Friday, January 8, 2010

Republic to Empire

So the other day I was surprised to find I had a package in the mail, wasn't expecting anything. So I was little shocked to find a copy of "Republic to Empire", a new Napoleonic set of rules from the "League of Augsburg." I had preordered the rules a long while back, so long ago I had almost forgotten that I had done so.

After reading the rules I can say the book is nice, about 150 pages with roughly 100 high quality photo images. The problem is the game contained in the book is completely unplayable as written.

Where to start?

I'll start with the pictures, yes there are 100 beautiful photos of figures, a grand total of three are useful (in any shape or form) to explaining the rules, and that might be a slight exaggeration, the photo on page 58 shows front, flank and rear, the other two photos almost represent what is being talked about, and the other 97 have virtually nothing to do with the game itself. To me that turns 60 pages of rules in 150 and when and if you have to use the rules during a game it's going to take a while to find what you are looking for.

The next problem is the verboseness of the rules. Yes I am a very verbose and longwinded guy, however some the rules explanations are over the top by MY standards. So you 60 pages of rules which is really maybe only 30 pages at most. What am I talking about, while not only does the author give the rule, but an explanation of the rule and in some cases the history behind the rule and why he didn't implement 8 different variations of the rules.

Because of the Pictures, Explanations, and other inserted crap into the rules I have to say the rules are poorly organized. There should be a section on the rules, a photo section, and finally a "this is why I did this" explanation kind of section instead of the cluster that currently exists.

The narrated battle report was interesting, but I hate to say this, makes the game sound even more complicated than it is. Well actually a lot of the explanations make the rules sound a lot more difficult than they really are, maybe that's because I am a simple man.

As an individual who has/is suffering through writing a set of rules I have learned a lot about the process. One of the things I learned is how rules morphing and changes work their way into the rules; kind of looking at C and knowing that it was B at one time and A beforehand. I see a lot of that in these rules, you see the finished or published concept and know what was the working model as the rules were developed. For instance it is easy to see the rules were developed for individual mounted figures but were modified along the way to handle multiple basing and finally that multiple basing becomes well the norm. Now I understand why multiple basing is the norm, the problem is the rules don't always follow along.

The basing in the game, for infantry anyways, is a 15mm square per figure, how you mount is your personal choice and most of the pictures show 20 to 25mm frontages for the figures. Well anyways If we consider a paper strength French Battalion of 720 men, that's a decent sized unit of 36 figures. So mounting figures two deep that 18 figures or 360mm wide frontage, which makes a French Battalion in line 11 inches, but wait a second the pictures show stand deep line cutting frontages down to 6 inches and …. Well I could go on, but it highlights a pet peeve of mine, if your unit basing doesn't match your unit's spacing than it's broken. The spacing described in the game and throughout the rules doesn't match the spacing; to me it looks like the individual mounted figures might make sense (three deep lines and two deep lines) but the multiple figures per base kills it.

Because of the basing to me it looks like a concept that probably works at 1:30 is being stretched to 1:20 or requires singly mounted figures. Now as everyone knows I am not a big fan of 1:20, it's an in between ratio that really has no reason to exist now-a-days in games. You want the big battalions go 1:10, you wants something a little smaller go 1:30. Don't get me started. At 1:20 you are almost to a part where you need to show divisions (two company units) rather than battalions but not quite.

The next downer for me was the concept of what a game looks like. The Author (in several locations on the Web) indicates that a typical French Division could be set up on a six foot wide table top. Okay assuming 2 brigades of four battalions in a historical formation (arrow head or trapezoidal) and the ground scale in the rules where 2.25 mm = 100 yards (don't get me started on mixing metric and imperial measurements) you would need roughly 100 to 125 inches, yet the rules author has you doing it in 72 inches. I honestly understand when the rules have to fudge and percentage point or ten because of how the rules work, but honest 40%, that's just too much. So historical layout of troops linearly is way out of line. Okay next they indicate that a typical French Division should have 350 figures… What a second – assuming you give yourself 1 foot of depth, that means 60% of you deployment space will be covered in figures and you have two feet between the forces. What a second Musket Range is 27 inches so you start in Musket range. I could go on and on, it just doesn't work out.

I found the fact the Command and Control rules a hodgepodge of ideas stuck together extremely annoying. I believe someone referred to them as each part designed by committee, I am reminded of the movie Apollo 13 and the CO2 cartridge. I realize they are independent of one another at the different level but there is no meshing of the rules concepts, you are just left wondering why they are so different.

I could go into shooting, 11 dice divided by 2 since you moved, halved because in effective range… Since may people currently believe fire fights the norm and cold steel the well un ordinary, I just don't see how fire can be effective enough in this game. You do any moving and firing at any range at all and block of figures are rolling nothing for dice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read my copy all the way through yet, but so far you've mis-read a few things regarding basing and formations. Recommended basing widths for infantry are 15mm, but the author clearly states on page 16 that the rules were designed to allow people to use different basing schemes if need be for larger games. 20mm bases are an option, not the standard. 20mm is the recommended depth for infantry figures, for what it's worth.

There are no references to three-deep formations anywhere in the rules that I can see. There are a few pics that show that, but they're just there for eye candy... no captions stating that this is an allowed formation, etc. Lines are explicitly stated to be two ranks deep where using single or multiple basing schemes. I suppose that one could make an attack column three ranks deep using single-based figures, but it's not explicitly allowed in the rules.

I do agree that the rules are pretty verbose, and most of the pictures are in there for inspirational value rather than to provide visual explanations of the rules. I don't mind the verbosity since it would allow someone with no experience in the period to understand the concepts with a few re-readings of the rules. They're very 'British' in layout and format. I don't mind that, but others will.

Of course, I like 1:20 so what do I know. :-)