Friday 2 September 2011

The Building Blocks of a Wargame....Part 1

I have mentioned the fact that I shall be using a roster system for the recording of hits/damage/reduction of combat ability with my block based war games. An alternative would be to use markers of some kind but I prefer the use of written record as this will also serve as a unit identifier during a game - an important consideration when using blocks. With this in mind I thought about the nuts and bolts of a unit and the things that make it tick in terms of battlefield performance and how this could be best applied to a single block in a gaming environment.

To my way of thinking the primary considerations when classifying a unit are size and quality. Size is straightforward  but quality is far more complex as it includes the degree of training, morale and equipment. I do not intend quantifying in finite detail these factors and I will happily fudge them to an extent. This is what I mean:

In respect of size a unit can be either at full strength, campaign strength or under strength. That is simple enough and taking , for example, an infantry unit this could be rated at, again as an example, as a strength of 4 when at campaign strength. Campaign strength means that the unit has either seen a little action or has been afflicted by desertions or illness etc to bring the numbers down. Taking this as a benchmark then, we could further say that a full strength unit is rated as a 5 (fully up to book establishment) whilst a unit that has suffered a lot of casualties either as a result of enemy action or disease is a mere 3.

It will probably come as no surprise that this is the approach that is very similar to that which is used within the Command and Colours universe as a standard infantry unit usually has a strength of 4.

Cavalry units through the ages have tended to be smaller than infantry and so the baseline becomes a 3 rather than a 4 whilst artillery is even smaller and uses a 2.

The sliding scale based on strength is also useful in other ways. It can also be used to reflect quality - either in terms of the troops themselves or their equipment. Again, this is not original as the Command and Colours system often bumps up or down the size of a baseline unit - usually as a scenario specific mechanism.

For me the biggest advantage of using such an approach is the simple fact that morale has already been factored in to the game and so for other than perhaps an army level test this is a mechanic that can be very easily ignored.

I am a huge fan of the entire Command and Colours system in terms of the combat system used etc but, and it is a big but, I am less convinced by the use of command cards. My intention is to use DBA style command points in some fashion, or perhaps something like Bob Cordery's activation points from his Portable Wargame rules.

Another advantage of the Command and Colours style unit strengths is that they are not scale specific i.e. the actual size of a unit or formation is irrelevant - it is either at full, campaign or under strength and so, in the case of infantry, has either 5, 4 or 3 hit points.

I will refrain from quoting the famous Meerkat at this point....;-)


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

David Crook,

This sounds very interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing how your rules develop.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Many thanks for the comment from your sick bed! I hope you are both recovering and will soon be back firing on all cylinders.

I have changed my technique slightly with this project as I am really looking at the basics of how and why we do what we do in a gaming environment - it has proven to be a very interesting experience.

I am planning to run a first playtest fairly soon and this will of course be reported on the blog.

All the best,


Jubilo said...

Dear Sir,
I enjoy your block ideas and look forward to your success.

David Crook said...

Hi Jubilo,

many thanks for the kind comments! It is early days as yet but the signs are very encouraging. I have the next batch of labels ready to fix to their blocks and am halfway through designing the vehicle symbols for the 20th century units.

As ever, all the progress (or lack of!) will be reported on the blog.

All the best,