Coffee Break #10/2022

May 10th, Year of Our Lord 2022

This one will be a totally random all over the place.

Good luck !


“All ships are the same except some have more guns.” – this was one of the most funny quotes I heard about age of sail naval combat but I had a laugh because the individual that said them is not versed in the age of sail era, so that quote is definitely a honest and TRUE one for any player that knows as much.

Theme for this period, and I challenge you to think about it, is how the drills and combat applications of those are translated into the wargames rules.

Maybe I should proceed with the method of taking both the lowest tactical element and the top one regarding the level being designed. But is that a good approach or simply put, comfortable and lazy ?

Comfortable in the sense that, adapt the “unit” to the game mechanisms intended, rather than obeying a realistic model to simulate the drills throughout tactical deployment and evolution in battle.

Vegetius’ De Re Militari is the primary and incomplete source of a manual of drills and procedures, both in march, camp and in battle for the Roman Empire legions.

Let’s take for example a Roman legion. The triple lines, the single line, the reserve cohorts, etc, are all part of the drill in battle. The cohort would be the lowest element in a battle, maybe, if we would be zoomed in and worrying about managing the part of a legion.

If we would be designing a retaliatory expedition then maybe it is the Century within a sized down Cohort !?

So how to represent a Legion in a wargame ?

… okay, blobbing 10 counters in a hex grid, in a 4-3-3, might be a way depending on the ground scale ( read previous Coffee Break #9 ) but is there any real purpose to do it ? The battle instructions will focus, in the most part, on 2 groups of 5 cohorts if the need arises, similar to the futuristic WW2 US regiments within a division.

But unlike wars in the future the sword and board and pointy stabby stuff warfare has a linear quality to it and you need to go no further than looking at an Alexander’s phalanx.

The sharp ends of the sticks are all pointing to one direction, not 360º all around.

So, two elements are necessary – lowest tactical element as per battle drills and directional focus.

In the futuristic combat of WW2 a division can fight all around but, similar to the phalanx, must decide where to focus the point of the spear or spread 1/4 strength to every quarter.

But… how often is this a reality ? More often that not the “chit” will fight in all six directions ( or four ) with full combat value. Is this even appropriate ?

What does it simulate ? The ability to redeploy as needed and without constraints within their area of control – usually the spot occupied plus projection to all other areas around it.

Drill allows for troops performance but only as long as the weaponry and tactics permit.

This is why some wargame mechanisms do work perfectly with the specific era designed for and start to show the cracks when adapted to others.

Sure, it will make a fine game, but a mediocre wargame, no matter how much of a fanboy, groupie girl, and anything in between and beyond, you are of a system.

And yet similarities can be found if needed be, because war never changes.

Let’s take two examples. A WW2 “panzer” force and a medieval Hundred Years War army.

One needs oil, the other needs horses. The tank formation has to plan for how much fuel is needed to conduct a thrust, battle opposition and break through.

The other needs horses. Maybe as much as four or five per man-at-arms and longbowmen. And of two types, destriers for battle and amblers for travel.

Oil and horses will provide the respective forces the foundational mobility capacity. That is all. They won’t move faster – the support must also to travel along, else the oil will run out and machines break down for lack of spare parts, and the horses will die without forage and oats, maize, barley.

Both forces drills focus on maximizing force – spear thrusts of tanks in the enemy line weak sectors and large battles composed of bowmen focusing at close range. Both do also perform raiding and recon duties well beyond the focus capacity of the main force.

All those actions need to be performed at high efficiency. Hence the amount of horses. Hence the oil. Because without horses and without oil, all that’s left is legs and then we come back to Marius’ Mules and the Roman Legions drill.

And back to arbitrary adaptation of rules written for an era to another, like squares into circles.

And then we can have swiss pikemen of the 16th century performing, in game, like a Macedonian Phalanx… because…

Have a good week. Thanks for reading.

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