This week I received two new rule books, Twilight of the Sun King and Twilight of Divine Right. They cover wars through the 17th and early 18th centuries and use a somewhat unusual system whereby the key combat mechanic is based entirely around morale.
I’ve been interested in these for a while as I’ve been quite interested in the Thirty Years War and War of the Grand Alliance as potential projects, as well as past experience with the English Civil War.
I decided to run a small test game of two evenly matched armies to get to grips with the rules. I’ve not the space to crack out my ECW troops at this point so I’ve gone with some simple 2mm pieces, mostly unpainted, stuck to bases to try out. They’re set up loosely as a small Parliamentarian and Royalist battle.
Movement is measured in Base Widths, though units are supposed to be two bases wide, so while my units here are 40mm wide, the Base Width unit is 20mm. This allows for a game in a very small area, though obviously can be scaled up as required.
There are two main phases to play each turn. The first phase is movement, which involves all standard maneuver as well as charges into combat. Certain aspects of movement, such as crossing obstacles, changing formation, charging into combat, or shaking off the effects of artillery bombardment require an action test, a simple d6 roll, with a 3+ needed to pass. Depending how complicated the movement required is it could require multiple tests, which provides suitable command friction.
The other phase is morale. What is interesting here is that all combat is subsumed into the morale system. After the active side has made all its movements, the passive side must then take morale tests for any unit that is under threat by rolling 2 D6 with a modified outcome of 8+ to pass, with 3 or less resulting in a complete rout. This could be that they’re in firing range of the enemy, or have been charged by the enemy, or are at risk of a cavalry charge to an expert flank. Depending how the morale test resolves, different outcomes will be applied.
I’ll include some further thoughts after the report, but without further ado, here is the battle report.
This was my first outing with the rules so there was a lot of flicking through the book and online for answers on things. One benefit of the rules is the support available online. I joined the groups.io group for it and was able to get answers to my queries from the author and other players very quickly. This is always a great resource to have available, both having a point of reference from others who encountered similar issues and being able to communicate directly with the author and experienced players.
Once I got to grips with the key concepts around movement thanks to a few questions to the group, that part of it ran smoothly enough for the rest of the game. The morale aspect did cause some head scratching, mostly around all the different factors that lead to modifications to the overall test. I think by the end of the game I’d a pretty good understanding of them but there are likely a few I got wrong. Most are reasonably common sense and what you’d expect, but there are a lot of possible factors to consider and it’ll likely take a few games to get them all to the point of being second nature.
A few negative points on the rules, though minor quibbles really. One is the lack of digital versions of the rules, something I generally prefer where possible, though the author has made the newest in the series, Twilight of the Soldier Kings, available as a pdf. The actual rules are fairly short though, so searching through them manually isn’t too onerous. They do make extensive use of abbreviations, especially for unit types, something I generally dislike as it breaks the flow of reading rules having to flick back to the unit type page every time you encounter one of them. However, they’re hardly the first rules to do this and most of them are reasonably easy to remember after a couple of reads. I did notice a couple of small typos and areas needing clarification but as mentioned above, that was easily come by.
Probably the biggest barrier to smooth play is getting to grips with all the morale conditions. There is a fairly long list of modifiers to read through to find what should be applied and when, but I suspect with a few more playthroughs I’ll have no trouble knowing what is required in the majority of situations. I do quite like the morale system. It’s a different take on things, but mostly feels right and as a system is quite flexible. I enjoyed the sense of putting pressure on enemy units to make them break rather than getting tied up in shooting and melee which makes a refreshing change. It is fun to throw a load of dice at a combat and battle it back and forth, but it’s also good sometimes to have a game focused more on the abstraction of maneuver and morale, which is very much what this does. I think this works particularly well for this period as well as the later periods into the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries where such considerations were becoming more and more important as firepower changed the face of warfare.
I’m certainly hoping to play some more games in time. I aim to put together some 2mm forces, maybe some regimental level ones as seen above as well as bigger brigade based units for the 30YW. I’m also keen to look at armies for the Sun King era, the League of Augsburg/Grand Alliance/Nine Years War/Williamite Wars or whatever you wish to call them has a lot of appeal. The rules also cover the later Marlborough period, which hasn’t yet tickled my fancy, and the potentially interesting Great Northern War and Ottoman Wars.
Definitely an interesting set of rules and one with a lot of potential to play a variety of games. Watch this space, I’m sure there’ll be more in future.
Thanks for reading,