donderdag 21 augustus 2014

Upgrade notes - the Battle Map

The Battle Map system arose from a need to maneuver troops outside the game board without resorting to expand the table size. Through the years of collecting Seven Years War and Spanish Succession armies we had exceeded our table space and so a solution was desperately needed.

One item that had not escape our notice; the greater the table surface the slower the game moved, especially so when moving troops that had no direct influence on the outcome of an engagement taking place elsewhere. With this in mind, we tried various methods such as moving only the head of the column or substitute a block of wood for the complete group. The latter helped create a “fog of war” element to the game, but did not save us any appreciable amount of time.

The current Battle Map system also experienced teething problems, which to choose, node, hexes, or squares. We ended with squares. The idea was each square would represents a game board but lacking precise detailing of terrain features this allowed us to use the DBA terrain placement system. All that was known on the map were the essentials to distinguish arable from hilly, forest or littoral terrain.

Sketched on an A4 sheet, the Battle Map represented an area that could be easily covered in a day’s march. Tracking off-table formations without having to reveal its composition created a “fog of war”.  

Current play tests are now a seamless transition from map to board and vice versa when withdrawing from the table. Playing large scale battles were no longer a problem and like true battles the point of contact could swung from one area to another giving the player a method to develop a decisive stroke. All that was needed was to swap game boards to start a new engagement which takes place elsewhere, thus creating a sense of a dramatic battle developing.

The Map
A simple grid sketched on an A4 size sheet with each square 3 x 3 cm. will give you 9 by 7 squares, ample marching room. At current scale this represents 9 x 7 miles or 63 square miles campaign area. We found the Random Map generator a helpful tool if historical maps are difficult to source, but you will need to fill in roads, rivers and towns if needed.

The map movement phase precedes any game board activity. This follows a similar procedure as a standard DBA game; a die score determines the amount of activity a Corps commander may execute during that phase. Divisions may march, initiate an attack, withdraw from the battlefield, or engage in activity requiring stationary placement, such as construction.

Counters for both sides can be made to represent divisions of infantry, cavalry, and reserve units which move a number of squares for each type in that hour. What have yet to be determined are the number map turns any counter may move before fatigue sets in. The overriding goal however is to avoid unnecessary record keeping.

Further to be tested are force marches by divisions which would result in temporary loss of units after a certain number of turns. A.P. Hill’s force march to Antietam comes to mind.

On to the battlefield
The moving player declares his intent to attack with the defending player on his response phase may choose to remain or withdraw. Both actions deploy and engage or form up and withdraw cost an extra pip in addition to the move.

If an engagement occurs, this follow the standard procedure as written in the basic DBA game setup; defender sets terrain.

These need testing, the use of the aggression factor and its effect on deployment.

Off the battlefield
A player during a game may decide to withdraw his troops from the battlefield. To make an orderly withdrawal the following conditions should be met; the retreating element or group is beyond 3BW distance of the enemy and within a move of its base edge. During the player’s next map movement phase, one pip is required to extricate from “the battlefield” in addition to a pip needed to move to the adjacent square. 

woensdag 20 augustus 2014

Upgrade notes; Part two

Command and control
In the basic DBA game, a player’s ability to move troops is reflected by the cast of one die at the beginning of the player’s bound. There is no change to that process, but there are a number of modifications put in place to reflect varying qualities of the commander. These characteristic have worked well for our DBA Horse and Musket games and thus have been adapted for the Civil War game.

Unless playing a historically based scenario were the characteristic of the commanders is known, we cast one die to determine if a general has rash, bold or cautious qualities (it was expedient to adapt the WRG terminology here). On the battlefield, these traits can influence how a division is deployed, controlled or rallied when demoralization occurs.

Determining a General’s characteristics (subject to change):
North: 1, 2, 3, cautious, 4, 5 bold, 6 rash.
South: 1, 2 cautious, 3, 4 bold, 5, 6 rash.

The basic DBA system uses an army’s aggression factor plus die roll to determine who is defender or attacker. Rather than debate which side should have what factor, each general’s quality can now be expressed in terms of an aggression factor. Encounter battles or non-campaign battles can follow the same method of determining who is defending by using the following; cautious generals = 0, bold generals = 2 and rash generals = 4.
This replaces the sequence table described earlier in posts covering Corps Level tests. The change should duplicate neatly the diversity of command styles on both sides.

DBAv3 has increased the command radius distance to 8BW and for groups comprised solely of LH, 20BW. The distances are reduced if intervening terrain obstructs the line of sight.

There are differing approaches to this; the current restrictions if held would make for a prolonged game as field of vision was generally impaired if not by terrain they fought over, then by clouds of thick smoke generated by small arms and artillery fire.

The second, which I favour, commanders at brigade level had certain autonomy and would take an initiative within the parameters of their orders and thus would not be affected by the distance to division command. This underscores the value of veteran brigades that can be relied upon as opposed to the brigades made up of green units that would need prompting.

That said veteran brigades ignore the penalty for intervening terrain or beyond 8BW but in sight of their general. Green troops would still pay the extra cost if in a similar circumstances.  

Rally (demoralization)
In previous tests we increased or decreased the score needed to reach demoralization based on the General’s character. While this worked it did not quite complete the picture.

As brigades are now subject to their own break point which produces a gradual breakdown of a division’s capacity as an effective unit, holding a broken brigade in place is now a simpler task. Using the big battle option of basic DBA, this restricts broken commands to holding their ground with no tactical moves permitted.

For the Civil War period, I would allow the construction of temporary obstacles or breastworks as sheltered about a farmstead or woods would seem prudent behavior and serve as a rally point.

The battle map system, which caters to multiple day engagements, broken troops may recover and renew their fight on the next day. A new score set for demoralization and how the different Generals play a role in the process will be covered then.

Historical note
At the start of the war and in particular the Western theater, many states offered commands to those less militarily qualified, but politically connected. The following year a review board was established to address the short coming of this practice and to put command standards in place.

An added element of complexity was the fact that generals during the early years had to deal with all three services within their command. Infantry brigades had artillery attached and/or a unit of cavalry as part of their command. Eventually, the artillery batteries would be grouped to form their own units under division command and likewise, the cavalry units would form their own brigades within a cavalry division.

maandag 18 augustus 2014

Upgrade notes: Civil War era using version 3 -part one

The original DBA Humberside extension allowed players to game eras beyond the original DBA 1.1 time frame and with minor adjustments to shooting ranges, combat factors and troop types it was possible to play Pike and Shot era battles up to the Colonial wars of 1900.

With DBA version 2.0, I like others adapted features of the new version for other periods while keeping the army lists (1500 – 1900 AD) produced by Tony Barr. From these changes our interest and armies grew to include the conflicts of the 18th century South America, China, India, Africa as well as continental Europe.

Now, with the appearance of draft version 3 this has prompted a re-examination of the old set with a possible inclusion for the wars of Napoleon, in particular the Russian Campaign of 1812. With that revised variant we allowed skirmishers to deploy from their parent units (elements) for both cavalry and infantry, command and control mimicked the classic WRG 1685 – 1845 approach by adapting bold, cautious and rash characteristics for its generals, while morale distinctions allowed elite troops to outperform less trained types. Using an element to represent a battalion of infantry or cavalry regiment, most 18th century battles could be represented with 50 or 60 elements a side on a standard 4’ x 6’ table.

Nonetheless, looking at the Civil War era with an intent to modify the current Horse and Musket era variant, I realized this was not possible without disregarding many of the characteristics that made that conflict so unique. The consequence is a separate variant exclusive for the Civil War era or mid-19th century warfare. As with previous period variants, the basic rule set (DBAv3) is required.

Infantry, artillery and cavalry.

For infantry, the backbone of any civil war era army, version 3 offers some useful features to reflect a diversity of training and morale; to name a few, side support, increased move distance, resilient skirmishers, pursuit moves and useful combat outcomes from even results.

Side support between certain ancient troops types can have a similar application among civil war troops. Trained troops can be steadied by veterans as could veteran troops with each other. Reference the Iron or Irish brigades for the Union or Stonewall and Texas brigades for the Confederacy.

Increased move distances, for those how have played the ancient set have noticed the game moves faster. Therefore, close order foot move as “solid” troop types while loose order and open order troops as “fast”.

Subsequent moves for skirmishers are allowed but with the same parameters.

Resilient skirmishers are so labeled as in most circumstances they flee when the situation arises and return to harass the enemy. Skirmishers are not part of a command, but are deployed by trained or veteran troops during the course of a game. Deployment costs one pip and the parent element remains stationary while skirmishers deploy. Veteran troops need not remain stationary.

Pursuit moves now include blade which make mandatory moves. That prompted an idea have a distinction between “green” and veteran troops, by making pursuit move (1/2 BW) mandatory for the former and optional for the latter. This also includes fire fights were one side must recoil, if “green” troops will edge forward the same distance as a pursuit move. Veteran troops need not but may do so. This duplicates the ragged lines, hampered by smoke and noise to make independent decisions forcing a general to take corrective action.

An even score for a combat result give blade and extra chance when fighting knights. This similar result gives veteran troops an advantage in combat when fighting trained troops and likewise for trained troops fighting militia.

From the opening stages of the conflict, battery of guns was distributed among the various infantry brigades. Grouping them into larger formations did not occur until the following year and despite the numerical superiority of the North the Confederacy were ahead on the learning curve.
In DBA, one model represents 25 pieces of artillery. Looking at historical numbers present within the division and given the scale used for this variant, this equates to an average of three batteries of 12 to 15 guns.
By the second year of the war, both sides would add reserve formations of artillery separate from the infantry divisions.

In DBA, all artillery types move as solid troops, which seems right for man-handled pieces. With the improvement of harnesses and horse breeds, artillery by the mid-19th century could keep pace with cavalry averaging 4 or 5 miles per hour.

One of the more popular aspects of the DBA system is record keeping is not needed. Therefore, tracking munition sort and quantity will not be found in this variant. Testing, over the past months has demonstrated factors and range set by DBA-HX work well. Reading P. Griffith’s study of artillery ranges and effectiveness, neatly underscores this.
Move and shooting is still not allowed, but movement distances have been increased.

During the early part of the war, cavalry like artillery found itself in a support role for infantry divisions or parceled out at brigade level. As the infantry became effective with the use of rifles, the appearance of cavalry on the battlefield becomes redundant. Reconnoitering the enemy or screen the army while on the march and occasional raids were its primary role.
As the war progressed, we read larger mobile formations with own artillery operating away from the main army. Again, the Confederacy was to take the lead in this area.

Move distances remain 4BW for cavalry and mounted infantry. Both dismount to shoot, but cavalry should be efficient at doing this and mounted infantry less so. Further testing is needed as to how this is played.  

Skirmishers can be deployed in the same manner as infantry. While mounted, they may make subsequent moves as LH.

Shooting must be done dismounted. This follows a similar method as knights dismount to fight on foot at a cost of one pip. The process has yet to be tested, but there may be room for troops dismounting and shooting. Which troops may do so or if any movement is allowed will be seen during testing. To remount no other activity can be done and this costs a pip.

Next, command and control