Just after the beginning of the year I was straitening up my "study" and came across my Piquet stuff. Now I bought Piquet about 15 years ago because I have always been interested in Command and Control and Piquet seemed to have a novel approach. I played it for a while ( of course I modified it.) then discovered Too Fat Lardies and Troops Weapons and Tactics which I still think is the best model of leadership for squad/platoon level gaming that I have come across. It does drag a bit as a game and you all have heard my groaning about Richard's shock system for combat. I moved on to Force on Force which has everything but indirect fire and leadership which I corrected with my house rules. Well now that I have moved up to company level I thought I would try Piquet again.
Piquet is a game that people either love or hate. I actually like it because in my limited experience with war it is very chaotic and nothing goes as planned and nothing is easy. I also like that you can't move your units just out of cavalry range because you aren't really sure have far their cavalry can move. For anyone that doesn't know, Bob Jones took a wargame sequence and put each phase on a card. The cards are mixed up and then you draw them. You have a contested die roll with winner picking the difference in the number of cards. Loser picks nothing. It was revolutionary at the time. I bought Brent Oman's Field of Battle 15 years ago to try to address several burning issues with Piquet; namely huge impetus runs by one side and the fact that sometimes all you need is one card and it might have passed. So your whole "strategy" is to burn through your cards to get to the next turn. While defenders of Piquet say this shows that you are not being distracted by the cards and shows your are a great general [ or in my case a major or LtCol] it is indeed boring.
I played 2 test games of Piquet with companies of Germans and Russians solitaire. Please note I am only experimenting with initiative and command and control. I am dead set on Battlefront for combat resolution. First it is a great system for solitaire gamers. You might want to close assault the building but you have to wait for the right card. You also customize the decks, so for instance the German deck is more efficient while the russian deck has 1 more close assault card in it for their propensity to close with the enemy. You really felt like a company commander ordering 1st platoon into the building and then wondering what was taking them so long to move! Here is where my problem with the system showed up. As a CO I couldn't do anything to get the platoon to move except to draw more cards. So leadership is built into the decks and ratings but it is still abstract, at least for me. As a surgeon I want to be able to go and physically get those people moving if I chose to do so.
This moves us to Too Fat Lardies and Troops Weapons and Tactics. While they are the wrong level Rich was on to something with his "big man" cards. Here leaders move the troops but troops don't do much without leaders. So I thought I would add big man cards to Piquet, significantly decrease the number of duplicate cards in the deck to decrease time and increase the importance of big men and perhaps get the best of both worlds. Here is a playtest that turned into a rocking game.
French IndoChina 1950
Lt, because we are at the a** end of the world we will not be getting a replacement for our poor comrade anytime soon. Tell me what do you think of your platoon Sergeant Poloski?
Sir, he is a fine NCO.
What do you think of 2nd platoon?
I think the platoon is all right but Lt Shiffron wasn't impressed with Sgt Jones.
I agree Shiffron wasn't impressed but the Chef Sgt thinks he is okay. I need you to oversee both platoons for the next month or so. Have the NCOs run the day to day and just be there if needed. Best to learn some of the men from 2nd platoon.
Mission Patrol area on this photo for possible Viet Minh activity.
Lt LaRoche Avg leader foolhardy, fully supports the war. son of wealthy parents. Some people act out by becoming hippies, some by joining the French Foreign Legion!
1st Platoon Sgt Poloski Avg Leader Polish NCO during the war. Didn't return to Poland so joined the legion
2nd Platoon Sgt Jones Avg Leader South African Wanted for bank robberies. joined the legion to lay low and found out he liked it. [ another neat thing about Piquet is you roll up the quality of your units before the game. 2nd platoon was 1 step down from expected so they are experienced. I hypothesize this is because their Lt was decapitated by a VC mortar 1 week earlier.]
Lt LaRoche's plan was to land a platoon on each side of the river and have them move up to check for contact. He had a battery of 105s on call plus some maritime craft.
[ At this time french squads had an authorized strength of 15 men, many with automatic weapons. While I have no doubt they never reached this number I am using 3 regular french squads with LMGs and 1 SMG squad without an LMG to make up the french platoon. Each squad can only take 2 disruptions before it is removed due to decreased manpower. For those of you that play battlefront this should make sense.]
Per patrol scenario 1 blind on each side of the river [ black markers]
Lt LaRoche decamps onto shore. He briefs Sgt Poloski on the plan. 2nd platoon will start across the river. LaRoche sets up his HQ.
1st platoon moves out.
Across the river 2nd platoon meets a VM blind in the jungle... while
1st platoon gets closer to a VM blind as well.
2nd platoon wins ( or loses) as their blind turns out to be 2 platoons + a 60mm Mtr in transit. 1 platoon is downgraded to raw which should help.
1st squad runs into a whole platoon of VM. It doesn't go well for the french and the squad is wiped out.
Yes I made up my own custom Piquet cards 15 years ago. Glad I didn't throw them out. What do you mean I don't have a life? I am well adjusted!
Lt LaRoche hears gunfire across the river. He sees the boats move up to the jungle to support. Merde! I should have stuck with 2nd platoon. He can't seem to get a SITREP from Jones. He recalls 1st platoon. He needs to get over there before something bad happens.
Despite the french deck being better the VM are getting all the right cards. The VM manage to move up their mortar and start to effectively shell 2nd platoon. Casualties start to mount...
LaRoche finally gets a report from Jones. They are taking heavy small arms and mortar fire and have heavy casualties. He suspects they have run into a reinforced company. the boats finally get over as 1st platoon comes in.
Things are getting worse for Jones and 2nd platoon. They are down to 50% effectives and morale is shaky at best. [ very bad morale rolls] The battle has actually been going on for about 30 minutes since first contact.
The VM commander, sensing a huge victory, sends in his 2nd platoon to annihilate the foreigners. [ I have to tell you I am sweating this out.]
What a great time to have a boat [tanks] move card come up!
What a great time to have some VM command confusion! [ As the VM start to hesitate in closing with the french secondary to their inexperience.]
All right Pierre, let's get that 50cal working on this line of VM!
The VM mortar hits the boats forcing everyone out. There are casualties among the 1st platoon.
At this point I draw Lt LaRoche's command card. He gets 2 actions. He attempts to rally 1st platoon [partially successful] and then leads a charge into the VM line!
The VM commander realizes they have hit their high water mark. He sends 1st platoon away and tries to recover 2nd platoon.
The energized 1st platoon continues to plow into the dazed VM platoon. Now Sgt Polowski is running the show as Lt LaRoche goes over to see what is left of 2nd platoon.
The carnage continued...
The 60mm Mortar manages to slip away...
As the VM head for their basecamp. Their commander got a little too greedy and hadn't counted on Lt LaRoche and 1st platoon FFL!
Fantastic game! I really thought 2nd platoon was going to be overrun. Needless to say an excellent playtest. I don't know if I will stick with this but it played fast and had all the tension I would want. In addition, the leaders directly affected the outcome both good and bad.
Post game I used Grunt's Forward to see if Lt LaRoche would get a medal. I gave him an extra point because it was a dire situation and he actually made the first roll; Croix de Guerre with a Silver Star! His leadership rating also improves to good. So word spread of his actions and the Captain wrote it up. It is now making it's way through the system. He puts in Sgt Polowski for an award; we will see. What to do about Sgt Jones? He is an average leader that had a run of bad luck. All the stuff that makes gaming fun!