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l'Art de la Guerre

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36 hits since 3 Jan 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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vtsaogames06 Nov 2014 9:58 p.m. PST

I got my copy of "L'Art de la Guerre" in the mailbox yesterday and began reading the rules. It's a trade paperback, perfect bound, about 8 x 12 inches and 239 pages long. The cover art has Bishop Odo wielding his club (thus shedding no blood) at Hastings. There is a one page laminated QRS. Items on the QRS note what pages the pertinent rules are on, a very nice touch. The paper is heavy. The rules are 76 pages long, with lots of diagrams and some color pictures of figures mounted for this game. The remainder of the book contains 283 army lists, some designer notes and an alphabetical index of army lists. There is also a table of contents up front.

The English translation is quite good. There are a few ESL sentences but their meaning is clear. For example among the list of changes to this edition: spearmen and pikemen no more cancel impact of elephants. I would have said no longer but I get the drift. I haven't seen anything worse. One army list has a statement in French that they missed, but it's obviously "use the following list after 1346 (or whatever date)". I can't find it again but I saw it once and got a chuckle.

The rules are more complex than DBA but simpler than DBM in my estimation. Cavalry and light infantry units are single stands. Other foot is two DBX stands one behind the other, except pikes which are 3 or 4 in a single row. No units get rear support. It looks good. If you are short of units I suppose you could use single stands since all it affects are the look of the game. Units take from 2 to 3 hits, which can be rallied off but not easily.
The closer you are to the enemy the harder it gets.

The full size game has each army divided into 3 "corps", each with a general. Each corps (or battle) rolls a pip die, adds the general's factor (if any), divides by two and rounds up. That's how many pips the corps gets, plus each general gets one they use to move themselves or try to rally a unit. We played a game with half-size armies and one general each. We each got a competent general, adding one to the pip roll. That meant the chances were we could get 1, 2, 2, 3, 3 or 4 for pips plus the extra from the general. That means not a lot of fancy movement. But groups have more leeway than in DBA. You can have everything in line quarter turn so the line becomes a column facing left or right, or have a column quarter turn into a line, etc. A line can about face and move away from the enemy although this becomes a problem if you are too close.

We rolled command dice to see who attacked. I forgot to modify my roll by the large number of light horse but it didn't matter, I won and decided that Bill's Romans would defend in the plains. He placed the obligatory field on his right center. He failed to get a river or a town, replacing each with a gentle hill. One was in front of his center; the other was on his left.

I placed a hill in my left center and failed to move or remove one of his hills. His left was deployed on a hill, his right in the field with his auxilia.

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I placed my Germans on my left and massed horse archers on my right.

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Away we went, both rather surprised by low pip rolls compared to DBA. No 5's or 6's at all and 4's were rare enough. A column of my horse archers moved past his left and formed line at right angles to his line. This could have gone faster but I still thought quarter turns used a whole move. They only use 1 base width (called Unit of Distance or UD) and the group can still move.

My line of horse archers approached and began to hose down his right. I got a hit on the lone rump of a legion there.

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About this time my old point and shoot camera had some kind of seizure and stopped working. I managed to download the photos later and the camera creaked back to life. I took a couple more photos of the end game after Bill had gone home.

His two Alan horse archers pulled out, leaving the legion to be pinned by arrows. A couple turns saw the hits up to 4, with two rally attempts failing. The legion routed, putting a hit on the auxilia behind them. Another unit took a hit from a horse archer. Bill's army had 12 units and a breakpoint of 6. My Huns had 14 units and a breakpoint of 7. We counted up just to see how it worked. Bill had two disordered units (hits not rallied off) for a point each and one routed for 2 points. That made 4, surprisingly close to his breakpoint. This jarred him into action and his Auxilia Palatina and Gothic horse wheeled forward. I had advanced my own Germans, Herul horse and Frankish foot. This turned out to be a mistake. His auxilia topped the hill before his center and came within a move of my Heruls. They are impetuous and are tempted to charge anyone within reach in front of them. It takes 3 pips to hold them back. If given no orders they will charge and lose their impact bonus for being uncoordinated. So I used one pip to have them charge. On level ground with good dice they might have given the Auxilia trouble. But the Romans got a +1 for being uphill. One tied my Heruls and the other lost. My Frankish foot moved up to cover the flank of the Heruls. This put them into charge range of the Gothic horse, who charged. One of the Goth heavy cavalry hit a squadron of my Heruls and beat them. The other smashed into one of my Frankish units and rolled a 6. I rolled a one. I now remembered that the difference in the melee score determines how many hits are dealt out. The Goths had +1 for being uphill and +1 for charging impetuous horse. This gave them 3 hits. Heavy cavalry that beats infantry in a charge causes one more hit. So my fresh Frankish unit had 4 hits and routed straight away. At least no was right behind to get stampeded through. The Gothic cavalry pursued, as impetuous troops must, into my remaining Frankish unit.

A horse archer fell on the flank of this unit. But light units don't have as much punch and a good die roll saw the Goths tie the fight. My Heruls meanwhile did poorly in a standing melee with Gothic horse and Auxilia, both uphill. The writing was on the wall. Meanwhile my horse archers rained arrows down on the Roman left flank. But high defender dice showed they had learned either testudo or shield-wall tactics. I wasn't wearing his left flank unit down fast enough.

Bill's heavy Roman horse archer now fell on the flank of my engaged horse archer, who could not evade. My horse archer took a hit before combat because a heavy unit struck its flank. It then lost the fight and routed. Both Herul units routed. A count showed my score as 9, two over my breakpoint. Bill's score was 5, one short of his breakpoint.

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Rome had held on and the depleted Huns rode back to the steppes, with very little plunder to show.

The game took us well over an hour since we kept going back to the rule book. We got off to a slow start as I explained stuff to Bill. It should speed up as we get more used to the rules. We also need to fight the urge to use DBA rules here.

DBA has extremely limited group moves and players often use a high pip roll to rearrange their forces. The low pips rolls here make that difficult. Instead one must get used to using the more liberal group moves in these rules, columns wheeling into lines and vice-versa.

One lesson; when purchasing an army, spend points on good generals. And get generals who are alone, rather than generals permanently attached to units.

The armies move rather slowly but once they get stuck in the fur flies. There is a combat phase in each player's turn. Unless there is a tie, someone always gets at least one hit. This gets going pretty quickly. Also, a unit with any hits not rallied off gets -1 in combat. You don't want this when using opposed die rolls. If you start out a melee badly, you often continue badly. Impetuous troops are hard to use correctly. In this game mine went and attacked enemy on a hill. That said, we liked the game and could see having another look.

AUXILIAPAL Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2014 3:57 a.m. PST

Great!!!

vtsaogames07 Nov 2014 6:50 a.m. PST

I made a big mistake on the first game: the demoralization level of both armies was too small. I should not have divided by two. The Roman break point should be 12, the Hun break point should be 14. That's what happens when you use a concept from another rules set. Still, with a score of 9 to Bill's 5 I was well on my way to breaking.

Personal logo Who asked this joker Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2014 7:53 a.m. PST

Well, you certainly didn't waste any time getting a game in!

How hard was it to keep the hit tokens with the WRG style stands? I personally would use colored casualty caps. You only need to put one on a unit at any time. White, yellow red for 1,2 or 3 hits respectively. You don't need a 4 cap since that is when any unit will be destroyed.

As for 76 pages of rules, how much of that is actual text vs diagrams?

vtsaogames07 Nov 2014 11:36 a.m. PST

My guess is 1/3 of the rules are diagrams or examples written in boxes.The font is larger than that used in DBA. There's a lot more 'air' on the page.

Not much of a problem keeping the hit counters with the units because there are no recoils. Units only move when they break off (many cannot) or pursue routed enemy. That said, we stopped the game early because I screwed up the demoralization levels. Next time we'll see if it becomes an issue. But the most you need to keep track of is 3 hits because heavy infantry routs on the 4th hit. OK, the game doesn't call them hits, they are cohesion points. But you get what I mean.

sebastosfig08 Nov 2014 4:07 a.m. PST

Well done. 1 hour for a 100 points game, and for the first time, is about right.

Now, playing a regular 200 points is really different, since you have 3 corps to play with. More interactions ;)


Since you obviously know how to play DBA. How would you compare them? You talked about mouvement, but what about combat?

Seb, long time AdlG player

vtsaogames08 Nov 2014 11:30 a.m. PST

It was rather more than an hour and we ended the game early due to my mistake calculating demoralization levels. But not bad for a first foray.

I have always compared DBA to having a good pub burger, satisfying and fast. AdlG is more like a bistro meal, a step up from a pub burger but not too fancy or pretentious. I can easily see playing both, depending on my mood.

The biggest difference in combat is that AdlG has a lot more missile fire. In DBA only bowmen (medium or heavy archers), artillery and war-wagons get ranged combat. All other missile fire is abstracted into melee results. I don't have a problem with that although as a horse archer fan, I miss the stand-off harassment of my enemies. In AdlG every missile weapon bar pila and Frankish axes gets to shoot at a distance.

Combat has similarities with both using opposed die rolls. DBA combat results in ties (where cavalry break contact with heavy infantry), recoils, flight and destruction. AdlG has cohesion point losses and routs. I would say AdlG is slightly more deterministic, slightly less dicey.

For example, in DBA a lone knight taking on a lone psiloi (light infantry) in open ground has a 1 in 36 chance of being killed, 9 of being recoiled, 5 of a tie and 21 of killing the light infantry. In AdlG the light infantry is killed without a calculation.

In DBA the lower the starting factor of a unit (possibly reduced by tactical modifiers) the more chance you can be doubled, which is usually the kiss of death. In AdlG this doesn't matter, though the old 6 1 combination is usually quite painful to the side that rolled 1.

My second reading of the rules shows there is more clever stuff going on than my first pass revealed.

Finally, you need more figures to play this than DBA. DBA armies are always 12 elements. Throw in a few for the optional versions of the army and you are done. Art requires more than that. Which means my Normans and Anglo-Danish are raring to go. Or I could have my Huns stand in for Seljuks and my Normans as the First Crusade…

vtsaogames08 Nov 2014 12:14 p.m. PST

As proof that I am obsessive, here's my guess at losses from our game. This assumes that heavy infantry = 1,000 warriors and cavalry = 250 troopers per unit, and that only real losses come from routed units, say 50%.

The Huns started with 5,250 troops in 14 units, mostly cavalry. They lost 875, mostly Herul cavalry, Frankish infantry and some Hun light horse.

The Romans had 7,000 troops in 12 units, mostly infantry and lost 500 legionaries.

vtsaogames08 Nov 2014 12:53 p.m. PST

I can read the L'Art de la Guerre forum but it finds me to be a spammer when I tried to register. So be it.

sebastosfig08 Nov 2014 1:05 p.m. PST

Hmm that you couldn't. I have tried with two different accounts. I know there is an antispammer question, but it's easy to answer it. The answer is : artdelaguerre

maybe that was what went wrong with you.

anyway, thanks for the comparison with dba. Quite informative.
cheers
seb

Personal logo Shaun Travers Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2014 4:20 p.m. PST

Thanks for the post to help me decide to put my current project aside and actually play a few games of L'Art De La Guerre. Around Christmas, I should be able to rope in a friend to play a few games as well. I had flicked through the rulebook and know that if I actually read it, I will play it so have resisted. I think I have about one week left before I break down!

And thanks for the reminder about the forum, I will have to go and join.

Personal logo Shaun Travers Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2014 4:32 p.m. PST

I have tried numerous different answers to the spammer questions with no luck, included the one Seb provided. Ah well. Will try again when I have more time – maybe it is some other field that is giving me the "no spammer allowed" message".

Personal logo Shaun Travers Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2014 4:40 p.m. PST

UPDATE: Ok, I translated the page (I use Chrome, so it was one click). Maybe should have done this the first time :-) as the commentary at the top says not to enter your webpage to avoid spammers; I had added in my webpage address. Took it out and I am registered.

Drusilla199810 Nov 2014 3:31 p.m. PST

we will be playtesting our first game tomorrow, so I will let you know how they play. Presently, we play DBMM, so understanding the rules should not be an issue. from what I have read, I must say that they appear to be very good, but time will tell.

vtsaogames11 Nov 2014 7:26 a.m. PST

Do take some pictures. The Corlears Hook Fencibles are giving the rules a second trial on Thursday. I hope my camera behaves.

Drusilla199811 Nov 2014 5:21 p.m. PST

To start with, I am mostly a DBMM player, but have always had a desire news rules and try them out. Since I had heard good things about these rules and I attended a convention this past weekend and one of the players in our group decided to buy them. I agreed to play, so we did last night.

The battle was played with one person reading the rules once. From start to finish, it took 2 hours 40 minutes to come to a conclusion. We played Carthaginains against Triumverate Romans.

Basically, the rules play like a mix of DBX rules systems and FoG.

The basic unit is a single stand or element, just like DBX. However, each stand or unit can absorb from two to four Cohesions Points, but are really just hits, with heavy infantry taking up to four, and light infantry and light cavalry take two. All others take three.

Once a unit has taken the maximum number of CP, they rout and are renoved from the battlefield immediately. Any friendly stand which is even partially directly behind, within a single UD, take one chesion hit.

A UD(unit distance), equates to the width of a base, is the same as any DBX or FoG based armies, so the armies are completely interchangeable.

Because, units take multiple hits, they will have a bit more staying power, then units do in DBM/MM, but lighter units, which can take less hits, will die more quickly then heavy infantry will. I happen to like that aspect of these rules, but others may disagree. Particularly if you play DBM/MM.

A marker of some sort must be placed behind units as they receive Cohesion hits.

The basic army is 200 points and is used to purchased units from an army list, which is included in the rules and I think there are in excess of more then 285 army lists….

Each army is divided into three corps, or divisions, or commands, whichever term you would like to call it, with each having a general, whose quality is determined by how many army points you want to spend. An average commander costs 0 points and a Brilliant Strategist costs 10 points.

All purchased units are put into a specific command for the entire game. You total the number of units in the army and divide by 2. That is the break point, in units lost, which determines when an army breaks. When losses in units are in excess of 50%, the army BREAKS.

The commander quality will determine how many command points, or PiPs he has to distribute for that upcoming turn. A D6 roll is made every turn for every commander, so it is very likely that a commander will have different PiP totals every turn.

Another nice feature is that a player announces a corp that he will move and then rolls the D6 and determines how many PiPs he has. That corp must complete it's movements, before a player announces to move another corps.

The combat system is simple, having the opposing players each rolling a D6, adding or subtracting modifiers that apply. once a final number for each opponent is determined, they are compared. The lower number is the loser and the difference between the numbers, determines how many Cohesion points the unit loses. the winner suffers no losses.

There are NO push backs, which I don't really care for, as a DBMM player, I am very used to push backs. Howevr, with these rules, it doesn't appear to be an issue, so far……

An intersting aspect about the game is with elephants. When they reach three cohesion points, they rout like all other units, but Elephants RAMPAGE as well. a Rampage direction is determined with the roll of a D6 and any unit, friend or foe in that area, takes a Cohesion point of damage.

A general can attempt to rally cohesion points off of a unit which is in his command. He must spend a certain number of PiPs, based on the current situation and then make a D6 roll to succeed. Each unit can remove a single cohesion point only once in the battle.

A brief over view of the rules and a battle report with pictures will follow in a few days.


Quite frankly, these rules are very entertaining, having aspects of other rules, but explained very well. It's amazing that these rules were originally written in French, as the translation is very good.

I recommend that you try out these rules yourself.

Lou

sebastosfig14 Nov 2014 11:03 a.m. PST

@ Drusilla1998.

Thanks for the nice review.

You seem to have two mistakes though:
-To know your army break point, you just count the number of units you have (minus the expendable ones). You don't divide them by 2. True a routed unit counts for two points towards your army break, but disorganized units count as 1 point.

- rallying: you said you could rally a unit only once per battle. In fact, you can try to rally it many times, but only once per turn ;)


Cheers

Seb

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