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.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Playtest - New AWI Rules

As always, on my quest to use my multi-figure based AWI troops, I am playtesting rules to see if I can find the ones for me.

Today's playtest is using a modified version of Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming. I've done this before and was not really satisfied, but today I am trying a different approach. As before, I want to model the differences between the Close Order Line, the Open Order Line, and the Extended Order Line (i.e. skirmishing).

The figure on the left is the formation for Close Order Line, while the figure on the right is the formation for Open Order Line. The formation for Extended Order Line is the same as Open Order Line except that there are two figures per base. The formation for Column is one base wide and four bases deep.

Movement is greatly affected by formation, as shown in the table below.

FormationMovementRough Terrain Penalty
Close Order Line6cm33%
Open Order Line8cm25%
Extended Order Line12cm0%

Musketry has been changed as well. Although the effective range for muskets is still 16cm, and that of rifles is 24cm, there is a Short range, which is half of the effective range. Rifles cannot move and fire, even if skirmisher, but musket skirmishers can move 1/2 and fire or fire and move 1/2.

The chance to hit is based upon the quality of the troops.


Currently, there are no die roll modifiers (DRM). Roll 1D6 per base firing.

Marksmen represents trained riflemen.

For every hit, the target unit rolls a saving throw, based upon the formation of the target unit.

Column7+ *6+
Close Order Line6+5+
Open Order Line5+4+
Extended Order Line **4+3+

If the unit is in cover, +1 is added to the die roll.
* A unit in Column at Short range can only get a saving throw if it is in cover.
** A unit in Extended Order Line does not get the +1 DRM for cover.

I used these changes and played the melee rules straight, save that a Close Order Line gets 2D6 per base versus a Open Order Line (which only gets 1D6 per base) and that British win all ties against Patriot militia units in melee.

Playtest Game

I decided to try a small game in order to test out the changes. (Note that during this playtest the numbers to hit were one lower (better). Because of that playtest I decided to modify them. However, I may later modify them again.

The scenario was three British Regular (Average) infantry units and one British Grenadier (Elite) unit against two Patriot Rifle (Marksmen, Militia), two Patriot Militia units (Poor,Militia), and two Patriot Regular (Average) units. The board was my standard "Choke Point" board, which is 30" wide by 20" deep. The Patriots had a set-on of 1/2 the board for the first line and 3" for the second line. The British had a 3" set-on.

The British set up in two lines with the Grenadiers in the second line in Close Order. They will move slower, but the belief is that the first line will be shot up by the time the Grenadiers reach the main battle line, so they can charge in fresh against a weakened enemy. The Loyalists will sweep through the woods, and with the cover of the hills, engage the Rebel rifles from short range. Meanwhile the other two British units will bore in with bayonets with all due haste.

Turn 1

The Patriots start wearing away at the British in the front lines, but even with six stands firing at the center unit, it does not lose a base. This does not look good for the Patriots...

Turn 2

The British right flank charges up the hill, taking more rifle fire, and easily pushes the Patriot militia rifles off of the hill. Amazingly, however, the Patriots calmly retreat into the woods, take up cover positions, and reload (they did not lose a stand for retreating).

In the center the Patriots shoot up the advancing British, removing a stand and forcing a morale check. The British cannot take this heavy fire and the attack starts to stall as Patriot riflemen start to find their mark and pick off the British officers and sergeants. (The British lose an additional base in the morale check.) Despite the intense fire, however, the British push forth with zeal and bayonets only, forcing back the militia. The British start to feel a knot growing in their stomach as these militia too fall back in an orderly manner and reform to give the red coats another volley! (The Patriot militia also passes its morale check, and does not lose a base!)

The Rebels are being pushed back, but they are not breaking. Things are looking poorly for the British.

Turn 3

The British keep pressing with the bayonet against the Patriot militia, who keep giving them a volley at short range. The British in the center survive the fire once again, win the melee, but again the Patriots make an orderly retreat!

The British on the right charge down the hill into a fierce fire from the Patriot rifles. The riflemen again target the officers and sergeants, throwing the British unit into disorder. (The British lose a base to fire and then lose an additional base to morale. Again!) They press home with the bayonet, but their heart is just not in it as tomahawk-wielding riflemen spring out from behind trees and stumps, cutting men down here and there. The British retreat. (The skirmishers can fight in melee when in woods, and inflict a single hit, while the British inflict none. The British, fortunately, do not lose an additional base during the retreat.)

The Loyalists on the left are finally in the fight - well at least as targets - as the rifles pour fire into them.

The British in the center are now down two stands and have an additional two hits (the red die) on them. The Patriot militia facing them have only a single hit against them!.

On the British right the regulars have lost two stands, but have no hits (no red die; ignore the green die as it was an experiment). The rifles have lost a single stand, but have no additional hits. Being in cover they are sitting pretty at the moment.

Turn 4

On the British right flank the British again charge in against the rifles in the woods. The rifles get a few hits, but the British press with the bayonet and the rifles retreat. (Note that I am trying some experimental retreat rules, allowing the rifles to flow around the flanks.)

In the center the militia coolly give the British another volley, eliminating a stand. That was too much for the battered unit and it routs off of the board. (This is the third British morale roll due to fire casualties and the third failure! The British did not come ready to take fire today.)

On the British left the rifleman trade fire with the Loyalists, with the later taking the worst of it. This is the fourth morale check from fire casualties and the fourth failure...

Turn 5

The British right flank charges after the retreating riflemen, only to run into the 1st NC Regt. In the ensuing melee the Continentals thrash the British remnants, who promptly rout from the board.

In the center the British Grenadiers finally get into action. They are a bit nervous as they see British units around them falling apart, yet the Rebel militia is still holding firm! With a heavy volley, the militia blasts a base away and the Grenadiers ... lose a base! That is now five out of five failed morale rolls due to firing. In the melee the British get 4 dice (two bases in Close Order) and the militia get the same (four bases in Open Order). The British are able to inflict a hit, removing a base, but they take three in return. The Grenadiers retreat!

Finally, on the British left the Loyalists charge up the hill against the rifles in the open, and send them running. As they crest the hill they see what looks like a Maryland unit approaching...

And so the curtains close on this grisly scene. The Patriots have won a major victory.


It is easy to think that there was too much firepower, given that the British lost so much to it. However, looking at the battle, they really only took about 20 hits total from firepower; the remainder of the bases were lost due to failed morale rolls. (And that is pretty bad luck!) So, I hate to draw too many conclusions from a game with statistical anomalies.

That said, I like the new firing model. I think that morale does play into how effective one's fire is, so using it as the basis for hitting makes sense to me. The idea of a saving throw is two-fold: 1) to provide the opponent with something to do; and to lower the casualty rate. By cranking up the odds of inflicting casualties I needed a counter-balance to remove those hits on average. The best way to even out results is to throw buckets of dice.

Melee needs a make-over, however. I think the same basic model, using quality as the basis for inflicting hits in melee, then using another factor for saving throws (if any) provides a consistent gaming mechanism that makes it easier to understand and remember. More thoughts on that later.

Right now the movement-to-musketry ratio is three turns, two of which are in short range. This might make it worthwhile either considering three range bands or that short range is 1/4th that of effective range. The former would give one turn in each range band, while the latter would give only one at short range. Something to ponder.

I'll have to break out the artillery and cavalry next time, along with putting it on a larger board. I'll also need to think of a way to determine terrain placement. Also time to start digging out the old scenarios and get serious.


  1. While you're on the free wargames site, also check out Will McNally's set - I like them so much I've been playing them for about 20 years now!

  2. Really!?! I've had the set for a couple of years now and never got past the reading stage. They never struck me as "got to try these."

    Okay, I'll put them in the rotation Steve. Thanks.


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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").