Friday, October 3, 2008

Shako II - Further Commentary

After attempting to read the rules and play a solo game I have decided to throw the rules in the pile of 150 some rules that I own that are unplayable as written.

I will start out with a little side commentary; I have played Spearhead, Armati and several games by Arty for years. I enjoy those systems and will continue to play Spearhead as my game of choice for the “Modern Period”. But Shako II I will not be playing.

If you want to publish rules in the same price stratosphere as Game Workshop than you had best produce a book of the same quality. IE $42 is not the same as $60 but it is a heck of a lot more than the $25 others are going for. While the rule book is better than many a spiral bound rule sets that were so popular four or five years ago, the actual internals were not. IE I don’t think the binding was worth 10 to 15 bucks, considering the other rule set of note at the same time “Field of Glory” is $35 and a better quality of printing….

A number of sections are unreadable in the rule book, at first I thought I had a funked up copy, but the other three copies I have looked at have the same problem. The printing on top of the images is unreadable. There is another section where the black type face is blurry.

There are a number of drawings/diagrams that are completely unneeded in the Rules. All I could think about is what is with all the filler. Did they have to fill a certain number of pages to get a price break or what?

While the rules indicate that you can play with “any” basing scheme and “any” figure to men ratio (within reason) it is very clear that the rules are written with a very and I do very specific basing and ratio scheme in mind. I personally don’t mind that rules are written for one way and then say in an appendix they give examples how to use other basing and ratios, Houserules Napoleonic II is a good example of that method. By attempting to be specifically vague at points has complicated a few sections of the rules creating what several of us call wholesale holes in the rules. Just go with one basing and lets us modify the rules to fit our needs. It is sooo much simpler.

There are a large number of over written rules, or if you will over complicated rules, is it the specifically vague issue, is it because a playtest group found an exploit. Adding wordage to a rule doesn’t make it easier to read and understand, generally it is the other extreme involved.

Unfortunately if you vary from the examples of unit sizes and ratios the game changes dramatically, not because changes the rules but it changes how you can deploy.

The Napoleonic period is an interesting period because the battles are defined by the ability of one side to out maneuver the other and the attempts at the other side to do their best to limit maneuver. In simpler terms, the French win when they can maneuver and the French lose when there opposing side limits their ability to maneuver. In game terms this is shown in a two facets. First the French do have an advantage in changing orders but the problem is you don’t have the movement to take advantage of it. At several battles Napoleon was able to move his reserve 3 to 5 miles and strike at the enemies’ point of failure. You just don’t have the movement to do that in Shako II and more importantly it is to easily identified and countered the opposing player.

The lack of movement and the “command arrow” system forces players to use the shortest arrow length possible. This leads to more brutal frontal assaults from both sides. No longer is the period about movement but about the morale of your troops.

The Morale system dictates that you lead with your best troops. Historically speaking the Generals of the period held their best troops in reserve*, the Old Guard, Austrian Reserve Corps, Russian Converged Grenadiers Corps and so on and so forth. Please don’t tell me that in this battle or that battle this isn’t true because there are always exceptions to the rule, the problem is when the exceptions become the rule. These troops were committed when either the enemy showed signs of breaking or your own line showed signs of breaking. In Shako II if your lines are breaking it is far too late to commit the reserve as you have already lost too many units so these reserve units become front line units and you least reliable troops become your reserve.

Additionally players will now focus even more on the elite formations when painting up their armies. Even though at least 90% of your forces should be Rank and File or worse. There will be fewer Cossack Regiments, Landwehr Brigades, Militia, Confederation of the Rhine Allies, other minor Allies and so on and so forth.

In Shako two you basic unit is a battalion, cavalry regiments and so forth, however your basic organization of units is a division, skipping Infantry Regiments, Brigades, and other echelons of command. Yes it can be argued that the use of the term Division is a generic sense of the word and your division could be a Brigade. Let us be honest here that is not how people are going to play. The problem with this division organization players can do whatever they want with their units within the command radius. While players from the historical background in other rules will play with brigades in mind others will not, the more you stretch the rules the better outcome will be for your side. These organizations existed for a reason and should be in the rules. Yes you can play the game by “adding in” this level of complexity, but at what cost? You make it more difficult for the French to use their advantage of maneuver because of their smaller and more numerous brigade structure.

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