Saturday, 23 May 2015

Command and control.

Like most gamers who prefer historical games as opposed to Fantasy or SciFi the search for rules that get as close to replicating reality as possible seems never ending. Each new set is eagerly awaited in the hope of new mechanisms that will bring our games that little bit closer to the Holy Grail of duplicating the reality war. A hopeless task of course as our little metal or plastic men don't shed real blood. We have all experienced the horror of chipped paint or a broken bayonet but this pales into insignificance compared to the horrors experienced on real battlefields. This is, of course, not what we're after anyway is it?

The subject of Command and control has bothered me for some time. Dice rolls or the drawing of cards are two popular methods of helping to achieve realistic mechanisms for this key component for modern rules. They are popular because they introduce a chance element. Now this is all very well but just how realistic is it?

To take an example, i recently had my first ever game of  'To the Strongest' up at the club. This was a good old dust up between the cream of English Chivalry with their trusty Longbowmen at their side and the evil French. Now this was our first attempt at these card driven rules and we made several mistakes which may, or may not, have contributed to a glorious English victory. A second game was organised last week with the corrected rules being applied. This time it was a Macedonian civil war game. On this occasion i was a spectator to the action and was taking particular notice of the C&C rules and their impact on movement.

Now most people would agree that the armies involved in these games were made up of good quality troops. Why then did many of them spend a number of moves doing anything but what their general wanted them to do? Well the higher the card you draw for your first move the harder it will be to get your troops to make a second move as you have to get a higher card to activate a second time. This continues until you fail. The Black Powder type rules are dice activated where you need to get equal to or lower than the command value of the General on a dice roll in order to move. Anyone who has played these sorts of rules will have witnessed Brigades rooted to their starting positions move after move while their mates are advancing resolutely across the battlefield.

How realistic is all of this? Well not very is the answer. Command and control exists in real armies in order to ensure soldiers do what their commanders want them to do. Their training and discipline takes care of the rest. Now, of course, soldiers did stop doing what their commanders wanted them to do but i suggest this happened when they were much closer to the enemy than most rules allow for. I believe the catalyst, more often than not, would be enemy activity of one sort or another. The classic example would be a line of British redcoats appearing from behind a ridge and pouring a wall of lead into an advancing French column, stopping it in its tracks. Worked most times i believe.

So, whats to be done about this? I'm not suggesting that troops should go charging across our tabletops without any form of testing. Far from it. I do feel, however, that there should be some form of trigger in order for them to do so. I have one or two ideas that could be introduced into existing rules like Black Powder to make C&C a bit more plausible so i will have a couple of test games to see how they work out. Along with some other tweaks i think they could work out fine. 

Who knows but i may do a complete set of rules some day.

As if there aren't enough already eh?

Thanks for looking,