22 November 2011

Lets try to get this moving again.

I have been over-focusing on WWII for a while; time to return to a period that at least had prettier uniforms.

A couple thoughts to implement first:

  • 40mm square bases- near as matters 1.5" - should look at bit nicer for the brigades, plus I could use them at need for half-scale Volley and Bayonet.  I'll re-base the Germans this weekend.
  • The "hidden information under base" method makes blinds redundant.
  • While Gravellotte/St. Privat can be a straight-up fight, Mars-la-Tour depends totally on neither side knowing the enemy situation.  Which means you need to have available the whole potential OB for both sides, and some mechanism for secretly working out which is true and getting everything in place.  The V&B Road to Glory system, which uses a card draw to conceal or re-schedule some assets, adjusting victory based on the draw, is a good start point.  But sorting and organizing takes some of the precious play time, so carefully!

29 October 2011

Blinds, Dummies, and secret information

I draw your attention to this post on my general blog.  I think the idea will work for this game as well.  FPW is not off the books, I am just going where the interest leads me.

07 August 2011

The Pits and the Pendulum

I have been thinking through the "1 stand = 1 Brigade idea.
  • On the pro side, it will cut the required time down compared to, say, stand = regiment
  • Con: Small number of units may lead to "everything up front"
I am going to have to find a way to write this up and try it out.

02 August 2011

This map shows the deployment zone of the Corps involved in Mars-la_Tour and Gravelotte-St. Privat in dark and light colors respectively; the light blue lines show the table side lengths we have chosen at 1"=250m. 

01 August 2011

Blinds, time and uncertainty

We have to have uncertainty.  This has special importance for Mars-la-Tour, where the key to the battle was Bazaine's uncertainty as to the Prussian forces blocking him, and the Prussian uncertainty as to the actual location of the French army.

I have written earlier of the use of blinds, which I still quite like in general   The problem they present for us are twofold.  First, they add time; second they take figures off the table making for both a less attractive table and an issue of storage on side table.

The minimalist way to deal with this is to place figures on the table for all possible units.  For convenience, reveals will be by entire corps.  Unrevealed units can be kept in a compact and easy-to-maneuver mass.  A simple set of reveal rules can then be used to require (or allow) a unit to deploy into its true, revealed formation.  Once revealed, it will be far simpler if the unit then stays revealed for the balance of the game.

These rules will only be interesting, I suspect, only when there are at least two Corps on a side.  Looking at the war in general, that means are looking at rules for 3 historical battles:
  • Mars-la-Tour
  • Gravelotte-St. Privat
  • Sedan
  • Mas-la-Tour through  Gravelotte-St. Privat as a three day campaign.
Always with the possibility other hypothetical battles, of course.

While one should be able to play the exact historical OBs, I think for replay value it will also be desirable to have some sort of randomization mechanism to alter the OBs so total enemy forces faced are as uncertain as their locations.

Well, that's not going to work

Let me walk through a little calculation I just did

hours in the game
minutes in the game
turns (2 hours/turn)
which works out to minutes/turn
which is second/turn
stands for each player
so we have seconds/stand each turn
phases/turn as an assumption (we will think about how that allocates out)
giving seconds/stand-phase

Six seconds!!  I've managed games with that many stands where I could do that, but only where the stand is a unit of number and the real decision applies to a multi-stand unit - at around 20-30 seconds for each unit for each phase I think we actually have enough time.  And I am a fast player.

How can we mitigate all this.  Well, we can go to simultaneous movement.  If we get things clean enough I think it can be managed while keeping up the stream of decisions.  But this is a minor point; simultaneous  turns can be more complex that Igo-yougo. 

Another (simpler) approach is to cut the stand count and simplify the usage.  This may need a scale change as well, but lets think about it.

So, here's an alternative.  We have cut the number of stands per division in two, and deleted or pushed to army the attached and logistics.  With a division at two stands, it really has three or four formations -- meaning the decision points are significantly reduced.  I have also generated two types of artillery stand - one with one gun and one with two.  Lets see how it looks:

French Stands Figures
Type Basing
Corps Command 1 1
Mounted command 30mm round
Infantry 6 36
Line Infantry 40x30

Light Infantry 2 on one above per div

Foot command on one above per div
Cavalry 1 6
Hussar and Lancers 40x30
Heavy Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew) 30x30
Light Artillery 1 2
Guns (with crew) 40x30
Horse Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew) 30x30
Mitrailleus 1 1
MG all up 30x30
Total 12

German Stands Figures
Type Basing
Corps Command 1 1
Mounted command 30mm round
Infantry 4 32
Line Infantry 40x30

Foot command on one above per div
Heavy Artillery 1 2
Guns (with crew) 40x30
Light Artillery 1 2
Guns (with crew) 40x30
Horse Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew) 30x30
Total 8

One thing I like here is the ratio of half infantry and half support.  We still have some issues of division frontage and ground scale.  I'll look a that next.

Comparing two Corps - French

For the Army of the Rhine:

V Army Corps: Général de Failly
    lst Division: Général Goze
        lst Brigade: Général Saurin
            llth Line Regiment (3)
            46th Line Regiment (3)
            4th Légère Battalion (l)
        2nd Brigade: Général Baron Nicolas-Nicolas
            6lst Line Regiment (3)
            86th Line Regiment (3)
        Artillery: Lt. Colonel Rolland
            5/6th Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            6/6th Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            7/6th Artillery Regiment (6 Mitrailleus)
        2nd Engineer Regiment (l co)
    2nd Division: Général de l'Abadie d'Aydrien
        lst Brigade: Général Lapasset
            84th Line Regiment (3)
            97th Line Regiment (3)
            l4th Légère Battalion (l)
        2nd Brigade: Général de Maussion
            49th Line Regiment (3)
            88th Line Regiment (3)
        Artillery: Lt. Colonel Bougault
            7/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            8/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            5/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 Mitrailleus)
        2nd Engineer Regiment (l co)
    3rd Division: Général Guyol de Lespart
        lst Brigade: Général Abbatucei
            l7th Line Regiment (3)
            27th Line Regiment (3)
            l9th Légère Battalion (l)
        2nd Brigade: Général de Fontanges de Couzan
            30th Line Regiment (3)
            68th Line Regiment (3)
        Artillery: Lt. Colonel Montel
            ll/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            l2/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
            9/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 Mitrailleus)
        2nd Engineer Regiment (l co)
    Calvary Division: Général Brahaut
        lst Brigade: Général Viscomte de Pierre de Bernis
            5th Hussar Regiment (4)
            l2th Chasseur à Cheval Regiment (4)
        2nd Brigade: Général de la Mortière
            3rd Lancer Regiment (4)
            5th Lancer Regiment (4)
    Artillery Reserve:
        6/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
        l0/2nd Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
        ll/l0th Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
        ll/l4th Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
        5/20th Horse Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
        6/20th (Horse? according to Weigle) Artillery Regiment (6 guns)
    Engineering Reserve:
        2nd Engineer Regiment (l co)
        Sapper Detachment

Lets vacillate a little, and put the French on a standing of 3 40x30 stands per division.  This makes the figures a bit more flexible for other sorts of game.  French corps vary a lot, so this is just an example.
So, like the Germans, corps command stand with a mounted officer.

Line infantry, 3 divisions each of 3 stands of 8 figures; one stand in each division gets an officer figures to mark it as a command stand.

Light infantry are three battalions, about 2000 men --Much like the Jaegers, and with the same caveats attached.

The French corps has a whole division of cavalry, totaling 16 squadrons.  This easily justifies (based on our earlier calculations) a division with 2 brigade stands.

French divisional batteries were generally 4 pdr; according to Weigle half the reserve artillery for this Corps is 12pdr.  So,  8 batteries of 4-pdr, 6 batteries of 12-pdr, 2 or Horse artillery, and 3 of
Mitrailleus. There is no nice, integer way to split this up.  Lets try 3 stands of 4-pdr, 1 of horse, 1 of heavy, and 1 of Mitrailleus

A single logistics stand could represent both the pontoon bridge and the equipment for the pioneer. 

So, the table - remembering that there is no "standard" corps structure.  Still with 5 Corps at Mars-la-Tour we ar still going to be looking at around 100 stands.

Type Stands Figures
Corps Command 1 1
Mounted command
Infantry 9 72
Line Infantry

Foot command
Cavalry 2 6
Hussar and Lancers
Light Inf 1 6
Heavy Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew)
Light Artillery 3 2
Guns (with crew)
Horse Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew)
Mitrailleus 1 1
Mg with crew
Total 19

Comparing two Corps - German

Lets take  look at two Corps, one French and one Prussian, based on the Nafziger OBs for the start-of-August paper strengths, rather than one showed up at Mars-la-Tour.

For the North German Confederation:

IV Army Corps: General der Infanterie von Alvensleben I
    7th Division: Generallieutenant von von Gross gen. von Schzhoff
        l3th Brigade: Generalmajor von Borries
            lst Magdeburg Infantry Regiment #26 (3)
            3rd Magdeburg Infantry Regiment #66 (3)
        l4th Brigade: Generalmajor von Zychlinski
            2nd Magdeburg Infantry Regiment #27 (3)
            Anhalt Infantry Regiment #93 (3)
            Magdeburg Jäger Battalion #4 (l)
            Westphalian Dragoon Regiment #7 (4)
            3rd Feld Pionier Company
            lst Sanitary Detachment       
        Artillery: Oberstlieutenant von Freyhold
            lst Foot Batallion Magdeburg Field Artillery #4
                lst Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
                2nd Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
                lst Light Foot Battery (6 guns)
                2nd Light Foot Battery (6 guns)
    8th Division: Generallieutenant von Schöler
        l5th Brigade: Generalmajor von von Keszler
            lst Thuringian Infantry Regiment #3l (3)
            3rd Thuringian Infantry Regiment #7l (3)
        l2th Brigade: Oberst von Schessler
            Schleiswig-Holstein Fusilier Regiment #86 (3)
            7th Thuringian Infantry Regiment #96 (3)
            Thuringian Hussar Regiment # (4)
            lst Feld Pionier Company
            2nd Sanitary Detachment
        Artillery: Major von Glissa
            2nd Foot Batallion Magdeburg Field Artillery #4
                3rd Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
                4th Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
                3rd Light Foot Battery (6 guns)
                4th Light Foot Battery (6 guns)

    Corps Artillery: Oberst Crusius
        Horse Battalion, Magdeburg Field Artillery #4
            2nd Horse Battery (6 guns)
            3rd Horse Battery (6 guns)
        3rd Foot Batallion Magdeburg Field Artillery #4
            5th Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
            6th Heavy Foot Battery (6 guns)
            5th Light Foot Battery (6 guns)
            6th Light Foot Battery (6 guns)
    Other Corps Assets
        3rd Sanitary Detachment
        Column Battalion, Magdeburg Field Artillery Regiment
            l/,2/,3/,4/,5/Artillery Munitions Column
            l/,2/,3/,4/Infantry Munitions Column
        Pontoon Column
        Magdeburg Train Battalion #4
        Hospital Depot
        Horse Depot
        Field Bakery Column
        l/,2/,3/,4/,5/Provision Columns
        l/,2/,3,4/,5/,6/,7/,8/,9/,l0/,ll/,l2/Field Hospital
        Escort Squadron

In past posts, I have been looking at the assets from a Divisional level.  However, we have already decided that the division (for a game at this level) will have to be viewed as a "disposable" asset.  It may have multiple bases but we don't want any ability on the part of the corps player to mess with its internal structure.  I think we can achieve this fastest by bumping the non-infantry divisional assets (in as much as they might make a difference) up to corps.  Lets enumerate stands, and see how it holds up.

First, corps command stand with a mounted officer.

Line infantry, 2 divisions each of 4 stands of 8 figures; one stand in each division gets an officer figures to mark it as a command stand.

Jägers are two battalions, about 2000 men -- a shame not to represent them. On the downside, they would add decision points for the corps; on the upside as say one 30x30 stand the would let the corps have a "detachment" capability.

The corps has, in total,  8 squadrons of dragoons.  This would make it reasonable to have a corps cavalry brigade of one stand.  Like the Jägers , not core but interesting.

There are a total of 6 batteries of heavy, 6 batteries of light, and 2 batteries of horse artillery.  The role of horse artillery at Mars-la-Tour makes it very important to represent.  I think it makes sense to make a foot artillery stand represent 3 batteries, but allow a stand for 2 horse batteries, with the difference in the factors.  

A single logistics stand could represent both the pontoon bridge and the equipment for the pioneer companies.

So, a table of what this means:

Type Stands Figures
Corps Command 1 1
Mounted command
Infantry 8 64
Line Infantry

Foot command
Attached cavalry 1 3
Jaegers 1 6
Heavy Artillery 2 2
Guns (with crew)
Light Artillery 2 2
Guns (with crew)
Horse Artillery 1 1
Guns (with crew)
Foot Limber 2 2
Limbers (all up)
Horse Limber 1 1
Limbers (all up)
Wagon (or pontoons) 1 1
Total 20

One might question the benefit from the limbers - they do add beef to a march column but will also add clutter.  With a two hour turn deployment time is not a big factor.  Screw-ups with the placement of the pontoon or logistics resources can be important and so I want to leave that in (Canrobert was unable to dig in at St. Privat because the wagons with the entrenching equipment were stuck in Metz.).  We are still talking 18 stands for a corps, of which there were roughly seven at Gravellotte/St.Privat.  140 stands just for infantry corps -- do I need to cut down a level?  Lets look at the French while we consider it.

Terrain, and time

Back in November I mentioned some time objectives.  One of those was to be able to fit the whole event into 4 hours, with 3 hours of play.  Implicit in this is the expectation that the game would be played on a club night, so set-up and clean-up have to roll into this time.

So, one of the objectives here has to be a way to dress the table that looks OK for a game, but easy to transport and set up.  To quantify that all required terrain must be able to fit into a backpack that can be transported by public transit.

That does not rule out grander constructs, but the design of the game cannot required them in order to work.

30 July 2011

Lets talk Cavalry

First, from the helpful "Buckeye AKA Darryl" on TMP, squadron and regiment strengths are:

Prussia – four field squadrons and one depot squadron – 150 men and 5 officers
Bavaria – four field squadrons and one depot squadron – 145 men each
Wurttemberg – four field squadrons and one depot squadron – 150 men each
Baden – not sure
France – four field squadrons and one depot squadron – 125 men each (at the beginning of the war regiments were probably around 400 men)
Saxony and Hesse – as Prussia I believe

From this, let us take the German cavalry regiments at 600 more or less, and the French at 4-500 as suits.  So how many sabres per figure, and how many figures on a stand?  Or what does a stand represent?

Building each infantry division of four stands, and assuming light infantry battalions to balance understrength formations, we have
  • German stand = 1 Regiment of 3000 men = 8 figures on a 40x30mm stand
  • French stand = 1 Regiment of 2250 men = 6 figures on a 30x30 stand.
in each case,  1 figure = 375 men.  So how were cavalry deployed?

There are two key employments.  Both sides had cavalry divisions, and at the same time each German division had a Regiment of cavalry attached. 

If we look at a key cavalry action, Bredow's death ride, it was undertaken by two regiments of 12th Cavalry Brigade (1 regiment having been detached) and Ascoli notes it as being 804 strong -- far weaker than the 1200 paper strength of two regiments.  It this a significant incident in game terms? Well, the whole thing lasted 20 minutes and covered about 2km from start line to the target.  Clearly the charge is one event within a sequence (we took our first stab at turn length as two hours back here) and at the scale of this game does not deserve much detailing. 

Consider this table, which merges OB information from Mars la Tour and St. Privat

Side Division 1st Brigade 2nd Brigade 3rd Brigade Batteries
French 1st Reserve 3 na na 2
French 2nd Corps Cav 2 2 na 0
French 3rd Corps Cav 3 2 1 0
French 3rd Reserve Cav 2 2 na 2
French 4th Corps Cav 2 2 na 0
French Guard Cav 2 2 2 2
German 1st Cavalry 3 3 na 1
German 5th Cavalry 3 3 3 4
German 6th Cavalry 3 2 na 1
German Pr. Guard 2 2 na 2

This  shows the number of regiments in each brigade.  I have no idea why the organizations are so unsystematic.  My first stab will be to allow one stand per brigade (3rd Corps being an exception) with two French or 3 German figures on the 30x30 stand; uniforms will be loosely aligned with the represented regiments but will be strictly one uniform type per stand. 

The detached regiments of the infantry division were important in small actions, and in developing actions as the advance guard, but I think for the scale we want here it is best if they just sink into the factors for the division.

29 July 2011

One blog to bring them all....

I have rather a lot of projects.  To try to keep them all moving (followers may have noted that this one is sucking the hind teat, as my farm-raised mother used to say) I am starting (and blogging, I'm hooked) a central plan here.

Let's see how it works.

26 April 2011

I'm Not dead Yet

I have taken a break from historical gaming to do a bit of SF gaming, which you will find documented on my blog My Small Spacefleet.

I know my habits, so I have no doubt that I will be back to the FPW just as hard as ever before too long.

01 February 2011

What's Up?

I spent most of last week languishing with a nasty bacterial infection and blood sugar numbers through the proverbial roof.

I am vacationing next week, so it should be a bit more conducive to thought.

21 January 2011

Bases, and a nice looking document

The local group doing an ECW campaign, using the Charge Pikes rules (that link is to a pdf).  My initial response to downloading was "that is a nice looking document".  Lots of illustration, full explanation rather than two pages, but not attempt at spurious GW-wannabe graphics or disruptive-camouflage page backgrounds.

Musing about bases, and partially driven by adhesion problems with paint and glue on plastruct, I am going to try 4-stand divisions (so stand per regiment) with Germans 8/stand on 40x30, and French 6/stand on 30x30.  Stand = regiment which is convenient for pretty uniforms, and uses base sizes I have in stock from Litko.

I will implement the German version tonight and see how it looks.

11 January 2011

More about unit sizes.

Lets take a look at some division frontage concepts.  I am still trying to think through the implications of these.  I am groping for a division size that will make sense and look visually attractive.

Four stands on a 3km front.

6 stands on the same front

And 8 stands, ditto.

And here are sample 6-stand divisions in sample formations.

Looking at these, I am warming further to the 4-stand Prussian division, as against a 3-stand French.  Definitely have to get some French painted and some scenarios tried out.

09 January 2011

Where to track things

I've been thinking recently about concentrating some of the information a little bit higher in the system and cutting the low level back as far as we can.   Keep in mind objective 1: this is a game for big battles.  If the only battles we can make interesting are Mars-la-Tour, Gravellotte/St Privat and Sedan and we do them well then the objective is met.

So lets consider making the corps the centerpiece.  We will track resolve (see this earlier post) and overall posture by the corps.  Divisions (4 German stands or 3 French) will have state and status but this will be within the umbrella of the corps.  This should get the army player thinking about the divisions as consumable units and away from thinking of each standing as having a meaning within a complex division. It also keeps the stand count down and reduces the amount of fiddling we do with disposable units.

We are looking at 5 French corps for each of the Army of the Rhine and the Army of Chalons.(each with 2-4 infantry divisions and one cavalry division) while the Germans brought 7 corps to the party at Mars-la-tour so the numbers are very manageable compared to running the Germans as brigades or tracking too much info at division level.

This simplifies the management of artillery and cavalry as will, since they can (for the most part, where's my prybar?) be associated with some corps or other.

A unit painted at last

Question is, is this a brigade or a division?

Pendraken 10mm on 30x20 bases.  I think the command stand is obvious anyway.

07 January 2011


Some games use a mechanism to reflect which side has the initiative.  As to what initiative is,  the online OED offers "the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do" which fits pretty well with games that empower one player or the other to move first, or decide who moves first.

It can be a fun and exciting mechanism.  Random or semi-random initiative shifts can reward risk-taking on one hand, and encourage caution on the other just by removing certainty from the sequence of play.

However, I do have a couple of concerns with random initiative.  One comes from a criticism quoted by Frank Chadwick in the design notes for Volley and Bayonet which deprecates "rags-to-riches" die rolls, that concentrate incredibly important consequences into a small number of random events.

Another is a comment by Mao in On Guerrilla WarfareNo military leader is endowed by heaven with an ability to seize the initiative

So, if we don't want dice representing the mandate of heaven, what do we want to do about initiative?  The simplest approach, I think, is simply to provide players with a predictable turn framework that empowers each to struggle for and gain the initiative, without having an explicit "initiative" rule.

We will consider the implications of this in a later post.  

At the moment, I am going to watch a bit of TV while the hard disk defrags.  If you have been following this blog, my apologies for the  paucity of posts over the holidays, but there will plenty of time for more design as the dull weeks of February approach.