Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Product Review: Blucher and the Hundred Days Campaign

(Image from:  Wargame Info's review of Blucher)
While attending this year's PNWA Summer Conference, we were often reminded that as writers, we're suppose to read a lot, especially in my genre. 
Since my favorite "genre" is wargaming, I spent my down-time reading Sam Mutstafa's latest release in his Honour Series:    Blucher.
Blucher 176-page rule booklet for playing Napoleonic battles in the grand tactical scale.  That is, units representing 4-6 infantry battalions (2000-3000 soldiers), 6-12 squadrons of cavalry (1000-2000 horsemen), and 2-4 artillery batteries (18-24 guns).  Although the game is flexible enough so players can increase or decrease the troop scale.
The rules are quick, easy, enjoyable to read and beautifully illustrated.  I finished the basic rules in two hours, and I-am-a-slow-reader. 
Despite the page-length, Blucher is a hardcover booklet, which not only contains the Basic and Advanced Games, but also the Scharnhorst Campaign System, not to mention Appendices, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and seven pages of Quick Reference Charts (QRCs).
I've always been intrigued by military campaigns and how battles developed, often more so than how that battle itself was fought.  It was the Scharnhorst system that was the deciding factor in my decision to buy Blucher.
Scharnhorst takes up only 25 pages in the rule booklet and is easy to follow.  The author emphasizes that the intent is not to play a lengthy campaign game, which can take on a life of it's own, but to bring about a battle in a manner other than lining up troops along opposite ends of the game table.  In other words, Scharnhorst is more of a battle generator that campaign game per se.
 Blucher is the most enjoyable set of rules I've read in my gaming life.  Not only because the rules were easy to understand, but Mr. Mustafa's sense of humor is infused in some of the pages, especially the side-bar notes.
Be forewarned:  If you post emotionally-charged complaints on the Honour Forum, you may find yourself on the receiving end of Mr. Mustafa's wit.
Here's a response to a hapless player who expressed his hatred for the Scharnhorst system, because an isolated column of his army was destroyed by converging forces of the enemy (as if this never happened historically):
As I see it you have two options:
1. Distract him [your opponent] with junk food and cheat somehow, OR
2. Man Up and accept that you've gotten yourself in a bind, and now you'll have to fight a seemingly hopeless battle against terrible odds.  It will be an epic defense worthy of remembrance in song, legend, and hyperbolic 19th Century novels.  In the movie version you'll probably be played by Sean Bean, but maybe if your lucky, Russell Crowe.
(From the sidebar at the bottom of page 148).
I've read this quote several times and it still makes me laugh, which compelled me to post it verbatim.
A more practical note of caution about Blucher is the ground-scale unit of measure.  That is how players measure movement and weapon ranges.  Instead of using standard measurements, like in the English (inches) and metric (centimeters), distances are measured in Base Widths (BWs). 
This allows players to utilize miniatures of all sizes, from 6 millimeter (mm) to 28mm, or maybe even larger.
The only drawback, especially for someone as artistically challenged as I am, is that players have to make their own measuring devices.  These are usually dowels, cut-to-length, and painted in an alternating color scheme to denote BWs of the appropriate scale of their miniature collection.
Despite the need to venture off to your nearest DIY/Home Improvement store, the Honour website provides a plethora of free downloads not only for Blucher, but for their other games as well.
(Image found on:  Sally 4th)
Another (although not-free) accessory to Blucher is The Hundred Days expansion kit for the 1815 Waterloo Campaign.  This is a set of gorgeously illustrated cards that can be played in lieu of miniatures.  Since I don't own any painted Napoleonic figures due to being artistically challenged as I mentioned earlier, I added the deck of cards to my order.
I wish I discovered this 5-star set of rules earlier, and had the time to game a session during the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

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