Monday, May 6, 2019

It Was a Terrible Struggle

Not the battle on the table, though it had its moments, it was the struggle in my head. Luckily, Victory has been declared!
The 2nd Battalion of the Highland Brigade goes in !
This week I had the luxury of time and the intent to "find" my game for my toy soldiers. Ideally one should know what one wants to do before setting out to do it but my desires were too vague and past good experiences and familiar systems and assumptions were pulling me in several different,  opposing directions as far as not just mechanisms but what I want to show overtly,

In short, I didn't know exactly what I wanted, I just knew very clearly that I wanted it.
The Black Watch attacked after heavy losses in a prolonged firefight but were met by a hail of 5's and 6's and repulsed. 
 I played the first 6 turns using 8 or more variations on about 4 different  sets of rules.  Some of these were based on one or another of my own past rules, others were based on Featherstone or Morschauser with all sorts of other inspirations  finding their way in from somewhere. Often I would get excited and think "I've got it!" only to start rolling dice and find myself thinking "Nope, not right, its too (insert complaint)..". 

It wasn't lost time though as identifying and marking wrong choices helped make it clear what my subconscious actually wanted. Based on past experience, there were times that I was as addicted to chrome, fiddly bits and artificial friction as many other gamers, but these days the shine is off all of that and I want a game that runs quickly, provides a satisfying balance of my decisions vs unpredictability and feeds my imagination.

In the end of course, I manged to roll things back to more simplicity than I thought I'd be able to stand but of course, it worked! The damned Rebels fought better than I had planned for but that's a good thing as it shows I can't get my own way in a solo game unless I take to cheating.
The Grenadiers and Fusiliers seized the Stone Inn that overlooks the bridges. 
 So, once I got rid of all the really clever bits here is roughly what's left:
  • My usual card draw for initiative.
  • 'A' moves or shoots then both sides resolve close combat then 'B' does the same (essentially the engine behind Hearts of Tin and Sq Brig ).
  • Variable length moves for easy friction.
  • Simple to hit die rolls with few modifiers but saving throws. Essentially my old rally roll but rolled right away so that some hit are removed at once while the rest are just out for the rest of the turn. 
  • Melee includes defensive fire and close range firefights as well as charges. Again as per HofT and Sq Brigadier.
  • No morale tests. (Morale being included in combat resolution which includes musketry, morale, and the threat or use of cold steel, in one mechanism) and in the Rally or Saving throw mechanism.) Units below 1/2 strength are penalized.
  • Standard Units: 8 inf, 1 gun, 4 cav. (Some in this game were 12 but they were too big for my table and the ranges)

    The rules as used for the last 4 turns are here

The Rebel forces rallied but there were not enough men left to reestablish a stable bridgehead so they pulled back.
I can't wait to get back to this and to painting more toy soldiers. Limbers are high on my priority and several units are still shy a couple of figures but there is also a list pf new units in waiting now that bigger armies will be feasible in the time and space available.

HOWEVER, I leave for Huzzah in 10 days and there are a few things to do to improve the look of the game as well as player aids to print, packing to be done and on and on. There is also a matter of a prototype figure to be painted and brought along to take part in discussions about  next year's joint game which Rob and I are already discussing. Lots to do!


  1. No Morale Tests is the interesting one or should I say, the one that left me with lingering thoughts after I have read the list of preferences.

    I am a bit of a morale fan, for the dynamic that it injects into the game, but in one of my own systems, I have put the morale into the sequence of play. In the 'retreat phase', all units that have 5 or more hits test. If they fail, they fall back and suffer 1 additional hit (at 8 hits the unit is lost).

    It has a light touch and only really kicks in once units are probably fatigued. I mention this only from an interest perspective and for something to keep in your back pocket, should you want to return to the thought of morale add an option once Huzzah is under way.

    1. Norm I started to reply to your comment but realized I was turning a comment into a blog post. So I'll do that.

      The short answer is that I think morale and discipline are key but having grown up, as it were, with separate morale tests, I find that the sort of system that tries to separate the psychological from the physical tends to take more effort and deliver a less historical result. I find that systems that incorporate morale issues into combat results tend to be not only simpler but more effective if perhaps more abstract.

      I'll save the rest for a blog post(s) addressing my views on the question.

  2. Sounds as if you're closing in on the grail ;)

  3. Finally, a chance to sit back and enjoy other people`s interesting posts. Sipping morning tea and munching toast, is a nice way to start the day. Intriguing game and I like the simplistic rendering.

  4. I think the single best "fake friction" mechanic is the one you cite, the variable who-goes-first check, which you can always modify if more nuance is desired (high die with a modifier, or whatever, gets to choose). I would encourage you to retain that one in your future deliberations.

    1. Credit to Don Featherstone for the idea though it took me a decade to get past "simultaneous with orders" but some version of the idea has ruled for 20 years now and isn't likely to go away. I like the way that it encourages players to think ahead since there is always the chance the player going second will get a double move so be careful about leaving that flank in the air!

      The current card draw version is only about 5 years old I but I like the combination of initiative, chance cards and turn record all in one automatic mechanism.

      I suppose one could stack the deck by putting more red cards than black cards into the deck before shuffling. Hmm, Must file away that idea in a spare grey cell.