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

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Stand-Loss See-Saw

It occurred to me last night that one of the many benefits of having a live opponent for testing both rules and a scenario is that my attitude or approach to a game seems to change. I become more emotionally engaged and it seems this has an effect on my intellectual appreciation of things.

The particular trigger for this thought was a contemplation  as to whether I had been right to veer away from removing stands as soon as a unit suffered enough hits and going back to allowing the unit to store up hits. The see saw between these two approaches has been going on for at least 10 years.

In favour of the current system are:
1) unit frontages should not shrink as fast as they do when stands are removed. Partially this is because most hits are not physical casualties and partially because units tried to maintain their frontage to avoid being flanked, pushing rear ranks forward, increasing gaps between sub units etc.

2) it allows units to reach a break point and suddenly collapse as is sometimes seen in history.

3) it allows units to pullback and rally to recover some of their fighting ability

Against the system are:

1) Its relatively complex to track as hits go up and down and as stands come off. Not incredibly so but its not instinctive. It also requires markers that can count as high as 12.

2) sudden unit collapses were not all that common whereas this system makes them routine, in part because having a little marker beside a unit doesn't often seem to affect how a player uses it, especially if they are not a veteran of the rules.

3)it lacks the emotional punch of removing stands as your unit comes under fire.

I hate to even mention this but the difficulty almost disappears when I tried using single figures because I was removing casualties from the back rank so the frontage was maintained but you still had the impact from removing (or knocking over) figures. There are more than enough reasons why the singles did not work for me overall so this is pretty irrelevant.

If I go back to removing  a stand whenever there are enough hits, I :

1) only need to mark a maximum of 2 hits on most units  1 or 3 on militia or elites. This can easily be done in many ways,
2) get the emotional satisfaction of removing stands without the unit being routed
3) have to deal with shrinking frontage either by calling for spacers or by ignoring it (the realistic solution because I have an unreasoning reluctance to use/make the dummy bases or ones with casualties on them)
 4) need to change the rally rules. I thought about rallying stands but I think not, it might do to allow units to remove 1/2 hits rallying up instead of down so that a single hit can be recovered. The effect of the support unit might then be switched to an attempt to recover lost stands, making them something special rather than a modifier.

The point to all this is that I am asking for input, especially for those who have played the game but also from anyone who can imagine showing up at a convention and playing the game without ever having read them. Comments welcome but I'll post a poll as well.


21 comments:

  1. A tricky dilemma! I tend to favour some form of hit markers of strength points but I can quite see thet would get messy of you're dealing with up to 12 'points'. I am right in thinking you use dice to track 'hits'? This at least reduced the table clutter - especially if you use very small dice.

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    1. Yes, I've been thinking of buying some casualty wheel thingies to track hits. Its probably the thought of spending money that has me spooked. :)

      Actually its thought of tracking 2 dozen 1/72nd acw units that is the real problem.

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  2. I've played the game twice in the last month, both times using more recent revisions of the rules. While I like the simplicity of removing stands, I dislike how the board starts getting emptier as the game progresses. I always envision battlefields getting more cluttered and chaotic, not less, as the battle progresses. For that reason I favor keeping the stands on the table and totaling the casualties on a full unit basis, only removing the stands as casualties build up for the whole unit.

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    1. Yes the empty battlefield is an issue for me too.

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  3. I haven't played your game, so I am not qualified to give evidence. However, my "next idea" for casualties (i.e. the one I like but haven't tried yet) is borrowed, I think, from Napoleon at War. There is something very pleasingly convenient about not having to keep rosters or add casualty markers, calibrated or otherwise - sometimes not having them gives a lumpy game, but the potential convenience still makes me hanker after finding some way of just counting the remaining bases when I need to, and otherwise letting them get on with it. This Next Idea is that we worry only about bases - if you have say 6 figures to a base then you need a matching D6 to do a monster saving throw. Casualty calc gives you 3 hits - roll your 1D6 - if you roll > 3 forget it, the stand remains - nothing carried forward. 3 or less, remove a stand. If the calcs give you 8 hits, take off a stand and then beat the 2 remainder on your 1D6 with the saving throw or you lose a second base. If you roll > 2 then forget the odd 2 casualties. It's simple, uncluttered, intuitive, but it is also high-geared - a bad roll and you lose a big lump of your unit. If you don't want to shrink the frontage, take casualty bases from the middle - if you haven't got enough bases left to do that then the frontage should probably be coming down anyway (maybe). If you have some bases with 8 or 4 men on then you'll need a D8 or a D4 etc - the die should match the bases. The loss of a base (as much discussed) is a loss of morale as much as physically disabled men, which brings me back to my other current bee-in-bonnet that you have to make your elites harder to kill in the casualty calcs in the first place.

    I realise this is almost certainly no help, but felt moved to trot it out - in this system, if you "lose" a single figure and if you are unlucky enough to roll a 1 on the saving dice, the implication would be that an awful lot of guys were dispirited by this single hit. The probabilities work out, but individual cases might be lumpy.

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    1. Actually that set off some good thought streams. It might be lumpy with a small number of units but over all I think that would smooth out if enough units were present. Whatever enough is.

      Btw have you considered modifying the throw for quality as opposed to fiddling with the shooting mecahnics? is Average regulars 0, Militia -1 to the dire roll, Elites +1 to the roll (ie they have a chance of surving 6 and no chance of failing on 1)

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  4. Because of my health situation, I've not had a chance to play the rules yet.

    That being said, I like them as currently written. I have always felt that frontage should be retained as long as possible.

    Like Mr. Crane, I don't care for "shrinking battlefields" in the games that have "quick removal".

    I DO however have (again not yet having played them) a bit of an issue with the "automatic" recovery of half your "hits" with a rally . . . might a die-roll-up-to=half or one-hit-per-stand-up-to-half-total-hits work . . . or is that a bit too finicky?

    Anyway I am in the "maintain frontage" group.


    -- Jeff

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    1. Jeff, its not automatic, its a 50% chance when units rally, if they obey the order to try. If I legislated the number of units it would be easier to fiddle with the rally roll.

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  5. I like removing individual figures but don't like moving them about.

    I have started using steel bases with the front rank glued down and the back rank with magnetised bottoms (oo er missus). I can then maintain the same frontage throughout as a unit cannot fall below half physical strength.

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    1. I ike the idea and tried it but have had poor luck with 40mm figures and magnets. Worse, I keep losing the casualties when I remove them!

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  6. After some reflection, please ignore my earlier "improvements" on rallying off half the hits (round down) . . . your method is simpler and easier . . . and certainly more intuitive.


    -- Jeff

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  7. I'm not sure this is helpful but I am a fan of the Too Fat Lardies approach of differentiating between shock hits and casualty hits. This approah necessitates a second die roll for each dice that registers a hit - think of the second die roll as a kind of saving thrown, with 1-2 no effect 3-4 shock and 5-6 a casualty.
    Casualty hits are removed, whereas shock hits are accumulated, and when they exceed the number of figures, the unit is in jeopardy of routing.
    This approach still requires figure and even stand removal, but I have seen shock hits accumulate enough to rout even numerically large units.
    I am not sure if this is helpful but it seems to me that it solves your problem of justifying a morale check for the whole unit when Pte Bloggins goes down, and means that a unit can maintain a decent frontage while becoming increasingly gunshy under sustained fire.
    FWIW.
    Mike

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    1. A valid approach. One trick is trying to find a valid basis for identifying shock hits. The narrower the field the better for finding evidence on which to base the division and effect. It would also leave me tracking 2 sets of stats for each units since I can't remove figures any more. A good and useful suggestion though, more grist.

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  8. I favor stand removal. With my 10mm units, there are four units in the space of one of Ross's; and I tend to have at least 2-3 times the number of units on the table. Stand removal reduces the "fiddly factor" and since at that scale a brigade is being sent where at 40mm you would send a battalion the proportional effect of the frontage loss is not as great.

    OTOH I would favor brigade breakpoints over army breakpoints.

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    1. Ahhh, I think that's closer to 2 units to my 1. (width wise vs height wise) My units are 4x50 or 200 mm for 40 mm,(yours are 3x30mm iir or 90 each?)

      My ACW are 3 x 40 and I'm going to have tracking issues when I get up to 24 regiments, I had a hard time last game with 12 units.

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    2. But also 3 cm deep to your 5, which is room available for deployment of units.

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  9. I was thinking further about single figures vs multiple bases. This is probably obvious to everyone else, but it suddenly struck me that they are not different - they are just degrees of the same thing - if you have figures based singly, a figure is still equal to 25 men or something. You can go on dividing this until you get down to 1:1 - strictly, you could still use a roster or a casualty indicator with singly based figures. Maybe this is to do with the level/scale of the game - if the game is big enough that the general only cares whether a unit is still fighting or not still fighting, it doesn't matter how big the casualty chunks are or how smoothly continuous the decrement. If it's completely smooth, you still need to take discontinuous decisions based on how much is left.

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  10. Absolutely. That's why Grant argued for big units. With 50 men you can represent a 2% casualty rate by removing a figure. With a 10 man unit, 10% is the smallest percentage loss possible.

    With 3 stands it becomes 30% as the smallest increment which is problematic.

    Really at that level, if you can put enough units on the table all you need to know is:
    are they still fighting? are they retreating? can they do anymore?

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  11. To avoid the need to track to 12, what would prevent you from lowering the numbers involved in the casualty system by 2/3rds and counting to 4 against the whole unit. You might recall Armati, with 2-4 hits for a large block of troops...

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    1. In the end it appears that this is what I have effectively done. I have to put it in terms of stands because unlike Armati, there is no fixed unit size. I think the process has led me by hidden roads to end up pretty close to Rough Wooing.

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