Taiping Trial and Error

This weekend is another Virtual Conference of Wargamers ("VCOW") run by Wargame Developments. I shall be running an on-line game using "Taiping Era". To ensure things get going smoothly I wrote up a scenario and drew maps and stuff like that for the players. However, I thought it might be a good idea to try it out first, so I got the Monday Night Group to step up and give it a run through.

On the right we have the Ever Victorious Army near the camera (commanded by Jon) and a brigade from the Hunan Army, with some Mongol cavalry (in the tender care of Ian).

The left left, a Taiping Chun of three shih, commanded from top to bottom by Richard, Phil and Will. The EVA/Hunan forces were marching to liberate the local town, but have bene confronted, unexpectedly, by a large force of Taipings. What could possibly go wrong? Other than me sending out the briefing attached to the calendar invite which no one could open.

The Eva/Hunan Army got the initiative, and Jon immediately advanced across the table and deployed into line. Ian moved up more tentatively with his infantry, and, surprisingly, with his Mongol cavalry too.

Phil was in overall command of the Taipings, and ordered Richard to refuse the left flank (for fear of the Mongols) whilst pressing forwards in the centre and the right. The EVA opened fire, and Will's skirmishers took some damage. Instead of Mah Jong tiles for this game I used playing cards so that the players could see them more easily on the camera.

Next turn, and the Taipings pressed forwards fairly aggressively with their skirmishers, and Will moved his line up. Jon halted and deployed his artillery. Ian cautiously moved his Mongols forwards, whilst Richard covered his more exposed left flank with his skirmishers. Phil sent his general across to help out. You can see that both Phil & Ian have wheeled some of their support troops in order to widen their lines and fill in some gaps.

The EVA opened fire all along the line, (should have put out some smoke) and inflicted hits on Will's brave fellows.

Ian closed in on Richard's spearmen, but chose to hold one of his units back. I'm not sure he had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. Richard did, but was unable to get his troops in the right places.

Jon closes in, pressing Will hard. The EVA are a nice little army to play with. Compact and powerful, they do what you want them to do.

On the other flank, Richard forms his spears into a square, and swings his cavalry and massed muskets round to threaten the Mongol flanks. This is a bit more Chinese! The formation of the unfolding lotus. Or similar. Ian is now obsessing about sending his Mongols into the woods.

Out by the paddy fields, Will charges home. Jon looses off a volley and counter charges.

In the centre, after a devastating musket volley from the EVA, Phil's skirmishers turn tail and flee.

Further fire is making Will's end of the line waver quite badly.

This general over view shows that things are hotting up everywhere. I really wish I'd put the smoke out.

A hard fought melee round sees both EVA and Taiping back on their starting marks.

In the centre, Phil charges Ian's skirmishers to disperse them.

At Will's end of the line, massed musketry has done the trick, and lots of his men are looking to go and warn the others about the arrival of the foreign devils.

On the other wing, Ian decided to withdraw his leading Mongol unit, taking some damage from Richard's muskets for his pains. His other intrepid horse men are skulking in the woods.

Despite his success at shooting up infantry, one pesky jingal wouldn't get out of the way. Jon was forced to charge it to clear the space.

More of Will's brave spearmen hurl themselves into Gordon's mercenaries.

They are thrown back in some disarray, but it was very brave and noble.

In conclusion, the EVA has turned the Taiping right flank, and in a few moves will wheel in and roll up the line. On the other end of the line, Richard may succeed in doing the Hunan Army some serious mischief, if Phil can hold the centre.

On the whole it went okay. As everyone, except Phil, was new to the system there were a lot of questions. My failure to send out the briefings didn't help with getting us started on time, as does the fact that most people don't seem to have as many fancy dice as me.

Lessons learned for the weekend? The playing cards work for level of damage per unit, taking into account the needs of the video feed. I need to get out the smoke, and also some of my "Moving" markers to keep track of who has done what, which is more difficult without people in the room. I think there may need to be something to slow down Gordon as well, as the force numbers are about even, and the EVA is like a laser cutter in a cheese factory.

Otherwise, thumbs up, I think.


  1. Graham, this was another enjoyable action. A completely new set of rules in a completely foreign period for me. Great fun.

    The EVA seemed quite unstoppable but I need to learn how to properly deal with annoying skirmishers before formulating a tactical guide. Keeping the Chinese at arms' length while delivering volley after volley until they were ready to break seems a reasonable approach. I am not sure Will had much of a chance at preventing the EVA from turning the Taiping right.

    Interesting game mechanisms too.
    Thank you!

    1. If you think the EVA is unstoppable, you haven't seen the 1860s British with Armstrong cannons, Enfield rifles, and seriously good cavalry. The French are pretty damn good too. Will had very little chance, but then he's used to that.

      The rule system was written to be completely different, and really use the EDNA mechanism to the exclusion of anything else. As a piece of design, I think it is quite elegant, and has a unity of construction that is intellectually appealing.

    2. On EDNA, I use something quite similar as a game engine for a number of my works. I find it an elegant and satisfying solution as well and combines to form a unified gaming principle. Our execution of this principle is much different though. Depending upon the rules, I classify this, typically monotonically decreasing, value as either a unit's "Resolve" or "Combat Effectiveness."

    3. You can use EDNA in a more dramatic fashion, by deducting the amount that you fail by, not just 1 for each fail. If you use a d10 or d12 this creates a catastrophe like curve as the likelihood of failure increases dramatically as time goes on. I had to change that as otherwise units were evaporating really quickly. Plus I put in a series of "stops" so the tests are all done against the phase starting EDNA value, which is only changed at the end of the phase. So it isn't really pure EDNA, where rolls are sequential, adjusting the value as you go along.

  2. It would be good if we could get access to the videos for VCOW after the event. I would think it would generate interest for a reasonably closed group...

    1. One for the organisers, I guess. Depending on how it was going to be released you'd need to get everyone present to consent to being recorded. The other thing is those Zoom video files are enormous...

  3. Nice portrayal of a battle from an extremely brutal conflict. Well done.


    1. Thanks. It is a brutal conflict, and one not many people know anything about.

    2. There's a good BBC podcast in the "In Our Time" series with Melvyn Bragg, that covers the highlights. This is the link in the UK: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b00yqvqt but you should be able to search and listen to it whilst you are painting. Bloodiest civil war ever fought by a long, long, way.

    3. I will see if I can find it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    4. That podcast covered the background nicely AND I have discovered a whole bevy of interesting looking topics. Thanks!

    5. I should listen to it more often than I do.

  4. You are hosting a lot of games at the moment and at the rate that you and Jonathan report on them it is difficult to keep up!
    Seriously though, great to see and keep 'em coming!
    Regards, James

    1. I've got a bit of a log jam on reporting now, what with VCOW and all. So a bit of a gap, then there'll be another three or four along any time soon.


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