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"Surrendering troops and plundering camps" Topic

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Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 3:51 p.m. PST

How would you handle surrendering troops in a game where your rules do not provide for it?

A specific example would be the AWI battle of Eutaw Springs.
Greene's troops came swooping in on some soldiers who were digging yams. They were unarmed, and immediately surrendered.
So. How would you handle that in games like Age of Reason, or The Sword and the Flame?

In the same battle, the Americans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by stopping to plunder the camp.
Again, how would you handle that?

I have a few ideas, but would like to hear how others have handled it.
Do you assign guards?

cavcrazy20 Jun 2017 4:20 p.m. PST

In our AWI rules one man equals twenty, and for every four troops that surrender, you need one man to guard them.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 6:21 p.m. PST

That's the way that TSATF handles it. (Or at least the Sword in Africa supplement.)


Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 6:54 p.m. PST

We have established combat values for unarmed combatants (different than civilians).

Instead of a guard to prisoner ratio we establish a die to figure ratio for prisoners and guards. If the prisoners decide to try to escape or revolt, the dice at rolled. From the highest number down, prisoner dice are matched to guard dice. For each prisoner die that beats its paired guard die, that prisoner may take an action. Then the guards get a turn.

Once you get the hang of it, it's just a roll off that determines how many prisoners can act on their turn.


For general looting, we take two playing cards and stack them on top of each other, placed wherever there is an asset to loot. To loot, assign a figure (that's all that figure can do for the turn) and roll a die. If you roll higher than the number on the card, turn over the bottom card. That card is the "value" of the loot.

Controlling the distribution of top and bottom cards (done before the game) creates different scenario types.

The "values" (both looted and left behind) should be accounted for in the victory conditions or some bonus added during the game (like found rifles with better stats, etc.).

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

Wasn't this the same problem back in the battle of Kadesh?


Rick Don Burnette Inactive Member21 Jun 2017 6:48 p.m. PST

In my experience, players dislike the nastier side of war, be it killing prisoners (Agincourt) or mass rape and loot ( Berlin 45) or killing villagers ( Vietnam) because, according to these gamers, atrocities are not part of what they think is war, that war, is all about tactics and strategy having nothing to do with atrocities. And it is not Politically Correct.

giogionis Inactive Member21 Jun 2017 7:12 p.m. PST

no guards kill the prisiones and walk away, war is not about tactics war is about old men sending young men to kill and die for them.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 8:40 p.m. PST



Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 10:51 a.m. PST

Actually, I think Winston was asking for ways to CAUSE units/figures to surrender in the first place. How to HANDLE prisoners already has rule mechanisms, so let's address the more interesting question.

Consider that in TSATF (and plenty of other rule sets), "Melee" (a word only war gamers use), figures can be killed or chased off, but not captured, when it's mostly in close combat (or its imminent occurrence) that prisoners are taken.

So, there are two primary conditions when prisoners are an issue: In/at Close Combat, and upon some sudden, often unforeseeable, shock/surprise that demoralize a body of troops so thoroughly that they go "Hands High" without even having to think about it, most commonly at the moment of the next direct threat.

That said, the issue is how to allow for these moments during play without adding too deep a layer of further complication.

Some suggestions, then: In "Melee," fleeing figures are indicated as usual. After its resolution, the winning side rolls a D6, and that many that would otherwise join the retreating unit are, in fact prisoners. If there are more in flight than the possible maximum of 6, the rest may be ignored and get away, OR a second D6 could be rolled.

Regarding whole unit surrenders, and for the purposes of use with TSATF (and variants), let us ignore spontaneous surrenders that would otherwise surprise BOTH sides (though obviously these do happen). Concentrating on the shock/surprise factors, this might best be left to the players as a group, and to the GM/scenarist.

Not a cop-out, but a realization that if such prisoner taking is even desired as a possibility, they may prefer a very short list of possible circumstances, and may recognize their own, and/or consider this off-hand list.

(Note: all conditions described must include being within line of site and the unit's maximum charge distance of all units at risk of surrendering.)

1) A friendly unit itself surrenders. It needn't be in line of sight or charge distance if its position is certain knowledge to all units now at risk (e.g fortifications).

2) A friendly is defeated in Melee.

3) A friendly unit is eliminated that turn by enemy fire. The unit need not be at full strength when annihilated, only any remaining figures within it.

4) The unit at risk is Charged from a quarter it cannot see by enemies whose existence is otherwise unknown (e.g, charge from out of woods, out of un-scouted ravines, dense fog, smoke, etc (definitely up to the GM in some circumstances).

5) Any particularly notable explosion (limber/caisson going off, powder supply, etc) within the unit's maximum normal movement distance.

6) When charged by an enemy outnumbering the unit by three to one or more, or even with nearly even numbers but one charging unit is on a flank or rear (previously unknown or not).

If a unit (and certainly more than one could be affected at one time by the same cause) falls under one or more of these circumstances, it must make a Major Morale Test for each that applies when it is next activated to move by card draw or other circumstances. If it passes each check, play on--they're stouthearted lads! If it fails it must Rout as per the usual rules. If charged at any time prior to its being able to Rally (even if the charge distance rolled would prevent contact), the unit throws down its arms and can be taken prisoner.

An alternative means would be to have a unit which has failed its Major Morale test(s) remain stationary and make no further contribution to the battle at all until physically joined (base-to-base contact) by its most Superior Officer, at which point a Rally attempt may be made. Failing this, if charged, the unit will then surrender automatically, whether contacted by the enemy or not.

How do these sound, "Winston?"


Oberlindes Sol LIC22 Jun 2017 12:20 p.m. PST

Another source of prisoners is wounded troops.

Prisoner capture may also be the specific objective of small unit action, as in one episode of Band of Brothers and in Väinö Linna's novel The Unknown Soldier (and in the movie based on the novel).

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

I had to leave for a Doctor's appointment before putting the cherry on the sundae.

None of these rules would apply to units having a firm belief that their enemies will take NO prisoners. So, to be pretty crude about it, "white guys" generally accept the surrender of other "white guys." Ansar, Zulu, and generally the native folk of the NWF, could not be expected to lead prisoners back to the prison facility and notify the Red Cross.

Even here, exceptions can apply, and may indeed be part of the scenario itself, but generally, "Native" armies do not surrender--or if they do, no one records it once the bodies have been pitched into those quickly dug trenches after the ball is over.


Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 3:25 p.m. PST

As for looting, try this.

Each army must have a camp on the table, the area of which is the GM/Scenarist's choice of 1 square inch per figure in the army. This could be for each two, or even three, but the camp cannot be just some notional, abstract point represented by a marker. The camp may be located behind (not in) woods, higher ground, or even in a fortification, village/town.

Whenever one or more units comes within direct line of sight, AND its maximum possible charge distance (allowing for terrain, etc), it must test against its Major Morale. If it passes, it won't test again, and continues to act as ordered. If it fails, it must move on the camp by the most direct rout possible, at charge rate, without stragglers. At the end of each subsequent turn, the unit will roll against Major Morale again, but with a +1 (for 2D6 rolls, or +3 if using D20). Pass, and the unit returns to the colors, fail and it enters or remains in the camp, checking again at the end of each turn.

Some armies/units will be more susceptible to the temptation to loot. These would include European Militias, Volunteers, Colonial Auxiliaries, but also units of Regular Armies not famous for their discipline. This could include pre-1885 Egyptians, some non-Sikh Indians, Chinese, and Afghan Regulars. Such units might add "3" to their Major Morale tests when presented with the opportunity. Similarly, most "Native" troops, being irregulars, should be at least as much at risk. Arguable exceptions could include Zulu's, Jihadiya, Boers, General's Staffs, Leaders' personal bodyguard, etc, but no unit of any army should be considered immune under the right circumstances.

If a looting unit comes under fire, it takes no benefit for cover or formation beyond being "In Mass."

If successfully charged, it must subtract "2" from its Stand And Fight check, and as "Without Officer."

If it actually stands, all close combat die rolls subtract "1" and fights with only HALF its available figures.

If a Superior Officer/Leader can make base-to-base contact with at least one stand of the looting unit, a Rally attempt may be made at the end of the turn. If successful, the unit returns to the colors, reforms, and after the next move, may follow new orders as before. If unsuccessful, looting continues, and the Superior Officer may try again in the next turn. While so engaged, the Officer/Leader can perform no other function, positively influence any other Morale Tests, or otherwise act in his original capacity.

Armies whose camp has been occupied, either under orders, or by way of being looted, make all future Morale Tests with a "=2"--as Europeans do when their wounded or prisoners are left to "Native" forces. This applies to "Native" Armies and their camps as well.

Thus, with camps represented, the risk of looting becomes real. In Colonial games, British armies with Native troop components become more of a challenge to command, even offering a slight advantage to their Native opponents.

Finally, as the British proved so clearly in Peking (both 1860 and 1900), even their vaunted discipline and professionalism went right out the window when the opportunity arose--and the shooting had mostly stopped! So, don't ignore the possibilities of allowing looting AFTER a battle, particularly if its in the context of a campaign.

Lots of otherwise capable units devolved into bandit status by holding onto their loot to the point of not wanting fight.


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 8:37 p.m. PST

I like the idea of a general tearing his hair out trying to rally looters.

The specific example I have in mind is of course Eutaw Springs. So, once the front lines capture (see above) the LI digging yams (or not; nothing should be guaranteed) come upon the 10 25mm tents….
Major Morale, or a one die Age of Reason test. (I swing both ways.)

I don't want anyone routing, just useless.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

And what's more "useless" than routing troops?

Then again, a real advantage--and basic goal--for the enemy.

And allowing looters to rout may be the only way the for the army whose camp is being plundered to get it back, possibly more intact than not.


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 8:17 a.m. PST

Too many rules simply remove routing it whatever units.
What they should be doing is remain on the table and get in the way.

That's exactly why I like limbers too. They get in the way. grin

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 10:01 a.m. PST

Agreed! Even if routing figures are essentially no longer of use to their side, they still occupy SPACE--even if only very temporarily!

They can impede the movement of other friendly units, and even block the enemy's line of sight, preventing fire on intact units.

And, again, too many rules ignore the negative MORAL effects on Friendlies--and the positive one for the enemy.

I suspect that the tendency to ignore routing units (remove them immediately) is part and parcel with the practice of keeping our table top battlefields antiseptic, sterile, and far more "unrealistic" in that way than even the worst thought out rule.

No casualties on the field, no moral effect of their cries to their friends, thus no need for any effort to recover or minimize their suffering with even the aid of field hospitals, etc. Want your heavy cavalry or artillery batteries thunder over your own men as they lie helpless beneath their hooves and wheels?--Sure, it always happens that way. (For the Sarcasm Impaired, this is an example of the practice.)

No prisoners to lose, take, escort out of the way, if not to actual safety. How CONVENIENT!

Like you, Citizen "Winston," artillery batteries without limbers/caissons/supply wagons are a joke waiting to be gotten by many players. Pushing field artillery around on its little base as if it was no more bulky or space consuming than an MG-34 is purest fiction--and totally avoidable as such. A battery of artillery, either moving cross country in line abreast, or even more telling, along a road, occupies at least as much space as most battalions. But not when it's just one little model on its pretty little base that some folks tell themselves represents the whole dog and pony show that is artillery.

Letting things "get in the way" much as they would in fact, and dealing with them accordingly, requires more thought, planning, and personal application in a game than some people want--and they boast of how well they moved their units to beat their opponents.

I'm afraid, "Winston," you and I are definitely Old School in these matters, and those who will not "get it" are the losers, though they'll never understand how.


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