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"Republic to Empire – First Impressions" Topic


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2,237 hits since 23 Feb 2014
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Trajanus23 Feb 2014 6:04 a.m. PST

When I got my copy of "Longstreet" I posted what I thought about them on the ACW board, on the basis of a read through and on the understanding it wasn't a detailed commentary.

Although Republic to Empire aren't new anymore I thought I might do the same as folks seemed to like the approach.

To qualify matters I don't intend compare them with ‘Black Napoleonic Brigade of Glory' or whatever else, it's just the first reactions of some old fool who's been playing Naps for 40 years and still hasn't found what he's looking for (Apologies to U2).

Let's get the play sheet(s) out of the way first. Too big, too many sides, too complicated was my received wisdom going in – total rubbish is all I can say to that!

OK the foldout equates to six A4 sheets but it's all charts and seems pretty much everything else you will ever need to refer to during a game. Nothing complicated, just inclusive. If it means you don't end up flicking through the book every time you need something, it will do for me!

The book itself is well produced and presented with miles of great photos and dozens of examples of game play to show how sections of the rules work with an AAR on an entire Divisional action at the end, where every single step in the game is written up for you to follow!

My overall feeling after the first read through was that it was the author certainly knew the period and was refreshingly informative about design decisions he made in relations to ranges, formations and other aspects of the game in trying to achieve what he wanted.

I would describe the over all feel for me as, confidence in something solid and gimmick free, competent and workmanlike, a general feeling that ‘Yeah, these should work'.

Which could translate as ‘boring' but it's not intended too, I've just become disenchanted with watered down, abstracted to hell ‘Napoleonic Rules' where the most period thing about the game was the representation of uniforms on the figures being used! These certainly do not feel like that!

The Order system is simple and well laid out. You give orders to your Brigades from six explained options which set out what formations are permitted, what must be done and may be done within the Order and finally what cannot be done.

A number of Movement Points (generated each turn) is allocated to this activity and to any individual battalion variation adjustments you might want to take.

Cleverly, while the Regulating Battalion concept is missing (the rules not being alone in this) the written examples make it clear that as the game progresses the side that has its Brigades following orders with all their battalions in the same formation and doing the same thing, will be at a distinct advantage in Movement Point use over a side that is constantly fiddling around!

It's also a nice historical touch that the author has encouraged the use of company columns for initial deployment and battlefield manoeuvre by all nations.

For players with British armies out there who don't know and think the world is all about Lines – as the author reminds us, nearly all the Allied infantry battalions at Waterloo were in company columns at quarter distance when the battle started and it wasn't just down to lack of space.

A nice point is that pretty much all basing systems will work, as fire and combat are conducted by four figure groups (artillery are on the often used one gun for two real ones system) but the ranges will come as a shock to most people, the author choosing to stick with the ground scale and not dream up representative distances.

This is compensated for by stiff reductions in effect at longer ranges. I should point out here that both fire and combat are in the ‘bucket of dice' camp which I'm used to from other periods. The modifiers coming in increase or decrease to a base number of dice used. A system I prefer over adding and subtracting dice modifiers.

The other ‘distance based' shock comes in terms of cavalry charge moves. The 'sensible' normal move being close to infantry speed, on the basis that cavalry were mostly walked around the field to save their energy, this effectively doubling (or slightly more than, for Lights) to spring a nasty surprise on the unwary commander.

Speaking of which, there is a nice awareness test that Brigades have to take when they first come into charge reach which will have those on the lower level of Brigade commander competence giving the owning player a few sweaty moments!

The Charge system and 'Resolve' (morale) Checks for both sides are well handled and the overall 'Resolve' concept looks to add a lot to the game whenever it is required. Rewarding historic play and creating uncertainty in poorer troops while avoiding Supermen at the other end of the scale.

So as rules, are they complicated, or just too big?

That raises an interesting question of perception. There are 144 pages in the book, 76 are the rules (Excluding FIBUA – How often will you really use those?). Of those 76, some 66 of them have half, or more, of the page lost to photos and the charts that are also on the play sheets. That is no exaggeration whatsoever!

OK, I guess that's the modern world, the photo's I could have done without but what it does do is give an impression bulk and complexity that doesn't wash and may well have turned off those who have assumed such and just hides what I expect to be a very good game indeed.

I wonder if this 'eye candy' arms race will end one day?

Right now, no one wants to blink first!

sgt Dutch Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2014 6:30 a.m. PST

Thanks for the great review. I agree the rule look like they would be fun to play. But by me Blackpowder rules the roost. :(

CATenWolde23 Feb 2014 9:41 a.m. PST

Great review, and much appreciated. From what you say, I may just hop over the fence on these.

Cheers,

Christopher

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Feb 2014 11:00 a.m. PST

One note on the pay sheets. The size throws people off but it is VERY deceptive. For the combat charts you ahve a number of large, identical charts. That is they all look and work the same. But one if infantry vs. infantry, one is for infantry vs. cavalry and so on. If you then look you'll see the results are very different on each chart but it's a nice way to use charts to simplify matters. Avoids having lots and lots of rules for "unless attacked by cavalry in which case see chapter 12."

JJMicromegas23 Feb 2014 12:53 p.m. PST

Nice review, I have a quick question that wasn't immediately obvious; what size forces is it reasonable to represent on the table, I noticed the base unit is a battalion so how high does the command level go: Brigade, Division, Corps, Army?

Thanks

Trajanus23 Feb 2014 12:57 p.m. PST

Mark,

Good points, there is a lot of what looks like repetition but isn't. The key thing for me is none of it needs a PhD to understand!

Sparker23 Feb 2014 1:56 p.m. PST

Useful review -thanks. I must confess to being turned off these rules by the mutiple page 'Quick Reference Sheets' so this is interesting!

Actually its surprised me how often FIBUA comes up in replaying historical actions, although I'm certainly not a fan of it either!

For players with British armies out there who don't know and think the world is all about Lines – as the author reminds us, nearly all the Allied infantry battalions at Waterloo were in company columns at quarter distance when the battle started and it wasn't just down to lack of space.

Despite all the clever young revisionairies constantly 'discovering' that the British occasionally fought in column and the French were generally attemtpting to deploy into line, I don't think any stubborn diehards like myself still insisting that the British usually fought in line suggested they moved up to the start line in that formation – I don't think that would even be possible on modern German Autobahns!

Quarter Columns were the most flexible formation to march and then be able to 'ploy' into Column, deploy into Line, or close up into Square at need – hardly an 'astounding' revelation!

nsolomon9923 Feb 2014 3:43 p.m. PST

Thanks for this – I bought these Rules about the same time I bought La Salle. Had a quick look and must confess I too was dismayed by the "Quick Reference Sheets" and put them back on the shelf.

I soon junked La Salle as obviously not for me – hated them – but have never gone back to re-look at RtoE. Just kept on with GdeBde and LFSIII, my favourites.

Thanks to this post I will now take RtoE off the shelf and have a thorough read through.

Thanks, most useful review.

Trajanus23 Feb 2014 3:45 p.m. PST

I noticed the base unit is a battalion so how high does the command level go: Brigade, Division, Corps, Army?

The battalion is really only the dice rolling level, if you like think in those terms.

The basic game the player is a Divisional Commander giving orders to Brigades.

It will scale upwards so you can command a Corps as an individual, if you have the time and space available. Army games would be multi player affairs but could work one v one if you had the facility to leave the table up.

Equally important is the unit size which as written expects battalions in the 24 – 36 figure range. They were written for 28mm but I see no reason why smaller scales wouldn't work and neither does the author.

It may be that 10mm is the bottom level though, as I imagine counting 6mm figures to get your four figure combat groups might be a pain.

Trajanus23 Feb 2014 3:52 p.m. PST

Sparker,

Despite all the clever young revisionairies constantly 'discovering' that the British occasionally fought in column and the French were generally attemtpting to deploy into line

You don't have to hold revisonary views. Both armies were a lot more flexible than people used to give credit for in days gone by. Its in the period manuals. Commanders of the time had the tools to do the job in various ways.

Columns at half distance actually made for easier formation changes but I wasn't trying to teach 'egg sucking'. :o)

Rather that most rules don't try to differentiate on the company columns possibilities, so if they don't find things out for themselves, a whole bunch of gamers miss out on their historical use altogether.

Trajanus23 Feb 2014 3:58 p.m. PST

I soon junked La Salle as obviously not for me – hated them – but have never gone back to re-look at RtoE.

Well if you have already spent the cash I'd recommend another look, the damage has already been done to your wallet! :o)

nsolomon9923 Feb 2014 5:19 p.m. PST

Will do, thanks.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2014 6:14 p.m. PST

Beautiful book, well written with unit sizes I like but there's just too much stuff for my already cluttered mind to keep straight.

Bede1902523 Feb 2014 6:24 p.m. PST

I find it interesting that people don't get upset with a positive review from someone who hasn't played the rules but tear to shreds a person who hasn't played the rules and has something critical to say.

Sparker23 Feb 2014 7:26 p.m. PST

Yes good point!

I guess the key here is that Trajanus wasn't just band waggon jumping, which is always what lights up my blue touch paper, and also that he addresses the fact that a 6 page QRS didn't equate to a similar level of complexity in the main publication…

nsolomon9923 Feb 2014 10:38 p.m. PST

Further to this discussion can I ask if anyone has played both General de Brigade and Republic to Empire and if so what do they find are the differences and the results of the differences and why?

Rod MacArthur24 Feb 2014 4:22 a.m. PST

Trajanus wrote:

Columns at half distance actually made for easier formation changes but I wasn't trying to teach 'egg sucking'. :o)

Columns of half distance worked best for French, where columns of companies,or divisions, in three ranks also formed square in three ranks. However, for the British (and their closest allies), where columns of companies in two ranks formed square in four ranks, quarter distance column works best.

This is because the drill was for the column to halt, the leading company fall back to the second, all the middle companies to split into four (quarter company sections), then these wheel outwards, with those on the flanks forming the front two rows of the side of the square, whilst those originally in the centre formed the rear two rows of the sides of the square, the penultimate company marches forward one quarter company interval and the rear company marches forward two quarter company intervals, then these last two companies about face to form the rear of the square.

The drill works for a column of companies of any size, provided there are at least five companies in the column. It would only work for columns of division (British Grand Divisions) if there were five complete divisions, ie the entire British battalion. Since British battalions normally detached their light companies into Brigade screens, they normally only had nine companies per battalion, so column of companies works when column of divisions does not. About the only exception I have come across was the 51st at Salamanca forming a column of Grand Divisions, but all the battalions in their brigade were light, so there was no need to form a Brigade screen by detaching one light company per battalion.

If a typical 600 man battalion is considered, then the 30 files per company will have a frontage of about 24 places, so quarter distance is six paces from the front of one company to the front of the one behind it. The time taken to form square is that for the rearmost company to march forward 12 paces and about face, perhaps 20 seconds for a well drilled battalion.

That is why the British default formation for battlefield movement was the quarter distance column, and that formation is even recommended as the best formation when moving in open country, and a cavalry threat is possible, in the 1792 Regulations.

Rod

Rod MacArthur24 Feb 2014 6:01 a.m. PST

nsolomon99 wrote:

Further to this discussion can I ask if anyone has played both General de Brigade and Republic to Empire and if so what do they find are the differences and the results of the differences and why?

I own copies of both sets of rules, as well as Black Powder. I have read all three extensively, but have only ever played Black Powder, apart from some solo games of General de Brigade (in an attempt to familiarise myself more with those rules).

All (if you consider the latest DeLuxe edition of General de Brigade) are similar glossy publications, with lots of "eye candy". All use, or can use, the same 1:20 figure ratio and double ranked basing, so you could actually use the same figures to play all three. All three play at a level of each player normally controlling a Division of several Brigades, with infantry battalions, cavalry regiments and artillery batteries as the primary manoeuvre elements. It would be possible to play all three at a multi-division (ie Corps) level If you had several players present.

Black Powder is the simplest, and in its original format, the least truly Napoleonic of the rules. However the modifications introduced in the Albion Triumphant supplements (particularly those in the second one) have made it more historically accurate. The big difference in basing is that Black Powder suggests one gun per battery (which personally I like), whereas the other two use the one model represents two real guns system.

I think that General de Brigade is the most historically accurate, followed by Republic to Empire, then Black Powder. General de Brigade is, for example, very good on its treatment of Brigade skirmish screens. One feature of General de Brigade is to allow cavalry charges by squadron, which was the norm in the Napoleonic era, but which the other rule systems do not allow (interestingly Republic to Empire comes from the same stable as the 17th century Under the Lily Banners, which does have cavalry operating by squadrons)..

There are probably lots of other comments which I could make, if I had the rule books to hand, but I am in Spain at present, and my rule books are in UK.

Rod

Trajanus24 Feb 2014 7:58 a.m. PST

Rod,

One feature of General de Brigade is to allow cavalry charges by squadron, which was the norm in the Napoleonic era, but which the other rule systems do not allow

Cavalry can charge by Line, Column of Squadrons and Column of Companies in Republic to Empire. Its on all the relevant charts.

I think that General de Brigade is the most historically accurate

What's your assessment based on, or is it just a general 'feel'?

Trajanus24 Feb 2014 8:08 a.m. PST

Oh, and 'feel' is fine, BTW.

A lot of rules appreciation is subjective after all. Otherwise we would all be playing the same thing!

Trajanus24 Feb 2014 10:03 a.m. PST

For what its worth as far as I can see there is no mention of "cavalry charges by squadron" in General de Brigade.

The words Cavalry,Regiment and Unit all occur in the Charges Section (Chapter 7) but Squadron does not.

Skatey24 Feb 2014 10:05 a.m. PST

Trajanus, p145, rule 16.2. In the deluxe book.

Trajanus24 Feb 2014 10:58 a.m. PST

Ah! The old Optional Rules ploy eh!

Thanks Skatey

Do you know if that was in the earlier editions of GdB? I have a copy of Delux but I've only played the previous version which I don't have anymore and I don't recall it.

I note that its recommended for small games, or limited cavalry, due to it being time consuming.

Sparker24 Feb 2014 2:13 p.m. PST

Thanks Rod for an illuminating comparision. I am only familiar with Black Powder and GdeBde, so can't comment on R2E.

Black Powder is the simplest, and in its original format, the least truly Napoleonic of the rules.

I would disagree here. Of course its subjective, and everyone will have their own opinion on what makes a game 'Napoleonic'!

For me, it is the ability for a smaller but better motivated and led army to defeat a larger, staider army by moving fast and aggressively. I'm thinking about the Grande Armee glory years of 1805-1807 here. Only Black Powder, with its emphasis on C2, has so far allowed me to replicate this on the table top, hence for me its absolutely 'Napoleonic'!

Rod MacArthur25 Feb 2014 4:48 a.m. PST

Sparker,

I suppose my comment about Black Powder being "less Napoleonic" than the other two rule sets is because Black Powder covers the entire 18th and 19th Centuries, so the rules are bound to be more generic. There are then supplements for particular periods, but I have had issues with some of those.

Black Powder, as originally written, only had two types of columns, Attack Columns (which are effectively French style Columns of Attack) and March Columns (which are effectively non tactical Columns of Route). This would have been fine for the early 18th Century, but was wrong after the 7 Years War, when the Prussians developed the use of "reduced distance columns" (ie close columns, quarter distance and half distance) as battlefield manoeuvre columns.

This was made worse by the original Albion Triumphant supplement (Peninsula) which stated that British cannot form Attack Columns, thereby condemning all British battlefield movement to be in Line or March Column. This made Napoleonic British operate as though they were still in 1714.

I raised this issue on the Warlord Games forum, and I am pleased that the author of the supplements (Adrian McWirter) corrected this in the second Albion Triumphant supplement (Waterloo), so there is now a tactical Column of Companies formation, as used by the British, and indeed used by the French after 1808 whenever their Voltigeur companies were deployed to skirmish. This Column of Companies formation always existed in both General de Brigade and Republic to Empire, which is why I would say they are both more truly Napoleonic than Black Powder.

Another issue is the way that skirmishers deployed. General de Brigade correctly recognises that this was into a Brigade Skirmish Screen, so that all skirmishing is a Brigade, not battalion, function, which Black Powder does not. To be honest I cannot remember what Republic to Empire says about skirmishing, and my rule books are currently in a different country, so I cannot check.

There are probably many other points, but these are just a couple which spring to mind.

In the end I suppose it comes down to the balance between an enjoyable game and historical accuracy. I would always lean towards the latter, but others may disagree.

Rod

Mithmee28 May 2014 9:36 p.m. PST

Well I finally got around to buying a copy of Republic to Empire yesterday.

So waiting for it to arrive from England.

I like the look of large battalions though my Napoleonics are 15mm and not 28mm.

Also I will need to consider if I want to go to a 1-20 ratio instead of the 1-30 that I am using now.

I own Black Powder and have played it and your units can end up doing some real stupid moves.

Which makes for a interesting results but is not really realistic.

Marc at work18 Jan 2017 10:09 a.m. PST

And what was the outcome Mithmee?

I ask as I have R2E, BP and GdB, but currently play BP (with amendments from The Old Contemptibles). I found R2E indecipherable when I bought them, so put them to one side, but since then have been able to glean a flavour of how they work (ie an overview) from Deep Fried Mice and other TMP posts, less so from the R2E forum itself. The result being I have become interested in them again.

And I hope that does not cause offence – it is more a reflection on my (older) brain struggling to understand complex ideas less easily now than perhaps I once managed. So MPs, charges, brigade orders etc all left me at sea. But the overviews I have now read make those concepts sit in place more easily now.

So anybody currently playing them, with thoughts from their games (that are not part of the R2E player group)?

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