Playings 3 (9 hours), 2 Jacobite wins, 1 Hanoverian.
1996 is the 250th anniversary of the battle of Culloden, news which has had little impact on game publishers. Luckily the BBC remembered and re-broadcast the 1967 documentary on Culloden (I believe its the 3rd time they have shown it in 29 years) together with a truly crap modern interpretation. In true couch potato style I sat through the pair on video plus the Campaigns In History Culloden which is not too bad. The broad picture that these all give is that experts do not agree on many aspects of the '45 but they are all sure that Culloden was a Jacobite cock up. How much of a long chance the Jacobites really had is debatable but Decision give them a good run for your money.
The only other game on the rebellion that springs to mind is Bonnie Prince Charlie, a British design of the late 70s that was reputed to be hard to win as the Jacobites. The '45 is a serious piece of work hidden in the sort of 3W style box that usually means rush job, this is not the case, with Avalon Hill or Columbia (block) style presentations many gamer would be wetting themselves over the '45.
How much the game appeals depends on the gamer's attitude to board wargames. Some go for the cunning design famed for it's gameplay and repeat performance value, this is the group who enthuse about how quick We The People is but insist on spending 5 minutes over every card play. This is not my scene, give me atmosphere, history and just a hint of play balance. The '45 has the lot, while waiting for my copy to come from the states (it took 2 months) I read John Prebbles' Culloden and Johnstone's Memoirs of the '45 (the real McCoy), the game keeps to the flavour of both books. And there's more, the box and line map has all the towns and hills in the right places and is tastefully rendered for a change. True, the counters are a bit basic, mostly NATO symbols on 3/4 inchers, the counter sides have from 1 to 4 dots and these are turned to show the current strength. Armies can get pretty big making it a good job that the counters are large because stack topple will instantly destroy the strength record in the box.
Scenarios are included for 6 chunks of the campaign from the initial landing to chasing the Bonnie Prince across the heather. I stuck with the option to do the whole thing which can be a bit of a drag to anyone not immersed in the era. The Jacobites start with 2 ships in France, the Hanoverians have more ships and scattered garrisons on the mainland. Historically 1 of the 2 ships got through with the Prince but the larger was damaged in a sea fight and returned to France with its troops on board. This is likely to happen in the '45, sea movement is by area generally the Jacobites try to move through the areas while the British navy moves into the same sea area and tries to find and sink the rebels. Given average luck the 2 ships will be found before they land, the smaller ship is likely to get through but not the larger although there is a chance of both being driven back or both landing. Charles is best off landing in North West Scotland because that is where most of the Clans are, he could land more easily in Wales or Lancashire but will be starved of support while the Hanoverian strength increases rapidly.
The initial build up of both sides is different. Charles (and only Charles) must rally the Clans which instantly places loyal Clan units (at strength1) in North West Scotland, the Island Clans have to be asked to join and may side with King George instead. If Charles declines to recruit the island Clans they will automatically declare for Hanover so the Jacobite player cannot ignore them. The Whig Clans in the North East will eventually come out for King George and there are the Campbells all of which will cause the Jacobites some worries in the highlands. Having raised the Clans Charles must move to the East (Dundee, Perth or Aberdeen) and raise the gentry and remaining Clans to his standard (again a few may not join up). Next Charles proceeds to Edinburgh where he declares his father King and raises some more units, he does not have to capture the castle to get these units. Charles can call for troops in England and Wales in a similar way but the response is always very poor (as it should be, almost all Jacobite troops come from North of Stirling). While all this is going on the Hanoverian is relying on traditional reinforcement lists. Unfortunately most of these troops appear in Holland and have to be shipped over to Britain. It pays to ship them as fast as possible but some ships are best kept back to prevent French aid landing and to ensure that any island based Jacobites are not going to cross over to the mainland. These mechanisms reasonably reflect the build up of both sides although the Jacobite gets a rather too solid idea of where his support will be before he lands. It is also a devil to go through. Hanoverian and Dutch regiments are named but they all perform much the same so time can be saved by placing new units according to size and broad type (Dutch, regular, militia and Scots militia). Jacobite units are named by Clan or home town, these must go back to their initial box to re-build or recruit (as must Hanoverian militia) so absolutely must be set up right. If the Whig Clans are not kept under control they will overrun Jacobite Clan areas and ruin recruiting, Prince Charles had serious problems here.
The searching out and setting up of new units takes up a lot of time in the initial turns, often longer than the turns themselves. Units need a leader to move and the differential combat system makes every strength point count. The result is very few active stacks for either side. Combat is pretty random, stacks less than 12 strong which are not behind rivers or in fortified places can be overrun instantly by stacks at least 13 stronger than them. Otherwise combat has limited losses on both sides over a number of rounds, in theory losses can mount up over the rounds but 1 side is usually forced to rout or retreat fairly quickly. Rout is an odd result that forces the stack to split equally into 2 and be placed in 2 adjacent boxes. It follows that if an army attacks and routs the defender then that routed force can join up again on it's following turn. If the attacker is routed then the previous defender will be moving next and is likely to crush 1 of the routed stacks. An antidote to losing battles is to have the biggest stack, encouraging the Hanoverian player to build up a huge stack in London. This made sense until I tried it, Jacobite reinforcements marched South unimpeded to the main army which hung around the South coast waiting for the French. The resulting combination was huge suggesting some benefits to a more active defence.
The Jacobites can survive without aid from France and Sweden (it is hardly worth sending the ships for the Swedish troops) but the large number of French troops on offer and the steadily increasing number of British regulars returning from Holland make French aid very useful. French aid can only reach it's maximum (all French troops and ships) if Charles moves to Southern England, if Charles stays in Scotland and never enters England then only French arms and smaller ships are released. All these French units appear in France where it is easier to slip across the channel to land on the South coast than to head for Scotland. The more sea areas that these fleets move through the greater chance of a large English fleet combining and driving them off. More French ships are brought on in the game than there are suitable counters possibly intending to make up for the French ships sunk in earlier turns but rather odd if no ships were lost. France is divided into 3 areas of coastline which the land units can march along bringing them opposite different parts of Southern England but any ships are going to have to sail along the coast. French land units are clearly immune from loss while in France but lone ships are easy meat. It is possible to sneak ships across from 1 area while the British fleet is blockading a more serious threat elsewhere or if all the ships can be collected together the French fleet formed will have to be attacked at 1:1 by the British and will have a 2/3rds chance of getting through and the same chance of getting back again. These odds can occur in each sea area passed through making a landing on the South coast possible and any further North risky. If the British concentrate too much on convoying troops from Holland they could even see these convoys attacked by the French. In the early part of the game ships are well used to block up the Hebrides but if the French look like sailing those ships are more use in the South than chasing a few Clansmen.
The attitude of the French clearly encourages the Jacobite to go South, the game is won by Jacobite control of London at the end of a turn or control of Edinburgh at the end of the game. Thus a good plan is to gather together march South, meet up with the French fleet and take London. This is pretty much what was tried up to Derby when the Jacobites turned around and marched back. If they had continued they might have defeated the British close by (many of the Hanoverians were in Holland or Newcastle and out of the picture) and might have taken London. They would not have met up with a French fleet because there was no co-ordinated plan to meet them. Indeed one of the reasons for retreat was news of a French fleet landing in Scotland. This fleet turned out to have brought guns and arms rather than the rumoured thousands of French regulars. In the '45 the Jacobite can control his armies and the French fleet although he will run the risk of that fleet never arriving or may have to hang about the South coast before it does. If the Jacobites are strong enough to hang around for the French in Southern England they probably do not need that support. It is not unreasonable that a French fleet would sail to aid the Jacobites, Louis XIV had organised a fleet to support the Old Pretender but scuppered the plan by dying. What is not certain is if a fleet would sail, in the '45 the Jacobite can make it sail, like the Jacobite tail wagging the French dog.
An alternative plan for the Jacobites was to hold on to Scotland, never invade England but legally and militarily annul the Act Of Union. The creation of a divided Britain would have been in the best interests of France and might have encouraged international support. The argument against this is that parliament would not allow Scotland to secede and an independent Scotland would have to face up to invasion as it had under Cromwell. By occupying London the Jacobites would control the state and hence the army that was opposing them. These points could be debated for hours, the bottom line is that this design follows the premise that Charles must defeat England to win.
The '45 has a number of mechanisms which favour the Jacobites, they have some validity and give them a good chance of winning. The big bonus for the Jacobites in the early turns is not the number of Hanoverians stuck in Holland but the Hanoverian General Wade. This was the chap who stayed in Newcastle while the Jacobites headed for London chased by Cumberland. In the '45 Wade must control the largest Hanoverian stack, if he does not the only movement allowed is to join up with him. Also Wade will only move on a 5 or a 6, meaning that if he does start to move it is unlikely that he will reach where he intended. Wade can be shifted around by sea making it attractive to send him to Holland or at least ship troops in to him to allow another slightly smaller stack to take active operations. When Cumberland arrives in mainland Britain the Wade rules cease but until this time the Hanoverian will be playing with half his army frozen, at least if it is frozen in London it can do no harm.
The Jacobites are also faster than the Hanoverians moving 4 boxes to their 3, either side can force march additional boxes but attrition can be up to 30% making forced marches a little too risky. Hanoverians also pay an extra point to enter mountain boxes allowing a Jacobite stack to slip past the opposition. Not all game rules favour the rebels, British regulars can easily out recruit the Jacobites, not having to return to named boxes although only 3 regiments can recruit in each area (6 areas South of Scotland). Small forces can also hole up in forts of varying strength, enemy forces must stop when they enter these boxes but can move off the next turn. This makes Stirling very important as it is the only route to the highlands. The Jacobites never took Stirling or Edinburgh castles although they did suffer losses in attempting to besiege Stirling. The '45 provides the French engineer Mirabel (called Mr Admirable by the highland wags), true to form he is rubbish but even so the Jacobites should be able to take both castles by weight of numbers in this game. Siegework is rather too easy, any fort can be taken although losses may be a high if a very large army is involved the proportion of loss involved is modest. In playing the '45 it makes sense to build up forces and take out Stirling and Edinburgh before marching South and then leave enough leaders in Scotland to deal with the Whig Clans and funnel replacement units South. The Jacobites never did any of this which could explain some of their failings. Still the Jacobite command was a council which argued and accompanied the army where it went. Any re-run hoping for success is going to try to form some sort of state not having to worry about details or having sundry self seeking Irishmen in all the top jobs.
Reading through Johnstone's Memoirs of the '45 it is striking how little support the Jacobites had in the South of Scotland. After Culloden Johnstone made his way to London but had great trouble crossing the Forth-Clyde estuaries partly due to Hanoverian patrols but equally because very few of the locals even North of this line supported the Jacobites. While the Jacobites can recruit very few units South of Stirling in The '45, the Hanoverians also have limited recruiting in the lowlands. The only unit available to them is a Glasgow militia unit which usefully pops up if the Jacobites lose or fail to garrison this box. Edinburgh and Stirling also raised Whig militias which are not directly represented in the game which should be shown as unnamed Scottish "detachment" counters that start in those cities. All the other Scottish Whig units are Clan based or army regulars except Loudon's 54th who are best used as another Campbell unit. The Jacobite army had to pass through the Western side of Scotland on its way to Derby and received little support or resistance either way. This has been interpreted to make most of the lowlands a recruiting wasteland where neither side can raise many units. Like the interpretations of Clan strength and French intervention this is possibly true although other theories could be argued. A more random system of these 3 factors would give a better visualisation of events as they happened at the cost of producing a game with less control over events.
The Highlanders had a tendency to go home after a battle or for any other reason, with luck they could be forcibly brought back. The game shows this by having 2 strength points of Jacobite units go home after routing an enemy force and the general slipping away of highlanders could be explained by the attrition rules. Even so the degree of desertion is far too low. Attrition will often have no effect and is not going to see above 3 losses in total for all of a sides' units in a single area. A closer recreation would be to take strength point losses per area as % losses and to make desertion after a battle won by rout as 10%, rounding all fractions up. This would give a boost to the Hanoverians who do not suffer from after-combat desertion and can take their attrition losses in expendable militia units (perfectly fair as these units could melt away when faced by advancing Jacobites).
The '45 is the sort of effort that benefits from a knowledge of the time. Too much knowledge could lead to strong disagreements with the designer's sympathies which are clearly Jacobite (he cites 4 relatives who fought for Charles). Some rules are weak, notably the supply rules which are so tame as not to be worth using except in Winter but the whole is worth the effort with no obvious howlers to prevent play.