Random thought about unit characteristics

In table top gaming we are living in a culture of numbers and calculations. Almost any wargame or miniatures deals with its subject matter by some sort of “numbers comparing”.

Units are arrayed on a 2 dimensional plane, which has a visible or invisible grid of coordinates. These units have characteristics expressed in numbers like morale, ability to inflict damage, movement distance and so on and so forth. The player changes the game state by announcing an action and feeding the numbers through an engine to get a result.

Maybe it is time to break this paradigm of number crunching by swapping it with a narrative description engine. Well this is just a hazy idea at the moment, but when reading the beta rules of the Drowned Earth I immediatly questioned my gaming efforts in the last months.

Continue reading “Random thought about unit characteristics”


Analysis of second test game

I just posted a rough outline of what happened in the second test game right here. All in all it was satisfactory from a system standpoint. Let’s reflect on three things that …

… worked:

  • I finished the game in 1 hour. One week of campaigning in northern France. At the end of the game/hour supply would’ve been checked, attrition and new troops calculated and media/politics effect randomised and experience allocated. After that a new game woukd’ve begun other on the same board – fe Austrian counter attack- or another board – fe adfter their success french commander s ordered to cross the rhine.
  • The bot moved well even on the attack. Generally I feel like defending is easier for the hot than attacking. Moving a decisive force to a specific point to “win” actively is harder to simulate than the reactive movement of moving forces to the defensive position in danger. Overall it kinds worked. The Austrians could’ve attacked Nancy in force, which probably would’ve been enough for an Austrian win. That they did decide to change orders for their leading column in the last moment was brilliant and rather Austrian at the same time.
  • The asynchronous and non linear passage of time for the bot produced enough operational friction for me to feel like i was in command. As a player I knew roughly how far my columns move in one phase. I am never sure whether my scouts and subordinate commanders tell me what’s happening though. A3 moved extremely fast through the middle of the map – a surprise move – a triple activation. In narrative terms the french scouting cavalry went to the inn instead of doing the job thus the commanding officer of the french only got the message of the approaching Austrian column when it was right at the door step of Nancy, leaving almost no time to react. This relativ Passage of time for different columns, combined with the fact that the limited resource is one’s ability to change orders really emphasises the huge delays in the ooda loop experienced at the very top of 18th century armies.

What didn’t work:

  • Combat takes way too much time. Multiple steps and a lot of dice rolling just isn’t for me. I want to know the outcome and that’s it – or is it? Still not sure about this. Combat in the age of Napoleon was not a linear affair. The bigger force didn’t win and inflict x amount of casualties 90% of the time …. Different battle tactics and actions could change the outcome dramatically. Now I don’t want to simulate this as my focus is operationally on the other hand I need a system that can produce a wide array of possible outcomes.
  • Morale system should be further integrated with what columns do. The threat to the Austrian supply line should’ve lowered the morale, making them switch to defensive orders. The Austrians especially were renowned for over protecting their supply lines.
  • Some parts of the rules are still too wishy washy leaving room for me to interpret them creatively. Especially the beginning and end process for the “campaign” needs to be fleshed out.

What i still didn’t do:

  • The characters still do not have names, characteristics and qualities that carry over from game to game. Before my next test game I need to design me some characters to lead the french.
  • Supply still is an afterthought, as i didn’t play long enough for it to become an issue – basically at the end of a turn a number of supply checks is to be done but i did only play one turn
  • Divisions are just numbers, they too should be infused with some character.

I am positive that my next test game will be game 1 of my campaign. The campaign will start in early 1792 and will cover the rise and fall – depending on my luck – of a young fictional general. Each play will deal with one campaign season in a distinct theatre. Depending of the success or failure of the young officer the theatres will either become bigger and more meaningful to the overall fate of france or he will be relegated to obscure and unimportant parts of Europe. Let’s wait and see. Oh and the notebook has tags now. Hurray!

Combat in my solo Napoleonic campaign system (sncs)

Let’s call this a public notebook from now on, the general state of unfinishedness probably makes it so. I was on a small vacation in Vienna, thus i couldn’t write anything down though i was thinking about these rules for quite some time now. Some of the things are pasted from the new Rommel rules. After all why should I reinvent the wheel when someone else did the hard work already.

Rommel’s basic system of totaling the combat value of each side and applying hits simultaneously is ideal if the goal is a result focussed combat resolution engine. The outcome of this basic computation is ameliorated by the tactics employed by each side and by the heroic acts – if any – of it’s leaders. All in all i can resolve a combat in around 2 minutes while generating a narrative at the same time.

At the moment I have most problems with defining the battle stances. I want the sides to employ different “battle strategies” according to their tactical orders and the force relation. For instance an inferior force with defensive tactical orders would either defend reluctantly and subsequently withdraw or would employ a planned defense minimising casualties. An overwhelming force on the defense would employ an active defense, inflicting heavier casualties, or try to ambush the other side. Just how to call these different stances and what kinds of modifiers to employ i do not know yet. Now for the text:


There are three “states” a column can be in in:

  1. Following operational orders if no enemy column is in any neighbouring hex
  2. Following tactical orders if a enemy column is in a neighbouring hex
  3. Fighting a combat if an enemy column is in the same hex

Combat is thus one of the big subsystems of the game. Combat occurs if any column that is in the same square as an enemy column is activated. This column has to spend it’s first action on combat. As long as the combat does not end the column has to fight on, using all of it’s actions in the process.

Combat always occurs between all columns in a hex. The leading officer is the highest quality officer of a side.

Combat has 4 phases

  1. Determine battle stance
  2. Roll for heroic action
  3. Combat resolution
  4. Check morale

Battle stance

Take the difference in strength points between the sides and add 1d6. Look up the result on the battle stance.

  1. Withdraw – this side retreats immediately. There is no combat.
  2. Planned defense – other side gets one shift down
  3. Active defense – this side gets one shift up
  4. Ambush – this side hits first
  5. Wait and see – no effect
  6. Planned attack – other side gets one shift down
  7. Active attack – other side gets one shift up
  8. All out assault – this side hits first

Example: a 8sp french force combats a 6sp British force. The french roll a 4 on a d6 +2 for the difference in sp. Thus they conduct a planned attack. The British roll a 2 and substract 2 for the negative difference in sp and subsequently withdraw before combat happens.

Heroic actions:

Each commanding officer does an heroic act of generalship if he rolls less or equal to his quality rating. If he acts heoircally add the number rolled to the total combat value of his side. If the side wins the combat the leading officer adds the heroic act to his biography and gets 1 experience.

Combat resolution:

Add all the organised strength points of a side to get the total strength point value. Each side then rolls one die to determine which combat grid he will use to resolve the combat. The grid indicates how many hits he inflicts on his opponent.Combat is normally resolved with both sides rolling and applying their grids simultaneously.
Apply shifts up and down on the grid according to the battle stance and heroic acts.

Apply hits:

Hits have to be applied to all columns evenly. This means that a column can only take a second hit if all other columns of this side already took a hit. Furthermore hits are applied to organised strength points as long as there are more organised than unorganised sp in a column. A hit on an organised sp shifts it down to unorganised. Anytime there are more unorganised sp than organised ones a unorganised sp is destroyed instead.

Check morale:

If the number of hits taken is higher than the current morale level of this side, the column(s) individually have to leave the combat toward the last hex they were in. Immediately roll for a solitary order change for every column leaving the combat.

The demeanour of the officers leading the columns can impact the application of the roll on individual columns. This may very well lead to some columns leaving the combat while others fight on. If this happens add it as a shameful occurrence to the officers biography.