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

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Way of Blundering

I've been starting to put Hearts of Tin back to rights which has had me thinking command control. Card sequencing and chance cards don't seem to work as well for medium size battles as they do for skirmishes and I got tired of the constant activation or PIP die rolls I have used at times but I don't want to go the "everything always goes as planned" route either.

While putting MacDuff back together, I looked back at the original. There, I allowed automatic control within a given radius for the General and only tested those beyond. The trick there is remembering to check and in distinguishing between stray units and inept subordinate commanders. Fitting in blunders simply without getting too many is also tricky.

Having brought the deck of cards back out and having played some Richard Borg games this years, cards are in mins and the following popped into my head while taking my constitutional this morning.



Prepare a standard deck of cards. At the start of each turn, each player draws one card and keeps it hidden. The card will be discarded at the end of the turn.  If he he draws an Ace, he may play it on an enemy Brigade when it is activated unless that Brigade is within 12" of the General. One of the following options may be chosen:

A. Attack. If the player rolls a 6 he may order the enemy Brigade to launch an attack, on any other roll there is no effect. If successful, all infantry and cavalry must advance at least 1/2 move into their frontal area and must attack (charge) if there is a target. Artillery must shoot if there is a target.

B. Retreat. If the player rolls 5 or 6 he may order the enemy Brigade to retire a full move.

C. Hold. The player may order the enemy brigade to hold. Units may fire and may change facing or formation where they are. The brigadier may not move.


I did think about allowing players to hold a hand of 1 or 2 cards but decided that there were aspects of gaminess and reverse certainty to that which I didn't like


  1. Hi Ross,
    That is an interesting variant. It is clearly designed for two or more players. How will you handle it when you play solo?

    1. Odd you should ask that, I was wondering myself. One option would be to make my best effort to play it as I would in a 2 player game. Another might be to try something else when solo or to follow up on the dire roll for Brigades on their own. Just sort of thinking out loud.

  2. I can usually be relied upon to make my own blunders. Interesting idea though.

    1. Me too. Sometimes I think the whole blunder and C&C thing is more about finding scape goats than realism.

  3. If I am doing my maths right, we are talking just under 8% probability per turn of drawing an ace (ignoring the deleting deck) and so just over 50% chance of using the choice once in a 10 turn game.

    Not a very probable event for the cost of an added mechanism. The rate actually seems fine, but it is an added thing to think about.

    Card based things like this are great in a card-driven game since you are drawing cards anyway. If not, a dice based thing is better. Of course, the dice-based blunder systems you and I have played (BKC and Black Powder) have problems happening too often; they do a poor job of representing normal behavior. But I'd not advise adding it.

    1. The idea was to keep it a rare event, but you are probably right, not worth the effort.

  4. Interestingly I came to a similar conclusion to Lentulus.

    You have a base chance of 7.7% of an ace . . . and if trying for a premature attack, then a 1 in 6 chance (16.7%) on top of that (roughly 1.3% per turn) of success.

    Of course, trying for the "retreat" option will make it about 2.5% chance . . . *whoopee* . . . so is this really worthwhile? I don't think so.

    Perhaps you might want to use face cards instead of aces, with Kings for chance of premature attack; Queens for forced Hold; and Knaves for the chance of a retreat.

    But overall the math doesn't seem to work out for your original idea, Ross.

    -- Jeff

  5. Jeff, the idea was to keep it rare. A 1 in 1,000 chance would be closer to realistic but even a 7-8ish% chance of stalling an enemy brigade is probably not worth the effort.

    I think I'll just leave it with the full chance deck which can be used or not. With say 10 active cards, one of which would be a command blunder, and perhaps 20 inactive cards, the odds would be acceptable but there would be a 1 in 3 chance of something happening.