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Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

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TheReluctantGeneral
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I'm working on a wargame for 16th century pike and shot battles, in the mould of Command & Colors, but somewhat more heavyweight (call it a 'middleweight wargame'...), designed to sit somewhere between C&C and a miniatures game. The game has no dice, instead having a CRT and other results tables (e.g. morale) along with various modifiers built into a deck of cards. To keep the minis adicts happy, I need to generate a visually pleasing game which really gives the impression of the massed blocks of troops common in this period.

I also need to be able to represent unit formations, unit cohesion and unit casualties, but I wish to avoid using counters since I want the information to be readily available at a glance.

I have come up with the following mechanism, but I wonder whether it is too fiddly to be attractive to the gamers who like C&C:A's simplcity.

* Each regiment is represented by between 3 and 8 blocks (blocks are like the columbia game or C&C ones). Each block has a sticker with a picture of the troop type stuck on both sides, with the sticker background colour showing which units belong to which player. The block itself (of which only sides and top are visible duw to the stickers) is either black or red.
* Casualties are represented by swapping out a black block for a red one of the same type. Therefore a regiment always has the same number of blocks regardless of casualties, and players can quickly glance at a formation and see it's casualty level from the other side of the table.
* Each unit can be in either line or column formation, which is represented be organising the unit blocks side by side (line) or one in front of the other (column), so that they are all touching each other. This will require that hexes be large enough to accomodate a line of 4 blocks in two ranks (for an 8 block formation in line).
* Unit cohesion is represented by detatching one of the blocks slightly from the main formation for each level of cohesion drop.

Examples:

What I hope to gain from this is a system which can represent enough state to enable a deeper simulation of this type of battle without going too far down the hex and counter route, while remaining fast playing (at least compared to minis or complex hex and counter games) and visually evocative.

I'd be interested in hearing from wargamers and/or those who have played the block games or Command and Colors whether this system sounds like it would work, or be too fiddly in practice. Also, if anyone has any alternatives for representing the three level cohesion model (apart from counters) I'd love to hear them (remember it needs to work for units as small as three blocks).

emxibus
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Re: Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

TheReluctantGeneral wrote:
* Each unit can be in either line or column formation, which is represented be organising the unit blocks side by side (line) or one in front of the other (column), so that they are all touching each other. This will require that hexes be large enough to accomodate a line of 4 blocks in two ranks (for an 8 block formation in line).

I'm a big fan of the Command & Colors games, and your game sounds very cool. I have a few questions to help me understand your mechanics.

Could you give us the extended version of the line and column definitions? For example, I have 4 blocks. If I have two rows of blocks, and each row has two blocks which formation are they in?

What is the reasoning behind not removing casualties from the battlefield?

I think the cohesion mechanic will be hard for players to keep straight. Every time a regiment is moved, players will have to make a conscious effort to keep them in their current cohesion state, and I think that through normal play blocks may shift around creating gaps and debates on which cohesion state the regiment is in. Also, if the board gets bumped it may be tough to get the regiments back in their correct cohesion state (This may be a non-issue).

JR

Jpwoo
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Joined: 03/26/2009
Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

Just a few questions, there are some neat Ideas here!

Are stacks only allowed to have one type of unit in them? If not it would be difficult to remember what is in the middle of line formation.

Is there only the one level of damage? A unit is either wounded or unwounded right?

If so you are missing one of the best parts of the block, that it can be rotated to show differing states. You could paint on the top of the block, so the four side would be "Unwounded-Cohesion" "Unwounded-Broken" "Wounded-Cohesion" and "Wounded-Broken" which I think are the four states a block can be in.

I think that the mechanism of just physically separating blocks to show cohesion is "fiddly" and prone to ambiguities. Also the swapping black blocks for red means that you are going to need 2x as many blocks and stickers in the game.

Interesting stuff! Keep us updated.

TheReluctantGeneral
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

emxibus wrote:

Could you give us the extended version of the line and column definitions? For example, I have 4 blocks. If I have two rows of blocks, and each row has two blocks which formation are they in?

Sure. Basically, if a regiment has a frontage equal to or wider than its depth, then it is in line, otherwise column. So your 2x2 formation is a line. A four block column is formed from 4 rows of one block.

Quote:
What is the reasoning behind not removing casualties from the battlefield?

Firstly, to preserve the ability to represent the formation of badly damaged units. If a three block unit has one block removed as a casualty, then all the cohesion states can no longer be represented.

Secondly, the ratio of casualties againts the units starting strength is going to be important in determining morale, melee and firing outcomes. If blocks were removed some additional record keeping and/or calculations would be needed to obtain this ratio ech time.

Thirdly, it will provide a useful visual cue as to the overall level of damage that has been inflicted one players armies so far.

Quote:
I think the cohesion mechanic will be hard for players to keep straight. Every time a regiment is moved, players will have to make a conscious effort to keep them in their current cohesion state, and I think that through normal play blocks may shift around creating gaps and debates on which cohesion state the regiment is in. Also, if the board gets bumped it may be tough to get the regiments back in their correct cohesion state
Quote:

This is a bit of a problem. Alternative ways to represent cohesion are:

* to lay one block flat for the first level of cohesion drop, and another flat on top of the first for the second cohesion drop. Much less visually appealing though.

* to have another block per regiment, depicting say a drum or something, which is placed in the same hex as its parent regiment but not attached to the main unit. Trim cohesion is represented by having the drum the right way up, disordered by turning the drum upside down, and ragged cohesion by laying the drum block flat. The drum could also be useful as an identifier (like a standard) which relates a regiment to a status card defining that unit's combat abilities etc.

There are many other possible schemes with markers and so forth, which might be more elegant or appealing - I'm sure I havn't thought of them all yet. Basically I'm looking for something simple with visual appeal.

Any ideas?

clapjaws
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

How about actually using a standard bearer sticker then, instead of a drum? You'd only need 1 extra sticker per unit then - and you could just swap out the banner-carrier block to change the formation indicator. You could introduce "Special Units" too, via their distinctive banners. The rank&file blocks could all be the same blocks/stickers - but the unique banners could convey unique forces. Their fully rendered banner/flag could represent cohesion, and maybe use torn banner art for broken....

TheReluctantGeneral
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

Jpwoo wrote:

Are stacks only allowed to have one type of unit in them? If not it would be difficult to remember what is in the middle of line formation.

Each regiment has only one troop type in it. The game only has pikeman, musketeers, cavalry and cannon troop types. However for each class of troop type the regiments have different stats (e.g. a swiss pike unit is much more effective than a regiment of conscripted italians).

Each regiment is accompanied by a standard/drummer bearing a coat-of-arms matching a unit card the describes the main stats.

Quote:
Is there only the one level of damage? A unit is either wounded or unwounded right?

Correct.

Quote:
If so you are missing one of the best parts of the block, that it can be rotated to show differing states. You could paint on the top of the block, so the four side would be "Unwounded-Cohesion" "Unwounded-Broken" "Wounded-Cohesion" and "Wounded-Broken" which I think are the four states a block can be in.

I did consider this. Firstly, your suggestion implies square blocks rather than C&C style blocks, which would be fine, but more expensive and heavier (more wood).

More importanly though, I think what you suggest would be more difficult to quickly scan by casting a glance across the battlefield. The rotated square seems like a 3D counter to me, which while reducing the number of counters, does not really help with interpretation. Does this make sense?

Quote:
I think that the mechanism of just physically separating blocks to show cohesion is "fiddly" and prone to ambiguities. Also the swapping black blocks for red means that you are going to need 2x as many blocks and stickers in the game.

I think you're right about the cohesion. Perhaps a drummer block would be better. On the casualties though, I think I could get away with less than 2x since a battle ought to be decided well before the average unit has taken 50% casualties (the buggers tend to run away well before this stage..)

Of more abiding interest might be how I can code a series of CRTs into a few decks of cards - I'll post the details once I have worked them out :-)

TheReluctantGeneral
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Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

clapjaws wrote:
How about actually using a standard bearer sticker then, instead of a drum? You'd only need 1 extra sticker per unit then - and you could just swap out the banner-carrier block to change the formation indicator. You could introduce "Special Units" too, via their distinctive banners. The rank&file blocks could all be the same blocks/stickers - but the unique banners could convey unique forces. Their fully rendered banner/flag could represent cohesion, and maybe use torn banner art for broken....

As I explained in my previous post, that is my plan. The regimental standard bearer will define:

* The type of troops represented by the formation (elite, seasoned, levy etc
* Possibly their cohesion level
* If the banner is a card oblong mounted in a slotted base, then the base color defines how regiments are grouped into brigades, which is important for command and control purposes.

I think I'll stick with block arrangements for formations, since they are easier to interpret at a glance. If I needed to represent both cohesion and casualty level using banners, I would probably require two banners per formation to avoid a combinatorial explosion of banner counters.

Jpwoo
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Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

Quote:
Perhaps a drummer block would be better. On the casualties though, I think I could get away with less than 2x since a battle ought to be decided well before the average unit has taken 50% casualties (the buggers tend to run away well before this stage..)

A drummer block feels much more like a counter to me than rotating a block. The bad bits of counters are that they have to be moved and maintained, just like your drum block. You seem to want to compress as much information into the blocks as possible.

Or at least 3 types of information. Unit type, Unit health, unit cohesion. However you also don't seem want to avoid things feeling like counters, but the more info you put on a block the closer to counter you get.

Does it matter how many units are not broken, or how many are broken? Say I have a formation with 6 blocks, and one is broken the whole formation is considered disordered? Two broken is Ragged? The same goes for a stack of 4 units?

Tilting the rectangular peices on their sides would work just as well without the need for square blocks.

From looking at the C&C blocks they look about the same as a columbia block, so I don't see why you think square blocks would require more wood.

However painting the tops of blocks would probably prove pricey. Though smaller narrower stickers for the tops wouldn't be bad. I still think that looking for dot on top of a formation is at least as intuitive to parse as looking at the flipping drum.

TheReluctantGeneral
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Wargame using blocks as replacement for miniatures

Hmm, all good points here jpwoo. I'm starting to question my original assumptions, including representing casualties by replacement rather than removal.

I guess I was thinking 2D=counter, 3d=not_counter. As you point out, that is rather flawed reasoning.

Thanks for the feedback.

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