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

Friday, 17 May 2013

VwQ – Plus Point – Simple Treatment of Casualties

A running commentary on my growing collection of fixes and tweaks for the Victory without Quarter rules for ECW/30YW games may give the wrong overall impression of my opinion of them, so I thought I might offer a very brief moment of applause for a change, to balance things up.

In my previous post I made vague reference to a “list of likes and dislikes”, by which I judge wargames rules as they come along. One thing I am not fond of, my friends, is any form of separate, hand-written record of casualties – especially of the early WRG variety, where it is necessary to record losses as the fractional parts of a figure – i.e. in actual men. The great big chart tells you that 14 figures throwing bits of muck into the wind on a Thursday have disabled one twentieth of a figure. Result! - amend your roster sheet - where is it? - is that it over there? - no, on the bookcase, under your reading glasses?

Keep adding the bits up and – if you live long enough – in time this will accumulate to a complete figure, and you can remove him, and start to tally the fractions all over again. We shouldn’t make fun of this – it was (and may again become) the state of the art, but you can really see why WRG replaced it with the much preferable arrangement where a roll of 4 or a 5 might kill one figure (H) and a 6 might kill two (HH - YES!). Much more like the thing. More like a game, rather than a book-keeping exercise.

I do not care for anything which detracts from the immediacy of the wargame, or which takes the eye and the attention away from the action on the tabletop. I also very much dislike pieces of paper which clutter up the battlefield – why do we fight with miniatures if it is not for the spectacle? My late friend Alan Gallacher used to impose a spot fine of 1 non-staff figure – to be chosen by the opponent, for every offending piece of litter on the battlefield – you may regard this as extreme, but a good-humoured application of this house rule made a great difference once everyone got the hang of it. And litter, by the way, included reference sheets and rulers as well as plastic cups, beer mats, mobile phones and so on.

All this means that I really like the Victory without Quarter arrangement for calculating and tracking losses. A unit attacking another unit causes a number of “hits”, and 3 is the magic number. For every complete 3 hits caused in a single attack, the target is given one casualty marker, which they cart around with them thereafter. Any odd hits left over are ignored, insignificant, forgotten about and not carried forward. Which means that, quite often in VwQ, a sincere and wholeheartedly delivered attack may gain only one or two hits – nice try, but no marker. Perhaps next time? There is also a special rule for artillery - any hits by artillery, even if insignificant in the sense of not gaining a marker, will frighten the recipients sufficiently to require a morale check. Nasty stuff, artillery.

When the number of casualty markers for a unit becomes equal to the number of bases, the unit is eliminated. We do not care whether they are all dead, or disarmed or simply discouraged – they are no longer with us.

Just the sort of uncomplicated arrangement I like.

...so you lose eleven-twentieths of your bishop...

Topic B

On a completely different tack, I had a gentle rebuke from my new car yesterday. I am still getting the hang of what it will do. I recall that my relationship with my old truck was similar when it was new - I accumulated so many mental notes to sit down with the owner's manual and look up things that puzzled me that eventually I just did it, and I learned a lot. This was quite a good approach, I think, though "approach" might imply more formality than was really the case. If there had been any underlying reasoning - which I doubt - it might have included the following themes:

(1) Owner manuals are not the sort of thing you read right through for entertainment. Brain-death will certainly follow.

(2) The manual will often refer to a whole range of models, plus variants, and thus tends to be a bit on the generic side - after you have read the 25 pages on the optional in-car entertainment system you find that you don't actually have it.

(3) These cars are invented by clever people - they must be pretty intuitive to drive, right?

(4) ...right?

(5) Real men do not read instructions before they act. In the noble tradition of (I think) Bugs Bunny, it is not actually necessary to learn how to land your aeroplane until after you have taken off.

(6) Etc.

And so, encouraged by my previous success with this so-called approach, I have gone about things in the same way this time. I've had the new vehicle for some 4 months now, and I still don't know why the heater will suddenly blow hot air at me when the outside temperature is 25 deg C, or what that weird orange dashboard light that looks like a pineapple means, or why quite a lot of people flash their headlights at me at night. Must check that, I keep saying to myself.

One of the reasons I behave like this, I am beginning to suspect, is fear. A primitive, superstitious fear of something which is cleverer than I am, and which - unlike me - is getting cleverer every day. The new buggy is the first one I have owned which will automatically switch on lights or wipers when it thinks you need them. It's quite fun, actually - feels like something of a luxury - but my initial reaction, before I became accustomed to the idea and forgot about it, was to wonder what particular problem this was solving. It is not difficult to switch on your own lights, as I recall, though on occasions you might forget to do so. Is the sensor which now makes the decision on my behalf just one more thing to go wrong? What if I get used to having my lights look after themselves and one day drive a vehicle which doesn't do this? Ultimately, am I more or less of a potential danger on the road? Hmmm.

I'm still a bit dubious about cleverness for its own sake. I embrace the ancient urban legends about an automatic emergency brake which, allegedly, was fitted to Mercedes' E-Class, and would occasionally decide arbitrarily that someone was having an emergency when in fact he was driving at 110 kph along the autobahn, chatting to his wife about the neighbours' new gazebo. And then there was the nameless experimental audio system which was designed to turn up the volume when it sensed that the background noise in the car had increased, which - again, reputedly - in some of its early versions became dangerously confused when passengers began to shout to make themselves heard above the music, and cranked the level even higher...

Yesterday my car played a joke on me. I believe it has recognised my basic insecurity. As I was driving home from visiting my mother, enjoying a rare moment of fine weather, it suddenly began making a chiming noise at me - very like the noise you might sometimes hear at an old-fashioned railway crossing when the gates are closed. No warning lights, no apparent problems, just this noise - and, since these things are built by clever people, you just know that this is not likely to be good news. Has the oil pressure zeroed? Has something awful happened to the hydraulics? Has the lambda probe (or some other dread gizmo) gone faulty, and the engine is about to shut down to protect itself? How much is this going to cost? Does the warranty cover labour charges? Is there, in fact, a train coming?

I got home without incident, though with further intermittent chimes, and was sitting in the car, worrying about it, when my wife arrived. She knew instantly what the problem was - her Volkswagen does the same thing. The car had sensed the parcel I had placed on the passenger seat, and when I went around corners it complained that this passenger it had identified was not wearing a seat-belt.

So that's all right then - but it might have given me some visual clue, you would think. The point is made - I shall show more respect in future. It is watching me.



  1. SHAKO is the same way.

    Part of why I like it I suppose.

    I also use the 'kill a figure - knock it over' approach, so it is really fast and easy to see what units are close to breaking. It also shows where the fight has been hottest on the field as the living bases march over the bodies of the dead.

  2. I think I can sum up my response to both parts of this post with one word. "Yup"

    However I should perhaps mention that I have now been relatively well trained to buckle up my parcels even if they don't actually fit into the seat belt, makes Big Blue feel less worried.

  3. My Saab gets very excited about parcels on the seats - but it at least has the good grace to display an appropriate warning light. My wife's Honda seems to not care about such things...