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, February 28, 2011

TWTUD Answers

I have been emailing Bernard Ganley, one of the authors of The World Turned Upside Down, and asked him to look at my blog entries, and especially the questions, about TWTUD, and see where I went "wrong". Rather than give the specific questions and their answers, I thought I would summarize each of the areas where I had difficulties.

The first part addressed was regarding basing. Yes, they base their figures in single ranks, so firing with two ranks means firing two bases deep. That also means that the units are half the frontage than I originally thought, as I surmised later. Here are his suggestions if you don't have basing like they recommend:
First thing is basing. It is the bane of the wargames world and we are never dogmatic about this as some like big tables and big bases while our emphasis has always been to try and do a game on a 6 x 4ft table. So please no rebasing as you might want to use them for other sets of rules – we see you are fond of the DBA stable for instance. Just so long as it looks right and gives the right feel. For the larger scales you might need to do a label or something to show the quality distinctions of morale and ability rather than using flag and officer bases.
Personally, I will probably use four bases to a unit and a roster. (I doubt the frontage difference between a 300 man unit and a 200 man unit is much, given that units tended to adjust the spacing of the files to 'fit' into the space they were assigned.) At this point I am 'stuck' with 15mm for the AWI and I am not going to switch to 6mm or 10mm just to be able to get enough troops together for this system.

On the issue of a General's ability, Bernard indicated that they could have had multiple characteristics, but chose to keep it simple and boil it all down to one.

Troop composition is determined each time there is a battle and only the number of men are tracked.

Combat at locations was discussed and (somewhat) resolved. When it comes to Close Range Firefight, it is a bit of 'one or the other', not as I had played it. What that means is if you roll to order your units into a Close Range Firefight and only some make it, you have a choice of either:
  1. Conducting Skirmish Combat with all units in the location, or
  2. Only the unit(s) that succeeded in entering Close Range Firefight, and their attached artillery, will engage the defender, and if successful, optionally engage in Melee.
So, it is one or the other. Either everyone skirmishes or only the successful ones fight at close range with all the others in support.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

TWTUD Questions

This is why you need to playtest rules before you make judgments or proclamations about how good they are or are not. The rules The World Turned Upside Down (TWTUD) sounded pretty good in the Battlegames review. I bought the rules and I read them and I agreed; they sounded pretty cool. Most attractive were the campaign rules, but the tabletop rules looked innovative. Now that they have soaked in and I have actually started parsing the rules and trying them out they look ... incomplete. The comment on Boardgamegeek (which also does reviews of miniatures rules) is correct: "the rules need a few clarifications (and perhaps an outside playtest)".

So, why did I go from cheerleader to skeptic?
  • Command and Control is too strict
  • Resolving combat is unclear
  • How locations are used is unclear
  • Combat too random
  • Strong British bias
Let me start by saying that I reserve the right to be wrong, especially given potential misunderstanding of the designers' intent and that they may come along and answer some critical questions. Other than that minor caveat, I firmly stand behind my comments. (I know it is hard to tell, but my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek.)

Command and Control is too Strict

The command and control rules basically fall around a few simple mechanics.
  1. The Commander-in-Chief uses his ability to activate subordinate Generals.
  2. Subordinate Generals use their ability to activate units.
  3. Activated units can move and fight effectively.
  4. Unactivated units cannot move and only skirmish at their current location.
The key here is that the Commander-in-Chief is the weak link. If they cannot activate subordinate Generals, or due to their low Ability (which can be lowered by Fate cards) can only activate one or two, the unit are completely ineffective. This reminds me of the command and control rules of Warmaster, only with no chance for a unit to use initiative, and the Army General blowing the first roll.

What was telling is when the American General Ward (ability 2) was saddled with A Fop and a Poltroon, lowering his Ability to 1, allowing him to attempt to activate only one of four subordinate Generals. In addition, because he was at a different location from all others, activation would only be with 1D6.

The problem here lies with the fact that no subordinate General will activate for any reason other than his Commander-in-Chief telling him to "Commence giving orders, Sir!", on a turn-by-turn basis. No external factors change that, like the presence of an enemy General and forces attacking you...

Resolving Combat is Unclear

This is the most distressing, as this is the heart of a miniatures rules system, and the part that I was so looking forward to, given its good review.

Combat occurs when a unit is successfully ordered into Close Range Firefight or is at the same location as the enemy, but not ordered, in which case it Skirmishes with the enemy.

Skirmishing occurs by location, so the exact position of each unit is undetermined. No limits on the number of units that can participate is apparent. The total casualties inflicted are calculated, with the owner determining which specific units receive the hits. Each hit can be saved, negating the casualty.

The Close Range Firefight occurs by pairing off units and having those two units resolve combat between them. Casualties are inflicted on the target unit (or an attached artillery piece) and hits can be negated by saves, as with Skirmishing. The problem with the close range firefight is the use of several key phrases, such as "Pair off units on a one to one basis by how they are deployed at a location." As you do not apparently "deploy" at a location (or do you?), you cannot exactly pair off by position. If you do deploy, there are no rules to tell you how to do so.

What is also unclear is what happens when some of the attacker's units, which are already at a defended location, are successfully ordered to Close Range Firefight, but the remainder are not. Will the ones ordered pair off for Close Range Firefights and the remainder Skirmish? Or is it an "all or nothing" proposition (e.g. you can only do one or the other at a given location on your turn)? This is especially troubling where there are two Generals at a location and one fails to activate. The rules indicate that you can only Skirmish at a location where a General failed to activate, but it gives no exceptions where two Generals are concerned.

Given that these are British-style rules, it is usually assumed that you will figure out the "filler details" by yourself. That said, it is always good to understand the game designer's intent before you go off filling in the missing gaps.

How Locations are used is Unclear

This is the part of the rules that I was so looking forward to, given the Battlegames review on how innovative the movement system was.

A location is where troops conduct combat. The only other "place" modeled on the tabletop are links, which are the paths between two locations. Although a unit can be positioned on a link (when it takes more than one turn to move between locations), no combat can occur there.

At several points in the rules there are references to "positions", which is always occupied by the defender, but this is within a location.

Conceptually, it appears that a location is broken down into four abstract parts, as shown in the figure to the right. Note: there are no references in the rules to what follows; this is simply my analysis based on what happens in the combat rules.

When a side occupies a location, it has taken a position in the terrain. It is not clear if its exact position within the location is determined at that time or later, when combat occurs. The position comes into play when an attacking unit enters close combat with a defending unit and wins. At that point the attacker occupies the defender's position.

The most obvious effect of being in a position is that you get the benefit of the terrain in the location (e.g. in the village, at the crest of the hill, along a fence around a field, etc.).

Assume for a moment that some attacking units can perform a Close Range Firefight, while others Skirmish, based upon whether they accept their orders or not. Also assume for a moment that the attacker determines any pairing off (i.e. which unit is attacking which defending unit), so that leaves us with four groups of units:
  • Attacking units in Close Range Firefight
  • Attacking units in Support/Skirmishing
  • Defending units in Close Range Firefight
  • Defending units in Support/Skirmishing
If you imagine that the defending units in the Close Range Firefight as in the terrain of the location (in the picture to the right it is a hill), the attacking paired units are attacking those defended positions. So, if there are elements to the terrain (fences, hill crests, etc.) these come in to play in their combat resolution.

Those in support/skirmishing position come into play in Skirmish Fire, and post-Close Combat pursuit. All of this can be conceptualized as a four box system as shown in the figure. The problems arise when the defenders of a position become the attackers (during their turn) and when there are more units that the terrain piece size.

If all this sounds confused, that is because I am. There are no real answers in the rules.

Combat is too Random

Most systems with savings rolls generally have a low chance of saving, unless the unit is in cover. TWTUD is the exact opposite. The basic save chance is 50% with cover increasing that to 67%. So, if a unit inflicts 6 hits on an enemy, the number of actual casualties that might occur are anywhere from 0 to 6. That's pretty random. Granted, the average is 3 casualties, but the variance is pretty wide. That makes the game much more luck-intensive.

Strong British Bias

Okay, so maybe the bias is mine. I read about the Southern Campaign, where the British might technically win tactically because they possessed the field, but the field had no advantage (Guilford Courthouse), or they might even lose tactically (Cowpens). Battles like Monmouth Courthouse, Freeman's Farm, Brandywine, and Germantown did not really interest me as much. (Maybe I should read them more though.)

That notwithstanding, as the use of a General's Ability permeates throughout the game, and a strong strategic ability automatically gives one a strong tactical ability, and vice versa, the British end up overpowering in both the tactical and strategic game. One has to see if somehow the campaign game offsets that, however I doubt it.

But, Tarleton as a '5'?!? Come on!

So Where does that Leave Me?

At this point there are some good ideas. I think the campaign game will be awesome to play. The tabletop rules require a lot of answers at this point, and I have to consider it unplayable, as is. Maybe with the right insights and answers I will hit the "Aha!" moment.

I still have an issue that the number of figures used is far larger than I expected.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TWTUD Playtest Part 3

Well, I finally have a moment to pick this up again. I am on third shift for two weeks to support a working group on the other side of the world, so I mostly listen to people talking on a conference call eight hours a day. Gives me some time to do other things...

When I stopped it was at the point where the troops were deployed and things just did not "look right". I posted questions but did not really get an answer, unfortunately. These rules are too new, I think, to find people who have used these rules other than the original play testers. Nonetheless, I pored through the rules again and took out a magnifying glass that I use for painting to look at the pictures in the rules and found the problem. Page 44 of the rules say "you can only count the first two ranks" for infantry fire and when I first looked at the pictures on pages 28 through 32 the infantry looked like they were based in two ranks. So, it looked like an eight base unit was deployed eight bases wide by one base deep, making the unit in line 8" wide. The real configuration is four bases wide by two bases deep, making the unit in line 4" wide. That is much better! Here is the new deployment.


Let's start the game, already!

Step 12: Each side draws Fate cards up to the ability of the CinC and each named subordinate General. That is 8 for the Crown and 5 for the Patriots.

Crown: Wasted Fire, Courage Men!, Wrong Shot! x 2, Like the Wind, Fop and a Poltroon, The Gods!, and "Whites of their Eyes". The The Gods! card has to be played immediately, but it has no effect until a second such card is played (page 49).

Patriot: Courage Men!, Confusion! x 2, Like the Wind!, and Wrong Shot!.

Turn 1

The first step in the turn is for both sides to throw 1D6 with the winner gaining a Fate card (both gain in a draw). The attacker, however, can relinquish going first in order to ensure they gain a Fate card.

In the roll the British win, gaining the card Fop and a Poltroon.

Just a program note: I am not actually drawing cards, but using a table and die rolls to determine the cards, thus actually allowing more copies of particular cards than might normally be allowed.

The attacker now orders their units. This is the heart of the game. The CinC, Earl Percy, has an ability of 4 so he has four basic actions. Each action allows you to attempt to activate a subordinate General or to order a unit. Subordinate Generals, in turn, can order a number of units equal to their ability. So, it makes sense to use the CinC to activate Generals and only use their actions for other things, like moving or ordering units, as a last resort.

Game note: it would seem that appropriate order markers might make this play better. For example, there should be four markers for Percy, four for von Heister, five for the British Brigadier, and four for the Hessian Brigadier. This allows you to place the appropriate markers next to the General or unit that receives the order.

Earl Percy gives the following four actions: activate Hessian Brigadier, move to the right hill location, activate British Brigadier, move back to British Reserve location.

To activate the Hessian Brigadier 2D6 are rolled, because Earl Percy and the Hessian Brigadier are at the same location, with the subordinate General being activated if either die is equal to or less than the subordinate General's ability. If Earl Percy were at a different location, only 1D6 would be rolled. This is why the Earl moved to the right hill location; it increases the chance of activating the British Brigadier General. Both subordinate Generals are activated.

The Hessian Brigadier can order his two units to enter a Close Range Firefight at the British Reserve location. The Jaegers, with four Officers, needs to roll a 4 or less on 1D6 in order to activate/obey the order. The musketeers have three Officers and need a 3 or less. The musketeers are the only ones that pass the test. As one unit succeeded any light artillery can attach and enter combat. Also, the medium and heavy artillery can too, but if they do they are deployed and the unit can no longer move. In this case the medium and heavy artillery will not engage as they wish to move later.

The British Brigadier can order his three units to enter a Close Range Firefight at the right hill location. Only unit C engages, although the two light artillery and one of the medium artillery pieces join in.

Now it is time for combat. In both locations a Close Range Firefight was successfully initiated, but not with all units. Thus one has to wonder: do the remaining units then Skirmish? Further, understanding how combat is resolved the following passage is problematic:
"... Close range firefights are resolved unit on unit ... Pair off units on a one to one basis by how they are deployed at a location. If there are any artillery bases, attach them to the nearest friendly close order infantry unit."
So, one wonders how to resolve a location in which some succeed in getting into a close range firefight and others do not. Possibilities are:
  1. Units successfully ordered conduct their Close Range Firefight. Those not successful do not do anything.
  2. Units successfully ordered conduct their Close Range Firefight. Those not successful conduct Skirmish Fire.
It seems to me that option #1 overly penalizes the attacker. If all units do not activate, their combat may well be weaker than if none activated. As an "all or nothing" approach does not seem right, I will use option #2.

So, starting with the British Reserve location, the Hessian Musketeers enter into a Close Range firefight with the Militia Rifles, while the Hessian Jaegers perform Skirmish Fire. The Militia Rifles decide not to "Shoot & Scoot" (mostly because I want to test the melee rules). The following damage occurs:

  • Skirmish: 6 Jaegers bases / 6 = 1 casualty marker
  • Close Range Firefight: Hessian Musketeers 12 bases x 3 Officers and Light Artillery x 3 = 6 gunners = 36+6 = 42 / 6 = 7 casualty markers. Militia Rifles 10 bases x 4 Officers = 40 / 6 = 7 casualty markers.
Casualty markers are converted to losses by rolling 1D6 for each, with a 4+ being a conversion. A skirmish target or one in cover requires a 5+. Casualties result in one Militia Rifles casualty and four for the Musketeers. If the firers are Rifles, every odd loss is an Officer and every even loss is a base, otherwise the odd loss is a base and the even loss is an Officer. The situation is now:

Hessian Musketeers unit I: 8 bases, 2 flag bases, and 2 Officers.
Militia Rifles unit K: 9 skirmish bases and 4 Officers.

Moving to the next location (the right hill), the first problem is the "pairing off" of units, as indicated above. How is this actually done, as units are not "moved" around on the table. Does the attacker conduct the pair-off? If the attacker does so, on the next turn can the other side then rearrange the pair-off? Right now, I am going to let the attacker choose the pair-off, but this remains a standing question.

The British unit C pairs off against Continental unit H; combat is as follows:
  • Skirmisher Fire: British unit A and B = 2. This produces no casualty markers. Militia unit N produces no casualty markers.
  • Close Range Firefight: British unit C 8 x 4 = 32, Artillery 7 gunners. This  produces 7 casualty markers. Continental unit H 8 x 2, Artillery 5 gunners. This produces 4 casualty markers.
Continental unit H: 1 Officer, 3 flags, 4 bases.
Continental unit R (Medium Artillery): 2 gunners
British unit K (Light Artillery): 1 gunner
British unit C: 4 officers, 1 flag, 6 bases.

All the firing is done, so now it is time to check morale. All units involved in a close range firefight and that took losses have to check morale. Roll 1D6 and add or subtract based upon a list of modifiers.

Hessian Musketeers unit I: Carry on!
Militia Rifle unit K: Rout! Now 7 skirmisher bases and 3 officers. Lost  2 skirmisher bases as POWs. This is interesting in that each Skirmisher base produces a -1 to the roll, so the larger the unit, the more likely it is to rout. This seems wrong.
Continent unit H: Carry on! ... or Halt! The problem here is whether the unit has rear support. Again, how do units line up?
Continental unit R: Rout! It appears there are no modifiers for artillery. Do they even take morale checks? This artillery is captured, given losing two bases as POWs.
British unit K: Repulsed! This artillery is abandoned as it loses a base as POWs.
British unit C: Carry on!

With morale done, any attacking unit that performed a close range firefight and that is still in good morale against a defending unit that stood may conduct close combat. This only occurs with British unit C versus Continental unit H. The British inflict 5 casualty markers and the Continentals inflict 1 casualty marker. When rolling for losses the Continental lose two and the British none!


Continental unit H: 0 officers, 3 flags, 3 bases.

After combat the defenders always take a morale test.

Continental unit H: Rout! The Patriots play a Courage Men! card and re-roll the morale test. Rout! (I guess it was not meant to be!) This causes Militia unit N and Artillery unit Q to check. 0 officers, 3 flags, 1 base.
Militia unit N: Rout! 1 officer, 4 flags, 4 bases.
Continental Artillery unit Q: Repulsed! 1 gunner.

It doesn't state what happens when a General is left alone in a location with the enemy. As they can move away next turn, this probably won't matter.

Considering that the defending unit routed, we check to see if the attacker falls under an uncontrolled advance. British unit C has 4 officers, so it pursues on a 5-6 on 1D6. It does, but it does not matter as there are no enemy units left at this location.

The British turn 1 is over.


Disastrous turn for the Patriots, but it is an ambush after all!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

TWTUD Playtest Part 2

Revisit Step 5: After you determine the forces available to you, you have to divide them up into commands:

  1. Crown Forces
    1. British General Earl Percy
      1. British Experienced Bn (250)
      2. British Cavalry (100)
    2. British Brigadier General
      1. British Veteran Bn (250)
      2. British Veteran Bn (200)
      3. British Veteran Bn (200)
    3. Hessian General von Heister
      1. Hessian Elite Bn (250)
      2. Hessian Raw Bn (300)
    4. Hessian Brigadier General
      1. Hessian Veteran Bn (300)
      2. Hessian Jaegers (150)
    5. Unattached
      1. 1 Heavy Battery
      2. 3 Medium Batteries
      3. 5 Light Batteries
  2. Patriot (Rebel) Forces
    1. General Ward
      1. Continental Raw Regt (200)
      2. Continental Raw Regt (200)
    2. General Spencer
      1. Continental Raw Regt (250)
      2. Continental Raw Regt (200)
      3. Continental Picked Raw Regt (200)
    3. Continental Brigadier General (3)
      1. Militia Experienced Rifle Regt (250)
      2. Militia Raw Regt (250)
      3. Continental Raw Regt (200)
    4. Continental Brigadier General (5)
      1. Continental Picked Experienced Regt (250)
      2. Continental Experienced Regt (200)
      3. Continental Experienced Regt (200)
      4. Continental Cavalry Regt (100)
    5. Militia Brigadier General
      1. Militia Experienced Regt (250)
      2. Militia Experience Regt (250)
    6. Unattached
      1. 1 Heavy Battery
      2. 2 Medium Batteries
      3. 3 Light Batteries
Step 9: Lay out the locations.


In the figure above, the Americans have laid out the Village at the top (as their Reserve area), the two Fields below, and the Hill on the left. The British have laid out the Field as their Reserve area, and the Hill to the right.

The image is a screenshot from the application Battle Chronicler. As I am going to play this game virtually, I might as well give this application another go.

Step 10: Deploy forces. According to the instructions for an Attacker Ambush, the defender must have forces on each location. (Note that it does not specify only on defender locations!) The attacker then deploys forces on all locations placed by him.

Step 11: Place the links between locations. Once the force are deployed, the attacker places all links in an Attacker Ambush.

Here are the links, without the troops.


The yellow lines are Field links, the white Track links, the red Broken links, and the green Forest links.

Here are the forces deployed, along with the links.



[At this point I stopped, started laying out units on the "table", and found out that it was all not going to fit...]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TWTUD Playtest

So, I decided to try a virtual playtest of the rules The World Turned Upside Down, the new AWI rules I purchased, but because the figure requirements are so large (800 figures for a small game) I have to do it with pencil and paper. I will write up each of the steps here.

Step 1: determine the leaders for each side. Roll 1D6 and 2D6 for each side and the number rolled is the seniority of the General. The British get Earl Percy (ability 4), and Von Heister (Hessian, 4), while the Americans get Ward (2) and Spencer (3).

Step 2: determine the attacker. British ability total is 4+4 = 8 and the Americans are 2+3 = 5. The British are the attackers.

Step 3: determine the army sizes. The British have 1,000 British troops and 1,000 Hessian troops. The Americans have 2,000 Continentals and 1,000 militia.

Step 4: determine the year (1D6 + 1774) = 1778.

Step 5: determine the force composition. I will not repeat the tables from the rules, so here are the British forces:
  • 1 British Veteran unit of 250
  • 2 British Veteran units of 200 each
  • 1 British Experienced unit of 250
  • 1 British Cavalry unit of 100
  • 1 Hessian Elite unit of 250 (Grenadiers)
  • 1 Hessian Veteran unit of 300
  • 1 Hessian Raw unit of 300
  • 1 Hessian Jaeger unit of 150
  • 9 artillery batteries - 5 light, 3 medium, and 1 heavy
  • 1 British Brigadier General of Ability 5
  • 1 Hessian Brigadier General of Ability 4
The American forces are as follows:
  • 1 Continental Picked Experienced unit of 250
  • 2 Continental Experienced unit of 200
  • 1 Continental Raw unit of 250
  • 1 Continental Raw unit of 200
  • 1 Continental Cavalry unit of 100
  • 1 Continental Picked Raw unit of 200
  • 3 Continental Raw units of 200
  • 1 Militia Experienced Rifle unit of 250
  • 2 Militia Experienced units of 250
  • 1 Militia Raw unit of 250
  • 6 artillery batteries - 3 light, 2 medium, and 1 heavy
  • 1 Continental Brigadier General of Ability 3
  • 1 Continental Brigadier General of Ability 5
  • 1 Militia Brigadier General of Ability 2
Note that every 25 men is a base of four figures.

Step 6: determine the terrain type - Farmland.

Step 7: determine the type of battle - Attacker Ambushes the Defender. (Ouch!)

Step 8: determine the locations of the battlefield. The defender gets four locations, which are: Village, Field, Field, and Hill. The attacker gets two locations, which are: Field and Hill.

Next: layout the locations.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

AWI Rules Review - The World Turned Upside Down (Part 2)

The Tabletop Rules


First, understand that these rules are written for 10mm troops. I say this not because they cannot be converted for use in other scales, but because the ratio of unit frontage to movement distance to musketry range usually depends upon that information. In this case, the rules don't really care for those reason, but rather for another: the ratio of unit frontage to terrain size (i.e. how many units can fit in a terrain piece's frontage).

So, each base is 25mm (1 inch) and there are about eight bases per unit (it varies), so each unit takes up about 8" of table space. With villages and fields each being about 6" to 8" square, and rough, hills, and woods being about 10" to 12" long, you get about one unit by eight units deep in the first and about 1 1/2 units by six units deep for the last. This comes into play later, during the firing and close combat phase.

Setting up the game is a little like rolling to determine the scenario in other games. For a pick-up (non-campaign) game you would do the following:
  1. Determine the (named) Generals commanding the troops (two per side).
  2. Determine the attacker.
  3. Determine the number and type of troops present (basically 2,000 for the Crown side and 3,000 for the Patriot side).
    1. This is a small battle in TWTUD.
  4. Determine the year of the battle.
  5. Determine each side's forces.
    1. There are a number of tables listing various troop compositions. A die roll determines which composition is used.
    2. Each side is generally allowed to make a few modifications, however, such as allowing one militia unit in five to be rifle armed, or deploying a British Light Infantry converged battalion as skirmishers, rather than as a formed unit.
    3. Determine how much artillery is available, and its weight.
    4. Determine the number and quality of unnamed Brigade Commanders present.
    5. Divide the forces into commands and unbrigaded elements.
  6. Determine the terrain type of the battlefield.
  7. Determine the type of battle.
    1. Meeting Engagement, Set-Piece Battle, Ambush, River Crossing, etc.
  8. Determine the number of terrain pieces on the battlefield.
    1. The attacker and defender each get a set amount based upon the size of their respective forces.
    2. The type of the terrain piece is determined by die roll.
    3. Both the attacker and defender must each commit one of their terrain pieces as their reserve/baggage area.
  9. Place the terrain pieces.
    1. The defender places his pieces, then the attacker.
    2. The attacker cannot place a terrain piece adjacent to the defender's reserve.
    3. The attacker can place their reserve adjacent to a terrain piece the defender previously placed.
    4. The players can place several "lines" of terrain if they have a sufficient number to place.
  10. Place the forces in the terrain locations.
    1. The type of battle (item 7, above) will determine who places forces first, the attacker or defender, and what locations they may be placed in.
    2. Generally speaking, the attacker's location choices are more constrained than the defender's.
  11. Determine the number of links between terrain locations.
  12. Determine the types of links present.
  13. Place the links between the terrain locations.
    1. Who places, how many, and in what order is determined by the type of battle (item 7, above).
    2. Link types are not randomly rolled.
Once you have done all of this, you are ready to start your game. Although it looks lengthy, it really is not so bad. (By the way, for campaign battles - assuming you do not resolve them with a die roll - use all of the steps above except 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, as these elements are handled by the campaign game itself.)

So, that's an overview of the pre-battle sequence, let's talk about a few of the more interesting ones.

Troop Composition

Unless I missed it (which is very possible), you do not keep track of the units and their quality, but of numbers of men. As each base represents a specific number of men and whole bases are lost (as casualties or stragglers), it is easy to determine the number of bases lost and returned after a battle. That, in turn, can be converted back to men, which is the number tracked in the campaign game. When the next battle occurs, the composition of the previous army has not bearing on their composition the next time. I don't know if that is good or bad, but it is certainly easier. Anything else would require tracking the number of men, their quality, the replacement rate, and their quality, in order to calculate a new quality for the unit. ... I just talked myself int it; this method is a good thing.

Generals, Command Ability, and Command & Control

Another basic concept is that each General, which may be named or not, is rated in Command Ability. Command Ability (or simply "Ability") is and abstract representation of the General's ability to command, both at an operational and tactical level. Note: that means that a good tactical commander is automatically a good operational/strategic commander, and vice versa.

For example, for each point of ability, a General can:
  • Move 1,000 troops operationally.
  • Increase the chance of capturing a location with an enemy garrison.
  • Increase the chance of a favorable type of battle (see below).
  • Alter the chance that a rearguard action is successful.
  • Increase the number of unbrigaded units in a command.
  • Increase the chance your side is the attacker.
  • Increase the number of actions a CinC can perform each turn in a battle.
  • Increase the number of units a subordinate General can order each turn in a battle.
It is these last two items that we will focus on.

The basic command and control concept of the rules is that the CinC can perform Ability number of actions per turn. Each action allows the CinC to either: move, order a single unit, or activate a subordinate General. If a subordinate General is activated, they can in turn order an Ability number of units to take action. The key, however, is that order subordinates or units does not produce automatic action; a subordinate General is activated by rolling his Ability or lower on a D6, while a unit is activated rolling their Combat Effectiveness or less on a D6.

Links, Terrain Type, and Placement

The third new concept the rules introduce is regarding terrain (called locations), and its relationship to movement and combat.

The board is comprised of a number of locations, each of a specific terrain type, and links, which are the allowable movement paths between locations. (Links also have a type, but it only affects movement, not combat.) If you imagine a point-to-point map, the board resembles that, as shown in the figure to the right. Each point is a location and each line between is a link.

Units are at locations, except when they are trying to move between them and do not succeed in making it in a single turn. All combat occurs at locations, and no combat occurs between locations, even with artillery. Thus, all combat is either a Close Range Firefight, a Skirmish, or a Close Combat, and occurs within a single location.

However, locations do not appear to be abstract entities as they do have dimensions and it plays a role in combat. More on that in another blog entry.

Determine the Type of Battle

To determine the type of battle, the attacker rolls 1D6, adds or subtracts the difference in Command Ability of the opposing CinC, and then compares the number to a table, resulting in one of the following types of battle:
  • Skirmish (No Battle)
  • Defender Ambushes Attacker
  • Set-Piece Battle
  • Meeting Engagement
  • Attacker Ambushes Defender
This battle type will later determine who sets up terrain, links, and forces in what order.

Combat

As stated previously, all combat occurs at a single location and is either a close range firefight, a skirmish, or close combat. As you might expect close order foot is best at close range combat, skirmishers in a skirmish, and British at close combat. When combat occurs, both side fight.

The results of a close range firefight is determined by calculation to determine the number of hits inflicted. Hits are converted to casualties by rolling a die (generally 50% of all hits will become casualties). Each odd hit will remove a base while each even hit will remove an Officer figure (representing the unit's Combat Effectiveness). Finally! An interesting way of representing rifle units: each odd hit is an Officer and each even hit is a base. This reflects the riflemen taking the unit's command and control elements (i.e. Officers and Sergeants).

Skirmish fire is generally conducted if your General was unsuccessful in ordering the units to engage n a close range firefight. The mechanism for this is also a calculation to determine the number of hits, which in turn have to be rolled to see if they are casualties, as above. Note that the number of hits for skirmish fire is much lower than with a close range firefight.

Close combat is calculated as with a close range firefight, but an attached General can add his Ability to sway the fight. The British may cause the Americans to run before a close combat, but know that close combat only occurs if the attacker was in a close range firefight.

Other Goodies

In addition to all of the above the system also has "Fate Card", which are minor events that have an effect on combat, such as adding to your combat or subtracting from your opponent. Should be fun.

Summary

These look like very interesting rules, but I already have some questions. I will save them, and further judgement, until I do my playtest. One note on that, however, is that these rules require a lot of figures. In a pick-up game of 2,000 on the British side and 3,000 on the American side, you need 200 bases (800 figures), and that is just a basic game. Ironically, their Franco-Prussian War rules require far fewer figures, but represent multiple Corps.

I look forward to trying this out, if only with (virtual) pen and paper.

Monday, February 07, 2011

AWI Rules Review - The World Turned Upside Down (Part 1)

As many of you know, I like the American War of Independence and I have been trying to come up with the "right" rules for gaming them. I've tried developing variants from a number of different rules (DBA, HOTT, Napoleonic Wargaming, '61-'65, etc.), all with varying success. One of the problems is that they never seem to have enough "period feel", which I may not even be able to articulate. (That makes for it being very hard to fit the bill, doesn't it!)

In Battlegames magazine, issue #24, Mike Siggins gave a tantalizing review about an AWI ruleset called The World Turned Upside Down by Realtime Wargaming, and sold by Realistic Modelling Services. What sounded so interesting was two items: 1) it includes a set of campaign rules, and 2) the tabletop (battlefield) movement was something akin to point-to-point map movement used in campaign games. For those two reasons alone, I had to buy them. It took 1 1/2 months for the rules to arrive (Realistic Modelling Services was great about keeping the lines of communications open while the postal service held my package hostage), but it was well worth the wait.

First caveat: I have not yet played the rules. Unfortunately my gaming schedule was already booked this weekend (I know, that is not really a bad thing) and my pipes burst from the cold, so all extra time was taken up with that, so I have not been able to try them. Also, because of the basing scheme, it might take a little work to get ready for a game. Units are big.

The World Turned Upside Down

Game Overview

The World Turned Upside Down (TWTUD) is a board game and a set of miniatures rules all in one package. Included is a map, counters to cut out, a rule book, quick-reference charts, and some game tracks. The idea is that you play the American War of Independence. All of it. (Well almost. Lexington and Bunker Hill have been fought, Washington has been appointed Commander-in-Chief, and the Continental Army has been created. It is the Fall of 1775.) None of this mamby-pamby gaming the "Philadelphia Campaign" or "Southern Campaign" stuff; you play the war.

The map that is included are two glossy color sheets (I think they are A3 in size) that are point-to-point maps, showing areas of wilderness, mountains, seacoast, etc. along with the roads, rivers, bridges, ports, villages, towns, and cities. There are also three sea zones representing the entire eastern seaboard. Basically land units move one location per turn via the roads and naval units can move one sea zone per turn.

Basically the game is determined by counting VP at the end of Spring 1782. The British start with 100 VP and lose 6+1D6 per season, and add or subtract VP based on whether they win or lose battles. (Small battles are more like skirmishes, but they count differently than the large battles.) If the British have 20+ VP they win, as it represents they did better than historically. If the British hit 0 VP before then the Patriots have won, as they did better than historically. Any other results in an Highly Honorable Draw. (This is one of the first indicators, in my mind, of the pro-British bent to the design.) Additional VP may be lost or gained depending upon the current British Strategic Policy, which is determined at various times in the game. Examples are: cut off New England from the rest of the colonies, the Southern Expedition, etc.

The Crown side gets a variable number of reinforcements by schedule and through calling up the Loyalists, while the Patriots get them through calling out the State's militia, recruiting Continentals, and French intervention. Calling up militias and recruiting are operational actions, so to perform these actions you are giving up performing other actions, like moving armies, as each side receives a number of operational action points to spend each season.

Generals


At the heart of the system, both the campaign game and the battles, are the Generals commanding armies and garrisons. Each General is rated in Seniority (used to determine who the Commander-in-Chief is when stacked together) and an "Ability" rating. Let me start off by saying that, in my opinion, the Ability ratings are heavily weighted towards the Crown forces. Tarleton, of all people, is given the highest of ratings (a '5'), while Daniel Morgan appears, apparently, as an "Unnamed Brigadier"! So, expect the British (and Germans) to be able to perform actions operationally and tactically, while the Patriots struggle.

Putting the author's obvious bias aside, the campaign rules reflects an issue of the AWI pretty well: the constant shuffling of commanding generals. At the end of each season a check is made to see if a General is removed from play. If they are, their counter is flipped over, revealing a General of less seniority (and potentially higher ability). If that General is removed, the counter is discarded from play. Additionally, each season may see new Generals arrive on the scene (by randomly drawing their counter from a cup), allowing each side more flexibility operationally.

Summary


This is just a summary of the first part, which really focused (superficially) on the campaign aspect of the rules. The next blog entry will discuss the tabletop rules.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

'61-'65 Q&A

The author of '61-'65, Sergio Laliscia, took the time to answer a number of questions and comments I had about the rules, so I thought I would post them here. (Only minor editing was performed, mostly by removing my comments and keeping just the question.)

Q: It states that the Leader bonus applies to Squads. When the Corporal rolls for rallying, does he get the Leader bonus too (i.e. a 2+ activation)?

A: No, he doesn’t: it’s always a 3+.

Q: How exactly is an attached Leader at risk as a casualty? I found the rule that states how he becomes a casualty in close combat if he is attached, but did not find one for shooting. Also, is an attached leader at risk if its squad won the close combat?

A: You are right it is not clearly stated that the Leader is at risk only when attached in close combat and when shot at and unattached. Yes, you have to test for Leader loss even if its' squad wins the close combat.

Q: If a double line has four figures in front and four in the rear is it outnumbered by an enemy Squad of eight in single line? If so, is it outnumbered by four?

A: Yes. This was a decision I made. I preferred to give more importance to the frontage width than the mass.

Q: Does a double line require a frontage of four figures, like a line?

A: No, it doesn’t. Three is the minimum.

Q: A unit may only make a limited number of Move actions, depending upon its formation. Obviously, using the movement stick is a Move action, but are the following actions also considered Move actions, for purposes of the limit you can make: Change Formation, Wheeling, Changing Face 90º or 180º?

A: Changing Face (90º or 180º) or Formation is not considered “moving”, but Wheeling is.

Q: If a Squad loses a single figure in close combat, but because of having an attached leader and getting a '1' or '2' on the survival roll loses that leader, will the Squad have to check morale because it lost two figures in the combat (1 from the Squad and 1 attached leader)?

A: No, it has to check Morale just if Green (for the Leader loss).

C: The wording for Changing Formation makes it nearly impossible to change formation. Moving the rear of a column into line means moving forward (they rarely formed line rearward), thus closer to the enemy. Considering that the action is probably rated as a move, I would think that it would be more important that no figure move farther than it could normally move.

R: You are right, that was bad wording. What I meant is that no figure can come closer to the enemy than the closest friend before the formation change. In other words you cannot use a formation change (that we do not consider movement) to close towards any enemy.

Q: Does the attacker determines which side is his baseline, as with SDS?

A: In 61-65, being that the table is a rectangle, you sit down with your baseline in front and only then are the roles (attacker or defender) determined and terrain placed. So no player switches baseline.

Q: It says that you can shoot with two, one, or no actions, but I was always considering that the "no actions" reference was to return fire. Is it possible for the active squad, with one action, to move and then fire at -1? Or is the "no actions" reference really only intended for return fire?

A: No, you can, with 1 action, move and then fire “at will”.

Q: It says that when a Skirmisher pair loses a figure, if it passes more dice than fails in the morale check (i.e. passes twice), it may take a free 1M move to "join a friendly Squad". What happens if the Skirmisher is more than 1M from any friendly Squad?

A: It is removed from play. We forgot to say that.

Q: What happens if the Skirmisher is more than 1M from its parent Squad, but is within 1M of another friendly Squad?

A: He can join that squad.

Q: One final question - and this is more of a point of curiosity - why is it that you suggest splitting the company up in multi-player games, rather than giving each person a company? Obviously if you use more than one Company per side you will need to increase the board size, but I was just wondering if your group had tried it and found a problem?

A: Nothing wrong in running multi-company battles. Just maybe waiting problems? In a game with three companies per side you could have some people waiting 20 minutes before their turn.

Q: The only downside that I can see to this is the Leaders. Knowing when they can or should be able to act.

A: You have the same problem running just a Company. What the Captain will do must be agreed upon by the team.

Again, I would to thank Sergio for taking the time to answer all of my tedious "rules lawyerly" questions. (Or as Rich Jones would say: pedantic.) :^) I think '61-'65 is a great game and I look forward to developing scenarios for it. Some of the answers, such as the Skirmisher rules, shed a new light on what the designer intended.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Lasalle seems to get it right

I purchased a new set of rules the other night: Lasalle, the first set in Sam Mustafa's HONOUR series. So, why a Napoleonics game? Do I think I am going to make enough Napoleonic wooden soldiers to use these rules? No. Believe it or not, I have a lot of painted 6mm Napoleonic troops sitting around unused. Although it would mean re-basing, as I currently have each base equal to a battalion and the Lasalle rules are petit-tactical (each unit of 4 to 6 bases is a battalion), this is really the level of game I wish to play. Both Polemos and De Bellis Napoleonicis never really cut it for me.

I admit I have not completed reading the rules, much less played even a single game, but these rules look like they got at least one thing right: the turn sequence for an IGO UGO game. The traditional sequence of an IGO UGO game is as follows:

  1. Side A moves
  2. Side A fires
  3. Side B checks morale
  4. Side A and B melees
  5. Side A and B checks morale
  6. Side B moves
  7. Side B fires
  8. Side A checks morale
  9. Side A and B melees
  10. Side A and B checks morale
This sequence produces what Wally Simon of the old PW Review magazine used to call "Gotcha' Gaming". It is called that because the side whose turn it is will gauge whether they have sufficient movement to move in and strike - the "Gotcha'"! If they cannot, they might back off a little to ensure the enemy, in their next turn, doesn't get a chance to play Gotcha' on you. Eventually, someone will have to close in without being able to fire, allowing their opponent to strike first. (Hence the term "Gotcha'!")

People have tried various ways to fix this (as few people really want to go back to written orders and simultaneous movement). One sequence I did was:

  1. Side A moves
  2. Side B fires
  3. etc.
  4. Side B moves
  5. Side A fires
  6. etc.
This was a little more acceptable in that the temporal displacement - the amount of perceived time that passed on one side while the other side was "stuck" in time - was not as bad. By this I mean that if your unit could move 6" and the firing range was 12" you could attack a unit 18" away without any reaction whatsoever from the other side. This sequence cut that lack of reaction by your opponent down to a 6" move.

I have also seen sequences where the melee comes first, before the movement, but never remember a set of rules that pulled the re-sequencing off. I just remember it being "novel". Well, Sam Mustafa, the author of Lasalle, seems to have pulled it off. Here is his sequence:

  1. Side A performs Reactions, including Shooting
  2. Side A defends in Melees
  3. Side A Moves, including Charges
  4. Side B performs Reactions, including Shooting
  5. Side B defends in Melees
  6. Side B Moves, including Charges
So, because firing is first, it is a reaction to your opponent's moving into your range. This makes it like the altered sequence shown above. Temporal displacement is lessened by limiting to just their move. Other reactions include changing formation (such as forming square in reaction to a cavalry charge) and falling back (including breaking contact). It is interesting that this takes away completely the need to have the non-active player (i.e. Side B when it is Side A's turn or vice versa) take actions like you see in other rules. For example, how many rulesets have a "Forming a Hasty Square" rule whereby the non-active player changes to square during the active player's turn? Or a "Evade" rules whereby the non-active player retreats from contact? Or a "Counter-charge" rule? Or firing during your opponent's turn?

By moving the melee resolution to earlier in the sequence, but putting a reaction phase before it, you remove all of those disruptions to a player's turn. Simply move your troops with the intent of where they should be, assuming no reaction from the opponent, then play it out later. If, however, your opponent does wish to react to your move, he does so in his turn, not yours.

That is not to say that they Lasalle rules are completely free of no non-active player actions in the active player's turn; I have found at least one (Cavalry Breakthrough), but at least it is greatly reduced.

As I read more I will probably write more impressions about these rules. These rules promise to have supplements/modules for different periods, but I have no doubt that an AWI module won't be in the making anytime soon. So, I may look to make my own if these rules turn out to warrant merit.

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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").