In recent months a number of bloggers have been exploring the type of wargames pioneered by Joe Morshauser - played on a gridded table. The purpose is to obviate some of the 'fudging' that freer systems tend to force upon players, minute accuracy not being feasible in the time and with the resources available to most wargamers.
As any chess player will tell you, a field of squares can lead to some strange effects, particularly noticeable in the end game. A King, travelling as it does a square at a time, will, starting at a1, reach a8 or h8 with equal speed, even though h8 is over 40% more distant from a1 than a8 is. The problem is movement through the corners. It's OK for chess, but what about something that we wish to represent more closely the topology of real ground?
There are two ways one could go. The first is to use a field of hexagons - hexes. An elegant solution, as hexes tessellate nicely on a flat surface, and, an area of constant radius about a given hex more nearly approximates a circle. The other solution, that retains the square field, I'll come back to this in Part 2 of this article.
The problem with hexes is, of course, that they are a real pain to draw up. Squares have it over hexes by a huge margin in this regard.
The solution is this: 'brick-squares' - hexes for lazy beggars like me. Check out the following diagrams
|Diagram 1: Hexagons|
The diagram below is the square-brick equivalent of the hex field about (ignore the terrain - I just needed a hex field in a hurry, and didn't like my hand-drawn effort). You have exactly the same topography, and as all movement is through a square side (or half-side) then the problem of corners is solved.
|Diagram 2: Square-bricks|
Dare I coin the term 'Brix' as the equivalent of 'hexes'.
But what about weapon ranges and arcs of fire? This is the tricky but. Somehow you have to translate your ranges and angles on the hex field onto the square-brick field. Take a squizz at the first diagram. The centre and right situations are exactly equivalent - identical withal: the units are shooting through a hex-side (I've given all units a range of 5 'hexes'. The left hand unit is shooting through a hex corner. The fire-zones aren't quite the same, but near enough, but we also have to bear in mind that some rule systems will not allow such an orientation.
The Square-brick (Brik/Brix) system I don't think can allow that prohibition. And, reverting to the centre and right hand units, their respective situations, although equivalent, are not identical. One unit is shooting through a full Brik-side; the other through a half Brik-side. It is easy enough to translate the fire-zone from Hex field to Brix field, but how to describe it? I think the best approach might be to mark out an appropriate template and use that to determine whether something is within a firing arc or not.
The upside is that the orientation of the unit, being critical, is also less given to ambiguity. If the unit is facing a Brik corner, then it fires through a half-side. On a hex field, it is very easy to orient the unit in such a way as it is unclear whether it fires through a side or a corner, the difference being 30deg (compared with 45deg for the Brix system.. That might sound plenty of angle to obviate ambiguity, but in the heat of a brisk and lively action...
|Diagram 2A: Brix.|
A new orientation added.
Since writing the above, I realised that the system I had envisaged was not quite complete. Just as there were equivalent brik-side and half brik-side patterns for shooting through hex-sides, there had to be a half-brik-side equivalent as well as the full for shooting through hex-corners. I've therefore added the blue unit to the diagram, with its shooting pattern. The question marks, by the way, I leave as an option to leave out of the pattern so that the overall shape is nearer centre and right RED unit patterns.
Now my earlier comment about orientation is much less clear. The left and right hand units are clearly firing through brik sides. The centre red is firing through a brik half-side; and the blue through a brik corner. Players will have to work out their own conventions on how this is to handled, whether certain patterns are or are not to be used, or some clear indication employed to differentiate orientation between Blue and centre red. If we count the LH red as firing directly to the front (0deg), then the RH red is firing directly to the right (90deg); centre red fires at 30deg right and blue at 60deg right. As the ambiguous point is 45deg precisely, I would be inclined to rule that a unit so placed is firing through the corner it is facing (NOT the half-side). That should resolve that problem.
I knew this as "alternating squares" but I like your "brick" designation better.ReplyDelete
I've added to this blog article since you read it, as a thought crossed my mind about orientation.Delete
I actually thought this was my own invention - some 20-odd years ago. I had worked out a kind of 'bath-tubbed' version of the 'Crusader' Operation - the Relief of Tobruk, late 1941, which I had some vague notion of doing at around its 50-year anniversary. The rule set would be Command Decision, and the game was 'Crusader 5' - a further scaling down of distances and formations.ReplyDelete
It never actually happened - didn't have the gear - but I think I still have the prep work. Might be an article in it ... ?
I have an "alternating square" (or brick) Chessex Battlemat that I bought back in the 1980s. But apparently they no longer make them.Delete
How big was it, and what sized squares? It goes to show, though, any good idea one gets, someone has thought of it before...Delete
It seems a pretty good solution. There are compromises no matter which way you go, but the brick method seems to alleviate some of the diagonal issues.ReplyDelete
Which of course is why a hex-field is so popular. They are just a pain to draw up. But I think I might have a solution to the diagonal problem with squares. Watch this ... blog... :-)Delete
The offset squares have been around a long while but I can't remember now where I first saw them, Might have been a naval game.ReplyDelete
I find that hexes and bricks work best if there are no rigid battle lines, for example frigate actions or WWII. Leaving alone individual units and distortion along diagonals for the moment. If you have a period like ancients or 18th C. when lines of units are characteristics, its very hard to do on a hex or brick, especially if not enforcing a rigid access. Try laying out even 6 units side by side in a line, once facing north, once facing east and once facing north west. Its very odd looking and its hard to formulate rules for when 2 such lines close to avoid having the orientation affect combat odds.
As for a square grid, one of the things I've recently come to appreciate is that it makes it easy to build in the rigid nature of linear horse and musket warfare where moving and fighting to the front was easier than moving or shooting at an oblique which required a series of wheels or other maneuvers. By simply doubling the distance instead of treating it as equal, you account for this difficulty without a separate rule. This doesn't apply to all periods and types of warfare but can be useful for some.
Ross, you touch upon some ideas I have about the square grid, which will be the topic of my next posting. Although I haven't looked for myself, I believe you are right about units that span more than one 'brik'. I can't really see a problem with hexes so much: units should orient themselves along a line and shoot through hex corners only. Possibly single-hex subunits - skirmishers, say, might be allowed to shoot through hex-sides.Delete
In the case of the 'brik' pattern, units line up along a horizontal line (shooting through the abutted Brix up or down, or line up through half-sides, and shoot through the corners. The two left-hand examples in the diagrams.
But really I was thinking more of the sort of game that goes '1 unit- 1 square', like your air and naval games; but for Army level land battles as well. It so happens I have a project (on the back burner at the moment) that might well go that way, inspired as it is by Phil Barker's 'Horse Foot Guns' project.
You may get to see more about that...
Back in the 70's there were a set of rules for Greek Naval Warfare using the "brix" or rectangle system. Firing ranges were short. I believe 3 for archers. I used the system for my game club at school and it worked very well. If anyone is interested, I rummage about and see if I still have the rules.ReplyDelete
Yes, please. Might be interesting to have a look at those. I don't do Greek Naval myself, but did start many years ago to make sione galleys. I think I still have the unfinished efforts kicking around here somewhere...Delete