Sunday, 14 August 2011

This Is How We Roll pt 2

First off I just want to put in a small disclaimer. I'm no longer really part of the GASLIGHT team, and am writing this purely as a player and fan of the game. Nothing here should be considered official or authoritative as to how GASLIGHT has to be played. This is just how we roll. It's highly likely that I'm doing at least one or two things "wrong", and I know for a fact that there are a couple of instances where I disagree with Buck & Chris's choices and deliberately contradict their rules (Buck & Chris - if you spot me doing something wrong in the following write up, feel free to point it out in the comments, but I reserve the right to say "that's b*****ks!" and carry on doing it "wrong"!), but this should at least give you a good idea of how a game of GASLIGHT plays out.

So with that out of the way - onwards!

Part 2 – The Game

GASLIGHT works best with some sort of scenario, even if it's only a rationale as to why the two sides are meeting in an encounter battle. It's also best when both sides need to move to fulfil their victory conditions, otherwise a very dull and static attack/defence game can result.

Following the stalemated clash at Nether Fondle, morale among the British Army reached a new low. In order to raise the Tommies' spirits, Whitehall ordered a special mail delivery to the troops in the field. Major Norbert “Nobby” Stiles on detached duty from the Blues and Royals was assigned to lead the escort of a platoon from the East Surrey regiment and one of the experimental Royal Horseless Artillery Gun Trucks.

Word of this special delivery leaked to Imperial German spies, who surmised that the postal delivery must include some secret plans for a counter-offensive. Count Otto von Hurlitz was despatched with a platoon of men and a Ludwig combat walker in order to intercept and capture the “secret” messages. The horse drawn van carrying the messages must be captured intact for the messages to be secured.

There's the scenario, this is the terrain. The British must get the PO Van the length of the board to safety, the Germans must prevent it from doing so.

Although I played this entirely solitaire, I'll describe it as if it was a regular game, with two players and an umpire (although an umpire isn't necessary providing both players are like minded and agree to play in the spirit of fun and adventure)

In a GASLIGHT turn (Section 6.1.1. p.43) the umpire turns initiative cards over one at a time, and the unit, vehicle or character named on the card gets to activate. An activated unit may move OR fire but not both. When all the cards in the deck have been turned over, the deck is shuffled and the process repeated for the next turn. So without further ado the umpire turns over the first card of the initiative deck.

The First Turn

Card #1 is the German Infantry. They decide to simply advance 6” towards the road from their start position. (Section 6.4.1 Movement of Personnel p.49) The Umpire turns the next card...

Card #2 is Count von Hurlitz. He too advances to join the infantry. Again the Umpire turns the card...

Card #3 is the Ludwig Quad Walker. (And at this point both players are heartily mocking the Umpire's card shuffling skills, with all three German units having acted first.) Because this is a steam vehicle, the German player needs to roll a D20 and get less than the vehicle's Sustain rating in order to be able to move (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50) . The player does this easily, rolling a 2, and advances the walker to the corner of the cornfield.

The Umpire sulkily turns over Card #4 which is Major Stiles. He simply advances to the edge of the town and glowers menacingly at the advancing Germans.

Card #5 is the Post Office Van. Although this is strictly a vehicle, the Umpire has decided that since it's horse drawn it doesn't need to roll Sustain , but instead may move 6” up the road every activation (pulled by a very tired and plodding pony). In effect, the PO Van is more like a timer for the scenario than a vehicle in play. The British player advances it to the edge of the town.

Card #6 is the RHA Gun Truck. This does need to roll Sustain (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50), and does so easily with a 10. The player ponders how best to use it. Vehicles in GASLIGHT can either move or fire, and can only turn at the start of their move. The truck could shoot right down the length of the road with its massive 17” move and try to loop around Square Wood to engage the oncoming Germans in the flank. But that would leave the PO Van unprotected for at least 2-3 turns. Instead the British player decides to advance only to the entrance of the corn field, with the idea of turning to face the enemy on the next turn to bring its gun to bear by turn 3. Remember that armoured vehicles in GASLIGHT are big, primitive and clunky and nowhere near as flexible as their modern day counterparts, and they can prove unreliable and ineffective as we shall see.

Finally Card #7 is the British Infantry. Captain Hurst leads his men up behind the PO Van to protect it, and that's the end of Turn 1

The Second Turn

The umpire shuffles the cards, amidst further taunts from the players. The British player asks if the umpire needs a grown-up to help him cut the cards. The umpire simply narrows his eyes and silently vows the British player will pay for his insolence. He turns over the first card...

Card #1 is the British Infantry. They simply move 6” further up the road behind the Gun Truck

Card #2 is Major Stiles. He initially moves up to the end of the hedge facing onto the cornfield...

until the German player politely reminds him that he rolled “Swift” for Stiles' skill (Section 4.1.4 Skills for Main Characters p.12) , giving him a 10” movement rate. The British player sheepishly moves Stiles the further four inches, and the good Major does his best to hide behind a tree.

Card #3 is Count von Hurlitz, who moves a further 6” up to the wall around Square Wood.

Card #4 is the Ludwig Quad Walker. It sucessfully rolls less than its Sustain and could move, but instead fires its main cannons at the Gun Truck which has suddenly appeared through the gap in the hedge ahead (Section 6.6.1 Firing at Vehicles p.65). Because we're on such a small table, the range is already Short for the Ludwig's main guns, so he only needs to roll less than the Ludwig's Shoot score of 9. Unfortunately he rolls a 11 and a 14, so both shots miss.

Card #5 is the RHA Gun Truck. The British player rolls for Sustain (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50) but gets an 18 which is one higher than its Sustain score. The Umpire has previously ruled that the Gun Truck's main weapon is fixed and cannot be aimed if the Gun Truck hasn't Sustained (think of it as actually turning the whole truck in order to bring the weapon to bear.) The rear-firing Gatling has a 90-degree arc of fire, but in the vehicle's current position, this can't be brought to bear on the Germans.

Card #6 is the German infantry, and Hauptmann Weber leads his men in an unruly mob just into the open corner of the cornfield

And finally Card #7 comes up and the PO Van moves a further 6” up the road. The British are in some danger of developing a bit of a traffic jam at this point, which the German player might be able to exploit to his advantage.

So with Turn 2 complete, we've still had no real casualties but the Gun Truck is temporarily out of action due to technical difficulties. The cards are shuffled and we're on to...

The Third Turn

Card #1 is the PO Van. Now we run into the traffic jam. By the strictest definition of the rules, the Van ought not to be able to move through friendly troops, but where's the fun in that? The umpire, with an evil glint in his eye, offers the British player a choice. The PO Van may move through where Major Stiles is blocking, but it will be treated as a reverse of the “vehicles overrunning troops” rule (i.e. instead of having to roll vs Shoot to run the troops over, the Van will need to roll vs Shoot to not hit Stiles – see Section 6.9.2 Vehicles Overrunning Infantry p.78). The British player, knowing that Stiles has a decent Save rating, decides to take a chance, and moves the PO Van forward its full move. The driver fails the Shoot roll to avoid Stiles, but then the British player rolls Stiles' Save and gets a 20! By The Book, Stiles has met a crunchy end under the wheels of Her Majesty's Post Office wagon, however the umpire decides that's a little harsh given the small size of the game and to forstall any whining from the player, decrees that Stiles has been forced to dive out of the way into a muddy ditch by the side of the road and will simply miss the next activation.

Card #2 is Count von Hurlitz. He climbs over the wall around Square Wood (costing 2” of movement – see Section 6.4.1 Movement of Personnel p.49) and moves into the wood (which as rough terrain halves movement, so his 4” of remaining movement only takes him 2” in) The cunning Count clearly has a plan to ambush the PO Van from hiding in the woods.

Card #3 is the Gun Truck. Because it failed its Sustain roll last turn , this turn it needs to roll less than its Start value (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50). It needs to roll 12 or less, but gets a 17 and is going nowhere. The British player says a few choice words about the quality of British coal.

Card #4 is Captain Hurst. Seeing the German Infantry about to come across the cornfield, he deploys his men in a firing line along the hedgerow facing the lane. Although he and a couple of his men are in the open at the gateway, fire against the unit will count as if in cover, because more than half the men are behind the hedge.

"I say, Major Stiles? Whatever the devil are you doing down there?"

Card #5 is the Ludwig walker. The German player rolls for sustain and gets a 20. After muttering that he shouldn't have looted that "verdamnt Britischer coal" from the last battle, he asks if he can still fire his weapons. The umpire looks at the model – the machine guns are clearly fixed and would need the walker to be able to move to bring them on target. The turret ring, however looks like it might be possible to turn it manually and the guns are conventional cannon rather than anything that might require power. He rules that the Ludwig may fire one of its two main guns without power, with the crew manually rotating the turret ring with hand cranks. He rolls to shoot, but misses.

Card #6 is the German Infantry. Hauptmann Weber now has a difficult choice – the British infantry are in position along the lane and will be able to fire on him from cover if he tries advancing further across the cornfield. If he fires from where he is, only the first two ranks of his compressed mob would be able to fire, which is five riflemen. He could lead them forward into a firing line in the open and gamble on being able to fire before the British on the next round (or maybe even charge to contact). Instead, Hauptmann Weber adopts a more cautious approach and pulls his men back behind the stone wall along the length of the cornfield. He will get the hard cover bonus versus the British fire, which will give him the advantage in a rifle duel.

Card #7 is Major Stiles, who picks himself up and dusts himself off, much to the hilarity of Captain Hurst of the East Surreys, who is barely able to restrain a giggle at his commander's wounded dignity.

"Captain Hurst, sir. Beggin' yer pardon sir, but yer might want to stop ragging on the Major while 'ee has 'is pistol out and 'is murderin' 'ead on."
"Yeeeeeees Sergeant I see what you mean. Good point well made."

Still no real casualties as we're onto...

The Fourth Turn

Card #1 is the German Infantry, who let rip with a volley of rifle fire at the British on the other side of the cornfield (Section 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54). They're just outside of the short range for Breech Loaders (12”) as the field is just a little larger than that across. So the firing is at Long Range, which means the germans need to roll less than half their Shoot score to hit (9 halved = 4.5 so a four or less will hit). In addition the British are behind soft cover (the hedge) and so +1 is added to every die rolled.

Eight troopers plus the Sergeant fire, Hauptmann Weber's pistol is out of range.

The Germans get two hits. The next step is to see which of the men in the target unit are actually hit. A d20 is rolled and the result halved (roll 7, half and round up to 4). The British player counts the men in his unit, front to back (which doesn't matter because they're in a line) and left to right, and every fourth figure is hut, up to the total number of casualties. One-two-three-four, One-two-three-four. The two men hit are Extras and don't have a Save rating, so it's first blood to the Beastly Huns.

Card #2 comes up as the Ludwig walker. Having failed to Sustain last turn, this turn it needs to roll less than its Start to move again, but fails to do so. Again the German player decides to fire one of its Main Guns, and this time hits with a roll of 4. The Gun Truck being only lightly armoured has a Save rating of 9, but the Ludwig's main gun is very good at penetrating armour, with a Save Roll Modifier of +4. So the British player needs to roll a D20, add +4 and get less than its Save rating of 9. The British player rolls a 12+4 = 16. A Penetrating Hit, but not quite enough for a Catastrophic Hit. Grumbling he rolls D20 on the Vehicle Damage Table and gets a 10 - “Random Weapon Knocked Out”. With two weapons to choose from he rolls a simple odds/evens with the result that it's the Gun truck's main cannon that's destroyed. Even if he manages to get the troublesome Gun Truck moving, he's now lost his best weapon against the armoured Ludwig walker.

(NB - This is another rule I've been doing wrong. A vehicle cannot attempt any other actions on a turn that it makes a Start roll. Sec 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50 this is a clarification/change from the original rules. Because of this, the Ludwig would not have been able to fire this turn as it had attempted a Start roll. But see my response to Buck in the Comments section.)

Card #3 is Count von Hurlitz. He moves a futher 3” deeper into Square Wood, (half movement for rough terrain)

Card #4 is the Gun Truck. The player rolls to start and gets a 19. He sulks.

Card #5 is Major Stiles. He moves 10” up the road to the gate into Square Wood. Because von Hurlitz is more than an inch inside the wood, he can't be seen from outside, so although the British Player knows the count is there, he won't be able to fire at him until he comes closer.

Card #6 is the PO Van. Dobbin plods along another 6” bringing it up behind Major Stiles

The Beastly Boche stalks our hero with cold steel and villainous intent.

Card #7 is the British Infantry. The first thing they need to do is make a Morale test, since they've taken casualties since their previous action (Section 6.10.1 Morale and Tests of Manhood p. 82). The British player rolls 5, -1 for being in soft cover and -1 for having the Unit Leader with them... halved, which rounds up to 2 which is well below the number of men left in the unit.

(NB - Buck's pointed out that I've made a mistake here, the roll should be halved first and then the modifiers applied.)

They prepare to give return fire to the Germans (Section 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54). Again it's at long range, and this time the Germans are in Hard Cover giving them +2 on the roll. Seven men fire (again we're outside of pistol range for Capt Hurst)

Every dice misses. The British player sulks some more.

The umpire smiles inside as he shuffles the initiative deck, then turns the top card over for...

The Fifth Turn

Card #1 is Count von Hurlitz. The German player wants to charge at Major Stiles and run him through, but the British player points out that von Hurlitz is out of sight within the woods and surely couldn't see out from his position. The umpire thinks long and hard about this situation – Stiles is on the outside edge of the wood so it's not unreasonable that he might be seen from inside, depending on how thick the foliage is. There are several ways the umpire could rule this situation...

  • He could say that von Hurlitz can't see out of the wood until he's within 1” of the edge, just the same as if he wanted to fire out of the wood.
  • He could call for a Shoot roll from von Hurlitz, rationalising Shoot as a function of vision and situational awareness, if the roll succeeds, von Hurlitz spots Stiles through a gap in the foliage and may charge him.

In the end the umpire looks at the rule for visibility within a wood. If two units are both in the same wood, visibility between them is 2D6 inches, rolled every turn. If they're closer than the value rolled, they can see eachother and fight. The umpire rules that if the value rolled on 2d6 is greater than the distance from von Hurlitz to Stiles, he's able to see him.

(NB – I actually got this wrong and used the old rules from the original GASLIGHT book. In the Compendium, the new rule is that visibility within the same patch of woods is fixed at 4”. See 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54)

The German player rolls a double six. If a vehicle or unit wishes to charge into contact with an enemy, it normally needs to make a Morale check, but unattached Main Characters like von Hurlitz are exempt from this roll (6.8.1 Close Combat p.66). He does need to make sure he can actually reach Stiles – he's about three inches inside the wood and Stiles is a couple of inches further away from the gate. He rolls the charge bonus movement of d6 and adds it to the regular move of 6” rolling 4 for a total of 10”, easily enough. Normally a unit or vehicle receiving a charge needs to make a Morale check, but again with Stiles being an unattached Main Character he is exempt from the roll. This is a duel to the death between the two heroes.

Each figure involved in the melee rolls a D20 aiming to get less than its Scuffle score, remembering that von Hurlitz gets -1 to the roll because of his Fencing skill. Both however roll way above their Scuffles (15 and 16) and are therefore locked in deadly combat. The melee will resume the next time either figure involved is activated.

Card #2 is the German Infantry. They roll for a second volley of fire against the British infantry, but this time roll no hits at all.

Card #3 is Major Stiles, so we resume the duel with Count von Hurlitz. The British player says that he'd much rather back away from the fight and shoot at von Hurlitz with his superior Shoot score, but decides that it's too cheesy a move and commits to finishing the duel.

The dice gods reward his gentlemanly play. Stiles rolls 2 vs his Scuffle – a hit, while von Hurlitz rolls 14, which even with his -1 is a miss. All Scuffling takes place simultaneously, so even if one side is killed they may still take their opponent with them. Von Hurlitz has missed though and if he were an Extra would now be dead. He has one last chance, as a Main Character gets a Save roll.

"Gott In Himmel! Ich bin ein Kaputnik!"

The German player rolls an 18, which is higher than von Hurlitz's Save rating, and the Count is slain. The British player acts out how, with the two men sabres locked coeur a coeur, Stiles drew his pistol with his off-hand and shot the Count at point blank range. Major Stiles may be an officer, but he's clearly no gentleman!

Card #4 is the PO Van. Dobbin plods onwards, taking him past Major Stiles standing over his fallen foe's body.

Card #5 is the Gun Truck – the British player rolls a 2 and finally gets it to start. With the forward gun out of action he opts to move it up the road to behind the PO van so that the rear Gatling can at least cover the road behind them.

Card #6 is the Ludwig walker. The German player also rolls a successful Start this turn, and this time decides to bring his Heavy Machine Guns to bear on the remaining infantry. He gets three hits, and an 8 is rolled – halved to 4 - to determine the casualty assignment. Counting left to right, the casualties hit two extras (who are killed) and Captain Hurst. Captain Hurst is a Main Character with a Save value of 10, and he rolls a 7. Although the Ludwig's HMGs have a SRM modifier, this isn't applied to Saves by Main Characters, only to Saves due to vehicle or conveyance armour.

(NB - Again by the rules as written in the Compendium, neither the Gun Truck nor the Ludwig should have been able to move or fire in the turn they finally made their Start rolls. See I told you I was going to make mistakes!)

Finally Card #7 is the British Infantry. They've taken further casualties and so need to make another Morale Test (Section 6.10.1 Morale and Tests of Manhood p. 82). The British player rolls a 14, -1 for the unit leader, -1 for soft cover = 12 which is halved to 6. That exactly equals the number of men left in the unit, but to succeed the test the player needs to roll under that number and so the test has failed.

(NB - doing this correctly, the roll of 14 is halved to 7, -1 for the unit leader, -1 for soft cover = 5 which would have passed. Let's just assume that I rolled a 16 or higher and that it failed, so we can see what happens with a failed morale check)

The British player rolls for each figure left in the unit on the Morale Failure Results Chart (Section 6.10.1 p.82) with the result that two men run 12” away from the enemy, two back 6” away and two (including Captain Hurst) are frozen in place and miss this action.

This leaves the unit scattered over quite a wide area. The nice thing about morale in GASLIGHT is that it's stateless. A unit isn't “broken” or “routed” and there's no such thing as a “rally” roll. Provided the unit doesn't take any further casualties before its next activation, the leader will be free to act normally along with any other survivors within the 12” command radius. The two chaps who fled 12” away are however outside this range, so the officer would either have to abandon them, or spend a turn moving towards them so that on the following turn they can move with the rest of the unit.

In actual fact, the players and umpires agreed that at this point the game was effectively over. Major Stiles and the PO Van were within 12” of the table edge, and the Germans had nothing that could cut them off before they would be able to leave the table. Following the death of Count von Hurlitz (the german Army Commander), the other German units would also need to make Morale Checks, but since both Ludwig and the Infantry were undamaged and in good positions, it was almost impossible for them to fail. They might be able to kill a few more troops and possibly destroy or disable the Gun Truck, but there was nothing they could do to capture the PO Van.


  1. Excellant write up ! . Realy shows how to play the rules , great game !.

  2. Chris:

    Excellent! Thanks very much for doing this.

    I'll have to open my copy of the rules and review to make sure, but I think when making a morale check you are supposed to halve the die roll and THEN apply the -1 for cover and the -1 for the leader being present. Also, I think that in the turn a vehicle passes it's Start roll that is all they get to do that turn. Again, I'll have to check. Too many sets of rules over the past 10 years. They have begun to blur together.

    Excellent write up. I love your narrative style.

    Buck Surdu

  3. Hey Buck, you're supposed to be on holiday, not fact checking GASLIGHT rules!

    You're right on both counts. The Compendium states explicitly that the morale modifiers are applied to the halved roll(Sec 6.10.1 p.82) I'd misread the line "modifiers to the die roll are:" as applying to the

    And a vehicle can't take any other action in a turn where it makes a Start roll (Sec 6.4.3 p.50) which is definitely a change/clarification from the original rules where I don't think it was ever explicitly statde.

    However I'm in two minds about calling b****cks on this one. I agree with you on a "time and motion simulation" level that struggling to get a machine restarted would take up all the crews time. However, from a "sitting around a wargame table having fun" point of view, I know how utterly frustrating it can be to have a vehicle neutralised for a large chunk of a game by a failed Sustain and a string of unlucky Start rolls. In the Big Birthday Bash I think one player whose walker sat immobile for about four turns, would have probably burst into tears if I'd told him he still couldn't move after making his Start roll!

    But I'll annotate this points in the original post, just to clarify them. Thanks for the quick feedback. Now go look at mountains & lakes & stuff.

  4. Excellent write up. I agree with Chris and missing a turn after the start roll would hurt, but as Chris also said, the rules are there for you to have fun so it is up to you, as players and umpire, on how you apply them.

  5. Thanks again for writing this up and sharing it! It's helpful and entertaining.

  6. Thank you once again for providing this informative and entertaining report. It has really allowed me to get to grips with the basic game, from which point I can add in elements of Battles or TBCBG as I see fit.
    Your servant Sir, the Claret is on me! Now I just need to have a good look at North Star's Prussians for our prospective campaign...
    PS Buck and Chris - I think you owe this fine chap a medal beer or three! Without his help, the compendium may have languished on the bookshelves! ;-)