Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Historicon 2019: To Catch a King - A Retrospective

 I was more than a little nervous with my game "To Catch A King" at Historicon this year for a number of reasons, one of which which was the scale - there are over 2,400 mini's on the table.  The following photo's show the initial setup.  I did tinker with it a little bit over the course of the con, but no material changes where made.  The objective of the game was for the British to get the King's carriage across the map and onto a waiting ship.  The French wanted to prevent that.  In the end, the French won 4 out of 5 games but it was a lot closer than that tally appears.
 The French Left flank consisted of Soult's single division on the shore and Lannes corps of two divisions (in the center of the picture plus a reserve force of a Guard infantry and heavy calvary divisions under Napoleon.  Soult's smaller division had a chance of maritime reinforcements over the course of the game.
In the center was Davout and his III Corps of two divisions.

Finally, on the French right flank is Bernadotte and his I Corps of (yet again) 2 divisions.  Opposing I corps is a similar sized Austrian Corps.  Austrians?  During Napoleon's invasion of Britain?  Well the given reason is that they're British Allies.  The real reason is that I ran out of time painting British and had to augment the force with some Austrians!
The British center is held by II Corps which has two divisions deployed between the bridge and around the central village.
On the right flank the British I corps is deployed along a hill and into the port city.  One of the divisions, commanded by the upstart Wellesely has deployed on the reverse slope of the hill awaiting the French.  To the rear of the formation is the British reserve - a heavy cavalary division of three brigades and a horse artillery battery.
Finally the British right flank is anchored by a single division but they have mixed up their orders and deployed to far forward,  Oops....

The sides are fairly balanced with the French having a slight advantage in numbers 32 infantry, and 11 cavalry brigades plus 9 artillery batteries opposed to 28 infantry and 10 cavalry brigades plus 8 artillery batteries.  There were 2,417 figures on the table.

The setup was intended to allow some initial skirmishing on the flanks to help teach rule mechanics and then have everyone in some form of contact by turn 2.

 "To Catch a King" was played 5 times over the course of the con, with the first game being Thursday afternoon.  Both the French and British CiC's were experienced General d'Armee players and from the same gaming group.  That fact was really helpful in managing the game.

 The decisive point of the game came when the Austrians launched a spoiling attach against the French as they were trying to move part of I Corps across a ford to reinforce the main attach in the center.  The attack was more costly to the Austrians in losses but threw off the main French attack as reinforcements were rushed to fill the gap and away from the key objective.  Game 1 was a resounding British victory.
The players from Game1

 The Friday morning game resulted in a French victory and they were able to capture the King at the bridge crossing.  Davout's reputation has been further enhanced.  The French did have an unfair advantage as they had a Priest on their side.
 Furious fighting on the shoreline - lots of casualties on each side but no breakthroughs.
 Davout's main column breaks through and captures the King!
 There just weren't enough British in the areas to mount a counter attack
Lesson from Game 2 - always have a priest on your side of the table.

 Game three was perhaps my favorite on the con so, of course I forgot to take pictures.  I had fantastic players including a full family, the Green Viking and Josh from the club.

The fighting was furious and this was the only game the French heavy cav really was decisive as it charged over the hill and cut the road.  Victory to France!
The game three crew!

Young Andy commanded the extreme British right flank and managed to hold off elements of three French divisions with his single and batters British one.  For his bravery and coolness under fire he was awarded a Victoria's Cross much to the exclaim of his gaming participants, especially the French.  It was a good day.

That's correct, Master Andy is the recipient of a genuine replica Victoria's Cross.

 Game Four (Sat am) was a really hard fought affair with fighting all across the front.  This game played out as close to what I had imagined the game to do

 It was another French Victory, but just by the king of their teeth

 The last game on Saturday was also fun but I was really tired - running big games can be a bit taxing.
 Good friend Mike P commanded the Austrians.  His turn 1 dice rolling was red hot - two box cars in a row.  His turn 2+ dice rolling was not red hot.  Mike is a great guy and a pleasure to have at the gaming table win or loose.

 This was the first game where the king was caught before crossing the bridge!

The Game 5 crew.  Another French Victory.

I was really pleased with how the game played but there was a lot I can do to make the game better.

As I indicated at the beginning of this post, I was more than a little nervous putting this game on as I was using a somewhat detailed set of rules (General d'Armee) and its scope was pretty big.

General d'Armee - the rules actually worked well and players picked up the key concepts by turn 2.  I do think the 4 pages of QRF sheets are hard to process for a new player and I need to make some custom ones that reduce some of the complexity.  These remain, by far, my favorite Napoleonic rules but do need a "lite" version for convention play.

Naval Aspect - My original game concept had a naval aspect with frigates and house rules.  After seeing how big the game really is and the noise in the convention area, I decided to just focus on the land battle which was still a bit of a bear to GM.  For future games where I want a naval aspect I think I'll go with the format I used for "Decision in Delmarva" in 2015 where a morning naval battle sets up the afternoons land battle.  The ship's did serve as nice eye candy!

Napoleonics - I'm hooked - I think this game looked great and was playable so one can do Napoleonic in a convention setting.  I'm pretty sure you'll see another Nappy themed game at Historicon in 2020.  What's the scenario?  I'm still trying to figure that out.....

I do want thank my club mates who were really helpful over the course of the con.  I find myself very fortunate to count them as friends.  Also thanks a lot to Chris Hecht who drove up Saturday to help - maybe one day we can lure him back to the dark side of Historical gaming.  Maybe.....


john de terre neuve said...

I am curious Miles, what was the tactical element a brigade or a battalion. From looking at the photos on Table Top it seemed that a 6 base stand was a brigade but i maybe wrong.

Miles said...

Each player command a Corps of 2 Divisions which each had four infantry brigades, a light calvary brigade and an artillery battery. As you know, in GdA these units of maneuver are really battalions, I just scaled up the names so I could represent entire armies

Peter Douglas said...

looks great Miles! Oh you Yanks need to upscale everything...wondering what you're all compensating for?

TamsinP said...

It sounds like a fantastic series of games Miles :)

Curt said...

Fabulous work Miles - what a tour de force. Congratulations on putting on such a great series of games.

Dwarfy Mcgee said...

I played the Austrians on Saturday morning. Thanks again for your time and effort!

John said...

Miles, another fantastic game! Despite our loss, my family thoroughly enjoyed the game, and winning the Victoria Cross certainly took the sting out of defeat.

There were certainly a lot charts to parse in the QRS, but I think once we understood the very basic mechanic of "roll two dice and check the chart" we started to get a handle on things.

Looking forward to next year's game!