Sunday, 11 September 2016

Campaign Casualties – Part Three

In a historical campaign, where the aim is simply to defeat the enemy, campaign casualties are not a problem.   Providing that they are reasonably historical, the consequences are simply part of the campaign process.

However if the aim of the campaign is to provide interesting battles to wargame, then they are a problem.   Having spent some time setting up the campaign I would rather have three or four battles/wargames rather than just one.   One bad dice in the first battle of the campaign can result in almost certain defeat in subsequent battles.

I find it interesting that members of wargame forums often speak in favour of uneven wargames.   They say that they enjoy fighting a battle where they are almost certain to lose.   I have never shared this view.   I suspect that those who do offer this In point of view do not wargame regularly.  If they did they would soon tire of such one sided games.

Our wargame rules are based on the rock/scissors/paper principle, as are most of the rules I have used over the years.    This translates as infantry/cavalry/artillery with each arm responding to the threat posed by the other side.  It works well providing that both sides have all three combat arms.  But if one side has all three, and other only one or two, then it becomes almost impossible to win the game.  This is not a problem in “one off games”.  But it can lead to very predictable and boring campaign games.

For example if both sides have similar numbers of infantry and cavalry, but only one side has any artillery.   It is not too bad if the side with artillery is attacking, but is a major problem if they are defending.   The attacker (with the artillery) pounds the defender and does not advance until they are shaken.   When they do so, they do not have to worry about artillery casualties as they move closer to the enemy.

In our rules it is difficult to achieve a “hit”, but each one then has a significant effect on morale and combat efficiency.   When a brigade fails morale and routs it can have a knock on effect on nearby brigades.   They provide a fast moving and unpredictable game which usually provides an obvious winner.

But they also produce heavy casualties, particularly on the loser.   If these casualties are allowed to continue in the campaign they will quickly result in a series of ever more likely defeats for the side which lost the first battle.

To overcome this I am play testing a new campaign casualty system.

The current system of casualty replacement will remain the same.   Each day that a corps does not move and is not in contact with the enemy they will receive either 100 cavalry or gunners, or 400 infantry replacements.   This is one “hit” in the game.   Infantry casualties will continue to be concentrated in one brigade, always the one with the most casualties at the end of the battle.

In future each brigade will receive replacements, but not for the final 400 infantry or 100 cavalry or gunners.   This means they will always retain one “hit” worth of casualties.

This will reduce their morale and combat effectiveness permanently.   In effect an Elite brigade will become an Average brigade.   Class A skirmishers will be reduced to Class B.   Thus a brigade which receives a “hit” will never fully recover until the end of the campaign.

Given time, and rest, they will recover to be a useful part of the corps.   But, for example, a cavalry brigade will always be minus one on a morale or a combat test.

We have only used this system for a couple of games, but the effect is striking.   Corps which have lost 30% casualties in their cavalry brigade will tend to avoid another battle until they have recovered the maximum 20%.   This means that they must avoid battle for at least two days, possibly more.   And they will then be a weak brigade for the remainder of the campaign.  But at least the corps will not have to fight with no cavalry at all.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

A very interesting and thought-provoking series of blog entries. It has certainly helped to shape my ideas regarding casualties in my own, planned campaign.

All the best,


thistlebarrow said...

Hi Bob

Thanks for your comments.

Glad you found them interesting. I find that it helps me to get it clear in my own mind when I prepare the blog. Getting he casualties right is obviously very important, and even more so if they have to be suitable for both the campaign and the wargame. Campaign rules are just like wargame rules, very personal and subjective. And very important that both provide the type of game that each individual enjoys playing. Not much point in them being technically good if they do not result in an enjoyable game.