Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Choosing a link in the Chain of Command...

Above: Sardar Nek Muhammad Khan - Afghan commander
at Charasiab -- ponders how best to exercise "command"...

After completing a project my partner and I had been working on for more than a year, yesterday I took advantage of a free Saturday afternoon to work on a task I set for myself in the aftermath of the Charasiab Play-Test 1.0 and mentioned in the post I did on that game: creating a set of custom game-charts for my home-brew mix of TSATF (The Sword And The Flame) and 800FE (Eight Hundred Fighting Englishmen) before heading into Play-Test 2.0.

I know next to nothing about any software programs other than Microsoft Word and Final Draft, so I told my 15 year-old daughter what I wanted to do and asked her what to use, and she suggested Excel.  It was slow-going at first and I had to regularly harass her for help, but she got me up to speed and I think it worked out pretty well.

I managed to create 4 pages of game-charts:

1.  FIRE
3.  MORALE (including CLOSE INTO COMBAT, STAND & FIGHT, and RALLY charts)

...and finally:


This last chart led me to a bit of a rules-masher conundrum.

TSATF is an unabashedly small-scale rules set, seen by many (though not really me!) as a "man-to-man" skirmish game.  "Command" is provided by LEADER FIGURES -- two per Regular Basic Unit and one per Native Basic Unit, with additional higher-ranking LEADER FIGURES added as more Basic Units are fielded.

Because Regular Units have "TWO-DEEP" leadership, they are inherently more resilient and less brittle than Native Units.

800FE is the "Big Battle" variant of TSATF.  It plays at the Tactical level, fighting full-sized late 19th Century colonial battles.  Basic Units do include "Command Stands" but these are mostly for appearances sake and are always the last casualties removed from their units.  "Command" is actually provided by MOUNTED LEADERS who move independently and have a 12" "Command Radius."  Basic Units that start a turn "Out of Command" must pass a "Command Check" die-roll before being allowed to move normally, though if  failing the die roll and thereby going "Out of Command" they can still change formation and/or facing and fire normally.  These Mounted Leaders are only threatened by enemy action if they have chosen to ATTACH themselves to Basic Units, thereby providing that Basic Unit a Morale bonus.  Emphasis here is on the Player having to decide exactly where on the table to position his MOUNTED LEADER(s) in order to make best use of the multiple units under that figure's command.

These are two very different approaches to "Command" in two related but substantially different sets of rules, which is to be expected and is appropriate, considering the different "levels" of action the rules are designed to portray.


For my Home-Brew mash-up of the two rule-sets, it left me in the above mentioned conundrum.

On the one hand, I like the way 800FE's 12" Command Radius rule impacts play and I like the idea -- mentioned in my previous play-test blog-post -- of allowing the British to field a pair of HELIOGRAPH TEAMS to help extend the reach of their MOUNTED LEADERS' Command Radius.

But... does that mean I should wholeheartedly embrace 800FE's more abstracted "Tactical" approach to command, do away with the significance of Basic Unit LEADER FIGURES, and focus the "Command-&-Control" aspect of play only on the positioning of MOUNTED LEADERS and when to risk ATTACHING them to Basic Units...?

Maybe so.  It would speed play up a bit, as dropping any element from a set of rules generally will do.

But that would mean doing away with some other things that go along with the "Old School" TSATF LEADER FIGURE approach.

As per TSATF, my mash-up rules use card-flips for assigning casualties from Fire after they've been inflicted.  Doing away with Leader Figures would also do away with the significance of ACES as casualty cards, which anyone who's ever played TSATF knows as a regular source of dramatic tragedy and triumph.

It would also mean doing away with the "+1" for all Leader figures in CLOSE COMBAT, since yes -- my mash-up also uses the old school FIGURE-VS.-FIGURE D6 melee roll-offs -- another tried-&-true source of groans of tragedy and cheers of triumph around the table.

It all comes to a head with the "Leaderless Die Number to Move" on the TSATF MOVEMENT CHART.  If each unit's internal command structure is abstracted and LEADER FIGURES are no more, then there would be no need for this number on the chart.  I could replace it with the number needed to remain "IN COMMAND" on a die roll when the unit in question is more than 12" from its Mounted Leader, as per 800FE -- thereby removing the need to add additional information to the Movement Chart page.

I considered this and went back-&-forth once or twice before finally coming to a key realization...

I ENJOY the impact on game-play which the Basic Unit LEADER FIGURES bring to the game, whether in their moments of "+1" melee triumph or the flipping of a casualty card ACE with their name on it tragedy.  In a word, for me, these moments add to the FUN of the game.

Also, in terms of saving time and speeding up play, removing Basic Unit Leader Figures from both armies will not have a very significant impact.  Yes, it will save 30 seconds here and a minute there, and it's true those half-minutes and minutes would add up, but within the overall scheme of the game, I don't think they would add up that much.  At least not enough to merit the removal of Leader Figures in their entirety IMHO.

So... I'm going to try to have my Command cake and eat it too.  I'll use both the Basic Unit LEADER FIGURES from TSATF and the higher-echelon MOUNTED LEADERS from 800FE.

It's true most of the time a compromise means accepting the worst of both sides, but in this case I hope it means the opposite of that: the best of both sides.

So with that settled (at least until after the next Play-Test, depending on things go!), here are the 4 pages of custom charts I created for the Charasiab scenario...

NOTE: click on charts below to enlarge them.

Tomorrow -- Monday -- it's back to work, but I hope to schedule the next play-test very soon, and with the charts all done, and some kinks already worked out, hopefully it will go even better than the last one.  When that happens I'll return to share the results.

NOTE: I want to give a big THANK YOU to Mitch Birdinka, for leaving a comment noting I had a big bad TYPO in the Critical & Pinned Morale chart.  I fixed and replaced the flawed chart with the new-and-improved version above.  Thanks again, Mitch!

Here's a LINK to the very cool blog Mitch runs for his wargaming club, the West Sound Warriors, up in Kitsap County, Washington.  Filled with Battle Reports on a wide variety of historical miniature games, and lots of other cool hobby stuff, it's definitely worth checking out: http://westsoundwarriors.blogspot.com


  1. Critical & Pinned table needs fixing. The 1-17 came across as a date, Jan 17. You need to format that cell as Text. Very good charts though. Thanks for providing them.

    1. EXELLENT CATCH, Mitch, many thanks!

      That happened a bunch of times when I first started filling them out, before my daughter showed me the box where you can select what type of info is filling a cell, and I selected "TEXT" to replace the dates that were automatically popping up once I typed in a number.

      I will fix it and post a new-and-improved copy here.

      Thanks again!

  2. Mitch is a great guy to game with and does not miss much!