Thursday, May 17, 2012

We few, we happy few, we band of logisticians

 An army marching on its stomach, 
note the absence of Sir Not Appearing in this Tapestry

I'm a big fan of Jim Wallmans work. I've played quite a bit of En Avant, his diceless napoleonic wargame, and after two games of Command & Colours last night we played another Jim Wallman special.

In this case it was a logistical exercise set during the Agincourt campaign. The idea was to get the English army from Harfleur to Calais and still have enough of them left that someone will someday want to write a play about the survivors. The players argued their way through the process of loading up their pack animals and choosing whether to prioritise food over ammunition. They then set off into the rain pursued by the French until they eventually crushed them in a hail of arrows at Agincourt.

This game is definitely a one shot and cannot be played a second time, however I was more interested in seeing my group of rugged individualists would take to a game about logistics. Initially they were skeptical, mainly I think because we had two professional mathematicians in the group. One of whom defined the game as "A maths problem. Take this bunch of values and solve for X. Where X is murdering Frenchy right in the nuts."

Things took on a more interesting turn, when they realised that while they had some of the values, they weren't sure of outcomes.  This complicated things slightly, but it also led to some of the players thinking outside the parameters of the game, which was interesting. On the whole, the thing that irked the players most about the game was the lack of player agency once the march began. They couldn't affect the line of march or influence the King in anyway, they just marched along rails until they met the French.

This was not helped by my having the Saint Crispians day speech cued up on my phone, but forgetting to play it until the battle was already in full swing and the players had realised that they were probably going to win.

Fluffed that one Kinch. Damnation.

That said, in a game where the players did control the line of march, I think the system could work very well. I plan to use it for a game of expeditionary warfare loosely based on Wellsleys campaign in India.

Observations on the game

1. Tokens are important. Players are much more concerned about a token that they have to hand over to the Umpire than crossing something off a list. It also makes accounts a lot easier.

2. The tokens we were using were made using clipart and mounting board. There are plenty of websites that allow you to buy game components, I wonder if having little plastic bundles of straw rather than a straw chit would make a difference.

3. It might be work making a pack animal card with an appropriate number of slots for the chits. It would make it easier to visualise the carriage of food, ammunition, etc.  It might also be fun to knock a hole in the card if the animal is lost.

4. The number of counters needed is large, an army of 8 units in the Agincourt game needed seven or eight times that many counters of a variety of sorts. A more involved game will require more sticking and gluing.

Food for thought.

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  1. Pack animal cards? Tch. You meant to say 1/72nd pack animals right? Was there a counter for tennis balls?

  2. Oh I have those - but it might be a little difficult to balance the counters on them.

    The tennis balls were thrown at the players prior to the game.