Going "old skool" (part 2)

In our search for the perfect rules set for Ligny, we proposed that we’d try everything. So we tried In the Grand Manner: a veteran rules set from 1972. In part 1, I covered sequence of play, movement and shooting. Now, onto close combat.

Close combat uses different systems depending on who is fighting whom. Cavalry vs cavalry is pretty simple: a D6 per model (with bonus dice added for cavalry type), with a 6 being a casualty. For cavalry vs infantry, if they pass the morale against the closing fire, they roll to see if they break through the infantry and automatically inflict casualties. There are separate mechanisms for infantry vs infantry, which is treated as close-range musket fire. The loser – based on casualties sustained during that phase – tests morale to break and the winner tests morale to see if he will hold or – as happened to my cavalry – wildly pursue the fleeing enemy off board (never to be seen again!) .

In our game, my French left flank drove the British cavalry from the field and my cuirassiers had charged a gun battery of three guns with minimal casualties. The right ended up in a huge cavalry melee that was slowly going the way of the British, even though I still had two light cavalry regiments in reserve. The infantry battle for the centre had ground to a halt with neither side willing to cross the open ground and sustain higher casualties.

Overall, there’s a lot of good stuff here. It was fun to play but some players were put off by the apparently complex charts. I managed to pick these up easily, but that was due to familiarity to similar systems. The game has no real command-and-control mechanism but reflects this in morale, which is key. There are no supermen: Guard or cuirassiers die just as fast as levy, although they are more able to withstand adverse morale and can deliver greater punishment. My only caveat is the game has a different mechanism for everything and cavalry have three morale tables (one pre-charge, one combat, and one for rallying). This is in stark contrast to more modern games like Black Powder, which have managed to condense shooting and combat into one mechanism and all morale into another. The Black Powder play sheet consists of a single leaf. There is a trend with more modern rule sets away from individual casualty removal and treating the unit as a whole.

In my opinion, this is a game to play over a day, although we were hard pressed to get a result in an evening’s play. Was it fun? Yes, with cavalry perhaps being too powerful, in my humble opinion. Is it one for our Ligny project? I’m inclined to say not, due to the slow speed of play, but that choice is not solely up to me. There’s always a danger with democracy: you can find yourself in the minority!

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