Russ Lockwood, 7 March 2022
I like multiplayer games recreating big Napoleonic battles and campaigns — that’s partially why I created Snappy Nappy (SN). Separating players across multiple tables not only avoids the 200-foot general syndrome, it adds a delicious fog of war aspect you can’t find on a single table. Oh, SNworks just fine one-on-one battles on small 3×3-foot tables, too, but it is known more for big battles.
Enter Jim and his wizardry with a computer program called Tabletop Simulator(TTS). Apparently, he’s been running lots of miniatures games — “Saturday Night Fights” — during the pandemic over the internet using TTS and brought to you by the Armchair Dragoons, a ‘regiment’ of strategy gamers creating live streamed games, podcasts, and so on.
Now he’s created a scenario using SNF to game out the 1809 campaign on the Danube. He’s umpire and host and streams the game on YouTube so you can watch live and leave comments, or, watch the YouTube replay like a music video.
Uh, no, Jim doesn’t sing, but one of the players felt inspired to warble the “fall into the gap” jingle from the commercial. Yes, you had to be there, and yes, you can be there thanks to the replay.
Anyway, I had heard of TTS being used for dungeon adventures and boardgames, but not for miniatures. I stand corrected.
Jim created a single tabletop map “board” that was 24 feet long by 24 feet wide and divided it into 10 sections, each hidden under a colored “hidey box.” As a player moves into a new section, Jim removes the hidey box for that player. If two players are in the same section, same side or not, Jim removes the box for them.
Meanwhile, all the other players only see their section of the map. As the French C-in-C noted, “This is really stressful for a C-in-C not seeing the troops.”
Ah, that essence of multiple sections works pretty well to recreate a wee bit of fog o’ war.
The terrain offers rivers, hills, woods, roads, towns, and cities. You can zoom in and out, pan, rotate, and do all the cool things you’d expect to fly over the fields of battle. Hence, the need for hidey boxes.
Note that woods are not defined by a different color, but by the perimeter of individual trees. It’s an umpire call when a unit reaches the woods.
As this is a streaming event, others can comment on the game, as viewer Tommy did: “Man, the giant 10-sided monoliths near that town must represent the high-point of Neolithic civilization in the area.” He was joking about the circular black die roller gizmo — click on it to roll a die that bounces on the tabletop.
As for the troops, they look impressively Napoleonic. The closer you zoom in, the more appreciative you become of the lads in lines.
As for scale, Jim placed a 30mm red cube next to some troops, so call the troop scale 10mm to 12mm.
Jim’s TTS troops use one change: An infantry unit uses four stands, not two as in SN. Certainly the square and the road march column using four half-stands looks better than two full stands. And when Little Wars gamers played its SN Marengo Campaign in a Day (see the Little Wars TV web site), they used four half stands instead of two full stands because that’s the way their miniatures were based.
The main thing to remember if using four stands instead of two is that each individual half stand doesn’t fire — that would essentially double an infantry unit’s firepower. I suppose if you want the Snappiest version around…
The cavalry stands are full-sized stands and the artillery stand has a full-size frontage.
You can move, wheel, and rotate individual half stands or groups of stands. Judging from the replay, practice makes perfect, but even the newest player soon became facile enough at basic formation changes, facing changes, and movement.
Each unit has a pop-up info panel that lists the name, quality, organization, and status for each unit. My contribution was suggesting that the base morale number be placed after the quality so you didn’t have to look up what a unit needed for a morale check or to fire.
TTS contains a handy built-in ruler. As you move a unit, you can see how many inches it moved — an especially important attribute for miniatures gaming.
You Need Rules
TTS does not contain any sort of artificial intelligence or impose any limitation on the handling of troops. So, while SN says road march for infantry is 12 inches, it’s up to the player to move 12 inches along the road. If it changes from road march into column, which is minus one-third movement, it’s up to the player to make the calculation of marching up the road eight inches and then changing into column to end his move.
Ditto with combat or any other aspect of the mechanics. You should know the rules to play, and Jim helps players along.
If you head to the Blunders on the Danube blog, you can download the SN Quick Reference Sheets. There’s also a groups.io SN group with files. Pardon the plug, but SN is available from www.onmilitarymatters.com (printed booklet or PDF).
Of course, a clever umpire can use scenario-specific rules. For example, many gamers want retrograde movement while still facing the enemy. It’s in many tactical rules, but I based the movement rules on Marshal Ney’s treatise on handling a brigade. This specifically mentions that the front battalions turn around and present their rear to the enemy along with the admonition that this is the most dangerous maneuver to pull off in the face of the enemy and risks disaster.
That said, many umpires add a retrograde movement of an inch (line) or two inches (column). That’s A-OK by me as long as all players know that at the beginning of the game.
As TTS doesn’t have AI, umpires can adapt SN to whatever scenario-specific rule they desire.
In large face-to-face games of multi-table SN, we usually have enough veteran players to answer questions. When I umpire, I wander around from table to table, answering questions on the fly. Therefore, each table proceeds at its own pace.
As this is the first SN TTS game with some gamers playing SN rules for the first time, it’s difficult to let everyone game at their own pace. Jim moves from table section to table section, ensuring all players receive his attention and rules interpretations — not to mention any umpire-only functions he needs to perform.
That means the game unfolds at a ‘slower’ pace online than it would with multiple gamers all moving and battling at once.
As everyone playing is on the same audio channel, going from one to another keeps the party line from being overwhelmed.
YouTube Replay: It’s Not Hollywood
The SN TTS replay is just that — a replay. You’re watching a video recording of a game in progress from the umpire’s perspective. That means you can see the entire table, although as Jim has to zoom in and out to adjudicate, you see close-ups of sections and individual units as needed.
When I say Abensburg — that’s really the Battle at Au, and Landshut is really the Battle of Abensberg.
I only discovered my error when I was in the 4th show…
Although Jim and the players do a great job offering up commentary, you’ll find pauses of silence as player sort out their move. Feel free to put on your own music soundtrack as you watch.
Likewise, you’ll hear typical gamer banter during the game — good, bad, ugly, and on occasion pun-ishingly cringe worthy. Fantastic! Streaming certainly captures the tableside camaraderie of friends old and new.
Meanwhile, a message box is on the right allowing those watching the streaming “event” to add their own commentary.
As with any YouTube video, you can skip ahead or roll the video back.
Replay the First Part
I’ll apologize in advance for not matching player names to commands. Each player used a nom de plume.
After player intros, objectives, and a quick rules overview, the actual game started at 45:00 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the fog of war to kick in. At 52:30 or so, the French C-in-C said, “This is really stressful for a C-in-C not to see the troops.”
At 55:00 or so, one player commented, “Road columns are really long.”
That is true and they should be. Marching a corps down a single road will take a long time for the rearmost brigades to get into a fight.
The first turns were marching to contact. Turn 5 started at 2:22:00. As the game began at 45:00, that means the group completed four turns in 97 minutes.
At about 2:53:00, Austrians and French begin to close into combat range, although the Austrians are scrunching up as they head over the hill to attack the French. If the lead Austrian units must retreat from blown morale checks, they’ll run through their other lines and trigger morale checks.
Right about then, someone chuckled and said, “My heart’s at 100 beats per minute.” I’m guessing that is not the two players facing off, but someone else looking at hidey boxes and only hearing the ‘sound of the guns’ or at least the ‘sound of the banter.’
At 3:00:00, maybe the same player moaned, “I think I’ve fallen into a trap.” Another attempted to prop up his spirit with, “But only if it works.”
Umpire Jim kept up a steady effort to allow players to simultaneously move if not going to affect one another.
The cavalry melee started at about 3:30:00 between two equal units that danced a bit. Then, a French heavy cavalry unit showed up on the flank and crashed into the Austrian light cavalry flank — and crushed the Austrians.
That prompted, “It takes a long time to get into battle, but once you get into it, it goes quick.”
Somewhere around the 4:00:00 mark, someone commented, “In this game, unlike history, the Austrians have turned the other way.” Another player added, “That’s a real interesting game.”
At 4:11:00, umpire Jim calls it a night — to be continued next week. They played seven turns in about 206 minutes, or about 30 minutes per turn. That’s not bad for roughly sequential movement among seven players, many of whom were new to the rules.
Replay the Second Part
Note that each part uses its own time stamp. So, Part 2 starts at 0:00:00.
Umpire Jim welcomed new player Giorgio, who stepped into combat in a compromised position on his right (the flanking heavy French cavalry) and all the rest of Austrian units scrunched up in his center and left.
Alas, his die rolls betrayed his ambitions. At one point, he rolled four consecutive 1s (and a fifth soon thereafter). His front units were streaming backwards from failed morale rolls, running through the scrunched up units behind them. Meanwhile, the French can almost roll no wrong.
At about this time, Giorgio started to question the formation of the advance. And well he should! There’s a SN lesson here: Leave some gaps in case of retreats. I was pleased to see that umpire Jim allowed some leeway here. I’m not a millimeter gamer and don’t play one on TV. Especially at this time and space scale, I don’t worry about nicking corners and such. If there’s a decent enough gap of a half a stand width or more, even at an angle, I’ll let the retreating unit filter through the gap without penalizing other units with a morale check.
But if you scrunch units one behind each other, well, you take your chances.
Alas, Giorgio was truly stuck with units packed one behind the other and most of his artillery blocked by friendly troops. But with true wargaming spirit, he decided to fight his way out of a tough spot.
Units continued to maneuver, gravitating towards the two big battles: the above one near Abensburg and the other at Landshut on the road to Regensburg. As for the latter battle, the Austrian player also scrunched up his units and learned the hard way that gaps are a good idea.
It also shows that creating an attack plan off the march, or a defense plan for that matter, requires a bit of thinking ahead about where you want your units and when you want them to arrive.
Meanwhile, at about 2:09:00, one of the players accidentally picked up and moved a town instead of his unit.
Umpire Jim: “Why do you have to move towns?”
Player: “Towns should be nailed down.”
Other player: “Those are Yurts.”
Umpire Jim chuckled: “That’s not a yurt. That’s Hausen.”
It surprised me that the terrain is moveable. But I googled and found a passing reference that terrain can be “locked” in place. I don’t know if it can be unlocked.
At the fortress of Regensburg, at 2:23:00, the besieging player realized that his 6lb’er artillery will be there all day trying to subdue the troops inside.
Meanwhile, back at the initial battle at about 2:36:00, Giorgio fired an elite Austrian brigade against nervous French conscripts. Giorgio finally got a good roll. Make that two good musketry rolls that generated two hits on the French. The nervous conscripts had to make two 1d10 morale checks, needing 8+ to pass. It sure looked like the right side of the French line would finally break.
The French player clicked the die roller gizmo, two dice fell from the sky, and slowed to a halt showing an “8” and a “10!” Unbelievable! Gasps of amazement all around! Napoleon always did like lucky generals.
Giorgio did have some better rolls later, but by this time, everyone was wondering what the heck was up with those die rolling gizmos.
Over Somewhere Else
At about 2:41:00, one of the French players split his command in half, with one heading through some woods and towards a river and the other heading away. I am not sure, but I believe the river marked the section edge.
Why? Because someone commented in the chat box: “Why are you wet?”
“I fell in the Danube.”
“I couldn’t see it for the fog of war.”
The player that split his corps in half also started to realize that even with an 18-inch command radius you can’t send a division into a forest out of command range and expect it to move on its own as fast as troops in the open. It also showed the connection between time and space.
I suppose you can argue that a division commander would be smart enough to get an order to detach and go to some objective and just keep going until it reaches said objective. That’s the command radius mechanic.
I put in friction and inertia with a Morale Check (MC) to move a half-move or to stay in place to dissuade such scatterings. Other umpires require the MC, and if passed the unit gets a full move. Other umpires allow the commander to move a full move and then apply his command radius. It’s up to the umpire how to apply this command radius idea to 19th century warfare.
At about 2:45:00, there’s a bit of confusion because artillery is portrayed with a single stand. As enemy units enter in on long flanks, it’s a tad confusing to see whether an artillery unit is limbered or unlimbered — depending on where the enemy units are entering. Umpire Jim dropped a red cube to indicate limbered for the moment, but made a note to himself to create a limber for artillery.
In the Landshut battle on the road to Regensburg, the scrunched-up Austrians pay the price as units run away through friendlies and cause MCs. Meanwhile, at 3:13:00, a big Austrian 12lber artillery battery gets 3d6 for 6+ to hit and whiffs on all three. On the other side of the front line, a French artillery battery takes one hit and can’t pass a MC to save its electronic life and routs off the table.
Just goes to show that algorithmic die rolls run hot and cold for both sides.
End of Part 2
The battle kept going as more units entered into these two main battles until time ran out at the 4-hour mark.
Now that the action heated up, I did less skipping (and less note taking) as I was drawn into the maneuvers and firing. Of course, I talked to the screen with suggestions for each side!
Onto next week!
Replay the Third Part
Note that each part uses its own time stamp. So, Part 3 starts at 0:00:00.
This time, I signed in to the live stream. I had a bit of confusion of why the stream was working, but not the chat box. I still don’t know what I clicked to make it work, but at one point, I was almost making my own channel. I didn’t, but by the time I navigated back, the chat box was there…
So, I came in a tad later, but was soon absorbed by the continuing battle of Abensburg. The Austrians, under a new commander learning the SNways, remained scrunched with their main artillery screening his own troops.
An Austrian attack force under another commander continued its march from the side, although it seemed only the vanguard as a cavalry unit and a trio of infantry units took the field. The other units in the command were somewhere, but not in the front.
French artillery atop a hill worked over the cavalry and the French reserve cavalry eventually routed the Austrians way back to some hill.
One brave, but lucky Austrian infantry brigade ran the gauntlet of fire and came so close to the French artillery, it was outside the already generous 45-degree arc of fire.
Around 44:30, one of the players on another table, listening to the Abensburg battle, remarked on the fog of war: “We always imagine the worst.”
Depending on the die rolls, players could see their imagination come to electronic life. The battle continued unabated.
The Leader Warning
At 34:00, Umpire Jim described the risk of mortality when leaders attach to rally a unit. Keep this in mind for an hour later…
Epic Scale Table Size
In came a comment: “The scale is so epic that you couldn’t play this at a convention without having small children running over the table acting as mini croupiers.”
When you have a 24-foot square table, epic indeed! That’s why you break the battlefield up into multiple tables at a convention. I will point out that the late Brigadier Young had the same sort of enormous table, but as chronicled in Don Featherstone’s Wargamer’s Newsletter, had hatches built into the tabletop. You’d crawl under the table and pop open a hatch to move troops in the middle of his large table. No, I don’t know how many hatches or what happened if a hatch was covered by troops.
Speaking of small children…I’ve seen a nine-year-old bring up cavalry to turn enemy infantry into square, bring up cannon to pummel the infantry, and then send in infantry to rout the enemy. His dad was so proud that junior learned about the three arms of Napoleonic warfare.
Let’s Do the Time Lag Again
Umpire Jim would call out some comments from the chat box from time to time, usually after a while. I assumed it was because he was involved in running the game.
It’s actually a lag between the time you type in a comment and the time it appears. Jim had thought seven seconds, while others said it was more like 10 to 15 seconds. I thought it a tad longer, but in the middle of the battle, who knows.
Now, in this game, I keep quiet, unless directly asked, because the umpire has a rhythm going and I don’t know if he has special scenario rules in place. Yes, I wrote the rules, but the umpire runs the game. But at 1:39:00 I couldn’t stay mum.
Remember the warning Umpire Jim gave the players at 34:00 about rolling a 1 when a leader attaches to rally a unit?
At 1:39:00, Archduke Charles tried to help a unit rally, but rolled a Morale Check (MC) of 1. The umpire ignored the ramifications. The players ignored the ramifications. Yet the rules specifically cover leader casualties.
I typed, in caps for emphasis, into the chat box: “LEADER LOSS!” Seconds later, I typed, “ROLL OF 1 — LEADER LOSS TABLE!”
Of course, in my haste, I should have typed, “MC ROLL OF 1 — ROLL ON THE LEADER LOSS TABLE!” But I also figured the prompt would trigger the roll.
Alas, after a while, the message got through. They all took my initial message to mean that it was an auto-death. The player of Charles said he thought it was a separate roll, but the Umpire thought not. “Cuff ’em and stuff ’em,” Jim joked to the glee of the French players. “Ian (French player who shot the artillery), this might be your biggest bury to date.”
“No,” another interjected. “Didn’t Napoleon get killed in a game?” Maybe, maybe not, judging by the obvious sound of players searching their memories.
What this all meant was that my typing and the text appearing suffers from what I thought was a lag of about 15-20 seconds. Or so it seemed. The lag is actually 55 seconds. Yes, almost a minute. How do I know?
Later in the game (3:15:38), Jim asked me a direct rules question. My one word answer “Yes” appeared in my chat box (3:16:05 — 27 seconds), but not in Jim’s box as he mentions he’s waiting for my reply. I’ve meanwhile typed a longer answer. He mentions my one word reply (3:16:33 — 55 seconds) and presumably the longer reply appears about 15 seconds after that.
Last thing I wanted to do was screw up a tight game…but since Jim has specifically mentioned leader loss risk at about 34:00…
Anyway, back at Charles’ potential die roll disaster, I was at the keyboard again: “NO, ROLL ON LEADER LOSS TABLE!” And then “SEPARATE ROLL!” And again: “SEPARATE LEADER LOSS ROLL, NOT AUTO DEATH…”
Fortunately, Jim looked up what happens to dead leaders, which bought enough time for my frantic keypunching to appear.
Meanwhile, Archduke Charles player went back into the rules and correctly found out about the Leader Loss chart. Whew! If he now rolled a (obviously heroic) death for Chuckie, well, that’s just how the die bounces…
He rolled. The die bounced to an 8, which is wounded and removed from play, to be replaced by a “Reliable” leader. For this particular scenario, a wound is as tragic as a death vis a vis a commander being removed from combat.
One of the French players asked, “Hey, did we accidentally do good?”
The Archduke Charles player retorted, “No, I did bad!” Chuckles all around. He moaned, “If I had rolled a 1 (No Effect) when I needed it…I can’t even roll a 1 when I need it.”
I gotta say, in a gentle way, that Archduke Charles’ die rolling had been pretty atrocious up to that point. Yet, he also commented, “Despite the (bad) die rolling, it’s a blast. I like these rules.”
He also mused, “Do you realize that him being wounded changes…Wow.” He started considering the ramifications of the wounding of Archduke Charles.
At 1:47:00, a chat room visitor called Malinski66 typed that the “Campaign is over now. Karl (Charles) was the reason for the action — with him out, the Emperor would have immediately sued for peace — maybe no siege of Wein (Vienna) or the later battles. Likely this would also have brought the Russians to consider the Austrians as useless allies.”
The players erupted in a spontaneous discussion of the merits of this.
In the chat box, Tommy joked, “Is there a ‘We shot the Archduke’ trophy?” My guess it would be a virtual one.
Way later on, at 4:05:00, French commander Lefebvre rolled a 1 during a Morale Check. Excitement rippled through the players and the fateful Leader Loss die was rolled. It crackled on the table and…Spent Round (detach from unit).
“It could have been worse,” the owning player commented.
“Yeah. Ask (Archduke Charles),” said Umpire Jim. “It’s a remarkable amount of nearly getting guys killed.”
I had to chuckle. OK, an evil chuckle from a rules writer.
When I hand out commands in a scenario, I usually give players a “Dashing” commander (+1). Napoleon is a +3. But give one Austrian player a ton of credit — Jim saddled him with a “Weak” (-1) commander and a “Poltroon” (-2) commander.
The French were emerging onto the field at Landshut with the exact same scrunching…and the “Not Archduke Charles” player took advantage of that and send a French brigade reeling through the newcomers.
Someone said they “lost” a stand, but it was only obscured by a tree and was quickly found. I typed, “Missing a guy? Nah…that’s hidden movement in plain sight.”
At 3:20:00, the French conscripts roar out of Abensburg and go toe to toe with Austrians. The Austrians are in a bind with an out of place unit at an angle. But Jim sorted it out. The conscripts not only withstood fire, they shot so well, they routed an Austrian unit off table.
Somewhere near Abensburg, a panicked Austrian unit retreated to join another panicked Austrian unit atop a distant hill. I dubbed the terrain “Panic Hill.”
Meanwhile, back at Landshut, Jim commented, and a couple players echoed agreement, that he liked the idea of disrupted and panicked units milling around the rear areas of a corp, waiting for a leader to try and rally them — although rallying wasn’t quick.
I agreed, typing, “Chaos is easy. Bringing back order takes longer. At some point, Withdraw becomes the order of the day.”
Meanwhile, the cavalry of “Not Archduke Charles” (Charles’ replacement commander) catches French infantry in line that fail to form hasty square. They pound the line and send the disrupted French infantry crashing through their scrunched up supports, causing more morale checks.
“It’s really turning into a bloody affair,” said one player at around 4:03:00. Truly, yes. And thank you.
Battles around Regensburg continued, with some Austrian success.
End of Part 3
Turn 13 had concluded out of a 16-turn game (two full days of combat). As you might have noticed from my recaps, each Saturday night session lasted for four hours. Remember that players are going sequentially, not simultaneously as would be the case on multiple tables. Most SN“Campaign in a Day” games run about five hours, from 11:30am to 4:30pm.
In any case, after the next three turns in upcoming Part 4, Umpire Jim will adjudicate winners and losers.
The Objectives: Occupy Regensburg and Landshut and prevent Davout from uniting with Napoleon. At the moment, the Austrians held Landshut, the French held Regensburg, and the Austrians were still in between Davout and Napoleon. So, the French have three turns to effect a union.
Umpire Jim will count casualties in the interim, but he believes casualties to be about even. At which point a French player interjected that Archduke Charles was hit and wounded. Jim assured him that would be part of the casualty calculations.
Umpire Jim closed with, “We’re on a razor’s edge. It can definitely go either way. This is a close game.”
1809 TTS Snappy NappyPart 4: To Stream on YouTube
On Saturday, March 5, at about 7:00pm Eastern Time, the final session of Snappy Nappy will be played out. You, too, can join in and watch the game progress, take a real live look at Tabletop Simulator, and see how the rules can be played on a virtual battlefield.
See you online.
(ed note: here’s part 4; this article was written before part 4 was played, but obviously published afterwards)
1809 TTS Snappy Nappy — Where To Find Streaming Link?
I asked Jim just in case folks want to tune in on March 5. He responded:
“I know YouTube has event creation functionality, but I’ve never exploited it. The best I can suggest is directing folks to the channel
Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and saddling up with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
You can find our regiment’s social media on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. (We have an Instagram page and we never use it.) We also have our Patreon, where you can support The Armchair Dragoons activities.
Feel free to talk back to us either in our discussion forum, or in the comments below.
WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE SITE; WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE STAFF