Thursday 19 July 2012

The Dust Settles - After Thoughts On Apocryphal Well

The Aprocyphal Well was a splendid little battle, played out in about 3 hours. Grant used WRG 3rd with "The Dover Amendments". The result was the same, with the chariots proving in both cases the decisive arm.

As I mentioned earlier, the battle had shades of Korepsis Pass about it, but it differed from most actions we have fought in one aspect at least - only two units of what we might call elite troops featured, and even the chariots were much more vulnerable than hoplites or Companions. Most of the units involved were average. with some minor adjustments made for the armour of some of the Assyrians. The result of this was that few regiments would stand much missile fire - a stark contrast with Alexanders cavalry, or the Athenians at Marathon, who could afford to more or less ignore the efforts of enemy skirmishers.

The consequence of this vulnerability was an encounter in which both sides saw units disappearing at a fairly alarming rate. In fact, by the end the Assyrians had no troops left on the table at all - a situation that called to mind early battles fought on the living room carpet with The Don's rules from War Games.

This has left me wondering whether there shouldn't be some kind of cut-off point for an army. That when, say, it has lost two-thirds of its units it is rendered ineffective and must concede. On the other had if we consider that the vast majority of the Assyrians were "fled not dead", and that Stephen had conceded defeat midway through the final attack of the close order infantry, we might think that no such rule is needed.


  1. I've never been entirely convinced by army morale systems - perfectly sensible concept, but usually lacking in execution (it always seems to kick in at the wrong moment). I think Peter Young's famous comment re. morale being in the head of the wargamer are apposite in this scenario. The guys that i play with are sensible enough to know when to concede or withdraw - using a rule set such as Koenig Krieg that allows you to end the game by withdrawing (and possibly crucially not suffer at all for doing so) probably helps. My understanding of ancient warfare is that the majority of casualties were often suffered in the pursuit, so such a rule probably doesn't reflect the character of ancient warfare.

  2. I've struggled with this as well, especially in horse and musket battles where it seems like most of the defeated army is still present when the battle ends. There does seem to be some precedent for ancient armies collapsing in contagious panic at some point. There is a lot to be said for the old WRG escalating morale tests which could produce a domino effect.

    Perhaps the problem is that the rout test is not severe enough?
    It is technically possible for some units to rout similar friends but it looks very unlikely for hoplites yet seems to have happened. In other cases like Persian auxiliaries, they do not have enough dice to rout the next unit. So it seems like the troops most likely to panic at retreating friends in life are the least likely in the game!

    One option might be to replace the the current rout with an all or none test? The charge morale test could be used with a -1 but with the unit dissolving in rout if it fails, causing more tests? This could bring in the cascading army failure but may be too drastic in a game context.

    I'm not sure that the restrictions on which friends matter hold up either. In particular Persian light troops and auxiliaries would seem likely to be swept away by Persian cavalry.Higher morale troops would be less likely to fail at the sight of others running but I suspect examples could be found and "possibly" adds more tension than "never".

    Another idea that crossed my mind was that routing friends could cause a drop of one in a unit's "to hit" value reflecting a drop in morale that would slowly degrade an army until it become obvious that it is a lost cause.


  3. My own view on morale tests is that they shouldn't get in the way, but needs to be constantly in the minds of the oppossing generals. My way round is to say that the opposing general can ask for a morale test on an enemy unit at any time. Including immediately before combat. Or just within bowshot. Or just let you blithely run into the trap he's set. Or try to get a controlled unit to charge when you don't want to.

    Borrowing from tennis, a limit of 3 unsuccessful challenges per game. Likewise, ask for a test on as many units as you like per move, but the first unsuccessful one stops the process.