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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

DBAWI Change: Firing Factors

I was playing with some numbers the other day, looking at the relative effects I would like each unit type to have other the other, both in firing and in close combat. Here is what I came up with:

COLOOORifleIndianLO CavOO CavLt ArtMed ArtHvy Art
RLt Art-1-2-2-3-1+0-1+0-1-2
Med Art+0-1-1-2+0+1+0+1+0-1
Hvy Art+1+0+0-1+1+2+1+2+1+0
Relative Firing Strengths

This table shows the relative difference between two units in Fire Combat.
For example, in a firefight between CO infantry you would find the CO
row, move to the CO column and find a +0, indicating neither will
have an advantage (all other factors being equal). On the other hand, LO
infantry firing at CO infantry would be +1. (Note that the CO row
and the LO column indicates -1. This does not mean that the LO is
+1 to the roll and the CO is -1, resulting in a difference of 2. This table
represents the difference between the two unit types, so if the firer is +, the
target will always be - the same amount and vice versa.)

Studying this table should give you some insight into my thoughts on the
relative merits of one troop type versus another in firing. However, several
other factors are required to reveal the full picture:

  • The Firing Results tables - those tables that show what drawing, beating, and doubling do to a unit - produce less decisive results than the Close Combat Results tables.
  • Quality is not taken into account. Elites troops will change the factors by +1 while Militia/Reluctant troops will change it by -1.
  • Artillery factors represent shooting round shot, not canister. (I'll work on canister later.)
  • Cover is not taken into account. This plays a big role in why the Indian factors look so grim. They should be in cover, not in the open.

What picture does come out of the table is:

  • CO infantry is not considered a superior firing formation. Its density allows it to receive more casualties, which its density of fire just ensures a greater percentage of shots miss against dispersed targets.

So, if you take the following numbers as the base firing factors:

CO Inf+4
LO Inf+4
OO Inf+3
LO Cav+2
OO Cav+3
Lt Art+2
Med Art+3
Hvy Art+4
Base Firing Factors

In order to make the base factors work, while achieving the relative
differences between units listed in the Relative Firing Strengths table,
the following modifiers must be used:

+1Firing at CO infantryThis solves the factor differences for LO shooting at CO. It partially solves the problem for OO shooting.
-1Firing at OO infantry, unless the firer is also OO infantryThis solves the factor differences for LO and CO shooting at OO. Note that Rifles and Indians are also OO.
-2OO infantry in open, firing at cavalryThis solves the factor differences for OO firing at cavalry.
-1Rifle in open, firing at cavalry [1]Rifles have an additional minus for lack of close combat weapons, making them even more skittish.
Firing Modifiers

1. This modifier is cumulative with the modifier OO infantry in open,
firing at cavalry

The system needs more work, but I wanted to see what comments this drew. I
have to playtest it. If I get a chance, I'll try it out this week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DBAWI Change: Fleeing

It turns out I was playing DBA incorrectly, as I pretty much cut my teeth on DBA Online where fleeing is a recoil, 180° turn, and a 600 paces move away. After reading the DBA version 2.2 rules on my trip to WA I noticed that it was supposed to be a recoil, 180° turn, and one tactical move away.

That solves the problem of the rifles fleeing off of the board so quickly. Don will be happy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

DBAWI Design Notes: Firing

I examined how I was doing Close Combat, at least for basic factors and the results table. This entry is for firing factors and the results table.

As I indicated before, I want firing to be more disruptive and close combat to be more decisive. One comment made on another forum is that in order to make combat more decisive, you need to use lower combat factors, making it easier to double. Another method is to change the results table.

In this entry I am simply going to list the firing factors I gamed with. If I experiment with other values I will post them and the results here.

Unit TypeOrderFactorRange
Line InfantryCO+4150 paces
Line InfantryLO+3200 paces
Light InfantryCO+4150 paces
Light InfantryLO+3200 paces
Light InfantryOO+2250 paces
German RiflesOO+3300 paces
American RiflesOO+3400 paces
IndiansOO+1200 paces
ArtilleryLight+2600 paces
ArtilleryMedium+3800 paces
ArtilleryHeavy+41000 paces

As you can see, CO infantry has a slightly better firing than the LO, who is slightly better than OO. Rifles have the range and good factors, although the tactical factors we used may make these numbers too high (more on that later).

What I like about the system is that LO infantry can start shooting 1/2" before the CO infantry can. It might seem minor, but it forces the CO infantry to close in more, which seems right.

As we have not used any artillery yet, I am unsure of how well they will fare, especially as opposed to rifles.

Here are the results tables:

Unit TypeResult if BeatenResult if Doubled
OO CavalryRecoil.Destroyed by LO or CO Infantry, and Artillery, otherwise flee 600 paces.
All Other CavalryRecoil.Destroyed.
ArtilleryCrew recoil.Crew destroyed.
BUA GarrisonNo effect.Destroyed.
Rifles, Indians, and OO Light InfantryRecoil.Destroyed by Rifles, Indians, and OO Light Infantry, otherwise flee 300 paces.
All Other InfantryRecoil.Destroyed.

Slightly different than Close Combat, but pretty much the same.

UPDATE: All references to "Patriot Rifle" are now "American Rifle" to reflect that Loyalist militia can also be armed with the same rifle. This will open up two (and maybe three) new troop types for the British side.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

DBAWI Design Notes: Close Combat

Let's start with the basic close combat values.

Unit TypeOrderFactor
Line InfantryCO+4
Line InfantryLO+3
Light InfantryCO+4
Light InfantryLO+3
Light InfantryOO+2
German RiflesOO+1
American RiflesOO+0

Bruce Bretthauer on the DBA-HX forum noted about tactical factors: "elements with low numbers die". That got me to thinking: the doctrine of the period was definitely that the musketry was to disorder and demoralize the opponent, but the decisive weapon was the bayonet. Shake the enemy up, then go in with cold steel and get them to start running.

As I look at the numbers, I really don't have any room to play with. The American Rifles are at +0 as it is. (Militia rifles would be at a dismal -1, which may be too low and require an exception that states "no roll and factors can take you below a modified roll of '1', otherwise doubling a '0' is rather easy...) If I want to incorporate Bruce's thoughts, I need to either compress the range or modify the shooting factors upwards. I'll look at the latter idea next blog entry.

The next part of close combat is the results table:

Unit TypeResult if BeatenResult if Doubled
OO CavalryRecoil.Destroyed by Cavalry, LO or CO Infantry, and Artillery, otherwise flee 600 paces.
All Other CavalryDestroyed if in Bad Going, otherwise recoil.Destroyed.
ArtilleryGun captured and crew recoil.Gun captured and crew destroyed.
BUA GarrisonNo effect.Destroyed.
Rifles and IndiansRecoil if contacted by Rifles, otherwise flee 300 paces.Destroyed by Cavalry if in Good Going or by OO Light Infantry, otherwise flee 300 paces.
OO Light InfantryRecoil.Destroyed by Cavalry in Good Going or by other OO Infantry, otherwise flee 300 paces.
Militia InfantryFlee 300 paces.Destroyed.
All Other InfantryRecoil.Destroyed.

Some of the results may look a little strange, but it is intended to provide the feel I am looking for. Rifles will flee from close combat, but because of their movement they can simply return back next round (if they have the pips). Light infantry in OO is the same way, but they trump Rifles because of their bayonets. Militia infantry will pretty much run from all combats they lose (which is likely, given they are LO and militia).

The primary difference in tactical factors with DBAWI is that an overlapping element that also contacts the flank or rear (i.e. the element's front corner touches the corresponding corner of the enemy element's or the element's front face full contacts the enemy element's rear face) gets an additional -1. This plays back into the change to the recoil mechanism (see DBAWI Design Notes: Redefining Recoil)).

As always, tell me what you think.

UPDATE: All references to "Patriot Rifle" are now "American Rifle" to reflect that Loyalist militia can also be armed with the same rifle.

Monday, November 17, 2008

DBAWI Design Notes: Differing Musket Range

Why does the musket's range differ with the type and order of the unit?

In the last blog entry I mentioned that the order of the unit could affect the firing range of the unit, in addition to determining how fast it moved and the effect terrain would play on its movement. This entry discusses the effect order has on range.

The range of a weapon represents the doctrine of the troops using the weapon just as it does for how far the weapon can physically shoot. Troops in CO were under tighter control by the officers and NCOs, who believed that it was better to reserve fire until much closer, where the effect would be much greater. Troops in OO, on the other hand, attempted to aim their weapon. Further, the depth of their base represents that they occupy a larger area of ground and that the figures are constantly moving forward, firing, retreating, and reloading. This implied movement, not represented by movement on the board, also accounts for the increased range.

So, here are the numbers:

Unit TypeOrderRange
Line InfantryCO150 paces
Line InfantryLO200 paces
Light InfantryCO150 paces
Light InfantryLO200 paces
Light InfantryOO250 paces
German RiflesOO300 paces
American RiflesOO400 paces
IndiansOO200 paces
ArtilleryLight600 paces
ArtilleryMedium800 paces
ArtilleryHeavy1000 paces

UPDATE: All references to "Patriot Rifle" are now "American Rifle" to reflect that Loyalist militia can also be armed with the same rifle.

DBAWI Design Notes: Basing and Order

I still need to post the rules, but I thought I would put the bits and pieces out there so I could comment on each section.

In the AAR I refer to Closed Order, Open Order, and Skirmish Order. Because those terms so many different things to different people (many contend that true "skirmish order" did not exist in the AWI), I have decide to use Close Order (CO), Loose Order (LO), and Open Order (OO).

Here are the basing recommendations:

Unit TypeOrderBase DepthFigures
Line InfantryCO20mm4
Line InfantryLO20mm3
Light InfantryCO20mm4
Light InfantryLO30mm3
Light InfantryOO30mm2
German RiflesOO30mm2
American RiflesOO30mm2

Close Order (CO): This represents the early war formations of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, usually three ranks deep. The Hessians infantry (save a few specialty units) will fight in this order throughout the war. The unit gets a benefit in standing off cavalry and morale, but suffers in movement speed and musket range. The lower movement range is justified by the need to dress the line more frequently and so on. A discussion of musket ranges will follow.

Loose Order (LO): This order represents fighting in two ranks with a full arm's distance between each file. The Patriots and British fought mostly in this order. It is what is referred to in the phrase "loose files and American scramble". This order gives the infantry a better movement rate, less penalty from terrain and a slightly longer musket range.

Open Order (OO): Finally we have the AWI equivalent of skirmish order, which are the files spread much farther out. This order gives the best movement rate, no real penalty on terrain, and the best range with a musket.

UPDATE: All references to "Patriot Rifle" are now "American Rifle" to reflect that Loyalist militia can also be armed with the same rifle.

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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DBAWI Design Notes: Columns

I thought I would add some of my design notes to DBAWI so that if any of them spark discussion, they could be recorded in the comments for each particular post.

-1 if in column and being shot at, except from the flank.

The first note is regarding the use of columns. For the AWI — and for the linear warfare period in general — columns were used for maneuvering on the battlefield prior to the battle proper. Charging in column is really associated with starting in the Napoleonic period for the Horse and Musket era. Given the scale each element represents in DBAWI, one element in contact behind the other does not represent two successive lines, but rather a column.

In DBA and DBN using two element deep formations gives you the flexibility to move in column while gaining rear support (if the element type provides it). For the linear warfare period, this flexibility came with a price: units were more vulnerable to musket and artillery fire as they went deeper.

To reflect this, when shooting is being resolved, a factor of -1 is applied if the element being shot at is in column. (I am still working on the definition of "in column", but it basically means that if the element could move as a column, the factor applies.)

Another factor is that not using two-element deep formations for the battle lines looks better. See some of the pictures from my DBAWI game and see if you do not agree.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I've started working on a set of rules for the AWI that is based on the rules De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) and its Napoleonic variant DBN. I call mine DBAWI.

I am still mounting troops, so in order to play test games I have to mix early and late war troops, so forgive the ahistorical battle report. At least it can help convey some of the ideas behind the rules.

Remember, you can click on any picture to see a larger version. Each is about 200K. The text refers to the picture directly above it.

This map comes from the excellent scenario book Scenarios For All Ages by C. S. Grant and S. A. Asquith, and is scenario three: Disciplined versus Irregulars.

First, a picture of the gameboard that we played on. What I did was buy an Elmer's white foam core board and color the terrain on using art markers. In the past I have also added foam core pieces to reflect hills and woods in order to give it a slight 3D appearance. I will probably go back and fix this board.

UPDATE: Some have asked what the different colors mean. Basically I use the different colors of medium green with straight strokes to show different grasses, dark green with semi-circular strokes to represent woods, and brown with straight strokes leading to a center line to be hills (darker brown is a steep slope). In future boards I will use a mixture of greens and browns for various crops, although I am experimenting with using carpet samples glued to the board as field crops. I may even go so far as to print out paper fences and glue them to the board.

The different colors for grass has no affect on game play. However, a future blog post will discuss the idea of creating different types of Good Going terrain and how these different colors can be used.

Setup: The Americans and French (Don) are the attackers and so will have the first turn. (All photos are from the British perspective.) Don is leading with his cavalry on his right flank, mostly because he has the perception that cavalry can roll over infantry pretty easily. Hopefully this game will help remove that perception...

The British have put their close order infantry in the front line with the lights on the flank. The second line contains the elites (British and German grenadiers). Here's a shot a little closer of the British. Note: the 17th Light Dragoons on the right flank were accidentally cut out of the picture.

Turn 1 - American: Don took advantage of the extra pips granted to the attacker on turn 1 (from the DBN rules) and moved his Rifles on both hills, while moving his cavalry aggressively up the center. The British were just out of rifle range (400 paces) so no fire occurred.

British: The British main line moves forward through the pass, while the British lights move aggressively with the bayonet against the Rifles, which have gotten a little too close on the left flank.

Here is a closeup of the action on the left flank. (By the way, those nicely painted miniatures are done by DJD from Thailand. If it is well painted, it is DJD; if it is good, it is me, and if it is "wargame quality", it was some random eBay purchase.)

The Rifles could not stand against the bayonets of the British lights, so they flee 600 paces. (Don thinks that infantry fleeing 600 paces, which is a double move, is too much. In the end, it is the fleeing moves that will yield 2 VP to the British.)

Turn 2 - American: Don decides to run down the British line by throwing his cavalry into them. He is about to learn that unsupported cavalry thrown into steady line doesn't usually work.

Here is a close-up of the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons in Loose Order and Moylan's Light Dragoons in Open Order charging the 42nd Highlanders, the left battalion in Close Order and the right in Loose Order. The left battalion has support from the Hessian Fusiliers, but the right does not have support (Butler's Rangers are just slight back because of a previous recoil).

The Rifles drive Butler's Rangers back further with their tremendous fire, but the cavalry charge fails utterly. The 2nd are destroyed by the close-range volleys of the Highlanders and the Hessians, while Moylan's are saved by the lower volume of fire and the fact that they are skirmishing.

Here is a close-up of the damage on the British right flank. (Note: we forgot to turn the recoiling cavalry around. That is a slight change I made to the rules as a compromise between the simplicity of DBA and the attrition model you see in DBN and DBA-HX.)

British: I decide to move Butler's Rangers up in order to try and take care of those damned Rifles on the hill. Can't charge in with bayonets, but at least they are in musket range. Meanwhile, the 17th Light Dragoons attempt to flank the hill by swinging around on the right.

Here is a close-up of the action on the British right flank.

At this point I should point out that I painted Butler's Rangers and at this point, no matter who uses these troops, they are invariably the first British unit lost! I probably need to paint some additional details on the figures in order to change their karma. So far it looks pretty bad.

Butler's Rangers are again beaten back by the fire of the Rifles.

Turn 3 - American: Don finally rolls 6 pips and can start moving out. The cavalry retreats, the left flank rifles turn to fire on the British cavalry attempting to flank it, the rifles on the right advance to take on the British light infantry, and the American battle line starts moving forward. Finally!

Here's the left flank rifles siting in on the 17th Light Dragoons.

Damned rifles! They completely rout (i.e. a Destroy result) the 17th. (That's what happens when sixes and ones are rolled!) I have really got to rid myself of them. Well, at least Butler's Rangers were not the first to die again. Maybe their luck has changed.

British: I also get 6 pips to work with, so I start by attacking both rifle units on the flanks. Butler's Rangers fix bayonets and charge up the hill while a second British Light unit brings supporting fire to bear on the left flank. While the British battle lines move forward, the British Legion cavalry shifts from the left to the right flank.

Here is the close-up on the left flank. The light infantry is uphill and in range of the rifles! By concentrating my fire on them I may be able to get them to recoil before I go in with the bayonet!

Here is the close-up on the right flank. Butler's Rangers have squared up on rifles, but the British battle line has not moved past the rifle's rear, so if it recoils it won't kill the Highlanders on the right flank.

Things keep going the way of the British as both Patriot rifle units flee. The rifles on the right are almost off of the board, but there is nothing there to exploit it (what with the 17th Light Dragoons now routed).

Turn 4 - American: Don starts rolling bad for pips again, so all he succeeds in doing is moving the rifles on his right back up and moving his skirmish cavalry on his left up onto the hill to block Butler's Rangers.

British: The British take advantage of the lull on the American side by pushing forward the battle lines further through the pass and having the British light infantry charge the rifles on the left. The British Legion cavalry finishes its move and has now crossed over to the right flank, ready to take on the skirmishing American cavalry, if necessary.

Finally! The British lights rout the American rifles on the (British) left flank. The rifles flee and because they run out of board, they are out of the game.

This episode points out two things: maybe the distances for the Flee result is too far for foot; and the depth of the board does matter when it comes to keeping units on the board. However, given how little Don has moved his troops in the rear forward, the same result might have occurred.

Something a little more subtle to note: Butler's Rangers forces the skirmishing American cavalry to retreat and the French line in the center recoiled from the Hessian fire. These retreats become significant as Don continues to roll low for pips.

Turn 5 - American: All Don can do (as he only has two pips again) if to get his French line recovered from recoiling.

The more we play this new rule - that recoiling troops must recoil one base depth and turn 180° - the more I like it. It forces the expenditure of pips to "recover from disorder" and as the commander cannot afford to use those pips, the line starts to crumble. All without markers or notations.

The British got the worst of the volleying this time: one Hessian recoiled, along with a British light unit, while only one Continental unit was shaken up.

British: The British were able to recover their disorder, while also pressing forward with Butler's Rangers, and the British Legion cavalry in support. With the American Light Dragoons caught in the woods, now was a good time to attempt to destroy them in Bad Going.

Again, the Fusiliers recoil, as does a French unit, but what is significant is that another Continental unit recoils on the American right and the American cavalry is destroyed as it was penned up in the woods. The British are now leading 2-1.

Turn 6 - American: Again Don rolls two pips for his turn. He brings one of the French line back and moves forward with the Rifles on his left. This is, in my opinion, a bad move because:

1. His right flank is crumbling and he really needs to rally some of those units because it is too late.

2. His rifles cannot stand against either the bayonets of Butler's Rangers or the sabers of the British Legion cavalry, so he is just throwing the unit away. He should have entered the woods, if he was going to make a move with the rifles at all. There they can chew up either unit. Oh well. He is still learning.

The rifles have managed to drive back the Highlanders, but at what expense? Another of his Continental units are thrown into disorder by the crack British light infantry firing from the hill. There is little to stop them next turn...

British: Forsaking the chance to recover some of my battle line's disorder, I move in for the kill. My British lights on the left charge the disordered Continental line while the British Legion cavalry charges the exposed American rifles on the right.

It is over. The British lights destroy one of the Continental units while the British Legion cavalry forces the Rifles to flee off of the board. The game is over, with a British win of 5-1.

Aftermath - Again, I like the changes to the rules. I think that some of the tactical factors that I put in help give this DBA variant an AWI flavor. The Rifles are tough: +3 in firing, plus the enemy is -1 for being hit by rifles in the open. It might even be too tough. Don is just not used to them yet.

The +1 for the hill played a big part. Should shooting get that modifier too? (It does in some DBA variants.) I am thinking it should not. Probably have to play another game or two to find out.

I'll try and publish the rules. If not here, then on the Yahoo forum for the Sierra Vista Historical Gamers.

UPDATE: Changed "Open Order" to "Loose Order" and "Skirmish Order" to "Open Order" to use the more appropriate terms. Updated some spelling errors.

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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").