Friday, May 6, 2016

Honours of War - First Impressions

Jake came over last Last Saturday to give Honours of War (HoW) by Keith Flint an initial spin on the gaming table.  The testing of a new set of rules offered an opportunity to get my little used  SYW collection back out onto the gaming table.  Last time the 18mm SYW collection saw light of the gaming table was two years ago when they were employed in giving Maurice a test run.
Since the Battle Kolin was used in the first test of Maurice and I could put the table together quickly, Kolin was chosen for the initial test of HoW.  With Freddy on the attack and outnumbered, perhaps Kolin is not the best scenario selection for testing a new set of rules but I pressed on anyway.

Using the OB from Maurice gives the following troop forces and their ratings:
Austria:
2 x Grenz light infantry  - Standard
1 x Grenadier - Superior
8 x Musketeer - Standard
3 x Cuirassier - Superior
2 x Hussar - Inferior
2 x Dragoon - Standard
5 x Artillery - Superior

Prussia:
2 x Grenadier - Superior
5 x Musketeer - Standard
2 x Curiassier - Superior
2 x Hussar - Standard
1 x Dragoon - Standard
3 x Artillery - Standard
After making note of the specific National Characteristics for each combatant, we were ready to begin.  No rosters were needed to track characteristics or casualties.
Initial - Austrians on left, Prussians on right
The Austrians hold both the high ground and the numerical advantage.  The Prussians hold a slight quality advantage and a command advantage.  Based on the earlier, Maurice, replay of Kolin, Freddy has a tough row to hoe in this one.

HoW is played in a series of Igo-Ugo activations.  After determining who holds initiative for movement, each commander alternates between activating either one brigade or one independent unit.  Units moving suffer a firing penalty during the later Fire Phase.  Before each formation moves, it must check its Command Performance.  Unit performance is based on its commander's rating crossed referenced with a die roll.  Commanders may be classified as Dithering, Dependable, or Dashing.  A unit's move performance is then rated as one of Feeble, Poor, Steady, Admirable, or Inspiring.  A Feeble performance necessitates movement away from the enemy if half or more of a brigade has at least one hit.  At the upper end of the performance spectrum, an Inspiring result allows a brigade to make a double move.
Units may charge and counter charge.  Some counter charges are automatic and some require a successful die roll.  Targets of a charge may also attempt to change facing or formation.  Targets of a charge may fire at their attacker and other units may use "crossing-fire" during their opponent's movement.       
Once all move activations are completed, commanders roll to determine initiative for the Fire Phase.  Like movement, activations are by brigade and alternate with the other player.  Winner gets to activate and resolve fire with one brigade first.  Casualties are not simultaneous but if a target is forced to retreat, it holds its ground until it has the opportunity to return fire.
Infantry have two firing ranges of Short or Long while artillery have three ranges of Canister, Short, and Long.  Infantry battalions can either have battalion guns inherent in the battalion or not.  If battalion guns are present, long range is increased from 10cm out to 16cm.

Casualties are inflicted by cross-referencing the firing unit's Class (Superior, Standard, Inferior) with the result of one average die.  About two dozen modifiers may modify the average die.  When a unit suffers five casualties, it routs one move and then is lifted from the table during the Rally Phase.  There are no stand or casualty removals in this game.  The unit's footprint remains intact until eliminated.  Perfect setup for my single BMU SYW basing.
Target units react to fire dependent upon the number of casualties carried.  Two or fewer total casualties, the unit responds as normal.  Three hits and the unit suffers a -1 penalty in both fire and melee.  Four hits causes the target to retreat at least one move but not more than two moves.  Reformation is required before rejoining battle.  As noted earlier, a unit accumulating five hits is "Done For" and removed from play during Rally Phase after a rout move back.  

For units in contact, melee is resolved after the Fire Phase is finished.  A unit may only be attacked by one opposing unit per face (sector in HoW terms and refers to front, flank, rear).  Melee is resolved using the same table as Fire with a different set of modifiers.  Melee rounds continue until contact is broken.  Both units participating in melee may break contact in the same round resulting in both units scampering off.  Cavalry may pursue and cause great destruction to a retreating foe especially if the retreating unit passes through supports.
The final act of each turn is the Rally Phase.  In this, units may attempt to remove hits it has suffered.  Superior and Standard Class units may rally off one hit if distance from enemy is between 15cm and 30cm.  These units farther than 30cm from enemy rally off two hits.  Inferior Class units may only rally off one hit if distance to enemy is greater than 30cm.  Units may never rally off their initial hit.  A CiC may rally off one additional hit from one unit withing 3cm.  Dashing leaders may rally an additional two hits from one of its subordinate units.
So, how did HoW play out?  Given that this was our first trial with the rules, the game progressed smoothly with an occasional stop to pinpoint an answer to a question in the rules.  Most game mechanisms seemed straightforward and quickly learned.  Player interactions were frequent keeping both players engaged throughout the turn.  Game was enjoyable but the casualty rates were high.  When the game was called, both forces were on the brink of breaking.  Each side was only one unit away from reaching its Army Morale Breakpoint.  At that we declared a bloody draw.  Austrians' ended up losing eleven units to the Prussians' six.  Combat is not of the attritional variety.  Even with the ability to rally off hits, a unit with no casualties entering into the Fire Phase can quickly be severely damaged or eliminated with little effort.  Very bloody results.  Austrian artillery rated as Superior is LETHAL!  Many a Prussian fell to the iron balls of the gunners. 

At only 64 pages (38 pages of rules in a typical Osprey MAA sized booklet), the rules are well illustrated with useful diagrams.  Writing is clear and concise.  Some of James Roach's fine game photos grace the pages of HoW.  HoW is a good effort by Flint and Osprey to produce a low complexity set of rules.  A bargain at the USD$11 paid.  I look forward to trying them again soon.

Maybe next time, Freddy, will taste victory?

26 comments:

  1. Great game Jonathan and very nice description of how the rules work.

    Christopher

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    1. Glad you found the brief overview useful, Christopher.

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  2. Nice looking game, it generally seems to be getting the thumbs up from what I've read, fine looking toy soldier units as well.
    Best Iain

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    1. Iain, I have only seen a couple of reviews. I should search more thoroughly and see what others think of the rules.

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  3. Enjoyed that. How well do you think the rules would port over to the Napoleonic period?

    Love the pics too.

    ~K

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    1. Thanks, Kurtus! Many of the mechanisms should work well for Napoleonics. Cavalry may be more effective frontally against Napoleonic infantry in line than here and a square formation is needed. Of course, i will need a few more playings to get a good handle on any portability to Napoleonics.

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  4. Looks great, beautiful lines of battle!

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  5. Thank You Jonathan for this review!

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  6. Thanks Jonathan. I followed Keith's blog posts as these rules neared completion and was only slightly disappointed that they did not have anything (as he told me) for the Ottomans, though I suppose they could be adapted? How did you find them in comparison to Maurice?
    Lovely to see your figures in action, BTW.

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    1. Michael, I am not sure one playing of each is sufficient evidence upon which to pass judgment. On top of that limited pay, I was only an umpire in the Maurice game. Both games seemed to work satisfactorily but more repetitions are required before I can make a valid compare and contrast.

      It was very good to get the collection on the tabletop again!

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  7. Wowo, very impressive sights of the massed troops! Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

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  8. Thanks for the review. Trouble is, I'm now going to have to give in and buy a copy. And a couple of armies. ;-)

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    1. One benefit is that the rules are very inexpensive. Building two armies, well that can be expensive!

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  9. Good overview, so I have very little to add. I found the rules simple to pick up and understand. I found the lethality of close combat to be rather decisive, and the impact or artillery to be a definite motivator to get stuck in as quickly as possible. The only quirk I need to get used to is the idea of moving your leaders to where you 'think' a unit will end up at the end of the turn to have any effect on rallying.

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    1. Difficult to give a good assessment with only one playing but we made it through the initial game without pitching the whole book into the rubbish bin. That is progress. Next step is to commit the rules to additional battles in which both sides have an equal chance of success.

      The deck seemed stacked against the Prussians at Kolin but perhaps more diligent use of the Dashing commanders in rally could have compensated for the Prussian troop inferiority. I am left wanting to try again. Combat certainly seemed bloody but we might witness different tactics evolve with more playings.

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  10. Sounds like a good set of fair and fun rules to use during games. Also looks like to me these set of rules may be used/converted with minor modifiers/additions to cover the Napoleonic period?

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    1. We both enjoyed the game and the rules left no major gaping holes. The game engine could be ported to Napoleonics but allowances must be made to reflect a less linear combat model.

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  11. Very lethal artillery rules is a frequent comment that I hear in reviews of HoW. Several people that I've talked to about it have watered down the artillery rules and liked the outcome. Also, since you are doing an historical scenario, wouldn't it make more sense to pre-assign commander ratings ahead of time rather than allowing a random assigning of traits.

    Fritz

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    1. DAF, I need a few more games put into the gaming log before I can proclaim artillery as too powerful. Austrian artillery was certainly deadly in the first game.

      In this Kolin refight, commanders were pre-assigned historical ratings. Even with a command edge (three Dashing Prussian commanders to the one Austrian Dashing commander), the Prussians could not make much headway against their larger, Austrian foe. Attacking uphill did not help the Prussian cause either.

      As for watering down artillery rules, what were the suggested changes?

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  12. Thanks for the review. I have them on order and am hoping they might be useful for early 18th century.

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    1. David, welcome! Glad you found my first impressions useful. I must get HoW back onto the gaming no table. In our one and only trial, we enjoyed the game. We did question some the ratings, though.

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