Coffee Break #24

Year of Our Lord 2021. Twenty fourth of September.

After a much needed hiatus and with Autumn hitting is natural that some game hits the table.

While I was exploring Atlantic Chase for a week, paired with reading One Day in August, the prospect of playing something completely unrelated was building up. Question always remains the same prior to setting up – what character will I play.

I may select to be the leader of a faction, the general of an army, the lord leading the fleet, the vice admiral commanding the van, the captain leading the company.

Technically this would be the optimal way of choosing but in reality it doesn’t work that way in many instances.

Let’s suppose I decide to play something where my “character” will be the leader of a platoon, chances are that I might end with a game that puts me in the position of a platoon leader but also air force liaison, company artillery HQ, batallion supply CO and maybe, with luck, also the local resistance contact and squad of freedom fighters in tuxedos.

Sometimes the games try to offer too much in view of full representation of the events – this applies namely to historical – as opposed to develop more the challenges of the persona the player is taking on.

Sometimes the games just do it right and have the player feel the boots of the commander in a very credible manner where things will evolve as intended but just not as planned and like clockwork isn’t an option.

Redvers Reverse The Battle of Colenso, 1899

Enter Redvers’ Reverse, the Battle of Colenso, 1899, a board wargame published in 2016 by Legion Wargames which places the player in the boots of General Buller and that’s it.

The player will not concern itself with anything else that happens outside that single moment in time where he must command the forces at disposal and there’s plenty of gaming in that thanks to a design that is focused on what is intended for the player to experience – the challenges of command and control that General faces when placed at that place, in that date, against that enemy, to achieve that operational objective. Nothing else.

With this in mind the player will conduct the battle as Buller would, defining positions in the field where the brigades should advance – or retreat – to while constrained by how information flowed in the battlefield in the turn of the century.

If that seems very straightforward that’s because it is. The player is acting the commander of the army during a battle. The purpose is to send out orders and be able to affect the resolution not by correct application of a spreadsheet combat factors prior to the battle and having all the time to do so but by having to manage the chaos of the battlefield as orders go out and reports come back.

One thing that must be said about ordering the troops around. There’s delay in orders being issued and arriving and execution carried out. There’s also a measure of independent command structure at the brigades, which may or may not follow the player orders as intended.

I am not certain anyone interested in a genuine experience would complain about having to play a game with such a framework, being able to conduct a battle plan but dealing with the unpredictable thus proving better and worse than the historical counterpart.

Another aspect of Redvers’ Reverse wargame is how the boer commandos act in a credible manner. I mean, sure it is a procedural “AI” opponent but the challenges that were posed for the boer forces are present in the game EVEN if it is not intended to be played by a human mind. The way the command structure worked in the boer forces is veiled but so much there, and also the free will even middle battle that many commandos shown, sometimes just leaving the field because…reasons.

Well, when there’s combat there’s dice rolling just to check what the outcome is. A mix of Buller being able to use the binoculars and receiving combat reports.

Yes. It is a game that places the player in the position of command clearly intended by the design and with well developed mechanisms to do exactly that. Simulate being the general commanding the British Empire army attacking the boer forces across the Colenso. Operational gains are the relief of Ladysmith but that’s the historical setting and not part of the decision level.

A game which sees the player plan the operation would maybe see the battle happen in some other sector but that would not convey the same experience as commanding the forces in the field.

That being said there’s the upcoming Hill of Doves which aims to deliver three types of experience all tied together. I would be dishonest if I said I am not looking forward to it.

Have a good weekend. Stay strong. Keep wargaming.

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