Typically, an ‘army’ in Chosen Men will number 30-50 men, depending on quality, and possibly a light cannon or two. A game of that size should play out in about an hour once you’re familiar with the rules.
This, then, is a fast-play set of rules, operating on a 1:1 figure ratio, with small autonomous units. Not your usual Napoleonic game, but then, it’s not meant to be – this is a great point of entry for people who just want to field small formations of 28mm figures, and might be put off by big battalions.
THE CORE MECHANICS
Units are pretty much autonomous on the battlefield, although having officer nearby, or actually part of a unit, greatly enhances their ability to stand when the going gets tough. Units have their own stats and leadership value, and can take a number of actions in a turn based on their Tactical value – the higher this number, the more well-drilled the troops, and the more actions they get in a turn. These points, however, must be split between manoeuvring, shooting and fighting, so must be used wisely. The game is not strictly IGOUGO, but ‘alternating action’. Players take it in turns to move and act with a unit at a time. However, officers can sometimes use their command radius to move a whole section of their force at once, or forego this option to move out-of-position troops into the fray more quickly.
The game uses a D6 system. Whereas my other recent Osprey game, Broken Legions, used D10s to deal with very granular modifiers and drawn out one-on-one combats, this game is more about group musketry and quick, bloody hand-to-hand fights. You’re dealing with units of men at a time rather than individuals, and so I’ve tried to keep modifiers to a minimum. The complexity of the mechanics comes in the combinations of special rules and orders, representing the intricacies of command and control on the battlefield – the basic actions taken by units on the other hand, are streamlined, allowing for fast gameplay.
The nuts and bolts of the rules – moving, shooting, fighting, and morale – naturally make up the bulk of the book. Army lists and scenarios make up the remainder – the armies included are France (and their Peninsular allies), Great Britain (and both their Peninsular and Waterloo allies), and Prussia. However, every game needs one or two special features beyond merely [sparkling, flawless] core mechanics to make them stand out from the crowd. The two bits I’m most pleased with in this game are the Cauldron of War Strategies and Commander Traits.
Cauldron of War Strategies are randomly determined for each player in the first turn of the game. This special rule represents the raging battle that is going on just beyond the bounds of the gaming area, as though the skirmish taking place is merely a snapshot of a much larger engagement being fought all around. So, for instance, you might gain ‘The Big Battalions’, which means you have some large blocks of infantry just off the board, and when your opponent moves a unit to within 12” of the edge, you can give them a volley of massed musket fire. Similarly, you might roll ‘Artillery Bombardment’, meaning that some of your army’s cannons are directed in the direction of the skirmish action, sending a timely bombardment to shock and awe the enemy.