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"Calculating tactical actions several Bn at a time" Topic

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Steve6414 Jun 2012 9:02 p.m. PST

OK, please bear with me here. I have a interesting idea that is simple in concept, but a little difficult to explain.

Lets assume that you are playing a Napoleonic battle on a big table, with multiple Corps per side, for a convention game that needs to reach a conclusion over a weekend. ie – a 2 day introduction game for a mix of grognards and new players, set somewhere around Leipzig in 1813.

Each player has a Corps to command, so their main focus is on coordinating the actions of their Divisions during Grand Tactical play.

As Divisions engage, fight out the smaller actions during a number of a tactical turns. So each set of tactical impulses is a combined arms action of a half dozen or so battalions per side, plus some artillery and cavalry support to help decide the action. So far so good – this is just vanilla Empire style of play so far.

Because the game is an intro to Napoleonics, its very important that the new players get to feel the excitement of individual battalions choosing the right formation for the job, and exchanging volleys of noisy musket fire. For this reason alone, I want to steer well clear of any mechanisms that abstract away the musket volleys, battalion formations, skirmish lines, charges and counter charges. It all has to happen on the tabletop.

Keeping in mind that this is a large game with a fixed time limit to reach a conclusion, I dont want the game getting bogged down in tiny details, or have battalions zooming about like guided missles. I also want to prevent the situation where experienced players with good tactical expertise rip up the new players at this level of the game. Not to mention the fact that the players are supposed to be Corps commanders as well.

What I am considering then is something like this for managing tactical combat :

- The players / Corps commanders get full control over the Grand Tactical formation for each Division (or ME).
- This includes how the individual battalions are arrayed within the Division, how the flanks are secured, where the artillery is, etc.
- Once a Division / ME is engaged, that Divisional layout is locked in. Re-arranging the formation can be done, but surrenders initiative to the other side.
- To attack, the iniative player may advance all or part of the formation as a group to initiate a firefight or melee, holding the formation.
- Defending player gets the usual options of declaring counter charges or defensive fire.

So we now have 1 large contact, where several battalions of one side hit several battalions of the other side.

Enter the details into the computer, hit the big red button, and then resolve the whole action in 1 step.

The computer will still crunch through the numbers for each individual action, calculating all the details such as elan tests, firefights, morale results, etc, etc. The result will be a list of outcomes on a per battalion basis, and an overall calculation of who holds the initiative at the end of the action.

That should solve any speed of play issues, and there is no technical obstacle to getting that working.

Having said all that, my question is :

- Do you think that a large multi-battalion clash of arms is greater than the sum of it's parts ?
- If so, what factors are worth considering in calculating a multi-battalion clash over and above the standard factors that apply with a 1 on 1 clash ?
- Some possible examples include number and spacing of attack waves, security of flanks, skirmisher superiority, and the moral effect of passing into 'threat zones'*

* Threat Zones – an excellent and novel concept used in the Huzzah! rules. Brilliant idea, well worth a read.

To put it another way, if you think about a single battalion in isolation, advancing towards an enemy battalion, there are a whole lot of things happening, and a few tables and die rolls can be used to work out the result, no probs.

But if that battalion is part of an extended formation of battalions, with a skirmisher screen up front, flank support, and waves of friendly troops pushing up from behind … is it reasonable to think that it may behave differently to the same events ?

I suspect that on an individual level, a soldier or person is increasingly less likely to worry about their own individual welfare, as the size of the action that they are part of gets bigger and bigger.

I don't know the answer to that, but it would be wonderful to try and model it.

Thoughts ?

COL Scott0again15 Jun 2012 1:57 a.m. PST

That is a very big question but the answer is yes, the action is bigger than the sum of its parts. How you will be able to show that is something far different. Just a reminder a Corps Commander gives orders to Divisions and watches Brigades, he does not play with the Battalions that is too much detail and well beyond his spann of control.

Remember you can really only control 3-6 units as a rule of thumb.

Musketier15 Jun 2012 3:29 a.m. PST

The Eternal Quest…

As Col. Scott wrote, integrating all levels of command into one level of play is not going to provide a good introduction to Napoleonics actually.

But if it's for a large group of players, how about following army seniority rules: Let the veterans command the corps, i.e. organise their divisions, making the strategic or grand tactical choices for which the new players might not know the period context, and give the newbies a simple set of battalion tactics, possibly on flash cards, with which to command a brigade each in execution of those orders? Major-General Confusion should then do the rest for near-total realism…

As for your last assumption, I'd argue the contrary: the "smaller" the individual feels, the more likely the instinct for self-preservation will take over. Where "there's nobody else, boy, just us" you may see heroics, but when it all becomes one big maelstrom…

CATenWolde15 Jun 2012 3:35 a.m. PST

The only rules I have seen that are able to do this effectively are "Napoleonic Command" by Jeff Knudsen. Maneuver is by individual battalions, but combat is conducted by assessing the balance between the Threat generated by the attacking formation and the Cohesion of the defending formation. It's an elegant and very light system, and can work with "formation" defined at either the brigade or division level, or (with a little tweaking) more abstractly at the "units engaged and supports" level. About the only thing I added to the core system was accumulated Fatigue that slowly lowered both the Threat and Cohesion of a formation for each round of combat it engaged in (and I think something like this is in the second edition of the rules).

Unfortunately … the rules are out of print. There was a recent thread here posted by someone who was looking for them, so perhaps there are still leads. I know the second edition is in the works, but don't know about any plans to publish.



Spreewaldgurken15 Jun 2012 3:38 a.m. PST

"So we now have 1 large contact, where several battalions of one side hit several battalions of the other side. Enter the details into the computer, hit the big red button, and then resolve the whole action in 1 step."

One of the eternal design problems in wargaming, which has vexed me for years, is that we resolve combats one unit at a time. Perhaps one attacking unit at a time, or one defending unit at a time, or simply because, mechanically, you have to do something before you can do something else.

So we end up with game mechanics that reinforce a sort of tedious zooming-in and zooming-out over and over again, as we calculate each unit's factors and modifiers, and roll a die, and so on. And then we get one result in our heads, but then we have to do it all again and again for each unit, potentially getting a different result each time.

It's slow, it's repetitive, and it produces all sorts of design problems resulting from the myriad complex ways in which gamers will slam opposing units together, with bits of A and B in contact with bits of 1, 2, 3, and 4, and with 4 in a bit of contact with Unit C, and so on.

(Not to mention that it's just a reminder that wargames can't represent most of the important conditions of battles that require simultaneity.)

Even in your example above, you're still drawing an imaginary line around several combats to call it one combat resolution. How far away would other combats be, in order NOT to be included in that resolution? We could probably agree that fighting on the far Left flank doesn't have an immediate effect upon fighting on the far Right flank, but… what's the limit? But if there's fighting all along the front, in several places? How many "combats" would that be?

* * *

I've taken several stabs at this over the years, and never produced a result that I thought was ready for prime time. Among other problems, there's the issue of applying results. The larger and more inclusive you make the concept of "a combat," then the larger you can spread the results. And gamers being gamers, they will seek ways to "game" such a system to their advantage. I ended up having to write all sorts of rules to stipulate which units an opponent can break or push-back, in what order of priority (units in hard cover can't be chosen as casualties, if there are equivalent units in the open, who were attacked by at least X enemies, blah blah blah…)

It gets convoluted very quickly. And it still produces weird results: I charged along this line with 10 units, most of which were bunched up on my Left, but you chose to take your losses from the Right. Sure, there are ways to rationalize it, but experience has taught me that if you have to keep rationalizing why your game rules and results are the way they are… that means that people won't like or understand them.


PS – since Christopher brought up "Napoleonic Command," I'll just add that I thought that game simply moved all the calculations to the front of the process. Sure, you get a very simple outcome for a large group of units, but that's only after looking at each one and calculating its factors, vis-a-vis the others. It was still a matter of looking at individual units. (I also found it frankly a bit odd, conceptually, since units didn't contact each other, but just "threatened" them.)

That's why I don't think the OP's proposed computer model will be any better. It won't save time or make the process any easier. You're still calculating factors for individual units, and then you still have to apply results to individual units.

Spreewaldgurken15 Jun 2012 3:49 a.m. PST

PSS – Sorry, one more thought here:

Whatever elements you play with… that's what you're playing with. In other words: what your game calls "a unit" is always going to be the increment of decision in the game. You pick it up and move it, before picking up and moving with anything else. You calculate its value for shooting, or combat, before calculating something else's. You use it to keep track: how many of this or that is on the board, how is the army's morale doing, etc.

You're stuck with whatever increments you represent on the table. That's just Wargames Physics.

If you want to calculate things on a bigger scale, then you need to represent units on a bigger scale. Find some way to really move them all together, fight with them all together, etc. Whether that means basing them all on one big tray, or just zooming the scale out, whatever. You're still stuck with "a unit," but you can make that unit mean something else.

Steve6415 Jun 2012 5:25 a.m. PST

Thank you all for the high quality replies.

I will try and address all the comments, perhaps in separate posts to avoid writing another War & Peace.

Just to clarify the situation a bit, here are some more details on how the players will be interacting with the table, to give a bit more context to the problem :

- There will be 4 laptops around the table for players – 1 for each team of players. This might be 2 French teams vs 2 Allied teams .. or it could be 1 French team vs 3 Allied teams.

- Teams (As Corps command) use the laptop to issue orders to their Divisions. Computer decides when the new orders get activated.

- As per Empire – GT moves are simultaneous. Tactical moves are multiple impulses with random initiative.

- Computer tracks which Divisions (or MEs) are engaged at which engagements. In-game report tells the player which Divisions must follow which orders as the tactical initiative swings from one side to the other.

- On the tabletop, the Corps commander defines the zone of operations for each Division, and must place pipe cleaners (or something more subtle and scenic) on the table to define these strict zones of operation. Players setup the layout of battalions within the Division. (eg – maybe 2 lines of battalions with some columns in the center)

- At the battalion level, this is on avg 4 bases or so of figures, arranged in some formation on a larger Battalion base. These Battalion bases (or Sabot bases) by their shape defines the allowable formations for that battalion. (eg – a small squarish sabot may restrict the battalion to a closed column only, different sized Sabots may be used for more intricate setups). OK, not strictly historically accurate, but it suits the scenario.

- Players push Sabot bases around the tabletop. This can be individual Battalions / Squadrons, or it could be a synchronised group move ala DBA where the Battalion sabot bases are in contact. The size and shape of the Battalion base then has some tactical command and control meaning in the context of the game. The different Sabot bases are not wildly varying .. there is only an inch here and half and inch there difference, but its enough to make some types of units slightly more flexible than others.

That does of course introduce other geometry issues – but as I am umpiring the game, I will have to wing that sort of issue as it comes up and make a ruling on the spot.

- This 'elegant kludge' of using a Battalion sabot base answers the problem about where the combined action begins and ends. Where Battalion sabot bases are in continuous contact – that defines the extent of the Grand Combat. Some better units then with larger bases should be more flexible in being able to still combine their actions as they spread apart.

- As per Empire, the defender may intervene where appropriate to make valid counter charges, or issue opportunity fire to try and interrupt the action.

So at this stage, we now have a number combats to resolve as groups of opposing sabot bases make contact !

This is merely a matter of just squaring up the various units and working out who wins, who loses, who runs away, etc, etc.

That all works fine, but it does get tedious drilling through lots of individual 1-on-1 fights, as Sam points out above.

So …. I thought, rather than run them through the system sequentially, why not just tell the computer 'I have this bunch of attacking units (A,B,C & D) in this order left to right going in against defending units (X,Y,Z) in matching order, with battalion guns in support … so work it all out for me please'.

Internally the computer will match them up and fight each little battle as a multi-step fight, and then give you the final result in each case. Distribution of casualties will therefore be correct, as it is calculated as a series of 1-on-1 fights.

I am not lumping the whole combat into a single mass action for calculation. That sort of approach is required in a dice and chart system, but it not necessary where are computer is doing the number crunching.

I also agree that the 'simplifying' large actions into a single combat roll is far from simple, and indeed some very big Dragons live down that path. I know what you mean.

What Im thinking though is – Hey, given that the computer now knows a whole lot more about the whole context of the fight that the Battalion is involved in … maybe there is more to it than just an isolated set of 1 on 1 scraps calculated in series.

That would be a ridiculously complicated thing to try to introduce in a dice and chart system, but not so silly for a computer model, where the computer knows the whole context of the action.

Its an intriguing idea anyway.

more in a sec …

Thanks again, I really appreciate the thought that has gone into all the replies, and a raised a lot of good points.

PKay Inc15 Jun 2012 5:28 a.m. PST

I agree entirely with Sam. Rather than stage massive battles with small maneuver/combat elements, scale the smallest unit, or just make the two side's relative force strengths work out and not worry about what the unit's "name" is. Is it a battalion? A regiment? A brigade? I don't care. If I'm a player and I have a command that has 6 "units" in it, I'm playing them as 6 units. I can place myself in the description of the battle as scaled on the table and know that either I'm commanding a regiment of 6 battalions, a division of 6 regiments, or a corps of 6 brigades. You'll drive yourself nuts if you represent excessive numbers of units – unless the combat and move resolution procedures are brutally fast, and therfore colorless, the game will grind to a halt.

Steve6415 Jun 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

Following on from Sam's observation about the speed issue, and whether or not having a computer really helps the flow … or not.

This is definitely a subject for a separate discussion, as its a big big big issue.

If you are keen on the technical details, here are my 2c worth of opinion on the subject :

IMHO, there are all sorts of things that impact that question. I can think of 2 little aspects that if you dont get both of them spot on correct, the computer will only destroy the whole gaming experience very quickly as soon as the game grows to a certain critical size.

These are :

1) Data entry / Data quality.
2) Being asynchronous by design.

1) Is relatively simple, but subtle.

By data entry – I mean .. avoid it at all costs. If the computer already knows for a fact that the 33rd Ligne is currently in Column of Divisions, and is 75 paces from the Pskov musketeers at the start of this turn …. then dont insist that the user has to enter this information again. Wherever possible, cut to the chase based on what is already known, and hang on to information as it is aquired for future reference.

Data quality – try and automate the data entry as much as possible. You dont want to have the data entry become a bottleneck to the game, so look for ways to automate it.

In my case, Im experimenting with those Battalion sabot bases by embedding dirt cheap RFID tags into the sabot base, and hacking together a $20 USD RFID reader that attaches to any laptop. Instant accurate data entry ! Not ready for prime time yet, but its promising. Also – lead alloys in metal soldiers can be a highly effective shield for RF transmission sometimes as well :)

In the mass combat example from the last posting, it would mean passing the scanner over the 4 battalions in the attack, from left to right, and then passing the scanner over the defending units left to right. That provides enough information for the computer to work out who is attacking who in which order.

Select any special circumstances if appropriate, and then click to resolve the whole action. Done !

Get that whole process right, and its definitely a fast and accurate way to resolve a combat that scales well as the battle gets bigger.

Get it wrong .. and its a debugging nightmare.

2) Being asynchronous by design.

Difficult to explain, as its an extremely subtle problem.

In plain english – it means being multi-user from the start, and having an architecture that wont lead to a nuclear meltdown if real world events and inputs start to happen in an order that you are not expecting.

And thats only the start of your problems. There is the whole concurrency of data problem with having a single data set being used by multiple people at the same time.

Maybe some readers have been in a situation at work where the company has some sort of reasonably complex PC application they have developed that has always worked well for many years.

And then maybe some management type announces one day that they were going to upgrade this PC application into a 'Web Application' ? Possibly starting on Friday afternoon, and being ready for public launch on Monday morning even ?

The smart guys in the IT dept may have taken this as their cue to start looking for a new job. The less fortunate may have stuck it out for the next 5 years, as no amount of money and no number of management meetings seem to get the project any closer to completion.

Why is that ?

It would take an awful long time to fully explain why solving this apparently simple thing is not that simple.

If you are really truly keen to understand of essence of this question, I can recommend sitting through a couple of videos just to whet your appetite to the art of asynchronous perfection :)

Have a look Neil Frazer explain why something as simple as sharing a document can be managed …. easily :)

YouTube link

Seriously, its a good talk – try watching it to the end.

Then there is Udi Dahan looking at a same sort of problems from a different angle. Excellent talk here on collaborative data … its a very interesting video and highly relevant to building something like a multi-player combat management system.

YouTube link

1 hour, but worth the watch :)

Steve6415 Jun 2012 7:31 a.m. PST

Good points PK. You are quite right about the naming semantics of each unit too. Its nice to have it right, but its not essential for the purpose of a game.

I am hoping that at least half the players will be new to historical gaming anyway, as we are looking to recruit crossovers amongst the keen Warhammer players.

Lets see if this works, taking Musketier's suggestion as well :

Each Team controls a Corps. Team leader (old hand) acts as Corps commander, and issues orders to Divisions.

Each other player in the team controls a division – being a collection of 2-4 brigade equivalents, each made up of 2-4 battalion equivalents. Thats not too deep a heirachy for each individual player to handle.

Run all the tactical phases between opposing Divisions in parallel – so its 1-player vs 1-player across the table for a set of tactical impulses making up an hourly round.

Running them in parallel might sound scary – but thats a computer problem, not a game management problem. See post above for details.

Using the Empire model again – thats 2-3 IGO-UGO turns each pair of opposing Divisional players, with the ability to counter the phasing player, and the ability to draw your moves out by maintaining initiative.

Divisional player does all the tactical stuff. During the tactical phase, the Corps commander has to then jump around between his sub-commands who are all getting into trouble in parallel … and offering advice where he sees fit. When things start going really wrong, the Corps commander should start to feel a little overloaded just from dealing with his (human) Divisional commanders.

Nice !

I can almost picture the chaos already. Thats how we run combat sims for the DoD .. be nice to see more of that nailbiting action on the gaming table.

Got to make sure that the flow of data from multiple sources on the tabletop is clean, and not a bottleneck. I think that is the biggest potential problem.

You'll drive yourself nuts if you represent excessive numbers of units – unless the combat and move resolution procedures are brutally fast, and therfore colorless, the game will grind to a halt.

Yes – agree. Going nuts is emminently possible.

As you can gather from the above posts though – Im not just trying to run a fun game, I am also using it as a vehicle to solve some real world automation problems as well.

Another issue you have raised – and quite valid – is to ensure that the automation is both brutally fast but still colourful, exciting and immersive.

Thats a good point too. Need to get the players hooked on the action, and hanging in there for more. There are several psychology tricks that work well for this, and Udi touches on that in the above example. (near the end of the video – talking about artificial delays and animated results).

Best real-world example of those psych tricks being used is those rows of gambling slot machines that are tuned in to primitive conditioning responses.

As far as it grinding to a halt – that is a non-issue. Its really a non issue. Peak performance on a cheap computer – should easily handle up to 1-5 combat resolutions per second without breaking a sweat on the server. That would be, what .. about 50 Division commands at once, playing out a combat every minute.

Speed is not the problem – its channeling all that data cleanly into the backend without the whole thing getting out whack and going into a big meltdown.

Thats possible but not the end of the world though, being in Australia there is bar at the convention hall with beer on tap a mere 20 metres from the table, and I guess the first round might be on me if that meltdown should happen :)

boomstick8615 Jun 2012 8:06 a.m. PST

I would just point out to PK, that in Napoleonic warfare a battalions and brigades are like apples and oranges. Formations at the bottom of the scale use tactics unique to the period that trickle up in determining grand tactics. Using "units" makes it unNapoleonic, if you ask me.

Timbo W15 Jun 2012 8:43 a.m. PST


I guess the objection to using rules where a brigade is the smallest unit is that they feel and look wrong for Napoleonics, and I'd agree. You might want to deploy your bde in battalion columns, order mixte, lines, battalion squares, a bde square, masse etc or pretty much any mixture.

How about using a ruleset that uses Bdes as smallest unit, but putting the individual battalions onto a giant movement tray (perhaps a nicely-flocked sheet of balsa or stiff cardboard). Make the trays fit the command radius of your brigadiers and allow the players to arrange their individual battalions as they like on the trays.

When you get to a combat then use the brigade level rules to decide the result, perhaps tweaking the stats a little to reflect different mixed formations of your Bde.

Whaddya think?

Spreewaldgurken15 Jun 2012 9:21 a.m. PST

"How about using a ruleset that uses Bdes as smallest unit, but putting the individual battalions onto a giant movement tray (perhaps a nicely-flocked sheet of balsa or stiff cardboard). Make the trays fit the command radius of your brigadiers and allow the players to arrange their individual battalions as they like on the trays."

What happens when the brigade needs to march down a road or cross a bridge? Or if you want to leave two battalions in a town? Or when you need to squeeze it into a slightly smaller footprint because otherwise part of it would be in bad terrain, etc? Not to mention the issues of moving such a large base in proximity to the enemy. Do you "wheel" that whole tray, meaning that its rear corners swing around as its front changes? If so, then changing the facing a bit, means changing the depth and footprint of the brigade by several inches, which can result in weird problems like the presentation of your flank. (In reality, your brigade would not be perfectly rectangular in this situation, given the terrain… but you have no choice, given the huge tray.)

The bottom line, always, is: whatever size "base" you're working with is how you interact with the terrain, and with the enemy. For all intents and purposes, that base becomes a "unit."

Timbo W15 Jun 2012 10:07 a.m. PST

Well I'll admit I haven't exactly playtested this 2 minute idea…

Ok, lets have a go –

marching down a road – either take the figs off and put them on the road (possibly a road-width long movement base as long as your roads aren't too snaky). Or just form the figs into march columns and have a temporary strip of road down the middle for the artillery to use.

Crossing a bridge – move the giant base up to the bridge and the units across individually till they're all across then spend a turn reorganising everything onto the giant base again. Perhaps count as disorganised until every Bn is back in position?

I think from the scale of game that's being proposed you probably don't need to detach Bns but if you do just leave them in the town and continue.

Overlapping bad terrain – put the terrain on the giant base while you are there – rearrange Bns in the remaining space as you see fit.

I think you do wheel the whole Bde, there were a number of discussions on 'regulating battalions' on TMP that appeared to imply this. For such a big game fiddling about with individual Bns is not whatr you want anyway

No idea if any of this would work, and it'd be a pain in a dense-terrain setup, but might be OK for a fairly open field. For example a game 'In the Grand Manner' with 28mm figures might need a frontage of 12 to 18 inches per individual battalion, but if you are using 15mm figs at a high figure to man ratio (eg 1:50 OR 1:60) then you could probably fit a whole Bde in this frontage, considering a supporting line etc.

PKay Inc15 Jun 2012 10:50 a.m. PST

"I would just point out to PK, that in Napoleonic warfare a battalions and brigades are like apples and oranges. Formations at the bottom of the scale use tactics unique to the period that trickle up in determining grand tactics. Using "units" makes it unNapoleonic, if you ask me."

Thanks for that.

My point being made (maybe not expressed well), is that if you don't abstract "something", whether that is unit scale, formation, deployments, combat, movement….you'll be horribly bogged down in detail that will prevent large games. If you HAVE to have grenadier and light battalions and worry about their function in a game where you have a corps or more per side, its gonna be a miserable slow game.

Boardgamers don't have any problem accepting that a 5/8" square counter is a division. Miniature gamers can't accept that a unit of 12 castings "looks" like a battalion, or that it has the right pom pom color mix. I never said that you had to abandon all tactical color in order to represent a large battle. What law is there that says that you can only scale figures to men in a unit? Why can't you use a representational tactical unit and also scale the number of units? You can have your cake and eat it too! Instead of rigidly following the 1 unit IS 1 battalion, in a game where you want to have multiple Corps on a table, why not just scale the units too? 1 unit = 6 units, etc. That way, you still can capture the tactical nuances of low level units without flooding the table with an inordinate amount of game units.

I realize I'm probably in the minority on this, but we do it all the time. It just doesn't matter to me – I want a game with tactical decisions that focuses on command. The available table space dictates the number of units that will comfortably fit, as well as the time and number of players dictating the amount of game time available. Quite often, its more liberating and effective to start with those constraints in mind first, and then work backwords, instead of getting hip deep in counting noses and feedbags.

Martin Rapier15 Jun 2012 11:43 a.m. PST

"How about using a ruleset that uses Bdes as smallest unit, but putting the individual battalions onto a giant movement tray (perhaps a nicely-flocked sheet of balsa or stiff cardboard). Make the trays fit the command radius of your brigadiers and allow the players to arrange their individual battalions as they like on the trays."

This exactly the approach used in 'Warring Empires', except that players just set up their brigade/division formations using the battalion elements and the formations are then fixed until they make a successful change formation action.

I also use a similar method in grand tactical games. The arrangement of the units indicates formation posture and state, but combat is resolved at formation not unit level so you don't go nuts with excessive detail.

Timbo W15 Jun 2012 12:02 p.m. PST

Glad to see its not a totally mad idea Martin!

I agree with PKay too that 'bathtubbing' is probably the least insane way to do a big battle.

On the other hand, as the OP suggested, big giant multi-Corps (lets get everybody together and use all our stuff) games do have an immense attraction. I think most wargamers are drawn to huge armies like wasps to a jam jar, but playing them with rules designed for a division or two can become incredibly tedious, so some simplification is needed to get a good game as well as a great spectacle.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2012 12:31 p.m. PST

Steve sent u a PM

Lion in the Stars15 Jun 2012 2:12 p.m. PST

If I wanted to do a big convention game, I'd take a lower-level ruleset, like LaSalle or something else where the player is a division commander.

The noobs get to play division commander. The experienced players get to handle Corps or the entire army, and act as mini-umpires/rules handlers.

Mithmee15 Jun 2012 4:51 p.m. PST

The thing with trying to give each player a Corps to handle and at the same time making them the Battalion Cdr's of their many battalions is that Skimishers while a key element of Napoleonic Warfare is not something a Corps Commander would be handling for a whole battle.

At that level of playing the best thing to do with them is to abstract them. They are out there but you just do not see them on the table.

I have controlled 1-2 Corps before with their many Battalions but I was not wasting time on positioning my Skimishers.

Something like the way Lasalle has handle them is okay but I would not have them on the table. Since I would abstract. Otherwise the players could be spending lots of time on just the Skimishers.

Steve6415 Jun 2012 7:40 p.m. PST

Great discussion.

On the subject of bathtubbing … Im tempted to apply the scale squeeze in the middle area rather than around the edges.

Ie – A battalion is a battalion, and has actions and tactics that are unique to that level of fighting. Again, to suck new players into an interest in the period, I think its very important to model Skirmishers / Column / Line / Square formations and blasts of musket volleys, and have a real tactical element on the table top.

At the top end, A Corps is a Corps, to give players a feel for general orders and the operational level of the game.

That requires 1 step in the middle between the operational level and tactical level, to model grand tactical concepts on the tabletop. In reality this is a quite a complex heirachy of Divisional / TaskForce / Brigade / GrandBattery / CavBrigade / Regimental HQs between Corps and Battalion level.

This heirachy is radically different between armies as well. (Compare a Prussian 1813 Brigade to other nations Divisions for example)

So another approach would be to apply the blowtorch of bathtubbing to the middle management layer only. Lump the whole grand tactical heirachy into a much simpler concept of Grand Tactical Manoevre Elements' which Divide the Corps into a small group of collections of battalions that fight together.

Of course nobody in their right senses should ever tolerate such simplifications in a 'real game' … :) But for the purpose of a public demonstration / 2 day convention game, I think it might be excusable.

Looking forward to playtesting these options over the next few months. What fun !

Steve6415 Jun 2012 8:03 p.m. PST

The thing with trying to give each player a Corps to handle and at the same time making them the Battalion Cdr's of their many battalions is that Skimishers while a key element of Napoleonic Warfare is not something a Corps Commander would be handling for a whole battle.

Interesting point on that thought.

Was doing some research on the Leipzig campaign, and found this excellent resource book :

Napoleon's last campaign in Germany
Author: F.L Petre
940.27 P493na

On pages 66-67, the book details the Allied operational plan leading up to the engagements at Lutzen / Bautzen. I think at this stage that Kutuzov had passed away, and young Prince Wittgenstein had picked up the mantle of command.

The operational plan is in 10 steps, and is remarkable in the level of detail it assigns to the march order of battalions, skirmisher deployment, etc, etc. It reads much more like a Divisional commander's instructions of the day. It is also remarkable in that is almost totally ignores the actual operational aspects of coordinating multiple Corps, flank security, logistics … all non existant.

You end up with BLucher's advanced Division getting spread horribly thin over a very wide front thanks to these orders.

The French orders on the other hand (see pp 71) are much simpler and to the point. 4 steps, and its all about logistics, communication and coordination.

Recommended reading for anyone interested in the period. But it does raise a point about Corps commanders dabbling at too low a level. There is nothing stopping them doing this – and indeed, there is plenty of historical evidence to show that they DID make this mistake as well. And paid dearly for it.

A challenge for the commander (and therefore the player) can be to know where to focus their attention.


PS: If you do make it into the library to have a look at the book quoted above, have a quick scan in the same area.

I find another one on the same shelf with the title "The Long Ride of Major von Schill" by one Sam Mustafa !! Gotta buy a copy of that – its one of the best books of the period !

Art15 Jun 2012 9:45 p.m. PST

Dear distinguish colleagues of the forum and Mr. OConnor.

If I may add my two cents on your last posting:

" The operational plan is in 10 steps, and is remarkable in the level of detail it assigns to the march order of battalions, skirmisher deployment, etc, etc. It reads much more like a Divisional commander's instructions of the day. It is also remarkable in that is almost totally ignores the actual operational aspects of coordinating multiple Corps, flank security, logistics … all non existant."

The reason that there was no coordinating of multiple Corps, flanks security, and logistics, is because the young Prince Wittgenstein was using typical orders for d'ordre separe.

Even the French were found to use d'ordre separe prior to 1803…the divisions and separate brigades would act independently when engaged.

Thus when a grand body manoeuvred under such principles, there were no coordinating instructions, this could also include the first and second lines of battle within a division or brigade as well.

Very Respectfully

coopman Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2012 12:57 p.m. PST

I like the comparatively abstract "Commands & Colors: Napoleonics" game system because it simplifies infantry unit formations so that they have only 2 allowable formations: normal and square (for infantry). You normally just operate the inf., cav. & art. units with no regard to formations because the game assumes that they are in the best formation for the situation, and the units are faced in the right direction to deal with the local enemy threats. This is as it should be for a corps/army commander, who cares about where his divisions/corps are placed, and leaves the unit formation/facing details up to his division commanders to handle. Resolving big Nap. era battles really bogs down with the increase in details that the player has to involve himself in: formations, facings, poundage of each art. battery, etc. Now if each player is pushing a division around, then it makes perfect sense to have the increased attention to the details of formations, facings and weapon types. Many players make the mistake of taking a division level rules set and try to fight the big battles of the era with them and then wonder why it ended up being a monster game that did not reach a resolution in the alloted time period for the game – TOO MUCH DETAIL! If it takes more than 4 hours to play the game, that's too long for me. I could play three or four games of C&C:N in the same four hour period and be quite happy with that. I realize that this system is not everyone's cup of tea however.

Kevin in Albuquerque16 Jun 2012 6:55 p.m. PST


Going off of Sam's important piece of advice that the unit is what you pick up and move, then I would recommend that the players are all at the same level of command and the computers do the work at all the other levels. This means the GM is going to need a bunch of assistants to do the necessary acts that the other levels would be doing. This way all the players are having the same experience and are able to blame the same, fictional, commanders when things go wrong, as you can be assured they will. And have the same problems and glories. Level playing field if you will. And players won't be blaming other players for mishaps. Makes for an uncomfortable convention experience.

If you want the players at the Corps level, then come up with a way to write and transmit orders that shows up on the table. Then the computer takes over. And the assistants make the necessary physical moves and damage markers etc.

If you want the players at Divisional level, then the computer generates Corp level orders, the players generate Divisional level orders and the computer takes over once again.

Imagine the consternation of the above positions when units fail to carry out orders. There will be contests held during the game as to who has the yellowest unit. Or most drunken …

At the lowest level (Regimental?) the players get orders from the computer and sally forth bitterly complaining about idiotic commanders up-line. And all can commiserate on the same idiocies cross the table because they are all having the same problems.

Just my three centimes…

Some other name17 Jun 2012 7:15 p.m. PST

Have you thought about using grids to regulate movement and combat ranges? It seems like you could have the size limit of each square be a brigade and it could conduct combat against adjacent squares. You should check out some of the publications at Wargames Development for ideas.

marshalGreg18 Jun 2012 8:14 a.m. PST

I have not had the time yet to read all the replies so apologies for any repeat here…
In principle I have taken similar approaches but do not have the computer support. (Side NOTE: Are you looking at integration of Carnage and Glory or have a home grown program?)
I am using the idea of the btn sabot all in contact for a single action as if they were a base for a larger formation.
The size being large enough to redeply from col to line.Exception would be landwehr troop quality and some conscript-based on scenario.
It will also be through a must needed assumption since the player is to be Corp LvL but allow some tactical detail to a greater extent than perhaps an AoE or FnF brigade LvL play.
these are:
1) All Btns with troop training that allowed for line will form line upon engagement range (Empire). Exceptions are:
a. If in rough going (they stay in col) or ordered by the DIV Co b/c you the Corp commander issued directives to do so in your attack or defend orders (a turn or so earlier).
2) All Btns approaching or being approached by Cav during GT "that are sighted" will form square upon engagement range (Empire). Exceptions are:
a. ordered by the DIV Co to stay in col b/c you the Corp commander issued directives to do so in your attack or defend orders (a turn or so earlier).
b. The were they sighted issue
3) All Btns have organic skirmishers and the strength is set value per Btn. So Btn are counted to determine str. for calc. in combat roll. Skirmish stands are merely markers to indicate when a player is initiating a brigade or larger skirmish attack. Exception are:
a. Units with full skir. capability ( IE Light and Jager Btns)are entirely broken down to bolster the skirmish attack and were directed so by the DIV c/o you the Corp commander issued directives to do so in your attack or defend orders (a turn or so earlier).
4) Small arms fire is only conducted def/support during charge. This is based on:
a. Troops did not want to get into firefights unless order(by the DIV c/o you the Corp commander issued directives to do so in your attack or defend orders (a turn or so earlier)
b. Most fire is through longer range with skirmisher and thus rolled into the skirmish attack portion
c. During break down of a charge to a FF is rolled into the charge combat action/roll and does not necessary need to be presented in detail that that is what happen but A chased off B and both received a hit or two etc.
5) A unit attacks only a unit to their front within an Arc of X degrees and only those with no opponent after the initial move may wheel and enfilade the opponent thus removing guided missiles and the much controlled timing of the attack, which slows play, not realistic, and is more appropriate for tactical game where you are the colonel for the Brigade commander directing such timing.

These 5 simple principles allow doctrine "used by the troops" to take over at this level to make action auto thus this portion of play becomes more manageable (and thus faster) and realistic for the play level. Focus of the player goes back to more of the level they are at which is the Corp CO. Combat still retains some of "the Empire play flavor". Bottom line ….Something has to be given up to make a large play manageable.
I believe this is the basis for most of Legacy of Glory was about.
Yes the individual Btn vs. Btn or "multiples there of "still must be contend with a one by one die rolling unless the computer program can spit out all the individual combats at one click which would be sweet!

Steve6418 Jun 2012 7:14 p.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback MG, thats some good detail there.

I will have a go at digesting all that when I escape from work later on. I see that Legacy of Glory may have some answers to the original question as well, so have added that to the wishlist.

In the meantime, here is a more visual explanation of how the battalion sabot bases might work in the finished product :


The battalion sabot bases have specific sizes that have a meaning in terms of the tabletop. Figures on the base can use a movement to freely change to any formation … as long as it fits on the sabot base.

This for example is an 1813 Prussian line battalion, operating in closed column mass for a particular scenario :


The dimensions of the sabot base means that this unit can move freely between closed column and square … but it needs to spend command points / or roll dice to successfully change to line or march column, since that requires a different sized Sabot base.

Here is a French battalion base that is a little larger, giving the French battalion a few more options in low level deployment:


The extra margin on the side allows for an elite company (Grenadiers) to extend the frontage of an attack column. There is also room on the sabot for some dedicated voltiguers to jump on and off as they deploy or pull back to safety.

The extra little bit of room also allows the French to quickly move into column of companies without needing to spend command points / roll dice.

Voilà ! the French say as they show off their tactical flexibility :


Here is a more restricted base for a pair of 1798 Prussian battalions, who are locked into extended line formations with a awesome stack of teutonic firepower, but far less flexibility in manoevre:


By doing it all this way, it is immediately obvious to the players what the options are for changing battalion formations, and what the zones of contact are. No need for digging through the rulebook or measuring angles and millimeters on the table.

By tweaking the dimensions of the battalion bases, a little bit of the flavour of each different army doctrine can be captured.

Cavalry on the other hand have large drink coaster sized bases which allows a lot more deployment options … and a much larger zone of control :


Cavalry can freely double up or half their frontage as part of a move.

So the rule of thumb for the players to remember is that if the sabot base has rounded edges, the unit can freely add extra sabots to adjust the formation. If the sabot has square edges, they need to spend command points / roll dice to make big adjustments.

If the Sabots touch enemy Sabot bases – you are in melee !

If friendly sabots are touching edges, then they can perform group moves and shooting ala DBA, and they are in close support and part of any melee. No tables, no tape measures.

Given that some of the players at a convention game are walk by visitors who want to take a command for an hour at most … its a pretty cool way of presenting very complex concepts in a way that they should be able to absorb in the blink of an eye. … I hope !

This might address some of the points raised earlier by Sam and Kevin. The battalion is 'what you pick up', but that battalion has several bases of figures to denote strength, detailed formation, battalion guns, skirmisher capability and the number of hits/kills/disruptions visually … just using miniatures, and no additional chits on the table.

For the disorder status on a battalion – thats really easy. Bases of figures are moved off the sabot base, and trail behind the unit as stragglers and other ineffectives as the unit moves. If the sabot base gets emptied due to morale hits, then the battalion is deemed to have broken and lost all control.

Stragglers that are overrun are considered captured as prisoners.

During the rally phase, players can roll some dice or something to recover a level of discipline per Division. Keeping it simple for the sake of a convention game – 1 D6 for each Divisional commander = number of bases of figures that can be rallied within that Division by being placed back on the Sabot base, where they can now contribute to the fighting strength of the battalion.

From a player's point of view, I want them to get involved in tactical action as far as moving a group of such battalion bases towards an objective in some fixed brigade level formation … enter some details in the computer, and then get a detailed result back on a per-battalion basis.

If the player wants to get down into the weeds and fine tune the formation of an individual battalion, they can do that still, at the cost of surrendering initiative. That is just standard Empire as far as I recall.

Needs refinement still, but I like where the idea is heading anyway. Its clean, and easy to describe in pictures. The battalion sabot bases actually look pretty cool as well :) Looking forward to having the RFID tags on the sabots at some stage … that will be a really nice touch.

With the computer side of things – it is purely home grown, developed from scratch. Web based – so its properly multi-user from the start, and designed for portability (ie – Android / iPad, etc).

The computer can spit out a single result for a collection of combats, where each combat has a number of complicated phases that all need some die rolling. (morale tests / firefight resolution / actual musket volleys / die rolls to form square … all that sort of thing). That part is easy, the challenge is to do all that whilst still keeping the player engaged in the action. A bit of data entry and fancy animations on the results displayed should be enough to make up for the loss of die rolling perhaps.

Had a look at C&G .. its a neat program, but nothing like what I had in mind. This system is just a light implementation of similar systems that we are using in the military over here, based instead around the Empire mechanics, and using miniatures instead of maths to handle all of the spatial and geometry problems (which computers are never that good at anyway).

ie : link … made fun and easy.

Development of this system is going strong (even though its a part time hobby thing), and I am way behind in the blogging about it. A few explanations of what the computer system is here, along with screenshots and the original statement of requirements :


.. and the source code repo is completely open here :

Sorry for writing another war and peace sized response to this thread … but I hope the information is useful and interesting.

Keep the ideas rolling please !!!

marshalGreg20 Jun 2012 7:52 a.m. PST

We think alike and you are two steps ahead of me on the concept and appilication. I like the round vs square corner and comlex formation requiring additional sabots idea!
Just one thing I question …for Russian 1813 musketeers. I would handle them as the Prussian landwehr you present.
IIRC the russian line was heavly using columns by then and full of conscripts….but just to be clear it was more of the colenels following doctrine change directives fromthe Russian higher command than the actual troop capability/training ( wheres Seroga!?).

Lion in the Stars20 Jun 2012 9:11 a.m. PST

In my case, Im experimenting with those Battalion sabot bases by embedding dirt cheap RFID tags into the sabot base, and hacking together a $20 USD USD RFID reader that attaches to any laptop. Instant accurate data entry !

Odd thought: Why not 'tag' the colors?

Either put the RFID tag into the flag itself, or under the base of the colour party.

Unless the battalion base is carrying formation info for the computer, wouldn't that be a better location for your tag?

Steve6420 Jun 2012 4:03 p.m. PST

Lion said :

Odd thought: Why not 'tag' the colors?

Either put the RFID tag into the flag itself, or under the base of the colour party.

Unless the battalion base is carrying formation info for the computer, wouldn't that be a better location for your tag?

Oh wow – that is a very cool idea, I like it a lot.

Unfortunately a lot of the colors are painted already, so its not something that I can retrofit … but I will try it out with some new ones and see if it works. Thx.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2012 4:48 p.m. PST

Sounds like it's moving toward a great system for conventions.

Steve6420 Jun 2012 4:59 p.m. PST

Woke up this morning with a thought ….

As an extension of what I will call "Sam's Law" – ie "That THE UNIT is the thing the player picks up and moves", I have been thinking about the deeper implications of that for game design in general.

This leads me to think of a more general principal that the game design can direct the player's focus in that to a particular aspect by engaging something tactile.

Some practical examples :

1) Lets consider a skirmish game, where the rules require rolling opposed dice for each shot being fire, and the defender's saving throw.

By getting the players to engage in something tactile at each individual figure level (moving individual figures and rolling the dice) … you are transporting the player's mind onto the battlefield at that instant, and giving them a feel for being right at the front line.

If on the other hand the actual mechanics of working out massed volleys and their reactions are abstracted out in the rules mechanisms (or handled off-board by a computer for example), then the player's mind is kept well away from the immediate sharp end of the battle.

If their only tactile experience is the movement of a mass of figures … that is a low level as their mind should be transported.

2) Command and Control.

If the goal of the game is to get the player to "Think like a Corps commander" …. then the game mechanics can best do this by directing their in-game attentions to something tactile with regard to issuing orders.

If you look at systems like Piquet – where each commander has a deck of cards representing the formation's actions, then by requiring the player to do something tactile and physical at this level (ie – choose a card from the deck, and physically place it on the table to play it) .. the game design enhances that connection to the Corps command.

Its more than a pretty game mechanic – its a psychological binding of the player to an abstract concept via a physical action.

I think that is something a lot of game systems maybe overlook. It would be naiive to dismiss mechanisms like Piquet's card deck as being "too gamey", because there is more going on there than meets the eye.

Rule systems that leave command and control options as a free for all, dont do anything of themselves to get the player thinking like a Corps commander. That is left to player discipline, and can only be achieved through experience and study of the period.

Other alternatives to strict command control – something like Empire's system of charts and tables that determine which ME's can do what depending on the state of Corps orders … that level of detail is good, but there is no tactile action that binds the player to the experience.


If that assertion is valid, then something like this little idea might be worth playing with :

Lets say you have 3 types of custom D6 dice.

There is a set of White Dice (lets call them the Command dice), which has the following faces :

None – Split – Join – Reorg – Retire – Relieve

A set of Yellow Dice (lets call them the Defence dice), which has the following faces :

None – None – Hold – Retire – Relieve – Rally

A set of Red Dice (lets call them the Attack dice), which has the following faces :

None – None – Fire – Fire – Charge – Charge

Now, during a tactical impulse, the player with the initiative gets to move a set of troops around in order to bring fire on the enemy to keep the initiative.

Before moving, the player can select a number of dice in any combination of colors to determine action options with the following restrictions :

- number of dice is a function of command competence. Poor = 2 dice, Regular = 3 dice, Superior = 4 dice.

- Red attack dice are only available if on attack orders.

- Yellow defence dice are only available if on defend orders.

+/- dice depending on the overall morale state and freshness of the Division, as well as any special scenario modifiers.

(eg – Stoic defenders might get an extra yellow defence dice in all situations, some aggressive units might get an extra red attack dice in all situations, a highly unreliable unit might be allowed a max of 1 red dice, etc)

During their tactical impulse, the player then needs to decide which mix of dice to throw, based on their intentions. If they want to push home an attack at all costs – go all red. If they want to put their efforts into maintaining order in the line – go all white. etc.

Whatever their intentions are at the command level, they need to translate this into a physical action of selecting dice and rolling them.

After rolling the dice, they can move as per orders, but the units can only choose additional actions that are shown on the dice themselves. This in effect creates a custom card deck each turn based on player's intent.

Meanings of the die faces :

None – as it says .. lost opportunity / fog of war
Fire – Can move up to a firefight if in range
Charge – Can initiate a charge if in range
Retire – Can extract a unit from the engagment
Split – Can split any group into smaller groups
Join – Can join any 2 groups into a larger group
Reorg – Can change formation of any group
Relieve – Can relieve a front line group with a second line
Rally – Can recover cohesion losses

Just an idea ….

Spreewaldgurken20 Jun 2012 5:07 p.m. PST

It sounds a lot like SAGA. (Which I have tried repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to enjoy. But what do I know… everybody loves it.)

If the goal of the game is really "to get players to think like a corps commander," then I'm not sure why you'd want to randomize the options. A corps commander has a set of instructions. Within the framework of those instructions, he has certain options, and then certain unexpected things can happen. But he's not subject the whims of random chance, to determine which orders he can and can't issue.

If your player is a subordinate (i.e., if there is a higher entity above him, invisible, and yet controlling his fate), then your game should reflect that in some way. Give him a mission. Attack something or defend something. Then within the limitations of that mission, he can decide how he wants to do it. That's what a corps commander would do.

(Besides, if you're exploring this for commercial purposes, then do you really want to have three customized sets of dice being a required purchase in order to play the game?)

Lion in the Stars21 Jun 2012 3:20 a.m. PST

Three sets of custom dice that would cost the game-maker ~$1 per, I might add.

If you want something sorta-kinda random, 'orders cards' and/or 'Fog of War' cards work wonders. My favorite part about the Ambush Alley system is the Fog of War cards, which really reinforce the feeling of looking at a small part of a much larger action.

onmilitarymatters Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jun 2012 10:52 a.m. PST

Pardon the late entry…

Your original idea is exactly what drove me to create the ruleset Snappy Nappy -- each player controls a corp, units are brigades, and lots of people can play in one game at the same time. (See old MWANs for write ups of various campaigns) The rules are still available here at On Military Matters.

Regarding the multiple players in one battle across multiple tables. What I found was that except for the first two turns, there should be no synchronization of turn sequence between tables -- each table runs through the turn sequence at its own rate.

I would spin orientations and separate tables when putting on the campaign in a day games in my basement…hence table 1 and 2 may be adjacent to each other physically, but exiting table 1 does not lead a player to table 2 … it leads to table 5 on the other side of the stairs. And "north" on table 3 facing the furnace is "south" on table 4. (All players got a map of the entire campaign area, but the map was NOT divided into tables. It was just a map). The record was 21 players across 7 tables (kinda packed basement) completed in about 5 hours.

The table edges were made by major rivers (99% of the time anyway) and you needed a bridge or pontoon boat to cross. Points given for terrain objectives (cities and towns).

That said, Snappy Nappy rules do not include skirmishers and division orders and a lot of other details. The C-in-C provides Corp orders, which can be modified to an extent by the player. I found that putting a dozen gamers together creates all the command control confusion needed -- no cards, random events, or other fiddly things necessary. If you know your fellow commander, you probably know he's never held a flank in his life. If you don't know the fellow, you are probably wondering if he's going to hold said flank! :)

You'll find Snappy Nappy threads here on TMP, and there's a Snappy Nappy Yahoo group with lots of discussions, rules errata, suggested optional rules, and so on. I answer all the Yahoo group questions and suggestions.

OMM has posted the Snappy Nappy introduction, table of contents, designer's notes, feedback, and magazine reviews on its site at: link

Russ Lockwood (Snappy Nappy author) using the OMM account while I am here talking about rules with Dennis.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2012 7:00 p.m. PST

In my mind a "Unit" is not that which is physically picked up and moved, it is the mental picture of a dozen different things happening to a particular organization of soldiers at any given time.

The spatial representation by figures of what position or formation the unit occupies in relation to the other units is appealing eye candy on the table and fun fun fun, but really perhaps ought only to be a reminder of relative position and formation-something that could disappear into the smoke in real life, requiring the historical commander to develop an awareness outside of visual references.

Actual handling of the figures and arrangement of formations, while having appeal, is not the sharp end of the stick. The players awareness of his situation as the engagement develops, is. Handling and moving the figures, using cards and dice is fun and visually appealing, and stimulating on a certain level. However, far from being kept well away from an engaging experience in the tactile game by computer work and workings, Players need to engage the mind, and constantly be updating that 'mental picture', insofar as they can, given what they can 'see' from the data returned. They should rarely have a complete exposition of the situation on the computer screen, and should have to form a mental one.

Computers offer the best possibilities for fog of war we have. The physical placement of units in relation to each other on the table can be only an incomplete picture or abstract reminder of what is actually 'happening' to the units, something a commander might not know until the figurative or literal fog lifts.

Players that gravitate toward tactile stimulation to hold their engagement will naturally lean toward rule systems that require dice and cards, which is fine. On the other hand,I personally don't really see the need to let physical contact with the randomizing mechanics intrude. The actual writing of orders and marking of maps is enough of a tactile experience for me. I love looking at them, but often I find it easier when someone else actually moves them for me!

For myself, I find that cards, dice and such tend to not bind me to the experience as much as the exercise of trying to think like my historical counterpart (with his incomplete knowledge of who what when where and how)does.

Steve6424 Jun 2012 9:38 a.m. PST

That is an interesting perspective GQG – I can see a lot of truth in that as well.

Some of the old SSI wargames (dos based) such as Panzer General worked like that – you gave orders to Division level units, with objectives, and the actual pieces worked out what moves to make to achieve those objectives.

Despite the graphics (or lack of !!) .. once you get immersed in the command aspects, it gave one of the best gaming experiences around. So much better than picking up and moving each unit.

I am always looking for ways to capture that level of command on the miniatures table – but it is not that simple. Best I can think of at the moment is to engage the players in a lot of decision making and tactile stuff at the command end (detailed orders via the computer interface) … and limit the tactical to just pushing battalions forward in relatively straight lines.

Another really superb computer game system that captures that level of command correctly is : (website down atm :( )

A totally bizarre real time strategy wargame with lots of blobs running about doing various resource things and killing each other. You never get to command individual blobs or groups of blobs – you just set objectives and priorities, and they work it out amongst themselves.

Its twisted, but it works well.



Steve6424 Jun 2012 9:59 a.m. PST

Having said that, I have added a similar feature to the computer moderated rules that goes a little way towards achieving some of that.

With artillery, you assign them a target to shoot at, and enter a range and tactical factors. From there it is set and forget.

The computer then performs automatic bombardment in each applicable phase from each engaged battery to their assigned target unit. This removes a lot of minutiae from the game play.

The targetting and auto-firing is stopped as soon as any of the following things happen :
- The battery moves.
- The battery is used for tactical defensive fire, or is otherwise caught up in tactical close action.
- The target unit is pulled back from the front line.
- The battery exhausts it's ammo / powder.
- The ME that the battery belongs to activates a new order.

Needs some refinement yet, but the concept seems clean and does make the turn sequence a lot quicker.

One thing it fails to do is track the changes to the range to the target. If you start auto-bombard at long range, it continues to calculate fire effect at the longer range. I could fix this, but its very fiddly. Thats more data entry, and I need to avoid data entry like the devil.

Or I could justify it saying that if you start sustained fire at long range, then the effectiveness of the battery will certainly decrease as the barrels foul up pretty quickly. Keep that up for long enough, and the guns become next to useless.

Republic to Empire (League of Augsburg) does something similar, requiring batteries to be refitted after a number of shots, so that makes sense to me.

Anyone here have strong ideas on sustained fire rates for Napoleonic period artillery ?

Steve6424 Jun 2012 10:08 a.m. PST

Many thanks on the info on SN Russ.

I like how you have truly thought BIG on the concept behind these rules, and totally appreciate that you can run huge multi-table games with lots of players using this system.

That in itself is a brilliant achievement. I will order me a copy of these rules as well .. something to go in the library for sure.

I have had similar good experiences with Republique, but never had the good luck to be able to get a lot of players together in this neck of the woods. Hoping to change with some time and effort.


le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2012 12:22 p.m. PST

I like the idea of set and forget you describe. Perhaps you could use crew fatigue (more of a factor than fouled barrels,I am told)to decrease artillery effectiveness over time with units that fire constantly, and simulate the various reasons such fire would decrease in accuracy like the barrels, recoil, smoke etc. Perhaps you could also end the auto firing if the target moves more than (100, 200,-a different range of effectiveness?) yards from its originally targeted position?
Decreased effectiveness for the first fire at a new target at medium and longer ranges to simulate the need for adjusting aim might also very realisticaly prevent players from re-targeting on a whim, and to consider very carefully the initial placement of their guns (fatigue accumulated for moving that decreases overall effectiveness unless guns are stood down and rested could do this too).
Possibly fatigue should be incorporated to keep artillery units from bombarding dawn to dusk, or moving more than actual battlefield imperatives and practice would have allowed?

Steve6424 Jun 2012 9:47 p.m. PST

Good thoughts, and those ideas area all do-able too.

gweirda25 Jun 2012 7:57 a.m. PST

Hullo…just a bystander observing with interest, but an idea/thought presented above caught my eye:

"The spatial representation by figures of what position or formation the unit occupies in relation to the other units is appealing eye candy on the table and fun fun fun, but really perhaps ought only to be a reminder of relative position and formation…"

and again:

"Handling and moving the figures…is fun and visually appealing…Players need to engage the mind…updating that 'mental picture'…given what they can 'see' from the data returned."

I've been tackling this issue in a different genre (aircombat) for years now, and it's refreshing (read: relief I'm not the only loon in the bin…) to see it expressed so well.

Dunno if it'll be any help, but I'll toss this into the discussion: I've taken to treating the "What is the actual situation at this particular point(moment of observation/input)" question as a sort of Schrodinger's Cat issue. A specific application/example = the relative position of two aircraft is represented numerically, but the specifics of that position (facing, angle, range) are left unresolved until the combat phase wherein the player with the advantage decides what it is.

I'm not sure if the same idea can be applied to mass-troop formations. I view this post as nothing more than a passing dump in the pasture of the thread: it may remain nothing more than a noxious annoyance, but there's the chance that some clever reader will see a measure of potential and turn it into fertilizer… ; )

PS – this is a good example of cross-posting benefit (for myself, at least) as it is doubtful I would have opened/followed the thread had it been confined to the other Nap forums.

onmilitarymatters Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Jun 2012 1:23 p.m. PST


While I love big battles with lots of people for that fog of war (and a feeling that you have x amount of troops to cover xxxxxxxx amount of terrain, and you're worried about your flanks and maintaining a reserve and what happens if a unit blows all its rolls and leaves a hole…etc etc), you can use Snappy Nappy on a small table. One of my favorite photos on my wall is of six of us (five in photo) playing the 1809 battle of Raab on a 2.5-foot by 5-foot table at one of the HMGS conventions. For a one-on-one game, a couple of feet by a couple of feet is all you need.

That said, I still like the big games with lots of room to maneuver. There is a synergy with having lots of people playing in one big game -- and recapping and recounting in the post-game BBQ -- that I find one of the most enjoyable aspects of wargaming.

Russ (still using the OMM account -- I really should hop on using my own account)

gweirda25 Jun 2012 3:29 p.m. PST

"There is a synergy with having lots of people playing…recounting…that I find one of the most enjoyable aspects…"


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