#Coronatine insert game – Lonato by Frederic Bey (@SemperVictor, c3iopscenter.com, Issue Nr. 14, 2002)

F5+jMI+0SwuSEWaspNowDQALTHOUGH I AM A GROGNARD WARGAMER, I am not much of a Napoleonic wargamer. I started out playing in World War II and then went heavy into the modern & science fiction genres of the wargame hobby. I mean, it’s not like I ignored Napoleonic’s, it just was never a major period of interest. In late 2018, I picked up C3i Magazine #32 mostly for Mark Herman’s Gettysburg. Interestingly, there was a second complete game in the issue, Battle of Issy, 1815 by Frederic Bey. Battle of Issy, 1815 introduced me to the Jours de Gloire-series of games; a series I had never heard of before. Most excitingly the Jours de Gloire-series uses a chit-pull activation mechanic. I absolutely love chit-pull games, especially for solo play.

Mr. Herman’s Gettyburg was certainly the wargamer darling of Issue #32, but the truth to me is that Battle of Issy, 1815 is the superior game. Part of it may have to do with the fact that the Jours de Gloire traces a long and distinguished gaming legacy starting with the Triumph & Glory system from Richard Berg. Frederic Bey eventually took over the series and developed it into the Jours de Gloire of today. I mean, you just can’t go wrong having a Frenchman in charge of developing a Napoleonic game!

62fc8e9c-74b2-4b8f-b880-91a20727ee88.jpegFast forwarding to today, I recently traded for a copy of Lonato found in C3i Magazine Issue Nr. 14 from 2002. Lonato was a game insert using the Triumph & Glory system. I got Lonato to the table this weekend and discovered again just how much I enjoy the Jours de Gloire system.

“But wait,” you cry, “you just said Lonato is a Triumph & Glory game. Silly boy, you got your Jours de Gloire confused!”

No, I don’t, and that’s what makes Lonato so good.

As published, Lonato comes with only scenario-specific rules; the series rules need to be found elsewhere. My intention was to play Lonato first using the Triumph & Glory rules then see about finding a conversion to Jours de Gloire. When I opened the Lonato bag, I discovered some good soul had printed a copy of the Triumph & Glory Version 2.0 rules from December, 2001. As I read the T&G rules, they seemed awfully familiar. So I pulled out the Battle of Issy, 1815 Rule Book which has the complete JDG -series rules included and compared them.

Nearly identical. You can clearly see the development of Triumph & Glory into Jours de Gloire. So instead of learning T&G, I played Lonato using the JDG rules to begin with. The Battle of Issy, 1815 also includes a Play Aid Card that has the JDG-series Terrain Effects Chart on one side and the Combat Tables on the other. These can be used in any JDG game.

There are a few differences. Most noticeably the counters in Triumph & Glory carry a Defensive Fire DRM whereas the Jours de Gloire don’t. In this case I have to trust that the Defensive Fire DRM from T&G is covered in the Combat Tables of JDG. Second, the counters in T&G don’t have an Engagement Rating used in JDG. Eyeballing the counters from Battle of Issy, 1815 it appears that in many cases the Engagement Rating is the same as or one off from the Cohesion Rating. I decided that, for the sake of simplicity, the Cohesion Rating in Lonato would also count as the Engagement Rating. Not perfect, but it seems like an acceptable compromise. Finally, rule 8.6 Jaegers in T&G does not appear in the JDG series rules. In the scenario specific rules for Battle of Issy, 1815 there is a rule for Light Companies (compagnies legeres) which is a very different approach to skirmishers. I chose to use rule 8.6 Jaegers from T&G and treat it as a scenario specific rule to cover the Austrian Jaeger units in Lonato.

A very nice aspect of the Lonato game is that in includes five scenarios. The first scenario, First Lonato (July 31, 1796), is very small and is a great introduction (or reintroduction in my case) to the JDG game system. Second Lonato (August 3, 1796) is a step up in complexity but not annoyingly so. The third scenario, First Castiglione (August 3, 1796) can be played using the five-turn Historical Battle or a longer, 10-turn Hypothetical Battle. Then you have Third Lonato (August 4, 1796) which is a hypothetical battle. Finally, the fifth scenario ties it all together with Lonato-Castiglione (August 3, 1796) which is literally Second Lonato and First Castiglione put together in a sort of mini-campaign game.

As I write this, I have just finished up the third scenario, First Castiglione, which is also the third scenario I played today. I think I will have time to play the hypothetical Third Lonato and Lonato-Castiglione before the weekend ends. Five games in two days, all from one simple little magazine insert.

There are several reasons this explosion of Lonato gaming is possible. First, the Jours De Gloire system is very easy to learn and play. Second, the chit-pull mechanic of variable unit activation makes every game interesting – and well suited to solo play. Finally, the game is small footprint; the Lonato map is 22″x16″ and there are only 140 counters in the game (and you don’t use all the units except in the final ‘campaign’ scenario).

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Second Lonato scenario with Lonato components & Jours de Gloire series rules from Battle of Issy, 1815

Most importantly, I really enjoyed my dive into Napoleonic’s with Lonato. I think part of the reason I like the Jours de Gloire system is that it doesn’t get bogged down at the tactical level like so many classic Napoleonic games. The JDG-series is set at the battalion, regiment, or brigade level but the focus is on command & control. Combat is simplified into either Fire (artillery) or Shock (infantry & cavalry) with Cavalry Charge thrown in. Where there is chrome it usually is scenario-specific and present for a good reason. It didn’t hurt that the five scenarios in Lonato built upon one another making it something of a programmed learning system.

I think I will keep an eye out for other titles in the JDG-series and see if I can acquire a few more. If they are packages anything like Lonato, they could prove to be highly enjoyable and replayable games that are a prefect weekend afternoon or rainy day title

Oh yeah, good for Coronatine too!


Feature image “Napoleon at Lonato” courtesy http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/english/Life_Nap_Chap7.htm

“History Distilled to Its Essence” – #FirstImpression of @markherman54’s Gettysburg (@RBMStudio1, 2018) in C3i Magazine Issue Nr 32 (with a s/o to @tomandmary too)

I was quite taken with the thing. I think it plays to the strengths of the small game format while avoiding the pitfalls, and I highly recommend it. (Tom Russell, Hollandazed Blog for 21 Dec 2018)

I have to agree with Tom Russell (@tomandmary from Hollandspiele Games). Gettysburg, the first in what looks to be a new series of simple wargames published by RBM Studio in their flagship C3i Magazine is a small footprint, rules-lite product that delivers tremendously challenging choices. It might be a small looking game, but it is large on making decisions interesting.

At first glance, Gettysburg seems to have little to offer. You play on a single 11″x17″ map with only 26(!) counters. Rules are in a large-font 12-page Rule Book. [Take out the cover, Player Aid on the back cover, and three pages of graphics and one is left with seven (7!) pages of actual rules.] There are only six turns, each representing a half-day. However, after playing Gettysburg one quickly discovers that designer Mark Herman (@markherman54) was not exaggerating when he subtitled the Rule Book as Gettysburg: History Distilled to Its Essence.

Mr. Herman accomplishes this design feat by focusing on few tried-and-true wargame mechanisms while adding several innovative(?) wrinkles. The first wargame trope Mr. Herman relies upon is the Zone of Control (ZoC). In Gettysburg, every unit exerts a ZoC into the six hexes around it. Like most wargames, when a unit enters an enemy ZoC it must stop and cannot move any further during the Movement Phase. To any traditional wargamer this is old hat; dare I say “boring?”

The interesting wrinkle introduced is the concept of Zone of Influence (ZoI). A ZoI is all hexes within two of the unit. Now, I am sure ZoI has been used in other games but in Gettysburg the effect of ZoI makes me take notice. Units starting the Movement Phase outside of an enemy ZoC or ZoI are turned to their speedier March Formation side. Units can move at their March Formation speed until they enter an enemy ZoI – at which point they have to flip to their much slower Battle Formation side. Now movement is interesting; there is no dashing right up to the enemy!

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Game in progress

At the same time he uses ZoC and ZoI, Mr. Herman mixes in another old school gaming trope, I go, you go (IGO UGO), but turns it on its head. As expected, players alternate taking actions in the Movement or Attack Phase until one player passes. But, instead of letting the second player continue until they finally want to pass, the non-passing player rolls a die and adds the number of friendly units outside of an enemy ZoC. The modified result is the number of remaining Move Actions that player has. Similarly, in the Attack Phase, once a player passes, an unmodified die roll is made with the result being the remaining number of attacks possible. The passing die roll reasonably reflects the problems of Command & Control in the days of the American Civil War. Sometimes commanders get what they want; other times the fickle hand of fate interferes.

In the Attack Phase, Gettysburg becomes a bit less traditional. First , there is no Combat Results Table (CRT) in the game. Instead, players make a series of competitive die rolls with the modified difference creating the combat result. Modifiers to combat are few and easy to remember; Artillery Support is a +2, Defensible Terrain is +2, any stars on the unit counter are a positive modifier, and if attacking with more than two units in the defender’s ZoC there is another +2. After rolling dice and applying modifies, the difference can range from Stalemate to Retreat to Blown (off the map to possibly return two turns later) to Eliminated. Although the combat resolution is not traditional, the simple rules capture the essence (where have I seen that word?) of combat results in the American Civil War.

The interaction of the basic ZoC, the extended ZoI, and a “traditional” IGO UGO turn sequence with an different “passing” mechanism combines with easy no-CRT combat resolution mean the “simple” rules of Gettysburg create huge decision space. As Tom Russell relates in his blog post:

The moment one of the players passes is a hinge point upon which the tempo of the phase turns. Suddenly the order in which I move my dudes matters. Because the Union position is largely defensive, I find that they’re more likely to pass first, which creates a situation in which the hitherto orderly Confederates are suddenly forced to improvise. What I had intended to be coordinated assaults all up and down the line become hodge-podge little affairs.

Gettysburg the battle was a huge affair. As Bruce Catton wrote in the Encounter at Gettysburg chapter of his book Never Call Retreat (Phoenix Press, 1965),

The commanding generals never meant to fight at Gettysburg. The armies met there by accident, led together by the turns of the roads they followed. When they touched, they began to fight, because the tension was so high the first contact snapped it, and once begun the fight was uncontrollable. What the generals intended ceased to matter; each man had to cope with what he got, which was the most momentous battle of the war. (p. 178-179).

Gettysburg the game delivers what it promises; a simple wargame that captures the essence of the battle – those hodge-podge little affairs that the generals never wanted but which you the player need to cope with. In Gettysburg Mr. Herman has distilled the battle to its essentials, and the resulting game is a master-class example of making a small, streamlined title that delivers an outsized, replayable experience.