Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chainmail Variant Rule - Post-Melee Results

Chainmail has many ways in which to recommend itself as a fast play set of big battle Medieval rules.  One of the more troubling areas, however, is in post-melee morale.

To a modern eye, this is a set of mathematical calculations that will slow down the flow of the game.  It is actually all just simple math (addition and multiplication, for the most part), but it does seem to be out of favor with modern war game design philosophy.

To that end, I offer the following system (but first, present the current system, for comparison).

The Post-Melee Morale system, as is
On page 15 of the rule book, there is a procedure for calculating Post-Melee Morale.  It involves three factors, added together:
  1. A factor for the side that took fewer casualties in the melee.  This is the difference between the two casualty counts, times a d6 roll.  Only the side that took fewer casualties gets this factor.
  2. A factor based on the current size of the unit, as number of total figures times their Morale Rating.  Both sides get this factor.
  3. A factor based on who has more figures surviving after the melee.  This difference between the two totals of surviving figures, and is multiplied by a d6 roll.  Only the side with more figures gets this factor.
Add up the factors.  Each side will have at least one of these (number 2), but only one side or the other will benefit from the others (numbers 1 and 3).

Compare the two totals, and then consult the difference on this table:

0-19 differencemelee continues
20-39 differencelower total side moves back 1/2 move, but in good order
40-59 differencelower total side moves back 1 move, but in good order
60-79 differencelower side retreats 1 move
80-99 differencelower side routs 1 1/2 move
100+ differencelower side surrenders, and victorious side may continue a charge if possible, leaving behind 1 guard per 5 prisoners

Factor number 2 above, is the current total value of each unit - meaning the total number of remaining figures, multiplied by the Morale Rating of the figures.  In a mixed unit, each figure is multiplied by it's own Morale Rating, and then the subunits are added together.  Here are the Morale Ratings:

Light Foot and Levies4
Heavy Foot5
Elite Heavy Foot6
Light Horse6
Armored Foot, Janissary7
Medium Horse, Landsknechte8
Heavy Horse, Swiss Pikemen9

The New Post-Melee Morale System, Proposed
First, the concept - This method involves taking a morale test.  Both sides calculate what their target number would be, and the lower total tests first (2d6, trying to roll the target number or less).  If the first test fails, then depending on the nature of the fail, it will consult the Post-Melee Morale Test Results table below.  If the first test passes, then the second unit will make a test against it's target number.  If the second unit fails, then it will also suffer the results from the table below.  If it passes, then both units are still engaged in combat, and the melee continues next turn.

Method -
Each side determines their target number.  This is based on the Morale Rating from the above table.  To that number, add/subtract the following:
+1, if larger than the enemy
+1, if took fewer casualties than the enemy
-2, if 1/4 of the original unit is dead
-4, if 1/3 of the original unit is dead
-6, if 1/2 of the original unit is dead, or more

Each side will calculate this target number.
The side with the lower target number tests first.
If the first testing unit fails, then it consults the results table below.
If the first testing unit passes, then the other side will test.
If the second unit has to test, and it fails, consult the results table below.
If the second unit has to test, and it passes, then that means both sides have passed, and the melee continues.

In practice, this amounts to a quick comparison of target numbers, and the lower number tests.  If it fails, that is the end.  If it passes, then the other side tests.  That's all.

If the two target numbers are tied - both sides roll.  Either side that fails will suffers the results.  If (extremely rarely) both sides try to surrender, then both sides rout instead.

Post-Melee Morale Test Results
Miss -1back 1/2 move, good order
Miss -2back 1 move, good order
Miss -3retreat 1 move
Miss -4rout 1 1/2 move
Miss -5 or moresurrender

Miss -1, etc, means the 2d6 dice roll missed the target number by 1 (i.e. target=7, and 8 is rolled on the dice).

Here is the whole process reduced to a flow chart, and with the Morale Rating, and Test Results charts included (click to make bigger/more readable).

Multiple Units
In order to apply this method to multiple units, calculate the Target Number for all units involved on all sides.
  1. Starting with the lowest value unit, begin testing.  Apply results to each unit, as it tests.
  2. If any units have the same Target Number, always test them simultaneously.  
  3. Apply the "Took Less Casualties" modifier to each unit on the side that took fewer overall.  
  4. Apply the "Larger than the Enemy" modifier to the side that has more total figures (counting all units involved), to each unit on that side.  
  5. Apply the modifiers for unit loss to each unit individually.
  6. Stop testing when only units from one side or the other remain in contact.
  7. If a unit is to Surrender, but the final results have a friendly unit still in contact, then that unit Routs instead.
Example - A heavy foot unit (12 figures), and a medium horse unit (9 figures) hit a large armored foot unit (24 figures).  In the melee, the heavy foot unit loses 4 figures.  The medium horse unit loses 2 figures.  The armored foot unit loses 5 figures.  Start by calculating Target Numbers:
  • Heavy Foot - base value of 5
  • Medium Horse - base value of 8
  • Armored Foot - base value of 7
After the Melee, the Armored Foot unit is larger (19 remaining, vs a total of 15 remaining on the other side).  The Armored Foot also took fewer casualties than the other side (5 figures killed, vs 6 figures killed).  So the Armored Foot unit gains a +1 for Fewer Casualties, and a +1 for larger than the enemy.  The Heavy Foot have lost 1/3 of their figures, so take a -4.  That makes the Heavy Foot unit have a target of 1, the Medium Horse unit still has a target of 8, and the Armored Foot unit has a target of 9.  
Rolling, in order, for the Heavy Foot (roll of a 6, which means that they will surrender to the Armored Foot).  The Medium Horse is next, and must test (even though the Heavy Foot failed) because there are still units in contact from both sides.  The Medium Horse rolls a 7, and remains in contact.  The Armored Foot rolls a 6, and also remains in contact.  The melee will continue next turn between the Medium Horse (with 7 figures remaining) and the Armored Foot (with 19 figures remaining).
Because the Heavy Foot still had a friendly unit in contact after all tests, rather than surrender, they rout instead.

In practice, trying this out with just nominal units fighting it out using pencil and paper, this works fine.  It rewards the better quality unit (very medieval), but also modifies that by the realities of the melee.

This method seems to work, it only has to be put into practice in a few solo games.  If anyone reading this tries it out, please let me know your results.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dice Spreads, Probability Curves, and Rules Writing

In advance of an upcoming article I am planning to write, where I review the Knights and Magick rules (by Arnold Hendrick, and published by Heritage back in 1980), I wanted to address a rather interesting dice mechanism that are employed in the rules.

That is the 1-15 dice roll.  This is accomplished by rolling two dice, and adding them together.  The first dice is a rather common d6, and the second dice is the typical d10, but numbered from 0-9 (the 0 face on the die is valued at zero, and not at ten).  Adding the two results together yields a number from 1 to 15.

Now, the asymmetry of the roll always bothered me.  How could you possible hope to have game feng shui when you are rolling two different dice, and adding them together?  It was preposterous!  Sort of like the damage rolls from early Runequest and Call of Cthulhu and other games, where you might have 1d8 for the weapon, plus 1d4 for your strength, and maybe +1 for a good quality blade - so your damage looked like 1d8 + 1d4 + 1.  Weird, but okay for roleplaying games.  Wargames were supposed to be above all that sort of thing.  Better.  More pure.

But here we were, with Mr. Hendrick's rules using a D6 and a D10 added together.

Let's look at the results.  To compare it, a brief examination of the (much more common) 2d6 bell curve.  Here we see a smooth progression from one result (for a Two), up to six results for a Seven.  And then back down again to one result for a Twelve.  There are a total of 36 possible dice pairings, so the frequency is a number of times out of 36.  This is pretty standard stuff, that is part of any study of probability, but also should be pretty intuitive to just about any long time gamer, and/or game designer.


But now lets take a look at the rather interesting D15 result.  Here we have 60 possible results, rather than 36.  There are more possible results (1-15, rather than 2-12).  Plotting the possible results we see:


Okay, so what do we see from this?  First, the numbers of all the middle results, from 6-10, have the same frequency - 6, our of 60 results, or a 10% chance of getting any of those numbers.

How does this behave in the game?  Well, we end up with many more middling values (half the possible results are from 6-10).  Plus, in a game that deals in + and - factors added to the dice, for a variety of different causes, this will tend to balance out and level the impact of the dice modifiers.  What I mean by that, is that in a 2d6 dice roll, a single +1 or -1 can have a very high percentage impact on the dice chance, especially if your base number is off the middle.  In this case, the middle (or stable region) is spread out, so that dice modifiers are more predictable in their impact (a minor change with a +1 or -1).  This also means that having additional plus or minus factors won't be an overwhelming impact, as it is in a 2d6 curve.

Once I pulled out the results, and looked at them, the asymmetry doesn't bother me AS MUCH, but it is still there.  I think I would prefer a 3d6 roll, or 5d4 roll, to balance out that middle and level it - but that is a different story.

Now, with the recently reviewed Hackbutt & Pike rules (written by Ben King, in the Tac-50 rules series), we see that the casualty table is driven by a dice difference.  Again, looking at the 2d6 probability table, but selecting results based on the difference between the two numbers (agreeing that doubles results have to be rerolled), we have the following:

Die DifferenceFrequency

Of course, the total frequency of pairs with a difference only adds up to 30 out of 36, again because we tossed out the possible results where doubles are rolled on the dice (6 chances out of 36).

This is a very flat progression.  It is also interesting that on the Tac-50 tables, the least valued result is always a difference of 5, followed (in order) by 1,2,3,4.  A very interesting use of an interesting probability spread.

One more thing - I have a plan to (very soon) write a review of the original Sword and the Flame rules.  In those rules, as in many others before and since, combat is resolved between two miniatures by rolling a dice on each side, and the high scorer wins the fight.  With no modifiers, and with Tie results not counting, there are 15/36 chances for each side to win, if using six sided dice.
  • Side A wins - 15/36
  • Side B wins - 15/36
  • Neither Side (tie) - 6/36
But what happens when we change this by just a little bit?  Say, as in The Sword and the Flame, one side or the other gains a +1.  In this case, what if Side A gains a plus 1?  Very different results.
  • Side A wins - 21/36
  • Side B wins - 10/36
  • Neither Side (tie) - 5/36
Looking at the results it shifts, from even chances, to a Two-One chance of winning - from just granting a +1 on the dice.

With a +2 on the dice, it is even more extreme.  In fact, looking that the following table, we see it is 5-1 in favor of the side with a +2 on the dice.
  • Side A wins  - 26/36
  • Side B wins - 6/36
  • Neither Side (tie) - 4/36
Now, lets stretch this even further, and take a look at what happens, with no bonuses, but with one side winning Ties...  Again, lets assume that Side A has the advantage, and with no dice modifiers, will win ties.
  • Side A wins - 21/36
  • Side B wins - 15/36
  • Neither Side (tie) - No Ties
From these results, the odds change slightly, from even chances, to 4-3 chances for the side with the advantage.  Not as extreme as a +1, but then again, conceptually, saying that one side or the other wins ties is like saying they got a +1/2.

What we see is that in the case of an opposed dice roll (found in games going back to Featherstone and Grant, of course, but still present in modern sets) getting a +1 or even the benefit of winning ties is a very large bonus.

This idea of opposed dice rolls is common in many rulesets.  But in some others, there is the possibility of a player rolling several dice (typically more dice, for higher skilled combatants, for instance), and then selecting the highest dice, before comparing it to the opposition.  In this case, for instance, there is a much greater chance for a soldier who rolls 3d6 and selects the highest, to have a great number than his opponent, who is only rolling 2d6 to select the highest.  The component of a good number is still present, as a singleton dice can always come up as a 6, and the highest opposition roll could be any value less.  But what is the probability?

Lets construct a table, where we record the odds (and percentage chance) of getting a number, between 1 and 6, if it is the highest (or tied for the highest) out of a pool of dice.  To keep this simple, and illustrative, I am going to do it for three pools of dice - a single D6, 2d6, and 3d6.  Notice the shift in probability...

1d6 Prob.2d6 Prob.3d6 Prob.
11/6 (17%)1/36 (3%)1/216 (.5%)
21/6 (17%)3/36 (8%)7/216 (3%)
31/6 (17%)5/36 (14%)19/216 (9%)
41/6 (17%)7/36 (19%)37/216 (17%)
51/6 (17%)9/36 (25%)61/216 (28%)
61/6 (17%)11/36 (31%)91/216 (42%)

Again, there is a dramatic shift in probability, just by changing the dice rolling mechanism slightly.  By rolling 2d6, and selecting the highest number, your chance of having a 2 is halved, and your chance of having only a 1 is dropped to approximately 3% chance.

So the chances of rolling a higher number, when you can pick from a pool, are better.  That is intuitive, but looking at the table for 3d6, we see over a 40% chance that your number will be a 6.   And if you need AT LEAST a 5 (which means that the results for a 5 or a 6 will satisfy) your chance increases to 60% (42+28), and so on.

At this point, I will abandon the exercise.  It might be nice, to compare the chances of a player rolling a pool of 2d6 to beat a player rolling a pool of 3d6, but I think I would rather return to writing reviews.  And maybe lunch.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hackbutt & Pike - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This review is of Hackbutt & Pike, the Tac-50 series rules for Renaissance wargaming.  These were printed in 1977, but copies are still available through Cotton Jim Flags (write and ask - I think they are $5, which is a great price for a rulebook these days, and they still read well).

The period of the renaissance has remained (through most of my adult life) one of my favorite periods of history for both study, and for wargaming.  As you can tell, if you have been following this series of reviews from the beginning, I have dabbled with or played a number of different rulesets for the period.

And I am at least planning to do the Protz ECW rules, and the Gush Renaissance rules in the series.

Chesapeake Military Society - a Reminiscence
Along side all those other Renaissance rules, why am I reviewing Hackbutt & Pike?  Simply for two reasons.  First, they are rules that I played in the 80s and 90s (which fits the criteria of this series of articles).  Second, they are part of a series of rule sets that helped to define my earliest exposure to a wargaming club.

In the early 1980s, while in High School, and shortly after I began driving, I discovered (through an advertisement at a local bookstore in a mall - remember mall book stores?) that there was a local wargaming club that met in Hampton, Virginia at the local National Guard Armory.  That club was the Chesapeake Military Society (CMS).  Prior to my exposure to the club they previously met at one of the old batteries at Fort Monroe.  By the time I encountered them, they were meeting once a month at the Armory.  Now, the National Guard Armory, in Hampton, consisted of a large muster area for the Guard meetings, plus a large building that included a basketball sized gymnasium. This is where the gaming club met.  As a testament to the gross popularity of tabletop gaming at the time, they would fill up the place.  There would be all sorts of miniatures games going on, and when I first went, there were also some role playing games.  There was a terrific WW2 naval battle (using Seapower III I think), with 1:1200 ships, on the floor of the gymnasium (the old school - with long surveyor's tapes run out to lengths of 20+ feet between ships for salvos, etc).  And there was a large Napoleonic game, in lovely 25mm, being played on a large table.

This Napoleonics game being played (and refereed) by the core members of the club, although there were many other games going on.  The rules for the game were Valeur et Discipline, written by the luminary behind the club - Mr. Ben King.  Ben had several other rules that the club used, and in this particular series (which is called Tac-50 - as they are all based on a 1:50 scale) there are four sets proper - Mitre, Mustache & Musket for Seven Years War (and mid 18th century), Valeur et Discipline for Napoleonics, Kepi & Pickelhaub for mid 19th century, and Hackbutt & Pike for Renaissance.  Another set, for Vauban era siege warfare and early 18th century field battles exists called Fusil & Fortress, but it is on another scale of detail from the rest of the series, and covers so much more than the rest.  I plan to review several (or perhaps all) of these in this series.

Shortly after this time, the peninsula location of Campaign Headquarters (the original was in Norfolk, Virginia) would open, and CMS would change to have their monthly meetings at the store.  It was at these meetings that I became familiar with the Tac-50 rules.  Usually, but not always, refereed by Ben, the rules are very clear, and are also quite "bloody" - leading to a high casualty rate, for quick play games.
Hackbutt & Pike is not the set of Tac-50 rules that I played the most often (that is probably Valeur et Discipline), but it is the set that I refereed several times, and the set I played most often outside of the CMS club meeting settings.  And it is one of my favorite periods, as mentioned earlier.  The ruleset does not lay down a specific time period (probably for the best), but could easily stretch back to the 14th century (as the introduction to the history section begins there), which includes the later Medieval period, and could run up to the middle of the 17th century - the Monmouth Rebellion or War of the Grand Alliance might be possible, but would be a stretch.

Battle of Rocroi, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau
The rules come in a nice 8.5x11 booklet, running to 44 pages in length.  They are divided up into eight sections:
  1. Game Structure
  2. Terrain & Weather
  3. History, Tactics & Organization
  4. Movement
  5. Melee
  6. Firepower
  7. Casualties
  8. Control, Reaction & Morale
They follow up with a nice bibliography.  This ruleset's bibliography first introduced me to Charles Oman's Art of War in the Sixteenth Century, so for that alone I am forever indebted.

The Game Structure is basically an overview of scale (1 model soldier represents 50 men), and how to base figures for the game.  Time scale is given, also - turns are 25-30 minutes, and ground is 1" to 25 yards.  This is followed by some basic game concepts - you should write general orders for your army, and also fire priority for all your missile troops.  There should be a command figure representing your general on the tabletop, and each turn, both armies should write tactical orders detailing things like charges, changes in move, etc.  If a player wishes to change the overall battle orders for a unit, they must be carried from the general to the unit by a courier figure (the general has two such figures at the start of the game), which may be captured or killed in the process.

Swiss Mercenaries crossing the Alps, by Luzerner Schilling

One word right up front.  I have remarked in this series of reviews over and over again how I don't care for simultaneous move rules (which Tac-50 sets all are), and how I dislike writing orders.  However . . . every rule has it's exception.  Some of the Tac-50 games I played were extremely enjoyable, and with a knowledgeable and active referee it can work.  Arguments can still arise, but if the referee is respected by all the players, it works out well.  Forward.

The next section covers terrain and weather this has several sections in it.
  • Roads - how to depict them, and what they mean for movement
  • Ground condition - roll 3d6; 3-7 bad ground; 8-18 good ground.  Optional of course.
  • Weather - what it is, and how it changes.
  • Forests - dense and light
  • Hills - 10 yard contours, and how they affect movement and visibility
  • Obstacles, Barriers, and Field Works - how to pass them, how to lay them, and war wagons (Hussites?)
  • Rivers and Streams - how to depict them, how to ford them
  • Bridges and Boats
  • Houses
This is followed up by a nice, but sadly too concise, section (running about 6 pages) on the history, tactics, and composition of some major armies of the Renaissance period. Following this, which includes some nice diagrams showing some of the major battalia formations of the period (such as the Spanish Tercio, or the Swiss Keil), we then move on to section 4, which begins the meat of the rules.

Turn Order and Movement
Section 4 is called Movement, and begins with a short overview of the turn structure.  The turn is intended to be simultaneously executed, with both sides moving, and then fighting and shooting all taking place simultaneously.  This works well if you have an organized and knowledgeable referee guiding things.

The turn sequence, as presented here, is this:
  1. (Implied) - Write Orders
  2. Skirmishers may fire weapons
  3. Movement of Troops
  4. Fire of weapons by Formed Troops (and artillery)
  5. Hand to Hand Combat 
As mentioned, skirmishers may fire before all moves.  Or, they may do a split move and fire.  If, while doing this, they come into range of enemy troops, they may still be fired on by those troops in the proper turn sequence.

Other actions other than regular moves are covered, as a function of how many they can perform in a turn (or how many turns they will take).  This includes such things as infantry moving backwards, crossing obstacles, entering a building, passage of lines, or forming a wagon lager.

The movement chart gives moves for formed units and skirmishers.  For cavalry it also lists Caracole movement (moving up, discharging pistols, and return).

Artillery and Wagons are given movement rates for draught animals (being pulled along), or being manhandled.

Hand-to-Hand Fighting

The next section of the rules covers hand-to-hand fighting, or melee combat.  Although this period, in history, and as described in the history section of the rulebook, is a period when disciplined soldiery began to replace the heavy knight on the battlefield.  However, the heavy knight is still a superior weapon, even if it cannot win battles on its own any longer.  And, much of the replacement of the knight is in the form of pikemen and other polearm supplied troops (although this would give way, and evolve into, the bayonet).

While there is currently a debate about the use of the pike (see my earlier article Push of Pike), in wargaming the possibility exists that they may be exercised effectively - so rules have to exist.  And with these two arms of the renaissance battlefield (the horse, and the pike) being focused on hand-to-hand fighting, it is fitting that this is a major focus of the rules.

A side note - although above I make that case that hand-to-hand fighting is a major feature of renaissance warfare, and thus the Hackbutt & Pike rules, it is true that close combat is a major feature (a battle winning feature) of all the Tac-50 rules.  This is appropriate, because it is what wargamers seek to engage in.  And whether the encounter reflects the actual casualties that occur from bayonets and pikes piercing the enemy soldiery, or if those casualties reflect a fleeing soldiery that lost their nerve in the face of such weapons, it matters little - it is a part of combat in these periods, and something wargamers regularly rely on to win battles.

In these rules, the key to Hand-to-Hand fighting is the point value of the soldiers involved.  Light Infantry figures are worth 1 point each, up to Heavy Cavalry (Knights) are worth 4 points each.  The basic procedure is to total up the number of points you have fighting, more on how that is calculated is described below, then find that row on the casualty table, roll some dice, and you get a number of points inflicted (by consulting the proper column on the table).  Divide this number of points by the point value of the target unit, and you get the number of figures killed.
The Casualty Table

How many figures will fight?  This is found by consulting a table called the Melee Matrix.  There, you will cross reference two different letters - each reflecting the weapon system of one of the two units involved (attacker on the left, defender across the top), and the result will give which column to roll on, on the casualty table, and will also tell you how many ranks of figures get to fight.  From there, take a look at the point of contact - all figures on the front rank in contact, and all those to their flanks within 2" (about 1 multi figure stand) on either side of the contact, will get to fight.  Plus a similar number of additional ranks, if additional ranks get to fight.
Melee Matrix, and Point Values of Figures

Difference of Dice is printed boldly across the top of the Casualty Table.  This is how the exact number of points is determined.  The players will roll 2d6, and determine the difference between them.  So if a play rolls a 6 and a 3, the difference is 3.  Doesn't matter which dice is first or second, it is only the difference that matters.  Doubles must be re-rolled.  In this way, a weighted series of results is determined (take a look at a simple 6x6 matrix, with the odds of each difference counted up to see what I am talking about), and a curve is introduced into the casualty table, while still preserving only 5 columns of numbers.

Which column on the Casualty Table to use?

The basic system is similar to a few other rule sets (point values goes back to Charles Grant, I believe), but of those reviewed in this blog, it is very similar to Forlorn Hope, the biggest difference being that the results in Hackbutt & Pike are in points, rather than in whole figures.

As mentioned, one of the lacking elements of the (otherwise excellent) quick reference sheet provided with the game (the book comes with two copies), is the table of letters defining a unit's fighting style.  Here is the table (note that there are two entries for 'E'):
A - Dry Pikes
B - Supported Pikes (with swordsmen, dopplesoldners, polearms, etc)
C - Short Hafted Pole Arms (halberd, glaives, etc)
D - Targeteers - Sword and Targe (or Buckler) armed
E - Disciplined Soldiers with Misc Weapons (sword, axe, spear, etc)
E - All troops that are in Open Order (this is usually missile armed troops)
F - Infantry in Skirmish Formation
G - Dismounted Warriors - trained, but undisciplined, such as foot knights or most Turkish infantry
H - Cavalry in Close Order
I - Cavalry in Skirmish Order (horse archers, etc)
Example: A unit of 18 'dry' Medium Infantry Pikemen (3 stands across, in two ranks, 1.5 points each) are facing a unit of 24 Sword & Buckler Light Infantry men (4 stands across, in two ranks, 1 point each).  Consulting the weapon system table in the book (frustatingly, this is the one table that is not on the quick reference sheet, but the letter of each unit could be recorded on an order of battle sheet), we find that 'dry' Pikemen (so called because they are not supported by zweihanders, polearms, or other supporting infantry) are the letter 'A'.  Also consulting, we find out that the Sword & Buckler men are the letter 'D'.   Comparing this, we find that an A unit vs a D unit (on the Melee Matrix) rolls on Column I, and uses 1 rank of troops.  Similarly, the D unit vs the A unit rolls on Column III, and uses 1 rank of troops.  Both units will use their whole front rank (9 figures for the Pikemen, and 12 figures for the Swordsmen).  Checking for the pikes first, we find 9 figures times 1.5 points is 13.5, or rounded up, 14 points on the casualty table.  The dice are rolled, a 4 and a 2, or difference of 2 in column I.  This means '2' points have been inflicted, which means 2 whole Swordsmen have been killed.  Returning the favor, 12 swordsmen, at 1 point each, is the 12 roll on the table.  Consulting column III, with a dice difference of 3 (a 4 and 1 were rolled), we see that 9 points were inflicted, which means (at 1.5 points each) 6 pikemen were killed.
Not mentioned in the above example, which serves to illustrate the use of the melee matrix and the casualty table, but there is a list of possible dice modifiers.  Compared to many rulesets this list is blessedly short, as can be seen here.

 Now for the exciting part.  Combat is fought in (potentially) up to 6 rounds.  First, assuming that both units pass morale tests, they enter combat, and fight three rounds.  Then some mid-combat tests are further performed, and if both pass, they fight another three rounds.  The second three rounds assume that there is now a general melee and discipline is flown out the window, so all the niceties of the melee matrix is ignored, and all combat is only in column I.  What can stop this slaughter?  Well, if a unit has taken results that meet their Maximum Allowed Loss (M.A.L.), then it can trigger an end to the hostilities, or if the morale tests dictate so (see morale below).  Usually, three rounds are fought, and that is decisive.  Those three rounds are fought in rapid succession, not over three turns, by the way.  So when a unit hits another, there are (possibly) three or six casualty rolls for each side.  It is bloody, but is is also dramatic, as you see how one unit starts to fail and eventually is swamped.  Stubborn units get to go all in for six rounds of fighting - massive carnage!

The close combat section ends with rules on how to fight encounters between leaders (say, with a personal duel).  Also, once a combat is over and one side or the other retires, it is important to determine if either side captured a standard.  This can have an impact on morale tests, and provides for great bragging rights. It is based on a reaction test (see below).

Ranged Combat

The whole series of Tac-50 rules, if taken chronologically (and including the 18th century set Fusil & Fortress), is a series of wargaming rules charting the evolution of firepower from the late medieval period (the eponymous hackbutt of the set being reviewed here), up through the height of the age of rifles (the end of the 19th century, as portrayed in Kepi & Pickelhaub).

This period we see not only the muscle powered weapons of antiquity and the medieval period (spears, slings, bows, etc.) but also the introduction of gunpowder weapons.  This includes the hackbutt (or arquebus), the musket, the pistol and of course gunpowder based artillery.

A weapons table details the range of the firepower based weapons, and also which column to use on the casualty table.  It also includes such useful information as to what the effect is if the target is wearing no armor (the default case is that the target figures are wearing some armor), and also what happens if they are fully (plate) armored.  There is also a detail about which factor row to consult when firing artillery.

Not every weapon can fire every turn, and the loading table details how much of a turn's worth of movement must be sacrificed to reload the weapon.  In practice, we found that marking a unit with gunpowder blasts (i.e. - cotton balls) is effective to show they are unloaded.

As was clear from the die modifier table, most of the modifiers in the game for combat have an affect on missile fire.

Unlike close combat, there is only one round of missile fire per turn.

This section of the rules details (as described above) how to use the casualty table, and how to get a dice difference. It also points out that the vagaries of the point system mean that sometimes a unit can never inflict enough points to kill a single enemy figure.  In those cases, it suggests that the total number of attacking factors/figures be multiplied by 2 or even 3 to get a reasonable result - but this must be done equally for both sides in a melee or firefight.

Since the rules (especially the close combat rules) are so very bloody, there is also a section here that allows you to detail, after a combat, exactly how many of those "casualty" figures are actually casualties, and how many return to your ranks, ready to march again immediately.  In this way, even though tabletop battles are quite bloody, forces remain relatively intact for the purpose of playing campaigns.

Reactions and Morale
Units are rated, according to their training and dedication, as one of five different classes.
Class I - Untrained, Undisciplined -  peasants, feudal levy, untrained burghers
Class II - Semi-Trained - town militia
Class III - Trained - fighting for a cause, such as Royal body guards, noble's retinue
Class IV - Trained - mercenaries or national troops
Class V - Arrogant - Swiss, Knights, Fanatics

Using this class, a unit will have to occasionally make a reaction test (reasons are listed below), and will result in one of four reaction results - 0, A, B, or C.
0 - Leadership has lost control, Unit takes matter into their own hands, Advance at nearest enemy
A - Unit will continue to follow orders
B - Unit will retire from the battle, but in good order, and will defend itself
C - Unit has given up hope and will throw down weapons and flee

The reasons for making tests are as follows:
  • When enemy first comes into view.
  • Prior to melee (on contact)
  • After each three rounds of melee
  • After leader of army is killed or captured
  • After M.A.L. (Maximum Allowed Loss) is reached
  • After all unit leaders are killed (rules detail if one of three leader figures are killed in combat)
A unit rolls 2d6, and applies modifiers (such as based on MAL, or situational modifiers) and then consults a chart based on their class. This gives one of the four results (0,A,B,C).

The reaction section also details such events as asking for quarter, units that are NOT granted quarter can roll for desperation (determine bonuses to morale for fighting on); looting; the chance of capturing a standard based on morale results from melee combat; and others.

I like the Tac-50 sets of rules, but they are somewhat dated these days.  One of the things I will still decry, in spite of having numerous successful (and memorable) games with these rules, is the simultaneous nature of the turn sequence.

They are fast - the method for rolling multiple close combat rounds in a single turn will see to that.  But these are (approximately) 30 minute turns, so each combat round represents 5 minutes (more or less) of hard fighting.  That isn't exactly so, because the turn can also include movement, but it does represent a possibly large amount of fighting.  Still, the casualties generated are extreme and obscene - but they work very well.  The game is very playable, and very fast.  I have played in games with hundreds of stands of figures on each side, to a complete result within 3 hours or so of playtime.

These work great, in my opinion, for the Italian Wars, and other wars of religion.  As well as the later medieval battles (These would be great for Hundred Years War as well as Wars of the Roses games).  They are intended to cover English Civil War and Thirty Years War, and do so pretty well, but the rules for mixed battalions of pike and shot are not included.  Each body is its own "unit" for the purpose of the game.  Equally, there is not a chance (that I recall) to evade, so a shot unit cannot, for instance, run for cover under the pikes.  Most of the other Renaissance rules I have reviewed in this series of articles do such representation with either maneuver, combat, or morale rules (or a combination of all three).

Cavalry is dealt with exceptionally well here, and the simple rules for pistols, caracoling, and so forth give the different tactical systems of the time good coverage.

These may be something of a challenge for me, in a future article and perhaps some solo gaming, to come up with a You-Go-I-Go variant of the game.  Perhaps allowing for reaction moves?  Not sure, but it could work.  The rules are too good to keep that bugaboo of simultaneous turns in the way of playing them.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Angriff! - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

This is a review of the Angriff rules, by Myers and Zimmermann, from 1968.  The version I have, and am reviewing (in particular) is the version I played just after high school, from the 1982 printed version.  While I only played these, by themselves, a little in the 1980s, I liked them, and would continue to use the infantry rules with other sets of tank rules, for a very long time.  Before I get into the detailed review, a little history and nostalgia about my history with WW2 rules and wargaming.

 World War 2 wargaming, has been a very large part of my wargaming experience from the beginning.  Before coming to miniatures and miniature wargaming, I started with board games that had a WW2 flavor, and also I had been an avid military model builder, mostly of US ground vehicles from WW2.  Moving into miniatures, my first foray was into Napoleonics, as described earlier in another review, and that gave way to medieval skirmish gaming very quickly (as something my co-gamers at the time were interested in).

However, my brothers and I, like lots of kids from that generation, also grew up on a steady diet of WW2 war movies and books.  So when the possibility of building some WW2 miniatures, and coming up with rules, came upon us, we used the plastic HO (including all the near-HO scales, 1:87, 1:76, and 1:72) models for infantry from Airfix and Atlantic, as well as all the many HO scale models we had built and painted.  The rules were based on my experience, at the time, with the Hinchliffe guide, as well as some books from the library on wargaming.  It seemed to me that these types of games, unlike the "obviously" much more scientific SPI and Avalon Hill games, could be written by an amateur.  So I came up with some rules.  They were simple.  Tanks moved 8".  Jeeps moved 12".  Infantry moved 4".  Shooting was by numbers of D6, and the number of 6s rolled were casualties.  A US Sgt with a SMG was by far the most dangerous element in the game (thanks John Wayne movies).

Moving forward, I got a little more interested in more formal rules.  I got a copy of Tractics, from TSR.  I really liked the first book - Tank and AntiTank, but it was just a little bit too much detail.  That remains true today for lots of people who encounter Tractics.

Moving forward, I tried some other rules sets, eventually (later on) setting on Overwatch, but in the meantime, I tried the Angriff rules and also the WRG 1925-1950 rules.  One thing I encountered early on was the fantastic magazine, Wargamer's Digest, from Gene McCoy.

The pictures of battles, and the fantastic tabletop scenarios and maps, along with Gene's system 76 order of battle system were extremely exciting, and one of the things that drove my interest in this period.  So when I got into Angriff, and saw the possibility of representing troops in a way similar to Gene's - with a single tank for a command vehicle, and then a tank representing each platoon, so a company might have a total of four models.  That works great for Angriff, and was the scale of gaming I wanted to do.  I never used a total of 30 miniatures on a stand to represent the infantry, as Angriff requests, but usually I would have a stand of three miniatures to represent a platoon or section.

The rulebook itself is divided up into (roughly) two sections.  The first, up to page 24, is the actual wargames rules.  This covers a variety of different topics:

  • Unit organization
  • Preparing for Battle
  • Movement of Forces
  • Sighting
  • Terrain Descriptions
  • Artillery Fire
  • Tank Fire
  • Small Arms Fire
  • The Melee
  • The Charge
  • Percentage and Direct Fire Tables
  • Engineers
  • Urban Warfare
  • Morale Factors
  • Odds-n-Ends

The second section is the set of detailed appendices.  This runs from page 25, through to the end of the book, at page 62.  This is an excellent set of charts covering not only the modeling of combat phenomena in the wargame rules (such as vehicle parameters, and weapon systems range and accuracy), but also things like typical order of battle charts for common organizations from WW2.  As a very useful resource from the time, there is also a list of manufacturers that make HO and Micro scale WW2 models.

So, as mentioned, the rules call for a 1-to-1 representation on tabletop by vehicle models, but using stands for infantry is recommended (a stand for 10 men is perfect).  However . . . as mentioned, most of the time when I played these rules, we used 1 vehicle for a platoon, when translating a historical OB or one of Gene McCoy's excellent scenarios.  That gets a little funky sometimes, but seems to work for most scenarios.

  • Ground scale is 50 yards to an inch.  (I can't find it now that I am looking, but I recall that in micro scale it is 100 yards to an inch).
  • Turns appear to be about a minute per turn (calculating backwards from the movement rates).

Turn Sequence
Angriff has each player roll 2d6, to determine initiative.  High roller gets to chose to be player A or player B in the following sequence.  Note, as you read through this, that phases 1 and 2, as well as phases 6 and 7 are each roughly simultaneous.  So, while player A does phase 1, then player B does phase 2, the results of those are simultaneous.  Everything else, happens when it happens.

  1. Side A moves 1/3 of its move, plus an additional 3" for all vehicles or men on roads.
  2. Side B moves 1/3 of its move, plus an additional 3" for all vehicles or men on roads.
  3. Artillery fire, if any, commences.
  4. Tanks or vehicle mounted weapons fire.
  5. Small arms fire, if any, commences.
  6. Side B moves the remaining 2/3 of its move (but only 1/3 if it has fired).
  7. Side A moves the remaining 2/3 of its move (but only 1/3 if it has fired). 
  8. Melee combats.

No movement plotting, no order writing.  The importance of moving first or second, in turn phases 1/2 and 6/7 is of course the psychology of giving away your intended position before your opponent moves, so it may be useful to move second (i.e. choose being Player B if you are high roller for initiative).  Equally, being player A could be important, it is up to the player.

As can be expected from the turn sequence, all movement distances (given in the rules by vehicle type; or a total of 6" for dismounted infantry) are divisible by 3.  So dismounted infantry can move 2" in the first move phase, and then 4" in the second move phase, if they did not fire.

Infantry that are dismounted, can also move an additional 6" at the end of a move, representing a forced march.  This takes place, simultaneously for infantry of both sides, following phase 8 of the turn (i.e. - after everything else, include melee combats).  An infantry element can only force march three rounds in a row, and then has to take a break of a Full turn with no movement.  If an infantry element force marches for two rounds in a row, then it has to take a Half turn rest.  Alternating force march with regular moves mean that no rest periods are needed.

What this 'force march' business means is that an infantry element can cover 12" of tabletop distance in a turn, by force marching (pretty good for most WW2 rules).  Also, while force marching, the infantry can fire, but only at half effect.

Terrain, in the game, is officially in four different types - Woods (which may be moderate/light or dense/heavy), Hills (which are assumed to be contoured, like "wedding cake" hills), Swamps, and Rivers (which come in 3 classes, or widths).

Loading a vehicle is handled very much like old school rules handled Artillery in horse and musket games.  Infantry in Angriff, as regards loading and unloading, can do any two actions.  These can be (1) loading, (2) moving, and (3) unloading.  The same applies to towed guns and equipment.  Large artillery can only be moved by heavy movers, not being manhandled.

The typical sighting distance is 1750 yards, or 35 inches.  The game handles units that are out of LOS, or beyond sighting distance, by using poker chips to represent small groups of troops.

Looking into or through woods is even more limited (10" if looking  into moderate woods; 5" if looking into dense woods).

Rules are in place for how much can be hidden in a building, and how and where visibility markers are replaced by actual units, etc.

Artillery Fire
The rulebook covers barrage fire, but recommends against it for the scale engagements the rules are representing.  That never stopped a wargamer, however here I will cover the recommended use of artillery pieces in direct fire (and limited indirect fire, such as with a forward observer).

So, firing an artillery piece, or even a tank weapon, that is firing High Explosive rounds (rather than armor penetrators) allows the weapon to have an impact on crew members of towed weapons, and exposed infantry, within 2" of the point of attack of the weapon.  The effect is very simple, and is a number of casualties in that impact circle based on the caliber of the weapon.  If this kills all the crew of a served weapon, then the weapon is also considered destroyed (for game purposes).  Note that such fire is limited to the normal 35" sighting range.

Indirect fire, by using an observer, is allowed for any range up to the maximum for the weapon, as long as an observer is within 35" of the target.  The rules prohibit towed AT and AA weapons from firing this way, as they were designed and intended to work differently.

As mentioned, barrage fire is defined in the rulebook, for artillery assets that might be off board, but it is advised against because it is out of the scope for the engagements envisioned in the rules.  One of the interesting things about barrage fire in these rules is how simply it is handled (another mark for the elegance of these rules).
  1. Construct a grid like the one pictured here, on clear acetate (12"x18" for HO; 6"x9" for Micro).  
  2. Place the star over the aiming point of the barrage fire, with the top of the star pointing aligned in the direction of the barrage (i.e. - pointing away from where the firing battery is located).  
  3. Then roll 2d6.  
  4. If you are using a small battery (i.e. tubes smaller than 135mm), then the two numbers are the squares that are hit by the barrage.  
  5. If you are using a large battery, then those two numbers, as well as the sum of the two, are the squares that are hit.  
  6. If you roll doubles on the dice, then that is a bad barrage, and only the one square is struck (plus the sum, if a large battery).  
The book then gives a series of four charts corresponding to different artillery tube sizes (75-99mm; 100-135mm; 136-175mm; and 176mm and up).  The sum of the two targeting dice are consulted on the corresponding table, and it gives the total number of AFVs, soft vehicles (listed as trucks), and dismounted Men that are killed in each square affected.  Simple, and fast.

Direct Fire - Tank and Anti-Tank
Considering the era that these rules were first published, and the rarity (at the time) of percentile dice, the method that the rules handle percentage-chance-of-hit for firing direct heavy weapons is rather clever.  Also, consider that for most WW2 land rules, the bread and butter is the tank-on-tank set of adjudication rules - and for Angriff this is no different.  They work well, and that is what makes the ruleset memorable.

First, the chance to hit with a weapon is determined from national weapon characteristics tables (in the appendices) that give a basic chance for each range bracket, for each weapon type.  That basic chance represents the typical chance to score a hit, with no significant modifiers.

The possible percentage numbers (resulting from the weapons/range chart), along with the hit numbers for 2d6, are:

Hit on (2d6 scores)
78%2 3 4 6 7 8 10 11 12
72%3 4 6 7 8 10 11
67%2 4 6 7 8 10 12
61%4 6 7 8 10
50%2 4 6 8 10 12
44%6 7 8
33%4 7 10
28%2 6 8
17%4 10
11%3 11
6%2 12

Second, look up that percentage on the Percentage Table (above).  This will then give a number of results on a pair of D6 dice (2-12).  If those results are added up, the percentage is approximately the numbers represented on the table.  Scoring any of those numbers on 2d6 (with one of them being red, more later on that) means a hit is scored.

The simplest modifier for this is that if the weapon is stationary (i.e. - did not move this turn) then the number 5 (in the 2-12 spread) is also counted as a hit (if you look at the above chart, you will see that 5 and 9 are never regular hit numbers).  And if both the firing weapon and the target are stationary, then the numbers 5 and 9 are added in as hit results.

If firing at a concealed target, the first time firing at it, the percentage table drops one category.

Third, determine the effects of a hit.  If against a towed weapon, it is automatically destroyed.  If against another AFV, then the red d6 comes into play.  There is a hit location table, for direct fire combat. It is divided up into five columns, corresponding to the facing of the target vehicle that the hit came in on.  It can come in on the Front, Side, Rear, or Front-Side (front corner), or Rear-Side (rear corner).  Then, the red d6 is consulted, and a location is generated.  These include:

  • Gun Shield
  • Front Turret
  • Front Driver
  • Front Bottom
  • Track
  • Side hull
  • Side Turret
  • Rear Hull
  • Rear Turret

For each location, the national vehicle characteristics tables will give an armor thickness.  For each range bracket of a weapon, in addition to giving the accuracy of the weapon at that range, the amount of armor penetration is also given.  If the shot penetrates the armor, the target vehicle is dead.

Here is an example of the hit location chart.  Assume that the shot is coming in the front of the vehicle, and consult the red d6:
  1. Gun Shield
  2. Front Turret
  3. Front Drive
  4. Front Bottom
  5. Front Driver
  6. Track

This is a very elegant system, again from a time when percentile dice were not common.  Tractics, if I recall, tried to get away from a dice spread that was different from what you could easily do with d6s, and they used a random number generator that was based on 20 numbered chips in a bag, draw one to simulate rolling 1d20.


Modification/Houserule: Rather than using the d6 system... you could just roll percentile dice against the number you have gotten from the weapon/range chart.  To this add 11% if  you are firing while stationary, and 22% if you AND the target are stationary.  Example: if you get 61% chance, then roll percentile dice, and on a 61 or less, you have a hit.  Of course you then have to roll 1d6 for hit location, and of course, that means that you will lose the charm of certain hit locations not happening on certain percentile rolls (because of how the 2d6 method works), but it means one less chart look up during direct fire adjudication.  This assumes that a modern wargamer could get, and want to use, percentile dice rather than the one pure die type - the sacred d6.

Example of direct fire AFV combat -
A Panzer Mk IV F1 tank is facing off, face on, against a T34 A.  The range is 1000 yards (20") and both tanks moved this turn.

The MkIV fires a 75mm/L24 gun, so we consult the German chart for that weapon, and find that at 1000 yards the 75mm/L24 has a 44% chance to hit and penetrates 51mm of armor.

The T34 fires a 76.2mm/L30 gun, so we consult the Russian chart for that weapon, and find that at 1000 yards, the 76.2mm/L30 has a 61% chance to hit, and penetrates 85mm of armor.

The firing is simultaneous.  According to the percentage hit table, the German tank will hit on 6,7, or 8 on the dice.  The Russian tank will hit on 4,6,7,8 or 10 on the dice.

The German player rolls, a 3 and a 5, with the 5 being the red dice.  A total of 8 means a hit, on location 5.  Looking at the Front table for hit location (above), we see that a 5 is the Front Driver position of the tank.  Looking at the Russian vehicle table, we find that the T-34 A has only 45mm of armor at that location, so the German gun (which penetrates 51mm) will score a kill.

The Russian player rolls a 5 and a 2, with the 2 being the red dice.  A total of 7 means a hit, on location 2.  Looking at the Front table (above), we see that a 2 is the Front Turret position of the tank.  Looking at the German vehicle table, we find that the PzMkIVF1 has only 30mm of armor at that location, so the Russian gun (which penetrates 85mm of armor) will score a kill.

T-34/76 A (1941)

Direct Fire - Small Arms
This system is, if anything, even simpler than the tank/anti-tank system.

It involves calculating the total number of firing points (from a chart) that are firing on an enemy target (which could be a single stand, a weapon team, a group of stands, or a vehicle).  These points come from infantry stands (1 pt per stand, if it represents 5 or more men), LMGs (2 points), HMGs (3 points), Mortars (2 points), and Flamethrowers (2 points).  there is a slight modification to the total number of points for the range.  Then 2d6 are rolled against a Kill Factor table, which gives a resulting number between 1 and 3.  Multiply the kill factor by the number of calculated points, and that is the number of casualties.  This is simultaneous.

If firing small arms at vehicles, the only which may be affected in this system are soft vehicles, and wheeled armored vehicles (such as armored cars).  Tracked AFVs are immune to small arms fire, in this sytem.  Against a soft vehicle, if the vehicle takes small arms fire, and that includes either rifles or MGs, then there is a 50% chance for a hit (roll 2d6, as above, with a hit on 2,4,6,8,10,12).  Further, if the results are either 2, 6 or 8, then it is a kill (otherwise a disable).  Against a wheeled AFV, this chance drops to 33%, so a hit is on 4,7,10.  No chance to kill a wheeled AFV, only disable it.

Close Combat
As with Small Arms fire, the close combat system is interesting, works well, and is based on a number of points of Attackers vs Defenders.  Infantry is easy, with 1 point per man involved in a close combat.  Vehicles get points for thickness of armor, and also for the number of machine guns.

The procedure is to add all the points for each side in a melee together (Note: a melee is when a group of attackers end their last move of the turn within 1 inch of the defender - this makes for an interesting twist on the turn order - in order to be the attacker you have to be Side A).   Compare the two points totals, and derive a ratio.  The attacker must have at least 1-2 odds in order to attack.  Then the attacker rolls 2d6 on a Melee Effects Table, and it gives a resulting letter.  Look up that letter on the Melee Losses table, and you will find what percentage of Attackers or Defenders have died, in terms of the points for their side.

The results on the loss table will be a percentage of loss for each side, and an indicator of which side (attacker or defender) has to retreat (which is a full move for vehicles, and Infantry must retreat 18" or to the nearest supporting unit).

Units can charge into combat, which they announce at the start of a turn, then move.  Vehicles get a whole move, and infantry gets 9".  If contact is not made, then the unit gets no further move that turn, but can engage in small arms fire at half effect.

If the charge is successful, then both sides can (possibly - 50% chance) engage in small arms fire before the melee.   This is at point blank range, and the chance is determined by rolling 2d6 (again, the percentage table is consulted, so at 50% success is at a 2,4,6,8,10,12 on the dice).  If this is successful (each side rolls separately), then the Defender can fire at full effect, and the Attacker can fire at half effect.  If the Defender is successful at the 50% test, then he may also introduce reinforcements from units within 6".

On turns after a charge, infantry can only move 2" and vehicles only 1/3 of their normal move.

The rules cover a number of extras including the following:
  • Engineering (including entrenching, vehicle repair, laying bridges, demolition, mines and obstacle breaching, and laying smoke).
  • Urban Warfar
  • Morale (which affects campaign moves and committment to combat)
  • Weather
  • Capturing equipment

As you could probably tell from my review of the rules' sections above, I am a big fan of Angriff.  Yes, there is the problem of having to consult four different tables for each AFV firing (weapon table for the firer's chance and penetration, percentage table for dice chance, hit table for location, and target vehicle table for armor).  But this is no different from other rule sets.  Consider Overwatch, very similar.  But Angriff plays fast, and it gives great results.  It was relied on by the gaming groups I was in for many years as a means of providing reasonable Infantry (and other small arms fire) adjudication for other tank-centric games (like the already mentioned Overwatch).

Some of the problems in the system are the problems of scale - in some places, the scale is different for HO (or more commonly these days, 20mm or 15mm in addition to HO) and Micro scaled vehicles and ranges, but it is never clearly laid out (like the 9" move for infantry charges - is that only 4.5" in micro?).  But these are minor problems, and could easily be settled on by a group as a set of rules by practice, rather than rules as written.  It lends itself to all sorts of additional house rules (aircraft, parachuting operations, landings, etc) - but in the end it is a very solid set of move and shoot rules for armor and infantry, with reasonable artillery rules that play fast.

More modern rules might do things differently - for instance, I love the command and control rules in Blitzkrieg Commander.  Other rules might introduce a random factor for penetration (such as in Firefly, if I recall).  But as written, for a nice evening game, or a convention game where you want your gamers to know the rules after just a turn or two Angriff is still excellent.

My own house rule suggestions
  • Angriff works great if you prepare vehicle information cards for each side, or a  simple vehicle information sheet, that has the vehicle and weapons stats JUST for the platforms used in your particular game.
  •  Add in an extra factor to small arms and close combat for command stands/vehicles.
  • Use the percentile dice system (described above) instead of the Percentage Table.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sub Roman British Army in Wargaming (Early Dark Ages part 2)

Continuing the discussion on Early Dark Ages Britain, and wargaming in the earlier part of that period.

The above is a simple statement, but it begs the question as to how one decides to define what the Dark Ages are . . . but presumably that period between the end of Antiquity, and the beginning of the proper Middle Ages, or Medieval Period.  Of course any definition that is itself based on non-specific terms opens up further labeling cans-of-worms, but it generally works out to about 400AD until about 1000AD, more or less.  Rather than putting a year on it, I think it is more useful (both here in wargaming, and also in my history studies) to consider identifiable periods.  It is still an abstract way to define a time period in history, but it gives some definition to the reader.  So, for the Gaming with Chuck discussion, the Dark Ages in Britain is roughly from the end of the Roman presence in the Isles, until the coming of the Normans.  And further dividing that, into an early Dark Ages, which runs from the end of the Romans, until the time of Alfred the Great, and the later period, from Alfred until the Normans (including the majority of the Viking age). - Gaming with Chuck HQ
Looking at this period, as we saw in the prior article, a major military force to consider are the various British kingdoms that inherited from the Roman traditions, and fought against (and absorbed, in some cases) a variety of invading peoples.  This article will take a look at the army list representations of the Sub-Roman British in a variety of different "generic" rulesets.  By that, I mean the rules that cater for a broad variety of ancient and/or medieval history, but that provide for specific army lists for military organizations within that period of history.

These are referred to as the Sub-Roman British, or sometimes (more rarely) the Post-Roman British.  Taking a look at the WRG Army List, Book 2, listing from 1982, we see that army number 82 is:

Sub-Roman British
425 AD to 945 AD

  • C-in-C mounted on horse equipped as heaviest cavalry type present (or on foot as Light-Heavy Infantry, with Javelin or Long Thrusting Spear and Shield). 1 per army.
  • Personal/Army Standard to accompany C-in-C. Up to 1.
  • (a variety of different Ally-Generals, both British and others - Saxon, Irish, Visigoth, Franks)
  • Religious Group of Massed Praying Monks. Up to 1.
  • Cavalry, (Heavy Cavalry) Regular D, or Irregular B, Javelin and Shield. 14-44.
  • Upgrade Cavalry to Regular A. Up to 4.
  • Upgrade Regular A or Irregular B Cavalry to Extra Heavy Cavalry.  Up to 4.
  • Light Cavalry, (Light Cavalry) Irregular C, Javelin and Shield. Up to 10.
  • Spearmen, (Light-Medium Infantry) Regular D or Irregular C, all Javelin or all Long Thrusting Spear. 48-150.
  • Archers, (Light-Medium Infantry, or Light Infantry) Regular D or Irregular C, Bow. Up to 36.
  • Saxon Mercenary Warriors, (Medium Infantry) Irregular B, Javelin and Shield. 9 to 99.
  • Irish Mercenary Warriors, (Light Medium Infantry) Irregular C, Javelin and Shield. 6 to 34.
  • Upgrade Irish Mercenaries to Irregular B. All or none.
  • Visigoth Nobles, (Heavy Infantry) Irregular B, Javelin and Shield. 4 to 10.
  • Visigoth Spearmen, (Medium Infantry) Irregular C, Javelin and Shield. 5 to 20.
  • Visigoth Archers, (Medium Infantry, or Light Infantry) Irregular C, Bow. 5 to 10.
  • Frankish Cavalry, (Medium Cavalry), Irregular B, Javelin and Shield. Up to 19.
  • Upgrade Frankish Cavalry to Heavy Cavalry. Up to 9.
  • Frankish Spearmen, (Medium Infantry) Irregular C, Javelin and Shield. Up to 49.
  • Upgrade Frankish Spearmen to Irregular B Heavy Infantry. Up to 9.
The army is interesting, and of course the minimums of the various Mercenary groups and Allied groups (Saxons, Irish, Visigoths and Franks) only apply if any of that nationality are used..

Ignoring the Mercenary and Allied troops for a minute, the core of the army are the actual Britons -
Cavalry (light and heavy), Spearmen, and Archers.  This will be followed throughout the other army lists, and while it is probably true (enough) it also seems somewhat generic for an army of this time period and place.  With what historical evidence that exists, this is probably enough.

The text that goes along with the list is interesting.  It reads as follows:
This list covers British and Breton armies from the rise to power of Vortigern until the absorption of the last remaining British lowland kingdom, Strathclyde.  I assume that earlier armies still follow the Late Imperial Roman pattern, that the Welsh diverge early on because of their mountain environment, and that the Bretons assimilate close to the French military system after the mid-9th century.  All these points are of course susceptible of being questioned.  I have relied mainly on near-contemporary literary evidence, and reluctantly discarded the reconstructions of historical fiction from Geoffrey of Monmouth onwards.  1,000 praying monks appeared at a battle in 614 AD, and were attacked first by a pagan opponent who decided that those who invoked the gods against him could not fairly claim the privileges of non-combatants.  Saxons were hired by Vortigern in the 5th century, Irish and a homeless Visigothic fleet in the 6th, and Franks possibly in the 9th.  The option to use 4 "Regular A" cavalry in attendance on the C-in-C represents a 100-strong "round table" for an Arthur or similar personality.  They cannot be used together with praying monks.  Surviving literature proves conclusively that cavalry were armed with javelins and usually wore mail.  Horse armour was used throughout the period by some of the Bretons of Armorica, so its use in Britain during the 6th century cannot be ruled out.  "Regular D" cavalry represents surviving units of the Dux's northern border army, and "Regular D" infantry other of his units and militia raised by the southern lowland cities.  No regulars can be used after the 6th century.  LTS (long thrusting spear) had probably replaced JLS (javelin/light spear) as the standard British infantry weapon by the end of the 5th century, and was to remain that of the north Welsh and southern Scotland throughout the medieval period.  The use of LB (longbow) by south Welsh archers was a later development.
Some interesting comments here.

First, referring Geoffrey of Monmouth as 'historical fiction'.  I am still chewing on that comment, 30 years after first reading it.  I get that some of Geoffrey is fantastic, but then again so is Livy and Polybius - not to mention Herodotus, the father of lies.  Geoffrey is propaganda, trying to create a history that exemplifies a British, but not English, origin - and he is prone to the fantastic, but he at least attempts to stay with known sequences of events and sources.  And if you accept Geoffrey's sources as history for some things, why not others?  Especially where he agrees with Gildas, Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, William of Malmesbury, Wace, and others? So, I am willing to think of him as non-rigorous history, but not quite historical fiction.

Second, within little statements, huge history is hiding - such as the statement about using the Saxons in the 5th century, because 'Saxons were hired by Vortigern'.  Of course, Big V hired the two Saxon leaders, Horsa and Hengist, and from them we get the militarized arrival of the Saxons coming to establish lands and kingdoms for themselves, eventually creating the Anglo Saxon people.  But, at least for a while, the Romanized Britons held out against the Saxons, first Vortigern against the mutinying Saxon mercenaries, then Arthur against the encroaching Saxon immigrants/invasion.

Moving on to another view by WRG, we see in DBA (looking at my original 1990 copy), army number 82 (retaining the numbering system from the earlier army list books) is in residence.  Using the DBA element system, for a 12-element army, we see the following.

3x 3CV (Cavalry)
1x 3Kn or 2LH (Knights, or Light Horse)
4x 3Ax (Auxilia)
2x 3Ax, or 2x 3/4Wb (Auxilia or Warband)
2x 2Ps (Psiloi).

The general of the army would be one of the CV stands (unless the knight is used?).  The 3 CV stands represent the British cavalry, of course.  The option of 3Kn, or 2LH is either Knights (Visigoth or Scottish mounted), or Light Horse (the British light cavalry).  The Knights option is also for players who envision an Arthur, and his knights or comitatus, as heavier armed (or simply elite) cavalry compared to other specimens of the period.
Moving ahead to other interpretations, we can look at the army as presented in Bob Bryant's excellent Might of Arms rules.  They have armies based on the earlier WRG army books, and other sources, but rather than giving figure counts, they give numbers of stands per unit type.  They give (again, stretching the point up to 945AD, to include the last remaining British kingdom at Strathclyde - in practical terms. the British were done as a force roughly around 580AD or so) the army's details as the following:
Medium Cavalry (C morale) 6-24 stands
Light Cavalry, Javelin (C morale) 0-12 stands
Subheavy Infantry (C morale) 0-12 stands
Medium Infantry (C morale) 24-102 stands
Skirmish Infantry, Javelin (C morale) 0-12 stands
Skirmish Infantry, Bow (C morale) 0-6 stands

The Subheavy Infantry here represent either Frankish or Saxon allies (Horsa and Hengist again?).  Options exist to convert up to two units (using the recommended unit size of 3 cav or 6 foot stands) of Medium Cavalry to Heavy Cavalry, also the option to convert up to two units of cavalry (either Medium, or the upgraded Heavy) to B morale.  Again, the Knights of Arthur, or some Dux' comitatus is the inspiration here, it seems.

Terry Gore's most excellent rules, Medieval Warfare, offer up an Arthurian Britons army (mid 5th to mid 6th century).  This does not go on to cover the surviving Britons, but focuses on the main event.  It is interesting, and of course the units are different here from some of the other rulesets, but here is the army list:

8-24 stands Cambrogi (Heavy Cav, Warriors, Jav or Spear and Shield)
4-16 stands Light Cavalry (Skirmishing Cav, Warriors, Jav and Shield)
24-72 stands Spearmen (Lightly Armored Infantry, Poor, Jav or Spear and Shield)
6-24 stands Archers (Lightly Armored Infantry, Poor, Bow)
0-16 stands Saxon Ally (Unarmored Infantry, Warrior or Warband, Spear and Shield)
6-18 stands Skirmishers (Skirmishing Infantry, Warriors, Javelin or Bow and Shield)
0-6 ships

  • These rules give some more tactical details - for instance, they allow the Spearmen and the Archers to form mixed units.
  • Once again, the Cambrogi can upgrade to Veterans if they like.
  • Equally, the Cambrogi can upgrade to Full Mail Cavalry, Elite Morale, Lance and Shield (Arthurian cavalry according to just about everyone from Geoffrey on down the line to John Boorman).
  • Options to upgrade the training and morale of the spearmen and archers exist.
 The writer of the list (it appears in the rulebook, as published by Foundry) refers to the Heavy Cavalry as Cambrogi - which he defines as "Literally, fellow countryment.  British warriors who supported the remnants of the Roman leaders.  Well armed and armoured as well as loyal followers and trusted fighters, they often served as personal bodyguards."

Taking a look at a recent element based (in the same vein as DBA and Armati, where you can either move elements singly or as groups) ruleset, L'Art De La Guerre comes to us from Herve Caille in France.  A very nice English translation is available, and it is a lovely book with lots of data, rules, and ideas for games in it.  The Sub Roman British are available here, as army number #101 - Romano-British.  Again, the army stretches from early 5th century (407AD, in this case) on up to the year 945AD.  The army list gives the option for doing an Arthurian list, with the de rigeur option of upgrading the cavalry, in that case.
  • Britons Horsemen (may be medium or heavy cavalry) 4-8 units
  • Scouts on Pony (light cavalry with javelin, mediocre) 0-2 units
  • Spearmen (medium or heavy spearmen, may be mediocre) 8-24 units
  • Saxon Mercenaries before 442AD (heavy swordsmen, impetuous; may be elite) 0-2 units
  • Irish Mercenaries before 580AD (medium swordsmen) 0-4 units
  • Bowmen (light infantry with bow) 0-2 units
  • Light Infantry with Javelin 0-2 units
  • Christian Martyrs before 664AD (levy, mediocre, expendable) 0-1 units
  • Fortifications 0-8 units
  • Arthurian Elite Cavalry 475 to 539AD (Replace Horsemen with heavy cavalry, impact, elite) 0-4 units

An interesting army, carrying on much of a muchness with the others (spearmen, archers, light and heavy horse, allies), but this one introduces the idea of fortifications.  Camelot?  The Christian Martyrs represent great flavor, but little tactical usefulness that I can think of.  If they were a religious standard, that might be more useful.  A player can choose allies from Western Romans, Saxons, Welsh or Vikings in different periods.  If sticking to the strictly Arthurian slice as defined here (475-539) then only the Welsh are available, the others being either earlier or later historical allies.

Some interest creeps in with the Shock of Impact army list, written for the Romano-British Successor (Army 48, page 27 in the army list book), for the Shock of Impact rules from Tabletop Games.  These army lists give you two ways to construct an army.  First, the typical method, where you employ a set of points with unit types, minimums and maximums.  The second is by means of a set of percentage dice, to determine an army of so-many units.  That is interesting for our study here. 
  • Automatic, Army General (Heavy Cavalry)
  • 01-17 Heavy Cavalry (HC, spear javelin, shield)
  • 18-34 Retainer Cavalry (MC, spear, javelin, shield)
  • 35-37 Pict/Scot Cavalry (MC, spear shield)
  • 28-40 Pict/Scot Cavalry (LC, javelin, shield)
  • 41-52 Pict Javelinmen (LI, javelin, shield)
  • 53-58 Pict Archers (LI, bow)
  • 59-76 Pict/Scot/Saxon Infantry (MI, spear, shield)
  • 77-100 British Spearman (MI, spear shield)
The interesting thing here, of course, is the commonality of Picts.  The Saxons are present, of course.  The army list allows you to upgrade (of course) the army general and the Heavy Cavalry to regular troops.  The British Spearman are, in the army list, of higher morale than the Picts/Scots/Saxons.  Considering that the Saxons are professional mercenaries, I find that encouraging for the depiction of the British from these authors.
Another interesting thing about these rules, compared to the others covered already, is that these really focus on the period of the 5th and 6th century.  It makes no pretense to cover the periods that stretch up into the 10th century with the dubious hangers-on at Strathclyde, etc.

Returning back to an army list that covers the gamut from 410AD to 945AD, the excellent rules by Neil Thomas (Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, 2007) cover the Romano-British Army.  Here we see four troop types, with a variation in number of units the player chooses
  • Cavalry (HC, medium armor, elite) 2-4 units
  • Roman Remnants (DAI, medium armor, average) 0-2 units
  • Militia (DAI, light armour, levy) 2-4 units
  • Archers (LI, bow, light armour, average) 0-2 units
As usual, the option to upgrade the cavalry (again, as Knights of the Round Table, Comitatus, descendants of Sarmatians, etc - it isn't clear, but bows to the scant history and rich legend) exists, making up to one unit of Cavalry into Knight Cavalry (HC, heavy armour, elite), with some extra hand-to-hand combat capabilities on turns that they charge.  The army does not permit the Roman Remnant past the end of the 6th century, but they are allowed to fight using a shield wall technique.

I have long been a fan of Neil Thomas' simple rules, and the Dark Ages variant that this list supports is no exception.  Easy to teach, easy to play, and it gives appropriate results - great for a newcomer.  With this army list, someone interested in either the historical period, or a plausible historical Arthur could get playing very quickly.  Mr. Thomas again disparages the excellent (but, sadly, not-so-very-exacting in the historicity department) Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Finally, a look at an army list that provides for some more options than most of the lists (the most options, so far, being on the original 5th/6th edition WRG army lists, but most of the variation there came from listing different allied armies separately - Saxons, Irish, Visigoths and Franks.  But this last ruleset I am covering here is De Bellis Multitudinis.  In Book 2 (500BC to 476AD) of the army list collection, using the June 1993 version here as reference, we see the following Sub-Roman British army (407AD to 945AD), which is army number 81 on page 71:
  • C-in-C, Regular Cavalry or Irregular Cavalry
  • British ally general, Reg Cavalry or Irregular Cavalry; 0-3
  • Cavalry Reg Cavalry or Irregular Cavalry; 8-15
  • Light Cavalry on Hill Ponies - Irregular Light Horse; 0-5
  • Pedyts - Regular Auxilia or Irregular Spear; 36-120
  • Archers - Regular Bow, or Irregular Psiloi; 0-8

And that is it, for the basic army.  As with Shock of Impact, the option exists for the General(s) and the Cavalry to be either regular or irregular, depending on the player view of the situation.  But, there is a long list of other elements that can be added in for various sub-periods and special cases of the army. 

Before 425 AD, Late Imperial Roman allies are available
429 AD, Saxon mercenaries and longboats are available (Horse and Hengist ride again)
430-441 AD, Saxon Allies
475-539 AD, Arthur properly done, with Cavalry and General upgraded to Regular Knights
507-550 AD, Visigothic fleet and crew, shipwrecked and part of the army
Mainland Britain before 580 AD, Irish Mercenary (or Votadini foot)
Armorica before 580 AD, Alan Mercenaries (from Alan army list in Book 2)
Prior to 664 AD, Praying Monks (irregular horde)
After 790 AD, Viking Allies (from Norse army list in Book 3)

This is, at it's heart, very much apace with the other armies listed here, but the historical detail given with the list options, and in the book text, make for a very nice snapshot of the history of the British from the 5th century until their disappearance.  The Praying Monks are back, which is a good thing.  How a single stand of them could make a difference, I don't know, but they would be a fun addition to the army.
Not the Arthur being discussed here

This is the wrap up of this article on the general representation of the army. The agreement is on fair (mediocre) quality infantry, and better quality cavalry.  Under a cavalry commander, such as an Arthur like figure, the cavalry can be improved.  This is a pretty good representation, but there are some rulesets that go a little deeper, especially for this time period. The next article will take a look at some Arthur specific rulesets (and modules) including:
  • Song of Arthur and Merlin
  • Dux Bellorum
  • The Age of Arthur (for Warhammer Ancient Battles)
I could include the SAGA supplement on the Sub-Roman British, and also the excellent Glutter of Ravens.  The former, I will leave off, because I have an article just on SAGA planned for the next period after this - the age of Vikings.  The latter, I will leave off, because the author (Dan Mersey) is already covered in two other rulesets by him (Song of Arthur and Merlin, and Dux Bellorum), which are currently much more accessible to gamers than the former (but still excellent) Glutter of Ravens.

For grins and giggles, see the BBC documentary on "historical" Arthur from Francis Pryor.  I enjoy Francis, but he certainly does seem to be attracted to out-of-the-mainstream theories about pre-Roman, Roman, and Post-Roman Britain.  Here is the first part of a three part video on facebook that presents his documentary on the Arthur topic.

There are two more parts of this video, also.
Part 2 -
Part 3 -

There are of course many other "documentaries" on Arthur to be found on Youtube and elsewhere, some are more or less dreadful, and others might be useful, but as in the first article in this series, nothing (for narrative) beats John Morris. Although even he (rightfully so) has his critics.