Wednesday 26 June 2024

The Old World, magical effectiveness and the problem of cumulative advantage, or, time to get the calculator out.



Having played a few games of the Old World now, learning the rules, a few issues have been nagging me, and I’m going to address one in particular here, the Magic system. The system in itself is just about OK, it works, to some degree, but the disparity in wizard’s magic levels is painfully obvious. It feels like higher level wizards very easily dominate lower level ones, the advantages are huge and very impactful on the game’s outcome (too much so in my opinion). So, I’ve been looking at the underlying maths and probabilities of the system, and hence if that feeling is justified. The issue is ‘cumulative advantage’. As a games designer this kind of thing interests me – why is this happening, what in the game is making this feel wrong or frustrating or over-powered, and thus, later, how can it be fixed for better balanced and/or more challenging play?

To do this, I’ve looked at wizards at the two extremes in the game, 1st level vs 4th level, and split this into two actions, the two most common to wizards in the game (their point really), casting spells and dispelling spells. Then, these numbers have been translated into the game’s own measure of ‘effectiveness’, points values. Interesting and telling results. Let's get into the weeds...

Casting Spells
First, lets look at a wizard’s chance of actually casting one spell in the Old World. 1st to 4th level, with casting values of 7+ (the lowest required on 2D6+1 to +4) to 10+. It isn’t complex probability, and it is summarized in the table below, as a % chance that a wizard will actual succeed in casting a spell. Bit of real maths-hammer follows...

% chance to successfully cast
               2D6 Result or more
Level      7+       8+       9+      10+   
           72%    58%    42%    28%
2            83%    72%    58%    42%      
           92%    83%    72%    58%    
           97%    92%    83%    72%    

So, a 1st level wizard casts on a 7+ 72% of the time. A 4th level wizard 97% of the time.

                                                           7+    8+        9+      10+
4th to 1st as a factor for success -     1.3    1.58    1.97    2.57    - times more likely to succeed   
                        average = 1.85 times more likely to succeed at casting

From these numbers, on average, a 4th level wizard is on average x1.85 more likely to succeed in casting any one spell. So nearly, not quite, twice as often. The probabilities actually skew to the top end heavily, as shown above.

Number of Spells
In the course of a 6 turn game, a 1st level Wizard with 1 spell could, at best, cast 6 spells (the same one 6 times). That is their maximum. A 4th level wizard with 4 spells, at best, could cast 24 spells, each spell 6 times. This is the very extreme result (unlikely a wizard will pass all rolls but possible), but, the 4th level wizard has 24 opportunities to cast in a game, the 1st has 6, so that is, easy maths, 4 times as many possible attempts in a game.

So, for casting alone (we’ll get to dispelling next), the 4th level is 1.85 times more likely to succeed in over 4 times as many attempts. In overall effectiveness 1.85 x 4 = 7.4. In casting alone, a 4th level wizard is 7.4 times more 'effective'. I’ll call that the 'average casting effectiveness coefficient'.

Casting is only half of what a wizard does in the game, the other half is dispelling. Going through the same system as above, but the scale gets longer, as the results required can get higher, 16 being the maximum (12+ level 4 = 16)  without magic item assistance, which I'm ignoring here to use the base mechanics.

% chance to successfully dispell
                  Result required or more

Level        7+        8+       9+      10+     11+    12+    13+    14+    15+    16
1               72%    58%    42%    28%    17%    8%    3%      3%    3%     3%
              83%    72%    58%    42%    28%    17%    8%    3%    3%     3%
3               92%    83%    72%    58%    42%    28%    17%    8%    3%    3%
4               97%    92%    83%    72%    58%    42%    28%    17%  8%    3%

So, a 1st level wizard will successful dispelling on a 9+ 42% of the time, a 4th level wizard will succeed 83% of the time (almost double, we can agree).

4th to 1st as a factor for success -     
8+        9+      10+     11+    12+     13+    14+     15+    16

1.58    1.97    2.57    3.41    5.25    9.33    5.66    2.66    1    times more likely to succeed

average = 3.71times more likely to dispell.

On average, a 4th level wizard is 3.71 times more likely to successful dispell than a 1st level wizard.

These numbers aren’t the only factor though, in yet another advantage, as a 4th level wizard dispells over a 24” radius (or 1809” squared of tabletop), whilst the 1st level dispells over 18” radius (or 1018” squared of tabletop), or 1.77 times the area they can actually effect.

The 4th level and 1st level are equal on the number of times they can dispell per game, so for once, no advantage to the higher level here.

So, 3.71 x 1.77 = 6.57 times more effective. We’ll round to 6.5, so a 4th level is on average roughly 6.5 times more effective at dispelling than a 1st level wizard. I’ll call that the 'average dispell effectiveness coefficient'.


Effectiveness Coeffiecents applied to current Points Values
7.4 times more effective at casting and 6.5 times more effective at dispelling. That could be averaged to 6.95 times more effective overall. Actual, not, because you don’t just get to do one or the other, the wizard gets to do both, so they should be added together! For 13.9 times more effective overall, as an average.

There is a scale to measure ‘overall effectiveness’ for units in the game, this is points values (love them or hate them, it’s what the game uses).

Let's take a basic wizard, level 1, Empire human, with those stats and nothing extra, just a basic human wizard with their 1 spell, as our starting base line. The game scores it at 60 points. Fine. So a 4th level wizard should probably come in, (on a points calculator that actually rates their overall effectiveness), with all the 4th level wizards' cumulative advantages, at something like 60 x13.9 = 834 points!. The game actually score it at 160 pts. The disparity is, well, huge. IMHO, high level wizards are currently vastly, vastly, under-point and therefore able to dominate magic in any game (and why every army brings a 4th level wizard as a no brainer pick, and many bring 2). 60 points to 834 points are the two ends of the ‘wizard points scale’, with the others sitting evenly spaced at 2nd level = 318 points and 3rd level = 576 points. Ouch! On that scale, only 1st level wizards could practically be taken in most games. Bit dull that, why bother with higher levels? It would result in very little magic in the game, which isn't what is wanted. Magic has to be in the game and do something. The opposite is currently true. Notably, only 4th level wizards appear.

Given 834 points for a 4th level wizard means they won’t appear in any game, except really, really, big ones (which might not be such a bad thing), we could just reverse the equation instead, with a 4th level human wizard still at the current 160 points, then the first level one should roughly = 12 points, 2nd level = 61 points and 3rd level = 110 points. On the current points measure, low level wizards are seriously over pointed, if we begin with the assumption that the higher ones are in the right points ball-park for actually getting them used in games (over-used one might posit).

This calculation doesn’t take into account that the low level wizard also has a worse stat line as well, less survivibility, less attacks, etc. That’s another (far smaller) factor, but, here, I’m just looking at pure magic effectiveness. OK, this is the extreme and assumes perfection in dice rolls, a wizard can’t always cast (due to a miscast or say, not on the table yet, or being dead) or dispell (out of range, or likewise, already dead or other unknown factors like scenario, arriving late to the tabletop, etc.)… so being super generous, let's say they are only actually doing half of all these casing and dispelling actions (your 1st level wizard then gets off 3 spells per game, the 4th gets off 12, still pretty good, probably too good, and dispells not withstanding). That still leaves the 'average effectiveness coefficient' at roughly 7…

So, our 60 point 1st level wizard actually means a more realistic, 420 point 4th level wizard. That puts them out of the running in all but the largest games. 2nd level are then 180 points and 3rd level are 300 points.  I think, that might be a closer 'points to effectiveness' reflection of their abilities on the tabletop.

The problem with the current system is the cumulative advantages just keep stacking, and not just for 1 turn, but for all 6 turns of the game. You can feel that when you play the game. Higher level wizards easily dominate, to the point that, as it stands, 4th level wizards are the most effective purchase from any army list, never fight without 1, probably take 2 or 3… they are a points value bargain, and for me, this is so far from balanced it just breaks the game’s magic system. 

There is no in-game mechanic that attempts to correct this, or adds some other re-balancing element into the rules, another random factor say. Obviously, dice rolls vary, you can be unlucky or luck, but this is the results on average. A 4th level wizard isn’t just 4 times better (and even this most basic arithmetic obviously isn’t recreated in the game's current points calculations), but maybe up to 14 times better, being generous, with a 'higher level bias' (so more, better wizards and spells are being used in the games more often), it is still at least 7 times more effective… they know more spells, have more chances to cast them, have a better chance to cast them, can dispell enemy spells over a wider area, with a higher chance of success – cumulative advantages, for every turn of a game… it never stops being that big advantage, wizards don’t weaken turn by turn (just for one example of a possible in-game re-balancing factor). The current magic system just hammers the lower level casters, and player's will (already do) notice. The game's best solution to this? Take your own level 4 wizards back. How dull! – unless you enjoy a magic system dominated by only top end wizards (in which case what is the point of including low level wizards?). I’d prefer all four levels to have their place and usefulness in my games. Why can't two level 2 wizards match a single level 4 in game? The maths says they won't in the current system, far from it, they'll get dominated.

Well, now I know this data, so I can think about some house rules that start to fix this disparity and game balance issue, for a better gaming experience and more fun with magic that isn’t just repeatedly level 4 casters duking it out, game after game. Something to work on in my side project of getting the Old World rules to play the way I'd like them too for my games. Simplest solution, as ever, fix the points... but there must be something better, in-game rules mechanics-wise, rather than the blunt points cost tool. Probably, you actually need to do several things. Thinking hat on (it's no doubt tall and pointy).

PS - Of course, most are happy to play rules as written, and given its the same rules for everybody, its impact is mitigated, but it feels unsatisfactory to me for my games. The mechanics of the magic system needs to work better than this, it's sub-par games design, unless the intention was to allow 4th level wizards to be ubiquitous and dominant, but I don't believe it was. 

 The first thought I have is to make it harder to cast multiple spells each turn... which effects the higher level casters more than the lower (given they are the ones doing more casting), or limit the amount of spells being cast, such as 1 of each type each turn... so 1 hex, 1 vortex, 1 magic missile, etc... I prefer an in game mechanic over a points correction.We'll try just +1 to a spell's casting number for each spell cast to start with. Second spell +1, third spell +2, etc. That'll help a bit... but not enough.

The second thought is that the previous dice pool system at least acted as in-game mechanic check on casting, you had a finite resource of dice for casting and dispelling, and players made the choice of how to spend that resource, which is at least a decision point for the players, rather than atm, were there isn't any decision to make, all wizards just try and cast every spell every turn, because why not?. Back to some form of dice pool might be an answer.


Sunday 23 June 2024


Elendaer's Watch

His sure-footed steed climbed the last few paces to the low grassy hill top, a stiff sea breeze tugging at his white cloak and golden hair, bound now beneath a silver circlet, as his silver helm bounced from his belt at his thigh. Lance in hand, Elendaer looked out over the rugged land to his left and the grey sea to his right. The wind was churning the waves into the endless rhythm of white-crested breakers that rolled in from the hazy horizon to the north. The green and grey land of the isle of Tor Helethion rolled away from him, broken by rocky pillars and crags and dark gorse-covered highlands towards the peak of Heleth Fell at the centre of the isle, far away to the south. It was evening, the last pale light filtered through ragged clouds, as the Elven lord looked out from his vantage point, scrying for a sign of the enemy.

Behind him, up the hill’s green swathe, followed a score of grey-cloaked warriors, each a longbow across their backs, two quivers of white-fletched arrows beside them, a scabbarded sword at their belts. Four carried a heavy bundle between them, wrapped in a white shawl and bound with rope. A body.

“Lord Elendaer” hailed the first, with a slight head bow in deference.

A twitch on the reins, Elendaer’s steed turned about to face them. The shadow warriors gathered before him, no well disciplined line of shields and spears here, just a informal band of hooded rangers. At least three were sporting bound wounds, fresh blood stains just seeping through the bandages, trophies won at yesterday’s fight. He already had his own. The band’s leader reported.

“The body of our Lord Captain, as requested” he said in sadness. The four warriors came forward and placed their burden down upon the ground with careful reverence, and bowed their heads low as they stepped back. “We would not leave it to the faithless druchii to taunt us and defile.”

“We must return him to the citadel. Captain Raelyn died bravely in the sight and grace of Isha, fighting the darkness he had opposed since his first sworn oath to your brotherhood. His service will not go unrewarded in the halls of Asur that await him. We will see him again there, and perhaps soon, by our current fate. The enemy are ashore in force?”

“Yes Lord. We did not have the strength to stop them. They were too many and we too few. Their curs’d Black Ark weighed anchor just off the coast and a host has been unloading ever since. Thousands already I’d say. We felled as many as we could on the beach, but such numbers cannot be stopped by our small garrison. This is no mere raiding force. They come with many beasts and engines of war. From our watchers, heavy chariots and bolt throwers are being constructed. They are unloading still.”

“Other vessels?”

“Our watchtowers at Ayrel and Aldreas reported seeing black sailed corsair vessels, heading both to the east and west. More raiding parties, they’ll seek to get ashore and cut us off from the citadel. If we stay in the field, we will be surrounded.”

“Our task is to delay the enemy for as long as we may. The Warden of the Isle knows our plight, if not the enemy’s full strength yet, but he will come to our aid, and swiftly, if we make a stand. We will not abandon the northern watchtowers unfought. The enemy are still unloading, they won’t march yet. We have maybe two days, that is enough.”

As he spoke, from beyond the shadow warriors he saw a white rider was now climbing the slope, driving his panting steed hard. Elendaer spurred his own horse forwards and down at a trot to meet the new messenger halfway, whilst calling back into the wind.

“Return your captain in honour to the citadel. Make for Ayrel tower, tell Harbinger Doldir to recall his shore riders, we’ll muster again there. Mage Eralis will join us.” Then he turned back to the rider, as the messenger reined in his horse from its long gallop.  

“I come from Prince Belhallas. The citadel is preparing spears and archers to march and all watchtowers have been warned and reinforced. My orders are for you and Shadow Captain Raelyn.”

“Then for me alone. The Lord Shadow-Captain is slain in battle, two days ago, fallen under an enemy lance. The druchii have struck us a first bitter blow. It won’t be the last, and a Black Ark has come to unleash its foulness upon us. They are ashore and massing.”

“Then, if outmatched, our Prince says your forces may withdraw via the eastern coastal paths. The route is still clear, I have just ridden hither without sight of any enemy. More reaver patrols have been tasked to keep it clear. The citadel is roused to arms. A word from you, and Prince Belhallas will lead them forth.”

“Not yet. First let us see what next move the enemy will make and how many they truly are. They are unloading still, and such a force won’t move quickly. We can yet hold here a day or two longer, and still have time to escape south. When you return, tell our Prince, Mage Eralis and I shall hold at the watchtower of Ayrel and see if we can’t yet be a thorn in the druchii’s side. Any time bought allows the citadel’s spears may come us, rather than we flee to them. Then, we may strike one great blow and drive them back into the sea. We'll make them pay for this incursion.”



This was a 1.500 point game with the Dark Elves attacking one of the High Elf watchtowers on the island's northern coast. Having got ashore, the Dark Elf army is now unloading their Black Ark and preparing to march inland, but send out a raiding force to attack and destroy a watchtower along the coast, under a young noble, Dravillo, riding her chariot and out to prove herself.  The High Elf garrison of the north, under their noble Captain Elendaer, have mustered at the tower to hold it. If they can, then the Dark Elves will not yet be able to march from their beachhead yet, giving the High Elf reinforcements time to move north and support them, with the aim of then attacking the small beachhead and driving the druchii back into the sea.

We had a few campaign restrictions and add-ons. At 1,500 points no 'lord' level characters can be taken (too small a battle) and their are no level 4 wizards allowed in the campaign yet... they'll come soon (but each side only has 1 anyway as a named character). Two units with campaign experience were included (called 'regiments of renown' as they have gained their own bonuses in previous games). The Dark Elves have the Jade Serpent spear regiment, which are now Veterans. The High Elves have Doldir's Shore Riders (reavers) with +1BS, so 5s.

I won't include the army lists in full detail, but basically -

High Elves

1 x Noble Elendaer on barded steed

1 x Mage Eralis, lvl 3 battle magic, on steed (Fireball, Oakenshield and Pillar of Fire)

3 x 16 Sea Guard with full command

2 x Eagle Claw bolt throwers

7 x Ellyrian Reavers (Doldir's Shore Riders, +1 BS) with champion

10 x Shadow Warriors with champion

1 x Giant Eagle


Dark Elves

1 x Noble Dravillo on cold one chariot

1 x Sorceress Vannea, lvl 2 illusion with a spell familiar (Black Horror, Mind Razor)

2 x 16 Repeater Crossbows with champion

1 x 20 Spearmen (Jade Serpent Regiment, Veterans) with full command

1 x 22 Witch Elves with full command

6 x Dark Riders with champion

1 x War Hydra 

The High Elves had a good defensive position, a central hill (with the watch tower on it), whilst out front were a small copse of wind-blown trees, 2 small ruins and a rock otucrop, mostly to the Drak Elves left. With the High Elves on the hill, bristling with bows, a direct attack up the centre seemed folly, so the Dark Elves would come on the right, with their witch elves, hydra and chariot supported by the sorceress. The corssbows would support in the centre, whilst th spears would try to prevent the high elves qucik repositioning aganst the attack as the flank guard, a thankless task given the amount of bows facing them. The adrk riders were at the  back, in skirmsh lines, as a quck recation force of resrrves to race wheervere they were needed, gettig near that hill was asking to be easily shot down as targt practice.

The High Elves filled the hill with sea guard, bows out, 48shots awaiting any approach, and the bolt throwers, and mage too. On the right, the shadow warriors lurked, all alone, but the rock outcrop blocked LoS to them from the crossbows and we agreed skirmish troops could clamber up the rocks. Their left was the skirmishing reavers, and the eagle, to harass, with the eagle trying to get a line to charge the sorceress if possible. 

So it began, and the elven archery proved punishing throughout. The Hydra, witch elves and chariot headed off on the right to swing around, harassed by reaver bow fire, and the bolt throwers scored 2 wounds on the hydra.  The dark riders galloped over to aid them against the reavers, and found an early target of opportunity in the eagle, so charged it. The fight saw the eagle win by 1, and the dark riders broke! Useless.. fleeing, the eagle swooped after them and wiped them out... only to thn be targeted with a mind-razor spell which killed it in turn... win for the sorceress, 'dare you try to kill me!' First loss for both sides.

In the centre, the spearmen advanced into a cauldron of arrow-death-hell, but passed their resulting panic test. Their sacrifice would hopefully mean the main attack took less damage as it closed in. They would drive-on, shields up, passed the copse and towards the slope, and be shot down as they did, until wiped out. The shadow warriors got onto the rock outcrop and opened up a missile duel with the crossbows... both sides loosing a few men, but after 3-4 turns of shooting, the shadow warriors had won the duel... very good shots, and better range, and in cover, and skirmishers, helps - a lot.

It wasn't going well for the DEs, but their attack was now closing in. The witch elves ignoring more reaver arrows to swing round, and the hydra now in charge range of the first sea guard unit - come on, eat them!. The High Elf commander had lined it up for a counter-charge, lance levelled, when the mage unleashed a fire balled that scored 2 more wounds on the beast. 1 left, and the sea guards arrows flew, bring it down! Damn, the Hydra is a bullet magnet. Things when from bad to worse, as next turn, the witch elves were shot down by reavers and another big fireball impact... killing half of them... like they care! The chariot did have a charge, at the elven leader, heroically out front of his men, and about to be run-over. The only issue, a pillar of fire vortex in the way... oh,a  chance a glory, just go for it... she charged through the flames (unluckily taking 2 wounds) and hit the High Elf noble. This would be the worst heavy chariot charge ever... 2 impact hits, whiffed. All her attacks, turned by heavy armour, shield and barded warhorse... cold ones, missed... nothing, not a single wound. Good grief... dice gods you taunt me! 

This combat would continue, the last witch elves charged in, then the reavers charged after them in a swirling mess of whirling poisonous blades, stamping horses, biting lizards, and in the end of it all, the last witch elves were wiped out, the reavers lost 3 men, Elendaer final took 1 wound (thanks to great armour saving again) and Dravillo had 1 wound left, but lost the combat, and fled! She turned her chariot and cowardly rumbled just 4"... Elendaer pursued and killed her, a lance in the back, a sad end. That ended the game... carnage on the Dark Elves, who had a few crossbows and their sorceress left. High Elf casualties: 1 eagle, 4 shadow warriors (not half), 7 sea guard (not half), 3 reavers (not half)... a VP massacre. Don't even bother adding it up... ouch!

So, the High Elves hold their coastal watchtower and can continue to threaten the Dark Elves as they unload. Next up, I think the Dark Elves will launch another attack on a second watchtower - try try again... they might need some allied aid...

Post-battle, rolling for campaign experience, one unit of Sea Guard gained 'stubborn', so become a regiment of renown, called Talia's Coastguard, maximum unit size 16. The Jade Serpent spear regiment's maximum allowed unit strength is down from 20 to 10 having been brutally wiped out.

Mid-game, and the sea guard on the hill surround the tower and launch volley after volley onto the enemy below... with bloody results. The template is a Black Horror vortex, which keeps drifting off the wrong way (for the DEs).

Shadow Warriors find cover on a rock outcrop and hammer DE crossbows with their superior archery... breaking them in the end as arrow and bolt flew back and forth. 

The DE attack is ragged... Hydra already shot (and fire balled) to death, the noble tries her luck, aiming for the hated Elven commander, small (but satisfying) victory if she can run-over and squash him... if via a 'pillar of fire'...

Death to the hated Asurii!! ... recklessly through the flames (and take 2 wounds doing it, oops!)

The two commander's showdown, inside a black horror vortex and a pillar of fire (crazy fight)... and both sides do, err, nowt.. all wounds on the chariot inflicted by the vortexes... (we didn't include these in combat res) and do Cold Ones 'hate' High Elves? We said not, but the unit has 'eternal hatred'... but not the mount (chariot) - hmm!

Note here, that the green disks are a house ruled trail system of unit by unit orders counters we are trying out... loosing the rigid turn sequence in favour of a unit by unit activation sequence... making the game much more fluid, unpredictable and tactical. Still a WIP, but big improvement in game play and player engagement. Fun stuff starts to happen... I'll keep at it to refine it.


Tuesday 18 June 2024


Scenario 2 sees the Austrians launch their supporting advance on the left flank, towards Dienville, along the Aube river. This was largely an infantry fight, with the Austrians on the attack, but with some light cavalry turning up later (not particular strong units though). So, I would be attacking, but my battalions looked a bit stronger (in unit strength), even if the army Morale Value total was equal at 17 each.

We include a scenario rule for the heavy mud and possible snow flurries which might blow in, and set too. Two Austrian infantry brigades (left and right) against two French ones. The drums beat and my columns heads off towards the thin blue thin across open fields.

It started slow, with cannon fire, of course, and skirmishing, and there wasn’t much danger any units were going to break early. Some good early shooting from the French gunners was alarming, but their voltiguers were having a rough time, miss, miss, miss, and this pretty much continued throughout, skirmish fire was terrible, and my own deployed skirmishers helped out defensively. Over the first 2 turns, the Austrian lines closed in, and I waited to see where the French weakness might appear, to press hardest there. Muskets crackled and cannons boomed and it seemed, the French right (my left) was wobbling first. Only 2 battalions and 1 battery, faced my 4 attacking battalions, and the French soon regretted sending their light infantry off into the dense trees along the river… they were out of the fight (except rubbish skirmish fire from the tree-line) and would play no real part… a waste of good battalion, much needed as it all heated up.

The Austrians pressed forwards on their left, taking fire but made their bayonet charges. Winning one melee and driving the French line back. It seemed, after rallying, they were in trouble, until the battery opened fire with canister and broke an Austrian column on a bloody mess… another charged the guns, and somehow conspired to lose the melee and be driven off by the gunners (1 hit from 7 4+ dice - dice gods!). Somehow the French hung on, as the Austrians rallied to try again.

On the left, it had been skirmishing, and cannon fire traded, but when I sent forward a line to give his veterans a volley, their ragged volley did little and the French return fire crashed home, shattering another battalion. This line seemed solid, I would fence and just make a demonstration attack here, and press hard on the left. On VPs, the French were ahead, but on the tabletop, they were hanging on by their fingernails, I just couldn’t quiet stamp on those fingers yet… time for lunch.

After lunch, and back at it. The French reserve light cavalry arrived promptly and raced up to protect those guns, just as another Austrian charge threaten to overrun them. The hussars counter-charged to get in the way and drove the Austrians back again. Heroic stuff, and just in the nick of time. Another Austrian column beat his infantry line again and pushed them to the table edge, but then got canister fire again from the guns I just couldn’t silence. His hussars rallied, to regroup, and cover the guns from along the central road, but Austrian skirmishers were picking away at them too.

Behind, the Austrian reserve Ferdinand Hussars were called up, to counter his cavalry, and they thundered on in column at speed along the road. At full gallop, then a ‘well drilled’ special event saw them deploy into line, ready to go into the storm.

I had decided my demonstration attack was doing nothing, not forcing the French to use some cards over there, thus allowing them to use them all were I was attacking (to rally and have enough orders etc.), I needed to force some rallies and create some problems and pressure, so I pressed up that attack, two columns taking the incoming fire to get a double charge at the French veteran line. It almost worked, but only one column actual charged (all command re-roll dice had been used by now), and the grognards saw-off my column in a close fight. Drat.

Meanwhile, Austrian musketry was hurting on the left, French rallying again and losing the annoying (and brave) battery to a solid volley… one more push would see me through, and able to claim the ‘Advance through Enemy Lines’ objective I was holding, and trying to complete. But the cost was high, both my mine main attacking columns were in bad shape, with lost men and in disorder. To aid them, my hussars flew forwards and used a ‘fierce cavalry charge’ to plunge into his infantry. His waiting chasseurs, which had been behind to counter charge, had moved off and so the sudden rush of Austrian hussars saw they cut down French infantry, breaking them, but only to get canister fire in return and have to fall back and rally as well, losing stands, they were done for this fight. It was a heroic action by the Ferdinand Hussars, but costly. On VPs, was it enough? Yes… and no. The Austrian VP total had reached 17, breaking the French. The French VP total had reached 18, breaking the Austrians by just 1 more. So, a very marginal French win in the heroic, desperate, hang-on by the fingernails, stand. It is one marginal win each so far… on to La Rothiere game 3 next time. All to fight for.

This was only a small(ish) game, but very closely fought. The French looked in big trouble until their hussars saved the day, then my attack looked to have stalled until my cavalry arrived like a lightning bolt. So close, very tense… great fun. SoN rules shining as ever.  

Deployment. Two Austrian infantry brigades, left and right, vs two French ones, left and right, simple game.

The Austrian right, lines in front of columns.

Facing the veteran French line, covering weak battalions behind, but sending out their voltiguers.

The left and right clash, a lot French skirmishers about, but mostly, missing.

Austrian left smashed into the French right, to become a desperate brawl.

Austrian column driven back by the gunners, then the hussars.... tough day. 

The valiant dash of the Ferdinand Hussars, sabreing down French infantry, but taking heavy losses in return. It almost turned the day...

Thursday 6 June 2024


This will be series of 5 historical scenarios to re-fight the Battle of La Rotherie. It is not a great fit for our model collections (we don't have any Russians) so we'll be using a lot of stand-ins. The Prussians are taking the Russian's place (using Russian stats though) and there will be a fair few other stands-ins, such as in the French cavalry. We simply used the closest we've got and make it work.

The game went very much as the actual battle. The initial infantry advance along the road, screened by jaegers ground to a halt in the face of French fire, and this became an extended firefight, lots of skirmish fire, cannons and the occasional volley, but the French infantry stood strong, until the big guns eventually broke one battalion, and the French guns running low on ammo didn’t help, but when the allied columns pushed up the road, they were sent back in disorder. So, the infantry fight in front of the village was a stalemate, good enough for the defender.

In the centre the battle started with the guard lancers galloping up to threaten a jaeger skirmish line, which they charged and drove off with little problems. By then the Allied hussars brigade had arrived and came up to face-off the lancers, at speed, crashing through the wooded windbreak. As the lancers fell-back, under hefty cannon fire and pressure, the hussars moved up to get three regiments into one charge. It looked bad for my cavalry. Except, in a horrid turn of luck, most of the hussars refused to charge, and 1 regiment came in and got beat... this also used up the Allies last command point re-rolls (to get more 1s and 2s). Bad enough to happen once, but when the hussar tried again, only 1 regiment pressed the charge and was again beaten in the melee. The grand counter-charge was a piecemeal mess, and the guard lancers saw them off... then fell-back again to rally and regroup.

The heroic actions of the lancers had bought time for the arrival of the other guard cavalry brigade, with the serious big boots in the Grenadiers-a-Cheval and the Empress Dragoons. They galloped on and went after the hussars, a charge saw the hussars beaten again (not their day) and turn fleeing, one unit routed, the others sped away from an uneven fight with the prime of French heavy cavalry. By now the French had the lead in VPs and seemed on top, but the Allies still had a card (pun intended) to play, their dragoon brigade arrived behind the hussars and pressed quickly to the windbreak hedgerow. The two heavy cavalry forces were lining up for what looked like the decisive fight (as it was on the day).

New cards dealt, the Allies had a serious advantage here, 8 cards to 5... eek! (Blucher had put an appearance to oversee the attack) and one of my commanders had failed his 'at risk' test and cost me a card. Big turn for the Allies then... could the French hold out? They did have another cavalry brigade yet to arrive, but it didn’t, and then repeated that trick for several turns. No help. The guard cavalry would have to do it alone.

Just as it seemed poised for the big clash, stalemate… the dragoons didn’t come through the windbreak, and the guard waited for them… and waited. So, when an ‘at the gallop’ special event came up, they moved up themselves to the trees/hedge and plunged in to it in a messy charge. The following fight was indecisive though, French winning, but not by much, and then, after a volley of infantry musket fire from the flank, the grenadiers pulled back to rally and maybe try again. Being shot at from the flank was a problem, so the guard lancers again came forwards to deal with the pesky infantry line and charged home, routing them as the lancers pursued, hoping to provoke the hussars, now loitering in the rear, to come forwards again to cover the infantry columns. Failing that, the hussars were not up for it, the lancers plunged onto in to a column and drove it away too… scoring just enough VPs to win the game. In the meantime, the Allies VPs had slowly pushed up to 27 from the 32 required, mostly from rallying. The French had won, a marginal victory in game 1. Game 2 sees the Allied left flank advance of the Austrians towards Dienville, that’s next.


French infantry block the road through the village, on their right.

The attack up the road deploys, jaegers screening and the guns are being dragged up through the mud.

Skirmishers out, and the fight begins.

French centre, guard lancers advance to counter attack.

Shot into disruption, but they saw off a skirmish line of jaegers, then withdrew and rallied. 

Trading skirmish fire, and artillery blast, as it started to snow. Balls of cotton wool to remind us of the 'obscuring smoke'.

Hussars arrive and race up from the (P)Russian left, to counter the lancers.

Coming cavalry clash, resulted in the hussars having nightmare luck, refusing to charge anything but piecemeal, and getting beat, piecemeal. The guard lancers see them off!

French guard heavy cavalry reinforcements, grenadiers, dragoons and chasseurs (the finest in Europe!), galloping at the quick from the French left. A big cavalry clash is brewing.

The hussars are in big trouble and decide to withdraw fast, not before the grenadiers-a-cheval but the big boots in... breaking one regiment.

Infantry column presses up the road, and a solid French volley turns them into a bloody mob.

More cavalry support, the dragoons arrive to try and save the hussars.

The attack on the village is stalled, but the big battery is tearing holes through the French lines...

The guard heavies go it, through the windbreak trees, win their fights... but have to pullback and rally. The big cavalry action expected turns into a so-so brief clash - the windbreak kind of got in the way.