Sunday, 13 February 2011

The portable wargame: Another play-test … with slightly amended movement rates

After the comparison I made between the Morschauser-based rules I am using with my portable wargame and DBA, I decided to experiment with reducing the movement rates for Units in my rules. With the exception of Cavalry and Command Units (who can move two grid squares per turn) and Fortress/Siege Artillery Units (which cannot move at all), Units may only move one grid square per turn, and that move must be made orthogonally. I did consider allowing diagonal movement as well, but decided in the end that it was not in keeping with Joseph Morschauser’s original design philosophy for his ‘Frontier’ wargames rules.

Both sides set up in their respective Deployment Zones, and were allocated ‘Risk Express’ dice on the basis I outlined in a previous blog entry. Their starting positions looked like this:

Turn 1
The British Field Artillery Unit opened fire on the Mahdist Command Unit. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 2 meant that the artillery fire overshot and landed in the empty grid square behind the target.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 3 and the Mahdists threw a 4. The Mahdists moved first this turn. They threw their four ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move 3 Infantry Units, which they did. The British then threw their ‘Risk Express’ dice and could have moved 5 Infantry Units – had they had them – but as they only had 2 on the battlefield, they were only able to move them.

Turn 2
The British Field Artillery Unit opened fire on the Mahdist Command Unit for a second time. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 4 meant that the artillery fire undershot and landed in the empty grid square in front the target.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 1 and the Mahdists threw a 5. The Mahdists moved first again this turn. They threw their four ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move 2 Infantry Units, which they did. The British then threw their ‘Risk Express’ dice and could have moved 4 Infantry Units but again they were only able to move the 2 that they had.

Turn 3
The British Field Artillery Unit changed its target and opened fire on the leading Mahdist Infantry Unit. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 2 meant that the artillery fire overshot and landed in the grid square behind the target … which was occupied by another Mahdist Infantry Unit. A further D6 die was thrown, and the score of 5 ensured that the Mahdist Infantry Unit was destroyed.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 5 and the Mahdists threw a 6. The Mahdists moved first again for the third turn. They threw their four ‘Risk Express’ dice and were only able to move their Command Unit! The British then threw their ‘Risk Express’ dice and could have moved 3 Infantry Units and 2 Artillery Units, but only moved their 2 Infantry Units and their Artillery Unit.

This movement brought one of the British Infantry Units into range of a Mahdist Infantry Unit, and they opened fire on them. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 5 resulted in the destruction of the Mahdist Infantry Unit.

This loss also reduced the number of non-Command Mahdist Units to 8, and this meant that the Mahdists would only be able to throw three ‘Risk Express’ dice next turn.

Turn 4
The British Field Artillery Unit again fired at the leading Mahdist Infantry Unit. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 6 meant that the artillery fire landed in the target grid square. A further D6 die was thrown, and the score of 5 ensured that the Mahdist Infantry Unit was destroyed.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 4 and the Mahdists threw a 3. For the first time, the British moved first this turn. They threw their three ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move all their Units except their Cavalry Unit. They did this, and it brought one of the British Infantry Units into range of a Mahdist Infantry Unit, and they opened fire on them. A D6 die was thrown, but the score of 2 was insufficient to destroy the Mahdist Infantry Unit.

The Mahdists then threw their ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move forward 6 Infantry Units. This brought 1 of the Mahdist Infantry Units into Close Combat with a British Infantry Unit. Both sides threw a D6 die; the Mahdist scored 5 as did the British. This resulted in the destruction of the Mahdist Infantry Unit because its score was greater than its Close Combat Power whereas the British score equalled the British Infantry Unit’s Close Combat Power.

Turn 5
The British Field Artillery Unit changed its target back to the Mahdist Command Unit. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 5 meant that the artillery fire landed in the target grid square. A further D6 die was thrown, and the score of 6 ensured that the Mahdist Command Unit was destroyed.

This had the immediate effect of reducing the number of ‘Risk Express’ dice the Mahdists could throw this turn to two.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 1 and the Mahdists threw a 4. As a result, the Mahdists moved first this turn. They threw their two ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move 5 of their Infantry Units. The British then threw their three ‘Risk Express’ dice and were again able to move all their Units except their seemingly inert Cavalry Unit.

Turn 6
The British Field Artillery Unit opened fire on the leading Mahdist Infantry Unit to its right. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 6 meant that the artillery fire landed in the target grid square. A further D6 die was thrown, and the score of 5 resulted in the Mahdist Infantry Unit being destroyed.

Both sides threw a D6 die to see who would move first. The British threw a 4 and the Mahdists threw a 3. Therefore, the British moved first this turn. They threw their three ‘Risk Express’ dice and were able to move their 2 Infantry Units and their Command Unit. This brought one of the British Infantry Units into range of a Mahdist Infantry Unit, and they fired upon them. A D6 die was thrown, and the score of 6 meant that the Mahdist Infantry Unit was destroyed.

At this point the Mahdists had been reduced to fifty percent of their original strength, and the battle ended in a British victory.

Comments
The reduced movement rates make for a much more interesting battle as it gives the player (or players) more decisions to make. As happens in chess, you have to try to think ahead a bit more, knowing that your plans could easily come to nothing if the chance element does not favour you.

They also tend to make the battle last longer and make the board seem to have more space. I suppose that this is due to the fact that it takes an Infantry Unit eight turns to move from one end of the board to the other rather than the four turns it would have taken with the original movement rates.

The longer battle also gave the Artillery Unit time to do some quite serious damage to their opposition, although it must be said that their dice scores were very ‘lucky’ at times!

Finally, it does mean that Infantry Units armed with firearms can use them before they become embroiled in Close Combat. As this battle report shows, this can be decisive when combined with accurate Artillery fire.

14 comments:

  1. An extremely interesting battle report, as always, Bob.

    Your thoughts about using inter-linked chessboards, in Friday's blog, sounds very intriguing! I cannot wait to find out more.

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  2. Great post, really like the idea of the portable games. I may give it a go myself, cheers Bob!!

    Ray

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  3. hmm, Did you feel that the natives had any hope at all?

    Probably realistic but I wonder if the short native moves gives their commander any real options as any attempt to out maneuver the enemy can be spotted and countered long before it can get close. Comments about natives moving swiftly, almost like cavalry comes to mind. Perhaps they could be allowed a longer bonus or be allowed to move diagonally to keep the Regulars guessing.

    But perhaps when they get some terrain to hide behind, it will give them more options for surprising the enemy.

    All very interesting.

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  4. Glad to see you back in harness - shall we be seeing Austrians and Prussians disputing the matter on the chess board of battle any time soon?

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  5. Paul,

    The idea of using several inter-linked chessboards is still very much on the back-burner, but I have several ideas that might work.

    1. Having several face-to-face battles taking place side-by-side, where the results on one chessboard (e.g. victorious troops on one chessboard being able to move to the next one to come to the aid of their colleagues) affect the battles being fought on the next one.

    2. Having the chessboards arranged in sequence, so that they almost become a rolling terrain, where the action does not stop when troops move off one chessboard onto the next.

    3. Using the grid coordinates printed down each side of the vinyl chessboard to enable players to fight a battle where they are 'blind' to what the opposition is doing unless the enemy are in line-of-sight. This would require three chessboards and three sets of Units (one of each for each player and one for the umpire) where the umpire would be able to see the full picture, but the players would not.

    I don’t know if and when I will have time to develop these ideas, but I think that they all have some promise to them.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Ross Mac,

    The battle did end up a bit one-sided, but the intention was to see the effect of having shorter movement rates. To that end, the play-test indicated that shorter moves made for a better game.

    That said, I did feel that the natives were not able to exploit their numerical advantage, and that they should have been able to move faster. I have already had some ideas of my own on how it might be possible to remedy with this. For example, if the ‘Risk Express’ dice allow the natives to ‘move’ five Infantry Units, the natives could move one Unit one square and two Units two squares (i.e. the three native Units have moved a total of five squares). An alternative – and one I am looking at with regard to European vs. European battles – is to allow ‘light’ infantry to move two squares per turn and – if armed with firearms – to have longer weapon ranges, but to be more ‘fragile’ in Close Combat … just as native Units currently are.

    I do like your idea about allowing native Units to move diagonally. This is very simple, easy to remember, and does not alter the basic philosophy of the rules. I shall probably ‘steal’ this idea from you … and then claim it as my own!

    Many thanks for your very thoughtful feedback,

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Conrad Kinch,

    Are you reading my mind? I intend that the next play-test will feature the Austrians and the Prussians, and that there will be a bit more terrain on the board. When the play-test will happen is open to question … but I do intend it to happen as soon as I can arrange it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Ray Rousell,

    It is a very simple idea, and it works for me ... so why not give it a try?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Hi Bob,

    As ever a very stimulating and thought provoking report. I agree that the lower movement rates seem to 'open the table' and my own grid based rules have lesser rates as a result - it is always good to hear when someone else comes the same conclusion!. Native moves should have the opportunity of moving faster - perhaps the DBA mechanism used by warbands of allowing then an increased move if they will be on contact at the end may be an option or if moving from cover - I am sure there are a number of ways to incorporate something like this without compromising the basic philosophy. I will interested to see where this goes with further development.

    All the best,

    DC

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  10. David Crook,

    Thanks for your comments.

    As you say, it is interesting that we have come to the same basic conclusions about the same problem. Does this mean that we are both right ... or both wrong? We shall have fun finding out which!

    I hope to write a blog entry about my ideas sometime over the next few days ... so ‘watch this space’, as they say.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Bob,

    I like your idea that "if the ‘Risk Express’ dice allow the natives to ‘move’ five Infantry Units, the natives could move one Unit one square and two Units two squares (i.e. the three native Units have moved a total of five squares)."

    But I would be inclined to give this option also to above-average commanders and to any regular armies noted for their speed/flexibility of manoeuvre.

    Arthur

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  12. Arthur1815,

    I must admit that your suggestion as to how this idea could be developed has considerable merit, and has been added to the melting pot that is the next draft of the rules I will use for my portable wargame.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Ah yes, Those Risk dice have so many uses when it comes to wargaming. Great to see such a simple setup work so well.

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  14. Loose Change Gamer,

    Thanks very much for your comment.

    I still have the 'Risk Express' dice, and I am still thinking of ways in which to use them.

    All the best,

    Bob

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