Friday, September 13, 2013

Fin de Siècle - Armies and combat system.

This is somewhat inspired by Rob Cordery's recent blog posting concerning the use or adaptation of his MOMBAT (Memoir of Modern Battle) rule set.  This was in the context of a correspondent's Green and Tan Army Men project.  It seemed to me that it might go with my Jono's World thing as well, though that is 'set' in a period cognate to 1941.

But I was reminded of a turn of the Century - the 19th - in which I thought to rip off (technicians imitate; artists steal) what I could figure out from the combat system Rob was using.  Before going into this, I think it is worthwhile looking at the figures I'm using.  A considerable time ago I posted an account of the 'First Marnon War'.  This was the early stages of this idea, which has since then received some refinement.

The figures are from the Eagle Games's 'War: Age of Imperialism.'   These comprise (inter alia) Red (Ruberia) and Blue (Azuria) forces, each with 15 foot figures, 6 carbine-armed horse, 5 sword-armed horse, and 5 guns.  There are also some 'explorer' figures with a staff or walking stick, and engineer/surveyor types with theodolites. From these I make my armies.

The Armies:
These are organised into Army Corps as follows:
I, II and III Army Corps, each with:
5 infantry, 2 carbine-armed horse, 1 gun.
Cavalry Corps, with:
5 sword-armed horse, 1 gun.

I mentioned to Rob Cordery that each figure represented a Division, but Brigade would be a reasonable alternative.  On the other hand, one might organize things differently, adding, say a IVth Army Corps by diluting the other III.  I did think to add a Corps Command, but what I had in mind has been diverted into something else.  The  figures with surveying equipment might end up as engineers (military or civil).
The 'explorer' guys with the stick become gunners with trail spikes or rammers.

This leaves 1 gun spare, which might be used in garrison, or as a reserve piece (replacement or Army Reserve Artillery park).

It would be tempting, I think, to detach some troops from the army Corps, 1 infantry to serve as garrisons, say, and 1 Horse to serve in reconnaissance or raiding roles.

Combat strengths:
In what follows, I thought to provide any force - which might comprise anything upwards of one figure, but no more than an Army Corps.
1 die per horse figure;
2 dice per infantry figure;
3 dice per artillery piece;
1 die per engineer figure (if included);
2 or more extra dice depending on terrain and stance.
Ruberian I Army Corps.  This is probably as strong as you
might want an army to be.  Absent a horse and a foot figure
still gives the formation a respectable firepower of 14 Dice.

So  I Army Corps above would receive at the outset:
5x2(Inf) + 2x1(Cav)  + 1x3(Arty) + 2(Extra) = 17 Dice.

Azurian Cavalry Corps

The Cavalry Corps receives:
5x1(Cav) + 1x3(Arty) + 2(Extra) = 10 Dice.
The Cavalry Corps is notably weaker in firepower, but this is offset partly by being able to ignore 'infantry' losses, and partly by its greater mobility.

Combat Dice:

I think the diagram makes it clear:
Ones are required for strikes on artillery;
Two and Threes are required for strikes on mounted;
Fours, Fives and Sixes are required for strikes on foot troops.
If engineers are included in the army organisations, then sixes will answer for them as well.

It will require two strikes of exactly the same pip value to force 1 unit to retreat; three such strikes to eliminate it. A roll of 4-5-6 will cause no damage to infantry, even though all three are 'strikes'.  You need actual doubles for retreats, and triples for 'kills'.

Example Combat: 
In the brief Wombat Furriers' War of February 1890, the opening clash occurred on the 3rd, as the advance guards of both armies approached the border town of Bilkington.  Crossing the frontier the day before, the Azurian Cavalry Corps approached the town from the east.  Hurrying from the Ruberian interior, the Ruberian I Army Corps advanced in the opposite direction.

Though the shooting is reciprocated simultaneously, for the sake of simplicity, they will be adjudicated sequentially here.  Note that there are no actual battle tactics or anything so sophisticated.
Above is the result of Azurian shooting: 1 die per horse, 3 for the gun, plus two extra for the force.  The two extra is designed to allow a single unit some chance of inflicting a hurt.  From the above convention we can see that the Azurian shooting has been pretty deadly, eliminating a horse (triple 3) and a foot unit (triple 5).

And to the right is the result of the Ruberian return fire.  Had their target been an Army Corps, it would have met with heavy losses indeed, but as the Cavalry Corps has no infantry the Fives and Sixes can be ignored (otherwise the two lots of triple-5s would 'kill' two infantry units, the double-6 forced a third {or an engineer} to retreat).   That being said, the Cav Corps has taken a heavy knock: a horse unit, and, even worse, the artillery, being eliminated. [As there is an extra 3 it seems reasonable to suggest that RED might opt to retire two of the BLUE units, rather than take the kill.  Or maybe BLUE should have the option...].
Such a blow to its firepower, reduced from 10 to 6 (compared with 14 remaining from the Ruberian firepower of 17) should compel the Azurians to retreat betimes, their attempted seizure of Bilkington having failed.

Situation after one round of combat.  In terms of units,
losses are even, but the loss of its artillery is a
serious matter for the Azurians.  Retreat forthwith
is clearly indicated!
At this point, no doubt the Ruberians would shove a garrison into the town (1 unit), and follow up the retiring Bluejackets... perchance to meet an Azurian Army Corps coming the other way...

My thanks to 'Bill', 'Grigork', 'ian_willey' and Brian Carrick - the latest additions to the list of followers of this Blogspot.  That brings the list up to 91...


  1. This is very much a WAR game rather than a BATTLE game, and I find the concept very interesting ... especially as I own the game the figures come from!

    I have tried something similar, and it makes a pleasant change from normal tabletop battles.

    I will follow your developments with interest.

    All the best,


    1. I never knew that! I got the figures and other elements from a friend. He seems to have kept the maps and rule books, so I have no idea what they looked like. I do hope I'm not infringing copyright: artistic theft is one thing, but outright plagiarism another. Not that I've attempted any such thing. Rather I have been adapting what I can infer from yours and others' writings into such resources as I possess.

      My idea was somewhere between a War game and a Campaign game, but with battles and armies somewhat akin to Shogun. But I'm leaning at the moment towards a Kriegspiel type of map game. However battles as such would be resolved as described here. I still have a long way to go to make the whole game work...


  2. I think these developments are great. Breaking out the dice in this way makes perfect sense and I will also follow suit. I can't remember how I handled retreats etc. But it definitely is worth another look.

  3. I think the combats need to be segued in to the remaining rules system. That I haven't yet decided upon. Present thinking is that battles go for one 'bound', then either side may call off the action and retire. By doing so they would reunite with any units forced to retreat in the action just ended.

    The side remaining in the field would have to wait a day if they want to reunite with any units of theirs that retreated. If they follow up their success (Should they have to wait a day? Not sure either way) then the retreated units would take commensurately longer to rejoin.

    One thought that crosses my mind is an option for a 'two-step' retreat that will take the defeated army corps out of reach (I know I'm begging the question here of what a 'step' is!). But they would have to leave a rearguard behind - one unit would do. And they would have to count on losing it, though its chances of survival would be something.

    Another posting looks to be in the pipeline here!


  4. Why not categorize the Engineers with the artillery? That way they aren't a special case i.e. like Infantry, but only on a six. After all, the engineers and arty both use math and one is the best number, that's why it's up front.

    1. Good point. I was probably seduced by the 6 pips being traceable by the 'E' engineer symbol. At that, given a choice (whoever has to make it) would a player sacrifice his engineer specialists or guns (or infantry, perhaps)? The guns have the firepower of course, but I'm thinking of the engineers being the ones building bridges, supervising siege operations and possibly tracing field fortifications. It may be that they'll rarely be caught in a battle at that.

      I have to admit I'm still in two minds about whether to include engineers/pioneers/sappers at all as a corps alongside infantry, cavalry and artillery. They would have to add something to the game to justify inclusion. Worth thinking about though.

  5. Observant readers might notice that the '2' on the white dice are arranged 'orthogonally'. That is highly unusual - peculiar to these dice. You'll find a 'diagonal' placement is much more commonly encountered.