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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Blucher goes international as a multiplayer on line event..

        Last night I had the pleasure of watching an on line game of Blucher involving six players and a GM from various parts of the world. The event was well organised, went very smoothly despite the death of one of the on line cameras and played in the spirit of "toy soldiers" that I myself support.

          They had played a Scharnhorst campaign previously and the battle produced was nicely unbalanced with the French being outnumbered but the chance of reinforcements later in  the game. Enough of the details.

If you are interested, you can watch the campaign section of the game on Youtube at The scharnhorst video.

The game itself can be seen at The Blucher game video

The event was organised by Kurtus Brown who is working hard to promote online wargaming and had also organised the face book pages dedicated to it the tabletop commanders. 

The FB address is Tabletop Commander FB

So respect to him and the guys involved. The genre has a great future specially with isolated players.

                        Now on to the meat of this post that I took from previous playing of Blucher and watching last nights play and that is the question " Is Blucher really a multiplayer game."

         Before watching the game I had a nagging feeling, accumulated during my own groups games, that Blucher as a multi player really doesn't work. Because of the linear style of spending an unknown quantity of momentum points the game changes from multi player to a committee of guys running the side and discussing how to spend the points and in which order or one guy deciding while the others watch. Either way I don't see enough involvement of each individual to maintain the intensity of play that a multicorps,fast play system provides normally. What effectively happens in my group and indeed in last nights game is individuals get involved in "other stuff" or lose concentration which effectively slows down the game.. I'm sure folks will have a different view on this and I would love to hear from them in comments.

      In recent months I have become convinced that Blucher is not a great multiplayer game on one table. Now I have no intention of abandoning the game because it is almost perfect for fast play multicorps so what is the alternative..

       First thought was to use a larger table split into two halves with players having command of the halves each with their own momentum points rather than specific corps. This works but corps get split and they play at different rates, which on a single table breaks up play.
        My current thoughts which we have tried once so far is to play on separate tables which are connected by roads at known march rates. 6 turns 10 turns etc etc. each table is a seperate command . We ignore different rates of play which introduces time variants that also adds interest. You can see a report on this event at http://flownlegions.blogspot.com.es/2016/02/da-nubes-did-well.html. Each table has it's momentum based on points on table and the seniority of the commanders who have corps abilities and army commander abilities. The job of the CiC is to be on the table where he is most needed and to make strategic decisions as to which corps are needed on each table and order transfers where necassary.

The multi-table method of course requires a lot of space but the results are extremely rewarding. It feels like my idea of a Napoleonic campaign, there is a high level of involvement  for all of the players. It does however require major objectives on each table to discourage massing of corps on one table. the CiC provides the GM with a march route and order for each corps some tables taking longer to reach than others.  All in all very satisfying. We have another experimental 14 corps game  over 3 tables in  Montmelo on 12th June to take the ideas further. I will of course post results here, hopefully with more detail than our first effort.

On a different note I used the time I spent watching the game to paint some reinforcements for my Austrian corps . All infantry elements some of which contain mounted officers :-


   These white coats look so much better since I began to use a paint pen to outline the strapping.






All in all a most productive night. Remember folks this is meant as a discussion post so feel free to join in.                         


9 comments:

  1. Hi Robert, an interesting read. I am the player who has assumed the role of the Russian CinC, we are still at an experimental stage with our on line games, finding out what does and doesn't work, camera angles etc. So far we are very pleased with the results. In an ideal world all of us would be in the same room with multiple tables as you suggest, but that is of course not possible, hence the on line aspect.
    Personally, I thought the session went very well, yes one member, Napoleon himself, had to drop out for whatever reason, but his deputy was able to step in without any loss of cohesion.
    As for your comment on players involvement quote

    Because of the linear style of spending an unknown quantity of momentum points the game changes from multi player to a committee of guys running the side and discussing how to spend the points and in which order or one guy deciding while the others watch. Either way I don't see enough involvement of each individual to maintain the intensity of play that a multicorps,fast play system provides normally.

    Both of my sub commanders had active roles in the battle, they made their own decisions and rolled their own die, they did not sit idly by whilst I made all the decisions and rolled all the die, in fact I ended up with the weakest and most isolated troops! We had great fun, which is what it is all about, yes we made a couple of minor errors, but it works out the same for both sides in the end, so no harm done. The whole point is that it is a group of friends having a fun time and not taking ourselves too seriously.
    Our style may not appeal to everyone, which is fine, viewing is not compulsory. Blucher lends itself to a fast, fun game without consulting endless charts and rolling dozens of dice, we might make a few errors, but usually spot them eventually, we are just here to have fun, roll a few dice and socialise with a few buddies, wherever they are in the World.

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    1. Oh I'm sorry if my comments seemed like a critiscism of that style of play, it certainly wasn't However if you watch the videos again you will clearly see that although all the players were involved, only one player at a time actually did anything.it's, that inevitable fact that slows the game down For a multiplayer game thats not ideal. We went for multiplayer on multitables because it meant no one has to wait while another player acts

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    2. Hi Bob. Thanks for the post.

      To be fair, I didn't really put much effort in to the "multi-player" rules we would use. I had a quick look at the rules for such in the Blucher rulebook, pg. 85, but decided that would mess up the momentum allowing so much to be done. I'll have another look later. Also, I believe the rules would work well for multi-player games if some effort was put in to it. The main thing is to keep ALL the players of a side involved as they progress through their turn; just as a normal battle. At the same time momentum shouldn't have to be messed with just for the sake of multi-players.

      This battle was such good fun I will deff. be doing it again as a multi-player game. Prior to that I will deff. spend a little more time on working out "how" it will be played.

      All in all, it's all about having fun, getting people involved - from all over the globe, no less, and playing in the spirit of wargaming. I think we achieved that. :)

      THanks again, Bob. Take care, and talk soon.

      ~K

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    3. There is no doubting the fun everyone had and I certainly wouldn't change anything in your on line games. I don't think there are any options to change it for your on line games it's the nature of an excellent set of rules. To play on a single table you would need to use a command system perhaps like the snappy nappy rules. For single tables I think Basic Blucher is as good as you can get unless you change some of the games integral concepts

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  2. I totally agree with you that only one player at a time is actually doing anything, but watching what they are doing is both fascinating and interesting at the same time. The down time actually gives you the opportunity to survey the battlefield, plan your next moves, activation cards/dice willing of course. I actually enjoy that side of it, watching eagerly and hoping my sub commanders come up with a killer roll and see his opponent throwing snake eyes.
    Playing online has to be compromise at best, but for me with no nearby opponents, then it is as near to a room full of like minded souls as I can get. Yes it is not perfect, but neither are my dice rolling or tactics! I enjoy the interaction as much, if not more, than the game itself.
    Playing online and playing live in room is always going to be chalk and cheese. The latter of course is far more preferable, for the very reasons you mentioned, multi-tables, everyone doing something all the time etc. But I am more than happy with the current state of affairs, how else could you have a bunch of Brits, scattered about our tiny islands playing a Napoleonic battle on a table in Pennsylvania in real time?

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    1. Oh, I hope you can tell from my opening paragraphs that I'm all in favour of on line gaming as you guys play it. In fact it's probably better than sliced bread.... :) My real concern is Bluchers command mechanism which is brilliant for normal battles but in my opinion in face to face gaming isn't really appropriate to single tables

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  3. Being only minimally familiar with Blucher's mechanics I cannot really address them, but we certainly had a similar issue with Piquet. it works great as a one on one game, pretty good with two per side, but once you hit three or more players you need special rules to avoid a lot of inactivity. We came up with them, and they worked OK, but were never ideal. I think this is in part a feature of any multi[player game, even ones with standard format rules (due to some players being in the thick of it, and others not). It is exacerbated when you add mechanisms that limit a players actions individually, and variably, as a player in the thick of it with a lot of actions could take quite a while to play out their turn. regardless, I prefer rules that do NOT allow everyone to do everything every turn. It forces the player to focus on what matters most!

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    1. I think I'm leaning towards a command system if not identical then certainly similar to Snappy nappy. I think multi-player would flow quite smoothly even on a single table. having said that we are using Blucher for a multi-player , multi-table army level game next Sunday. Should prove interesting

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