Pyramids 1798 (Vae Victis 23)

Playings 3 (5 hours) 1 French win, 2 Egyptian

I updated Richard Fluck's translation of the Rivoli rules which was a lot easier than translating the whole lot. Some of the rules references are wrong but they are just as wrong in the original French. I was well satisfied with the game although you don't expect too much for about 4 pounds 50. It is based on a Berg system; there are so many that I am not sure which but would put my money on GMT's Waterloo. No surprises then that armies have formations (6 French and 11 Egyptian) that are activated when their chit is pulled from a cup. Two of the Egyptian formations are of 2 guns each so they don't do a lot, one is immobile as well. Every formation has 2 chits but the last chit is left in the cup restricting that formation to a single go. My money is on the home team; the French had a hard time so I kept playing until they won on the 3rd game. I still think that the Egyptians have the easier game but some good rolls on the 3rd session led to a real walkthrough for the French. A little panache seemed to be what the French needed.

The map is A3 with the Nile along the top edge, counter density is low, most of the markers are not going to be used. The Egyptian starting forces can almost but not quite stretch from the Nile to the map bottom. The French all start in a big gaggle that needs sorting out. Two fortified towns hold the key to the game. The French need to take them both or just 1 and trash the Egyptians. One town is quite near the French start line but is chock full of Egyptians, the other starts the game empty but is on the unfashionable side of the Egyptian army. Cavalry cannot attack towns so if any of the 3 French cavalry units can break past the Egyptians they can take the empty 2nd town and will be unlikely to be attacked by the few Egyptian infantry units. It is quite difficult to get past the Egyptian line unless the Egyptians weaken the main front by sending some units back to the rear town. The problem the French face is that a test must be passed on D10 to attack, the French will usually require 3s or 4s. If they do pass it will usually be a case of French infantry against Egyptian cavalry who will promptly retreat before combat. So it is quite hard to catch the natives and give them a good solid thrashing. I cannot be certain but it seems fair to use the retreat rules on stacking when cavalry retreat before combat. With these they can almost always retreat but have to take extra cohesion tests if they cross an enemy front and cause any illegal stack that they pass through to take a separate cohesion test. The effect then is to allow any cavalry attacked by infantry alone to withdraw but they can get in a bit of a mess doing so.

The best of the Mamelouks will give as good as they take but their Pillard supporters are only good for poncing around on the flanks. The key to getting anywhere as the French is to get good enough rolls to attack the Egyptians and make good use of the 3 French cavalry. The closest town to the French line is a lot of work. Bonuses for defence make it suicide to attack unless it is completely cut off. Even this is risky and it pays to sit back and shell the place. This relies on good die rolls as the Egyptian garrison recovers as fast as the French hit them. I fouled up the 2nd game by trying all out for this town. A better ploy was to assign 2 formations (1/3rd of the army) to block it off and shell it while the other boys concentrated on the war.

A large chunk of the Egyptian army is on the wrong side of the Nile and yes they do have a boat counter but these units are in 4 groups that must be activated by rolling a 9 or better (0 is 0 with these D10s) each turn. On success a single group is released. Cunningly 1 is added to the roll for each French unit in rout so they are more likely to join in if the French are doing badly. It is tempting to ship these new boys behind the French line but they will be difficult to command there and are better used to support the main line. The 3rd game saw no Egyptians cross the Nile, which did no harm to the French victory level. They simply poured over in the 2nd game. The width of the Nile limits where units can cross in a single turn so I dumped them in the island in the middle and continued in the next turn. People live on these islands so it seems a fair ploy.

The system saw a lot of back and forth as units were pushed back or fled but very few eliminations. The only way to kill a unit is to have it rout off-map or make a routed unit fail a morale check. Unless you can cut off a unit it is pretty hard to catch routed units. These routers cause problems as when a formation's chit is picked as only those formation units that are within 2 hexes of each other can be used. So if a formation can keep together it can all act twice. Routers move out of formation so will require a dedicated activation chit to try to stop them. The Egyptian Pillards are so poor that they will be hard to stop but should not be getting into close combat anyway. The French need every unit so will have to reduce the activity of the rest of the army when trying to rally selected units. If they don't there is an increased chance of more Egyptians crossing the Nile and everything going to pot. The French Reserve is another formation problem. It can stack with nearly everything but because it is a distinct formation it cannot move or fight at the same time as those other formations. Hence the need to group it together early in the game.

The whole system is more appealing than the old NAW system and could quite easily be bolted onto any such game that happens to have clearly marked commands. The Last Battles Quad, Vittoria from Vae Victis or possibly L'Armee du Nord. Firng is simple enough to not require a CRT. Artillery is pretty standard, decreasing with range but just about anything blocks line of site making it hard to get off a shot. Infantry can only reaction fire as they are attacked. A swift look at the factors reveals that many infantry can never hit and those that can are looking for 9s. So you roll the bones and if there is no 9 in sight there is no need to check the chart. Combat uses the D10 modified by differentials that are easily memorable, 1.5:1 +1, 1:4 -4, quality difference of 3 +/-3. Good memorable factors that don't require too much pouring over the charts (these are printed so small that memorability is a key factor). If anyone wanted to have a go the charts are not really necessary. 5+ is required for to force the defender to test cohesion, 1-4 sees the attacker taking the test. 9+ and 0- give the winning side the chance to counterattack. Firepower needs a 9+ (these are all D10s, 0 as 0) to force a cohesion test. There are more substantial effects but I have never rolled high enough to get them. Cohesion tests are passed by rolling under cohesion and rout or disorder caused by those tests are removed by again rolling under the cohesion (which is less on the disordered side of the unit). As an idea of numbers to use any old movement and combat factors can stay in place. Cohesion is 5 or 6 for the hard boys down to 1 or 2 for the pillaging Pillards. Artillery has good values giving a boost to units that are stacked with artillery on defence. Units also have aggression rating required to attack, these are 3 and 4 for your average Frenchie with 5 for the upper crust Mamelouks.