Monday, August 8, 2011

Nothing Gained But Glory (GMT) - "Halmstad, 1676"

Game: Nothing Gained But Glory (GMT)
Series: Musket & Pike Battle Series
Scenario: Halmstad, 1676
Participants: Bob H, Myself

We have long been fans of the MPBS series here in St. Louis. Right after the initial game (This Accursed Civil War) was released, I saw that the designer Ben Hull lived in Memphis. As that is just down the road I reached out to him and eventually went down for a game. Ben later came up here a few times as well. Several times over the years we've had the basement filled with people playing the series. Bob and I have also play tested for several games in the series.

"Nothing Gained but Glory" is now the fifth game of this very successful series. It focuses on the Scanian War in the 2nd half of the 17th Century. The Scanian War saw Sweden and Denmark fighting over the Southwestern portion of Sweden. This is then about thirty years or so after the Thirty Years War, yet the state of the military art was close enough as to allow the series to cover this topic. The big two-hex heavy infantry units are gone, the equipment is slightly better and the battles are generally smaller then those covered previously, yet the mechanics and most importantly the command and orders system fit very nicely into this period. One of the nice things about this series is how it works so well for the period and has allowed Ben and the other designers to cover a lot of previously uncovered topics.

All of the games in the series come with an extraordinary wealth of information about the conflicts being covered. I recall being very impressed initially with the detail provided in the first game, which covered the English Civil War. NGBG is no exception to this rule coming with two play-books covering seven scenarios. There is also an excellent article with a narrative of the entire Scanian War (which was a good thing because I knew nothing of it prior to the game). Brian Asklev and Knut Grunitz have done a very nice job with this title.

The game at Set up (Swede's in White, Danes in Red)

We selected "Halmstad" to play this afternoon. It looked about the right size and didn't have any unusual special rules. The scenario finds the Danes having just invaded Sweden with a huge army. They have sent a portion of it North to try and hook up with the Norwegians, who were also picking on the Swedes. The Swedish King takes this opportunity to strike the smaller force quickly. The Danes get caught after just crossing a river and thus have their backs against it. The forces are nearly even in numbers, with the Swedes having a slight edge in numbers and quality, especially in the cavalry department. I ended up with the Swedes with Bob taking the Danes.

The Swedish Center and Right

We usually elect to start with the historical orders and that is what we did here. I am then in Make Ready for all three wings, while Bob is in Receive Charge. It is raining heavily and this causes a -1 to all musket and cavalry fire attacks (but not melee or artillery). Also, and importantly, there is "Heath" which I had to Wiki to figure out what it short its a dense and low growing woody vegetation. This has an impact on cavalry momentum, making it a +1 instead of the normal +2. It also makes it harder for the cavalry to intercept (+1). Both of these are pretty big effects in the cavalry micro game.


The Swedish Left Wing Advances

I start on my left, staying in Make Ready and crossing the little stream in front of my left wing, this causes all of my units to take a formation hit. My plan is to stay in MR and reform if I can get a continuation. I fail the continuation, and move Army Commander (the Swedish King) over to help reform the wing on subsequent activations. I then activate the Center wing and stay in MR there too as they are having to cross the stream as well and I don't want to go into the fight FS with most of my units.

On the right (my best wing) I convert to Charge and go right in on the first turn. I keep my wing spread out because I am taking formation hit for crossing the steep slope here as well. I lead off with two units attacking two of his. I win both melee's and watch one of my units pursue off the map (an interesting feature of the time period in that cavalry would often go chasing off after their defeated counterparts and only show up back on the battlefield hours later). The other unit (with my wing commander) pursues into the retreating units hex and eliminates them. Sadly this throws the rest of the wing out of command AND they are in a ford hex of the river...they wont be going anywhere soon. I fail to continue this wing as well, making me 0 for 3 for on continuation attempts this turn. Bob chooses to stay in Receive Charge with all of his wings and does a little adjustment to his line in his turn.

Aschenberg's Right Wing Starts to roll over the Danes Left

Turn 2 opens with me moving my right wing first as they are the only wing in Charge mode. My leader is in the ford with the now immobile unit and thus the rest of the wing has to first move to get into range (3-hexes for cav). This doesn't prove to difficult and I am able to bring the rest of the wing down on the remnants of his wing. Again the fighting goes mostly my way with me eliminating one unit and beating up the other one. My guys are now FS and have used up most of their pistol ammunition. Bob wisely chooses to preempt me here with his center wing, but he fails the attempt and I am able to finish off Bobs left in the subsequent melee.

End of the first turn

Disaster on the Left

The Rout continues on my Right

My left wing spends its first activation reforming, is able to continue and converts to Charge. I roll into his line. One of the interesting features of this scenario is that the Danes, being short on units elected to spread out their infantry with their cavalry wings, thus each wing has an infantry unit in it. Usually in this series, Cavalry goes into a fight with Infantry with momentum, thus they have a +2 on their melee role and this helps as cavalry doesn't do well against infantry (recall that they have large pikes at this time as well as smaller field pieces operating with the infantry unit). Bob's reaction fire is effective as well. I start off the melee phase with my leader and his unit going against another cavalry unit and loose badly, running back across the stream. Then I double up on his HI unit with two cavalry units and the get eliminated (I roll a 0). BAM! In a split second my left wing is wrecked.

My Left Wing goes in for the attack...

...and gets soundly defeated

I continue to reform my center choosing not to engage on this turn. Bob is blasting me with his artillery while I am standing a few hexes away trying to get my guys to line up nice and neat. I switch over to Rally orders on my right in the next turn to start reforming and reloading. Bob continues to stay passive, a wise move after what we both just witnessed happening to my left wing.

Send in the Infantry

Start of the third turn

Finally my center is reformed and there is nothing left to do but send them in. I have a sneaking suspicion that this too will turn into a bloodbath, but with my right still reloading/reforming and my left in shambles I have little choice as I am running out of time. Bob Salvo's at my approaching Infantry and punches big holes in my units causing formation and step losses. This of course greatly reduces my chances in the following melee phase. I push back his flank units but loose big in my center having one unit going Morale Broken.

The two Centers meet

We do some quick math on the losses so far and then look at the turn track, where there is only one or two turns left and I decide to lower my colors as I am not going to be able to get anywhere near the points I need to even get a draw. Bob can stay put and not risk combat and still get a win.

The Attack in the Center starts to falter

My memory of the other games we've played included the Infantry having a little more staying power then I experienced here. I think the combination of the slope and the poor morale of my Infantry coupled with the rain made them a lot less lethal and far more brittle then in most of the scenario's we've played. I think I also made an error going from Charge to Rally with my right wing. I was easily able to reform, but at only one activation a turn (while in Rally) I wasn't able to reform quick enough to get back into the fight. I need the right to pressure his center as my center was not enough to do it alone. The disaster on my left was just that. Given the terrain and the rain there weren't many other options open to me.

Positions at the end of the game

Bob and I both felt very rusty as well. We haven't played MPBS in some time. You might have noticed that as the game progressed we both started getting a bit smarter (preemption attempts, salvo fire...). So I feel like I played fairly poorly here as well. That being said MPBS for me has always been more of an experience game rather then one where I feel like I have a lot of control over the narrative.

This scenario is very interesting as it presents players with a tight field with little room to maneuver. The Heath and the Rain change some fundamentals of the series and challenge the players to do things a bit differently, something I obviously didn't figure out until after the dust settled. I would play this one again though, as either side. I think it felt balanced. Despite having not played in several years, we both quickly got back on board with the rules (which are very well written) and thus felt we didn't make any game breaking errors (at least that we've yet noticed).


  1. Nice report! I did a lot of work on the Halmstad scenario so I'm happy you liked it. I have some photos of the battlefield I took during a visit, if you want to see them let me know. /david ekberg

  2. Nice Session report. I am also a fan of the series and this particular module as well..

    Halmstad is very unforgiving for the swedes as you also showed very effectively ;)

  3. Did you notice that the Swedish center wing is supposed to start the game as formation shaken? This slows the Swedes down a bit at the start and gives the Danes the option to charge them when they reform after the small stream.
    Here's my report on our game: