I took a rare break from my actual game playing hiatus to play a game with a friend of mine, Shane, who I have been playing historical miniature wargames with off and on since 1982. He is a good friend and was one of my wedding groomsman, so I could not turn down a game with him. In theory, Shane lives in Oregon, but really lives most of his life in Tucson where he works, and where we met many years ago while I was working at the local game store while a college student.
Shane is one of the 8mm Adler diehards. I have many of the Adler figures, and they are great, but my eyes don’t do so well with them anymore. I have a few projects going with Adlers, but after that I am done with painting anything smaller than 15/18mm, OK, maybe I’d do 20th century conflicts in 10mm, but that is about it. He was searching around for some rules for Napoleonic small actions and thought that maybe General de Brigade would work. I’ve played the Seven Years’ War, American Revolution, and American Civil War versions of those rules. I found they worked, but are a bit cumbersome for my very 21st century tastes. Had I played those rules in the 1980s, I’d love them, but they just don’t excite me in 2014. I will admit that all of the General de Brigade rules work well and are solid designs, they just don’t really do it for me.
Because of that, I suggested to Shane that maybe Lasalle by Sam Mustafa might work. I’ve read the rules, but never played them. Shane got a copy and read them, and we both thought they were worth trying. So after a year of talking about doing that (usually Shane and I go out to eat or drink when he is in Oregon), we actually got together to try out Lasalle. We played a small game with six or seven infantry battalions, one artillery battery, and one cavalry regiment per side. Shane had French and British so we called it an 1810 game for the unit ratings.
In terms of the rules, I think they fall into the “worth another go” category, but fell short of the magical, “these are the greatest rules ever” category. We played a full 16 turn game (8 turns for each player). We found that the rules were easy to understand and by turn 3 or 4 we were able to do most of the game basics with ease. I should note that Shane had not read the rules for a couple of weeks, but I was able to read them the night before and again the morning of the game we played, but I have not read the rules more than three times. The rules are clearly laid out and we were able to answer any question we had in a few minutes. For the first time it was a very smooth game.
I found the mechanics very playable. I also noted that they were inventive, especially in terms of how the turn sequence is laid out. Having some events in the game broken into several different parts of the turn worked very well, and reduced the need for cumbersome special rules to handle special situations. I have taught a course about the Napoleonic Era and have read many primary and secondary sources about the era. I felt in every case, the rules produced a historical outcome in contrast to rules that seem to have gained their understanding of the period from other wargame rules. Sam Mustafa has a Ph.D. in History and teaches a course in the Napoleonic Era, and it shows in the historical understanding of the period as reflected by the rules. Sort of nice to have an expert write a set of rules rather than the typical “Larry the Wargamer”.
I think we need to try out the advanced rules next time as they look like they will answer some of the issues I had with the first go of the rules. In the basic games, commanders seem a bit unimportant, but reading through the advanced rules shows they can be very important by a few simple modifiers, especially in terms of rallying unit disruptions. I did feel that infantry was a bit feeble in woods, but the advanced rules allow light infantry to act as irregulars in the woods, which also will fix that issue. But all of my quibbles were pretty minor, which is the sign of a well designed wargame. That is not surprising as I really like some of Sam’s earlier games like Might and Reason and Fast Play Grande Armee. So if asked about Lasalle by a friend, I would say that it is clearly worth a try.
One last note, I have noticed that in many of Sam Mustafa’s newer games, he has strived to create games that don’t seem to require 1000 figures to play a game. While Grande Armee required a lot of figures because it was representing large Napoleonic battles, his later games seems to have reduced the number of units and hence numbers of figures that players need. For example, the use of “brigades” as the basis for Might & Reason reduced the number of figures for large Seven Years’ War battles compared to say Volley & Bayonet which uses stands which represent half as many men. In Lasalle, a player seems to be able to field a competent force with less than a dozen units and figures per unit is entirely up to the player. I know the same is true of Sam’s Maurice rule set. I really appreciate this as it puts the emphasis back on playing the game rather than painting endlessly so you can play the game. I hope that Sam’s future games continue with this trend.
Sorry about the lack of pictures. Neither Shane nor I are really high-tech guys. Shane did have a camera on his tablet (which also had our copy of the rules), but neither of us thought about taking a picture of the game!