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, January 23, 2015

Straining the Bath Water

While pondering the inter-relationship of rules for sequence of play, command control and combat, and of the frequent contrast between what feels right when pushing toy soldiers around vs what is intellectually right in terms of simulation, it suddenly occurred to me that the current draft lacked some rules ideas that I thought I had adopted. Had they been carelessly  thrown out when discarding other changes?

A look back through old drafts failed to turn up any version including the remembered changes. Was I mistaken?   I started rereading past posts and found them in November, just before the flu, Christmas and an outbreak of ACW distracted me.  I also found a note saying that there would be no more mini-drafts because I was about to start on the full version (probably 7-9 pages like Hearts of Tin was in its heyday) Obviously this didn't get done. I am forced to rely on a few hints in 2 game reports and on the Greycell Archives. A surprisingly random source of bits of information, mostly of no real importance even when correct but occasionally including important bits of trivia.  All is not lost.

One of the things that I've been thinking about this week as I contemplated the more Borg like versions of Square Brigadier from 2013/14 is the way in which the cards in the Memoir/Battlecry rules limit how much shooting is resolved per turn.  This allows for the combat effects actually rolled to often be fairly decisive  in a way that would spoil the game if everyone could shoot every turn with the same chart.  So, the over all effect is fine if one  assumes the guys sitting a hex away from each other without rolling any dice are shooting away without affect. It looks and feels odd but has about the right effect. On the other hand, allowing every one to shoot whenever they have a target etc  etc  means that all that extra rolling and chart checking has to be restricted so as to come up with about the same effect.

Along the same lines, all those units that don't move in Memoir might be waiting for orders or maybe they've been pinned by the fire of that enemy unit that didn't roll any dice. Again, the result is OK but when I'm playing with toy soldiers, I like to feel like I know why they are or aren't doing something even when its really just a dieroll, a chart and my imagination. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy playing  Memoir etc (Actually played again on Wednesday and won for once, 1 out of 2 CharB's traded for 4 38t's, Yes!  )  but I don't have to explain the author's choices, just play them.  I'm also all too conscious that trying to include all the why's and wherefore's all too easily leads to a Middle School approach with pages of charts and modifiers and one hour turns with a headache by lunch.

Anyway, the point is that choices in one aspect of the rules such as command control or play sequence often restrict choices in other areas such as combat results. Its a matter of finding the right feel for the game in hand. The immediate plan is to finish clearing the debris off my table tonight and setting up a game to be played on Saturday if the rain comes early or Sunday if it doesn't. I probably won't have a proper draft done by  then but here is a quick summary based on a cross of what I remember crossed with my decision to re-introduce a form of non-player choice retreats:
Tentative summary
-Roll for initiative. A moves and rallies, B shoots, resolve melee. Repeat, reversing roles.
- Detached commanders and detached units roll: 4,5,6 move as player wishes, +1 Elite/Vet etc or a Commander -1 Poor
-Move. Inf 1 if extended, 2 in column, cavalry 3   etc
- Shooting. Units that moved or are in column may not shoot. (I'll mark this by how I arrange the figures ) 2 dice per unit +1 if adjacent  -1 if disordered 5,6 hits, 1st hit from each unit firing is ignored if in cover or if extended infantry
up to 2 units of infantry in 1 area can shoot but they are a dense target enemy dice x 2.
Melee, Units that are adjacent and did not shoot this player turn now roll 3 dice +1d if shock unit charging, -1d if disordered or flanked, road column etc.  Cover absorbs 1 hit per unit attacking. Charging unit may take ground if enemy retreats or is destroyed.
Morale Any units that take hits must check morale after all shooting and after melee. 5,6 OK, 3,4 Pinned/Silenced/Disordered, 1,2 Retreat in disorder. 0 Rout.
+1 Elite, -1 Poor.   -1 more hits taken than given in melee. Commander may join and reroll die but is lost on a 1.
Disorder lose 1 die in shooting/combat. No move except to retreat. May rally if not adjacent.


  1. If I read this correctly, two units in an area will shoot at one opposing unit with 4 dice. When that unit returns fire, it also rolls 4 dice? Not sure if that works for me. Maybe shooting at a dense target hits on 4,5,6?

    1. Tricky with sumamries of unwritten drafts. The basic premise is that 1 unit in an area is in extended order with the men spread out, taking cover etc. 2 (or 3) units in an area is a unit formed up shoulder to shoulder or close to it. Past experience with a mere p,us to the die making hits more likely but no possibility of heavier casualties is that a close order unit be it Zulus, Highlanders at Magersfontein, or German columns in 1914 will over run the firing line pretty much every time.