A Match Made in Heaven - An Overview of Carnage & Glory II27 Apr 2017 0
Just like Gaul, wargaming is divided into three parts, digital, board and tabletop (or miniatures), and never the twain shall meet. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom, which has been wrong since 1987. That’s the year one transplanted Brit out of New Jersey came up with the idea of miniature rules that would be managed by a computer, vice a gamemaster (GM) or the players themselves. Thus Nigel Marsh produced the computer moderated tabletop rules called Carnage & Glory (or C&G) , first for DOS and then in 2001, for Windows.
Suffice it so say, the miniature gaming world has not been the same since. (ED: That's a little dramatic, Bill.)
Carnage & Glory II is the latest version of the software, and while my copy has a 2004 date, there is a 2010 version available. The game costs $ 30.00 US, plus 5% for postage in the US, 10% for North America and 20% for the rest of the world. There are discounts for multiple copies, and there are also individually researched order of battle files available for $ 6.00 US each. While the Napoleonic version seems to be the mainstay of the line – it boasts a free downloadable manual that supports all versions – there are also software variants that cover the wars of Frederick the Great, the Marlburian and Great Northern Wars, the Pike and Shot era to include the English Civil War, the American Civil War and the wars of Prussian Chief of Staff Helmut von Moltke.
The software is very easy on the hardware, and while the Website indicated it would “even” run on Windows 7 or Vista, I had absolutely no trouble running it on my wife’s low end Windows 10 machine. Seriously, at only 10 MB (that’s mega, not giga) storage space needed, C&G will likely run on anything one step above an abacus.
About the best way to describe the interface is “quaint.” It harkens back to the early days of Windows with a Spartan, almost DOS like design, dropped into a GUI (graphical user interface). This implies simplicity, and the implication is correct. Once the data has been entered, the game is very simple to run. Given all the running is by the software via a human interface called the gamemaster, this makes the overall game easier to play because even new players don’t really have that much to learn. Its transparency and that is a definite strength of the game.
Ordre de Bataille
Perhaps the most important part of playing C&G actually comes before the first turn begins. This is when the GM creates his database by listing units and commanders (which are themselves a type of unit), then plugging specific parameters into each as well as the battlefield environment where the game will take place. There are two order of battles from Napoleon’s 1809 campaign included for starters, but otherwise the research requirement is on the GM. In general a game for 25 mm figures uses a scale of 1 inch = 25 paces, one turn = 15 minutes and units are battalions, mounted regiments or squadrons and artillery batteries.
The idea is to pull up a new Army List screen via the File menu and then start building units and leaders. The screen will give you a number of choices as regards the specifics of the man in charge or the troops he leads into combat. Some are entirely contrived by the GM, such as name, or the number of men in the formation. Some are selected from a pull down menu, such as the leadership impact of a general which can range from Indifferent (-) to Inspirational (+), or unit musketry quality from Contemptable to Excellent. In the accompanying image for the Pavlov Grenadiers, it’s obvious this was an elite unit and historically it was admitted to the Guard in 1813, wearing its Prussian style mitre caps until World War I as a favor from the Tsar. Alas, it was saddled with muskets from the Tula factory, some of the worst ever, in multiple calibres so supply was always a problem, thus the unit’s poor firepower rating. Once this is done, the GM can then save this input to an order of battle file, say, Friedland 1807, and from there he can access the opposing forces for his game.
Going to the Utility menu allows similar input, but this time for the overall battlefield environment. This includes things like the weather, initial army morale or fatigue, initiative level, scouting prowess and the like. The Command and Control drop down, conversely, is more likely to be used during the game where orders can be issued, leaders reassigned or the command structure reviewed.
To many this is going to seem like a very tedious portion of the game, and I would agree. But this is a personal preference issue and NOT a game defect. It’s not my cup of tea, but I can guarantee many cringe when I spend multiple hours looking up appearance details for model 1857 Russian regimental flags in the Russo-Turkish War. I had a blast, but many others would not and many others absolutely love compiling an order of battle for C&G. The takeaway point here is that the game makes this easy to do, and given the software will use these numbers or selections to run the game, it is an essential step.
L’Attaque, Toujours l’Attaque!
Actually playing the game is easy and straightforward, with alternating turns consisting of the following phases each with its own small software screen:
Engineering – appropriate units can blow things up, burn things down or build something.
Movement – appropriate units can move, change facing or formation, charge and voluntarily rout.
Fire Combat – appropriate units can engage in unit to unit musketry or artillery combat.
Close Combat – appropriate units in contact or near contact can swing swords, poke people with bayonets or make threatening noises against their opponents.
Rally – appropriate units can be inspected or rallied by nearby general officers.
End of Turn – without question this is the most important of the six phases described. At this point the software looks at all the results of the previous turn, and indeed those before, and automatically determines things like the current army morale level, advises commanders of new orders, changes environmental conditions such as the weather and mandates compulsory actions for units based on combat operations so ar. It also determines who has the initiative next turn with the option of going first, and then the next turn starts.
Getting things done throughout this sequence is merely a player calling out the number of his unit to the GM, indicating what he wants to do, then having the GM pull up the correct screen, checking appropriate modifier boxes and then clicking an “execute” button with his mouse. Obviously the GM having to do everything is going to relegate C&G games to small battles, but not always as I have seen very large engagements successfully done with multiple GMs. On the flip side, while players conducting their own operations simultaneously and manually is fast, it also produces multiple requests for interpretation nearly every turn. With C&G it’s one unit and player at a time, with the computer doing most of the interpretation automatically. This is not an insignificant time saver.
That’s pretty much all there is to it.
Conclusion – Tactics are Mandatory!
Tabletop historical miniature gaming is a niche hobby, and C&G occupies a niche within that niche. There have been other computer moderated systems, but only C&G has survived and thrived. This is a tribute to the quality of the product as well as its author who GMs several games at various conventions. It’s also comforting that the tabletop is ultimately compatible with the digital environment. Yet this concept is likely to remain but a small niche for many reasons, not the least of which is that IMHO gamers just like to roll dice.
However, I predict it will remain a strong, if small, segment of the hobby for one very important reason – it makes tactics mandatory. Because the software via the GM is performing unit functions whose initial and current status can be unknown to the player, he is forced to play tactics and not advanced algebra. No kidding, sometimes in my own games I want to ban calculators and smart phones. Players who are supposed to be army commanders are punching numbers into charts to determine whether that one battery moving should be a C46 or C73, four or nine pound Krupp breechloader with a bronze or steel barrel. Trust me, in real life Freiherr von Steinmetz didn’t care. In C&G if the GM is good, the player will know nothing more than a vague idea as to what is happening or unit status, if that. It’s a concept that pushes this game more than most towards reality, and its why H G Wells said in Little Wars, “things should happen, not be calculated.”
And it works. I know because I GM often in the C&G room at conventions, and I can see the game in play. I’ve also been a player myself, my most memorable portrayal as Alexandr I, Tsar of all the Russias at Austerlitz in 1805. Yes, I know Alex had the military smarts of a Brussel sprout, but certainly that wasn’t considered, so go with me here. When a large Russian unit routed towards board’s edge, I immediately galloped over to save the lads with cheers of Да здравствует царь* rising from the masses. Then I routed off the board with them and was halfway to St Petersburg by game’s end. People laughed – howled actually – and clapped, someone got me a cold one, even got an award for my unique tactical finesse.
That’s what I see with every C&G game at every convention. The players likely don’t get the elevated realism factor of the game, but that’s OK because everyone is having a grand ole time. At the end of the day that is ultimately what determines success in a hobby that is often more a social gathering than competition, and this is a good thing.
Bottom line – nailed it.
*Da zdravstvuyet tsar' – long live the Tsar!