Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

By Rob Morgan

It’s marvellous to see that Brian Cameron’s delightful article on C19th warfare and command has appeared in the series on how soldiers fight in The Foreign Correspondent (No.134, June 2022). It was first in Lone Warrior 213, of course.

Brian divides his generals into six broad types: Incompetent, Cautious and Rash, on the negative side, and Competent, Bold and Gifted, on the positive. It got my little grey cells working and I found a rather old, anonymous page of comment and rules, well, a handicap system really, in a 1989 copy of Miniature Wargames … I’ve never seen anything like this system!

Brian’s six types are easy enough to tie in with most wars in modern history, from Bonaparte’s to the Boers’. Even as far back as Burgundy’s Dukes, you can identify the ‘rash’ or ‘bold’ commander, but the 1989 notes suggest throwing a d10 to select a ‘physical condition’ (hm?) for the C-in-C. The writer sticks to the top brass and suggests that it’s a suitable option for the solo player

So, you roll, and throw:

  1. General is drunk. Throw again after 3 turns to see if he passes out.
  2. General is hung-over, his own guns close to him can’t fire.
  3. General has piles, limited movement, half scouting points.
  4. General has gout. Movement at quarter speed. Can’t cross broken terrain.
  5. General has a migraine. Can’t move at all. Throw for recovery after 2 moves, then 4, etc.
  6. General believes he is invincible. (Rash?) Must lead from the front.
  7. General has paranoia. Trusts no-one. Extremely cautious, fears plots.
  8. General is a psychopath. Must eliminate the enemy at all costs. Obsession with attacking enemy C-in-C.
  9. General is unstable. Rash, dangerous, ignores scouting, alters orders between moves.
  10. General has phobias. Terrified of specific features of terrain, water, bridges, or of specific enemy troop type (lancers, rifles, etc.).

When I thought about it, it’s not that difficult to find commanders of any of the dice-rolls listed in, say, Bonaparte’s wars, the American Civil War, Seven Years War, or across conflicts in many other historical periods. The Thirty Years War is a fine example. Just a couple of leaders as a suggestion: Cornwallis had gout at Yorktown, Boney’s piles did great harm at Waterloo, Alexander the Great was a serious drinker, and Julius Caesar had epileptic fits.

Me? I’m ‘Gifted’, well, usually.

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1 Response to Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

  1. Brian Cameron says:

    I happened to meet up with Ralph Weaver at the London Toy Soldier Show and he was impressed I knew how to pronouce ‘Schleswig-Holstein’. When we got talking he asked if he could re-publish the article and as he was willing to give credit to Lone Warrior I agreed.

    I think the character of commanders, including unit commanders as I’ve written about previously, is very important in games – I keep meaning to try a game with just the commanders represented.

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