The Seven Years War, Maurice, 28mm
This small game was staged to try out a set of rules discovered by Bill Gilchrist – Maurice Lite (sp). They’re the “teaser” for the full set of Maurice produced by Sam Mustafa, which comes out soon. Bill is a real rules monkey, and he likes trying out nthese things. I, of course, woulod be much happier sticking to Die Kriegskunst or Black Powder. They’re meant to be very similar to Lasalle (also by MR. Mustafa), a set which Bill rates fairly highly, so we thought this would be worth trying out – at least in its free to download “Lite” form. Essentially they’re card driven. You’re dealt a hand of cards, and you have to play one or more of them in order to do anything, such as march, bombard, charge or rally. Musketry can be done without cards, although there are cards that dramatically modify the firing, such as one which give either side a +1 bonus, or let them fire first. Our little trial game was played with two infantry brigades a side, backed up by a small formation of cavalry and a couple of guns. This was a Thursday evening, and we don’t have much time for big battles. That meant that with this being a rules trail, we wanted to keep things small and simple. That also accounts for the lack of linear obstacles or villages on our small 6×4 foot table.My French got to move first, and began with a general advance by the infantry. You can only move one force at a time (unless you draw a special card), but as long as units are in the same formation, of the same troop type (i.e. horse, foot or guns), and units are no more than 3″ apart, then you can nominate a whole bunch of units as your “force”. This is exactly what I did. You only seem to get to do one thing before the enemy has a go. For the first two turns Bill opted to bombard – ie fire his guns at my advancing infantry. I moved them up into musket range (6″), and soon both sides were blazing away. Musketry is very simple – you get a dice per stand, and essentially a 4-6 is a hit. You roll hits again (a bit like a saving throw), and if you get another 4-6 they’re converted into disruption points. These affects shooting (giving a +1 modifier), and when you get 5 disruption point the unit breaks. Simple – possibly too simple…Any real subtlety comes from the cards – playing those ones that get you an advantage over the enemy. That said, the cards were a bit of a fiddle, and you kept on having to pore through your hand, looking for the right one to play, or reading the small print on them, or on your opponents cards when he played them. It all added to the time taken to work out what was otherwise a very simple system… all to get a +1 or a -1 on shooting… Eventually though, Bill forced my Wild Geese (Every army needs a sacrificial unit of Irish) to charge, despite being badly disrupted (3 points). Amazingly they beat their Hessian opponents, but bounced back, and the next turn were broken by musket fire. In revenge I broke a Hesse-Kassel unit, so honours stayed fairly even. The difference was though, I had more troops in the firing line, but Bill was rolling better dice.Over on my right I decided to move forward my cavalry – the colourful Bercheny Hussars. They successfully charged the waiting enemy line (all Hessian fusiliers and grenadiers), but once again despite winning their melees they were bounced back, as I didn’t beat Bill’s troops by double his score. That of course left the cavalry milling around within musketry range, and they began to suffer. I pulled them back, and spent the rest of my game trying to rally off my disruption points, ready to charge in again when the moment came. In the end it never did.That sort of sums up the game – a rather placid and linear affair, where nothing much happened. I broke another Hessian unit, while on the final turn Bill broke a battalion of my German La Mark regiment. I have to say the while musketry thing was rather dull, and seemed more about fulfilling the quirks of the game system than fighting a real battle, using historic tactics. There was no benefit for having supports (a standard SYW ploy), and the morale and command and control systems were virtually non-existent.What we saw of the melee system was equally strange, and didn’t seem to reward success, or even playing the right cards. I’m also not a fan of rules where units stop their advance for several turns, as the players have to concentrate their pips, points or movement cards on something going on on the far side of the table. Real battles never pan out like that. Of course, this was only Maurice Lite, and not the real McCoyTo be fair, judgement should be reserved until we get a chance to play Maurice itself, but in the meantime neither Bill or I reckoned the Lite rules were as enjoyable or as intuitive to play as Black Powder. In fact Bill, that supporter of Sam Mustafa’s Lasalle, was comparing them unfavourably with their Napoleonic counterpart. As I haven’t played Lasalle, then I couldn’t really comment. All I know is that Maurice didn’t really set the heather on fire.