General d’Armee: We Talk to the Game Designer
With only days to go before General d’Armee goes on show at Salute, we at Lard Island News got a chance to talk to the author, Dave Brown about his latest, and possibly greatest, set of rules.
Dave, first can we clear up what I am sure many people will want to know; will General d’Armee be on sale at Salute?
No, we are still about a month away from publication, but Salute will give us a chance to present the rules in public for the first time. My guess is that we will publish in time for Partizan but with advanced orders being taken before then.
Okay, thanks. Now, moving on, tell me, what is the appeal of Napoleonic Wargaming?
First, Napoleonic wargames just look so good – look of a Napoleonic battle on the table top is just great. Second, the different formations, troop abilities and our attempts to use these to overcome the enemy present a never ending kaleidoscope of tactical possibilities and finally the personalities of the commanders, the uniforms and nationalities all add to the experience.
How long have you been writing rules?
My first dabblings were rewriting Bruce Quarries Airfix Napoleonic rules way back in the 1980’s whilst still at school! I suppose it got into my blood as I’ve been writing rules pretty much ever since.
Tell us some of the rules you are known for?
Hopefully some may recall General de Brigade Napoleonic rules, Guns at Gettysburg ACW rules, PanzerGrenadier WW2 rules and of course more recently Pickett’s Charge ACW rules.
How long has GDA been in development?
Well over three years now, it had its first real public introduction at the Donald Featherstone Weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre in early 2016, and then followed all the usual ups and downs, numerous playtests of differing versions plus the endless tweaking that goes with developing a new rule set
You’re well known, indeed famous, for General de Brigade; is General d’Armee just General de Brigade 2?
You mean infamous surely! No, General d’Armee was written to be intentionally different from GdB, incorporating new thinking with regard to rules design, following a re-appreciation of Napoleonic warfare and wargaming. These rules concentrate less on players using just their battalions to win the battle (though this still remains a significant feature) and more on command decisions to bring about a situation where your battalions can win the battle. It plays very differently indeed from General de Brigade, though there are of course similarities as with all Napoleonic rules.
How easily will players of GDB convert to GBA?
Easily. A GdB army can be used with GdA without may modifications whatsoever, and the game turn structure will also be familiar to GdBers, even though the command and play mechanics are different.
If you had to describe GDA in one paragraph, what would you say?
General d’Armee demands command decisions as well as tactical decisions throughout the game – for example does the player order his British battalions to counter-attack now or hold position and use more skirmishers to keep those French columns at bay? Does the player order his cuirassiers to attack now or hold off for another turn while the artillery continues with the bombardment? If the C-in-C waits, will the momentum shift and will he lose the opportunity? This rule set presents both command and tactical decisions virtually every turn and by using battalions, cavalry squadrons/regiments and batteries as the tactical units also captures the distinct feel of the Napoleonic period so presenting the player with additional choices such as whether to order your Guards to deploy into line or charge forward in columns of attack!
What size games is GDA aimed at?
From a small division, say three or four brigades per side right up to large scale battles with one or more corps per side. There isn’t a set game figure scale or basing system – so the players decide on how large or small their units will be, so overcoming all that wargamer anguish over re-basing sizes or large figure heavy units!
What’s the biggest game you have played or been involved in?
Well, we’ve played both Leipzig and Eylau at the Wargames Holiday Centre which were probably the largest games; Leipzig had 14 players and both sides deployed over ninety battalions!
When designing GDA, what was your personal design brief. What did you want to achieve with the rules?
I wanted to design a wargame where command decisions and in particular ?Napoleonic? command decisions became the main focus of player’s decision making but also permitted players to command battalions, cavalry squadrons and artillery batteries. All of this covered by firing and melee rules that were although influential, did not take up valuable time to arrive at the various decision points and did not detract for overall game play.
What is the one core mechanism that makes GDA a good game?
The command and control system. Each turn the players receive a number of Aide de Camps or ADCs that he uses to effect his command choices, such as to order infantry brigades into the assault, order an enhanced skirmish attack or commits his reserve brigades into battle! However the C -in-C can never too sure how many he will receive per turn and thus cannot always guarantee his forces will response in the manner he wishes, (this is the game’s Clausewitz style friction coming into play). Thus players of General d’Armee could see an excellent turn with command decisions easy made and executed. While turns that present less command scope present the player with difficult command choices as to where to concentrate his limited orders, such as ordering his artillery to increase their fire rate at a chosen point in the enemy line, to release a unit from reserve or ensure that a particular brigade obeys orders and keeps advancing.
Has being a wargaming celebrity changed your life?
Most definitely, having to clear bikini glad women off my car and driveway before going to work, has become a bit of a nuisance……
What was your first Napoleonic Army?
Airfix, obviously French and British in glorious yellow plastic!
Is there one Napoleonic Army that you don’t have but would like to add to your collection?
Yes, Westphalian, utter rubbish but they don’t half look good!
Can we expect additional material such as scenarios or other supplements?
Indeed, as with Pickett’s Charge, I plan to produce a series of scenarios to accompany the rules.
Okay, thanks you Dave for filling us in. We shall certainly be looking forward to seeing General d’Armee on show at Salute and on our wargames tables soon after.