The “Kids” Game

April 24, 2012

I like comments.  They keep me on task.  Lex, in the previous post, rightly points out that if this is a kids game, maybe things should be even more simple. The rules shall be broken into 3 parts:  Basic Rules, Advanced Rules and Optional Rules.

The basic rules will be very bare bones.  infantry will have 12 figures, cavalry 8 figures and artillery 4 figures.  There will be no formations.  Infantry and cavalry fight in line.  Cavalry move 10″.  Infantry move 6″.  Artillery move 4″.  You may move any direction and maintain your facing or you may change your facing and not move.  All turns are around the center of the unit.  Infantry shoot 1 foot and hit on a 5+ (melee and shooting).  Cavalry may not shoot but melee with a 4+.   Artillery have a 48″ range.  They hit on a 6+.  At 12″ or closer they hit on a 5+.  All units get a saving throw.  Infantry and cavalry need a 6+.  Artillery need a 5+.  A +1 will be granted to infantry and artillery for being in cover (behind a fence/hedge/earthwork).  Morale checks are done when a unit (Infantry or cavalry) reach 50%.  The unit checks needing a 4+ to stay.  Otherwise the unit is eliminated.  The unit is also eliminated when it only has 3 figures left for infantry or 2 figures for cavalry.  Artillery fight to the end.

The advanced rules will add slightly more detailed rules for morale, range effects, movement, different types of terrain and so forth.

Optional rules will add generals, unit characteristics (grades), unit officers, standard bearers and so forth.


The final bit! Morale

April 23, 2012

Nobody ever fights to the last man.  Truly.  Men get scared and run away in the heat of the moment.  It’s not cowardice.  It’s human nature and the will to survive.   In order to portray that on the battlefield, there must be some rules to account for fear and panic.  This is one category, IMHO, where many rules systems fall flat on their face.  In war, panic is contagious and often leads to chaotic outcomes that can end a battle early.  History is full of examples where one regiment might quit the field because one or two men were killed, or a whole army of raw troops route at the sight of a numerically inferior charging enemy.  Should they stand these units stand their ground, they might have done well for themselves.  But panic swept through the ranks and they chose a quick exit instead.

With this in mind, morale should be quite random.  There should be bonuses for troop grade and leadership.  A simple die roll plus bonuses should give a result on a chart as to how the unit will react to a situation. There are probably 2 kinds of morale checks.  The first kind is done when units charge or are charged by an enemy.  The second kind is a reaction to fire and melee casualties.

When a unit charges, we can move it to within 1″ of the target unit.  From here the target unit will make a morale check to see if it stands, becomes shaken or even runs away.  If it stands it may deliver a volley if allowed, during the shooting phase, possibly at a penalty if it became shaken (unnerved).  From here casualties are assessed, and a morale check is done by the charging unit.  If it passes, the charge is pressed home and melee is done during the melee step.  If the unit fails this check, it will either halt and deliver a volley of its own (infantry) or rally back and regroup (cavalry).  A really poor result will have both types flee a whole move in disorder.

Casualty checks occur at the beginning of movement, right before the affected unit is moved.  If it fails, whatever the result is called for is that unit’s move for the turn.  Otherwise, it will move and fight normally.

I would allow bonuses for terrain when checking to see if a unit stands a charge but not for any other check.  There should be a penalty per figure lost when checking to see if a unit charges home.  There should also be a penalty per quarter of a unit lost when checking for morale from casualties.  Neil Thomas, in an article in Battlegames Magazine, pointed out the dreaded double bonus.  That is, a unit gets a bonus protection when occupying terrain and also gets a morale bonus.  If a unit should take casualties while occupying cover, they should not get the morale bonus since it is obvious that the cover is not working for them!  I do allow a cover bonus for the test to see if a unit stands simply because nothing has happened yet and cover often emboldens the defender.

I guess that all that is left is to actually write the things in rules format with all the bells and whistles!


A word about scale

April 21, 2012

The rules I am designing can be played with two different levels.  At the skirmish level, small bands of troops represent 1 man per figure.  A “squad” might be about 10 men.  It would still be very much a unit style game.  Men rarely ran off on their own and operated independently.  Never the less, when a figure is removed at this level, one man is a casualty.

At higher levels, 1 man represents a number of men.  For my black powder era game, I would want battalions to be about 12-16 figures.  If a small battalion were about 500 men then my rough scale would be 1 figure represents 40 men.  Usually at this level, a cannon represents a number of guns.    For example, at this level 1 gun would be a battery of perhaps 6-8 guns.  Officers still represent 1 man plus a number of minor officers and men.


Movement

April 21, 2012

One of the most important and often underrated aspects of wargaming is movement.  We need rules to move the troops realistically, or at least believably, about the battlefield.  Scale and time have little to do with wargaming.  Rather, the relationship between movement and range are very important.  If troops move to quickly, then they could be upon an otherwise potent enemy before he can get any shots off.  If they move too slowly, then troops are generally at the mercy of longer ranged enemies.  So it is important that even the fastest troops be vulnerable to fire though not too vulnerable.

While our discussion is not period specific, we can make some generalizations about how troops move.  Troops are usually classed as heavy or light.  They also can be mounted or foot.  In modern periods we can also add classifications for vehicles.  They could be tracked, wheeled or even half tracked.

Lets limit ourselves to non-mechanical movement.  We can assume the following moves:

Heavy Infantry 6″

Light Infantry 8″

Heavy Cavalry 10″

Light Cavalry 12″

So you are probably thinking that cavalry moves too slow.  Anyone that has ever been to a horse race can tell you that horses move much faster than humans do and over longer distances.  But Cavalry usually don’t dash about the battlefield at top speed.  Actually, under most situations they will advance at about the same speed as foot.  Otherwise, they would get to far ahead of the main line and would probably find themselves cut off and outnumbered by enemy troops.  Cavalry usually did not even charge in at full tilt the whole way.  They would advance perhaps at a trot and then during the last 30-50 yards break into a full gallop.

Arbitrarily, for any shooting up through the Napoleonic War, we can say that the maximum range is about 12″ excluding artillery of course.  We could break this down further to say that All shooting at 3″ or less counts as close range,  6″ or less is maximum effective range and anything over 6″ is extreme range.  All of this is important when it comes time to fight.  Infantry will have at least 2 turns of firing before contact by other infantry and will get 1 turn of firing upon mounted troops and possibly 2 turns if the situation is right.  Even light horse which could cover the entire range of our standard weapon would suffer at least 1 round of shooting.

With the exception of the modern era, there should be a cost associated with turning units of troops.  For our purposes it is probably best to allow troops to change facing by turning about the middle of the formation.  A 90 degree turn is allowed but only at the cost of the entire move.  As the player wishes, a formation change may be performed at the same time.  Units may also about face and march away at half speed.  Finally, a unit normally may only move straight ahead at full speed.  They may move in any other direction, while maintaining their original facing and formation at half speed.   Charging is generally done in a straight line.  These rules are probably good for the Ancient period up through the early black powder era, perhaps until the beginning of the French revolution.  Troop drill became much better after that.  Formation changes could occur at the cost of half a move and facing while in column would also only cost a half a move.  Little things like that can be done to modify the game to suit the period being played.

 


A quick note about Range

April 17, 2012

Some weapons in any time period can be used over distance.  These weapons need to be assigned a range.  At close range, a weapon can hit fairly easily.  At longer ranges, the shooter would have more trouble as he is limited by the ability of his eyeballs.  This feature has changed little over the course of the history of warfare.  With this limitation in mind, the maximum effective range of most modern weapons is about 300 yards, even with weapons used today.  The use of scopes and other visual enhancements could certainly extend ranges for ultramodern and science fiction combat to the actual range of the weapon being used.  When we consider smooth bore muskets and ancient weapons, this range is reduced to just 100 yards.  Close range for most weapons can be simplified to about 50 yards.

At close range, you can assume that the shooting unit has the same chance to it its target as a unit actually in melee.  Saving throws should be granted in the same manner as hand to hand combat.  If a missile armed unit is charged and has not shot in that turn, it may take 1 close range shot before the melee ensues.

At long range, a penalty of 1 should be applied to the hit roll.  This penalty, of course, is because it is much harder to hit a target, even a group of people, at longer ranges.  This will effectively cut the chance to hit in half.


What part of “I hit you” didn’t you understand!? (Casualties)

April 17, 2012

When someone looks at a war film or sees a reenactment, they can expect to see casualties.  They will see the real affect of combat.  In a wargame, you see the same thing though modern methods would have you mark casualties or hits with chips or on a roster.  The beginner will likely have a hard time coming to grips with the notion that there are ubiquitous hits and once the unit takes so many, it is destroyed.  They will likely want to see the effect of combat.  Even for the veteran who wants a clean battlefield with out the bother of making casualty markers will find that it is far better to simply remove figures.  After all, we are trying to model combat in a game in some loose sense.  So, if you hit something, it should be removed from combat.

Try explaining to a 7 year old why when he hit one of your units 7 times none of the figures were removed.  The modern wargaming way seems to have been brought about because we paint figures and want them to be on the table for the maximum amount of time.  We WANT our hard work to be displayed!  This was a notion that Henry Hyde and Neil Shuck discussed at length in an episode of “A View from the Veranda” podcast when talking about Black Powder and Hail Caesar.   While this method may be convenient in many respects, it does not seem to model reality from the child’s mind.

So what does a casualty removal system do for you?  The main advantage is simple.  All of your record keeping is done in a visual way in game.  When a unit takes casualties, you simply remove the required amount of figures.  Upon gazing at any unit on the board, you can clearly see that it has taken casualties.  Now this brings up a drawback.  You have to be able to move all of those singly mounted figures.  That can take time in a large game.

One way of dealing with moving single based figures is to have large movement trays.  A movement tray is a large block roughly the size of a unit to which the figures are temporarily attached.  The drawback of this method is that trays can be ugly.  Also, when a unit takes casualties, the tray will not be full anymore thus making it even less attractive.

Another way to speed up movement is to have multiple figures on a stand.  Ideally you could have 3 figures on a stand.  One stand would be split so that there would be 2 figures on one stand and 1 figure on another.  This way, when a unit takes casualties, you can “make change”.  The stands are small enough so that you could display a unit in various formations as required y the game.  It is slower to move stands than with a movement tray but considerably faster than moving a unit of individual figures.  It is a nice compromise.


Combat

April 16, 2012

Some of the early wargames did not have a “to-hit” roll as we know it.  Rather, the attacking unit would roll a number of dice based on the number of figures eligible to fight in the unit.  Don Featherstone and Tony Bath usually rolled 1 six sided die per 5 or 6 figures for example.  This was fairly common in their rules.  The resulting total was the number of hits caused.  The defender (the unit being attacked) was awarded a “saving throw” based on armor and situation.  The player got a die roll for each hit.  If the die comes up the saving throw number or better, that hit is negated.  Pretty simple.

Rolling a die per 5 figures can make combat bloody.   Consider, the average roll on 1 die is 3.5.  So with 10 figures, you would get an average of 7 figures or a 70% hit rate.  Most figures will get a saving throw of a 5 or better on a single die.  So 1/3 of those hits will be negated.  That means that one attack of 10 figures will cause 4 or 5 casualties.  If the defending unit is only 10 figures, that means they’ve taken nearly 50% casualties in a single round.  Apparently Tony Bath thought the same thing.  In his later incarnations of his Ancient rules, he started dividing the total hits by 2 before applying.   In Don Featherstones Ancient rules found in his book “Lost Tales”, he made a die roll per 10 “points” which resulted in 3.5 hits or about a 35% hit rate instead.  The statistically minded will note at this point that 35% is very close to the chance of rolling a 5 or a 6 on a single die (33 1/3%).

Rolling a die per a set number of figures can be messy.  What do you do if the number of figures does not divide evenly?  They had some not so elegant mechanisms for figuring this out with 3 or 4 figures leftover  getting to roll a die on 1 or 2 figures leftover not.   It seems to me that rolling a die per eligible figure and scoring a hit on a 5 or a 6 would be most optimal.  You don’t have any of the problems of rolling for total hits.  What you are doing is getting the hit rates that some of the early writers were going for.  The saving rolls will reduce this hit rate even more.  The only problem you have is that sometimes you will have to roll lots of dice at once.  Some will find rolling handfuls of dice a turn-off while others will find it just plain fun!