Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Mechanisms: Command and Control

While I am waiting to get my hobby activities back on track, I thought that putting down some of my musings on rules mechanisms might be an interesting idea. It might not, but at least I will have a record of what was going through my head with regard to rules writing at this approximate moment in time.

This post will look at the mechanism I am currently using for my AWI rules and which I am adapting for other periods.

Firstly, the AWI rules. These have a basic unit of play as being approximately battalion sized but varing from as few as about 6 figures in a small unit up to 24 or 30 in a large unit. Even larger units are split into two. For most battle the figure:man ratio is 1:10 or 1:15, and very occasionally 1:20.

The effect of firing and melee on units is represented by disruption points, and a unit can accumulate up to 6 of these. Units with 6DPs are then vulnerable to routing or surrendering in suitable circumstances. Unit may also be disordered.

The command and control mechanism allows units to take between 0 and 3 actions in a turn. An action can be to move, shoot, rally, remove disorder, etc. Disorder must be removed before any action other than shooting can occur. An attached leader can add an extra action - with some restrictions to how this can be used. An additional restriction is that quality 1-3 units need two actions to order a charge.

To determine the actions available, the unit rolls 6d6. A pass is scored for each d6 that rolls less than or equal to the units quality rating (1-5). One pass allows one action, three passes allow two actions and all six dice must pass to allow three actions. Elite units of quality 5 therefore have a fair chance of three actions and will usually get two. Lowly raw militia with a quality of 1 will usually get one action but more than that is usually a bonus and tend to need an attached officer to really get them moving. Units will very seldom get no actions until they are pretty shot-up and an attached officer guarantees at least one action will be available. 

Units with no actions can usually shoot if there are enemy to their front as a "freebie", however any unit that rolls as many "6s" than passes can take no action at all and if it rolls more "6s" then it may be forced to retire, (if it has six disruption points it is destroyed).

For each disruption point on a unit it loses a d6 from its pool, until there is a minimum of 1d6. Disruption points can be rallied by using an action (if not disordered) but only one rally action can be used per unit per turn if the enemy are close-by.

All in all this seems to work pretty well. There is still scope to tinker and I am tempted to reduce the pool by one d6 for each two disruption points - but this is extra stuff to remember so I might not bother. Keeping things simple is a good idea!

It then occurred to me that this type of mechanism would work pretty well for other "action" based rule sets as a "bolt on" with a bit of refinement for each.

I'm currently working on a version for Blitzkrieg Commander (for WW2, but also possibly for my middle-east WW1 and Back of Beyond stuff too). This will rate CO and HQ stands for quality rather than units - to be closer to the original:

CV6/7 will now become Q3
CV8 will now become Q4
CV9/10 will now become Q5

Or something like that. This does mean that units will know how many actions they are getting before they begin to act but at least they will be limited to no more than 3 actions and those armies with CV6 in the original rules should not be left hugging the baseline in some kind of stupor.

I think I'll make rolls per CO/HQ rather than for individual stands and have fixed commands. The dice pool will then probably be reduced for each 25% of a commander's units that have been lost, and rolling more 6s than passes will cause the whole command to withdraw.

The same approach could also be bolted on to the Peter-Pig "PBI" WW2 rules, so I might try both for my WW2 gaming, or an amalgamation of the two, as the AP v Armour in BKC has never really satisfied. I think BKC is more on the money for the WW1 stuff though.

Lastly, for now, the mechanism should also work with ancient rules such as DBA, particularly if lower qualities are used and rolls are made per "group" or "individual element" - more akin to the AWI rules. The pool can be reduced based on overall army losses (1 per element in DBA?).

Overall then, here is a mechanism that I am liking more and more which can be slotted in to a wide range of rules (should work for Black Powder, Warmaster, etc too) that reduces that disappointment for players who find that for turn after turn they remain stood on the sidelines because the dice-gods take against them.

When I post battle reports I will try to point out how the mechanism is being used.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

My Wargaming Fortnight, 10th July 2016

Hi there. It has been quiet on this front while we have new carpets put down through most of the house. This has given the welcome chance to reorganise my study and I should be able to restart painting in the next few days. Gaming might take a couple of weeks while the garage is full of boxes n' stuff.

In the meantime, some photos of my tidied workspace:

1. Desk for painting, writing, etc. All my basing materials are now organised in matching boxes rather than the random selection I had built up over the years. Ospreys to hand above the printer. Paints, brushes and tools are in the drawers under the desk and in the keyboard drawer in the desk iteself

2. The wargaming and history library. Scruffier stuff hidden behind the doors:

3. Plenty of light:

4. The opposite wall, mostly Dr Who and other Sci-Fi stuff as well as three display cabinets - my fourth has been temporarily retired to make room for more space in the library. These are IKEA cabinets, long OOP for CD storage. Black top, back and bottom with glass doors, sides and shelves.
Each has 4 glass shelves, which added to the base gives plenty of storage.

The lead mountain is now all removed to the garage and will be sorted through over the summer.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Southern Campaign - June 1780

The campaign has now moved on. Below is the situation at the end of May 1780. Continental forces continue to gather at Hillsboro NC and Richmond VA, but have lacked the command rolls to move further south.

The British have established themselves in Georgia and South Carolina. Cornwallis is poised to invade North Carolina...

June began with the withdrawal to New York by Clinton and 4,000 regulars, rather weakening British forces, however Cornwallis moved across the border to Winnsboro to engage the militia. In return these chaps fell back to Charlotte to join up with another 1,000 of their brethren. Corvallis followed up and we have our next battle.

2,200 Carolina's militia will now attempt to stand their ground against 2,000 British and Provincials and about 120 cavalry. Should be fun.

I realised during this turn that I had Sumter on the board too early. Sumner should have started on the map with Sumter arriving in June. I don't mind. His presence licensed things up!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Drooping Boulder, the result!

Well, that didn't take long to resolve tonight.

The 17th Light Dragoons earned their pay, smashing through one militia unit then pursuing to take a second in the flank. Adding this to the militia horsemen they destroyed earlier, the boys did well.

Below are their final victims:

On the British left, the Fusiliers held on by their fingernails and Sumter was finally stopped by some extremely poor command rolls that left his force stranded, while the 17th did their thing over on the right.

The charge of the 17th also bought breathing space for the Queen's Rangers and allowed some of the British Legion to recover:

One troop of the Legion did chance its arm in a frontal charge on some militia and found that those chaps could handle their muskets - oops!

At this stage it seemed clear that the militia were in no position to push on.

I calculated campaign casualties in a similar way to converting map strengths to table units.

Each routed unit rolled one d6 for each strength point it represented (1 for small, 2 for average, etc).
Each roll of 2+ removes one campaign strength point.

A similar process was applied to any unit which had reached 6 disruption points during the game, but rolls of 4+ were needed to apply campaign losses.

Sumter lost 5 of his 12 points of South Carolina Militia and will retreat to an adjacent area on the map with his survivors.
Ferguson lost 1 of his 4 cavalry points and 1 of his 3 infantry points (ouch). As the camp was not overrun, they do still have possession of the wagon train that they captured.

So a victory of sorts for the Crown, but they really do need to extract Ferguson and his men at the earliest opportunity when the campaign re-starts.

"No commanders were harmed in the making of this battle report".


For those contemplating a similar experiment with the same board-game, here is an outline of my formula for generating tabletop strengths:

1. Command: One command figure for each commander counter involved in the combat on the map. Add one extra command figure for each tactical point the most senior commander has on his counter.

2. Unit strength: One point buys a small unit. Two points buys an average unit and Three points are needed for a large unit.

3. Unit quality (rating of 1 for raw to 5 for elite). Average unit quality is usually  "2" for militia, "3" for Continentals/Hessians and "4" for British regulars. Randomly decide if any British strength points actually represent Hessians. Apply some logic. A flying column of inf + cav is probably not going to include Hessians, but a garrison of a fort or city probably will. Upgrade or downgrade the table top units but keep to the rough average.

In the game just played:
Sumter had 12 points so used 5 x Average-size militia (10 pts), 1 x Small militia cavalry, 1 x small militia riflemen. All were given the "2" quality suitable for militia. Sumter was present, along with a single subordinate due to his "1" tactical rating.

Ferguson had 3 infantry and 4 cavalry points so used 1 x small infantry (1 point, Queen's Rangers, Q3), 1 x Average sized unit (2 points, Fusiliers, Q5), 1 x small cavalry unit (1 point, 17th LD, Q5) and 3 x Small cavalry units (3 points, British Legion, Q3). Ferguson was present with two subordinates - and their leadership was pretty crucial in securing the win.

Ferguson upgraded 3 points-worth of units from Q4 to Q5 and downgraded 4 points-worth of units from Q4 to Q3.

This all seemed to give a fair scenario. There were times when the militia came close to snatching the victory, and if they had better prepared for the return from pursuit of the 17th LD they might well have managed it.

I'll try to get back to the campaign on Sunday...

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Drooping Boulder, the battle rages

Hi all

On the British right the fusiliers have been engaged in a prolonged firefight with Sumter's militia. One militia unit has been forced out of the battle but the remaining two have worn the redcoats down to the tagged edge. The British have decided to stand and fight as in campaign terms they will surrender a supply train if their camp is overrun.

In the centre the Queens Rangers are in similar dire straits but rescue may be at hand. The miltia failed to prepare for the return of the 17th LD who chased off the miltia cavalry early in the action. It took them a while to reorganise but they have now reappeared and charged the militia in their flank.

Lastly, on the left flank two troops of British legion have been shot-up but a fresh unit stands on he far right and may have to throw itself into the fray to save the day!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Drooping Boulder, April 1780, deployment.

The clash between Patrick Ferguson's small column and General Sumter's militia horde has been determined to occur near the settlement of Drooping Boulder some miles west of Camden.

As the militia got the drop on the Crown forces I have based my scenario loosely on the real battle of a Hanging Rock.

Ferguson's men have encamped with a river to their rear and have been shocked to find rebel miltia emerging from the woods to the north and west.

To adapt the boardgame to the tabletop I did the following:

Ferguson has a tactical rating of "2" so I allowed him 2 subordinate officers, Sumter's rating of "1" nets him a single second in command.

Each strength point gets one small unit, two can be used to purchase an average sized unit. 

Ferguson fields an average sized British regular battalion (Royal Welch Fusiliers) with a 1st line rating, a small unit of Queen's Rangers infantry (2nd line), 3 small units of British Legion cavalry (2nd line) and a small unit of 17th Light Dragoons (elite).

Sumter fields 5 average sized South Carolina militia units, one small unit of militia riflemen and a small unit of militia horsemen.

The battlefield looking NW:

Looking north from Ferguson's camp:

Looking west towards Sumter's approach:

The militia cavalry link the two wings, ready to swoop.

Just one question...

...what is it with Ferguson and getting ambushed in the backwoods? 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Southern Campaign - April 1780

I have kicked off the campaign starting with the February 1780 turn and have so far reached the middle of the April turn.

The British began with their army in Savannah, Georgia. A small garrison was left in place under Colonel Balfour while the army was divided into three columns. Provost's column seized Augusta, while Clinton and Cornwallis besieged Charlestown. April saw General Lincoln surrendering Charlestown and the British detached Colonel Ferguson with a flying column to capture the rebel depot at Camden. Meanwhile Prevost headed north from Augusta to Ninety-six, whose militia defenders (under Sumpter) abandoned the settlement and headed for...Camden. this creates my first table top battle.

Below is the current game situation:

Continental reinforcements stand at Hillsboro awaiting orders while militia drift in and out of the ranks.

Further south we have the area of action
Finally a close-up of the area around Camden, where Sumter's horde of militia have surprised Ferguson's force.
So now there is a battle to fight!