The Perry brothers have just got together with Jervis Johnson (of Black Powder fame) to produce a set of fast play Napoleonic rules, called Valour and Fortitude, intended to allow ease of play in demo games at conventions and based around army lists that support the Perry range of miniatures.
At just an initial 4 pages (in a small font), plus a page of special rules that are tagged onto the army lists, Jervis has done a great job, especially accepting that in truth, short and good rules are perhaps the most difficult to write.
As soon as these rules were brought to my attention (thanks Steve - of Sound Officers Call! Blog, see link below), I was interested and so with a bit of queue jumping, things moved quickly to getting a small game of Valour and Fortitude onto the table, using my Warlord Games Epic 13.5mm Napoleonic figures (sorry Perry’s!), which are still mostly unpainted I should add.
This post looks at the process of terrain placement and army building, through to the final act of a victory on the battlefield and as usual, all done on a smaller table.
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Oh no - I have slipped into my old bad habit of a long post! This one might even be a two coffee read :-) but it is of course a reflection of my enthusiasm around delving into this.
Rather than my usual discussion on rule detail, process and mechanics, which could become as lengthy as the rules! I think it would be easier in this instance for the reader to go to the Perry Miniatures website and access the rules for themselves. The necessary links are on the Perry website in the left hand column.
I shall instead save myself for the re-telling of an action that I will use to highlight some mechanics, features and observations that fell from my game.
The author has provided three generic scenarios, one an encounter battle, which looks like a good starter for players trying things out, so we shall use that. It suggests using 100 points of troops for a first game, so accepting that a typical French line unit is 12 points, then we might be averaging around 8 to 9 units per army.
I am currently painting the Warlord Games Epic figures, but also using them while doing that, so brace yourself for plenty of raw plastic! So far, only a brigades worth of French have put on their uniforms!
Starting the journey of a first game, the first issue is scale. I am guessing that since the rules are designed for the demo circuit and the Perry’s are involved, the rules are written for 28mm and likely big tables. The rules do have suggestions for using smaller scales, which gives the usual convention of halving measurements or having inches converted to centimetres. Their infantry units are typically 24 - 36 figures strong, which in 28mm speak would give a unit frontage of around 240 - 360mm wide.
I will use 2 Epic stands (Warlord Games) per unit. Size wise, the figures remind me of the old original small 15mm. Each stand has a 60mm frontage, so our units will be 120mm wide ( and not that it matters, but this gives us 40 figures per infantry unit), which as it turns out is a rough halving of minimum unit frontage size, so that’s okay. To keep the ratios correct, I will simply halve all the measurements in the rules, which are given in inches.
A typical infantry line has a movement allowance of 9” which we will halve to 4½” but, a unit can choose to move twice (we will discuss this later), so even scaled back, potential line movement for us today is up to 9”, which I think is quite respectable. Columns move faster (12”).
I will be using a smaller table (4’ x 3½’), we will just have to see how that goes, a 6’ x 4’ may be better, who knows at this point, but since a goodly proportion of this blog’s audience is interested in ‘the small’ then that is where we shall initially go.
So let’s build our armies at around 100 point per side. Units are grouped into brigades, each being 2 - 8 units strong, so our units are likely representing battalions and regiments. I will aim to give each side two small brigades, each with a commander and then a general in overall charge.
French - my 100 points give;
General Charlet - army commander
1st Infantry Brigade - Commanded by Gougeon
2 x line infantry
1 x light infantry
1 x artillery battery
1st Cavalry Brigade - Commanded by Trupel
2 x cuirassier heavy cavalry
1 x hussar light cavalry
1 x horse artillery
Prussians - my 96 points give;
General von Steinmetz - army commander
1st Infantry Brigade - Commanded by von Laurens
3 x line musket
2 x landwehr
1 x artillery battery
2nd Infantry Brigade - Commanded by von Kemphan
1 x line musket
2 x landwehr
1 x jäger detachment
1 x artillery battery
Next, set the table;
I dice, the French win, they will set the table up with terrain. I allow three features, a hill and two woods (woods - defined as defendable and can be garrisoned by 1 unit). Here I have my first issue. The French have a cavalry brigade and so choose to put the woods in opposing far corners and the hill in the centre, so they have plenty of room to roam / charge with the cavalry, whilst preventing the enemy choose an entry edge that would give them easy early access to the hill. This just doesn’t look right, it looks too contrived. I resort to dice to randomly move those pieces around a bit and end up with this.
The opposition (Prussian) are now allowed to choose which table edge will be their’s. This scenario says that players must take the short edges. My table today is almost square, but not quite, there are still two short edges. The Prussians choose the right hand side of the table (from the viewers perspective in the above photo). The French obviously have the left side.
Placing objectives - One objective marker must be placed in the centre of the table. Then the side that placed the terrain places another objective marker, then the other player does the same and so on until there are a total of 5 objective markers on the table. There are some restrictions on where these can be placed in terms of distance from each other. The only two objective markers that make any visual sense at the moment are the ones placed on front of each sides respective woods, as that ground can be controlled by units taking cover in the woods. I have put glass beads down to show the objectives, a bit ugly, but good for the camera.
I like the way objectives work, the side with the most units within 6” (3” for us today) of the objective can claim control.
Players agree a physical TIME limit on the game play (in hours and minutes), we shall say 3 hours for this as it is my first game and I will be writing notes etc. At the end of that time, play stops and victory is assessed.
The scenario allows each side at start to set up one brigade in march column within 24” (we shall halve that to 12” for our game) of their baseline. Done.
Above - a bit dark, but look at the top end of the board. The French 1st Infantry Brigade is on the left in column and it is gloriously painted, though that makes it harder to see from this distance than the raw plastic! The Prussian 1st Brigade is on their right, again in column, it is in raw plastic and worse dear reader, it is French raw plastic [I have the Prussian starter set still on the sprue, but not yet being fully committed to Epic, it shall remain as such for now and I will use excess French bases as proxy figures].
Reinforcements - remaining brigades, in our case one per side, can arrive on the players respective table edge starting with turn 1 at a rate of one brigade per turn. Since we only have 2 brigades in total in play per side, this means that each side will have their entire force on the table by the end of turn 1.
Initiative - Dice to establish who will be player 1 (or the active player). The Prussians win the roll and decide that they shall be the first active player in the turn.
And so it begins - The Meeting Engagement.
I will start with an exploded view of the game sequence for turn one and then turn the action report to a brief overview of the game while highlighting significant moments.
FATE PHASE - Each side has a draw deck of 13 cards. These are formed from normal playing cards, using an entire suit (i.e. Hearts) for each side. The army list gives instructions for each card value. Each side draws one of their cards and checks the instructions. These are kept secret from the other player until used - I will comment on the impact on solo play later. I am using my Napoleonic themed card deck, which are very nice.
Our Prussians draw - 2 of Spades, which is ‘The Tide of Battle’. It simple causes all cards to be re-shuffled to renew the two fate decks.
Also, during the Fate Phase, the active player will place any new reinforcements within 12” (6” for us) of their base line, but they can do no more for the rest of the turn.
FIRE PHASE - I have already heard one internet poster say that these rules are similar to Black Powder and there is truth in that, but here is the first big difference, fire happens before movement.
Our units are too far away from each other to fire and the artillery is limbered, so we will move on from this phase.
ACTION PHASE - This is an interesting phase. It is here that Brigades each attempt to activate and their units have 3 things to choose from, Assault, Manoeuvre and Rally. Each unit can choose a different action, but they are carried out in sequence, with assaults being conducted first.
Important, if units choose to move (not assault), they can either move twice or move once and if moving once, can also take a REFORM order (or Rally order). Reform is essentially a change of facing (pivot) / formation and it helps in the slick movement of units.
In our game, The Prussians are the initial active player and they choose to activate their 1st Infantry Brigade, which already starts on the table. Depending on army commander positioning, this may be subject to an activation test, but even if this is failed, units in march column can always make one move.
Firstly, assaults are dealt with, but we are not making any, so we can get on with manoeuvre. The march columns will use one of their moves to move ahead to occupy the ridge and instead of taking a second move, they will ‘reform’ which allows them to change formation from column to line. The artillery stays limbered to double move and get onto the ridge.
Another friendly brigade can attempt to activate now, but there is only 2nd Brigade and that came on as a reinforcement in the Fate Phase, so can’t do anything.
MELEE PHASE - Nothing is in contact, so we can ignore this phase. That concludes the Prussian part of the turn and the turn passes over to the French player, who is now active and starts the sequence of play again with the Fate Phase.
French part of the turn.
The French draw a Fate Card - 8 of Hearts, which is ‘Inspiration - Play this card after a friendly player fails a valour or fortitude test …. They pass the test’. So the French will hold this card in their hand.
The French 1st Cavalry Brigade comes on in the Fate Phase. They are placed 12” (6” for us) from their base line and do no more for the turn.
The French have nothing to fire and so go straight to the Action Phase and like the Prussians, they move all of their 1st Infantry Brigade.
Above - the brigade spreads out to advance towards the hill. The guns make one move and then ‘reform’ i.e. unlimber and deploy. These figures do look rather nice when painted ….. but can they fight!
Nothing is in contact, so the Melee Phase is ignored and that brings about the end of turn 1.
Turn 2 - The Prussian 1st Brigade automatically activate (because they are the first formation selected and they are within command range of the army commander). They shuffle to consolidate the ridge.
Prussian 2nd Brigade now test for activation and pass. They advance the line and push their jägers through the woodland (difficult terrain).
The French 1st Brigade have deployed their artillery. As their infantry move up towards the ridge, their light infantry on the left is forced to halt because it cannot use manoeuvre to be closer than 3” of an enemy (that is what assault is for).
The French Cavalry Brigade double move. As they get closer to the enemy infantry, it will be interesting to see how the system deals with infantry v cavalry engagement. The horse artillery is allowed to move with the cavalry and then unlimber at the end of movement, which makes them very versatile.
|The table at the end of Turn 2. The Prussians|
have a nice defensive line forming.
One thing that must be said of this system, with the generous movement, the sides get to grip with each other quickly. We find ourselves at the end of turn 2 and the fireworks are about to start!
Perhaps now is a good time to explain the title of the rules ‘Valour and Fortitude’. Units have a Tenacity Level (like stamina). Once the number of hits they take reaches their Tenacity Value, units become shaken and its brigade suffers one SETBACK marker. Every hit thereafter causes the unit to take a valour test, if failed the unit routs from the board.
There are no ‘save’ rolls in this design, but units can use Rally to attempt to remove a hit.
The brigade also suffers a Setback marker when a unit routs, so by the time a unit goes shaken and then routs, the brigade will have accumulated two of these markers for each such unit. Once a brigade accumulates three Setback markers, it becomes Wavering.
Each additional Setback result put onto a wavering brigade causes the brigade to take a Fortitude Test. If failed, the entire brigade routs and is removed from play (yes, that leaves quite a gap). Essentially both Valour and Fortitude tests are what we have come to know as break tests.
Now here is something that caused me to stop and think, check and re-check! The system does not have reaction responses. They are cleverly dispensed with for light / cavalry units retreating before combat by other mechanics, but it is the absence of units racing into square or getting off a first volley against a ‘charging’ unit that stood out.
Again the 3” proximity rule that cleverly separates assault from manoeuvre helps without adding undue mechanics, remembering that a manoeuvring unit might move twice in a turn, but an assaulting unit may only move once, so needs to be close enough to make that attack in one go.
In relation to cavalry, which can move 18” (9” to us today), that can be their assault movement range, but muskets can only fire 12” (6” to us), so in effect their will be no opportunity for ‘defensive fire’ for want of a better word against the cavalry charge.
On reflection that seems good, as infantry of the time should be responding by going into square, not hoping to get a successful volley off before contact and so a player needs to be aware of exactly where enemy cavalry presents a ‘threat’ and to make the decision to go into square during their own manoeuvre / reform order (at least I think you use ‘reform’ to go into square, the rules are not specific).
In melee, fighting is simultaneous, with the target ‘fighting back’ before any hits are applied to them from the assault, so I assume that melee itself is a loose representation of the mix of pre-contact fire, the bayonet / sword and all of that dancing around that happens between the two i.e. it is representing what goes on as units close to 50 yards or less.
Anyway, I make the point just to highlight how much thought has gone into these mechanics to get a lot of simulation for less system. Some design notes or examples might make these insights easier to deduce.
With all that explained, let’s move on, I didn’t mean for this post to get so hooked up on process!
Example of Fire - on the Prussian far right flank (above), the Landwehr unit (blue plastic) has a French light infantry in front of them and within musket range. The Landwehr get 2 Fire Dice and no modifiers for this situation. They need a 4+ to inflict hits. Both rolls fail, so no effect. If they had hit, the French unit would have been marked up for any hits against them, which count against their Tenacity Value.
Note, a unit that fires cannot move or rally in in the upcoming Action Phase, but may assault. As units in a firefight start to deteriorate, reaching their Tenacity Levels, some thought needs to be made as to whether to choose firing over being able to rally later.
Artillery has range, 48” (24” to us), but only have 1 Fire Dice, so their impact on the game seems somewhat underpowered compared to some games, but I think it is more balanced as an ‘arm’ for that. They will get canister bonus for close-up or as part of their melee ‘fight back’ value.
Above - two units of the Prussian 2nd Infantry brigade decide to go into square because of the cavalry threat, but on doing so immediately suffer a hit from the cavalry’s horse artillery (now a juicy target). The lack of Prussian cavalry to counter the French cavalry threat becomes immediately apparent as a weakness in my choice of army building for the scenario! I should have had some horse or at least more guns for the Prussian force.
It is clear now that the Prussians simply intend to defend the ridge / woods line and so the French 1st Infantry Brigade put their two line battalions into attack column, in preparation to assault the ridge.
The far right Prussian flank Landwehr unit takes 3 hits from the French light infantry. This equals their tenacity value, so they go shaken and as a consequence the brigade get their first setback marker.
Above - Melee example - The French 1st Brigade are assaulting the ridge, against a Prussian line musketeer regiment (painted!), which also has a friendly regiment to its immediate rear, which it can rely upon for support.
Two French line battalions were previously formed into assault columns. Using Assault move, One advances and hits the Prussian line unit, the other doesn’t quite make it (but can move within 3” of the enemy) and is just off the right shoulder of the first unit.
In the Melee Phase, sides fight simultaneously. First, the French attack - They have a basic melee attack value of 4, plus 1 for being in assault column (= 5). A further plus 1 is added for the support given by the nearby unengaged friendly assault column (= 6). So the French roll 6 dice needing 4+ to hit. If they had been fresh (i.e. no hits) they would have had an attack bonus on the dice roll. This is a powerful assault and they inflict 5 losses on the Prussians.
The Prussians do not yet absorb those casualties and they now ‘Fight Back’. They are line musketeers with a melee value of 4. They get plus 1 for gaining support from the unit to their rear (= 5). They hit on 4+, but so far they have not suffered any hits, so are fully fresh, this gives them a +1 to each die roll. Even so, they only score 2 hits. Disappointed, they play a Fate Card from their hand that they had been saving which allows a re-roll of missed melee rolls and for their efforts, score an extra hit for a total of 3 altogether.
The French win the melee, inflicting 5 hits to the Prussian 3.
On each side, melee hits are shared evenly between the main fighting unit and their respective support(s), with any odd remainder going onto the lead unit.
[EDIT - the author has advised me that this is wrong, hits are shared with melee supports, not brigade supports. A melee support is another friendly unit that has also made physical contact with the target. Brigade support come from those friendly units that are nearby but not actually touching the enemy].
Overall, the French have caused the most hits, so are considered to have won the melee, which matters if Valour tests are required. The new losses are added to any existing losses that the units involved may have had.
The question is, has anyone taken enough losses to go shaken? or worse needing to take Valour Test(s). No, not yet.
So the units stay in place and valour test(s) are not required and the melee ends - for now! Overall, both sides have taken enough losses here to be concerned about the impact of further loss. Both sides remain in contact.
Note, above, the French cavalry have swung to the left towards the Prussian infantry battalions from 1st Infantry Brigade, who had moved forward in an attempt to envelope the French attack at the ridge.
Prussian 1st Infantry Brigade is desperate to hold its position on the ridge and believes it can repulse the French, who are suffering heavy casualties.
Rally Example - The Prussian unit on the ridge that has just fought a melee can attempt to rally, even when in contact with an enemy. They cannot claim a modifier, so need a 4+ to remove one hit. They roll ‘6’ so they reduce their loss from 3 to 2. The initial two hits can never be rolled off.
[EDIT - I am advised by the author that it is only the first hit that cannot be rallied off].
The Prussians counter-attack in their own Melee Phase, but it goes desperately badly and the number of setback markers on their brigade climbs to 3, so the brigade is now Wavering (harder to activate and nearer to a breaking point).
Above - the 1st Cavalry Brigade’s Cuirassiers would like to charge the nearby Prussian infantry who are in line, but they are already shaken and so they stand by and instead the Hussars charge (assault) from the side, they cannot claim a flank attack because part of the cavalry formation started in the frontal arc of the infantry.
The Hussars get roughly handed, suffer excess casualties, take a valour test and fail, so rout from the field. “Oh Dear, such a shame”! said Trupel, the 1st Cavalry Brigade commander, as his brigade suffer further ‘setback’ markers and is now at Wavering status.
On the ridge, the French continue with the melee and win, but both sides are exhausted and the result of the extra hits mean that all participants go shaken and the French 1st Brigade are now also wavering ……. But! The Prussian brigade was already wavering and the 2 new setback markers that they have acquired means they must take 2 Fortitude tests. They pass one, but the other die roll is a ‘1’ and even though they are a big brigade with several non-routed units to give positive modifiers, they cannot raise that score high enough to avoid them going shattered. This means the entire brigade routs and is immediately moved from the table and the French take the ridge.
It now looks pretty one sided, but French 1st Infantry Brigade is Wavering, so will need time to re-organise (rally) and likewise the cavalry brigade are wavering. This allows the relatively fresh Prussian 2nd Infantry brigade to leave the field unmolested. That would matter in a campaign game.
However, it is the French who hold the field and obviously all of the objectives. They also get a victory point for shattering an enemy brigade - so victory goes to them.
That was hugely enjoyable. Right through to that last turn it was very tight at the ridge and I was fairly sure that the French would be beaten back, but the disastrous Prussian counter-attack did for them as their losses soared.
In my next game, I will give a bit more thought to using artillery to weaken a defence before assaulting it. The artillery is not particularly powerful, but units cannot rally off their first two hits [EDIT - author advises that it is only the 1st hit that cannot be rallied off], so inflicting just a bit of damage will have repercussion throughout the game. Being fresh is not something to take for granted.
Written by the Black Powder author, it is not surprising that the essence and feel of that system can be detected here, but it would be wrong to assume that this is Black Powder light - it is cleverer and more independent than that.
There are three significant differences (probably more to the eagle eyed - especially the author!). Firstly we have a fire phase happening before movement and of equal importance, units that fire cannot then manoeuvre (double move), but can assault (single move).
Secondly is a much more certain activation of brigades and therefore by consequence, their units. We are not rolling against commander ratings to activate, with the high incidence of failure that BP brings, nor are we randomly looking at the number of moves a unit can make per turn (from zero to 3 in BP).
Rather, Brigades are much more likely to activate than not, only failing on a ‘1’ on a D6, with an increased chance of failure if they are wavering. Also the first brigade chosen to activate is guaranteed to do so if within range of the army commander, so the player has the ability to put some command focus on the battlefield.
Further, movement is guaranteed if activated, with fixed rates of either 2 moves or 1 depending on what type of action the unit wants to take i.e. the players have control over the pace of manoeuvre.
Finally, combats are not a combination of hits and saves. Hits happen and as part of ‘actions’ a player might use a rally action to attempt to rally off a hit - but the first two hits are permanent, so partial attrition is built in.
The game by look, handling and scope reminds me of elements of General d’ Armee (David Brown) and of Black Powder and of Hail Caesar, but with a much more streamlined approach than either. There is some bare bones gaming here, without feeling too bare!
First impression might be to herald a 5 page rule set (including the special rules), as an easy low complexity game, but that statement is of itself too simplistic. The text is small and the pages are without illustration or examples, so really there is more system than 5 pages implies.
Further, in keeping the design brief, not everything is covered to the depth that a first contact with the rules might hope for, so the rules can be in your hands a lot for the first game. My feeling is that since the reason why the set was built was to help experienced players at demo tables get through the game with minimal rule referral, then by its nature, they have an element to them that is relying upon the gamer to have some wargaming experience to be able to interpret the rules into what a fuller document might have done. This is certainly not a criticism, just an observation. The rules were initially intended to allow a game to rattle along by players who had familiarity of what it was that they were trying to make brief or more streamlined.
One example is that the rules use the awkward term ‘overgrown terrain’ as a terrain type. This is not actually defined, but (I have checked in with the author) it is essentially dealing with things like buildings, woods and those things that would block line of sight. Not intuitive and probably a term used freely by the author’s group, but once understood, it easy to bring into the game. It is just something that fresh eyes pick up on.
Overall, the rules are very well thought out and a ton of effort has clearly gone in to them. There has clearly been a lot of midnight oil spent on the document and many hours of playtesting. The fact that the Jervis / Perry team are making them freely available is exceptional hobby support and not something to be taken for granted.
I am already planning out my own scenario for the next game,, which is bigger in scope and interesting. So in conclusion, I am quite taken by this set, it has moved to the top of my interest queue. Thank you to the creators.
And thank you to the readers for sticking with the post. It is rather wordy, but hopefully an indication that I have been playing something that is worth so much e-ink and thought.
EDIT - I have had a post game e-mail conversation with the author and he notes that when this system, designed for big games, is used in a smaller game (3 brigades or less), the failing of a Fortitude test against a brigade, causing it’s entire removal, may be too dramatic. He is considering an optional rule for small games in which only the already shaken units of a brigade are routed and that the remaining units stay on the field and each suffer 1 additional hit, but that these results don’t feed into an immediate Fortitude Test (however, at the end of the game, the brigade will in any case count as shattered) - which sounds a very balanced proposal and something that I shall try out in my next game. The author will update the Q&A download with whatever optional ruling he ultimately settles for.
2nd Edit - Played again last night and had quite a different game and experience, three playing techniques seem important to survival of the brigade and victory.
Complexity - Everything is pretty straight forward. The player should put the term ‘simple’ to the back of their mind. In a first playing, the rules will be referenced often, but this will be increasingly replaced by reliance on the very good quick reference sheet and then it will feel simple :-).
Size - The rules are designed to accommodate multiple brigades and multiple players and so big games / big tables are catered for, but as can be seen here, a fun game can be had out of a much smaller set-up. I think I would have had a fuller game on a 6’ x 4’ with a third brigade on each side and some more terrain features to fight over, simply to create more moving parts, such as a separate fight for a village or another ridge etc. I would also be happy using 28mm figures (hello Perry’s) with unit frontages tamed to say six inches (150mm) or so, which is what I do anyway.
Solitaire - The only aspect that raises a solo play question are the cards and frankly they are not problematic, I did after all do the above game solo. Any difficulty with the cards is remembering what they represent i.e. what does a card valued 8 mean, you have to keep checking on these things, especially as you are managing cards for both sides, and at times I forgot to use them. That first card that the French drew (Inspiration) did not get used due to oversight and that would have been really useful in saving the Hussars when they failed their Valour Test and fled the field, but really it is not an issue for the solo player, we are used to accommodating such things. This game works fine as a solo experience.
Time - This is a central design consideration. The length of game is set by the players in terms of playing time and the game engine of getting brigades to break is an important part of getting to a game conclusion, so once contact is made, attrition quickly escalates and even big games can be concluded in a single session. So if you have to pack away at 10 PM, then that’s what you do and there will always be a definitive game outcome, thanks to those objective markers and the proximity that players find themselves to them, plus the encouragement to shatter enemy brigades.
Perry Miniatures web site - LINK
Sound Officer Calls Blog run by Steve - LINK
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.