Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Awards & Some Thoughts

Several of you have been kind enough to nominate this blog for a " Liebster Award". . .  first by Murdock of "Murdock's Marauders" and most recently by AJ of "AJ's Wargames Table" with a few more in between (although I sadly forget who due to my fatigued condition). 

I've not had the energy to deal with this; and, anyway, virtually all of the blogs that I read with any regularity have already been "Liebstered".  So my thanks to all of you who've nominated me but I'll pass on trying to select five blogs from so many fine ones.

Turning to wargames rules, I've been thinking about a few things.

One is the rate at which units should degrade or be destroyed.  For my tastes it seems that many rule systems allow this to happen much too quickly.  On the other hand, my "Tricorne Wars" rules prolonged this much too long.  So I have to decide just how quickly/slowly units under fire should be able to continue until they are ineffective.

Another issue is just how much "friction" do I want in a set of rules.  I know that I prefer more than most . . . I like the unpredictability . . . but how much is too much?  Much of this has to do with the "personality" of Brigadiers.  So far I like the system I used in "Tricorne Wars" more than those of some other rules I've read or played recently . . . some are too draconian for my taste.

Finally there is the "look" of units and whether to base them for figure removal or not.  As "the jury" I'm still "out" on figure removal; but on the "look" of line infantry, I know that I want them in two ranks . . . single-rank units look like skirmishers to me.  They might better represent the ground coverage, but they just don't do it for me.

What are your thoughts on these issues?

-- Jeff


abdul666 said...

I can comment only the last point: I agree that single-rank units don't look the part. Unit depth is less out-of-scale, but the aesthetic is essential, otherwise we would be playing boardgames. The theoretically simplest (but expensive and time-consuming) solution to recover the 'thin lines' look of pitched Lace Wars battles is to have 'big battalions'. Too small units look like color parties, not as fighting corps, anyway. Of course, having been 'hooked' by C. Grant's 'The War Game' I'm biased :-)

Most sincere wishes,

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I have always concurred with Don Featherstone's view that he didn't spend all that time painting figures to start putting them in a box (as casualties) the moment the dice started to be thrown, so I've always been a roster man - no casualty removal for me...

MurdocK said...

Interesting thoughts Jeff.

At first I was going to only comment on each of your three ideas, then it struck me that the 'scale' of your action matters.

If you are doing a 'skirmish' battle with 12-60 men total on each side, then a more man-to-man approach is needed (like Sword and Flame). When scale of action involves 40,000 men or more on each side then the visual aesthetic and action mechanics must change.

So in my responses I shall comment on my thoughts involving skirmish or small action (s); mid-level battles (where companies or battalions are the operational units) (m); large scale actions (where the operational units are battalions or brigades) (L); and Grand actions (where divisions or army corps are the operational units) (G).

One is the rate at which units should degrade or be destroyed.

s: since the squad or maniple (for the ancients) is the largest unit at this scale it should remain in action until 60-80% casualties (unless leaderless - then anything over 30% and it might flee).

m: These affairs have just enough influence of the overall and mid-level leaders to keep the men in action, units with good leaders should last longer than ones without.

L:Overall men quality starts to take precedence here, now grenadiers or elite troops are the ones that can stick with it longer, while the poor conscripts may flee as the action starts

G:Unit quality, supply and the nature of the combat take hold at this scale. individual leaders, while important, may have less influence in halting the units breaking down. Such degrading of the units is more a mathematical exercise than any sudden incident.

Another issue is just how much "friction" do I want in a set of rules.

s: leadership is paramount and can have sudden an totally unpredictable results at this scale.

m: less unpredictable results, though some surprises are possible at this scale.

L: only the most extreme conditions may generate the strange results in this scale (like Pickett's charge, the resulting rout is entirely predictable - Longstreet did not want to send him out, knowing only too well the advantage of a division in cover could have).

G: almost no unpredictable friction, commands are almost a statistic at this scale. Simply because one does not rise to a Corps command without some operational talent - and yes periods like the US Civil war do lend well to having strange results even at this scale, though they will be a very rare event, for failure at this level did not get to happen more than once.

Finally there is the "look" of units and whether to base them for figure removal or not.

s: in a skirmish the dead and wounded become instant 'cover'; of course you have them they are a part of the situation!

m: I am different, all of my troops can become 'single casting' casualties and I tend to leave them on the table.

L: again I am in a minority, I say casualties on the table can show where the action is hottest AND serve as an instant visual reminder of the condition of units - those with big gaps are instantly seen as weaker (just as they would be from the enemy lines!)

G: most often this scale is almost a board game, quite often this is where the 6mm minis are used. Removing casualties is a very fiddly exercise with less impact for this scale.

Ross Mac said...

Short simple answers to complex questions tend to mean over simplification and generalization but I'm with Murdoch in that I think the scale of the action influences the 1st two issues in particular but the exact period/campaign also makes a difference.

I've actually been thinking about posts on 2 of these topics as a I present the current version of my rules.

Very briefly, most units seem to be able to hold up very long against long or medium range shooting but that units at close quarters can sometimes hold out for an hour or more or dissolve in mere minutes. What does seem rare to me is for units that lose discipline and rout as opposed to being pulled back under orders only rarely seem to be able to recover sufficiently to take part again that day. Also the destruction of a unit seems to usually be more about cohesion than casualties. I like to take off or knock over casualties so I do that to mark loss of cohesion.

Friction comes in many forms, little of it random. Usually it is a combination of incompetence and the enemy being smarter or more energetic than you. But its a game and especially if playing solo, cards and dice can be a good and easy way to make things "interesting" for a player.

Fitz-Badger said...

My approach to gaming comes less from history and reality and more from Hollywood and entertainment. I make no apologies for that. Everyone has their own ideas of what is fun.
I play solo so I like to have a story unfold, surprises and a certain amount of unpredictability, but also a certain amount of control and choice over the "side" I am playing, whether that is an individual, a party, an army, a nation, whatever.
Unit sizes need to be small, because I'm not a fast painter and prefer to paint a variety of figures rather than large numbers of the same figure, because I don't have a lot of space for storage nor for a large table, and because I like to be able to set up and tear down quickly and play quickly.
For similar reasons I prefer simpler rules, not to mention the fact that I don't retain rules very readily. Complicated rules rules are just not fun for me.
Most of that doesn't directly answer your questions, but the quick answer is, for me, for a game to be fun, it has to be simple, quick, tell a good story, preferable more like Hollywood (especially the "old days") than a dry history book full of names and dates, and have a small footprint.

Archduke Piccolo said...

I seemed to have missed this one. On the whole I go with Fitz-Badger - not so much the Hollywood thing, but close: I like a story, and I like action and spectacle.

While I can understand that argument that more abstraction is required with the higher level action, I still like to represnt units in the same sort of way, even if the sizes are smaller.

Take army level. You might decide that you still want individual battalions, and you would kinda like casualty removal (say). Here's an idea i once read and liked the sound of.

This dude had 8-figure battalions. In line, they formed a single rank (which in my view will work if the figures are placed pretty much AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE shoulder to shoulder). Once it got into range of any enemy, it was assumed to be under fire. You rolled a die to determine how significant its losses have been (you might have rolled more than 1D6 depending upon how many enemy were in range of you.

So you didn't dice for your own troops firing. Rather you diced for how well your guys were standing up to the incoming. For each 6 rolled, a figure would go.

A rawish sort of unit broke with the 3rd figure lost; ordinary line with the 4th; elite units with the 5th. They were removed from the table.

With something like this you could build in rules for larger formations, such as Brigade columns, squares or Brigade lines.