you would like! I remember doing that in a game of Smolensk. Very few Russians on the board to start with and my son was a bit too aggressive and got them wiped out. The French had to get themselves over the river and so this slowed them down as Russians gradually arrived on the far map edge. By trying to force a result before too many Russians arrived it ended up being really close and I only just squeaked home in the end.


Other than the first player turn of a game the first thing you do on your turn is to pick an event card. Each card either has a general event or two different ones - that each apply to a particular side and hence a single card can do different things depending on who picked it. Often cards depend on some condition that may not be met and hence nothing happens. Some are literally no effect for one side and then force a reshuffle of the cards (bringing the discard pile back in the deck). Some cards are specific to the battle, here are a few examples:

  • Lannes dying at Aspern-Essling and boosting the effectiveness of his Corp;
  • Weather effects such as at Dresden;
  • Reduction in movement for one side (e.g. something about the battle meant one side was a bit tardy);
  • you can't enter zones of control in the turn;
  • you can pick an enemy unit and it can't move or sometimes not enter zones of control. 

Others appear in many games, such as:

  • free morale point to spend on forced march or in a combat;
  • one unit get a movement point and strength point increase just for that turn;
  • ability to look at a unrevealed unit if fog of war optional rules used (no effect if not using them);
  • a dice roll to get an effect, often low bad, middling no effect high good (e.g. good may be gain a morale, bad may be that you can't force march this turn).

Even if the effect of events are the same in different games then the name of the event and perhaps flavour text set the scene around events in the actual battle.

Victory Point provide some examples on the web site for some of the games so here are a few to give a better idea (in each case click on next to see the other card examples available):

You can browse the Napoleonic 20 product page to see all the games and other examples of cards and components too.

The cards mostly provide a minor change but can potentially help swing a single combat or can disrupt things to delay your plans for a turn, or may just change what you do that turn a little bit. While a game will not be won or lost as a result of a card (losing a morale point might if you are down to one but then you are on the verge anyway and you are in that position as a result of a whole load of things), it does mean that there is an extra level of unpredictability so that games will always be a bit different.

Other rules

The above three things are why I think this system is different from previous simple games and why it works so well. There are lots of other nice bits in the rules too and there have been 4 versions which always add a few bits as well as clarifying. I won't go through it all but here is just a list of some of the other

  • cavalry retreat before combat or counter attack;
  • light infantry that can act like cavalry on retreat before combat (these are just the key units like the British light divisions not all light troops);
  • unreliable units - may lose a strength point in a combat, roll for it after all other adjustments (e.g. Saxons in 1813, some Spanish in the Peninsular);
  • elite units, less likely to retreat and may gain a strength pint on an 'Elan' roll;
  • optional rules like fog or war - units shown with their national flag until close enough to be revealed.

There are also special rules for each game that reflect the particular circumstances of the battle. While winning is about getting the enemy to zero morale the special rules will often have particular ways to get a minor victory.

Things will be a lot clearer when I review an actual game and when there are pictures of a game board etc. but I wanted to do this general overview to refer back to each time rather than cluttering a specific game review with observations on the standard system. Victory Point put copies of the rules on their web site and you can check out their latest standard rules version there.

The scenario

Finally, not something about the rules but the design of the game.

While most early games (and some new attempts I have seen in S&T magazine which I have not liked either) focus on the final battle (from when the attacks first began to when the set piece engagement ended), the Napoleonic 20 series each cover a number of days, typically 2 to 4. This means you get a map that covers the area around the set piece engagement not just the final battlefield. For example, Waterloo 20 is actually Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre and Waterloo all on one map. But all the games basically cover the movement up to the engagement so you can  choose to do it a bit differently.

The game system is called '20' because there are less than 20 units on the board. This low density combined with maps covering a wider area around the actual battle really emphasize the importance of maneuver. Some games are still mainly about set piece combat but others are much more about maneuver and getting the advantage in position.


I have played many board games of the Napoleonic wars. I have not found any games covering the whole war to be any good (e.g. Avalon Hill War and Peace was dire, and although it had some nice features I did not like the combat system in the later Empires in Arms at all. The GTD games were OK but a bit random on the combat but being quick kept my interest for a little while). I eventually gave up trying to find something on the war - I think you are better off with computer games to be honest, if you fancy putting in a lot of time that is.

Games of individual battles though have a variety of systems and different complexities and I have enjoyed many over the years. The most complex was Marshal Enterprises (later Clash of Arms) and it did work well and once you got to know the rules it played reasonably smoothly (nice colourful counters too). But they take quite a while to play and if you are also a figures gamer then the real question is why bother? Other systems have been less complex but still take up quite a while or just don't feel right and many games in recent years seem to be poorly play tested (TSR and S&T games especially). As I have got into Euro style games I have become less tolerant of the more traditional board war games that take hours to set up and play and focus more on moving counters about than they do on the decisions the generals need to make. As described above the simpler games were not that great.

So when I came across Victory Point there was quite a backlog of disappointment and fatigue to overcome. I was then very pleasantly surprised that they are so good and have a high level of replay-ability. The main positives I found were:
  • simple rules but some nice enhancements that add to the flavour and reduce the dependence on individual dice rolls;
  • quick to play;
  • fun games that are almost always very close;
  • cards that added variation to every game;
  • low counter density that adds to the speed of play but emphasizes the importance of maneuver in games;
  • large range and ever expanding;
  • initially cost was very good price. The component quality has been improved over the years and now come in boxes so less cheap but still really good value, particularly when you know what a good game is in the box.

I don't really have any down sides. Others may also like a more complex challenge and a bigger game with more counters and rules complexity but if I want that then I will play miniatures and not a board game - but that is a personal thing that not everyone will share the same view. But whether you are an out and out board gamer or a figures gamer that will play board games then I think Napoleonic 20 series will be an enjoyable experience.

Keep an eye out on my blog as I will gradually do reviews of each of the games in the Napoleonic 20 series.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

My latest Kickstarter activity: board games

Update on my Kickstarter activity since my previous post.

Well, I ended up backing both Gloomhaven and The Others: 7 Sins. Very different Kickstarter experiences.

For Gloomhaven it was all about getting a game developed and stretch goals that improved the content and quality as the funding increased. Not an exiting experience as a Kickstarter but the game looks good and despite not being quite the sort of thing I normally like I just liked the various mechanics too much and having Isaac Childres' first game I know I like the way his games play.

For The Others: 7 Sins a totally different approach and experience. It was quite obvious that the game would have been made anyway and had been pretty much developed. The stretch goals were all about adding extra things like expansion boxes that will be sold separately and some exclusive things rather than adding to the core game. Lots of add-ons too; while cheaper than retail, not by much and adds a lot to the overall cost - you don't have to buy but just too tempting! So the basic pledge of $100 was worth about £305 retail. I have not liked Kickstarter projects with lots of add-ons but not too many here just not cheap and all expansions and so add to the game possibilities. It was quite an experience in itself seeing new stretch goals appear and the basic pledge increase and increase.

I have since backed a few other things, currently live - all a bit more like Gloomhaven in terms of the Kickstarter experience i.e. it is all about getting the game out and enhancing it.

A cheap filler game that looks really interesting: Kodama

A cracking looking game from Jamey Stegmaier: Scythe

And finally one that I have thought about as not exactly what I am looking for but looks a really well crafted game in terms of how it plays (and looks nice): 7th Continent

The only problem now is that the first of all these games is at least 6 months before I get my hands on it! I guess if I back things regularly though that things will start arriving regularly but to do that I would need to shift my game buying to be mainly Kickstarter and not sure yet I want to do that.