Incredible courage

The first of my ConsimWorld Expo purchases on to the games table is Grognard Simulations‘ game Incredible Courage at Austerlitz – Telnitz.

The Austrians and Russians ready to move into battle.

The game is tactical level Napoleonic warfare, with each hex 100 meters, and each unit being a company of infantry (150 men), a squadron of cavalry (100 riders and horses) and a section of guns. That is why this is only part of the Austerlitz battlefield: the struggles around Telnitz and Sokolnitz. The other games making up the complete battle are available, and were on show and being played at the Expo. The whole beast is an impressive monster game.

When I asked designer Chris Fasulo about the game, he said chose the scale because he felt it was the best way to show units covering the terrain without extended formation markers and the like. Fair enough. However (a) it makes for a stack intensive experience; and (b) it seems battalion level units may be used in the future.

The waiting French. But will they wait, or advance to contact?

The components are good to fair. The map is bland, but clear. The counters are acceptable, but I wonder if formation groupings could have been better displayed by color bands across counters rather than color borders of the unit type. The rules and play aids are the weakest part, and that is something I will come back to.

How does it play? So far, so good. The rules are too vague and lacking in certainty for my taste, but I could guess at what the designer;s intent was. In the end, I went with my own interpretation – as we used to in the days before the internet! – and played enough turns to realize my mistaken approach. So, I started again, and have just got about half way through.

Good Stuff: the game uses a random die roll for combat strength adjustment, so you do not know if your troops will fight or fire like heroes or weaklings or something in between. This is good, though there is a lot of die rolling. The system uses a sort of friction point effect where each units starts with a Level of Order (mostly 5, but better units start at 6 or 7) which reduces due to combat effects. (Reductions are marked so stacks grow quickly.) It well represents the wearing down of units, and the general with a fresh reserve available at the key point, has a wonderful advantage.

Also, the orders system is simple and among honest, good gamers, will be more than enough. The formation activation system – basically random by die roll – adds chaos. However, heretic that I am, I wonder if “I go, you go” would more suit the big nature of the game.

Less Good Stuff: the interaction of charging cavalry and counter charging (and counter-counter charging..) was unclear. It did not come up too often, but needs some attention in the rules. Also, it seems as if units can fire at full strength into both their front hexes. And it looks as if there are no melee restrictions, so you can hammer away at an enemy unit while its neighbour stands and watches. Attackers get support, but defenders do not. Hmmm.

The rules need more examples to flesh them out, and an independent eye to catch errors and inconsistencies. For example, the rules mention Aides, but there are no such beasts. (At least, not called the same name.) The charts with die roll tables do not tell you whether to use a d10 or a d6. You could guess, but that is not the point. It’s basic stuff to help the players out by making it clear in the chart. (Can you tell that is a personal bugbear?) As another example, units can recover (from loss of order) but the rules do not say when this happens.

Some of the design approach leaves me wondering. For example, every hour a regiment can recover one complete company from the deadpile . This is regardless of total losses or the time of the losses. (I am thinking of using a house rule which says a regiment can only recover when there are at least 2 companies in the deadpile, and then only roll for half, rounded up. Those that miss the roll, and those other half are permanently dead.) Also, the recover from loss of order seems way too generous. Every turn? (My thoughts are to have a house rule which allows each unit to fire or melee or recover. Only units doing recover can recover loss of order, and they need to be 5+ hexes away from the enemy and out of artillery range.)

However, I should stress that these are initial impressions, and it is very possible I made mistakes in the rules, or if I played the game a lot more I would come round to a different view. Overall, I was happy with my purchase and had fun. And you may be happy to take the game as it is.

Which is as good a place as any to finish. I am not done with this game by a long way. Despite the issues Рand all are easily solvable Рas I said, I had fun, and want to play it some more. I do not have the table space for the full monster, and this snippet is a great way to get into the system.   Apart from anything else, I am impressed at how the designer has crammed a lot of stuff into the design without making it too heavy. In short, worth fighting on.