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Subject: [Roger's Reviews] Insights on the Scanian War rss

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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Nothing Gained But Glory
A game for 2 players designed by Brian Asklev & Knut Grünitz


Introduction

Nothing Gained but Glory in the fifth game in the remarkable Musket & Pike Battle Series from GMT Games.



The battles in the series are set in the era of musket and pike warfare where infantry units armed with pikes had interspersed among their numbers of musketeers and arquebusiers, usually accompanied by wings of cavalry.

Nothing Gained but Glory is set during the Scanian War of 1675-1679. There are seven battles covered in this game: Fehrbellin – June 28, 1675; Halmstad - August 17, 1676; Lund – December 4, 1676; Malmö – June 25-26, 1677; Landskrona - July 14, 1677; and Warksow – January 18, 1678.

There is also a "bonus" battle from the Second Northern War, Nyborg - November 14, 1659.

Components

Nothing Gained but Glory comes in the standard sized GMT box with three full counter sheets, 2 full sized back printed full size maps (22x34) and one half sheet map, rules, two scenario books (one of which contains an extensive history of the Scanian War), player aids to keep track of game information, and a 10-sided die.

Components in the box

The map graphics are some of the best this series has seen, including the use of decorative elements, such as single trees in clear hexes - these add to the beauty of the maps without distracting from the flow of play.

Sample map detail - note the lovely trees

Rules & Game Play

It's worth mentioning that the game has some fairly involved rules. GMT rates them a 6/9 on their scale. The rules are 28 pages long, but are exceptionally clear and concise for a game with this much detail to keep track of, and the rules summary and player aids are both excellent guides. For new players, keeping them at hand is a must, and even old hands will find them useful to keep near.

A turn follows this sequence:
* Initiative is determined.
* Wings are activated
- Preemption attempts are made
- Wing commanders can try to change their order status
- Units in the active wing perform a single action
* Close combat is declared and resolved, active player first
* Wings may attempt continuation
* Rout movement
* Marker removal (a bookkeeping phase)

The Musket & Pike games revolve around command and control of your army's wings. The order status for each wing both constrains what you can do, and when you get to go relative to other wings on the board.

Command status chart

Each turn, the side with the most units under Charge orders goes first. There are a series of tie breakers to determine who goes first; simply stated, wings are activated in order of Charge, Make Ready, Receive Charge and Rally. The game includes an ingenious mechanism whereby someone can attempt to preempt a wing that's been activated in order to act first. If they fail, they get a "No Continue" marker for their troubles, meaning they'll only have one activation this turn. Wings that have completed their first activation may attempt to go again, up to two times, subject to preemption each time. In the former instance, the commander is bypassed and has to wait (and will go next, subject to possibly another preemption attempt). In the latter instance, the commander who failed his continuation attempt is flipped to his finished side and the next commander set to go (or a bypassed one) begins their activation.

The game ends either after the number of turns noted in the scenario, or at the end of any turn where one side has all their wings under Rally orders, meaning they've left the field. In the former case, victory points are tallied and the difference compared to the scenario's victory conditions. In the latter case, the side that withdrew can do no better than a draw; that said, when a situation becomes untenable on the field, it's perfectly reasonable to withdraw to fight another day, so it fits with the theme.

Nothing Gained but Glory comes with version 5.0 of the Musket & Pike rules, which has minor updates and clarifications to previous versions. One specific change is a new withdrawal rule that allows a unit to withdraw when approached, provided specific conditions are met. Of note, Nothing Gained but Glory includes one city assault scenario (Malmö), which includes assault bridges that have their own special rules spelled out in the scenario rules.

Assault bridges

The musket & pike era of battle relied on commanders being able to control their units, and more importantly keeping them in formation and reforming them quickly after close combat. Communications in this era were better than in ancient times, which is reflected in how long a chain you can form with your units; as long as a unit is within two hexes (three for cavalry) from another unit in its wing that it within two hexes of another unit and so on until you reach the wing commander, that unit is considered under command.

The rules model this beautifully with the order status for each wing. Charge orders mean you must move closer to the enemy, but it's hard to reform and impossible to rally. Make ready is in some ways the most flexible as you can move freely and it's easy to reform, but you can't move adjacent to the enemy nor rally. Receive charge limits you to moving one hex (as long as you don't move adjacent to an enemy unit) but lets you reform and rally. Rally lets you move as long as it's not closer to the enemy and is the easiest status within which to reform and rally.

As each wing is activated, you or your opponent must decide if you wish to preempt with your own wing. The odds of doing so successfully depend in part on the order status of the wing you wish to preempt with and that wing commander's rating (lower is better). Wings under Charge preempt the most easily, and units under Rally cannot preempt at all. Assuming your wing gets to go, each unit may take a single specific action, and each unit completes its action before the next one goes; you may perform actions in any order you choose.

Movement is simple, yet has the risk of causing Formation Hits that make them less effective in combat. Moving over unfavorable terrain will cause a unit in good order to become Formation Shaken, and another Formation Hit will make them Formation Broken, which means can't move at all! You can have your unit move in Open Order, but that makes them less effective in close combat on attack and more vulnerable on defense.

Movement is also the primary cause of reaction triggers of various kinds. If you move within four hexes of an enemy cavalry unit, they may attempt to intercept you, and if successful, may then immediately engage in close combat before you continue. Moving a unit adjacent to an enemy triggers possible reaction fire, which can inflict casualty hits. Musketeers and cavalry aren't particularly effective, but heavy infantry will almost always deliver some damage. Artillery can reaction fire if a unit moves within its grazing range.

Close combat is your best chance to kill units outright, but all units involved in close combat suffer a Formation Hit, which means you'll need to get your wing commander performing a lot of reform orders. It is also fraught with risk because all units involved in an attack are affected for good or ill, and if the bonuses aren't in your favour, you could suffer a grave misfortune.

Once all the units of your wing have moved, you can attempt to continue, subject to making a roll and subject to preemption after you roll. If you succeed in your roll, but are preempted, then the wing commander is flipped to his finished side and is done for the turn, and the next wing is activated.

Once every leader is finished, rout movement is resolved, and then the bookkeeping takes place in the marker removal phase, and the next turn begins.

Conclusions

Scenarios in Nothing Gained but Glory (and the rest of the Musket & Pike series) are set pieces with fixed locations for the units involved. Balance is taken care of by adjusting the victory point levels for each battle; for example, Nyborg was a decisive coalition victory, but in game terms this means you'd need to get 35 more VP than your opponent.

Battle of Nyborg in progress. Note the heavy fighting in the centre, while the cavalry wings look on.

The rules help with the simulation feel with the command limitations for each wing's orders, and the uncertainty attached to trying to change your order status. You may want to go directly from Receive Charge to Charge, but your odds of success are much better if you first make the transition to Make Ready and then have a successful continuation to then move to Charge. Your troops might not always do what you want, and that's simply a reflection of the realities of the era.

The complexity in the system comes from two places. The first are all the various triggers that players need to remember, complicated by each unit eligible for reaction declares individually; you can wait to see the outcome of one reaction movement for a cavalry unit, say, before declaring what the next cavalry unit might do.

There are also a large number of informational counters to be kept track of. Cavalry units only have two pistol shots, and their uses must be marked with a counter. Casualty hits are marked. Morale shaken and formation broken markers can also add to the pile. You might well have a stack of five or six counters for a single unit, although there are markers that combine several elements together to mitigate this.

Skytte in trouble

Involved as all of the above sounds, the game quickly falls into a nice rhythm. You'll realize that you need to stop charging for a moment and rally your units back to good order before pressing your advantage. You'll notice that you're in an excellent defensive position and your enemy will be in some level of formation disarray if they cross that terrain towards your position so you'll be happy to remain in Receive Charge. You'll curse the captain of that cavalry unit as he chases a quarry off board (doesn't count as VP for your opponent, but the unit has left the field).

Nothing Gained but Glory's scenarios are mostly played on smaller maps, but they are not necessarily short, with the larger scenarios running 14-20 turns. Set aside a lot of time to play a full game.

Underpinning this very well constructed structure is an astounding amount of research. The bibliography for Nothing Gained but Glory numbers over thirty different sources, and the designer notes are filled with annotations for almost every unit involved in a battle, commentary about how two units may have been combined into one counter for game reasons, and judgment calls about conflicting sources where one case is more persuasive than another.

The depth of this research combined with the game system give a very strong sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings; when I play, I certainly get the sense of the challenges and opportunities available to me. Consequently, surrendering the field because because my central wing has collapsed doesn't feel like gaming the system to get a draw, but rather as the intelligent choice an observant army commander would make. Besides which, surrendering the field might still lose me the game and the best I can do is get a draw.

Where does the series go from here? Well, Ben Hull's designer notes say we should be seeing the Poles versus the Swedes, Turks and Cossacks as well as another set with Louis XIV's French against the Dutch. I'm looking forward to those as well as to playing many more enjoyable hours with the other games in the series.

If you're an experienced Musket & Pike player, I heartily recommend Nothing Gained but Glory. Of particular interest is the Malmö scenario with its assault bridges and night time action with limited line of sight and nowhere for the Swedes to retreat. Assuming you can get to them of course.

If you're new to Musket & Pike, this game is definitely worth getting, but you might consider starting with Under the Lily Banners. It has smaller shorter scenarios including the Mergentheim scenario that was specifically designed to help learn the system.
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Jon
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Fantastic job as always, Roger. Thanks a million for taking the time to put it together.

One of my favourite game series and a must buy when they pop up on the P500 listings. I have yet to be disappointed. I think what I like best about it is that it is a playable grand tactical system which still maintains enough period chrome to satisfy the old grognard in me. I think that is a tribute to the well developed and clear (to me) rules. We are now over 25+ individual battles in the entire series which means there is a lot to explore. I hope the series continues long into the future.
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Kristofer Nilsson
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Great review! Happy to see you've put such an effort into reviewing a game about a small conflict at the end of the world during an obscure time period. At least obscure and distant on many wargamers' maps.
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Steve Carey
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Great job (as always) Roger - it's been a long time since I've had MPBS on the table, so I'm easing my way back into the system.

Even years later, your outstanding efforts are very much appreciated.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Thanks Steve!
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David Dockter
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Good review; guess I got to learn a new system. Watched enrico's vids on this and then read this review; the sale has been made.
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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THanks a lot!

I think you will like it a lot
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Daniel Jacobsen
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I love this period but I have some doubts regarding replay value and tactical interest.

First, most of the scenarios are fixed-setup battles.

Second, most of the battles involve one or both wings crashing into each other (perhaps one of your wings is trying to delay/defend, but that's about it). Then, if the wings are successful, you win. Or is this a misunderstanding?

How much room is there for tactical (and here I don't mean small-unit tactics like deciding exactly when to fire pistol number two) imagination? Can you ever implement a different overall plan compared with what happened in reality?

Compare this to the more open nature of perhaps most other wargames (e.g. many company-level WW2 games), are we dealing here with something much more constrained?

I've only played a few turns of one scenario in this series, so I'm asking all experts for insight on this, which for me is crucial.
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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Quote:
First, most of the scenarios are fixed-setup battles.


Yes - most are, as this is most appropriate for a game on this scale.
There are exceptions though. Some battles (especially in SiA) have a free setup variant where wings have a setup zone where the player may freely distribute the units of the wing, some scenarios have optional extra units (in both SiA and NGBG), and some like the battle of Lund from NGBG have multiple scenarios so players can try each very distinct phase of the day-long battle.
Replay value is not a problem as all the battles are worth trying several times in order to try different plans.

Quote:
Second, most of the battles involve one or both wings crashing into each other (perhaps one of your wings is trying to delay/defend, but that's about it). Then, if the wings are successful, you win. Or is this a misunderstanding?


A misunderstanding I think. First of all, all of the medium to long lenght battles usually have many phases where an attacking wing try to reorganize before launching a renewed attack while the defending wing try to recover and either move to new positions or maybe launch a counterattack. One of the hallmarks of the MPBS is its ability to show how your army becomes less and less effective when it fights for long periods without pause. But it is of course possible to play the game in a super agressive way and try to decide the battle in one all out charge untill you are either victorious or defeated - against experienced players this will mean defeat...

Secondly all battles have victory conditions that specify how much each side need to score in order to win the game, so it is possible to win the battle, but not the game if you didnt do well enough compared to how superior your side was in the historical battle.

Quote:
How much room is there for tactical (and here I don't mean small-unit tactics like deciding exactly when to fire pistol number two) imagination? Can you ever implement a different overall plan compared with what happened in reality?


there is A LOT of room for different tactical plans in most battles in the series. This is one of the things that make them fun to play - especially because the command system forces you to be flexible and inventive as you cant always do what you want to do. This also makes the series great for solitaire play BTW.

Compare this to the more open nature of perhaps most other wargames (e.g. many company-level WW2 games), are we dealing here with something much more constrained?

depends a lot of which game we compare to.... A battle-level game will by its very nature be relatively constrained as the terrain and the 2 armies are given. But most other games also have a lot of constrains if they are in any way historical realistic.

What scenario did you try? There is a lot of variation between the battles. For example Nyborg from NGBG is very constricted as the terrain (lake and many hedges) dictates how the overall nature of the battle will be, and leaves players to focus on small unit tactics to a higher degree than other scenarios.
On the other end of the spectrum is a scenario like Lund from NGBG, where you can start the battle as the armies are just entering the large and relatively open map, and here most of the focus is on the larger scale planning.

I hope this was somewhat useful to you
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Daniel Jacobsen
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Thanks a lot, very helpful!

I think it was Rocroix (Under the Lilly Banners) that I played a couple of turns of.

Sounds like SiA might be a good starting point for me. Command and control "simulation" is the part of wargaming I enjoy most, so even though I still feel that this period is somewhat constrained tactically, I want to try out some of these battles because of the very nice way this system handles command and control (especially the break-down of same, which is where the fun comes in :-).

On the other hand, as a Scandinavian, the Scanian War game is extremely inviting.

Which game in this series do you think provides the most tactical variety and replay value?

Thanks again!
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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Quote:
Which game in this series do you think provides the most tactical variety and replay value?


Good question...

If you dont mind unbalanced situations (but still balanced as a game), then SiA has the most varied set of scenario situations as well as more free-setup variants than other games in the series.

NGBG has the most battles in the series and one of them (Lund) even has 3 scenarios, so this gives it the biggest choice of situations. The early start scenario for Lund is the most open battle in the series, and the Halmstad early start scebario is also very open for different strategies although it is a small battle). Malmø has the most free setup in the series (although the battle after that is very much micromanaging)

Jankau and Nordlingen from SFO and Alte Veste from GAG, and 2nd Newbury from TACW are also really open affairs that allows different overall strategies.

BTW I am the designer of NGBG and SiA so I have therefore focused on these 2 games in the above post. They are also the only ones in print at thia point so they are easier to get.
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Daniel Jacobsen
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brian asklev aursen wrote:
Quote:
Which game in this series do you think provides the most tactical variety and replay value?


Good question...

If you dont mind unbalanced situations (but still balanced as a game), then SiA has the most varied set of scenario situations as well as more free-setup variants than other games in the series.

NGBG has the most battles in the series and one of them (Lund) even has 3 scenarios, so this gives it the biggest choice of situations. The early start scenario for Lund is the most open battle in the series, and the Halmstad early start scebario is also very open for different strategies although it is a small battle). Malmø has the most free setup in the series (although the battle after that is very much micromanaging)

Jankau and Nordlingen from SFO and Alte Veste from GAG, and 2nd Newbury from TACW are also really open affairs that allows different overall strategies.

BTW I am the designer of NGBG and SiA so I have therefore focused on these 2 games in the above post. They are also the only ones in print at thia point so they are easier to get.


Thanks for the very informative answer! I look forward to playing more of these and hopefully getting one or two of these games myself.
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