Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Smell of Powder explained.

I have been asked to give a bit more detail on the rules we are working on so I thought why not?

The basic idea is pinched from two rule sets for two different periods. The basic frame is set round Polemos with a bit of Impetus thrown in. I liked the bidding system of Polemos and I have used some of the basics from Polemos but not so much that Peter from Baccus has reason to get annoyed with us. Impetus lends the actual movement system to the rules as in the throw a die to get initiative. In the end we did not go for pips or bidding for units to move, whilst I liked it I felt in larger games we would do better to simplify back towards Impetus command. 

After a few games the whole Polemos and Impetus feel were left behind and now a lot less is left that can truly be directed to either system though some of the rules show their birthright.

The Aim.
A set of rules that had the feel of a Napoleonic battle but also was a lot of fun. My biggest problem was how the Polemos rules just did not give me that feel of a Napoleonic game. The big problem was down to bases. To play the basic rule set Napoleonic General de Division you only used 60x30 bases. Column's just are impossible and straight away I knew I would have a hard time accepting this. Worse you can't form square, instead it's deemed that the Battalion commander formed the square if they beat off the enemies cavalry. i.e. the system is far more generic than I like. I soldiered on and played a few games but had an issue when Lee stated he was no way playing THOSE rules. Seems he was ahead of me, then Matt also stated he would not be looking to play them again though the good news was he had another set of rules he liked. The bad news is that he has stuck with the 30x60 bases. Clearly something had to be done and the lack of funds meant buying yet another set of rules was unlikely to be the direction I was going to go in. Napoleonic Marechal d'Empire the other half of the Polemos rules at least used 60x60 bases so it could be a possibility but again neither Mat or Lee looked promising opponents and Barry was OK what ever we went for. 

So in the end I thought, try taking what I really like from other rules and work from there. Quickly though the basic rules started to depart from what I thought would be what I wanted. I liked the idea that formation did not matter, after all who wants three different bases for each unit and given the scale we were looking at but I did not like losing control of forming a square but the answer to that was a few games away.

I wanted the games to play big, at least twenty unit's per side but as many more as possible. I have always wanted to paint up the French and allies for Borodino, so ideally it would work with such a force in mind (yep insanity runs in the family). Time and ground scale I was happy to fudge. Originally I went with the Polemos movement and firing ranges but most of these have been replaced to try and make the game flow better. Not so that it will distort our idea of reality just to make a result that much quicker.

I have always liked the idea of morale leading the way in games, something that seems to have become more popular in recent years (I stepped away from the hobby for 15-20 years) so of the three stats any unit has (artillery have just two) Morale is the king pin. The stats are Firepower, Cohesion and Morale with Cohesion also counting as morale to a point.

This is also your melee ability and is effected by various factors such as Veteran troops, reduced or full cohesion, cover etc. The higher the number the greater the ability to inflict damage. Fire tables are designed so as to give such as the British line Battalion an advantage over a French Line Infantry Battalion but if it comes to cold steel then the tables are switched. 

The melee table is far more bloody than the firing table, this is not to say that more casualties are caused in melee, more than a result is often gained with a bayonet charge even with a lower number of actual casualties. What is assured is that one or the other opposing formations will buckle and have their morale badly effected. 

The number that is most likely to change, mostly downwards but it can be recovered with leader intervention.   Originally it was set around 4-5 now it's 2-3 though it is possible to be higher. If your cohesion drops to zero you start to retreat and without intervention will retire from the battle. Leaders rallying back cohesion can stop the rot but multiple rolls may be needed to get them to a point of being safe to go back into the line. Drop to -1 or more and the unit breaks and routs from the field. 

When ever your called upon to test for cohesion loss (or on occasion morale loss) it's your morale you need to roll equal or under. Same with regaining cohesion or forming square. Right in the middle of this is your ability to roll that morale level or below.

So the three numbers that represent these traits are what makes up the heart of the game and what makes it so different to the earlier mentioned rules. Indeed as far as I know no other game uses these figures as have been made for this set of rules.

Fire V Melee.
Firing tends to whittle your enemy down slowly (but can be quick with good rolls by the firer followed by bad rolls by the attacked) whilst melee tends to quickly reduce the staying power of one or both sides and as such is more of a gamble, though the side with the advantage in minus mods or with support tends to come off the winner most of the time.

Attacking into built-up areas is a chore, battles for large areas tend to swing one way then the other and absorbs fresh units and spits out worn down Battalions one after another, still it's great fun.

Army and Formation Control.
The player who commits units into one attack after another or the player who insists that the position has to be held to the last man soon finds they are seeing formation after formation quit the field even though the enemy has had more units routed. The difference is that the clever player does not have the same Divisions or Corps carry the brunt through the game. The player that will have reserves in the right place and also send them into the battle whilst recovering the cohesion of battered formations is the player that will win most games. Of course you can't always pull formations out but just removing the odd Battalion so it does not get routed even if it does not get to recover can be the difference between keeping a formation in the battle or losing it for the rest of the game even though nearly 50% of the formation is in tip top condition.

I can't stress enough, use reserves and rest worn troops when you get the chance. First a Regiment or Division starts to retreat, then the whole Corp then the army. Sometimes you just have to halt that attack even though you have punched holes in the enemy line, so much relies on having the fittest troops at that critical moment. Often both sides have fought each other to the brink in an area, but the guy who has a fresh formation already on the way to join that scrap often wins the ground. A good opponent will recognise the danger and give up the ground if it gets the weakened force away from danger and behind fresh troops.

Initiative and turn sequence.
Often this seems to be a less than important at the start of the game but soon enough you have the difficult choice of trying to activate the formation that has a killer punch or that formation that needs to fall back or form squares against the attacking cavalry.

Both sides choose who to activate and roll a D6, the player who rolls higher gets to move their chosen formation. +1 if it's cavalry and +1 per turn the unit was selected for initiative but has failed to activate (max +2).

So it's possible one side will continue to fail to get the jump on their opponent even with the modifiers. Sometimes you may have a great +2 mod but need to swap your chosen formation due to events on the table. This rule quickly became a favourite of the players, mostly because f the indecision it tends to cause!

Certain Generals or situations can also add extra bonus points for certain commanders whilst the standard rule will always leave one player unable to move the last formation that could be activated whilst sometimes it could be far more dependant on historical events or command structure of certain formations.

Army Lists.
Through the three stats each unit has, national differences can be highlighted, such as

British advantages in a firefight
French ability to punch home a column attack
Russian's ability to absorb cohesion loss but ease of losing said cohesion

Whilst special army rules can model the armies into realistic modes

British Cavalry once charged must continue to charge available targets until they loose a combat
Austrian initiative suffers a -1 and two formations will not activate if opponent has activated all it's formations.

Of course the above are just possible flavour adding ideas and sometimes just do not fit the battle whilst plenty more can be added just to suit the battle being played.

Rather than go for straight point system battles we like to sometimes have a side outnumbered but the other side needing to achieve an objective that requires the extra troops. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the battles designer.

As such the army lists will just have a list of troop types and values for up to strength units and suggestions on how to deal with reduced strength units.

The rules are written with the idea that the players have at least a basic understanding of how a Napoleonic battle played out and can put together both sides in the battle. What's more the rules are directed at those who play for fun and not some form of win at all cost mentality. I am sure the rules have loopholes in them and we are trying to close them but not to the point of writing out a thick tomb that tries to cover all possible ways of sleazing a win. If you find yourself on the other side of the table to one of these then my advice is find someone else to play, it's not just the rules at fault.

A few things make these rules different, the combat tables are more boardgame than figure game and are better for it in my mind. The system has the best of Igo Ugo and simultaneous movement meaning that it's rare one player is doing all the movement whilst the other player sits and waits. 

Does it play like a Napoleonic game? We think so and have introduced it to a very experienced 28mm Napoleonic player and he seems happy with the rules so far but needs more play before he wishes to commit to stating he likes them.

On the other hand, Lee and myself have played quite a few games now and feel we have something that works for 6mm, and works better than any other 6mm Napoleonic rule set to date.
Sure I have missed points to do with the rules and these will be picked up either via comments or in future AAR's. I am really looking forward to turning these loose on the gaming public in the future.


  1. Very interesting recap and I look forward to release of more details. I appreciate your willingness to entertain my request.


  2. @ Jonathan, it was my pleasure, only too happy to share.


  3. Adapting or writing new rules is much harder than some think. I take my metaphorical hat off to you sir!