Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Wargames Morale versus personal morale. Discuss.

I have been off colour for a week now, perhaps a little longer. I'm not desperately ill but definitely not 100%. I seem to tire very easily and can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and don't get me started with the dizzy spells. Now that in itself is not really interesting and frankly isn't why I'm telling everyone. But what struck me the other morning, [04.30am] was that over the years, wargames rule writers and wargamers in general have agonised over the concept of morale and how to accurately portray the concept that Napoleon attached so much importance. 

 John, Steve and I were fighting a 400 point Blucher game last Thursday when to be honest I was first starting to feel not too good. Steve and John commanded the Austrians and I took the French. We were using my 1809 armies and I had fielded the excellent French 3rd Corps led by Davout.
 The Austrians were a mix of conscripts, quality cavalry and grenadiers. In fact I was a little too generous in the corps allocation and allowed? the Austrians the excellent Avant Garde corps of 1809, a good mix of light troops and light cavalry with the skirmish ability plus a hefty combat ability.
  For some inexplicable reason I deployed Davout's corps facing three Austrian corps that included the Avant Garde, Grenadiers,and the Cuirassiers. Whilst for some strange reason I deployed Lannes 2nd Corps and my Cuirassier corp facing Steve who had one large but inexperienced Austrian corps. Things went badly from the onset. I was indecisive, unlucky and then reckless in an attempt to rectify the situation. I was like a desperate gambler throwing good money after bad.
 Basically my own personal morale had collapsed within a matter of the first couple of hours.

 The image below shows my poor decision making which I blame on my personal morale. My corps cavalry of three brigades of Chasseurs unwisely attempted to cross swords with the Austrian Cuirassier brigades.
                                             Naturally they were swept aside.
If that wasn't bad enough I recklessly deployed my two reserve infantry brigades that were in square back into line and advanced? towards the triumphant Austrian cuirassiers!
Don't ask me why. Did I think they would be able to turn back the cavalry?  My volleys missed! and the heavies rode up and over the two brigades shattering the corps morale and more tellingly mine. I fully deserved the subsequent beating. I knew I was beaten. My dice throwing was diabolical. I would need sixes, I would throw ones. Eight dice in a melee, no problem, all misses. You get the picture. My personal morale had collapsed.

The result was one of the worst defeats I have ever had. The French were beaten everywhere.
 But what became very apparent was that there had been no need for morale rules as my own personal morale had allowed the crushing defeat of my army. So what have I learned from the experience. Stick to historical tactics, don't be generous to one's guests and definitely think about one's deployment when playing Blucher.

28 comments:

  1. Peter Young was definitely of the opinion that troops don’t have morale - generals do.

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    1. Im pretty certain that Young actually poo pooed the idea of wargame morale at one stage. Who can argue with the great man's ideas when he got so much right.

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  2. Well said Robbie. It's a point that I've been making for years about the morale of the player being more,important than the morale of the tabletop figures.

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    1. Jim,
      Somedays' you 'know' that your troops aren't going to fight well. There are so many reasons why this happens. Clearly this was one of those bad days.

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  3. Napoleon's performance was often linked to his relative health on the day and he did have some bad days, so you were just getting into role :-)

    I have seen my own opponents enthusiasm deflate and elate simply on wide swings of fortune within a game, so such a thing does exist to my eyes.

    I could lose every game and never deflate, I don't care, I think dice tell a story, I just like playing but …….my 'button' is hit when an opponent does something obviously gamey to secure a position of advantage, I can instantly feel a dislike for the game and want it to end as soon as possible, for me the moment ruins the whole sense of game.

    As an example in a boardgame, I work to get a good attack and then rolled the dice and I do okay, the enemy has to retreat - only to find the opponent 'retreats forward' and actually takes up a position of advantage - totally contrary to the defeat that has just been inflicted, but it was argued that the rules did not prevent this. Indeed the opponent argued that the designer wanted this effect - Only politeness allowed me to continue gaming to the end of the evening, my morale totally deflated (together with inwardly fuming?) and since I have refused to sit down to that design and sold my own copy, so the morale collapse lasted long after he incident :-)….. I mean 'Advance Forward', Pah, one may as well play Ludo!


    For my private, solo gaming, I have to be in the mood to set something up, so when I do, I am obviously up for it. But my regular Friday night meet is fixed, so one is subject to any lethargy or boundless energy or excitement for the subject matter etc. that prevails on the day.

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    1. Norm,
      I unfortunately fester over such things. Basically you hope that a game will be fought in the correct spirit but when that doesnt happen things get a bit tense. Retreat forwards is a new on for me though, clearly people like that should be avoided.

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  4. Totally agree Robbie. Known guys who come to the table mentally defeated before they start and I've had the odd right good slapping because of either low mental attitude or just off colour!Hope you've been to your GP mate,you've got to look after yourself so you can keep blogging! Us wargamers need the inspiration!

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    1. Great to hear from you Dennis, I hope you are still plugging away with everything.

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  5. A case of play the player rather than the game? There were several examples of this over the weekend where players couldn't roll the dice and were beaten before the next dice roll. Equally it was surprising how quickly this seemed to reverse itself. As a French player in the WSS I'm used to getting beaten. But I always come back for more with a smile on my face.

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    1. Having a great interest in the French full stop Im used to losing Paul. The SYW was never a great period for them but they still are pretty and I always get a lift from the eye catching uniforms as they run away..

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  6. Yes, I've definitely noticed personal morale having a big role to play. People who decide not to do something because they've rolled bad dice the last two attacks and are sure they'll have the same problem again; people who get flustered and lose their instinct for a good / bad move. One of the interesting things about the hobby, but personally I don't like to see an opponent get into that kind of 'there's nothing I can do' head-space. It's a much better atmosphere when people play with confidence and enjoyment rather than a gloomy fatalism (and I am pointing the finger at myself here!).

    Cheers,
    Aaron

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    1. I think what it was Aaron was that I knew I had set up badly and knew I could never recover from that first error. Usually I get a certain pleasure from losing heavily dont ask me why I really dont know. But that battle I was down because I knew I could have done so much better and had let the Austrians have an easy victory which probably spoiled it for them. Still I will bounce back with my next 'cunning' plan.

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  7. A thought provoking post Robbie and some interesting comments. I’ve experienced many an example of personal morale scuppering a game in the past; not much now though.

    Hope you get back to full health soon.

    Colin

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    1. Im on the mend Colin, a few things just keep falling off thats all.I am praying for rain which will allow me to pick up my brushes and crack on.

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    2. The invitation still stands for a visit.

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    3. Thanks Colin, thats very kind of you.

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  8. As others have mentioned, breaking your opponent's will to fight is just as important as breaking their tabletop army's will to fight. I have seen this many times and some of my regular opponents are easier to "manipulate" in this manner than others. This topic could lead to an entire treatise!

    Best wishes in your return to your old self.

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    1. Jonathon,
      usually I will 'sledge' a bit although John just ignores the banter and cracks on. The best example I ever saw was Peter Gilder in the Battleground television series where the late John Braithwaite was so rattled he couldnt throw a six to save his life. Gilder was a bugger for the way he out psyched his opponent.I think I just beat myself.

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  9. Spot on with this Robbie. Only last week no I look back on the SYW game here in GHQ with hindsight I knew I’d lost after two turns and stopped trying.

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    1. Good to hear from you David and nice to see you pottering about. Faulty planning guarantees a beating if your opponent is any good and usually they are sadly.But then there is no fun in fighting a poor opponent.

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  10. Hi Robbie the way I approach Games is never let my Head drop keep going and if I get Hammered I demand a Draw!!! See you.

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    1. Great to hear from you Brian, I thought you would just growl and intimidate them. There can be no fun in bullying John though, its like pulling the wings off a butterfly.

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  11. Robbie,
    The more games I've been fortunate to play with Charles Grant the more I've come to understand andcaccept his philosophy as you know he does useca simple morale based on Officer losses and total casualties with the overriding principle that infantry are lost once 50% is reached (Grenadiers 60) but the more games I've played the more I also understand and accept what you're saying. I've had games where poor dice are continually thrown for hits etc. Cavalry squadrons lose their officers and become ineffective.
    The knock on effect is that my morale goes down, self doubt creeps in and the assumption is that the battle is lost, rash moves are made and more bad dice throws and the game is up. So yes who needs morale!

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    1. You're a lucky so and so to game with Charles.I have never used his or his father's rules but they certainly know and knew their stuff so why shouldnt they work well.

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  12. Robbie,if you want to test your own personal morale status,go to Corfu,where the binmen have been on strike for weeks and piles of stinking rubbish clutter every street /road corner-worth every penny of my hard earned pension to go there!!
    But I'm back and looking forward to lots of games!
    johnc

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    1. You might as well have stayed in Westerhope, it sounded like a bus-man's holiday.

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  13. Thanks for yet another interesting post Robbie. Glad to hear you are feeling better. Your morale ought to be good with a lovely set up like that shown in this post - beautiful armies and terrain. Personally i prefer umpiring so I can avoid the personal anguish, and then it's just ALL the players that p*** me off! :-)
    Chris

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    1. I have always been impressed by people who are prepared to take on a umpire's responsibilities Chris, its a bit like refereeing a World Cup game. Fraught.

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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