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Land of the Free: Elemental Analysis


greenknight4 Sponsoring Member of TMP writes:

As a quasi-published author I thought I'm chime in a bit. I will not mention any of my games as that is not what this is about. In my recent game I had saving throws but I was so turned off by the term (not sure why now) I used the term "Success Roll". It sounded cool and different to me and heck I thought nobody would notice. Ha at my very first convention game at Cold Wars an nice observer who was there to watch the game asked why I didn't call them saving rolls, or throws. Well I didn't really have a good answer other than what I just mentioned. So if I could do it over I would have used the term most gamers associate the mechanism with. So what I'm trying to say is that sometimes writers get so involved in wanting to be seen as creating something new they lose sight of the obvious. Starting with myself :) In this example maybe element for unit, not that I'm putting words or reasons into his mouth.

Chris P.



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17 October 2014page first published

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

Land of the Free is Osprey's new ruleset, covering warfare in the Americas from the French and Indian War through to the War of 1812.

Land of the Free

The rules use the term "elements" to denominate what are usually called units in other rules.

Elements are classed in four types: tiny, small, medium, and large.

What an element actually represents in terms of size of military unit is flexible:

In order to maintain the look and feel of a historical battle, tiny, small, medium and large units should have a natural military progression in size. For example, a small element could represent a squad or patrol, a medium element could represent a platoon, and a large element could act as a company. (pg. 19)

However, I found it interesting that the designer chose (according to pg. 130) an alternate system to use when creating the historical scenarios included in the book:

tiny
1 to 49 actual troops
small
50 to 99
medium
100 to 199
large
200 or more

This is interesting, since if you go back now to pg. 19, the designer seems to be breaking his own guidelines. According to his chart:

1-49 troops would be
file, patrol, section or platoon
50-99
mostly falling in a dead zone, but could be a large platoon or a small company
100-199
a company
200+
company, battalion, etc.

It would have been more consistent if he had said:

tinysection8-16 men
smallplatoon 26-55 men
mediumcompany 80-225 men
largebattalion 300-1,500 men

Of if he had ignored troop strength completely, and used unit sizes the way he seems to suggest on pg. 19 (see above)!

Elements & Stands

Now, in game terms, the class of element determines how many stands it may have, but there is quite an overlap between the classes:

tiny
1 to 3 stands
small
1 to 3 stands
medium
3 to 6 stands
large
5 to 7 stands

This surprised me, since the designer also says...

It is important to maintain consistency throughout the scaling of the game because the footprint of an element in the game could have a serious impact on the result. As the footprint more accurately represents the element, it is more important that consistency is achieved with the stand sizes... (pg. 15)

By "stand sizes," I presume he means number of stands per element. Therefore, although his allowed number of stands per element allows for considerable overlap, he seems to expect players to decide by consensus not to overlap element classes...?

This also seems at odds with the rule of thumb used for the historical scenarios (see above), where a small unit is typically twice the size of a tiny unit, and a medium unit is four times the size of a tiny unit - if, that is, unit frontage (footprint) is roughly equivalent to troop strength.

On pg, 20, it says that before play, "players should determine the size for each element prior to the game beginning in order to avoid any confusion during play" - it is not specific where this refers to number of stands, numbers of figures per stand, or both. Obviously, there can be a lot of confusion if tiny, small and medium elements could all be composed of three stands!

Elements, Stands & Figures

The game is flexible with regard to dimensions of each stand, though recommending 40mm x 30mm stands (10-15mm) and 40mm x 40mm or 50mm x 50mm (25-40mm) for infantry. Though the rules are not specific on this point, I assume that all infantry stands should have the same dimensions, regardless of element class.

The designer also makes recommendations for number of figures per element, based on class:

tiny
2-6 figures
small
4-12
medium
6-18
large
10-30

Comparing numbers of stands and numbers of miniatures, the average works out to be (rounded):

tiny
2 figures per base
small
4 figures per base
medium
3 figures per base
large
3 figures per base

The ranges are large and overlapping, meaning that any of these "medium" elements would be legal:

  • 6 stands, 1 figure each
  • 6 stands, 3 figures each
  • 3 stands, 2 figures each
  • 3 stands, 9 figures each
  • 4 stands, 4 figures each

Which leads to the question: why vary the number of figures per stand on an element basis? It makes no difference in terms of game play, so it must be intended as a way to tell one element class from another...

...keeping the number of miniatures accurate across the element sizes is advantageous because at a quick glance players can easily recognize the size of each element. (pg. 15)

However, using number of figures per stand as a clue to element class visually would look like added mass. Yes, larger element classes have higher Discipline ratings and more Actions, but if the number of figures per stand is intended to escalate by class (which is not entirely consistent with the designer's recommendations regarding figures per element), it gives the impression that troop density increases by element class... which is interesting, if that is the designer's intent.

Elements & Points

A final way to look at elements is to compare the point cost. The table on pg. 182 lists points in terms of elements, and since there is nothing in the rules about the number of stands affecting the cost, I assume that an element costs the same regardless of number of stands.

In the basic rules, most infantry elements have the same costs according to class:

tiny
10 points
small
15 points
medium
25 points
large
35 points

Again, this is interesting, as since the historical scenarios suggest a typical medium element is twice the size of a small element, and four times the size of a tiny element, the point costs do not reflect this. Or, in terms of Actions, a large element gets 6 Actions and costs 35 points, while three small elements gets a total of 6 Actions (2 each) for 45 points.

You might think that it would be advantageous for a player to always take the maximum number of stands per element, since there is no extra cost to do so. That might be true, but in this game system, the number of stands has no direct impact on shooting, melee, or morale... except that an element with more stands can influence more of the battlefield simply due to its larger footprint. (Also making it a larger target...)

With all that having been said, I am still eager to try these rules, but I'll admit I am baffled at the designer's intentions with regards to elements... and I'm undecided about how to base my figures up.