Today I gave Scenario 12, "Unfortunate Oversight", from Thomas' One Hour Wargames, its third outing in a week. The first game was last Saturday's non-gridded British vs US game using variable moves and counting noses. The second was an on-grid US vs Indians game using an experimental set of rules which gave an OKish but not very exciting game. Today's game was a return to the Square Brigadier (Tin Army) with some tweaks to the rules and unit sizes.
The scenario is an attack by one force on an equal sized force of defenders. The trick is that the objective is a hill in the middle of the board but the armies are separated by an unfordable river and the defender thinks that the only crossing is a bridge by a town so he must deploy all units within a foot (3 squares here) of the town. The attacker, however, knows of a secret ford off to the flank.
|The setup. The Americans have 3 infantry, 1 militia. 1 gun, 1 cavalry. The Indians have 6 Indian units.|
1. Command Control. I want a role a C&C role for commanders, one that adds some friction but which is neither too random nor too onerous/distracting or artificial in terms of mechanisms. There are lots of approaches which work well but one of the simplest and most adaptable is to mix chance cards with a die roll for detached/isolated units to provide for the oddities, delayed orders, court martial-August I started experimenting with an initial "command control" phase in which I seek out and mark isolated or detached units which need to test before acting. The markers make it harder to forget and just move the units without rolling. Today I realized that I could actually combine these units with those recovering from adverse combat results and by giving a range of results on 1 die roll could make everything work smoother. With the units being slightly larger this allowed the one common roll to effectively replace the Rally and Command rules by a combined one while giving players less choice on how their units act under fire, thus increasing the benefit of reserves and supports.
|The defender reacts and occupys the hill. I'm not sure why the American allowed himself to devote so many assets to the small decoy force across the river. |
It came close to costing him the battle.
2. Firefights. A common theme in 19th Century battles is that long and medium range firefights between opposing skirmishers or lines of prone infantrymen tended to be long and indecisive. For the men on the line a slow trickle of casualties was disconcerting but ammunition shortages and exhaustion were usually a bigger threat. One could just assume its happening but especially in smaller actions like the battles in the Riel Rebellion, and the Boer War they were important to the men there and often did eventually influence the final result. For the last two years I've been trying different approaches from a simple fire or move to various "pinned" results or options, reaction tests and so on. The result was generally either a boring game or units that died too quickly or never at all. I am now using units that are slightly stronger without an increase in firepower and an involuntary pinned/go to ground result using the same marker as put on isolated ones and triggering the same test. There is also a a chance of actual casualties and a chance to be forced back by the fire of several units. Several units were weakened and forced back by overwhelming fire and some heavily damaged units struggled to rally but the only units destroyed outright were destroyed in close combat.
Together it all felt just right during the game.
More testing is of course needed. A test of the battalion rules though may have to wait for another two dozen Bluecoats and Zouaves to be painted up. For those wanting to look at a copy of the revised rules, well, its just a few scratches on a slip of paper right now backed up by habit but I'm working on an updated edition on the rules and they will be available here as soon as they are done.