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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bringing the Command and Colors Design to the Tabletop

Now, I am not the first one to discuss turning Ricard Borg's Command and Color (CC) series of board games into a miniatures game. In fact, Richard himself apparently starts out designing these games using miniatures on hex grid mats before turning them into board game designs. But, that is not quite what I am talking about.

Fantasy Flight Games, in their Borg-inspired Battlelore: Battle of Westeros (BoW) series come the closest to what I am thinking of. In BoW each player gets two forms of command elements: tokens and dice. The number of command tokens available per turn is dictated by scenario, just as the Command Card count is dictated by scenario in CC. These tokens are played on leaders, allowing them to order groups of units together (with group membership being defined as any unit within 2 hexes of the leader unit being eligible). However, each player also rolls a certain number of battle dice each turn to indicate the number of additional units that can be ordered, above those ordered by group moves. Thus, if a group has more members than a leader can normally control, or a unit is outside of the command radius of all friendly leaders, the dice can be used to order units individually. This mechanism of command and control allows the board to be devoid of sections, and adds a leadership component the way Command and Colors: Ancients and Command and Colors: Napoleonics do. Actually, in BoW leaders are extremely important.

So, if you imagine a table with a hex grid, no section lines, and a bunch of models, how could you go about using 'straight' CC rules without the Command Card deck? Everything else would still be the same - in Memoir 44, for example, the armor would still have a three-hex range and the same number of battle dice - you would just get rid of the card aspect of the game and replace it with another mechanism. Now I realize that removing the section lines and replacing it with "PIPs" changes the game. Allowing you to move units anywhere on the board gives you a lot of flexibility that the games currently do not have. I experienced that when I played a game similar to CC: Clash for a Continent by Worthington Games. So, unless you like that sort of thing, it cannot be a simple "roll for PIPs" kind of command and control system.

My idea was to take the ideas from BoW and convert it to a single game mechanism: roll dice for command, then allow the player to use the rolls in different ways, which allow for different options. Let's start with the basic mechanic, so it becomes a little more concrete.

Imagine we are doing this for Memoir '44 (M44). I use the battle dice that came with the game (two sides show infantry, one side armor, one side a grenade, one side a flag, and one side a star) to determine what units may be ordered each turn. The scenario would dictate how many dice are to be rolled - no reason not to use the number of Command Cards as a starting point for this discussion - with the unit symbol indicating the type of unit that can be ordered and the grenade (or star, if you prefer) indicating the player has a choice. Basically treat it like the Command Card In Their Finest Hour, except you don't get the bonus die in battle.

At its simplest level, you basically move a number of units equal to about 2/3rds of your Command Card allotment (1-4 units). However it is possible to move no units in a turn, something that generally does not happen in M44. So far, so good, but a little too simple and flexible. Rather than create a penalty for choosing units all over the board, I want to create an incentive for:
  • Keeping your units grouped together 2.
  • Not ordering the maximum number of units every turn (i.e. "Use them or lose them").
  • Giving the players choices to make that exchange risk for reward.
2 By "grouped together" I mean an approach similar to BoW where units within a certain range of a key unit are considered part of the group, and thus can benefit from a group order. This range could change based upon the period you are playing, the nationality, or other special circumstances you define in a scenario.


Given the math above - that, on average, rolling dice will probably produce fewer units that can move than if you used the Command Cards - the goal of groups is to offset the reduction in the number of units that can act each turn by giving you a mechanism to order a group of units as if it were a single unit. BoW has two command mechanisms: use tokens to order groups and use dice to order individual units. Each mechanic, rolling dice or collecting tokens, however, has its own rating in a BoW scenario. What I am proposing is to use a single mechanic, rolling dice, and allowing the player to use a die to either order a unit or to be converted into a group move.

So, how to convert a die to a group order, and what exactly does a group order mean?

Die Conversion

Simply put, a die is converted to a group order by withholding the use of the die and at the end of the Orders Phase, exchanging the unused die for a token, representing a future group move. The token it is converted to is either of the same symbol (infantry, armor, Red, Green, Blue, etc. – called a Group Leader token) or it is converted to a Group Member token that is stacked with a Group Leader token you already have. This stack of a Group Leader token and one or more Group Member tokens is called a Group Order.

Imagine you are playing Battlelore and you only have a Command Rating of four, so you roll the following four dice for orders:

You have some moves for a Green unit that you would like to take, same with a Blue unit, but you want to save the Lore die (any unit) and the Red die. When you convert the Lore and Red dice, you decide to exchange the Lore die for a Lore Group Leader token (i.e. any unit can be a group leader) and the Red die for a Group Member token. As Group Members can only be stacked with a Group Leader token, you have to add it to the Lore Group Leader token, as that is the only Group Leader token you have.

A player can have any number of Group Leader tokens or Group Orders at one time, but each Group Order can consist of no more tokens (one of which must be a Group Leader token) than the player's Command Rating. So, in the example above, the Group Order currently consists of two tokens, and because the player's Command Rating is four, only two more Group Member tokens can be added to it.

Group Orders

So, what do you do with those Group Orders you've collected? Use them to order groups of units; one unit for each token in the group. Note, however, that one unit must be designated as the Group Leader, and its type must match the symbol on the Group Leader token. All other units in the group must be within a certain range of the Group Leader in order to be eligible as a Group Member. (Rules on unit eligibility will largely depend upon the period being played.)

Only one Group Order may be played per turn. The player may roll for Command dice that turn, but if a Group Order is played, all of the Command dice must be converted.

Continuing our example above, the player whiffs his Command dice roll and gets four dice with either Flags or Shields, indicating no units can be moved, so he decides to use his Group Order. As the Group Leader token is Lore, he can choose any unit on the board as the Group Leader and one other eligible unit to move as part of the group.


Next post I will try and post an example of play that better illustrates the concept.

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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").