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"Variable morale, or just lucky dice?" Topic


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79thPA Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 8:42 a.m. PST

I've been reading a little bit about the Iron Brigade in the ACW in general, as well as their action at Brawner's Farm. Here you have a well trained infantry brigade, the great majority of whom had never heard a shot fired in combat, yet they fought like tigers. Do you rate them as your elite or crack morale grade because that is how they performed that day, or do you rate them as "trained" and trust their fate to the dice? Are they "elite" at that time on that day, or do they have "trained" morale and lucky dice? Do we use the higher morale grade to increase our chance of replicating their stand, or do we use a lower morale grade, which would make a stand that much sweeter, but with the understanding that we will probably not replicate history or get that lucky with our dice? Thoughts?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 9:03 a.m. PST

I'm of the trained & lucky school.

Years ago I had a regiment make morale check after morale check. GM calculated their odds of making them all as something like 1 in 10,000. He upgraded them from trained to elite.

The question applies in reverse too – good units that break far too easily. I played an AWI game. My British Grenadiers were fired at, took no casualties, crapped out on the morale roll and fled. It essentially ended the game!

So rate them and pray to the dice gods.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 9:14 a.m. PST

Hi


Good question, but also the make up of the regiments within the Brigade have a effect. All the Iron Brigades units were Midwesterner. Life on the frontier or near frontier is a source of very tough men. Also General Gibbons was a very good trainer of men but the stubbornness to stand come from something other than training.

Personal logo Buckeye AKA Darryl Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 9:25 a.m. PST

There were several variables involved with Brawner's Farm, some mentioned already. The Midwestern aspect is a good start, you also had the "veteran" 2nd Wisconsin who felt that they could not retreat in the face of their less seasoned sister regiments, and then conversely the other three regiments were determined to stay as long as the 2nd held. There is also the fact that most of the men simply did not know better, meaning the lack of combat experience meant they would stand and fight. Early war battles will often see troops hold positions that veterans might have decided to move away from. Call it eagerness vs. common sense/experience.

Also, leadership of course plays a part. Gibbon was a bit of a task master, and some of the holding of the line might be a result of not letting that cuss get the better of them. They didn't like him at first, as evidenced by the story of putting gaiters on his horse (not sure if true or not).

Rating units in games is fairly arbitrary. Everyone loves the Texas Brigade, and one might rate them very high. But they got punched on the nose and retreated at Chickamauga. On that day they weren't as good as advertised. Happens throughout the war with all sorts of nits. Ohio boys at McDowell moved up a steep mountain to meet the vaunted Stonewall and his Valley Army, and they pushed his forces back a bit and held their line. These same Ohio boys would be in the XIth Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, where overall performance was lacking. However, many did well once sent west.

shadoe0131 Mar 2020 9:36 a.m. PST

One option is to have the status as unknown until engaged and then roll for their rating for the rest of the game. It's still lucky dice but after that initial roll there's some coherent behaviour. The trouble with the leave to luck on each and every roll is that it will tend to the average as each roll is more or less memory less. The roll for status on initial contact was used in a 1970s (80s) Cold War in Europe game. I think it was SPI.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 10:12 a.m. PST

I rate units according to their historical operational performance. In your Iron Brigade scenario they should be rated as trained (not line, veteran or elite) however, their commander could be rated as veteran or elite.

Personal logo Zeelow Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 11:22 a.m. PST

"YES, NO, MAYBE DICE"

link

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 12:15 p.m. PST

Larry Brom developed a morale system "back in the day" which presumed a unit's morale wasn't know until it had to make a morale check. It then rolled a D6 or a D10 (depending on when the rule set was written) and consulted a bell curve table to determine its morale for the rest of the battle. That initial morale could be altered temporarily or permanently depending on the circumstances at the time of the morale check. There were four morale levels from "red" (bad) through "gold" (great).

An example is this set: link Scroll down about 1/4 of the page and you'll see the morale table. Range is from 1 through 4 which number is then added to a D6 roll with the object of getting a 6 or better to pass.

Using this system can see a militia unit with a +3 while a Guard unit might end up with just a +2. Makes things more interesting.

Jim

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2020 2:10 p.m. PST

For a scenario I will set the morale for each unit

But for a campaign or random battle will use a variable morale system very much like what Jim states above

Blutarski31 Mar 2020 4:24 p.m. PST

Hi Jim,
I support the idea of variable "day of battle" morale levels which remain unknown until the occasion of the first morale test, but only for untried militia units with no previous battlefield "track record" in the field how else to deal with an "X Factor" unit like the VMI Cadets at Newmarket? As far as other units go (those with a previous battlefield pedigree), a somewhat less extreme degree of variability may be worth considering.

Something along the lines of this, for example, by throwing a D10 at the apropos moment -

Militia – -(1-7) – -(8-9) – (10) – – – -
Line – – (1-3) – -(4-7) – (8-9) – (10)
Veteran – -( 1 ) – -(2-3) – (4-7) – (8-10)
Elite – – – – ( 1 ) – (2-3) – (4-10)

RESULT >> Militia -Line – -Veteran – Elite

- with the nominal morale classification in the left-hand column and the effective game-time morale grade depending upon the D10 die throw.

Example: Take a brigade of four regiments. Over the course of the game, each checks its true game morale status by throwing a D10 before making its first morale check -

Rgt 1 (Veteran) its D10 score of 1 = Militia quality
Rgt 2 (Line) its D10 score of 5 = Line quality
Rgt 3 (Line) its D10 score of 9 = Veteran quality
Rgt 4 (Militia) its D10 score of 8 = Line quality

Performing the same test a second time -
Rgt 1 (Veteran) its D10 score of 6 = Veteran quality
Rgt 2 (Line) its D10 score of 5 = Line quality
Rgt 3 (Line) its D10 score of 6 = Line quality
Rgt 4 (Militia) its D10 score of 1 = Militia quality

FWIW.

B

UshCha31 Mar 2020 7:49 p.m. PST

It was said that on D day in the main Inxeperience troops but well trained would be uesed as they were more likely to suceed in such circumstances. Buckeye AKA Darryl seems to have the same idea.
There apparers to be two conflicting threads here, one is what is best for a purely fictional game and what is best for a simulation. It is not clear from the threads in some cases who is voting for which aspect. The thread seems to be degenerating ino a mechanism discussion not on on the best means of simulation the quality of a unit and why.

Whirlwind31 Mar 2020 11:02 p.m. PST

@79th PA,

If it were just a matter of them performing well on the day, then I would leave it to the dice. More generally, I will rate a unit as elite or crack if:

1 They are specifically trained to a higher standard than average (the 43rd, 52nd and 95th in the first part of the Napoleonic Wars are a good example in the horse-and-musket period); Royal Marine commandos in WW2 are another. The clue here is whether otherwise competent soldiers are being removed from the unit for failing the advanced training. I don't know if in an ACW context the Iron Brigade might fall into this category.

2 They are specifically selected as being (on average) the best raw material: paratroopers in modern Western armies tend to get this bonus.

3 They have proven individual competence: Napoleon's Old and Middle guards might get this bonus, as do some Grenadier units etc. (being careful, since an 1813 Guard unit might have less proven competence than a British line unit);

4 They are a proven veteran unit for example, a Soviet "Guards" unit in WW2.

In both cases 1 and 2, then they also have to have been formed long enough at least at company level and below so they aren't a scratch unit. In cases 3 and 4, this edge should be lost after actions or campaigns with heavy casualties, or after a defeat or two.

donlowry01 Apr 2020 9:41 a.m. PST

Grr. My msg got crossed with someone elses. I'll try again.

IMHO, it comes down to not giving the gamer more information about his own and opposing units than his real-life counterpart had (to the extent that's possible). If a unit has a past record of superior performance, that commanders would have known about, then rate them elite or whatever term you prefer. For instance, the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg. But if the unit does not yet have a track record (for instance, the future-Iron Brigade at Brawner's Farm), I'd use something like a die roll for its initial rating, as outlined above. In other words: IT DEPENDS!

Cleburne186301 Apr 2020 11:42 a.m. PST

This is a classic dilemma of scenario design. Do you assign unit morale based upon their training up to the day in question, or do you assign it based on their historical performance in the hopes of more accurately achieving a historical outcome in the game.

When I design scenarios, I do the former. I assign them morale up to their experience and performance up to that day. The rest is up to the dice rolling of the player to replicate the historic outcome.

Just my opinion. Yours may vary. :)

14Bore01 Apr 2020 1:03 p.m. PST

Convinced now its lucky dice, I do now have book of every unit, and if a couple lucky dice events then they get moved up a grade, or unlucky down a grade.

Stoppage01 Apr 2020 5:35 p.m. PST

A couple of years ago I was exploring using Power Laws to model morale "on the day".

Using cards where King is top and 2 is low:

French:
Elites: King x1, Queen x1
Good: 9 – quantity to suit scenario
Fair: 7,5 – ditto
Poor: 3 – ditto

Enemy:
Elites: Knave x2
Good: 10,8 – quantity to suit scenario
Fair: 6, 4 – quantity to suit scenario
Poor: 2 – quantity to suit scenario

When it comes to it the unit/formation draws from the appropriate bucket and the rank/number gives its position versus others in the same bucket.

That is as far as I got.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 2:04 p.m. PST

There are any number of interesting methods described above for a morale/behavior hierarchy and variable morale.

I found the idea of poker chip version of morale unsatisfactory, as though one unit has more of X than another, so militia have few chips and elites, a lot.

I took On to Richmond and Fire & Fury morale levels and created the following, four levels with three variations within each:

GREEN: Poorly drilled, Moderately drilled and well drilled.
REGULAR: Poorly led, Competently Led, Well led.
VETERAN: Seasoned, Elan, Jaded
Elite: Esprit de Corps, Highly disciplined and Tired/old lag.

I also had a modifier for 'enthusiastic' units that had
special uniforms, names, and/or outstanding leaders--which could be lost or gained during battle.

The behavior of each type was made different from the others in a number of ways, and even with scenarios where the troops were considered GREEN, for instance, their morale under that heading wasn't rolled for until combat.

This created a Morale Chart with 12 columns, each with 11
possible outcomes, all different, with both games, OTR and F&F. This was published in the Courier in the day for OTR.

However, it's all still "Variable morale and just lucky dice." Fun to play, but no more or less valid as historical representation as any other suggestions here.

Stoppage02 Apr 2020 3:40 p.m. PST

I like your four levels – they'd be good for over-view factors – not too many to confuse – just enough to hint at different potential effectiveness when you are making your plan. Used for grand tactical manoevring and morale checks under bombardment.

The variations are quite nice too – useful differentiations when troops of similar level face-off against each other in a tactical firefight.

Stoppage02 Apr 2020 3:41 p.m. PST

The horrid thing about the power law (if it actually exists) is that in any group you'll have one member that is much, much better than the rest, one that is definately better than the rest, then a couple that that are better, and then the majority that are rubbish.

The excitement comes when you face-off against a member of the same 'bucket'/'level'. Who has the discipline versus being the jaded old lag? No-one will know until the cards are drawn!

Bill N02 Apr 2020 6:01 p.m. PST

I am a strong believer that no matter how good or bad a unit supposedly is, there should be an element of chance involved in determining how it reacts. History and certainly the ACW is full of too many instances of supposedly good units breaking under circumstances where they logically should have stood. The reverse is also true. Good commanders may make more of an effort to learn the true state of their troops' morale, what they can handle and what they can't. That doesn't mean a commander who makes that effort will be successful in judging the troops' true morale state.

Once it is agreed that morale should be governed by chance I think the mechanics should be determined as much by player preference on game flow as by historical realism. I do like the idea of not limiting player knowledge about unit morale at the outset of the game.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 8:26 p.m. PST

I am a strong believer that no matter how good or bad a unit supposedly is, there should be an element of chance involved in determining how it reacts. History and certainly the ACW is full of too many instances of supposedly good units breaking under circumstances where they logically should have stood.

I agree. Wellington wrote that all battalions, no matter how good, will run sometime or another.

What we are all talking about is the odds or probability of that happening for various units in various situations.

That is a statistical issue. Going with past behaviors won't provide the odds of a unit failing morale now or in the future. If a unit stays steady for five battles, including the one you are making a scenario of, what does it mean if they run in the very next battle, or stayed strong in three of the last five?

Another problem is that units change in composition over time as well as respoinding to different commanders. Regiments of the Pennyslvania regiments that refused to advance the third day of Gettysburg when ordered. They were commanded by an unknown brigadier--unknown to them. The officer wasn't bad at all, just new to them.

What are the odds that such a thing would happen? That is the question as well as such questions as 'how often did militia morale fail and unders what conditions?'

As for Stoppage's observation, here the Ancient Greek writer Heraclitus speaking of men in battle:

Of every one-hundred men,
Ten shouldn't be there,
Eighty are nothing but targets,
Nine are real fighters . . .
We are lucky to have them, they make the battle.
Ah but One, One of them is a Warrior . . .
He will bring the others home.'

Whirlwind02 Apr 2020 9:20 p.m. PST

McLaddie,

That's a great quote from Heraclitus! Where does it come from?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 10:34 p.m. PST

It is Heraclitus Of Ephesus: circa 500BCE.

From The Fragments Of The Work On Nature And Heracliti Ephesii Reliquiae.

He is one of the most quotable of the Greek philosophers:
Here is one to game by:

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.

Read more at link

Stoppage03 Apr 2020 7:17 a.m. PST

One is the greatest/nine are great/80 spear-carriers/ten runners fantastic quote.

Power Law 2,500 years ago!

Stoppage03 Apr 2020 7:28 a.m. PST

To the OP.

My card idea is for use when you first need to know – perhaps when the troops first come under real pressure.

Using McLaddie's schema:

Iron Brigade start out as GREEN

Something happens to stress the brigade, draw a card from the GREEN pile {Well drilled | Moderately drilled | Poorly drilled}.

! They draw: GREEN(Well drilled)

Something else happens to stress the brigade – somehow they get to draw a card from the next level up:

REGULAR{ Well led | Competently Led | Poorly led }

or even:

VETERAN{ Elan-ified | Seasoned | Jaded }

! Perhaps they draw: VETERAN(Elan-fied)

There – green troops end up fighting like lions – Regimental officers get to dine in the Generals' mess later on.

Levi the Ox03 Apr 2020 6:35 p.m. PST

Very interesting thoughts. I do like the idea of the in-battle morale of untested troops being unknown, even to their commander.

donlowry04 Apr 2020 8:59 a.m. PST

How about a start-level called "Untested"? Rather than Green.

In their first fight, the Iron Brigade would have been untested, but known to be well led and relatively well trained (for a new unit).

Stoppage04 Apr 2020 12:41 p.m. PST

Don for the Win!

Apache 606 Apr 2020 6:14 a.m. PST

While I like the idea of some variation in the performance of units…

Any commander worth his salt should have a good idea of the capabilities and morale of his men. This is absolutely true for units and commanders that have seen the elephant.

I understand that history is full of untested commanders commanding untested units being surprised; Similarly units that did well in one theater or situation might prove less successful in different types of combat. Gen Custer as an example.

Similarly being taken by surprise has caused well respected formations to fail, many times in history.

I recommend that 'troop quality' is more of a reflection of training and 'morale' is more of the effect of human factors, but they are certainly linked. The morale of early war American Civil War units was high (on both sides), while training was soon found to be lacking.

If I was doing a random determination of morale and or troop quality, I'd have various commanders give certain modifiers. The higher commander should have an inkling of what those modifiers are: i.e. the Regimental Commander knows that LtCol Allen is beloved and motivating commander (+2 to moral), LtCol Baker has been doing excellent and aggressive training at every opportunity (+1 to troop quality) and LtCol Charles is a pompous fool (-2 to morale) while LtCol Delta is a solid trainer but uninspiring (no modifiers). That would then give the gamer (aka commander) more 'command decisions' as to how to task organize his force. Who is given the task of taking the critical objective, who is used to protect the vital left flank and who is held in reserve.

I'd recommend that their be some variance allowed but not wild swings, and commanders should give modiifiers. In a campaign game I'd also have various commanders have different modifiers for 'logistics' or readiness levels. Montgomery was well known for preparing for action, while Patton was known for aggressive changes in plans. Those traits can/should have effects in game.

donlowry06 Apr 2020 8:46 a.m. PST

Apache 6: I like your ideas!

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2020 9:47 a.m. PST

Any commander worth his salt should have a good idea of the capabilities and morale of his men. This is absolutely true for units and commanders that have seen the elephant.

I understand that history is full of untested commanders commanding untested units being surprised; Similarly units that did well in one theater or situation might prove less successful in different types of combat. Gen Custer as an example.

Similarly being taken by surprise has caused well respected formations to fail, many times in history.

Apache 6:
I agree that any commander worth his salt, particularly if they have 'seen the elephant' together should have a good idea of his men's capabilities. However:

1. Competent commanders where not always present or available.

2. Commanders were killed and/or transfered so that a new leader had to not only make himself known, but get to know his troops--with both wondering how the other would do in the NEXT fight.

3. Troop composition changed, sometimes radically, over the course of one battle, let alone one campaign.

4. Bad experiences and successful experiences would change the attitude of a unit, even in spite of the commander's efforts. There was a study done of one Union brigade and it's performance, noting how its experience and composition changed its performance.

I can't find my copy at the moment, but one thing that stood out to me was that one regiment had a successful fight, then two companies were detached for duty elsewhere. During that time, the rest of the regiment had a bad experience fighting, a real cockup. When the two detached companies came back and the entire regiment went forward again, the behavior under fire of the two companies compared to the rest of the regiment was quite different, to the point that the two companies continued to advance when the rest of the regiment when to ground.

5. As you pointed out with Custer, different tactical circumstances can render an experienced officer a 'newbie' over night. The same is true of whole units. "The Red Badge of Courage" has the hero running when a bayonet melee begins, but when he comes back and it is a firefight and advance, things are different.

I'd recommend that their be some variance allowed but not wild swings, and commanders should give modiifiers. In a campaign game I'd also have various commanders have different modifiers for 'logistics' or readiness levels. Montgomery was well known for preparing for action, while Patton was known for aggressive changes in plans. Those traits can/should have effects in game.

Okay, variance and not wild swings. The question is how often did those things happen on average, or with particular levels of experience? What are the percentages you see as 'reasonable?'

Again, either that 'variance' remains anyone's guess--you can define some and wild variance to your own comfort level, or one has to do a statistical analysis to establish what that variance actually was historically.

Wolfhag07 Apr 2020 11:17 p.m. PST

Again, either that 'variance' remains anyone's guess--you can define some and wild variance to your own comfort level, or one has to do a statistical analysis to establish what that variance actually was historically.

Maybe like this one from Urgent Fury:

This is bad, this is bad, I thought, watching the fire rip across the far end of the runway. This is when a unit is the most vulnerable. Just as they land and their leaders are scattered and they haven't had the time to reorganize.

But then I saw an amazing sight. The Rangers rose from the ground as one organism, screaming their war cries, and assaulted straight across the runway toward the enemy guns. Within ten minutes, the guns fell silent. The third and last pass of Rangers jumped almost unmolested.

Later that day I learned that a corporal had led the spontaneous assault across the airfield. Somebody said the guy jumped up from the ground and shouted, "I've had enough of this shit!" and took off across the airfield toward the enemy positions. Every man near him jumped up to follow, and the attack spread like wildfire up and down the length of the airfield. Goddamn! What Soldiers!"

The rest of the story:
link

Wolfhag

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2020 8:43 a.m. PST

Sounds like Missionary Ridge.

Murvihill09 Apr 2020 4:20 a.m. PST

This concept goes against two philosophies I have for game design. First is "Don't randomize randomness." If you have a random check for morale a second random check isn't going have enough of an effect on the game to make it worth rolling or tracking. Another perspective is that a unit's morale status for the day is something either a commander will already know 'the boys are fit for a fight' or something he can't rely on. Their standing against this charge doesn't mean they'll stand against the next. An interesting idea is to roll morale the first time randomly but make the break points fixed, then commanders would have some idea of when the unit will break.
The second design philosophy is "As few die rolls as needed to get the job done." This is for the simple reason that die rolls are time consuming, not the actual roll but consulting the table, checking the shopping list of modifiers etc. It bogs down the game in a way that doesn't advance the narrative and distracts from the tactics or strategy of the game. I never enjoyed games workshop products because every figure removed had to go through a hit, damage, save die roll sequence that should have taken a single die roll to succeed.
So my advice would be to preset the morale and let the dice determine whether a unit is lucky or not.

donlowry09 Apr 2020 8:52 a.m. PST

As few die rolls as needed to get the job done." This is for the simple reason that die rolls are time consuming, not the actual roll but consulting the table, checking the shopping list of modifiers etc.

In general, gotta agree. But I would blame the "list of modifiers" as much or more than the dice rolls.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2020 1:28 p.m. PST

This concept goes against two philosophies I have for game design. First is "Don't randomize randomness."

Murvihill: What brought up this comment in past posts? I agree, just not sure the context. I shake my head sometimes at the succession of die rolls some games will require to resolve some event… when if they knew the actual odds for results, almost always, the same odds could be accomplished with one die roll.

"As few die rolls as needed to get the job done." This is for the simple reason that die rolls are time consuming, not the actual roll but consulting the table, checking the shopping list of modifiers etc. It bogs down the game in a way that doesn't advance the narrative and distracts from the tactics or strategy of the game.

I do agree for the most part. The kicker is "As few die rolls as needed to get the job done." It all depends on 'the job' desired. Die rolls are often the anticipatory excitment and 'I don't believe it!' moments in a game… and often the unexpected, decisive die roll is what is remembered and talked about after the game.

In other words, die rolls are very much part of advancing the narrative.

Many moons ago, a designer related on TMP about this very thing. He had designed an Pacific War air combat system with several die rolls involved with defensive and offensive results leading to a final result. Play testers thought it 'realistic' and had no complaints. He later found he could get the exact same resolution odds with just 1 die roll. The same play testers, bereft of the combat narrative the multiple die rolls provided, felt the 1 die roll resolution was 'unrealistic' and not satisfying, even though the die rolls in both systems provided the same results.

The same designer noted that "In certain genres of gaming, for some reason d-sixes are not "historical"… But I'll bet that if you used sequential d6 rolls and gave them historical-sounding names (like "Ranging Roll," "Targeting Roll," "Plunging Roll," and so on), then people would accept them and be happy."

He's probably right because you see that in a number of games…because they add to the narrative of 'what's happening.'

It is the single die roll, 'black boxing' a series of events into one die roll result that can leave the players feeling cut off from the narrative altogether.

Blutarski09 Apr 2020 4:09 p.m. PST

Reminds me of a snarky set of "wargame rules" covering a global nuclear exchange that was published in the Courier way back in the day. It went something like this -

Side A throws one D6.
Side B throws one D6.
High score wins the game.

… or something to that effect.

I like to think that a wargame is about more than simply achieving a result. For many, it is also about crafting a narrative within which one can be both an assistant script writer and a participating actor.

Strictly my opinion. of course.

B

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2020 7:13 p.m. PST

It's one challenge among many for a wargame designer.

Murvihill10 Apr 2020 4:20 a.m. PST

My comments were directed at the original post. Setting morale randomly then checking it randomly is unnecessarily doubling down on randomness. Also, a game where players control a single unit is going to require more die rolls per event than one where they control ten units, but the point is still valid. Some games we roll the dice then only consult the tables if the number is in the ballpark.

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