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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Behind the Brigadier Part 2: Movement, Missile Fire, Melee and Morale

Movement seems like the simplest of things in a game yet it also has hidden complications when we start scaling. The devils here are that movement involves time and intent as well as distance and that things do not really freeze while a unit moves. If we have chosen to use an alternate move system and do not wish to get into complicated reaction and command systems then we need a movement rate that gives a sense of relative capabilities and allows a game to progress at a satisfying clip without having each side continuously blind sided  in turn. The slower the movement rate, the more we need rules to restrict the enemy's ability to order his men to move in reaction. The longer the moves, the more we need to restrict the ability of a unit to surprise or outflank an enemy that is watching its maneuvers and is not in fact surprised.

Once again I found my answers by looking at a selection of historical battles and looked at what maneuvers were carried out and what proportion of the length of the battle it took to make the moves and resolve the combat. I then applied these observations to how many turns I tend to play and worked backwards to get some sense of average game moves to get something that 'felt' right. To avoid complex reaction rules I limited the ability of a unit to move around a unit's flank and attack in the same turn and put the rest into the combat rules
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One of the things that I grew to admire in Joe Morschauser's original rules was the subtle but key effects of his combat systems and 3" melee range. Traditionally, many rules have separated the infliction of casualties and morale as if they were separate events, the one an outcome of the other. It is a very natural approach but not one that holds up well to investigation. It is a subject that has intrigued me since reading Ardent du Piq's Battle Studies when I was in college.

When studying various historical battles, it is rare to find units destroyed by long range fire as opposed to being weakened. There are instances but usually they involve prolonged application of superior firepower or very poor troops. On the other hand, it is common that an assault will achieve some form of result fairly quickly whether through point blank fire or moral or physical shock. It is prolonged close quarter fights that are the exceptions though not as rare. It is also not unusual for such assaults to prove fatal to the ability of the loser to carry on unless they had no real intention to stand in the first place but intended only to harass and delay or test the enemy.

What Morschauser's rules did was to make 'no effect' the most common result to shooting even though in the basic game a single hit was all it took to destroy a unit. The use of rosters in the advanced game improved this by allowing shooting to gradually wear a unit down.  On the other hand, once a unit came within 3" of an enemy it had to stop and engage in Melee combat and one or the other or both had to be destroyed before anything else could happen. This struck me as odd at first because the term melee held connotations of hand to hand combat, not possible when troops were so far apart. Once the terms shooting and melee are replaced by long range and decisive range combat, the difficulties disappear although compulsory destruction with no chance of retreat is a bit extreme  for my tastes.
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Once again nothing that I have adopted in my approach to combat and morale is unique or even original.  The key is that units have an artificial "strength" that reflects  not just numbers but training, experience, leadership and so on, in short, its ability to fight. Hits from either shooting or melee reflect both casualties and the general disintegration of a unit's ability to fight. The power of ranged combat has been restricted so that a prolonged combat is required to get any significant result. Melee, originally 3" in my pre-grid days but adjacent squares now, represents both close range fire and the moral shock of charges with cold steel. The numbers are purely arbitrary, designed to get the desired result.

One of the minor issues that I have struggled with over these last years is whether it is better to modify the dice score required in various circumstance, thus affecting the odds of a hit but not the absolute number of possible hits or whether to reduce the absolute possible number of hits. The dangers of either system include ending up with too many situations  where having an effect  is not only unlikely but impossible and having situations where the penalties can be rendered irrelevant by merely increasing the number of attackers. In the end the choice is sometimes one of being willing to put up with occasional anomalies in exchange  for a simple, easy to remember system.
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Lastly, it is an axiom that one must maintain the pressure on an enemy and not let them rest and regroup. I reflect this not only by a pursuit rule for assaults  but by allowing units to recover some (not all) lost hits if given a bit of space and time. I also allow a unit to give ground to reduce hits if they have room, retreating to stay alive. To gain a decisive victory it is best to push the enemy off the table and to not let him rally and recover his strength.

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It will  take awhile to get a properly organized and explained set of rules written up but I hope by tomorrow to have a draft of the basic rules available.

1 comment:

  1. Good rules ideas backed up sound reasoning.I look forward to the fist draft...

    ReplyDelete