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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time to Re-Base the 6mm Napoleonics

Time to re-base my 6mm Napoleonics, because in their current configuration:
  1. They do not get used enough.
    1. Too many different basing schemes I started, but did not finish.
    2. Many schemes are not compatible with enough rules I am interested in trying.
  2. Those rules that the basing schemes are compatible with – rules that allow "any" basing scheme – play better if the "recommended" scheme is used.
  3. Of the three schemes currently in use: one uses bases too small for what I want; one uses bases too large for what I want; and one looks too thin and scraggly for 6mm.
So, it is time to re-base (or sell them, which I cannot bear the thought of doing). I am looking about about 1,200 infantry, 400 cavalry, and maybe 20 artillery (no limbers). Who knows how many Commanders.

I have decided to use 40mm wide by 20mm deep bases for infantry, 40mm square for artillery, and possibly 40mm wide by 30mm deep for cavalry (still thinking on that last one). A 40mm stand allows me to have eight files wide and two ranks deep (16 figures) for the infantry. Three ranks deep would look strange because the ratio of unit frontage to depth would be way off for most rules. This allows a Baccus "unit" to be stretched to 1 1/2 bases with the new scheme. It also allows me to use 40mm or 2" hexes (the former is the size of Heroscape hexes) and the units will fit inside nicely.

The rules I am looking to use are:
  • De Bellis Napoleonicus (DBN) - 1 base per element/unit
  • Lasalle - 4 bases per battalion (six for Austrian "big" battalions)
  • Black Powder - probably four bases per battalion also (three for small and six for large)
  • A Borg-inspired design of my own
  • Possibly even Napoleon at War - I have purchased, but not received these yet. Heard good things about them, however.
I'll post pictures as I get some bases done. As it is 6mm, and the bases are so small, you cannot really get very "dioramic" with them, as I did in the past.
If I like Black Powder I may do the same thing with my 6mm collection of American Civil War, which has never seen a game. Still looking for a set of rules for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Wasn't keen on 1870 or They Died for Glory. Still looking.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Fine Art of Writing Battle Reports

Disclaimer: all of the following is, of course, simply my opinion of magazines and journals and their content, and the entertainment or practical value of that content. You may not agree, and if so, sound off. That said, I also realize that my own battle reports do not always meet up the the ideals I list below.
The subject of writing battle reports (or after action reports - AARs) was raised a few months back on the Old School Wargaming forum on Yahoo and I did an entry in response, and I recently ranted a little more about it on the Solo Wargame forum, with regards to battle reports in magazines, so I thought I would elaborate a little more here.

The subject came up due to a open forum question about whether I was a subscriber to Lone Warrior magazine and if not, why not. I had subscribed to that journal (I hesitate to call it a magazine, and it is more substantial than a newsletter) for several years, but after awhile I found myself disappointed after I read each new issue. There was usually at least one interesting item, but it often seemed that there was rarely anything usable. Having read a number of back issues from MAGWEB (when it had been up and running), it seemed like the content of the journal had drifted over time.

I know this is starting to sound like a knock, but it is not intended to be. Lone Warrior actually did pretty good for basically being written by a small core of the subscribers in what is a very niche part of the wargaming hobby, which many might consider itself niche. Where this is all leading is that Lone Warrior (LW), like another wargaming journal I tried out, Classic Wargamer's Journal (CWJ) both were comprised largely of one type of article: battle (or campaign) reports. And that is where this entry's subject comes in.

First off, one wonders whether battle reports should even be fodder for a wargaming magazine or a journal. Generally, one's games are pretty personal and the ability of the author to convey the sense of "being there" is usually pretty limited. That is why, for me, a battle report that is simply a narrative has little value.

So, what constitutes a good battle report - one that would get me to read it? Consider the following elements:
  • Narrative
  • Maps
  • Scenario
  • Pictures
  • Game Mechanics
  • Analysis
Narrative

A good narrative (story) makes for interesting reading. But, unless you are looking for a little historical fiction at whatever level the author is writing at, a good story is just not enough. As I am a competitive sort I am always looking at the decisions gamers make at critical points in a game. Why did you advance into range there? What were you thinking the result would be before the move? Was your thinking correct? What should you have done or considered first? As I am also an inquisitive sort that looks at battle reports using rules I don't know, narratives typically tell me nothing about the rules themselves because a narrative itself should probably be "rules agnostic".

So, does a narrative have a place in battle reports? Yes. From the reader's perspective anything that helps you "get into the game" is positive. That said a narrative does not need to be a fictional account of the characters on the table top, it can be of the players itself. I have seen more swings in a battle from the player's morale being broken than from a mass rout by the figures on the table. Sometimes recording that actually helps the reader understand just why it all fell apart. Of course, if your opponent's read your blog, you might not want to say "It was at this point my opponent burst into tears like a little girl."

Maps

Maps are incredibly important for helping the reader understand the action, especially in a very fluid game where it is hard to keep track of who is where. For example, in Flames of War a doubling Fast or Light tank could move 32", which is pretty darn far on a standard 6' by 4' table. So a reference like "the Stuarts on the left flank doubled" on one turn might be "the Stuarts attacked on the right" the next turn after having moved 32" + 16" in the course of the two turns.

So, maps help the reader understand the lay of the land, what might be challenging in a scenario, where action occurs from turn-to-turn, and act as an aid in re-creating the action for themselves.

Scenario

To me, including the necessary information for the reader to recreate the action for themselves - publishing the necessary scenario information - is what sets Battlegames and Wargames Illustrated apart from the other magazines and journals. In Battlegames you have Charles Grant's Tabletop Teasers and in Wargames Illustrated you usually have a historical scenario for Flames of War.

Sometimes just describing the scenario, if it is a standard mission, is helpful for those reading the report but who do not play the rules you used, as they can get a better sense as to why the players might have made specific decisions during game play.

Pictures

Pictures have always been an interesting topic for me, as I am never sure exactly what I should be taking a picture of. I used to take pictures of just the whole board, so the reader can get an idea of the entire battle. But then I got suggestions to add "action" pictures that focused in on a specific part of the battle, so the figures could be seen better. I admit that with some of my earlier battle reports, you couldn't really tell what happened from turn-to-turn unless you were flipping back and forth between the pictures. (That lead me to once try a stop-motion picture sequence to show off a battle.)

One thing I do not like is using stock photographs of battles, but not of the one you are describing.  Either show an overview of the battle or show a specific combat up close. Beyond that, I am not really sure what works.

Game Mechanic

A friend of mine used to say about the rules Column, Line, and Square, "Don't look at the mechanics of the rules, look at the end results." I like it when a battle report points out how the effects of a game mechanic elegantly reflects (our perception of) how it is "really supposed to be". Also, a discussion of tweaking the mechanics is always thought-provoking and interesting, even if I don't agree with the change. For those that don't know the rules and are curious about how the play, mechanics discussions usually help. That said, referring to the mechanics over and over in battle report after battle report can get tedious, for both the reader and the author. Maybe it is best to write a one-time review of the rules you use and provide a link in your battle reports. Food for thought...

Analysis

Being an analytical sort of guy it naturally comes out in my writing. I also like it in the battle reports that I read. A lot of it is "what if?" but the main thing is that it leads to discussion. One of my most popular battle reports (by page view count and comment count) was K√∂nigstiger versus Strelkovy. This generated a lot of comment on this blog and on the forums where I posted the link. A lot of it centered around the flaws in my analysis  but it was still good discussion!

Summary

So, there you have it. My favorite elements to a good battle report. You can be the judge on my ability to meet that bar. I know that I often do not include all of these elements, which makes me question why bother doing it if I am not going to do it right.

While writing this blog entry I decided to look back and see how some of my battle reports did, in terms of page views and comments. Here is a list, as of 20 November, 2011.

Battle ReportCommentsViews
DBAWI Game2112
DBAWI Game #214
Two More DBAWI Games048
DBA Game: Early Libyans versus Early Bedouins058
Another DB-AWI Game014
First HOTR Game04
DB-AWI Version 2 - Battle Report079
DBA Solo Hoplite Campaign - Game 10219
DBA Solo Hoplite Campaign - Game 2047
DBA Hoplite Campaign - Spring 479 B.C. - Spartan Move0186
Stop-Motion DBA Battle142
DBA Hoplite Campaign - Spring 479 B.C. - Thessalian Move140
American War of Independence Wargaming0243
DBA Solo Game - Baltic Greeks vs. Skythians4674
Solo Memoir '44 Game - Pacific Theater #49 - Wake Island0273
Oinking Good Fun025
DBA Battle Report using Battle Chronicler0102
NUTS! Battle Report0758
Flying Lead Game at MAG-Con II2436
Mixing Flying Lead and NUTS!079
Flying Lead - Western Union047
Command and Colors: Napoleonics - Vimiero5192
Playtest - Easting the White Dog144
Playtest - New AWI Rules2183
AWI Playtest using Ganesha Games' Sixty-One Sixty-Five (Part 1)0351
AWI Playtest using "Sixty-One Sixty-Five" (Part 2)0107
TWTUD Playtest038
TWTUD Playtest Part 2233
TWTUD Playtest Part 3035
The Battle of Trautenau11123
Task Force A List in Flames of War0112
Interesting FOW Game (1)033
Interesting FOW Game (2)019
Interesting FOW Game (3)029
Interesting FOW Game (Summary)030
Battle of Burtki (Korsun Pocket Campaign)230
German Maneuvers: A Blue-on-Blue Game of FOW066
Königstiger versus Strelkovy6537
Infantry Aces Cassino Game 01274
Infantry Aces Cassino Game 02047
Infantry Aces Cassino Game 03049
BattleLore on the Tabletop (Part 1)6222
BattleLore on the Tabletop (Part 2)092
Here Comes the Red Dragon061
Here Comes the Red Dragon (Part 2)242
Skirmish in the Spanish Countryside0312
1 This was a guest blogger report and not one done by me.

As I review the list above, something becomes quite obvious: pageview count is directly related not to the quality of the battle report, but to how widely you publicize the battle report in other forums.

Well, now you have the list. You can judge for yourself how many times I myself didn't meet my own exacting standards!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Skirmish in the Spanish Countryside

Today is not only Veteran's Day in the United States of America, but it is Solo Gaming Appreciation Day (11/11/11 - all ones, get it?), so I have decided to celebrate both, and give me a little inspiration to get back to building more wooden soldiers by playing a game of Napoleonics using the rules Song of Drums and Shakos by Ganesha Games.

Changes to the Rules

This game I will experiment with the activation and turn-over rule changes I previously discussed. In a nutshell those changes are that two or three failures does not turn-over, but rather forfeits the next turn fort the figure (or group!) that failed.

The Scenario

My scenario is a simple one: A British party is moving supplies to local Spaniards in order to encourage them to actively attack the French in the area. They are to leave extra ammunition at a local's house when they come out of a gully and blunder into the French, who have arrived at the house ahead of the British and are searching for contraband. The scene starts with two sentries on a hill, guarding against suspected Spanish guerrillas while the remainder of the French ransack the house. The regimental vivandiere has come out provide the sentries refreshments (that she conveniently found in the house) when the British stumble out of the gully.


The two sides.


Although this shows British Light Dragoons, they never made it into the game.


The left picture is the view from the French side; the center from the British side. On the right it shows the French sentries and the vivandiere serving them.

The Game

The British truly do stumble out of the brush, as they are essentially divided into three clusters: those that moved two moves (five men), those that moved one move (four men and the Sergeant), and those that moved none.


For simplicity I allowed those British that failed twice to simply not move this turn, but still allow them another chance next turn. In exchange for that, no British figure could roll three dice for activation on the first turn. After the first turn, however, the rule changes would be in effect...
The French sentry easily spotted the British thrashing around noisily in the tall grass, called out the alarm, and fired off a shot (missing however). The second sentry, quickly handing the vivandiere back the cup of Spanish wine, raced up the slope to see what was happening.


The British Sergeant, calling orders from the rear while yelling at the stragglers behind, order the forward group to form line and volley fire upon the sentry. With a roar from five muskets, the French sentry goes down, instantly killed. The remaining British troops quicken their pace, knowing that this is no longer going to be a simple task of handing out information and trying to impress the local senoritas...


The surviving sentry quickly fires his musket at the British line, luckily winging one private (who is knocked down), before retiring behind the safety of the hill.

With the alarm raised the French officer inside the house calls to the drummer to beat out Assembly. The French private quickly stream out the door and form line ... right in front of the British who have just finished firing their volley and are quickly attempting to reload.


Continuing to shout orders, the British Sergeant tells the second group to swing to the left and give the French a volley, which they do. One more French private goes down (although he is only out of action.) Apparently the right group was waiting for orders as, other the the private knocked down and who got up, all failed to reload their muskets!


The French officer runs out of the house screaming "Pour l'Empereur, de charge!" (forgive my Google French), and away charges four of his privates, heading straight for the British line.

This turn saw the French desperately gamble and roll three dice for practically every figure and group. Three figures, including the French sergeant, turned over, however, indicating they will lose their next turn completely.
The Sergeant screams "Fire at will!" and promptly steps into a hole, distracting him.
I rolled three dice for every British private, but only rolled two for the Sergeant and yet he still turned over!
All along the line the British reload and fire. One of the French privates goes down and two flinch, but still they come on. Notably, however, the French group is now broken (figures no longer touching), so they cannot receive a group order.


The French charge the end of the line, but the distance is too much of a strain; the British are able to stave off the French bayonets, even looking grim for the French next turn.


The British counter-attack was weak on the flank, but in the center the privates advanced forward, bayoneting the downed French private and even taking a pot shot at the French officer, knocking him to the ground with the blast of the powder charge.


The French officer is merely fazed, however, as he leaps to his feet and (foolishly) charges into combat - and promptly knocked down again. (This is a much deadlier situation, however. I can see now that the Officer should probably be Combat of 3 if I am going to throw him into hand-to-hand combat.)


The British mercilessly bayonet the downed French officer (it took two to get him), forcing a morale check. The drummer boy, who was defending the officer when he was killed, failed morale completely and ran from the combat. Four men (and one woman) retreated in all, but the French Sergeant was steadfast. (No really, he has the skill Steadfast!)


With the French having five out of 12 men dead, it looks like it is time to beat a hasty retreat. Amazingly, the one private in hand-to-hand combat makes his roll for two actions and survives the free hack. The French Sergeant heroically charges the end of the line and takes a powerful swing with his deadly halberd - and barely survives being knocked down despite being +3 to the dice and his opponent only being +1!


Summary

It has been awhile since I have played any skirmish games, especially Song of Drums and Shakos, so I forgot some of the "do's and don'ts". For example, don't put your leader out there in danger. In fact, don't commit him to combat at all. He is there just to give group orders and add 1 to the Quality checks of everyone else within a Long.

Even a combat "monster" like the French Sergeant can't go into hand-to-hand combat unsupported. Even having a halberd, a Combat of 3, and Strong (+1 to Combat in hand-to-hand) can't overcome two or three average soldiers (Combat of 2) in hand-to-hand.

Where the French attack broke apart was basically from the start. The French were piecemeal and the British were concentrated. Rather than moving so far forward with the French group it should have assembled farther back and awaited the Officer and Sergeant to bring up the rear before attacking. I just felt like "quick, charge before they reload". Problem was, they had those little pointy things at the end of their unloaded muskets, and in the final analysis, the French were no better in hand-to-hand than were the British. Ah well, that is what you get for rushing (in more ways than one). I still enjoyed it and I got to pull off my Solo Gaming Appreciation Day game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Memoir '44 Variant

I thought I would post this idea from the Days of Wonder forum.
A battle die result of Grenade only hits when in Close Combat (in an adjacent hex) or against an Artillery unit.
When I first read that, I thought that it "makes sense"; grenades represent short-range combat. Of course, the designer had mathematically taken into account that Grenades would always hit, but some discussion has surrounded the idea that the hit rate is too high as it is. With that, I agree; M44 is very bloody, and because you throw so few dice, hitting on an additional face means it is very luck oriented. (See my previous blog entry on what that is.)

What this does, of course, is makes Close Combat that much more powerful than it is now. Infantry not only get three dice instead of one or two, but their chance to hit would now be 16% higher (because ranged fire would be lowered), distorting the importance of assault even more.

I will give it a try, probably using VASSAL to do the testing - so it doesn't take so much time to setup and tear down games - and report back here.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Battlegames and the Future of Paper Magazines

First off, before I start my rant, I want to say hello to the new readers, something I've not done before. So hello Brent, Big Lee, Danjou's Hands, and Ben Boersma, all whom have joined in the last week. Of course, welcome back to all the other readers. I wished I had thought of acknowledging you back when I started this blog.

It was with heavy heart that I read my email from Henry Hyde of Battlegames magazine. (If you are wondering what I am referring to, follow the link above and read the news on the front page. In brief, his print edition of the magazine is running at a financial loss and there are not enough subscribers to continue with a digital version.) My favorite wargaming magazine, bar none, was possibly going down the tubes.

To start, I took the survey he asked all subscribers to take and I was direct: raise the price if necessary, go digital, and pass the cost of printing on to the user. For me, I am willing to accept that in order to continue receiving great content.
The magazine's content catered to the old school wargamer, and although I like a lot of the principles that they follow (fun game, easy to remember rules), I don't consider myself one because of some of their other gaming principles (I like 'tournament tight' rules, not frameworks to build upon).
Second, I emailed Henry and told him that I just needed a process to change my subscription to digital, as he seems to have taken down all subscription options from his web site. For me, I was a paper subscriber because that is all he offered when I started, he didn't have an obvious process for me to convert, and there wasn't enough of an incentive to convert from paper to digital. Had he sent me an email six months ago and said "Dale, I have to raise prices on the paper subscriptions 100%, but I can convert you to digital at no cost, just tell me what you want", I would have converted then and there. As it was, I bought two issues digitally because the UK postal system was late in delivering the paper copy and "I want it now"! (Of course, duplicate digital copies were only $1, so there was incentive to get it early in those cases. I never printed them out.)

One of the reasons this is so distressing is because I was interested in the Classic Wargamer's Journal and it too is no longer publishing. I received the pilot issue as a PDF and wanted to keep getting digital issues, but he only did subscriptions, and I was still not sure if I liked the format (it had a lot of battle reports, which I am not too keen on, unless it gives me enough information to replay it myself). What is it that is causing this meltdown? I see Wargames Illustrated and it appears to be doing well (but so did Battlegames, to be honest); Miniature Wargaming has been around for a long time, and although it was not my cup of tea, it was definitely a survivor. As for Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy magazine, I had collected back issues whenever I came across them, but never subscribed. Great eye candy, but I cannot say I ever used the information in their articles; not even for scenarios. That said, they went bust (but were resurrected by another magazine publishing house), which shows the weakness of this market.

I personally do not think it is the market, per se, that is saturated. Henry spoke of the advertisers leaving when WSS started back up. Companies knew BG was niche and so probably decided to spend their advertising dollars in the bigger magazines that got broader distribution. Spencer-Smith Miniatures, for example, admitted that they really did not know if advertising with BG brought in more sales, but they knew that it was "their kind" of magazine and that a general wargaming magazine is probably not the way to go.

So, are niche magazines and journals doomed to forego the paper route and be digital, or not at all? I for one, hope so. I hope they can show that digital publishing is the way to stay alive. If they succeed in getting people to pay for niche wargaming content in a digital format, we may get more people to try that, getting richer products. For me, whenever I see a new digital magazine, I want to buy (or get for free) a recent issue so that I can see whether it is for me or not. If it is, I will go ahead and subscribe.

What I don't like are unprintable digital issues. If you use Flash animation and such, to me that is a turn-off. I would want the copy that would normally be sent to the printer, and preferably an option to have a "printer-friendly" version without heavy artwork and backgrounds.

My hope is to see Battlegames continue on in a digital-only format. Quarterly journals are an interesting idea, but I don't really need the paper, and if I do, I can deal with printing it out myself, as I do with back issues of Slingshot magazine, that I have on CD.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Command and Colors Variants

So, I played a game of Memoir '44 with Don this weekend while waiting for a program to finish installing and, let's just say it was sort of a shock. Don and I used to play a lot of it, so I was pretty used to how it played. But now that I have had a steady diet of BattleLore of late (really, reacquainting myself with the rules), and Command and Colors: Napoleonics prior to that, I must say I was shocked at how "primitive" the Memoir '44 rules felt. Immediately after that I started playing Memoir '44 Online and I can say the feeling did not go away.

So, for me the progression of being introduced to Richard Borg's games was as follows:
  1. Command and Colors: Ancients
  2. Memoir '44
  3. BattleLore
  4. Every Memoir '44 expansion, as they came out
  5. Battle Cry! (Avalon Hill, not the 2010 Hasbro re-issue)
  6. Every Command and Colors: Ancients expansion
  7. Every Battlelore expansion, save the last three
  8. Command and Colors: Napoleonics
  9. The last three BattleLore expansions
I am at the point now that I pretty much buy every expansion as they come out, but I honestly have not played every scenario of every game. Given the situation with copies being scarce, out-of-print, and/or not being re-printed, once I know I like a system, I pretty much get the expansions "just in case". (It helps to have a lot of storage space available when you are afflicted with such mental disorders.)
By the way, I haven't even mentioned the games that are Borg-like, such as Battle of Westeros or Clash for a Continent (Hold the Line). Fortunately, I have not gotten the expansion bug for Battle of Westeros (yet) despite the fact that I like the game.
It was as I was recovering from my shock at how Memoir '44 played (compared to BattleLore) that I started to go over in my mind the differences between each game system. These were the areas that I thought about:
  • Number of limited resources to manage
  • Ratio of movement to combat range
  • Terrain effects
  • Number of dice thrown (in battle)
  • Dice thrown reduced by range?
  • The Odds of Hitting
  • Battle back?
  • Evading combat
  • Dice thrown reduced by "casualties"?
It is the combination of how each of these elements are modeled that makes each game unique. And it is the model, or lack thereof, that makes some of these games surprisingly different.

Number of Limited Resources to Manage

What I mean by 'limited resources' is the number of game mechanisms that require management by the player, giving them strategic or tactical choices. The Command card hand is the primary example. All of the games in this series have that element in common. Also, all have the players manage about four to six Command cards in a typical game, although that can rise with Epic/Overlord sized games, or games with allies.

However, Memoir '44 also has Combat  cards (Urban and Winter, so far) as an additional resource for the player to manage, offering richer play. BattleLore is by far the leader, with Command cards, Lore cards, and Lore tokens to manage (the last in both a common pool and associated with special units). With the Heroes expansion, the play gets even richer.

Ratio of Movement to Combat Range

This aspect determines how effective ranged combat (any combat that occurs between non-adjacent units) is in comparison to close combat (any combat that occurs between adjacent units). Another way of looking at it is whether the game is played in slow motion or not.

Memoir '44 has a combat range of 3 hexes for infantry and a movement of one to three hexes. This gives a ratio of Movement to Combat Range of 1:3 for typical units and 2:3 for elite units. BattleLore, on the other hand, typically has a ratio of 1:2 for archers (however it is more like 1:4 for heavy infantry). Command and Colors: Napoleonics also has a 1:2 ratio. Battle Cry!, on the other hand, has a ratio of 1:4!

So, what does all of this mean? Well, the lower the ratio, the more effect ranged combat has on the game than close combat does. It is not the sole factor, of course, and other elements may make ranged combat more or less effective, altering the game balance between ranged and close combat. Another effect of a lower ratio is that it feels more like it is running in slower motion. A game that requires you undergo three rounds of ranged combat before you get into close combat will feel slower than if you only undergo one round of ranged combat first.

Terrain Effects

This is probably the hardest part of switching between the games. Terrain typically has two effect: movement, and combat. Movement effects, if any, are forcing the unit to stop upon entering the terrain feature. Woods are a good example of consistency, when it comes to movement, in that you have to stop when entering this terrain (although there are exceptions by unit type, in most games). Where the games typically differ is in the effect on combat. In general, there are two combat effects: line of sight and battle dice reduction.

Again, line of sight is pretty consistent between versions, with only Battle Cry1 being different with regards to hills. The greatest differences are in battle dice reductions. In most terrain in Memoir '44, for example, a unit moving into terrain cannot battle on the turn it moved. There are some exceptions, of course, but for most terrain that holds true. In BattleLore, however, it is the exact opposite; being forced to stop on terrain rarely causes the unit to forego an attack.

The reduction in battle dice, however, is not equally applied. For example, a hill in Memoir '44 causes the reduction of a single battle die, unless going from hill to hill. In BattleLore, however, as the average dice thrown is between two and four dice, fighting uphill causes between zero and two dice lost while fighting downhill or across can cause up to one die lost (but rarely any). Woods are even worse.

Terrain probably has the greatest effect in Command and Colors: Napoleonics, especially against cavalry. There are typically effects for fighting into and out of terrain, so fighting from woods to woods, for example, carries the effect of the attacker fighting out of their hex and fighting into the defender's hex. Terrain frequently reduces cavalry attacks to zero dice, which makes terrain much more dominant in battle than in say, Memoir '44.

1 Here I am referring to the older Avalon Hill version in the blue and gray box. Not the newer version published in 2010.

Number of Dice Thrown in Battle

The number of dice thrown generally indicates how fast units are removed. Memoir 44, for example, generally throws one to three dice. Command or Combat cards can raise that up, but usually only by a single die. BattleLore and Command and Colors: Ancients on the other hand use throw dice based on the color of the unit, so the number is typically two to four dice thrown. BattleLore in particular can often have this number increased substantially by weapons, Command cards, or Lore cards. In a recent game I saw an arbalest shot throw seven dice, due to Command and Lore card modifications. (Ironically, it only inflicted one hit!)

Are Battle Dice Reduced by Range?

This is one factor that differentiates Memoir '44 and Battle Cry! from BattleLore and Command and Colors: Ancients or Napoleonics. The first two dictate the number of dice according to the range of the combat, while the remainder do not (although they may differentiate between ranged and close combat).

This factor, along with the number of dice thrown, tends to make Memoir '44 the game that throws the fewest dice in combat. It would be the least bloody game, if not for the next factor.

The Odds of Hitting

The basic chance to hit in ranged or close combat dramatically affects the speed of the game. In Memoir '44, the most common unit is infantry, which is hit 50% of the time. Even armor is hit 33% of the time, so despite this game throwing the fewest dice on average, it tends to be bloodier. (Artillery is tough to kill, having only a 16% to hit it.) In BattleLore and Command and Colors: Ancients the basic chance of hitting infantry is 33% and mounted generally even less2.

Command and Colors: Napoleonics is a little different, in that close combat is deadlier. Generally the chance is 33% in ranged combat and 50% in close combat, while cavalry and artillery are 16% for ranged and 33% for close combat. But, like Memoir '44, it singles out infantry for a higher ratio of loss than in the color-oriented battle systems.

2 Mounted generally can ignore one Shield hit, which occurs 16% of the time on each die. As they cannot avoid all Shield hits, it is hard to calculate the average chance to hit a mounted unit.

How Does Battle Back Work?

Most people will say that the battle back mechanism is probably the greatest differentiation between the systems. There are basically three battle back mechanisms:
  • You cannot battle back. All battles occur because you played a card and ordered a unit.
  • You can battle back, but only under certain conditions. Ensuring those conditions exist as often as possible becomes strategy for play.
  • You can always battle back (assuming you are not destroyed or forced to retreat).
The ability to battle back is probably one of the most fundamental differences in how the game mechanics affects strategy, in this series. In Command and Colors: Ancients (or when using the Battle Savvy rules in BattleLore) you have a tendency to be more careful in the attack, as a failed attack (i.e. one that does not destroy the enemy or force him to retreat) can hit you back for free. In BattleLore, without the Battle Savvy rules (or using the Iron Dwarves), unsupported units tend to draw a lot of attacks, including from units that are themselves unsupported.

In Memoir '44, where neither battle back nor support (the ability to ignore retreats due to having adjacent friendly units) exists, units tend to do the opposite, they do not cluster up (as blocked retreat paths cause extra casualties) and they tend to attack unsupported with much greater frequency.

Can You Evade Combat?

Another nuance with the rules is the ability to evade close combat, generally with mounted units from foot units. Both Command and Colors (Ancients and Napoleonics) support the concept, but ironically BattleLore does not directly (it does support it through the play of Lore cards). I think this mechanic allows players to be more aggressive with their mounted troops against enemy foot troops.

Are Battle Dice Reduced by Unit Casualties?

This is, of course, what makes Command and Colors: Napoleonics unique, as it is the only rules in this series which reduces the number of battle dice thrown due to taking casualties (i.e. losing figures in a unit). A number of people have complained that they all don't do this, but there have been some pretty good discussions about why the 'constant power'. (Here is one on the Command and Colors: Ancients forum on BoardGameGeek.)

Bottom line, if you don't like constant power, Command and Colors: Napoleonics is your only option ... unless you play any number of decreasing power variants for all of the other games out there.

Summary

Well, this started out as a rant about how much less I like Memoir '44, now that I have played a lot more BattleLore. That said, Memoir '44 Online is pretty addictive, even if it does cost about $0.08 to $0.12 a game (it truly does beat Vassal in most regards), so I guess I won't be giving up Memoir '44 anytime soon. It might be interesting to try some variants using the factors listed above and mixing and matching them with existing games. Memoir '44 with battle back, anyone?

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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").