Saturday, 2 July 2011

Notes For Later

The base colours are now on the light infantry...

Cue blurry photo...

So what has been the highlight of your gaming year?

I ask because I noticed when clearing out my Spam box, an email from Mantic claiming that the Beta release of their rules is the wargaming highlight of the year.

I guess it is summer and therefore the season when film companies pump out brainless blockbusters - with tag lines about these movies being 'film of the year'.

Speaking of rules, I have been working on the rules for Back of Beyond - for obvious IP reasons they are not for Back of Beyond (but you get the point).

The last time I mentioned these rules I stated that I was moving towards a card system. But having zilch DTP ability. I have gone back to dice, and possibly tables for events.

Rather than prattle on about my inventive machanics, I wanted to make a note about the style of game I am seeking to create.

There is an excellent book by Martin Middlebrook, called the First Day of the Somme, in which he follows the development of the 'New Army' from the Kitchener recruiting posters to it's first use en masse at the Battle of the Somme. The book is an excellent historical document, but there are things in it that are rather contraversial - like British soldiers in the rear putting grenades in the pockets of captured Germans, a story that tends to upset veterans.

There are a couple of things in the book that stick in my mind, from the perspective of seeking to recreate the warfare of the early twentieth century.

The first is the issue of command and control. Radio was in it's infancy. Runners were very vulnerable. Telephone wires were liable to be cut by machine gun fire and shrapnel. And once a body of troops had gone to ground it was difficult to get it moving again, in part because once soldiers had seen a few comrades shot, they had a tendancy to believe the entire unti had been destroyed; when in fact when the unit regrouped the next day and the walking wounded had returned, along with the stragglers, the actual casualties tended to be rather light.

The myth is that the machine gun was king. And school children being taught the subject today have this myth reinforced. And indeed there are places where machine guns wreaked havoc. But this doesn't explain why on the extreme right where the 50th Eastern Division attacked with the French - using shoot and rush tactics - the Germans were shattered and in full retreat; and in the centre the Ulster division broke ordered to form line and march at 4mph (an order dreamt up by Rawlinson, supposedly because he could not concieve of any other way to stop the command and control breaking down) and rushed the German lines. If machine guns were really the all powerful weapon we are led to believe, then allowing for local factors, it would appear that tactically they could be defeated.

My aim is to build a company sized game, with @60 figures on each side - with more than one side on the table - and the question I have been wrestling with is how to reward good tactical practice, and not create a game with reams of paper tracking wounds, but also not involving a bloodbath.

The obvious answer is action points for the officer controlling each platoon. The better trained the troops the more action points they get. And equally to build a system in which players are encouraged to play cautiously until they have the action points to carry out a proper tactical plan.

The other aspect of early twentieth century warfare that is over looked is that the infantry platoo/section was not a single homogenous grouping of riflemen, that always acted as a sinlge body. So another thing I am seeking to encourage is that the player feels able - and is encouraged to do so - to split up their units to do specific tasks - recon, sniping, providing cover fire, ammo carriers, signallers, engineers etc.


It is time to put some curls in my flag....


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