Sergio's blog: hints, ideas, pictures and news about SDS (and more) from the author

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Playing something different

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading some posts in the Napoleonic section of TMP and I was caught by a post from Steve who briefly described the main features of SNAPPY NAPPY with some enthusiasm.
Curious, I decided to buy it and give it a try.
Got the paper copy form Caliver, read the rules twice, and tried it (first solo then with my friend Diego).
The Solo Game

I quickly organized two armies: French and Russian. I took the OB of the Russian Campaign for the 2 French Corps and some random Russian Corps from the rules. Forces were unbalanced but that's what I wanted. I made a super-basic terrain (see above) took my measuring sticks in inches, and a fistful of d10 and I was ready to play this "Ultrafast" (as it says in the book cover) rules.
Well, before that to be honest I had to write down  the OB of both armies on a scratch paper, prepare some sort of markers for the orders, and identify all units on the battlefield with a number (or some color coding).
This is because one of the key of the game is a sort of fog of war caused by the fact that you mark off the "steps" of your units when you take hits (and fail Morale tests) but your opponent does not necessarily remember which unit is Firm, Disrupted or in Panic.
I will not describe the rules any further here, I'll just stress the second key of the game: the Morale checks.
When one of your unit takes a hit, you have to check its Morale until you pass or rout. This means that if you fail, you test again and again. That's why the game is said to be Ultrafast: in principle, you may lose a unit just taking a single hit (if you fail 5 times).
Above, the situation after turn 1: the armies are approaching each other. 2 quite big French Corps on this side of the table, and 3 small Russian Corps on the other side, plus a Cavalry Division and a reserve of grenadiers. With the exception of the 2 features mentioned above (secret OBs and Morale checks) all other game mechanics are quite standard (Command radius, Orders, linear movement, modifiers).
Situation after turn 2: armies are almost at Artillery range (9"). Units (Brigades) are made of 2 stands with the exception of Artillery which is 1 stand only. As I have no guns based individually, I improvised a bit.
A stand represent 2000 infantry, 750 cavalry and 24 guns.
Situation after turn 3: first gunshots, first blood. A Conscript Russian Units showed the ultra-fastness of the game, routing after a single artillery hit. First lesson learned: use Conscripts (and Militia, that is even worst) wisely.

Situation after turn 4: some musketry (1" range) and melee. Units that are charged may fire defensively, charging units may not fire. Note that in this game Cavalry fires musketry (but you need a 10 on a d10 to score a hit).
Situation after turn 5: Russians are in "All out Attack Mode", but French line holds. Russian losses mount. Orders (Attack, Probe, Screen, Maneuver, Defend, Withdraw, Rally) limit what your units may do on the battlefield but - as usual - they are a problem if you play competitively. The rules are a kind of guideline, but may be subject to hundreds of different interpretations.
  Situation after turn 6 (final): after 3-4 more Russsian units routed, I decided that it was over. General Barclay de Tolly called off the attack, and night fell. The rules do not specify any set of Victory condition.
Even considering that I played solo, often referring to the rules and that it was a first game, I did not feel this game to be ultrafast. Maybe the movement rules slowed the game down a bit: they are quite conventional, linear, with pro-rata modifiers for difficult terrain and 1/2 movement to about face (but only 1/3 to change formation !!!). One thing is for sure: once your units are engaged, they deteriorate quickly. And that is OK for me.
In general, a good set of rules if you play friendly games with low competition level players.
Many rules are simply missing (voluntary interpenetation, Generals movement, Victory conditions, Corps Morale), other are undefined at best (Orders).
A plus is that you can probably organize BIG GAMES with many players involved.
Comments are welcome!


  1. Like all rules Snappy Nappy are open to 'tweaks'. I personally love the combat system as it gets results swiftly and doesn't slow the game down like some other rule sets tend to do. I agree that Snappy Nappy is more 'game' orientated rather than being based in historical accuracy but saying that I also feel it gives a playable representation of the period it represents.

    All the best,

  2. I also like "games with a feel" and I am not discussing about historical accuracy: but compared to the combat system (ultra fast really) the rest seems out of place. There are errors in the Rules: if you change formation from column to line you can move 4" if you are already in line you can move just 3"; you spend 1/2 movement to about face and just 1/3 to change formation.... Orders are completely unplayable, did you try them?
    I just think it's not correct for the customers, but surely it's just my problem..
    Thank you for commenting and let us know about your next SN games!

  3. Combat results could easily be tweaked by taking one MC per hit but not rolling again if the unit fails. So for example a Bold unit taking 2 hits takes 2 morale Checks, if it fails both checks it would end up as 'Nervous'.
    I do agree that the orders section does not play well at all. I'm toying with the idea of using the orders section from Volley & Bayonet.. Not sure whether this would make them more playable yet but I think they may be worth a try out.

  4. Of course, everything can be tweaked... but if you take away the "Roll until you pass or rout", Snappy Nappy becomes just one of the many (mediocre) rules sets out there.
    Volley & Bayonet: I have to check, don't remember right now the Order section.
    Interesting discussion anyway, thanks Steve!

    1. ' if you take away the "Roll until you pass or rout", Snappy Nappy becomes just one of the many (mediocre) rules sets out there.'

      This is true but it's a suggestion for those who find combat too lethal.. Me? I prefer to use the rules as they stand.

      Orders in any wargame is a 'grey' area and I agree that SN doesn't seem to have got this particular aspect quite right .... along with every other rule set I've read over the years!

      Always glad to discuss Sergio!

  5. I like that rule as it is, too (Roll until you pass or rout): it gives the game a peculiarity and players a challenge.

    I'm also with you about Orders: in my "Drums & Shakos Large Battles" I avoided to address the issue because I had no solution...

    1. The apparent anomaly of facing about taking longer than other formation changes is explained by the fact that a battalion could not simply face about by having every man turn through 18) degrees - that would result in the companies being inverted, unthinkable at the time. Instead, the battalion would countermarch, so that the grenadier company would be in its correct place on the right flank when the battalion was facing in the opposite direction.

  6. There is a Yahoo forum, of course. Many of your questions could be answered there. Or an email to Russ Lockwood.

    I purchased them quite some time ago. I think I may have even prompted Russ, in a minor way, to publish them. I had read about SN on some forum, found Russ' email address, and asked for a copy of the rules. He readily sent them, all plain text. He then published the rules through OMM two (or more) years later.

    The ultra-fast is the draw, as is the low figure count, but I have never wanted to play a Corps Commander with 100 figures on the board, so I shelved them.

  7. @arthur1815: correct, therefore I'd expect to have the about face "cost" as a formation change not more..
    @Dale: yes, I know. I registered, waited a couple of days to be accepted, then asked a simple question: "is there a FAQ somewhere"? Nobody answered (except Steve, but I think he's a newbie like me)