TITLE: Field of Battle (1st edition, 2006)
AUTHOR: Brent Oman
PUBLISHER: Piquet, Inc. http://www.piquet.com/store/
PUBLICATION DATE: 2006
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: Support is available through a Yahoo group
This is an extremely active and helpful group. There is a FAQ for Field of Battle, a scenario for Eylau 1807 (by yours truly), several versions of the Quick Reference Sheet available for down load, and more.
PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2010) * Note that the Piquet Master Rules are NOT needed or used with Field of Battle.
REVIEWED BY: Peter “Gonsalvo” Anderson – While I had nothing to do with the development of Field of Battle aside from providing the figures for and participating in the big playtest game held at Historicon in 2005, I have written 2 rules sets for Piquet (Band of Brothers, 2nd edition; Hostile Realms), and am working on a scenario book for the 1809 Campaign using these rules to be published by Piquet.
There are pictures and descriptions of several games I have run at Historicon at my website: http://gonsalvo.com/
PERIOD COVERED: 1700 – 1900 A.D.
Includes the Napoleonic Wars (1792 - 1815), and also The War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714), Great Northern War (1700 -1721), Jacobite Rebellion (1745) Seven Years War (1756 – 1763), American War of Independence (1775 – 1781), Mexican – American War (1846 – 1848), Sikh Wars, Crimean War (1853 - 1856), Franco Austrian War (1859), American Civil War (1861 – 1865), Maximillian Adventure (1862 – 1867), Austro – Prussian War (1866), Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 1871), Zulu Wars (1879), Mahdist Wars (1881 - 1898)
Field of Battle is a full size ( 8.5” x 11”), 100 page bound rule book with full color cover and black and white interior.
Separate playsheets ( 2 pages only) are included (plain paper – I suggest printing out one of the online files for these ( especially the color version that I did!) on to cardstock), or placing them back to back in a sheet protector (which is what I do).
These rules require a deck of Sequence Cards for each army. Very basic, utilitarian versions are provided on plain cardstock (which must be cut out). These are certainly adequate to play the game, but are unlovely. A much nicer set of standard sized color cards are now available from Piquet. In addition, I have designed my own full color cards for Field of Battle (with the standard of the relevant nation on the backs of the cards) that print out onto Avery Business card stockusing a home inkjet printer. I'm happy to send the files for these to anyone who wants them with reasonable proof of purchase of the rules.
SCOPE: tactical warfare during the Horse and Musket era
Typically a player will control 2 to 5 Command groups, with roughly 8 to 25 units, say about 100 – 200 figures depending upon basing.
Four stand units of Infantry represent about a battalion of 480 – 720 men, four stand units of Cavalry represent regiments of 400 – 600 men, and 2 stand units of Artillery represent 6 – 8 guns with crew. (I have scaled these up to as much as three times these ratios, i.e. 1 infantry unit = regiment of about 2000 men, etc., and it has worked fine).
- Ground scale: 1” = 25 yards
- Time scale: 1 turn = variable amount of time, from 30 minutes to 2 - 3 hours.
- Figure/Base Ratio: roughly 1 figure = 50 men; For 25mm figures, 3 - 4 Infantry, 2 Cavalry, and 3 - 4 crew plus a gun per stand are suggested, but again this has no effect on play whatsoever.
- Recommended Figure size: 25/28mm, but not really important; players have used 6mm to 40mm.
- Table Size: I have used these rules on tables as small as 5 x 6 feet, and up to 24 feet or more.
- Game Length: three to four hours
Basing is not terribly critical to the play of Field of Battle. Provided both sides are based the same, the important part of basing is frontage. Infantry, cavalry and artillery stands should all have the same (or close to it) frontage, roughly 1.5 to 2”.
Field of Battle uses a Sequence Deck to govern the actions that your troops may take. Each side has their own deck, with the composition being determined by the quality of that Army's Commander in Chief. Each deck generally contains three cards each for Move, Artillery Firepower, Infantry Firepower, Melee, and Army Morale, plus 2 Tactical Advantage, 3-4 Move, 1-2 Move One Command, 1-2 Maneuver, 2 – 5 Leadership, and 1-6 Lull cards. The better decks have more good cards and fewer Lull cards. All decks have 27 cards. There are another 11 kinds of special/optional cards that can be used to represent special events, characteristics, etc.; my favorite is the “Sneaky Heathens” card, used in Colonial type games to allow the Natives a surprise move interrupting the European player's actions. The key concept is that, aside from firing “loaded” units, the player can only do what they have the card showing for. Each side doesn't just turn the cards in turn. Each side's commander rolls a Leadership die, ranging from a D8 (eight sided die, numbered 1-8) to a D12+1. The high roller gets to chose whether he will act first or second, but unlike standard Piquet, BOTH sides get the full difference in pips as "impetus" to spend. Each impetus turns a new card, and allows ALL the units of that side to act on that card, if able. When duplicate Leadership die rolls occur, OR one side goes through their entire deck a turn is completed. Thus the flow of events is quite unpredictable, with a marked tendency to ebb and flow! At the same time, the “balanced impetus” means the game is less “unfair” than standard Piquet, and the fact that all units can act on the cards as they are turned keeps everyone in the action – most of the time, anyway!
Movement: In Field of Battle, the player's units are organized into Command Groups, which would typically represent a Brigade or Division. A command Group typically contains 2 to 6 units, but there is no absolute upper limit, and some might have a single unit. Each command group has a Leader (general), and each Leader has a Leadership Die determined randomly but influenced heavily by the army he belongs to (for example, French Leaders in 1805 will, on average, be much better ( have higher Leadership Die types) than Austrian ones, but by 1813 the difference is much less pronounced). When a MOVE card is turned, ALL the Command Group leaders on that side roll their Leadership die against D6 (six sided die) rolls by their opponent. If the Leadership die roll is a “1”, then units of that command group may NOT move on that card. Otherwise, ALL the units in the Command Group will get 1, 2,, or 3 segments of movement depending upon how they scored against the D6 roll. A segment is 8” for Infantry and Foot Artillery, 12” for Cavalry and Horse Artillery. On “Even” Leadership Die rolls, special things are allowed, such as changing facing or formation, resolving melees immediately for attack columns, and cavalry, and so on.
Fire Combat: Infantry and Artillery units may “fire (asses the effects of fire combat up to that point) at any time, but once they do so, they are marked with a “puff of smoke”, and may not do so again until the appropriate kind of Firepower card is turned by their side, at which point smoke markers are removed. Each unit has a Combat Die type ranging from a D8 to a D12+1, and a Defense Die type ranging from a D4 to D10. Higher die types are better. To resolve fire combat, the unit modifies its Combat die type up or down (hierarchy: D4 – D6 – D8 – D10 – D12 – D12+1 – D12 +2, etc) based upon a limited number of straightforward modifiers for range, formation, etc., and compares their die roll to the opponent's Defense Die roll. If the Combat die roll is higher, for every 3 pips of difference, the target loses a unit integrity. Infantry start with 4 Unit Integrity (UI), Cavalry 3, and Artillery only 2. When a unit reaches zero UI, it routs; if it reaches -1, it is removed from play entirely.
Close Combat: A similar procedure is used to resolve Melee in Field of Battle, but this time only the opposing Combat Die types are used, and both sides modify their die type by a similarly short, straightforward table of modifiers. There are some special provisions for victorious Cavalry and defeated artillery.
Morale: There are no “morale checks” in the traditional sense in Field of Battle (exception – the optional “Resolve” card, which I have yet to ever use in a game), but when combat inflicts damage upon a unit, and the Combat Die roll doing so is “Even”, the enemy generally suffers additional effects, ranging from going Out of Command (like “shaken”), retreating, or routing outright. This greatly speeds up play. At the same time, each army starts the game with a limited number of Morale Points, averaging about one per unit. Each time a unit takes hits, one Morale Point is surrendered for each Unit Integrity lost. When an army reaches zero Morale Points, it is subject to the Army Morale Card. If/when it is turned by an army with zero Morale Points, the opposing Commanders-in-Chief roll their Leadership dice, and if the Commander testing loses the die roll, bad things will happen, ranging form one Command Group pulling back and going Out of Command, to the battle ending in a retreat by the entire army right then and there.
No sample scenario is provided with the rules. No points lists are used. Army rating and composition guidelines are given for the major (and most minor) participants in the various wars listed above. Each unit and Commander has to be rated individually, although the units can be left until the day of the game and their ratings rolled up as needed. For large multi-player games, we have used “standardized” ratings by troop type with little detrimental effect.
The rules are generally clearly explained and consistent, with many examples. Key concepts are illustrated with clear diagrams. There is a detailed Table of Contents, but no index. The designer's notes do a good job of explaining the goals of the rules set.
I have played and run many games with Field of Battle, and the games have been fun suspenseful, and fast playing. Many players who disliked Piquet due to the potential for large impetus swings and inactivity (particularly in multi-player games) have felt quite differently about Field of Battle.I have run many large games where the players have never even seen the rules before, and usually they have grasped the key rules mechanisms within the first hour of play.
Questions about the rules may come up do to the unconventional design. Many of these are addressed in the FAQ referenced above, and the author and players are generally very helpful in answering questions on the Yahoo group.
Some players, myself included, feel that Cavalry and Artillery are a bit underpowered compared to Infantry (for the Napoleonic era). I have handled that by adding a “DownTwo” die type modifier for Infantry who are not in Square when in combat with Cavalry, and by rating artillery roughly 1 Combat die type higher than the standard ratings. That seems to make the balance perfect, at least for my perceptions!