I wanted to have another go at the rules Tin Soldiers in Action to see:
- How it would play unmodified (i.e. correctly played),
- Whether the "feel" of the rules change by period, and
- How much of an issue it would be to use bases with multiple figures on each.
After I pull them out of the cupboards I see the issue: I never finished that basing project from the last time I pulled them out. They are based properly (for what I was going for), I just did not finish dressing the bases. So they don't show very well in pictures. Nonetheless, they are certainly functional for gaming.
Tin Soldiers in Action, American-StyleSo the first thing I need to do is organize my figures into units, commands, and armies. Most of my units are four bases each of three figures, so 12 figures per unit. Given the small size of ARW units, that seems fine. Some of my units are a little larger (18 figures), some a little smaller (8 figures for cavalry), and one a huge militia unit (27 figures), so I thought this would be a good test to see how well each unit size worked.
It seems like a unit size of 12 is pretty significant in that it will have a Tenacity of '2' and can likely sustain 3-5 casualties before you start worrying about whether you will pass your Tenacity Test. It is also significant in that a square can only have a maximum of 12 infantry figures firing out of a square.
It also looks like a unit size of 18 is significant in that it aligns with the maximum number of infantry in a square that can fight in close combat.
One of the reasons why I do not play a lot of ARW is because I have never found a satisfactory set of rules that felt right to me. Most rules are obscene in that they rate all British as vastly superior and all Patriot militia as trash troops. The facts are that, like the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War – every war that has lasted over the course of several years – you cannot paint the troops of the early period with the same brush as troops of the later period (no matter which war you are referring to). There were British units that were green and performed poorly and there were Patriot units that performed superbly.
Infantry RatingPersonally, I tend to play the Southern Campaign ("where the war was won", as we Southern boys like to say), only with Northern Campaign unit sizes and uniforms ('Yankee Doodle' units). By 1781–82 I think things started becoming very much like described in the Rebellion supplement to Black Powder:
When infantry met infantry on the battlefields of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Europe the dominant tactic was for opposing battalions to form lines facing each other and fire their muskets at close range until one side could take no more and ran away or surrendered. Bayonet charges and hand-to-hand combat were considered rare.For this reason, I decided to try something I had never done with other rules: classify a large number of troops as light infantry. In terms of Tin Soldiers in Action (TSIA), this meant giving a lot of troops the light infantry designation rather than infantry. This creates a bit of issue in that:
At the outset of the rebellion, the British battalions in America retained the close order line as the preferred battlefield formation. ... Within the British drill manual there were three further arrangements. "Order" placed the files 18 inches apart, "open order" increased separation to 36 inches and "extended order" to as much as ten feet between men in the same rank. Each of these also progressively increase the gap between ranks and collectively they are sometimes referred to as "loose order". There was not specific skirmish formation, but in battle the command "to tree" would direct the men to disperse in woodland to take advantage of cover. The latter instruction could be given to any infantry and was most definitely not reserved only for designated "light infantry" or "skirmishers", although some units were naturally better suited, equipped and trained for this kind of bush fighting.
Upon assuming command of the army, General Howe re-trained his battalions to adopt "order" in two ranks as their default battlefield formation and with some exceptions this remained the case for British and Loyalist infantry for the majority of the conflict. This change in preferred formation reflects a number of the reasons why the rebellion is unique amongst Eighteenth Century wars. Firstly, the lack of effective cavalry meant the infantry were seldom compelled to adopt dense formations to repel charging horsemen. Secondly the terrain of North America made maneuver in close order a slow and cumbersome process; by adopting a looser formation the British were able to move faster than rebel battalions, who lacked the proficiency to do this, allowing them to gain the tactical initiative. Thirdly the two sides were fairly closely matched when it came to exchanging small arms fire, but the rebels would seldom stand to face a charge, prompting the British to adopt shock tactics which required the ability to maneuver at speed, only closing files at the point of contact. It is important to remember that the tactical flexibility of being able to open and close files rapidly as the situation demanded, required infantry who were drilled to a high standard and sufficiently battle-hardened to not panic when changing formation in the face of the enemy.
Light infantry encompasses all types of jaeger, rifles, fusiliers, tirailleurs which are trained as skirmishers, in ranger combat, or in reconnaissance. Light infantry fights in skirmish line, marches in open formation, utilizes cover and operates independently.This actually goes a little too far. What we want in infantry that can use open formation and get the benefits of cover, but does not operate independently. So the question becomes: do we change infantry by allowing it to use a new special ability (+) to operate in open formation or do we add a new special ability (-) of not independent to light infantry? First, I wanted to look at TSIA and its references to infantry versus light infantry and open formation versus close formation to see what made more sense.
Under Unit Size (page 52) it refers to "Infantry, closed formation" and "Infantry, open formation" with no reference to light infantry so we can see here that it is referring to "infantry" as a branch and not as a unit type. Under Action Phase (page 63) it breaks it down as "Infantry in Closed Formation" and "Infantry in Open Formation". The only references to light infantry are to the action "adopting open formation" being limited to light infantry. It is when we get to the Multipliers For Ranged Combat that we start to get to decisions that have to be made.
The multiplier "ranged combat against light infantry in open formation" (emphasis as indicated in rules) implies it is the open formation that is granting the benefit, rather than being light infantry. That said, there are three modifiers that discuss getting cover in structures and they are worded as "ranged combat against (light) infantry in [structure] (except by heavy artillery or siege artillery)", which implies – correctly or not – that it is the aspect of light infantry that grants the benefit and not being in open formation (which is not a requirement of the modifier). There are the same sort of modifiers for "(light) infantry" defending structures getting a benefit in close combat, regardless of formation.
So, there is a difference between classifying these special troops as infantry that can adopt open formation or light infantry that is not independent. Initially, I decided to choose the latter, but as I write this I have decided to change to the former. The light infantry designation implies a much greater ability to defend structures that merely operating in open formation would bestow. So, there will be a new Special Ability (+) added to the list:
Can Operate in Open Formation: allows the unit to adopt open formation. Wherever a rule states "light infantry in open formation", treat it as applicable to this unit. Thus the unit is granted the benefits of rallying in terrain, cover, etc. as if light infantry in open formation. Note that this does not grant the unit a designation of light infantry.
SkirmishingThe next issue to resolve is that skirmishers in TSIA are representative of 19th Century warfare and are not the same as skirmishers in ARW. Entire units skirmished, rather than a component of the unit skirmishing ahead of the rest of the unit. This concept of one die worth of troops being one square forward of the main body doesn't really work. As light infantry is automatically granted skirmishers and infantry can be granted that special ability, we need to add a new Special Ability (-):
No Skirmishers - Light infantry does not get the benefit of the skirmisher special ability. (Further, infantry may also not be granted the skirmisher special ability.)
Units Without Bayonets
- A unit not equipped with bayonets tends to be inferior in quality.
- An inferior quality unit tends to be poorly equipped.
- A unit inferior in quality tends not to ever get into close combat, whether they possess bayonets or not.
- Thus, applying a penalty for both inferior quality and possessing no bayonets is "double jeopardy" 1.
Dump and Run
Prolong - Light and medium artillery can move one square at the cost of one action, for a maximum of one square per turn. Terrain restrictions apply.
2 The reason for this is because the Close Combat Test is TSIA does not determine whether a unit stands or runs from a charge – there is no such test – but rather whether a unit will be "discomfited" by the charge, i.e. disordered or cause desertions. If the rules supported the concept of retreating in the face of a charge, I would consider applying a negative modifier there.