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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stopping Time

OK, cooler heads have prevailed. After handling a few figures and rereading some old posts (to avoid having to actually think the thoughts again and re-discuss the old discussions again), I have decided to again post pone the late 19thC/early 20thC glossy toy soldier adventure and to stick to last year's decision to park the historical early 19th campaigns for a bit longer and just get the Atlantica collection sorted.  I have also remembered 2 of the stumbling blocks. One is that I need to sculpt some more figures and have been stalled on the sculpting side. The other is that while I have a vague of idea of how I want the games to look and feel, its hard to write vague rules!  I could just stick 'em all back on bases and play Hearts of Tin but I want the games to look and feel different (largely as an excuse for multiple collections of troops).

So here I am looking at Charge and fiddling  with MacDuff again and wondering if its fair to use the same name if the rules end up being very different and wondering what else to call them. OK that can wait. What I found myself writing last night when supposedly updating the intro, was  a rant on consistent scales and the dampening effect it can have on games design, esp since no one I've met, other, perhaps than Von Reischwitz, has managed the time issue and he wasn't writing a solo or 2 player game but a training exercise with a team of umpires.

Weapon ranges are easy enough. There is lots of data on % hits at various ranges so one can just translate that into range bands and dice scores. Of course in real life there aren't discrete range bands with a drastic reduction in effect between 99 yards and 101 but you could always use more range bands or a sliding %. Oh and of course each turn usually represents more than one volley so really you need to calculate the effect of each of those separately, and make it interactive........

Time and interactiveness are the real difficulties. The rate at which troops move is also easily calculated but is meaningless without a time scale and time scales which give reasonable bounds on the table are usually incompatible with the total length of time required for even a small battle. All of this is of course old hat well discussed in the 60's and probably earlier.

There is always the design for effect but the trick is to get the right results/effect without losing all flavour, especially if playing a low level action rather than a large battle where the player is a Corps or Army commander, above the smell of smoke. It would be fine if skirmishes between less than 1,000 men were usually over in 20 minutes, but based on studying various War of 1812 actions amongst others, such things could easily last 3 hours or more despite the lack of troops.

In real life, hurry up and wait applies, there are pauses where not much happens, then there is a burst of activity then another burst of activity. How best does one get this on the table top and keep it interesting?

There have been lots of attempts to find the best way to convert the continuous flow of time into a game format, from IgoUgo, to simultaneous moves, continuous action, variable length bounds, impulses, card decks and on and on. I'm afraid I'm not bright enough to out think  all those who have given it a go in the past but I'm still struggling towards finding something to suit me right now. At least, since this is to be primarily a solo project, I don't really have to worry about finding something that works for any one else.    

I'm currently revisiting an old idea that almost worked. On a high level, it would involve fairly long movement   with some sort of reaction-interference by the enemy, an interactive combat resolution, usually decisive, probably with the possibility of more than 1 phase. There needs to be a reason to not commit all troops at once and there needs to be time to regroup but turns need to move quickly when there is little or no fighting.

Good luck to me.


  1. The Pith Helmet rules have some interesting ideas for reaction. I would recommend the KelroyWasHere blog for more info and cool battle reports. The rules are for Colonial games, but the ideas could be adapted to other periods, especially by someone with your experience with rules.

  2. Another idea (although it involves paperwork) would be tracking "fatigue".

    Most actions (moving, shooting, casualties, etc.) would involve mounting fatigue . . . but some (resting, ?) would reduce fatigue. This combined with some sort of "limited number of units you can act with this turn" die roll could get you the "lulls" you want in some areas while action heats up in others.

    I'm not saying that I'd do this (I like things simple), but perhaps this might trigger some thoughts in your fertile mind, Ross.

    -- Jeff

  3. Hey Ross, sounds like you hit the wall. Maybe step back a bit & pull out a coil ring note pad and take a deep breath. Thank the good Lord for all he has blessed you with and look back at 2011. You have accomplished a lot. Figure out what you want out of 2012 and write it down. Then stick to it! There is just too many choices out there. Try and narrow it down. Remember Less is More! Jeff

  4. Thanks Fitz I was a little startled to realize I remembered the magazine article he referred to!
    Interesting ideas which I should keep in mind and take a closer look at but not what i'm looking for at the moment with my only-partially-reformed simulationist hat on. But thanks and keep the suggestions coming!


  5. Jeff (BB) Good idea, I'm waaaay too lazy for anything which requires tracking things though.

  6. Chasseur Jeff. Sorry if I alarmed you. I try never to hit walls, there's almost always a way around them and if not, then I call up the sappers to blow a hole in 'em!

    In this case its just excitement at zeroing on a possible solution to a 5 year puzzle.


  7. Ha ha; round and round we go. It is fun to start with then very frustrating ending up where we began. We will never tire of tinkering though. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.