Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Habit of Victory (OSG) ~ "The Battle of Pultusk/Golymin"

Game: The Habit of Victory (OSG)
Scenario: Battle Scenario #1, The Battle of Pultusk/Golymin
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sunday, May 15th ~ 2.00PM - 4.00PM

While Bob and I have a large area where we are both interested in similar games or periods, there are also area's where his interests lie that I have not spent much time as a gamer. One of these area's is operational level Napoleonic games. I would also add that this is a fairly small portion of the larger wargaming canvas. I can dimly recall my high school days where I had and tried to play once or twice "The Struggle of Nations" (1982, AH). This game sticks out because of the glorious map and the tiny counters. I have little recollection of my playing SoN other then at the time it was something new and exciting...I was also busy learning Squad Leader and many other AH classics of the era.

So here we are some 30+ years later and Bob and I are learning HoV. This game uses the same system as SoN did, Kevin Zuckers Campaigns of Napoleon System 2X. As I understand it (mostly from Bob) this system has been around quite a while and keeps getting updated and expanded upon. One of the interesting features of this incarnation of it is the use of cards to drive movement and attrition in the Campaign Scenario's. Bob and I did not get to use the Cards though today as we were playing the first battle scenario, and the battle scenarios do not use the cards to drive movement orders (defined in the scenario) or attrition (rolling on a chart).

After Set up

For me, one of the aspects of this hobby that I love is how it exposes me to military history. I have a good broad knowledge of the Napoleonic wars. I have perhaps forgotten more then I know now about the period as in days gone by I have dabbled in various games covering this period. Additionally, my favorite author, Patrick O'Brien chose this era to base his Aubry/Maturin series of books in. So I have a good deal of knowledge of what the RN was up to and some of the more famous campaigns (Waterloo, Spain) but I am nearly clueless on what happened in Central Europe in 1807. I spent a lot of time on wiki reading up on the campaign covered in this game (Napoleon in Eastern Prussia and Poland) as well Mr. Zucker's excellent Historical Notes, Leader Bio's and Bibliography. I am very impressed with his notes on the campaign and love it when a game designer takes the time to add this type of information into the game.

So prior to play Bob and I had both read the basic rules and at least skimmed the advanced rules, which mostly cover the campaign game. Bob had played this solo a few years ago after the game was released. Essentially both of us were brand new to the system and thus this game was really nothing more then us working through the mechanics and learning the system. Not really us "playing" each other, more of combined study of how the game plays.

Initial Contact

So instead of talking about what happened, I'll only go over some initial impressions. We plan on playing the 2nd scenario the next time we get together and I'll have a much more informed opinion of the game at that time. First off, the game is mostly Division and Corps sized Infantry & Artillery units along with Cavalry units (Brigades) and smaller cavalry Vedette's (recon units). The scale is three days per turn and 6km per hex. The troops are represented by strength points in an off map display where they are associated with various leaders and units (divisions mostly). A strength point represents roughly 3,000 infantry. Leaders drive the game and the off map display has all of the relevant leaders on each side as well as their ratings (which will drive initiative and other things).

A big multi-hex battle

The interesting part with this is that nearly all of the units on the map will be face down, that is I will not be able to see Bob's units contents, only that there is a unit there. There are no dummies in the game...so I will refrain from comment on this until we experience the campaign game. The Battle scenarios are smaller covering the three or four major battles fought during the Campaign. These are usually 3-5 turn and each side will have less then a dozen units per side.

In our game we quickly learned that combat in this game can be very costly, with losses varying quite a bit on the lower odds columns. Combat is interesting in that each player with decide the type of battle he wants to fight in secret prior to the combat (basically do I want to hold/take this ground or give ground instead of losses). There is limited intelligence prior to the battle as well and this looks like it'll add some good drama to the game as we decide how to fight with imperfect information (image that in a wargame!). There is also the possibility of pursuit and the defender having to counter attack, adding more drama and excitement/uncertainty to the process (which is good, imho).

All in all I am favorably impressed so far and look forward to our first 'real' playing of this game. One note, as you can see from the pictures, the game is very attractive. I like the map and the counter art very much.

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