Sunday, 4 September 2022

Back to using a grid

When I started this blog I was playing games using grids, square grids, for most of my wargaming. However, in the last few years I am increasingly moving towards free movement and was one of the reasons I added "but not always" to the blog's title. Anyway, this weekend I returned to gaming using a grid with an English Civil War (ECW) game to help address the balance.

A grid-based ECW game set up.

Back in October 2021 I tried to increase the friction in my ECW games by adding an activation mechanism. I updated the rules with some of the changes, but neglected to update the activation approach as I was (and still am) in two minds.

The activation check introduced was to roll 2D6 and if the score is greater than the unit’s accumulated hits, the unit completed the action. Otherwise, it did not carry out the order, and in the case of a melee action a unit had to retire half a move. This friction activation replaced the previous card activation where the order in which a player’s units perform their actions was determined by taking cards in a deck. The deck has the following ten cards which are shuffled together in one card deck.

5 Red cards: 

  1. Horse Activation
  2. Foot Activation
  3. Dragoon Activation
  4. Artillery Activation
  5. Commander Activation

And 5 Blue cards: 

  1. Horse Activation
  2. Foot Activation
  3. Dragoon Activation
  4. Artillery Activation
  5. Commander Activation

Each time a players colour card is revealed (blue or red) that army's player activates the unit type on the card. Once complete, take the next card from the top of the pack and repeat until all cards have been drawn, then shuffle the card deck and start the next turn.

The game is underway.

Being in two minds about the activations as I like activating the army by unit type (Horse, Foot, etc.) and the friction element (dicing against the hits). I decided to try and combine the two with a few modifications which included doing away with the use of cards to using dice instead, and friction now uses one dice with the score doubled rather than the 2D6. 

The current draft "D3 ECW" can be found at the top of the blog page (or click here).

Shoot range of 2 for muskets.

After a couple of games I was asking myself - is it really necessary two have the two layers of activation? The rules worked ok, but my natural inclination is to keep things simple so I think I should pick one or the other. At the moment I am leaning towards the unit type activation because is does reflect the difficulty commanders had trying to coordinate the various arms of an ECW army, and I like the ability to choose the type which reduces the randomness of the original card approach and players have to prioritise which actions they what fought first.

Anyway, the ECW gaming is continuing this weekend, and probably during next week, to see where I land with the activations and also a change to the artillery shooting mechanism.

Artillery in action

Push of pikes


28 comments:

  1. Thanks. I love following your rules tinkering, and I look forward to seeing where your changes lead you.

    My one thought about the unit-type activation is that it's great if you have a battle with all types of troops present, but loses some of its magic when you have unbalanced forces, such as cavalry actions.

    I used a dice-based activation system, which determines how many units a player can activate. The player chooses which units to activate, but not the order - they are activated either left to right or right to left and then, within a file, those furthest from the baseline first. This is a mechanism that works great with a grid.

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    1. I was assuming a range of unit types. As you mention this was not always the case for some ECW actions and could prove problematic. I may have to rework or rethink this mechanism to be commands rather than types.
      The left to right, right to left, is a neat approach.

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    2. I use the right to left approach which works well in my ancient rules. each unit is diced for with a D6. and needs to throw 4 or more. this score needed is adjusted by subtracting 1 for every friendly unit and disordered enemy unit in the eight squares surrounding it. the score needed is increased by 1 for every enemy unit in good order and every disordered friendly unit in the surrounding eight squares. the basic score needed can be adjusted up or down according to the quality of the unit. the basic score can also be adjusted for my opponent to make a harder solo game

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    3. Thanks for the additional ideas on disorder effects and unit quality.

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  2. The unit activation with die or dice roll is really clever Peter. As the cohesion of a unit declines, it is less likely to act. What sort of numbers of hits are common? One to four perhaps, so a three or better on each die (the die) should guarantee success? Therefore, the number of failures is not too high—which I reckon is good since I like troops to be able to do 'stuff' and to let the player/player's actions/mistakes produce the ill-effects!
    I'll be interested to read of your further developments with this mechanic.
    Regards, James

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    1. Hi James, units can take up to 8 hits, after which they are eliminated. So a unit with the maximum 8 hits can activate on 5+.

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  3. I very much like the idea that activation is linked to casualties (i.e. degrading status), however if casualties are also reflected elsewhere, such as test or morale parts of the system, then that might become double jeopardy. For ECW, It might be worth trying to activate by wings and centre.

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    1. Thanks Norm, the left wing, right wing, and centre would work well, and throw in independent units such as dragoons and artillery as the 4th and 5th options.

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  4. As I see it, activation systems in wargames serve two purposes:the number of new orders a commander can give in one turn
    2. to determine the order in which units act and the results of their actions are resolved, which is a necessary evil in wargames with inanimate model soldiers who cannot move for themselves, and thus sort out wh
    1. to limitether a particular unit acted before its immediate opponent.
    Troops becoming exhausted and/or demoralised after suffering casualties and so being unwilling to act - which would seem to be the intention and effect of rolling higher than casualties in order to activate - seems to me to be a good idea, but an entirely separate morale issue, unrelated to 1 or 2 above. A commander might have already given them orders or sent new orders (by using 'activation'), but the unit refuses/is unable to respond.
    Now a real commander can always choose to which units he sends orders, so determination of that issue by cards specifying Foot or Horse seems inappropriate. What limits him is time, so the shorter the time represented by a game turn, the fewer orders he should be able to compose (verbally or in writing) and the number of messengers he has available to him at any one moment. Those issues can be resolved by having regard to the real time length of a game turn, the number of messengers available historically and keeping track of which messengers, previously sent out, have returned safely to the commander.
    Commanders should not have to 'activate' units that have already received orders in order for them to continue following those orders on subsequent turns; they may, however, wish to send different orders if the tactical situation has changed/the unit has fulfilled or failed its original orders.
    One solution would be to rule that a unit will continue to follow its original orders automatically, subject to morale failure, without requiring 'activation', which could be shown by a suitable marker or symbol by the unit, so that the commander would still have the same potential number of 'activations' that represent his ability to send new orders.
    Units acting under previously issued orders could be given higher priority over those that have received new orders that turn when determining in what order units will move, firing and combat will be resolved.

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    1. Thank you for your comment which is much appreciated. Unfortunately my response is not nearly as comprehensive, there are few things here for me to consider particularly around the orders. The individual unit activation based on hits seems to be reasonably settled as a rule, as for the orders by unit type I may need to rework or be clear on the logic behind them.

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  5. Peter, your activation system sounds easy to remember and easy to put into play. Are there any other situational modifiers for this test?
    By the way, your grid is virtually invisible to me so no grid distraction on this end. Good to see your ECW collection out on maneuvers.

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    1. There are no situational modifiers, each unit is on its own so to speak in the swirl of gunpowder smoke. And yes, most pleasing to get the ECW out again after a bit of a hiatus.

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  6. Another vote for the dice activation check against a unit’s casualties, as once you start engaging with the enemy plans SHOULD fall apart in my opinion.
    Chris/Nundanket

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    1. Thanks for you vote. Fresh troops (reinforcements) do become important with this type of activations as some units become spent.

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  7. Nice to see the old ECW Hinchliffes getting out for a game - I'm currently painting some more for my armies. I use a VWQ-style card activation with card sfor uints and commanders; combat/morale is culled straight from C&C.

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    1. I do like the Hinchliffe ECW range too. I always think about purchasing a few more after having a game. What is VWQ-style cards please?

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    2. I made up my own Victory Without Quarter activation cards, 1 per unit and extended it to various commanders (VWQ only has a CinC) and other events. I'll ping across my mash up of VWQ with C&C and a few other bits for you to peruse. They are not as streamlined as your rules so you may fnd them a touch laborious.

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    3. That would be great. Thank you.

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  8. I’m notoriously bad at rules tinkering but I do it anyway. I agree that a game needs only one method of activation and the dice seems more natural.
    Nice game set up. I like it when the grid is only there when you look for it. ๐Ÿ˜€

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    1. The squares are marked with a small brown dot in each corner.

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  9. Peter a great looking game and as others have said the grid is essentially invisible.
    I am in two minds about activation. While I understand the logic behind it that units will sometimes not follow orders , when I am playing I always like each unit to do something ๐Ÿ˜Š I think that units should always be able to defend themselves, shoot at the enemy, but not always able to advance or charge.
    Making an activation based on casualties and training I think is the way to go, with order of activation provided randomly. But then add in Generals and their commands and it all gets complex.
    Best of luck finding a solution that works for you. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. I suspect I will end up with one or other of the activation approaches. At this stage I quite like both approaches but not together.

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  10. Hi Peter
    Bit late to this party, but I’m toying with a dice C3 system for my OHW Napoleonics. I keep the 15 strength points system and have a single general with a varying number of staff officers to represent the skill of the general/C3 capability (call it what you will…). Simply roll 2D6 and if the unit’s strength is below the number rolled, it is ‘stalled’ and cannot move apart from turning on the spot to meet a threat. Infantry can fire, artillery can only fire at close range, cavalry can counter charge if charged themselves. Staff officers can be ‘spent’ to reduce the dice roll by two per officer. Unused officers can be deployed to individual units to give combat bonuses. It may work. Or not! ๐Ÿ˜€

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    1. I like the limit on actions you impose with the rules when units are stalled.

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  11. Hi there, i have been working on a set of grid based Seven Years war rules for the past 20 years. My goal was to get everything onto 4 pages with as little wordage as possible-i am now fairly satisfied that i have achieved this. As regards "activation" rolling a dice to determine how many units one can move-slows down the game - too much beard stroking- I use a system whereby at the beginning of each round both sides fire simulataneously, after which a coin is flipped to determine which side begins activation. The side that begins, rolls a die and moves either a General or moves and or attacks with ONE unit or group of units (as in DBA). Then the other side does the same. This continues provided nothing is activated twice, until one side either declares it has finished or for the second time rolls a 1 for activation, after which only the opponent may continue to activate his troops until he rolls a 1. Troops that have fired cannot be activated and a die of throw of 2 is needed to move a unit out of difficult terrain etc- ie a house. My rules are designed so someone can play almost immediately and not spend hours poring through paragraphs. Also because i have a lot of units on the table 50 + aside - i have made the squares slightly larger than the unit bases - all units begin each bound at the back of their squares and - to keep track- are moved to the front of their squares if they have fired or moved (ie been activated.) Melee is fought immediately one unit/group attacks an opposing unit/group - so are not simultaneous and there is the risk after a melee of a winning unit becoming undeployed and being attacked by an enemy unit in the turn immediately following. Undeployment ceases at the end of the bound- ie when both players have finished - i dislike "memory markers and chips overlapping into a following bound.

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    1. Some interesting rule mechanisms, and combination of mechanisms, in use which reflect the number of units deployed on the tabletop. Thank you for providing the gist of the rules.

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    2. Its the nearest thing to simultaneous movement

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    3. One can also take the activation rule further, ie the player whose turn it is, must indicate which unit/group/general he wants to move, and then rolls a die for it - a score of say 2+ in open terrain is needed to move it and 3+ if it or the General or the squares inbetween both are in "bad going (A general has to be within 50 cms of a unit for it to move). If a unit etc fails to move, it can be diced for again in the players next turn. That way no one can be sure when and if a unit /group moves at all. Over the years i have often discovered that after making up a certain rule - which i believed to be "perfect" ie an abstract "thought" - it proved to be impracticable when actually used in a game - or tedious. For instance i ditched the "seperate commands" rule, because it involved too much track keeping. ie ANY unit within 50cm of ANY General can be activated. As regards casualty tracking - i have avoided markers or record keeping in that each unit has a fixed number of removable officer figures to its rear, ie a musketeer unit has 3 points- represented by 2 removable officers and the unit itself - or if it is elite, 3 officers. Cavalry has only 1 officer to reflect its greater vulnarability. When firing, a unit rolls 1 die per officer plus 1 die for the unit itself. In melee a unit rolls 1 die per "point" and chooses the highest die, if this is under 5 it is undeployed for the rest of the bound and if cavalry automatically pursues (if it won the melee). When firing artillery, the artillery unit rolls 2 dice to see if if its shot lands on its targeted square, the combined score must exceed - or if firing from but not to a hill, at least equal the distance in squares to its target. If successful roll 1 die per artilleryman (starts off with 3) and choose the highest die - 5,6 = 1 hit (target unit removes 1 officer or artilleryman if artillery). One could also determine a unit's activation capability - depending on its "freshness" by rolling 1 die for each of its points and choosing the highest die, so that it is more difficult to move a unit down to 1 point. If anyone is interested i can send them my 4 pages of rules- they are fun and account for ALL contingencys ie no "grey zones" or arguments! and one can really play a game with 200 + figures aside in 2-3 hours.

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