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"The Paradox of Written Plans & Orders" Topic


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Analsim13 Sep 2012 6:58 a.m. PST

It seems today's conventional wisdom leads many wargamers to believe that there is little or no value in using written plans & orders within historical wargaming.

This belief is supported by several well known laws and accepted assumptions such as, ‘Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations' which in itself, provides two (2) very clear and compelling laws that would easily pass everyone's common sense test (including my own).

#16. No OPLAN ever survives initial contact.
#17. There is no such thing as a perfect plan.

Taken together, these two (2) laws easily cover the reasoning and rationale behind the majority of the defeats and/or disasters that military history has handed down to us.

However, it seems that this conventional wisdom only covers the readily visible portion of this issue. I came across an US Army study analyzing decisive land combat operations in which it concluded in its summary of findings that ‘decisive combat operations' resulted in the majority of the cases when ‘things did go according to plan.' Which presents us with an obvious exception and paradoxical challenge to Murphy's Law?

This study sighted the battles of Marathon 490BC, Cannae, 216BC, Leuthen 1757, Austerlitz, 1805, Tannenberg 1914 and France 1940 just to name a few, in which the successful commanding officer's plan and the ensuing operations did go according to his intent.

So, what I like to hear from you is, How does this revelation affect your own wargaming assumptions and beliefs?

Dynaman878913 Sep 2012 7:11 a.m. PST

> So, what I like to hear from you is, How does this revelation affect your own wargaming assumptions and beliefs?

Not one twiddle. In the real world plans are written down and adhered to so that subordinate units know what the heck they are supposed to be doing at each stage of the battle. The reason that victories are recorded when things went according to plan is that people plan on victory, not defeat. If things did not go according to plan, that is due to them losing…

I've been wanting to try written orders (per the Spearhead/MSH games) but getting a group together to do that is hard to do.

Fettster13 Sep 2012 8:03 a.m. PST

We found written orders worked really well for massive games. We did a Corps level spearhead and as C-in-C I got written orders from the GM and then wrote out orders for each of my subordinates, giving them areas of operation, objectives and time lines, and then they converted these into their own map order arrows for the game itself. Produced some interesting results, but as the allies we won as the Germans had just done a verbal briefing and their defences were not co-ordinated, while our attack was.

Even with smaller games I almost always give my players written orders for them to interpret or ignore as they see fit.

Another game that comes to mind was a skirmish, lots of different factions moving about. My POWs were rescued by friendly forces, but then handed over to another friendly unit and immediately killed me and then my original rescuers as they were a disguised enemy unit, and if my rescuer had read his brief that he was the only friendly unit in the area he would have been more suspicious and I may have escaped!

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2012 10:09 a.m. PST

This study sighted the battles of Marathon 490BC, Cannae, 216BC, Leuthen 1757, Austerlitz, 1805, Tannenberg 1914 and France 1940 just to name a few, in which the successful commanding officer's plan and the ensuing operations did go according to his intent.

For one side, that is.

Also, one might notice that it's very easy for a victorious commander to announce "Yep. That's just what I planned to happen," and face very little contradiction (or at least none that will be given creedence). I smiled in particular to the references of Marathon and Cannae— do we actually have the actual plans of those commanders? Or merely later accounts that assume "everything went according to plan" because one side was victorious and thus had to have planned it "perfectly."

I'm not saying those battles weren't well planned. But to assume they were perfectly planned when we don't have any real documentation of that planning— well, that might be stretching things a bit.

Rapier Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2012 10:44 a.m. PST

Try a game of LFS from TFL without a plan, and watch your opponent waltz you around the table.

What you need is a base plan, that you then adapt and change with circumstances, and always know what your end goal is aimed to be.

religon Inactive Member13 Sep 2012 10:45 a.m. PST

How does this revelation affect your own wargaming assumptions and beliefs?

Not at all. No compelling argument was made that the cited 'revelation' is related to the wargaming mechanism of 'written plans & orders.' Further, appealing to an epigram as an authority carries about as much weight as, "The guys down at the pub think that…."

ratisbon13 Sep 2012 11:19 a.m. PST

Marathon, Cannae, Leuthen and Austerlitz were battles defined by fields measured by miles. Tannenberg 1914 and France 1940 were 20th Century operations defined not by battlefields but by geographical areas measuring dozens or hundreds of miles. They are not comparable.

Of course all Army Commanders determine a course of action or plan on for a battle. This plan, however is very rarely in writing. Rather, on the Napoleonic battle at least it is conveyed to subordinates by voice, either directly or by aide.

On the Napoleonic battlefield, all orders were verbal. So the question is how quickly can the desires of a senior commander be verbally delivered and acted on. Mostly this is a matter of distance and command level which also defines the force of the order which determines whether or not the subordinate follows it or sort of follows it or doesn't.

Why gamers and designers persist in complicating their rules and slowing play with the ahistorical use of written orders or plans is beyond me.

Bob Coggins

Rallynow13 Sep 2012 12:31 p.m. PST

"Why gamers and designers persist in complicating their rules and slowing play with the ahistorical use of written orders or plans is beyond me."

Have to agree with that. I have never liked written orders or having to have your unit commander figure move over next to mine so we can talk to each other even though we are standing right next to each other!

First of all it is a game. Okay got that out of the way. My approach to wargaming is as a team sport. My fellow commanders are my teammates. We freely talk to one another, walk away briefly to talk in private, whisper, etc.

Before the game we look at our victory conditions and map, formulate a plan and attempt to execute it. For a while we awarded each side three time outs of 5 minutes each to have the game board to themselves.

I find not being allowed to talk to one another or having written orders a little too anal-retentive. However your mileage will probably vary greatly from mine.

Russ Lockwood13 Sep 2012 12:48 p.m. PST

Wargames often have wall-to-wall troops and our group always does a pow-wow before games, so the orders are communicated verbally -- even if they consist of "eliminate everything in front of you and take the objective." That's usually the best order for a three hour evening game, because cleverer plans usually take longer timewise to execute and if you're running into time constraints, clever plans usually fail. That said, during a game, we usually chide, praise, insult, harass, etc whatever commander we think needs "help." :)

As for rules that require some sort of die roll for command friction (quite often involving movement, but also changing orders to permit some sort of movement), the more restrictions, the slower the game, but that's because I'd like to see my plan go into action against the other guy's plan. There are usually enough variables in combat rolls.

arthur181513 Sep 2012 1:51 p.m. PST

Bob Coggins wrote: 'On the Napoleonic battlefield, all orders were verbal.'

In Apsley House one can see examples of short orders written by Wellington during the battle of Waterloo. At Balaklava [I know, it's not during the Napoleonic Wars, but Raglan commanded in the old style], it was a badly worded written order that sent the Light Brigade against the Russian guns. So 'all' is an exaggeration.

But is there, from wargamers' viewpoint, a significant difference between an ADC arriving with an oral order, dictated to him by the general, which he recites from memory, and handing over a written order? Only if the ADC is privy to the general's intent and can interpret the order for the recipient – which captain Nolan signally failed to do!

I wonder whether this discussion is in danger of confusing prebattle orders for the engagement with orders issued during the battle?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2012 2:31 p.m. PST

You can introduce written orders into almost any wargame but that doesn't mean that you can persuade players to stick to them. It is one of those things that most people know SHOULD be there in some form but really don't like working with so find or fudge a way round having them at all.

Players in a game I umpired were given detailed orders for the scenario – including instructions when and how to abandon their allies under certain circumstances and the relative importance of the various possible objectives.

All but one of the players completely ignored their orders and I declared that one Admiral had been shot on his own bridge in the middle of the action for unnecessarily endangering his country's entire fleet when he should have fled the field.

Nobody won because they ignored the objectives and just wanted to sink anything that floated.

I don't bother with orders any more.

Analsim13 Sep 2012 3:08 p.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback.

I was trying to make this initial posting short as possible by focusing on the nature of the paradox itself, without too much concern about its context. That way you would be free to choose your own context in your reply. Hopefully, giving me better understanding of your frame of reference, before moving on to the discussion points I wanted you to consider below.

I suspect that like an Iceberg, that there are many underlying implications involved here that you may not have considered before, that go a little deeper than the obvious designing and running of the C2 game mechanics you see on the surface.

One such implication that is supported by the anecdotal finding from that US Army study I mentioned above, would ask you, "Is there a certain combat power (force) derived via unity of command and effort that goes with a well conceived Plan and executed in these written Orders that would suggest to you that in war, ‘success, breeds more success', which in turn helps create the momentum, that we all can recognize as the true power of the Initiative?"

If that assumption is valid, than "Initiative" in wargames, as in War itself, really exists in the affected Commanders (and their Player counterparts) mind?

There are a couple more implications out there. But, for the sake of simplicity and clarity, I'd prefer just hearing what you think of that first one above.

Thanks

Mr Pumblechook13 Sep 2012 6:22 p.m. PST

I think the quotes which are the premise of this arguement are flawed and the result of a misquotation.

What the elder Moltke actually said (or at least a translation of what he said) "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength"

This is usually simplified to "no plan survives contact with the enemy" which I believe is a misinterpretation.

In the with Austria and the war with France, his planning was very detailed and took into account thousands of variables. It is a mistake to think that Moltke thought war plans were of no use.

What he also said was "Strategy is a system of expedients." i.e. plans need to be modified to fit circumstances.

Also, we need to distinguish between tactical planning for a battle and operational/strategic planning for a campaign. He was talking about the plan for a whole campaign, not a single battle.

Battles can be planned and in many cases, if the dice are not against you and your plan is deeper than your opponent's, your plan will triumph.

Me, I _try_ to come up with a plan, usually more sophisticated than 'we all line up and advance'/'we all dig holes and shoot at any enemy who comes near us'

All things being equal, a 'plan' will defeat a 'not-plan', even if it requires modification on the fly.

Just asserting 'no plan survives contact with the enemy' is an excuse for lazy thinking.

Mr Pumblechook13 Sep 2012 6:34 p.m. PST

Actually, re-reading the thread, I've missed the point a bit.

The problem is wargamers are often undisiplined egotists and rampant individualists who don't read the instructions (such as victory conditions/requirements) and trying to run a multiplayer game is a bit like trying to herd cats.

They will then make the excuse that planning is irrelevant because of rules 16 and 17 when they get themselves spanked by a team…

I've seen it happen, at least the individualist getting spanked… I ran a competion game at a convention that had three tables, each with two players facing a single player who was not competing in the campaign with a force equall to their combined forces but functionally poorer command/control.

The two players got VP for killing the GM player, but got double VP for going after each other.

On the table where they cooperated fully, they took the GM player apart. Where they operated independently it was a stalemate, and where they made antagonisitc noises and threatened each other, the GM player rolled right over the top of them.

It was a very interesting experiment.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2012 6:06 a.m. PST

"Is there a certain combat power (force) derived via unity of command and effort that goes with a well conceived Plan and executed in these written Orders that would suggest to you that in war, ‘success, breeds more success', which in turn helps create the momentum, that we all can recognize as the true power of the Initiative?"

I'm not sure I'd agree that planning is the key to seizing the initiative. In SOME cases it can be, it depends on the force structures you have to work with – the obvious contrast being mission directed vs top down command. Both can work very effectively, but with different armies with different training and doctrinal backgrounds. Guderian didn't have a plan when he turned the breakthough at Sedan into a catastrophic French defeat, the plans only stretched a far as the Meuse crossing (although Manstein claimed his original plan went further and would have beaten France in a single step, not two). He siezed and exploited the initiative, and arguably took a huge gamble.

Purely in wargame terms, written orders are a mechanism to force players to pre-commit to actions as game turn lengths are often somewhat less than real decision making cycles. If instead your turn lengths were modelled on actual decision times for the appropriate command level, then you wouldn't need any written orders as decision-implementation times would be similar.

Real armed forces (and other large human organisations) have plans, objectives, organisation structures, resource assignments, contingencies, procedures etc, that is what makes them 'organisations' as opposed to 'mobs'. Mobs don't tend to do very well against organisations.

Encouraging players in wargames to think along similar lines, even if it is just assigning unit boundaries, task organisation of forces etc is a Good Thing if you are interested in historical simulation. Written orders may or may not be a good way of implemting this as a game mechanism.

wrt the broader point about good planning being a force multiplier , then clearly it is. The is partly what measures of combat effectiveness are all about, but translating into a game can range from trying to model the exact processes involved at one extreme, to a simple +1 for being German/French/Roman or whatever.

As an aside, staff planning games are good fun and an interesting contrast to pushing stuff around and blowing things up, but not necessarily interesting to everyone.

OSchmidt14 Sep 2012 7:22 a.m. PST

Planning in wargames, along with written orders is a complete waste of time. Players simply will not follow them if they don't want to do them, and that includes the GM if he provides a scenario they don't like. We're not real generals where we will be called up on courts martial if we foul up, and we're not going to get a medal if we show initiative and win.

If you make it extremely difficult for them to play the game they want to play they will simply ignore you or cheat all the harder.

As for the battles quoted, Marathon, Tannenberg etc., the thing that distinguishes them from the vast remainder of battles is that these battles are the extreme exceptions and pretty much the entire list of those battles which DID go according to plan! It's great when your enemy does exactly what you think he will do!

Been umpire of too many games where neither side had the faintest idea of what the enemy was planning, and usually were completely wrong in their assumptions. The result, predictably, was a blundering mass of chance and ignorance.

As the Athenian envoys said to the Spartan Ephors at the start of the Peloponnesian War.

"Do not be hasty in involving yourselves in the affairs of others. Consider while there is still time, the inscrutable nature of war, and how, when prolonged, it often ends as a matter of mere chance."

But beyond the historical verities, gamers don't want to follow plans, and they don't want to follow orders for the sake of history. They want to move soldiers, roll dice, and have fun.

Any planning for a scenario or a battle by the GM or the commanders of the sides beyond the above is a waste of time.

Analsim14 Sep 2012 11:06 a.m. PST

All,

For the record,…Here's the reference to the report that I mentioned above. It was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), not for the US Army as I had thought.

"A Survey of Quick Wins in Modern War", Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, Fairfax, Virginia. October 1975.

I'll respond to your latest comments over the weekend.

Thanks!

Analsim14 Sep 2012 11:52 a.m. PST

ratisbon (aka: Bob Coggins),

Well?,…In the spirit of open discussion, I'm going to have to disagree with the majority of the statements you just made about Commanders producing (actual) written orders on the Napoleonic battlefield.

To the contrary, I find that producing written orders on the Napoleonic battlefield is probably the 'Norm', Not the exception, that you portray.

A case in point. Here's Napoleon's own 'written Order' for the French Army on that morning just prior to the start of the Battle of Jena, 14 October 1806.

AT THE BIVOUAC OF JENA,
October 14th, 1806.

"Marshal Augereau will command the left, and will place
his first division in column on the Weimar road up to the
height by which General Gazan mounted his artillery on to
the plateau; he will hold the necessary forces on the plateau on the left on a level with the head of his column; he will have tirailleurs facing the whole line of the enemy at the various outlets from the mountains. When General Gazan has debouched forward, he (Augereau) will debouch on to the plateau with his whole army corps, and will then march, according to circumstances, to take the left of the army.

Marshal Lannes will have, at daybreak, all his artillery
between his spaces, and in the order of battle in which he
passed the night.

The artillery of the Imperial Guard and the Guard will be
behind the plateau, ranged in five lines, the first line, composed of chasseurs, crowning the plateau.

The village on our right will be bombarded by the whole
of General Suchet's artillery, and immediately afterwards
attacked and taken.

The Emperor will give the signal, and everyone should be
in readiness at daybreak.

Marshal Ney will be placed, at daybreak, at the extremity
of the plateau in order to be able to mount and proceed to
the right of Marshal Lannes the moment the village has been
captured, and, in consequence, there is room for deployment.

Marshal Soult will debouch by the road which has been
reconnoitered on the right, and will keep himself continually in communication to sustain the right of the army.

The order of battle in general will be for MM. les Marechaux to form themselves into two lines, without counting that of the light infantry ; the distance of the two lines will be at most a hundred toises?

The light cavalry of each army corps will be placed, in
readiness for the use of each general, according to circum-
stances.

The heavy cavalry, as soon as it arrives, will be placed
on the plateau and in reserve behind the Guard, ready to
proceed wherever circumstances require it.

The important thing to-day is to deploy on to the plain; the dispositions necessitated by the enemy's manoeuvres and
forces will be fixed afterwards, in order to drive it from the positions it occupies and which are necessary for the
deployment."

By order of the Emperor,

Chief of the Staff,
MARSHAL ALEX. BERTHIER.

Bob, I think that you would agree with me, that the Battle of Jena 1806 was decisive victory for Napoleon and the French Army.

I would also submit to you that this written Order and the decisivie victory that resulted from it, support my original statement above,…‘decisive combat operations' resulted,…when 'things did go according to plan'.

I await and welcome your next response.

Regards,

James

ratisbon14 Sep 2012 11:07 p.m. PST

James,

I appreciate your response.

On campaign, Napoleon would sleep from about 6pm, directly after dinner, till about 11pm to midnight because it was from 10pm to midnight that the daily reports and intelligence on the enemy would arrive, by Courier, from the various corps. When he got up Napoleon and Berthier reviewed the reports and Berthier wrote up and issued Napoleon's orders, which were usually delivered by the same aides who brought the corps reports, hopefully, arriving before daylight enabling the corps to get off the mark at the break of dawn.

The order you cite was issued sometime after midnight on the 14th as part of the daily campaign routine and delivered prior to dawn. At the time Napoleon was not on the battlefield and neither were most of his corps, which were from 4 to 10 miles from the plateau where the battle would take place; nor did he know the size or location of the Prussian force.

Indeed his order screams the lack of specific knowledge. By far the largest part is addressed to the VII Corps, which would be partially isolated on the left, admonishing it to be careful. Soult and Murat would arrive on Lannes' right but not till later in the day. Nevertheless, Lannes was ordered to advance earlier in order to make room for Ney to properly deploy.


I toured the battlefield of Jena. It is located on a high plateau mostly accessible through a narrow defile. Getting up the hill as well as deploying in a very small area was an especially tricky maneuver and as luck would have it there was a very heavy fog which covered the French march. The plateau itself is a flat table (it was a Soviet tank farm at one time) with a sharp fall-off to the small deployment area designated for Lannes, Ney and the Guard. Because of this and the fact that Soult and Murat would be arriving on the right, Lannes was to advance to allow Ney room to deploy his entire corps.

However, before his entire corps got up the hill, Ney ignored his orders and attacked with the part of his corps which was available. Racing towards the center he got stuck-in and had to be "saved." Ney's attack turned the battle into an ad libbed free-for-all. So much for the plan and Soult and Murat arrived just in time to sweep away the dregs.

Pesonally, I didn't think of Napoleon's operational order as a battle plan, but they did contain elements of a grand tactical battle plan. Thus, I see your point.


The only written grand tactical orders, of which I am aware, that Napoleon dictated (there could be others) were those at Friedland. There was a 3/4 hour lull between the morning and afternoon battle while the Russians tried to figure how to escape and while the French corps arrived. Napoleon viewed the field from a steeple and had the time to dictate written orders which again were not obeyed.

In the event, Ney's line of advance did not conform with Napoleon's wishes and Senarmont ignored the order that his corps remain in reserve by consolidating and advancing its artillery in attack. So much for those written orders.

Bob Coggins

Analsim16 Sep 2012 3:20 p.m. PST

Ratisbon & Co.,

I didn't have the opportunity to respond to any of your comments this weekend liked I would have like to. I am presently going off to Maryland tonight on business, for a week and a half.

I will follow up with the three main points that I wanted to make about the value of the order writing process that goes beyond the written text when I return.

We'll see where that leads the discussion from there.

I'll see you then.

James

thehawk16 Sep 2012 3:52 p.m. PST

From a formal logic reasoning perspective, the US Army Study is not relevant to wargaming. Why? Because the planning methodology, C3, 600 foot high general, troop behaviour and combat determination are different.
On the other hand, nearly all wargames have instant telepathic transmission of orders, so implementing a semi-realistic order writing and transmission mechanism is worthwhile.

ratisbon17 Sep 2012 1:37 a.m. PST

James,

I live in MD, thought not in beltway banditville. Rather in Baltimore.

Bob Coggins

Analsim26 Sep 2012 9:12 a.m. PST

Ratisbon & Co.,

I'm back.

The first thing I'd like to do would be to make a couple of general comments about the hidden value of written orders that should help keep the discussion going another couple cycles.

Beyond the simple written text of a Commander's (or Player's) Orders to his troops, I see three (3) additional features that are extremely valuable to wargamers as both tools and playing aids.

They are:
1) The Army Commander's initial battlefield "Objectives" and how he intends to conduct the tactical operations to achieve them.
2) As a focal point that can be used determine or establish the "Initiative" and a vehicle for gauging the CDR/Army's ability to maintain it.
3) The Orders act as a irrefutable statement of the Commander's own "Situational Awareness" going into the battle.

feel free to use Napoleon's Jena Battlefield Order above as a reference and means to make your own assessment of these wargame design points.

#1 Initial Objective. Napoleon indicates that, "The important thing to-day is to deploy on to the plain;,.." Wargame wise, that should provide a pretty powerful indicator that the wargame CDR of the French Army primary initial Objective is to take the area formed by the triangle Clospeda, Lutzeroda and Closwitz. You say so what?, that's really just common sense, isn't it.

My point here is, via the written order YOU (the wargamer) are declaring that the first and most important thing you want to accomplish going into this battle, is for your Army to take this piece of ground. You are making this declaration 'in secret' (not known to the other side) and are willing to risk the moral & physical consequences to Your Army (as quantified in whatever rules are being used), if you fail.

#2 Initiative. From a wargaming perspective I look at initiative in two ways. Primarily as the first step in a process that, once taken, determines subsequent events and secondly as a favorable position that allows somebody to take preemptive action or control events.

In my mind getting and maintaining the initiative is the act of 'starting,…and then keeping the ball rolling'. Thus, when Napoleon goes on to state in the Jena Orders , "the dispositions necessitated by the enemy's maneuvers and forces will be fixed afterwards, in order to drive it from the positions it occupies and which are necessary for the deployment."

#3 Situational Awareness. If anything at all, written orders succinctly ‘baseline' what the Army Commander (i.e. and Wargamer) knows about the enemy situation and what roles & responsibilities he has assigned to his subordinates. All you need to do is re-read through the copy of Napoleon's Orders above for several examples.

However, this doesn't mean that you need to make each Player write out a five paragraph Operations Order to enable the game system itself to take advantage of several pieces of key information that would enhance the playing of the game AND possibly shoot down a couple of those 200' Helicopter Pilots that have been known to hover over wargame tables.

To clarify what I'm trying to convey above, consider this analogy. You are in a Poker game. The ‘simple' written orders you create are like the cards you've been dealt in this game. You can only indirectly gauge the strength of your hand (i.e. your battle plan, unit strength & etc), by the reactions of your opponents and their bets and wagers compared to yours. No one in the game really knows for sure, but when the final bet is called, you can lay down the cards as written proof.

If you can understand and appreciate that analogy, then you can see that it's the critical components (i.e. Objectives, Initiative & SA) of written orders that are important aspects to capture or incorporate in the wargame mechanics. In this case, subjective die rolls will always be a poor substitute for the real Human failings of the Players themselves. That's essentially the point I'm trying to make to you all.

Regards,

James

P.S. Bob, I only wish I knew that You lived in Baltimore before I left Sunday night. I was right down the road at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and could have stopped by and discussed this topic over dinner (my treat) last week.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Sep 2012 4:40 p.m. PST

The order you cite was issued sometime after midnight on the 14th as part of the daily campaign routine and delivered prior to dawn. At the time Napoleon was not on the battlefield and neither were most of his corps, which were from 4 to 10 miles from the plateau where the battle would take place; nor did he know the size or location of the Prussian force.

Bob:
The orders weren't issued until 4am in the morning according to Victor, Lannes' chief of staff. Napoleon requested Lannes presence to issue the orders at that time.

However, Napoleon had been on the battlefield since the late afternoon of the 13th, along with a good portion of Lannes Corps, the Guard and elements of Soult's and Augereau's Corps. Only Ney's corps was 4 to 10 miles away, except for the six thousand advance guard that Ney rushed to the battle, later explaining that he didn't want to miss out…

The orders were hardly 'grand tactical' or vague when the placement of troops, artillery and tirailleurs are specifically mentioned. It was a battle plan with the objectives of the engagement clearly stated.

And like Austerlitz less than a year before, the marchals were asked to meet with Napoleon to receive their orders for the battle, both verbally and in written form, hardly the "part of the daily campaign routine". Only those marshals out of meeting range were sent the written orders only.

Any vagueness had to do with Napoleon's inability to state exactly where some of his corps were or when exactly they would arrive. He thought he was facing the main Prussian army. He had already scoped out the battlefield the afternoon of the 13th, so he wasn't vague on the nature of the terrain or what had to be done, and his orders demonstrate that.

The plan was to clear the rough terrain facing the French army, the woods, villages and Dornburg so the army could properly deploy 'on the plain', which was the area beyond the Issenstadt woods and the Village of VH. And that is what happened. The morning was spent clearing ALL the woods and villages of Prussians and Saxons. Only when the French had all of those points in their possession did Napoleon order the army to attack.

I think that the campaign 'routine' and the communication and order process before battle were not the same. On the battlefield, before, during and after the battle, you see both written and verbal orders given, often in tandum.

I think the real issues addressed by written orders in wargames before the advent of the telegraph and radio are:

1. The committment to a particular objective over time.
2. The inability of a commander to instantaniously or even easily change the orders of corps because of LOS and distance, which is why the initial battle plan was so important.
3. The communication system, with its good and bad points was the grease that made an army operate quickly and smoothly, or not.

At Austerlitz, both Napoleon and the Allies were committed to their battle plans on the morning of battle. Once on the move, we see the Allied commanders heavily engaged in getting their army moving, while Napoleon doesn't do much of anything the first two hours of battle, let alone issue orders of any kind.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

ratisbon30 Sep 2012 5:15 a.m. PST

Bill,

I do not see any contradiction between the earlier issued written orders and Napoleon meeting with the available senior officers. On occasion he met with his commanders on the morning of a battle. As the written orders seemed to have been initially carried out, I suspect it was a reiteration of the written orders, to make sure everyone was on the same page. As all too often, Ney was reading from another book, the plan went poof.

As every corps sent in an evening report, I would be very surprised were he not to know where they were. In this instance he had to have known their location else they would not have received the orders in a timely fashion.

Perhaps better would be he did not know precisely when they would arrive.

As for your real issues.

1. the objective of a battle is to destroy the enemy army, other objectives are operational or strategic.
2. Part of the qualifications of senior officers is to instaneously change orders on their own volition based on their assessment of the grand tactical situation.

3. Napoleon's Orderlies and senior officer's ADCs could move across the battlefield at the "double quick," or 3 to 3.5 minutes a mile. Whether and how quickly the order was acted on was the decision of the senior officer, keeping in mind his career was on the line.

Bob Coggins

Elenderil30 Sep 2012 12:26 p.m. PST

Bob stated that:
"1. the objective of a battle is to destroy the enemy army, other objectives are operational or strategic."

But is that true in all places at all times? Was Leonidas intending to destroy the entire Persian army at Thermopylae? Or are you sub-dividing field actions into several classes such that anything that doesn't have the destruction of the enemy force as it's objective isn't categorised as a battle? Can you clarify your view on the difference between objectives and operational and strategic objectives?

One of the things forums are not so good for is dealing with stuff like this where two people may actually have very similar opinions but are being confused by unspoken concepts that they don't share. Personally I don't see the onjective of every battle as being the destruction of the opposing force. Set piece battles where both sides are willing to engage yes, unbalances force match ups such as rearguard actions, hold until relieved actions (like para drops) these have different objectives. Even at a higher level the objective is not usually to destroy the nemy. It is to remove their ability to resist so that your force has total freedom of action such that they have to negotiate with you on your political objectives. War after all is the continuation of politics by other means, at least in the western world over the last couple of centuries.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2012 7:04 p.m. PST

I do not see any contradiction between the earlier issued written orders and Napoleon meeting with the available senior officers.

Bob:
the only 'contridiction' is that they weren't issued earlier. The first that Lannes and other Marshals knew of the orders, written and/or verbally explained was at 4am in the morning. The battle orders for that day were not part the normal 2am ritual you describe, however real.

And Napoleon was very clear on the objectives of the day, and at least for Oct 14th, destroying the Prussians wasn't part of the plan…but then again he thought he was facing the main Prussian army:

The important thing to-day is to deploy on to the plain; the dispositions necessitated by the enemy's manoeuvres and
forces will be fixed afterwards, in order to drive it from the positions it occupies and which are necessary for the
deployment."

He invisioned a two day battle, where the 'most important thing' for the day was simply to clear the enemy out of the positions that needed to be occupied for the army to deploy on the plain beyond.

As Guard Chasseur Barras describes Jena:

Sevral times our approach was enough to force the Prussians and Saxons to abandon the positions they were defending; but in spite of this the struggle was keen, the resistance desperate, above all in the villages and the copses, but once all our cavalry had arrived at the front and was able to maneuvere thre was nothing but disaster;…

So I wasn't questioning whether or not the normal 2am orders went out as you describe, but that Napoleon wasn't on the battlefield along with his corps commanders, and that the orders posted above were not issued at 2am to anyone, distant or near as far as I can tell.

Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2012 9:25 p.m. PST

Bob:
I forgot to respond this:

3. Napoleon's Orderlies and senior officer's ADCs could move across the battlefield at the "double quick," or 3 to 3.5 minutes a mile. Whether and how quickly the order was acted on was the decision of the senior officer, keeping in mind his career was on the line.

That is quite true, but that wasn't the question. It is when the order was issued, a technical statement, not when the order was delivered, which could vary depending on the location of the recipient.

Bill

ratisbon01 Oct 2012 4:24 a.m. PST

Elenderil,

Thanks for your response.

At Thermopylae, the Persian's intent was to destroy the Greeks and advance and subjugate the city states in central Greece, which they did. Leonidas' operational intent was to block the Persian Army from entering central Greece. Early on he became aware of a flanking path. At that point his operational intent was compromised and, being on exterior lines with no cavalry, he should have skedaddled. In the end he stayed too long and but for the glory cost the Greeks a couple of thousand irreplaceable hoplites for no good purpose. Indeed, Salamis, the decisive battle, was influenced not one wit by Thermopylae.

In any event I was thinking of Napoleon who more than once proved the folly of those who give battle with an intent other than the destruction of the enemy.


Strategic objectives are dictated by political and geographical considerations. Operational objectives are dictated by the justaposition of the opposing forces.

In 1806, the strategic and operational objective for Napoleon was Berlin, because he knew the Prussian army would defend the capital. When Lannes reported a Prussian force at Jena the Operational Objective became the concentration of the army at Jena. The orders were for all corps to converge on Jena or its flank. Napoleon expected to meet the main Prussian Army because that's where he would be were he Brunswick, on the flank of the French march. Thus, the Operational Objective changed from Berlin to Jena.

Once concentrated the grand tactical objective was to destroy the Prussians. The main Prussian Army was at Auerstadt. Not for the first time, Napoleon was amazed at the stupidity of his opponent. Even so, in his brilliance he ordered Bernadotte to march with Davout and had he done so the main Prussian Army would have been destroyed. Bernadotte of course did not follow the order, leaving the laurels of victory to Davout.

Hope this helps clarify my thinking.

Bob Coggins

ratisbon01 Oct 2012 4:54 a.m. PST

Bill,

That's quite alright.

I entirely reject the angst suffered by all too many designers and gamers over gamers having too much information.

Gamers fail to consider that while orders go down the chain of command much more information regarding events is carried up the chain by the same ADCs. For instance when Lannes observed Bagration advancing he sent an ADC to Napoleon with the information. Thus, in his mind's eye he knew the situation facig Lannes, though he couldn't see that part of the battlefield. So too was he made aware of the events at Telnitz and Sokolnitz, which he also could not see.

To reflect this, NBs treats army command as a nervous system. Not only do orders travel down but information, stubbing one's toe for instance, quickly travels up. So, in the end there are few surprises on musket era battlefield.

There are however on occasions when a commander is unaware of the presence of enemy formtions as Napoleon was unaware of the presence of the IV Column on the Pratzen. In this instance gamers should keep the units off the table. I say should because gamers don't paint figures to keep them on shelves.

To address this supposed problem designers come up with all sorts of systems which cause more problems than they solve. In the end, if I know where you are and you know where I am it's a wash so why invent rules which make the game less playable?

Bob Coggins

Analsim01 Oct 2012 12:46 p.m. PST

Bob,

I don't think von Clausewitz would agree with your statement/assessment about designers/gamers having 'too much information' or the benefits and stability of C2 nervous system you allude too.

Here's what von Clausewitz says about SA from pages 84 & 85 of the Howard/Paret interpretation of "On War".

Chapter ONE, Section 18. A Second Cause Is Imperfect Knowledge Of The Situation.

"There is still another factor that can bring military action to a standstill: imperfect knowledge of the situation. The only situation a commander can know fully is his own; his opponent's he can know only from unreliable intelligence. His evaluation, therefore, may be mistaken and can lead him to suppose that the initiative lies with the enemy when in fact it remains with him. Of course faulty appreciation is as likely to lead to ill-timed action as to ill-timed inaction, and is no more conductive to slowing down operations than it is to speeding them up. Nevertheless, it must rank among the natural causes which without entailing inconsistency, can bring military activity to a halt. Men are always more inclined to pitch
their estimate of the enemy's strength too high than too low, such is human nature. Bearing this in mind, one must admit that partial ignorance of the situation is, generally speaking, a major factor in delaying the progress of
military action and in moderating the principles that underlie it."

Again, my point is that one of the major values of written orders is their ability to frame what CDRs/Players do know and when.

Regards,

James

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2012 8:02 p.m. PST

James:

I think that one of the hardest things to do on the game table is create that situation von C. describes: Where the players don't know the other's capabilities and can actually be uncertain where the initiative lies, the possibility of ill-timed action or inaction.

I have played games with hidden movement that have captured that to some extent, but knowing what the opponent's orders are or unit strengths etc., simply from a need to keep everyone honest, is difficult to achieve.

I am no sure how written orders do accomplish that, even if they do control what players know and when.

Best Regards,

Bill

ratisbon01 Oct 2012 9:35 p.m. PST

Analsim,

Thanks for your response. I enjoy these "conversations."

I own and have read that edition of Clausewitz dozens of times. I interpret Clausewitz differently than you so, alas, we are going to disagree.

War and battle are not the same. Clausewitz defines each with their own distinct elements. Book One is titled "On the Nature of War" and Chapter One, where the quote is located, is titled "What is War?" Book Four is titled "The Engagement." Chapter Two is titled "The Nature of Battle Today." At no time in Book Four did Clausewitz, the most precise philosopher I have ever read, refer to "imperfect knowledge."

Bob Coggins

Analsim05 Oct 2012 10:36 a.m. PST

Bob, Bill & the rest,

Forgive another one of my delayed responses. I was out of town on business again this week.

However, let me see if I can quickly bring this discussion around to a single, central underlying issue for you to consider.

Much like our real life counterpart, successful combat operations in our wargames depends on the ability of commanders to effectively exercise Battle Command.

You can define 'Battle Command' as the exercise of command in operations against a hostile, thinking opponent. The art of battle command lies in the conscious and skillful exercise of Visualization, Decision-making, and Leadership.

Granted it would be hard for me to make much of a case that there is allot of Leadership involved in wargaming. But, I'm sure that you have encountered a few indecisive Players in your time that will help to convince you that it does apply somehow, somewhere to our own wargames.

O.K., Cutting to the chase.

Given that what I've presented above is reasonably acceptable, then Wargaming like Battle Command comes down to accomplishing two (2) very simple 'common' core tasks. They are: 1)Visualizing the Battlefield and 2) Making decisions under conditions of uncertainty and risk.

Note I am speaking in terms of the overarching/functional role of the Commander/Player here, not the specific mechanics of any particular wargame system.

It seems reasonable to me that casting a Player into the identical role of his Battlefield counterpart is both logical and more accurate.

Thus, using processes such as written orders in our wargames that compliment historical decison-making practices are inherintly more accurate by virtue of paralleling the very same historical tools and practices of that Commander WITHOUT the need to even burden the game system with additional artificial C2 substitutes.

I now turn it back over to you to try to disagree. ;^)

Regards,

James

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2012 6:22 p.m. PST

James:
I don't disagree with anything you posted. I would add the commander is making decisions under time constraints too, where giving orders had a time delay involved with most recipents, which made the initial orders vital, and skills of forethought and Visualization important.

I don't think actual written orders are necessarily the only game mechanic that can provide those two game/battlefield elements.

It seems reasonable to me that casting a Player into the identical role of his Battlefield counterpart is both logical and more accurate.

That is how participartory simulations work best, giving the player a specific identity in a specific environment, which is certainly closer to reality than having the players act as several characters in that environment.

However, the table-top 'game environment' reguires some concerted thought as to how such roles are kept scarosanct when the player is moving all the units from battalion to corps… along with any and all leaders.

Best Regards,
Bill

ratisbon06 Oct 2012 3:02 a.m. PST

James,

Give me a few days.

Bob Coggins

ratisbon11 Oct 2012 3:02 a.m. PST

James,

Sorry this took so long but I am not as brilliant as many who are able to post without thought.

My interest is Napoleonic and to a lesser extent musket warfare so forgive me if the following is skewed toward command in that era.

In lieu of the term visualizing the battlefield, some designers use the term "lens." which means essentially the same thing while also connoting the widening or narrowing of the view of the battlefield based on the command level of the gamer or his historical counterpart. Once the command level at which a game is to be played is determined, the question is what the gamers' historical counterparts noticed when they viewed a battle? The answer is, those units which they could command and those units of the enemy which could affect the battle. All others are irrelevant.

I have always been amused at tactical rules which lay claim to be some sort of simulation while proceeding to allow the gamer to command infantry, cavalry and artillery, an eventuality which historically never occurred.

Historically, at the tactical or division level senior officers could command infantry battalions or cavalry regiments but not botht. Division commanders did not have the knowledge or understanding to command artillery. Rather they informed the supporting battery commander(s) of the division's orders and left the deployment of the guns to them. Cavalry was a corps or army asset, which had its own commanders and was thus beyond the control of infantry generals. Of course a game about Napoleonic warfare which didn't allow the gamer to command all three arms while perhaps "realistic" would not be very interesting. So for the purpose of the game this lack of realism in command is overlooked.

At the grand tactical level, corps and army, a gamer's lens is wider and so too is it more of a simulation that he can control infantry, reserve artillery and cavalry. What the gamer should not be able to control is skirmishers or individual battalions or cavalry regiments or artillery attached to support infantry.

I am not entirely sure regarding the meaning of the following:

"Thus, using processes such as written orders in our wargames that compliment historical decison-making practices are inherintly more accurate by virtue of paralleling the very same historical tools and practices of that Commander WITHOUT the need to even burden the game system with additional artificial C2 substitutes."

The only non-artificial method to model command on the musket era battlefield is command radius and even that depends on subjective decisions regarding the distances of command radiuses based on the level of command starting with knowledge and understanding of deployment distances of formations on the grand tactical battlefield. All of this must then be modified by the scale length of a turn, the linear scale of the rules and finally the quality and nationality of the generals.. While this is subject to subjective decisions by the designer it is far more transparent and understandable than other command systems. And indeed, transparency and ease of understanding in operations is the goal of all armies.

Historically, written orders on the battlefield were so rare as not to exist save in the minds of those who don't understand the difference between written orders issued on campaign and verbal orders issued on the battlefield. So, if they did not historically exist, why written orders? As General Turgeson said in Dr. Strangelove, "But he'll see the Big Board!," many gamers and designers worry that the gamer has too much information. So the desire to foil the hundred foot general leads to a pyramid of rules which only serve to slow play to a crawl in the name of a realism which never existed. For there were few mysteries on the Napoleonic battlefield and those that do exist should be kept off the tabletop.

Alas, miniatures gamers don't paint figures to be kept hidden rather than be on the table, so they put their little guys on the board and use rules such as lost orders (tell me where that happened on the battlefield), delayed activation or God knows what, which burdens and slows the play of the game with a designer's subjective decisions regarding activation and order delivery. The outcome, a guessing game, is less "realistic" than a gamer's knowledge vs. that of his historical counterpart.

Finally, as orders go down the chain of command, perhaps even more quickly information goes up. Thus, an army commander need not be able to see in order to see in his mind's eye the grand tactical situation.

I hope this in part answers some of your questions.

Bob Coggins

Elenderil11 Oct 2012 5:57 a.m. PST

Good points Bob. Your concept of command radius is not disimilar to a concept I have used over the years of command span. I ascribe generals a numerical rating this defines the number of subordinate commanders they may control efficiently. Subordinate commanders include units so a general with a command span of 4 could have 4 regiments under his control or could deal with 4 sub generals or a mixture of both. The allowed mixture is set by reference to the command structure in use by the army concerned.

If I really want to make life hard I also say that a general can only handle an amount of information equal to his command span in each turn. I tend to regard information as being of two flavours – input and output. Input being where he becomes aware of a change in situation for a unit under his control, output being his new order for that unit. So if the general has a command span of 4 and has just spotted a threat to two regiments and has receiveda courier from a third that is 3 of his 4 information input/outputs used up. He can only issue a single new order and has to prioritise who gets new instructions. Not fully true to reality but it does force more careful planning and prevents to instant reaction to everything a player can see. Some decisions have to be left a while and the player has to consider priorities. It also creates a need to allocate the right general to the right task.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2012 2:49 p.m. PST

Well, I keep finding myself disagreeing with Bob on different points.

1.

Historically, at the tactical or division level senior officers could command infantry battalions or cavalry regiments but not botht. Division commanders did not have the knowledge or understanding to command artillery. Rather they informed the supporting battery commander(s) of the division's orders and left the deployment of the guns to them. Cavalry was a corps or army asset, which had its own commanders and was thus beyond the control of infantry generals. Of course a game about Napoleonic warfare which didn't allow the gamer to command all three arms while perhaps "realistic" would not be very interesting. So for the purpose of the game this lack of realism in command is overlooked.

Ah, that is not what I have seen, even in the French army. Whether there was an artillery commander for the division or artillery reserve, the division commander and corps commander determined how the guns would be used, their fire mission as it were, even if the actual deployment was left to the artillery officer. Even then, the army through division commanders could and did countermand decisions by the artillery officer, and I can give plenty of examples from every major army in the Napoleonic wars. So, the player would should determine how the artillery in his command would be used, even if the exact location of deployment or specific field of fire wasn't his concern.

2.

The only non-artificial method to model command on the musket era battlefield is command radius and even that depends on subjective decisions regarding the distances of command radiuses based on the level of command starting with knowledge and understanding of deployment distances of formations on the grand tactical battlefield. All of this must then be modified by the scale length of a turn, the linear scale of the rules and finally the quality and nationality of the generals.. While this is subject to subjective decisions by the designer it is far more transparent and understandable than other command systems. And indeed, transparency and ease of understanding in operations is the goal of all armies.

The command radius is one of the more artifical mechanisms in wargaming. If the idea is to have the players think in historically similar terms regarding similar dynamics, command radius rules relate to nothing on the battlefield.
At the division and brigade level, no officer concerned himself with some 'radius' or distance from the commander. Where the commander resided had no effect on whether the command was 'in communication' or controled' by the divisional or brigade commander. I challenge anyone to find where either command was concerned about some specific or general distance from the commander's location and any part of his command for eithe communication or control.

As for the Corps and army commanders. From all that I have read, supposedly, the radius represents some distance that a courier could travel to deliver messages, or simply a very artificial way to keep a command within perceived historical deployments. Neither of those things appear on the radar where corps and army commanders were concerned. Any 'limits' on the distances troops were from their command had more to tactical considerations than some area that leaving would render them 'out of command.'

For instance, Soult's divisions were basically independent operations once the enemy was engaged and would require a corps command radius of far more than a mile to have them considered 'in command.' Draw any radius you find in past or current sets of rules around corps and army commanders in any battle and you will find that a large portion of that army is 'out of command' most of the battle. Yet, there is nothing written to suggest that is the way the leaders saw the issue…at all. The argument that command radius rules are simpler than other methods doesn't mean much when considered as military history. It would be even simpler to do without them.

They represent nothing historical, present players with artificial decisions that relate to nothing specific and are unnecessary if the mechanisms are used that actually follow Napoleonic command structures and methods… including the use and movement distances for couriers on the battlefield.

3. While I certainly agree that written orders are not a necessary mechanism if you want to capture the dynamics of order transmition during the Napoleonic wars. However, this is really overstating the case based on the evidence:

Historically, written orders on the battlefield were so rare as not to exist save in the minds of those who don't understand the difference between written orders issued on campaign and verbal orders issued on the battlefield. So, if they did not historically exist, why written orders?

Certainly verbal orders were common, but written orders rare? I have seen the originals of a number of written orders Wellington produced during the battle of Waterloo, both written by him and staff, as well as those of Bluecher and Napoleon. At Jena, Napoleon wrote out the battle plan for the day, and on several instances wrote orders to specific brigades, let alone division and corps commanders.

Best Regards,

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2012 3:24 p.m. PST

I ascribe generals a numerical rating this defines the number of subordinate commanders they may control efficiently. Subordinate commanders include units so a general with a command span of 4 could have 4 regiments under his control or could deal with 4 sub generals or a mixture of both. The allowed mixture is set by reference to the command structure in use by the army concerned.

Elenderil:
There is a reason that most corps in any nation had no more than four divisions, each division no more than four brigades, and each brigade no more than six battalions. It was seen as the reasonable limit of subunits any commander should have to deal with.

However, does limiting a commander's ability to direct his command to X number of units [regardless of the actual number of units in his command] really represent either his
personal ability or that of his staff & command?

Do you have any historical examples of this? Is it a 'real' limitation? Does it create a similar command dynamic like that found on the Napoleonic battlefield?

If I really want to make life hard I also say that a general can only handle an amount of information equal to his command span in each turn. I tend to regard information as being of two flavours – input and output. Input being where he becomes aware of a change in situation for a unit under his control, output being his new order for that unit. So if the general has a command span of 4 and has just spotted a threat to two regiments and has receiveda courier from a third that is 3 of his 4 information input/outputs used up.

So how much input and output did a corps or army commander have to deal with in a turn of time? Really? Napoleon is kicking around a Prussian drum for long stretches of time at Jena and Suvoruv is napping at Novi, only to jump up and order the attack when he hears the one report among many being given. Both generals are considered effective commanders.

From all accounts, corps commanders were not anymore stressed by the input and output of information.

He can only issue a single new order and has to prioritise who gets new instructions. Not fully true to reality but it does force more careful planning and prevents to instant reaction to everything a player can see. Some decisions have to be left a while and the player has to consider priorities. It also creates a need to allocate the right general to the right task.

Did commander have to prioritize in such a fashion? I can appreciate the need to 'prevent' an instant reaction to everything on the tabletop, but does this mechanism for command decisions really represent anything like the actual command challenges?

That prioritizing of which orders to give is different from having to allocate the right general for the right task.

I think there are better mechanisms for representing the actual command challeges without creating more complicated rules. I think it is important to know how commanders spent their time on the battlefield before determining rules to mimic those activities.

Best Regards,
Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2012 10:32 p.m. PST

Just a note. When I spoke of Soult's divisions, I was thinking of Austerlitz…

Elenderil12 Oct 2012 9:18 a.m. PST

Bill I'm interested in examples of other possible mechanisms that prevent players being able to react to too many events at a time. Any ideas you can put down for consideration? Even in very general terms (pun not intended).

Cheers Elenderil

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2012 3:28 p.m. PST

Elenderil:

Sure, be glad to help. What level of command are you looking at?

And of course, we want them to be as simple as possible, but what parameters are you thinking of when you say 'prevent players being able to react to too many events at one time."

What limitations are you thinking of?

ratisbon12 Oct 2012 6:16 p.m. PST

Bill,

Your post indicates you do not understand how command radius works within the framework of some rules. I would have hoped you would have asked some questions to clarify your understanding, rather than jumping to conclusions. The study of battlefield deployments supports that for various reasons, including command, subordinate formations were kept close together That said, in some rules the command radius or span is not an artificial way to keep a formation within historical deployments. Rather it is a system which represent which formations senior officers can quickly, within the turn, lay their hands on and influence immediately.

Nor is such a system artificial. It is simply a use of time and distance modified by battlefield conditions and the ability of the officer to determine command. The scale length of a turn combined with the linear scale and the level of command at which the gamer plays the game, determines the command radius. Thus if a radius is 8 inches for rules with a half hour turn, all things being equal, the radius would be 16 inches for a one hour turn. Had you, asked you would have learned the definition of immediate control and that leaving immediate control does not automatically place a corps or division general out of command.

It is rumored in an unnamed set of rules with a linear scale of one inch equals 100 yards, Soult has a corps command radius of 9 inches or, including his base, a diameter of 19.5 inches, or just over a scale one mile. So, centrally located Soult could easily personally ride to Vandamme or St.Hilaire in less than 2 minutes. But even were they not within the radius, some rules give senior officers the ability to act on their own "initiative," and because the formation(s) is beyond the immediate command radius this initiative is subject to chance.

For Jena, read my previous post which is above

As for Wellington and Blucher or any other army commander who may have written orders during a battle, I said written orders were rare, not unheard of. So is it your position that given hundreds of skirmishes, clashes and battles during which tens of thousands of orders were issued that because a very few were written as opposed to the overwhelming number which were verbal, that rules should have written orders?

Finally, why do you think capturing the dynamics of order transmission is necessary for a set of rules? And, what do you mean by overstating the case based on the evidence? What evidence are you referring to?

Bob Coggins

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2012 9:13 p.m. PST

Your post indicates you do not understand how command radius works within the framework of some rules. I would have hoped you would have asked some questions to clarify your understanding, rather than jumping to conclusions. The study of battlefield deployments supports that for various reasons, including command, subordinate formations were kept close together That said, in some rules the command radius or span is not an artificial way to keep a formation within historical deployments. Rather it is a system which represent which formations senior officers can quickly, within the turn, lay their hands on and influence immediately.

Bob:
Actually I have read several of your explanations as well as other designers over many years, so I am hardly jumping to conclusions. Of course, the same mechanics are used to represent different things in different games.

The study of battlefield deployments supports that for various reasons, including command, subordinate formations were kept close together.

Yes, for various reasons, none of them having to do with a radius of command or any concerns that could justify that rule.

At the divisional and brigade level, and even the Corps level, those formations were kept close together because that is how they maneuvered in unison, how the commander controlled that movement, by using a regulating unit. That 'closness' was also necessary for combat support. Both reasons do not require, nor can then be represented by a command radius. It makes players keep troops together for a completely unhistorical reasons with completely unhistorical consequences.

It wasn't because commanders felt they had to keep troops within some command 'message radius.' You won't find Napoleonic generals and commentaries discussing such things because it wasn't an issue. If you have some source saying it was, I'd love to see it.

At the Corps level, you didn't find that commander staying in some central area equidistant to all units, not even on a theoretical basis or as something mandated norm by military treatises.

If you are interested I can provide references that state where a Corps commander was expected to be, and why, and when not there, what they were doing--which was anything but being concerned about distances and being centrally located to all units or they would be 'out of command'.

I gave the examples of Soult and Jena, or Wellington and Blucher because they weren't centrally located the vast majority of the time. With your suggested radius ranges, all their forces would have been out of command at different points in the battle, more than a few most of the battle.

Even as a place-holder, the command figure and his radius has nothing to do with the communication and command concerns of the day, dynamics and issues faced by a Napoleonic commander. They simply aren't, any way you look at it.

The dynamics of order transmission are necessary, depending on what you want to represent. I see the dynamics as important because subordinates were held to orders that could only be changed by commanders who could not provide those changes instantiously, regardless of the distance between them, unless the commander was right there next to subordinate.

That time delay, which included LOS and being aware of the situation needing an order change, the actual order creation, and the order implementation at the destination, which all led to time delays--not counting the time needed to actually deliver the order. The response time of a Napoleonic army wasn't instantaneous. That is what made the initial plans so critical. That dynamic, particularly the initial planning is something I find interesting and something I like to game. And of course, this transmittion issue only one at the Army and Corps levels.

Command radii mechanics don't address that dynamic, or what commanders did to make that order system more efficient. It certainly wasn't by drawing a circle around their command and determining anyone out of command if they happen to be farther away… and as you note, the actual distances and the speed of a horse makes those radii even less meaningful, if that is possible.

And about the written orders vs. verbal orders. I don't see any reason to think written orders during battle were "rare", and I am not sure how you would calculate that to determine rarity. I have read and seen a good number of written orders from the period, from one sentence on scraps of paper to entire pages of small script. All I can say is that both were used and certainly verbal orders would be easier to transmit. Obviously, they were not considered as effective as written orders, or there wouldn't be so many written orders still in existance after two centuries.

Bill H.

Elenderil14 Oct 2012 12:31 p.m. PST

Guys my primary interest is 17th Century western Europe, mainly English Civil Wars. I'm currently looking at rules mechanisms for larger actions of at least a couple of brigades of foot a side plus roughly equal amonts of horse. So any concepts for limiting command are aimed at this period.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2012 7:09 p.m. PST

Elenderil:
Good to know! ;-7

ratisbon14 Oct 2012 7:16 p.m. PST

Elenderil,

Sorry, not my era.

Bob Coggins

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2012 4:12 p.m. PST

Elenderil:

While I don't know the 17th Century as well as I do the next two centuries, I can provide some ideas based on what I do know.

1. Armies, both on the Continent and the Civil Wars, were arrayed based on two principles: The first was the method for handling large numbers of troops on a linear battlefield: The directing unit, almost always on the right of the army--but could be in the center or left.

Breitenfeld is a good example of this, both generals maneuvering from their right, just as the Ancient Greeks did. Second, the directing unit was considered the post of honor, and for good reason. A general would want the steering wheels of his force to be achored on the best he had.

2. Unlike the Napoleonic wars, where organization was far more structured and normalized, armies of the 1600s were made up of a wide variety of troops, losely grouped in commands, often determined on the battlefild. So like Breitenfeld and Nasby, you had relatively few commands. One or two for infantry and the same for Cavalry, often on each flank.

During the English Civil Wars, but not as much in the Continental wars, each command operated independently once the battle began. The overall commander might have determined a battleplan, but it appears that each segment fought on it's own terms, with the overall commander leading the infantry or the reserve, each committed to whatever the individual commander felt was important at the time. So at Marston Moor Rupert charges immediately without the infantry and Cromwell waits a half an hour, doing nothing until the Royalist cavalry across from him attack.

There was no formal communication system in place, so what you see is the commander riding to the command he wants to influence. This is what happens at Breitenfeld with Gustav's army. Once his army is moving to the left against Tilly, Gustav leads one particular unit.

Any command sytem will have the following characteristics, IMHO:

1. The entire force will move as one body, cavalry or infantry, following a directing unit.
2. The leaders will be positioned with the directing unit
3. Individual leaders will act very independently, at times without regard, let alone communication with the other friendly forces.
4. Personal contact with the a subordinates will cause the subordinates to do something outside of their original orders AND their personal decisions.

You can have some fun with the personalities of the different leaders, because they had such an impact on what happened. Cards can be used like Maurice or Too Fat Lardie games, or tables like several others.

The command system will make the battle operations much simpler, which is what they were meant to do for the real commanders.

Hope that helps.

Bill H.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2012 8:05 p.m. PST

Just a postscript. If you read any histories on the battle of Culloden, they usually note the large argument that arose over which clan would have the post of honor on the right. And of course, part of the issue is that they would 'lead' the entire army's movement forward.

Bill H.

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