Thursday, 14 June 2012

Army-Corps-Division-Brigade-Battalion; Considerations of Gaming Thereof

I have been tormented over this vision of army level games and how to achieve them - more specifically the whole Volley and Bayonet piece. In a nutshell the whole concept is exactly what my block armies have been designed for and so once I can tweak a hex based version then the resultant potential is enormous. It is no secret that I have some long term ideas around campaigns of various sorts and this system is exactly the tool to use to fulfill that desire. Of course the version I cobble together with feature a number of personal changes - not least of which is the fact that I will be dispensing with bases and also the use of a roster will be somewhat different from the original rules themselves. I plan to have a block per strength point and when one is lost then a block is removed. the roster will be for the order of battle and for detailing any special abilities the unit may possess and also the all important chain of command. At the time of writing a couple of potential sources of the rules have come up and so it will only be a matter of time before work can begin in earnest on the hex based version.
Mention of the block armies has given me a smug warm and fuzzy feeling because in choosing to go down that particular path, unusual as it may have appeared, I now have a system that can easily be used to represent anything from a platoon level skirmish to an army corps engagment and with none of the problems of scale considerations that routinely bedevil games using figures. The 3d military map is now a 3d board game in all but name.
For games at the level of Memoir of Battle (which I like to think of as being at brigade or divisional level) I am sorely tempted to use my C and C Napoleonic blocks or any of those pictures available as labels from the Junior General as, and I am not saying this with my tongue in cheek, the visual appeal of images of actual soldiers on a block looks far better than the purely military symbols at the level they are being used at. In practise this will mean a rethink about games at the lower level as I will not be looking to build generic looking armies - rather I will be tailoring the set up on a campaign specific basis. In reality at the present time I shall concentrate on the Napoleonic period and possibly dabble in the Ancient period using the C and C blocks as they are very attractive, for the most part readily available and they cover most of what I would need in the short term. The next expansion for the Napoleonic set is, I believe, the Austrians and both the Prussians and Russians will follow in due course.
Does this represent a sea change in anyway? I am inclined not to think so as all I have done is to shift my emphasis slightly. The blocks will still feature on centre stage and will continue to march and fall on many a stricken Hexon tile - all I am planning to do is to vary the method of delivery slightly. In a very rough and ready way the plan then will be to use the conventional blocks for my army level games or for Memoir of Battle where I do not have anything more attractive. The C and C blocks will stay firmly at the brigade/divisional level (or for any Ancient adventures I may dabble in) - as will any of the  junior general  kit should I use it.

For the record - this does not really qualify as a new project, rather it is a variation on an existing one and as usual, if I keep telling myself that then eventually I will believe it!


MurdocK said...

I can certainly see your blocks as useful in the Army - Corps - Division - Brigade - Battalion forms of use.

Once you move to smaller, skirmish, formations of Regiments - Companies - Platoons - Sections - Files then I can see the 'symbols' use of the common military map becoming more complicated to use.

I am recalling the Avalon Hill games series, Panzer and Squad Leader (as opposites) showing the complications of using the symbols (in Panzer) and the little men diagrams (for squads) in Squad Leader. While each game is actually in a different 'scale' (SL being larger scale thus smaller area of map represented) the use of the 'map symbols' was confusing to many in the Panzer series, while the same symbols could have been used in SL - the designers understood that to do so would have made the action less visually appealing and taken longer for new players to understand it.

What I am getting at here is your blocks may have a limit to the 'style' of game they can represent.

I feel that the Army - Corps - Division (or 'inspection' as the Russians called them) is an ideal level for using the blocks. Getting into the Brigade - Battalion level starts to introduce the more specialized units. Different artillery or skirmishing capabilities - things that are simplified in the larger formations become important to the smaller ones as this is how they fight. It also changes what the level of command must pay attention to.

Wellington never really commanded the sort of armies that Bonaparte or Kutusov had to. Once you move into the stratosphere of Army command with 4-12 corps or 80,000 to 400,000 men the considerations of 'how you think' about the fighting capabilities and what you do with the formations is totally different from commanding 3000 men of a Brigade, or 800 of a Battalion.

I have used blocks, flags, leader miniatures and now cast 'eagles and lions' to represent corps on a strategic map for planning out the actions that will later be represented in miniatures to play out the tactical battle.

I have found that the tactical battle has more appeal with the miniatures - tactical being anything from Corps level to a company skirmish - being used to game out the action on the tabletop. Far more players are willing to engage with the painted minis than with the more technical 'blocks' or counters ... even though the strategic campaign is the more 'important' or historically accurate place to focus - it usually does not have the same quick visual appeal.

David Crook said...

Hi MurdocK,

You are absolutely right about this so using the C an C blocks for lower level actions makes a good deal of sense. The Junior General has umpteen suitable types for use with the blocks at this level and I fully intend making use of some in time. The military symbols are fine in many cases and I am certainly very pleased indeed with them - in fact the Volley and Bayonet project will use them exclusively. Funnily enough I think they look fine for moderns and so will use them for those games as well.

All the best,