Saturday, 6 February 2010

Representing wargame army 'commanders' on the battlefield

Although Joseph Morschauser's various sets of rules have a great deal to commend them (which is why they have formed the basis of my last two sets of wargames rules), there is one element that is missing – the presence of any 'command' figure or figures on the battlefield.

The reason why I like to include ‘command’ figures in my rules is very simple; I think that it gives the players something that they can identify with on the tabletop. In some ways this is a purely psychological ploy by me to try to get the players ‘down from their wargamer’s helicopter on high’ – from whence they can see the entire battlefield in one sweep of the eye – to ground level, where they have to worry about how they, as a commander, can influence matters at first-hand whilst keeping themselves from being killed. In the simplest terms, the ‘command’ figure represents the player’s alter ego on the battlefield.

I am currently thinking about how I could include ‘command’ figures in my versions of Joseph Morschauser’s wargames rules. However I do it, I will keep it as simple as possible so that it does not distort the basic (and very simple) game mechanisms that are already in place.

9 comments:

  1. Bob,
    I agree completely with your wish to represent commanders in the rules. Personally, given that the rules themselves are nice and simple, I'd be inclined to incorporate more detail into the rules for commanders - especially the players' own character - in order to bring them 'to life', as it were.
    For non-played subordinate commanders, I would have a system for determining how they would react when receiving new orders; being unable to execute existing orders, and whether they would use their initiative when presented with a sudden opportunity [ie act as the player would ideally like them to!].
    For the player's character, I would have rules limiting how many orders he could issue in any one turn; rules determining his fate when under fire [slanted towards keeping him/the player alive, of course!] but with lots of atmospheric detail - hat/epaulette shot off; bullet holes in coat; minor flesh wound; temporarily stunned for a number of turns; horse startled/wounded/killed &c.
    - so that the player would be given a vivid picture of his own experience of the battle.

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  2. Hi Bob,

    Having a command element on the table is essential IMHO but I am unsure as to the best way to represent them under Morschauser. A command group of figures is fine but what effect should they have in game turns? DBA covers this quite well (although command radii in squares may be a tad problematic!)and I guess that units within a certain distance of the command stand would get some kind of benefit - perhaps an extra attack/defence dice. I would suggest penalties for loss of a command group - more so perhaps for a 'native' army. I will be interested to see what you come with.

    All the best,

    Ogre

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  3. I never cared much for Morschauer's optional commander rule which was essentially that all units had to be stay within a set distance of him (or of various sub commanders) and that if the commander was killed then units had to throw for morale. In other words he was purely a liablity (Tolstoy might agree).

    One simple possibility is to use a command radius and make units beyond this radius roll to see if they receive orders to move. (delayed orders if you will).
    I would still allow them to fire.
    Some form of melee bonus might also be in order with of course, a chance of fatal results.

    -Ross

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  4. Arthur1815,

    As I am only presently thinking about fairly small-scale games where there will not be any subordinate commanders, any rules I develop are likely to concentrate on the impact a commander can have on any particular situations (e.g. increasing a Unit's effectiveness) and the number of orders they can issue.

    The idea of a deck of 'chance cards' appeals; the problem might be how to incorporate that into the existing game structure.

    Anyway, at the moment all I am doing is thinking. The results – if there are any – will come later.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Ogrefencer,

    I am coming round more and more to the need to have some form of tabletop representation of each side's 'commander'.

    It has yet to be decided if they will be represented by a group of figures (which might make them too strong) or a single figure (the more likely outcome) where their influence will be related to the number of orders they can give each turn, adding some sort of factor in Fire and Close Combat.

    I suspect that I need to have another look at Morschauser's book to see what the great man wrote about this problem.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Ross Mac,

    You seem to have got in ahead of me! I was about to read the relevant section in Morschauser's book when your comment arrived.

    If the commander's role is just to restrict what other Units can do and the commander cannot impart any advantage to Units that they are near, then there seems little point in having them.

    The various comments made so far that related to setting a command radius are giving me pause for thought, and I already have some ideas floating around in my head.

    The suggestions that there should be some form of Fire and/or Close Combat bonus for Units the commander is with seems easy to incorporate into the existing rules without too much trouble.

    I must set aside some thinking time ...

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Hi Bob,

    Part 1.

    Context: your Morschauser rules for colonial and modern warfare.

    Assumption: If you give the player 1 figure on the table, then I assume he is the commanding officer (CO) of the whole army.

    The CO's job is to organize his army, assign subordinate officer commands if used in the game, get the army onto the battlefield hopefully in a position to win the battle.

    Before a battle starts a unit, or at least its officers, might be aware that the CO is nearby. This might make them more timid, not wanting to screw up under the CO's gaze, or more aggressive, wanting to prove their worth or show off.

    Once the battle starts I don't think anyone looks around and says, "Hey the CO can see us, everyone shoot more accurately, or mind your dressing, or watch your bayonet drill." In a more modern period most units never see the CO during combat. He as at best some voice over a radio.

    I think a "command radius" is an unnecessary complication.

    There are three area in the game to be affected.

    Affecting Movement through Limited Orders:
    1. Before the game each CO is rated, thereby establishing the maximum number of order he can issue each turn. This number never changes.

    2. Before each turn roll for the maximum number of order he can issue each turn. Think DBx PIPS.

    3. Roll for each order given, with failure ending the turn's order giving. You might get 0 to x order successfully given each turn.

    Affecting Close Combat:
    In the colonial period having the CO lead a charge might be fun from the "Hollywood" perspective, but needs substantial risk to the CO so the player only attempts it once in a while, at desperate times. A CO leading every charge is nothing more than a movable combat bonus the player is assigning with little risk of losing it. In the modern period, leading a charge just doesn't happen. The CO should be "generaling" not "captaining."

    Affecting Shooting:
    In a colonial battle, a CO should not have an effect on fire. He is not aiming, pulling the trigger, reloading, or being heard above the roar of the battle.

    In a modern battle, or maybe even a colonial one, the effect of the CO's direction of fire might assumed in the player's choice of targets.

    No rules are needed for a CO affecting shooting.

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  8. Part 2.

    (Apparently comments are limited to 4096 characters.)

    But, hey, we want to "draw the player in" to the experience.

    Tactical Options:
    1. Give each CO a number of dice rerolls per battle. Let then use them to reroll shooting, saves, and close combat. Say the CO figure must be within two square to use the reroll. One cannot reroll a reroll. Attacker declares a reroll first. Then the defender may declare one after the attacker's reroll is made. The number of rerolls per player does not have to be equal.

    2. Give each CO 1 reroll per turn. Let then use them to reroll shooting, saves, and close combat. Say the CO figure must be within two square to use the reroll. One cannot reroll a reroll. Attacker declares a reroll first. Then the defender may declare one after the attacker's reroll is made.

    3. Give each CO 1 reroll per turn. Let then use them to reroll shooting, saves, and close combat. Say the CO figure must be within two square to use the reroll. One cannot reroll a reroll. Attacker declares a reroll first. Then the defender may declare one after the attacker's reroll is made. After using the reroll, roll a D6. On a 6 the CO can no longer use his reroll for whatever reason you want to make up.

    4. Give each CO 1 reroll per turn. Let then use them to reroll shooting, saves, and close combat. Say the CO figure must be within two square to use the reroll. One cannot reroll a reroll. Attacker declares a reroll first. Then the defender may declare one after the attacker's reroll is made. After using the reroll, roll a D6. On a 6 the CO loses one movement order per turn. this effect is cumulative. If you roll a reroll 6 twice, then you are down 2 orders per turn. Radios being knocked out, runners being killed, ADC being lost, etc. The more you try to "personally" change the battle results the more you lose control of the battle. One can never have less than 2 orders per turn. Once you are down to a maximum of 2 orders, you cannot use rerolls.

    These tactical options make the player put his CO figure where the action is. They must determine where they might want this extra benefit and when to use it.

    Just some thoughts.

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  9. Jim,

    I go out for the day and ...

    Thanks for the excellent ideas. They have given me much to think about. Don't expect a quick response though, as I suspect it is going to take me some time to assimilate everyone's ideas.

    All the best,

    Bob

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