Tremble Ye Tyrants is the new fast-play Napoloenic Wargaming rules written by Chris Peers and distributed by North Star Military Figures.
The rules are designed around the using 28mm figures, although they do use elements rather than individual figures.
An infantry unit is defined as 4 60mmx 30mm bases, a Cavalry unit 4 60mm x 50mm bases and an artillery unit a single 60mm x 60mm base. The game is designed to be played on a 6’ x 4’ table.
The ‘level’ of the game is left to the player, so a unit may represent a single battalion, a brigade or even more.
All movement and ranges in the game are in inches, and as well as the usual D6 dice and tape measures, the game also uses D20 dice during the combat phases
The game turn uses the alternate unit activation system, where player 1 chooses a unit, which he may then move. Player 2 then chooses a unit to move, and then player 1 etc.
The movement of troops each turn is determined randomly, by throwing a number of D6 dice. For example, 1D6 for Infantry in Good going, 3D6+4 for Light Cavalry. This value is different if in difficult terrain (e.g. 1D6-2 for Infantry).
Once all units have moved, shooting takes place (treated as simultaneous) and then close combat is resolved. Moral tests are then taken, should they be required.
For shooting, muskets have a range of 4”, Rifles 6” (and a long range of 12”) Artillery firing canister 8” – 12”, and Artillery firing other ammunition 16” (With a long range of 48”).
D20s are used for combat, rather than D6s, to ‘allow for more subtle modifications’. You roll 1D20 for each Infantry base, 2D20 for light artillery and 3D20 for heavy artillery, and then apply a series of modifiers, depending upon the situation. You need to score 14 or more to inflict a hit (and a disorder marker), whilst 19 or more inflicts a serious loss, in which case you can also remove a base.
For melee, the attacker rolls a D6, applies modifiers and then consult a combat resolution table – which is different depending upon if you are engaging deployed artillery, rather than infantry or cavalry.
Following that, units must make morale tests. There are 6 different morale criteria, and any unit must make a test for each criteria which it fulfils. So, units can be taking several morale tests in a turn. Each failed morale test adds a ‘Disorder’ token to the unit.
Units with ‘Disorder’ markers start to suffer penalties. Once a unit has 4 markers, it must retire, and once a unit receives 5 markers it is dispersed completely. These disorder tokens can be removed at the start of the turn by officers rallying the effected unit.
That hopefully gives a high level view of the gameplay.
Where to start?
Whilst these rules have been produced in a 38 page booklet, the format is single column with a large type-face. I think this makes the page count artificially high, and I suspect that using a smaller type-face and 2-column printing, these rules would be reduced significantly in size. How much would you be willing to pay for a rulebook that is 12-14 pages long, I wonder?
The layout of the rules is not what you would normally expect. Defining Command, troop types and formations can be expected to be seen first. However, these are followed by Army Compositions (British, French, Austrians, Prussians & Russians), defining National Characteristics and notes on points values. These in turn are followed by rules on the effects of terrain and weather, and then some suggested scenarios and notes on deployment. It’s only at this point that you then get the sequence of play described, followed by the rules on how units move and fight. This means that the rules start discussing modifiers to gaming rules, and modifiers to units, before the reader is even aware of the basics of play.
I can also see players having some issues with the rules.
There are several different ways to model the effects of ‘friction’ in a game. Friction can cause units to do unexpected things – it usually means that they do not do quite what they are required to do when they are expected to do it. This seems to be easier to accept when it happens as the result of a failed command roll, or a unit simply not activating in a turn. I always find using a random movement mechanic somewhat frustrating.
The rules are described as ‘fast play’. However, I can see them bogging down in several places, as players constantly consult modifiers for combat. Shooting has a total of 15 modifiers. Close combat no less than 18. Add to this the requirement to track how many morale checks a unit must take each turn, and the paperwork required to play the game starts to spiral.
According to the author, the average size of a game is ‘200 points’. When the average Infantry Unit cost 5 points, Cavalry 8 points and Artillery 10 – 18 points, the average army would consist of approximately 24 units plus commanders. The sheer number of checks and dice that you need to roll every turn soon mount up.
There is also the question of ground scale. The point is made that the rules are designed to be used with 28mm figures. That’s fine, but to then use a ground scale where musket range is 4” just looks wrong. I know rules designers tend to compress ground scale when using larger scale figures, and another constraint of the rules was to play a game on a 6’ x 4’, but there comes a point when the whole thing starts to look a little too much out of whack. This can easily be fixed by simply using smaller figures, but it just seems strange, given some of the design premises.
Whilst I can see what the author was trying to achieve with this set of rules, I can’t help thinking that it has failed in it’s execution. I am very able to accept that these are a set of ‘marmite’ rules, and you will either love them or hate them. I didn’t love them.
There is a demand for fast-play Napoleonic rules in the hobby, and Tremble Ye Tyrants is pitching at a bargain price point. However, in my opinion you need more than good production quality and perceived value for money, and whilst this may be one of the cheaper sets of fast-play rules on the market, I’m afraid it also falls well short of being the best.
Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher