Sunday, 2 February 2014

Cavalry Skirmish, 29th August 2013—Capitán Playtest

[My wargaming time has been tied up with playing and planning games (and some painting) lately, so little time to write about what we have been up to. Here's my first go at rectifying that with one of the several reports of our recent efforts. Beyond this there are all those lovely posts on the blogs of others that I want to look at 'properly'. Still, I could have real problems, not FWPs, hey?!!]

Fin de l’année 2013: 2

This game, played on 29th December, was done as part of the Campaign of NationsGamemeister David, aka MurdocK, put out the call for players who could do one or more games in a “‘best of three skirmish series”. This is a nifty mechanism that he has used previously in the campaign to generate some interesting and quick games, the results of which impact on the map. Simply, the side winning the “world series skirmishing” (ha, ha) gains the upper hand in the skirmishing/scouting on the map.
It seemed a great opportunity for us to play a game at a completely different scale and to try a set of rules that I’d been wanting to have a go at for a while, Capitán (Napoleonic wargames rules for company & squadron level actions).

At that stage I had the first edition of the rules that was made available through their website. As such they are the ‘shell’ of the rules and contain numerous inconsistencies and errors that require ironing out, but they seemed a good place to start for skirmish wargames in this period. More on the rules as we go along.

I nominated us to do one of the combats between Russian hussars and French chasseurs à cheval. David advised us to represent up to 120 horsemen on each side. The board was to be “mostly flat scrub terrain, maybe a farm house or a stream (no major rivers in the area)”.

Given these guidelines, being in the ANF Annexe 1 (aka Mark’s place) where we have less terrain than at ANF HQ and using a new set of rules, we went for the simplest of terrain—as you can see!

Initial set-up, the Russians, commander in the centre, indicated by card, with (~) a company of hussars on either side.

French commander on the hill with a (~) company of chasseurs on either side. They had more troops, but some were poorer quality.

In the Capitán rules1 each figure represents around three men and they are arranged in units of four to six (representing about a company or peloton). A unit is able to fight until it is reduced to two figures at which time it must pass a morale test to continue (and may be combined with another unit if it passes).

The ‘engine’ of the game is the unit data card (UDC). This contains all of the information about the unit: nation, unit, type, class, armament; initiative (I), morale (M), courage (C); movement rates; firing ranges for extreme, effective, short; command range and span (if a commander like this one); special qualities available and the cost in parentheses; no. of figures, no of units allowed, points cost.

We were each allocated 2 000 points from which to select our mix of command and line units plus any special qualities, with the limitation of only one command unit and one staff unit.

The two sides approached one another, the Russians in a line the French with each flank reinforced. Note the UDC behind each Russian unit. The cards for the French units are just off-table to the right of the photo.

Charge! The first units go in. The game works on a system of initiative with all actions for the unit that wins the initiative (based on a D6 plus initiative rating) completed before another pair of units test for initiative. It is possible to move more than one unit under the initiative of a commander.

A mêlée is deemed to be a “scrum with all figures of all units taking part”, so the figures are lined up, with additional figures ‘piling in’ and getting free ‘hits’.

In a mêlée the pairs of figures pair-off and roll against one another using a D8, D10 or D12, depending on the quality of the unit, which is modified for situation and special qualities. The highest modified score is a hit on his opponent, a draw is a hit on each. Additional figures cause free hits on the opposing side.
An evasion roll is made for each hit, using the best die available to the unit (a D8, D10 or D12 from its mêlée and firing dice), with a five or better being a successful evasion.

Sound familiar? Warhammer Napoleonics anyone?!

With a bit of successful ‘ganging up’, the French had the better of the early mêlées…

but then the commander let the blood run to his head, with disastrous results!

Back on the French right, the initially successful 2e company is in trouble.

In fact the Russians were gaining the upper hand everywhere…

and now had superior numbers in every mêlée.

With Capitàn a mêlée continues until one or the other side is eliminated, fails a morale test (when a small unit—2 figs or fewer), or successfully breaks off from the mêlée. This latter option seemed quite difficult and meant a -2 in the mêlée, so we did not use it, hence the fights to the ‘death’.

Thus it was one to the Russians in the best of three 'world series'!

From this first outing, Capitàn seem to be a pretty good set of rules for a fun skirmish game. It was definitely more of a pure ‘game’ than we are used to. A nice change to use such small numbers of troops, but more akin to a cowboy shoot out than anything particularly Napoleonic. Nevertheless, I thought enough of them to order the second edition. These arrived in early January and we discovered a few things that we had done wrong (like the morale test) and aspects that had been clarified, like how figures face off in a mêlée and breaking off from a mêlée.

So, I have another tale to relate of a cavalry action with ~100 figures per side, but that is for another time…

1 This has changed slightly in the second edition so that units are from 4 to 12 figures.


  1. A change of rules and game scale is always fun to explore! Will Game 2 also use Capitan?

    1. Yes Peter, it was another game using Capitán. For the second one we had the second edition of the rules, as I am referring to the commercial set. It was a fun game too, but no great historical insights, or even a particularly historical feel, despite the fact that I'd based it on a cavalry skirmish from 1812. More about it in the post to come later (which will be third or fourth in line of catch up posts!).
      I'll have to see if I can find a combined arms one for our next outing with these.

  2. I always love a good skirmish game. Troops have plenty of room to manouevre, and a certain amount of role-playing can occur if one was that way inclined. Of which I am ;- )

    1. There is plenty of scope for this with the 'special abilities' for troops and commanders. I think that I had trouble scaling down my thinking from the grand to the petite. I'd like to use them for my wish to conduct a battle at numerous scales concurrently; grand tactical, tactical, (perhaps small-scale tactical) and skirmish

  3. Nice use of figures. Has a bit of a look of a DBA game (only half joking :-) ) - think that it is a game as you commented.

    And whoa, just look at those labels!

    I would be interested to have a game of these rules (particularly as the publisher has taken on Napoleon's Battles and I live in fear of Spanglish) and also to compare them with Songs of Drums and Shakos.

    1. I am sure that the fellas would be keen on a siege of Badajoz (or similar) using the inspiration that you recently "found":

    2. I've added it to my project pile. It could be fun as a linked multi-player game.