The wargame design mid-term has demonstrated that students with little or no prior experience can create one page wargames based on battles from extended “The Age of Battles”, roughly 1494 to 1865. It has been the mid-term assignment for my second year class since 2008, and it has worked very well. This year’s crop are all marked, and I’ve posted to provisional mark list for the students on Blackboard. Â Many of the games were very good, and I wanted to flag up some of the interesting bits.
The Eylau group were probably the first to do not one but two full playtests of their game. The first, in which the Russian players were uncharacteristically aggressive, ended in a serious French defeat. This was not an impossible result – the historical battle was a slog, Augereau’s VII Corps was shattered and Ney arrived late. The turn-by-turn pictures on the discussion forum documented the French defeat, and while it was plausible, I asked them if they were sure the balance of the game would delvier a historical result. They went back, ran through it again and came out with a reasonable French victory. Two playtests does not make for statistical significance, but it did show that the map, countermix and rules could produce a range of results which were within the bounds of credibility.
The group doing Kolin did some thinking about command, with counters for Frederick and Daun. They decided to make those into “super units” in their own right, which was probably not the best idea. However, they did think about the relative performance of both, and opted to make Frederick more mobile and harder to kill, while Daun was supposed to be less mobile but more powerful Â in defence. Making Frederick an 18-25-7 and Daun a 12-30-5 probably reflects that – I’m guessing those numbers are attack-defence-movement because that wasn’t specified. There is a logic at work there, and I’m happy to accept that those numbers represent a valid interpretation of the performance of the two commanders on the day (and possibly in general)
Hohenfriedberg is one of the battles that inspired this whole exercise, since it was the subject of a one page wargame by Michael Hanickel, (archived online from Boardgamegeek ). I’ve be wary about including this in the list of battles for the assignment because Hanickel’s game is hard to improve on. The group doing it this year dodn’t improve on the orignal, but they did succeed in finding a different perspective, extending the map area and placing more emphasis on the problems of getting the Prussian units across the river and into action.
A couple of groups had to deal with unusual movement problems. Jena-Auerstedt poses the problem of how to deal with the movement of Bernadotte’s I Corps while keeping the map to a reasonable size. They resolved this problem elegantly with a two part map, on which Bernadotte can spend most of the day in the black zone between the two battles. Ramilles poses a hidden movement problem – historically, the switch of Allied Cavalry from north to south, concealed by terrain, was a key part of Marlborough’s 1-2 punch on the day. This doesn’t work if the French player can see those counters – a classic fog of war problem in board wargames. There is no easy fix, the group had to decide Â the remove hidden units and track their movement on paper until the re-appeared in line-of-sight to the French. The best part of this fix was the care they took to map the dead ground on the map, and a random possibility that the move might be exposed by French scouting.
There were a bunch of other interesting things that groups threw up – various leader death rules for Lutzen, Kinsale and Clontibret, rules for fresh cavalry at Neerwinden, and for Harville’s inertia at Jemappes. With 17 groups this year (over 100 students) there was a great deal of good stuff in the games, and I could fill several posts on it. Quite a few groups produced playable games, with graphics which are as good as many published DTP games.