On Christmas Eve the new “Die Fighting” DVD arrived in the post from Bob Jones and after a quick viewing of the rules (they are in video and presentation format) and some printing off of play sheets, they went straight to the top of the “to play” pile. I must confess that though I had read them, I hadn’t managed to actually play the first version of the rules in the 4 years they have been out, but the fact that Bob used his War of the Spanish Succession troops in the video to demonstrate the rules made me want to get out my WSS troops which hadn’t seen the light of day in a while.
The set-up phase has changed in that, though units are still rated, the amount of dice (command resources) that are generated is down to the quality of the commanders not the number and quality of the units . This is where I probably made a mistake, in that I chose 1 C-in-C and 2 sub-commanders per side and gave each sub-commander 11 or 12 units to command – a sub-commander can command between 7 and 12 units in a random set-up (6 +1D6) but the number of units doesn’t increase the number of command dice, so each side was going to be very limited in what it could achieve. A much better approach would have been to allocate 3 sub-commanders and divide the units between them, which would have led to more command dice and a longer game. As it was, the French came off worst in both the commander and unit rating rolls, especially the Wild Geese Irish Brigade on the French side who were having a really bad day – the units were rated as Crack but rolled up as Poor on the day.
The game itself is card-driven, with each side randomly selecting 6 cards from a minimum of 8 – that way, you never know if you have, for example, 1 Infantry Action card or 2 – or even none! This adds a lot of tension from the previous sequence decks. Further using the Infantry Actions card as an example, when turned you may allocate 1 or 2 command dice from their sub-commander to move any infantry unit, then add yellow command dice (a finite resource each turn. with 3 to 4 per commander being typical) along with green “free” dice granted by unit quality and situation – this sounds complex, but is easily picked up. Other benefits for some units include the option to re-roll the lowest die or any doubles. The French won the initiative and turned up an Infantry action card so advanced their left command’s infantry forward, along with moving their right command’s nearest infantry to occupy the village.
The Allies also turned an Infantry action card, advancing the Austrians towards the village. While the French then turned a “Special Actions” card (which has no use in this period) the Allies produced another Infantry action card which allowed the assault on the village to begin. The Ploen regiment went in first with a long move aided by a leadership die and this drew the first fire from the village – luckily it was ineffectual and only resulted in a 1″ retreat which they had to take as their general was a Fabian (otherwise they could have spent a command die for each point of loss up to 6 to stay in place – greater than 6 means that retreat is compulsory). In the return volley the French lost by 2 even after cover modifiers were applied so had to spend 2 command dice to stay in place.
The French drew the Officer Actions card but the only use for this at this time was to move commanders. The Allies responded with the “Rally, Reload, Restore and Retreat” card (the “4 R’s” card) which does what it says on the tin really. Unloaded units remove their smoke, units can be rallied and if they fail and have black dice they must retreat. The big boost for the Allies was that it allowed them to re-stock their command dice, giving them a decided advantage on the dice-depleted French. Undaunted, the French advanced their superior right flank cavalry on their next card Cavalry actions, while the British harassed them with Artillery actions for their next card. Luckily for the French their “4 R’s” card came out next, so they replenished their dice, but not as effectively as the Allies (i.e. they were unlucky on their dice rolls).
The Allies turned Cavalry actions, making a pre-emptive attack on the French right. The first cavalry unit was driven off by French fire, but the second got into contact, though they only bested the French by 1 so the French were able to discard a command die to remain in place and in melee. On the British right, the Austrian Cuirassiers and British Heavy Cavalry and Dragoons advanced en masse.
The French artillery came into action next, but preferred to hold their fire and await events – it was as well they did. With the British Officer actions card, the turn came to an end.
The French led off the next turn with an Infantry actions card, advancing their centre to support the village, but this drew fire from the Dutch brigade to their front. As the Dutch were in firing formation and had some crack troops, they inflicted losses on the French, first costing them 3 dice to prevent a retreat, then 7 dice and an automatic retreat with a black die added, then another 4 dice on the third volley – the next card up was a British cavalry actions card.
The Austrian Cuirassiers on the right flank charged their opposite number, but the supporting French heavy artillery held its fire until point blank range, inflicting an 11 point loss – ouch! The Austrian horse beat a hasty retreat back towards their lines. They were followed in the charge by Lumley’s Horse who not only survived the point blank fire of the light artillery but also the shooting of the French cavalry to make it into contact.
In the melee the French lost by 9, retreating but being pursued successfully by the British horse who immediately engaged them in another combat – the French lost this as well and retreated off the table, which not only lost them command dice but contributed 3D6’s worth of command dice to the British pool, in this case 11.
With this catastrophic turn of events the French left hand command was down to 5 command dice, limiting what they could do. Taking advantage of this, the British 2nd Dragoons charged the Feronage cavalry regiment. The French sub-commander attempted to send some leadership dice to aid the cavalry but failed spectacularly, leaving them with just the basic 2 command dice to defend with.
Predictably, the Dragoons won and won big – with a loss by 13 points, the French cavalry unit ceased to exist and fled the table (the biggest loss a unit can sustain is 12). This loss depleted the sub-command’s dice pool further so that there were no command dice left – in game terms this is serious, sending the whole command disordered and severely limiting them even defending themselves.
Hopefully the French turned the next card, but were disappointed as “Special Actions” came up – no use to them at all. The Allies turned an Infantry action card, sending an assault in against the village as it was now held by disordered troop with little or no defence.
The Dutch Bayreuth regiment narrowly missed destroying the Lorraine regiment with a crushing volley, but they did enough to rout them out of the village. The Wendt regiment’s volley against Normandie, the other French unit in the village was ineffectual due to the class 3 cover of the stone buildings disregarding all attack dice rolls of 3 or under.
The next French card was Artillery actions, but low on dice they passed on the opportunity to fire. The Allies drew a precious 4’R’s card and refilled their command dice, along with removing fire markers from units which had fired and rallying their cavalry.
At this point I felt the French would have conceded. Their left flank had gone and the village at the centre of their defence was about to fall – added to that they had little or no command dice so would inevitably lose combats. As it turned out, the 4 ‘R’s card which would have given them some dice was at the bottom of their draw deck so conceding was a wise option.
I really like these rules and they are well suited to solo play. I would have preferred a hard copy rulebook but it’s not the end of the world as you can print off the slides after making them ink-friendly by transferring to a word processor. As a learning game this went well, with any rules queries being answered by consulting the PDFs or videos. The speed of the French collapse was surprising but as the author says in the video, you will reach a decisive result in a evening’s play – not half! I covered some key features of the game in the battle report but left out other bits – now I’ll have to run another game with more sub-commanders to cover those bits as this report has already gone on far too long 🙂 Highly recommended.