This post is going to look at what, if anything, I need to do to GMT's Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (CCN) rules to allow them to handle bigger battles. If you are not a CCN user, or could not care less, some of the reasoning might still be of interest. If you would like to see the rules of CCN, you can download them from here.
Last year I put a lot of effort into developing my in-house grand tactical Napoleonic rules, which - through lack of inspiration - kept their joke working title of MEP (short for moins est plus). I did a lot head-scratching and testing, and eventually carried out a refight of
(Los Arapiles), which in hindsight may have been a tad over-ambitious. The reason this all becomes relevant again is because I will need some means of managing very large battles for my coming solo Peninsular campaign. I have banged on about some of this in previous posts, and thus I will try not to say all the same things again, but I must explain up front that by Grand Tactical I mean that the units on the tabletop are brigade-sized. Salamanca
My MEP version of
threw up a number of issues to do with command and activation, and especially with the endless chore of managing skirmishers and artillery, which really became a problem. So much for streamlining the game and abstracting unnecessary levels of detail! Around the same time, I became acquainted with CCN, and since then I have become a devoted user, relishing what I have previously described as an order-of-magnitude improvement in playability over my previous rules - the CCN mechanisms and systems are developed from other similar games, are tested and proved to a commercial boardgame standard, and they hang together and actually work. I mean quickly and logically. The feel of CCN, as I have also said before, is like the old, fun battles I fought when I was first involved in wargaming, the chief difference being that the game doesn't have all the old holes and patches that used to stop the flow and cause arguments. Salamanca
CCN obviously is not going to be everyone's cup of tea - although I use miniatures with the rules almost exclusively it is, after all, a hex-grid boardgame, which is a major turn-off for many. Also it does not allow you to enjoy deploying your column into line, or handling skirmishers, so if that is your favourite part of Napoleonic warfare you should look elsewhere. For me, it works well. The card-based activation system is simple but challenging (and avoids the exhaustion which comes from marching entire armies pointlessly around the table), the special battle dice are easy to use, and the games run quickly enough to come to a successful conclusion, which is a colossal plus in my book. A regular feature of my wargames over the years has been the feeling of disappointment when I couldn't raise the enthusiasm (or the opponent) to finish off the previous evening's unfinished epic.
In the Introduction to the rule booklet for CCN is the following claim:
The scale of the game fluctuates, which allows players to effectively portray epic Napoleonic battles, as well as smaller historical actions. In some scenarios, an infantry unit may represent an entire division, while in others a unit may represent a single regiment or battalion. The Napoleonic tactics you will need to execute to gain victory conform remarkably well to the advantages and limitations inherent to the various Napoleonic national armies of the day and the battlefield terrain features on which they fought.
OK - if we gloss over the promotional overtones, the scalability bit is very interesting. A quick read of the example scenario booklet which comes with the game makes it obvious that the scale of the
scenario is obviously rather larger than Rolica. If this nice, crisp game is really scalable in this way, then this is a most attractive idea. Here was the starting point for my previous consideration of what adjustments would be necessary for a grand tactical [my definition] variant of CCN, which, to save typing, I shall have the conceit to call GTCCN for the time being. Adjustments? - hmmm - if it works in its basic form, the best approach is to leave it alone if possible, not easy for a life-long tinkerer/improver/wrecker. Waterloo
So I set myself a First Objective, which was "only change the game if it is really necessary to do so in order to avoid scaling distortions".
This is all about putting another tick on my list of things to do for the campaign, since a set of rules for big battles, compatible with CCN, is required. I shall move on to run a test battle using this trial version of GTCCN – it will probably be after the holiday period now. This trial was going to be another shot at
, but I may try something else. My definition of what constitutes a big battle is up for grabs – currently I am thinking of a battle where the number of CCN units (including Leaders) on either side would exceed 30, but I may change may mind when I see how it looks. Salamanca
I must point out at this stage that one of GMT's future expansions to CCN will be a larger, Grande Battle [sic] version, similar to the Epic version of Commands & Colors: Ancients or the Overlord version of Memoir 44 from the same originators. These games are primarily intended as multi-player games on a double-width board, and are thus designed as wide versions of the same-game-with-more-units, rather than the same-game-with-bigger-units which I am looking for. Thus, though I am sure CCN Grande Battle will be a terrific game, my ideas for GTCCN are heading in a different direction, to meet my need for a big battle manager in my own campaigns.
What I'll do here is set out the areas I have considered - I hope this becomes structured enough to follow! - and list the rule amendments I have developed. Bear in mind that I am trying hard to make amendments only where the scale change makes it necessary.
If we are going to have more men in a hex, it stands to reason that there is an implied change to the ground scale. CCN does not state scale assumptions, which is sensible since each scenario is designed to fit a specific battle onto the board, so I’ll base this exercise on CCN rather than going back to metres/paces and starting the game design from scratch. In CCN, a combat unit (for example, an infantry battalion, normally of 4 "blocks" strength) will occupy a hex. It is possible to add a Leader to the same hex, but otherwise one unit to one hex is the rule. For reasons which are not very scientific, I sort of visualise a 4-block battalion is some parody of Column of Grand Divisions, 2 wide by 2 deep. It would be very convenient if in GTCCN a battalion were represented by a single block (let's see you deploy that into line!), which is half as wide on the board, which effectively doubles the ground scale - in other words, whatever the size of a hex is in CCN, it is something like twice that in GTCCN, and the terrain features depicted in the hexes become twice as big.
Righto - what does that do to the movement rates? In CCN, infantry may move 1 hex - there are some exceptions for light infantry, but 1 hex is the norm. Easiest approach is to leave that alone and assume that the turns last twice as long - so the implied time scale (whatever it was) is doubled, and infantry still move 1 hex - all movement rates are unchanged, though they are twice as far on the ground. That was easy.
Sanity Check - Artillery Units
A faint klaxon sounds when you consider artillery. A battery in CCN is 3 blocks strong, and occupies a hex, and CCN also has the concept of a “reduced” battery, i.e. one that has only a single block remaining. Using the same approach as for the infantry, we can scale things down by making the standard 6-8 gun battery a single block, so that the “reduced” battery unit becomes the standard arrangement for anything less than a massed grand battery. Insisting on such a reduced battery occupying a hex on its own doesn't seem right, so I have adopted an approach for artillery whereby a battery may be deployed in two different ways:
(1) Up to 3 such batteries may be brigaded together as a single Grand Battery, which is a unit in its own right. A 3-block battery of this type is just like the normal CCN battery, apart from some trimming of the ranges (see later).
(2) Otherwise, batteries will normally be used in a divisional role, at 1-block strength, and will correspond to CCN’s “reduced” form. A big change here is that they may be attached to (or separated from) a brigade in the same way that Leaders are handled in CCN. This will require specific orders, and my original feeling was that they should only be allowed to join a brigade from the same division, but I've dropped that idea for the moment because the game may be tricky enough without that constraint. A brigade may have both a Leader and a battery attached, though no more than 1 of each. A Leader or
Battery may be given orders along with a brigade if they are attached, but they are really distinct units, and count as Victory Banners in their own right if lost. Thus, for example, a brigade with attached battery which receives an Artillery hit on the battle dice will lose the battery, and a Victory Banner is awarded to the opposition, though the rest of the brigade is still in the field.
In CCN, there is Melee Combat (which is what you do to people in the next hex – and note carefully that includes short range fire as well as the use of bayonets and swords, so all canister fire is included in Melee) and Ranged Combat (which is firing at people further away). Ignoring tactical variations, CCN gives ranges thus:
Muskets 2 hexes
Rifles 3 hexes
Horse Artillery 4 hexes
Foot Artillery 5 hexes
Since the ground scale has changed, we have to trim the ranges down. My approach is a touch crude – I simply reduce all the ranges by 1 hex. This means that foot artillery can now probably fire a bit further than in the original game, but they are so ineffective at extreme range that I am hoping it will not be a problem. If we adopt a range for muskets of 1 hex, then we can make this part of Melee Combat, and muskets will no longer carry out Ranged Combat. [I make a careful note at this point to check later that I haven’t devalued infantry by this assumption.] Thus my revised table for GTCCN becomes:
Muskets none - included in Melee
Rifles 2 hexes
Horse Artillery 3 hexes
Foot Artillery 4 hexes
The units are now to be brigades, which includes Grand Batteries. To keep the game playable, I outlaw brigades of infantry mixed with cavalry. The “blocks” within a brigade will now represent the constituent battalions, cavalry regiments or attached batteries. Note that either type of artillery (foot or horse) may be attached to an infantry brigade, but only horse artillery may be attached to cavalry, and that horse and foot artillery must be kept separate when forming grand batteries.
Although the idea has been to avoid considering the detail of the scales, assume that an infantry block represents a battalion, a cavalry block is a regiment, an artillery block is a battery of 6-8 guns. It would be nice to have a one-to-one mapping of regimental blocks against a historical OOB, but, if working from historical numbers, allocate (about) one block per 600 men for infantry, per 300 men for cavalry, per battery (company) for artillery. If you can represent each unit which was present with a block then that is terrific, but the total for the brigade is the important thing. Thus a company of 50 men from the 5/60th Rifles attached to a brigade in the original OOB is insignificant on this game scale – you don’t get a Rifles block just for that.
Note also that Ranged Combat is now going to be carried out at block level. If a brigade contains one or more Rifle blocks, and/or an attached battery, these blocks will be able to fire individually if the brigade has orders – and remember that 1-block artillery batteries correspond to “reduced” batteries in the CCN rules.
As an example, the British Light Division in the Peninsular War might consist of
1/43rd Ft (750 all ranks)
2/95th Rifles (400)
1st Cacadores (500)
1/52nd Ft (800)
1/95th Rifles (550)
3rd Cacadores (500)
plus a horse battery
In GTCCN, each brigade would be represented by single unit of 1 British LT + 1 Portuguese LT + 1 British RL (rifle light) = 3 blocks, which would move and melee (on average) as British Light Infantry, and would be entitled to 1 block of rifle-armed Ranged Combat. And, of course, the 1-block HA horse battery may be attached to either of these brigades, or may be left to operate on its own.
Though this may appear disrespectful, in my game the French Léger regiments are classed as LI (line infantry), not LT – I consider this appropriate for the Peninsular War.
A brigade will move at the rate of its slowest block type – thus mixed light and heavy cavalry may move only at heavy cavalry speed.
A brigade will carry out Melee Combat as if it were all of its predominant type – if more than one type is equally represented, the owner may choose. A brigade of 1 Grenadier battalion and 3 of Line will fight as Line. A brigade of 2 light cavalry blocks and 2 heavy may fight as heavy or light cavalry as the owner chooses (though its moves are limited to the slower, heavy cavalry rate).
Losses to a mixed brigade – if they are not obvious from the Battle Dice results (e.g. an artillery symbol) these will be from the predominant type; if more than one type is equally represented, the owner may choose.
If a cavalry or infantry brigade is eliminated which has a battery attached, the battery will be lost also.
For infantry and cavalry units, the rules are the same as for CCN, though only eligible blocks may use Ranged Combat.
For artillery, there are some changes to the rules - the bonus for Guard artillery is dropped, all ranges are reduced, and the numbers of battle dice are now thus:
Foot artillery (3-block Grand Battery) – 4 dice for Melee, and 3, 2, 1 dice at range 2, 3 or 4 hexes respectively
“Reduced” (1-block) Foot artillery – 3 dice for Melee, and 2, 1, 0 dice at 2, 3 or 4 hexes
Horse artillery (3-block Grand Battery) – 3 dice for Melee, and 2, 1 dice for range 2, 3 hexes. No fire at range 3 is permitted if the battery moved.
“Reduced” (1-block) Horse Artillery – 2 dice for Melee, and 1, 0 dice for range 2, 3 hexes.
The CCN rule whereby a “reduced” horse battery may not move and fire is dropped, since 1-block batteries are the norm in GTCCN.
Squares in GTCCN
Essentially, the rules for forming and fighting in square are the same as for CCN. If a brigade of infantry is ordered into square, it may mean that the whole brigade forms one big square or – more likely – an array of battalion squares. It doesn’t matter – the GMT-supplied marker indicates that the brigade is now in square. A special rule is now needed if the infantry has an attached artillery battery.
I assume that the gunners will take shelter inside the squares as necessary, so they do not influence the Melee Combat involving the square, with a single exception – if the attacking cavalry roll an artillery symbol on their single permitted Battle Dice, the artillery are lost.
In GTCCN there will be a higher proportion of these, since generals down to Divisional level will normally be represented – in addition a detached brigade with a specific role may also be allocated a Leader if the scenario requires this.
You may attach a Leader to any unit you like, as in CCN, but – unlike CCN – he allows them to ignore a Retreat result from combat only if he is in their chain of command. He will, in any event, still be at risk of being lost even though he is not able to influence their Retreats.
The only implications for the normal Command Card pack are that the “FIRE AND HOLD” cards (of which there are 2) will no longer offer any advantage for musket-armed infantry (though rifles and artillery will still benefit) and the extra bonus for Guard artillery on the “BOMBARD” cards (there are 2) is no longer applicable – all artillery is the same in GTCCN.
Scenario requirements for victory for GTCCN will need rather inflated numbers of Victory Banners, to allow for the increased numbers of Leaders and the likely numbers of lost divisional batteries. Remember that if a brigade with attached Leader AND attached battery is completely eliminated, and the Leader is lost, that is THREE Victory Banners.
Initial recommendation will be to add 3 or 4 to what you would expect the normal CCN Victory Banner requirements to be.
I’ve done it again – I started out very pleased with the small amount of change I had introduced, but my usual windy explanation means that this looks like a whole pile of stuff. I had intended to summarise the rule changes at this point, but I think this has gone on long enough. If I feel brave in a day or two I may do this, though.