Concept, Rules and Ideas
by Nic Birt
Wargames can be seen as being split into three tiers of action:
The strategic tier where diplomatic decisions are made and map moves may be in weeks or months. Troops are recruited and trained, fortifications constructed and armies are sent to invade countries.
The campaign tier occurs when two armies occupy the same strategic map space (e.g. on the same map hex) and the armies manoeuvre and jockey for position in preparation for battle (or avoidance of a battle). Movement is daily by this stage and occurs on a more detailed local map. Other factors such as weather and terrain have a noticeable affect on movement.
The battle tier occurs when the opposing forces finally come together in the same campaign map. The terrain is now laid out on the wargame table and the armies positioned to fight out the action.
This article is concerned with the campaign tier and proposes a method by which a campaign can be undertaken by a solo wargamer and offer a chance to exercise reconnaissance skills as well as providing an element of the unexpected. The resulting table top wargames can range from tactical skirmishes to pitched battles as the wargamer aims to locate and identify the enemy forces while avoiding having player scouting troops ambushed. Careful manoeuvring and scouting can give your troops a tactical advantage in numbers and terrain when contact is finally made and the battle begins.
Campaign maps are drawn to show major terrain details such as mountains, forests, rivers, marshes, hilly ground, towns, villages and roads. The area covered by each of the campaign maps equates to the strategic map move distance, e.g. the distance that infantry can move in one week.
First write out your campaign strategy for the first three days. Now assess the programmed response using the table below. It is assumed that the programmed force has already established its strategic action (i.e. its overall goal) summarised across the top of the table. Aggressive would imply seek and destroy type missions, offensive actions would include land grabbing operations, raids would be attacks on specific targets followed by a withdrawal on completion of the task, active defence includes counter attacks while defence suggests awaiting offensive actions in prepared positions. The ratio of the programmed forces against the player’s forces is given down the left of the table.
Ratio Defensive Active
Defense Raid Offensive Aggressive
3+:1 CDE BCD ABC ABB AAB
2:1 DEF CDE BCD ABC AAB
1:1 EFG DEF CDE BCD ABC
1:2 FGH EFG DEF CDE BCD
1:3 GHH FGH EFG DEF CDE
[Note: The 3:1 means if the programmed/NCP opponent outnumbers your forces 3:1 and so on down until 1:3 means your forces outnumber its three to one]
A = Seek out and attack enemy as quickly as possible. Divide force if necessary to bring fast contact.
B = Move directly towards the enemy and attack when contact is made.
C = Manoeuvre to ensure the enemy objective is blocked. Launch attack when a good opportunity arises or enemy break through may occur.
D = Attempt to out manoeuvre opponent. Split forces if necessary to bring positional advantage.
E = Seek out a good defensive position and hold it.
F = Prepare a defensive position as quickly as possible.
G = Avoid contact with enemy forces as long as possible.
H = Avoid contact and withdraw if possible.
The table gives 3 options all of which will be used. Three possible orders are written for the programmed forces based on the action plans assessed from the table. These orders should provide sufficient information to move the programmed opponent for 3 days. The orders should include a location and an action e.g. move to the present location of the enemy and attack as soon as contact is made, or move to the nearest high point and dig defensive trenches.
After 3 game days another set of orders are written by the player for his armies and the programmed response is reassessed with a D6 throw as shown below:
1,2 Move down the reaction code one letter (e.g. a previous action of C becomes D).
3,4 Retain previous reaction code.
5,6 Move up the reaction code one letter (e.g. a previous action of C now becomes B).
Programmed forces orders are now written as before based on their new reaction codes and the changing situation on the map.
Movement allowances per day are: 1 hex for heavy artillery and wagons, 2 hexes for infantry and artillery and 3 hexes for cavalry. These rates are dependant on the weather:
d6 Spring Summer Autumn Winter
1 Bad Poor Bad Bad
2 Poor Fine Poor Bad
3 Poor Fine Fine Poor
4 Fine Fine Fine Poor
5 Fine Fine Fine Fine
6 Fine Fine Fine Fine
Bad weather: No movement off roads, on roads at 1/2 normal rate. Other possible results of bad weather may be: no preparation of defences possible, bridges washed away, road blocked by fallen trees.
Poor weather: Half movement off roads only. Fords are impassable.
Terrain also affects movement: Double rates on roads, 1/2 rate moving through hills or woods (except light troops). Swamps, mountains and forests must be bypassed except by light troops moving at 1/2 rate.
Programmed forces will consist of three forces, two of which will be dummy markers. Each of the forces will be given a different set of orders which have already been written. Such markers can only be identified by attempting to come into contact with the force. Once contact has been made there is a 67% chance it is dummy force and 33% chance it is a real force. If a dummy force is discovered it is removed and the next time a force it contacted there is a 50% chance it is real, or a dummy. Should the real force be located all dummy forces are immediately removed.
Each of the programmed forces will have a ring of pickets around it providing a first line of defence. On making contact with this picket force throw a D6 to discover the reaction:
1 Pickets rapidly reinforced by a regiment of troops.
2 Pickets rapidly reinforced by a company of infantry and a troop of cavalry.
3 Pickets rapidly reinforced by a company of infantry.
4 Pickets rapidly reinforced by a troop of cavalry
5 Pickets fire warning shots and flee back to main force.
6 Pickets overpowered before any warning can be given.
Having encountered a picket force it will be necessary to fight out the skirmish and attempt to penetrate the picket screen to discover if there is a real or dummy force behind it. If a dummy force is revealed the skirmish can be rationalised as a skirmish with an enemy reconnaissance or foraging group.
Provided the programmed force has a cavalry element there are up to 3 roving cavalry forces which may be real or dummy. Unlike the main forces, dummy cavalry units are not removed but returned to the nearest programmed main force when discovered. Contact with a real cavalry unit can produce a programmed force of between 1 squadron and up to a quarter of the total cavalry available to the programmed force dependant on a dice throw. These are considered enemy scouting units and may well come into contact with the player’s recon forces or pickets resulting in skirmishes. Having such roaming enemy forces deters the player from having too many small scouting forces moving around the map.
D6 1 2 3 4 5 6
Cavalry Force 1 Squadron 2 Squadrons 3 Squadrons Regiment 0.25 total Dummy
Programmed cavalry units move about randomly at their allotted movement rate. Having completed each daily movement for your own forces use a D6 to indicate which direction the programmed cavalry force will move.
1 2 3 4 5 6
NE E SE SW W NW
If the cavalry unit moves off the map it is returned to the nearest real or dummy force to begin random movement again on the next day.
Hopefully these rules have stimulated some ideas for your own campaigns. In developing your own rules you may like to consider:
Variable enemy force sizes due to inaccurate reconnaissance.
Simulating cavalry screens (possibly like pickets but detached from the main force and forming a line rather than a ring).
Supply lines: attack and defence of lines of communication, gathering forage, destroying enemy foraging potential.