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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

RFP: Looking for a better word

While working on this version of my Hearts of Tin rules, I noticed that I was referring to a growing list of things that earned a negative modifier when shooting or fighting. For example: "-1 if troops other than skirmishers having moved through broken or difficult terrain this move, or if....". With no offence to someone I both like and respect, it was beginning to look a little Barkeresque. It seemed to me that  if I just gathered all these causes in one place and gave them one name, it would make the rules clearer and any QRS a little cleaner and shorter.

But what to call them? As a place holder, I fell back on an old term: "Disorder" even though I knew it only really applied to one of the items. Here is the list

" DISORDER. Disorder is used in these rules to represent various things that reduce a unit’s ability to deliver effective fire or reduce its impact during a charge whether by temporarily disrupting a unit’s formation or consuming time during manoeuvring. A disordered unit suffers a -1 penalty when shooting and in melee. All disorder is automatically removed at the end of the brigade’s activation. A unit becomes disordered if it:
(1) is any but skirmishers or pack animals that move in broken or rough terrain,
(2) changes formation or facing or moves to the flank or rear
 (3) is artillery or mounted infantry that moves, (ie has to mount/dismount, limber etc)
(4) if it moves through friends or has friends move through unless one of the units are skirmishers
(5) is prone infantry with muzzle loaders and stands up or is charged,
(6) Rallies,
(7) Is so designated so by the GM or as the result of a special rule".

The main feature that these things have in common is that they eat up time and distract a unit from their external things like the enemy. Logically, this means there should be a reduction in movement distance, which is what I used to do. It  always "felt" right but too often produced the "wrong" effect.

This all stems from the game being structured into fixed length turns while the real world is not, but I happen to like a turn structure for a game. The smaller the time segment allocated to a turn, the more accurately one could measure activity but the slower and more complicated actually playing the game becomes as you try to track too much data and too many interactions over the 100's of turns that a game lasts. It also perversly makes it harder to make the game accurate because we now have to account for all the things that lead to "hurry up and wait" syndrome or why most troops spend most of a battle doing nothing. So, we compromise and apply various fudges such as assuming that turns contain variable amounts of delay.

Here I place myself firmly in the footsteps  of Lawford and Young who boldly state that  they make no effort to adhere to a rigid time scale and that a turn may represent an hour of not much or a few minutes of action. If I adhered rigidly to a time scale of 15 minutes per turn then the most pessimistic rates of march over rural terrain would indicate that once in motion, a body of trained infantry in line should be able to move at least 30" in one turn. With a turn based game on a small table, that just doesn't work for me so I have arbitrarily reduced moves to 12" which means a unit which has to deal with an obstacle or execute a formation change or do some fancy maneuvering  just spends more time moving whether because the turn is longer or because they spend less time doing other things like shooting or "hurrying up and waiting". This seems to match the feel I get from memoirs. These often mention that something disrupted an attack but I can't recall any cases of an attack stalling at cannister range because the men had had to deploy into lie before starting.

The problem is that on 4 or 5 occasions recently, I have found myself or others somewhat confused by the use of the word "disordered". I need a new word and am soliciting suggestions for another term for this list of things that temporarily reduce a unit's combat effect.  Some thoughts that come to mind are Distracted, or Delayed. (note the use of D is not required!),  

Comments and suggestions please?

While thinking about here is a video link to the Fort Henry Guard demonstrating  how to "Shoot with a -1 penalty then retire 2 inches"


  1. Discombobulated?
    (time to get out the thesaurus?)

  2. HoT February 21 edition? You're trying to fill up my hard drive, aren't you?

    1. Just trying to corner you into playing a game just to slow the speed at which drafts are edited.

  3. Perhaps "rattled"? or "out-of-sorts" (oos for short . . . being "oosed")?

    -- Jeff

  4. A most interesting video

    Thanks for sharing

    1. Its entertainment for the masses but I have an original copy of the drill book and its interesting to see parts of it performed.

  5. Deformed :-) I know it doesn't have to begin with a D, but I seem to be stuck in that mental groove.

    Disorder does work as a word, according to established wargaming usage, but it does hint at some level of chaos, whereas the unit might in fact be calmly changing formation in a relatively orderly fashion, so I think I can see where you're coming from on that.

    What these factors seem to have in common is that the unit is spending part or all of the turn in a formation which is not optimal for shooting/melee, so possibly a word around -form-, like unformed or reforming.

  6. Unformed or reforming are both good. As of this morning I'm leaning to maybe using 2 words, disorder and maneuvering.

  7. As of this morning I'm in the middle of a refight of Table Top Teaser #3 "Advance Guard" by C.S. Grant, using the previous version of Hearts of Tin. When I resume this evening, I will use the latest draft, thereby allowing the Red battalion defending their objective town to rally off a significant number of hits and perhaps save the day.

    Thanks for your effort on these rules, they're very fun to play.

    And by the way, I like "maneuver".

  8. As a state, I'd say "disordered" and "maneuvering"

    As in
    * The 24th is disordered
    * The 31st is maneuvering
    * The Garde is wandering about aimlessly

    1. The Garde is never aimless. battlefield to the bar in 60 seconds flat.