Monday 27 May 2013

Thoughts on the Balkan Battle of Hook's Farm

Much as I enjoyed enormously game number 39 - the Battle of Kanca Ciftlik or Hook's Farm - it did give me cause to think about a couple of 'tweaks'. Bob Cordery's 'Memoir of Battle' is derived from a fusion of the Command and Colours system with a dash of Morschauser thrown in for good measure. As a game system it works really well and Bob's tinkering has produced a set of rules for the late 19th and early 20th century that are easy to play, fast flowing and with that all important 'feel'. He has also added a very neat solo version which does not use the usual command cards and it is with this adaptation that this post is mainly concerned. There are a number of areas that I would like to expand upon though - and I must emphasise that this is purely a personal whim - and these will form the subject of this post.

Exhaustion Levels

The exhaustion level is quite simply the point at which the army is no longer capable of offensive action. This is usually reflected by the number of strength points the army has lost - when it has accumulated casualties equal to or greater than the predefined exhaustion level the army may no longer conduct any offensive actions such as moving forward towards the enemy. As a general rule this figure is usually equal to around a third of the total strength points although I would tend to define this on a scenario basis.

Battle Back

The concept of Battle Back - whereby a unit that is attacked may immediately counter-attack depending on various circumstances -  serves to level the playing field to an extent in that an attack will require rather more thought than previously. I do not envisage using this for every type of combat - only that which takes place in an adjacent hex. In effect it could been seen as a local response to an attack. Ranged combat would not be effected by this rule so straight away you can see that the effect of such a measure would be ensure that under normal circumstances a proper fire plan against the target unit would be employed to 'soften' up the defences before an assault when in.

Saving Activations

With Bob's solo version of his rules the player rolls a number of combat dice to determine what units he can activate during the game turn. This is s simple and effective way of replacing the use of the command cards. However, it makes no allowance for activations being stockpiled for future use - or, put another way, command cards being held back to launch and sustain an attack in a particular sector. Using dice means that each turn can be very different in terms of what you can and cannot do.

The rule I am considering is this. A player may hold back activations for future use but may never use more activations in a game turn than are allowed by his commander rating - this is either 6, 5 or 4 for good, average or poor respectively. Also, when a player rolls for his current activations for his game turn, should any flags be rolled these will have the effect of reducing any 'banked' activations for each flag rolled. This will allow a player to gamble on building up a bank of, say, infantry activations but these could be jeopardised by rolling a hand full of flags.

I believe that this rule will have the effect of giving the commander the ability to plan ahead to an extent but it is not a 100% certainty. It is a gamble and could have potentially a battle winning impact but it could also paralyse a part of the army for no reason. When using command cards a player is able to hold back those cards that he thinks will give him a fighting chance of landing a telling blow in due course. Hopefully using the system outlined with the dice will have the same effect.

I am hoping to run another action next weekend to try these ideas out and of course I will report the findings on the blog.


The Ferrymen said...

Hi David,
Thanks for another interesting battle report. It could have used a little of the purple prose, IMHO.

My thoughts on your activation system are currently leaning this way:
1) Allow a side to convert 2 possible activation dice into 1 initiative chip instead of using those 2 activations that turn.
2) If more than half of a side's activation dice are unusable on a given turn, they get a free initiative chip.
3) An initiative chip can be spent on a later turn for an extra activation of any unit type.
4) Don't allow any unit on a side to activate a second time until all have been activated once; this will require some kind of marker to indicate which have been activated. Once all have been activated, remove all activation markers from that side.
5) An initiative chip allows a unit to be activated a second time, even if already marked as activated, but not a third time.
6) No unit can be activated twice in one turn under any circumstances.

This should prevent the Memoir 44-ish problem of all action being concentrated in one area while other units do nothing. But it should provide some ability for a side to focus on a critical zone, especially if they have cached some initiative chips.

Just my $0.02.
Thanks and regards.

David Crook said...

Hi John,

Many thanks for your comment the re the battle - I will make sure that the purple prose is in full flow next time!

Your ideas are very interesting as I had not considered the possibility of a unit having an additional activation in a game turn. This is something I will direct the brain cell at for my next game methinks!

All the best,