Volley & Bayonet Corbach (Seven Years’ War)

March 14, 2015

Last Saturday, my son and I went to Mark’s house and played the Battle of Corbach (Seven Years’ War) with Volley & Bayonet. We had played this battle several years ago (see this post from my blog: https://jdglasco.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/volley-and-bayonet-the-battle-of-corbach/ ). This time the table was smaller, 5′ x 4′. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I think we were playing just the battle and not the approach part. I also wasn’t really sure what the victory conditions were, but I had a good time overall.

It was interesting to play Volley & Bayonet again after a long break. It is a good game, but it is really designed for a specific purpose. According to Greg Novak, the intent of the rules was to produce a quick play set of rules that could be used to fight large battles with several players, especially in the convention setting. The rules do a good job of achieving that goal. I think it works best when players run no more than about 20 to 25 stands; after that the game tends to bog down and produce a lot of mental fatigue. Also with lots of players, there is an in-built command friction, which is not present in one on one games. I also noticed that Volley & Bayonet is very lethal at times in terms of casualties due to the hands full of dice approach.

My son told me after the game that he is not a big fan of the horse and musket era, horrible as his father is a historian who is focused on Western European and the Atlantic World History from 1750 to 1815, Instead my son likes skirmish level wargames as that is more the level he identifies with. His favorite rules are the Two Hour Wargames rules, especially the ones for World War Two, zombies, and ancient warfare. Right now I’ve got the first two eras covered, and I am painting more figures for them. Soon we hope to try some Romans and Germans (ancient era) once I get some more figures painted. My son did have a good time with Mark’s dog, Pluto, as the photos show.

Father and son team with son already more interested in the dog than the game.

IMG_5389

More son and dog photos:

IMG_5392

IMG_5407

And some photos of the game (figures, table and photos by Mark):

P1280016

P1280023

P1280026

P1280042

P1280051

P1280095


Volley and Bayonet Images

May 6, 2011

For some reason, this blog would not let me include all of these pictures with the below post (so read that post and then the pictures will make sense):

The French free deployment for Hastenbeck:

The Hanoverian deployment for the same:

French Cavalry on massed cavalry stands:

French Artillery and French Infantry on linear bases (the white markers indicate the unit is in march column formation):

Hanoverian Infantry on linear bases and a Hanoverian Cavalry unit on a massed base:

Hanoverian Skirmish Cavalry and a Linear Infantry in march column (the single figure is a commander):

Hanoverian Infantry deployed in a town (the cannon ball markers show that the unit is “stationary”):

Close up of French Infantry and a French Commander:

A good view of what a Volley and Bayonet game looks like in action:

Another view of the battle:

The game in action with Dale’s “hand of god”:

Mark’s friend Dale, who joined us for the game:

Pictures, table and figures provided by Mark.


April Refight of Hastenbeck

May 6, 2011

Last month we replayed the Battle of Hastenbeck (1757) with Volley and Bayonet. The scenario was the same as our last Hastenbeck game except that we allowed both sides a free set up. The scenario outcome was about the same, a Hanoverian victory. It seems like the free set up made a French victory even more difficult. I do like free set up scenarios as they allow the players to create their own overall plan. Historical set ups always seem like you were the second in command, the senior commander just dropped dead, and now you get to do what you can with the plan you didn’t devise. As the scenario was the same outside of the set up I’ll devote this post to talking more about Volley and Bayonet as a game and posting some pictures rather than a specific narrative of the game.

When I lived in Illinois for a year while teaching at a liberal arts college I had the honor of meeting Greg Novak (one of the original authors of Volley and Bayonet) in person and playing a few VnB American Revolution games at his home. When I asked him what was the design philosophy behind VnB he stated that the game was designed to play large battles in a reasonable amount of time at conventions with novice players. Given that mission statement, I can conclude that Volley and Bayonet lives up to its design goal. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some games have, but it produces a solid game with historical outcomes in a reasonable amount of time.

In terms of scale, the basic Volley and Bayonet rules uses a time scale of 1 turn equals 1 hour and a ground scale of 1″ equals 100 years. That allows single day battles to be fought in 4-8 hours and most historical horse and musket battles will fit on a 6′ x 12′ (or smaller) table. There is no literal figure scale, but the game uses massed or linear infantry and cavalry bases. The massed infantry are 1500 to 3500 men, the massed cavalry are 1000-1500 men, while the linear infantry are 1000-1500 men. There are also skirmish infantry and cavalry bases of 500 men. Artillery stands can represent either 6 gun “batteries” or 12-18 gun battalions.  The game uses strength points and each strength point equals 500 men or 6 guns.

The units are all single base stands. In general massed infantry and cavalry units represent a brigade, while linear infantry stands represent a two or three battalion regiment. Massed infantry and cavalry and skirmish cavalry are on 3″ x 3″ bases. Linear infantry are on 3″ wide x 1.5″ deep stands. Artillery is on 1.5″ wide x 3″ deep stands. You can put as many or as few figures on a base as you want. The number of figures per base often depends on the size of figures used. For example, a linear infantry base will hold 6-8 25mm figures and anywhere between 8 and 12 15mm infantry. Some players reduce the size of the bases when using 15mm and smaller figures, often using 2/3rds or 1/2 size bases with the same number of figures that 25mm stands have. Given the size of bases, master figure painters can turn the stands into mini-dioramas (search the Internet to see examples of that).

In terms of game play, command and control is very limited. If a stand is within 6″ of a higher commander it can move freely. If out of command, it can move less with significant penalties. A turn is divided into 2 player segments, basically side A completes a turn and then side B completes a turn (I go – You go). The turn sequence goes “Command Phase” in which you check which units are in command. Then comes the “Movement Phase” in which units move. The third phase is the “Rally Phase” in which you rally routed units. All of these phases are completed only by the active player. The next two phases are interactive in that both sides act to some degree. The fourth phase is the “Morale Phase” in which the units of both sides that are in contact with an enemy stand or in short range of an enemy unit make morale checks. Then comes the “Combat Phase” in which fire combat and melees are resolved. The active player can fire any unit or melee any unit in contact in the order he desires. The non-active player can fire at units that fire at his unit (only with the target unit), fire units that are in their short range of the enemy, and resolves melee attacks along with the active player. In the last phase, “Exhaustion Phase” both sides check to see if any of their commands have reached their exhaustion level and roll to see if they are simply exhausted or collapse. Then the other player repeats these phases and one turn is over.

In terms of game mechanics, command and control is limited, but the large movement rates for units avoids the game becoming too slow. For example, infantry can move 12 or 16″ and cavalry moves 20 or 24″ per movement phase. Thus a cavalry unit can move across a 6′ table in just three turns. Terrain can slow down the movement rates, but there is also a march column formation which allows units to move twice as fast off road or at triple speed while on roads, which allows for some major moves.

Combat is based on rolling several d6 dice. The number depends on the size of the unit (massed or linear) as well if the unit is firing or in melee combat. Most units have more dice if in melee than if using fire combat. Usually a 6 on a d6 is a hit but there are modifiers for shock infantry, cavalry against disordered troops, and artillery at close range. Morale is crucial for the melee combats as both sides roll a d6 against their modified morale before a melee combat. Most regular units are a 5 morale, so they have a 1/6 chance of morale failure, but morale ratings range from 7 for the most elite troops down to 4 for second rate troops. While the system seems to be lacking in troop differential (most fire the same), the morale differences really give better troops a clear advantage in melee. Morale failure will make a unit go disordered which is a very adverse effect as they fire at half effectiveness and are at an additional -1 to morale for morale checks. If an already disordered unit fails a morale check it routs, which causes additional casualties and makes that unit permanently disordered.

Instead of an overall Army Morale, VnB uses an exhaustion for each command, usually a division. Once a command suffers 40-60% losses, it suffers morale exhaustion. Exhausted commands can no longer go stationary and can no longer move into close combat/melee with an enemy unit. Exhausted commands can also collapse based on the number of casualties suffered in a turn and a die roll. Collapsed commands can no longer move into contact with an enemy unit and the units in that command are all permanently disordered. In most games, the battle will eventually end as commands become exhausted and the battle slowly dies out.

As a game, Volley and Bayonet has very weak points and many strong points. The great weakness is the lack of detailed command and control rules. Frank Chadwick has stated that his goal was to make the players the commanders and their ability would determine the game outcome rather than the qualities of the historical commanders. That works game-wise but often makes it difficult to represent armies with superior commanders. I also think that skirmishers in the 19th Century are poorly represented, especially in the second edition of the rules. Those are about the only major weaknesses in the game. The rest are clearly well thought out systems.

There are many game systems that I find very cleaver in terms of design and they do portray historical events well. First, the single size bases allows just about any historical order of battle to be adapted to the game; I know as I have made up many orders of battle for the game and they always worked out well. The skirmisher stands are especially good at allowing the smaller units to be represented in the game. During the game, infantry and artillery units can go “stationary” which provides them with more dice in both fire and melee combat, which does a good job of representing the deployment of units in positions suitable for defense. I also like the large movement rates, which as I stated, helps make the game very dynamic in terms of play and reduces the telegraphing of major movements. Finally, I really like the bigger bases for several reasons. First, they reduce the amount of time to physically move a single unit in the game (unlike the multibase systems which require a player to move 4+ stands per unit). You can also make the stands much more dioramic than you can with smaller bases. Lastly, by reducing the size of bases you can play large battles with 15mm or smaller figures with a reasonable amount of figures on a smaller table. Right now I’m experimenting with bases that are 40% the normal size for 6mm figures. That allows players to use centimeters instead of inches. Using the centimeter scale, the Battle of Borodino would fit on a 4.8’ x 2.4’ table, which is about the size of a smaller dinner table.

See the above post for pictures.


February Volley and Bayonet Game

February 16, 2011

Mark and I and Mark’s friend Vic (from his weekly game group) were able to get in a Volley and Bayonet game this month. We played the Battle of Hastenbeck (1757) and used the newest version of the Volley and Bayonet rules (Road to Glory). We played a historical game and our scenario was based on the excellent research of Christian Rogge. Christian’s map is far more terrain intensive than that included in the Volley and Bayonet scenario for Hastenbeck, and in comparison with period maps, Christian’s map is the more accurate of the two. Mark and I have played the Hastenbeck scenario a couple of times before. Once with Volley and Bayonet: Age of Frederick (basically VnB 1.5) and once with Might and Reason. In our previous games, the terrain was oriented at a different angle; interesting how different a game can feel if you just orient the historical terrain in a different way.

Of our two Volley and Bayonet games of Hastenbeck, this game was probably the most enjoyable. Vic played the French and Mark and I played the Hanoverian and allied forces. We probably could have used a second French player as Vic was left with a lot of units command, something he noted during the game. I controlled the Hanoverian right flank and Mark controlled the left flank (the one in the woods that saw most of the action). We played the game in about six hours of actual playing time. This was my second or third game with the new Volley and Bayonet rules and I think I need to reread them before our next game as there are some subtle differences from the original version. There were a few minor points we may have played incorrectly, but overall I think we got it right in the main.

Here is a .pdf file with Christian’s Map: Hastenbeck_carte

Here is our initial set up:

Most of the action early in the game took place in the woods with the French right trying to break through the Hanoverian left:

and

Most of the action continued on the Hanoverian left, while our right (which I controlled) remained quiet. So much so that I had a sandwich (you can see my white plate on the extreme upper right of the photo):

Eventually the French tried to force our right with a cavalry attack, but were eventually pushed back. On the left, Mark gave some ground but worked to wear down the French attacking forces:

If I recall correctly, Mark then launched a local counter attack against the French center:

More than half way though the game, the French have pushed the Hanoverian left out of major portions of the woods and regrouped their cavalry to threaten the Hanoverian right:

And then commands started to exhaust and the Hanoverians pulled back to a more manageable defensive line:

and

Vic then tried to push against the Hanoverian right. Vic on the left rolls a die while I on the right watch:

The French try to push their attack, but time is running out:

And time ran out and the Hanoverians held the ground and were victorious. Mark’s dog surveys the final positions:

And now for a few close ups. Mark’s 15mm figures are on full size stands (3″ x 1.5″ for linear infantry, 3″ x 3″ for massed cavalry, and 1.5″ x 3″ for artillery). I

 

Overall, all involved enjoyed the game. Volley and Bayonet lacks fancy command and control rules (I for one wish it did), but it seems to always provide a solid game with historic outcomes. Slated for next time is a return to Hastenbeck with free set ups for both sides.

Mark’s dog has the final thought on all this:


Volley and Bayonet, the Battle of Corbach

December 23, 2010

Last Saturday Mark and I played a game of Volley and Bayonet, specifically the new version, Volley and Bayonet: Road to Glory. In the past we have played a lot of games of Volley and Bayonet, and if I recall correctly, the very first game we ever played together was Volley and Bayonet. Mark pulled out his French and Hanoverian forces and ran the battle of Corbach, 1760. This was the first time I had played the new edition of Volley and Bayonet, but Mark had played it several times in an American Civil War campaign he is participating in with his weekly game group.

I have played a lot of Volley and Bayonet in the past, but not so much recently. I think my first game was back in 1995. Since then I’ve played Volley and Bayonet off and on including a lot of French and Indian War and American Revolution games with my friend Les Reese. While living in England (1998-99), I had the opportunity to play Fontenoy with Martin Soilleux-Cardwell’s group (http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mcnelly/vb/battlereports/fontenoy_refought.htm). During the year that I lived in Illinois I was able to play in a Borodino game at Frank Chadwick’s home and several American Revolution games at Greg Novak’s home.  Since moving to Oregon, Mark and I have played several games, mostly Mark’s Seven Years’ War, but also one American Revolution game (Hobkirk’s Hill variant).

Volley and Bayonet is a fun game to play. The rules don’t seem very sexy when you read them, but in general they play very well. The weak command and control rules are offset by the large movement distances (12-16” for infantry and 20-24” for cavalry). That allows for players to make really dramatic moves and helps the games avoid the attritional slugfest that often occurs in rules with shorter movement rates. Also the lack of complexity of the rules doesn’t mean the games are simply beer and pretzel. Instead it forces the players to concentrate on playing the game rather than the rules. As my friend Les Reese noted, the rules are simple, but not simplistic.

In our game of Corbach, I opted for the French and Mark ran the Hanoverian forces. The game started with a great deal of moving forces onto the battlefield. Mark was able to more quickly establish a defensive line, while I seemed to take forever to get my forces deployed.  As the basic objective was to defeat the enemy, I realized that I needed to do something so I began my attack.

Here is the scenario we used:

1760_OdB_Corbach

And here is the scenario map:

Here is the basic starting set up:

Here I am wondering what to do:

And here is the long deployment phase of the battle:

Basically the Hanoverian forces held the ridgeline and woods, my French were stuck out in the open.

The Hanoverian forces were impressive indeed:

In my attack I opted to push the Hanoverian center and right:

The Hanoverian right looked unbeatable in the woods:

My attack on the Hanoverian center fails:

I did better in the woods and the French were able to push the Hanoverians out:

The Hanoverian center stood firm, anchored by the two artillery batteries:

I brought up some light cavalry to threaten one battery:

My main body of cavalry stood ready to attack from the front, thus pinning the Hanoverian center:

Rather than make a frontal charge, I brought a unit of heavy cavalry and attacked the Hanoverian artillery from the flank (remember the large movement rates in VnB):

I also moved my light cavalry into contact with the other Hanoverian battery. The luck went my way and both Hanoverian batteries were destroyed by my cavalry:

Hanoverian commands started to exhaust and collapse, leaving their center open:

Thus started a French general advance:

With little left, the Hanoverians began their retreat:

The battle ended with two more hours of daylight left. Usually when I play the French I lose, but this was the rare exception.

Overall, the game played very well and both of us had a good time. I would estimate actual playing time at about 5 hours. The new rules worked well, but most of the major changes in the second edition deal more with later periods so we were not able to really judge the value of the new edition’s big changes.

I should add the Mark provided all of the figures (15mm from a variety of makers), set up the scenario, and provided lunch as usual.