Friday, March 4, 2011

Command rules trial

I've had an idea regarding command rules, which have been lacking from our usual weekend games. The big games, like this year's Aspern-Essling bash,  have specific command rules for armies, corps and divisions, but we don't have anything down to brigade or even battalion level. After having played Black Powder, I've been trying to think of how some of its command rules can be adapted to our rules, called Cold Steel.

I like the Black Powder element of giving generals randomly generated attributes by rolling 2d6, which affects the issuing of orders, irrespective of the quality of the troops being led. In our weekend game rules, each side gets one divisional general and one cavalry general and that's it. These generals are cookie cutter types, each adding a +1 bonus to an unit the general is attached to for actions like attack, defense, morale, rallying broken troops etc. Otherwise, the general's presence on the battlefield is more or less irrelevant, the major decisions being made by the player without having to go through any command mechanism.

The rules I'm contemplating (and Tim and I will trial next Friday after I adapt them into our existing command rules) will require each brigade and each division to have a general, and for orders to be issued at the start of each turn. Each brigade or each battalion, depending on the level the order originates from, will need to roll against the ordering general's ability score on 2d6. If the result is below that general's score then the order is received and obeyed, but if it is above then the order is ignored, disobeyed or lost and that unit is free to do as it pleases, or continues with the previous order. Orders will follow the same structure as the big games, so a brigade or division will receive an order to attack, or defend, or retreat etc. etc. and that is carried out as best as circumstances allow. But if units fail to receive or obey orders, then cohesion breaks down and holes appear, leading to all sorts of table-top merriment!

The generals will also receive bonuses according to their ability scores which will be added (or subtracted!) from the units under their command when complying with their orders, as long as they are within a certain command radius.

Both these rule changes will encourage the cohesion of brigades and divisions which I feel is a more historical way of playing the game, as currently individual battalions can stray quite a distance from another under our current rules system (although, this can still be a dangerous thing to do!).

It should produce some interesting battles, I'm sure! Currently, the player with the better quality troops usually has an advantage if the numbers are relatively equal. With these rules, the potential is there for the best quality troops to be led by a general no one has any faith in, while the rawest, untried militia could be led by a real lion and be able to overcome it's handicap by the general's sheer force of personality.

The historical precedent for this in my view would be a battle like Albuera, where after deploying his troops, General Beresford took no real part in the ensuing battle, his brigade commanders taking over the tactical running of the battle in an extremely piecemeal fashion. This could be reflected in the rules by consistent failures for commands to go through by rolling above the commander's 2d6 score.

On the other hand, General Zayas was in command of the Spanish troops on the allies' southern flank and disobeyed his orders to redeploy to the north when he saw the threat approaching his position. He took it on his own initiative to refuse the line and deploy his troops into line and pour fire into the approaching French. He didn't try to do any fancy maneuvering beyond his troops' abilities, but kept them at their posts until the rest of the army could redeploy to meet this threat. This would be reflected in the lower quality troops benefiting from the increased bonuses of a general with a high 2d6 command score, which would be added to his command's morale checks and combat scores.

It may change the way the game is played, but I'm hoping for something a little more historical, but at the same time, more enjoyable, bringing an element of randomness that our rules currently don't have. I don't want to have quite the level of randomness that Black Powder has where the dice are the 3rd player, but I think the element of the Fog of War in our rules is missing to a degree. I still have to resolve a couple of outstanding issues before a usable draft can be trialled next Friday, but I'm optimistic that it'll work and that it'll improve our already enjoyable rules.


  1. Sounds an interesting idea, will definatly take away the helicopter view that blights so many games. I'm all for trying to give players that random effect. The last French Revolution game we played, Rich who uses his own rules introduced a fog of war. We didn't take any figures off the table, he just wrote the casualties down and we tried very unsuccessfully to remember them. I was very suprised as to how much this influenced us. I was the French and stood firing for a lot longer than I normally would have done, which is what should have happaned. Just an idea, give that a go.

  2. Interesting, I've often found that the most interesting command arrangements arise when you have a group of players playing. Team games really add a new layer of play to the simplest of games. It does rely on getting more fellows around the table though- not always easy.

  3. I play solo so I are forced to make a similar thing to that outlined by you. From my experience, try to devise a system in which the orders do not change every turn in a unrealistic way. Orders were not easily changed in the heat of the battle!
    Waiting to see the result of of your testing


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