Friday, 8 July 2016

Bohemian Blitzkrieg: Turn 4, The Action at Niemes

Macquire deployed around and to the left of the village.
Facing him, the Bevern's Prussians were deployed in the centre and to the right.

What Bevern didn't know, was that Macquire would try to withdraw at the earliest permissible opportunity and Maquire's Army Characterisation card draw would allow him to do so - the Austrians had drawn only 9 morale chips.

Rule Note: In Age of Reason, a battle ends when a player loses so many troops and objective points that he is forced to withdraw. Piquet battles end in a similar fashion but with a wholly different mechanism and consequently I had to come up with something that, at a certain point, would end a and / or allow withdrawal. I said that once a force got to zero morale and failed a major morale check it could declare a defeat, end the game and withdraw. I must confess that I think I have got this wrong, as this battle will show.

The Austrians, with an open flank beckoning, decided to throw their Grenzers forward to exploit it. The Grenzers went forwards unsupported (I thought a little cavalry support might have been useful - but no one listens to me) with alacrity.
This small band (three battalions) rounded the lake and forced a refusal of the Prussian's right flank. However, it was at this point that their inability (as skirmishers) to press home (where was that cavalry? But no one listens to me) was felt.
Meanwhile the bulk of the Prussian infantry began its advance on the hill top village.....
....whilst the Prussian cavalry began to move out towards the threatened flank.
The Grenzers are charged and take to their heals with heavy loss.
As the Prussians begin their assault on the village the Austrians, now on zero morale, fail a major morale check and declare a withdrawal and the game ends. This action, I will not call it a battle, caused the loss of just 1 SP per side. 

After the battle Macquire retreated to Munchengratz. In the 'Pursuit Fire' stage of the retreat Macquire rolled four dice against Bevern's eleven dice. Both rolled two sixes so no SPs were lost in the retreat phase.

Graham (Austria) left feeling the happier commander having fought an un-costly delaying action. Peter (Prussia), though happy to accept the action for what it was, probably left feeling a little cheated. I must admit, I felt the same, the action ended in a most abrupt and unsatisfactory way.

Graham was helped by his low morale chip count. If he had drawn double the amount of morale he might have had to fight for the village against overwhelming numbers, so it might be said that Graham had just been lucky to get such a low number of morale chips and by spending them at every opportunity was able to get down to zero and escape very quickly. I think he was able to get away too easily.

I have been thinking about how to change the withdrawal criteria for a couple of days. Before next week's battle (the Battle of Sobotka), I wish to introduce a new withdrawal rule. However, because we have played the campaign using the other rule in two battles, and because the rule change is quite severe, I will need the approval of both players before it can be implemented. With that in mind I'm going to outline the rule here so that Peter and Graham, and you too, can think about / improve it:

Rule Note - Withdrawal Criteria: No army can begin to withdraw until it reaches zero morale chips. Thereafter, command groups can only be withdrawn after failing a major morale check: On failure the player must declare that the command will withdraw otherwise it will fight on. 

Withdrawing units, capable of doing so, must move towards the friendly or a flank table edge on all applicable move cards (they may otherwise act as required) at half rate or more until a Major Morale card in their sequence deck is turned. When a Major Morale card is turned withdrawing commands may be removed from play in their entirety. On being removed in this way, units in contact with the enemy will lose any remaining UI, all others within 12" of the enemy will lose 1 UI per unit. Units physically withdrawing off the the table edge on move cards are treated as 'removed on Major Morale' for the purposes of UI loss. 

The exception to this rule concerns commands entirely consisting of cavalry. Cavalry commands can be automatically withdrawn if they are the last commands to withdraw - a declaration of withdrawal will suffice. 

Well that is the rule. For some people this kind of rule is an anathema as they would like to physically play out the withdrawal as part of the game and let the chips fall where they may. However, I'm of the opinion, and I think Graham and Peter would agree, that sometimes a game just looks over and one side or the other simply doesn't want to play on for any longer than necessary to get a fair result - it's not a matter of winning or losing, it's a matter of having fun. We only have so much time to play our war games, so why would we want to play a game that we've lost any interest in playing further when that limited time can be used to fight another game? 

Anyway, onwards and upwards.


Epictetus said...

Firstly, I agree that the existing system doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I would also claim that a fighting withdrawal was an appropriate tactic. Under the campaign rules by fighting rather than withdrawing before battle I prevented the Prussians from moving next turn.

I think there is a flaw in your conflation of the separate issues of (a) failing Major Morale and having to withdraw (represented by the drop in unit quality and eventual disappearance) and (b) a controlled withdrawal when the situation so demands. In fact one should surely be encouraged to do the latter before the former becomes mandatory, and would expect better commanders to be able to do so more easily. Under your proposal one would be better off the worse one's commander is and would suffer less casualties if units are already routing.

Another factor here is that absolute size of army has become an issue. Given that from the time of having the first unit destroyed/routed/shaken one is using 2 morale chips a turn to take Major Morale, and that the floor for amount of morale chips is set by the size of the army then there is no real point in trying to fight with the size of force that Macquire started with. Under your proposal the whole force was doomed from the moment I only drew 9 chips. And yet the campaign is designed to have that force in it.

My not very detailed suggestion:

- distinguish between major morale and controlled withdrawal. I'd make withdrawal an officer check issue, but admit I have no real suggestions as to under what circumstances it could be triggered.
- adjust the Pursuit Fire (i.e. add dice to the pursuer only) for the defeated force's units that have been removed due to command level major morale failure (intended to encourage sensible withdrawal prior to getting to this stage)
- at the point of declaring withdrawal (the exact nature of which is, as above, the missing link in this whole idea) adjust pursuit fire dice for units in contact (2 dice?) and within 12 inches (1 dice?)


You are right, it is how a withdrawal is triggered that is the difficult thing. What card it happens on makes little difference to me - I'm happy to go with officer check.

Historically, once in close proximity to the enemy it is actually very difficult to extricate troops. Once contact happens, you are usually forced to fight, like it or not.

Under the campaign rules it is usually so simple to refuse battle and retreat that I have no truck with players wanting to have their cake (fight) and eat it (get away scot free when things go badly).

Perhaps we should say that you can't withdraw until at zero morale and play the game out until time runs out. However, if we did that I could see a lot of very strange, gamey, deployments (troops on the table edge).


I suppose, the other thing to consider, is not allowing a withdrawal at all - you fight until your troops depart on our standard major morale rule. But, as I have said in the post, that might mean a player having to suffer the best part of a session or more being trounced in a game he knows he cannot benefit by and I, for one, would rather not bother going through those motions.