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Action Log

01 Aug 2012 9:42 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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736 hits since 1 Aug 2012
©1994-2014 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Bandit01 Aug 2012 9:38 a.m. PST

I've been pondering mechanics for issues orders in wargaming rules. The two mechanics I am focusing on are:

1) Written Orders
2) Order Chits

Written orders are cumbersome, players often do not like them very much for this reason and wargaming as a whole has moved away from bookkeeping.

Order chits are a nice replacement but can't accomplish all of what written orders can.

Here are the parts of an order as I see it:

A designated unit The unit receiving the order.
An order term or intention Either defined in the rules or by common language: attack, retreat, hold, move, etc.
A vector for any movement If the order requires movement, the direction that will be taken.
An objective Typically a geographic one but sometimes an enemy body.

Here is an example:

Dupont's division move south to village.

That written order accomplishes all four points.

Dupont's division[designated unit]move[order term]south[vector]tovillage[objective].

Order chits can handle a lot of this.

Place the chit next to the designated unit.
The chit has the order term printed on it.
A chit with an arrow can indicate the vector.

The hole is how to stipulate an objective.

Making an ad-hoc grid over model terrain isn't practical for the most part.

If you use terrain tiles it can be pretty easy, but many (most?) players don't have terrain tiles so it isn't something a rules system can assume.

Designating every possible geographic objective on the tabletop is not practical or possible. Besides it would be an insane amount of clutter.

Players can't toss out chits onto geographic objectives during the game because it would indicate their intentions.

So, the question is, how to get offer 4th part of an order objective when using order chits?

Cheers,

The Bandit

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian01 Aug 2012 9:40 a.m. PST

Only allow objectives which were pre-defined before the game? If it wasn't pre-defined, then it must not be significant…

Can you eliminate the vector, if you have an objective just assume the force takes a reasonable route?

Bandit01 Aug 2012 9:53 a.m. PST

Editor,

Keeping or pitching the vector is a decent question to consider. My thinking in requiring a vector is that 1) historical orders included them 2) it prevents players (to a small degree) from alternating their intentions after the order has been issued.

But, your point is still a good one to consider.

I don't think you can limit to pre-defined objectives since these aren't Victory Objectives but locations and targets. There is no way for the umpire to know if someone will want to order a unit to move into the opening between the woods and the hill on the left end of the map vs into the wood vs onto the hill. All of these would potential objectives. Heck, anything on the table could be an objective in this context.

Cheers,

The Bandit

Henrix01 Aug 2012 10:13 a.m. PST

Why not just have small markers you put at the objective? You can even attach them to an enemy (or friendly) unit.

Preferably colour coded to match the order counter.

No good if you want to keep your orders secret, but that is tricky without an umpire. (Written orders can work for this, but is not as good.)

The Tin Dictator01 Aug 2012 10:29 a.m. PST

Mark your objectives on a map.
A – B – C – D, etc. Keep it secret.

Give your unit two chits.
One with an arrow or "MOVE" on it and the other with a letter corresponding to the objective.
Or, depending on circumstances, you could just use one chit with the objective letter on it.

My favored way of doing something like this is to assign the objectives before the battle as above so as to keep table clutter to a minimum. Written orders beyond that generally just muck up the game mechanics and slow things down.

CPT Jake Inactive Member01 Aug 2012 10:35 a.m. PST

Bingo, the 'arrow' chit os color coded/has some additional symbol (alpha numeric works) and the 'objective' chit matches.

Honestly you could have the 'action' on one of those chits as well. An arrow with a double lined head is Attack, a single lined head is Move To for example.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2012 10:43 a.m. PST

I've been through this some. I still use written orders. But one idea is to use just two catagories of orders. Either attack, or defend. Then be flexible in interpetation. Any move towards the enemy is an offensive action. So is just firing in place. Defend orders don't allow for offensive action. Although a unit moving up to join other defenders is allowed.
As for designating objectives. Why not simply write the objective down. You don't have to show it to the enemy, only to the referee, if you use such.
If you really care that much about how orders were written, then use written orders.
When I'm playing British Colonial games there's usually only one physical objective. So things are pretty simple.
In my WW2 games things get more complex. I often game recon ops as an opening to a battle. I write down orders for the scouts as "Move to contact, then disengage to return and report."
To be sure, some book keeping is involved. But not much. I feel that this helps keep things clear. So it's worth a little effort.

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2012 11:30 a.m. PST

Bandit,

Could you make some markers with 'hill' 'village' 'church' or whatever on and use them in addition to the vector chit? I remember using this kind of thing once with the 'Schlactenbummler' (forgive spelling!) published in an early issue of WI.

Regards

emckinney01 Aug 2012 11:44 a.m. PST

Just how many orders do you think that each side will need?

From your own description, each order only needs one sentence. Make some mad-libs style forms if your players can't hack it.

If the objective is designated, "vector" is hardly needed. In fact, vector may not work particularly well. Suppose that your objective is a town, and the vector is well off to the left of it. When can you turn right to attack the town proper? What if the unit should follow a road that curves through the woods several times, and perhaps splits?

You should take a look at the very well done command rules in the Civil War Brigade Series:

Full rules: PDF link (tables included at the end)
There's also a nice simplified set that still captures the essence of the system: link

Samulus01 Aug 2012 1:03 p.m. PST

How about some tokens with numbers on them. Before the game put a numbered token on any significant terrain feature/potential objective on the board. Can be done by the GM or done to mutual agreement.

Each player has another set of the token with numbers on them (maybe in a different colour). When you make an order you out down the order/ vector chit and a numbered objective chit which corresponds with the number of the location they're heading towards.

I figure if you're going to bother to use order chits using two per unit isn't much harder than using one, it'll take literally 2 extra seconds per unit.

Mako1101 Aug 2012 1:46 p.m. PST

Sounds like you've got A-C handled, so then fake and real objective markers for the terrain.

You don't have to use one for each feature, but perhaps one real token, and two fake ones, for each unit. I'd number them, just to be sure. Use a duplicate of the number, with the real unit, which you can flip over, at the appropriate time, if needed.

Dave Crowell01 Aug 2012 5:49 p.m. PST

How many orders, how much of a role do they play in the game?

For the most part the games I currently play do not require much in the way of orders. The exception might be piquet:Field of Battle, and other card based systems. the cards provide a general framework of orders.

I prefer either card activation or order chits to written orders, at least in games that require frequent orders.

One fun mechanism I have seen for changing orders was placing the new order under a courier figure that is then moved across the battlefield to carry the order.

Command, Communication, and Control is always a difficult thing to regulate in a wargame.

Bandit01 Aug 2012 8:06 p.m. PST

Indeed the part I am really struggling with is the final portion of an order: the objective. The others are mostly resolved.

To answer a question a few people asked: How large a part do orders play?

Quite a bit. The focus of the game is on corps level command, the role of the player is to coordinate their divisions, not manage any tactical fighting so what players do is issue orders.

Orders are persistent though, unlike other games, where you issue a unit an order each turn and the unit follows the order until the end of the turn, in this game they persist until the unit has accomplished the order, failed to accomplish the order or has received & activated a new order.

The problem with objectives of orders is that you can't just mark big terrain features because a player could choose to order a unit into a gap between big terrain features. You'd be marking everything pretty fast.

A map would be nice but that is about the same overhead as written orders.

Tossing out false markers is not something I'd considered, it is not a bad idea.

I also like the idea of having markers for woods, town, etc. Between that and a directional arrow it may work quite well.

Cheers,

The Bandit

Dan 05501 Aug 2012 8:53 p.m. PST

It sounds like your marker usage is going to be as complicated as just writing the orders instead. Use a premade notepad with the required headings already there so the players only need to fill in the blanks.

But if you want markers, use a arrow counter for direction of movement, turned up when the units begin moving and a numeric marker to represent approx how many turns moving that isn't turned over until movement is complete. The opponent will know the direction your units are moving, but not their final destination.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member02 Aug 2012 5:35 a.m. PST

Are you dead-set on one of those two methods? Because there are many others, far more elegant and simple in application.

For instance, "Black Powder" has a nicely simple method of just verbally indicating what a unit is to do, and then rolling dice to see if it does it. That would meet all of your criteria, particularly avoiding the need for vectors, since you can say, "We'll march toward the village, but detour around the swamp, to the south."

"Fire and Fury" reverses the order: you roll the die first, to see what the unit can do, and then decide.

There are a million variations of card-based activation systems, which often do a nice job of showing confusion, fatigue, unexpected complications, the reaction of the enemy, etc.

There are games where units can be allocated dice in advance, or dice are kept in pools to enhance subsequent activations, and the unit's ability to do what it's ordered to do depends upon various complicating factors like distance from the CinC, terrain, presence of the enemy, etc.

Rapier Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member02 Aug 2012 7:30 a.m. PST

And what happens with conditional orders?

Dupont to go South East and take the Farm, unless attacked from the west, then hold.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2012 9:29 a.m. PST

In reading the original question, I have one of my own. What exactly do you want to accomplish within the game concerning orders? As noted by others, there are a lot of possible methods and specific effects for them. What are you looking for?

Most written orders I have seen are either very brief, or far less frequently, very, very detailed, obviously micromanaging things. These are almost always written before a battle or engagement, detailing the overall plan, rather than during the battle.

If it is just a matter of the former, then those types of orders usually gave a direction or physical object, leaving any contingencies to the unit's commander.

Austerlitz: Napoleon gives Soult the Pratzen Heights as the objective
Jena: The plain beyond the Dornberg is given as the objective.
Salamanca: Packenham, Leith and Picton are given physical objectives to reach all inrelation to ridges.
Bautzen: Ney is given a road as the objective.
Gettysburg:
First day: The only orders, such as the late one to Ewell were phyical terrain objectives
Second day: I Corps is given a direction to attack
Third day: Pickett's Charge: Lee gives Longstreet and Co. the clump of trees
etc. etc.

Most all orders have troops, Corps size and smaller, advancing straight at objectives.

I would assume that the game orders are meant to hold players to orders and specific objectives rather than playing an opportunistic, free-for-all, whatever offers itself kind of play.

Command points suggest that because of chance and command issues, a commander will find himself limited in what he can do. The problem with Command chits or points is that it reverses the command experience. Generals didn't say, gosh, I have X number of commands I can give, so who will get them. They issued orders to everyone and said, 'gosh, I sure hope they follow them as ordered.'

What aspects of historical command and issuing orders do you want the game mechanics to portray?

Or if you are one of those who believe wargames can't do that, and it's just a game, then just do what seems most fun to you.

Battlebook02 Aug 2012 9:44 a.m. PST

We use the wargame mechanic "Fire & Maneuver " to handle the issue of orders: Each combat unit during a turn is allowed to take one action (basically shoot or move) unless issued a command coin which gives a unit an additional action, or allows for a more specialized undertaking such as "Charge" or Rally, or Re enforce.

To issue the order to do so, the player places a RED or GREEN chip in front of each unit under his command (this technique greatly aids the player in remembering which unit was ordered to take a specific action -this avoids " gaming the system" as the player is locked in to carry out that action.

We also use the same red and green chips to mark the specific target to "hit" or "move to."

When the action of a unit is complete, the player removes the red or green chip and banks it in a communal pot (separate from his own supply depot). This method of logistics simulates the expenditure of ammo and energy during the battle. It is a seamless way to abstract supply problems and will require the battlefield commander (player) to resupply his troops by using command coins to purchase more food and ammo.

There is a Facebook page called BATTLEBOOK (don't need to be a member to access content) that provides a 12 page primer available for free download located in the photo albums. As well as some other sites that have used the mechanic.

From feedback from many that have used the system, the reports indicate a fast flowing game, a minimum of arguments, and with proper scenario adjustments, well described objectives, a good dramatic outcome.

Mobius02 Aug 2012 11:42 a.m. PST

We have tried both methods with our game. This lets the game play in a more or less simultaneous way.

The general orders are more or less written but we can use chits or written for tactical orders. The tactical have a limited pallet of 5-7 types. They can be formation changes or movement of various speeds. When we use chits in the orders phase we place the chits face down behind the tactical HQ of the unit. Then during the start of movement phase every one reveals the movement.

Bandit02 Aug 2012 4:20 p.m. PST

McLaddie:

I would assume that the game orders are meant to hold players to orders and specific objectives rather than playing an opportunistic, free-for-all, whatever offers itself kind of play.

Yes. That is the primary concern. The real opponent the players struggle against in the game is the passage of time. Orders take time to occur and therefore coordinating simultaneous events is difficult.

Rapier Miniatures:

And what happens with conditional orders?

Presently no conditional orders are allowed. I do not believe it has yet evolved to be a problem. There are three "zones" if you will, combat, engagement and non-engagement. Units halt when they hit combat unless on an assault order. Any unit that is randomly halted defaults to defend or rest at the choice of the owning player. Since these "zones" are defined distances from the enemy, a unit that is maneuvering will halt when an enemy closes the distance to combat.

So in the scenario you mentioned:

Dupont to go South East and take the Farm, unless attacked from the west, then hold.

The enemy would come within combat range of Dupont and Dupont would halt defaulting to a defend order.

kann die Liebe Suende sein:

For instance, "Black Powder" has a nicely simple method of just verbally indicating what a unit is to do, and then rolling dice to see if it does it.

Black Powders method isn't bad, going to play a SYW game of Black Powder tonight actually. However, in Black Powder orders do not persist beyond the current turn while in these, an order persists until it is completed, that could be several turns and it would be easy for it to be forgotten or altered (intentionally or otherwise) if the only record was a verbal statement.

I have contemplated the idea Whirlwind brought up:

make some markers with 'hill' 'village' 'church' or whatever on and use them in addition to the vector chit

This is a good idea, but I don't know that it works for movement orders. For an attack type order you'd be saying: 'hill' or 'village' or 'enemy' but for movement orders you might be saying: 'to open ground between hill and woods'.

I think it gets hard to have enough things defined.

While it sounds whiny as soon as I say [see] it out loud [in print], many wargamers I know don't like written orders. It is difficult to find a place to write, it is more paper to track, etc.

That is what pushes me towards order chits vs written orders: acceptance by players.

Cheers,

The Bandit

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member03 Aug 2012 6:57 a.m. PST

"However, in Black Powder orders do not persist beyond the current turn while in these, an order persists until it is completed, that could be several turns and it would be easy for it to be forgotten or altered (intentionally or otherwise) if the only record was a verbal statement."

But that's only a problem if you want the turns to represent clock-specific increments of time in some sort of global way. That is: one French turn is exactly the same as one Russian turn, etc.

If you're willing to conceive of the turns as having a variable and unpredictable length of time, then the length of the turn can be: "however long it took a unit to complete its orders… OR however long it took the commander to realize that a unit *didn't* complete its orders for some reason, thus making him revise those orders or tell them to hurry along."

The result will be the same: some armies will get more done in a "turn" than others will. Some units and subcommanders will be more reliable than others. No bookkeeping, no chits, no arguments.

This is one of two approaches that I prefer. The other is to use cards, since that adds the additional uncertainty and complication of what the enemy is doing in the meantime, while you're hoping that your units are carrying out their orders.

Either way, though, this requires one to be willing to drop a literal representation of time. One turn no longer "equals X minutes."

Bandit03 Aug 2012 11:57 a.m. PST

kann die Liebe Suende sein:

But that's only a problem if you want the turns to represent clock-specific increments of time in some sort of global way. That is: one French turn is exactly the same as one Russian turn, etc.

Yep, but it is a problem in the rules I am working on, so here we be. I need a solution that persists through turns.

Some units and subcommanders will be more reliable than others. No bookkeeping, no chits, no arguments.
[emphasis mine]

Really? No arguments. Yeah, I don't think there is no argument wargaming, there is less argument wargaming and more argument wargaming but it is kinda like porn, there isn't good porn, there might be better and worse but not good.

Cheers,

The Bandit

just visiting Inactive Member03 Aug 2012 11:59 a.m. PST

Issuing orders is artificial and abstract, simply because there is not any sense of real time in wargaming. Chin stroking is an affliction carried over from chess into all subsequent tactical/strategic gaming. To try and reflect the necessity of issuing orders and carrying them down to the units concerned is laudable as an effort at realism, but the actual fact of issuing orders as a reality is no more necessary than the real carrying out of combat. We model combat; we can and ought to model the issuing of orders.

As any and all armies had some form of chain of command, and at least a rudimentary structure for communicating the desires/commands of the chief kahuna to the troops of the line, it should be a matter of modeling what size and number of units that you, the chief kahuna, can move on the table top. Armies with sophisticated command structures might be able to "peel off" small units of a few hundred men to meet the contingencies of tactical changes: whereas ponderous, ad hoc armies can only face where originally formed up, and will be lucky if they can even move/advance without falling into disarray. No amount of orders to the contrary will overcome the limitations of drill.

By way of example: a Roman army had cohorts each of which could be commanded by the general; similarly, medieval Italian armies had "Romanish" organization stemming from the last days of the Empire, and the subsequent influence of the Eastern Empire upon Italy during those campaigns where New Rome sought to regain influence and possession of the former Empire there: So it is not surprising that Italian armies could also operate on a smaller unit basis tactically than contemporary, more ad hoc "feudal" hosts of the day. What was typical in Western Europe of the middle ages was the three "battle" arrangement of center, left and right: what was rare was a reserve or bodyguard as a separate tactical unit; and what was even more rare was an array incorporating more than three battles of horse and (or) foot. No matter what the size of the army, this tactical arrangement was most often adhered to. So the rules might dictate that certain armies have a minimum size for a "battle"; and a limited or specified number of "battles. In large conflicts these could be many thousands of men each, i.e. ponderous to maneuver in the extreme: when faced with an Italian or Roman army which can tactically move "500" men units about, the obvious tactical initiative lies with the more "granular" OB. Issuing orders therefore becomes moot and an unnecessary burden….

Bandit03 Aug 2012 3:00 p.m. PST

just visiting:

Your premise is dependent on the scope of the game. The scope of the game in question does not involve tactical decisions at all. Caesar, verbally in person the night before, via messenger or otherwise did send orders to his wing commanders. So did Napoleon, so did Lee.

Cheers,

The Bandit

John D Salt04 Aug 2012 4:34 a.m. PST

Bandit wrote:


A map would be nice but that is about the same overhead as written orders.

Tossing out false markers is not something I'd considered, it is not a bad idea.

I also like the idea of having markers for woods, town, etc. Between that and a directional arrow it may work quite well.

and again


This is a good idea, but I don't know that it works for movement orders. For an attack type order you'd be saying: 'hill' or 'village' or 'enemy' but for movement orders you might be saying: 'to open ground between hill and woods'.

I think it gets hard to have enough things defined.

In order to deal with the problems of "blank" yerrain between features, and with not giving the enemy too much information by the placement of chits, I suggest a two-level scheme.

The first level is to assign names to features -- in the modern period these would be nicknames, but it would be fine to use names "in clear" such as "Round Wood", "Home Farm", "The Old Mill", "St. Mary's Church", "Gravelly Hill" and so forth. For an historical game these would follow the names on the actual battlefield, but I think even for a fictional battle, suitable feature names would add to the flavour of the game.

"Blank" terrain in "featureless" areas could still have labels attached to different parts of the blankness, say "Smith's field" or "Twelve-Acre Meadow". Suddenly there would also be wargaming value in furnishing terrain items (wayside calvaries, lone trees, badger setts, sarsen stones) that neither provide cover or concealment nor influence the movement of troops, but which add named points of orientation for orders, as well as looking decorative.

The second level requires issuing duplicate sets of the terrain-naming chits used to the players. These can then be placed next to their command chits to show that, say, 2 Regiment are to under take a road march via the waypoints Home Farm and Old Mill, then deploy in Twelve-Acre Meadow to attack and seize Round Wood. I suggest that you will need more kinds of control measure than just "objective"; there might also be "target", "waypoint", "rendezvous", "final assault position", and so forth.

I would encourage you to continue experimenting on these lines, on the one hand because I think wargames could do a better job of representing the problems of command and control, and on the other because I think this sort of method has the potential to make for an extremely enjoyable game (for people who enjoy seeing a plan come together, rather than insisting on instant gratification). The trick will be to find the right selection of orders chits to allow commanders sufficient variety of action without too much complication. One might also vary the repertoire of command chits available to different nationalities to show different styles or competencies of command control. It would be nice to have some idea of how much different orders "cost", probably a time cost, so that armies that make quick and simple plans will gain the inaitive from those that make slow and detailed ones.

Finally, the thought occurs to me that the sort of mechanism discussed above might give more point to scouting, if reconnaissance troops were allowed to place new terrain-labelling markers where there were none before. Indeed, for an army advancing into terrain it does not know, one might insist that scouts must visit (at least closely observe) a terrain label before it can be included in that army's order-chit scheme -- so, don't issue a whole duplicate set of terrain labels to each side at the start of the game, only those for the areas it is deemed to have reconnoitred beforehand.

All the best,

John.

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