Monday, June 17, 2013

Empire Campaign System

A week ago after an impromptu game I got to demo test the Empire Campaign System on a limited basis.  This is a fictional scenario with two identical forces opposing each other across the Elbe.

French Advance from Leipzig;  Prussians deployed to observe Torgau and Wittenberg
French Cavalry Crosses the Elbe; Prussians in the Dark

Prussian Light Cavalry Bde (Landwehr!) manage to observe the French Cavalry Corp.
In the fading light the Saxon Cuirassier are identified.  The French, being expert light cavalrymen manage to detect that there are cavalry out there somewhere... they think...
French push the Landwehr  Cav. Bde back
French Infantry Corps get tangled up in the bagged train of the Cavalry Corps at Dessau slowing their crossing of the Elbe.  The contact intel has reached the rest of the Prussian army and they start to concentrate.
French call it a day 9:00 p.m.;  Prussians take extra movement/fatigue and night march.
The lead Prussian infantry corps attempts to surprise and push back the Cavalry from Rosslau--and fails miserably and is forced back with light casualties.
Prussians spend the night concentrating.  A regiment has swept the left bank of the Elbe from Torgau to Wittenberg and another Brigade is sent to watch the minor road to the north that winds its way to Potsdam.
Prussians are resting off their fatigue.   The  French are waking up, eating breakfast and spend their extra movement so they can walk on the field in battle formation.  Battle Starts at 10:00 a.m.  with the French advancing upon Koswig.
A Infantry Corp and a Cavalry Corp are holding Koswig.  The  French  are fully concentrated with two Infantry Corps and one Cavalry Corp. The Prussians are playing for time.  A fairly fatigued Infantry corp will arrive at 12 noon.  (The lead Prussian Corps could have tried to get some fieldworks dug, fatiguing a LW battalion significantly, but forgot to do engineering)

Some Observations on our first go:
  • The map needs to be enlarged for easier movement (even the the small card markers get unwieldy quickly as forces concentrate
  • Paperwork will be significant and all the more reason to try to find ways to offload some of the work onto a computer
  • The movement seems to be a bit off.  For the map itself with so many rivers and streams movement might be limited to something more reasonable, however on a major road with no defiles or rivers you can march an infantry corp 30 miles a day without incurring straggling or significant fatigue that couldnt be slept off in a single night.  
    • Now a 30 mile day is certainly possible, but seems a bit much for your "average" especially since it would not trigger any straggling.  Every 4 hours of normal marching gets you 3 fatigue.  Straggling doesnt kick in until 12 fatigue.
  • Doing the campaign would require a pre-"game day" session as it would take sometime.
  • The campaign system is pretty amazing in that it covers just about everything, including disease, straggling, engineering, hospitals, trains, supply, reconnaissance 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Command Failure

Our last 3 Napoleonic games have all featured command blundered that significantly altered the course of events on one of the flanks.  Many rules feature some sort of command and control system that adds in arbitrary "failures" which prevent commands from reacting (or reacting in an unexpected manner).  Often command leader failures lead to frustration--I've certainly experienced it--but I don't think a set of rules is complete without it, notwithstanding the many variations of "they're 200 yards apart of course they will advance together!"  As the title of this post suggests, I'm embraced my inner Dr. Strangelove and embraced the Command Failure.

Austrian's sitting pretty, but watching idly as their comrades are routed.
My club played two games over memorial day weekend and on our rest day in between, I was poignantly reminded of why command friction and failure is so important.  First, off a disclaimer... I have no military background nor do I have expertise as a military historian in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  However, I have had the opportunity, the pleasure, and the sometimes headache of organizing and leading small to large groups in various PvP (player vs player) MMO or FPS settings, which recently reminded me just how common command and control failure is--even when everyone involved has the equivalent of a radio strapped to their heads.

This past Saturday (between our miniature games) was a minor affair.  A skirmish between two sides of approximately 10-12 combatants each.  I was leading a slightly outnumbered group in defense, awaiting for allies to arrive.  Long story short, the allies approach is noticed by the enemy, who conveniently string themselves out chasing our allies.  I manage to redirect my force, rally them, look back and confirm everyone   was on site, then called for a "follow me".  I tear into an orchard, find the enemy's flank/rear in a perfect opportunity to divide and conquer the larger force and charge.  I quickly realize once the our foes turned to face us that the only person with me is my sub-commander/NCO (who up to this point I always had bringing up the rear ensure our coalition force remained together).  Instead of wiping out our foes we end up trading kills man for man.  The rest of my force was off in the woods chasing a lone straggler.  Command Failure.

12th IR taking advantage of Marshal Ney's command and control failures
and rolling up Girard's division. 
I've been playing PvP games for 15 years as a commander, NCO, and grunt.  I've commanded numerous skirmishes on the order of 10-75 combatants, a handful battles (often defensive sieges) closer to 300 total combatants.  I've been an NCO in battles and coalition political leader in combats of up to 1000-1500 and I've been a grunt "trigger-puller" in battles involving up to 3000 players.  More or less in everyone one of those contests the leadership/commanders job was 40% preventing internal friction from splitting up the force (and giving the enemy easy kills) and 60% worrying about whatever the enemy is doing.  (Smaller more veteran forces proportionally shifts that balance more heavily in favor of the enemy--and really takes the load off the man at the top).  Much of the cohesion issues in PvP gaming is player stupidity, desire for independent action, and quick kills.  In historical gaming/simulation our rules are attempting to model our figures putting a lot more on the line than pixels.

Which is a long way of saying I was once again reminded How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Command Failure.