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 29, 2011

AWI Playtest using 'Sixty-One Sixty-Five" (Part 2)

Patriot Turn 6

Another exciting turn as the second line of militia, the Sons of Liberty boys, with freshly loaded muskets, unload into the British line, sending them reeling, and running to their rear. This makes the first British squad to break due to falling below four figures in a squad. You can see in the figure below the militia rolls a '6', and with a steady aim quintuples the British who roll a pathetic '1'. In one volley they go from five soldiers to one... It is not a good day for the British.

Elsewhere on the board the riflemen on the right continue to push around the flank, ensuring they keep the Loyalists bottled up. On the left, the riflemen also push around the flank in order to bring more rifles to bear on the British line crippled there.

Note: when a unit reaches three figures or less it must immediately rout. As the squad only has one base of 3, it should have routed. This is an oversight on my part. On of the problems with playing solo. You don't have other people to remind you that you are screwing up.


British Turn 6

I finally notice the problem on the right flank (too few figures in the squad) and rout the unit to the baseline. All I am able to accomplish this turn is to move the Grenadiers up to support their fellows, and threaten the Continentals who have advanced too close.
Patriot Turn 7

The riflemen on the left swing around further on the flank and start firing at the line, but inflicting no losses. More Continentals approach the base of the hill, which have the wounded British line on the other side. Time to prepare for a charge up and over the hill and be done with this.

On the right the rifles shift left to try and contain the Grenadiers attempt at penetrating the line. The Continentals fire, but instead take the worst of the exchange.
British Turn 7

The Grenadiers charge in, first the left then the right, putting the Maryland Continentals to flight.

This is an interesting situation, which came up several times. When a unit loses two or more figures in close combat, it must make a morale check and the flight of that unit through friends can cause one soldier to become Shaken, per unit. However, if the unit falls below 4 soldiers, the unit automatically Routs, whether it also has a morale check or not, causing the unit to be put anywhere on you baseline. Which do you do?


I resolved this by first making the morale check and finishing the outcome, then routing the unit from that new location. This way the retreat can effect other units, but you still rout in the end.


The Marylanders make a morale check and pass all three dice, so they retreat in an orderly fashion by marching to their baseline at the double-quick!

On the right flank the British line side-steps to move away from the pesky riflemen and close up the command distance. It galls the British to do this, but the command is simply stretched too thin.

I also forgot to show the retreat of the first line of militia. As you can see in the picture to the left below, the British charged and inflicted more losses, forcing the militia to continue their retreat, straight into the line of militia behind it. (I also forgot to convert the red die with a '3' on it to a removed stand, so the unit is supposed to rout.)


Patriot Turn 8

Not much occurs on this turn as the Patriots turn over quickly. The rifles on the right shift left to contain and harass the British Grenadiers, at least until the Continentals can shift and block them.

As shown in the figure below, the rifle fire only produced one Shaken soldier in one of the Grenadier units.


British Turn 8

Disaster! The British foot charges into the second line of militia, who rolls a '6' for their fire, while the British roll a '1'! With the Patriots quadrupling the British the latter unit disintegrates with all four of the remaining soldiers being struck down by relentless musket fire!

This is really too much for the British to take (and I am ready to end this playtest...) so the British decide to quit the fields

Slowly the curtain draws to a close. The picture below shows the final dispositions.


Review

First and foremost, six figures cannot be considered an average squad size. The loss of a single figure puts you at a negative and at 50% casualties you unfailingly run. There needs to be more attrition. Second, you cannot consider the casualties dead in a campaign game, otherwise the casualty rate would be too high.

Note: all of the following suggestions are for the American War of Independence and not for the American Civil War, and reflect my views of how this period should play differently from that the original rules were written for.

As it stands, I wonder if the casualty rate is already too high, at least for this period. I was thinking about something like this:

DifferenceSquad FiringSkirmisher Firing
Beaten1 Shaken1 Shaken
Doubled1 Shaken and 1 Casualty2 Shaken
Tripled1 Shaken and 2 Casualties1 Casualty
Quadrupled2 Shaken and 2 Casualties1 Shaken and 1 Casualty

This would allow for more Shaken results, requiring more rallying. This, of course, will slow the game down. I would still suggest that a Morale Check be required when Doubled by a Squad firing, even though two casualties would not be inflicted.

Another change I could see, but only because I would want more figures on the board, would be to increase the Squad Size so that Large is 10 to 12 figures, Medium is 7 to 9 figures, Small is 4 to 6 figures, and the Squad still Routing at 3 figures or less. This change and the one above may produce a very long game, but that remains to be seen. If I were to change only one, it would be the Squad Size.

To go along with that I would change the Skirmishers to 2 figures for muskets and 3 figures for rifles. The rationale for that is that the rifle is simply a slower firing weapon. Rather than changing the number of reload actions for Skirmishers, by only allowing 1 in 3 riflemen to fire you effective slow the firing rate of rifles down, but not so drastically as if you required 2 actions to reload. As the muskets can reload faster they are only 2 figures. In both cases, loss of a single Skirmisher figure results in the Skirmisher unit being force to retreat to its parent unit.

I see that in turn 7 I made another mistake: I allowed a Skirmisher unit to move within 1S of a Squad without being in cover. Normally I would say that was minor, but in this case it allowed another Skirmisher to fire.

In this period skirmishers may or may not be a part of a parent unit. I think that it is better that they are, but that they are not "lost" when merged back in. A unit should be rated as skirmish-capable or not. If they are, the unit (or an NCO or Leader) can use an action to "deploy skirmishers", allowing 2 (or 3 for rifles) to break off and form a separate Skirmisher unit. Such a unit cannot ever have more than 1/2 of the figures deployed as Skirmishers and if the parent unit ever falls below the 1/2 mark, the player must immediately retreat sufficient Skirmisher squads to bring the formed parent unit back up at 1/2 the total.

I still believe that, given the scale of the rules, in this period there could easily be fights where one side has skirmishers and the other does not. The side without skirmishers should have cavalry available, or artillery at the least, otherwise they will find a number of actions being spent on rallying or shooting at skirmishers.

Summary


Overall, I really liked the rules. Using 12 figure units I could see using that unit to represent a company. This would make the rules very much like The Sword and the Flame in design concept, where each figure represents 5 or 10 men, but is played as if represents a single man. I can definitely see given these rules another go.

There are a rich number of choices for the player to make: which unit to activate and in what order, how aggressive to be with a unit (by deciding the number of activation dice to use), whether to use the Corporal to rally for the unit attempts to take its action, how far to stretch the line (stressing the command distance), when to use the activation die or morale die re-rolls, and so on. And these are just decisions that the game mechanics force upon you; there are still the decisions you make with every game (where troops are placed, who will they face off against, etc.).

I look forward to playing the Sixty-One Sixty-Five rules again and recommend them to others that wish to play their games at this quasi-skirmish level. The next challenge will be developing historical scenarios at this level...

Update: Much of this assessment to change things is probably due to my using multiple-based figures rather than singly-based figures. As it happens, I have a substantial collection of AWI both singly- and multiple-based. I should try another "straight" game with the singly-based figures and look for a different set of rules that allow me to use the multiple-base figures. As it so happens, my copy of the Black Powder rules came in today...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

AWI Playtest with '61-'65 - Intermission

I wrote an email to Sergio Laliscia, the author of '61-'65 and asked him to critique my playtest to see if there is anything the leaped out at him as obviously wrong, and he was kind enough to respond. I though I would share his points:

  • You cannot return skirmisher fire (either squads or skirmishers).
    • Wow! Missed that one and that is going to hurt. I was finding a number of times where skirmishers were getting three actions per turn, so aimed fire was fairly common. With the skirmishers rolling 1D6+5 and the squad rolling 1D6+2 (or +1, if they had been whittled down in size), tripling becomes a very real concern. Even if you only doubled (25% of the time on +5 versus +2; tripled 8% of the time), two skirmishers against a squad will probably whittle it down faster than the Corporal can handle. That means more squad actions will go to rallying. Look forward to playtesting this "change".
  • Your table was too narrow.
    • My board is 75cm compared to the recommended 90cm, so that is a fair statement, yet I don't understand the significance. If anything, widening the board will expand the flanks, allowing the skirmishers greater chance to work around them. To counter this, the squads will have to spread out, further straining the command distances. If anything, I thought that the depth was too shallow (50cm instead of 60cm). That said, it is my intent that the next game will be on a proper sized board.
  • One side had no skirmishers.
    • In hindsight this was probably an error for a playtest. That said, given the scale of the rules, I can see playing out a portion of a battlefield using '65-'65, so it would be possible that a section would not have skirmishers, at least in this period. Look at the Battle of Cowpens. Once the first line (of skirmishers) was pushed back they moved to the flanks (or farther back!), so any fighting occurring in the center probably had few, if any, skirmishers.
  • Skirmisher fire is quite ineffective, in terms of losses, against squads. Corporals can rally the shaken troops.
    • Yes, but multiple skirmishers can gang up on a squad. The first skirmisher might only get one, maybe two shaken, but the second and third skirmisher pair will start doubling and tripling the squad much easier as it is whittled down in size (shaken troops count against the squad size for purposes of combat). The minuses keep piling up on the squad.
Despite these factors and "criticisms", I still find '61-'65 the most enjoyable rules I have played in awhile. Despite the terms of "squads" and "company", the look of the battle is such that you can easily envision that the squad is an company or half-battalion and the company a battalion. What makes the game enjoyable is that it gives the player one more decision to make, that has a material impact on the game: how many dice will you risk rolling to allow a unit to act forcefully, at the possible detriment of the rest of your forces being ineffective for the rest of the turn (i.e. you force a turn-over)?

Because there are fewer maneuver units in '61-'65 than in Drums and Shakos, you get a better feeling of mass and cohesive movement.

Thanks to Sergio for taking the time to read the blog and provide some insight!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

AWI Playtest using Ganesha Games' "Sixty-One Sixty-Five" (Part 1)

Still hankering for some AWI action I decided to playtest another set of rules. In a recent email I discussed how some rules seem straight forward and you can almost predict how they will play ... until you actually do play them when you realize there are some subtleties there that you did not recognize. That is one of the reasons I have started pulling out old rules, especially the free ones available online, giving them another read, and then giving them a try.

Today's playtest is using Ganesha Games' Sixty-One Sixty-Five rules for the ACW, which are billed as:
Company-level American Civil War game based on the popular Song of Blades mechanics. Playable with 40-100 miniatures per side in less than two hours, ‘61-‘65 puts you in command of a Union or Confederate Company...
My variant, which I dubbed Seventy-Five Eighty-Three, uses the same rules with only minor variations, which are as follows:
  • Each Squad does not provide Skirmishers. A unit, if capable, may operate as Skirmishers. A Skirmisher unit does not require Command and Control elements (Sergeant, Leader, etc.).
  • Units in melee with bayonets fighting against units without bayonets (riflemen and some militia) are advantaged (+1 to the die roll).
That was it. As I was using neither artillery nor cavalry, I did not need to modify any of the rules there, but I can see modifying the cavalry charge rules a bit.

Basically the idea is take a number of 4-8 figure Squads, group them in twos and add a Sergeant to make a Section, group those in twos and add a Lieutenant to make a platoon, and group those in twos and add a Captain, Drummer, and Standard Bearer to make a Company.

Setup

This game used the same board and figures as the last game, maybe fewer, but not by much, so it was as follows:
  • Patriots
    • 8 Skirmisher pairs (on 2-man bases) with rifles and no bayonets, Q3, C2, Resolve
    • 4 Miltia Squads of 6 (on 3-man bases) with muskets and no bayonets, Q5, C2
    • 4 Continental Squads of 6 (on 3-man bases) with muskets and bayonets, Q4, C2
    • 4 Sergeants
    • 2 Lieutenants
    • 1 Captain, Standard Bearer, and Drummer
  • British and Loyalists
    • 2 Provincial Loyalist Squads of 6 (on 3-man bases) with muskets and bayonets, Q4, C2
    • 4 British Foot Squads of 6 (on 3-man bases) with muskets and bayonets, Q4, C2
    • 2 British Grenadier Squads of 6 (on 3-man bases) with muskets and bayonets, Q3, C2
    • 4 Sergeants
    • 2 Lieutenants
    • 1 Captain, Standard Bearer, and Drummer
In hindsight it probably would have been good to give the British some Skirmishers too. I was thinking that 1/2 the Patriot force should be able to produce Skirmishers, while maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of a British force should be able to do the same.

The figure on the right (click to see an larger version) shows the setup. As this board does not have enough depth for the range of muskets, the British pretty much snuck up somehow, so I decided to give the Patriots the first turn, reflecting their chance to fire now that the British have moved up into 'Whites of the Eyes' territory.

Note that the Continentals (Regulars) guard the flanks should the British attempt to sweep around, but if the center is penetrated too badly, they can wheel in to attempt to stem the advance while the riflemen (Skirmishers) move to the flanks.

There is just not enough depth to this board to do the three lines of defense in depth, as with Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. Such is life; this is a playtest, not a scenario that I will repeat with other gamers.

Just an editorial note: when "speaking" as the Crown's side, I will refer to the other side as "Rebels", while using the term "Patriots" when speaking as the side against the Crown. I generally use "Loyalists" to represent those North Americans that fought on the side of the Crown, but occasionally call them "Provincials" when speaking as the British. Note that Loyalist Provincials and Loyalist Militia are two different things, the former being generally well regarded, and the latter not.

Patriot Turn 1

The first Patriot turn started out quite slow as I forgot the magical powers of the Skirmishers, that being a Quality of 3 and the Resolve attribute. I was activating on a 5+ instead of the 2+ indicated in the rules. Thus, only two of the four Skirmishers on the left flank activated, as I was unwilling to roll too many dice and turn over quickly.

You can see the results in the figure below. The right-most British Squad had two Shaken soldiers (represented by the number of pips on the black die; a red die will represent the number of figures eliminated). Note that, with an initial Squad size of 6, this unit is already down to the minimum size squad (4). The Corporals better start getting to work!


British Turn 1

A general advance across the front ensues with the left half of each section mysteriously advancing faster their their counterparts in the right half, in all four sections!

In all cases, the British withheld their fire, preferring to keep moving as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the Corporal on the one Squad gets rallies no soldiers and simply shoves them back into line as they attempt to head to the rear and 'retrieve more ammunition'.
Shaken soldiers still count as a part of the Squad for morale purposes, but do not for fighting purposes. So a Squad with 6 soldiers, but 2 being Shaken, count as a Small Squad. The size of the Squad is important because a Small Squad is -1 in firing or melee, while a Large Squad is +1.


At one point I had a Squad of 4 with 2 Shaken soldiers fired upon. The question is: what happens? When a Squad is reduced to 3 figures or less, it automatically Routs. However, this Squad only counted as 2 figures for combat, not morale, but the combat modifiers for a Small Squad are for 4-5 figures. Would a Squad of 1-3 figures be -2? Would it Rout if shot at? Writing a message on the Song of Blades Yahoo Forum, an answer came forth quickly: a Small Squad is 5 or less.
Patriot Turn 2

The Patriots continued to wait for the British to advance into range. More of the rifles engaged the British advancing up the hill (I had found the rule about their correct chances for activation) and started blazing at the forward unit.

When a unit fires, the enemy (target) unit can decided whether or not to return fire if it has a loaded weapon. In this case Skirmishers with rifles were firing upon a British Squad with loaded muskets, so the latter had the opportunity to return fire. Given that the tactic I wanted to use was that as documented in the book With Zeal and with Bayonets Only, I decided that as the British were in easy charge range (one move action), they would fire and charge. So, it seemed reasonable that this return fire represents the British volley just before going in with the bayonet. Besides, by returning fire, you get to add the modifier for the weapon to your die roll (+2 for a musket at short range), which makes it harder for the enemy to beat your roll. I envisioned this increase chance of survival as the British shouting Huzzah! after their volley and before charging.

As you can see in the figure below, however, it did not work so well. The British unit also acquired two Shaken soldiers.


British Turn 2

The British are again able to surge forward, the right halves of the sections now mysteriously able to move twice while the left halves only move once! How is that for "average results"?

This was when I found out a neat little rule in '61-'65 that convinced me that these rules would work out well for me: when formed troops (Squads) move into contact with Skirmishers, there is no melee; the Squads simply keep moving, sweeping the Skirmishers aside. The Skirmishers retreat back without being forced to take a morale check, neatly allowing them to retire without fear, yet not creating an unrealistic situation where the Squad must melee the Skirmishers with a high chance of success. To me, this is a preferable result to, say, having Skirmishers take casualties or formed troops be forced to stop moving and melee. The rules will have to change a bit for cavalry charging skirmishers, but that will come later.

So the British on the right flank sweep most of the riflemen from the hill, opening the way to attack through the woods. Meanwhile, the Loyalists break out of the woods, advance up the slope, and open fire on a Skirmisher. Here is where I wanted to test formed unit firing on Skirmishers. Essentially, skirmisher fire should be harassing fire. In these rules it is, as one soldier becomes Shaken if the Squad is beaten, two become Shaken if the Squad is doubled, and only if the Squad is tripled does a soldier get eliminated. On the flip side, the Skirmishers tend to be forced to retreat if beaten or doubled, and lose a figure (and must retreat) if tripled. So, formed fire is not wholly effective against Skirmishers either. This is how I think it should be. Good job Sergio. (And good job Willy [the Editor] for ensuring that the rules were written clearly and concisely. Sixty-One Sixty-Five are some of the tightest rules Ganesha Games has produced to date.)

With Corporals continuing to fail to rally the troops, you can see the results below: three British units with Shaken soldiers. The attack on the right is quickly bogging down.


Patriot Turn 3

The Patriot riflemen quickly recover their composure and start forming on the flank, ready to pour some more fire into the British that stick their noses over the ridge.

The riflemen on the right flank start to engage the Loyalists on the opposing ridge while one engages the British Grenadiers. Everywhere the rifles dominate, out-rolling the British in every single instance. Part of that is the odds. When you return fire - because the action is 'free' - it is made at -1 to the combat roll. On the other hand, the Patriots are either +0 or +1 to the roll, depending upon whether they have spent one or two actions on firing. Given that they activate on a 2+, many of these are aimed shots, so it is no wonder that that the Patriots tend to win these firefights (being +1 versus the British -1). Of course, if the enemy cannot return fire it gets even worse for them.
I like that the riflemen have a better chance for aiming, but I feel like they activate a little too frequently. Something to ponder as another difference between '61-'65 and '75-'83.
Meanwhile, in the center, with the British now in range the Militia start to engage. Unlike the riflemen, these boys are Q5, C2, muskets and no bayonets. getting an aimed shot off is not easy. Only one Squad gets to activate and fire, with the British obliging and returning fire.

You can see the damage from all this firing below. The Loyalists now have 4 Shaken soldiers! They are a Small Squad now, so they are really on the losing side of this firefight. The other Loyalist platoon is going to have to do something quick before this Squad routs! In the center the militia gave better than it got, inflicting a single loss on the British. However, they eye the British warily, who seem to be cheering as their officers exhort them with "Give these Rebel dogs some steel, boys!". On the left the sole riflemen still on the ridge have managed to inflict a loss on the British (they tripled their combat roll!), resulting in half of them being dead or shaken.


British Turn 3

Again, this turn reflects why I like the feel of these rules so much. The British Grenadiers are ordered up the ridge and they move down the rifle line, sweeping them away, like flies off of the wounded Loyalists. This one move sends three Skirmisher stands running to the rear.

Unfortunately, that is about all the British accomplish as they have a disastrous turn-over with the second, which the re-roll from the Drummer cannot even prevent.

The figure below shows a close-up of the Grenadiers' charge. Glorious, is it not?


Patriot Turn 4

Of course, even better than the Grenadiers easily swatting away skirmishers as if they were flies, are those same skirmishers buzzing off somewhere else, as their morale is neither broken, nor their numbers reduced. In this case the rifles head off to the right flank so they can swing onto the flank of the Loyalists, which are looking pretty grim right now.

Meanwhile in the center, the right-hand militia reloads while the left-hand militia unloads into the British line, which returns fire.

Finally, two Continental units move forward, the one on the right to threaten the Grenadiers, which took a volley from the other Maryland Continental unit, and the North Carolina Continentals on the left moving forward into the woods, to stop the British advance now that the rifles have left a gap in the line.

In the figures below you can see the Grenadiers took a hit from the North Carolina Continentals fire. The Loyalists now have 5 out of 6 soldiers Shaken. The Corporal is falling down on the job and this is looking serious! The British Foot in the center shows that the British are on the losing end of the firefight. The unit on the left has lost one man while the unit on the right has lost two. Finally the British on the far right are looking particularly bad with two men lost and two Shaken. Their fire is completely ineffective if they do not rally the Shaken soldiers.

I am beginning to get several impressions from this playtest that will help me tweak the rules so they fit the period (or at least my impression of it) a bit better.

  1. The Skirmisher units are just too flexible with a 2+ activation. Better that they be 3+. This introduces more risk to the player and will reduce the likelihood that the player will roll 3 dice to activate.
  2. Rifles may need to modified for this period. I understand the rationale for Skirmishers only requiring one action to reload (the second action is while their team mate is firing), but it still seems too powerful at the moment. Again, more playtesting, especially as the change above might be enough.
  3. Should there be rating differences between Skirmishers? For example, should thee Hessian Jagers be rated differently than British Light Infantry or Patriot Rifles? Obviously, those that had rifles should be given those weapons instead of muskets
  4. Militia may need to be Q5 and C1 to reduce their firepower. This will probably need more playtesting on a larger board.
  5. Units of 6 are just too brittle; one hit or Shaken result and they are Small. There is really no reason you cannot dictate that the squad size is larger, say 12 for average, 6 for the low end of small, and 18 for high end of large, and just adjust the combat table for how many figures constitute getting which size modifier. This might lead to a need for determining how multi-unit combats are handled, but I think that will come up in the current rules anyway.
British Turn 4

Finally, we get to the action I have been waiting for: the British charge the militia!

Both Foot units in the center are able to get two actions, allowing them to move in contact and to melee. As the Patriot unit on the right has loaded muskets it gets to fire as the British charge in, but it is to no avail. Rattled by the glint of the bayonets they fail to make an impression.

The first melee is a near run thing, as the British barely beat the Patriots. This is when I learn that the pluses and minuses for melee are different than for shooting. In shooting, if you have 7-8 figures you combat at +1, while you combat at -1 if you are at 5 figures or less. In melee the smaller unit combats at -1 for every figure in difference between the two units! Thus the first combat has the British at -2, offset slightly by the -1 for the Patriot militia not having bayonets. To ensure the second melee went well, I moved the Section's Sergeant up and attached it to the left squad prior to making the charge. This produced better results allowing the British to double the militia, eliminating 2 figures and forcing a morale check (which the Patriots made, of course!). The funny part was that the retreating militia left their Sergeant out in the middle screaming for them all to stand firm! (See figure below.)

The only other event was the advancing of the right Loyalist unit. While trying to rally the left Loyalist unit a turn-over occurred (with no soldiers rallied, to boot).


Patriot Turn 5

One of the militia units reloads while the Sergeant retreats back and attaches to it. Meanwhile the rifles on the right flank advance to the hill and start peppering the Loyalists. The Loyalists on the left are in a bad way and break morale, retreating into the woods, leaving their Sergeant exposed to fire next turn.

The damage is pretty bad overall. The Loyalist have two dead and the remainder shaken. No additional casualties in the center, so the two units have a total of 3 casualties per side. On the British right the units are mostly shaken, but the right-most unit has lost 2 men.

Although Skirmisher mostly only does morale damage to their targets, if enough of that damage is done, the bodies start piling up. So far this is not quite working out as I envisioned, but I realize that part of that is due to not having and adequately sized board, and not having any cavalry to stop the skirmishers from freely lapping around the flanks. These two factors are throwing off the game, so I'll have to be patient and reserve final judgment.


British Turn 5

An exciting turn. In the center the unit on the right decided it was unwise to launch an assault on the militia standing before it. They had reloaded last turn so they were standing there at Present Arms, waiting for the British charge. Further, they were at a disadvantage to the Rebels in two regards: they had fewer figures, and the Rebel Sergeant had reinforced the unit. Choosing discretion over valor, the British calmly reloaded and gave fire (yes, they scored three actions!), scoring a hit on the Rebels.

To the left of them, however, the British had the upper hand, having bayonets, more men, and an enemy that was furiously trying to reload. They lowered their bayonets and charged! The Rebels were thrown into great confusion by this fierce attack and broke and ran. (They took two casualties, and failed their morale check. As they were now under 4 men, they routed to the rear, hopefully to be rallied and merged with another unit later.)

Seeing the gap appear between the two Grenadier units, the right-most unit decided to march to the left to rejoin them. They rolled an astounding four actions (rolled three dice and got three successes, with two 6's, to get an additional action), which was really more than they could use. They changed formation and marched to the flank. (Note that because I am not using singly based figures so formation changes do not look as they should.)

On the right flank, one of the units decided to test the enemy in the woods. Rolling and also getting a whopping four actions, they rallied their troops, took aim, and fired ... and promptly retreated over the hill after losing two more men and failing their morale. These enemy were not militia, but Continentals (in woods, no less).

The other units used all available actions to rally troops, along with employing every Corporal to remove the remainder. Every Shaken marker was removed from every unit through an extraordinary string of die rolls for the British. It looks like the British might be back in business.

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%
Column12cm0%

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.

QualityShortLong
Marksmen3+4+
Elite3+4+
Average4+5+
Poor5+6+

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.

FormationShortLong
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.

Summary


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.

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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").