More musings on a campaign game

By George Banic

Hi All,

I had promised to send in an article when I got my ideas sorted out, but I’m still in the process of developing my ideas and, seeing the enormous value I got out of our interactive discussion via the earlier thread, I thought to throw out my ideas so far and see what you guys thought, whilst hopefully sticking to the concept of keeping things simple.

For context, I’m looking at developing generic campaign rules for horse and musket/rifle era. I have 10mm figures/armies for the Franco-Prussian War and ACW, with the FPW based along the lines of Bruce Weigle’s ‘1870’ rules. For the ACW, I was going to base for the ‘Fire and Fury’ rules. My intent is to game battles involving multiple corps, typically three or more per side in a battle, and around three armies active per side in the campaign.

My initial focus is working out the mechanics for a single campaign year, assuming that winter puts a halt to any sustained large scale operations. Depending on the fortunes of war during the campaign year, the war may end through some form of negotiated settlement, or may continue unabated into the following year, and so on, for as long as either side can keep up the fight.

The Solo Wargaming Guide (SWG) by William Silvester appears to offer a lot of very useful and easy to use mechanics to develop nations, armies, cities, terrain, lines of communication etc. So I think I will have a very good baseline set of rules which I can tweak to capture some of the aspects of war I’d like to see replicated.

SWG has a simple mechanism to reflect national intelligence and preparedness for war, by dicing for the respective start of mobilisation. I think these are good enough for the KISS principle, but one overlay I’d like to experiment with is the effect of better intelligence (spies, informers, sympathisers, etc) to provide a better appreciation of the war plans of the targeted nation. For national (campaign) strategy, SWG uses the mechanism of determining three plans of action per side and dicing for the one(s) to be implemented. This can present some interesting results which would be entertaining to play, but what I would be looking at would be allowing the option for the better informed nation to respond to the opposition’s war strategy.

This option would also be affected by the competence of the national leader (or war council), as to whether they are able to effectively use the opportunity and act on the intelligence. Similarly, I’d like to look at mechanics to allow manoeuvres for deception, e.g. feint deployments, etc that may result in the enemy deploying forces away from the key area of intended operations.

The overarching goal of any additional mechanisms is to affect the ability of the respective commanders to concentrate their forces at the right place and right time to offer battle on the most advantageous terms (e.g. good ground).

Better situational awareness should allow a commander to fight on the most advantageous terms, depending on his competence and character (timid, rash etc).

The first step to developing that situational awareness is understanding the enemy’s war aims and strategy. The next level is the conduct of scouting/reconnaissance once hostilities begin. The KISS system usually compares respective light cavalry and gives the advantage to the numerically superior side ‘out scouting’ the opposition. This scouting advantage is usually translated into the out-scouted side having to deploy all forces first for a battle, with the superior scouting side able to deploy forces to best advantage against the enemy battle line. Any flanking attacks/movements made by the out-scouted side would be known to the superior scouting side.

One overlay I was looking at was the competence of the light cavalry for the scouting role. History is replete of armies being caught by surprise because their cavalry did not do their job of scouting properly. Hence, just looking at raw numbers of respective cav forces and giving the advantage to the higher numbers is a bit too simplistic for my liking.

Instead, I would be looking to consider the scouting competence of light cav formations and also the competence and initiative of their commanders. Another aspect is the ability to screen your movements from observation by enemy cav. My thinking is that light cav only can be used for scouting and both light cav and dragoons can be used to screen. Heavy cav such as Reiter, Cuirassiers and Carabiniers are shock cavalry and cannot be used for scouting or screening.

I thought to work out scouting results via map movement, basically putting a cross hairs on the centre of mass of each army and having four sectors that scouting/screening would be conducted in. My initial leaning is to have an ‘X’ shape to delineate the sectors rather than a ‘+’ shape, but this could be either depending on circumstances. Advancing through hostile territory where the location of the enemy is unknown, an ‘X’ makes sense, giving you a 90 degree front arc, two 90 deg flank arcs, and a 90 degree rear arc. Once contact is made, or prior intelligence indicates likely general enemy location a ‘+’ configuration may be better with the axis aligned to the anticipated location of the enemy, this gives two 90 degree arcs to either side of the axis pointing to the expected enemy, so scouting a 180 degree arc to your front, or where you expect the enemy to be.

Both sides would allocate cav units to conduct scouting and/or screening, with the ‘out scouting’ determination now driven by number of opposing units in the contested scouting sector, i.e. scouting units vs opposing screening units, modified by quality and competence of cav units and commanders. An ‘out scouted’ result leaves the failing army vulnerable to surprise attack, out flanking, order of battle and line(s) of march revealed etc. This allows the army with superior scouting with the potential to successfully manoeuvre to block or otherwise counter the enemy’s movement without detection by the enemy, limit or confuse the enemy’s knowledge of own location, composition and/or movement, allow the opportunity to attack a smaller and/or isolated portion of the enemy force before the main enemy force can intervene etc.

So the upshot of the enhanced scouting rules should be to provide an army with superior scouting ability with distinct advantages to either bring superior numbers to bear in battle against any enemy weak points or to offer battle on ground that maximises the tactical strengths of the army and/or minimises the effectiveness of the opposing force. But the competence of the Commanding General will also be a factor in whether the intelligence is correctly interpreted and acted upon.

That’s the gist of my initial line of investigation. I’m happy that I have suitable rules and mechanisms for the actual battle (and also looking to use Adjutant Introuvable for the non-player generalship). What I’m trying to capture are the key events/actions/decisions that lead up to the initial battle, starting from the decision of one side to go to war.
Will flesh out these concepts in greater detail over the next few days and hopefully play test them a bit too. I’ll let you know how I go.

Once I’ve got that sorted, the next line of effort will be the post-battle outcomes, e.g. pursuit, casualties, losses of supplies & materiel, POWs, morale etc. I haven’t seen all the videos on SWG on the Joy of Wargaming blog yet ( I think he’s done around 23 videos on SWG) but my initial take is that I’ll be wanting to beef up the existing mechanics, so have highlighted the areas I’m particularly keen to address.

Any thoughts/comments you guys may have would be most gratefully received and appreciated, especially if some or all of these ideas have already been addressed by someone and turned into workable game mechanics!!!



p.s. My apologies for some of the poor grammar in my previous emails, am using my smart phone and the auto correct isn’t that smart, or maybe it’s a bit too smart! Anyways, hopefully this all makes sense and I’ve corrected all the auto corrections!

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6 Responses to More musings on a campaign game

  1. Scott Hansen says:

    Hi George,

    your scouting/intelligence rules look very interesting. As side note, I got interested in 19th century European wars gaming over 20 years ago. I started with 6mm Crimean War using “Volley and Bayonet” rules. I then bought “Principles of War” rules and used them for the 1859 Franco-Austrian and 1864 Prusso-Danish Wars.

    Several years ago, I purchased “Bloody Big Battles” rules and have used them ever since. I felt these rules worked better for me than V & B and Pow rules. I ‘ve used them for 1877 Russo-Turkish and 1904 Russo-Japanese wars. I finally got to the point to using one ruleset for these wars. It got tiring learning different rulesets. I remember Bloody Big Battle rules mostly by heart so don’t have that much trouble hosting a wargame convention game

    Finally, I had the pleasure of participating in a Franco-Prussian War game at Historicon several years ago hosted by Bruce himself. I just remembered Bruce greatly simplified his “1870” rules. Interesting how our wargame rules choice evolve over the years.


    • George B says:

      Hey Scott,
      Great to hear from you! Will post something up when I can. I checked out the reviews on BBB and I like the sound of them, so may well be picking up the rules shortly. Am jealous you got to play a FPW game with Bruce, I have no chance unless I head over to the States! Which battle did you play and how was the terrain board? Hopefully you took plenty of pics, if nothing else his game would have been photogenic to say the least!

  2. Martin S. says:

    ‘Simplified’ is a GOOD thing, I think. As you suggest, learning all sorts of different rules is taxing, more so as years advance

  3. Paul Le Long says:

    George – I did a review of Bloody Big Battles a few years ago – you can find it on the reviews page of this blog (right near the bottom) which you might find useful

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