EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More random thoughts about the Practical Wargame and me.

1. Terrain. Part of me would like to build some flocked or painted geo-morphic terrain boards with sculpted on hills and streams, or possibly flat reversible ones with painted on streams and roads and separate hills,  capable of being stacked and carried in a box  with troops and trees. But, have I ever mentioned how lazy I am?

Plan B was to cut down my Hotz map to just the right size and use the cut off bits to make hex shaped hills with matching grid and colours so that they appear the same as the flat ground but with discernible contour lines. Sounds like a lot of work aimed at a more rigid and less realistic looking final product. Did I mention that I'm lazy?

Plan C is to just find some grass green cloth, mottle it, draw on hexes and carry on with the rolling look.One can always use a bit of flock to indicate which hexes are slopes where it isn't clear.  I did consider finding some lighter green spray paint to update the mat I have been using but sure as shooting I'd find myself in the desert somewhere looking for a game and nothing but a green mat to hand.

2. Hexes vs Squares & Melee. Before I do a cloth, I thought maybe I should try the squares again since they seem some how more "in period". However, since I will be playing on hexes at Ron's, I decided it would be best to stay with hexes. However that got me thinking about the differences apart from the question of diagonal moves. The big revelation was looking at the melee rules.

Because units were never adjacent on the diagonal when using squares, you could never have more than 1 enemy adjacent to your front. Additional units, by definition, would be adjacent to your flank or rear,  If there was a friendly unit diagonally to your side/rear, facing forward, an enemy moving adjacent to your flank would have to face him, thus it would protect your flank. Even if isolated, it would take an additional turn for attacking infantry to move adjacent to your flank so there was time to react.

With hexes it is possible to have more than one enemy adjacent to your front, thus a line of 3 units can advance adjacent to 3 enemy units and then all 3 can attack the central one ignoring the other two units.   This just seems wrong but I have been at a loss how to propose a simple rule to prevent it, one that would cover all the odd and complicated cases that could arise, without encouraging manipulation.  There are two different approaches that both appeal to me.

The simplest would be  to say something along the lines that in cases where more than 1 attacker is adjacent to more than 1 defender, then all defending units which are adjacent to a unit on the active side must be attacked before any attackers double up on a defending unit.    

The other and possibly better route would be to define attacking, defending and supporting units. The attacker and defender would be the selected units which use their combat power and suffer any bad results. The supporting units are those which inflict a -1 to the enemy's combat power. Now allow the defender to use any defending units that are adjacent to an attacking unit but not them selves attacked, to support the defender.  Now when those 3 attackers advance and attack the center of the enemy  line inflicting -2 for being attacked by 3 units, the defenders could throw in the support of the 2 units adjacent to but not attacked by the enemy inflicting a  similar -2 on the attacking unit. Thus the attacker has a choice of concentrating on 1 unit, limiting his losses and having less chance of a mutual destruction  and more chance of a no -result/repulse,   or going 1:1 along the line with a good chance of all 6 units being destroyed. (opening a hole for his second line presumably).

Just some casual thoughts so far, I haven't looked deeply at the impact let alone tried them.

3. What is a destroyed unit? This isn't a rules question but for me its a key question for scenario design and especially for victory conditions and campaigns. To my mind, a unit destroyed at long range by a 5 or 6 on the enemy's first shot, probably suffered a sudden panic upon suffering casualties and broke to the rear. In a few hours time they could  probably be mustered with 75% or more of their original strength. I briefly thought about moving destroyed units to the table edge and allowing a chance to rally them but decided its best done after the game. It does bring up the question of different troop qualities but that's another question.

Units destroyed in close combat probably suffered heavier casualties including prisoners. Perhaps 50% or higher?

Am I going to track how many hits a unit took and how? No, just pondering.

If I make  an assumption that on average, including units lost and those only engaged, pinned etc,  between casualties, stragglers, and prisoners, each unit removed represents a temporary loss of 50%  of its strength and make another very arbitrary assumption that a small force might be able to keep fighting  until temporary losses reach 25 to 50% of its total then a 12 unit army could sustain between 6 and 12 units lost (representing the equivalent 3 to 6 units in terms of casualties) before being forced to retreat. In a 2 player campaign game, the decision would be up to the player, in a solo or non-campaign game, a die could perhaps be thrown once an army was reduced to 6 or fewer units with a score equal to or exceeding the number of units forcing retreat. Modifiers could be applied to reflect the holding of an important objective or various campaign concerns. For campaigns, the lost units could be diced for after the game. 5,6 restoring a unit for the loser,  4,5,6 in case of draw or 3,4,5,6 for the attacker.

Again not rules for the game itself but for a scenario or campaign.

Troop Quality. Not all units were created equal. So how do we represent that easily? My early attempts were to modify close combat values. That worked ok for 18thC games but is less relevant for 19thC ones, even the ACW. It seems to me that the biggest difference would be that elite troops might stick it out longer while poorly trained or demoralized troops would crumble more easily. The difference then would be not a modification of their ability to inflict damage but a modification of their ability to withstand combat. Without resorting to some form of roster or saving throws or having separate firing charts, the easiest thing might be to add +1 when  shooting at Militia/Poor troops and to -1 if shooting at Elite troops. Now this rather unfairly means that poor troops in the open would be automatically pinned  if the enemy had no minus but then they do seem to have been best placed in cover. Elites on the other hand could not be destroyed by fire once placed in cover, but they could be forced out into the open by multiple pins or destroyed by an assault.
Again just some thoughts, that I haven't looked closely at let alone tried.

The weather forecast had been for rain and cooler temperatures perfect for inside gaming but alas it appears to be a near perfect summer's day (?!). Sunny and hot but not too hot or muggy so it looks like I need to get some work done. Then maybe a little terrain work and some flags.




  1. Ross,

    Those troop quality mods that you mused upon seem to me to be too extreme.

    -- Jeff

  2. Jeff, I suspect so as well, I'm hoping someone will come up with some clever ideas, for now I'll stick with "all men were created equal"

  3. As a neophyte to the hex idea, the following struck me. Why not just leave it be? If one unit is isolated, then it just might find it self taken on by three enemy units from three directions. If on the other hand the defender has allies on its flanks, then wouldn't those units be able to attack the flanks of the two outside attacking units as they defender the central defender at 3:1? On the other hand, this is just an iteration of the 'can't attack at more than one to one units unless all defenders are engaged'. It's simplicity v effect, I suppose...

  4. nb, that should be...

    then wouldn't those units be able to attack the flanks of the two outside attacking units as they attack the central defender at 3:1?

  5. Regarding Troop Quality.

    First, Ross, I have not played these rules (I don't want squares or hexes on my tabletop) . . . but if I had to suggest "a fix" for troop quality, here is what I'd try:

    Courage has been described as "grace under fire" . . . and while I will admit that troop quality does not directly relate to courage, it will suffice as a substitute for "quality" for now.

    I would look at "pinning". Superior troops taking fire would be less likely to be pinned; while poor troops would be more likely to "recoil".

    But how much better or worse should superior or poor troops be?

    I'm going to ballpark this at one third, with most troops being average.

    So I would give (I know that you don't want this) superior and poor troops a "saving throw" when they receive a "pin".

    If superior troops roll a 5 or 6 on 1d6, they are not pinned (but they will need to roll for each pin result). If they roll a 1-4, they are pinned but will get to roll for a 5 or 6 to keep from recoiling on a second pin.

    Poor troops on the other hand must roll a 3-6 to keep from recoiling on a "pin". If they roll a 1 or 2, they recoil immediately (not waiting for a second pin).

    Not as drastic as your solution, but I think that it would work okay.

    -- Jeff

  6. Adelaide, yes leaving it be is the prime contender at the moment. Due to the range/movement relationship, the supporting units will usually have had at least 1 shot at the attackers and the ability to single out and concentrate on one defender could be said to represent the attacker's momentum and initiative.
    Still it was a byproduct of the migration to hexes and not a planned rule change so worth some thought.
    The pinned rule was not in effect during the heyday of squares either so that is another factor to consider, probably in favour of leaving it be.

  7. I was thinking of discipline more than courage but saving throws are a valid option. Separate fire charts would also be an option. I am starting to think that only the relative difference needs to be considered. So perhaps -1 if firing at troops who are better than you. This could be zeroed out by using your general to boost your unit's effectiveness but he can't be every where.