Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Battle of Curasso AAR and DFII

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On July 19th the usual suspects (minus Terry and John who ran off to Historicon) played a somewhat smaller Die Fighting! battle, primarily to test some final touches for DFII. We wanted to nail down the sequence details, test new officer ratios and its effect on the officer driven red resource dice generation, and test the final tweak to combat mechanics using black dice.

The battlefield was kept relatively simple with a single town, a few Class II hills and Class III forests, a few objective markers using a new method of die generation for the army that takes it, and the forces were reduced from the last game. OOBs for the two armies may be found at the Yahoo! Site in the Files section in folder labeled The Battle of Curasso.

There was a hill on the Allied Left-French Right.

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A small village (Curasso) in the center.
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A small hill on the French left, which they occupied in a refused flank formation, and wood on the Allied right flank that the Austrian-Prussian Allied forces deployed to the right of in a compact formation.

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But before recounting the Battle, a little background on the rules used and the thinking of the commanders prior to deployment.

The Rules and the Tactical Thoughts of the Commanders.

This game was essentially used to test again several key changes and new concepts for Die Fighting II.

1. A new card phase sequencing procedure that will eliminate “card counting” (“Ahhh!” His remaining card must be the Reload, Rally, and Restore Card!&rdquoWinking and also add some tension to play.

2. Further testing of the new Officer Leadership Dice method of generating resource dice. This had been tested in our previous engagements in June, but we wanted to confirm those findings. This also involved new officer command stand ratios and limitations.

3. Further Testing of the new Black Die combat resolution procedures used in our previous two games.

4. Testing of the game resolution procedures, with some tweaks in response to a few minor issues that were raised.

All four areas were closely looked at and the general consensus was that it really brought the game together, increased tension and interest in decision making, and provided generally simpler and more dramatic outcomes that everyone enjoyed.

The new card sequencing method is very simple and easy to implement. The new phase decks will be made up of 12 potential cards for each side. The cards the numbers of each are: Specialized Actions (1 card), Officer Actions (1 Card), Cavalry Action (2 Cards), Infantry Actions (2 Cards), Artillery Action (1 Card), Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat (1 Card), The Creative X Factor (1 Card), Concede (1 Card), and two new cards - Brilliant Command Moment (1 Card), and Command Focus (1 Card). That is a total of 12 possible cards.

All the cards retain their same definitions from Die Fighting, except for The Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat card, which is used similarly, except that Retreat is added. Any unit that has a black die or dice, and is unrallied, will roll the black dice attached to that unit and retreat that distance from the enemy and toward the board edge.

The new cards will be defined in Die Fighting II.

Using just the eight basic cards-removing Creative X factor, Concede, and the two new cards- the gamers each shuffle their decks, and remove two cards which are set aside unseen. The remaining six cards are the phase deck for each side. Note that both sides decks will likely be different, not just in sequence, but in deck make-up! Your army may have double moves for infantry or Cavalry, but nothing for Artillery, Officers, or even more difficult, no RRRR card! You will never know the exact capacity for actions for your side or the enemy’s-even down to the last card!

This is an excellent change for DF, but may require one option I’ll mention in the AAR.

The use of Officer Dice as the initial generation of Resource dice for each command was adapted somewhat from the last game. We allowed each Officer to roll his Command dice twice prior to play-EXCEPT for the CinC who got a single roll. These rolls allowed a command to place the total rolled in red dice in their command’s bucket. Prior to battle the CinC could distribute his dice to any or all of his sub commander’s buckets as he chose, or he could hold onto as many as he desired.
Thereafter, the commanders would roll on the RRRR card and replenish their Resource Dice by that total. The CinC would also roll, but could only distribute the dice on an RRRR card, and by using the the same procedure as distributing command dice-hoping to roll a higher number of pips that the inches that separated him from the command stand he wished to aid. It worked flawlessly.

The black dice procedures completely replaced those in the rule book. The core concept was that if you lost a combat roll by more than 6 pips (which you could “buy down&rdquoWinking then you were forced to retreat in disorder 6” PLUS the roll of whatever Black dice were attached to that unit. You were again open to retreat on the next RRRR card. This is a very neat rule change and will be standard in DFII.

The game resolution rules were the final development of changes that started many games ago. In essence, if any command suffers a loss to one of its units that it cannot pay from its stock because it is out of Red resource dice, then all units in that command are considered disordered, and may only use whatever Green Dice they are entitled to on the Free Dice Table, and any Yellow Command dice that are sent to roll against any further combat attacks of any sort. They may not advance upon or initiate any form of combat upon the enemy. They may only defend. They may retreat using any Green dice, Command Dice, and black dice for distance. This must be directly away from the enemy and toward a board edge.

If during the turn, an RRRR card appears, they may roll for resource dice, and all units that do not have a black die are considered ordered again, and may behave as usual without any penalty.

Needless to say, this has a tendency to snowball and disabuse any commander of continuing on for much longer, and, at the very least to place the Concede card in the next turn’s Phase deck!

ALL of the new mechanics worked like a charm, and a great time was had by all, even the losers.

The Battle:

The battle was a pretty straight up one with deployments as stated above. For this game we rolled for Commander capabilities and both sides had some disappointments-the Allies Austrian Command was a dismal “Inept” with only 1 command die! (eugene had been badly wounded in a recent previous battle and was feverish from his wounds.) The ratings of units were mixed, though again the Austrians were a sorry lot for the allies and the French Left wing had some distinct problems as well. See the folder “ Battle of Curasso” in the Files section of the Yahoo! site.

We used a command ratio of about 9:1 for both forces with each side having 3 commands of about 9-10 units each and 1 CinC, of course. DFII will use a significant higher ratio for all forces, with none lower than 6:1 and most hovering around 8-10 to one. A few (Russians at Narva, Prussians in 1806) may have as many as 12-14 units to a single command stand!

On the initial Resource dice roll the lowly Austrian commander rolled a 3, which even with the CinC augmenting their supply was only a dozen or so. Likewise, the French Left wing was woefully short of dice.

I played, along with Ed Meyers, on the Allied side, and after noting our command and unit rating weaknesses decided we should play defense with the possible exception of on he left where the Dutch with superior command and good troops-especially the cavalry-offered a chance at Objective dice on the hill and some offensive gains.

Set-up

We used our usual system of die rolls for deployment with the winner forcing the other side to deploy one command. We got the better of that by far and had a pretty good idea of their positioning prior to our deployments.

We noted the refused, flank on our left, which might indicate weakness. However, since the woefully weak Austrians were opposite them we had no real way to exploit that possibility.

Objective markers for 8 dice were at most road exits 4-5 dice were to be had for sections of the village and the crossroads. The hill on the Allied left/ French Right was a 6 die hill. If captured, the commander of the capturing forces was allowed to roll the number of dice stated and collect that many additional red resource dice. ( Friendly road exits and village sections closest to each force had value only for the opposing side.)

Both commanders shuffled the phase cards, as described above, and we began.

The initial moves

We had initially decided to play defense on the allied side, but two of our first three cards were cavalry move! We lost all discipline and launched a strong cavalry attack by the Dutch on the left, and I thought I would demonstrate with the Austrian Cavalry on the Right in an attempt to draw the French forces to attack in that sector.

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The latter move was very wrongheaded. The French opened up with artillery which caused the Austrian horse several red die losses in addition to those spent on moving. I decided to pull the Austrians back out of harm’s way. All in all, it was an unnecessary loss of red dice, that served no purpose, and I didn’t have too much of a margin out there anyway, with less than a dozen dice in the bucket.

In the center I sent British foot and Dragoons forward to invest the village, which was matched by the French sending their center command forward to do the same. He immediately seized the part of the village closest to his forces denying bonus dice to the Allies. Likewise the Allies took the Church and denied the French bonuses as well. The only section worth anything to both side swas the blue roofed section and the crossroads itself.

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On the Allied left the Dutch moved out to take the hill and attack the French left Flank. The French also advanced. It appeared that this might be the decisive front. The Dutch had the most resource dice of any command, but the French command was loaded with Maison Rouge troops such as the Gendarmes, Mousquetiers, The French and Swiss Guards and the redoubtable French Carabinier du Roi. They also were under the command of the superb Boufflers. Overkirk may not prove to be his match.

Stalemate on the Allied Right; The center starts to look dodgy, and a decisive outcome on the Left.

As the turn developed, and the Allies got a second cavalry move, the Dutch galloped forth to seize the high ground and to deal with the French Horse opposing them. The Athlone horse support by the 2nd Jyske Danish Horse rode up the hill. The commander of the Dutch was worried enough about getting to the objective first that he expended couple of command dice to accelerate his advance. This would prove costly in time.


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The Athlone Horse did take the objective (a 6 die roll-netted 19 Resource dice added to the Overkirk bucket) but as they cleared the crest of the hill supported by the Danes, the saw immediately ahead the Mousquetiers du Roi and The Carabiniers du Roi. The lines crashed together in a massive cavalry battle. The Carabiniers were surprised by the Dutch advance and were still deploying from column. The edge certainly appeared to be with the Allied Horse.

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However, Villars and the redoubtable Boufflers, were both nearby and through their staff and command into the fray as they saw the importance of this engagement. They had not spent any command dice prior to this massive cavalry melee. They now sent every one they had to the Mousquetiers and carabiniere-eight in all!

Overkirk threw in his command dice as well but could only muster three command dice. Marlborough was preoccupied in the center and too far from the action to lend any help. Overkirk’s horse did have the advantage in the attack dice thanks to catching the carabiniers in minor disarray, but when the crunch came the French out rolled them, Bouflers officers had whipped the carabiniers into reasonable order prior to the melee, and the fact the French horse was Elite and Guard, gave them just enough to through the Allied horse backward in retreat at a combined loss about equal to what they had gained for the objective.


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In the center, the French aggressively advanced and took the sections of the village nearest to them, while the British sent Lloyd’s dragoons to take the town Church section. The remaining section was going to be a scrap(and the only section that had value for either army as the others only gave dice to their opponents if taken). The Bavarians under Maximilian led by the Royal Italians, respondent in their brown and red jackets advanced on this objective, The English sent Orkney’s First Foot forward in a race for the village.The Allies also sent Hay’s Dragoon off to secure part of the wood to their right as a precaution.

On the Allied Right the demonstration by the Austrian cavalry had proven unwise (since they lost dice to artillery fire, and they had so few) they were immediately called back and resumed their initial position on the flank. At that point the French opposite them were content to observe and evidenced no aggressive intentions.

For Want of an RRRR card.

On the last card turn for the final phase of the initial turn it became apparent that the Allies were not going to get an RRRR card in that turn. No added Resource dice, and no restoration of command dice until the second turn!!! This was ascribed to certain command confusion on the Allies part, but it had the added problem that the Allied force had used all the command dice on the left, and a few in the center-and they needed them replaced quickly!

They had lost the cavalry battle on the left, but that force was still pretty well set with Resource Dice, but without command dice it was not wise to continue the attack. They opted to wait.

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In the center, the French got an infantry move and narrowly won the race to the village. From their protected position the English First foot could not maintain any long term firefight-and didn’t have enough Resource dice to risk a high loss attack. It’s only choice was to retreat out of musket range.

Maximilian got a five dice roll of 16 dice to add to his command bucket and was feeling pretty good about stepping up his attack in the center.

Farther to the right, Hay’s Dragoons made it to the woods, but the French left, given their army’s successes across the front lines, had suddenly become more active and sent Boufflers Dragoons forwards to contest the wood, and the French line on the hill, made up of Navarre, Picardie, and Tallard, stepped off in unison advancing on the Allied Right Center.

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The Austrians were so bereft of Resource Dice, Command Dice, and any meaningful role in the fight, they simply hunkered down in their positions.

The English sent troops forward to stop the French advance, but they, too, were running short of Resource dice. There was going to be one chance, and that was to halt the French attack in the right center at the woods, at least momentarily until the Resource and command dice could be restored. A Massive firelight broke out in the woods and to the left of the woods.

At first, the Allies had some success as Hay’s Dragoons drove off the French Dragoons, but after this initial victory, the weight of the French attack began to tell. They artfully fired off several volleys that the English troops, outnumbered as they were, were hard pressed to equal. The last few English command dice were used by Orkney, but on the second volley the Orkney’s command ran out of Resource dice as well.

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This threw his command into disorder, and left them unable to carry out any offensive moves against the French. They were now easy pickings for the advancing French. They had no choice but to fall back. Marlborough glanced along his lines. The Dutch, as best had a stand off, the center was disordered, out of dice, and had to fall back. The Austrians were so bereft of quality, command, and resource dice as to be worthless.

He began a fall back on the next infantry card, and even though the Allies did FINALLY get a RRRR card on the last card of the turn-shuffled in the Concede for the next turn, which fortunately came up first!

Conclusions

The battle, though smaller than some of our past engagements, still mustered nearly 30 combat units on a side, plus four officer stands ( CinC and 3 sub-commanders) per side. So 65 units of all sorts were in play. It was resolved in roughly three hours, with quite a bit of action.

The Allies should have stuck to their plan to play more defensively, but were suckered into excessive aggressiveness by the added Infantry and cavalry moves in the initial turn. Just because you can move, doesn’t mean you should! We had a force with 1/3 of its effectives under inept command and lacking Resource Dice when the battle began. We had a legitimate chance for victory with the Dutch attack, but tactically were outmaneuvered. Other than the Dragoons taking the Church, the English should have been stalwart on the defense. WE simply misplayed the “hand” we were dealt.

The French, on the other hand, played their army extremely well, aggressive on their right with great concentration of command, and exploiting the perceived weakness as it appeared in the center.

However,the absence of an RRRR card on the first turn was decidedly crippling and put our already weak forces in dire straits very quickly.

The Tested Rules

All of the new changes were very much liked, though there was concern about the severity of missing an RRRR card which has, in the basic deck, a 25% chance of occurring. On one hand some players expressed a certain appreciation of the “Piquet” nature of such an adversity, while others wondered if it might be softened somewhat. This is especially true if it were to happen more than once. The average DF game runs about 4-5 turns.

Two suggestions were offered that could be used:

1. A player could only miss the RRRR card once in a game, on every turn thereafter that card is held out and the phase cards are selected from the remaining 7 cards, with the RRRR card shuffled in. This guarantees its appearance in the following turns.

2. If you have not received the RRRR card by your last phase card of the turn, you can sacrifice the last card of whatever type and do RRRR for any ONE command (not the whole army).

Web are testing these, and they will be offered as alternatives in DFII.

Now it’s on to the taping of DFII on August 23rd. The crew has been assembled and the rules are pretty well structured out. Lights! Cameras! Action! is the motto.

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