I have managed to get a game in...well actually two. Both Franco-Prussian War. The first game was with an old favourite set 'They Died for Glory or 'TDFG'. I loved this set from when they first game out. A period specific set which played very easily and always gave a quick game. These were a breath of fresh air in the early 90's and were another example of beautiful glossy well illustrated American rules which looked fun and interesting (like 'Fire and Fury')...as opposed to UK produced rules which were often poorly printed from someone's typewritten sheets (or so they appeared!) with few illustrations.
Gorgeous Foundry Prussian Hussar Models (enjoyable to paint too!)
I had only played these rules about once in the last 10 years though, and that was with a novice and therefore gave a cautious but fun game, easy from my point of view because of the simple game mechanics. I arranged a wargames evening with my regular opponent Ian recently and I decided it would be fun to get the old favourite 'TDFG' rules out again.
The rules 'TDFG' (less of a mouthful!)
Ian played Prussian and went straight onto the attack against my 'position magnifique'. It was great to see the figures bounding into action. Assault columns charging headlong as they so frequently did in those summer days of 1870. For anyone not familiar with TDFG, a unit can do two actions, move twice, shoot twice, move and shoot (or shoot and move in French case). Hence in the pics you will see my custom made '1' and '2' markers to show which units are at what stage. There is a set sequence of 17 stages per turn for both sides to go through for the turn to be complete.
The Prussians on the attack
Firing is resolved by throwing 1 x D6 per 3 figures. Should French infantry shoot at 0 -12" (or 0 -24" if playing double distances in 28mm) at a cavalry column then anything from a 1 -6 is a kill.....yes that's right...no dice needed! Shooting at a cavalry line or Infantry Column at 0 -24" requires 2 - 6 (so anything but a 1). As you can tell...things are going to get messy very quickly.
Melee between opposing heavy cavalry means throwing 1 x d6 per figure in the combat. 4 - 6 on a d6 is required for a kill. +1 of they charged in. This means that it is likely that if you have win a heavy cavalry combat you will be lucky to come away with many men left.
Morale is a simple case of falling back on 50 per cent casualties.
Infantry Columns closing in fast
If you play the basic rules then no orders are required to make any moves, you can just do whatever you wish and your troops will obey. There is a written order option for in the optional rule section which until this game I never even thought of it being necessary.
Hussars charging into a wild attack
So we have established that movement is easy to do, firing is deadly, melee is deadly..artillery is....really deadly...long ago I removed the shell option and kept the shot only as that was sufficiently nuclear tipped!
French Infantry about to wipe something out with one volley
Glorious French Cuirassiers about to charge home and lose most of their men
Ian charged in a very General Steinmetz manner - straight in hard, using the Prussian aggressive tactics of the time. The rules really make the French act on the defensive all the time. Why move when you can shoot twice? Also the rules make the French shoot first then move. If they close enough to shoot then there is little point moving. Might as well stick another volley down and remove the threat. If the French dare move they are going to get charged or shot down.
More detail of the Prussian Hussars
The French lost a gun to Krupp fire. With Quick moving Prussian Hussars coming from the rear, I merely about turned a battalion swung it like a hinge and in the next turn gave a lethal double volley. Not a morale check in sight, just a care-free gallic shrug and opened fire.
Prussian Grenadiers having cleared a hill
The game was effectively over in the first turn in blaze of Chassepot fire cutting down Prussians by the score. The second turn was mopping up the remaining Prussians.
So why was this game so different to the many I played before? It wasn't unrealistic..for sure the shell firing guns were deadly and the aggressive Prussian columns were shot down in minutes when they assaulted strong French positions. This is historical fact and the rules worked in this respect. Ian reminded me that the rules were designed for 15mm figures and therefore you could get several divisions playing on each side rather than the three brigades each which I had. This would absorb losses more easily. You just need to keep more battalions behind the first, as brigade morale is not affected by unit losses. Cavalry are one-shot weapons in these rules. You unleash them and then they are gone. Again quite realistic when charging against breechloading rifle armed infantry.
I have always really liked the rules but some things just jarred a bit this time. I think the experience I have gained in the last 10 years of using different rules (since playing an experienced opponent with TDFG), has given me more of an insight into what works for me. In some ways a game playing exactly how it might in history might not be as satisfactory as one hopes. The rules did punish aggressive charges after all, so TDFG does give many realistic outcomes. I agree that with lots of 15mm figures and reduced ranges a better game would result.
I also think I like rules to have an aspect of orders and failures in those orders being always possible (this would reflect the French Command in the Franco Prussian War quite nicely) and prevent units doing what you want them to do all the time (sometimes the opposite!). I would also like the French to display some initiative and make some local counter-attacks - as they were capable of doing without it being a certainty that they are going to get wiped out everytime for entering melee with Prussians. If a certain initiative throw could be made then shouts of 'En Avant!' could ring out and Turcos could give the Prussians a hard time. The fire doesn't have to be quite so deadly, as I would like a game to go a few turns at least (but not several days!).
So in a nutshell, can command and control be incorporated better? Can an army be encouraged to maintain Brigade cohesion rather than allow units to move in a firework display pattern if they so wish? Can initiative be used by a defender? Can firing and melee be tweaked to make it more fun and not quite so devastating? Can morale rules be a little more sophisticated by having scales of failed tests?). It looked like a major re-write to me. The decision was made to use a different set of rules for the next game.....hopefully you won't have to wait a month for me to write this battle up!