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.