Sixteen years after the release of 1870, the well-received rules on the Franco-Prussian War, Bruce Weigle presents to with 1871. This is not a second edition, but a light version, born from the need to create a version more suitable to the new times, where the fast play and the ability to end a game in an evening is now a standard imperative. The rules can be played with miniatures of any scale and in four different formats: the “full” scale is best with several army corps, in “half” scale each player practically can control a single corps, in the “quarter” scale the fight is between two divisions and, finally, in the “two thirds” version, you can replay large battles of some importance, albeit with a reduced number of bases. The volume contains 12 detailed scenarios, historical notes and orders of battle. Downloadable soon will be the fast-play quick reference sheets for the earlier 1859 and 1866 rules. English language, 112 pages www.grandtacticalrules.com
This new rulebook from Bruce Weigle takes his popular 1870 rules and re-configures them for use during the 1871 period of the Franco-Prussian War. They are designed as fast play grand tactical rules for use with 6, 10 and 15mm miniatures. The rules begin by outlining basic information such as basing, die rolls and scale. The mechanics are shown using some clearly defined examples and are well explained. Each phase of the game is outlined, again with copious written and pictorial examples. These not only make the rules easier to understand but also provide players with a reference point during the course of a game. Options are given to scale your games at more than one level. There are also timelines and battle details for a number of battles, allowing you to pick a moment or a whole encounter to game. There are 12 historical scenarios outlined, complete with full force organisations and detailed maps. Each scenario sums up the main points of the battle, plus provides plenty of game information to get you started. A nice touch are the full Tables of Organisation included for the various French and Imperial German forces and the photos of the excellent gaming boards that are the trademark of any Weigle game. Though not exactly ‘cutting-edge design wise this set of rules is a good example of how to create a ‘gamer friendly’ resource. The examples and diagrams make the rulebook easy to access and suggests that the game mechanics can be rapidly assimilated. After a few games, it could probably be played simply using the provided quick reference sheet, with only occasional reference to the book. An interesting set of rules which expands upon the ‘Weigle Way’ that so many gamers enjoy.
TAGS: Historical Wargaming, 8mm, Miniatures, Franco-Prussian War, Table-Top, Rules.
REVIEW: 1871 FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR TABLE-TOP RULES
Released: 01 Jul 2017
Developer: Bruce Weigle
Available from: Direct
One of the least noticed, yet most profound, eras of European military history occurred between Waterloo (1815) and the Guns of August 1914. Often called the “age of the hyphen wars” (Austro-Prussian War, Russo-Japanese War, etc), the conflicts that occurred saw the rise of technology as an overwhelming battlefield factor, while still retaining some of the most colorful and spiffy looking uniforms this side of a Napoleonic dress ball.
It might seem like a match made in tabletop miniature wargaming heaven, but it wasn’t. Many of the wars were short, the battles huge, and technology was so dominant that victory and defeat was often preordained. Fortunately, author Bruce Weigle’s passion for the period and the three sets of rules it spawned (1859 on the 2d Risorgimento, 1866 on the Seven Weeks War and 1870 on the Franco-Prussian War) kept the period alive. Nevertheless, battle size in both numbers and real estate saw gamers clamoring for a simpler, quick play version of the series, and the result was the July 2017 publication of 1871, Fast Play Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War.
Not changing superlative...
1871 is 118 pages long, and comes in a hard back cover which elevates the price to $38.00 US at places like Clash of Arms Games, somewhat pricy perhaps, but you can find it on sale elsewhere and well worth it regardless. By contrast the 1859 rules are 140 total pages, though spiral bound and soft cover. Like its predecessors, the book is full color glossy and inundated with useful charts, tables, diagrams and some period specific, public domain artwork of the slugfest itself.
The format of the book is also similar to previous efforts. The first section is called General Information and informs the player about such mundane things such as scale, dice and other equipment needed, combat formations and so on. The second portion of the book, Mechanics of Play, is where the formal instructions on how to play the game reside, and is subdivided into chapters keyed to the sequence of play. Thus there are lessons on Command and Control where order chits (generally one per brigade if German, one per division if Imperial French and one per gaggle if Republican) for charging, moving and reforming are declared, followed by an Order Activation Phase where the players dice to see if their wishes will be carried out. Next comes the Movement Phase which includes both charges and deferred movement for those units shot up while marching to the nearest Gasthaus. The Fire Phase for both artillery and small arms is next out of the proverbial box, followed by the Melee Phase where troops attempt to move their opponents off a piece of turf, while the latter tries to stop them. Morale is checked throughout the game while recovery and reconstitution is actually an integral portion of the Command and Control Phase.
The rest of the book should also seem familiar with chapters covering half, quarter and 2/3 scale variants for the game, orders of battle, a short bibliography, a chapter on how to make all those snazzy game boards Bruce (seriously, before Google Earth he was taking photos from helicopters) brings to conventions and an index. There is also a page and a half that summarizes all of the changes in the game (FOG3 take note) so that veterans of the system can start hurling airbursts as quickly as possible. Finally there are 12 new scenarios for the game, none duplicative of those in the previous rules, and covering both the end of the Imperial campaign and all the Republican war effort. They are Noisseville, Sedan (the BIG battle, as in kinda what this game was made for), Villers-Bretonneux, Villepion, Champigny-Villers (one of my favorites), Poupry (small), Vendome, Baupaume, Villesexel, Le Mans (the race was cancelled that year), the Lisaine (another favorite) and St Quenton.
Scale remains 30 minutes per turn, 100 yards per inch, but in a change from previous, infantry units are generally brigades vice regiments. This means that a single stand is now a battalion as opposed to a half battalion as in the past; while cavalry stands now represent a half regiment of two squadrons. Given the author’s love for playing in Braille with 6 mm figures (yes, I know some paint regimental numbers on the buttons, but I’m talking humans here) and the ability to host larger and larger battles, the visuals are still impressive.
...but improving it.
Despite its obvious roots, the book flatly states it plays in half the time as the series of original games. Having seen several playtests at several conventions, I’d have to say this is pretty much accurate. So how did this come about? Well for starters, if you are moving around half the number of stands as in the past, this will take a lot of time off each turn. Also, if your baseline unit is a brigade as opposed to a regiment, then that’s one set of calculations instead of two every time fire combat ensues. I’ve actually measured stuff like this before in a review for the old Historical Gamer Magazine, and this can be quite significant.
Yet there are other patterns of change I found in the book that are far guiltier in this regard. The first is that 1871 has simply dropped – in total – some modifiers and game functions that were either never used, never had a significant impact regardless or simply were inappropriate for players duking it out on the tabletop at this level of command. For example, Unit Break Points are gone. Also gone is the Morale Table as now units simply need to be within one inch of a leader stand to rally or reform. The Attack Column found in 1870 now doesn’t exist unless you are playing quarter scale. And the French artillery airburst benefit at certain ranges; nope, nyet, non, nein. It’s gone.
The game also seems to have a lot of consolidation as well. “Friendlies passed through” modifiers along with some other functions have now been subsumed in a revised rule called Partial Fire. Likewise, melee (or Point Blank Fire for all purists) results to include casualties, leader casualties, morale and retreat, all of this, is accomplished by a single die roll.
Finally, the game has moved towards simplicity by dropping a lot of extraneous detail and going generic. By this I mean things like ALL infantry stands are now rated at one Fire or Combat Point per stand, with die roll modifiers discriminating further. Likewise, Command Radius is now four inches for all commanders and does not vary.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate what is being done here is to look at the artillery. In the previous series of rules artillery stands (batteries) were awarded Fire Points based on type, nationality and weight of shot. Taking the 1859 rules for example, Austrian artillery had four points per, but French had only three, and there were 12 Fire Point columns on the table. There were nine range bands from 0 to 32 inches, and some weapons could not fire past certain ranges. There were a total of 12 die roll modifiers, 14 if you count the modifiers for setting fire to a building, and 16 if you count the Double Hits add-on. Under the 1871 system, all batteries are rated the same number of Fire Points regardless, so they aren’t really used. Instead hits are calculated by the number of stands firing, not Fire Points. For that reason the number of columns on the chart now stands at four, simulating the fire of four batteries. There are now five range bands out to 32 inches, and the number of die roll modifiers has been reduced to seven.
Grogs will likely cringe, but it’s simple, fast, and accurate and it works.
Highly recommended. 1871 follows a continuing evolution in miniature wargaming towards systems that are more realistic and accurate precisely because of their elegant simplicity. Players no longer have to worry whether that one 9 lb battery is firing case, shell, shot or shrapnel, but instead can concentrate on their higher level of command, such as managing a division or corps. This latest rules set from Bruce Weigle accomplishes this not by a revolutionary, new way to do tabletop business, but rather tweaking a tried and true system to infuse simplicity while retaining its inherent strengths. By any measure, this attempt has not only been successful, but significantly so.
If there is one negative about 1871, it’s the little blurb where the author indicates his retirement after the publication of these rules. How sad. Yes, there are two more sets that deserve a similar makeover, but otherwise it’s more a calendar thing. By this I mean 1848, 1854, 1877, 1904, aka the Hungarian Revolution, the Crimean War, the Russo-Turkish War and the Russo-Japanese War. Heck, let’s toss in the 1912 Balkan Wars and August 1914 for a complete set. Hopefully FML Weigle will reconsider.
Meanwhile I’ll be scouring 1871 to see what I can requisition (because its research, not theft, ahem) for my own competing rules. And everyone knows what they say about imitation.
Sixteen years after the publication of 1870 (see VaeVictis 41), Bruce Weigle returns to this conflict with a second edition, entitled 1871. It is also a rule set specially designed to reconstruct the great battles of the Franco-Prussian War. In fact, the game scale is "strategic", with an actual kilometer represented by 25 cm on the gaming table. The figure bases always have a frontage of a little over 3 cm and the number of figures available on each base depends mainly on the figures used: 6, 10 or 15 mm. A base represents an infantry battalion, two cavalry squadrons, or an artillery battery. But three other scales are offered. For "smaller" battles, a battalion can be represented by two or four bases. At the opposite end, for the largest confrontations, two bases now represent a regiment of infantry.
A unit is characterized by morale, from 5 for the poor Garde national to 9 for Imperial or Prussian Guard troops. Overall, the game mechanics have not been much changed compared to the previous version of the rules. The most surprising point is the persistence of simultaneous movement, which most other game systems have abandoned as a potential source of discord. But the game’s order markers mitigates the problem by being revealed simultaneously; the players must respect the direction indicated. The orders are activated with a d10 but activate automatically after two failures: even if you are unlucky with the dice, your troops will eventually obey you!
For shooting, a table allows up to four bases (of infantry or artillery) to combine their fire, using a d10 to obtain a hit. Another d10 roll determines what damage is done on a second table, by the morale of the target: no effect, halt, recoil (of varying distances), disorder, and, at worst, the loss of a base. For melees, each side normally counts one strength point per base, modified by a few tactical factors; to this is added the result of a d6 die roll. The victory is based on difference between the two totals. Note that an infantry or artillery bases counts as three combat points against a cavalry charge, unless the cavalry rolled a 9 or 10 on a d10 prior to the contact. In this case, the mounted troops surprised the infantry or the enemy artillery (taking advantage of supposed terrain features or smoke which mask their approach): the cavalry then benefits from a bonus of +2, while an opponent's bases counts only one point of combat ... making cavalry charges theoretically possible! Morale tests to rally or reconstitute units are resolved using a d10.
The rules themselves only occupy about twenty pages out of the hundred and ten of the booklet. In fact, the majority of the booklet is occupied by twelve historical scenarios (completely different from those published in 1870): two for the "imperial" period (including one on Sedan) and ten of the republican period (in particular, the battles of Bapaume, Le Mans and Lisaine, a few leagues from Belfort). Each scenario is accompanied by a thorough historical introduction and summary of the actual event. In fact, you will find throughout quality of the previous volume: the author has, without a doubt, an excellent knowledge of the conflict. Let us also recall that Bruce Weigle wrote an eight-page article in the Vae-Victis special edition no. 12, in which he describes in great detail his method for producing his magnificent tables in the 6 mm scale. 1871 is directly descended from 1870 and its content is of the same vein. That is, of excellent quality. The mechanisms have been somewhat simplified and will not confuse the owners of the first edition. In any case, it is highly recommended if the war of 1870 is of interest to you, because the quality content is a good source of inspiration on the subject!
The latest title in the series of nineteenth century wargame rules from Bruce Weigle.
The earlier booklet from this author set out rules for the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, this version is not an update, but a new fast play version for fighting big battles. As before it is written especially for 6, 10, or 15mm figures and provides a more simple method of lay to speed up the game.
It is illustrated with C19 pictures and the excellent photographs of the superb table tops made by the author. These photographs and the clear maps which accompany the battle scenarios are much larger than previous booklets and make for a better understanding of the flow of the fighting.
As much of the background and history was covered in the 1870 booklets, it is not repeated here. A couple of the battles are dated to the Imperial period, but the majority are from the later period of the war against the Republic in 1870 and 1871. It includes a section on making the table tops, which, if you have seen any of Bruce’s games at shows, are a real treat for the eyes. Unlike the earlier booklets which fold out flat by means of a ring binding system, this volume is not, however it has a fast play pullout sheet, incorporating its own ruler. A worthwhile addition to your library.