Monday, 13 September 2010

More thoughts on the longer the range, the fewer the dice

I was slightly later than usual leaving work today ... and as a result I got caught up in a minor traffic jam. This meant that I had to sit in my car for the best part of fifteen minutes with little to do except think ... so I did ... about yesterday's refight of 1st Bull Run using BATTLE CRY.

Some of the players and I have now had a chance to properly read Richard Borg's BATTLE CRY rules, and we have realised that we had not quite got them right.

One thing that we got wrong was the number of dice thrown by a unit when it was fighting another unit. For example, we were using the number of figures in an Infantry unit and the range at which it was firing to determine how many dice it could throw. Therefore, if an Infantry unit had lost a figure, it lost a die from the number of dice it could throw; If it had lost two figures, it lost two dice from the number of dice it could throw ... and so on. At the same time, we were also reducing the number of dice it could throw to reflect the range at which it was firing (e.g. if the range equalled three hexes, the Infantry unit could only throw two dice).

In actual fact the rules state that an Infantry unit throws the same number of dice, however large or small its figure strength may be, until it is wiped out; the number of dice is only reduced to reflect the range at which the Infantry unit is firing.

We also failed to add additional dice for generals who were accompanying a unit, and we did not grasp the effect that hills had on the number of dice that could be thrown by units that were on a hill and firing at targets below them or on units that were firing at targets that were uphill from them.

All this was whirring around in my head whilst I was stuck in my car. On reflection, the way were fought our battle would probably have been better had we used the rules correctly ... and that the combat rules are worth serious consideration as a model for any future changes I might make to my development of Joseph Morschauser's 'Frontier' rules.


  1. It is an interesting mechanism and one that I have used in one form or another in the past. The good thing is that it alters not only the probability of x number of hits but puts an absolute limit on the number of hits.

    Always something new to consider! (and a great way to deal with traffic jams)


  2. Ross Mac,

    What I like about this game mechanism is its simplicity. There is no need to provide 'bounce sticks', 'fall of shell grids', or any similar gizmos; all the players have to do is be able to count ... and the dice do the rest of the work.

    The other thing that I like about BATTLE CRY is the fact that it treats all forms of combat in exactly the same way; it does not differentiate between ‘fire combat’ and ‘close combat/melee’ (the dual method of combat resolution is something that seems to predominate in ‘Old School’ wargames rules). Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ rules also only have a single combat resolution system, but he used a different mechanism to achieve this.

    I like the point that you make that the mechanism not only alters the probability of a particular number of hits being achieved but also that it sets an absolute limit on the number of hits that can be achieved. To my mind, this would be a further justification for using such a mechanism in the future.

    All the best,


  3. Many people complain about the loss of figures not reducing the number of dice thrown in Borg's various rules. He clearly believes in the theory that a unit maintains the same effectiveness until it collapses.

    As I game with other rules that reduce effectiveness with losses (i.e. attrition-oriented rules), I find this a refreshing change of pace and thus play Borg's rules as is.

  4. Dale,

    In the past I have wavered between the two schools, but I find myself coming round more and more to the thinking that removing casualties is a reflection of a units decreasing 'will to fight' and not losses of actual soldiers. As such, a unit will still exist as a substantial body of men even after it has begun to degrade as an effective fighting unit. Having seen photos of Richard Borg’s original figure game version of ‘Battle Cry’, where he had units of six men (three mounted on a common base and three on individual bases), it would appear that his original intention was to have units on the battlefield that still looked like units even when they were down to one ‘base’ of strength.

    When one starts to fight large-scale battles or large battles with lots of units (i.e. battles where the player is a general and not a lieutenant), I think that the simpler the mechanisms used the better. One of the attractions of DBA/HoTT, Morschauser’s rules, and ‘Battle Cry’ is their essential simplicity, and this makes them suitable for large-scale, command-level games. It also seems to make them more fun … probably because the players are doing something almost all the time, and not sitting about waiting to react to what their opponent has done.

    All the best,