I painted up a whole set of to Old Glory/Blue Moon 15mm ‘three musketeers’ figures last year – you can see the blog posts for close ups of the figures if you look for them. But I had jet to use them in a game.
This week I finally ran a game with them in the En Garde the system for our group. So here is a quick write up of the game, some pictures and my thoughts and comments.
The Scenario was one which I came up with and had the following background:
News has just arrivied in Paris that the party including Countess de F (the Kings latest mistress) has got caught up in a peasant revolt while returning to the city. The peasants have a reputation in such cases of chopping the heads of their betters depending on what happens! So time is of the essence to save her. You can improve your personal agenda and political status by saving the Countesses as well as embarrass any others who try and fail to do so.
You strike at dawn the following morning, raiding the village to save her. In the faint morning light you suspect there are others also trying to do the same as you. But you will save her and win your just rewards for sure.
So the game was everyone for themselves after the Countess. I ran the game and played the revolting peasants – with Le Retundo, their leader being my main guy. The big winner would be the one one to save the Countess.
As we had three players, with the forces as follows:
A large group of the cardinals guards – lead by a swordsman dressed as the cardinal.
D’Artagnan, his personal servants and three standard musketeers.
The local bandit leader Black Jacque and some of his bandit gang.
I tried to balance the forces roughly but it was not precise on points counts. Each player had a rank 5 leader (with weapons master and duelist skills), a rank 3 second in command (a weapons master), as well as their supporting troops. The rank 1 and 2 troops had a pistol each in both the Cardinals and Bandit gang as well as a sword. Black Jacque’s crew were the only ones in armor but just light stuff giving them a +1 armor value. The peasants also were in mobs. I made them count as rank 3, with level 3 armor but they were on big bases and could not assist each other. This reflected a group of poor peasants acting together as a mob.
You can see the start of the game below – with the three attackers all coming in from different sides of the village and the mobs of peasants in the village center. In the center was the countess on the headsman block, with the the headsman and Le Retundo directing the peasants.D’Artagnan and three fellow musketeers made their way in through the fields from one side. His trusty servant Planchet also in tow. D’Artagnan lead from the front and was very heroic throughout the game.
The evil Black Jacque and his crew were coming to capture the Countess for their own ends, best left unsaid what they were but he lead from the back…The same was true of the ‘Cardinal’ who sent some of his guards to fight a mob of villages, while having others use their pistols against a second mob heading towards him. The Cardinals guards must have been practicing pistol shots because one of them did such a prefect shot as to ‘kill’ the mob they were firing at in a single shot. We made the story to that one of a very bloody head shot to one of the mob made the other revolting peasants decide it was better to hide in their house than suffer the same. So first blood to the Guardsman! All three forces were attacked by the village mobs though. D’Artagnan engaged one mob and dispersed them alone. It took all his skill to do that, managing it on the last of his attack chips. He then raced on and took out another village mob single handed. Holding up that hero image for certain. The two the musketeers with him ganged up on another mob and took them out as well. One of Black Jacques gang members took on another mob but started to get the worse of it in that fight. He was the ‘sacrificial guy’ from that group to hold up the peasants while the other gang members moved into the village ready to strike in the following turns. Typical evil behavior there, and it was fun that players really got into character. The group of Cardinals guards trying to take on the mob in hand to hand though did not fair that well though. The mob actually took down one of the guardsmen. That mob held up the guards for a couple of turns of combat in the end giving as good as they got in the hand to hand fighting. To be fair though the Cardinals guards were just Rank 1 guys. Eventually the Cardinal sighed and ran over to help his minions. A quick couple of blows from him showed the villages the true power though as they dispersed after taking out two guards in the pervious fighting.The mob fighting Black Jacques bandit eventually killed the bandit which freed up them. He had allowed Jacques other gang members to get into the village though. Those were now taking pot shots with their pistols as the opportunity arose. Sometimes even into combats between the other players. No honor those bandits that’s for sure.The ‘rescue attempt’ for the Countess was made by Black Jacque and support taking on the headsman. Meanwhile D’Artagnan and a fellow musketeer took on the leader Le Retundo. All the while D’Artagnan’s servant (Planchet) slipped in and freed the Countess! The combats were fast and furious but unfortuantely fairly one sided. Often in this game if you are ‘ganged up on’ or have very different ranks of figs fighting it can be hard to win the combat. I guess that’s realistic but something to be aware off. The rescuers had taken out all but the leaders of the mob so they were on their own. Le Retundo the village leader went down quickly with a couple of bad defensive rolls from me. Yes seeing a theme here ? I could not roll well all game. Luckily, as the GM and basic target/road block for the players, that really did not effect anything that much. I had hoped to play that character a little longer but there we are. Le Retundo as his name implies will return though and and he is pretty large as well.Of course this just started a large swirling melee in the center of the village though with more figs joining in. Various models fought each other and there were even several cases of one fleeing one fight (and risking the free strike against them) to move into other fights. Again Bandits were prone to shooting into combats – – especially ones which did not involve any of their gang. Planchet started to run through the fights pulling the Countess with him trying to get her to safety. Of course just to add to the fun I had the last remaining revolting village mob chase after him. Interestingly all the other players models were too busy fighting each other to be bothered with the mob initially. You can see we had a few markers out for the various figs by now. White is a stun, blue is a wound level and red is needing a reload needed to fire their pistol. The Cardinals swarm of low ranking guards started to help here as he had some running around the village to stop the escaping servant and others were leading the charge (I hate to say acting as a meat shield) for the ‘Cardinal’.
Numbers started to dwindle though on all sides and as there were 3 or 4 main fights going on the casualties were mounting. The mob got to Planchet and dragged him down – collecting the countess again for themselves.That was not to last though. The next turn the mob were killed by I believe D’Artagnan while most of the sub commanders and other troops had been killed or taken out of action by this point. The leaders headed for each other and the Countess to try to win the game. So we went from about a dozen combatants to just a hand full left in a couple of turns. If this were a movie the whirling action of everyone fighting would now focus on the main characters. It was like it was planned – but that was not the case.
This was the climax of the game came with all three rescue attempt leaders in a whirling 3 way combat over who would control the Countess and thus rescue her. No quarter was given or taken in this fight and tactics were at play between the three combatants. Who to attack and with what ploys were all decision points. This lasted a number of turns. If this were an action movie this is where the action stunts would have been, with the countess screaming and all the characters fighting around her. A few remaining gang members took pot shots with pistols into the combat just to add to the confusion and chaos as well.
The combat mechanism in En Garde means there was actual tactics and key decision in play here. Real player choices having an effect, rather than just die rolls. I do like that and it’s different than many such games and makes a huge difference IMO. Lots of fun was had with this. Various jokes as well as bad French accents)were all used as well as some real tension in the rolls. We even had people from other games come over and watch the fun, so you know the noise levels were high.The leaders went from all being unwounded to all gravely wounded. In the end it was Black Jacque who came out as the last three way round still standing. He was gravely wounded though. The remaining Cardinals guards had a moment of hesitation (well a turn wavering and ran away) with the loss of the Cardinal but then regained their nerve and fought on. So, they were the only ones left who could spoil the bandits plans. Their pistol shooting though was poor, which was their real chance to take out the remaining 2 members of Black Jacques gang. So with empty pistols that allowed the bandits to run them down in hand to hand combat.
So the field and the Countess were Black Jacque’s…and a fun night was over. The game with 3 players and me as the GM and running the villages lasted approx 2.5 hours. Overall we had a good game and a lot of laughs.
So, what did we think of En Guarde?
Overall, I have to say I think it’s an improvement on the Ronin system and a fun game. I would recommend them to anyone wanting skirmish gaming with 6 to 20+ figs for the Pike and Shot period. They can be used to create real scenario’s and story games. It has a nice theme and although not that popular in mainstream wargaming it is a great period. That’s very similar to my view of Ronin to be fair -and these rules are really a slight improvement on Ronin engine moved to a different background. You can see my review of that here. For more specific comments I’ll do this in bullet form. Note, there are other reviews out there for the basic mechanics so I’m not going to go through those but more my thoughts around the game.
- Overall, the game holds together well and as stated above this in many ways is a V2 version of the game Engine in Ronin. It’s a great skirmish game. All the guys made that comment that we should ‘back port’ the rules for this version into Ronin. I’ll have to loom to see if it’s already been done. A common complaint with Osprey rules we find is that many could do with more testing as they have rough edges. Often the core game is good but it just needs a little more. Ronin has it’s minor issues in the mechanics etc. in this area and I think En Garde resolves many of those. Note, the Rampant rules are the other set which I think have now got over this hump as well and are really good.
- I still really like the Attack/Defense combat pools and ploys mechanic in the game. The addition of ploys (added defense/riposte & added attack etc.) means that players have tactical choices in combat and it’s not just a die rolling – which I really like. Again the extra detail and options are things which we likely will use in Ronin. This one rules aspect makes these rules stand out from say IHMN which are good bit lack that extra detail and player control that these provide.
- The shooting changes from Ronin look good and it is less confusing than Ronin. Shooting is still quite powerful and a little random- especially if troops don’t have armor. The removal of a second shooting phase and making the archer skill for a second shot with some weapons limits some of the power of shots.
- I really like that a points system is part of the rules. The wide range of sample forces is also good to see and that allows people to build what they want but gives some guidance for them as well. A nice addition that in Ronin had to be added by the author later (and people like me worked out anyway).
- Some skills/attributes seam much better than others – but that’s always a reality for specific scenario’s but just something to be aware of. Dueling and Weapons Master skill’s are likely to be a often choose set for high ranking heroes. I’d likely tweak these – maybe even splitting weapons master into 2 skills. But that’s a minor issues and one easily resolved really. It is more for a force building/ game balance type thing.
- Although I have not used them yet I love the addition of the fantastical creatures and magic as an option in the rules. A great idea and makes the rules have a lot more legs for generic games and people like me thinking of extensions and odd uses for the rules.
- Using 15mm figs worked a treat for the game. It would not work great for convention game as the visual spectacle is reduced for none players, but for a smaller group of players it does not effect the rules at all. Having a couple of specific special figs and the rest be a standard profile resolved any issues of identification of models in the game. Next game will be pirates I suspect and thee rules work very well for pirates. 🙂
- As a last point it is a shame that compared to some rules there does not seem to be a big fan base/author support for this game. I really like these rules and they are a fun set for gaming. There is a Facebook group for it but it’s public (which I’ll be honest deters me at least from posting in it) and does not get the traffic which some groups get. Still I guess this is period not often used for games other than some ECW/TYW stuff – but thats a shame
So there we are. Overall, another fun game and a set of rules I’d recommend interested in the period or style of game have a look at. I hope you enjoyed the write up.