A Famous Victory / Fields of Glory (Moments in History)
I have played all 4 battles in these 2 games using the revised rules from Fields of Glory. The system is relatively straightforward and typical Berg with line leaders who must be in range of their wing leaders to move troops within their own range. An initiative dice is rolled to see who picks the 1st chit with the others all going into the pot. The number of chits available each turn will range from 1 to 6 and depends on another chit draw. There will usually be more leaders on the map than this for both sides. The remaining leaders and their lines move after all chits have been picked but only up to half their movement potential. Units that are not in command can only move 1 or 2 hexes and that only in an effort to join a valid line. Command requires that units be in range and adjacent to each other so lines tend to break up on advance or retreat. As some compensation there are always more units than can be commanded so another line can often be scraped up to fill in for one that has been messed up. The wing commander restriction is really only a problem in Ramilles as in all the other games the units and leaders tend to be close enough to ensure that leaders are commanded. Thankfully the combat system is a lot simpler than the Great Battles of History series making the games easy to play although they are long. The actual length of a turn depends on the number of chits available for picking each turn but will be around 15 to 30 minutes.
Of the 2 games the Famous Victory set is better because the battles are smaller, hence quicker. Ramilles is the best of the bunch as the set up lines are on the map and there is plenty of open ground. Blenheim has some nasty swamps that the cavalry cannot attack out from.
I first played Oudenarde as this starts with most of both armies off-map so reducing set up time. There is still quite a lot of work as the French army has to be sorted out to check all the units are there before you get too far. The lists in the rules are a little confusing as they sometimes omit commas so more than 1 unit appears as one and in another case split a single unit into 2. I would not put too much trust in the summary numbers either. If you are sure that you have all the units and do not need to check quite some time can be shaved off here. Anyhow I chose how to bring on the French and pretty much messed it up. I sent on the cavalry who moved forward and then got in the way of the infantry. A better move would have been to rush up some foot and use the cavalry on the flanks. This would have lost the French some ground but increased their killing power as the horse mostly pussyfooted around with pistols doing not much damage. None of your full blooded charges in the French army. The British had some charging cavalry but they did not come on until late in the battle. Reinforcements pay extra to enter the board if they are not the 1st unit on in time honoured fashion. The result here is that some of the Allied units are not going to make it onto the map in time. I should have kept off some of the foot and brought on the later-arriving Allied horse. In all not a lot of damage was caused and a 2nd day would probably have resulted. I went on to Malplaquet instead. This has a strict set up, meaning a long time. I spent 3 hours with the set up but had bought my copy 2nd hand and wanted to check every unit. There are heaps of units in multiple lines. Much of the cavalry is at the back out of the way so I sent heaps of it off for a fight on the flanks (I got the rules wrong here as the flanks are wooded and prevent cavalry attacks). The French foot is dug in but is destroyed on 1 rather than the usual 1 step loss so can be pushed back. So far the Allies have pushed back the flanks but did poorly in the centre which has a sort of dog-leg shape. The French came out of their redoubts here and piled into the disrupted Allies. What a mess, the big problem for both sides is routed units going through other friendlies and disrupting them. This in time can cause other routs. No matter how you define retreat paths some lines are packed so tight that routers cannot avoid going through other units. The command rules encourage packed lines as without adjacent units not many of them are going to be moving. Certainly Malplaquet is the hardest to play of the set due to its fixed set up and the large number of reserve lines preventing any hope of a real breakthrough.
Cavalry is much more limited in these games than your usual bash. When a leader is activated he can move, assault or rally with commanded units. The only way for a unit to attack another is with an assault order that also restricts the line’s movement to 1 hex. British horse (only) can move 2 if they charge home into an assault. So even a cavalry line is limited in action if it wants to do some fighting. Any exploitation will have to involve those units that happen to be adjacent to the enemy standing around and not fighting. Moving away from the enemy can also be risky if the unit is not in good order. There is a rapid move available for non-stacked units that do not go within 3 hexes of the enemy but due to the number of units on all the maps it will not be used too often. Only British cavalry can charge in all others carcarole tending to mean that cavalry lines move adjacent to each other and take pot shots with limited success. The French, Dutch and Danish can follow up a carcarole with a charge but as any charge automatically disrupts the charger it is best used against an already disrupted defender by a good order charger.
Each combat unit has good order, disrupted and routed states together with the capability to lose 2 steps before it is destroyed. Steps can never be recovered but are only lost when a disrupted unit is disrupted again and does not roll badly enough to rout. Routing units do not have to rally but will charge off-map if they do not. There is roughly a 50% chance of rallying a routed unit to disrupted. It can then try to rally to good order on the next turn. There is a slight chance that a unit will rout again and lose another step when it tries to rally. A significant cause of disrupted units is routed units running through them as lines tend to be closely packed. There is no penalty for routed units running through other routed units. The relative ease of rallying units and the need to inflict 2 hits on a unit makes it hard to eliminate anything. The fire tables only inflict disruptions so you have to hope for 2 disruptions on the way in or charge the defender after fire to budge a defender. Only good order infantry can melee with about a 50% chance of damaging the defender, unfortunately a lot of infantry will not be good order after the fire phases. There are 2 of these, the 1st is at low odds and only used when units initially move adjacent. The second is used in all firing. An infantry combat could see dice for long range fire (both sides), dice for possible disruption (x2), dice for short range fire (x2), possible disruption (x2) and dice for melee (only once). Most combat will not go this far but a line will have several combats going on at once if there is an assault in progress. Be warned of a lot of die rolling, luckily there are few modifiers so relatively little time is spent looking up tables. There is a slight problem due to units in enemy ZOCs being unable to rally. As disrupted units have no ZOCs and lines of opposing disrupted units are common a house rule is required on rolling for recovery between adjacent units. It can be disallowed for speed or the players can take it in turns. As a disrupted unit in the battle line is better than one that has routed because it failed its recovery roll it may not always be a good idea to attempt the roll.
The lack of any short cut to a breakthrough results in slogging matches for all the games. The restriction on commands that can be activated also reduces the chance of an attack all along the line. Players will usually be forced to choose between continuing to attack with those commands most likely to succeed or counterattacking where there is most need. Leaders who are not activated by chit pull will still be able to put together a second line if there are units available but are prevented from ordering any attacks. This period saw high casualties on both sides but the number of dead units produced is rather low. There will be plenty of loss markers scattered about, I had to make more for Malplaquet and this may be the design’s way of reflecting heavy losses. My only real worry was having units break and rally with the possibility of not having taken any losses in the process, you could be back in the fray in 1 ˝ hours (recover, recover, move up) as good as new. This same problem also accounts for the games being on the long side, however these are all long big battles in the historical sense.