Saturday, January 9, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Rules

Some people asked about how I played the Battle of Kuhglockchen, which rules. The short answer is it was pretty ad hoc. I didn't use any rulesset, commercial or otherwise. I've tried a few in the past year or so, but I haven't found any yet that fit the way I want to play. I'm still looking.

Some of the criteria I'm looking for:
Suitable for solo play (this has pluses and minuses - among the pluses, I can be flexible and make up stuff as needed; rules that require any sort of hidden knowledge are harder to do solo)
Quick (I don't want to leave a game set up for much more than a weekend usually, but I don't usually play it all in one non-stop session. I'll pause and take notes between turns. Go do other things, sleep, eat, etc.)
Very simple (I'm terrible at absorbing complex rules and just as bad at retaining them after reading through them several times; maybe if I played them more often I might eventually learn them. Still, I like simple rulessets to get started. Complexity can always be added later if desired.)
Fun (That's what it's all about in the end, isn't it?)
And they need to work well with few figures per unit (I don't have the time or space or even desire to paint and store and game with hordes of figures)

For this most recent battle I just made up most of it on the spot (based on things I have gleaned from various rulessets over the years, for various periods and genres) and will likely adjust and add to these ideas as I go. If I decided some circumstance called for a saving throw or other rule I made up my mind what it was and abided by the result. And I followed the same ruling if similar circumstances came up again later in the game.

Here are the basics (very "fast and loose" and subject to change):
Firing - each figure rolls 1D6 - a 6 is a hit (5 or 6 if it's the firing unit's first volley). Units in cover can save if they roll a 6. Others get no saving roll.
Artillery works the same way, roll 1D6 for each crewman - (5 or 6 if the target is close; not sure if that means 6 inches or maybe 12). Nobody gets a saving roll.
Range for small arms - 6 inches (more or less). For artillery - roughly 24 inches (very roughly).

Melee - each figure rolls 1D6 - a 6 is a hit if it's an even match (foot vs. foot, including artillery crew; or horse vs. horse). 5 or 6 is a hit when horse are attacking foot. Some cases a saving throw is called for - units behind a wall, or cuirassiers, for example. A roll of 6 on 1D6 is a save.

Movement - 6 inches for foot and cannons. 12 for cavalry. Takes 1 turn to go from the bottom of a hill to the top or to go through a small woods. I didn't bother with measuring though. Just guesstimated things.

Morale - If a unit's total number of figures falls below certain thresholds it rolls for morale at the end of the turn. For example, an 8 man infantry unit is down to 6 figures due to losses this turn. Roll 1D6 - pull back on a roll of 6. This unit can rejoin the battle next turn. Another unit is now down to 4 (from 8), they will run away on a roll of 5 or 6. This unit can attempt to rally (6 on 1D6) next turn. If they don't rally they run away another turn. If they're still on the table atfter the 2nd turn they can attempt to rally one more time. If they fail this time they're gone. Another unit is down to 2 figures (from 8) they run away on a roll of 4-6, remove them from the table. They don't get to attempt to rally.

In melee I didn't bother with trying to match up individual figures one to one (or 2 to 1). I just matched up units and rolled dice for the total number of figures in each. Only 1 unit can fight another from the front. An additional single unit can attack each flank (if they're in a position to do so). I didn't worry about ranks either. My line infantry units were on bases 2x4 inches in size, with 8 figures. So I rolled 8D6 for them in melee (or firing!). As casualties were removed units rolled fewer dice. I wasn't concerned about how many actual men each miniature represented. Number of figures in a unit were as much a measure of fighting ability - sort of like strength points. When the unit was reduced to zero figures it didn't mean 100% of the troops were killed (or even injured) it just meant the unit no longer had any capacity to fight, due to casualties, fatigue, loss of morale, etc.

I've been experimenting with number of figures per unit - back in the "old days" (before this blog) I tried units of 18-20 figures for foot units. When I started this project I realized 20 didn't work for me, so I tried reducing a little and doing 16 man units. After playing around a bit I reduced further to 12. The size I used in this latest battle seemed to work well for me. These small unit sizes allow me to do 28mm minis (I don't want to go smaller), but fit plenty of units on a small table. Larger units and "big battalions" are cool and impressive, but they take time and space I don't have. Fun games, even battles with a fair number of units can be had by reducing the numbers of figures. And it could be a good way to get started, for newcomers and for oldtimers trying out a new period. You could get started with just a few figures, and build units up later if you like.

I know this is all pretty nebulous, probably even a bit incoherent, and pretty sure not to everyone's taste, but it seemed to work for me as a purely solo gamer, fighting a battle to see how the story played out. In many ways it was more like "playing with toy soldiers" the way I did when I was a little kid, before learning there were such a thing as rulessets (or even rules!). It was fun!
Sometimes I even wonder if we really get more realistic results with more nuanced rules*?

*Is that heresy?


Tomo said...

Your description of what your "wants" are compared to what you have written appear to be in agreement! Fun, is always a big factor, and being played solo you can have that as you see fit :-)


Jim Wright said...

Work's for me.

Being happy playing the game is the important thing.



Chris said...

I find what you did for this battle inspiring -- I've done skirmish gaming for a long time and only recently have been trying to move into larger battles but have been daunted by army size, space requirements, time requirements and rules complexity. It's really helpful to see how someone else deals with similar issues. Thanks for sharing!


Yeah thats it FB. The Direktorat didn't like getting told what to do so they made up their own stuff too. Works well. We dont do rules in Herrschaden - we are the rules!


Bluebear Jeff said...

Simple and fun . . . what more do we want?

-- Jeff