Monday, September 22, 2008

Command & Control in "Tricorne Wars"

Recently on the "Old School Wargaming" (OSW) group there has been a discussion about "command and control" in various miniature rules. So I decided that it was time to review how I've treated it in my "Tricorne Wars" rules.

First let's take a look at the 'philosophy' behind the rules. My personal preference is for a substantial degree of "fog of war" in table top gaming. To my mind one of the great challenges of command is in the handling of your subordinates.

All too often we gamers expect everyone on the table top to follow the orders of the C-in-C. But historically that was often not the case. The officer "on the scene" needs to react to the situation as he perceives it . . . and often their decisions don't coincide with those in charge.

In "Tricorne Wars" every General and Brigadier has a 'personality' (which also determines his 'inertia' rating), an 'initiative' rating and a 'command radius'. For our "Wars for Arcadian Glory" campaign, we each have four 'Generals' and six 'Brigadiers' -- and the dice determine who the monarch has decided to send us (we don't get to pick either the C-in-C or subordinates).

There are four different 'personality' types (and we each have one General and at least one Brigadier of each type):
  • Aggressive -- with an inertia rating of 3
  • Steady -- with an inertia rating of 2
  • Political -- with an inertia rating of 2
  • Careful -- with an inertia rating of 1
The Initiative rating for each officer is determined by rolling 2d3 at officer creation and recording the lower die result as his 'initiative' -- on average 56% will have a "1"; 33% a "2"; and 11% will have the best initiative rating of "3".

Command radius is determined by rolling 3dAv (averaging dice are numbered 2,3,3,4,4,5). The total is the "mounted" radius for all officers . . . but Brigadiers also have a rating for foot command . . . the two lower dAvs. So if the roll gave you a 5,3,3 the brigadier would have a command radius of 11" if commanding mounted troops; but only a 6" radius if commanding an infantry brigade.

So, how do these things work in practice?

First of all, we have a series of available "Orders" which the C-in-C can issue to his various underlings:
  • Assault -- receives a +2 on charge tests; must charge or countercharge as soon as possible; must advance as quickly as possible.
  • Attack -- receives a +1 on charge tests; may charge when desired; must continue to advance until within small arms range.
  • Advance -- no bonus on charge tests; may attempt charges when desired; at least half of command needs to move along pre-determined path.
  • Defend -- mounted are -1 on charge tests & infantry may not charge; must remain in (or rally back to) pre-determined area to be defended.
  • Hold -- stand and wait. No unit may charge. May shoot or change facing but that's it. Default order if none else given or if 'out of command radius' and fail a 'test'. Given a +1 to 'inertia' rolls to receive new orders.
  • Delay -- may not charge. May shoot. Should evade all charges (except foot may choose to stand vs a mounted charge).
  • Withdraw -- no charges allowed. Bulk of command must attempt to withdraw off table (not to return). May 'back up' so that they can shoot at advancing troops.
  • Retreat -- may not charge. Bulk of command must turn and head for table edge at top speed. If leave, will not return.
Now all 'on table' commands are presumed to be under "Hold" orders to start the battle. Each officer must first overcome his "Inertia" in order to act on his orders (and he tests with a +1 to the target number) in order to 'get started'.

For example, a Steady Brigadier would normally have an Inertia of '2', but with his +1 he needs to roll 3 or less to begin acting upon his new orders. Let's say he rolls a '5' so his command remains with "Hold" orders. On turns after the initial "inertia test" officers get to add their Initiative rating to the target number as well.

Let's say he's one of that 11% who have a '3' initiative. This means that he now needs a 2+1+3=6 to get going . . . but a '6' always fails . . . so he must roll a '5' or lower. We'll say that he rolls a '4' and can now act upon his orders. For the sake of this example, let's say his orders are to ADVANCE to a particular hill; then to DEFEND it.

For the time being, this Brigadier will act upon these orders . . . although if any unit in his command was outside of his "command radius", it would remain under HOLD orders unless or until he moved to include them.

However . . . once his command gets within 12" of known (non-skirmish) enemy, the Brigadier must test to "Interpret" his orders (by rolling 1d6). And in order to interpret his orders, both the C-in-C's and his Personalities come into play.

If the C-in-C is "Careful", the Brigadier knows that and presumes his orders are overly cautious, so he'll add a +1 to his Interpretive die roll. On the other hand, with an Aggressive commander, the Brigadier will subtract one.

Think about the above for a moment. As a Careful C-in-C, you know that your underlings are going to look to interpret your commands more aggressively -- so your tendency will be to give more cautious orders so that it won't be so bad if they interpret them "up". The reverse is true of an Aggressive commander. Knowing they'll be looking to temper your commands, you'll tend to write more aggressive orders.

Okay, what about Steady and Political?

Well, the Steady commander is what everyone wants . . . but a high or low roll by a subordinate may still cause interpretive problems. The "Political" commander is more fun. This basically represents a favorite of the monarch (or maybe the monarch). His orders may not make a lot of sense. A high or low roll may cause you to revert to "Hold" as you need more clarification.

And, of course, each of the four Personality types has a different "reaction" column depending upon what type of officer they are. Simply put, high and low rolls may get a different Interpretation of the orders given. Here is a link to the table of reactions.

Let's get back to our Brigadier from before. His command has been Advancing toward the hill he's supposed to Defend. They get within 12" of enemy who are also advancing on the hill. At this point the Brigadier must test to 'Interpret' his orders. Let us say that he rolls high enough to interpret them as Attack orders. He will now head for that enemy with alacrity. (It should be noted that, in all likelihood the enemy will also be having to Interpret his orders at this point).

Okay, things aren't too out of control at this point, are they? But the brigade now reaches the hill. And that means that they Orders have changed to Defend . . . or does it? In order for the Orders to change, the Brigadier must overcome his Inertia (and this time he doesn't have that +1 for being on Hold), so he needs to roll a '2' or less to 'get' his new orders. Luckily he rolls that '2'.

However, since he now has a new Order, he must Interpret it. What will he roll? And what will the result be?

I think you can see that this system means that a C-in-C needs not only to have a plan of battle, but to think about what roles to give to which subordinates. Some officers are more likely to respond to changes of orders than others. Some are difficult to deal with; some are loose cannons. Again, here is the link to the table of reactions . . . because who to give what roles to becomes something to think about.

And even with planning there are enough times when officers need to interpret orders that some part of your plan is likely to go amiss . . . but that's what I'm aiming for. That is more "fog of war".

-- Jeff


ColCampbell50 said...


This is an intriguing methodology. Since we are always tinkering with any rules we use, I hope that you don't mind if we "steal" them from you to try at a game or 3?


Bluebear Jeff said...


Sure, go ahead and give it a whirl.

A few other details to note. We give the C-in-C two Aides de Camp; and any other Generals (as opposed to Brigadiers) a single AdC.

If a Brigadier is beyond the "command radius" of his commander, any changes of orders must be sent by messenger (i.e., an AdC). Of course, once received, the message still needs to pass an Inertia test and is then (if within 12" of known enemy) an Interpretation test.

Also the C-in-C or other General may NOT send a change of orders based on the fact that they 'know' it was mis-interpreted. They can only do so if they notice actions inconsistent with the orders they gave.

This is one of the reasons that orders don't get interpreted until they are in proximity to the enemy.

For example, in the 'example scenario' from the main post . . . if the brigade was to leave the hill they were ordered to "Defend", the C-in-C (if he could see it) would know that something was amiss and would be justified in sending new orders . . . of course there will be a significant delay for the AdC to get there to deliver the new orders, for the Brigadier to overcome "inertia" (which simulates getting the new orders to everyone) and his "interpretation" of those new orders filtered through his knowledge of his current situation.

It can make things frustrating and quite interesting.

I hope that you like it. Please let me know how it works for you.

-- Jeff

Capt Bill said...

Very useful, thanks!!!Bill