I’ve been working towards a solo Franco-Prussian campaign for several years now. Initially I was going to use the 1870 rules for the tabletop but after several play tests I decided that in 15mm I didn’t like the figure / gun ratio, although I think it looks fine in 6mm like the author Bruce Weigle plays, and that it was a little complex for large, solo battles. At this point the project went into hiatus for a long while until I stumbled upon Chris Pringle’s “Bloody Big Battles!” rule set. After several playtests, both solo and opposed, I’ve come to really like these rules and they have reignited my interest in this project.
The next step was figuring out how to run the campaign. I dabbled with deriving my own rules for this but my talents don’t really run in this direction so I went down the path of using an existing game that I could modify as needed to fit the tabletop rules. With this in mind I pulled together every Franco-Prussian rules set I owned and reviewed them all with the following goals in mind:
- I wanted it to be at least corps level, potentially down to division level for maneuver units.
- I wanted it to cover the mobilization part of the war as I think this is critical in the historical campaign.
- I wanted some flavor, i.e. expertise of Prussians vs the command problems of the French without being overbearing. I wanted a nuanced version of the “McClellan” rules you can find in some ACW war games.
- I also wanted the ability for troops to potentially arrive on the battlefield that weren’t in the initial clash. For the Prussians the “marching to the sound of the guns” was a large part of their success in the war and I wanted to include that as well as allowing for at least a chance for the French to perform better than their historical counterparts.
- Having the ability to regain strength for units when out of the line of battle was also a “nice to have” although I felt I could glue that on top of any rule set if necessary.
So with all that in mind I ended up with the following candidates:
- Bloody Big Battles itself has a linked historical battle campaign system : BBB!
- Strategy & Tactics magazines “The Sedan Campaign” : Sedan Campaign
- Strategy & Tactics magazines “The Franco-Prussian War” : Franco-Prussian War
- “Blood & Iron” from Pacific Rim publishing : Blood & Iron
- “Franco-Prussian War 40” by Victory Point games : FPW 40
- Vae Victis magazines “L’aigle foudroye’ 1870” : l’Aigle Foudroye”
- “To the last gaiter button” from Real Time Wargames: To the last gaiter button
Each of these rules have pluses and minuses to them and it took some time playing through each to choose what I thought would work best for me. I ended up initially rejecting the Bloody Big Battles campaign as it is fun but provides limited ability to modify history which, after all, is sort of what I’m going for. I also eliminated the Victory Point game as it was army level rather than corps/divisions as I wanted. Next on the chopping block were the Vae Victis rules and the S&T Sedan Campaign. In both cases the map is fairly limited in scope and neither depict the “positions magnifique” quality of the border terrain that was so important to the French deployment. That left me with the other S&T set, Blood & Iron and the Real Times Wargames rules.
At the end, I opted for “To the last gaiter button”. Neither of the other rules covered mobilization and most importantly, neither allowed “to the guns” reactions into battle. I suppose I could have added those features but the last gaiter button included them all in a nice package. It was also easy to modify the strength ratings from the original rules, which includes a tactical rules set, to the BBB! requirements.
I’m having a game room constructed, that hopefully will be complete by the end of September, and I’ll be close to starting the campaign. Currently I have 3 French corps painted along with 2 Prussian, 2 Bavarian and the combined Baden/Wurttemberg corps. I want to paint up the French Imperial Guard, one more line corps, and 2-3 more Prussian corps but I can start the campaign with what I have. Hopefully it will meet my expectations!