Sunday, 27 May 2012

Yeah but, no but...

The two recent play-tests of my MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) rules have proved to me that they are basically fine. That said, several things have emerged from the play-tests and the discussions I have been having with David Crook and Kaptain Kobold that have given me pause for thought ... and I am now considering how best to address them.

Firstly, the rules work quite well as a face-to-face set, but when used solo (which is how I am likely to use them most of the time) the 'Dice for initiative'/IGOUGO section of the Turn Sequence can lead to the sort of situation that occurred in the recent play-tests where one side could not respond in any way to a major change to the situation on the battlefield as it unfolded. One way to deal with this would be to adopt the playing card activation system used in the RED HEX rules developed by Richard Brooks and Ian Drury. In this system each Unit is dealt a small playing card and the Units are 'activated' (i.e. move and fire) in order of precedence.

(The order of card precedence is Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King. The order of suit precedence is Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades. Therefore a 2 of Clubs takes precedence over a 2 of Diamonds, which will in turn take precedence over a 3 of Clubs.)

One advantage of this is that Artillery, which currently only fires during its particular segment of the Turn Sequence, could 'reserve fire' so that it can fire in support of an assault or to counter an attack that develops during that turn of the battle. The playing card would also serve as a reminder as to which Artillery Units have fired during a turn and which have not, and can therefore move.

A disadvantage of this system is that it can look rather unsightly having small playing cards all over the tabletop battlefield during a battle ... but I am sure that there must be a solution to this that would not be too difficult to find.

Secondly, the distances different types of Unit can move on the battlefield did seem a bit over-long during the last play-test battle, but on consideration the only change I am likely to make is to bring the Native Infantry and Cavalry movement distance into line with the other Infantry and Cavalry Units. I know that it is possible to argue for exceptions to be made ... but I would rather make that a scenario-specific rule rather than a general one.

Thirdly, the need to differential between Elite, Normal, and Poor troops has yet to be fully investigated and a working solution found. A simple method would be to make all Elite Units larger than Normal Units, and Poor Units smaller. The combat rules could be adapted to reflect this without too much difficulty, and the use of supernumerary figures to record casualties would be a simple 'on the table' method of recording casualty states without the need for larger numbers of figures to be present on the tabletop. For example, an Elite Infantry Unit might have two bases with three figures on each base and three single-figure supernumerary bases. The latter would be removed first to reflect the number of casualties suffered by the Unit. In a like manner, a Poor Infantry Unit might have two bases with three figures on each base and one single-figure supernumerary base. I understand that Richard Borg has used something similar in his own 28mm-scale figure version of BATTLE CRY! and I see no reason not to copy his example.

Fourthly, as the rules stand at the moment there are not morale rules or - as I prefer to think of them - rules that reflect a Unit's willingness to fight or combat. The Exhaustion Point achieves this for a group of Units, but not for individual Units. I suspect that whatever is devised, it will be linked in some way to a Unit's casualty state.

These are my thoughts at the moment. They may change or they may not ... hence the title of this blog entry!


  1. I'm finding the initiative system I came up with for my Mexican Revolution set works OK with the number of units I'm using.

    Player with initiative activates one unit. They then roll a dice - on a 4+ they can activate another unit. This continues until they fail to activate one, at which point their opponent activates a unit, then rolls to activate a next, and so on. Intiative swaps back and forth between the players until all units in play have been activated, at which point the turn ends.

    It keeps both sides active during the turn, whilst possibly preventing one side making a devastating series of attacks with no reply from their opponent. It also doesn't need cards, but you do need to keep track of which units have activated during a turn. I do the latter by leaving activated units at a slight angle in their square, then resetting them all at the end of the turn.

  2. How about the system used in The Sword and The Flame? Out of a standard card deck, a red card means side A can move a unit, and a black card means Side B can move a unit. a unit moves once/deck. After all the units have moved the deck determines in what sequence they fire. The side commander determines what is going to move/fire on his card - so you could fire all the artillery before anything else, etc. As to elite, - poor units: saving throws could iron this out. It takes a smaller number on a D6 to save a poor unit than it does to save an elite unit - see Featherstone's War Games for the idea.

    Charge! - There are no lead widows.

  3. These are all plausible ideas, which is perhaps part of the problem. I have often used the sort of card activation mentioned by Dick Bryant but have recently become more enamored of including some form of reaction for the non-active player, particularly defensive fire. In essence, this would allow the player who is moving second to interrupt a moving unit to fire at it. Any unit that does so cannot later be moved, in essence, they have used up their turn by using defensive fire. One can even allow units that go first to "hold fire" y doing nothing and then using defensive fire when the 2nd player moves. This method does require some way to mark units that have moved or fired.

    However, if you do elect to shorten the moves, this may be less of an issue as the defender wil lget in more shots. It will make the natives much weaker as they will take more shots on the way in. Increasing the number of units may hep balance that.

    I am of course a fan of longer moves, I like to give players a chance to get into trouble easily and see if they have the discipline to NOT move troops their full allowance all the time!

    I'm looking forward to seeing how all this develops.

  4. Kaptain Kobold, Dick Bryant, and Ross Mac,

    Thanks for the excellent suggestions and advice.

    I like the dice activation system as it is simple and applicable to both solo and face-to-face wargames.

    I incorporated a similar card activation system to that used in 'The Sword and The Flame' in my own 'Bundock and Bayonet' rules, so I know that it will work.

    I also like the idea of Units being able to react to events by 'reserving their fire' ... but at a cost to their ability to move.

    You have given me lots of things for me to think about.

    All the best,


  5. I really like Kaptain Kobold's dice suggestion regarding dice activation. This could be developed further dependant upon the structure of the game being played too. For example in my own Napoleonic solo games each force is sub-divided into brigades each of which is commanded by varying quality of officer, from Poor to average to excellent. So, if a player decides to to attempt activation of a unit under an excellent class of officer he could +1 to his die roll. Similarly if he wishes to activate a unit under a 'poor' commander he should -1 from the roll. Interesting system, I may give this a try myself.

  6. Bob, I forgot to mention that when it comes to morale, I have become firmly convinced that it should be built in to the combat system rather than being a separate entity.

    Even when looking at casualties from shooting, 10% casualties in a short period of time were seen as heavy and 25% very heavy so I see the removal of strength points or figures as some form of measure of unit effectiveness. This may mean letting different units take different amounts of damage, or saving throws or any number of things.

    Just my current view on the subject.

  7. Steve's Wargame Stuff,

    What I like about Kaptain Kobold's suggestion are:
    - Its simplicity.
    - The fact that it uses a single D6 die.
    - The fact that you could (as you suggest) use it to incorporate a level of commander competence without complicating the game mechanisms.

    I must admit to having a preference for this particular mechanism ... at the moment!

    All the best,


  8. Ross Mac,

    I tend to agree that morale and combat (or at least the 'willingness to combat') are intertwined and are best dealt with together rather than separately. It is the development of a simple, effective method of achieving this that is exercising my mind at present ... and I think that the suggestions I have received have given me the answer.

    All I have to do now is to write down my thoughts so that they are concise and coherent …and as Shakespeare once wrote, ‘there’s the rub.’

    All the best,


  9. I hadn't considered adjusting the die roll for commander quality, but the idea has merit.

    The only thing against it is that in the early stages of a battle, before the armies contact, there is an advantage in activating after the opponent. This is because if you get an activation you must activate a unit, even if all the ones you have available have no enemy in sight and range. So by giving your opponent the initiative you can force them to 'waste' some of their units before you move up with them.

    I could allow such units to be 'on hold', able to fire or charge enemy units which come into range, but it's one extra thing to keep track off, and I don't want the hassle.

  10. Kaptain Kobold,

    I only threw this out as an idea because I know that there are players who like to represent the abilities (or otherwise) of different commanders on the tabletop.

    One thought that your point raised in my mind is that players could dice each turn to decide which side has the initiative, with the winner choosing to keep it or pass it on. The side starting with the initiative would then dice to activate a Unit and so on until they lose the right to activate, when it passes to the other side. This continues until both sides have activated all their Units ...

    BUT ...

    If during a turn a side chooses to hand over the initiative to the other without losing the right to activate a Unit (i.e. they have made a conscious decision not to activate a Unit until the other side has activated a Unit), they can do so ... but only a limited number of times each turn. The number of times could be related to the commander's ability. This is similar to a player being able to 'pass' in dominoes.

    This is certainly an idea worth pursuing.

    All the best,