Saturday, 18 September 2010

Trying my ideas out ... and learning from them

To see if my ideas about modifying the combat system used in BATTLE CRY so that it was a feasible to give rifle-armed and musket-armed Infantry different combat ranges and numbers of dice without skewing the results too much, I set up a very simple tactical situation on my BATTLE CRY board using both Confederate and Union Infantry figures. Each side was allocated three Infantry units, with the Confederates being armed with muskets and the Union troops were armed with rifles.

The two sides were set up on opposite sides of the board, and I threw a normal D6 die to see which side would move first each turn. The Confederates threw the higher number, and they moved first during each turn.

Turn 1
The Confederate move forward one hex, but as the Union troops were out of range, no combat was possible. The Union side also advanced one hex, and as their weapons were unable to fire at the Confederates, the turn ended.

Turn 2
Yet again the Confederates moved forward a hex, and yet again they were in no position to fire at their opponents. When the Union troops moved forward, however, they were now only four hexes away from the Confederates, and they opened fire. As each unit was firing at its maximum range (four hexes for rifles), they were only able to throw one combat dice each.

This resulted in one of the Confederate units being forced to retreat. (N.B. I had thought of allowing units to ‘trade off’ retreats by exchanging each retreat ‘flag’ result on the dice for a casualty, but I decided that at this stage this was one additional development that I did not yet want to play-test)

Turn 3
All three Confederate units moved forward a hex, and two were now in range of their opponents. Because they were firing at maximum range for muskets (three hexes), they threw one dice each.

The two ‘flags’ forced two of the Union units to retreat one hex each.

The three Union units then resumed their advance, and because the range was now shorter (three hexes), each unit threw two combat dice.

As a result, each of the Confederate units lost a figure and two were forced to retreat one hex.

Turn 4
The Confederates continued to batter their way forward, despite their losses.

The central unit closed the range to one hex (and therefore threw three combat dice) whilst the other were three hexes from their opponents, and only threw one combat dice each. The Confederate units threw their dice in order, starting with the farthermost one in the following picture. This unit and the one in the centre concentrated their fire on the Union units that has – at that point – advanced furthest … with devastating results.

The Union unit first suffered the loss of a figure, and was then forced to retreat twice by the two ‘flags’ that were thrown by the central Confederate unit. The nearest Union unit in the photograph was also hit, and lost a figure.

The Union retaliated by moving forward once again so that the range of their weapons was as sort as possible.

The furthermost Union unit threw a single combat die as the Confederate unit it was firing at was four hexes away. Its fire was ineffective, but the second Union unit to fire – the one in the centre – was able to throw four combat dice because its opponent was in an adjacent hex, and it destroyed two of the Confederate unit’s figures.

The final Union unit also concentrated its fire on the Confederate unit in the centre, and as it was in an adjacent hex, it was able to throw four combat dice. These ‘killed’ the remaining figure of the Confederate unit, which would otherwise have been forced to retreat.

At this point it became obvious that the Union was going to prevail due to its superior firepower.

It was at this point that I ended this short but very informative play-test.

My conclusions are:
  • The amended combat system works, and gives a definite advantage to Infantry units that are armed with rifles rather than muskets
  • It is easy – in the heat of battle – to forget that the firearms used by one side have both a shorter range and fewer combat dice; at one point I actually threw four combat dice for the Confederates when I should have thrown three, and only just realised my mistake in time
  • The differential system is probably more applicable to asymmetric warfare (i.e. Colonial warfare) than to warfare conducted by very similar forces; again, this is a reason not to change the existing combat system
  • The existing combat system isn’t ‘broke’, and works well as it is; therefore am I wise to change it?
This may all sound as if I have wasted my time, as I am now coming around to the thinking that I will keep the combat system as it is … but my play-test did confirm that the existing system is both capable of modification and that such modifications should only be undertaken if it reflects a significant difference between the opposing forces.


  1. Bob - you might be interested in reading Paddy Griffith's book "Battle Tactics of the American Civil War" (in fact you may already have..) He makes some interesting points on the range, and more importantly the effectiveness, of weapons in the ACW... there surprisingly little advantage is his answer...

  2. An interesting test Bob, one that will save me time for other investigations.

    I'm looking at a Napoleonic version with 8 figures per unit spread over two adjacent hexes.

    The next question I need to resolve is whether such a unit represents a battalion, a brigade or some other formation.

    Jim Duncan

  3. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I have had a copy of Paddy Griffith's book ever since it was first published, but I must admit to not having read it for some considerable time.

    If I had, I might have avoided having to do this play-test ... but regardless of that fact, it was great fun to do!

    I would not be surprised if his conclusions were that there was little difference between rifles and muskets in the overall scheme of things ... but as I am already thinking of how I can adapt the basic combat system used in 'Battle Cry' to other non-ACW wars (i.e. Colonial) the experiment was very useful.

    All the best,


  4. Jim Duncan,

    I am glad that you found it useful; one of the advantages of blog is that we can share our experiences and learn from each other.

    You Napoleonic version sounds interesting, especially the idea that a unit will be spread over two hexes. I have not seen that idea used before.

    As to what each unit represents ... well for the ACW, I think that it is a small brigade or large battalion, and I suspect that for the Napoleonic era it would be something similar (e.g. A British Infantry Brigade or a French Infantry Regiment).

    Good luck with you design,

    All the best,


  5. Bad idea, I think. The musket should be 4 when adjacent. The nominal speed advantage to loading percussion weapons doesn't seem to have significantly played out historically, where ammunition loads, fatigue, and smoke play so great a role.

    4-2-1 verses 4-3-2-1 makes sense (which is what I have used).

    I've always believed in penalizing the movers when firing and have thought about -1 die for moving. With IGOUGO it makes sense also, because the mover gets to fire first, possibly inflicting casualties. It was like Wally Simon always used to complain in PW Review: IGOUGO is a "gotcha'" game mechanism, so you need something to counter-balance it.

  6. Dale,

    I think that the play-test bears out what you say. The muskets need to be as at least as potent as rifles at short range.

    IGOUGO is problematic, and I have tried lots of alternatives. Once I get the combat mechanisms I want to use clear in my mind, I intend to look at an alternative to IGOUGO that will work with it.

    Incidentally, I have spent some time this weekend reading the ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Memoir ‘44’ rules in parallel, and it strikes me that some of the ways the latter works could be applied to ‘Battle Cry’. For example, allowing infantry to move 2 hexes OR move 1 hex and combat.

    All the best,


  7. Bob, I think Dales idea of 4-2-1 instead of 4-3-2-1 sounds much more realistic especially if you combine it with minus 1 die if you move before firing.

    This should suit Napoleonics to a T.

    Jim Duncan

  8. Jim Duncan,

    I agree that Dale's idea has considerable merit, and is worthy of further investigation.

    All the best,



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