Monday, June 3, 2019

I'm Surrounded By Idiots

Dammit! I told him to hold!

This is a wargaming idea I've been musing on for a couple of years that crystallized in my head during a shower today.  It would likely work for a variety of scales and periods but my intention is for horse and musket games in Ruritania-style imagi-nations where the characters of the generals, colonels, and units are considered important for flavor reasons. The goal is to simulate the vagaries of command and control situations in countries where generalship is based on hereditary position. It draws from the game fantasy warriors and is hopefully a sort of spiritual cousin to Fleet Captain.

Units in the game are grouped under brigadiers and those units may only perform moves and actions based on their brigadier's current orders. There are three potential orders:
  1. Assault - units must make moves that move them closer to an enemy, fire upon that enemy (in close range if possible), and charge that enemy. If the enemy appears as though it is not likely to stand, a charge is always required.
  2. Oppose - units may make moves that take them closer to an enemy and fire upon that enemy, but may not move within close range and must fall back if the enemy comes within close range.
  3. Hold - units may not take any move but may fire at enemies that come within range. Units will only move if forced to retreat.
Brigadiers have a rating between 1 and 5, 5 being the best. They also have one of the characteristics described below:
  • Brash - wants to Assault.
  • Unsure - wants to Oppose.
  • Cautious - wants to Hold.
  • Cowardly - wants to retreat a full move and Hold; however, may instead desire to save his reputation and Assault.
In the course of a battle, the CinC (which stands in for the player and has neither a rating nor a characteristic) will want to issue new orders to brigadiers in accordance with the shape of the battle. If the CinC does not have troops they command directly, they may move into base to base contact with a brigadier and change their orders. No roll is required if orders are changed in this way as the presence of the CinC makes sure these orders are carried out.

If the CinC cannot make base to base contact, or if they have personal troops who they cannot leave, they must send a runner who arrives at the brigadier in the same number of turns it would've taken the CinC to reach base to base contact in the turn they were sent out.  A CinC may send out any number of runners but only one runner may be sent per brigadier.

When a runner arrives with new orders, a die is rolled. If the result is less than the brigadier's rating, the brigadier adopts the new orders and acts accordingly. If the result is greater than the brigadier's rating, the brigadier is willful and adopts new orders in accordance with his characteristic.  If the scenario should impose modifiers to this roll, a 1 is always a success and a 6 is always a failure. A cowardly commander may never have a rating above 4 and a will always Assault on a result of 6.

If this is the first scenario using a brigadier in question, they must be named and their character and rating established. To determine their rating, roll a die.  A result of 1 OR 6 means the brigadier's rating is 1, with all other results being equal to the brigadier's rating. A separate die is then rolled for character, with the result determined per the table below.
  1. Cowardly
  2. Cautious
  3. Cautious
  4. Unsure
  5. Unsure
  6. Brash
If the brigadier has appeared in a scenario before, or it is part of a longer campaign, the character and rating from that scenario are generally kept.  However, if at the end of a scenario the brigadier has disobeyed orders AND his units were routed, a die is rolled.  If the die is equal to or less than his rating, the general's rating improves by one (never higher than 5). As an optional rule, if a Brash brigadier disobeyed orders and routed the units of the enemy, a roll may be made as above.  If the roll is GREATER THAN his rating, his rating decreases by 1.

Another optional rule is for elite units which are determined to have ratings greater than their commanders, such as grenadiers or horse guards. These are given a rating by the scenario (usually a 3,4, or 5) and if the brigadier disobeys orders then a separate roll is made for the unit.  If the die is less than or equal to the unit's rating, they perform the intended order of the CinC and not the brigadier.


  1. Nice, going back to the war gaming roots of our hobby. Chivalry & Sorcery had an "Insubordination Determination" for troop commanders. As I recall they didn't have any mechanic to change their propensity to be stupid no matter what happened to them.

  2. The trope that 90% of the officers are bumbeling idiots is such a staple of military fiction*, I wonder why it isn't used more in war games.

    *And not only fiction, every time I read about "Fall Gelb" I wonder if a third of the allied command was on German pay roll in 1940.