Friday, November 27, 2009

Horse Musket and Gun

Over the last couple of days I spent many hours pondering, considering, postulating, pontificating, and slamming my head against the wall over Horse Musket and Gun. There is no question that the rules are very close to the finished product, yet a couple of small incidental little "bugs" or quirks haunt the game.

In reviewing the previous versions of the rules, I am on the ninth rewrite and I have yet to really finish on version, I am really at a loss as a consider how close I am, yet how far away I feel. I kind of like running a marathon (Well I guess it is like running a marathon since I have only run a couple of half marathons) 25 miles down, 1 mile to go, but you may as well have another 25 miles for as little as in your tank.

Let me recap my problems:

Artillery the queen of the Battle Field is over powering the game. It is too effective. I know that for at least one of my loyal readers that probably doesn't seem possible. Yet Artillery alone stopped two brigades of Prussians and held a Division of Austrians at bay in the last game. In the game before that a couple of batteries at long range messed up the French defense so bad we might as well not have played. So the question is why is Artillery so effective? Good Dice, Cautious players, is Bombardment to effective, are players miss reading the charts, are the ranges to short?

I at first played off the Austrian Artillery as just good dice and might have played off the French Artillery as good dice, but it wasn't. Well at first for the French it was, but simply rolling 10, 11, and 12s was enough to hold off a Austrian Division

The Austrian players in the last game were a little worried about a few fatigue, yet the Prussian players attempted to push forward, and in the other game it was offensive Artillery fire.

In the last game only the Russians put a heavy battery in bombardment, the French never considered it.

I went through the charts two dozen times, it seemed like the French were reading the charts properly. However the scale of the game just put them in to long range early on where distance modifiers didn't seem to matter. Okay I cover the last two options in one paragraph.

I suppose there is another option, there could be too much artillery, however we are representing who batteries that actually existed in the period, I mean in 1812 we'd also have French Regimental Guns for a number of Corps, that just gets to be too much, but that isn't the period we are currently playing.

To me it seems like it is a combination of all factors are conspiring to make artillery to effective, so the question is what to do.

I have over the past several months making it more difficult to move Artillery, requiring Divisional, Corps and Army Assets to have an ADC attached to limber and reduced the prolong of all artillery. But that makes Artillery more difficult to move not less effective when it fires.

So what else can I do?

In Bombardment we are change x2 fatigue to +1 fatigue. This still makes Bombardment 33% more effective and since fire is completed before movement can be an effective measure on either the defense or offense.

I am looking at a way to reduce or should I say remove the fresh marker on artillery. I had considering giving artillery a different kind of bonus, but my goal has always been a simple game without 97 different bonuses or modifiers, but I seem to be getting that way anyways. So rather I am proposing removing the Artillery's Fresh Marker at the initiative stage (which I am renaming Administrative) on any turn the Artillery fired in the previous turn. I realize that in some game play the players may take advantage of that, but trying to monitor three phases seems too difficult. So after some thought my suggestion is to a check in the Administrative Step in turn after the artillery battery has fired the turn before. On a pass no changes, On the first pass the artillery loses its fresh marker, on the second fail it takes a -2 low on ammunition (which can be removed via a pass in the next administrative step.)

I am going to adjust the ranges of the artillery, shorting the ranges for Effective and Long Range, while increasing Extended and Extreme Range to make up the difference. I have pulled up the work of Chandler amongst others to evaluate what distances are, rate of fire, rounds in the caissons, and so and so forth.

A 12 Lbs can fire canister 500 yards. However its overall effectiveness decreases by 50% for every 100 yards (see Chandler). So if Canister is 100 percent effective at 0 yards it is 50% effective at 100 yards, it is 25% effective at 200 yards, 12.5% effective at 300 yards, 6.25% effective at 400 yards and 3.125% at 500 yards. So how would you map this out on the tabletop? In the 1830's the British Army did an extensive study on Napoleonic Artillery, I never understand why people always study the last war, rather than preparing for the next war, however I am going to refer to this test.

At 0 to 100 yards a single blast from an artillery battery would effectively kill or injury 64 men, at 200 yards this would decrease to 32 men, and at 300 yards 16 men, and so on and so forth. The rate of fire is approximately 1 round every minute, and Artillery only had a high point of slightly more than 95% effective at 0 yards (miss fires, bad powder, shells exploding, or worse guns exploding) With all this I created a complicated spread sheet modeling fire, and I got to say I was surprised at how well it lines up with the British Documents. In all I shortened the ranges of the artillery, Light Artillery ranges are changed to 0-4, 4-8, 8-20, 20-40, Medium Artillery 0-5, 5-10, 10-25,25-50, Heavy Artillery 0-6, 6-12, 12-30, 30-60 for Effective, Long, Extended, and Extreme.

Another change is to increase the bonus to +4 for effective range, this make the math against the chart work out to where I would like it to be. This is one of those changes simply to make all the math work out.

The way this works out, at Effective Range with a Fresh Heavy Battery should be doing 2 fatigue per round (10% no fatigue, 35% 1 Fatigue, 35% 2 Fatigue, 16% 3 Fatigue and 4% for 4 fatigue).

Another minor change, counter battery fire was so common in the last couple of games (with so much artillery on the table and as effective as it is) I have added the requirement that only Artillery on Bombardment orders can fire counter battery fire. Again I refer to both the writings of Chandler (and Richard Hook who I am sure is using Chandler as his source) that it took an hour of extensive fire to silence an enemy Artillery Battery, too few targets in too large of space. Followed on with "brigade batteries" rarely (if ever) fired upon enemy artillery because they were more concerned about supporting the infantry in case of a surprise attack or in case of a charge. To me this is a case that it happened so rarely that you probably don't need to model brigade batteries and should be concerned with divisional, corps and army assets. And we already have a solution for that, bombardment.

The Math on this puts most attempts in the -3 to -5 modifier range (55 to 45% effective doing 1 fatigue or no fatigue on a roll of 11). This also adds in the fact the counter battery is usually two batteries against one hits the fact that 3 fire phases should produce 2.7 to 3.4 fatigue, which I think is right in line with where it needs to be.

I am also reevaluating my Scenario, instead of allowing the defender 18 to 24 inches to deploy I am reducing the deployment zone to 6 to 12 inches. This puts more of the board in play and hopefully allows the attacker to better prepare an attack while under minimal fire.

So to recap

  1. I have increased the modifier for fire in the Effective (Shortest Range) by 1 to +4
  2. I have decrease the ranges for Effective and Long Range to be in line with British Study in 1835
  3. I have now requiring Counter Battery Fire to be in Bombardment Only
  4. I am changing my scenarios to give less depth to the defender.

Let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

I for one have no problem believing artillery is effective in the rules. I also have no problem believing that you can hit the magic 4 fatigue points and with decent die-rolling make all that damage miraculously disappear.

But I digress. With regard to artillery fire, a couple points:

The average engagement range for artillery bombardment was between 1000 and 1200 yards... we can call it 3/4 mile as a rough estimate. At this range batteries were not concentrating on single units, they were simply throwing cannonballs at enemy formations with the intent to intercept as many units as possible. The idea was to soften up the entire front line of a formation rather than to obliterate individual units. Perhaps instead of allowing a battery to hammer a single unit, long-range bombardment should be modeled to try and hit as many units in a given frontage as possible, with the intent being to remove as many 'fresh' markers as possible and spread some fatigue around. This would both keep units from pounding the crap out of single battalions and also give the defending CO more problems to deal with since he cannot just dispatch an ADC to the 1 or 2 units with 4 fatigue on them and start rolling it off. Having 4-6 units with 1-2 fatigue each presents a different problem and would hopefully encourage generals to take better care of their units.

What's the ground scale for the game? Assuming you have cannister out to 500 yards, is that considered the far boundary of 'effective' range or 'long' range, since you mention cannister in both those range band descriptions?

I agree that counter-battery fire should be a venture with a low probability for success. It should not be seen as a good choice to make for using one's artillery. Bombardment of enemy foot & horse units, on the other hand should be something done often IMO.

As far as how much artillery to represent on the table, that's a game design question. Are you more interested in accurately depicting every formation in a given brigade/division/corps, or are you more interested in having a game where everyone has a good time and it moves quicker? By 1812 or 13 the ratio of guns per infantry went way up and that will have an affect on the OB's and how the game plays out.

For the 'fresh' marker and artillery, I can see your dilemma. Either remove it altogether or maybe have the guns test somehow after each round of fire to remove it? After a few turns of serving the guns, artillery crews will not be 'fresh' even if no-one has attacked them. It's hard, nasty work.

For deployment zones, I've run into the same issues in my recent games. Giving the defender too much depth hampers gameplay, but not enough means that they can get pushed off the table after the first turn of combat. I can only imagine that this is even worse with the 25mm figures and the depth issues it presents. Assuming a rout move is the same or greater than column movement, with 6-12" of depth available to the defender all routers will run off the table. Unless you reduce the ranges for fire & movement, I think you're stuck.

Glad to hear your big game went well.


Jeffrey M. Johnson said...

Hey BJ,

Some background information before I respond.
Since the last game you played I have made a number of tweeks, as my friend Kelly tells me, some of it has come full circle.

In the original version of the game we used the ADC for darn near everything, as versions and tweeks came along the number of things the ADCs were used for was reduced, at its lowest point about all the ADC was used for is a morale booster. So I added back in a series of other options on what you may do with ADC to receive a bonus. For example a Brigade may attach to the Brigade commander to increase his Command Radius by 3”. The ADC may attach to an out of command unit to move the unit. My goal was to make using the ADC as a Morale booster about a 1/3 percent time function. In the three or four games I have run since the game in July the amount of time an ADC is attached to command for morale only has reduced greatly. I may have been too effective, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.

Another change is you may now use Divisional, Corps or Army Assets in Bombardment. To issue Bombardment orders all you need to do is attach an ADC before bombardment phase and declare you target.

As for Artillery Ranges I looked very much at the British study in the 1830s as a model. Its better them most of the tripe written today, because 1) it had actual Napoleonic Artillery Officers involved, and 2) they actually tested it in full scale (it’s not just someone’s theoretical work).

Horse Musket and Gun isn’t worried about how well you can judge distance to declare loads, I have assumed the Artillery Officers are competent, since they have some level of training.

The British Study found that 93% of artillery fire at point blank range caused 8 casualties a gun, against a line formation. For every 100 yards of range your effectiveness was only 93% of original effectiveness. So at point blank you were 95 percent effective, at 100 yards 85%, at 200 yards 80%, … at 1200 yards 40% effective.

So there is my goal, and my decreasing order : If Point Blank = 1 than 400 yards =.75 than 900 yards=.50, and 1800=.25. So using the modifiers and a average roll (11) at point blank you will cause 2 fatigue, at 400 yards 1 fatigue, at 900 yards you have a 11 misses but a 12 causes 1(which is roughly 50/50 chance, and at 1800 yards you need 16 (which is about ¼ chance). I had to adjust a couple of modifiers but I think it is fairly close to what the end goal is.

However I have another play issue. Players know where the sweet spot is and endeavor to get into that position regardless of the reality. That for Artillery is at the end of effective range. The problem is effective range was ½ the actual range that Artillery “typically” fought at. So I had to make adjustments to make it a little more difficult to do that without decreasing defensive capability. So I adjusted down the Artillery Range will keeping the overall ranges. Heavy Artillery Ranges are 0-200 yards, 201-400 yards, 401-1000 yards, and 1001-1800 yards. The idea is to get artillery in 1000 yards away from the target range, which is 30 inches. If you want to push it forward you will be doing so under fire.

Jeffrey M. Johnson said...

The other issue is the fresh marker, so under simple not simplistic, I had to find a way to remove those from a defender, cause it is hot heavy and difficult work, requiring artillery batteries, caissons and Artillery Supply to all work in unison. Historically the caissons carried 1 hour worth of Round Shot and a smattering of other rounds. To me that made sense to tie in an ammunition check somewhere in the turn. It is not that I wanted to keep track of another system or make another dozen checks per turn, so I opted to have it once per turn after a battery has fired. First you remove the fresh marker (roughly 10% loss of effectiveness), than low on ammunition (another 10% drop for a total of 20%) than final out of ammunition (reduce fire to 0%) with a check each fire phase to see if supply arrived.

The other problem in the game is that because so many players want to push artillery batteries 300 yards apart Counter Battery Fire is too effective; even at 300 yards rather than the 1200 yards they typically fired at one another. The key was the British, French and to some extent the Austrian commentaries from the period that Counter Battery fire took 1 hour of concentrated fire from two batteries to be effective. The idea is at 1200 yards two batteries in bombardment will cause just under 8 fatigue and should result in at least 1 morale test and 50/50 chance at 2. Thus real life as a model, I think I am close. However players will continue to push forward and I have no qualms if it continues to be too effective if you can meet all the requirements.

As for Bombardment, I think the change allowing the appropriate commander sending an ADC over to “direct fire” if they want is appropriate. You keep an ADC attached and every phase you can declare a new target for bombard. It also keeps the ADCs out of Morale Booster mode.

PS Chopped into two because of the size of post.