Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lessons Learned

3 Fights and...

Where had it got me? Well the charge sequence was proving its worth, that was for certain. Instead of a lot of melees taking place I had one. I was told by David from the 200-ers that things were at such a state lines were seemingly incapable of stopping columns and if we did not do something about it soon the British would all be defending in column at Vimeiro. Given what happened at the last French/Austrian game a reverse-sloped and screened British line will shoot charging French units to bits all things being equal. It will force the French to prise the Brits out of their positions if they are going to make any headway.

But there are other things too. The overwhelming power of artillery has had some members concerned. The only answer to this has been to use Cuirassier as panzer divisions (again, totally a-historical) and gamesmanship to attack when they are out of ammunition. So here is what I have slid into my set of AOC.

1. All guns can fire if charged no matter their ammunition state. This gets rid of the option that was, quite frankly, gamesmanship, of standing a unit in front of a battery to commit suicide whilst others waited until the guns were out of ammo and then piled in. This would happily nip that particular farce in the bud.

2. Instead of looking at what units in the game could deal with guns I went back to first principles and thought about what guns were neutralised by. Other than counter-battery the option of using skirmish troops was always good. In this light I have reduced artillery effectiveness against skirmishers (the latter would just lay down or take cover) and make batteries take a morale test if they come under small arms fire. A negative result would reflect a battery commanders desire to move his guns to a place of greater safety. In terms of skirmsh cavalry, the Wargames Holiday Centre have skirmish cavalry take half casualties from artillery. So maybe I should try this as well as make it easier for skirmish-order troops to charge artillery in any formation.

3. Adding a band for 6lb guns reduces their effectiveness. It seemed odd that a 6lb had as much punch as a 9lb, so I created a new band. In return 6lb guns, 7lb howitzers and smaller are much more mobile, which makes them more useful being prolonged with the infantry.

4. Formation changes. I think batteries with more than 8 guns should have to double the time they take to change formation. This is particularly aimed at the Russians, of course.

Past the Guns

There have been other things. The ADC/Staff Officer rule is a handy one. Often units were detailed off under a staff officer for a particular task, and this option allows for that. The staff officer himself is unlikely to give any benefits other than command range, or maybe allow minor benefits unless it is a significant staff character like Mouton, for example. Force Chiefs of Staff may be a little better, and I am also toying with the Artillery Commander, if there was one, acting as a second brigade commander for artillery assets only, so he can command the reserve guns and set up a grand battery somewhere. These are not AOC ideas for our large games, but to add interest to corps or division-level actions.

Then there is the hoary issue of National Characteristics. Now some years ago this went a bit too far and I have also been a bit hostile to the '+1 to British in Line' rule that still seems to appear everywhere. That said there is no doubt that nations, sometimes in certain periods, had quirks that should be reflected. But, where possible, I want to try and balance these out. So, Russian infantry may be incredibly stubborn, but all Russians shoot worse than would normally be the case. British and KGL infantry shoot better, but British cavalry is almost impossible to control. There are tactical limits too. Some countries should be barred from using attack columns (like the 1806 Prussians) whereas other units are incapable of forming anything other than a column (Opolchenie, Landwehr and so on) whereas others are just limited to skirmish order (Spanish Guerillas, Vendeans and Tyrolean insurgents come quickly to mind)

While I am dealing with formations I also introduced a difference between an attack column and a march column. Bizarrely, there wasn't one. I also have found it hard to explain that an attack column is still longer than it is deeper. I think this is an issue of English, everyone assuming 'column' as a term means something deeper than it is long. So I have introduced the idea that lines are 1 casting deep, attack columns 2 or 3 deep and anything deeper is a march column. The latter are the only formations that can strategically move, but suffer whacking great penalties if caught in combat.

And the Cuirassier/Panzers?

This is a hard one in a way. One player who adopted this tactic said: 'but they're a shock arm'. True, but only effective against already worn and uncertain troops. Against fresh, confident infantry the results would be D'Espagne at Wagram or Milhaud at Waterloo rather than Murat at Jena. Currently this is my next area of interest, as heavies were more of a one-shot weapon to break an already worn enemy, not a battering ram to take on 12lb position batteries with equanimity. Maybe one answer is to double disorder from charges in heavies to reflect their horses getting winded easier than lights? This would mean they would be worn quicker. A rule already exists to limit the frequency of their charges (not twice in a row) but if we are talking 6 minute turns it is hardly a major stumbling block to incessant offensives.

I also think that the rule that lights cannot charge formed heavies is silly. The current 'work around' is that units can charge if they are 2 morale grades higher, but this seems overly complex and silly. Lights did charge heavies and sometimes won (Austrian Hussars v Carabinier at Leipzig?) without a vast morale difference. As we only have 4 morale bands anyway it just makes it even more silly. As Major Tom, another 200-er commented: 'I do not see that it matters, if the lights are penalised in combat enough the player will judge'.

Anyhow, I am getting this out of the way as my next post will be a write-up of a French-Prussian game using many of these changes against an old chum from the Guildford club. 'Till then....


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