More Thoughts on Simplicity in Practice

October 5, 2017

SIP will work well for any sort of linear warfare.  Even Napoleonic wargaming should work with these rules if we accept the abstract.  But my thoughts today are for the English Civil War and Thirty Years War.  To start, the basic building blocks are already in SIP.  Regiments of troops are all close order infantry.  Light infantry could be commanded shot, forlorn hope and the like.  Heavy Cavalry and Dragoons are anything like Curasiers, Reiters, Dragoons (who don’t charge into combat but still shoot) and other sorts of Europeoan heavy horse similar to  the Swedes. Light cavalry would be Hussars, Cossacks and such.  Finally, artillery is artillery.  It represents all forms of gunnery.

The first arm to consider is the infantry.  This will be the trickiest to deal with.  First off, they have a large portion of long pikes.  I would prohibit cavalry charges to the front until the infantry have taken at least 1 DP.  There is also unit sizes to deal with.  If you are dealing with just the English Civil War, all infantry regiments are roughly the same size at somewhere around 500 men.  Larger proportions of pike would get an advantage in melee vs enemies that do not measure up.  But, these units would suffer in shooting.  New Model Army regiments as well as swedes would have an advantage in shooting.  But what of the larger Imperial and Spanish regiments?  These regiments were about twice the size of a Dutch or Swedish regiment.  However, they were also deployed about twice as deep meaning the frontage they took up was only a little wider.  I’d allow them to take another DP for a total of five before being routed.  I’d also allow them to shoot well simply because of the large amount of shot in the regiment.  It would also not have any flank vulnerability.  Finally, there is the large, 2000 man Spanish square. This was purportedly used at Lutzen. I would allow it to take 2 extra DPs for a total of 6 before it is eliminated.  I would also allow it to shoot in two directions.  It would also not have any flank or rear vulnerability.

Cavalry is pretty straight forward.  Cavalry can either shoot or not shoot depending on the type.  I suppose dragoons would be broken up into two classes.  They would be mounted arquibusers and actual dragoons.  arquibusers would fire from the saddle and may charge home.  Dragoons fire similar to arquibusers but may not charge home.  Instead, the get a bonus on shooting if they do not move that turn.  Light cavalry also may not charge home but may shoot to harass the enemy.

The only modification for artillery is that once it fires, it is assumed to be set for the battle.  In those times, artillery was moved by civilian teamsters.  These teamsters did not want to fight so they would drag the guns into position and then get out of the way.

I’ll probably mock up a couple of cardboard armies and give these rules a go.  I purchased a few figures from Permes from WGV.  I’ve already experimented with reducing size in GIMP.  The figures look pretty good.  That was a while ago.  So no pictures as of yet.



Simplicity in Practice Revisited

September 21, 2017

In issue #22 of the now defunct Battlegames Magazine, Neil Thomas wrote his gaming manifesto, or why simple gaming rules can get the job done.  In issue #23, the author returns with a simple set of wargame rules that illustrates how one could create such a game with a simple set of rules for 18th Century warfare.  I posted my thoughts about the game many moons ago here.  After giving some more consideration to these rules, I think I’d like to give a whack at my own set along the same vein.  Much of the methodology would remain the same.  Shooting would use a single die with a required number to cause 1 hit.  There would be a 4+ save for any unit in substantial cover.  Melee combat would be handled by a contested die roll.  Each advantage would grant a +1 on the die.  The loser takes 2 hits and retreats a move.  4 Hits would remove a unit from play.  That is the game in a nutshell.

The game is  strictly IGO-UGO.  I will probably change this to IGO-UGO within the movement phase.  Shooting would be simultaneous with non-moving units shooting first followed by moving units.  I would allow some units to make double moves and even triple moves along a road so long as they stay out of engagement range of the enemy during their move.  Melee would also be simultaneous.  The unit actually charging in would be deemed the attacker.  The defender would get any modifiers specific to the defender.  I think a single general in such a game is useful for rallying a unit or inspiring them in close combat.  If a unit was out of engagement range and the general is attached, that unit could rally 1 point back on a 4+.  They can never rally back to full.  So a unit that took its first hit cannot rally it back.  Finally, I’d allow the general to charge into combat with a unit affording that unit a +1.  However, the general can be killed during the combat.  On a die roll of 6, the general falls in combat.

This really requires some more thought.  I don’t want to destroy the “vibe” of the game and make it something it was never supposed to be.  I’ve been building Rolls Royce armored car card models.  There will be plenty of time to ponder while I build.

Some thoughts on forces at Malplaquet

September 7, 2017

Malplaquet is a very significant battle of the Wars of Spanish Succession and yet, it is really difficult to get any reliable information on troop strength.  Wiki has strengths at about 86,000 and 100 guns for the Alliance to 75,000 and 80 guns for the French.  If you dig deep enough and find some alternative pages, you can get a squadron and battalion breakdown for each side.  The French had about 121 infantry battalions, 260 cavalry squadrons and 80 guns.  It has been mentioned in several places that the french battalions were under strength.  John Lynn suggests that the company strength of a battalion fell to about 31 men per company by this time.  In a typical French battalion you would have 14 companies.  So, a French battalion at Malplaqet would be about 420 men strong…or roughly 400 men if we don’t mind rounding.  The French infantry arm at the battle would be about 48,000 men.  Cavalry is a bit easier.  There is no mention of French cavalry being understrength and cavalry was a hallmark of a French army.  A typical squadron of the time would be about 120 men.  Assuming 260 squadrons is correct,  That works out to about 32,000 cavalry at the French disposal.  So we are looking at a French army of about 80,000 men and 80 guns.

The allied side can be generalized.  128 infantry battalions is a commonly used number and several sources seem to weigh in at around the same number.  An average battalion of the time is about 500 men at normal field strength.  So 128 battalions is about 64,000 infantry.  Cavalry, again being rather straight forward, would be based on a 120 trooper squadron.  The common number of squadrons is about 252 across sources.  So, the Allies would have about 30,000 cavalry at their disposal.  Most sources agree that the allied gun compliment was about 100 guns.  That’s 94,000 troops and 100 guns in the allied army.  There are several pages that outline the deployment of each command.

The French command was broadly divided between Boufflers and Villers.  Boufflers joined Villers with 63 battalions of infantry and an unknown number of squadrons of cavalry and guns. You can actually break the commands down even further with reasonably detailed deployment of the army in infantry battalions.  Information on the cavalry deployment is fairly scarce but you can assume the cavalry is evenly distributed between commands.

The allied command was divided across the front in 4 commands plus one small flanking force for a total of 5 commands.  Schulemberg’s assault column had 40 battalions of infantry.  Lottum had 22 battalions and 30 squadrons of cavalry.  Orkney had just 15 battalions (11 English) but the balance of 179 cavalry squadrons.  The Prince of Orange had 30 battalions of infantry and 20 squadrons of cavalry.  He originally had 49 infantry battalions and 30 cavalry squadrons but some were peeled off to make a small flanking force on the Allied right.

When using online sources for numbers of infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons, they don’t necessarily add up to the totals given.  Totals are sometimes different as well.  The battalion strengths are usually within 10 of any given number.  The French cavalry strength has been reported by some as only 180 squadrons.

Account of Battlefield on Battlefield Anomalies Site

Account of Battle on British Battles Site

Account of Battle on Wikipedia

Account of Battle on Places of Battle Site

Presentation of Battle on YouTube

Morale in Twilight of the Sun King

July 13, 2017

Twilight of the Sun King is a rules set taking a minimalist approach to game mechanics. The core of the system is the morale check. If a unit fails a morale check, a hit is scored. Most units can take 2 or 3 hits before being removed from the game. Oddly, the game designers chose the sum of 2 average dice for the random element in a morale check. I suspect they wanted a limited range of outcomes yet they wanted the middle results to be most common. Given that there are only 3 results (Pass, Fail or Destroyed), it seems to me that this could have been done in a better way.


If a morale check total is 8 or more, the unit passes. If the morale check is 7-5, the unit takes 1 hit. If the morale check is 4 or less, the unit is immediately removed from the game.

2 Average dice graph. Left column is the individual chance of each occurrence while the right is the sum in ascending order.

With the sum of 2 average dice, a 5 or 6 will come up 1/3 of the time. Similarly a 8 or 9 comes up 1/3 of the time. A 7 will come up about 27.78 percent of the time. The outliers (4 and 10) each come up 2.78 percent of the time. Thus, a unit passed a straight up morale check 36.11 percent (slightly ore than 1/3) of the time. They fail 63.89 (slightly less than 2/3) of the time. 2.78 percent is an automatic removal of the unit. Rolling 2D6 would be an obvious solution but there is a problem. The spread from pass to destruction (8 to 4) is only 4. If you roll 2D6 you would either have a spread of 6, which throws off the modifiers to morale checks, or you would have automatic destruction occur many more often that intended. A ‘4’ would occur 16.67 percent of the time which is 6 times more than intended.

The Change

Ignoring the outliers, we can generalize and say that a unit passes 1/3 of the time and fails 1/3 of the time. That neatly works on a single D6. A unit passes on a 5+ and fails on a 4-. We could say that a unit is destroyed on a 1 but that would also occur 6 times more than intended. My solution is to make a result of 0 an automatic destruction. So, using a single D6, a 5+ is a pass, a 1-4 is a fail and a 0 or less is a destruction. The observant will not that a unit will pass 2.78 percent less than before. But you should also note that a unit that has 0 or more positive modifiers cannot be automatically destroyed. That’s probably a fair trade. Also, while the spread for pass to destruction is 5 instead of 4, it will still likely not break the system.


It is clear to me that the designers of the game wanted units to fail morale checks often with only a small chance of a catastrophic failure. However, 2 average dice are not necessary for morale checks in the game. You can yield similar results with a single D6, which I hope most gamers can appreciate.

Throw me a 6 Horse and Musket

May 22, 2017

I’ve been musing for a while now about how to bring TMA6 into the horse and musket era.  I’ll focus initially on the early part where linear tactics prevail and worry about the the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period later.

Moving should be pretty simple.  I think a simple formation system will be in order.  The only formations needed will be road column and line.  Perhaps 6″ in line, 9″ in column and 12″ in column if traveling the entire distance on a road.   Most of the other maneuver rules can remain the same.

Shooting was my bigger hangup.  How much is too much in terms of firepower?  I have to consider the two firing systems.  There is rank fire which, while relatively steady, can be cumbersome when the formation is taking fire.  The platoon fire system probably yields similar results when the formation is moving but should have an advantage when the formation is not moving.  In general, there is about a 4:3 relationship between a 3 rank and 4 rank formation.    I settled on a unit being able to fire with 3 dice which is about a 42% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Platoon fire infantry that do not move may add 1 die to the total for about a 51% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Each hit on the unit reduces it’s firepower and melee power by 1.  3 hits (3 stands lost) results in the unit routing.   Units should be represented by 5 stands.  4 will do but with 5, you can place the flag in the center which makes the unit look great!

Melee should be similar to the Ancients version.  The loser retreats a variable amount of inches while the attacker can pursue up to a half move.   Base melee power should be set at 3 as melee by this time is a combination of shooting and hand to hand fighting.  If an infantry unit chooses not to charge another unit, it may issue fire first.  A hit results in the opposing unit to halt short and it may then return fire.  2 hits breaks the attacker and the unit retreats in a similar fashion to melee.  The defender (winner) may not pursue if they win through firepower.

I have not thought about cavalry yet but being that they are mostly melee troops, there will be armored and unarmored heavy horse and light horse.  They should all function similar to the TMA6 ancients rules.

A Close-up of the Units for Portable Wargame

April 13, 2017

Here is a close up shot of the Red units.  The blue units are identical only blue.

Back row: Grenadiers, Infantry, Light Infantry Front row: Artillery, Dragoons, Cavalry Center: General

There is no unit for light infantry or grenadiers in The Portable Wargame.  Dragoons fight like other light cavalry.

Light Infantry: SP 3, Range 2,  -1 in close combat in the open,  Must take the retreat option if available when fighting close combat in the open.

Grenadiers: Behaves like other Infantry units for movement and shooting.  Close combat at +1.

Cavalry get a +1 to hit in close combat.

I seem to be tweaking this game a lot.  The best part is that it is pretty hard to break when modifying the rules.

The game is Afoot!

April 13, 2017

The action from turn turn 2 through 5.

Turn 2 starts with the Blue artillery scoring hits on the Red cavalry and 1 infantry unit. Blue wins the initiative and charges. Red gives ground, Blue follows up but is then repulsed.  Blue infantry advances to the river. Red holds the cavalry back and the light infantry moves up to attack Blue cavalry and scores a hit driving them back further. Blue infantry advance onto the western bridge.

Turn 3: Artillery fires scoring another hit on the Red cavalry and one on a Red infantry. The infantry can and does retreat. The cavalry has to take the hit. Red wins the initiative. They advance over the bridge with 1 infantry and secure the bridge head on the south side. The close combat is inconclusive though Red takes a hit. Red cavalry attempts to run the Blue cavalry off the board but is repulsed. The light infantry however, scores a hit. Both cavalry now have 2 hits.

Turn 4. Artillery firs again, this time scoring no hits. Red wins initiative They slide 1 infantry to the western edge and shoot scoring 1 hit on a Blue infantry. A second infantry moves to the bridge. Though in range, I decided the Red infantry could not shoot from the bridge because it would be in a column and unable to fire. Blue slides to the west to block the Red advance and is content to shoot at the Red infantry to no effect. Blue cavalry charges the Red cavalry to no effect. The Blue infantry charges the Red cavalry in the flank scoring the needed hit to destroy the cavalry. However, the Blue infantry also takes a hit and opts to retreat.

Turn 5. Blue fires its artillery at a single Red infantry scoring 1 hit. Blue wins the initiative. Blue is content to fire at Red with its infantry. Its scores 1 hit on the Red infantry on the bridge. Blue cavalry is down to one point and does not want to chance getting hit by the Red light infantry. Blue’s infantry charges the Red light infantry and inflicts a hit but is repulsed.  Red fires with 1 infantry and scores a hit on the Blue infantry directly across from the bridge. Blue then charges with the other infantry and ends up taking 1 hit in the inconclusive close combat.

The game really moves along at a good clip.  It is also very well suited for one hour wargames.  The fight hangs in the balance.

One last modification is with regard to exhaustion points.  The rules are somewhat ambiguous but seem to suggest that exhaustion points are assessed as they happen.  I am assessing them only when a unit is defeated.  This will give some incentive for a player to not go all in and needlessly sacrifice its units.   As it stands, Red has an exhaustion level of 8 and Blue 7.  With the loss of the Red cavalry the score is Red 5 and Blue 7.