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"Oh no, another end to end table top stalemate!" Topic

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2nd British Bulldog18 Jun 2003 9:58 a.m. PST

Imagine if you will, a lovely 11x5 foot table, decked out with Terrain and buildings. Your amries are arrving and deploying in a quick march as battle lines are being drawn up... Three hours later, the opposing armies are end to end on the table top, lined up so almost evey unit can fire... another few hours pass and you and your fellow gamers say F**k and pack it in. Another game with no ending!

Now im not looking for a set of game rules here. But what are some of the things you fellow gamers have played or come up with to avoid this problem? I have a hand full of things me and my gamers are working on, Commander and control, random events, action deck cards etc. Things to limit of increase fire fights with major out comes and not a slow rate of kills.

So what are you gamers finding out there or playing that help avoid these type of games?

Cheers Neil T

TodCreasey18 Jun 2003 10:04 a.m. PST

One - make the rules fast (I use Grande Armee).

Two - get the scope of the game clear. People make games too big. Plan for the right number (and skill level) of guys who are playing.

Three - get 'em to grips in the first hour. If the scenario requires more than an hour of maneover than rework it - likewise an early bloodbath can be no fun either. Be willing to start the game later in the battle rather than playing out the maneouver.

TWhitley18 Jun 2003 10:55 a.m. PST

TodCreasey has hit the nail on the head on all three points! His 'Three - get 'em to grips in the first hour' seems to trip up many gaming groups. Many scenarios would be improved by moving the game's start time closer to the battle's 'crisis'.

Another suggestion: Try to limit the number of troops (when laid side by side) to a fraction of the table width. That way, you can't possibly 'span the table'--flanks exist naturally. [Our group has this same problem--what might be called 'super-linear scaling'. The more people show up, the larger the 'spectacle' that can be staged, the more mouth-watering occurs in the scenario designer.... More people end up with more troops apiece (hence 'super-linear'), and the 'spectacle' turns into a giant slog! Don't go there!] You'll usually want a decent amount of terrain, if you have fewer troops, so that players' decisions are not limited to angle of attack but include deploying in/anchoring off/avoiding/etc. terrain, delaying or not, etc.

Charles Grant's Scenario books (out of print) are gems in this respect--precious few troops, quite varied terrain, and missions which require decisions be made. Sometimes just assigning missions ('Get into that town before the enemy!') or giving hidden player briefings can create the asymmetry of purpose that breaks standoffs. Even if there are no consequences for failing a mission, players will justify their headlong attack or stolid, static defense with 'You told me I had to [fill in the blank]!'

A comment we have made to our (admittedly-still-unreformed) selves: not all interesting (historical or otherwise) battles are meeting engagements. In our WWII gaming, we have begun setting up desperately unequal opposing forces, which usually has the effect of forcing the weaker onto the defensive and giving options to the stronger. We tell the stronger they have to 'Do [blank], or else!' and it usually gets bloody quickly. In a good way!

Lee Brilleaux Fezian18 Jun 2003 11:00 a.m. PST

I am not sure what period you are playing here, but the massive 'deployment from column' seems unnecessary - if it takes 3 hours, I'd have gone home already. Marching isn't very interesting. It isn't hard to start already deployed and ready for battle. Using rules that fit the number of units involved is crucial - too many people find a set that they like with X units per side - so it must be better with 3X per side, right? And it slows to a crawl.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2003 11:10 a.m. PST

Start the game with forces closer. Cuts down on turns just "deploying".

Tom Dye

2nd British Bulldog18 Jun 2003 11:15 a.m. PST

Im playing Napoleons. I like the ideas so far. The hour deployment wasnt an exacr time scale but those that play know what im talking about, slow movement, slowly building up to combat.

But I think the posts about starting the battle sooner, by having troops deployed closer together, with maybe troops arriving later from the edge of the table is a good idea.

So to is the idea of having objectives other than destroying the other players army. All great ideas, thanks for the replies and any other yet to come.

Cheers Neil T

Mr Elmo18 Jun 2003 11:24 a.m. PST

I second the recommendation for Grande Armee. I've played the rules and they are quick playing with a good Napoleonic feel.

Goldwyrm18 Jun 2003 11:45 a.m. PST

I like the exhaustion and morale factors of Carnage and Glory. You may have some areas where the units are exhausted and the other side can exploit this even when all units go table edge to table edge. Exhausted, retiring units can quickly create holes and flanks!

Of course you could still end up with a stalemate when everyone's exhausted, but not all battles ended decisively in history.

Rich Bliss Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2003 12:31 p.m. PST

I play larger scale rules which cover an entire battle. That limits the amount of forces to historical limits and provides much more interesting situations than the common "meeting engagement" I don't like setting up in contact range as that limits the maneuver which was often the battle winning component.

MachewR18 Jun 2003 2:03 p.m. PST

Does the game have to end that night? Can't a game take two or three nights (granted, if someone has the space to leave the table and minis up)? I remember playing board games like Terrible Swift Sword or Wellington's Victory that took some time. Then again, I like battalion/regiment level gaming and willing to endure several nights for that level.

Waterloo18 Jun 2003 3:55 p.m. PST

Over the years, too many years, myself and the group I play with have been there and done that. One of the most important things you can do is to have a viable scenario, not just a last man standing game. You must have logical objectives and victory conditions. Another idea is to have the opposing armies on the table and in position at the beginning of the game. Finally you can limit the number of units on the table, according to the scenario you devise, this can keep opponents from lining up end to end. If you can find Grant's scenario books, buy, borrow or steal them.


Personal logo Condotta Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2003 5:02 p.m. PST

One of the ideas from the set of rules we play (Empire) is the telescoping time theory...everyone moves up into engagement range almost immediately, so we have combat usually in the first few minutes of the game, with lots of movement. Infantry engage at 10" (25mm), so units get into action quickly. As suggested, use objectives (assign points for objectives, standards taken, units routed, whatever) and use 2/3 of the units or less than you use now to free up manuever room.

John the OFM18 Jun 2003 5:02 p.m. PST

A few things I have learned:

DO NOT start from the long ends of the table. If you do, you must have some mechanism, or strategic movement, to bring the forces tgether quickly.

Give yourself enough time.

Use rules which encourage quick determination.

Etc. Etc, Etc. In other words, PLAN AHEAD. Plan your game around the table, scenario, and probably most important, the players. You know them. If you want to run Waterloo or Gettysburg, make sure they will go along, and not veer off into discussions of the Iraq war, or Renn and Stimpy. You can't do Market Garden in 2-1/2 hours with miniatures. Find an old boardgame on eBay.

Cincinnatus18 Jun 2003 5:41 p.m. PST

Fewer forces per player gives a much quicker moving game regardless of where you start the forces. Even starting in fire range won't help that much if it still takes forever to do a turn because of all the units involved.

It also has the upside of players acting more realistic with their forces. We used to play games where because of the number of people involved there just wasn't that many units available so at most you had 2 or maybe 3 units to command. With only two units to last you all afternoon you were a lot more careful about charging them forward to their doom on turn 2.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2003 4:57 a.m. PST

Ya . . . Empire and still "Revolution & Empire"? use that Telescopic Time System.

But there are no "last man standing" results anymore are they? (Unless it's in the scenario) Usually when that happens there is a problem with the morale and fatigue rules.

Looking at after-battle reports indicate that the loss of 15% of effectives is often considered a trouncing.

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2003 6:04 a.m. PST

Our group used to have this same problem where an Empire game would drag out over three nights. Last year we switched to the Age of Eagles Fire and Fury variant available for free on a Yahoo egroup. The rules are in color, professionally done, and play fast. We now use three to four corps a side and can get in 9-10 turns in 4 hours. Suffice to say, we've never looked back.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jun 2003 6:56 a.m. PST

One of the things about starting closer to the "crisis" of a battle is that often you can't make the maneuver your enemy never saw coming. Back when I was still wargaming, my friends and I had a system that worked pretty well. We had a small boardgame set up with fog of war. This was at 1 hex = 2.5 mile and a counter represented one brigade. Once the armies joined we moved to the minis table. Minor combats (i.e. cavalry vedettes running into each other) were resolved on an odds type table.


the armies on the operational map continued to move. So the area on the minis table was marked on the boardgame and crossing the boundary you suddenly moved over to the minis table.

It was not perfect of course. I rememeber one gent whose division was way out of position and he spent most of the day marching to the guns. Still, we let him play misc. units on both sides so he would not be left out.

Of course, what made it all really work was simply that the scenarios also had fog of war. So the Prussian objective might be to exit the map on the two main roads, while the French want to sieze a bridge and town on the line of march.

Not knowing what your enemy's mission is (or having to guess) really makes it all interesting. Also, fighting "fictional" scenarios avoids having players know the terrain and enemy forces inisde and out. And we had fog of war - we had a "line of sight screen" that (mostly) blocked your view of a lot of enemy forces (and of course some were still "off-map").

It's a lot of work but was, I think, worth the effort.

procrastigamer20 Jun 2003 6:00 a.m. PST

Rent some re-enactors and go outside.

Pyruse20 Jun 2003 6:21 a.m. PST

Use a set of rules which gets a decision in three hours.
We find Shako plays very fast and decisiviely, even with a table full of figures. Likewise Volley & Bayonet, and likewise Age of Eagles (Napoleonic Fire & Fury).

Avoiding 'line them up' games is another good idea - play some scenarios, or refight some battles.

TWhitley20 Jun 2003 11:06 a.m. PST

"...[Our group has this same problem--what might be called 'super-linear scaling'. The more people show up, the larger the 'spectacle' that can be staged, the more mouth-watering occurs in the scenario designer.... More people end up with more troops apiece (hence 'super-linear'), and the 'spectacle' turns into a giant slog! Don't go there!]..."

'Our group' is feeling threatened and all sensitive about the comments I made about our 'super-linear scaling'. It's well known we have the problem relatively well under control. ['It's the Air Force which suffers the most losses due to cannibalism' if I recall my Monty Python correctly.] We don't always have this problem and hardly notice it at all (we have so many bigger problems!).

Seriously, the temptation to scale up is basic and human and must be fought against with strong will (and/or strong drink). That's the point of this thread's therapy session!

procrastigamer28 Jun 2003 7:37 p.m. PST

What was wrong with my idea?

Generalmajor30 Jun 2003 12:08 p.m. PST

At the club I go to we usually play for four hours. General de Brigade rules give a good fast game.

The problem is that people can't stop jawing and get on with playing ...

Terror Dude30 Jun 2003 2:23 p.m. PST

I try to get a game going early and finish late, break for prepared lunch. We try to limit the jawing part to Lunch and after the game. Always on the search for the perfect game rules. Played quite a few, always like the easy more friendly ones.

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