My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

DBAWI Design Notes: Redefining Recoil

Time for another installment of my Design Notes for DBAWI, or using DBA for the American War of Independence. This time it is about redefining the recoil mechanic.

Recoil: move the element straight back the distance equal to its base depth and turn it 180° so it is facing directly away from the element it recoiled from.

When I first played DBN I used the traditional game. Later, I heard about the Humberside Extensions and the "attrition model", which was also included in DBN.

The reasoning given for the attrition model is that muskets simply recoil too much and it leads to a boring game. Maybe it is who I game with, but it never seemed to be a problem to me. Eventually the cavalry worked its way around the flanks and the infantry was killed on recoil. Either that or the game was won by killing the cavalry and light infantry.

I finally tried the attrition model and it immediately reminded me of my rules The Age of Napoleon, which used markers to denote the morale states "halted", "shaken", and "broken". I used the same markers to represent 1, 2, and 3 recoils (well, only 1 and 2 for DBN). One of the attractions to DBA and DBN was the lack of markers and clutter.

So, the basic question is: how can you represent a degradation of morale for single element units without using markers or rosters? Some say, a failure to do so and "musket lines can blaze away at each other for hours and cause little damage" (from Bruce McFarlane's "Morale and Attrition" rules).

As it stands, a recoil does not represent anything other than the temporary loss of morale that forced an element to retreat. It does come into play in that the formation the element is a part of now suffers disorder (the neighboring elements can be overlapped more easily), but the retreating element itself does not directly suffer the turn following a recoil.

Let us start with the tactical factor -1 if contacted or shot at from the flank or rear. This certainly represents the shock and disorder from being shot at or contacted from an unexpected quarter. What struck me about this factor is that it basically represents a unit in disorder. Is that not what a recoiled unit should also suffer: disorder?

Carrying that further, what would be the effects if you turned the element 180° after a traditional recoil? From my perspective:

1. It still disrupts the formation, as with a traditional recoil.

2. It still requires a pip to recover (move the element back up into position), as with a traditional recoil.

So far, so good. The new mechanism would not take away the disadvantages that a recoil already produces.

3. An element recovering from a recoil cannot generally move farther forward than regaining its original position, due to the movement cost of turning around. This has the effect of not being able to move farther than where you originally started, unlike a traditional recoil. Essentially, you cannot recover from a recoil and advance, all in one pip.

4. An element that does not spend the pip to recover remains vulnerable until it does so, as it will be -1 in defense and cannot shoot back.

This is essentially the effect I am looking for. A recoil should affect the recoiling element on its following turn(s), more than it currently does, so how to reflect that. By turning the element around you force the player to expend pips reordering the line and until they do so, the unit is very vulnerable.

So, the question now is, what looks worse: markers showing the number of recoils or elements turned backwards? You decide.

If you want to see it in action, read the blog entry of a few days prior and look at the pictures. You will see how I recoil the troops and face them to the rear. As my opponent was unable to roll sufficient pips, his right flank slowly started to fall into disorder as units recoiled, but were not recovered. Eventually the fire recoiled more and more units, until the British closed in with the bayonet and destroyed a disordered element. I liked the effect.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").