My in-house ECW rules, which I call CC_ECW, are derived from the Commands & Colors: Napoleonics rules. They are currently sitting at Version 2.67 (dated 24th March 2017 - they are downloadable from a link on this blog, somewhere over on the top right), and I was quite pleased that - thanks to some welcome logic-checking and proofing kindly supplied by the Jolly Broom Man - I had at last got all the various bits (meaning the QRS and main booklet, really) consistent as well as up to date.
Having reached that situation, it's actually a bit of a disincentive to make further change, but I feel there is a change coming along.
Following some recent correspondence with Peter Brekelmans, whose 30YW rules (which are also downloadable here, from somewhere around the same place) are more sophisticated and more complete than my own effort, I came back to the rather mundane, though important, matter of whether ECW musketeers should be able to move and fire in the same turn. This may not sound like complex stuff, but it does make quite a difference to the game.
I know they had some pretty complicated ways of arranging for musketeers to advance or retreat while firing, either by working the loaded chaps forward or by working the chaps who had just fired to the rear, to reload, but this was not really when they were going somewhere - it was more like a gradual adjustment of their position. To keep the essential simplicity in the game, I originally allowed musketeers to fire at half effect if they had moved in the same turn. Intuitively, I didn't like this. It might be justifiable in a Napoleonic context, but not for the ponderous, nightmare ritual of reloading a matchlock.
So I changed my mind. Version 2.67 currently says of Foot that
"they may stand still and carry out Melee or Ranged Combat, may move 1 hex and carry out Melee Combat, or – provided the move does not bring them into contact with the enemy – they may move 2 hexes but may not carry out any Combat."
That seemed more historically pleasing - and the option to get a bit of a shift on when not close to the enemy is very useful for bringing up reserves and other strategic matters.
Only problem now is that attacking has become a pretty thankless proposition. Approaching enemy Foot who are in line means being subjected to heavy fire while being unable to reply. Why, one wonders, would anyone bother?
Now I'm sure that this is handled well and correctly by most of the established ECW rule sets you can think of. The tricky bit is doing something about it without damaging the intrinsic (tick tock) simplicity of the C&C mechanisms. During the period when I tried to educate myself to like Victory without Quarter, I got the hang of a rule whereby a unit which wasn't doing anything else could be assumed to reload - all by themselves - without a specific order to do so from the Earl of Essex (or whoever). In execution it was a little fiddly for my taste, but the idea was nice.
So I've been thinking about it, and I think I have come up with a minimum-effort adaptation to go in Version 2.68.
How about this?
When a unit of Foot fires or takes part in a melee, it is immediately handed a black counter (or a little puff of cotton-wool smoke would be rather cute) to indicate that it will have to reload before it can fire again. At the beginning of the owning General's next move, when the Orders are being handed out (activation from Command Cards - and I give the ordered units markers to keep track of where I'm up to) - once all the Orders have been allocated, any unit of Foot which has not been given an Order, and which is currently unloaded, may hand back their unloaded marker (or puff) - it is assumed that they will, all by themselves, as trained, reload, since they are not doing anything else this turn. If they are unable to reload (because - that's right - they are busy carrying out an Order to do something else) then they must stay unloaded, and they cannot fire until they have had a chance to do something about that.
It will, of course, be worded rather more concisely, but you get the general idea. My original idea was that this should only apply to units which fired, or carried out Ranged Combat, as they say in C&C. But a lot of melee action must obviously have involved firing muskets, or at least bashing the daylights out of them, so I felt it would be appropriate to assume that any kind of Combat would require a reload. Which then leads to another thought: should unloaded units be at a disadvantage if they are involved in a melee? Well, maybe they should. I might consider deducting a die in melee for an unloaded unit of Foot, or - more simply - just gloss over it and allow them to melee as normal.
Still thinking about that one. It also occurs to me that a unit which is already in a melee shouldn't be able to reload while standing next to the enemy, even if they haven't been given an Order to fight this turn - I can't see them doing a very good job of it.
OK - that's shaping up - I need to try it out, and I need to identify all the places where the rules need to be changed, so that Version 2.68 is as shiny as it's predecessor.
And then I thought - what about dragoons? And I said to myself, ignore them - they can already move and fire, and in any case they do not have much of an effect.