Monday, June 11, 2018

A Player's Guide To General D'Armee

This player's guide is specifically meant for the upcoming scenario being played out on June 21st, 2018 by the Old Dominion Military Society.

Image result for general d'armee rules

A Player’s Guide to General d’Armee

General d’Armee plays like a flexible and scaled up version of General de Brigade, with some of the best concepts of Black Powder added in.  The focus on command and control is simple, fun, and calls for careful decision-making and frequent head-scratching.  

Scale:  GdA has a flexible figure scale (like Black Powder), but I base the figures at approximately 33:1.  The ground scale is approximately 35 yds per inch and the time per turn is approximately 15 minutes.

Units:  Units in GdA are infantry battalions, brigade skirmish screens, cavalry regiments (or multiple squadrons), and artillery batteries. Leaders represent Corps commanders, division commanders, and down to brigade commanders. No Leaders are represented below the brigade. Units are classified as Large, Standard, or Small (again, similar to Black Powder).

Unit and Leader Ratings:  Unit ratings are Elite, Veteran, Line, and Recruit. Special rules encompass the “Grenadier” subrating for Line troops, the “Reservist” subrating for Line troops, and “Enthusiastic” subrating for Recruits. These special rules will be discussed later.

Leaders are also rated , with the important concept that the higher the rating, the more ADC’s will be available to the leader.


Command and Control:  The ADC (aide de camp) is an abstract way to simulate command and control. Look at the ADC as an activation point. ADC’s can be used to task individual brigades with special missions (ie Artillery Assault Fire, Redeploy, or activate Reserves) or can be sent to a brigade in order to gain a re-roll of a brigade activation. ADC functions are listed in full on the QRS.

     Brigade activation:  Brigades must be activated in order to move, fight, or fire. Brigades can be in the following states:
  • Steady (fully activated)
  • Hesitant (can not move forward in any way, and can only fire straight ahead)
  • Faltering (This is caused if a brigade has a unit routed or 2+ units retreating. Faltering brigades are not rolled for activation normally; they have a separate chart to roll on and they can possibly rally, become hesitant, or retire/rout). An ADC must be attached to every Faltering brigade; this simulates a breakdown in command and control.

After ADC’s are rolled for to see how many are available ( a 3-6 on a 1D6 means that the ADC is available), the division commander attaches these ADC’s to his brigades simulating the division commander’s command focus. Corps commanders are tasked with coming up with the overall plan of attack and add ADC’s to a specific division commander to use as necessary. After ADC’s are attached to brigades, each brigade must roll for activation. A result of 1-2 on a 1D6 means that the brigade is Hesitant, with 3-6 becoming Steady. An ADC attached for a Brigade Attachment means that the brigade gains a reroll of its activation die.

Example:  A division officer with 3 brigades has 3 ADC’s available and uses 2 to attach to a brigade for Artillery Assault (grants extra casualty dice to battery fire). The remaining ADC is used as a Brigade Attachment to an advancing brigade to keep them moving into the fight.

1st Brigade passes its activation roll with a 5 on 1d6 and automatically becomes Steady and adds the Artillery Assault tasking for this turn. The 2nd Brigade rolls a 1 on 1D6 and becomes Hesitant, but with the ADC attached, gets a re-roll and promptly rolls a 6, becoming Steady. The third brigade has no ADC’s attached, but rolls a 4 on its activation and is also Steady.


Initiative:  GdA is an IGO/UGO game with the side winning initiative moving (and more importantly Firing) first. Firing is not simultaneous… casualties and morale results inflicted by the side winning the initiative are counted when the second side fires.

Each side rolls 2d6.  Each side subtracts 1 for each Faltering brigade. The winner is the side with the initiative.  Special Rule:  French may use ADC’s to add +1 or +2 to the initiative roll.


Charges: Charges are written down simultaneously, and then declared first by the side with the initiative, and then by the side moving second. Reactions to charges are also declared.

Charging units are moved to within 5 cm of its target and the target conducts all defensive fire (if able). Any casualties or morale results are immediately inflicted on the charger.

Although cavalry brigades may conduct multiple charges, infantry brigades may only charge one unit per turn, UNLESS the infantry brigade is on an Infantry Assault Order (which costs 2 ADC’s and does not have to be renewed each turn, only when the objective is gained). Infantry on an Infantry Assault Order may conduct multiple charges AND use other units within 5 cm as Supports.  These Supports move with the charging unit and grant a re-roll of one of the Charge die rolls. A charging unit can have up to 3 Support units (1 to each flank and 1 to the rear).

Example:  A unit in a brigade with an Infantry Assault Order conducts a charge on an opposing infantry battalion.  One other unit in its brigade is within 5 cm to its rear, so it is declared a support and moves with the charging battalion. In the subsequent Charge roll (2D6 rolled by each side), the die rolls are 1 and 5.  The charging player does not like the 1 result and decides to use the Supporting unit to reroll this die:  the new result is a 4 and gives the charging player a total of 9.

Both sides roll 2D6 and the charge is typically resolved with one side or the other giving away or halting.  There is a smaller chance of Melee happening, which is resolved at the end of the turn.


Movement:  At this point in the turn, the side with the initiative will conduct regular movement and/or formation changes (formation changes are conducted differently depending on the unit’s morale rating). After the side with the initiative moves, the second side will then move and/or conduct formation changes.


Firing:  Standard firing is conducted typically by rolling 2D6 and consulting the fire charts for infantry and artillery. The side with the initiative fires first and any casualties/morale results are applied immediately.

The firing charts have a series of modifiers based on the situation, rating, formation, casualties, etc. Typical of most rules. In some situations, Casualty Dice (1D6) are added to the roll. Casualty Dice work similar to Black Powder in that 1-3 misses and 4-6 causes a hit.

Skirmishers (and BUA garrisons) only use Casualty Dice and the number of dice is determined by the size of the Skirmish screen.

Example:  A French Skirmish screen made up of 3 bases fires with 3 Casualty Dice at an opposing battery. The rolls on 3D6 are   2, 6, and 4. Skirmishers hit on 5-6 (instead of the normal 4-6) and cause 1 hit on the battery.

Fire Arcs:  Fire Arcs for infantry and artillery are 45 degrees from each base edge. If a brigade is hesitant, the fire arc is reduced to straight ahead only.


Melees:   The last part of the game turn is to resolve any melees that occurred during charges earlier in the turn.  Melees are conducted differently than the Charge roll. Each side will add up Casualty Dice depending on the situation or type of unit.  After these dice are rolled, the number of hits on both sides are calculated and the winner is determined due to that result.


Morale:  Morale effects can happen any time during the turn and can cause a unit to Rout, Retreat,or become Unformed. Unformed units must take a full move to Reform. Routing units cause the brigade to Falter (on the next command phase), and 2+ Retreating units can also cause a brigade to Falter. Also, skirmish screens are considered separate units and are not expendable…..a skirmish screen that routs or disperses will cause a brigade to Falter.


Discipline Tests: This test has to be made in the following circumstances:
  • As a Firing Result or a Double 6 from Skirmish Fire
  • Infantry in Line or forming square when charged by cavalry.
  • Charged in the rear
  • Evading a charge.
  • Cavalry Opportunity Charge.
  • Moving in square if enemy cavalry are within 15 cm.


Special Unit Ratings:

Line infantry can be further classified as either Grenadier or Reservist. Recruits, such as many 1813 French conscripts, can also be classified as Enthusiastic.

Grenadier:  These units are classified as Veterans when taking Discipline Tests.

Reservist: Units below 4 casualties are considered Fresh.  When a Reservist Line unit reaches 4+ casualties, it is then classified as Recruit for the remainder of the battle.

Enthusiastic Recruits: When taking a Discipline Test while Fresh (less than 4 total casualties), a 1D6 is rolled. A result of 1-3 means that the unit is classified as  Recruit. A result of 4-6 means that the unit is classified as Veteran. These results only apply to each individual roll.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

SAGA 2 and Jugulator in Newport News, Virginia

This past week, I had the pleasure of playing some Saga 2 at World's Best Comics in Newport News as part of the weekly Old Dominion Military Society's gathering.  It was my first experience with the new Saga 2 rules, so I was itching to jump into the game. Thanks go out to Cotton Jim for hand-delivering the bundle pack of the new rules with the Dark Ages supplement !  Steve set up an 8 point Norman force against my 4 point Viking warband  and Jim's 4 points of all-female Shieldmaiden warband. And we were off....

Mounted Normans with supporting archers readying for the attack

A unit of Jim's Viking shield-maiden archers

Hairy Vikings line up on the left flank opposite Norman crossbowmen

Opening moves as Norman cavalry go on the attack, the Vikings on the left flank attempt to rush the crossbows

Although the Norman mounted hearthguard took heavy casualties, the shield-maidens were also attritioned in the first couple of turns

Attempting to close quickly against the lighter crossbowmen, my Viking warriors accumulated fatigue and began to take casualties

Vikings moving up in support on the left flank

Ripped to shreds by the crossbows, the weakened Viking units were ripe for a counterattack by Norman warriors

The shield-maidens hold their ground but eventually lost their warlord in the face of the attacking Normans

Steve very skillfully attacked the shield-maidens on the right, while riddling the charging Vikings with crossbows on the left.  Counterattacking the weakened Vikings on their left flank sealed the Norse fate in this sector.  On the Viking right, the shield-maidens accounted themselves quite nicely at first, sending the Norman warlord packing to the rear. But as the game went on, Steve admirably wore the female Vikings down and ultimately took out their warlord.  The Normans were successful in this engagement and sent the combined Viking force packing on this day ! 

I was impressed with the new, subtle, rules changes with Saga 2. It seems a slicker, more efficient game than before. I'm excited to expand my collection with these new rules. 

After the Saga 2 game, we retreated upstairs to participate in a game of Jugulator, a gladiator card-driven game set in ancient Rome.  There were 2 separate games going on, showcasing Steve's beautifully painted gladiator figures.  It was an interesting set of rules;  no dice were thrown and it was completely card-driven. I found it a challenging and exciting wargaming experience.  With the card system, you really had to plan ahead on what kind of strategy to take.  I was eventually throttled by my opponents, but had a fun and new experience, so it was well worth it.  What a great Thursday night with the Old Dominion Military Society !

Layout for Jugulator, showcasing some finely-painted gladiator figures

Opening moves

As wounds and deaths begin to pile up, the game picks up speed

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Barbarians versus Romans, 451 A.D.

Continued study of the Late Roman Empire inspired me to begin my Catalaunian Fields project. As a small preliminary battle in this campaign, I put together a small army of Romans and a slightly larger barbarian army consisting of Huns and Goths, I attempted a stream crossing in the face of an ambush.  I also wanted to test out the capability of the Hun light cavalry against a purely Roman force. The rules of choice were Hail Caesar.

Strategic Background:  As Roman control of the outlying provinces of the empire began to fracture, these areas were ripe for Attilla the Hun to invade. After years of campaigning against the Eastern empire, the Hunnic leader had practically ignored the lands of the Western empire. The reasons for the invasion of Gaul ( modern-day France) were varied. One possible reason is that Attilla misinterpreted a wedding invitation from Justa Grata Honoria, the sister of Roman emperor Valentinian III, and invaded to claim his share of the Roman empire as a wedding gift. The reality of this was that Honoria was betrothed to someone she despised and meant to ask the Hunnic leader for help.....that went horribly wrong, didn't it? Another more plausible reason for Attilla's invasion was to split the Gothic tribes and the Franks and to take advantage of the disunity to gather more lands into the Hunnic empire. Either way, Attilla and his Huns, along with various other tribal allies, began to devastate villages and towns throughout eastern Gaul.

Enter Aetius, who Valentinian tasked to lead a force and defeat the barbarians once and for all. The climactic battle that ensued was in the area of Chalons and named the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields. Later in the year, I plan to simulate this large action, so more details on this particular battle later.

For this scenario, I planned a smaller action that featured a barbarian attack on a Roman force that was crossing a stream in order to join the main army under Aetius.

Late Imperial Roman infantry

The Hunnic hordes

The Scenario:  Leading a force of two infantry forces (as per the rules) and one cavalry force, the Roman commander is attempting to cross a stream in the face of a sudden attack by a combined army of Goths and Huns. The scenario begins with the Roman cavalry already across the stream, with the barbarians advancing from the heights above the plain of battle. The barbarians are assumed to have the initiative, so therefore they will roll for movement first throughout the game. The scenario is scheduled for 10 turns, as the start time of the battle is late afternoon. The positions of the armies are detailed below. 

Initial deployment of the combatants

Orders of Battle:


Roman General:    Rating 9  (obviously an up and coming leader)

1st Division -  Commander, Rating 8
2  Comitanses Medium Infantry   (Pilum, Drilled)
2 Limitanses   Medium Infantry   (Pilum, Levy)
1 Skirmishers  (bow)

2nd Division - Commander, Rating 8
2 Comitanses Medium Infantry  (Pilum, Drilled)
1 Limitanses  Medium Infantry  (Pilum, Levy)
1 Skirmishers  (bow)
1  Light Artillery  Battery (Scorpion)  (Drilled)

3rd Division - Commander, Rating 8
2 Heavy Cavalry
2  Sagitarii (Horse Archers)


Hun Warlord:   Rating 8

1st Division - Commander, Rating 8
3 Goth Heavy Cavalry

2nd Division - Commander, Rating 8
3 Goth Warbands
1 Goth Skirmishers (javelins)

3rd Division - Commander, Rating 8
4  Hun Light Cavalry (bows, Feigned Flight, Parthian Shot, Marauders)

4th Division - Commander, Rating 8
4 Hun Light Cavalry (bows, Feigned Flight, Parthian Shot, Marauders)

** All units were standard-sized, with the exception of Sagitarii, Hun Light Cavalry, and Skirmisher units.

The Battle: With the Roman infantry behind the stream, and only the cavalry deployed on the plains beyond, the barbarian force attempted to move aggressively forward to catch the Romans in the rough terrain. 

Roman infantry behind the stream faces approaching barbarian warbands

Roman cavalry across the stream sights hordes of Hun cavalry

The Roman right flank

As the Goth cavalry and infantry advance aggressively towards the Roman infantry, the Romans attempt to get across the stream as fast as possible.  The Huns moved forward, but not as aggressively as their Goth allies. Seeing that the right flank was in very real danger of collapsing to the Hunnic hordes, the Roman cavalry rushed forward to engage the enemy.  Instead of sitting back and assuming a defensive position, the Roman commander quickly assumed the attack. 

Roman infantry rush across the stream to engage the warbands

Roman cavalry also attempt to take the initiative against the Huns

Although the Romans decided that the best defense was a good offense, the barbarians had the same idea. The Goth cavalry on the Roman left flank moved rapidly to engage the infantry.  A barbarian heavy cavalry unit launched a charge on this flank against one of the leading Comitanses units. Although the first round was a slight barbarian victory, the two sides were locked in combat during the following turn.  The next turn would go badly for the Roman infantry, which broke in the face of the Goth cavalry.  

On the right flank, a Roman sagitarii unit also charged an open order Hun unit and quickly broke in the ensuing combat. After a couple of turns, the Romans lost 2 units as the barbarians continued to advance.  Add to this the fact that the Hun cavalry had already encircled the Roman right flank with at least one unit. In the center, the two opposing sides of infantry were still approaching each other; swords and shields were not yet crossed. 

Goth cavalry charges into Roman infantry; the Romans would break shortly thereafter

After a Roman horse archer unit breaks, the Hun cavalry begins to envelope the Roman right flank

A wide view of the Roman right

The opposing infantry in the center continue to ominously approach each other

After the successful charge of the Goth cavalry, the barbarian horsemen actually retired slightly to stay out of Roman missile fire range.  The strategy here was to bait the Roman infantry to move out of the disrupted terrain across the stream to enable further charges by the cavalry. 

On the Roman right flank, the Roman heavy cavalry were successful in forcing back the lighter Hun cavalry, with the unintended result of opening up more room on the flank for the Huns to envelope.  The action quickly turned into complete chaos as the Huns saw their advantage and began to overlap the Roman units.  The Hun missile fire was taking its toll, as well as the ability to evade the Roman cavalry charges. This is one of the interesting matchups that I wanted to test out:  lighter Hun cavalry versus heavy Roman cavalry. 

Chaos on the Roman right

More Hun versus Roman cavalry action

The center finally saw the Goth warbands charge against the Roman wall of infantry.  In the initial clash, the Romans formed close order to minimize the shock effect of the Goth charges.  The Goths did prevail though, but the Romans held their ground, albeit disordered with heavy casualties. 

Goths charge Roman infantry in the center

We were half-way through the scenario, and it looked like the barbarians were winning. The Goth cavalry had the Romans pinned on the left flank. The center saw the Goth warbands slowly pushing the Roman infantry back (although it was very slow going in this sector). On the right, the Hun cavalry was surrounding isolated Roman cavalry units and even threatening the Roman infantry in the center.  

But owing to Roman discipline (and not just a little stubbornness on the part of the Roman commander), the Romans bent but did not break.  The Romans slowly advanced on their left flank, wisely using supports in case of a cavalry charge, attempting to inflict casualties on the Goth horsemen via missile fire. The center turned into a bloodbath, with heavy casualties on both sides. The Roman infantry was pushed back a bit, but never broke.  Although the right flank was up in the air, the Roman heavy cavalry finally managed to charge the formed Hun cavalry in front of it, breaking a couple of units, and forcing one of the Hun commands to retreat from the field. The other Hun cavalry division had effectively broken through on the Roman flank and rear.  One Hun unit forced a Roman infantry unit in the center (after managing to break one Goth warband) to form Testudo, a formation virtually invincible against the Hun arrows.

As the Roman infantry on the left flank cautiously advanced against the Goth cavalry, the Goths (not wanting to stick around to absorb javelin casualties) charged.  Incredibly, the lowly Roman limitanses unit in its path formed close order and repelled the Goths ! The other lead Goth cavalry unit decided to get into the action as well and charged in on another Roman unit, forcing it to retire, but advancing to stay locked in combat. 

The Goths launch a charge but were repulsed by close order Roman infantry

The Romans bend but refuse to be broken

One Goth warband has had enough and runs for the hills

The Romans, although enveloped, stay in the fight on the right flank

With but a turn left before nightfall, the Roman left stabilized as the Goth cavalry stepped back disordered, unable to break the disciplined Roman infantry.  In the center, the combat continued, with neither side gaining an advantage.  On the right flank, the Roman cavalry, after eliminating the formed Hun cavalry in front of them, about faced and threw back a charge by more Hun cavalry, totally defeating the barbarian horse archers. 

The high point of the Goth cavalry charge. It would be thrown back.

Hun horse archers attack a Roman unit in testudo formation with no effect

A wide view of the Roman left and center

Bloody combat in the center

As the game ended, it was obvious that the barbarian force was not going to force the Romans off of the field. In fact, there were more barbarian units that were shaken than Romans.  Both sides took heavy casualties, but the barbarians withdrew to the hills and left the Romans to lick their wounds and set up a fortified camp in the plain. It was a tremendous game with two very well-matched forces. Hail Caesar, as a rules set, did a great job of simulating the scenario. The results were very believable and there were no dice rolls that seemed implausible.   I actually played the scenario with the Picquet rules system first, before trying Hail Caesar out for the blog post. Both rules demonstrated a minor Roman victory. 

One of the main situations that I wanted to test Hail Caesar with was the capability of Hunnic light cavalry against Roman cavalry.  The Huns had more units that primarily operated in open order, but the Roman heavy cavalry was unbeatable in direct combat.  The ability of the Huns to maneuver freely around the flanks and rear of the Romans caused many casualties and consternation.  The result was what I expected and the rules simulated this well. 

Another ancients game in the books.  On to Napoleonics and, later in the year, the battle of the Catalaunian Field.