Monday, February 7, 2011

Conversion to Tabletop

It's not too soon to start considering how to convert a map game to a tabletop game. This has several parts: figure conversion, terrain, and results. There's also the not-inconsiderable problem of converting things back to the map. So let's work on the easy stuff first.

Figure Conversion

We've already done part/most of that. A strength point (SP) is 500 men, which is the scale of Volley & Bayonet: the Road to Glory (or the earlier version, too). At three SP for a field regiment of foot, and four SP for a cavalry brigade, we are well on the way.

However, you are looking at a mass of undistinguished SP in that stack of counters. How to relate them to what appears on the tabletop? You have to keep track of your foot regiments/cavalry brigades/artillery battalions. Tedious? Not quite. This is what rosters and/or spreadsheets are for. If I know IR Chef de Fer has 3 points, I can keep track of them until they lose some. Then I simply keep track of the new strength. Everything is done in 500 man increments. Besides (and here comes the rationalization), opposing generals didn't always know that the opposing army had 38 infantry regiments and 20 brigades of cavalry. They did know that it was 42,000 men.

Converting back from losses...we'll get to that in a bit.

The Battlefield

There are a lot of good methods of determining the battlefield. My favorite was to have good friend Mike Lonie sketch it out. Mike would invariably sandbag himself, making my job easier (unless we were on the same side). But not everyone has access to his talents. So we have a variety of other methods. I'll list them, and then choose one.

  1. Use the maps in Warfare in the Age of Reason. This is a good excuse to get those rules. Roll for the map you'll use.
  2. Place terrain the way they do it in De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA). The resulting terrain will be fairly open with only a few bad places, much like what generals preferred. The "built up area" problem will exist, but I've found that treating them as rough going solves a lot of problems (unless it is a fortified town).
  3. Assign terrain pieces to the value of a playing card and lay out the terrain that way. You never know what you're going to get, and so this is probably more for WW2.
  4. Take the surrounding terrain and "compress" it into that hex. This works on those game maps with a lot of terrain, such as the SPI games. This map doesn't have that. But it's a good idea for the next iteration of this system.
Do we keep that terrain as the defined battlefield in that hex? Personally I think that's a good idea as generals pretty much knew where the good fighting areas were. Maurice de Saxe commented that a province would have one, or at most two suitable positions in it. This isn't the Napoleonic period, by the way, where a fight could brew up at most any place.

So, I'm going to favor Method #2 - the DBA one. It's simple, interactive, and so on.

Deployment -

Do we keep the deployment areas of DBA? No. A clever person can make it so his opponent has no place to deploy, and while that's historical, we're not after that. Instead, the back 6" to 12" of the table is the deployment area. How close to the edge? Up to the edge.

Reconciling Losses -

This gets a little trickier because not all losses are permanent losses. Bruce Catton (in Mr. Lincoln's Army) thought an army permanently lost 60% of all reported losses. Experiences in the Napoleonic period confirmed that number. British experiences (Wellington in the Peninsula) suggested it was closer to 50-50. The truth is probably somewhere in between. But in an effort to hold down paperwork...

Look at the roster at the end of the battle, and apply the following rules of thumb.
  1. If a unit has lost 4 hits, they get two of them back "the next day". The other two are gone for good.
  2. If a unit has lost three hits, they get one back right away, lose one permanently, and can get the other one back by losing a step in morale.
  3. If a unit has lost two hits, they get one back "right away" and lose the other permanently.
  4. If a unit has lost one hit, they get it back if they take a step down in morale grade.

Players will find it wise to staff rear areas with units that are only worth one hit. Real generals didn't leave units that had been run down in the line unless they had no choice.

What if a unit is totally wiped out using this method? Well, you can end up with a lot of Morale Grade 2 and 3 units, all worth one hit. Rotate those units back to the lines of communication and/or into a fortress where they can "recruit" up to strength (they'll be available the next campaign season).

What of attrition losses? Can I take those losses from the weakest units? Actually, no. Those men are the survivors who would hang on. You have to take your attrition losses from the more up-to-strength units. If it means anything, losses in horseflesh always exceeded the manpower losses. Horse are more delicate than humans. And cheer up, high morale units tended to not lose men through attrition.

Just remember, your opponent doesn't know the strength of that unit he's facing. He could be in for a nasty surprise, or a promenade.

Odds and Ends

All general officer losses are permanent (at least for the campaigning season. Of course in V&B you don't have generals becoming casualties. So it's time to rectify that. If a general is touching or within 1" of a unit when it takes fire casualties, or that unit is in a melee when the general is touching or within 1", there is a 50-50 chance the general is a casualty (men tended to shoot just a little bit high). For humor, come up with a table that tells what happened to the general.

Why so high a chance of getting hit? Well, you peculate the big bucks, you take your chances. There is a high metallic content to the air around a battlefield, and having a general intercept some of that can be most...unfortunate.

One complete turn after a general is hit, his replacement takes over. So a general is hit on Turn 4, the replacement takes over on Turn 6.

Artillery losses are different as most artillery battalions are only worth one hit. Artillery losses from fire are reconstituted the "next day" at one morale grade loser. Artillery losses from melee are gone. Period. And as for regimental guns, a foot unit that routs loses their regimental guns (the pieces) as captured. Note, when you capture some guns you are not allowed to use them yourself. Thyey become war memorials and are put on display for people to ooh and ahh at.


So now let us turn our attention to scouting and intelligence, two reasons to have cavalry, and yes, two mutually exclusive concepts.

1 comment:

Bluebear Jeff said...

While not as I'd necessarily do things, almost all of this sounds good . . . with one exception.

If you allow deployment at the table edge, you will almost always see someone using this "secure flank".

Depending upon your table size, I'd urge you to reconsider this. Allow that room for maneuvering, sir.

-- Jeff