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, June 25, 2012

Is he fortunate?

To my mind, any form of activation or similar rule is about the intermediate commanders in an army and how they interpret their orders and respond to enemy actions . The brigadiers in the size of games I usually play. Since the days when I played WRG 1685-1845, my rules have usually contained Bold, Rash, Cautious and some times Indecisive brigadiers and some form of control check. The simpler the rules got, the less convincing I found the personality affects so I hauled them out with the though of re-introducing them as an Optional rules. The problem of how to do so without having a completely different system has kept me from doing so. 

When I started looking at dropping any sort of order/control check, it occurred to me that this was the ideal time to write up the optional commander and command rules. So, I did. 

As long as the hood was open and I was tinkering with the Brigadier rules to harmonize with the loss of the orders test, I had another look at the morale rules.  On the whole I was happy with how they worked but I still wasn't quite happy with the practical side of multiple disorders and shaken brigades and the results of the rally test were a bit too predictable.  I have simplified them by having 2 disorders cause a temporary shaken status while making shaken a -2 die modifier instead of multiple  disorders being -1 each Thus also eliminates the need to check each shaken unit each turn to see if it needs another disorder which it will probably rally off, only to have it replaced (yawn).

Here's the Non Player Commander rules which I should test at some point but don't really intend to use myself. The complete updated rules are on line. Thanks to the new Google Drive, any future fiddling will be immediately uploaded unless I take steps to avoid it. I'll try to keep the link date updated once I have finished any fiddling.

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1.      Non Player Commanders.  This is an additional rule. In all but the smallest of armies, a general depends on his subordinates for the execution of his plans.  Some subordinates are dependable, they understand the General’s orders when issued and comply even if they disagree and are often able to correctly interpret what he would have wished them to do if a situation arises that requires them to act without orders. Other subordinates are more difficult. Perhaps they may be too timid or too head strong to obey orders that they don’t agree with, may be unable to understand or may just be incompetent at carrying out their job. The best way to represent this is to have a player for each subordinate but that is not often possible. An active GM can be a good substitute but sometimes the best we can do is a die roll on a chart even though no simple chart will ever give us a realistic interpretation of the range of human failings. It is even less possible of representing a subordinate who is capable of brilliant performance and an imagination and daring beyond that of the wargamer.  If using a mix of Player and Non-player Commanders, player commanders always have their own competency and character and may decide for themselves how to handle their troops but may roll for courage if they wish a chance to be something other than average.
a.      Establishing Non-Player Characters. If using these rules, all Commanders must be named and their place in an army should be fixed including precedence. Their performance should be tracked from game to game and personalities and capabilities maintained or adjusted if they seem to develop their own tendencies. Unless playing a full fledged campaign with rules for replacing commanders, roll up a new personality and precedence when a wounded commander is replaced. Each commander is given a rating in each of three attributes: Competency, Character and Courage. Roll once for each attribute using 1 d6 unless the GM has rated historic commanders. Any combination is possible.
For example a Brigadier might be Dependable, Rash and Timid. He will normally obey orders but if left to himself might send his troops into rash charges while hiding in the back where it is safe.
ESTABLISHING A COMMANDER’S PERSONALITY
Die Roll
Roll once for each attribute
COMPETANCY
CHARACTER
COURAGE
6
Dependable
Rash
Heroic
3,4,5
Average
Average
Average
1,2
Unreliable
Cautious
Timid
b.      Courage.  This attribute does not affect orders, it deals with how inspiring a leader is and how much he is willing to risk himself.
COURAGE
Heroic
Adds +2 when Rallying and hits on 3+ in melee but is wounded on 1 or 2.
Average
As per the rules
Timid
Does not provide a melee bonus.
c.      If using Mission Orders. The best way to incorporate Commander non-player characters is to issue written Mission or Game orders telling the commander what his mission is. These should be written in plain language. For example: Hold the cross road. Attack the Central Hill. Move around the West Wood and attack the Bridge. Orders maybe issued directly by the General to a Brigadier if their figure’s bases are touching and in this case the  Brigadier will Obey. They may also be carried by an Aide de Camp (ADC) who begins in contact with the general and moves 1d6 feet per turn. A player may send as many orders as he has ADC’s but an ADC must return before a new order can be sent. Once the order has arrived, the next time that a Brigadier is activated, roll on the Obedience chart.  If he gets Obey Orders the player can move units as he feels best to accomplish the mission. If he gets “Use Initiative”, use the Initiative table to guide his actions. Some role playing will be required to get the most out of the system. If the player does not like the result, he may repeat the order or send a new one. If the situation changes drastically, a new roll should be made, for example if an enemy flank march arrives within 12” of the brigade. If no GM is available, go by consensus and common sense.
COMPETENCE
OBEDIENCE (Roll 2d6)
Dependable
2-3
Use initiative
4-12
Obey orders
Average
2-4
Use initiative
5-12
Obey orders
Unreliable
2-6
Use initiative
7-12
Obey orders

CHARACTER
INITIATIVE
Rash
Must join a charge if any are ordered. Any line infantry or cavalry units which are in charge reach of enemy and are not in cover or defending an obstacle will be ordered to charge.  No units may retreat.
Average
Will not order charges unless the enemy is disordered, shaken or presenting a flank. If ordered to retreat, will do so at 1/2 speed, facing the enemy.
Cautious
May not join a unit in melee. Will not order charges. Must arrange his Brigade  with no gaps between units in the front line but with a reserve and facing all threats. All troops to be deployed.

d.      If not using Mission orders. If not using game or mission orders, roll for each Brigadier each turn when activated unless the General is within 12”.  A result of “Obey orders” allows the player to order units as he thinks best. A result of “use initiative” should be used as a guideline. Some role playing will be required to get the most out of the system.

5 comments:

  1. This is a subject I'm very interested in, and this sets out the issues and mechanisms in a clear and sensible way - so I like it a lot. Some playtesting results would be invaluable. I have an uncomfortable history with Activation/Command rules - I clearly see the need for them, but some manifestation that does not bog the game down is hard to come up with. I don't care much for command radii - they seem to imply that a general can shout louder, or has faster ADCs, so I find it hard to see what the radius represents. The idea that a commander can spin more plates at the same time seems more correct, so PIPs and CPs and limited Command Cards fit the bill - but many of the non-card systems I have tried are disappointingly labour-intensive (apart from computer-initiated ones, which can just tell you when you need to do something unusual).

    Your analysis of subordinate officers is something I've not seen spelled out like this before, and it makes a lot of sense. I would worry only about how much extra work they added in proportion to the benefits. Since I am a lazy chap, any regular test which only occasionally produces a significant result soon gets forgotten or dropped in a game. On the other hand, if it causes havoc too often it may unbalance the game, or put too much control on the dice.

    This system of yours looks fine - I'm very interested to see how it would work in practice. I was almost thinking of testing it myself, but I am not a user of your rules, and would not be able to judge it in its true context.

    Nice job - well explained and set out - even I understood it!

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    1. Thank you for thinking its clear, I always find rules that require the application of common sense and consensus to be suspect at best.

      I used to see the need for Command rules and used to enjoy the "spectator of disaster"/roleplaying aspects of it fun but lately I am more questioning of the need/appropriateness of them, enjoy the result less and resent ( might be too strong a word ) the effort more. I thus find myself bypassing such things to focus on the main point so am including this optional rule for the sake of completeness more than anything.

      All this led me a while back to looking for historical examples of the sorts of things such rules tend to produce. It was fairly easy to finds dozens of incidents, mostly trivial. Lets say 1 for every 10 or 20 battles I looked at, lets take 10 assuming that I missed some events. Given that there would have been dozens if not hundreds of orders in each of these battles the incidence of such notable failures starts to look too infrequent for any simple mechanism apart from a mischievious GM, or a computer moderator since these latter seem to be quite tolerant of repeatedly making tests with a very small chance of happening. I suspect that there were many small delays and mistakes but these usually should be below the radar, swallowed up by the great length of lost time each game turn represents or an explanation for why the dice were so poor during an attack.
      its also worth noting that the noticeable incidents of disobedience/blundering tended to be career limiting or ending events.

      A random event system might be a better way to handle it but then I'd have to do up a list of possible events and work them in, stick a joker in the deck if doing card activation or pick one any time the initiative dice are tied. Actually, this is a good idea, I think I'll add this with some suggestions of possible events, thunderstorm, ammo shortage, howitzer shell bursts over the General's command group, etc

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  3. Thanks for taking the trouble to write up your thoughts on this subject. My own choice would be for something a bit simpler - a commander who is 'dependable, rash and timid' sounds a bit confusing to me. Above average, average and poor (develop your own adjectives) is about as far as I would want to go. Like your other commenter said, are the benefits really worth the extra work during the game?

    But I can see you prefer a bit more detail in your rules, so best of luck with resolving your thoughts. For what it's worth I am no great fan of 'tactical chance cards' or whatever one might choose to call them. A reasonable command system, decent morale rules and the use of dice should generate a sufficient number of unfortunate/beneficial incidents on the table.

    With best wishes, Keith Flint.

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    1. Thanks Keith. Yes that does look like a confusing example but basically someone who almost always does what he's told but who left on his own might send the troops up the Valley of Death while cowering in the rear instead leasing the charge.

      I have to say though that I don't think that I've ever actually played with anything more complicated that rash/average/cautious and as noted, have no thought of even trying out these suggestions, they are merely offered up for those I know who like a little extra colour.

      The jury is out on the chance cards, I haven't tried them enough over the year to know if they are worth the effort or not. Once made, they certainly look like they will be less work than constant command activation rolls while providing a wider range of more believable outcomes and they have been dangling in front of me since my 1st Featherstone book 40 years ago. So, time to give them a try.

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