Monday, 21 July 2014

Slaughterloo, First Game Report

Those of you who frequently read my blog, may be aware that, for the past couple of months, a friend and I have been painting and preparing for our first game of Slaughterloo, the game of massed fantasy-Napoleonic battles. Well, on Saturday the battle took place, and what a game it was!

I was pipped to the post in terms of writing things up and you can check out his report here . He has opted for a more narrative approach, whereas I have been more 'practical', so hopefully between the two of us there is something to cater for all tastes!

We mostly stuck to the 'basic' rules, which I generally dislike as games which typically use a basic/advanced rule format patronise intelligent adults everywhere and offer a sub-par gaming experience if you don't use everything from the off. Slaughterloo seems to be something of an exception to this rule. Although it uses an i-go-u-go turn structure, there is actually a considerable amount of decision making to be done thanks in part to the requirement of 'Form' rolls to carry out complex maneuvers and the issuing of command cards which give your units bonuses in certain situations. But this isn't supposed to be a review at this point, suffice it to say our first game has revealed Slaughterloo to be of considerable depth compared to many fantasy wargames (or indeed historical ones) which I have played before. Even with the basic rules, there is a lot to think about and get to grips with. So our first game was a roaring success and I look forward to playing more and exploring the additional details the rules have to offer. But for now, on with the battle report.

The view from the Ferach side of the battlefield
The forces of Albion deployed in line. I was quite keen to get to grips with the implications of other formations, so I deployed one unit of Line Infantry in a march column and the other two in attack columns. The Todoroni Militia deployed to the rear. Looking back I would probably have gained by just shoving them at the front. With a Regard value of only 1, they would have only lost me one Divisional Morale Point when they were at 75% casualties. So there was nothing to lose by pushing them forward. My two artillery pieces are off camera. A medium cannon crewed by Elves was positioned on the hill just beyond the river and a light cannon with Todoroni crew was just below the rough ground in the lower left of the picture.

The above picture shows my advance on the left flank. The Orc artillery claimed first blood against my lancers, but they were keen to close with the Orcs. The two attack columns advanced. Note the two First Fire markers, which provide a bonus and are then removed when the unit takes its first shot of the game or if they become disordered before then.

Here is the right flank on the same turn. The Elf Line unit had taken advantage of a road move to advance at speed. They also formed a line after completing their advance. This caused a slight problem for my cavalry, who, finding their path forward blocked, opted to reform into a column and change facing before galloping off between the rough terrain and the river. All units in Slaughterloo can take an action for free, but if you want to do anything else, you are required to make a Form Roll. With a high Form Rating (5), Elves usually have no problem with such antics as advancing, forming line and firing all in the same move. Todoroni Militia on the other hand, struggle to do anything too taxing without becoming disordered.

The face down cards you see are ordered my general had issued to the units. They need to be within 45cm to get orders, so I had to think ahead about what I was likely wanting them to do, so they would get the best bonus. In this case I issued +3 to Melee cards to both. The cavalry were hoping to outflank and close with the orcs, while the infantry needed to fight hard against the Orc cavalry in front of them. Maybe I could have given them a bonus to firing if I had the right cards, but a) I didn't and b), the Elves are pretty good at shooting, so I wanted to give them a boost to their weak point. As My Todorni General was graded as inept, I had a limited choice of orders to give. This doesn't prevent units from doing anything, but certainly makes getting them to behave well more difficult.

So the Form and Order cards have echos of mechanics from other rule sets. Form rolls make me think of needing to make command rolls in games like Warmaster or Black Powder. The Order cards make me think of Command and Colours. But neither are the focus of the rules, per se. They add to your options as a commander, but you don't need to use either to 'activate' your troops. In a way this makes the decisions more complex as you need to think hard about the best time to try and pull off a risky move, or plan ahead so units have the right orders and the right time.

Heavy Cavalry hits home
We found out a little late that we made an error in resolving melee. In some of the early turns we accidentally used the defence value of the receiving side as a modifier against the melee value of the attacker. In reality melee required the comparison of the melee values of both sides and the difference is applied as a die roll modifier to both, so one will have it as a positive and the other as a negative modifier. I think that, if we had spotted this sooner, some things such as the cavalry charge against a line of infantry, pictured above, would have been a bit more decisive.

The above was the situation at the end of the 2nd turn (I think, it might be the beginning of the 3rd...). On the left, my cavalry seem to be in a bit of a stalemate against the Orcs (perhaps a result of the melee rules misunderstanding?). On the right, a poorly judged angle of fire only caused one casualty to the Orc cavalry (the rules for Inferior fire were not used, otherwise it may have been a bit more effective as the Elves who had the Orcs in 45 degrees of them would have been able to fire at half effect). Meanwhile, my heavy cavalry are waiting for an opportunity to strike. Light Elves have advanced through the woods and are picking at the Orcs in front of them. Todoroni militia slowly bring up the rear.

Firing at the Orc Cavalry

Not much change above. The melee continues at the top left. A 'Command Indecision' card has caused my Line Elves on the right to advance 5cm closer to the Orcs. This card could have had a much worse effect depending on how the roll for its effect turned out. But I could live with that result!

Same as the last pic, just a different angle.

Run Orcs, Run!
Interestingly, the Orc cavalry didn't seem to 'like it up 'em' and retreated from my Elves. Hurrah!

 It took a while, for it was only a small cannon firing at long range, but my Todoroni artillery managed to kill an artillery-orc on the hill opposite them... More than I expected to be honest!

A lesson in why you should a) Form a proper line, and b) get as close as possible, before firing your initial volley...

On the right flank, the Orc Cavalry had reformed. Mine had moved forward to threaten them further, but unfortunately the Orc Heavy Cavalry had started to move up to support them. In the woods, my Light Infantry withdrew (under my orders) as they had taken to casualties and the reduced effect of their fire was not worth the loss in Morale Points if more died.

The Elves mocked the Orc's inability to sidestep
An example of how a small difference in Form rating can impact on your soldiers was when the Orcs tried to move sideways to get round the wood. They had been ordered to do so and fire at the Elves, but the failed Form roll meant they because disordered and their fire received a hefty negative modifier because of it.

Each army's cavalry clashed on the right flank.
On the left flank, my infantry formed a line and fired at the Light Orcs, but the range and their dispersed formation had no great effect.

Unfortunately, the skill of the Light Infantry (perhaps aided by a good die roll!) saw 5 Elf casualties. If their Form rating has been any lower they would have been forced to make a check to remain in good order following such withering fire!

Run away! After a long and bloody battle, my cavalry retreat from the remains of the Orc line.
The Orc Heavy Cavalry join the fray on the right flank.
But too late, the other unit retreats once more.
The end!
Above is the situation at the end of the game. We called time after about 6 turns. It had been a long game, especially getting to grips with the rules for the first time, but we both thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it!

We added up Morale points to see how things stood. The Elves had 12 left and the Orcs had 15, so the result was a marginal Orc victory. I like to think that my having three Line Infantry units in pretty good condition might have swung things my way if the game had continued!

I would have liked to get the Militia in there, even just to see how quickly they fell apart compared to their better trained allies, but perhaps next time!

Was the project a success? Absolutely! I am a bit weary of painting 28mm for a while (although we have tentatively arranged a date for a rematch and I need to paint 6 more Light Infantry for that!), but I would have grown bored of painting other ranges before the end. The game itself easily lived up to expectations. We joked how it would be a shame if it hadn't, but I think we were both a little concerned as we had invested a good deal of time and money into it before the first try!

It felt very different from any other fantasy game I have played. True, the Slaughterloo setting is a unique one, but the rules were highly satisfying to get to grips with and the first game really showed that there was much more to learn. I think I have read elsewhere that people could easily play 'normal' Napoleonics with them, and I think I can see why!

I will wait and have a few more games before writing a proper review, as I have clearly just begun to scratch the surface, but Slaughterloo was brilliant fun and had bags of old-school charm to boot. We came across a couple of ambiguities during play, but nothing that two gentlemen couldn't resolve between themselves! It has been a while since I have finished a game and very much wanted to play again as soon as possible (especially massed battle 28mm), so that is high praise from me.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Oh Great - an AAR from the other side.

    What a fantastic idea. We should have more.

    Thanks for posting.


    1. Pleased you enjoyed it, Tony! Hopefully this will be the first of many!

  2. very good gentlemen

    but a in game point i dont know if you have realised you can issue the generals order cards to any unit in your division within 45cm at any time (even in a opponents turn as long as the unit doesn't have a card on it already) the card is deployed face down and can stay as many turns as you want until its either revealed (ie used and discarded as normal) or chosen to be discarded (and or replaced)
    so that means the following
    (1) cards can be issued as the unit moves out of 45cm distance which stay and can still be used in later turns
    (2) forced manoeuvre and command indecision both count towards the 1 card per unit limet
    (3) once a card is issued it can stay with the unit for as long as you want but of course unless you discard and give fresh orders (which can only be done within 45cms) you can issue another

    1. Hi Elton

      Pleased you liked it. Yes, that was the way we played the Command Cards.

  3. oohhh oohh and dont forget that light infantary in open order cannot utilise (and do not effect) order cards but they can be issued them (a good way to palm off command indecisions) and my most favourite trick of all is that a card issued to light infantry can be used if during its turn it forms a close order regiment and thus the card counts for everything beyond the point it forms the close order unit so for example rifles with Fire of 5 form line to utilise the +3 shooting card --------- nasty (as long as you successfully roll for the manoeuvre of course)

  4. Sorry to pipe up to the contrary. Elton is correct except: Light Infantry in skirmish open order formation cannot receive Volley fire and melee effect cards. they can receive and use all other cards. You cannot give them a command indecision and then ignore its effect!

    As a house rule I allow order cards to be used at any distance if issued during the command phase but only within 45cm if issued during the action phase.

    Fantastic report and I would be interested in seeing more.

    Alex Draper

    1. Hi Alex

      A comment from one of the Authors! I am honoured!

      Looks like we played it correctly then. If only by chance. Only one light infantry unit received an order during the game, and that was to adjust their form roll (which they failed anyway! Whoops). But that is something to bear in mind for the next game. Your input is very much appreciated!

      And yes, we do hope to play many more games of Slaughterloo in the future!

  5. Excellent to see this battle from the other side Chris thanks for your detailed report and photos and input on the Slaughterloo game too. I shall be putting you up on the Alternative Armies blog shortly. Looking forward to more and indeed get the Todoroni front and centre to catch cannon balls. GBS

    1. Woohoo! This completes my 'author collection'! Thanks, Gavin.

      I appreciate the blog mention and am happy you like what we've produced over the last couple of months.

      I will definitely be pushing those Todoroni forward in future!

  6. is this a change in the new edition alex? and does this mean they can use all other cards except those two mentioned?

  7. An interesting report even if from the 'dark side' - you both enjoyed it which is the main thing. Is that S&A scenics river I spotted?
    From some of the comments I see that these rules can give rise to as much discussion as historical rules!

    1. Yes, the river arrived just in time. Unfortunately it did mean we both pretty much avoided that third of the table!

  8. Replies
    1. Me too, mate! Bring on the rematch! :)

  9. Excellent report, thank you so much for taking pictures and taking time out to give such an detailed account of the game.

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed it. The detail merely reflects how much we liked playing it!