Each year around the last weekend in January (usually Super Bowl weekend) a bunch of us get together to game our eyes out all weekend. Some are my high school gaming buddies, some are HAWKs. It is at my buddy JJ’s house outside Charlotte, NC, so we refer to the weekend as JJ Con. There were six of us this year as a few of the regulars were unable to attend.
I am in the middle of a move from Maryland to Florida. I had a car full of electronics and breakables, and Charlotte was a nice half way point. Of course a weekend of sleep deprivation made the second half of the drive from North Carolina to Florida less fun.
Friday we played a Combat Patrol(TM) France 1940 game with a scenario from one of the Skirmish Campaigns books. It was a lot of fun. Several of the attendees of JJ Con only game this one time a year, so we tend to stick with simple-to-learn rules and try to use the same rules each year to reduce the re-learning curve. Mark and Nick quickly recalled the Combat Patrol rules and were good-to-go after a turn or two. The French defenders won. We also played Eric’s fun cowboy game using Blood and Swash. That evening we played Roman Circus chariot racing and a “board game,” called Captain Sonar. Both were much fun.
Column, Line, Square
Saturday turned out to be Napoleonic Day. When we were in high school in Michigan, one of the adults we played with was Nick, who now lives in South Carolina and attends JJ Con each year. He played a lot of Column, Line, Square in the old days. Since moving to South Carolina his French, Russian, and Austrian armies have been packed away in boxes. I have been encouraging him for several years to break them out and put them on the table. This year he did! CLS has a great old-school feel. You do multiplication. The rules were written on a typewriter. And there were these wonderfully large battalions.
None of us had played CLS for at least 25 years, so we were all learning or re-learning for the first game. The table starts with a lot of figures and units and empties quickly, so after the first game we reset the table, changed the scenario, and played again. The second game went more smoothly, as we all had a good understanding of the basics — and were improving our math skills.
Duncan’s die rolling was up to par. In the second game, he failed just about every morale check (rolling 2, 3, or 4 on two dice), and at the end of the third turn, most of the units in the French center had routed to the table edge were were attempting to reform. This gave us time to deal with the other French infantry separately, but JJ’s French cavalry and Legere turned our flank and captured the key road intersection.
There was the inevitable kvetching over the rules, which don’t necessarily appeal to modern tastes in rules, but I liked them at least as well as I remember enjoying them as a kid. Memory hadn’t romanticized them too much. One thing about CLS: stuff happens. I get frustrated when after ten turns of play, the table looks the same as it did ten hours before. In CLS, after about six turns, it was easy to see who won, because half the units had routed off the table. Musketry, cannon fire, and especially canister are devastating. The rules for melee are somewhat tedious, with lots of opposed die rolls needed, but again, the eventual outcome was clear and dramatic.
It was good to see these big battalions of Minifigs on the table again, and I think everyone enjoyed the games.
Combat Patrol(TM) Napoleonics
Our third game on Saturday was Duncan’s “Battle Before the Battle” scenario with Combat Patrol. In this game, both sides take the role of the skirmish screen as a French column advances to attack a British line. It was a close-run affair, with the British scoring more hits on the French battalion, but the British line receiving a withdraw and pin result from the French skirmish fire.