Thursday, May 30, 2013

Empire and Skirmish, Part II

Voltigeurs to the Advance!
I recently had nice 2.5 hour drive, which I of course used gainfully by trying to crack the Skirmish question.

After much conversation with various members of the group and some good thinking time in the car here is my proposal:

The Skirmish phase, like bombardment. represents the activities of an entire hour of combat.  Any skirmishers involved, whether they win or lose, may not issue further small arms in the tactical combat phase (except for return fire, opportunity fire or supporting defensive fire).
The Skirmish "Winners":

  • The winning skirmishers may continue to act as screens in the tactical phase or can opt to withdraw to behind the ME frontline of formed troops prior to tactical combat.
  • The winners conduct their "free shot" per rules, limited only by max weapons range.
  • The winners suppress the opposed skirmishers allowing their side to advance and bring fire at full effect upon the enemy.  
  • Skirmishers involved (integral or otherwise) may not initiate small arms. 

The Skirmish "Losers":

  • Defeated skirmishers must withdraw and take casualties per rules.  
  • Defeated integral skirmishers form up with their units and may count for Infantry mass, but cannot deploy or conduct small arms.   
  • Skirmish losses for withdrawing screens can never be less than one figure, but in all other cases skirmish losses are rounded down.

When to Use Skirmish Combat:

  • When you wish to suppress opposed enemy skirmishers so you can bring fire on opposed formed MEs and cause casualties which degrade enemy combat performance  (without skrimish combat, skirmish screens cannot be forced to retreat without charging or advancing formed troops to point blank small arms range).
  • When your skirmish screen is unopposed, but you want to close with the enemy with formed troops or otherwise get a the "free shot".  Each victorious Excellent skirmisher fires like Old Guardsmen and each victorious Good skirmisher fires like a Grenadier (Crack Line for British) at point blank range, with little risk to themselves. 

Tactical Consequences of Rule Change:

  • Integral skirmishers that are used in Skirmish combat cannot be used to "bring fire" later on in the tactical phase.  To keep the initiative the parent unit would have to move extreme range and engage in small arms.  For Non-British trained armies, a 12 casting front line would fire/receive return fire at between 72% (Old Guard) and 12% (Conscripts/Landwehr), with average being 24% (Crack/Vet Line).  British trained would fire at between 72% (Guards) and 36% (Crack/Vet.), with Conscripts and lower being unable to return fire.  

This proposed change attempts to reconcile both camps.  Skirmish combat is retained, but integral skirmishers do not get multiple bites at "skirmish combat" per hour. No changes are made to the ability to screen for troops engaged in skirmish combat and a bright-line rule is established for what to do with integral skirmishers when they lose.

 I've added the option to withdraw behind the front line at the end of skirmish combat to clear the field so that MEs may bring fire more easily and keep the initiative. I also clarified how to deal with fractional casualties (as skirmish combat gives casualties at a flat % of a force).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Empire and Skirmish

My gaming club has had difficulty selecting a ruleset for Napoleonics.  Part of it comes down to Simulation vs Game.  Part of it is having to rebase or double (or triple) the number of figures needed (and associated expense).  And Part of the difficulty is the reputation of Empire (whether correctly or incorrectly) for being overly in favor the French.

After trying Empire III (for others amongst the group its re-learning) it quickly became clear that 1) the rules are not always clear and lack examples and 2) the charts/flow charts are clunky taking up a lot of space and do not always contain all the information/exceptions without reference to the rulebook.  At times it seems like Empire V is needed as reference help interpret what was meant in Empire III (were using III as its less detailed/more simplified)

All of which is background to how to handle skirmishing.  Can one cavalry regiment on an entire attack front neutralize skirmishers? Do retreating integral skirmishers that must "withdraw" have to stand down for the entire hourly round per the rules?  Should they be able to fallback to their units?  Can they count for infantry mass in close combat? Is allowing integral skirmishers to fire each impulse (1-3 times per round) on top of the skirmish combat round to much? (potentially allowing a single regiments skirmish company to cause up to 6 castings of casualties (360 men) per hour.

I've read 5 or so threads on the Yahoo EmpireNapoleonics Groups that go back and forth on this.  Here are just a few of the recurring thoughts:

*Empire V is terrible and Empire III's skirmish combat got it right!
*Empire is a Corps/Divisional game, the actions of skirmishers should be abstracted! and it Goes Faster!
*What do you do about integral skirmishers that must withdraw, what can they do as part of their unit for the rest of the hour?
*What should be the width of the skirmish determination be (this apparently changes whether you use Emp. III, Rep. to Emp., or Emp V.)

I'm not sure what the solution is as of yet.  The rules seem to work well for non-integral skirmishers, e.g. entirely unformed units.  They go out and do their thing at the beginning of the round and if they lose they stand down for an hour.  If they win they continue to screen the units behind, tie up enemy artillery etc. Without the skirmish combat round there is no "driving off" the enemy skirmishers, each side with skirmishers retains all the tactical advantages of them.  However, with integral skirmishers you run into issues with 1) what do with them when they loose; 2) does it best reflect skirmish conflict for both a skirmish round and then integral skirmishers being used tactically;  and 3) does #2 led to integral skirmishers being everywhere all the time beyond what is properly reflected in a single hourly round.

 At the moment I'm almost inclined to the Empire V, solution.  There was an interesting quote attributed to the Great S. Bowden on one of the threads to affect of "the fate and actions of a single battalion are of no consequence on the scale of Empire".

I expect there will be more discussion on this to come.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Leaderless: Calpe Command Set PC5

First Corps is currently up to brigade strength.  However, staffing out the command is progressing slowly.

I've been looking for a few figures for I Corps Reserve Cavalry commander Von Roder and accordingly purchased Calpe Miniature's Command Set #5.  I've yet to find a preview online of the figures such as at triangle miniatures so here I've attached a few photos.

From left to right: General, ADC, Trumpeter, General Staff Officer


The figures were without flash and the poses are great.  I was thinking of possibly even splitting this up and using the ADC for another officer stand.  But then a thought occurred,  I realized this stand might actually be great for an old Hussar commander like Zeiten.  Certainly with his old regiment under his command (1st Silesian Hussars) he might detach an old veteran or two to act on his staff.  The trumpeter in this set is in a hussar's campaign dress, wearing his pelisse.

And now a dilemma who should these fine figures get assigned to!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Council at Linden Heights

Way back in late March we played a lovely little AWI game and also agreed to structure and formalize our gaming arrangements.  AARs for our big games will likely be posted on the new blog over at

You can see the inaugural post and the results of the Council at Linden Heights here.

The Cause of Liberty Shall Live On!