Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big battles for Small tables - Some design comments.

Rather than record actual rules just yet, I wish to relate some of the thinking behind what I hope to achieve.

Right off, the aim is an 'Old School' set: removing casualty figures, fistsful of dice, keeping moral and reaction very simple. As an army level game I still want to retain minor tactics to as low a scale as can be achieved given the extremely high man-to-figure (tentatively 200:1) ratio.  I have often read - in terms quite prescriptive considering this is an amateur hobby - that army or army corps level games preclude any consideration to what happens at Division or Brigade level.  Sez who?  I sure lord want to test that!

1: First of all, some clarifications of nomenclature:

Formation (big F):  A Brigade, Division, Army Corps or Army.  Also under this label comes a Column (big C).
formation (little f): The manner in which a body of troops is formed up e.g. - column, line, or skirmish order.
Column (big C):  An independent or autonomous Formation (big F) comprising at least two arms.
column (little c): a formation (little f) that comprises several lines - at least three - arranged one behind the other on a 2-company frontage in the case of battalion columns; a battalion or regimental frontage in the case of Brigade or Division columns.

Work in progress, III Army Corps: 4 Infantry Divisions, 1 Cavalry Brigade
and Artillery.  The last will probably be based somehow
 (see infra)

2. Army Composition

The standard tactical units (tacunit) - in fact a Formation - will be the infantry Division, comprising anything from 16 to 48 figures, and the cavalry Brigade, comprising 8-16 figures.  This tacunit may form:
-  a column of march 2 figures broad (file);
-  a battlefield or assault column comprising at least 3 ranks and no more than 6 single files;
-  a deployed formation of one or more single rank lines, possibly with skirmishers deployed ahead;
-  some sort of  ordre mixte  formation yet to be determined..
In general, artillery will represent the Army Corps artillery inventory total, but may represent simply the reserve, with divisional artillery represented separately, with just one or two crew figures representing a smaller battery.

A tactical subunit, representing formal or ad hoc Brigades or Brigade-sized detachments may be formed from groups of up to 16 infantry figures, though probably more often in the range of 4 -12, and 4-8 cavalry (for campaign work cavalry pickets of 2 figures may be included in the rules, though these are unlikely to have any on-table presence or significance.  Yes, yes, 400 troopers is a bally big 'picket' but it would represent something a bit more complicated: scouts, pickets, grand guard and reserve). Most often these will be specialist detachments such as light infantry intended for a skirmisher role, or engineer detachments performing an engineering task.

A Column may comprise  two or more arms: horse and foot, horse and guns, foot and guns.  It may also comprise all three.  An ad hoc all arms Formation possibly rather weaker than a standard Army Corps strength, may well be described as a Column, or informally as a corps, rather than the more formal expression (Army) Corps.

At present, my French Army is looking something like this:
I Corps:  3xInfantry Divisions @ 24 figures; 1x light cavalry Brigade @ 12; 1xgun @ 4 figures. (Total 88 figures)
II Corps: As I Corps
III Corps:  4xInfantry Divisions @ 24 figures; 1xlight cavalry Brigade @ 12; 1xgun (Total 112 figures)
IV Corps: As III Corps.
V Corps: As I Corps.
VI Corps: As I Corps.
Imperial Guard: Old Guard Division @ 20 figures; Middle and Young Guard Divisions @ 24 figs;
1x 12pr gun; Engineer detachment @8 figs (?) (Total 80 figures)
A rather fuzzy photo of the Old Guard.  The figures have
been eked out by a couple of shako wearing guys... Even so,
at 20 figures, this is the smallest Division in the French
Order of Battle.
Cavalry Corps:  3xCuirassier Brigades @ 12 figures; 3xDragoon Brigades @ 12 figures; 1 horse gun. (Total 76 figures)
Grand Total: 732 figures, not counting generals and their staffs.

The other armies are looking a bit more complicated.  So far only the Austrian Army  looks anywhere complete, and then nearly every Army Corps is different:
I Corps: 3xInfantry Divisions @ 24 figures; 1 Jager Brigade @ 12 figures; 1 Uhlan Brigade @ 12 figures; 1x6pr gun. (Total 100 figures)
II Corps: 2xHungarian Infantry Divisions @ 24 figures; 1xHungarian Grenadier Division @ 24 figures; 1xFreikorps Jager 'Division' @ 18 figures; 1xChasseur Brigade @ 8 figures; 1x12pr gun.  (Total 102 figures)
III Corps:  3xInfantry Divisions@ 24 Figures; 1 Jager Brigade @ 12 figures; 1 (Light?) Dragoon Brigade @ 12 figures; 1x6pr gun. (Total 100 figures)
IV Corps: 2x Infantry Divisions @ 24 figures; 1 Grenze Division @ 24 figures, 1 Hussar Brigade @ 16 figures; 1x6pr gun. (Total 92 figures)
V Corps: 2x Infantry Divisions @ 20 and 18 figures; 1x Grenadier Division @ 16 figures; 1 Grenze Division @ 24 figures; 1 Hussar Brigade @ 16 figures; 1x 6pr gun. (Total 98 figures)
I Reserve Corps: 2x Grenadier Divisions @ 24 and 16 figures; 1 Cuirassier Brigade @ 12 figures; 1 (Heavy) Dragoon Brigade @ 12 figures; 1x 12 pr heavy gun; 2x 3pr light guns. (Total 76 figures).
Grand Total: 568 figures, not counting generals and their staffs.

3. Scale.

This remains fairly tentative, but is looking like this:
Figure scale: 1 figure represents 200 men.
Artillery (model) scale: Taking 100 men to maintain, transport and serve 4 guns (a trifle generous), a model gun with 4 crew figures will represent an artillery corps of 800 men, and hence 32 guns.   However, it is the size of the crew that will determine the size of battery represented.  A gun with a single crew figure would represent a battery of 8 guns only.

Ground Scale: 1 centimetre represents 30 meters - a scale of 1:3000.  In Imperial measures, 1 inch represents 250 foot, or 83 yard and 1 foot.

Time scale:  1 minute represent 1 hour.
A Light Horse (chasseur) Brigade in a battlefield column.
It probably represents successive regimental lines,
rather than a column as such.
Now, I want to discuss this at some length.  Over many years, this topic has been discussed, a lot of concern being expressed about the necessity for fudging this aspect.  When a game turn represented, say, 3 minutes, and an army level game achieved a decisive result in 10 turns, we found a big battle as we imagined it, having taken all day to play, being over in a flash (so to speak) - a single half-hour.  Something didn't quite gel.

We tended to introduce some kind of 'fudge factor' that transformed this perceived anomaly into a reasonable time-frame - 3 or 5 hours, say.  But the fudge factor never did feel convincing.
A Light Horse Brigade on march column.  Though I accept
that at two figures broad, the column is far from as deep
as it should be, I prefer this 'fudge' as more visually
pleasing than a single file.
It was a recent reminder of several 'small worlds' fantasies that I read long ago that gave me a different approach to the problem.  Some of you will recall Terry Pratchett's The Carpet People or his Bromeliad trilogy; or T.H White's Mrs Masham's Repose; or Mary Norton's The Borrowers; or even Lilliput from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.  I recall thinking about scaled distances and something of  the carpet people, and wondered how time would be perceived by minute people.  It is apparent by watching insects that their perception of time (insofar they have any such perception) would tend to make our minute seem like a considerably longer time - possibly even an hour or more - to them.

It became quickly clear that there was no directly proportional relationship between downward linear (much less volume) scaling and time scaling.  But what was this relationship?  Thinking about it again just recently, Galileo provided the answer.  Imagine a two-meter tall person Call him Al, and two counterparts scaled to 2cm (1:100 scaling, call him Bert) and even to 2mm (1:1000, call this chap Colin).  All three hold at head high a weight, which they drop.  Now, the time intervals between release and the weights thudding into the ground will obviously differ according to the actual height released.  But the perception of all three individually for the time taken for their own particular object to reach the ground will be the same.

This notion is actually quite familiar to anyone who has seen movies that used scaled models to depict destruction - train crashes, building collapses and the like.  The two metre guy will note that his object took about 0.64 seconds to fall.  The others will also note that according to their miniature time pieces the time was exactly the same.  But to an independent observer timing all three, Bert's weight takes 0.064 seconds to fall (one tenth the 'Al's' time), and Colin's a whisker over 0.02 of a second.  There's your relationship.  Time scale is the square root of physical scale.  If you scale (linear) size down by a factor of 100, then the time should be scaled by a factor of 10.
Chasseurs in march column.  On table, it is likely these troops
in this formation, will be in a hurry, hence their fairly
generous move rate.
In the matter of war gaming, we don't scale down according to figure scale, but to the environment in which these figures 'live' - the ground scale.  For instance, if you decide that your ground scale should be 1 inch to 10 yards (Charles Grant's The War Game scale, i.e. 1:360), then the time scale 'should' be in the ball park of 1:19 - call it 1:20, just to keep things simple.  If a turn represents a minute's action in 'real life', it represents 20 minutes on the table.  Three turns is an hour; thirty-six turns a 12-hour day.

Now, my BB4ST ground scale purports to be 1:3000, which implies that the time scale should be roughly 1:55 (55x55=3025 - pretty close).  Let's round it out to an even 1:60 - 1 minute represents an hour.  A 12-hour day will be represented by 12 war game turns.

A Chasseur Brigade in line.  The frontage is quite broad,
which probably would interfere with other troops' manoeuvring.
A thin line like this might find a charging column of
enemy horse hard to cope with; but if it does hold,
the enemy might find escape more than problematical.
We do run into a little bit of a problem, though.  Infantry marching at 6km per hour - pretty brisk, granted - travels in one minute 100 meters even. On my ground scale, this is 3.33cm - not what you would call greased lightning.  We must be able to move faster than that!

On the other hand this minute is supposed to represent an hour, but  6km is represented by 2 meters on the table.  As my table is just 6 foot long, my infantry can traverse its entire length in less than one bound.  No, this won't do either.  The thing has to be somewhere in between 3.33cm and 200cm - but there's a heck of a lot of 'between'!  Looking for a 'fudge' with some purported mathematical basis, I took an idea from 'perspective geometry.'  I decided that the move distance per bound, call it M, would be defined by this equation, the units being centimetres:
200/M = M/3.33
        M^2 = 200 x 3.33
      = 666
         M  = sqrt(666)
                          = 26 approximately.
Let's simplify this as 25cm, for a foot formation that allows for celerity of movement: the march column.

4.Rules for Movement:

Just to make things simple, and as 6km an hour is a pretty fast rate of travel, I'm inclined therefore to round things down, thus:
Infantry in march column: 25cm (10 inch) + 5cm (2 inch) on a roadway.  The assumption here is that nearing the battlefield, the troops are probably moving 'at the double'.  All other movement is geared around this benchmark.
Infantry in skirmish order: 25cm (10 inch) (I have some doubts about this provision)
Infantry in battlefield (or assault) column: 20cm (8 inch).
Infantry in line: 15cm (6 inch).
Infantry in square: 5cm (2 inch).
Light Cavalry in march column: 50cm (20 inch) + 10cm (4 inch) on a roadway.
Light Cavalry in battlefield column: 40cm (16 inch).
Light Cavalry in line: 30cm (12 inch)
Heavy Cavalry (includes 'heavy' Dragoons) in March Column: 40cm (16 inch)
Heavy Cavalry in battlefield column: 35cm (14 inch)
Heavy cavalry in line: 30cm (12 inch)  
I am making the assumption here that the breadth of the formation is a bit of an equalizer as far as the manoeuvrability of light and heavy cavalry is concerned.   I also have a feeling that at Brigade level, successive lines of regiments - which is what a column in my game represents - would be the preferred formation.  The outcome of a fight between a cavalry column versus a cavalry line then would then be predicated on whether the column could break through the line before becoming enveloped by the enemy line.  At this point, I am thinking in terms of giving the column a slight combat advantage, but a victory to the line being the more destructive of the enemy cohesion and morale.  Comments?
Corps Artillery: the one gun represents the Corps' entire
inventory of cannon.  The four crew figures indicates this
represents 32 guns - 4 x 8-gun companies.
Horse Artillery (3-4pr, 'light' 6pr) limbered: 35cm (14 inch)
Horse Artillery manhandled: 10cm (4 inch)
Foot Artillery ('heavy' 6pr, 8-9 pr, 5.5"-7" howitzers) limbered: 30cm (12 inch)
Foot Artillery manhandled: 5cm (2 inch)
Heavy Foot Artillery (12pr; 8" howitzer): 25cm (10 inch).
Heavy Foot Artillery may not be manhandled except to change front.
At the scale we are looking at, this might well be too much detail.  In that case, the default rules for all artillery will be those for the 'Foot Artillery'. 
Foot Routing: 30cm (12 inch) These guys aren't hanging around!
Light Horse Routing: 60cm (24 inch)
Heavy Horse Routing: 50cm (20 inch)

A tentative basing system for my artillery: an isosceles triangle
cut from a 7cm square piece of cardboard (i.e. 7cm frontage,
and 7cm between the frontage and the point opposite.  The angles
indicate the arc of fire.   Representing a little over 200 yards a 7cm frontage
is admittedly a tight squeeze for  32 guns.  
As this posting is already pretty lengthy, I will stop here, and resume later on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Just recently Karen and I flew to Oz to visit daughter Ursula and her man, Aiden.  They live in Redcliffe, a short distance north of Brisbane, where the climate in July is sunny and mild - or at least it was while we were there.  It was while there we took in the annual mediaeval festival.

A couple of jousting knights.  This extreme sport of heretofore
seems to attract as many women practitioners as men, and
they are bally good at it, too.
This is quite a big affair: plenty going on and to see, plenty to buy as well, if you're so inclined.  Possibly the highlight is the jousting, although I was especially interested in the cannon and Late Mediaeval handgun (man, these guns are loud - you'd frighten an enemy just with the noise!).  There was also archery (long bows - I don't recall seeing any crossbows, now that I think on it), wrestling (missed that), foot combats, and plenty of souvenir shops and workshops featuring armour, weaponry, clothes, food, drink, ... you name it.

I could have taken a whole lot of pictures, if I had remembered to get some batteries for the camera.  The first five of these are from the internet, but convey well the colour and flavour of the event.
Action in the Tournament.  The combats here are on foot.
The Varangian Guard were popular.  There were two groups of these guys.  I have no idea why. The lamellar armour of the guardsman on the left is very striking.
One of the groups of Varangian Guard.
The helmeted rube in the picture below is myself, moustaches hidden by the throat-protecting mail.  The stick I'm clinging to is in fact a rather crude battleaxe.  No pretty weapon, it would probably be effective enough in action.
Myself in a vaguely Viking sort of helmet.
The thing was fairly heavy, but not uncomfortably so.

Helmets, halberds and hauberks ...
...harmour for the haughty.
One of the more interesting exhibits for me were the mediaeval board games.  In visiting last year, Karen brought back for me a little booklet on mediaeval board games: chapters of Tafl games (the inspiration, I believe, for Terry Pratchett's Thud! game), Morris games, Chess variants, Rithomachia (the Philosopher's game), draughts types, race, and Fox-and-Geese type games.  A very informative little book, actually!
Rithomachia - the Philosopher's Game - a game for
arithmeticians, really.  Four down on the left side, and
four up and one in from the right are the Black and White
'pyramids', comprising 5 (Black) or 6 (White) individual
pieces.  A most peculiar looking game.
Unfortunately, although there were a few examples of these games on display, including a chess set, no one seemed to know how to play them.  I had hoped (as I was passing) to 'get in' a game of Mediaeval Chess, which I know how to play (that is to say, I know the rules up to and including the 'King's leap'), but have (as far as I can remember)  never actually played.  Never mind.  There were plenty of other things to see.
It was a great day, a well organised event in balmy weather.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - Playtest continued

The Play test, continued from here.

Crossing the Danube: Loison's Division, Marshal Ney and light cavalry.
Beyond, around the villages, await the Austrians.
The Division of Loison, followed by the Corps Artillery, Marshal Ney himself and the Corps light cavalry marched westwards along the south bank of the Danube River to force a crossing close by Elchingen village, whilst Dupont's division pushed westward towards Albeck (just off the table along the road heading north.
In the far distance, Dupont's Division about to attack the Austrian left.

Dupont's division advancing close by Unter-Elchingen
 The brigaded voltigeurs (4 figures) led off the French attack to protect the rest of the corps troops as they crossed.  They were soon augmented by as many chasseurs of the light infantry (I enacted that one French Division would have an extra skirmishing capability, which allowed 8, rather than 4, skirmishing figures  to become available).  This proved quite a stiff fight, though the fact was that the Austrian Grenadiers' extra firepower (3 dice per 2 figures, 6s to hit, as against 1 die per figure), was more than compensated for by the light infantry's dispersion (ignore the first 'hit').
First engagements: French voligeurs (brigaded companies)
encounter the Austrian grenadiers.  First blood went to the Austrians.
 The grenadiers were drawn up in two lines, and were also supported by the Austrian artillery.  The latter proved mightily ineffective all day (we might have to look into this, as the French Artillery didn't achieve a whole lot, neither).   The first line of grenadiers might have closed the range to drive off the importunate voltigeurs and chasseurs, but perhaps that is an option we could try another time. Suffice to say that after drawing first blood, the grenadiers were out shot, pretty much, in the ensuing firefight.
Austrian cuirassiers and fusiliers march to engage
Dupont's Division.

Meanwhile, the Austrian cavalry and the fusiliers were ordered to confront Dupont's Division, approaching the Austrian left rear.  This led to something of a dilemma for Dupont: whether to retain his column formation, or form square in the face of the enemy heavy horse.  In the event he chose the latter.
 In front of Elchingen, the first line of grenadiers, losing the musketry duel, were driven in upon its supports (This also led to some consideration having to be made how this is going to work.  I had them halt still facing front, immediately before the second line, but it might have been better to have them pass through to stand immediately behind.  If that meant that the second line had to move forward to leave enough space between themselves and the buildings to accommodate them, that sounds reasonable. )  Behind the French light infantry, the remainder of Loison's Division had formed up in an assault column and was about to advance.  The light cavalry were now beginning their crossing.  All this while the French artillery kept  banging away across the river without much visible effect.
 As Dupont's Division formed square (I chose one large Divisional square here; the jury is out whether forming two 'brigade squares' ought to be an option) the Austrians closed the range.  The French knocked over one Austrian fusilier, but otherwise the mutual musketry duel didn't amount to much.
 At about this time - 11 a.m. (Turn 4) - Mahler's Division was putting in its appearance from south-east of Unter-Elchingen.  The three following pictures offer a panoramic view of the battlefield.
Here comes General Mahler!

 At Elchingen, the first line of Grenadiers were driven in completely, leaving the second line to take up the cudgels.
 As the close quarter firefight continued the French horse swung off to the left to outflank the town from the west.

Although the grenadiers saw off the skirmishers with loss, they were almost immediately assailed by at least double their numbers of close order infantry.  Crippled by their own losses, the grenadiers were so reduced that at last, their resistance broken,  they were reduced to a crowd of fugitives fleeing through the town and the Grober Woods beyond.
The Austrians were meanwhile pressing home their own attack against Dupont's Division.  Not wishing to engage the square too closely, the Austrian cavalry stood off whilst the fusilier column closed in, first to musketry range, then to closer quarters. 
Although inflicting some loss upon the fusiliers, Dupont got much the worse of the fight - square not the ideal formation with which to meet a column - and failing its morale at its defeat, broke in rout.
The advent of Mahler's Division forced the Austrian artillery to divert its attention thereto, but with no better effect than before (really, this must be looked into!).

 It was not until Mahler's Division got to within musketry range that the Austrian guns had any effect, but by then the Cuirassiers had broken off their engagement with Dupont's Division (leaving the fusiliers to complete their victory) and were coming down upon Mahler's flank.

By now Loison's Division was closely engaged with the grenadiers' second line, taking a number casualties the while, but hurting the grenadiers rather more.  Within a short space of time, the defenders were driven out of the town...
...  where the light cavalry completed their discomfiture.
The Austrian left driven away, Loison and the cavalry turned towards the centre, where Mahler was in the midst of his own battle.  Brought across the river betimes, the Corps artillery dropped into action in support of Mahler.
It was a case of honours shared on this part of the field.  The close quarter musketry, with artillery support, knocked over so many gunners (2 out of 4 figures) that the battery had perforce limber up and make off. But the infantry got the worse of their encounter with the Austrian cavalry (as a wargames unit, these guys have a terrific history - an almost unblemished record) .  Losing 3 figures to 1 (at least they got one!), Mahler's Division lost the fight, and had to retire.
But somewhat surprisingly, their high morale (roll of 6) ensured that they fell back in good order, turning to face their enemy (I do think maybe the cavalry ought to have got more advantage for striking their opponents in the flank, though columns are possibly less vulnerable to cavalry attack than are lines, especially in the flank. Something to think about anyway).
At this point, it was clear that although victorious on their left, and having fought the French to a standstill in the centre, this action was already lost to the Austrians.  Mahler's division was far from broken; Loison was still full of fight, and the French light horse was barrelling through Elchingen town onto the Cuirassiers' flank (A column of march/ passage of a defile formation is not usually in war games permitted to enter into a close quarter fight.  But apart from wondering how else one expects to force a defended defile [Remember Lodi Bridge?], it seems to be an ideal formation with which to strike into the flank of an enemy line).

By the same token, there was little the French could do to interfere with the Austrian withdrawal, and so here the action ended.
Altogether, although several issues came up in this action concerning mainly the combat mechanics, on the whole this seemed a fairly satisfactory 'first pass' play test.   The losses seemed pretty realistic, too: the French losing 15 figures all up (Dupont lost 7 of those, the other two Divisions 4 apiece), and the Austrians 14 (I think the Grenadiers lost 9 of them, being pretty much destroyed as a fighting unit).  Taken as percentages, that takes 17% from the French and 28% off the Austrians - pretty reasonable for a hard-fought, smallish action.