Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Square Brigadier 2nd Edition Draft

This is the second (untested as yet) draft of a new attempt to produce a card table game  intended primarily for wargames in the mid-19thC but capable of being extended forward and backwards to cover the early 19th & 20thC. I decided that it is close enough to the Square Brigadier, which was the 1st attempt, to use the name. To the previous influences of Joe Morschauser and Bob Cordery I now add Richard Borg.  

The biggest changes from the previous, Hearts of Tin based game are the replacement of die score modifiers by  modifiers to the number of dice rolled and to the replacement of a compulsory rout when reduced to 1 stand by a voluntary retreat trade off to cancel 1 hit. If this works, I will rework HofT to be unit based rather than stand based since it allows better control, it was only an attachment to stands that stopped me from trying this last year.

The rules were written with a square grid in mind but can be played on a hex grid or without any grid by multiplying the number of areas by a convenient number which is close to the frontage of an average unit, for example 2” or 6” or 4cm.  Each rectangle or hex is referred to as an "area". The game is designed for relative effect not as a scale model. Early in the period units will usually be battalions of close order troops commanded by Brigadiers but later in the period or for smaller actions they will be companies or wings commanded by a Major or Colonel. Wargame units may be any number of figures on any sort of bases as long as they fit within one area. Hits may be tracked with markers or figures/bases removed. Where something isn't covered Hearts of Tin may be consulted as a guide.

In the absence of a Game Master (GM) Common sense trumps any rule. In the absence of agreement dice to determine whose argument is right.  

Play is IGO UGO determined at start of game, usually attacker first or dice for it. The first player rolls for orders then moves and shoots or rallies units. Then melees are resolved.

Each side has one over all "General" and should have a subordinate commander for roughly each 3 to 6 units. Roll 1d6 for each Commander to see how many orders they may issue. An order is required for a unit to move. No order is required to shoot, rally or fight in melee. Commanders do not need an order to move. 

The General may order any unit.  It uses up 2 orders to issue an order to a unit which is more than 3 areas away or to a unit which is in the same area as a commander but not under his command.

The Army General may defer rolling his order die until the next turn. On the next turn he may either defer again or roll 2 dice. The decision must be made before any order dice are rolled.     

Commanders move 3 areas. If not attached, roll for capture if adjacent to an enemy. If the commander rolls equal to or greater than the enemy he escapes and may move up to 3 areas. If one or more commanders are  attached to a unit in melee, roll 1 additional die.  If a commander is attached to a unit which takes one or more hits, roll 1 die and on a 1 the commander is killed. If a commander is killed, an order by the General is required to add a commander to one of the units in the Commander's old command. The replacement may not issue orders on the turn he is replaced.

A unit may move in any direction and face any area side or angle after moving. A unit which moves adjacent to any enemy units must stop and face one of them. If it is in the frontal arc of one or more of the enemy units it must face one of these. A unit which begins its turn adjacent to an enemy must either face an enemy, no order required, or be given an order to move to an area which is not adjacent to any enemy.  Only infantry, cavalry, armoured cars and tanks may move adjacent to known enemy.  Only 1 unit may occupy an area at the end of its move. Commanders are not units and any number may be in an area with a unit. 
Infantry and Tanks may move 2 areas or may move 1 area and shoot either before or after moving.
Cavalry, Horse Artillery and Armoured Cars  may move 3 areas or move 1 area and shoot either before or after moving. (Cavalry are assumed to dismount to shoot, artillery to limber or unlimber as needed).
Other artillery including MG's may move 2 areas or shoot.  
Wagons may move 2 areas. 
Trains may only move on rails. They may move a maximum of 4 areas but may only accelerate or decelerate by 2 areas per turn. Armoured Trains may move 1 area and shoot before or after moving.

Difficult terrain is any terrain with woods, buildings, steep slopes, fordable river etc. Armoured cars, wheeled transport and artillery other than pack artillery and MG's may not enter difficult terrain except by road. Any unit except irregular, tribal or "native" infantry entering a difficult area stops and may not move farther that turn.

Roads. Units in column/limbered which are following a road for their whole move may add 1 area of movement but may not shoot and may not move adjacent to a known enemy. If using single stand units place a marker to indicate column status. 

A unit may change its facing before firing without an order but this will count as moving. The line of fire is measured from center of the firing area to the center of the target area. If the LoF crosses any area containing terrain or troops of either side then it is blocked.  The arc of fire is 45 degrees either side of directly ahead.(60 degrees if using hexes)   The firer must normally have a line of sight to the target area. Gaps must be as wide as the firing unit so, for example, a unit cannot shoot on the diagonal between 2 occupied squares. A unit which is adjacent to the enemy may not shoot or be shot at. 

Roll 2 dice per unit with small arms, 3 dice per artillery or mg unit.  

Range: (Other weapons can be added as needed)
Muskets: 2 areas
Rifles: 3 areas,
MG, Superior Rifles: 4 areas. 
Smoothbore Artillery: 6 areas
Other Pack/Horse Artillery 12 areas,
Other Artillery: 18 areas.  

Observed fire.  Artillery capable of indirect fire may fire at targets they can not see if they are connected by telephone or radio to an observer who can see the target and the range is at least 6 areas. Range is measured from the gun but line of sight is traced from the observer. Indirect, observed fire may ignore intervening terrain and troops. Radios are very rare and must roll 2 or better each turn to connect. Telephones lines must normally be laid before the game begins and if either the observer or the battery move or are destroyed then the connection is destroyed.  

Effect. Each die scoring 5 or 6 after modifiers causes 1 hit on the target. .
Shooting modifiers:
 +1 die  if superior firepower or heavy artillery,
-1 die inferior firepower or if smoothbore artillery firing over 1/2 range or if artillery firing observed fire.
-1 die if the target is in cover or obscured or is armoured, cavalry or artillery.
-1 die if moving and firing

Dense targets. If there is a unit of either side adjacent to the target and the line of fire would go through it if extended then roll 1 extra die against this unit counting as an obscured target  A unit in road column is also a dense target, roll an extra die against it.

Melee must be resolved during the appropriate phase if opposing units are adjacent. Roll 2 dice per unit if there is an enemy unit in an adjacent area in the unit's arc of fire except that units in road column only roll 1 die. The dice may be split amongst eligible targets as desired by the rolling player but the decision must be made before rolling. Each  4,5 or 6 causes a hit. The 2nd player rolls first with infantry and artillery units and the hits are applied then both sides roll simultaneously with any remaining units.    

Melee modifiers:  +1 die superior firepower,
+1 die infantry or dismounted cavalry, with firearms, or artillery/MG defending an obstacle or difficult hill,
 -1 die vs cover or an armoured target,
 +/-1 any scenario or special troop modifiers
Rear support. If an infantry unit is directly behind and adjacent to a friendly infantry unit in melee it may add 1 die  

Hits include morale and unit cohesion as well as casualties. 
Each turn, each unit may cancel 1 hit from shooting by retreating 1 area.
Each turn, each unit may cancel 1 hit from melee by retreating 1 area.
If a unit retreats off board it is lost.

A regular unit is destroyed when it has accumulated 3 hits. Militia by 2 hits, Elites by 4 hits. 

Rallying A unit may rally if it does not move or shoot and is not adjacent to an enemy. Roll 1 die. On a score of 4, 5 or 6 1 hit is cancelled   +1 if one or more Commanders are in the same area or if there is a support unit in an adjacent area. A unit which has been destroyed cannot rally.

An army which has lost over 1/2 of its units  must retreat unless the scenario says otherwise. 

The use of a chance card deck is recommended to increase uncertainty and drama. (forth coming)

Adjacent is any area which is touching either through a side or a corner or if not using a grid then means units which are within the base distance apart.

Superior or Inferior Firepower is a judgement call about relative effectiveness and should be used for troops who are better or worse armed or trained than average for their type. Examples might be the BEF in 1914 or units with more MG's attached than usual,  natives with obsolete firearms, Civil War troops with smoothbores etc...


  1. Ross Mac,

    I wish I was not up to my eyes doing other things at the moment as I am seriously tempted to try these new rules out myself.

    I look forward to reading about your play-test battles.

    All the best,


    1. Hopefully you will have more hobby time before long. In the meantime I am curious to see how the new mechanisms compare in use.

  2. Hi Ross,
    Another interesting rule set. I suggest a clarification: you have stated that "A unit which is adjacent to the enemy may not shoot or be shot at."; but this contradicts the Dense Target rule. I infer that the former rule doesn't apply to observed fire, right?

    I notice in both your and Bob's rules that cavalry gets a defensive benefit. Based on what I have read about ACW & WWI cavalry being shredded by rifles, artillery, and especially machineguns, and generally ineffective while mounted (except in Palestine), I don't understand this. It seems like it would be much easier to hit mounted troops, and enormously easier to disorder them. Can you please explain?

    Thanks and regards,

    1. John, I agree that the wording could be better. The intention is that units are either melee targets or shooting targets, not both at the same time. (melee including firefights at under 100 yards) I may have to add a dense target rule to the melee section, I hadn't thought about it.

      re cavalry,I can't answer for Bob but for my part, it is in part engrained habit and it is partly because the end result seems to work. Neither of which is terribly helpful. There are several aspects to consider. Although horses are big, they don't normally stand still and rapidly moving targets are much harder to hit, especially for people not well trained in marksmanship and nervous from being shot at and threatened. Also while 1 hit could take out a horse and rider, there are also examples of horses taking several bullets and still keeping up with the herd (their term), as well as some riders remounting (silly sods). Cavalry is also typically less dense on the ground with more space between each file and even if in waves, with more room between echelons, less dense means a thick hail of bullets hits more empty air/ground and achieves more hits on fewer targets rather than hitting more targets.

      The last one which is the real bugger is that a fixed turn sequence doesn't do a good job of capturing the actual dynamics. Unlike infantry, cavalry did not tend to stand around under fire. They either fell back to dead ground as soon as they were fired on or they charged the threat, or they dismounted and went to ground, just standing there did happen but it was rare. With their mobility, and not being fixed in the line, they were usually able to make good use of minor bits of dead ground (or friendly infantry) until the time came for decisive action. With a fixed turn sequence on an average table, those dynamics are hard to recreate easily, I have put in reaction phases and reactions to reactions and so on but it does get complicated easily.

      From there, if we look at actual cavalry in battles from the 19th & 20thC, they normally didn't take heavy losses from long range fire. The actions in Palestine were recreated elsewhere just not often because of terrain more than anything else. In the ACW, Sheridan proved that well trained cavalry used in numbers could still charge effectively where the terrain was favorable (not often in the ACW) Where cavalry took heavy losses was generally when they came up against barbed wire or muddy or rough ground, ditches, trenches etc where they could not maneuver at speed.

      That's my take on it.