Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Behind the Brigadier Pt 1 - Grids, Games and Generals.

I suspect that one of the reasons that I've been so interested in exploring gridded miniature games is because they force me to shake off decades of convention and look at things a little differently. Helps keep the little grey cells active.

This explanation could run on for pages but I'll spare everyone.......for now. Suffice it to say that the vagueness of grid areas vs the precise location of units pretty much forces one to drop the illusion of a scale model of processes and instead focus on intentions and outcomes. So less thinking about x paces per minute and precise ranges and more thinking about A moving up to launch a decisive attack on B or just moving up to engage and threaten them. I had been trying to do that already thanks to Joe Morschauser's influence but the grid seems to make it easier.

One of the other issues that I have written about, is coming to terms with the game aspect of wargames, especially solo games. The rule approach that makes the most accurate simulation is not always the one that provides the most engaging and exciting game, especially when playing solo. Its a delicate balance though or the whole thing becomes a parlour game rather than a wargame.

OK on to the rules. I have been dithering over command control and turn systems, trying to balance player decision making, uncertainty and some reflection of how things operate. I like the old written orders and simultaneous moves but it really doesn't work for me when playing solo so the 2 main approaches have been rolling each turn for "initiative" to see who goes first and fixed turns with a die roll to determine how many "orders" may be issued (ie a variation on the DBA pips). In both cases I have tried to include a role for subordinate commanders and tried to make it easier to control a concentrated force.

I rather like the initiative system but in a solo game, the choice is less appealing to me since I am both sides at once and its not always clear what is best. It also poses some issues about one side getting to shoot twice without reply and so on unless reaction rules are introduced. I also like the PIPS system but there needs to be balance between the maximum/minimum number of orders and the number of units. Too many and its too easy, too few and its too frustrating. I think I have that fixed now so PIPS or Order dice are back in.

Each side will get 1 die for the commander in chief giving him between 1 and 6 orders to be issued to any units. Each subordinate commander gets 1 order to be used only on his own troops. An order is required to move or rally but not to shoot or fight in melee. A group of properly aligned units can all be given the same order using only 1 Pip instead of 1 per unit, like a group move in DBA. Units which are detached will roll to see if they receive and act on their order, or not.

The result of all this is that an army that is properly formed with an appropriate command structure should be able to function fairly reliably  but once it starts to engage in combat and loses order, it will be harder and harder to get units to move forward or redeploy in reaction to enemy movements although  they will cheerfully stand and blaze away at whatever is in range. Once an army takes heavy losses it can pull units back and recover to some extent but it won't be able to keep attacking at the same time. This is the effect I've been striving for for ages and I think the current version gets it right.

Next post movement, missile fire, melee and morale.


  1. I'm hoping to give the rules as they stand a whirl this weekend, Ross. No Grids, though, so I'm just going to substitute 10cm/4" blocks in their place. Wish me luck!

    1. They should work just find with 3" or 4" units of measure and a sensible/flexible approach. I'm actually hoping to try the gridless version myself this weekend or soon after.

      I also plan to have at least an updated draft on line by Friday as the latest changes helped a lot.

  2. Ross Mac,

    What an interesting blog entry ... and one that covers various topics that I am looking at myself, but from a slightly different perspective.

    I look forward to seeing how this develops.

    All the best,


    1. Its being able to see from slightly different perspectives that gives us depth of vision is it not?

  3. This sounds good, Ross, nicely and simply incorporating difficulties (and breakdown) of command and control as events unfold. I must say (as a largely solo gamer) that I like the roll for initiative approach as it helps build in both uncertainty and a sort of morale. By the latter point I mean that if one side gets a run of initiatives then they can be seen to be benefiting from (temporarily) higher morale, aggression or similar. It might not even matter that reactive responses are not part of this approach as that could be seen to be an integral part of the other side's loss of initiative. But, in any case, I'm going to have to get my gridded men out again soon

    1. I'll confess that I want to be the one moving second as often as I want to be first. To be second is to be the cat ready to pounce with a double move when the time is right.

      One does get somewhat the same effect as a string of going first if one side rolls low pips several turns in a row and the other rolls up and it is also possible to use both. I didn't like it when I tried though since it was too disappointing to get first move and then only get 1 pip!

  4. Your thoughts on command and activation remind me very much of Whitehouse's Old Trouser's or Ironsides rules. In that, commanders roll up a variable number of Leadership Points (LPs). These LPs can then be sent to either subordinate leaders or Maneuver Units (MUs) for activation. Activation includes either movement or rally but not for firing. Old Trousers also accounts for group movement or activation at reduced LP cost.

    In my related class of rules, I simplify this activation process in order to avoid the need to track these flows of LPs. Each "In Command" MU can accomplish either Move or Rally but not both unless a leader is attached. With an attached leader, one MU can activate twice but this attachment reduces that leader's ability to command others.

    Interesting to watch your thought process unfold.