Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Game Mechanics

  1. This posting has been a long time coming, not so much as I have thought a heck of a lot about the things I want to talk about, but I wanted to get my French III Army Corps pretty much in 'finished' condition before posting.  In this I will be responding to a couple of interesting comments to my last posting, which raised points well worth thinking about in game design.
  2. French III Army Corps on parade. 
    Sun of YorkJuly 31, 2014 at 4:01 AM
    What you are describing reminds me of Napoleon's Battles, but at double the scale (i.e. NB uses one figure represents 120 infantry). Reading your descriptions seems to be in line with what those rules came up with (namely one turn was 30 minutes).

    I haven't considered it any further than that, but the real challenge seems to be the depth units occupy on the table top. A Formation in march column can take up an awful lot of road (or it should). Getting that right for the scale you are considering is key I think.

    I am keen on coming up with a system that allows substantial games (i.e. were I'm commanding at least a corps) to be played on a decent table (4x6) in three hours (time available at the club less set up and pack up time - which needs to be short). In the same games I would like to see some operational maneuvering. The immediate scenario I have to mind is the Prussian march to Waterloo.


    1. You make some good points that I think I will discuss in my next posting.
    2. To begin with, what does a war games Army Corps look like on a road march?  I thought I would check it out with the following pictures of III Army Corps marching along a road.

    3. III Army Corps on route march.
      It occupies nearly 80 inches (200cm)
      of roadway.
      The dining table in the pictures in 5 foot long.  The column, comprising a Light Horse Division, 4 infantry Divisions (VII through to X), the Corps Artillery train and a logistics element, plus the Marshal and his staff, occupies rather more road than this.  Let us allow 10 inches for each of the infantry and cavalry Divisions (actually 24cm), and 10 inches each also for the artillery train and the logistics train.  Add a further 2 inches for the staff, and, say 1 inch for the intervals between each Division and train, we arrive at a total of 7x10" + 2" + 7x1" = 79".
      'The snake must be very thin somewhere,' quoth Pres. Lincoln
      in respect of Genl Lee's marching army in June 1863.  Well, here
      it is in 1805...
      Now, the ground scale I have in mind equates 21 inches on the table as about a mile, or 13 inches close to a kilometre.  Our column, then, occupies some 3.75 miles, or 6 Kilometres. That seems like a fair bit, but this Army Corps represents a force of  22,000+ - surely they must occupy more than 3-4 miles of roadway!
      Overhead view of a 22,000+ strong Army Corps on
      the march
       This is where time scale comes in.  At a rate of 3 kilometres an hour - not what you'd call a fast pace - a scale road march in our time scale of 1 bound to 1 hour, would clear this road in two war game turns.  Tenth division, bringing up the rear of the column in the above picture would be well clear of the woods in one turn, and off the table in the next.  Three kilometres to scale is 39 inches; 6 kilometres 78 inches - you'd just be in time to see the tail end of 10th Division disappearing beyond the village.  An Army Corps of 3 Infantry Divisions (as most of mine are) would have quite vanished in two moves.
      Here is added a tape measure to show the scale
      The table is 5 foot long, the column about 19 inches
      longer than that.
      I don't want this rate of movement, as all other movement scaled to some reasonable proportion of the road march would be zapping around the table in a most un-Napoleonic fashion.   Rather than look to extending the road column to single file, obtaining a 6-7 mile length of roadway occupied by the marching column, let's look instead at the time factor.  My reason is that I like the look of the road column as shown in the pictures. How can we make this look work for us?   What I suggest is a rate of march that tells us the time taken to pass a single point, given our chosen time scale of 1 bound represents 1 hour.
      Third Corps logistics element: a caisson by HaT -
       under-scale compared with the metal figures of the rest of the Corps.
       As it happens I have lit upon 30cm (near on 12" - 10" route march, plus 2" bonus on a roadway) as my rate of road march.  At that rate, it would take III Corps 7 war game (table top) moves to pass by a single point - 7 moves before its tail cleared the road pictured and disappeared off table.  This Corps occupies a length of roadway the equivalent of slightly less than 7 hours march (6 hours and 35 minutes if you want to be precise) - and remember how road distances were often expressed in terms of time - marches, stages and what have you: i.e. how long it should take you to get from A to B.  The question remains whether 7 hours is after all too long, and the road march ought to be extended to reduce this time.
      Logistics elements may be represented by a caisson, cart,
      wagon or ambulance.  At 10" (750m)  of roadway they occupy
       much less than they would in reality... 
      This brings me to the closely related comment below, which addresses the problem in a more general way.
  3. Just to fit the scale to my head, without checking any maps the bulk of Waterloo would fit on a 8ftx6ft table ( or 2.6ish meters x close to 2)?

    I'm afraid your approach to time and movement will lead you astray if you play an historical refight. It might work if a corps were formed in a block and just moving with no enemy in sight instead of bring various components moving in fits and starts.

    My preference would be to sit down with a dozen historical engagements, divide the historical tine from start to finish into periods of the appropriate length and then look at the corps, divisions and brigades and see how far they moved in thst equivalent and whether or not attacks were resolved in 1 turn or 2 or more and keep an eye on that when doing your combat rules.

    To me the key question is "is it possible for units to accomplish what they did historically in the same time period"


    1. A similar question has crossed my mind, though mainly in the context of the process of deployment off the march prior to a battle. For example, my I Army Corps, with 3 Infantry Divisions, 1 cavalry Brigade and its artillery will take 5 turns to pass a given point of a road - 5 hours in scaled time. Bearing in mind that that is not including any logistical elements integral to the Corps. Call it half a day, then. That seems to me ample - but I believe the matter interesting enough to discuss it more at large in my next posting.
    2. Third army Corps on parade.
      The idea of trying out a known battle with a (fairly) well known timetable struck me as a good one, and what better than to begin perhaps with something like Waterloo.  At which I bethought myself to the classic old SPI board game Napoleon at Waterloo.  As the basic game uses Divisions and Army Corps artillery as its tactical pieces, it would just about be ideal for this kind of treatment.  Researches are ongoing to determine whether these cardboard counters might be translatable into the sort of table game I'm after.   I believe the 'Sun of York' might be as interested in this notion.
      The SPI game from long ago: Napoleon at Waterloo: basic version.
      Does anyone still play this?
      Third Corps on parade.
      Otherwise, it seemed to me that the approach I have been taking does indeed address Ross Mac's concerns, by making the critical scale that of time, rather than of distance (ground).  I have a feeling that I am more likely to err on the side of allowing for too little than too much activity per turn owing to the approach I have taken.  No doubt as play testing proceeds, we will find out one way or the other.
      Work in progress: 11th and 12th divisions of IV Army Corps
      The latter is under establishment (only 20 figures), but as it is represented by a
      light infantry unit (15th), will have double the standard skirmish capability.
      Naturally there will be fudge factors built in, but I want to test the limits of what needs to be fudged.  A case in point - a topic of a posting currently in draft - is the manner in which the Fire and Fury system (in its Napoleonic incarnation Age of Eagles) fudges its brigade formations. A brigade in the AoE system formed up into a line of battalions in line, is totally indistinguishable in appearance from a brigade forming a line of battalions in column.  At that, the effect is to give both formations a linear appearance.  Although this effect is somewhat mitigated by the facility in which linear or columnar or 'impulse' formations move and shoot, I find it hard to go past the physical appearance.  A supported line might represent a brigade formed up in two successive lines; or two lines of battalion columns. Because intervals are maintained between columns the brigade frontage is the same. But the whole thing simply looks like a brigade column - not at all what the formation is supposed to represent.   By the way, skirmishers are never depicted as such.  Their effect is achieved by extending the range at which a unit may fire.  Another fudge.  All this doesn't detract from the overall aesthetic appearance of the game, but I wonder if it isn't just a little bit misleading?
      Work in progress: 13th and 14th Divisions of IV Army Corps.
      This Corps comprises quite an eclectic mix of several manufactures,
      many of a provenance completely unknown to me.
      Several were picked up as odd handfuls at past swap meets.
      But that will affect my rule set as well.  In the scale I am looking at, may I depict a cloud of skirmishers after all?  How about formations internal to the Division?   At what rate should Divisions be allowed to change their formation - to deploy or 'reploy' - to form line or dual lines. What, in the latter case, would be the effect, say, of the first line sustaining a reverse?  I may yet be forced into an AoE-like fudge, but there's no harm in - and possibly a lot to be said in favour of - testing how far we can go in depicting what goes on inside a Division.
      Work in progress: IV Army Corps less its Light Cavalry
      (I have a lancer unit in mind for this), its artillery and
      it logistics element.

  4. My thanks to Sun of York and Ross Mac for providing me with something to talk about in [this] posting!


  1. Great post.

    I'm predominately a 15mm gamer, but I started with Airfix 1/72nd scale and occasionally dip back into that scale for a bit of nostalgia (and also because I can take part in some large scale Napoleonic battles, but using Shako at the battalion/regiment level - as I have been a Napoleon's Battles player for so long, playing with different rules at a different reference point has been interesting and it also got me thinking about the unit depth problem - in NB passage of lines is not a problem, but in Shako it isn't permitted).

    Great use of photos to show the points you are making. I was trying to work out the scale until I recognised a Minifig or two. Also the church is one I have (or had) - a card railway model. I think even some of the trees I have too (plastic parts that fit on top of each other).

    Napoleon at Waterloo - this was my first boardgame and I must have played it a hundred times. I was a poor student and had to hand copy the map etc so I could have a copy of my own.

    The SPI game I am using however is Napoleon's Last Battles the 100 days quad game - lots of marching.

    I use Fire and Fury for ACW (my first game in a long while is next week - had to find a small scenario suitable for club play). Being a brigade level game it has some of the feel of Napoleon's Battles. Once this project is over I will be getting back to Napoleonics and various scenarios for next year's bicentenary.

    I must go back and read some of your earlier posts as a quick look just now shows me I have missed some of your considerations.


    Mark (aka Sun of York)

  2. Hi Mark -
    You might be interested in my next posting, as it deals with my first proper outing with Age of Eagles - the Napoleonic Fire and Fury. I have played SHako before, and found it a playable game, but it enjoyed only a brief period of popularity locally before it sank into oblivion.

    Although I have had the N at W game for many years - decades, withal - I don't recall that I've ever actually played it. I have a number of SPI games I've never played...

    III Army Corps are mostly Minifigs, but there are some of what I suspect are Minifig knock-offs (bought second hand). The chasseurs are Hotspur. IV Corps is an eclectic mix of Minifigs first generation, and three, or possibly four, other manufactures. Its lancer light cavalry will be a fifth unknown make. Only the artillery will be third generation Minifigs.