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Grignotage15 May 2015 6:37 a.m. PST

I recently bought Et Sans Resultat!, a grand-tactical Napoleonic wargame by David Esteness. I have a review of the rules below, with the acknowledgement that I haven't played yet---these are my thoughts from a read-through. First is my summary of the game; I'll follow up with comments and criticisms.

The brief version: As a gamer who is interested in recreating chaos and friction on the tabletop; who is interested in the issues of commitment/timing on the Napoleonic battlefield; and who digs the notion of a Napoleonic division being an unwieldy beast that you hurl into combat, I'm really excited to play Et Sans Resultat! The book is high-quality and the writing is clear. The game takes into account command and control problems, the deployment of divisions, and divisions become worn down and shot-up in combat. On the down side, I am disappointed by there being no scenarios included in the book, and don't think that the game is great solo.

Overall: Great stuff and I look forward to playing it!

Now for the long version…
Et Sans Resultat (the name is taken from a quote by Ney, about the indecisive slaughter at Eylau) emphasizes the movement of corps and divisions. Ideally, a single player is the army commander, guiding pre-game deployment and orders and then issuing orders to corps commanders; the other players command corps and push their divisions around.

Corps and Divisions are directed by Orders, which include an objective (a physical feature) and a an order (defend, attack, maneuver)—and, for divisions, a direction of movement. Players place little cards next to their corps and divisions to indicate what orders they have.

Orders may take several turns to "activate," representing confusion, delays, and other friction. (The game formations "corps" or "divisions", regardless of their historical designation). It seems that the game will be able to recreate the problem of breaking off a failing attack, or the problem of quickly sending in reserves or redirecting a corps/division from its present path. My read of Napoleonic history—admittedly brief—holds the issues of reserve management/timing to be pretty important in Napoleonic battles, so I think that's a great feature of the game.

Divisions are masses of individual battalions, squadrons, and batteries; each division has its frontline of combat units, a "reserve area" of resting artillery battalions, pioneers, and general reserves, and a "reformation area" of broken units and other chewed up troops. Though battalions, squadrons, etc. have individual movement rates, you mainly are moving the division as a whole. Orders restrict movement in various ways—"Defend" limits you to only moving against nearby threats, "Maneuver" means you can't get up too close to the enemy, etc.

How divisions move and fight seems, from my reading, to be at the core of the game—they are not dainty things that can move to-and-fro. Divisions are sledgehammers that you awkwardly shove into the general area of the battlefield where they're needed. They take a long time to deploy off the march (easily an hour in game-time—about three turns). Once moving in a certain direction, it's a slow process of changing orders and movement direction.

Once in combat, you're best off fighting in "waves"—some of your battalions/squadrons in the front line, withdrawing to safety behind the next wave when they're close to exhaustion. The game also encourages you to cycle your arty batteries in and out of the line, before they're exhausted. Units fight one another by rolling 2D6 and comparing various modifiers. They suffer incremental casualties and get gradually worn down. Divisions accrue "fatigue" (the overall effect of morale and physical deterioration) and can be forced to retreat. If you can get behind an enemy division and overrun its "reformation area"—the rear area where broken troops and worn out troops are milling around—you're likely to destroy that division entirely.

Of course, who's leading your divisions and corps is important—leaders are rated both by generic category (infantry, cavalry), generically by nation (France and Britain are the best), and by historical individual. There's a long list of unit and leader ratings in the book.

I haven't played the game yet, but here are my thoughts from reading—mostly very positive, though a few apprehensive:

1) Command and control are central. Getting your corps/divisions to the right place at the right time is more important in the game than particular tactical positioning of troops.

2) Once in combat, divisions are unwieldy as hell and will batter away at the enemy until they win or they break.

3) I like the notion of individual battalions being represented in the game, AND not having to worry about their various formations. This creates a granularity I've been looking for in a Napoleonic game.

4) Judging from the pics in the book and the game's website, ESR games look great—you can get the look of a massed Nappy division on the attack, or shattered and retreating.

5) As a gamer, I'm far more interested in chaos and friction than I am in combat minutia, so I really like what I'm seeing in the rules.

6) I am concerned about speed of play. I like my games to be quick. But actually playing the game and learning the mechanics on the table as opposed to in the book will see how fast it plays. In ESR's defense, it does not bill itself as fast-play.

7) I would have preferred the book include at least one scenario—considering the title, and frequent references in the text, I figured Eylau would have been perfect to include. The author has told me in emails that scenario books are in the works.

8) Because orders are done in secret, the game has problems as a solo game—though an intrepid solo-gamer could just ignore their knowledge of "enemy" orders, or fashion a randomizing system to account for it.

9) More diagrams of how divisions look and can be arrayed on the table would be helpful.

Anywho, that's my spiel. I'll post an AAR as soon as I get to play.

Wealdmaster15 May 2015 7:08 a.m. PST

I commented in another thread:

Et Sans Resultat looked good to me but I'm not so sure after reading some of the command and movment mechanics.

Response:

What aren't you sure about? Be glad to answer any question. For my money, ESR is certainly less complex with better written rules than the current versions of NB. However, it does the job admirably from a corps commander's perspective in some very clever ways. In fact, that is what the designer calls it, a 'perspective game.'

My comments:

Now, not trying to get too much into comparing this to NB, but I have both sets of the rules NB and ESR and am admiring the ideals set forth, but it seems almost unmanageable in reality. At our club, the thing is always getting a result in about 5 hours. Some players are naturally more timid and if they have to roll to activate each order by their generals stats and fail once, they get even more timid, and then even less stuff happens since they take a defensive posture.

In NB, players are allowed to do as they please as long as they are in command radius, thus the game moves along from a command and movement perspective.

I have learned that restricting movement of larger force groupings leads to a very slow game, that's all.

marshalGreg15 May 2015 8:19 a.m. PST

@ Wealdmaster

I hear ya!
But command is about attempting to take advantage of the opportunities. And those are the things that napoleon was best at.
For these to occur, I expect the mechanics will fall this way and produce the unfortunate and potential slow down. The flip side is, a successful jump on that opportunity,by an astute commander with sufficient forces can bring the battle to an accelerated conclusion, that other wise would have been a drawn out slug fest.
To me this is exciting and I will look further to acquiring these rules.

Thanks Grignotag for the review.
Who did you purchase them from and how much?

What does the battalion consist of?….1 stand of figures( any size, multi stands, a foot print of x size etc. Hopefully the author can jump in and expand on this!

MG

Grignotage15 May 2015 8:25 a.m. PST

Marshal Greg:

I bought it pre-order from them directly, $40. USD

Individual battalions, cav squadrons, and arty batteries are 1 stand each. Their strength is determined by combat values that fall with losses.

CATenWolde15 May 2015 9:26 a.m. PST

Sounds very interesting, and worth a further look. Is there a European distributor?

This scale of abstracted individual battalions and emphasizing larger formations is (to me) where the heart of real, epic Napoleonic combat lays. The first to do this was Napoleonic Command, then more recently March Attack, and now it seems we have both Morale Napoleon and ESR aiming at the same general scale.

Grignotage15 May 2015 10:53 a.m. PST

CATen, I believe that Magister Militum carries it in Europe.

I agree---my interest is in movement of divisions and corps, not battalions and brigades (or at least it is at the moment!)

RobH15 May 2015 3:32 p.m. PST

I have seen several "reviews" of this but yet not an actual battle report, nor is there any detail anywhere on the figure basing. What size stands, number of figures per troop type, compatible with which other rule systems?

Fairly basic stuff.

Grignotage15 May 2015 4:52 p.m. PST

RobH, unit basing varies by battalion size. If playing at 75 yards per inch, an infantry bn has a base of 2"x1.5". Players can use other sabot bases/movement trays to fit the basing requirements. Inf bns, Cav sqdrns, and arty batts are one stand only. Number of figures is according to player taste.

Not sure of compatibility with other systems; I don't play many Nap games and have little experience with other Nap rules sets.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2015 8:07 a.m. PST

Now, not trying to get too much into comparing this to NB,

but I have both sets of the rules NB and ESR and am admiring the ideals set forth, but it seems almost unmanageable in reality. At our club, the thing is always getting a result in about 5 hours. Some players are naturally more timid and if they have to roll to activate each order by their generals stats and fail once, they get even more timid, and then even less stuff happens since they take a defensive posture.

For these to occur, I expect the mechanics will fall this way and produce the unfortunate and potential slow down. The flip side is, a successful jump on that opportunity,by an astute commander with sufficient forces can bring the battle to an accelerated conclusion, that other wise would have been a drawn out slug fest.
To me this is exciting and I will look further to acquiring these rules.

In the end, it isn't possible to get a solid feel for how the game plays by just reading the rules. Ya gotta play it. Many of us tend to be rules collectors, not playing all the sets we have, getting a sense of the play from simply reading them. I have found going over the rules and examining the charts 'imagining' how the game goes doesn't provide an accurate picture of how most any game plays in process… except perhaps those that are derivative.

I'm the one that made the comparison between NB and ESR quoted above, and that was in response to a previous comparison of just the clarity of the rules and their relative 'simplicity', not the quality of play.

nsolomon9924 May 2015 9:09 p.m. PST

I'm trying to find actual play through reviews of these rules. This thread is interesting but Grignotage is open in admitting he hasn't played these rules yet.

On the rules website there are no play-throughs just a collection of photos.

A google search led me to one distinctly negative review, albeit by a group using a draft version of the rules.

Has anyone actually played ESR and put up a play through review?

sausagesca28 May 2015 6:46 a.m. PST

This group did a review based on a thorough playing of the game:
link

flipper28 May 2015 12:32 p.m. PST

Hi

'This group did a review based on a thorough playing of the game:'

Are you sure you read the right AAR?

They played 2 turns and called it a day!

I think 'nsolomon99' already alluded to having read this review.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP30 May 2015 9:08 a.m. PST

CigarBox interviewed the designer of ESR, David Ensteness. If you want to know how the game works, there is a lot more detail there.

link

CATenWolde31 May 2015 6:16 a.m. PST

That was a very thorough review. I'm having a hard time reconciling what I read in that review, and what the goals of the game are (single player handling a corps in real time), with the more negative review from the Avon group. I like the large scale concepts of the rules as outlined, especially the operation of the different areas of large formations, but I would love to see another live play review to balance the Avon one.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2015 7:58 a.m. PST

Yeah, perhaps one with the completed rules rather than a beta test in development… grin

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship03 Jun 2015 8:16 a.m. PST

Bill,
It was not a beta version, but the pre-release version dated 2nd April. The author said to me that all that changed was "the addition of an index, one or two terms were inconsistently used in a spot I think and that was corrected".
I'd be most interested to read of another player's or groups experience with the rules, but all I seem to read is chatter. Until that changes then I guess our experience is the only 'published', independent playtest available.
James

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2015 3:20 p.m. PST

Avon:

Are you speaking of the March 2nd beta version? That was all that was changed from the earler to that version. [I was a reader at one point.] It was a Beta version. All versions other than the printed version are beta or test versions. Certainly the rules were further changed, if only to fix sentences and add clarity. I can understand that with some unique procedures compared to the run of the mill rules, learning them could require some more effort.

I'm sure there will be other reviews, longer than your intent to play only "a couple of turns" before going to the 'real game of the day.' Your 'test' of ESR sounds more like a distraction. One of your group flat out states that he believe that any rules existing other than NB or SHAKO aren't necessary. Hardly a situation promising a complete or balanced review of the rules. I have a hard time believing you put a whole lot of effort into either the play or the review for a number of such reasons, including how many simple errors you made or vague explanations you gave. Now, remember, I haven't had a chance to play ESR yet, but I have read the rules all the way through [about 25 pages without diagrams and examples]in an attempt to understand them and even I can see how many inexplicable errors you made in 'interpreting' the rules:

1. Artillery fire resolution: You were surprised that your Dutch battery was unable to inflict any losses on a charging cavalry. You only threw two dice. Why? The rules on page 25 AND the chart clearly state one die per section [e.g. 4 dice for an eight gun battery.] What, the Dutch only had four guns? There are only three modifiers, none of which would apply in that situation. How did you come up with just two dice? Page 25 clearly states the procedure.

2.Moving/committing artillery: You state that it is unclear if artillery is allowed to move for a division with unactivated orders. Read page 14 Defend/Rest status. It states that it is the default status of any division without orders…unactivated. Movement for a defending division [which includes its artillery as stated in the rules] is again stated on page 19. You also state that it takes an entire turn to commit artillery. Where you got that idea, I don't know because that presumption is directly contradicted on page 16.

3. Order Activation: Your review heavily emphasized how order activation failed, but in the comments it was clear you were using the Influence Rating for commanders instead of the Leadership Ratings. The term Leadership Ratings is called for specfically in the Leader Action Table, while the Influence Rating appears ONLY on the Combat Resolution Table; Both are included in the glossary and defined. If you are going to focus on how the rules need to be explicit, shouldn't you get the explicit stuff correct?

4. Reserves: You say that orders failed to activate for the divisions on 'reserve'. That should be a very rare case as Reserve gives a +5 on the Leader Action Table, so that PLUS the Leadership Ratings make failure unlikely.

5. Personal Command: In both the review and the comments, you state that good leaders are penalized more than poor leaders when attached to a division. You seem to have had a cascade of errors in reading the rules: Again, on the Leadership Action Table, the modifier section clearly states that when the commander is committed to the division, you use his Leadership rating. You don't get to use it when the Commander is committed to a different division than your Leader Action is targeting.

6. Leader Actions: I can see why you would conclude it would take twenty minutes to decide what actions to take while apparently not reading the Leader Action table where they are listed with summary explanations, the relevance of most in a given turn from their name. Anyone can go to the ESR website and see the tables:
thewargamingcompany.com

7. Order of Leader Actions: You 'assumed' the order was heirarchical because it was a list and "Issue Orders" came first. Why you would assume that when on page 7 [before 'the list'] AND the charts [turn sequence] state that the Command Phase goes in the following order: 1. Attempt Order activation, 2. ISSUE ORDERS, 3. Attempt Other Leader Actions [that don't involve orders and activation]--I don't know.

8. Too Many Combat Factors: This complaint threw me. There are 14 factors, but only four are every used with any regularity. The other ten are special cases like "Infantry vs Cavalry in the Rain." Just reading them, I could see that. Why couldn't you?

9. Fatigue: The review states that both fataigue and hits must be tracked for units. This isn't true. Fatigue is tracked by division, not by unit. [page 31, Combat Assessments]

1O. Sparse Battlefield: You complain about how sparse the table is of troops, BUT then in tiny text under the referenced photograph, it states the troops on the table top are THREE times less dense than is correct for ESR because you did not adapt the ground scale. You seem very ready to fault the rules for your own decisions.

I could go on, even though it was a short review. I have no idea how you spent those four hours, but it certinly wasn't in reading and checking the rules.

Considering how many blantant errors you made in such a cursory, two turn review, you did gamers and the designer a great disservice.

If you enjoy SHAKO and NB, Great. stick with that. They are both terrific sets of rules. One reason you might not have seen other reviews yet is that folks might be playing an entire game after making sure they understand the rules. Quality [and comprehension] takes time.

nsolomon9904 Jun 2015 9:57 p.m. PST

Thanks McLaddie, thats a useful response to the Avon guys and offers some balance.

nsolomon9904 Jun 2015 10:11 p.m. PST

Guys, those of you who have a copy of the ESR rules, could I ask if there seems to be any representation of the historical evolution of grand tactics across the period?

What I mean is that the French introduced the concept of Corps and Divisions and other armies took some time to adopt this approach. If you look at the Austrians and Russians they were organised into ad-hoc formations called Columns up until 1809 and had no higher organisation – look at the OB's for Austerlitz or Eylau or any of the actions in Italy.

For a game that aims to reflect a Corps level command experience with divisions as the unit of manouver is it able to model the evolution of the Allies? I note that authors favourite period is 1814 – a wonderful campaign – but does that mean ESR is only really useful for the later "Imperial" period? How would it work for the battles of the Revolutionary period? Or could you re-fight Jena/Auerstadt with the ad-hoc Prussian battlefield formation assignments?

Nick

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2015 12:25 p.m. PST

Nick:

Columns were organized on an as needed basis. For instances, the columns at Austerlitz were organized only days before the battle with their specific missions in mind. Think of it as assmebling a combat team, an adhoc division or Kampfgruppen.

What I would do is give the players the division and corps commanders with the numbers of battalions, guns and sqns available, [or permanent brigades if so organized] and then let them build the columns around the team of commanders, which then would act like divisions [or corps] under the rules. However, I would consider downgrading the staff/command abilities. The staffs, if there were any, were also adhoc. Troops may or may not have worked together before.
Again, Austerlitz is a typical example. Columns ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 men--which was very much the norm and the size of later divisions can be seen. Yet some column commands at Austerlitz had no mounted couriers or staff.

It's just an idea. We've done it with a number of rules sets. It does add some pre-game fun and variety.

nsolomon9905 Jun 2015 10:41 p.m. PST

Found and downloaded the ESR 2 page QRS Sheet and studied it. Seemed pretty straightforward to me and included a number of interesting pieces of Napoleonic chrome in a seemingly clever way. So I've ordered a copy and we'll have a go round with them.

I'm happy with my tactical level sets but am looking for a larger scale set to play out the full battles, and want something with a bit of Napoleonic "meat" to it – don't mind if it takes a bit longer, I can leave actions set up in my library for weeks if need be.

Shako is a bit simple and too streamlined for me so maybe I'll find something different to the Avon guys :)

nsolomon9905 Jun 2015 10:44 p.m. PST

Found and downloaded the ESR 2 page QRS Sheet and studied it. Seemed pretty straightforward to me and included a number of interesting pieces of Napoleonic chrome in a seemingly clever way. So I've ordered a copy and we'll have a go round with them.

I'm happy with my tactical level sets but am looking for a larger scale set to play out the full battles, and want something with a bit of Napoleonic "meat" to it – don't mind if it takes a bit longer, I can leave actions set up in my library for weeks if need be.

Shako is a bit simple and too streamlined for me so maybe I'll find something different to the Avon guys :)

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship06 Jun 2015 12:00 a.m. PST

Bill,

The name's James, it's at the bottom of my comment above and at the end of every post that I do on our blog.

I am pleased that you have penned some responses to the problems that we found and that some of them may have been corrected, but I do need to clarify a couple of points. (Please note the numbers do not match your list as I have added some and clumped a couple).

1. Version
The version that we had was 2nd April, not 2nd March. I'm not quite sure where this date came from?

From what I know, the rules were released in the second last week of April. As I mentioned in the post on our blog (and detailed further above), we were using a 'penultimate', "For Final Release Review" version of the rules. I had been sent a couple of versions prior to that so, when we finally got to the stage of being ready for our playtest, I checked with the author and was assured that this version was appropriate (as quoted above).

2. Motivation
As for a 'disservice', I cannot agree. We have noted what we did, stated the problems that we found and why we found them. I stated openly that we were testing these at the request (numerous times) of the author. He asked us because of what we have done/posted previously in terms of games and playtests.

The fact that they were never gonna be adopted by us, rather than making it a fait accompli that we'd not like them, made us open to them as a set 'cause they were not gonna challenge--due to the scale of these rules c.f. that at which we like to play. We had this 'discussion' via email with the author before agreeing to do the playtest.

Yes, Julian commented that he can't see why people continue to write more rules for Napoleonics, but this is his comment, not our report/post. In the post I stated that I get sick of 'new' rules that are merely the same, established concepts re-badged and packaged. I had a different impression from reading Et Sans Resultat, as I said in the report/post on our blog.

Prior to posting about our playlest (20th May) I sent an email to the author detailing the problems that we had found and asking if we had interpreted anything incorrectly. Perhaps this email was lost?

3. Artillery fire
The version that we have says, in the rules on page 25 to use 1D6 per section. In the quick reference chart it states that a medium battery of 6-9 guns receives 2D6. Faced with this confusion, and given the experience with needing to go to the quick ref. sheet for the leadership activation, we asceded to the QRS.

In any case, the definition of a section is not clear. In the Appendix it states that "At the divisional level artillery was typically committed by battery but moved and fought by each section, half battery and battery. Et sans résultat! models the commitment of batteries but not the deployment and tactical use of the component sections.". In the glossary it defines "Gun Section: Two to four canon depending on the army in question, multiple sections make up an artillery battery."

I am most pleased if this has now been clarified. As stated above, my correspondence with the author did not indicate such major corrections from pre-release to release.

3. Committed artillery
I noted in our review "To prevent artillery ‘free-wheeling' around the table, it is necessary to test to commit artillery or to have previously committed artillery move. This is another Leader Action, taking a full turn, in the former case, if successful. What happens to artillery in a division that did not receive its orders? Do these really apply to horse artillery, as the rules seem to indicate?"

On page 14 under Defend/Rest it reads "Default status of a division without an active order, may move to contact with an enemy within the combat zone." The leader action to commit artillery is to "Test to commit a reserve battery placing it limbered or unlimbered up to one move from its reserve position." This is not clear to me/us.

I like the mechanic of having making it difficult to move already committed foot artillery, but do you have to commit horse artillery? I/we could not find anything in the rules to suggest not, which seems strange.

4. Order activation/personal command
The table states "Issuer is Personally Commanding: This Division add Leadership Rating; Another Division: subtract Leadership Rating". I have acknowledged that we were using the incorrect leadership rating, so am happy to eat 'humble pie' on that one. Am I/we mis-reading this bit about deducting the leadership rating for divisions to which he is not 'attached'? Pleased to be corrected.

5. Reserves
Should we have treated a division that is coming onto the battlefield at a battle such as Quatre Bras as 'reserved'?

6.Order of leader actions
Good, so we were correct in issuing orders first. Assuming that orders are issued successfully, in what order should a player "Attempt Other Leader Actions"? By the list or by choice? Page 15 states "Players should consider the order in which they attempt Leader Action Tests as a failed Leader Actions prevents further attempts until the following turn", so I presume that it is up to me as the leader, or is it?

6. Too Many Combat factors
Your answer is exactly our point. Why have so many then? Cut to the core, important ones--especially at this level of game. Our comment relates to game design and our preference and experience. In our review we state the problem that we found and why. You are happy going through a table with 14 factors to use four. We are not.

7. Fatigue
You are correct, fatigue is accumulated at the divisional level, but it is also used at the level of the unit in combat resolution "(Inf. & Art. when vs Cav.)", in addition to 'hits'. I/we questioned the need for these two. You will probably counter that they are assessing different aspects, which would be a fair call. Is this all necessary at such a level of game? I remain to be convinced. I think that the "combat assessment" would be better to produce an effect at the level of the division that is applied to all units of the division following the test (in the form of a halt, retire, retreat, flee-type of result).

8. Sparse battlefield
The divisions in our playtest were twice the distance apart that they should have been (we scaled Quatre Bras at 1 mm – 1.5 yards, Et Sans Resultat's default scale is, roughly, 1 mm to 3 yards. That's what I state in the note, which is preceded by a bold caption. Yes, the font is small as the choice in blogger is small, normal or large. The caption to the photo is normal, so the note is small.

Again, this is about preference for how we'd like to wargame (and are able to do so). We know that not everyone has such space. This preference is stated clearly in the post.**

I am pleased that you took the time to comment (a shame that you did not do so on our post--it's open to public comment, you know). I'll put a link to this discussion on our blog.
(**I'll post a direct comparison of the two fields on our blog and you can see what we mean.)

I look forward to you (and or others) eventually doing a playtest. Do you post such things in a public forum, such as a blog (or I 'spose here)? If so, please let me know when you do (my email is on our blog in the contact bit at the top RHS). I'll be pleased to link to such a report. Alternatively, as I mentioned to Jim Perkins, I'd be happy to post a 'guest' report from you if you'd like to post one (with photos is best).

Cheers,

James (that's me name!!)

James

Julian Roche06 Jun 2015 8:06 a.m. PST

McLaddie -

In my defence regarding rules – like many others I have been bitten by trying to decipher complex rule sets that end up delivering either not at all, or unmanageable complexity. Having agreed to play-test ESR, however, I of course had an open mind about them. But I do not agree with you that it is necessary to play an entire game to grasp that a particular rule set has not added anything to the hobby. Two turns after many hours, quite apart from the issues James has raised, proved the point to my own satisfaction that ESR will not take the place of Nap's Battles, or even Black Powder, for club evenings – neither of which is my own preferred set, incidentally – whilst my own opinion is that its complexity does not create any particular Napoleonic feel. Using them I felt I could be wargaming any period at all. Of course, as always in these things, this is just my opinion.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2015 12:31 p.m. PST

James:
Thank you for your cordial responses explaining your efforts to understand the rules.

I appreciate your responses:

1. I'm not sure the dates came from either. Are you taking about when you received the rules or when they were last edited/changed?

2. I wasn't questioning your motivation, but the lack of it… I wasn't suggesting some dark intentions were at play here.

2. Yes, the glossery needs to be clearer. A gun section is 2 guns for the rules. Different armies' guns can be and were rated different the section count, which I think was the purpose behind the definitioin.

3. grin I'm unclear about what you find unclear… It does seem that horse artillery need to commit. I am also not clear why you see, did you notice that artillery can fire 'paced' fire or 'intense fire' depending on the circumstances which might explain your confusion over the number of dice to use?

4. Yep, that's what I undestand. The designer could have simply said that the commander can't use his leadership Rating to activate a division while attached to another.

5. The question about the status a division should be in when coming on the board would, I think, depend on the scenario. From the rules, the player decides what orders the division is under coming on the table. Usually Maneuver, I would think.

6. The modifiers could have been divided up to indicate unique vs commonly used modifiers. Again, a read through does make their application pretty clear.

7. I can appreciate the question whether there is a need for both fatigue and hits. Each designer decides what is 'necessary' by their lights.

8. Understood. I have no qualms about stating preferences at all.

Writing procedural rules is always difficult, particularly when introducing new types of mechanics. Expectations and past play can also be an obstacle to understanding new rules. [Which is one reason why simple, derivative game rules are so common, with one or two 'tweaks']

There is a difference between not understanding the rules and the rules "not working." …and sometime because of the way the rules are written, a player never gets the game 'working.' Personally, as someone who has to write a friggin' amount of instructions as a training program and game designer, I think the rules layout in ESR is very well done. Even so no game is perfect.

Best Regards,

Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2015 1:01 p.m. PST

In my defence regarding rules – like many others I have been bitten by trying to decipher complex rule sets that end up delivering either not at all, or unmanageable complexity.

Julian:

I can readily appreciate that and have been bitten too. I am not sure that ESR qualifies as all that complex. It has no more rules or rule pages than SHAKO, and certainly far less than Napoleon's Battles. Different, yes. Granted, those differences can require more effort to understand the procedures etc.

Having agreed to play-test ESR, however, I of course had an open mind about them. But I do not agree with you that it is necessary to play an entire game to grasp that a particular rule set has not added anything to the hobby.

Here we will have to agree to disagree here. I am not sure what you actually grasped. I can remember how many games my group played when Napoleon's Battles came out before we 'got it.' I had all the errata published and questions we shot the designers which I sold with my copy. [First edition, not the two further editions 'improving the rules.'] The same was true of SHAKO I & II, which was a rather different set of rules at the time. Lots or questions of "what the *** does that mean?" [or why SHAKO is always in caps…grin] That is one reason rules support in the way of group lists, TMP and other venues are important to playing any game--even the simplist rules have that need.

It takes some effort to understand the rules well enough to play smoothly and to start appreciating the dynamics of play, seeing the tricks and tactics--that could be used. I know that as I've gotten older, my willingness to 'put in the time' to learn another set of wargame rules has become reduced and thus far more selective.

I was reviewing boardgames regularly for hobby magazines back in the 80's such as Fire & Movement, The Courier, and Campaign. [Dating myself here] When I reviewed a game, board or miniature rules, I played them several times, and often communicated with the designer in doing so, so I did understand the procedures. And I always separated out my issues around understanding the rules form how the game played and my own preferences. Game designers put a lot of effort into designing and developing a set of rules. I believe they deserve a reasonable amount of effort in reviewing them. I just don't see two turns as reasonable. I believe that your review demonstrated that lack.

That doesn't mean you have to like the game or believe it does add anything to the hobby--or that you can't state as much in the review.

Best Regards,

Bill

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship06 Jun 2015 5:09 p.m. PST

Bill,

Thanks and thanks too for your reasoned and informative replies. I think that this 'discussion' will have added value for people who are considering these rules. As you have said at the outset of this thread, the only way to really tell is to do a play-test. Our effort represents but one such. I'll be interested to see the impressions of others when they are posted.

Hopefully too, our combined input will go to improve the clarity of the rules—perhaps even change some mechanics from our point of view! :)

All the best,

James

matthewgreen28 Jul 2015 10:38 a.m. PST

I bought these rules a few weeks ago because they sounded so interesting. It wasn't until today that I managed a trial game, with a large corps on each side. It boils down to good news and bad news.

The good news is that these are very clever rules, which really take the grand tactical side of simulation seriously. Most rules seem to be originally designed for a lower tactical level and scaled up. But this tends to leave too much detail in some areas (musketry perhaps\, and not enough in things like long-term fatigue, managing skirmish combats and such. These rules are a refreshing change. Some historical tactics (long term bombardments, or even the French cavalry charges at Waterloo) have some kind of purpose (driving up fatigue or reducing cohesion). And yet the mechanisms have been honed down so that once players are familiar with them, it should play quite fast – real time for players handling three or four divisions.

The bad news is that they are not well written. And the mechanisms will be so unfamiliar that the story in the thread above players getting bogged down and throwing in the towel after a couple of moves is all to credible. A lot seem so be unsaid, or explained ambiguously. You really have to have a lot of sympathy and patience to get up to speed. There is a Yahoo group (which my opponent has joined) which helps. We are building up to pages worth of clarifications and annotations.

If you like the columns lines and squares of systems like Black Powder, then you won't like these rules. If the quick playability of Grande Armee (or Blucher I suppose) is an attraction, then once more it's not worth the effort. Battles of any size will require multiple players. But if you want something more cerebral, and focusing on army and corps command then these rules may repay the effort. I will certainly persist.

Which is not to say that I don't have quite a few reservations about aspects of the game, but these are mainly details. In other ways these rules such a breath of fresh air that I'm looking forward learning how to play them properly!

Matthew

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