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, February 14, 2012

Shaken and Stirred. Abstract Morale (updated)

The tricky thing about Morale is that it isn't. Its like the wind, you can feel its presence and see its effect, even measure its effect but you can't touch it or see it or capture it and put it away to study it later.

One of the things that hits and stand removal in Hearts of Tin (like figure removal in MacDuff) represents is the slowly degrading cohesion of a unit in combat. Troops get tired, they get scared, nco's and officers get hit, discipline and courage start to falter. One traditional way of handling this has been to have a separate chart to roll on to see if units run. Another way is to just remove units in combat and who cares how many were shot and how many ran away? (apart from in a campaign but there are ways around that).

In the morale test world, the one I grew up in, there were often intermediate steps between AOK and Run Away!, and these usually had combat and morale penalties. In the removal world, generally you are there or not and the penalty is at a higher level, that is, as stands are lost, holes open up in your line.

In the middle of trying to finish off the game last night using HofT instead of MacDuff, (often tricky changing rules 1/2 way through)   I found myself pondering the inequity of rules where having an even or odd number of stands makes a difference to how well your unit fights and wondering about solutions. I also pondered for the nth time whether to accumulate hits (quicker casualties, premature holes in the line, no reduction in fighting power for the stands that are left meaning 2 battered units are as good as 1 whole one and no sudden collapse)  or spread them out (more markers, a chance to rally, sudden collapse built in, weakened units still hold a big chunk of the line making it bad if they go and you haven't prepared for it). Spreading them out was how I originally did it but it was the piles of bingo markers that got to me. To compensate for faster removal, I had to pay more attention to defining and penalizing a unit that should be near collapse etc. It occurred to me part way through now that I have a choice of funny hats  for hits or little green dice, it was easier to use my preferred method then I didn't need a 2nd system, the rallying works etc.

It can be annoying how often removing a rule helps.

Also found that the smoothbore double shot cannister modifier was missing and decided that 1 form of modifiers was better than 2 so adjust that as well.  Pre -test draft loaded at left.

All of a sudden I realized I din;t have to mark which stands are carrying hits, I just establish the saturation or break point for a unit and track that. Once hit, every subsequent hit removes a stand. I can translate the shaken morale in melee rules into the same terms and suddenly have a single cohesive, integral but implicit morale system. OK update draft and again, then clear table.


  1. Playing, 5 d) "may move full and then shoot unless charging. It may also move before shooting but "

    I am fairly sure the second sentence should be shoot before moving.

    Otherwise pretty clear. It will be interesting to see how tracking 9 hits on the grenadiers looks. Should give an interesting failure mode for a brigade.

    1. Damn. I tried to fix that about 3 times and ended up with a variation of the same error every time.

      I can remember from earlier days when this was the way I did it without the nomenclature, watching brigades start to creep near the tipping point so that one could either haul them out of line before they cracked and start the slow process of rallying if left alone or covered by the reserves or trying to hit and crumble them before they could pull out, depending on which side of the table you're on.

  2. "I just establish the saturation or break point for a unit and track that. "
    You know, that sounds remarkably like the casualty markers in Black Powder. When a unit gets so many it becomes Shaken...

    1. Yeah, this is just a cleaner way to do what I did it from 2003 until 2008/9 but once I put it in words it did sound a lot like BP. Maybe they stole it from me!

  3. Tacking BP.

    It occurs to me (with my magnetic bases) that I could print up numbers on steel paper to go under the command stand; At break point I would then add a marker. Fiddly to place and replace, but less likely to "self reset" than a small die, and nicely hidden from your opponent.

    1. Good idea. I've been wondering what I could do with my drummers if I don't base them with their units. Now you've got me pondering a homemade hero clicker sort of thing. A magnetic base on the drummer with a pointer and a steel circle with numbers.

      I've been sneaking turns in on a test game. When it came to the melee I wondered why the mechanism did match the pattern (which brings a conversation from about 4 years about to mind ). It worked well. Another draft uploaded.

      Just fixed the melee chart