Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Historicon 2019 #6: Jared, Dillon and the Hackley School Game Club present a seminar and run a Franco-Prussian Wargame

S15:327 Pickelhaube and Kepi- A Franco-Prussian War ClashSaturday, 3:00 PM, 4 hrs, Players: 5, Location: Commonwealth: CW-13 
GM: Jared Fishman 
Sponsor: None, Prize: None 
Period: 19th Century, Scale: 10mm, Rules: Field of Battle 2 
Description: The time is September, 1870, with two of the great European powers clashing to see who is the new needle mover on the continent. Will the Prussian advantage in artillery rule the day, or will the French elan and fighting spirit be able to carry the day? Rules are Brent Oman's card based Field of Battle, with scenario designed by members of Hackley School's game club. See the War College listing for our seminar!

On Saturday afternoon, Jared and Dillon, a graduating senior from Jared's school and long time game club member, ran the Franco Prussian War scenario that the game club had designed and play tested. 

A clear shot of the game, courtesy of Tim

Comments on the leadup to the game and game itself (from Jared)

Getting the Franco-Prussian War scenario up and running was a very rewarding project, both for me on a personal level as well as for my students.  Dillon and I started painting the miniatures sometime at the beginning of May 2019 and finished up a bit before Historicon.

Given that we weren’t gaming a specific battle, our goal was to get as much of the flavor of the period down as possible- everything from stalwart French infantry w/ superior weapons to exceptional Prussian command artillery.

I think Dillon, I, and the other student playtesters did manage to accomplish this, though it was quite the task!  The FPW is a strange period in that the armies are so vastly different in terms of weapons, command and control, and overall tactics.  

Jared, Dillon, and Carter start setting up the terrain for the game.

In our playtests, we found that despite the French starting entrenched, uphill, and in a superior defensive position, Prussian artillery, numbers, and superior command ability made it very, very difficult for the French to compete.

In our playtesting, it seemed that the strategy for the Prussians was to start the game with all their corps artillery deployed and blast away as much as humanly possible.  Doing so would weaken and damage the French before they could really respond, at which point the Prussian could launch their infantry assaults.

We mitigated some of this by starting the French with 25% more morale chips, reducing the Prussian morale chips, and giving the French incentives for carrying on the game as long as possible.  Each time the Prussians turned a move card the French earned chips back, and if the Prussians didn’t take battlefield objectives by a certain point in the battle, they would concede morale chips.

With the terrain all set up, the troops get added; many hands make light work for sure!

Both Dillon and I were very happy with the way playtesting went- our second game was a ton of fun despite the fact that the French still struggled a bit.  I was very curious to see how the Historicon game would go. Would the Prussian players deploy their guns immediately? Would they launch their infantry without artillery support?  Would they get into the danger zone of the French rifles?

For the Historicon battle, we had a total of 5 players- 3 convention signups, 1 Hackley teacher, Dillon’s dad, Scott, and 1 Hackley student who also happened to be one of our primary playtesters.

Dillon and Jared explaining the game to the players

Dillon ran one half of the board while I ran the other.  The three convention players had never played FOB before, which is always a little nerve wracking for me as I find it a fairly difficult game to explain.  I took Peter’s advice and just got them going, using the first run of cards as a chance to teach the concepts while at the same time getting the battle up and running.

The game gets underway

Close up of some of the French defenders

Jared shows how to mark units that have "fired" and taken Unit Integrity (UI) losses

View from the Prussian side of the field

The battle itself was pretty fascinating.  The Prussians struggled mightily at the beginning, mostly due to bad die rolls, too many move cards being turned too early, and the fact that a number of their batteries got masked and didn’t seem to do much damage.

Dillon helps a player work out some combat results

French defenders repulse the initial Prussian attacks

That said, Prussian numbers on their own right flank were pretty high, and while it took them awhile, they did get into a position to attack.  Midway through the second playthrough of the deck, while totally stymied on the left and in the center, the French started to get hammered and pushed back by sheer weight of numbers on the right.

Weight of numbers begin to tell on the Prussian Right

Overview of the later stages of the battle as seen from the Prussian Left.

When we called the game due to time, the French were ahead on morale points (if my memory serves me right) but were just about at the point of being overwhelmed.  Had we continued the game, I had a feeling that the Prussians would have won out.

However, given the circumstances set out in the scenario, the French did exactly what they needed to do- bloody the Prussians, hold them as long as possible, and try to fall back in good order and await reinforcements.  

One caveat to all of this is that Dillon and I did recognize that in this battle, with the numbers the way they were (the Prussians had about 50% more troops than the French) that even with the horrible die rolls, and seemingly everything going the way of the French throughout the first run of cards, they still faltered mightily by the end.  It does feel like the kind of scenario that is almost impossible for the French to win. I’d be curious to tinker with the battle and continue to balance it.

I’ve attached the scenario rules below, as well as the modified FOB2 chart used in the game.

Huge thanks from Dillon and I to Peter, Tim, and our Hackley playtesters for getting the game ready.  Also, thanks to our convention players- they seemed to really enjoy playing.

Peter observes: The whole era from the Crimean War to the Franco-Prussian War has always seemed to me especially suited to an "Imaginations" approach. In the Franco-Prussian War, the French have the advantage of the best small arms, and their "secret weapon", the Mitrailleuse, but their abysmal leadership and poor tactical doctrine make it hard for them to win. The Prussians have excellent leadership, and their devastating breech loading rifled Krupp Gun artillery, as well as numbers. With more even numbers and better French Leadership and doctrine (ie, deploy the Mitrailleue as an infantry support weapon) , the battlefield balance might be considerably redressed!

French line Infantry

Scenario Objective:
The Prussians are the aggressor in this battle.  With the weight of a full corps, the Prussians are determined to push the French out of their entrenchments and drive them from the field, while the French want to hold their position and defend the towns, which anchor their entire line and the region in general.

Scenario Deployment Rules:
French front line infantry units start entrenched, deployed by the GM.  These trenches count as Class 2 cover for both shooting and melee, and count as an Up 1 to all rally attempts.

The French corps artillery may begin the game deployed or limbered.

Players may change the formation of any French infantry before the battle begins (column, line, extended line)

There is one full sized village garrisoned by a full strength French unit and two half sized rural hamlets garrisoned by French companies.  
French company= 1 stand- CD6 DD6- 2 UI

Certainly, based on classiness of Uniforms, the French win hands down, n'est-ce pas? 

3 out of 4 infantry brigades begin on the table, deployed by the GM, with divisional artillery deployed ready to fire.

The Prussian corps artillery may begin the game deployed or limbered.

Players may change the formation of any Prussian infantry before the battle begins (column, line, extended line)

Prussian Flank March:
One of the Prussian Infantry Brigades is on a Flank March, and will move onto the board via the road on the Prussian left flank.  The Prussians must start on the road and receive an Up 1 to their first command check. The Prussians will move onto the board on the 3rd Move Card.

Prussian Line Infantry

Scenario Special Rules:
Hold the Towns:
If the Prussians take the large town, they immediately gain 3 Morale Chips and the French lose 3 Morale Chips.
If the French retake it, they immediately gain 2 Morale Chips and the Prussians lose 2 Morale Chips.

If the Prussians take a hamlet they immediately gain 1 Morale Chip and the French lose 1 Morale Chip.
If the French retake it, they immediately gain 1 Morale Chip and the Prussians lose 1 Morale Chip.

Prussian Jagers

French Resolve:
Each time the Prussians turn a “Move” card (not Move One Command) the French gain 2 Morale Chips.  

Beginning on Turn 2, resolve the following each time a French Army Morale card is turned:
- Count up the number of “crossroads” the Prussians control.  If they do not control MORE than half of them,, the French gain 2 Morale Chips.

“Control”= having a friendly unit between the objective and the enemy board edge.

End of Game:

The game ends when one of the following happens:
A) An army is out of Morale Chips and fails an Army Morale check (when the card is flipped)
B) At the end of Turn 2 (a turn is the completion of the sequence deck) count up the Morale Chips.  If the Prussians have LESS Morale Chips than the French, they’ve lost the battle and will need to call up more reserves.

Orders of Battle:

Overall LD12
Morale Chips- 39

Prussian Deck:
3 Move
3 Melee
3 Infantry Firepower
3 Artillery Firepower
4 Leadership
3 Army Morale
1 Move One Command
2 Maneuver
2 Tactical Advantage
3 Lull
1 Breechloader Firepower (Inf+Arty)
1 Advance

Prussian artillery, armed with the dreaded steel, breechloading, rifled Krupp guns

1st Division
Command #1: Infantry Brigade- LD10
6 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Jager- CD12 DD8

1st Division
Command #2:  Infantry Brigade- LD12
6 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Jager- CD12 DD8

1st Division
Command #3:  Divisional Artillery- LD12
1 Light Art- CD12 DD6

2nd Division
Command #4:  Infantry Brigade- LD10
6 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Jager- CD12 DD8

2nd Division
Command #5:  Infantry Brigade- LD12
6 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Jager- CD12 DD8

2nd Division
Command #6:  Divisional Artillery- LD12
1 Light Art CD12 DD6

 Prussian Uhlans and Cuirassiers

Corps Assets
Command #7: Corps Artillery- LD12+1
2 Heavy Art- CD12+1 DD6
2 Light Art- CD12 DD6

Corps Assets
Command #8: Cavalry Brigade- LD10
2 Uhlan- CD12 DD6

Corps Assets
Command #9: Cavalry Brigade- LD10
2 Cuirassier- CD12+1 DD6

Corps Assets
Command #10: Divisional Artillery- LD10
1 Horse Art- CD12 DD6

Overall LD10
Morale Chips- 29

 French Cuirassiers

French Deck:
3 Move
3 Melee
3 Infantry Firepower
3 Artillery Firepower
3 Leadership
3 Army Morale
1 Move One Command
1 Maneuver
2 Tactical Advantage
5 Lull
2 Breechload Firepower (Inf Only)
2 MG Firepower (MG Only)

The French "secret weapon", the Mitrailleuse, an early machine gun. 

1st Division (partial)
Command #1: Infantry Brigade- LD10
2 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Chasseur- CD12 DD8

1st Division (partial)
Command #2: Infantry Brigade- LD10
3 Line- CD10 DD6

1st Division (partial)
Command #3: Divisional Artillery- LD8
1 Light Art- CD10 DD6
1 MG- CD10 DD6

French Chasseurs, crack light infantry

2nd Division (partial)
Command #4: Infantry Brigade- LD10
2 Line- CD10 DD6
1 Chasseur- CD12 DD8

2nd Division (partial)
Command #5: Infantry Brigade- LD10
1 Vet Line- CD12 DD8
1 Chasseur- CD12 DD8

2nd Division (partial)
Command #6: Divisional Artillery- LD8
1 Light Art- CD10 DD6
1 MG- CD10 DD6

French muzzle loading artillery and high command

Corps Assets
Command #7: Corps Artillery- LD10
2 Heavy Art CD12 DD6

Corps Assets
Command #8: Reserve Cavalry- LD10
3 Cuirassier- CD12+2 DD6

Corps Assets
Command #9: Cavalry Brigade- LD10

3 Hussar- CD12+1 DD6

 French Hussars - Jared and Dillon painted all of the troops used in the game over the course of less than 3 months; These were the first troops that Dillon had painted, and he planned the army - scale, manufacturer, and composition. 

Earlier on Saturday, at 10 AMy, Jared and Dillon presented a well received talk at the War College:

“Historical Gaming in the School Classroom: A How to Guide from both the Teacher and Student Perspective” Speaker: Jared Fishman Location: Conestoga Room Description: Since 2008, the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY has been a model and leader in terms of historical gaming both inside and outside the classroom. This seminar will focus on how the game club started, why it is valuable, and more importantly, the benefits of other schools adopting a similar model. Teacher Jared Fishman and student Dillon Schaevitz will share their experiences and run a game based around the Franco-Prussian War later in the day.

Jared and Dillon begin their talk

About Jared (from the War College Bio):

Jared Fishman has been a history teacher for over 13 years, most of it at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. He was the recipient of both The Mary Lambos Award in teaching and the Davidson Family History Chair. A lifelong member of HMGS (Historical Miniature Gaming Society), Jared has helped to integrate gaming culture into the Hackley community, running numerous game clubs for both MS and US students and founding the NYSGA organization in 2016 (New York Student Gamer’s Association). Most recently, Jared helped pen an article for Wargames Illustrated, and continues to explore new possibilities for the expansion of NYSGA into more schools, and ran a NYSAIS conference in 2017 (New York State Association of Independent Schools) entitled, “Roleplaying, Games, and Simulations in the Classroom”.

OK, so *we* know the first reason we are interested in having wargaming in schools - to expose kids to and spark interest in what may become a lifelong hobby for some.  besides which, it's FUN! However, what's in in it for the school and the student's parents? 

    As Jared points out in the above blurry shot of one of his slides, potentially quite a bit!

1) It's collaborative; you *have* to work with other players, both allied and opposing.

2) It is (relatively) technology free, at a time when we sometimes spend too much time on our cell phones and computers (indeed, a reason why, although I am hardly a technophobe, the idea of computer moderated tabletop wargames just turns me off).

3) It fosters the development of skills in mathematics, computation, and probability. 
Indeed, back in middle school, when thinking about dice rolling probabilities, I derived Pascal's Triangle as a result! I firmly believe no person's education is anywhere near complete without a basic understanding of probability and statistics!

4) It helps develop critical thinking skills. This may not be obvious initially, but in a good game you must make decisions with incomplete data, uising whatv you have available at the time to make the best possible decision. 

5) It develops interest in research and the development of research skills. As we well know, a dedicated historical wargamer reads histories, books about weapons, tactics, organization, and uniforms. In my case it spurred men to acquire a rudimentary understanding of french in High School, and to take German in college. Oh, and I must have read Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon cover to cover at least six times during those years!

6) Development of executive functioning and organization. Just playing a game requires development of such skills, but once one progresses to planning a game and executing it successfully, as in Dillon's case, the above becomes essential to avoid chaos! Even building an army, a favorite activity for many of us, requires quite a lot of thought and planning... and budgeting!  :-)

7) The arts and technical skills - fairly self evident as Jared lists, but refinement of fine motor skills, design, measuring, working with different materials, color and textures are all part of the skill sets most of us develop as part of our involvement in the hobby. 

8) Student centered - students can be involved in many aspects of planning, and of course the playing of the game should devolve to the students as much and as rapidly as possible.  

9) Empathy building - for sure most games will have winners and losers, and everyone will have runs of both bad and good luck. especially in the context of a student/school organization, mutual support is fostered. It also places students in command of forces that may have belonged to quite different cultures and/or enemies of the United States at the time. 

10) Appreciation of History and the Armed forces. This surely needs no further elaboration for Historical wargaming! 


  1. Great job to Jared for not only pulling off a very handsome game but a timely lecture as well.

    1. Thanks, and congratulations well deserved for his work with school gaming in his own school and at large!

  2. I wish I could have had a teacher like that when I went to school. When he elucidates the hobby like that you'd be forgiven for thinking it should be a compulsory subject!

    1. It's probably a good thing that I didn't, as I found the hobby myself, and was highly self motivated already! :-)
      A big part of education is exposure to a lot of things, and learning to think critically. I do think our hobby encourages both of those things.

  3. Replies
    1. Much easier to appreciate in the close ups; I believe they are Pendragon?

  4. Good looking figures, the game sounds like it reflects the period well and I entirely agree with his list!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks, Iain. I agree with his points as well!

  5. Karen (my wife and the brain's of this operation!) and I found Jared's presentation fascinating and inspiring. Frankly, I had no clue this type of teaching and activity existed. I was also surprised to learn that HMGS would assist with some grant monies (not certain on amounts or application) to assist with those who would be willing to try their hand at a similar venture. Missed the game, but Dillon's presentation about the research process and working the project to table top delighted my hopes for future gamers! Thanks Peter for posting!

    1. It helps that Jared is also an exceptional teacher (and person in general also).

    2. I was thinking of trying to start a historical gaming club at our local high school. I'm not a teacher, just a parent, but thought the might be interest in this and benefits ti the kids as well.

    3. Jared has given you some excellent arguments in favor of such a program. There might be a possibility of some financial assistance fro such an endeavor from HMGS as well. Any effort like this needs a "man on Horseback" to drive it forward. I would think you would certainly want at least one faculty ally/sponsor as well. History teachers would obviously be the first place to look, but certainly not the only one. Other local gamers may be a resource too as "guest" presenters; for example, I have ruin several games for Jared's club over the years. I am pretty used to dealing with kids of Middle school and High School age from years in Scouting.

      The Junior General's site is another place for ideas and inspiration:


      Whereabouts are you located?