Saturday, 26 March 2011
CCN - thoughts on a Grand Tactical Variant
I find myself most of the way through a 7-day Cabbage Soup de-tox. For the uninitiated, or the non-believer, this is a no-coffee, no-tea, no-booze, hardly-any-carbohydrate, very-little-fat regime which will leave me feeling terrific and ready for a large coffee, a big steak with fries and onions and half a bottle of Montepulciano on Day Eight. In the meantime, I am existing on what feels like a single figure allowance of Kcals per day, which is disorienting. This has no relevance at all to the subject matter, but it may help to explain things if I suddenly lose the plot, or end a sentence with the wrong artichoke.
It must be the time of the year or something, but everyone seems to be writing or revising wargame rules. Not wishing to be left out, and (temporarily) not having the mental resources to think of anything more original, I am joining in with the trend. My particular angle on this came after my recent stocktake of in-hand projects (and I forgot to mention the translation of Max Foy's "Vie Militaire", which is making rather halting progress). The particular food for thought came from comparing my recently tested, home brewed MEP rules for Grand Tactical Napoleonic battles, with my experiences with Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (hence CCN) to date.
Interesting. The main contrast - immediately - is the order-of-magnitude difference in ease and speed of play. CCN plays like a game, rather than a post-graduate research project. It does not suffer from being bogged down in all the convoluted extra cleverness which it has taken me years to build into my own game. Some of the things which it does not have are a source of minor regret, since I have grown to be very attached to them (skirmishing, for example), but the negative side is pretty substantially swept away by the playability and the logical flow. I find that having CCN available (and I play it as a miniatures game, remember) means that I can regard my cupboard full of soldiers and the rest of the paraphernalia as a game which I can play whenever I wish, with the certain expectation of finishing, and finishing, moreover, while still in a physical shape to appreciate it. Previously, there has always been an element of my wargames - and I have always tried to simplify them as much as possible - of having a cupboard full of equipment with which I may once again attempt to wrestle with the problem of striking an enjoyable balance between fun and my personal finicky views on military tactics.
I am, understandably, not going to scrap my MEP game, or any of my other games, but at some hungry moment or other during the last few days it occurred to me that I could produce a slight variant on CCN which would handle most of the aspects of MEP yet still move with the swing of CCN itself. If the changes were minor enough, it could almost be viewed as a kind of scenario amendment to CCN. So let's regard this as a possible new game, not as a replacement for anything, and toss some ideas around. [Bear in mind that this is not as heretical as it might seem - study of the published CCN Scenarios makes it obvious that Waterloo, for example, must use a different unit size and implied ground scale than Rolica.]
These are a first-cut list of changes to the standard CCN game:
(1) The Command Cards mechanism from CCN - in fact just about all rules from CCN - will be adopted as a starting point, and adjusted as necessary. The actual pack of Command Cards will need to be checked - some of the cards will require some new definitions, or may need to be excluded (I haven't looked at this in detail yet).
(2) The scaling and grouping from MEP will be introduced. This means that, in general, a unit will be a brigade, and the number of "blocks" (bases in a miniatures game) will indicate the numerical strength, the identity of the blocks representing the historical units present - typically, a block will be a battalion or cavalry regiment. This immediately introduces the idea of mixed units, so some commonsense rules will be required to average this out where necessary. A couple of examples here: (a) my view of French Light Infantry in the Peninsula is that they were pretty much indistinguishable from Line, so a brigade of mixed Light and Line units will be Line; (b) the Anglo/Portuguese Light Division will have brigades which are entirely Light Infantry, with some Rifles blocks present; (c) divisional artillery attached to a brigade will be present at a strength of 1 block, and will not affect the troop class of the brigade (artillery may also be formed into massed or reserve batteries of up to 3 blocks in strength); (d) a 4-block unit which has 3 Guard blocks and 1 Line will normally be taken as Guard (etc).
(3) There will be some implied change in the ground scale. Movement will be as normal, but artillery ranges will be reduced to 3 hexes for horse artillery and 4 for foot artillery. Ranged combat will not be allowed for infantry other than Rifles. Rifles will be allowed ranged combat at a range of 2 hexes. I still have to think about all this, including drawing up new Combat Dice numbers for artillery. Bonuses and deduction for Combat should remain unchanged, though the number of blocks counting for dice should be limited to 4, to stop a large, poor quality brigade becoming unstoppable.
(4) The rule whereby a single-block horse artillery unit cannot move and fire is suspended - typically, batteries will have a single-block strength.
(5) I have no idea how to decide which block in a mixed unit (brigade) is hit - maybe the owner can choose? If the dice shows an artillery symbol, the battery must go if there is one. Needs work.
(6) Leaders/Generals will normally be deployed at Divisional level and higher – it might be that a detached brigade might justify having its own Leader. This will give a higher proportion of Leaders to combat units – to compensate, there is a change to the rules: you may attach a Leader to any unit you like, but he only allows them to ignore a Retreat result if he is in their chain of command. Also, it may be necessary to add 1 to the victory flag requirements to allow for the greater number of potential Leader casualties.
That's my very first thoughts on this. My current assumption is that the rest of the CCN rules stay as unchanged as possible.
More soon. I would kill for a cheese sandwich.