Archive for the 'Gaming Philospohy' Category

New Thinking on Artillery in Wargames

Why is it that so many horse & musket rules allow units to freely interpenetrate deployed artillery units without penalty?   I’ve read several articles recently discussing artillery, specifically on their deployment and use in the Napoleonic era, and the points being made by the authors are good ones that contradict several long-standing conventions for wargame rules covering this period of history.

The specific articles or notes I’ve read are as follows:

  • An extract from the upcoming “Republic to Empire” rules being written by Barry Hilton of the League of Augsburg.
  • The “Talking Wargames” article by Chris Scott in Battlegames #17.  (NB:  Battlegames is an excellent magazine… highly recommended for historical miniatures gamers)

Both articles cover the issue of space taken up by a battery of artillery, and how it is woefully under-represented in most wargame rules.  The frontage taken up by an average battery can often be pretty accurate, but the depth is way too shallow in almost all cases.   Mr. Scott argues that when you take into account all of the limbers, caissons, extra draft horses, field forges and other accouterments, an 8-gun field battery of the period would occupy a space roughly 100 yards wide by 250(!) yards deep.     The depth being described is much deeper than anything I’ve seen in any other tactical set of rules out there.  I suspect the basing depth for Napoleon’s Battles is probably closer to being correct due the ground scale versus the actual size of a 15mm artillery piece.

Continue reading ‘New Thinking on Artillery in Wargames’

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Some Quick Math Regarding 28mm Napoleonic Games

I was stuck in a meeting at work this morning that was ‘mandatory’ yet had little that required either my input or my attention.   I started daydreaming a bit about 28mm Napoleonic again.   I’ve made the decision that this is something I really want to do… now the question is exactly what I want to do.   One thing I want for sure is larger battalions.  I’d rather have fewer large units rather than lots of smaller ones.  Right now I’m aiming at 1:20, though I’ve also been looking at even larger units just for fun for some really tactical stuff.   When all is said & done I will probably look a fairly generic basing scheme so the figures can be used for multiple ratios and rules sets without too much trouble.

Having decided on that, I took some time in this morning’s meeting to do some quick math about how much space units will take up on the table.  I’m interested in having more manuevering room on the table for most games, so trying to figure out how many units is enough was a mathematical exercise I decided to waste some brain cycles on while the presenter droned on in the background.   To get inspired for 28mm Napoleonics I’ve been digging through my archives of old wargaming magazines for articles by Peter Gilder and others from that generation.  I found the first half of Mr. Gilder’s series on setting up a refight of Leipzig from Miniature Wargames #4  (I’m missing #5… if anyone has a copy they’re willing to sell or will make a copy of the second half of Gilder’s article, please contact me).  One of the nuggets Gilder wrote about was the optimal number of troops per foot on the table.  In his mind, somewhere between 50 and 100 troops per linear foot of table width was a good number, with 50 being on the very low side and 100 being the maximum.  Keeping in mind that he wrote this with 25mm figures and with his rules (“In the Grand Manner”) and their particular idiosyncracies, I did some quick math.

Right now I have an eight foot table at home.  This will grow eventually, for I’m finding that eight feet of width isn’t enough for the games I want to run in 15mm scale let alone 28’s.  For now though, I have 96 inches of table width.  Using Mr. Gilder’s calculations, here’s what I came up with.  For these calculations I was using a standard 1:20 French infantry battalion of 36 figures. 

  • Using 50 troops per linear foot, each side can place about 10-11 battalions on the table.  
  • Using 75 troops per linear foot, the number goes up to 16.
  • Using 100 troops per linear foot we hit 22 battalions.

These are obvously rough numbers and don’t account for cavalry or artillery, but it’s interesting to see what the general guidelines are, especially considering that for the larger scenarios Mr. Gilder ran, each ‘corps’ of infantry would be somewhere in the 12-14 battalion range.  

I like the tightly-packed look for Napoleonic line infantry, so using the traditional 15mm frontage per infantry figure, I did some quick math on various unit sizings as well.   

  • At 1:20, a standard French battalion will be 36 figures in two ranks.  At 15mm frontage, a battalion will take up around 10.5-11 inches in line and 3.5 inches frontage in attack column.
  • Jumping up to a 1:15 ratio, the battalion increases to 48 figures.  Now a battalion takes up around 15 inches in line and around 5 inches in attack column.
  • Finally, hitting the 1:10 ratio that Jim Purky is looking at for his Napoleonic variant of BAR, if you stay in two ranks you’re looking at around 22 inches for a unit in line and 7.5 inches in attack column.  I’m assuming DAF will stick with three ranks for his units, so the frontages will be closer to the 1:15 ratio numbers above.

This was nothing more than a simple math exercise to try and get a handle around unit sizes and how many will comfortably fit on a table.   If nothing else, it will give me some things to think about as I plan for the project ahead.

Napoleonic Rules Pet Peeves

I’m slowly collecting 25mm Napoleonic figures and will start painting them in earnest once I get through the backlog of 15s I’ve got to do.  In the meantime I’ve been doing a lot of reading, both of the Napoleonic history books I own and the many sets of rules I own.   I have no idea what rules set will be used yet, but I’ve started thinking about things that drive me crazy about most rules for the period.  Here’s a short list:

  • The “zippy little battalion’ – where individual units can run around and hit units on the flank with laser-guided precision, even in the middle of a general combat. (pretty much any tactical set I’ve ever played)
  • Rules that don’t punish you for leaving your flanks unguarded.  (Napoleon’s Battles and Volley & Bayonet come to mind)
  • Rules that in general give the commander too much control over their units when hotly engaged with the enemy.
  • Over-effective skirmishers that operate like they are armed with assault rifles.  (See: Empire British & French lights)
  • Allowing unit interpenetration at will with no ill effects.   
  • Rules that are mostly concerned with the processes of fire combat and/or melee instead of command/control and morale.  
  • Rules that make the French units more powerful than their allied counterparts to try and emulate the successes of the history books.  This has been mostly visible in the Empire series of rules, where the French have either gotten more powerful over time or the Allies have just gotten worse & worse (British excepted of course).  

There are other things that I don’t care for as well.   There are rules that are too mechanistic and become nothing but an exercise in mathematics like the Complete Brigadier, or ones that are almost totally left up to chance and random luck (Piquet and to some degree Napoleon’s Battles).    Trying to find the right set of rules is pretty damn hard, even with the number of options on the market today.    It’s no wonder that so many folks decide to write their own rules sooner or later.

What’s More Important?

I’ve been thinking… always a dangerous thing.    Like a lot of other games, I’ve got more than a bit of ‘period whore’ in me; there are very few historical (or other) periods/games I wouldn’t mind playing.  There’s only so much time and money available though, so choices need to be made.    This got me to wondering about how gamers make decisions on what they decide to purchase figures for since that (at least to me) is an indicator of the games they truly enjoy playing.   This post was triggered by some discussions I’ve been following (and sometimes participating in) on The Miniatures Page.   There are some curmudgeons on there who are quite vocal in their dismissal of rules and game manufacturers.  Sometimes this is because of the business practices of the companies in question (i.e. Games Workshop & Battlefront to name two) and sometimes it’s because of perceived issues with the rules set that make those sets not worthy of consideration by ‘serious’ wargamers (whatever that means).

One of the more interesting things about the miniatures gaming hobby is that is it multi-faceted, and because of that different people get their enjoyment of the hobby from the different aspects of it.   Some people enjoy doing in-depth historical research and attempting to recreate events on the tabletop as accurately as possible.  Others enjoy the aesthetic pleasure they get from well-painted miniatures and nice-looking terrain.  Then there are those who really enjoy the tactics and decision-making processes.   There are also those people who simply enjoy rolling dice and killing things.  Finally, there are those people who really enjoy arguing… these folks can be subdivided into rules lawyers and anoraks… and I think I find the anoraks most annoying.   Anyone whose first reaction on seeing someone else’s newly-painted figures is to point out that the cuffs aren’t the proper tone of green deserves to be have their ass kicked… but that’s just me.   

Continue reading ‘What’s More Important?’


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