Sunday, 7 August 2022

Der schnelles tragbares 'drei-mal-drei'-Kriegsspiel..

..which should, more or less, mean 'Fast Play 3 by 3 Portable Wargame' :  Thanks to Google translate for the title of this post. I leave it to proper German-speakers to decide whether it is sensible, or if as John F. Kennedy famously said, 'I am a doughnut!'.  I suppose the following might be the battle of 'Dreimaldrei'..

As introduced in my last post, I thought I'd get back into the gaming habit by trying out Bob Cordery and friends'   'FP3x3' variant, with my  7YW Prussians and Austrians - see that post for forces and initial setup.  I thought I'd use my usual 'Portable Seven Years War' variant rules for formations, firing, close combat etc, fitting them to Mark Cordone and Bob Cordery's basic '3x3' system, and essentially 'kriegspeiling' anything unexpected that came up - i.e. make it up as you go along! If I'm honest, a few things did 'come up', and what with those, taking ( too many ) notes and taking (also too many ) pictures, I wouldn't say I actually achieved 'Fast Play'!  But next time, it will be quicker. The game ran to eight turns before a decision was reached, though that  could have been sooner had the dice landed a little differently. A brief turn-by-turn summary follows:

TURN ONE:   Austrians are attackers, so go first - but only roll two unit activations. Their field gun opens fire on its opposite number, - and misses. Their Grenzer light infantry advances and  skirmishes against Von Kleist Frei Korps in the wood, score a hit and take 1 SP - a good start! Prussians roll a six and can activate up to 6 units - their whole force, if required. Their gun does better, forcing the Austrian gunners to retreat. Prussian Uhlans decide that attack is the best form of defence, coming out of the  reserve area and charging at the Austrian Cuirassiers on their left - get stuck in! The resulting  melee is inconclusive, neither side suffering any hit.

Turn 1 from Prussian side: cavalry fight, top centre

TURN TWO: Prussians win initiative roll, and go first with five activations. Their gun hits again, taking 1 SP from 1st Botta d'Adorno infantry. The Uhlans, however are thrown back by Austrian Cuirassiers. Two battalions of von Kleist Frei Korps in the wood do a 'one-two' on Austrina Grenze Light Infantry, who are forced to retreat AND Lose 1 SP.    Austrians roll only two activations again, not very good when they are supposed to be attacking!  1st battalion Botta d'Adorno charge the pesky Prussian artillery, but the combat is inconclusive - the gunners have a supporting unit, and their commander present to gee them up.  

Turn 2: Austrian foot charge gun, but Lights being pushed back

TURN THREE: Austrians win initiative, but only three activations. 1st Botta retire from the combat, allowing Grenze Hussars to charge the Prussian guns! Resulting melee still inconclusive - gunners obviously dived for cover successfully.  Light infantry hang in there,  skirmishing versus Von Kleist. Prussians have only two activations, 2nd Von Kleist goes at the Light infantry with the bayonet, but rolls low, takes another SP loss and is destroyed! Prussian gunners manage to disengage, but are forced to retreat into the Reserve area. I 'kriegspeiled' that, by ruling they have to stay there, inactive,  on the next  move. 

Turn 3 : Grenze Hussars 'charge for the guns'!

 TURN FOUR:  Prussians win initiative again, so much for Austrian 'attack'! Uhlans charge Cuirassiers again, but take a hit and lose 1 SP.  1st battalion 44th Fusiliers try to repel Grenze Hussars, but with no effect.  Austrians have only one activation, but use it well - their gun opens up on 1st von Kleist foot, forcing it to retreat to the Reserve area. That means there are no Prussian units in their right-hand grid areas.  The rules say that 'if, at the end of a player's turn, one or more of his columns does not have at least one unit in it, his army is defeated'.  Luckily for the Prussians, this is at the end of the Austrian player's turn.. but prompt action will be required!

TURN 4: Prussian right flank in danger!

TURN FIVE:  Austrians gain initiative, can they finish the job? Their Cuirassiers keep slashing and thrusting at the Uhlans, but neither gives way. 1st and 2nd Botta foot attack 1st Prussian Fusiliers in the centre, but outnumbered Fusiliers hold firm. Light infantry advance unopposed on the Austrian left, but can't make the Prussian baseline - which would have been a winning move,  as Prussian units can't advance from Reserve into a square occupied by the enemy.  So, on the Prussian turn 1st von Kleist manage to get onto their right-hand baseline square - and force the Austrian Light infantry to retreat - thus Prussians avoid defeat.  Fusiliers and Botta foot continue their struggle, with no hits to either, but Cuirassiers lose 1 SP in melee with Uhlans. This will lead  to  drastic effects on the next turn..

Turn 5: Prussians recover ground on their right, phew!

TURN SIX:  Prussians win initiative: the Uhlans inflict another SP on the Austrian Cuirassiers, who are destroyed. Uhlans can follow-up, that allows them to hit the Grenze Hussars in flank, Grenzers retreat - Uhlans can follow-up again! this time they attack the Austrian light infantry - who retreat. Three combat wins on the trot for Uhlans, chaos in the Austrian ranks! Only the presence of the Austrian gun prevents a further follow-up. Elsewhere, 2nd Fusiliers are able to turn on the flank of Botta infantry, though Botta holds OK , and finally Von Kleist foot charge the poor Austrian gunners, who are unable to retreat, as their Reserve area is already full, so must lose 1SP.  Near disaster for the Austrians!

Turn 6:   Uhlans (centre) create havoc!

But the Uhlans' mad charge leaves  them vulnerable, and on the Austrian turn the Grenze Hussars charge their flank, inflicting 1 SP loss, and the Uhlans are destroyed! 1st Botta d'Adorno fights back aganst the flanking 2nd Fusiliers, push them back and follow up to extend their line to the right. The Light infantry having been forced back into reserve, now re-appear on the Austrian right. Things look a lot more stable for the Austrians, much to their relief. 

End Turn 6 : Austrian stability restored

TURN SEVEN: Prussians win initiative -  Fusiliers keep fighting Austrian infantry, but no hits. 1st Von Kleist attacks Austrian gunners -but again, no hits. Prussian gun takes position in the wood. Austrian Grenze Hussars charge 1st von Kleist on the left, saving their gunners. In the big infantry fight, Prussian 2nd Fusiliers lose their 2nd SP and are destroyed , and 1st Fusiliers are then attacked in the flank by the Austrian follow-up They hold, but the Prussians now have only three units left, and none on their left flank. It could be the end this time..

Turn 7: beleagured Prussian foot, and left flank empty..

TURN EIGHT:  at this crucial  point, the Prussians win initiative; they must get troops back to their left flank on their turn, or lose the battle. They have their gun and von Kleist foot on their right - too far away.  1st Fusiliers in the centre, already engaged by two enemy units, must fight and win! They attack 1st Botta - and roll a '1'!  The Fusiliers must retreat into the Reserve area,  the Prussian  left cannot be saved, and indeed their centre is now gone too!  So, the game ends in a crushing Austrian victory.    

Turn 8: how it ended. Prussian collapse!

Well, that was actually a lot of fun! As I said before  I was very slow,  too busy taking pictures and making copious notes as it was my first attempt, but I reckon a game played under more 'normal' conditions would have needed less than one hour. I had a few issues come up that had to be resolved on the hoof, so to speak, as follows: 

(1)  Skirmishing - I wanted the Light Infantry to be able to skirmish, i.e. shoot up enemy units without making close contact, but the '3by3' rules simply merge shooting and melee into 'combat' for any unit adjacent to the enemy. In effect I simply allowed Light Infantry to use the musketry procedure from my 18th Century rules ( max range 1 square only, though ) rather than 3by3 'combat' - so they could shoot and inflict hits with no comeback from the target. But of course, I had to allow opposing infantry to fire back in the same way on their turn - OR declare a charge and go for 'combat', which they usually did. I wonder if it might be better to allow the Lights, if in skirmish order, to roll a dice for an 'evade', allowing them to cancel any hits when attacked, or reduce the likelyhood of hits? I'll think a bit more about that.            

(2) Two units in a square: with 18th Century units mostly deployed in line, they occupy the full width of a grid square. So if there are two units in the square, it sort of implies one is in front of the other. If an enemy unit attacks, is it assumed to attack the 'front' unit? Or maybe it can choose which?  Important if there are, say, an infantry and a cavalry unit sharing the grid square. I need to think about that, too- I rather 'bluffed it out' on a couple of occasions. 

(3)  Supporting units - Mark Cordone's original 3by3 variant says if two units are in a grid square and one is attacked, one unit fights but gets a plus one for the supporting unit. Bob's 19th Century version in the next chapter of his 'Compendium' book rules that supporting units must be of the same type to give the 'plus 1'.  Hmmm... I think I'm with Mark. I wasn't sure how to handle artillery as a 'support' in close combat - artillery are obviously useless in melee, but if this is more generic 'combat' over a short range, then canister should be allowed for - that must be a significant bonus?  Again, some thought required. 

Apologies to seasoned players who have discussed and settled all these issues on-line - I'm afraid I don't do Facebook, so I haven't seen the 'PW' group there! Maybe I need to sign up with Mr. Zuckerburg, however reluctantly. 

 Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, the '3x3Fast Play' concept is great for getting an easy game on the table when you don't have the time or space for something more serious, and there's got to be scope for 'mini-campaigns' where the battles can be quickly fought out this way - as I think fellow blogger Maudlin Jack Tar is indeed doing.  I commend this idea to The House.. 

Hope you've enjoyed reading this, as I did playing and writing it up.  If you haven't already, why not give it a go?   Thanks to Bob, Mark and all the other contributors to the '3x3Fast Play' idea.    Keep well, and safe, everyone.  





  1. Nice one matey. Interesting AAR. If you persevere with the 3x3 you’ll iron out all the wrinkles eventually I’m sure. The main thing was that it was fun to play. My own portable rules for pike and shot have been amended numerous times…I just always need to be on my guard against creeping complexity.

    1. Thanks JBM. It was fun, and maybe working out the issues was part of that. Indeed, the watchword is always 'keep it simple, stupid!'

  2. David in Suffolk,

    A very interesting battle report … and it looked like it was great fun.

    In my latest FP3x3NapPW rules (as featured in use on my blog today) does have separate fire and close combat and would probably suit you better than the version in the PW Compendium.

    Friday’s play-test threw up a few ideas that I want to work with, including a simpler close combat system that see ps both sides dice off against each other and the loser throws for effect. It will also give the French (and only the French) troops a bonus for attacking an enemy unit in column.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob, it was good fun, and quite tense at times!
      On thinking about it, I do like the idea of merging shooting and melee into 'combat', but maybe there need to be some tweaks to allow for things like skirmishing foot, who would presumably be harder for conventional foot to inflict damage upon.
      Funnily enough I had also thought about a close combat system like the one you describe - 'lower score takes a hit' or similar. It would be faster and bloodier, I suspect!
      I do like the whole '3by3FP' concept!

  3. Enjoyed, thanks. I like initiative rolls as they throw up the possibility of back-to-back turns, giving an ‘opportunities gained / lost’ aspect to play. I would agree with your thoughts that supports could come from differing unit types. It is certainly a good way to represent battalion guns.

    1. thanks Norm, glad you enjoyed it. I liked the initiative rolls too, for the reason you mention. It was ironic that the 'defender' seemed to win the initiative most of the time!
      Indeed I concluded that different types should be able to support. Though perhaps artillery should (a) only be able to support if they have not fired this turn, thus can be caught 'unloaded', and/or (b) maybe instead of adding a 'plus one' to the other unit, the guns should simply be allowed to fire on the enemy before the close combat is resolved - in effect a round of canister fire!

  4. A great looking very interesting game! The way I play it units do not need to be activated to shoot or to continue fighting if they are already engaged from last turn, only to move (unless compelled to do so as a result of a combat outcome). This will speed things up. In combat units fight each other one on one, with additional unengaged units in the same square providing a +1 bonus. Two units in the same square can both be in combat if attacked from different squares ( like a flank attack). The artillery would give the +1 bonus, representing the guns firing in close support. There are often things that come up not directly covered by the rules, and one should make rulings on the spot that make the most sense in the present situation. Hopefully this clarifies things a little, I'm looking forward to your next battle report.

    1. Thanks Mark, my slowness was entirely down to excessive thinking time, making copious notes and taking too many pictures! However I did miss the bit about not needing an activation for continuing combat, so thanks for that and I agree it would indeed speed things up even more. Thanks also for the details on supporting units in combat, I think I had concluded pretty much the same. Many thanks for coming up with the '3by3' system, it's a great idea!

    2. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it, but Bob deserves a great deal of the credit for designing such a robust and fun game that so easily lends itself to tinkering.

  5. Interesting looking concept - maybe I need to give this idea another look - I have a 3 x 3 card table and HEAPS of troops I could use!

    1. thanks rross, why not give it a go? It's very simple and you have everything you need!

  6. That was very interesting David. I feel that 3x3 is a step too far in simplicity for me but as so many folk enjoy it I must keep an eye on developments. Like you, I do not engage in Facebook, so may be hampered.

    1. Thanks Jim, I understand about the extreme simplicity, it won't be for everyone, but I found it a very easy way to get a game on the table quickly after a long gaming hiatus. That has had a good effect on morale! It's good if time and space are in short supply.
      Could also be made more 'interesting' I'm sure - in Bob's 'Compendium' book Arthur Harman has a chapter on an ECW period version where the '3 by 3' grid relates to the fairly rigid formation of armies then - cavalry on the wings, foot in the centre, and multiple lines of units - rather clever.

  7. Maybe you’ll achieve fast play next time. I usually find it impossible to put together a decent AAR as I’m too busy playing or talking or doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom to take enough notes or pictures (well, two out of 3 of those things).
    I also don’t do Facebook and think that it’s a wise choice. Glad you had fun on this slow fast game. 😀

    1. thanks Stew, yes I think faster next time! Good AARs are tricky, I think - and I suspect decent pictures are the key to it. And maybe keep it brief.. which I probably failed to do here! But I wanted to give some detail as it was my first go at the game. Hope you enjoyed it, anyway.

  8. I enjoyed that AAR. It sounds like a right old ding-dong affair. And fun! I thought the Prussians were going to win there, but you had me fooled.

    It's got me intrigued with the 3x3 concept. It sounds like it works well for the more 'rigid' periods. I like the idea of units suffering SP loss if the reserve area is full - too many people trying to get away down the line of communication.

    Couple of thoughts:
    My own biased view, is skirmishers shouldn't be able to inflict much damage on others. Not easily at least. If left alone, though cumulatively they should be able to affect the enemy through picking off officers and NCOs if they're not chased away. Not sure if there's a simple way to model that without keeping records.
    An idea filched from Twilight of the Soldier Kings is cavalry being able to rally behind supports (in same square) if pushed back.
    Maybe units attacked in flank should be able to respond effectively if they are not pinned/attacked in front too?

    1. Thanks Chris, glad you enjoyed it. When the Uhlans made their big breakthrough, I thought the Austrians would be in deep trouble, but it turned out exactly the opposite! The Uhlans were left in a dangerous place and were quickly destroyed, and then one of the Fusilier units went the next turn. Having lost three units out of six, the game was pretty much up.
      I agree about skirmishers, I think. My rules do make them less effective than volleys from Line infantry, but also of course less easy to hit owing to dispersed formation. The Austrian lights threw some pretty good dice - taking an SP from the Von Kleist foot was pretty much a one in six chance.
      The cavalry rally idea is a good one and suits the grid layout. For flank attacks, I would want the unit under attack to suffer some disadvantage, but maybe only in the first turn? After that, perhaps the melee just becomes - well, a melee..(!)

  9. I must admit that while I enjoy the occasional small quick game, I have not even been tempted to try the 3x3 despite many people enjoying it.

    That said, it seems much more applicable to some eras than others but sometimes one or two small tweaks can work wonders when it comes to period feel.

    1. Thanks Ross, I can inderstand this is not everyone's cup of tea, in my case it seemed an easy way to get back into some sort of gaming after a bit of a hiatus. Also it provoked me to make (well, paint) the small-sized gaming board with subtle grid markings, which could be used for other games too.
      It does indeed seem more suited to certain periods, especially those where the 'left wing, centre and right wing' structure of an army is important - I think Mark C came up with the original idea when playing ancients, and the Pike and Shot period seems eminently suitable. Yes, it can always be tweaked!

  10. What a roller coaster! I thought for sure that the Austrians were 'gawn' when they had no left flank, then the Prussians looked in big trouble, but their uhlans seem to have snatched the victory, only to end up with a fairly smashed army!
    A really good looking game and a beaut bit of story-telling. Thanks.
    Regards, James

    1. Thank you James, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I guess it shows that even a small and very simple game can have a real sense of 'narrative'.