I have always found that getting the balance right between infantry and cavalry is very difficult to achieve in wargame rules. I found that in most rules the cavalry were too powerful, and the only infantry defence was to form square. The cavalry were then doomed to defeat if they dared to attack.
This is all part of the wider balance between infantry, cavalry and artillery. I believe that each should have some disadvantages to balance their obvious strengths.
My wargame rules are very much fast play, and I want to achieve a clear result within a maximum of 12 moves. To this end I have opted to rely more than usual on the luck of the dice. I have stuck with the more limited 6 sided, rather than the wider range of options available with 10 sided dice.
I have also gone for morale and combat tables. They allow me to reward better quality troops, supports and full strength. They also punish casualties, low quality troops and isolated formations too far from their commander and without support.
But, for me, the joy of winning a melee with conscripts because I rolled high dice makes each wargame different and unpredictable. It also rewards a bold general who is prepared to make a bold move against the odds.
It is not unusual to start move 11 or 12 facing certain defeat. Then a lucky dice throw routs one enemy brigade, and their supports who have casualties must then test their morale and also fail. For me the chance of such reversals are what makes a memorable wargame. I appreciate that for some players this would be unacceptable because the chances of it happening in “real life” are indeed very slim. But as the great Donald Featherstone, who fought in WW2, remarked in one of his books “it is a warGAME”. Anyone who believes that we can achieve more than a passing resemblance to historical warfare on a wargames table is searching for the Holy Grail. Those of you who have served in the military will recognise, and appreciate, the adage that the best laid plans are often abandoned when the first shot is fired.
So how to balance infantry, cavalry and artillery? In my rules all combat are one brigade to one brigade. Artillery have a slight advantage over cavalry. But if the cavalry are allowed to charge home the gunners rout with 20% casualties. An infantry attack on artillery is almost sure to fail. Equally one infantry brigade will lose against one cavalry brigade, unless the infantry are in square.
With this type of balance the attacker must secure an advantage before he sends his infantry forward. Because almost all games are decided by the infantry, as almost all battles were in real life.
If the attacker can defeat the enemy cavalry early in the game, he will have an immense advantage. However if his own cavalry are broken he will be unable to attack at all. So early artillery fire is usually concentrated on the enemy cavalry. If they manage a hit their own cavalry can advance with confidence to finish them off.
However cavalry v infantry is one of the most difficult to balance. In my early games I relied on the infantry forming square, and cavalry are not allowed to charge a formed square. So there is no chance of a lucky dice allowing the cavalry to break a square. However a square which suffers just one casualty is disordered, and does not count as a square for the remainder of that move.
One of my recent rule changes is to allow an infantry brigade to count support in a cavalry v infantry melee. They get plus one for each formed infantry brigade within 4”. Heavy cavalry gets plus two in melee. So three infantry brigades advancing in close support would overcome this advantage. In such a melee neither side would have an advantage, and the result would be down to the luck of the dice.
We are fortunate to be able to wargame most days. The advantage of this is that we both have a real understanding of the rules. The disadvantage is that neither of us often make a serious mistake which then allows the other to win. That is why we rely on the luck of the dice. It is the only way we can keep our games fresh and enjoyable. Winning is not a great driver for either of us. Enjoying the game is much more important