Monday, August 21, 2017

Still more about grids ,,, and a 'play test'.

The portable wargame in action:
Soviet combined arms assault...
More later...

Part One:  Thoughts on 'offset square' grid system

After considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that trying to bring diagonals in to a square grid game system isn't worth the candle. But I do have some thoughts on the offset squares (rectangles) grid system.  Since when this notion first occurred to me, back in 1990, I always envisaged a field of offset rectangles as a simplified field of hexagons - hexes. For mine, that meant the cells were rectangular, rather than square - in fact it never crossed my mind to make them square - with an aspect ratio of 1.155/1 (or 1/0.866).
Demonstrating 60-degree fire arcs on an 'offset square'
grid.  Note that (a) the squares are rectangles, (b) the long
axis of the rectangles is aligned with the long axis of the page.
No one is going to be so exact, of course, but it seems to me that an aspect ratio of 7:6 (1.167/1)or 8:7 (1.143) would be a good approximation. Somewhat inconveniently, 1.155 lies half way between 1.167 and 1.143. In these diagrams the cells are 21mm across by 18mm high - a 7:6 aspect ratio. Incidentally, I would recommend anyone adopting this scheme to align the rectangles with the long sides parallel to the long sides of the playing surface.

The point of this article is how are the cells to be treated. In the Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, the 'offset' square cells are treated as such: having four sides. I tend to treat them as having six sides still: Two 'vertical' long sides; four 'horizontal' short sides (opposite pairs or which happen to be co-linear!).

I wanted to see what the effect would be on a unit's facing, and given a limited, 60-degree, arc of fire. In the diagrams, I have used 'tank' symbols to indicate facing. But I ask you to imagine them to be assault guns, with a firing range of 4 cells, and its traverse limited to 30-degrees either side of dead ahead. The first diagram shows the cells in range, depending on the facing: 'up-right', 'up-left' and 'horizontal' (I wish I could think of better terms!). You will notice, of course, the apparent asymmetry of the firing 'arcs' in the first two cases.
Note the lines drawn from the centre of the unit's 'square',
 through the centres of the left- and right-most squares
 of the arc, and its centre.  The lines describe two 30-degree
angles - a 60-degree firing arc overall.

But look at the arrowed lines. Passing through the centres of the cells along the extreme left and right of the 'arc' and straight ahead, they do indicate the practical symmetry of the '60-degree' arcs. I have placed the 30-degree angle of a set-square to demonstrate this (and to show that the 7:6 aspect ratio is quite accurate enough for our purposes).

The page flipped, and hexes sketched over the 'squares'
The symmetry of the arcs is much clearer!
To show further just how truly symmetrical those arcs of fire are in practical terms, I turned the piece of paper over. You can see how the ink soaked through to form a mirror image of the above. Then in pencil I roughly sketched in the hex-field.  You can see there that the firing arcs are indeed symmetrical.

Reverting to the original. I added some dots to indicate a 120-degree arc. The symmetries are much easier to discern and to understand. Even so, I believe the 60-degree arcs would better represent the limits of firing units lacking the 360-traverse capacity of tanks, say.

Part Two

Now we come to my version of the Portable Wargames 'Soviet Combined Arms Assault'. Well, the beginnings of it anyhow.  First off, I played it on my little 10x10-square table, set up on the kitchen table. The original hex-field map had to be adapted to my table, which tended to stretch it slightly in the up-down direction.  The extra square in width was occupied by a wide, fast-flowing river.

Kampfgruppe Fredrickson
The Opposing Forces:

German: Kampfgruppe Fredrickson (Oberst Willi Fredrickson)

- 1 Command Unit (mounted in light half-track) nominal SP = 6
- 2 Infantry Units (Rated average) @ 4SP (Strength Points) = 8SP
- 2 Machine-Gun Units (Rated Average) @2SP = 4SP
- 1 Infantry Gun Unit (Mountain gun in the original, Rated Average) @2SP
- 1 Anti-Tank Gun Unit (PaK40, Rated Average) @ 2SP
- 1 Tank Unit (PzIIIL, Rated Elite) @3SP
Total 8 units including the Colonel himself in his halftrack
SP = 25.
To this add 3 squares of field works @1SP, 3 minefields @2SP and 4 wire entanglements @1 SP brings the total SP to 38.
Exhaustion point: loss of 9SP (I have to admit, I am not clear whether the nominal SPs of field defences go towards the exhaustion point.  I was inclined to think not.).

Elements of 101 Mechanised Brigade

Russian: Lead elements of 101st Mechanised Corps, commanded by Col Pavel Strelnikov.

- 1 Command Unit, represents by a stand with a battle flag, accompanied by a jeep. SP=6 (nominal)
- 6 Rifle units (Rated Average) @4SP = 24SP
- 1 Field Artillery Unit (Rated Average) @2SP
- 1 Anti-Tank Unit (45mm/L66, Rated Average) @2SP
- 4 Tank Units (T34/76, Rated Average) @3SP = 12SP
Total number of units, 13
SP = 48; Exhaustion point, loss of 16SP.

Germans dug in and awaiting the Russian onslaught.
The Germans I set out as far as possible according to the original book scenario. As seen in the diagram. Oberst Frederickson parked his half-track within the works occupied by 1st MG Unit.  In this action, I tended to think of the units as companies, and so I'll describe them. That suggests that Col Strelnikov's force might have been the bulk of a Mechanised Brigade - most of the heavier support weapons having been left behind in the 'steady advance' of the previous days 'in the face of almost non-existent German resistance' (quotations from R. Cordery, The Portable Wargame, p80). In the above picture, the anti-tank obstacles stood in for minefields and were treated as such.

Russians approaching the forward defensive locations
of the German line.  Number 5 Company has reached the
re-entrant in the line of wire entanglements.

The were several changes I made to the scenario:
1.  Square grid instead of hex-grid:
2.  Strength Points instead of the 'Sudden Death' option.  I did, however, use the 'Going 
Solo' card system of activating units.  
3.  The infantry and machine gun units' strength points were indicated by the number of stands - 4 for the rifles, 2 for the MGs.
4.  I had the Russians advancing on a broad front...

To be continued... 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Yet More Thoughts on Grid War Games

Multi-element units on a chessboard.  Swedish foot and Imperialist
Horse.  Or Severeian vs Austereian if you prefer.

Some of the recent response to my earlier comments and posting on this topic led me to look into the practicalities of:

1.  Units that occupy more than one grid cell
2.  How one might approach diagonal movement and placement.

This was very experimental - not a play test, withal, merely to inquire into the 'look of the thing.'  In the accompanying pictures, I was focusing more on the infantry than the horse.   Unfortunately the 6cm width elements are slightly too wide for the 5.7cm squares on the chessboard.

 Black Regiment in line.
A Swedish (or Severeian when I'm feeling whimsical) regiment (battalion) of foot, comprising a pike block (8 figures) with 2 arqubusier/musketeer wing elements (6 figures each).  The unit occupies 3 spaces - grid cells.  In play, each element would have conferred upon them their own strength points.
Red Regiment in left echelon, facing north.
In this formation, the unit can switch front to due west
and then form line in a single move.
Lined up orthogonally, the unit presents a nicely ordered, solid line, but suppose they found their enemy somewhere off to their left flank front?  One possibility is to begin by throwing forward the right flank to form left echelon as in the above picture.  In my view this would work quite well in the kind of 'orthogonal-only' systems we have been discussing, as the unit would be flexibly enough placed immediately to form the solid line East-West or North-South as required.
Red Regimentin line facing diagonally 45-degrees.  The gaps
 do rather detract from the notion of contiguity, one feels.
Suppose we allowed diagonal moves and shooting according to the system proposed in my previous posting (counting a diagonal step as one-and-a-half steps, and rounding the fractions down for completed moves).  With a two-square movement rate, it would be possible, provided the left-flank element pivoted in place, to wheel the whole  3-element line 45-degrees as in the diagram (except they ought in the picture to be lined up on the light-coloured squares).
If the cavalry advance into the adjacent light squares, a
close combat would ensue.  But what about the
corner-t0-corner adjacent green squares? Ought the
cavalry be permitted to concentrate their attack
upon the right flank musketeers, say?

Then of course you run into the elements splitting up to centre upon their grid cells  Is this good?  Do I like this? Not sure. This diagram has alerted me to another fishhook with this system. Suppose the Imperialist (Austereian)  Horse were to try charge the Severeian line. Does an element placed upon a diagonally adjacent square count as being in close combat? If so, you could bring seven (7!) elements into close combat with the diagonally oriented unit.  Against an orthogonally oriented unit, only five. In the pictured situation, the cavalry might try concentrating upon the right flank musket element, say. That does not sound at all like a Good Thing!  
I perceive, then, that there is a whole lot more to this whole question than meets the eye. I'd probably be inclined to allow close combat between orthogonally adjacent grid-cells, and allow only shooting between diagonally adjacent cells. This would equalise to 8 the 'contactable' cells around the unit, though in one case there would be 3 frontal, 2 flank and 3 rear; the other 4 frontal and 4 rear.   It would also solve a little problem I noticed last time with javelins shooting diagonally.
Food for thought, but I am beginning to think that maybe trying to sort out the diagonal moves, orientations and effects aren't worth the candle.  It seems more than likely that my 30YW armies are better suited to an ungridded battlefield after all.   If I wanted to persist with this, I would have to construct a grid field with 6cm squares.  Starting from scratch, 6cm hexes might be a better option.  
These last couple of pictures are a bit of self indulgence. I rather regret my neglect of these armies, especially as there isn't all that much to do (Swedish Horse and some artillery) to finish these off. But other projects are clamouring more for attention... 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More thoughts on Grid war games.

A recent posting on another of my favourite 'go to' blogs  Battle Game of the Month has once again provoked some further thoughts in my mind concerning the use of square grids. What Ross raises here are some problematic features associated with the 'orthogonal only' convention. I mean, it works, but one feels that there ought to be some method of dealing with diagonal orientations. Would it not be wonderful if we could create a tessellation of regular octagons on a flat, two-dimensional surface?

Here was my immediate response.

In the matter of diagonals, I seem to recall discussing this with you about 18 months ago:

I didn't really follow up on that as I was not then thinking a going down the gridded wargames track. I've had reason to revisit the notion since.

I've been looking at Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames (I now have a copy of both his PW books) and looking to adapt my own Byzantine Army of c950-1050AD and its opponents (Bulgars and Georgians{Abasgians}) to the system.  Your current posting has got me rethinking about this.

The PW square-grid system measures moves and shooting by orthogonals only.  It would not add very much complexity in my view to add diagonals.  Talking specifically of 'Ancients', movement varies from 1 'step' (artillery), 2 (heavy infantry) to 3 and 4 for more mobile troops.  Weapon ranges are 2 or 3 except for the artillery, which is 6 squares.

The effect of this is that that the movement allowances and ranges themselves still form a square, but set at 45-degrees from the grid orientation.  A square lozenge if you like.

It occurs to me that you could add 'and a half' to diagonal moves and ranges, with the fraction dropped when you reach the target square.  For example, my heavy horse, movement allowed 3 squares, moves one orthogonal (1), one diagonal (2 'and a half'). It can move one more orthogonal (3 'and a half') but not one more diagonal (4).  

I'd also suggest that the unit ends the move facing the direction it was moving.  Otherwise a unit
1. Can begin the move with a 45-degree turn or 180-degrees;
2. Turn 45-degrees when stepping INTO a cell at the beginning of the step;
3. Count a 90degree turn as a full 1-square step

Where things get really tricky is shooting.  But that can be resolved in the Cordery system by ignoring the adjacent squares for shooting - that's close combat country - and limiting shooting to the orthogonals adjacent to the orthogonal line of facing, or the diagonals CORNER-TO-CORNER adjacent to the diagonal line of facing.  In the latter case I'd be inclined to exclude the nearest two outside diagonal squares.

It seemed to me a posting on my own blog was called for.
Left: 'Orthogonal-only' movement allowances:
Right: Movement allowance with diagonal 'steps'
The first of this two diagrams compares the system of movement used in Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, for any units with up to 4 'steps' allowed per move, all steps to be orthogonal - that is to say, through the sides of the squares - and my proposal that does allow diagonal movement.

If we count a move from one square orthogonally to the nest a 'step', let us count a move from one square diagonally to the next one-and-a-half steps. Two such moves would therefore be 3 steps; and three, 4-and-a-half. And so on. When counting off steps, at the end of the turn, you drop the 'and a half', and the remaining integer must be not greater than the unit's movement allowance in 'steps'. In the diagram above, I show the blue unit's allowance under my suggested scheme. Except for the unit with an allowance of 1 only (artillery), the movement range more nearly approximates a circle, which is my aim.

This leads us to facing. I suggest that the at the end of the turn, the unit remains facing the direction it was moving when it entered the final square.  If the moving unit comes adjacent to an enemy, then it must turn to face that enemy (or at least one of them). The Portable Wargame rule set is a lot more flexible in regard to turning.
Top row: weapons ranges with orthogonal facing:
Bottom row: weapons ranges with diagonal facing.
The problem Ross saw had to do with manoeuvring and facing threats from 'Northwest', so to speak, rather than 'due North' or 'due West'. It seemed to me that shooting arcs and ranges ought to be possible with a diagonal facing as much as an orthogonal one. For ranges, I use the same 'x-and-a-half' to denote distances through diagonals.

Some quick pix to liven up a dry posting.  Byzantine cavalry
 in pursuit of a Bulgar raiding force run up against a
reargurad of light horse and spearmen.
To begin with, I thought it might not be a bad idea to restrict the arc of fire using something derived from the DBM convention, namely, along the line faced, and the orthogonals adjacent.  In the diagrams above you will observe I do not indicate the squares adjacent to the firing units.  That is because enemies in adjacent squares are in close combat.  That made the thing a lot easier to figure out. Having said that I an not sure whether, under the PW system,  orthogonally adjacent enemies may or may not shoot at each other. Of course, units diagonally adjacent are in range under that system,

Battle is joined!  The Bulgars take heavy losses early -
down 4 strength points to no loss to the Byzantines/
The diagonal equivalent of this orthogonal convention was not so easy to nut out.  Eventually I arrived at restricting the arc to the diagonals corner-to-corner adjacent to the diagonal line of facing, excluding the squares not contained within the 90-degree angle formed by the square sides converging in front of the shooting unit.  Those squares are indicated by the asterisks in the diagrams above.  If you check out the artillery angles and ranges you will find the 'kill zone' for the artillery is equal in size (15 squares) for either orientation.

The spearmen look menacing, overlapping the Byxantine flank...
It so happens this topic is of considerable interest to me as I am thinking of adapting the Cordery rule set for 'Ancients' for my c.1000AD armies and enemies of Byzantium.  Many of the units, especially the Byzantines, comprise troops of disparate arms. The Byzantine Horse comprise lance-armed and bow-armed riders.  Even the elite cataphracts (kataphraktoi: fully armoured and with barded horses, not to be confused with the standard Tagmatic and Thematic heavy horse: kavallarioi) carries a small contingent of horse archers within its trapezoidal formation. The heavy spearmen (skutatoi) are complemented  by bowmen (toxotai)  in the middle ranks.  All the Bulgar horse, light and heavy, were armed with javelins and bows (as well as swords).
Indecisive, back-and-forth, combat ensues...
The Byzantines began with 29 SP, the Bulgars with 34. 

For Byzantine units that can not shoot you would be looking to the Varangian Guard (elite heavy spearmen in my army - the axe-toting Englishmen came later); or the rather poorer quality peltastoi spearmen (I don't really believe they were rough terrain troops, but could easily be wrong.  I can see them doing OK in urban fighting, say).
... the Byzantines taking hard knocks themselves 3 SP lost
to the Bulgars' 6...  This part game was played using the standard PW conventions, but all horsed troops could shoot.

I am also inclined to place a close combat premium on lances.  The Bulgars didn't use them, but the Abasgians (early Georgians) did, as of course did the Byzantines.

Tell you what, this will make the Byzantines a formidable army!   More on Portable wargames Armies and Enemies of Byzantium (c950-1050AD) another time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Grid wargames - some thoughts thereon.

Formations on a square grid battlefield.
I really ought to be in the garden right now, but - the heck with it.

I received a fortnight ago my copy of Bob Cordery's Developing the Portable Wargame.  Even after a fortnight I have barely dipped into it, yet it has already got me doing a lot of thinking.  Added to this was his recent blog posting anent a commercially available 'hex' grid system and the effects of over-large unit bases overlapping the 'cell' edges.  Here was my response to his remarks (the pictures have been added, of course, to lend a little colour).  In the following pictures, I hope the square 'cells' are sufficiently clearly delineated by the + markings.

One of the consequences of thinking about gridded war games has been to consider how my Napoleonics might 'fit'. This hasn't gone any further than my brain so far, but might well see the light of day.

Consider my standard 24-figure infantry Division. A Divisional column occupies a 9cm x 8cm 'footprint' - easily contained within a 4"x4" (10cmx10cm) square cell. But what of the same division, deployed in line, say, for defence? It might then occupy two, three or four 'cells'. That seems to me no bad thing. 

24-figure divisional column - easily accommodated by
4-inch squares.  This Division maintains an 'all round'
(orthogonal) interval of 1 square
My cavalry units (Brigades) do present a small problem, as, arranged 3 ranks of 4 figures they occupy an 8cm x 12cm 'footprint'; 2 ranks of 6 figures, it is 12cm x 8cm. Were I to go down this track, the Cav Brigades would have to be reduced to 8 figures, OR I'd have to endure accept the overlap.

French Division deployed into 'regimental' lines.  Although I
don't maintain a regimental organisation in this scale,
this informal effect would be the same as if I did.
Although the latter would not be wholly satisfactory, I think I'd rather have the overlap in depth, rather than width, and arrange my 12-figure cav units in 3 ranks of 4.

Austrian Uhlans in Brigade Column.  Note the 2cm
overlap in depth.

Austrian Cuirassiers closed up in successive lines.  Here the
unit overlaps in width 1cm on either flank.

I also think that in a system like this, the full Division and Brigade columns ought to maintain an 'all round' interval of 1 cell (orthogonally only on a square grid).
Austrian Division in route column.  The depth of the column
 would be 3 squares orthogonally. It ought to be more, of
course, but I refuse to have a single file of figures
to represent a column of route! 

I'm tempted to expand this as a posting on my own blog spot. Especially considering that I received my copy of 'Developing the Portable Wargame a couple of weeks back.
(I might be forced, in a separate posting, to suggest 'Army Lists' for my 11th Century Byzantines, as well... :-D)

Barely sooner threatened than carried out: here it is.  It brought me to considerations of whether one might accommodate route columns in such a system.  I don't think Bob does, but in any case, he maintains a regimental organisation within similarly scaled Napoleonic formations.  Route marches will most likely be absorbed into the system with little or nothing needing to be said or done.