Sunday, 6 October 2013

Attackers Advantage

Four Austrian corps v three French

We have fought more campaign battles than usual in the last three months, mainly due to our new campaign system of six campaign areas each with its own French and allied armies.  In that time we have fought 16 battles. I tend to take on the attack role, and Jan the defence.  So I have had a lot of experience of the disadvantages of mounting an attack.

When I designed the campaign I gave all twelve armies the same order of battle.   Four corps, each with four infantry brigades and one cavalry brigade plus one artillery battery.   The command, combat and morale ability differ a lot between the different nations, but the numbers are the same.  This is to allow each player an equal chance of winning in his one of the six different campaign areas.

I have found two particular problems in being the attacker.   First you have to move more brigades more often, and this puts you at a distinct command disadvantage.  In our rules each corps gets one command point for each brigade which is not shaken or in rout, plus three for a gifted commander, two for average and one for poor.   Fine if everyone is halted in defence, more difficult if everyone has to advance, and orders changed.

The second is the luck of artillery fire.   We roll one two D6 and require 8 for a hit at long range.   It’s essential for the attacker to cause more casualties on the defender before it comes to close quarter combat, particularly as the defending guns only require a total of 6 at close range.

The attacker also has to be careful not to lose cavalry casualties, or worse still a cavalry combat.   There is only one cavalry brigade per side, and if the attacker is left with no cavalry his infantry have to form square against the enemy cavalry.

One solution would be odds of two to one, by only attacking when one side has two corps against one.   But this always results in heavy casualties to the weaker side.  Consequently it always retreats off the table before the attacker can close and destroy them.

I am working on a reorganisation of the orders of battle to allow more options.  

Instead of the standard army of four corps each of four infantry, one cavalry and one gun, there would be different options.   There would be three standard corps of three infantry, one cavalry and one gun.   There would be a fourth corps of three infantry and one gun.  Plus a fifth corps of two infantry and one cavalry.    This would allow the attacker to combine either the fourth or fifth corps to create a much larger corps to attack.

I am still working on the details, but I hope to introduce this new system at the start of the next segment of the campaign.


  1. Sixteen battles in three months; that *is* impressive!

    It's funny isn't it that the tendency to try to 'balance' fictitious games/campaigns can produce a less-desirable games than an 'unbalanced' historical set-up? Would you use historical orders of battle as a basis; perhaps scaled-down to suit available figures?

  2. Hi James

    I suspect that if you play of lot of either historical or balanced wargames you will eventually find a weakeness in the rules.

    We have had great fun refighting historical battles. But they do require a lot of work for just one battle. And the fun is in the one off experience of trying to be Napoleon or Wellington.

    These games are part of a large campaign, which is run with the intention of providing "good" wargames for Jan and I to play. But the campaign also has to be enjoyable and challenging for the army commanders. They also have to fit within the campaign time frame, and our weekly routine. Most important they must be compact enough to finish within 12 moves. So there is quite a lot to consider.

    As always, its a matter of getting the balance right. Due to the large number of recent games which have suffered this particular problem this is my current concern. No doubt once I have found a solution to this one another will rise.

    Just as well, because otherwise it would all become boring!



  3. Here may be a way to ensure that battles at odds might be achieved. Of course to attack at evens is pretty dodgy if one is looking for a decisive result. Showing up with two Army Corps against one, and the latter will bug out if he can, and try to close up on a friend.

    But how about the two corps approaching the action as it were 'in tandem'? If the two are coming down the same road, the lead one immediately engages the enemy with the idea of fixing him in place, whilst the second prepares for an all out assault on one flank.

    Even if the two corps were coming down different roads, you might have to adopt some such method in order to fix the enemy in place, or make it costly to break off the action.

    Whether this approach is feasible (or makes any difference) will depend upon the rule system in use. But I would certainly suggest two criteria to make this work:

    1. Breaking off the action whilst under attack has to be difficult (i.e. simply upping sticks and marching off won't cut it);

    2. The enemy doesn't necessarily know (for certain) that a second or subsequent army corps is in the offing. At that, the defender might also be able to call on friendly formations turning up (e.g. Battle of Dresden).

  4. We use a PBEM campaign where the maps are directly transferable to the table. By that I mean that each map square is a 2x2' square. Also movement on the map at 12 hours per day, determines when reinforcements will arrive on the table as the game is also 12 moves.

    We already use your idea of pinning with the leading corps to allow the reinforcement corps to arrive.

    I am hoping that my recent idea of breaking up one of the four corps to provide smaller corps or larger divisions will overcome this problem.

    It will allow battles with uneven sized corps, but not at such great odds.




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