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Command and Chaos - simulating ancient warfare

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Gaming the Past
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I'm an ancient military historian and a high school history teacher. Command & Chaos will, I hope, be used in my classes, but I am really working to develop this, if possible, into a publishable game. I'm trying to create a more realistic, yet still accessible and, I hope, interesting game about ancient battle.

My premise is that most games about ancient warfare over-exaggerate many features of battle and that these were the principles that held true in most Mediterranean battles the Romans fought in the 3rd through 2nd centuries BCE
- Commanders had very little tactical control over armies once deployed
- Roman infantry units rarely engaged in tactical maneuvers to outflank an enemy battleline (and vice versa). Movement tended to be in straight lines with little maneuver
- The most important control generals had over combat was deployment of troops, setting of reserves, and boosting the morale of trouble spots in the line through personal intervention
- Most of it was up to the soldiers in the fight who fought, not until their units were destroyed or incapacitated by wounds, but until their morale was too low for them to continue the fight.

So I have been trying to develop mechanics to model a reasonably historically accurate game that is also (I hope) interesting and not too difficult to play.

I've attached rules and the PnP pieces. I would be very grateful for feedback or, even better, play-testing and feedback.

o I'm an ancient military historian and a high school history teacher. Command & Chaos will, I hope, be used in my classes, but I am really working to develop this, if possible, into a publishable game. I'm trying to create a more realistic, yet still accessible and, I hope, interesting game about ancient battle.

My premise is that many games about ancient warfare over-exaggerate many features of battle and that these were the principles that held true in most Mediterranean battles the Romans fought in the 3rd through 2nd centuries BCE
- Commanders had very little tactical control over armies once deployed
- Roman infantry units rarely engaged in tactical maneuvers to outflank an enemy battleline (and vice versa). Movement tended to be in straight lines with little maneuver
- The most important control generals had over combat was deployment of troops, setting of reserves, and boosting the morale of trouble spots in the line through personal intervention
- Most of it was up to the soldiers in the fight who fought, not until their units were destroyed or incapacitated by wounds, but until their morale was too low for them to continue the fight.

So I have been trying to develop a reasonably historically accurate game that is also (I hope) interesting and not too difficult to play.

The prototype is very new and far from polished. I have only been able to test it once or twice myself. So I would be very grateful for feedback or, even better, play-testing and feedback.

https://gamingthepast.net/tabletop/

treeves3
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Reconsider Record Sheets

I developed and published a board game about 10 years ago that, much like your game, revolved around ancient warfare. I included fantasy elements which allowed the inclusion of magic and mythical creatures, but the core of each army and combat was light and heavy infantry and cavalry. While I had some excellent feedback and reviews, perhaps the biggest complaint I received had to do with marking the record sheets; many people find this too “fidely.” I grew up playing AD&D, Starfleet Battles, etc., and didn’t even think about recording things on record sheets as being an issue. But it is for many, and may limit your commercial audience. If there is any way you can design your game mechanics without record sheets (using other components like cards, tracking chits, etc.) you might fare better. Good luck!

Gaming the Past
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RE: Record sheets

That's helpful to hear. Did you mean all record sheets or just the ones that require writing? I found the written ones to be terrible so I added in the PnP a sheet you could print out with spots large enough to use 10mm cubes as markers. I've also entertained using 10mm six sided dice.

It's a bit of a design dilemma. I started with morale and fatigue cubes added and removed to the actual unit cards but it's too visible. Hidden information is more realistic with occasional notifications (so when a unit is at half morale, the player has to put a weakened marker on the unit card to alert the opposing player). But hidden means some kind of recording it seems.

Were you thinking any hidden record sheet is a problem or just the written one? If both, any suggestions for tracking hidden morale and fatigue? I'm really open.

Thanks!

treeves3
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Hidden fatigue and morale

I was definitely talking about record sheets that require writing. I had included laminated record sheets and wax pencils to mark/unmark various boxes which actually works really well - especially for a lot of data tracking. But alas, times have changed, and a great many of today's players despise that system. Your method of using cubes and or dice is more universally preferred I think.

Your audience will likely be comprised of grognards and historical enthusiasts who can appreciate the details you’re trying to bring to the table. This is both a good thing and bad. Good in that you have a strong target audience, bad in that your game likely won’t hold mass appeal. I started down the road of playing it straight myself, mining historical tombs like The Art of War in the Western World by Archer Jones and others. But I wanted a more commercial endeavor, so expanded the theme to include fantasy elements. I do think this brought in a broader audience, but I also think this broader audience was the primary source of dissatisfaction. Many players (especially younger players I found) just don’t appreciate chess-like moves with a heavy dose of realism (like tracking fatigue and morale). This is NOT to say you won’t find people who DO like that stuff! They still exist, and were the source of some extremely flattering reviews. I’m just trying to paint a realistic landscape for you that I wish I had been advised of before making my game.

Quote:
It's a bit of a design dilemma. I started with morale and fatigue cubes added and removed to the actual unit cards but it's too visible. Hidden information is more realistic with occasional notifications (so when a unit is at half morale, the player has to put a weakened marker on the unit card to alert the opposing player). But hidden means some kind of recording it seems.

You could use your separate record sheet to track morale and fatigue behind a player screen, then mark the unit cards themselves with a red morale marker once they drop below half or something. But I’m wondering… if you and I are facing off against each other with swords, I’m going to notice if you are a) breathing heavy (losing fatigue), or b) starting to hesitate and backpedal a bit more (losing morale). So I think the “hidden” fatigue/morale system isn’t likely to add much to your game.

Also, according to this YouTube video on Roman Battle Tactics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iz1_UwD2Fw&t=25s The roman army was comprised of Hastati (young and inexperienced soldiers on the frontlines who were first to engage with the enemy, synonymous with your light infantry Velites perhaps?), Principes (Older and more experienced veterans that would swap out with the Hastati – your heavy infantry Manipular Legion?), and Triarii (Oldest and most experienced elite troops – rarely used unless the situation turned dire, not represented in your unit cards). In other words, if you are trying to recreate historical accuracy, the armies who face the romans would already know that the first troops they were likely to encounter would be the weakest, least experienced (with the lowest morale in your game), the next level would be the veterans (high morale), and finally the elite loose phalanx troops (highest morale). Since morale seems to represent experience and unit strength in your game, it seems there is no historical value to hiding these values from opponents since everyone would already know that’s how the romans structured their units. And, again according to the video, while the Hastati used javelins, gladius and shield, the Principes used just gladius and shield, the Triarii stood out for using spears. The Hastati were the youngest (high fatigue/low morale perhaps), the Principes older (balanced fatigue and morale), and the Triarii the oldest (high morale/low fatigue). So, there were weapon and age indicators that would alert an enemy as to the likely experience and fatigue (if not uniform markings and other visual clues like unit banners perhaps). All that to say I think the hidden record sheet mechanic is probably unnecessary.

Hope that all came across as constructive (as it was intended).

bottercot
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Wow. Interesting game. It

Wow. Interesting game. It doesn't seem too overcomplicated. The mechanics seem original. Are you going to have any rules for missiles like javelins, pilums, bows, etc. in ranged firing? What about for battle formations? Like, I don't know if your span of time includes things like the Roman testudo or the Greek plahanx. I know a good bit about ancient history, but not enough to know what this includes.
My suggestion for defensive stances against Charges is that you have some sort of damage "buffer", such as the defending unit being able to subtract 1 from the die rolls of the unit Charging them.
I, personally, dislike having to write anything down, so I agree with keeping record sheets at a minimum.

Gaming the Past
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Thanks for all this insight!

Thanks for all this insight! Much appreciated. I'm going to try to go through and see if I can respond well and maybe get some more insight.

First of all, thanks for the clarification on the record sheets and audience. I have some designs slowly developing for different games that are, hopefully, much more wider audience friendly. I do realize that I am targeting a narrower audience than that. But hearing that and saying that is helpful; I think I had a wider audience in mind at first for this, but now my goal is to make a "lighter" wargame that might interest non-wargamers but will be most interesting to those who want a less time and piece intensive experience than their normal wargame fare, and a game that makes a statement about ancient battle that is more accurate in some ways than, say, Pocket Battles, which makes some pretty unhistorical assumptions. I'm glad to hear that I won't be alienating that group with some cube record keeping.

On to your points on the historical model and mechanics.

treeves3 wrote:
You could use your separate record sheet to track morale and fatigue behind a player screen, then mark the unit cards themselves with a red morale marker once they drop below half or something. But I’m wondering… if you and I are facing off against each other with swords, I’m going to notice if you are a) breathing heavy (losing fatigue), or b) starting to hesitate and backpedal a bit more (losing morale). So I think the “hidden” fatigue/morale system isn’t likely to add much to your game.

You have a point about fatigue being visible. I developed it as a realistic resource to spend on special action cards and as a limit to how many of those could be played on a unit. I may rethink and just have a morale stat.

The point of view in all this is the commanders and the commanders would not necessarily know when fatigue was great in an enemy -- though I think, as I said, your point is valid. I may need a commander specific way to do cards. For example, instead of a fatigue cost, a unit could only execute a special action if one of the officer meeples were attached. This would reasonably reflect the role of officers as morale boosters for defense, special charges, etc. Morale is different, I'd argue.

treeves3 wrote:

Also, according to this YouTube video on Roman Battle Tactics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iz1_UwD2Fw&t=25s The roman army was comprised of Hastati (young and inexperienced soldiers on the frontlines who were first to engage with the enemy, synonymous with your light infantry Velites perhaps?), Principes (Older and more experienced veterans that would swap out with the Hastati – your heavy infantry Manipular Legion?), and Triarii (Oldest and most experienced elite troops – rarely used unless the situation turned dire, not represented in your unit cards). In other words, if you are trying to recreate historical accuracy, the armies who face the romans would already know that the first troops they were likely to encounter would be the weakest, least experienced (with the lowest morale in your game), the next level would be the veterans (high morale), and finally the elite loose phalanx troops (highest morale). Since morale seems to represent experience and unit strength in your game, it seems there is no historical value to hiding these values from opponents since everyone would already know that’s how the romans structured their units. And, again according to the video, while the Hastati used javelins, gladius and shield, the Principes used just gladius and shield, the Triarii stood out for using spears. The Hastati were the youngest (high fatigue/low morale perhaps), the Principes older (balanced fatigue and morale), and the Triarii the oldest (high morale/low fatigue). So, there were weapon and age indicators that would alert an enemy as to the likely experience and fatigue (if not uniform markings and other visual clues like unit banners perhaps). All that to say I think the hidden record sheet mechanic is probably unnecessary.

So a couple of things. Our understanding of ancient battle in the Roman world hinges on the idea of unit cohesion, morale, and complex systems interaction. Units dissolved when just the right mix of fear, wounding, noise and confusion, etc, caused individuals to decide their best bet was to flee as individuals, not hold the line as a unit. That breaking point would not necessarily be obvious at all to a general who encountered an unknown force, in this case Gauls. So the morale is really meant to represent that breaking point, and having it visible allows the player general to, unrealistically and less engagingly (?), know exactly how close a unit is to breaking. The way I have it, the weakened marker the player puts on units, tells the general that a unit is fading/backpedaling/looking reluctant without being clear exactly how many cubes of morale are left. Also, since it is a breaking point counter, it would not simply be a matter of younger troops breaking more. It would depend how many years of campaigns those younger troops had, health, officer presence etc. The REALLY young troops were the velites, the light infantry.

Part two, you are absolutely right about the individual maniples in a Roman legion. It's a question of scale. I have chosen for simplicity etc. (since I am trying to focus on battle line clashes) on portions of a legion, multiple cohorts if you will. So the manipular legion card flexibly represents a whole or any fraction of it, but includes, as a section of Roman battleline would, hastati, principes, and triarii. At some point I want to build that rotation in as a special system (and you reminded me to do that). But my scale choice is legions are large components of legions, not the scale of triple lines in a legion.
I'd love to know what you think, agree or disagree. Thanks again!

Gaming the Past
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Thanks for looking at it and

Thanks for looking at it and the encouragement @bottercot. I'm really close to it, so the perspective is very helpful. I definitely need to build in light infantry rules. Now that I (see my response above to @treeves3) am ore fully orienting to wargamers I may do that, but I still want to keep it as simple as possible while still making the points about command and morale, etc. Ideally I'd like to have this be an expandable system, and that means I have to come up with special rules for different armies, otherwise why play the expansions. It will include, I hope, Hannibal's Carthaginians, Macedonian Phalanxes, and Spanish Armies to fit the period.
Ultimately I am trying to keep the game to a battleline and wings of 8 mini cards (1.75 x 2.25) wide, to make it readily playable on a tabletop, so I have to see how I can model the different armies with that. On a certain level, the different weapon types disappear in a sense with scale, know what I mean? As in, it ultimately comes down to morale and weapons were not enough to guarantee a victory. But I'd like to do more with that for fun and flavor.

When I think about the Macedonian phalanx things get problematic. In both emblematic Roman encounters with Macedonians, Cynoscephalae and Pydna, the Romans won because the phalanx got disordered on rough terrain. At Pydna, the sources are clear that it wasn't even the Roman commander who exploited the gap; it was a tribune in the ranks. So how do I include Macedonians and make them not just mop up the board unless a "disordered" special card is played, which seems like a cheap shot. My solution, which I have not implemented, is terrain cards, where players alternate playing terrain in each of the zones, one terrain card dictating the terrain of both columns in the zone.

Anyway, I'm getting carried away. Thanks again for the interest and let me know if anything else comes to mind!

bottercot
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Yeah I like the idea of

Yeah I like the idea of Terrain cards. Like, a unit on a Hill gets a combat bonus, and maybe can charge without getting Fatigue (and units charging it gain double Fatigue). Also, maybe there could be some sort of sight-blocking aspect where units behind a hill can't be seen or something.
For Ranged units, you could probably just have then able to attack from behind another card, and probably have their chances of doing damage decrease the farther away their target is.
Maybe single-use pilums/other throwing spears could either be tokens that are placed on the unit at the beginning, that can be expended to perform a ranged attack, or maybe they could be represented by a battle card.
Also, one question: if you remove the need for hidden fatigue/morale, do you even still need letter-matched cards for every unit? I know morale kind of makes sense being hidden, but if you took out hidden stats and maybe two unit cards per unit, the game would become much more simple. You wouldn't need to do half as much referencing or remembering.
The less there is to keep track of, the better, imo.

treeves3
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Possible alternative to record sheets

It definitely helps to understand you are taking more of a 500 foot approach with legions, rather than focusing on the individual maniples. (That in fact may be something you want to point out in an intro to your rulebook. It’s both educational and helps to set up expectations for those with a more detailed background in ancient warfare.)

Quote:
You have a point about fatigue being visible. I developed it as a realistic resource to spend on special action cards and as a limit to how many of those could be played on a unit. I may rethink and just have a morale stat.

I wouldn’t eliminate fatigue – it certainly played an important role in melee battles. It just doesn’t have to be invisible.

Quote:
The point of view in all this is the commanders […] I may need a commander specific way to do cards

I actually like that idea a lot! Each commander (and lieutenant) could have their own cards unique with strengths and weaknesses so that not every one is the same. Some are better at cavalry charges, others boosting morale, others attacking, others defense. I didn’t see actual commander cards represented in you PnP sheet, but given that this is from their perspective, it might be worth considering giving them different personalities.

Quote:
My solution, which I have not implemented, is terrain cards, where players alternate playing terrain in each of the zones, one terrain card dictating the terrain of both columns in the zone.

I also implemented terrain via tiles in my game, and it made a very big difference in strategically planning attacks, adding a lot of tactical depth. I also included multiple unit formations, but I don’t think that’s much of a factor at the commander level you’re aiming for.
Quote:
So the morale is really meant to represent that breaking point, and having it visible allows the player general to, unrealistically and less engagingly (?), know exactly how close a unit is to breaking.

Okay, so hidden morale is an important mechanic for your game. Still don’t like the idea of a hidden record sheet though. But how about something like this… morale tokens. They come in two types: Red and White (or whatever colors you choose obviously, but go with my colors for the example). The white tokens represent the MAXIMUM morale that you assign at the beginning of the game. It is a cardboard chit that has “MAX” printed on one side and a number from 2 – 5 printed on the other (or whatever your morale range is). The “MAX” side is placed faceup on each card. The Red tokens represent morale hits taken throughout the game. These are just solid red on both sides (or say “hit” or something equally clever as you desire). Each player would know how many hits a unit has by counting the red tokens, but wouldn’t know how “tough” the unit they are fighting really is until that unit breaks. That way, the max morale remains hidden, and you could do things like rally a unit, replacing its max morale white chit with a different number based upon the rallying commander’s ability (or something like that). This way, every component is on the board, but no need for a hidden record sheet. Probably some flaws in this somewhere, but what do you think?

lewpuls
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In brief

In ancient and medieval warfare, the commanding general had little influence once the battle started. Unless he had an elite force to lead personally (Alexander the Great). Charlemagne evidently avoided big battles, but conquered a great amount of territory through superior logistics and control.

When I designed my simple game Hastings 1066 (to be released next month by Worthington Publishing), I found I had to change the realistic version of the game, in order to give players more control. The dichotomy is that game players want to control their fate, while warfare (especially melee battles) is full of uncertainty.

Some publishers don't want to ask their customers to write anything down. When FFG released the second edition of my game Britannia (2006), they included VP counters so that no one needed to keep a scoresheet, even though the game had been scored that way for 20 years. (I talked them out of a VP track, which was only likely to get messed up during a highly competitive 4-5 hour game).

Gaming the Past
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Yeah, I've thought about

Yeah, I've thought about special commanders (the obvious one would be Hannibal gets a special ambush card); and I will think more about that; it's a good way to go once I have the basic combat mechanics down. It also gives more gameplay options to players to compensate for the drastic reduction in maneuver. Terrain cards too. Basically my vision is to be true to reduced command control but make the game engaging by allowing control over as many features as possible that a general could influence: terrain, deployment and formation (the rules allow for deployment of some units in the battle line closer to the enemy than others to allow different times of contact a la Cannae). where to rally/inspire troops, reserves.

treeves3 wrote:

Okay, so hidden morale is an important mechanic for your game. Still don’t like the idea of a hidden record sheet though. But how about something like this… morale tokens. They come in two types: Red and White (or whatever colors you choose obviously, but go with my colors for the example). The white tokens represent the MAXIMUM morale that you assign at the beginning of the game. It is a cardboard chit that has “MAX” printed on one side and a number from 2 – 5 printed on the other (or whatever your morale range is). The “MAX” side is placed faceup on each card. The Red tokens represent morale hits taken throughout the game. These are just solid red on both sides (or say “hit” or something equally clever as you desire). Each player would know how many hits a unit has by counting the red tokens, but wouldn’t know how “tough” the unit they are fighting really is until that unit breaks. That way, the max morale remains hidden, and you could do things like rally a unit, replacing its max morale white chit with a different number based upon the rallying commander’s ability (or something like that). This way, every component is on the board, but no need for a hidden record sheet. Probably some flaws in this somewhere, but what do you think?

I think this is a seriously fantastic suggestion! It's the first viable alternative I've heard to my design issue of hidden info: visible morale damage, hidden max. Nice; Thank you so much

Two other thoughts occur to me springing from your suggestion as well that may streamline further so I can add complexity elsewhere and still keep things manageable. First, I am now considering removing veteran units where veteran units are less likely to lose morale (5-6 on a 1d6) than average (4-6 on a 1d6). But that's redundant since all I'm really trying to say mechanically is that veteran units can resist the breaking point longer than average troops. I already get that from the varied morale maxes. It also makes for easier assignment and, like you said, removal of lettering of units if I give players a set of max tokens to choose from (i.e. for your ten units you may have 3-5s 3-4s 3-3s and 1-2; just making this up. The point is one could simplify that way too and stay authentic.

I may actually remove fatigue to cut down on counters. I need to think on this. Here's my reasoning, ultimately fatigue, wounding, fear, etc. can on a certain level be represented as morale where morale/unit cohesion is defined as willingness/capacity to stay in a unit and remain in the fight. Too fatigued = no willingness/capacity to fight. Too wounded = no willingness/capacity to fight. Too afraid = no willingness/capacity to fight. So I'm going to think about what is gained and lost from ditching fatigue for morale. Really I want this to be about morale (is it worth pointing out that I have written 5 Roman military/political history books? I may very well not be correct in my assessment, but at least I'm sincere in my model :-) ). Fatigue was an obvious spendable resource for special action cards, but my newly developing game model works better with commanders having some set of cards they can play but only on units they are close to. Then you really have the general and lieutenants' point of view.

A halfway measure that I could use with your suggestion of morale and maximum counters (seriously I am very excited by this suggestion) is to have some fatigue chits that quickly add up to a morale drop (get 2 fatigue = add a morale hit token and start at 0 fatigue). But again I think I may work it all through morale.

Thoughts?

Gaming the Past
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Thanks so much for the

Thanks so much for the feedback @lewpuls

lewpuls wrote:
In ancient and medieval warfare, the commanding general had little influence once the battle started. Unless he had an elite force to lead personally (Alexander the Great). Charlemagne evidently avoided big battles, but conquered a great amount of territory through superior logistics and control.

I agree. Commanders in the ancient world had very little control except over where they were positioned. When Alexander led the flank maneuver to draw out the Persian cavalry at Gaugamela, for example, he yielded ability to give input to other parts of the battle line. I've just sent off to publication an article on Roman commanders and their points of input in the manipular army system, and while I didn;t make the point there, it occurred to me that the evidence does not suggest consuls personally led cavalry after the Second Punic War often; I suspect that is because they stayed back enough to use reserves and move to personally inspire troops.

lewpuls wrote:
When I designed my simple game Hastings 1066 (to be released next month by Worthington Publishing), I found I had to change the realistic version of the game, in order to give players more control. The dichotomy is that game players want to control their fate, while warfare (especially melee battles) is full of uncertainty.

Some publishers don't want to ask their customers to write anything down. When FFG released the second edition of my game Britannia (2006), they included VP counters so that no one needed to keep a scoresheet, even though the game had been scored that way for 20 years. (I talked them out of a VP track, which was only likely to get messed up during a highly competitive 4-5 hour game).

Your experience and insight in design is really helpful; thank you for sharing!

I think you are absolutely right about the design danger that a fully realistic game risks eliminating player control and thus player fun. That's why I'm working to develop a system where the player has a number of important decisions to make -- just not decisions that involve significant tactical maneuvers. If you look at 3rd and 2nd century Roman battles (BCE), neither side made significant tactical maneuvers, by which I mean troops moving in non-straight lines to circumvent flanks and attack on flank and rear (as opposed to punching through the enemy and then flanking). Hannibal really didn't. Scipio did it at Ilipa but not at Zama. Just didn't happen much.

What do you think? And thanks for the insights

treeves3
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More food for thought...

Quote:
I think this is a seriously fantastic suggestion! It's the first viable alternative I've heard to my design issue of hidden info: visible morale damage, hidden max. Nice; Thank you so much

Glad to help!

Morale tokens could certainly represent all unit’s relative strength. (This is starting to remind me a bit of Stratego where each side sets up their units whose values are not revealed until they engage one another. Your system takes it a step further, hiding the unit’s strength until morale actually breaks.) Fairly clean and simple, yet I can see it yielding some interesting gameplay: Unit X is hit for the third time and still doesn’t break, much to the exasperation of player A. “How tough are these bastards!”

Quote:
I am now considering removing veteran units where veteran units are less likely to lose morale. [And…] I may actually remove fatigue to cut down on counters.

Your points about fatigue and veteran status do make a certain amount of sense, especially if your game is more about the commanders POV rather than specific unit abilities. But it’s hard for me to break from wanting more detail and individuality on each unit.

And I think there is still a case for some distinction between veteran status, fatigue and morale: two units could both start with the same morale level (say 3), representing equal determination and grit, but one doesn’t have the stamina (due to lack of physical training, or having marched all day, etc.) the other has, and likewise their combat training/experience could be different. For example, a less fatigued unit might be able to execute more special actions (like “Push Them Back”) than a more fatigued unit. But this wouldn’t necessarily impact the defender’s morale if we were to define “Push Them Back” as an attack that causes the attacker to become more fatigued and, if successful, causes the defender no appreciable physical damage but moves them backwards one space (thus creating possible flanking opportunities). Morale loss would not need to be a part of this particular special action. In fact, if the attacker is successful in pushing the defender back, I could see the attacker GAINING morale (or under your system, losing an existing morale hit). “Hurrah! We did it!”

What about considering positive fatigue points (rather than negative fatigue chits like you suggest)? In other words, a standard, well-rested unit starts out with 3 fatigue points available to it to spend on special maneuvers. It burns those fatigue points on specific actions (like charging across the battlefield or executing “Push Them Back” or increasing their attack roll by +2, etc.). With 2 fatigue points left, the unit is “tired.” 1 fatigue point left, the unit is “fatigued.” 0 points, and the unit is considered to be “exhausted.” A commander may demand a unit perform a special action even though they are exhausted. The unit still performs the action, but now, instead of burning fatigue points, that unit must burn morale. Thus, a unit with 2 morale points and 3 fatigue points could execute a special command (like “Charge!"), dropping to 2 fatigue points without losing any morale (their enthusiasm and dedication for battle remains the same). But a unit with 5 morale points that has 0 fatigue points (exhausted) could execute the same command, but drop to 4 morale points (“Oh, come on! We’re exhausted and we have to run? *Groan*”). This personally makes more sense to me than “get 2 fatigue = add a morale hit token and start at 0 fatigue”. Where do you cap the number of fatigue tokens a unit can acquire under that system? With the system I’m proposing there is a natural cap (max 3 fatigue points), and you could also devise maneuvers, terrain, and special attacks that don't damage units (via morale loss), but rather reduce fatigue points (only reducing morale once all fatigue points have been exhausted). March across difficult terrain = -1 fatigue point, for example, but no reduction in morale (unless the unit is already exhausted).

If everything just comes down to morale points, which is what you seem to be leaning towards, what you are really saying is each unit has 2 – 5 hit points (which just happen to be called morale points in your game), and that’s it. Such a system certainly keeps things more simple, but sacrifices layers of strategic and tactical depth that the inclusion of fatigue and veteran status might allow.

Yes, again, you could roll it all up logically and say that units with 5 morale represent units that are a) fully rested, b) maximally trained veterans, and c) psychologically eager to engage, whereas 2 morale units start on the battlefield a) fully exhausted, b) poorly trained, and c) almost ready to break (due to fear or whatnot). But is this realistic? I see units as more nuanced than that. A unit can have high morale (confidence, enthusiasm, discipline) as one stat, training/experience as another (their collective ability to attack and defend well as a unit), and fatigue level as another (how much stamina they have coming into the battle – which in some scenarios would be reduced for the entire army if they had a long, hard march to get there). Thus, a unit could have 2 morale points (battle-weary/not eager to engage due to fear of the enemy, or being far away from home for too long, hating their commander, etc.), 3 fatigue points (fully rested), and 3 veteran points (highly trained/seasoned in battle so that, when they do have to engage despite their lack of enthusiasm, they fight extremely well). Is this not more realistic and historically accurate, allowing for a number of different unit dynamics?

Using:
m=morale (2 – 5),
h=morale hits (0 – max morale),
f=fatigue points (0 – 3),
s=unit strength (1 – 3)

Consider this scenario: Unit A (2m (1h)/3f/1s) executes a standard attack on veteran unit B that has marched all day (4m (2h)/0f/3s). Unit A spends 1 fatigue point and gets to add +2 to their die roll (for an example of how fatigue might be spent). They also have a commander nearby, adding another +1 to their attack. They roll a 3, add their strength of 1 and fatigue bonus of 2 and commander bonus of 1 for a total of 7. The defender rolls a 3, adds their strength total of 3 for a total of 6. The less experienced attacker hits the veteran unit! Unit A cheers, losing their 1 morale hit (now up to their max of 2 morale again), whereas unit B adds another morale hit counter and is now 1 hit away from breaking (4m, 3h). Unit A has reduced fatigue but gained morale, whereas unit B has lost morale in this melee exchange. Unit B is still stronger (the generally more effective combatant), but is now closer to breaking and has fewer options due to exhaustion than unit A. This system allows the possibility that weaker units, via strategic and tactical decisions, can sometimes defeat more veteran units (and perhaps this is how weaker units can gain in strength and morale if you eventually allow units to carry over from one battle to the next in an extended campaign perhaps). It also allows the player to weigh and make those delicious decisions (like spending fatigue points to enhance their odds, or place a commander with this unit rather than that one).

Though fatigue and veteran status might add many more dimensions to your game (which you could craft into more nuanced realistic scenarios given your extensive background and knowledge of historical battles), they definitely also add layers of complexity. It’s obviously up to you as to whether or not you find this appealing, but speaking for myself as a player/designer… I appreciate more stats and options beyond just unit morale (hit) points. Just food for thought.

bottercot
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Idk if this is a good option,

Idk if this is a good option, but something that I did for one of my games is I had it so every unit starts with an "Eager" token. They may then discard this token to perform a special action. Special actions were things like "Charge" - after moving, this unit may attack with bonus damage; "Double Time" - this unit can move X extra spaces; "Pursue" - after forcing a unit to retreat, this unit may move into the vacated space and perform another attack on the retreated unit; "Hold your Ground" - this unit can ignore drops in Morale from battle this turn; etc.
This was my simple solution. As another option, there could also be an "Exhausted" token, which a unit gains if it performs a special action while not having an "Eager" token. A unit with an "Exhausted" token would have a drop in effectiveness and could take an action off for a turn to remove the token.
A game you might be interested in is Commands & Colors: Ancients. I have not played it myself, just other games in the same series. It's a game based on a large hex grid, with terrain set up differently per battle. Groups of blocks represent units of soldiers, with different types like "Light Infantry", "Warrior Infantry", "Light Bow Infantry", "Auxilia Infantry", "Heavy Cavalry", "Heavy Elephant Cavalry", and more.
Also, expansions include things like camel cavalry, hoplite infantry, and more.
I don't know if the game would reach your standards of, say, organized lines advancing on each other, but it's for sure an interesting game. One of my favorite parts is how you can customize the battlefield and create your own scenarios.

Gaming the Past
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This is all pretty compelling

This is all pretty compelling @treeves3 Now I need to take your suggestions and play around a little. I had thought about having fatigue as stamina and so a supply that dwindled. Originally I stayed with fatigue so that there was an easy crossover point when fatigue exceeded morale. I think a more controlled spendable stamina resource is a good idea. Your extension of my model looks quite good so it's time to play with it and see how well it fits the realities (I use that term with caution) I am trying to get across.

So thanks for all the help! I am on to prototype rules B and will post that here soon when I get it together. Hopefully I can DM you and let you know, and benefit from more of your feedback?

Gaming the Past
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Thanks @bottercot! I

Thanks @bottercot! I appreciate your expansion ideas. Between you and @treeves3, I am getting some great encouragement and ideas to keep developing. I do know of Command and Colors Ancients, though my actual play of C&C is limited to some Memoir 44 video game version. In general I am rebelling against the disjointed battleline approach that I see in most ancient battle games, but I think with some of these ideas you both come up with, I can see how to include, potentiallym some different unit types (the trick is special rules, else otherwise why have special units and I'm getting more ideas within the model).

Anyway I'm going to revise and develop prototype rules B in the next week or so. I'd like to let you know when it's back up here; Love to get your thoughts.
Thanks!

treeves3
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Gaming the Past wrote:This is

Gaming the Past wrote:
This is all pretty compelling @treeves3 Now I need to take your suggestions and play around a little. I had thought about having fatigue as stamina and so a supply that dwindled. Originally I stayed with fatigue so that there was an easy crossover point when fatigue exceeded morale. I think a more controlled spendable stamina resource is a good idea. Your extension of my model looks quite good so it's time to play with it and see how well it fits the realities (I use that term with caution) I am trying to get across.

So thanks for all the help! I am on to prototype rules B and will post that here soon when I get it together. Hopefully I can DM you and let you know, and benefit from more of your feedback?

Happy to help, and I look forward to hearing from you once you've worked out the new rules.

bottercot
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Yeah, I own both Memoir '44

Yeah, I own both Memoir '44 the board game, and the computer game. Memoir '44 is one of my favorite games.

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