Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Effect of Luck in our Wargame Rules

I post a battle report on the PBEM campaign diary blog of each wargame fought.   They are not as detailed as they used to be, because I found that some players found them too complicated.  I now include a photograph of each move and a brief description of what happened during that move.

These reports tend to highlight the important events, often a result of a particularly good or bad dice thrown.   This tends to indicate that the rules rely heavily on luck rather than skill.  And they often result in a comment on the campaign forum to that effect.

This prompted me to review the element of luck in my rules.   This is quite difficult to be objective about, because the result of a good or bad dice is often the part of the wargame that one remembers most.

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time may remember that I wrote about the effect of artillery in one particular game, where a run of extreme dice had given a very unrealistic and quite unacceptable result.   At that time the campaign was solo, so I only had myself and Jan to keep happy.  Now I have to consider the six campaign players.

I designed the rules to provide a fast, and fun, wargame.   We have used them frequently for about six years, and that is considerably longer than any of our previous rules have lasted.

The most important element is command and control, then a reasonable balance between infantry, cavalry and artillery.   Finally a strong element of luck.   They were designed like this because Jan and I always wargame together, so we know pretty well what the other will do in given circumstances.   So an element of luck is important to avoid the games becoming boring and predictable.

In general full strength brigades will always make their morale and do what you want them to do.   Each casualty is important because it reduces their ability to fight and to make their morale.   The absence of a general within command range will also reduce their morale.

It’s quite difficult to inflict casualties.   Artillery roll 2D6 and require a total of 8 for one casualty at long range, a total of 6 at short range.   Skirmishers roll 1D6 and require a total of 6, with plus for skirmish ability.   Melee and firefight are more likely to result in a draw than a rout.

However a dice roll of 6 will usually inflict a casualty, or save a morale test.   A dice of 1 will almost always result in the loss of morale.   We both like this element of luck, because it makes a wargame completely unpredictable.   It is not unusual for the advantage to pass from one to the other within the space of just one round out of twelve.

The big disadvantage of this type of rule is when one side has a run of 6s, or 1s.   We normally accept the occasional 6 or 1, but will sometimes roll again if there are a run of either.   On those rare occasions we usually roll two more dice and ignore the highest and lowest.  This is only done when the result would have a massive effect on the campaign and would have been due to extreme good or bad luck.

On balance I feel that the wargames are not decided on luck alone.   Tactical skill plays a much larger part, as does knowledge of the wargame rules. 

But because the result of a wargame will affect the outcome of the campaign, which a lot of people have put a lot of work into; I feel that it is acceptable to moderate an exceptional run of good or bad dice.

This does not apply every time a couple of one’s or sixes are thrown, only when it is at a critical part of a campaign wargame.   Then we roll another two dice, and take the middle score of the three.   Not quite as drastic as the “old school” saving throw, but sufficient to offset the effect of too much good, or bad, luck.

If you want to know more about our wargame rules you can find them here:

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