Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Search for the Holy Grail- The Best Napoleonic Rules, Part 3

Here is Part 3 of my continuing search for the best Napoleonic rules. All of the rules that I have analyzed so far are battalion-level rules with no simultaneous movement. I replayed the common scenario of the battle of Maida in 1806, which is a small divisional-sized game. Instead of focusing on several different AAR's covering the battle, I wanted to focus on the mechanics of each individual rules set and compare them to each other in areas of Playability and Realism/Historical Accuracy.

Carnage and Glory 2

Carnage and Glory 2 is a computer-moderated set of rules that one can use to simulate any Napoleonic battle, large or small. Besides the Napoleonic period, there are separate programs for the following periods: Seven Years War (and American Revolution), the American Civil War, Franco- Prussian War, the Age of Marlborough, and the English Civil War (and Thirty Years War). Carnage and Glory 2 can be used with virtually any scale of figures, any ground scale, and any basing style (although there are recommendations for basing presented in the rules). As for the written rules themselves, they can be easily printed out as part of the software and are easy to navigate and understand. The basic concept of Carnage and Glory 2 is that each unit and commander has a unit identification number and its unit data (ie number of men, training, experience, melee factor, fire factor, skirmishers, etc) is stored in the software. A chain of command is also input, so that orders of battle are easily stored and ready for table-top play. Files of specific army lists and battle scenarios can be stored for use over and over again. When the game is played, unit actions such as formation changes, charges, and firing are input as the computer keeps track of everything, including fatigue and ammunition. The ability to focus on tactical decisions and allow the computer to keep track of minute details is not only impressive, it is refreshing.

Each unit has an identification label that corresponds to specific data stored in the computer for that unit

In my games, I use 15mm figures with a ground scale of 50 paces (approximately 37 yards) per inch. Each turn corresponds to 15 minutes of historical time. There is also the capability of using an order transmission section for more detailed command and control.  Although the time scale for a turn remains constant, the ground scale will change proportionally with figure scale. This and everything else a player needs to know about the game is all covered extensively in the rules.

Our games typically consist of 4 or 5 players controlling a couple of divisions (and even a corps or more) each, with a couple of us taking turns running the computer for the other side. Although the detail and the flow of the games are outstanding, the information flow to one GM controlling data input can slow the game down unless the GM keeps the game rolling. In our gaming group, we have a ton of experience running the computer and turns flow very efficiently and, dare I say it, very fast.

Coming back to our divisional-sized game of Maida, it was a perfect pick-up scenario for CG2. We completed 8 turns in an hour and a half, less than half of the time that From Valmy To Waterloo took. Movement distances were practically memorized, so there were no charts that had to be checked and rechecked. Being a two-player game, we each ran the computer while the other made his moves and conducted firing and melee. In fairness, our game of Le Feu Sacre also took an hour and a half, mostly due to that system's streamlined and efficient mechanics. 

Even more impressive than the efficiency and realism of the game itself was the post-battle analysis, in which the computer computes the effects of casualties, pursuit, and the return of walking wounded. This is ideal for a campaign and allows a player to link several games together with the computer keeping track of casualties and changes in morale/experience (Spoiler alert: the system's author, Nigel Marsh, is readying the release of a highly anticipated campaign system).

Our test game was an impressive demonstration of CG2's capability. Players were free to move units and make decisions while the software did all of the heavy lifting. I rated CG2 a 9 out of 10 for playability. The data input shuffle can be a negative point with an inexperienced GM or group of players. This was a small scenario. For a large game, the data input becomes proportionally more cumbersome and challenging. Solitaire suitability is  also more of a challenge due to having to run back and forth to the computer for every data input (although it is convenient to leave the table set up and have the computer save all the data played thus far--really pretty cool).

I rated CG2 an 8.5 out of 10 for realism/accuracy.  Movement, musketry, morale, and melee seemed spot on. Add to that the ability to compute casualties, victory conditions, the effects of weather, and even heat exhaustion, and CG2 produces a very realistic simulation.  In contrast to FVTW though, artillery batteries are incredibly strong and, if properly supported, seem almost a bit too powerful (this might be my own bias, but I have read and heard similar conclusions from others). Also, again in contrast to FVTW, units were able to maneuver freely around the table with no regard to the distance from a leader. Although great for a competitive game, it seems a bit too free and easy. I am familiar with the "nippy little battalion" syndrome, in which opponents send an isolated unit way out on a flank attack just to cause chaos, with no regard to how far it has isolated itself from its parent brigade. This can happen in CG2, but at least the support and rally modifiers encourage proper deployment distance between units. Personally, I'd like to see a bit more command and control built into the system.

Total score for Carnage and Glory 2 is 8.75 out of 10.  Not only does CG2 provide an outstanding game (and detailed simulation), but it is dutifully supported by the author and myriad veterans on the Carnage and Glory 2 yahoo group. Carnage and Glory 2 is a great gaming experience, especially with an experienced group of like-minded players.