What I mean by unit management is that some rules are figure-based and others element-based. Battle Chronicler does better with figure-based rules. When trying to use it with element-based rules that use concepts like hits, disruption, varying levels of morale status, etc. it falls short (or I need to learn it better to account for these factors). It was while reading a thread on the Yahoo forum for Song of Blades and Heroes (I read it for the Song of Drums and Shakos, Sixty-One Sixty-Five, and Flying Lead messages mostly) that I ran across a reference to MapTool by RPTools where someone was using it to play miniatures games.
So, what is MapTool? It is basically a tool for an RPG GM to run a game over the internet. But, in order to be successful at that it has a number of features that miniatures gamers could use. Rather than repeat everything on the RPTools web site, follow the link above and read about it. Suffice it to say that here are a few aspects of the tool that caught my interest:
- Easy to lay down a square or hex grid of any size.
- Easy to lay down and size terrain images.
- Easy to create 'tokens' - images representing figures, bases, or units - and move them around the map.
- Practically everything can have attributes or properties, all of which you can easily customize.
- Easy to game over the internet.
- Easy to introduce a Fog of War (hidden troops and movement).
- Open the Campaign properties.
- Create a new token type (click of a button).
- Type in a list of attributes for the token type, one attribute per line.
- Drag an image onto the board.
- Apply the token type to the image.
- Enter the values for each attribute. (The program automatically converted to list of attributes in step 3 to a property sheet.)
The effect of all this is that you can apply these attributes to each token on the board - in this case each base - and the system can track it for you just like a tool designed for an RPG GM would track hit points for all those separate goblins that your characters are bashing.
Finally, and this appeals more to the programmer in me, there is a macro language that you can embed into your creations. This is what takes it way beyond Battle Chronicler or VASSAL. Both of these systems are notorious in one aspect: they don't know or enforce the rules. With MapTool and macros, you actually can program in the rules. Know that the Elite troops fire at a +1? Program a macro that looks at the selected unit when you click the "Fire" button and it automatically applies the +1 for you.
One of the arguments you see a bit on forums like The Miniatures Page (TMP) is "playability versus realism" or "playability versus complexity". What it should really be is "playability versus detail". It is very easy to add detail to a set of rules and end up with more complexity, less playability, and less fun. However, some added detail can actually add to "realism", and if it just had a helper - like a computer program - the complexity and tedium would be offset.
An example is a set of rules that tracks several morale states (for example: Impetuous, Normal, Shaken, Broken, and Routed) for each unit, along with the number of disruptions (reflecting disorder and disorganization), and casualties, each of which has different effects in the rules and creates different modifiers when moving and shooting, by having an easily accessible roster for each of units you can track all of them with a minimum of effort (relatively speaking).
There are numerous other features that I have not even touched upon, such as light, line of sight, fog of war, and an infinite table size (no "edge of the table" syndrome here). This looks like the tool of choice, certainly for prototyping out new rules, trying new rules without committing to their basing schemes (yet), and playing over the internet some games where tracking several factors don't work as nicely with the other tools. This tool probably does not excel at free movement, but it is certainly capable of it.