I’ve been playing around with some simple one brain-cell rules for Marlburians for a few weeks now. Originally I had planned for them to cover the whole horse and musket era, but changed my mind after my first playtest and concentrated on the War of Spanish Succession. I’ve borrowed some newer ideas – Black Powder’s morale saves for instance – and added some very old-fashioned mechanics borrowed from the likes of Featherstone, Grant and Neil Thomas. The result I have christened Ne Plus Ultra, although I am vaguely aware that that name may have been used already for a game in this era. As a I have absolutely no commercial ambitions, however, I don’t think that it matters.
The whole game is driven by cards. Each general is assigned a brigade, and when his card is played he may declare charges and then move his units. The end turn card (I use a joker) finishes this phase and all shooting and melee are resolved. If I want to speed things up, sometimes I allocate a commander two cards. The end result is that depending on where the joker turns up, some units may not get the chance to declare charges or move. It works great for solo play, and this is what I tested today with a small Marlburian battle of 6 infantry, 2 guns and 3 cavalry a side.
Above is the centre of the table mid-way through the game. Each element can take three casualties. Once this number has been reached, an element is removed. If half the unit is removed then the next casualty sees the unit removed from the table. The break-point of the brigades is recorded alongside the general. There are two ways that a brigade breaks: if over 50% of its units are broken; and every time a unit is pushed back in combat or is broken, then it is recorded on a dice beside the general. If the dice reaches 6 then the brigade is broken. This means that extra-large brigades do not last indefinitely. As can be seen below, the Anglo-Prussian centre was actually broken when the die reached 6.
Overall I am quite happy with the final product. I made a few tweaks in-game, like increasing the power of artillery and adding a disordered rule, which have balanced it up quite a bit. Units last a decent amount of time, elite units perform well, exposing your flank is a bad thing and supporting units with friendlies to their rear is worthwhile. Command and control is sometimes frustrating, but the game does seem to roll along at a good pace.
The next phase of the plan is to try a Charles Grant scenario and see how it fights out. A PDF copy is here for those that are interested.