Sunday, 21 July 2013

Uneven Battles

It’s been an interesting week in the 1814 campaign.

We are currently fighting the fifth battle of the campaign.

There have been a lot of questions raised about the campaign in general, which has kept me busy.   The campaign rules are more of an outline and reference rather than a full detailed set of campaign rules.    More like the “fast play rules” than the full rule book.   So it is not surprising that new players raise a lot of questions.  It’s good for me, because when I refer to the rules it’s often the first time I have done so since I wrote them, and I see them in a new light.

The battles resulting from the campaign have also been much different from previous campaigns.   This is probably because I no longer influence the strategy of the campaign in the role of CinC.   Some players are obviously struggling to master the finer points of the rules, and strategy is taking a back seat.

As a result there have been a large proportion of uneven battles.  That is to say odds of two, or more, corps to one.   These are not usually planned as a clever strategy, but the result of one side having their four corps too widely spread and not within supporting distance of each other.

The problem is that they make for very one sided wargames.  All of the corps are evenly balanced in terms of numbers of infantry, cavalry and artillery.   But also in fighting ability.  Some may have better firing, others better skirmish others longer range artillery.   So when you get odds of two to one the smaller side is almost certainly going to lose.

Given that the smaller side has usually ended in this circumstance as a lack of planning on the part of the player, it seems unfair to throw away one of his four corps in a very one sided battle.

So I have always allowed the weaker side to start to withdraw as soon as it becomes obvious that he is outnumbered two to one.   This is usually about move five, when the second corps arrives at the table edge three or four moves away.

The attacker can attempt to pin the defender by attacking immediately, and not waiting for his reinforcements to arrive.   But the only real way to pin is to have superior cavalry, and that can only be achieved by winning the cavalry melee.   If the attacker loses the melee it is almost impossible for him to pin the weaker side.

This problem has caused a flurry of correspondence on the campaign forum.   One player has suggested, very reasonably, that it should be possible for the leading corps to pin the weaker corps until his reinforcements arrive.   This certainly was possible in Napoleonic warfare.  But it is very hard to achieve in a wargame, unless the weaker side is not allowed to retreat with the result that he will be destroyed.

I have to find a solution which does not end in the destruction of the weaker side.  Otherwise the campaign will quickly disintergrate as one side after another loses one of their four corps and then faces the knock on effect of uneven combat.

I have not found the solution yet!

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