Monday, July 5, 2010

A Little Housekeeping and Morale

I said I'd get some morale rules up over the weekend, so this is a little late!
Before we delve into them, I'd like to say that we are really making good progress on the rule-writing front; I really think something playable is coming into being. I think that I may have said it before, but I am happy to reiterate that this project has been a steep learning curve for me and that I'd like to thank our contributors who have sought to set me on the right track.
In the same vein, I would like to mark the recent passing of Paddy Griffith who has been my guide in coming to grips with the tactics of the American Civil War. Obviously I never knew the man, but my researches have led me to understand a little of his contribution to our understanding of not just the ACW, but many areas of interest.
That being said, I'd now like to take a very brief look at ground scale for the Grant Rules for the ACW. Now, it's explicitly stated in The War game Companion that Charles Grant took 1" to 25yards as his ground scale. With infantry weapon ranges being 24" this translates to 600 yards in "real life". An artillery maximum range of 24" comes also to 600 yards for canister fire and 60" or 1440 for ball.
My understanding of combat ranges for the ACW was that battle ranges for musketry were between 33 and 100 yards, whilst cannister range was about 300 yards which translate to something like 4" and 12" respectively.
How am I going to translate this to the table? I'll treat these ranges as the most deadly of the range bands for their respective weapons. Thus troops in the first band of the cannister cone will be eliminated on a 4-6, those in the second on a 5-6 and those in the third on a 6 only.  Similar arrangements will be made for other weapon ranges.
And now to Morale.
Going back to the responses to my initial post on Morale, I had some very interesting replies, paraphrased below:
Mosstrooper drew attention to CS Grant's new book "Wargaming in History Vol 1 " where there were some thoughts to be had on SYW Freicorps, which which are quite interesting as they deal with detachments; see my earlier post on morale for my thoughts on the matter.
Ion suspects the Grant rules might have included some kind of 'impact radius' for causes of loss of morale. For instance, suppose a unit is marching along when there appears an enemy unit emerging from some dense growth upon its flank.
If the flanking unit's appearance was very close to the unit, the whole lot might well flee. But if they were a moderate way off - bringing only half the unit within effective musketry range, say, then the adverse reaction might not be felt equally along the line. Effectively, Ion is presenting a "morale zone" that impinges whichever part of a unit is within musketry range, although, some other area of effect might do as well. It would operate when a unit is "caught" in an unfavourable tactical situation - an enemy unit appearing on a flank or to the rear.

If I read him right, he suggeats that this effect might be subject to attenuation, diminishing by a pip on the die per 4" increment up to a maximum of 12".
This sort of thing will be the more apparent when using extended skirmish lines, of single rank lines.
Positive effects might be equally subject to attenuation over distance - e.g. the control of officers.

What I like about this rule is that it allows part of a unit to break and run, especially when actin in very expended order.
Ross suggests a rule that might operate in this fashion:
1. A portion of a regiment may be detached but must include an officer. Once the detachment is separated from the main body by at least 6", it counts as a unit for morale. When a regiment is together, the officers count as normal for morale. When an officer is sent with a detachment, he counts as 3 points when the detachment tests morale, thus being more vulnerable. The main body counts the remaining officers as normal. % casualties are based on the detachments original strength.
2. If a sub-unit fails morale and retreats, it may rejoin its main unit if it can do so while retiring. Once it reaches the main body, it rejoins and adopts the morale status of the main unit.
3. Apart from the rally rules as per "The War Game", if a brigadier joins a unit he may replace any missing officer for morale purposes.
For myself, I'm still in the "undecided area". I like Ross's approach overall, but feel that I'd need to make it possible for part of a regiment to suffer a morale failure as Ion describes. If I can integrate that into Ross's take on the morale rules, I think I can be satisfied!

For the rules annex:

The other option would be to have fixed sub-units of 6 men, each including a corporal (just paint stripes). When the company is with the regiment the corporals do not count for morale but if the company is more than a move from the regiment then the corporal is worth 3 pts etc.


Archduke Piccolo said...

Most of the source I have encountered suggest that the battle range for rifled muskets was something in the order of 300 yards - roughly similar to the sort of range artillery canister came into action. The performance of the weapons might have been greater, but perhaps the weapons handlers were unable to do it justice?!

Having said that, the visibility in a lot of battlefields appears to have been a lot less than 30 yards, let alone 300. The Wilderness (May 1864) comes to mind, as does much of the Shiloh (April 1862) and Chickamauga (Sept 1863) battlefields.

My own ACW rule set had a similar ground scale, and my rifles reached out to 600yards (600mm), in equal increments representing short, medium, long and extreme ranges. But I have been seriously considering reducing this to 300 or 400 yards (3-400mm), probably with fewer, non-equal increments. My canister also reached out to 600, although it was much more effective under 300.

My smooth-bore muskets I allowed a very generous 300 yard range. As a unit so armed was firing at long or extreme versus a rifle-armed opponent's medium range, it would be lucky live very long in such a fire-fight. At the latter's short range, the S/Bs would be almost competitive...

In all that has been discussed so far, one has, I think, to decide whether, for the sake of some increment in realism, a particular rule adds enough to the game.

That is the reason I will soon be going through my own rule set - to cull stuff that I have come to regard as 'surplus to requirements'.
I have enjoyed these discussions. They begin to clarify my own thinking. By the way, if you are looking for a play tester, and since our ACW armies are very similar, I would be very interested in trying out your rule set.

Mosstrooper said...

One of the contributing factors for the decreased weapons range capability in the ACW is the nature of the terrain on many of the battlefields - heavly wooded areas limit the visibility for both artillery and rifles/muskets . You seem to be making good headway , keep it up !.

Old School ACW said...

Hello Gents,

I agree with you both viz the short engagement ranges of ACW battles. I wonder if this factor was not a contributor to the duration of the firefights which seem sometimes to have gone on for an inordinate time. I think Keegan in "The Face of Battle" linked proximity to violence. I think this is the key to understanding the high casualty rates of the conflict, despite the low probability of diabling hits per shot, duration of combat leads to high casualties if neither side will quit!

Ion, I am looking for playtesters - I have one group lined up (I hope) and gratefully accept your offer. I am hoping to have a v2 set of rules in the next few days, so I'll be in touch.



Archduke Piccolo said...

Great! Thanks!
I haven't read Keegan's book, but his thesis seems distinctly plausible. Years ago I read an account of the fight between 26th N.Carolina vs 24th Michigan (Iron Brigade) on the first day at Gettysburg. Both units incurred enormous losses, something of the order of 80%. The CSA Colonel was killed; the Union C.O. taken prisoner.

One might imagine '50%' rule would tend to mitigate against this kind of occurrence. I'm not so sure, though. Even with a 50% rule in existence in my own rule set I once saw a unit vanish entirely under a terrific concentric fire...

tradgardmastare said...

How do you think your rules here on your blog would adapt for mid 19th century european warfare?

I have enjoyed following your progress...

best wishes

Old School ACW said...

Dear Alan,

I don't see why they might not be adapted for any of the mid-nineteenth century conflicts. I have to admit though, I was a bit of a virgin before I started this project with regard to the ACW; that goes pretty well double for the other conlicts of the period.

I suppose your adaptations would have to take into account what you regard as the essential characteristics of warfare of the time. For example, I have been led to believe by my reading that in term of rate of fire, lethality and battlefield range that there was little to choose between the rifled musket and the musket. That battlefield ranges were short, often due to the crowded terrain.