Saturday, April 10, 2010

Charge! for mid-19thC solo games: Musings and Modifications

If I decide to use Charge! for my solo 40mm, mid-19thC toy soldier games there are some issues to be considered. This post is a brief look at some of them with proposed solutions.

COMMAND & CONTROL.  On the surface, there is no role for generals or other officers in Charge!. Is this a problem? Once upon a time I certainly thought so and at some level I would like generals in particular to have some sort of command role and preferably a personality as well.

I suppose the next question should be "what is their battlefield role in life?".

The commanding general's role is to decide on and implement a battle plan, largely by means of orders to subordinate commanders as to where they should post their units and what their mission is, how they should achieve it and when they should do so. In a wargame, this is the role of the player and the miniature general is his avatar if you will. In the absence of command control rules, the miniature general's placement on the table is largely one of keeping up appearances. Is that a problem? perhaps if playing with an unimaginative player but why would I want to? Especially when playing solo! No I think I can live with this.

Brigade commanders  are there to interpret the commander's orders and carry them out by issuing his own orders to his commanders, often verbally even if not personally controlling the movement of the brigade. In game terms he and his staff are a few extra figures that can be thrown into a melee but serve no other purpose. I've long liked some chance that units will do something other that what I've ordered. My current thought is to determine a personality for each Brigadier and Colonel at the start of a campaign. Something simple like 6=Rash, 1=Cautious. Once the orders are written (or chits placed, see below) then  if the Brigadier or an independent unit is more than 12" from the General, throw 1 die, if the result is a 1 then the order has been   misinterpreted. (thus giving the General a reason to be at the critical point.)
- Units under the control of a Rash brigadier or colonel will treat an order to advance as an order to charge charge if infantry or cavalry with an enemy in reach. An order to retreat will be ignored.
Units under a cautious brigadier or colonel will obey an order to retreat but will not advance.
Other units will throw a scatter die and move the amount ordered in that direction if possible.

Regimental officers have a dual function of controlling the troops under their command, usually by yelling commands, and of maintaining order and discipline. In game terms, they are an extra body in melee as well as augmenting the strength of a regiment thus allowing it to take more hits before having to retreat. A standard unit will have 48 muskets and 12 officers, nco's and drummers. This is way out of proportion but can be seen as representing their influence in maintaining discipline. I can live with this as is.

ARTILLERY. Charge! has only 1 form of artillery. Upon reflection, I can live with no distinction between field, horse and light artillery and my 1830's - 50's time period is really too early for common use of machine guns and rifled artillery.  But, I think I would like heavy artillery, not 12 pounders and the like but the really big ones like Peel's navy guns at Lucknow. I also need to think about effectiveness of Mahratta and Sikh heavy guns. I don't, however, want to make a lot of changes. At present I am going to refrain from penalizing non-European artillery except perhaps to field fewer guns proportionally (eg a gun model might represent 6 British guns but 10 Mahratta ones). The question is why use heavy guns at all? They seem to have been used for 2 main reasons, first is battering holes in things, the other is that they have a longer range. To represent the latter I am thinking of adding +1 to their "to hit" roll. This means automatic hits out to 24" and a possibility of hitting out to 7 feet. I will leave the effect alone as a 24 pdr ball whipping through a line does no more damage than a 6pdr. It would do more damage against a column but I think the overall increase in  number of hits will reflect their effect with out getting into any greater complexity. Why not use all heavy guns? They are usually less mobile. So, a heavy gun which moves up to 6", pivots in place or unlimbers, cannot fire that turn. (as opposed to dicing for it). A heavy gun which moves 12" must end the turn limbered (facing away if limbers are not used). A heavy gun may not move more than 12". I contemplated allowing them a "special effect" on a roll of 5 or 6 but will trust that the easier "to hit" roll will be enough.
That just leaves rockets. I'd leave them as ordinary guns but cannister just doesn't seem right and anyway where's the fun in that?   So rockets cannot fire cannister (ie dice for effect are always 1/2) but they ignore cover due to the high angle. If the "to hit" scores 1 then there is a rogue rocket, from the mid point on the rocket's flight path, roll a scatter die and the rest of the flight is in that direction. If it lands on a unit of either side then roll for effect.

NATIVE SPEARMEN. No problem here, just infantry that can't shoot, tough ones are grenadiers, iify ones are militia, sneaky ones are light infantry.

RIFLES. Most troops are still using muskets during this period but those pesky rifles are starting to be issued and taking effect. I am tempted to ignore them and indeed, I already think of all light infantry in Charge!  as riflemen, but if doing the Crimea or Mutiny etc., they must be taken into effect. I don't want to double ranges, make the already deadly close range fire even more so, or introduce new mechanism's. My current favorite solution is to say that Minie rifle volleys inflict the standard number of casualties at long range.  This reflects that the smoothbores are still deadly at close range but at a disadvantage at longer ranges and that armies were still experimenting with the new weapons and haven't yet learned to make the most of the increased long ranges.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY and (mild) VSF. In most cases, any transport device will follow the basic rules for boats but with particular details.

BALLOONS. Balloons are treated as boats as far as embarkation which includes rising to altitude and vice versa. An observation balloon must be tethered but allows a player to look into dead ground and force his opponent to deploy troops hidden there. It also forces a player to announce units moving onto the table, a turn in advance. (it follows that if rolling for reinforcements etc, this must be done the turn before).  A balloon which is not tethered will move 12" in the direction that the wind is blowing (use a scatter die or other method to determine the wind before the start of the game. Either leave the wind alone once established or roll 2 dice at the start of each turn and add the numbers: 2 = a calm, windspeed 0", 3= wind shifts 45 degrees left, 4-10 normal wind, 11= wind shifts 45 degrees right, 12 means a gale, all balloons must descend or be blown off table. A powered balloon is treated as a boat for movement except that it can move in any direction. 18" with the wind, 12" across it, 6" against it.

STEAM TRAINS. Treat as boats. They move as if with the current if on rails, as if moving against the current if cross country (only VSF at this point), cannot enter woods or cross obstacles. An armoured train will count as a house for combat. i.e. gives cover and any attacker has to follow the rules for breaking in if they charge one.

SOLO PLAY. There are 2 main approaches to solo play, one is to play both armies to the best of your impartial abilities, the other is to program one or both sides using some combination of cards, charts and dice. I don't enjoy the latter as much and sometimes its harder to come up with a good story so I tend to lean towards swapping hats. That doesn't work as well with simultaneous moves such as Charge! uses. I have used the alternate move system from the basic game but it requires carrying over information like "is this unit the one that fired first and so the casualties come off before it shoots or is it returning fire and thus the dead un's can shoot back".

 Having come across some good ideas on Pauly Wauly's Wargames Blog, I'm thinking of trying order chits, either home made or adapting my Command Decision ones if I can find them. I'll roll initiative with the high side placing orders first, then the 2nd side. No pre-measuring will be allowed. Going first will allow a side to shape the action but going second will allow fore-knowledge and a chance to retreat non-pinned units or move to intercept etc.  Once all orders are placed, the game will carry on as normal.

1 comment:

  1. Ross,

    Really enjoying your ideas on the blog...esp your thinking on the various rulesets.