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Saturday, 9 January 2016

No Fubar.

  I always make the effort to read any comments placed on my blogs, and answer them in some probably flippant way. Anyway following my latest post, regarding a re fight of the Battle of Chotusitz and the vagaries of command ratings affecting the game, I noticed that Jim Purky of Minden Miniatures and SYW Association fame mentioned that he would never use such a mechanism. Nothing wrong with that, and I understand why some gamers don't like the uncertainty of having to throw command dice in order to move a unit or brigade.
 But it got me thinking as to when I made the step over to such a device and why I adopted it without any problem.
 I have followed the usual path for a wargamer of some years. I am of sufficient age to have been brought up on the Victor comic, the Commando book and Airfix soldiers. So naturally the wargames rules that I started with were, local club rules [ although I have never been the member of a club] Wargames Research Group and the odd printed tome,including the dreaded Bruce Quarrie Napoleonic rules.
 All the rules I have used in these years were fine and were of their time.The emphasis seemed to be upon complexity and attempting to make the rules appear realistic and mirroring war.
 Sometime in the 1980's, John Reidy my arch nemesis, made the quantum leap whereby he sold all his wonderful 25mm figures and replaced them with 6mm figures from the fast developing and wonderful Irregular Miniatures ranges. I followed suit, and with the change in scales we found that we needed a different type of rules. Ones that played the bigger picture. Initially we used rules written by John, and then along came Volley and Bayonet which provided a great and exciting game for the wargaming megalomaniac.
 The feature of all the rules that I used up to this point was that I could effectively when acting as the C n C, move any or all my army when reacting to a developing situation. I was safe in the knowledge that my imaginary orders would get through to the respective troops, and they would be acted upon as I had wanted.
 Not really realistic though. No fubar, no chance that the order didn't get through or was misinterpreted.
 Like most things in my life what happened next in my wargaming world, just evolved and was not pre planned.I began to hanker after the beautiful large figures that I had owned in the 1970's and 1980's and took the step of building up SYW armies in 30mm. A short while later the Black powder wargames rules came upon the scene and command rules were introduced into my wargames.
 With the release of the Honours of War and to a certain extent the Blucher rules, command ratings have developed and matured, allowing a fair degree of tension and uncertainty into my wargames.
 Nothing is now set in stone as regards a wargame, as witnessed by me in the Chotusitz re fight.
 Frustrating? yes. Annoying, perhaps, but it certainly adds to the game and makes one think carefully about what you are attempting to achieve, as you also should plan for a failed order as well as a unit being able to move.
 Do the use of command throws make the game more enjoyable and do they add something to the whole event. I certainly believe they do and I certainly think they bring a small amount of realism to the wargame as nothing is now certain.
 Its hardly ground breaking stuff, but it does add something to the whole wargame.
 I would hate to go back to being able to knowing that I could react to every situation with impunity.

                              No worries about the troops not being able to move in this game.

   

22 comments:

  1. Totally agree Robbie, you can't beat a bit of uncertainty in a game. It's the perfect antidote to the rules lawyer.

    I'm a big Fan of card activated rules like those of the toofatlardies, that and some random event cards give me my fix of uncertainty.

    I think it's players who are more keen to win a game rather than enjoy it who are against the command roll. I enjoy a good game where the turn of a card or roll of a command die can change the course of the game.

    Viva Randomness!
    Regards, Ken
    The Yarkshire Gamer

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    1. Evening Ken,
      I know the idea is not new, and the early pioneers of wargaming experimented with the concept, but it does give some edge to what you want to do. Sometimes its hard to accept the result,and I may lose a dice as a result,but it does add to the game.

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  2. Robbie,
    100% behind you on this. Anyone who has been in the armed forces or dare I say it even our careers in the Police know only too well that on occasions! Orders are not carried out as expected or are not carried out at all due to a variety of reasons. For me if you're playing a game where everything can be calculated it loses its edge.
    Even the old 'On to Richmond' rules where each brigade had a card and both armies cards were shuffled into a pack and acted upon as each brigade card was drawn was quite effective at driving uncertainty as when you're brigade(s) would be activated.
    Great looking battle by the way.

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    1. I think our time in the constabulary brought that home in spades.Anyway hopefully you will experience this very soon.

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  3. I'm with you as well but it's a broad church.. I often find the same discussions about national characteristics in rules (eg. +1 for British volley fire etc) Some people like a completely level playing field when they play their opponent (and I can understand that), some don't..

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    1. Evening Steve,
      Ah that old chestnut of national characteristics, God bless Quarrie. Honours of War have lists for each country, and to be fair they seem historically sound. Blucher also uses them, and again they are pretty sound, but in our early games in the 1970's and 1980's I saw some toe curling ideas. The classic was the Rifle Brigade, who ended up out doing Sharpe, before he was even discovered. God they were supermen, and there were lots of them.I learned though.

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    2. Robbie - still happens - how many Napoleonic armies are there with an Old Guard contingent? :o)

      It's an interesting thread though... I wonder if in the end it doesn't just come down to whether you play equal points encounter games, or you prefer scenario's.. I lean towards the latter, and the skill is in then balancing the forces to still give an "equal" game..

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  4. In general I'm with you here- but with the proviso that any SNAFU OR FUBAR is appropriate to the historical period. "Adding to the game" for its own sake is not to the point for me the "level playing field" does not exist in war- if it does the commanders need the sack . For myself I can't see the point of a game claiming historicity when "fairness" raises it ugly head as a matter of course.
    So given that it is the right Kind of FUBAR then thats fine by me.

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    1. I would be interested to see a special rule for the Generals who led the Sikh army?

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    2. Maybe you will by the time I get my Sikhs on the table......

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  5. I enjoyed your well thought remarks. For me it depends on the style of game. For a one-on-one experience I can understand the failed command rolls or "blunders." For multi-player games, assuming you don't allow silly levels of table-talk, the other players introduce that FUBAR you seek. Just yesterday at a one-day convention the game I ran was utterly different than the playtest and the result totally different. In large part because the player with the best troops chose not to move hardly at all (even those his side was the attacker.)

    The flip side is a Napoleonics game I witnessed using Picquet where you roll for pips and the high roller gets to use them. A French corps marched across the front of an Austrian one, redeployed on the flank, and rolled up the line because the Austrians never won the roll-off and had very limited reaction moves. Failing to move once I can see (if not enjoy) but just sitting there as the enemy moves in the open without any reaction? Or the BP game where the enemy got a triple move, crossed the field and fired without any defensive reaction? "No, no, it is only honorable to let them approach and have the first fire."

    So for now I prefer to let my fellow gamers create the "friction of battle" without an artificial method.

    Thanks for reading my lengthy comment.

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  6. Michael,
    I have never used the Picquet rules,and I dont think I like the sound of the mechanism you mentioned.I have used Blackpowder a lot, and there were certain things that needed amending as far as I was concerned. One was where a unit could move three times and then fire. This actually happened to me in a SYW game. We changed the rule after that,so that if a unit moved more than once, they could not fire.I have found multi player games add their own friction, as you say some players will interpret what they have been told to do in so many ways. However adding a personality to the general they represent really turns the knife.The main thing is you enjoy the game being played, and that the rules dont spoil the fun.

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  7. Hi Robbie,great debate!! I'd like to add my little bit if I may-an old friend of mine,who you may have heard of,called Charlie Wesencraft,once told me that rules should never,ever dictate what happens in a wargame,and that a wargame should be your wargames brain against your opponent's wargames brain,and as long as you follow correct tactics and you know the history and weapon capabilities of the period,then the superior battle plan you write should(one hell of a word that!) give you victory!-I have always followed his advice and have never used a commercial set of rules,because common sense and fair play should (that word again!) be paramount in all games.-I bet this causes some comments!!By the way,I found out last night what FUBAR means-such language!!

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  8. Afternoon John,
    I could never argue with Charlies reasoning, he's never been wrong yet. But personally I dont mind commercial rules if I feel they reflect the period and the tactics of the time.
    It helps if you find like minded people to wargame with.
    By the way, I think you would be very pleasantly surprised how some commercial rules provide a good game.

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  9. Hi Robbie wondering what rules you use for WW2 as we are looking to get into it next,28mm seems to be the favoured scale.I picked up some FOW rules on the cheap and all decided that they were not for us.

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  10. Evening Brian,
    Although we started with FOW, it soon became obvious that they are too clunky, however Blitzkrieg Commander work okay.
    28MM? youre going to need a bigger table if you go that way.

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    1. Another vote for Blitzkrieg Commander.. My regular opponent and I use minifigs N scale..

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  11. We will have to see I thought maybe 20mm however Paul and Dave have started the Ball rolling Orders placed with Perrys.

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    1. Personally I would have opted for 15mm, especially as what I have to sell is in that scale? But having seen the Pendragon 10mm ranges I would have gone for them. Best of luck with the new period.

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  12. Thanks Robbie looks like 15mm is out of the Window.Just as well,we would have had to Pawn our Whippets to Pay for them!!!!

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  13. I have the memory seared into my brain of some Empire Napoleonic games where a Russian player spent the whole game doing nothing because I couldn't roll dice to activate his command. This greatly influences how I feel about the topic.

    I agree with Michael Matthews ( full disclosure: we wargame together several times a year) that you can generally count on the players to provide their own FUBAR and friction without any artificial rules to create that uncertainty.

    When I'm designing scenarios for my games, I try to match the players' personalities to their role in the game. If I know that Mr. Smith is risk averse and not very aggressive, then I probably do not want him fighting on the side that is likely to do the attacking; or in some cases, maybe I need an Ambrose Burnside type on the attacking team, so I might give Mr. Smith a command on the side that is likely to attack, so as to scramble things up a little bit. Or maybe Mr. jones is very aggressive so he would make a perfect Murat or Seydlitz leading the cavalry into battle.

    We are all, well, human so we so human things like make mistakes now and then or we misunderstand our orders. Let me give you a couple of examples.

    I was playing in an ACW game as commander of the Confederate army. Our rules had a limited ammo mechanism, but you could replenish your ammo by attaching the wagon to the unit for a turn. The army commander on each side controlled the ammo wagons. There were two different types of ammo wagons: small arms and artillery.

    So the Rebs are attacking and doing fairly well, but one of my forward commanders is running low on artillery rounds and sends a courier to me desperately asking for more ammo. OK, fair enough, thinks I. So I reach for the nearest wagon and send it in its merry way to my brigade commander. The wagon arrive in about two turns and my brigadier is now out of artillery munitions. He reaches for the wagon and exclaims,

    " hey, you sent me a wagon full of small arms ammo. I wanted artillery ammo!". That halted the game for a good 15 minutes while our sides were splitting in laughter. You could not recreate that scene with a rule.

    In another game, I knew that I had some timid players. They were both good wargamers, just not very aggressive . We were playing 1806 Prussians vs. French. The scenario called for the Prussians to be defending a line along a stone wall or some other obstacle. Their defensive line bristled with cannon. The French had to cross an open field to get them.

    What the French did not know is that of the ten or so Prussian cannon, they only had a total of four rounds for their entire group of artillery. They could have four different cannon fire once, or one cannon fire four times, etc, but once they had fired four cannon shots, they were out of artillery ammo for the rest of the game.

    Sure enough, the French players took one look at the Prussian defense and tip toed forward or tried to work around the flanks of the Prussian line so as to minimize the number of cannon that could zero in on them.

    Eventually, one of the,French players thought it odd that the Prussian artillery wasn't firing at them every turn."Maybe they don't have any ammo," he said. "Come on guys, let's move forward and find out." And they did and they routed the Prussian army out of the position.

    To each his own though. Whatever works for you is fine with me. It's just that 1) I don't want one of my players sitting around with nothing to do, 2) I want the players to win or lose based on their own tactics, and 3) I can always count on people to be human, I.e. Unpredictable .

    Jim

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  14. Thanks Jim for your views on an alternative system. I must admit I enjoy the ammunition rules in Blucher by Sam Mustafa, which give you pause for thought and stop you blazing away ad infinitum. Similarly the rules dont use command ratings as such, but still give a very exciting game with plenty of doubt.As you say each to their own, and thats what makes our lives interesting.

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My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating