Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Hail Napoleon! 1 scenario, 3 scales - 6mm, 15mm & 28mm

While our Hail Whoever house rules based on Hail Caesar are mainly used with 28mm figures, the system allows for the use of 15mm & 6mm figures as well.   28mm battles make great games (arguably the best games) but correlation of the move distances, units sizes and ranges indicates a ground scale of about 40" per km while our 200mm wide infantry units represent a battalion of about 600 men.  Thus a battle on a normal 10'x8' table is on ground about 3km wide by 1.8 km.  There is room to deploy & manoeuvre with armies of say 18 infantry units, 8 cavalry units & 4 guns a side & we can fight such battles in an evening.  These represent an army of about 13,000 men - this is not an army, it's not even a Corps - it's only a mixed arms division.

You can make up scenarios based on historical actions by fudging the scale of the ground to fit the table and calling the units brigades or divisions instead of battalions, and it can be great gaming scenario, but it's not a true simulation.  Even so, this works pretty well for ancient & medieval battles, even for ECW.  But in the 19th century when the armies were very much larger and the terrain was more critical and orders of battle more complex, such a simulation is less satisfactory and less instructive.

Hail Whoever provides for battles with 15mm figures with a ground scale of about 16" per km and  with 6mm figures with a ground scale of about 10" per km.   With 15mm figs our infantry units are about 1200 men and with 6mm figs they are about 2400 men.  So with each step down in figure scale we are fighting larger and larger battles with more and more men, but with the same number of units on the table.  While we think that 28mm makes for the best games we also like to explore historical simulations of the famous (and usually big) battles.  We also fight campaign and like to be able to get a good one night's battle from a clash regardless of the size of the forces.  

Tonight we set up and simultaneously fought the same small battle 3 times - with 28mm, 15mm & 6mm figs.  Each battle had the same 1.8km square terrain and the same 4,800 infantry, 1200 cavalry & 8 guns a side  Chris commanded the Austrians, Mike commanded the French.
When we change scales we keep move rates the same, but change the time scale and weapon ranges.  At 28mm we calculate that the time scale is 10 mins per double turn, at 15mm 20 mins & at 6mm 40 mins.  As we played the 28mm game we paused it after every second double turn to play a double turn in the 15mm game, and every 4th double turn we played a double turn on the 6mm game as well.  Our objectives for the exercise were: 1) To directly compare the three scales as games.  2) To see if the battles last the same amount of simulated time to confirm that we've got the arithmetic right.

The 28mm battle

The Austrians advance & seize the farm.  
 The French attack on the near flank.
The infantry slug it out on the near flank.  The French hold back their left while the Austrians send cavalry rot support their left.
The Austrian dragoons attack on this flank as the French begin an advance on the far flank.
The Austrian cavalry attack has bounced off, but the French cavalry advance has been halted by fire from the farm and by the lone square behind it.  The French infantry attack on the farm has been beaten off.  French counterbattery fire has broken the Austrian artillery.
 Both sides have regrouped.  The French artillery is now pounding the farm.
The Austrians have consolidated their cavalry and launched a last desperate attack to try and win the battle before the farm falls.
The Austrian cavalry has been beaten off and the concentrate d French fire on the farm has broken the second Austrian foot division to break the Austrian army on turn 17.

The 15mm Battle:
TheAustrians attack left and centre, but the French get to the farm too.
The cavalry square off on the far flank, infantry dispute the farm and the Austrians advance on the left & centre.
After initial success the French cavalry ran out of steam and was withdrawn. The Austrians have taken the farm but lost a unit to a countertattack in the centre.
The Austrians in the farm were blown out by artillery and the French took control of the centre as their cavalry fought back.  The Austrians have broken on turn 7.

The 6mm battle:
The Austrians have seized the farm but their left has been slow to advance.
 The Austrians took the farm.  Their cavalry drove the French back then broke themselves.

The Austrian foot drive the French off the table to win the battle on turn 4.

The 28mm battle lasted 17 double turns x 10 mins = 2 hrs 50 mins.
The 15mm battle lasted 7 turns x 20 mins = 2 hrs 20 mins.
The 6mm battle lasted 4 turns x 40 mins = 2 hours 40 mins.
This as good a correlation as one could get considering the vagaries of the dice & is a pretty convincing demonstration that we have our sums right with regard time & distance scales.

The course of the three battles varied considerably due to the vagaries of the Hail Caesar command dice providing the players with different challenges in each case.  As games, the 28mm was obviously the most interesting, the best looking and the most fun.   But the 15mm & 6mm battles were much smaller than we would ever use outside of an experiment.  With more units they too become more interesting. 

A 15mm battle with the same number of units as our 28mm would be of 12,000 men a side, a 6mm battle would be of 24,000 men a side.  We know from experience that we can fight much bigger battles single battles in a night.  The  15mm system works well for small Corps sized battles up to about 30,000 men where our 10'x6' table is 7km x 5km.   Our 6mm variant simplifies combat to speed up play even more and allows us to fight even the big Napoleonic and ACW epics when our table might covers 15km x 9m.  The simplifications remove some of the tactical niceties, but are not missed when there are so many units on the table and so much room to manoeuvre.


Jeff Berry said...

Interesting and worthwhile experiment. I think the question of scale has to do mostly with aesthetic tastes--and what scale you've invested your model army in. But to me, the larger the scale, the more abstract the game becomes, like chess. I have to admit that the larger figures, though, do look beautiful up close. And the look and feel of a 28 mm game has more of a reminiscence of when I used to play with toy soldiers with my dad on the floor, a truly fond memory.

Jim Gandy said...

It's also a matter of what you want do in your games. Once upon a time we were mainly focussed on doing simulations of famous battles & to do that well you need to use 15mm or 6mm figs. Nowadays we've been there & done all that & are more content with just a good game with toy soldiers - and we think 28mm do that best. So the 15's & 6's mostly sit on their shelves waiting for special occasions & campaigns.