Sunday, 16 October 2016

Artillery in Wargames

In March I mentioned on the blog that we were introducing limited artillery firing in our games.   Each game is 12 moves long, and we reduced to 6 the number of times artillery could fire.

The effect of this small rule change has surprised us both.   It has caused us both to rethink how we handle a wargame.   It has also made our games much more enjoyable.

The downside of only wargaming with one opponent, and in doing so most days over many years, is that games can become predictable.   This is particularly so when games are as stylised as ours tend to be.  All of our games are from the campaign.   The tables are always the same size.  The armies are balanced.  

Previously the defender had a huge advantage in artillery.   He could afford to open fire as soon as the attacker came into range.   He could then fire each move, with the effect increasing as the attacker moved closer.   Even if the attacker kept his infantry and artillery out of range whilst advancing his guns to prepare for the attack, the defender could fire every move.   It did not matter if counter battery fire was ineffective, there was no disadvantage to doing so.

On the other hand the attacker was at a considerable disadvantage.   If he started at the edge of the table, as he often did, he would have to spend four moves deploying his army to attack.  Two of these moves would have his guns, at least in artillery range of the defender.

He would then have four moves to fire on the enemy.   So at move 8 the defender would have fired 6 times, the attacker only 4 times.   Worse was to come.

In order to deliver the attack, the infantry and cavalry would have to mask the guns, at least in part.   Worse still, as they moved into close range they were more likely to receive heavier casualties.  It was pretty well impossible to move the attacking guns into close range.

Reducing the total artillery fire from 12 to 6 has completely changed our tactics.  Or at least made them more even.   The attacker still takes 2 or 3 moves to deploy.  But he can now fire at long range on the enemy

The effect of the rule change is that we are both much more cautious in using artillery in the early stages of the game.   The defender tends to avoid firing at least until the infantry is in range.   The attacker plans the battle to allow at least four, and if possible, six rounds firing.

However we are still left with one problem.   Casualties amongst cavalry and gunners have always been high, compared with infantry.   Worst still, gunners often tend to rout from the battle and in doing so abandon their guns.   In a campaign this has serious effects.

So the next task will be consider how to avoid so many gunner routs.


Rusty Gold said...

I suppose if you looked into real encounters there was a lot of variables , but Napolean was good at increasing the odds in his favour . Maybe you need to factor in a disparity as there was hardly a battle where they were even .Yes there are the famous battles where against the odds whatever side came out on top and they became recorded in history but over a campaign they were the only ones .
Do you try random weather cards , try the next game less those lost battalions and roll for routed troops before the next match to see what units might return ? Try a game with one side has to tactically withdraw back across a map with your own point system for what troops don't make it ?
Funny enough I was only discussing this with a mate ,good luck with it

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Rusty

Thanks for your comments and suggestion.

In real life commanders would only fight if they had a clear superiority and were confident that they would win, or if they were forced to do so. So of course most historical battles were uneven affairs. And wargaming a one off historical battle can be fun. Who has not fought, or at least wanted to, Waterloo, Austerlitz or Jena.

But my campaign is designed to provide interesting wargames. My wife and I have wargamed regularly for the past ten years. Indeed most days we play for an hour or so. To maintain the interest I run a campaign which produces the battles.

It is not much fun to have to wargame a battle where you are clearly going to lose. Or rather it is not much fun to do so over and over again.

So it is important that both sides have a chance of winning. The campaign battle casualties add an extra dimension, but do not give an overwhelming advantage. If the campaign does produce an uneven battle I resolve it as a paper exercise - not on the wargames table.

Despite the above I do appreciate your suggestions, and will give them some consideration. Although the rules were written to provide the type of wargames we enjoy, they have had to be amended over the years as frequent gaming throws up problems.

best regards