Monday, August 15, 2011

More on Scale-Changing for Leipzig: Empire, Napoleon's Battles, DBA

Empire, the Grand Tactical game
Empire by Scott Bowden was the Grand Tactical Napoleonic game popular in the 80's with 1 figure = 60 men, and 1 gun = 2 guns.

So battalions could be 6, 8, 10, 12, maybe up to 18 at most figures, and batteries each needed 3, 4, or 6 models.

So to do Leipzig with that you'd need almost 1,100 cannon and howitzer models on the table, and about 8,300 figures, not counting thousands of gunners necessarily in that total.

There have been several iterations of Empire, besides derivatives, and the current version is called Revolution and Empire. There are still people playing it, including more or less as written.

Please click here and look at this guys photos, they show us what 12,000 painted Napoleonic figures looks like all in rows. It's pretty awesome but a lot of painting. This has been in my blogroll for several months but I don't think I ever called attention to it. Amazing work.

Reaction Against Empire
Then the community reacted against Empire, after maybe ten years of its ascendancy in the eighties, on the grounds it's too fiddly, time-consuming, trying too hard to be a simulation versus a game, and gives too many +2 to the French even though it's +1 to the British, etc.

Plus people didn't like being stuck with the generals named and shamed as incompetent as they were many times. And also, Empire had the nerve to have the figures in a line stand only one rank of figures deep, instead of two, even though there were still deeper formations for the column anyway. There are still people overreacting against that.

Me, I just didn't like the percentile dice, that's all, even though they probably are better. It could have been a little simpler and been all right. Actually it isn't really that difficult anyway, to me. But it still needs too many guns, at the 1:2 ratio.Who has 1,000 limbers painted up?

The Vocal Community's Solutions

So the solution of the community, and it may really only be a very vocal minority, is to reject all that and go to big battalions of at least 48 figs, which would point to 1:10 men, or 12, even though they often use one gun, with or without limber, as a battery.

The trend is to much simpler and quicker games, which may be further back towards game from simulation on the continuum.

But not only can they not do Leipzig, but they can't even do one tenth of Leipzig either, with rules like that. They could do Bunker Hill, but not Leipzig.

The result is Leipzig would require only 300 model guns, if at 8, but also 41,666 or some odd figures, if at 12. Distance who knows but few have that many tables nor could reach across it, yet this battle is only two or three times the size of Waterloo really.

The Obvious Solution
The obvious solution is to change the scale.

Even with all this having been said, there always have been a minority who saw these problems ahead of time and so we find in Charles Grant the Elder's The War Game, around 1972 or '73, a mention of a figure:troop ratio of 1:100 as a possibility, that some were using.

And in Ned Zuparko's Vive l'Empereur, again 1:100. That was 1982.

When Avalon Hill joined the trend set by GDW System 7 for board wargame companies to have a Napoleonic cardboard/miniatures hybrid system, their Napoleon's Battles went with 1:120 men, but still compromised to the two figure ranks deep line, saying that it was for a satisfactory appearance of depth, just for the visual aspect, while acknowledging it is a great distortion of depth at least for a line.

Napoleon's Battles had a far superior graphic presentation over any miniatures rules and most boardgames too for that matter, as they were in a position to produce top-end components. These are the same company who did Squad Leader.

Then there is DBA, De Bellis Antiquitatis, which divided an army into 12 parts, and called them elements, and covered many thousands of years' history with one coherent system, Barkerese notwithstanding.

If the French army of let's say 180,000 at Leipzig were in 12 roughly comparable parts they'd need to be around 15,000 men each, and if so then each element would need to be a corps d'armee.

And if 360,000 Allies had to only be in 12 elements, theirs would have to be around 30,000 men each.

So the one silliness is to force every army of all history into a 12-part mold, no matter what, and count the commander as one of them--but then they define one element as being what, 300 paces across? That means all of them in one line would be 9000 feet, 3000 yards, no matter what, and thus would make a French Napoleonic army no more than 13500 men, and that's all you get. Then ranges and moves and time and all else scaled accordingly.

So it's double silly, yet popular and fulfills a need in the community.

To me it is a challenge to make something sort of like that, but more like the idea of the dream of what the potential of DBA seems like the first time you look at page one and start to realize what they are doing, but before you completely figure out what they are doing, which pretty much spoils it.

The obvious solution is to change the scale.

Boardgamers Don't Ever Deal With This they don't need to
Boardgame companies think nothing of adjusting the scale drastically from each publication to the next, they have gladiator fights and they have all of World War One, and Two, and Three, all on the same physical size of maps, plus many with more than one map to adjust the scale as needed. They have one ship on one ship duels and they have all of outer space in the future Galacticas and all that.

So the miniatures community seems kind of hidebound and overly conservative and even to the point of being "reactionary," the way it looks to me. Except in World War Two miniatures, so there I see a glimpse of light.

In the period of World War Two, even though there are many skirmish-level games and small-unit games, there are also a healthy range of games at what they call the Operational level, which is the one above Grand Tactical, but below Strategic.

Thee are games where  one stand is a squad, or a platoon, or a company--and there are several games out where 1 stand is a whole battalion or in one case a Regiment/Brigade.

Horse and Musket Does Think About It Sometimes
There are also Snappy Nappy, and One Brain Cell games, and that is for both Napoleonic and Seven Years' War, that do put some thought into this level. I know what people say about the names, but these are closer to what I am looking for.

Attention Deficit Disorder?
So headed in this direction, now I am busy thinking about how to convert some of the WW2 operational miniature games to the Korean War, so again the ADD strikes again, but I think there is a connecting thread.

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  1. Problems, problems!!!!! I'm not that up to date with the Battle of Leipzig, can you not do part of the battle, left of right flank perhaps??
    There are rule sets out there where you can fight grand scale games, like you said though they do dumb done on tactic and such, only two rulesets spring to mind, I've played both although that was sometime ago. Shako and Volley and Bayonet. have a look at them if you've not before, other than that, it might be time to write your own set!!!!!

  2. Take a look at this blog, Steve is writing up his own 6mm rules, they sound right up your street!

  3. Ha ha, just in time to see PM Geuze recommended "Polemos" after Steve spent five years of posts about working on his own rules! 'Cuz he doesn't like the commercial ones. It's in the Comments Department.

    I have looked at Steve's before a few times, but so late at night I can only now remember a favorable impression overall. But it is the sort of thing I like to read, you are right. Good catch.