Thursday 20 December 2018

Old Dog, New Tricks - Same Old Story!

The original version of Volley and Bayonet 

Napoleon Returns - one of the two Napoleonic themed supplements available with the other being for the 1809 campaign.

I am feeling a little on the embarrassed side. It is as though I have been trying to reinvent the wheel but of course the wheel is already in place and is perfectly serviceable as it is. For sure one could add some nice trim to the aforementioned wheel, perhaps even some glitzy chrome hubcaps or similar even, but the essential truth is that the tools for my large battle block game are already to hand - and I had completely forgotten about them!

Actually to say I had forgotten about them is not entirely accurate - I was aware of them but not exactly what was there to work with. Confused? I thought as much so allow me to explain.

Way back in 2012, during the height of the great block army growing pains, I messed around with a couple of ideas involving Volley and Bayonet by Messrs. Chadwick and Novak and Napoleon by Columbia Games (3rd Edition - and this is important as will be explained later). I even threw into the mix elements of DBA and also Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle  - a Command and Colours based 19th century rule set minus the command cards. I took parts from each, mixed them up and tried to squeeze them into a hex-based set of rules that were unwieldy, unplayable and unsurprisingly 'fell at the first'.  However, and this is the important part, I made copious notes.

I suspect most readers of this blog are probably inveterate scribblers. I would go further and suspect that many have a number of notebooks or hastily penned scraps of paper lying around along with photocopied magazine articles, downloaded play sheets and all manner of written and printed material. In this particular case I had an A5 sized hardback notebook (I prefer these as they last longer when being carried around) with a lot of material in it relating to my plan to devise an army level set of block based Napoleonic wargame rules. I knew about the notebook but had forgotten exactly what was in it. In fact all I remembered for sure that was in the notebook were the Columbia Games order of battle charts. I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

The third edition version of Napoleon by Columbia Games. This version represented every division in the order of battle for all three armies. The map used to get pretty congested with blocks!

For reasons of convenience I had handwritten the tactical combat rules from Columbia Games Napoleon as well as photocopying the orders of battle from the game and sticking these into the end pages as a reference. I had also handwritten the complete order of battle from Napoleon Returns - the Volley and Bayonet supplement for the 1815 campaign - with strength points, exhaustion levels and morale and training ratings. I then when one step further and drafted not one but two variant sets of rules - De Bellis 1815 and Memoir of 1815. Admittedly these two are in fact incomplete but reading through them as I did last night they would not take much work to get table ready.

It is typical of me (the 'Same Old Story!' of the title) that not only do I no longer own a copy of Columbia Games Napoleon but that I have also disposed of both Volley and Bayonet and Napoleon Returns. Having the key information from both is extremely useful and so, in conjunction with the ideas of Charles Wesencraft and more recently, Andy Callan, I have plenty of material to work with in respect of realising a block based army level set of wargame rules.

The stylised battle board used with Columbia Games Napoleon....

....and the same in action - Prussians versus the French.

Sample labels from the third edition. The blocks are rotated as they sustain losses with the top edge showing the current combat strength point. As the labels face the owning player there is an inbuilt fog of war effect. Under the system I was working on and using the above as an example the Old Guard would have four 'brigade' blocks when at full strength.

Mention of Columbia Games Napoleon and the tactical rules contained therein reminded me of the idea I was considering in respect of the playing area. In the game itself when battle is joined on the map the blocks are then transferred to a battle board to fight he combat. This is divided into areas as shown in the picture above. Units (for this game the blocks represent divisions) fight for control of areas and the winner of the battle is the first person to clear an area of enemy troops. It is simple but works well in the context of the game. It would probably be a little too light as a standalone game but I reckon there is mileage in it to make it a little more 'wargamey'. It is an option to consider for sure.

Volley and Bayonet (I am referring to the original version) operates at a lower level than the Columbia Games offering and instead uses the brigade as its base unit size. As I recall my plan was to fuse the two approaches so that the strategic map moves were at divisional level and the tactical battles arising were to be fought using brigades. A typical Columbia Games divisional block has a strength of 3 or 4 which loosely represents the number of brigades or actual soldiery present. The plan was to use a single block to represent a brigade sized formation with the Volley and Bayonet strength points determining the number of combat dice used.

Where this all fell down was in trying to get it all to work on a hex grid which was why I abandoned the attempt. Now however, I am far better prepared to be able to make this a more viable idea and so for the umpteenth time I have offered up a prayer of thanks to the wargaming gods for hanging on to the notebook, even if I did rather foolishly let the game and the rules go!


Ray Rousell said...

I've played a fair few games of Volley & Bayonet, but not for well over 20 years! Great set of rules.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

The lad has gone "hard core" no good will come of it ;)

This is one period where blocks could save you thousands of 'em

David Crook said...

Hi Ray,

I always liked the original version although the rules work far better when used in conjunction with the supplements. There was a very good ACW edition as well as the two Napoleonic titles. I think they also covered the '45 and the Spanish American War. If you have a copy of the rules that you are no longer using and so need a new home let me know!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

That was exactly the idea of the block armies in the first place!

It is rather strange for me in that I am in the position of having armies that are ready to use in advance of getting the rules sorted!

All the best,