Nothing Gained But Glory – Boardgame Review
Nothing Gained But Glory. Boardgame. Publisher: GMT Games. Volume 5 of Ben Hull’s Musket and Pike Series, Game Design: Brian Berg Asklev Hansen and Knut Grunitz. $65.00.
Passed Inspection: Great background book to put scenarios into perspective. Solid gameplay from a successful game series.
Failed Basic: No comprehensive example of play.
I must admit that I had never heard of the Scanian War when I received Nothing Gained But Glory, not that I’m really well versed in military events of the mid to late 1600’s. It has introduced me to a piece of European history I was ignorant of and has provided some exciting games. What is the Scanian War? Well, think of Danes, Norwegians, Prussians, Swedes, and Brandenbergers all discussing a land dispute with pikes and muskets. Presently it’s the only game in the Musket & Pike series that is in print (technically just emerging from P500). I find that playing the game keeps reminding me of a miniatures game, and that if I had the figures, aside from my wife killing me, the game would translate well to that version of table top warfare.
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The game comes with three sheets of ½ inch counters. Two sheets are mostly the counters for units/leaders and the other sheet is for game play markers. There are three books, The Rule Book, Play Book I with six scenarios and Play Book II with one scenario and a nice historical narrative on the Scanian War. There are two and a half map sheets with all but the half sheet back printed. Most of the battles are not large so each battlefield for the scenarios are only half a map sheet in size except for the battles of Lund and Landskrona which require a full map sheet each. Each of the map sheets are nicely illustrated and labeled with only the battle name, a small map key and turn record to disturb their appearance. Another fine map set produced by GMT. The game rounds out with a d10, two Players Aid cards and two Orders cards.
The commands for the players are usually split into three parts, a left and right wing and the center. Each of these parts has a leader and their commands are issued one of four orders for the game: Charge, Make Ready, Receive Charge, and Rally (in order of precedence). Sometimes for a scenario the initial orders for commands are already set. Players can attempt to change orders during a game. Turn initiative is determined by order precedence with the player who has the most commands issued Charge orders going first. Play alternates between the opposing sides as each wing goes thru their moves. However, the game is full of unpredictability as the players can attempt to preempt each other’s move. This is not as confusing as it might sound since the best die roll needed to succeed is a 0-4 on a d10. Generally, a command cannot preempt if it has already moved, and failure to preempt carries some penalties which can be as severe as the command not moving for the entire turn. Another feature is that a command, once it has completed its move, can attempt “continuation” up to two times if successful die rolls are made. The best base chance for continuation is a 0-3 on a d10. The dynamics of preemption and continuation ensure that no two games of the same scenario are ever the same. They can really create some tense moments as a commander may dither or be seized by a spirit of élan.
Many of the movement rules are standard to wargames and most players will readily pick them up. The only point I’ll touch upon is “Reaction”. All of the units, infantry, cavalry, and artillery may attempt to react to trigger events during an opponent’s turn. This can range from artillery firing at a unit that moves through its field of fire, to infantry attempting to form hedgehog to cavalry attempting to intercept an enemy unit. A unit’s morale state can prohibit “Reaction” and not all reaction is automatic. Unfortunately, there is no player aid for performing a “Reaction” so new players will have to have the rule book handy to refer to it as there are a number of conditional triggers, requirements, and procedures that one will eventually pick-up thru play.
Fire combat is fairly standard and artillery is very much the “King of Battle” as it can range out to touch someone and muskets and pistols only reach one hex. It is a slow slog for heavy infantry with a movement allowance of 4 against an artillery unit with a range of 14. Units can stand toe-to-toe and salvo fire rather than charging in to close combat and some infantry formations include small caliber artillery elements. Fire results generally can inflict hits, morale checks, and/or formation effects. If we think of a formation as being all dress right dress in the game that is considered as “Formation Normal”. When lines start becoming wavy and spacing of soldiers is not correct and some are more willing to stand or advance to a fight than others it is called “Formation Shaken”. When the formation is a milling mob with leaders trying to restore order and dress the lines it is called “Formation Broken”. Formation states can affect the ability of a unit to move. Then there is morale. Units are either Normal, Shaken, or Broken. A Broken unit that fails a morale check is eliminated. Formation problems can be addressed by a unit conducting a “reform” action instead of moving or firing and you only improve to the next better level per reform. Rally commands can bring back units in poor morale states, but, unless a commander is under a rally order, only the Army Commander can run around rallying the odd units in distress. I found that the map can become a little cluttered with game play counters as a unit might be afflicted with hits, formation problems, morale problems and even a pistol unloaded counter. This is usually where I start thinking of using miniatures and how it would unclutter the battlefield.
Most of the scenarios are easy to set up and play in an evening and even the battles of Lund and Landskrona, on the big maps, use no more than 40 units to a side. Some of the battles do not have evenly matched Armies and can provide a challenge to a commander, but, in history the leader pulled off the win; this game will give you the opportunity to achieve the same. No scenario is a guarantee for either side and as mentioned before the game mechanics will ensure no two fights of the same battle will ever come out the same.
I feel the downsides to this game are its rules. GMT rates the game as a middle of the road medium complexity, but I think it should be rated slightly higher. Many GMT games come with full examples of play from one up to three or four turns. It is a great asset for many games and this game could use it. Maybe since this is the 5th volume in the series it was felt that such a feature was not needed, though with the other games in the series out of print, newcomers may find Nothing Gained but Glory their first introduction to the series. Examples of play would help the new player to the series ease into the rules and not leave one diving back to recheck a rule point, especially with “Reaction”, as you learn the system. For solitaire play the game is rated a 6 out of 10 and I agree, it has a good feel to it. The subject matter of the game is not one of burning interest for me, but I have friends that like the 1600’s and the battles found there in. I think the title says it all for me, Nothing Gained (here) but Glory.
Solitaire Suitability: 4
About the Author:
Michael Peccolo is a retired Armor Major from the US Army with overseas duties, Company commands and additional assignments in recruiting and ROTC. He lives in Tennessee where he raises horses with his wife.