I had a final playtest of the Chinese rules, pre CoW last night (Tuesday). I was rewarded by having three players, Will, Ian & Phil. Will took the Chinese and Ian & Phil the British.
The game is pretty much in its final form both in look and rules. I have a few more units to finish off sitting on my desk, but they are not essential to having a good game. I have a bit more work I can do on the terrain, but it'll do if I run out of time.
The scenario is the same. The British are trying to force a passage into a fortified town, defeating the covering Chinese force on the way. I have added a few field defences to make the challenge a bit harder, - although these are actually a bit bigger than their historical predecessors, as in scale they are 500 yards by 250, compared to the normal c200 yards by 100. I've also dragged out my paddy fields which I built for the Vietnam project I never did.
The British went for a broad approach, covering their right with cavalry and pushing their way through the paddy fields in open order, to keep their speed of advance up. The playtest gave me a lot of good feedback on how skirmishers should work in this version of the game. I was also trying out a slimmed down firing and melee combat system. I have now got this all working off the one core mechanism, I think. There are some slight design issues to deal with (eg how to allow for the effect of minor tactical advantages) but I'm pleased with how it works.
The British advanced in the middle was pretty relentless, so the Chinese paid more attention to the mongol cavalry flank. Plus we had those pesky "tigermen" on the board. Wearing onsies and waving swords and shields no one really knows what to do with them. When I told the players they were trained to jump up and down and frighten cavalry they thought I was having a laugh.
Any how, taking the hint Will wheeled them off to his left to disrupt the cavalry advance through the new pagoda complex.
He also covered the flank by moving a couple of infantry units across. In truth the photo record of the game isn't brilliant as I got so involved in what was going on I forgot to use the camera. BTW I think the pagoda has painted up well. This colour scheme is based on buildings we saw in Suzhou, near Shanghai.
In the middle Will tried to exploit his cavalry advantage by charging Phil's Sikhs. However they reacted perfectly, falling back and preparing to drive the Manchus off with rifle fire. Alas for this attack Will only had one unit as one of his Manchu cavalry units had already retired from the field having suffered from Phil's massed artillery.
Will then used his other Manchu cavalry to stall the attack on the central redoubt.
Phil's infantry passed their reaction roll and formed square. In this picture you can clearly see the mah-jong tiles being used as unit status markers. The rear rank of cavalry are looking a bit ragged already. Alas this attack also masked the Chinese guns in the redoubt.
Phil's infantry brigade pressed on. The Sikhs have now formed a firing line, as has the Royal Regiment and are giving the Manchu cavalry what for. The square has held and Manchu & Chinese units are starting to stream to the rear.
Things were not all bad for the Chinese, however, as the 15th Punjabis baulked at storming the redoubt and decided to reform on the start line (it looks better in the regimental history than "broke & fled to the rear"). They had been on the receiving end of some concentrated fire from some well handled Chinese guns.
Meanwhile over at the White Pagoda the Bengal lancers were facing off against the tigermen and resolutely refusing to charge them. Behind them the Mongols were chalking up a notable victory as they final drove back and broke Fane's horse by sheer weight of numbers, losing two regiments in the process.
This is the final shot of the table. Half of the Chinese army is now in rout, so the game is over. It ranks as a draw, however, as the British forces have lost a couple of units. Fortunately for them they are only Indian Army units. If they'd been British, I'd have rated this as a Chinese victory.
I took a fair number of notes and had a few good suggestions from the players. So, a quick update to rules and playsheets and we're ready for CoW.