How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Monday, January 23, 2017

MDF Bases by VP Sales

I was looking around for bases, and wasn't sure I wanted to go with Corsec as it's a special order item, altho I like dealing with Corsec and have no problem recommending them. 

Did an internet search and stumbled across a series of base auctions by VP Sales. They were in batches of 10 for $2.50, plus a modest shipping fee. While VP didn't have exactly what I wanted, I asked via eBay message if he could make them, got prompt reply, and decided to give it a go. All went quick except that I messed up my shopping cart and then Christmas intervened [and I would certainly not fault anyone for slow service on that day!] and I felt stupid.

In any event, I got 60 custom bases in 3mm laser-cut MDF:
50 square bases, 1.5" @ $15
10 rectangular bases, 2x3" @$3.50
Combined shipping from KY 41042 was $5.00 for USPS 1st Class, 12 oz package.
Total price was $23.50, or 40 cents a base, payment was by Paypal.

Quality is just fine, and they exactly match up with my Corsec bases, so no accuracy problems here. They were shipped in a box with peanuts, no breakage.

Unless someone has a much better deal of which they know, I'll be ordering from VP again. VP Sales info:
[EDIT -Corrected] Website is HERE
eBay ID: showcaseterrain1

I'll be using these for my skirmishing 40mm ECW trials, and other big fig skirmish games [more on this very soon, trials are already underway!]. Not only do they reduce damage to figures, but I've decided that square bases are the way to go as it is easy to measure facing / sides off the corners.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Wargaming: An Introduction" - ACW rules playtest

Got together with veteran gamer - and Army veteran - to push around some of his 15mm lead and see what he thought about the rules. It's always good to get a fresh view on game rules when you've been at them for a while. Here, I sent them on ahead, and John diligently read them, putting him in a very small minority of gamers!

We used Scenario #11, "Surprise Attack" from "One-Hour Wargames", a classic that I've played many times and which has some clear-cut decisions to be made with which I'm familiar. This means that mere poor decisions or unfamiliarity will have less of a impact on what is really a test of the rules rather than the scenario or even victory. previous visitors will recall that I used it several times to playtest my "minimal changes" set of the OHW rules for Horse and Musket, HERE. 

John provided a full force in the W:AI rules, so the Union had 8 infantry, 3 guns and 2 cavalry, while the Confederacy had 6 infantry, 2 gun and 2 cavalry. We used the modified charts I had, and also rolled for leaders, as I stole the General rules from the Napoleonic rules in W:AI also. I of course rolled the usual weirdness, and ended up with 3 Elite and 3 Militia infantry, but got 2 elite cavalry. Union had a more representative spread of Average and Militia, but I think there was one Elite infantry. Guns were 2 Napoleons and a Rifle for Union, 1 6lb and 1 Napoleon for the Rebs.

I chose to take this force on the defensive, or the Red team. John had extra punch and I figured that meant the offensive. The Defender in Scenario #11 starts with only 1/3 of his force at start, with 1/3 entering turn 3 and the last 1/3 entering turn 9 - and it's a LONG wait for the last 1/3 on turn 9! I know this from experience...Scenario map and such below:

And John's lovely board, below - seen from the Reb viewpoint. The yellow lines are of course the road, the fenced farm to right center is the impassible bog, the left fenced farm is a wood [I didn't want to change the table and it all worked]. 

I set up the Rebs between the two terrain features per the rules. John put his guns in the center with a brigade of foot on either side. He started with Cavalry on the wings, then crossed the right cavalry over to join the left one. His guns are firing through the center gap. I'm sidling over to the 'woods' where I plan to contest his advance and also hide from his dramatic superiority in guns. My 6lb has so little impact that I decide to hide it behind the woods instead! This was mainly due to bad dice rolling. His left cavalry are obviously heading around my right flank. 

My main error was to forget that we're supposed to be on a 3' board, but with all the distractions of running the rules, I didn't realize for a few turns that John was actually 5' away from me! I gave him a 6" free move to get closer on turn 3 or so.

A few turns later, we were fighting right in the woods, below. The mass at the top of the woods is three Union regiments in double lines, faced by one Elite Reb. Behind is the preceding Elite Reb, that had been holding the edge but lost a stand and bolted. The Yanks were right behind, so I couldn't rally them and had to move back again, while I re-positioned my support unit. To the right is another Reb facing 3 close Yanks, one incoming Yank behind which are the guns. I did make one Yank scamper in the fight at the top edge of the woods, but I doubt the ability of the one infantry to hold off all those Yanks.

Still, they are buying some time, and my three Militia infantry are forming up at the objective, the crossroads behind them.

Here we get into the nitty-gritty of rules testing, below. John fully expected to be able to "mass" his infantry, 3-1, against mine in the woods, charging the whole bunch at me. However, the rules might not allow this. If you use the 19th C. rule set interpretation, then it's one charging Unit per side [front, rear, both flanks]. If you second-guess the language of W:AI, it may only be one charging Unit per Unit, not even one per side! I chose to go with the 19th C. rules for now. This and the order of phases makes it difficult for units to pour in support fire since the charging friend would block their fire as charges / moves precede fire. I have to say I really don't care for Move-Fire-Melee, but Brits seem to love it!

Still, John has his Yanks all on the Front side. That means that he can roll to charge each one, until one passes, and then put that one in Contact. The others will not be able to fire or charge. Or he can instead fire all three units, pretty likely causing a morale check. If nothing else, in a turn or two he'll win the battle of attrition, most likely.

NT clearly leans into the - very historical, granted - concept that regiments would choose to fire until the enemy appeared to waver, then would go in with cold steel. My experience is that gamers like to charge way too quickly, using math to bully their way forwards. However, even if one successfully passes the morale check to charge, the defender gets to fire, and then there's morale if a stand is lost, and nothing better than an even melee if they don't lose a stand and don't have to check. So a 50-50 to win the melee. 

Some well-read gamers would say that even a 50-50 going in without weakening the defender with fire is too generous. I agree with that historical assumption. Interestingly, in game mechanics, the combination of all units being the same size, and all firing and meleeing the same [3+ per attacking stand to get a hit, a defending stand is lost at 4 hits] results in a net 50-50 chance, if you go in Fresh, and if you pass your original morale roll to charge at all. 

Contrast this with Simplicity in Practice, which has no morale roll to charge, but gives a solid advantage to the defender if the attacker doesn't have an edge in Disorder Points. The bottom line is that NT is trying to force gamers to either weaken the enemy with firepower and then charge, or take a chance at going in at odds of 50-50 at best, perhaps worse depending on supporting fire. Overall I'm fine with the concept, just wondering if the execution in game mechanics can be more nuanced without a lot of complexity.

Meanwhile, to my right [below] the Union cavalry are contesting my arriving reinforcements, two Elite cavalry and a Napoleon, with their two regiments of grocery store clerks [average cavalry]. Some humor was made at their expense expressing a confidence I did not have - with my back to the board edge, I was looking at losing any Unit that was forced to retreat - so "fake it 'til you make it" for the Rebs! 

Fortunately, the bottom Yank cavalry doesn't make its charge roll. Unfortunately, Rush's Lancers do, and we're now in melee. Fortunately, the Rebs win the melee by one Hit, despite rolling badly - the Yanks rolled worse! They retreat a move, I move after them to get away from the board edge. Below, on my turn I charged the other Yank cavalry. I - believe - I managed to fight my way from the board edge there, also. In any event, the Rebel reinforcements get on and stay on the board by the skin of their teeth.

The Yanks close in on the woods below. While definitely attriting the defense, they are not getting closer to taking the crossroads and victory. The Reb in the back with a 3-1 formation rallied back its stand, so we're doing OK holding on in the woods. The choice to attack heavily there struck me as a bit too close to the Chew House decision in the Battle of Germantown, but on the other hand John's successfully pinned my Elite infantry in the woods. Only problem is he can't force a quick decision there.

Did discover a small rules glitch here - to avoid people easily picking on flanks covered by friendly infantry, I phrased the Line of Sight rules to make it difficult to get a shot as I measure LoS from an attacker's front center to the center of any side [front, rear, either flank side] that is in LoS. But the short range of these rules and the shortened LoS in the woods meant that I have to allow the distance to be drawn to the closest side, even if it is a flank protected by a friendly Unit. Or, I can scrap the Protected Flank rule for fire but not charges, or scrap it completely. This doesn't matter much since there is no Enfilade bonus in these rules. Decisions, decisions...

A bit to the right, the Yanks spread out against my Militia - just as well, since they only pass a morale roll on a '6'! I manage to shoot off a stand, but my right flank needs the VMI cadets to get there fast!

Below, the concentrated fire in the woods drives back one Yank unit, easing the pressure a bit. Still, there's 4-3 odds there. The main problem as I see it is that altho I've three units, there's only a frontage of 8 stands as I'm getting pressed in - if the Yanks spread out a bit, they'd get about 12-8 on my two front Units in stands.

Below the woods, my VMI have moved up, while my left Militia was able to charge into a gap made by a retreating Yank! This is very good, since they're holding the crossroads and, well, they're not very good troops!

At this point, we had to call it. the game took a bit of time since we had some great conversations, and some of them were even about the game! My host is an interesting dude, I can tell you that for certain.
  This was an excellent playtest b/c it brought up several rules issues. The major one is the classic "concentration of force". NT has some mechanics that make it quite difficult to do so by several units on a unit or two that are either part of a continuous line or have secure flanks. It should be noted that both the Napoleonic and ACW W:AI rule sets allow  three Units to charge an isolated Unit with open flanks [one each on the Front and both Flanks], which should easily and quickly drive off the defender, unless the attacker has just awful HtH rolls.

I checked the Napoleonic rules, and those also do not say how many Units are allowed to charge a defending Unit. However, both the Ancients and the Pike and Shot rules specifically say "the two antagonists will fight in the hand to hand phase " and "a unit may turn to face an attacker on its flank as long as it is not in melee towards its front". 

So is seems I'm likely wrong about using the 19th C. rules mechanic which limits charges to one per side, four total, with the Napoleonic and ACW rules. Overall, I'm leaning towards allowing more than one Unit to charge a single side in both these sets of rules. The ACW rules already have the morale check, which will limit the ability of attacking units to gang up in melee. The Napoleonic rules do not have a morale check, and I'm wondering how the famous British line are supposed to hold off 2-3 charging French in column, but I'll have to ask Steve at "Sound Officer's Call" about that.

EDIT: SOC Steve sent me a pic of NT's Napoleonic Wargaming book, and it is also one Unit per face of the charge. This leaves me at:
* Wargaming: An Introduction [2005] - Ancient / Pike and Shot mention two Units, with the possibility of one on the front and another on the flank / rear side.
* Ancient & Medieval Wargaming [2008] - says the same as above.
* Napoleonic Wargaming [2009] - specifically says up to one Unit per defender's side.
* Wargaming 19th C. Europe [2012] - also specifically says one attacking unit per side of defending Unit.
All the above use the same 4-base Unit and sequential casualty mechanic, so I consider them to all inform each other.
**One-Hour Wargames [2014] of those rule sets of the nine that allow melee contact  they all specify one unit per side, OR only one unit [cavaly] charging one target per turn.
At this point, I am now flipping back from my above comment, and running with Dale's opinion I saw on my pal's post that "NT assumes one unit per side, whether he says it or not."  That is probably because units are identical in size in his rules if they can charge - only artillery are narrower, so that makes me think that he assumes that Units pretty much take up each other's frontage on the charge, and perhaps we should move them into full edge to edge contact, as well.

Overall, I'm realizing that one little tinkering - allowing Units to deploy in two ranks - can have plenty of unforeseen consequences. Here, it allows people to concentrate multiple Units within the same frontage as a unit in line, apparently not NT's intent. As ACW commanders didn't usually deploy in that formation for fighting, I may have brought this upon myself as NT says that all the Units are to be four bases fighting in a 1-base deep line. However, it won't solve the problem for Napoleonics as they are definitely allowed to fight in a column!

Wish NT answered emails!

Overall, the questions I came up with are:

  1. Ditch Protected Flank?
  2. Enfilade for Guns?
  3. Allow multiple charges?
  4. Mounted cavalry should easily charge mounted cavalry...and skirmishers, I think.
  5. longer retreat movements? or at least from Melee?
  6. Spreading fire over a continuous line.

I'm leaning towards Yes, Yes but only at a steep angle, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. All quite small changes, except for #3. They do add to the complexity a bit, but not much. For newbies, I think the One-Hour Wargames rules are the way to go, at this point, anyway.

So much thanks to John, who was both a gracious host and had some real insight into both history and game mechanics.  Just goes to show that for every draft, you need several playtests, and a couple with sympathetic gaming veterans!

Monday, January 9, 2017

With a Rebel Yell...

...they cried, "Charge, charge charge!" [with apologies to Billy Idol]

OK, so I wanted to see if the scenario would work on the flip side, and if the smaller 5-Unit CSA force could take on the 7-Unit USA force. As a reminder, last post the forces were:
CSA: 2 Eeager / 2 Steady Infantry, 1 6lb Gun
USA: 4 Steady / 1 Reluctant Infantry, 1 12lb Napoleon and 1 3" Rifle Gun.

This time, I wanted to change things up a bit, and it probably wasn't the best idea. I put one Eager CSA Infantry and the General against the town, which had a Steady USA Infantry in it. After a moment's pondering, I moved the USA General into the town, also, as the rest of the force was just maneuvering without threat of action soon.

The USA plan was to put one Steady Infantry in the town, the Guns between the hill objective and town, and move the rest of the infantry onto the hill with the Steady in the front and the Reluctant in reserve.

The CSA plan was to seize the town, breaking the Steady USA Infantry in it, threaten the Guns, and support the main attack by one Eager and two Steady Infantry, supported by fire from the 6lb Gun which hid in the angle of the town edge from the Union Guns.

Interestingly, this made it close for both sides. While the CSA Unit did ford and threaten the town, poor rolling had them retreating shot down to 1 base. The over-confident USA General decided to threaten the CSA Infantry and nearby 6lb Gun, which lost them two bases and sent them packing back over the river. As the battle progressed, I had to pull out the Union Infantry anyway due to the aggression of the CSA assault.

The CSA attack on the hill had some good planning and rolling, and forced the USA to the brink of defeat. I made good decisions with the friction issues of the morale rolls, and at the below point it could go either way after CSA Turn 17. The USA General got whacked in the midst of the hill struggle, and two of his Infantry had reatreated and were clustered up in column of divisions in the middle.

There were some CSA concerns however, mainly that the USA had shifted their Guns to fire upon the CSA Gun and it was taking Hits, and also the top-most CSA Infantry, the Eager one, had just retreated and had a permanent Hit. However, if the Union blew its next fire rolls and the CSA held in there, I envisioned the USA right flank to collapse and the hill to become untenable:

Unfortunately, it was not to be. On USA Turn 17, they caused another CSA retreat and were re-positioning their guns to blast the Rebel line, and I didn't see any way to counter that as the CSA Gun had been knocked out. They also had few Hits on their Units that would provoke a Morale Check in the next turn or two, while the bottom CSA Infantry had 3 Hits and only a 5+ chance to pass that check.

Overall, this was a corker of a re-play, and I think I made a mistake in trying to take the town from a Steady USA Infantry Unit, and in positioning my CSA guns, who should've instead lead the crossing.

In any event, this was a satisfying game that played pretty quick, and I was able to finish my notes on little changes to make for the rules. I will post these soon. They contain simple rules for Smoothbore Muskets, 6lb Guns, Sharpshooters, Mounted Infantry, and more, and make me realize that these rules will also be just fine for the AmRev, also!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wargaming: An Introduction - ACW Rules AAR #2

Well, at this point, the oversight is reaching culpable proportions to outright negligence and dereliction of duty! How many times and in how many periods can someone neglect to guard a flanking ford?? Well, with a few plays of this in 25mm Feudal Knights HERE and one in the ACW previously HERE, perhaps this should be titled "The Return of the Son of 'An Unfortunate Oversight' Rides Again"?

OK, a reminder for new readers that this is a playtest of the W:AI ACW rules [here a bit modified] using a scenario from the excellent "One-Hour Wargames" book, #12, an unfortunate Oversight, which features an attacker discovering a flanking ford to avoid a bloody contested crossing at a town/bridge - classic stuff! Follow the above links for the previous ACW game and some plays of it with my Feudal Rules, themselves a spin on NT's Medieval OHW rules.

Of course, this outing originated in my excitement and pleasure with the "Wargaming: An Introduction" ACW rules combined with no interest in switching up the terrain. Also, I've found that re-playing scenarios while testing rules gives a better and faster evaluation of them. The rules themselves provided a great first game but had a couple of things I didn't like.  So after much serious consideration of Neil Thomas' approach and ideas, and a couple of aborted starts, I've now played this test and have very few complaints. Game was lots of fun, great historical feel and played in a reasonable amount of time [especially considering that I was taking pics and making some notes] around 90 minutes. 

So here you can see some of my tweaks to these enjoyable and quite realistic set of ACW rules - just a little bit really, and many stolen from the Napoleonic rules in the same book - and my retaining both the core design and spirit of the rules, I Hope. Also, I wanted to test the full set of rules, so diced for two half-armies for 1862-3. I did a previous outing and rolled well for the Union and poorly for the Confederates, so had 2 x Militia and 2 x Average fighting 2 Elite, 2 Average and a Militia. That ended in a pretty quick rout, but I had some problems with my rule modifications, too. 

One thing to note is that I put in some simple rules for Infantry formations, shown below. I have a simple, full line made up of two 3x1.5" bases. This represents most of the regiment up front, firing, and fires a full four dice, one for each stand in the game terms, but mine count as two stands for each base. The other formation is a double-rank line. This represents some companies kept back either as additional reserves or to fit into a space, or to represent a maneuvering column of divisions - my reading has showed this was a common formation for regiments in reserve. This fires with only 2 dice as it represents only two bases up front with the other two bases in a second rank - they can't fire altho they count for melee.

Also shown below is the 3x3" base I use for guns. I figure in scale they always occupy less width and more depth due to the caissons, limbers, etc.

It should also be noted that I've changed the names of Unit quality: I've classed them as Eager, Steady, and Reluctant [rather than Elite, Average and Militia] which I feel more accurately describes the period soldiers.

Below, the CSA force as I rolled it; two Steady Infantry left, a 6lb Gun [same as 12lb Napoleon but hits on 5+ instead of 4+], two Eager Infantry [with flags], and an Eager General [gives +1 morale modifier, has 12" move, killed if he's used and a natural '1' is rolled - he's then replaced on a 4+ during the Rally Phase, but counts as a loss for victory conditions].

Below, the USA force as I rolled it; a Reluctant Infantry left [no flag], two sections of Guns behind [black 3" Rifles left, brass 12lb Napoleons right], four Steady Infantry with flags, and the General also rolled Eager, so both sides have good leadership today!

CSA Setup below. One Steady infantry in town, everyone else dashing to hold the hill [which is after all the victory condition]. Plan is to hold the hill with two Eager Infantry backed up by a Steady, and the 6lb Gun. I figure the lighter gun will be more effective defending the objective as it gets two dice at 8" for canister instead of the one dice for ball.

USA setup below. The four Steady Infantry are going to cross at the ford, flank the defenders and take the hill. The Reluctant Infantry will make a nuisance of itself by the town. If the CSA pull out of the town, they can cross. If they don't, they're still keeping a superior Infantry Unit busy - not bad for a worn-out regiment!

Progress by Turn 5.The USA has crossed the ford and are well on their way to attack the hill. The CSA has finished occupying the hill. Their Gun can fire on the advancing Bluebellies, and two Eager Infantry are up front who I hope will blunt the attack. Behind is a Steady Infantry in column, which leaves space for Units to retreat around it. With my extending the Gun ranges, the odd Hit is being inflicted upon the CSA infantry. 
This has been made more difficult now that I made a rule saying that Foot who neither move nor fire get a 4+ save for cover v. Guns firing ball - they are prone or otherwise hiding. This makes for some interesting choices - under fire, you pick your time to move carefully since you lose that 4+ save - I like it!

USA decisions being made: I decided to attack on a straight vertical front, which will partially flank the hill, and would force the CSA to conform in their defense to avoid that. However, if they line up opposite, my USA guns will get more, longer, and easier fire upon their line. Haven't decided what is best, yet.

Turn 11 below. Well, I definitely learned the best way to handle Guns - shoot up Infantry with 2-3 Hits, but don't go for that 4th Hit and they can't rally the lost stand back! So you want to spread your Hits around and make up for the defender getting that first shot off. I ended up withdrawing one of the Eager Infantry and replacing them with the Steady, who's now hotly engaged with advancing Yankees. The bottom of the USA line held back so as not to interfere with their Guns. I realized I positioned them too far right, and the Guns will need to shift left for a turn or two in order to have the Line of Sight they need. Many Units have a couple of Hits, but no stands lost [red dice] or permanently lost [black dice]. New rule is that if a Unit loses 2-3 stands, they can't rally better than one stand lost - worked great!

Turn 11 in town. The CSA has decided they need their Infantry to threaten the bottom of the advancing Yankee line. Playing this out against the threatening Reluctant Infantry will probably be tricky.

Turn 14 below. Well, I should've taken some detailed shots between, but I've been pressed for time. I got my USA in line and advanced, with one re-positioning of the CSA to receive them. I felt like I did the best I could for both sides. As the USA closed, the CSA 6lb Gun went on an impressive missing streak, so I decided to try the charge rules, assuming the worst would happen but hey, at least I'd have tried them, right? Funny how dice work tho'...the USA passed their morale to charge thanks to the General [rolled the needed 4+] and closed to contact [no conforming here]. In Melee Phase, the CSA defensive fire was two clean misses, like a 1 and a 2! With no Morale Check forced by the ineffective canister dice, the USA take the Guns! [Steve from Sound Officer's Call will be jealous my first Charge was a success...] Advancing into the gap is the reserve Eager Infantry.

Below the Glorious Gun Charge, good dice and Gun support resulted in the USA forcing back the center CSA Steady Infantry which has two Hits. The Steady Infantry from the town are providing much-needed support, but overall the USA is gaining ground. Things don't look good on the hill with the USA having a firepower edge if not an edge in quality.

Turn 15 - debacle for the CSA. Those last couple of Hits the USA needed force morale checks that everyone fails, clearing the hill during the USA turn. In the CSA turn, they fail both Rally rolls. I forgot to kill their General I was so excited about the decisive turn of events!  The USA make all their rallies and form up, and their slight edge becomes significant. I'm uncertain the CSA can win at this point, but one never knows - with human error and hot dice...

Note that in the South end, the CSA is forced to withdraw a little as the town is being taken by the Reluctant USA Infantry, and I don't want them flanked due to the retreating hill force.

Turn 20 and end, below. Well, the luck didn't turn, and the CSA Units while rallying a bit have permanent hits and slim chance to take back the hill. They forced a retreat upon the town Infantry but will lose their center infantry. Theoretically, this game could continue but I don't see the two reasonably healthy North CSA Units able to make a difference when their right flank is going to lose an infantry and be outnumbered 2 or 3-1, plus the Guns.

Whew, a really fun and tense game! Came in a just over 90 minutes with camera work.

I felt like I had a good plan well executed by both sides. I made an error with the USA Guns deployment, but made the most of their positioning to put a few hits on most of the CSA Units, giving the advancing Feds a chance for firepower parity in their attack - seems like a perfectly useful and historical use of gun support to me.

While the CSA had a significant quality advantage, their poor Gun dice and the amazing, heroic charge of one Union regiment cracked open their position. I still thought they'd hold it, but then their dice failed the most important units on the hill. I managed both sides retreats and rallies just fine, and I don't believe either side was significantly affected by poor decisions on my part. 

This is how I believe a wargame should go - given a balanced scenario and sound play on both sides, the dice will likely decide.

My changes worked well, and i'll need to note the little adjustments made to work with the 2-base system I use [where each base represents two of NT's bases]. I may or may not keep this when I actually paint up and base the figs, but it's good to try it all out before actually gluing them down.

And speaking of bases, my lase-cut bases from VP Sales arrived today, also!

Anyway, I'll be doing another post soon about my modifications of the rules, but I'm going to do one last play where I switch the sides keeping the forces just as is, and see if the CSA can get back their sacred honor!

How to Contact?? That is the question!

Yep, the Welsh Teulu's been contacted alright...
"Contact" feudal style...flank & rear on the Teulu, frontal on the Serjeants
from my Dark Ages blog, HERE

Interesting post query in the AMW yahoogroup: 
"How does one make contact in the NT rules - conform in full edge to edge contact, or stop at initial point of contact?"  NOTE: This would be a corner unless one started exactly parallel to the Charge Target Unit.

There are actually a number of interesting game design questions that orient around this issue.
1. What does melee represent in the game? in the earlier periods, it means actually getting up close and stabbing people - in the later periods, it means firing muskets up close and then charging a wavering opponent who promptly scampers off.
2. Do the mechanics have unintended consequences? as in does conforming result in a change of direction for a retreat from the melee, perhaps to the advantage of one side? Should they get this advantage?
3. How complex should this be to reflect reality as we understand it? as in do we need two pages of rules and 7 diagrams to explain it??
4. Can I explain this to a newbie / does it makes sense to a normal person?

It should be noted that none of NT's rules I have - and the only set I don't have is Napoleonic Wargaming - explain it or say anything besides "contact the enemy unit". It seems to me that it sometimes matters, and sometimes doesn’t, and the NT thing is probably to let players wing it! So what are some issues around it?
First, is the period Ancients through Pike and Shot where NT has melee being one of the primary means of resolving combat? Or is it a period where firepower is more dominant? In the former, I think one can make a good argument that it is more realistic looking to have them be in full contact, and that generally the attacker will conform to the defender as their object is to get fully into contact.
For the latter periods, “melee” is really more “getting threateningly close until the one side or the other blinks and scampers off”. In that case, I don’t conform them as I think they’re not really in physical hand-to-hand combat. However, if the defender was in a fixed position like a town or breastwork, then I’d conform them since I imagine the attacker having to get very very close to have any encroaching effect on the defender.
For One-Hour Wargames, the cavalry in Horse & Musket / Rifle and Saber charge and bounce if they fail to destroy their target. For that case, I think you can argue that the attacker can just choose as it’s up to the cavalry commander to decide to where he wants his squadron to rally back.  Also, it’s sorta realistic to give cavalry that extra movement and option to be very mobile. So there I’d let the player decide if he wanted to conform or not, and therefore set up a possible bounce to take him where he wants to go. It shouldn't get abused much as it's only 6" back, which is half shooting range, so using this as a move option for a unit that has a 12" move anyway doesn't seem tempting.
Presently, I’m playing a lot of the “Wargaming: An Introduction” ACW rules. There, I do NOT conform them as the detailed mechanics of charging just have it make a lot more sense to resolve the whole thing as more of a morale clash. Again, if they were attacking a fortification or breastworks, I’d probably force the attacker to conform.

My next venture will be Simplicity in Practice, his set of "generic" horse & musket rules, which I will most likely pursue as a “first corner or point of contact” and not conform them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My First Re-Blog...evah!

I couldn't resist this when it was brought to my attention by a pal. 

Got this from Anton:

Went to the re-enactment at Washington's Crossing this year for the first time, and it was mobbed! Never thought it'd be so popular. In any event, yeah, attacking people on Christmas, well, not quite cricket eh? Best give these blokes a wide berth...

"Wargaming: An Introduction" detailed tactical and mechanic analysis for ACW rules

We can take'em Boys!  And some day Osprey will make a book about us titled "Meade's Marauders" or "Gibbons Grenadiers" or "Stonewall's Stompers" or...something.
How NOT to attack in a wargame - or reality!

"Wargaming: An Introduction" detailed tactical and mechanic analysis

Game Mechanics & Tactical Analysis: The mechanics of these rules are pretty simple - the impact on game tactics and how the Union and Confederate sides fight is not immediately obvious, however, just like with many other rules. They directly affect what tactics generally work best for both sides. IF one uses the entire set of rules, as recommended [Mr. T’s “quite English” style never insists on anything!] then there’s definitely a totality that creates an overall differentiation between the Union and the Confederacy.
Is it a sweeping generalization? Of course! There’s really no problem with that since ALL social science and war studies today are based upon just that, sweeping generalizations.  Yes, there’ll be about 500 exceptions that people can pick out of history.  But we’re talking more to the 5,000 occurrences that make the rule.

BLUF: Shooting is the main tactic, and favors a standing defender. Units either shoot or move. A round of Infantry Fire results in Morale checks at the second Fire, on average; chance to pass is 33% on average with a failure being a full move to the rear. Assuming a failure, the opposition may then advance, gaining ground if needed.

Attackers can benefit from preparatory cannon fire; inflicting even just 1-2 Hits removes the “one more shooting round advantage” a standing defender has over the attacker. Obviously, a second supporting attacking unit can do the same.

Charges are best executed into the flanks of units exposed by the retreat of their friends from enemy shooting; an advance can get the right angle in one turn. Charges on the front of a Target Unit require the attacker to pass a morale check [again, average of 33% pass rate] but there’s no morale check required to charge a flank. Also, an advantage in bases is needed as there’s no dice bonus in Hand-to-hand for attacking the flank or rear, so you need 3-4 bases to the defender’s 2-3 bases at least, or an additional charging Unit.

Summary: Good tactics with this game involve an attacker using artillery support to weaken a defending unit - or two - with 2-4 hits each. A point of attack should be made against a defending Unit where even just one additional attacking infantry Unit can fire at it. This should result in the defender retreating a full move, exposing the flanks of its neighbors in the battle line, who may then be charged on their flank [or retreat, losing two rounds of shooting or so], and if they’ve even one less base the attacker should win.

Infantry Shooting and Morale Mechanics. 
Some math and other calculations this summary is based upon.
  1. Shooting range is 16cm and Movement is 8cm for Infantry, so an Infantry move is 1/2 of shooting range. 
  2. Units may only move OR shoot in their turn, not both. 
  3. Retreat from a morale failure caused by stand loss is a full move, 8cm. 
  4. Rallying back a stand is only possible if one cannot be shot at by Infantry [or dismtd cavalry]. 
  5. Morale check due to stand loss is one worse than to rally back a stand on a D6 [most rules have it the other way around, I think]: Elite are a 4+/3+, Average are 5+/4+, and Militia are 6+/5+, so a Unit is 16.7% more likely to “rally a stand loss” than “hold under effective fire that resulted in a stand loss”.
So an Attacker using a shooting strategy v. a Defender prepared and facing it goes like this:
  1. Attacker moves within 16cm of the Defender, between >8-16cm.
  2. Defender fires at advancing Attacker, and will always get in the first shot if standing.
  3. Defender fires - rolling 4 dice for a 3+ gives about 2.5 hits a turn. With Average dice, the Defender will inflict 2-3 Hits, not enough to cause a morale check.
  4. Attacker will now fire in his next turn, also inflicting 2-3 hits, not enough for a morale check [but it should be noted that it is possible for either to inflict 4 hits and a stand loss and morale check on the other in every exchange of fire between full-strength Units, so Artillery knocking off just one stand in preparation for an attack can make a big difference!]. So with Average dice...
  5. The Defender will fire again and cause 2-3 hits and a stand loss. An Attacker with average morale needs a 5+ or 33% to pass the effective fire of the Defender at the end of the Defender's turn during the Morale Phase. On average, the Attacker will fail and retreat 8cm back out of the Defender's shooting range.
  6. On the Attacker's turn, the first Phase is Rallying, which requires that no Defending Infantry or Dsmtd Cavalry can shoot at this Attacker [not that they do] and that this Attacker not move during his turn. So the Attacker has a choice - to advance back into the Defender's fire with three stands [75% as effective as the Defender] or attempt to rally and stay in place for the turn. If the latter, the Attacker needs a 4+ to rally back the stand loss [a 50% chance].
Given the above, the ideal situation for the Attacker is to engage the Defender with even just one extra unit that is ready to move up, with all four stands, and engage the Defending Unit that has taken 2-3 Hits in the preceding exchange of fire from which the Attacking Unit retreated.  Alternative [or perhaps best together] is to use Artillery fire to knock off a few extra hits, resulting in Hit parity between the attacker and defending Unit.

This back and forth of retreats under fire and rallying back, and deciding when to return to the fray, is of course provided a lot of friction through morale. Any Unit taking fire from 2-3 enemy Units may easily take 5-10 Hits resulting in the loss of a stand or two. If the Unit passes the morale checks taken at the end of the enemy turn, he is almost in more trouble than if he failed them! It is harder to voluntarily retreat from the enemy than to be forced, as one only has a 4cm move if one turns around.

This means that if you want to Engage the enemy in a firepower contest, you almost certainly need an extra unit or two and some artillery support, even just 1 gun makes a difference, two a BIG difference. You then advance to about 14cm and open fire, this gives you the option to voluntarily retreat 4cm if needed as well as be forced back 8cm. In both retreat options, you next turn starts with you making rally attempts which you should definitely do! As you regain lost stands, you also have to keep the enemy more than 16cm away, out of possible shooting range, OR screen your rallying unit[s] with a fresh spare regiment.

Charging and the Morale Mechanics. 

Given the 2-1 ratio of Firing Range to Movement, plus the free shot the defender gets when charged FRONTALLY, it is impossible to enter HtH without being shot at thrice for foot [and twice for mounted]. The likely result for Infantry is 1-2 morale checks for 1-2 stands lost, plus a third check to Charge home. The math works out something like this:
Passing Roll     1 Check       2 Checks          3 Checks
6+ [Militia]            1/6                  1/36                  1/216         [Hail Mary…]
5+ [Average]         1/3                  1/9                    1/27          [good improvement, bad plan]
4+ [Elite]               1/2                  1/4                    1/8           [hopeful, but not likely]
3+ [Elite +Gen]  2/3-66%        4/9-44%           8/27-30%      [doesn’t get better, unfortunately]
So without amazing extremes of Lottery Winning Luck, we’re looking at a defender rolling low on their shots and only causing one check for stand loss followed by a second check to charge home, or a 44% chance, not even 50-50. That’s charging with an Elite Unit lead by a charismatic general. Clearly, if we are going to attack through charging, we’re going to have to improve our odds.

One way is to punish defending Units through superior firepower. This might be accomplished through concentrated artillery or just one extra unit overlapping. A defending unit that has managed to pass its morale and stick around will be firing with 3 or 2 dice depending.  Just what are the Artillery shooting odds?
Unit Size          4 stands           3 stands           2 stands           1 stand
Infantry, 3+ to Hit                     2.67 Hits           2 Hits                1.33 Hits           0.67 Hits
Napoleons, 4+ to Hit                
Long Range, 1 Dice                  2 Hits                1.5 Hits             1.0 Hit               0.5 Hit
Short Range, 2 Dice                 4 Hits                3 Hits                2 Hits                1 Hit
Clearly, if we can advance against a Defending unit with 3 - or even better 2 - stands, our chances of closing in for a charge drastically rise since it takes 4 Hits to remove a base and cause a Morale Check. With just one stand missing, a defender drops from 8 Hits and two bases shot off to 6 Hits and one base shot off. With two stands left, it has a 50% chance of failing to cause a check at all. So it’s clear that a successful charge relies on attacking defenders who’ve lost a base or two.

Additionally, if a defending line of Units has a Unit retreat, the resulting gap may allow a flank attack at one of the remaining defenders. This should significantly increase the chance of success as it avoids defensive fire [being out of their fire arc] and does not require a Morale Check of the Charging Unit. It is also advantageous to advance against units that retreat anyway, since they cannot rally with an enemy infantry [or dismounted cavalry] in firing range.

Thus the key to charges in this game is to initiate an attack with firepower, then take advantage of retreating defenders to exploit gaps in the line while denying them chances to rally.  A Mounted cavalry Unit would seem to be ideal, but how often does that happen!? Between Artillery and long shooting ranges, it’s nearly impossible to deliver Cavalry into a charge successfully in most ACW games.

All of which clearly illustrates how a few simple mechanics can result in pushing – without forcing – the player to use what the designer believes to be historically accurate methods to play, fight and win, without miring them in piles of charts and tables and forcing them to do lots of math [which is still useful to figure one’s chances of success, however!]. I hope this shows how simple but not simplistic rules, and good design, promotes both history and mental acuity, and NT’s ACW offering seems to have both – Happy Gaming!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Wargaming: An Introduction" - ACW rules AAR

This is no way for Old Comrades from the Mexican War to meet...
Adler 6mm figs painted by Steve Whitesell [of "Sound Officer's Call" blog fame]

So decided to be super lazy and not move any terrain around today, just play - once again - Scenario #12 "An Unfortunate Oversight" from the One-Hour Wargames book. This time I'd use a shooting period, and try the W:AI ACW rules. You'll note that I've played #12 a number of times in the Feudal period and posted the AARs HERE in my Dark Ages blog, "Spear to the Strife". 

I've found it a pretty challenging scenario with a couple of options for each side that definitely make a difference, depending on what the opposition chooses. However, the shooting in the Feudal rules is limited to just a couple of Units and a short range, while the ACW will of course have artillery and all the Units shoot, a significant difference when forcing a river crossing.

I've been meaning to try these W:AI ACW rules for a while as a precursor to trying the "Wargaming 19th Century Europe" book. There are no scenarios in W:AI, the only victory condition listed is to put your opponent down to 25% strength [I prefer the presentation in W19cE which has several scenarios, but that's for another review!]. There are some interesting army lists for all the periods that don't pretend to be completely equal or fair but provide interesting challenges, e.g. the Spanish Napoleonic list, in which case Mr. Thomas suggests that the better player take the Spanish or that players switch sides and play a second time. 

So it should be noted that this is just a test of the rules and not a test of the complete ACW package in W:AI, which will have to be playtested next.

So for quick reference, here's what the book scenario looks like:
The Red player is defending the river and has occupied the town, but has overlooked a crossing nearby. Blue is taking advantage of this to cross the river and seize the heights commanding the town and the two crossings - a classic military challenge from the One-Hour Wargames book!

Red must set up all Units within 12" of the town, Blue sets up second and goes first, but can't fire on Turn 1 due to being scattered and looking for the crossing. Victory goes to the side that controls the hill at the end of the battle. Board and initial setup: has the Rebels up top departing the town for the hill and the Union stacked up to cross as quickly as possible.
I've sized the terrain as exactly to the pic as possible, including the river width, altho my hill is twice as deep [12" instead of 6"] which can make a difference if using a military crest rule [allowing the defender to be an additional 3" back to the center crest]. Today I just said that units "uphill" get Line of Sight advantages, the rules have no movement penalty, and no fire or melee effect for hills in the ACW rules.

Confederates: 5 infantry and one Napoleon section.two infantry and the gun face the enemy in case they deploy opposite and begin shooting. The other three infantry are going to occupy the hill. The Confederate plan is to defend the hill with four Units, including one in reserve on the Hill and two up front, then use the gun to weaken attacking infantry or knock out a gun with counter-battery fire. The Infantry in the town will cross the river and advance upon the Union guns, preventing them from supporting the Union attack. As the hill is the victory, not losses, it doesn't matter if this Unit survives, just that it accomplish its mission!

Union has two gun sections, one Napoleon on the right and 3" rifles on the left. the four infantry are stacked up at the crossing. It takes a full turn for a Unit to cross a river in these rules. The Union plan is to advance upon the hill with all four infantry units, weakening the enemy infantry with preparatory fire from the guns to cause that extra Hit for stand losses and therefore retreats off the objective.

I rated all Units Average for simplicity's sake, and gave each side one general [explained below]. A couple of additions I made immediately:

  • "Column" Formation. I added this making it cost 50% to get into or out of just like a turn or wheel. It fires at half effect [2 dice] but obviously is easier to maneuver around. It is not really a column so much as a double line, commonly used to maneuver around on the ACW battlefield.
  • The General gives a +1 morale benefit if attached; however, if a '1' is rolled using the general, he's wounded and out of action until a 4+ is rolled to replace him. Generals count as lost Units should the scenario result in a debatable outcome.
Due to rates of movement, I took pics about every four turns - this game doesn't play as quickly as "One-Hour Wargames". Below is the situation and exciting events at Turn 4: The Rebels are occupying the hill with their two lead Infantry Units while one regiment crosses the river at the bridge to distract the Union guns. The Union is steadily advancing up the right, being careful not to obscure their guns who have rolled well and pounded the central Rebel Infantry, causing it to retreat 8cm [to fit into the gap it has narrowed to a "column" formation, well, blob really]. As full movement is only 8cm [3 inches] and turns or wheels cost 50%, movement is pretty leisurely. I've already realized that the 15 turn limit on a OHW scenario is going to have to be doubled to 30 turns!

Yeah, how about those Union guns! Not only have they inflicted 5 Hits in four turns, but the first morale roll of the game resulted in a '1', killing the Rebel general who decided to give them a bonus to rally on their Turn 4! What are the chances of that?

Well, apparently they are VERY high chances, because the Rebs manage to replace him on a 4+ in their Turn 5 Rally Phase, General New then goes to rally the retreating Rebs and rolls...a 1! Two dead Reb generals! And the Union Guns inflicted two more Hits on THEIR Turn 5, putting the Rebel regiment at almost 50%. A little luck would be appreciated here...

Turn 8 below. The Yanks continues their slow but steady advance, intending to form a firing line that will engage the Confederates on the hill at some advantage and with gun support. The Rebels have fallen back under punishing artillery fire, retreating all Infantry out of the 48cm range. The lone Rebel infantry that is going to distract the guns now realizes the importance of its mission and thirsts for blood - Death or glory! The Rebel Napoleons haven't been idle even if they've not been as successful. They managed a Hit on one Bluebelly and then switched to counter-battery fire on the annoying 3" rifle section that gets to re-roll misses. Their thirst for vengeance is clear, and they inflict two hits, putting the Gun section at 50% despite its 4+ saving roll.

Turn 12 below. the Union plan continues to unfoled, and the lead infantry regiments enter the Rebel infantry range while their guns pulled out of range of the Rebel gun and commenced pounding the advancing Reb Infantry regiment rather than face shooting or a charge from it. However, they've inflicted two Hits and are holding their own. It'll be interesting to see how the combination of infantry v. guns plays out as guns do not get to rally [being only one base large] and do not take morale checks, while infantry have to take morale checks, retreat if they fail, but get to make rally attempts even under artillery fire.

And on Turn 13 the advancing Rebel loses a stand, fails on a '2' and retreats 8cm. Still, it is keeping the guns busy while losing stands it can always attempt to rally back. A good plan!

Turn 14 also has some excitement as the advancing Bluebellies test the fire rules! Reb shooting results in the top Union regiment taking a stand loss and retreating 8cm. The second Union regiment down takes 9 Hits total, causing two morale checks, both of which are passed by some very determined Union soldiers - they must be Abolitionists of some sort...? Part of the problem was that the retreat of the North Union Unit at its first stand loss left this Unit exposed to shooting from two Confederate Infantry Units, who also rolled well.

Turn 16. I found it necessary to start marking units. a black triangle shows they moved and a puff that they fired [of course] while rallying is denoted by a cog with the dice rolled upon it [usually]. This view from the Rebel lines shows the North Union Units to the left - the left-most rallied back its stand loss and advanced back into 16cm shooting range, while the second took a third stand loss, failed, and now rallied back one stand with the '5'. 

Meanwhile, the Rebs are filling a hole in the middle of their line with the Unit that took a pounding from Union guns and was in reserve, while the other retreated and now tries to rally back a stand [it will still have three Hits, as Hits cannot be rallied only stand losses]. It should be noted that the right-most Reb is now facing two Union regiments with just the one Napoleon section supporting, who promptly begins a missing streak that will last nearly the entire game! Who provided this ammunition, anyway - Philadelphia Quakers???
I think this pic gives a good idea of the back-and-forth that the morale rules provide.

More Turn 16 below. The Rebels continue their cunning plan to harass the Union battery. All they need is one unsaved Hit and the 3" Rifles will be knocked out of the game...will they?

Turn 17 results in something of a crisis for the Rebels - two center Units retreat under fire.

Turn 20 has little to no change with the Infantry v. Gun situation. The Rebels take Hits, lose stands, retreat, rally, advance again, but haven't managed to inflict a hit. Such is life.

However, Turn 20 at the main battle on the hill has resulted in some real difficulties for the Confederates. Union Infantry fire trashed the Confederate Napoleon section which rolled poorly for saves and decided to save their guns for another day [destroyed, basically]. The Rebs also struggle to present a solid firing line to the four Union regiments. One was forced way back to rally [seemed a good idea at the time], two retreated and turned around [for want of explanation in the rules, I decided that a retreating Unit finished its retreat facing the direction of the retreat, i.e. away from the enemy. This resulted in a Unit having to decide between turning around - moving - or rallying but not facing the enemy - makes sense to me...] while the third is advancing with no stand loss but three hits [so almost certainly an immediate morale check once within Union range]. Very realistic feel from what I've read in memoirs, Nosworthy and Griffith.

Turn 21 results in a valiant stand by the left-most Confederate Infantry Unit.

While Turn 26 sees the Rebel Infantry finally inflicting two hits on the Union 3" Rifle section, which of course passes both - and survives!

Turn 28 results in another Reb Infantry getting wiped out, but off-camera the 3" guns are shot up by the Rebels - finally!

And Turn 30 looks a bit like Little Big Horn instead of Little Round Top! With this lopsided a result, I can't give the Confederates anything but a marginal loss - they may still be on the hill but their force has been defeated. If this was a campaign game, we'd have to hope that the time gained from the delaying action justified the losses of Rebel infantry and the crossings.

Whew, that took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Initial reactions.

  1. Dang, what a fun game! 
  2. But it took longer than I thought, due to slow movement rates and the ability to rally back ALL one's losses. Possible remedies: double movement rates outside of 16cm of the enemy, make rallying harder or that one cannot rally back all stands - just stands 2 and 3, so once you've lost your edge, it stays lost! Also, should one be able to rally under cannon fire? Certainly not Canister fire [reflected in the game as a 12cm close range for guns that gives Napoleons a second shooting dice].
  3. The morale rules quickly and simply reflect a certain point of view of the historical reality that NT has - which is that these amateur armies and their independently minded American soldiers are quick to fall back and quick ro rally and try again. They rally one point better than they check for stand loss.
  4. I thought about a couple of charges, but, I was rarely within 8cm. Also, the issue was always so in doubt as to passing the check and if it would benefit, I decided to stick with firing, There's no penalty to attempt the 5+ morale check for Average Units and fail. However, the Defender gets a shot if you succeed, so in essence a bonus shot against you, in your turn, then you melee, and take more Hits, and then the loser automatically retreats.
  5. Time commitment: this game takes about twice as long as a OHW game, say two hours instead of one if players know the rules.
  6. Tactics. There's definitely a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The mechanics are very simple, quite traditional. However, what the mechanics MEAN in terms of tactics will require an in-depth analysis in another post, I'm afraid - I'm quite worn out with thinking and typing!
  7. It should be noted that I did NOT use the provided army lists or simple terrain system, so this has really been a test of the basic mechanics, not the entire game provided.
This was an enjoyable game that required quite a bit of familiarizing and dealing with situations not explained in the rules. As is often the case with NT rules, certain essential mechanics are NOT provided - much as I like his style, I consider them culpable omissions not just small oversights, and I think they require an experienced gamer to figure out. These I jotted down just while playing this game:
  1. There are no formations except line, no shooting mods [which may be fine], no target priority rules, very little terrain rules,
  2. No fire arc [I used 45 degrees], no measurement points for fire or melee contact [I used the center front for firing and, for targeting, the center of any side in Line of Sight],
  3. No Line of Sight rules [not an issue as the town was never contested, I'd be inclined to go about 4cm across or within blocking terrain],
  4. No indication of the gap needed through which to fire [I used > 1/2 frontage],
  5. No interpenetration rules [I said you can't],
  6. It doesn't say in which direction you face at the end of a retreat [I said away from the enemy, i.e. in the direction you retreated],
  7. How many Units can charge one defender?
Some of these questions MAY be answerable by looking at the Napoleonics rules. Some I like the way the Napoleonics rules handles them and may steal them [like the General rules]. It is pretty clear that these fine rules are an "80% there" set for me and will need to be typed into WORD and then have clarifications noted in color, and changes in another color. 

Still, I feel they are worth it, they are much better than I thought just from reading them and I'm starting to realize how brilliant the tactical effects of the rules are as I jot down some notes - hmm...