Sunday, 15 December 2013

New Campaign Rules for Uneven Battles

I have finally decided how to handle uneven battles without having to set up and play the boring and  predictable wargame.

There has been some suggestions from the campaign players on the PBEM forum, and I have taken that into consideration.   Mind a lot of it would not fit into the campaign system, so I have had to compromise .

I considered a chart for each corps involved, but decided against that as it would involve too much work.   I would have to take quality of commanders, plus the quality, ability, casualties and morale of each brigade.  All of this would require a large chart of plus and minus points, and would need constant adjustment in the light of game experience.

I have decided to stick with one simple chart.   However I will use two D6 dice to cover a wider range of possibilities.

A low dice total indicates that the weaker side has managed to retreat before the stronger side can bring their weight to bear.   Only the rearguard has been involved in the fighting, which has been light and ineffective.

The higher the total the more fighting has taken place.  Both sides suffer casualties, but the weaker side many more than the stronger side.

This simple solution will save a lot of time fighting pointless and boring wargames.

It also follows the same principle as my wargame rules.    A low dice is bad luck for the attacker.  A high dice bad luck for the defender.

Even in the worse case the casualties will not be sufficient to force the weaker side to surrender.  I would not want any campaign to end without a formal wargame to decide the winner.

On the other hand the weaker side will always suffer more casualties than the stronger side.   This was not always the case when we fought the battle as a wargame.   The weaker side would always retreat as soon as they saw that the attackers were much stronger.   They would often do so without any casualties at all.

The new chart is as follows

Roll two D6 dice

Total               Stronger Side              Weaker Side
02                    1 infantry                    1 infantry
03                    1 infantry                    2 infantry
04                    1 infantry                    2 infantry        1 cavalry
05                    1 infantry                    3 infantry
06                    2 infantry                    3 infantry        1 cavalry
07                    2 infantry                    4 infantry       
08                    2 infantry                    4 infantry        1 cavalry
09                    2 infantry                    5 infantry
10                    3 infantry                    5 infantry        1 cavalry         1 gunner
11                    3 infantry                    6 infantry
12                    3 infantry                    6 infantry        1 cavalry         1 gunner

1 infantry equals 400 infantry casualties
1 cavalry equals 100 cavalry casualties
1 gunner equals 100 gunners casualties and three guns

Each full strength corps has 16000 infantry, 1000 cavalry and 1000 gunners.

So possible casualties of 2400 infantry, 100 cavalry and 100 gunners is a considerable punishment for allowing yourself to be attacked by greater numbers of the enemy.

This will allow me to avoid wargaming uneven battles.  No doubt I will encounter problems as I use it in the campaign, but at least I can forget the problem for now

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Time Spent on Wargaming

This week I have spent a lot of time pondering wargaming uneven battles again.  

I raised the subject on TMP hoping that someone might have experience of a set of rules which worked, and which I could then adopt to my own house rules.   I got quite a few replies but all telling me that it happened all the time, and it should be easy to include in a wargame.   But none suggesting how it might be done, or at least not in a way I could use in my own games.

Then someone asked how long I spent each week wargaming, and I replied about 8 hours.   He seemed unable to accept that it was possible to spend so long and still live a normal life.   He was even more unconvinced when I told him I also spend about 12 hours on the PBEM campaign.   This had not seemed to me to be an excessive amount of time.

We wargame most days for an hour or so.   Usually we aim at two moves each time, or three if it is a small game.   Then I spend about two hours each day working on the campaign.   Total more or less 20 hours a week.

This doubting response made me wonder whether I am excessive in the time I spend on wargaming related work.    So I asked the question on TMP “how long do you spend on your hobby”.   I cross posted it to all of the different period forums.  I was a little disappointed only about 50 replied.  I was quite surprised that hardly any of them reached, let along exceeded, my 20 hours a week.   Most seemed to manage about 10 hours a week, some much less.

It was even more striking that most of those who contribute most to the long winded posts along the lines of “Was Napoleon more kind to children than Wellington”.  These run up tens, or even hundreds, of comments.   Yet few of these posters wanted to share with the wider world how much time they actually spend on wargaming and related subjects.

It made me realise what a time wasting pasting reading forums can be.   Like everyone else I am fascinated by the explosive “flame wars”.   I would not dare to offer an opinion for fear of them turning their hate on me!   But it is absorbing to read.  Much like the crowds who gather at a traffic accident.   Not to help, just to watch.

But back to my 20 hours a week.   It would seem that I am very much in a minority in spending so much time on my hobby.   Or it may be that those who spend as long, or even longer, are too busy painting and wargaming to follow TMP.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Wargaming Uneven Battles

This week’s problem is how to tackle uneven battles in the PBEM campaign.

The role of the campaign is constantly changing; the latest was a change in the role of the players from corps commander to army commander.   As corps commanders most of the battles were one corps v one corps.   As army commander they have four corps, and naturally attempt to bring greater odds to bear before they will fight a battle.

With twelve players campaigning over six different campaign areas there are a lot more battles produced than previously.   In addition there is the new problem of uneven battles, where two corps attack one.

We wargamed two or three of these battles, and found that the wargame was predictable and pretty boring.   The player with the smaller side simply started to retreat before the attacker could pin them.

I tried making the weaker side hold their position, but this resulted in the destruction of the weaker side.   The mechanics of the wargame being that the greater number quickly cause more casualties, which increases the odds in favour of the attacker.

I then tried to avoid such battles, by allowing the smaller force to retreat.  This seemed a perfectly reasonable solution.   I feel that most corps commanders faced with such odds would do so, if it were possible.   It has always been possible in the campaign, because such battles tend to be by accident, not as the result of a clever strategic move which cut the retreat of the smaller side.

However this was unpopular with some of the players, particularly those with the larger force, who felt it was unfair to allow the weaker side to retreat.

I then went on the wargames forum to ask if anyone had found a solution to this problem.   Perhaps there is a rule set which allows uneven combat, and I could adopt it to my rules.   Or perhaps someone running a campaign had found a solution.   The answer appears to be no.    There does not seem to be an easy way to fight a wargame at odds of two or more to one.

So back to square one.

The campaign is designed to provide interesting battles for Jan and I to wargame.   I then post a full battle report, with photographs, so that each player can see why he won or lost the battle.   They are less keen on a fictional report on how the uneven battles were resolved.

I am not sure that there is an answer that will satisfy everyone.  But it is good that it has made me question the campaign rules and how it is fought.   Even if I fought each uneven battle as a wargame there would still be dissatisfaction because the weaker side would escape without any damage at all.   And there would be little point in fighting a series of wargames where one side is doomed to destruction right from the start.

So no easy answer.  But an interesting problem.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

In Praise of House Rules

A recent post on TMP suggesting that it would be good idea to write a set of Napoleonic wargame rules by allowing everyone to suggest a rule, then vote on whether it be accepted or not.   It seemed to me a most unusual approach to rule writing, and one almost certain to fail.  

However it made me consider my own experience of wargame rules over a period of almost 50 years, and how I eventually solved the problem

When I read the posts on TMP about the latest commercial wargame rules I am reminded of teenagers and sex.   It’s as if they have discovered something new which no one else had experienced before.   But of course sex, like Napoleonic wargame rules, has been around for a long time.  

I can well understand this view, because I can well remember my own first experience of wargame rules.    My first experience was “Charge or how to play wargames”.   Then WRG horse and musket (I forget the full title).   This was followed by In “The Grand Manner” and finally “LFS”.   All excellent rules.   All very different in design.    All eventually discarded.

My own experience, though I am sure I am not alone, is that the more I play a commercial set of rules the more I become disillusioned with them.   This is not the fault of the rule writer, it is that I want something different from the rules than they are designed to provide.   I believe that this is the reason there has never been a “universal” set of Napoleonic wargame rules, accepted across the hobby.

Over the years I tried to adapt each of my current favourite commercial rules.   It never worked for long.   When I changed a rule because I disliked the outcome it often led to further unexpected problems.

My solution was to go back to basics and write my own rules to provide the sort of game I like to play.   The result has stood the test of time, and been used in countless wargames, for the past six years.   It will not suit everyone; indeed it may not suit anyone else.   The more personalised the rules are the less then are likely to be appeal to anyone else.

I am fortunate to have a permanent wargames table, and a wife who also likes to wargame.   We are both retired and wargaming is an important part of our life.   We game most days, at least five days a week.   We prefer to game for an hour or two, rather than game a whole battle in one go.   All of my wargames are driven by a PBEM campaign, and last for 12 moves (each move being one hour in the campaign”.

As part of an overall reorganisation of my wargaming prior to retirement I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and listed what I wanted to achieve.   Obviously anyone else attempting this exercise will have a different list.  So there is not much point in my telling you my particular list.

The important aspects to me were they must reflect Napoleonic warfare as I understand it.   They must be short and simple to remember.   They must have an element of chance.   They must be fun to play.

This has worked for me.   We have played hundreds of wargames since I wrote the rules.   We still enjoy the games.   We still feel that the rules work well.   We have tried countless, complicated battles provided by the campaign and all of them have worked.

We do make minor adjustments to the rules from time to time.  We will often simply roll the dice again rather than change the rules.      But I now fully understand the consequences of making a change, and what the knock on effect is likely to be.

This is not an advert for my rules, but if you would like to read them you will find them here

To write your own rules you need to have a good understanding of the period, and what you want to get out of the wargame experience.  So it is not likely to be attractive to new players.   But it does not take long to discover what you want from a wargame.   Once you have done so I strongly recommend you to write your own.

It would be interesting to hear from other wargamers who have tried, and perhaps failed.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Construction Boom

I mentioned in September that we were working on the building s for our campaign.

We already have a mass of buildings, both commercial and homemade.   Most of the commercial ones are too large for the town footprint we use for the campaign battles.   We use squares of felt to represent the size of the town.   One square for a village, two for a town and three or four for a city.

Most of the commercial buildings are 25mm, and only one can fit on each square.   So it looks like isolated buildings rather than a village or town.

All of the previous buildings which Jan made were either to match the commercial 25mm buildings, or our 15mm model soldiers.  

The only suitable commercial buildings we had were Hovels medieval buildings.   I cannot remember whether they are 25mm or 15mm.  I think they were 25mm, but smaller than the rest of our collection.   So I asked Jan to make some buildings to match them.   The result is the town above.

I am very pleased with the result, and have now asked for a couple of farms.  The idea is to have a farm house and a couple of outbuildings plus a connecting wall.  Something similar to La Haye Sainte.   I would like sufficient for two farms, but all inter changeable.

Now that winter is approaching we will be spending less time out and about, and will have more time for the construction task.   I will post photographs when they are finished.