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"How important is reload time in a horse and musket era game?" Topic

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1,155 hits since 23 Mar 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 7:21 p.m. PST

Certain rules, notably Muskets and Tomahawks, force the player to keep track of how long it takes, in terms of turns, to reload a muzzle loader musket or rifle after firing. Other rules do not bother. On one hand, I have read about opposing firing lines timing their volleys or even falling to the ground to avoid their opponents return fire. On the other hand, one could make the argument that, since everyone is having to take the same time to reload, the time and effort is universal and therefore not worth tracking. How important is reload time to the historic feel of a horse and musket period game?

Sundance24 Mar 2018 7:32 p.m. PST

I would say it depends on the scale. A skirmish game, yes, would probably be more important than a 'grand tactical' game.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 7:54 p.m. PST

In WRG's Fire and Steel, musket and rifle reload times are different.
That's simply because the authors wanted to handicap riflemen. But if you compare the time it takes to reload to the time it takes to walk (run?) the "movement allowance", things start to get problematic.
So, the authors decided to make reload time relevant, even going so far as to include the fictions of "tap loading" and over watch. Not to mention the utter scarcity of rifles in the FIW.
What it did was to force the players to make decisions. Whether or not these decisions were based on relevant historical issues is besides the point. The players accepted these issues, made good and bad game decisions and had many fun games.

When you stretch the scale time of a turn to five or even ten minutes, then quantum trivia gets swamped on a macro scale. grin It makes more sense to assume that every gun is loaded to start the turn.

I'm writing my own AWI variant for The Sword and the Flame, Flames of Liberty, and have tortured my brain with ways to "simulate" (I hate that word…) the difference between rifle and musket reloading time. Drop a movement die for rifles? Naaaah. Better to just ignore it. By the time their card comes up, Ferguson's Rifles are loaded.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 8:07 p.m. PST

I always liked the Piquet method of reload cards that meant you could fire when you want, but your opportunity to reload and shoot again depended on the timing of drawing the card.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 8:40 p.m. PST

Donnybrook also has a reload card in the deck, I like the way that works for skirmishy gaming.

attilathepun47 Inactive Member24 Mar 2018 8:48 p.m. PST

In the real world, reload time was obviously very important. However, in wargaming it is not very feasible to represent this directly unless you are using rules where each turn equals no more than two or three minutes of real time. Generally, any difference in firing rates has to be represented abstractly within the combat results tables or by modifiers for nationality or troop type.

Dennis Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2018 9:33 p.m. PST

As John says, the key is decision points. What decisions do you want the players to make? If you want them to hold fire for fear of not having time to reload before the enemy closes, then make reloading a separate action. Brother Against Brother works that way, and so it encourages tactics-like firing half a unit to keep some figures able to fire if charged-that take reloading time into account.

All game rules have decisions for the players to make, and the rules writer should decide which decisions he considers important enough to be modeled and which he simply ignores or groups into a single mechanism to simplify play. War Artisan (Jeff Knudsen) does this very well, for example, in Away Boarders.

When I designed my convention rules for Lexington and Concord, I started with the decisions I wanted the players to make and designed the rules around those decisions. For example, does the British player ignore the sporadic fire from the rebel militia-and risk casualties and disorder from his troops suffering fire without responding, does the British player form line and fire at the militia-generally ineffective against rebels in cover-and thereby slow his march while he stops to shoot and then reforms into column, or does he charge the rebels-generally very effective at dispersing the enemy-but chasing after the enemy takes time and also disorganizes his troops so he takes additional time to reform before he can resume his march. I included loading as a separate action because I wanted the players to worry about the time needed to execute various actions (and the disorder resulting from those actions and the time needed to recover from that disorder and the problems caused if the player chooses not to reform) and then make a cost-benefit analysis between taking those actions-time spent shooting AND reloading was time the British player wouldn't be marching to Boston and safety.

Note, however, that I was intending to model actions at a small scale and I focused on very limited events. The rules I wrote could not have been used for any purpose other than that for which they were designed; you could not fight any sort of battle, or even skirmish, with them.

Don't worry so much about what happened in real life and try to include all of it in your game-life simply has too much stuff to include it all in a game anyone would want to play. Instead, decide what you want to model, and why, and then include mechanisms that accomplish those ends.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2018 2:58 a.m. PST

It's critical for 1:1 skirmish, and abstracted at higher levels of representation. That's one reason I don't do horse and musket skirmish.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2018 5:09 p.m. PST

As someone who is almost exclusively Grand Tactical for SWY to Napoleonics I am with Sundance and AttilaThePun – when each turn is half an hour, not so critical

Bill N25 Mar 2018 8:48 p.m. PST

The time increment represented by one move in my games is large enough so that trained musketeers should be able to load and fire a couple of rounds, and experienced riflemen should be able to load and fire once. So normally reload time is reflected in the effectiveness of firing. I do have a "quick charge" rule which says if the unit is within a launches a charge from a close distance under certain circumstances the defender has to role to see if he can fire before the attacker closes. It seldom comes up with infantry but can sometimes happen with cavalry.

Lion in the Stars25 Mar 2018 10:59 p.m. PST

1:1 skirmish, very important (even though the 1:1 skirmishing I do is Flintloque).

But once a player-turn is more than 5 minutes long, it's almost immaterial. I would want to include a unit skill/quality check to see if the unit could fire if charged from short range, though.

RudyNelson26 Mar 2018 10:40 a.m. PST

As cited, in a skirmish 1:1 game critical. I played a game once where each turn was 5 seconds. Being a convention game, the session ended before any real casualties happened. A 30 second turn where no casting could fire consecutive turns was better.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2018 2:59 p.m. PST

What's "critical" in a game is what the game designer wants it to be, and what he wishes to "teach".
If game turn scale time is 30 seconds, then it might be. However, how else are you dealing with that time scale? Is your movement completely accurate?
How long does a "scale Game time" turn take to complete in "real time"?
I've seen biplane games where the alleged scale time was 5 seconds, but with plotting and several people handling several planes, it took 15 minutes to resolve.

If your scale time is 30 seconds per turn, the GM should have a way to rush the players so they don't have much time to stop and think. And they should not have too many figures either.

And if you're going to differentiate between loading times, are you going to account for the differing damage smaller caliber bullets can do?

RudyNelson27 Mar 2018 11:05 a.m. PST

There are 30 second and one minute sand timers available from Koplow and Chessex. I sale a lot of them.
So Winston idea is practical.

TacticalPainter0129 Mar 2018 9:14 p.m. PST

What is critical is that rates of fire are timed in relation to movement. If infantry can cover 100 yards in one minute then they should expect to face on average say one or two volleys. The rules don't necessarily require a specific ‘reload' mechanism, but rate of fire should match what was historical. I shouldn't be able to move the equivalent of 100yds without expecting to receive fire, but nor should I expect to travel the same distance and receive multiple volleys. Rates of movement will vary, as will rates of fire, so not all of this is mechanical or utterly predictable, nonetheless they must be within plausible parameters.

If the rules want you to think as your historical counterpart then this balance of distance, speed and loading time should be factored into the player's thinking.

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