Friday, November 09, 2007

Wesencraft review... promised, I've just finished reading the Wesencraft book I managed to get on eBay "With Pike and Musket: Wargaming the 16th and 17th Centuries" and decided to put up a review...

Book is 185 pages long plus 2 or 3 pages summarizing the rules described in the book.

The actual rules section of the book comprises approx. 50 pages, the rest of the book is about army organization (he uses a few sample armies of the period focusing purely on Elizabethan, Elizabethan Irish, English Civil War, and the New Model), and typical weapons of the period. The two chapters are interesting (I hadn't realized the importance of the halberd in the earlier par of the period) but pretty basic - no in depth analysis as you would expect in what is primarily a wargaming book - he does have a good and extensive bibliography for more detail on these aspects.

The rules are very interesting - considering that they were written in the mid-70's there are a number of concepts that are not unheard of in some of the more modern rules.

In summary:

  • Figures are single mounted
  • Movement is pretty normal and as you would expect
  • He deals with weather in some detail as given the armaments of the time it was important - matchlocks are particularly susceptible to wet… to track weather in the game he postulates a weather gauge. Throw a dice at the beginning of the game to decide the opening weather and then a dice throw each move will either move a counter up or down the gauge, or not - making the weather better or worse depending on where the starting position on the gauge is…
  • Movement is alternative - Mr Wesencraft explains in detail why he thinks it is the better approach and I don't disagree with him! Each move comprises:
    • Side A move
    • Both sides fire
    • Side B move
    • Both sides fire
  • Then we have a chapter on an element of gaming not touched on much at this time - Charles describes how each unit has an efficiency rating that effects how it will perform in the various actions it will take in the game (firing, melee, morale checks, etc.) The efficiency rating is diced for and kept secret from the enemy, and from that point is reduced as the game continues reflecting the decrease in efficiency of the unit. It can temporarily improve (eg. as a result of a staff officer joining the unit, being under cover etc.) but can also temporarily decrease (eg, by attack in flank or rear) or get permanently reduced as a result of casualties or running away from a melee… much food for thought in this chapter!
  • Then he explains the role of the staff officer (primarily efficiency improvement) and the standard bearer (also efficiency improvement - something for the enemy to try and capture as taking it away will result in an automatic deduction in efficiency!)
  • For infantry firing he uses a casualty table explaining why he doesn't throw a dice per man, or a dice per number of men - well explained… artillery strength is decided by number of crew (typically 3 crew men when full strength representing a battery of three guns) artillery throw one dice per crewman/gun - using the same table..
  • For melee he has a pre-melee reaction test for both sides - and when melee is enjoined he has a mechanism based on the efficiency of the unit, their weapon, and the number of figures, which then re-uses the firing table… very effective…
  • He finishes off with a section on how to work out which figures are removed as a result of a unit taking casualties, and a final chapter in the unit record sheet - which he then uses to maintain records for each of his units describing how they fought, what battle honours they won, etc. Really nice idea..

The rest of the book - 100+ pages! - is general descriptions of battles in the period, but described in terms of his rules, figure scales, etc. Irrespective of their historical context, there are some excellent sources of scenario's here, and it's worth reading them all for this reason alone!

... on the whole I would say this was well worth the money, and at the time must have been quite cutting edge in terms of some of the concepts he describes. It was a good read and I would still wholeheartedly recommend it..

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