A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

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.


  1. Speaking as someone who gave up biscuits, cake and other sweets for Lent - I commiserate. I never realised how many cups of tea were involved in fixing a house or how I relied on biscuits to keep going when working nights.

    Keep the faith Foy - I believe in cheeses.

    On the subject of targeting units with multiple types of block in them, might I suggest that the owning player removes casualties. He may take blocks from the predominant type until such time as the number of blocks is equal. At this point, casualties are taken from each type evenly, but the owning player always having first choice.

    An inelegant explanation of a simple idea - stolen from For Honour & Glory.

  2. Thanks - that's a good way of handling it.

  3. That cabbage soup actually sounds tempting to me, since I have not been having that and only that for a week.

    I did go a whole month once on Ramen noodle soup and did get very sick of it eventually but not for detox and not for weight loss reasons, although those may have been side benefits.

    My reason was to only spend five dollars to eat for the month. It is an entirely different way of looking at the whole situation, and it worked. I did it to be cheap. I took pride in beating the food pricing system.

    For me the key to this is that it is psychological, and a different point of view is what made it work, five months and not just one week. Since it was about the money for me, I could accept small free foods from others and still be on my diet.

    Then I went over to a 30 dollars on food for a month plan, with more variety, and kept that up for four more months, when a lady from my work asked me why, and I could no longer justify my reasons.

    Next day we had a buffet lunch at the top of the John Hancock building and that ended the whole thing. I had lost 50 pounds, and saved lots of money.

    When she asked me why, I was confused at first because I had long since absorbed my own reasons and just got used to thinking all those other foods were for other people but not for me, my appetite had gone away and I did not want to start eating more again, nor could I since my stomach was smaller.

    All my reasons made no sense to her at all.

    And I had never made a contingency plan to counter the idea of what if a good-looking lady asks me for a lunch date, since it never occurred to me that could happen.

    So it was not a cheese sandwich nor any other food that broke my concentration at all, but a smiling woman and the spell was broken. I've been eating ever since.

  4. In my current situation, I can talk about food for hours. The soup is good enough - made it myself - cabbage, carrots, onions, celery, parsnips, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, leeks and a little bouillon powder. If it were a sensible soup, it would also contain lentils, barley and plenty of decent chicken stock - maybe some potatoes. The lack of these final touches is what renders it insipid and ultimately disgusting. I hit a low point yesterday, attempting to poke lumps of the stuff into the neck of my Thermos flask - it suddenly came to me how much it looks and smells like - well, vomit, actually (sorry about that). Today is better - I was allowed a little bacon and some tomatoes for breakfast, so that was cheering. Tonight I have some grilled chicken and some stir fry veg lined up (plus lashings of soup, naturally). Tomorrow is the last day, which is brown rice and veg (not very appealing) plus soup.

    It's funny the things you miss. I remember years ago when the BBC put a man on a deserted island off the West Coast of Scotland for a fortnight, and left him to teach himself to catch rabbits and find edible berries etc. At the end of what must have been a rather harrowing period he returned to the TV studios to report back. When asked which food he craved most during his exile, he said that he used to dream about Weetabix (a traditional rough breakfast cereal), though normally he would never have touched the stuff.

    You could have ordered Weetabix at the John Hancock, I guess. Secrets of a healthy diet are legion - I think that eating like a farm labourer, just because food is available and cheap, and then living as inert, sedentary a lifestyle as possible is what has produced so much obesity. I know you have problems in the US - it's getting to be the same in the UK. A few years ago my family took a holiday on a campsite in France - all nationalities - Dutch, Germans, French, Brits, even some Poles. You could tell the Brits a mile off - they were the fatties.

    Must go and put today's lunchtime soup through the liquidiser, so I can get it into the flask without nauseating myself.

    Yum yum.


  5. This chap seems to talk some sense: http://www.drbriffa.com/ Madam has me on a non-diet as, apropos your farm labourer analogy, I still ate and drank as though I was still playing 1:1 wargaming with the Territorials every other weekend, as I did in my twenties...