@Dysartes: Well, it's BLACKsmiths...
Heyhey, no news from the Blacksmiths. I did some more painting, but it's not spectacularly different to the earlier WIP
shots to be honest. Instead - more finished pictures of the new Farmers, including the turnip ball and special edition Millstone:
..and tomorrow I'll get more work on the Blacksmiths done. Hope you like them!
Apart from that I had a game of Kugelhagel! (German; meaning somehting like "Hail of Bullets", companion set of rules to Steinhagel ["Hail of Rocks"], released in 2014)
Maybe you read about the Tabletop Wien West guys in my show reports and elsewhere. For the past few years they've been very active in promoting these two sets of rules from Germany. The fact alone that there is an original German-language set of historical wargames rules is remarkable in itself. There are a few German fantasy sets of rules, but historicals have been very much out of fashion since... well, 1945 really. At the very latest with the generation raised by the 1968 folks. There is a whooole lot to say about wargaming in German-speaking areas, but I'll spare you my weird theories.
So - Kugelhagel!
In the past few years the guys of the Tabletop Wien West club/gaming group have been really active in terms of demo'ing this rules set. Their chosen period, from the timespan Kugelhagel covers, the 19th century, is the American Civil War in 28mm. Last Friday GandAlf of Tabletop Wien West invited Cpt.Shandy, Martin and me to the club to introduce us to the rules first hand. Each of us 4 players got a brigade of 3 infantry regiments, a regiment of skirmishers, and an artillery battery of two guns. No specific special rules, terrain was basically just for looks, pitched battle; very basic setup so we get a good grasp of the core rules.
I managed to take a little peek at the rulebook and the newly released ACW supplement book. A4 size, full colour, many nice photographs (of 28mm minis of course, because it's 2018 and 28mm is the only thing deemed sexy) and diagrams.
In the back left we got GandAlf who, along with me, commanded the Union army while Martin (bottom right) was my direct opposite on the Confederates' side and Cpt.Shandy's brigade was to face off against GandAlf's.
Here you can see my magnificent little brigade march towards the enemy at full speed:
My cunning plan was to trust in my men (= luck at drawing activation cards) and quickly hit the enemy lines with my line infantry. And hard, at that. Before my opponent was able to get all his stuff on the table. Try to exploit my numerical superiority while I got it. What helped my in that was that Martin brought his artillery on the table early on, but set it up (quite wisely) right next to Cpt.Shandy's artillery in the centre to form a central big battery. They aimed it at the bigger threat of the much more experienced GandAlf rather than my brigade, which made me work out that cunning plan of rushing ahead before the cannons get swiveled in my direction.
A quick rules overview: In the photos you can see some playing cards (all suits; of each 7, 8, 9, 10, Ace). Each brigade in play is represented by a suit of cards. My brigade was the Spades, GandAlf's was Clubs, Cpt.Shandy's brigade was heats, Martin's brigade was diamonds. At the beginning of each turn the deck is shuffled and the cards get turned up one after another. A 7 or 8 means the player may activate a unit and carry out one action, a 9 and 10 means two actions, and an ace means the activated unit may carry out a whopping three actions.
Example: So my brigade is represented by Spades. Let's say an 8 of Spades is drawn. This means I may activate a unit (= 1 regiment of infantry, battery of artillery, or squadron of cavalry) and it may carry out one action. If the card had been a 9, a unit of my choice may have carried out two actions.
Actions usually are movement, change of formation, or Rally a unit (= basically healing one point of damage, but the unit may not do anything else in this activation). Morale damage and physical damage are rolled into the concept of these Fatigue damage points, as in so many modern battle games. Shooting happens automatically as soon as you get in range. So to go back to the example above, my unit, having been activated with an 8 of Spades (allowing for one action) may use this action to move once. This gets them into musket range to an enemy unit, thus my unit fires at the end of their activation. This doesn't cost an action; they do it on their own initiative. A very pretty turn counter.
That's a pretty fast, clear and fun activation system. I'm a big fan of card activation in general (or drawing chips from a bag, if you prefer that. It's the same thing in the end.), because you can do a LOT of clever stuff with that kind of activation to throw in factors like scenarios, one side being well or badly led, in especially good or bad shape and so on. In addition to this Kugelhagel allows for units to be activated twice per turn. This means that sometimes you'll forfeit to activate on a card which gives you only fewer actions and trust to get a card that allows you to do more, whereas especially later in the game it becomes very important to activate faster, even if you get fewer actions. Which is a very nice poker-like element. In general the game gives the players a lot of decisions to make. Each turn lasts until either all cards have been turned up. This makes activation still slightly random, but ultimately a bit more predictable than other fog of war systems.
On the left flank things were a bit less rushed and played out more traditionally as both sides advanced in line:
Then something odd happened at my right flank. By some very inventive (but legal, according to the rules) maneuvering I managed to get two combined regiments in position to charge my opponents' two combined regiments in the back.
THEN my opponent brought his third regiment on the table who immediately charged my two regiments in the back. To round it all off I sent my third regiment in to charge the front of the whole thing. What followed was a big old kerfuffle with an odd setup. I drew up a diagram to make it more clear (but no less odd).
On a more realistic level it probably looked more like this:
My opponent and I rolled dice for two turns. In the end his three regiments were either stomped or driven off the table swiftly. There is no casualty removal in Kugelhagel, by the way. Each unit may accumulate up to three points of Exhaustion/Fatigue (that combined concept of losses, fatigue and morale). On top of that shooting may cause Disorder (the next activaiton of that unit has to be used to bring order into the ranks again).
If more than half a brigade's units (artillery and skirmishers don't count for that) are killed or shoo'd off the table the brigade counts as Broken, Deleted, Made Obsolete, call it what you will. This means that remaining units of that brigade may pretty much do nothing any more for the rest of the game. They may sit in place and shoot if opponents are in range and they may retire towards their table edge, but that's it.
In our game my direct opponent's brigade was broken; all he had left was his skirmishers and his artillery (still aimed at my ally's brigade and firing at it). My regiments were still standing, but two had taken quite some damage. Then my opponent's horrible skirmishers started taking shots at them, managed to cause two more points of Exhaustion/Fatigue, and thus my brigade was broken as well! Still standing, but too exhausted to push on. So us two on the right flank had managed to neutralize each other's brigade in record time.
Because I had whipped my infantry to the front at fast past pace I hadn't had any activations to get my artillery and skirmishers anywhere, so they were still basically sitting at my table edge with no chance to get any enemies into range (or to unlimber in the artillery's case). All I had left to do was to retreat my infantry in order as to avoid additional casualties by the hands of these weirdly capable skirmishers. In a last effort they had managed to turn the tide on a seemingly lost cause (or flank). However, my opponent Martin didn't have many options left either. His artillery kept on firing at my ally's units, but that was about it. Otherwise our half of the gaming table got very, very quiet and we got us drinks.
"About turn, march!" (in the back you can see the nasty skirmishers and my opponent's artillery)
After a struggle my ally managed to get the upper hand on the left flank and drove off the rest of the Confederates. The day was won by experience and the Union army!
So what is my first impression of Kugelhagel?
The game feels very much like Black Powder. The approach to many concepts clearly were inspired by Black Powder, especially how damage is handled, the morale rule sin general, Disorder, movement (more on this later).
What I like most is the activation system. It's fast, it gives the players decisions to make, and it's less all-or-nothing than in Black Powder. The rulebook also has rules for using blinds (= "hidden deployment/movement", recon and such and includes dummy blinds I presume), which makes everything more historically sound and more interesting.
My main point of criticism from the game that we played is the movement. For battles in the 19th century movement is MUCH too free-form I think. This isn't just in terms of infantry (who may move around extremely flexibly even in unison with another attached regiment). Artillery also felt extremely fast and free-flowing. Limbering up and down is so fast that our ACW artillery behaved more like horse artillery or mechanized assault guns. With three actions you may limber up, move, unlimber and then fire, all in the same activation. That was a bit wild. The movement rules certainly require the application of some common sense.
Apart from that the game is very playable and a lot of fun with the right people (always a prerequisite). And we had a lot of fun that evening. I probably won't run out and buy the rules now. I have too many other ACW rules sets (most of all Longstreet). However, I think that especially in a club or multiplayer enviroment Kugelhagel has a lot of potential. It's a not too heavy, well-flowing game in which there are few down times and lots of decisions to make. Perfectly fine.
After this game I was in the mood to do something for my own collection of ACW figures (Confederates; you might remember them). In the past games of Kugelhagel and a scenario playtest game of Sharp Practice I'd played Union all the time, so I felt bad for my rebels.
Another reason for this: On the 14th of April we'll do a Gettysburg Games Day at the club, showcasing and demo'ing snippets of the famous battle on various tables, across all scales, tactical levels and several different sets of rules. My friend Virago and I will demo Longstreet of course and do a first-day-noon-northern-part-of-the-front kind of thing.
So I had a look at what I still had unpainted. This led to a weird, sneaking act of mitosis. A while back I decided to paint up a regular 6 bases unit of the then new-ish Confederate plastics:
...then, late in 2017, signs were on us playing a Longstreet campaign, requiring some infantry regiments of 10 bases each, so I 'bigged it up'. No big deal, just add four more bases, right? Just 16 dudes.
...then, on Saturday, I realized I still had just enough figures to make up another command base and another base of regular infantrymen, so I turned the second rank (or 3rd and 4th, if you will) into another unit of 6 bases! Automatically Appended Next Post:
To round it all off, I took a photo of all my ACW rebel infantry (sans skirmishers) at this point in time:
Hope you like them!