Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Reconnaissance by Fire

Since my logical mind was having trouble figuring out exactly what my emotional mind was looking for,  I decided to try laying out the soldiers and more or less pushing them around to see what developed and let the rules take shape as I went. So far it seems to be working.
5 turns in, this encounter battle is starting to develop nicely. 
Here's what I have figured out so far. None of it is really new to me but it is a slightly different mix that seems to be developing.

A. The grid stays.

B.  I want the lowest level of unit to fit in a grid square and I want to keep the 4" grid so my basic 54mm "companies"/"squadrons" will be old Square Brigadier  units of  4 infantry or 3 cavalry because that fits regardless of pose.

C. I want a  hierarchical organization lie the original MacDuff where a group of companies  plus a commander forms a larger unit which in turn is formed of a commander plus a number of mid-level units. At this point, 2-4 "companies"  plus a Commander form a "Brigade" (battalions of detachments really brigaded in the old sense).

D. I miss having subordinate commanders with personalities and want to go back there, even if its just a simple Rash, Bold, Cautious sort of thing.

E. I want the player to be in control even if there are situations where things don't happen the way he wanted. So no activation rolls or card activation but commanders who are more than 3 squares away the general will take a control check each turn which might affect what they do. I have kept the turn initiative and chance card deck to shake things up a bit.

F. I want manoeuvre to be important so I have lengthened moves and kept ranges short.

G. I want the game to operate simultaneously at what are essentially different scales, like Charge! did with its 3 company battalions or The Wargame with 2 battalion Brigades and historical battles refought by a handful or battalions over a battlefield drawn up using a different scale than the rules so that the whole thing works.

Well, that's a start anyway and I'm liking the feel that is starting to emerge. Its going to need more than 2 sides of a piece of paper to describe but I expect to be able to play and post more over the weekend.


  1. All good and really a revisit to the various elements that you favour. I did wonder about 'C', is the idea that the elements of the parent formation each occupy 1 hex and that they have mobility to manoeuvre freely within a command range of the parent leader... or is the parent organisation demanding that IT is the prime unit of representation, so for example the brigade has 3 units that must all be in adjacent hexes in a formed line and it moves and behaves as a 3 hexed being, so the brigade moves as a whole? The latter sounds messy, the former sounds more conducive with grid management.

    1. A bit of both really.

      As long as a company is "touching" (hexes would be easier, I struggled to find a word for "diagonally adjacent" but Bob C came up with "touching" as sharing either an edge or an angle and I've borrowed it) another unit in the brigade, then it is part of the chain then it is in command if the Brigade is in command. If not it determines command separately. To simplify things I've decided that Commander must now be with or adjacent to a unit in the Brigade to have it in command. Within that restriction the individual units may manoeuvre as desired so to go from a Brigade in road column to a skirmish line with supports, the units move individually as required. They can break formation and move away if desired but will then be out of command and have to roll to move next turn.

  2. Hi Ross. Your essential points listed are all very logical and do go towards you enjoying to the fullest your Battles and how you'd like each confrontation to play out. Great work! Cheers. KEV.

  3. Couple of thoughts. I love subcommanders with personality because it introduces friction and uncertainty. They don't always do what you want them to, although you can influence them to do what you want. You've opted for player control / non-random activation, do want at least a bit of friction? If so, personalities would introduce it.

    If you want the game to scale, you're likely going to have to abstract time and ground scale. Maybe think about a "contact distance" mechanic? When in sufficient proximity, units behave, move, react differently then when outside this threshold - and you scale the contact threshold with scale of game (companies "contact" at a greater distance than brigades). The foot print of a unit doesn't necessarily change, just the way it interacts with other units?

    1. Good points.

      I've missed having commanders with personalities they either found in a die or or developed over time by persistent noticeable trends over a number of games. Partly because it helps me to decide what they might do in a game given the choices available bu also for story telling afterwards.

      Doing things to scale used to be my aim but early this century I changed my views but that's a long discussion. For the last 15 years or so, inspired by Joe Morschauser, I have tended to work with a critical zone close to the enemy where options are limited and mechanisms changed. I imagine this will remain in some form.

  4. I think you`re on a roll here. Certainly well on the ball. I read this closely and will keep following along (as usual) as the ideas develop.

  5. I love posts like this - windows into the design process - it gets me thinking about what it is I want out of the rules I use (which seems to change daily unfortunately). Looking forward to seeing how these develop. I also think I need to get hold of Charge! and The Wargame to better understand point G. At least that will be my excuse.

    1. Charge! is well worth the read for the wisdom hidden within and behind the seemingly naive mechanisms, for the background discussions of why certain things were done and for the pleasure of the writing. The Wargame, well there are many who appreciate it but beware the faus scale approach!