Monday, October 26, 2015

Generalship, Strategy, and Tactics

My wife has been re-watching Ken Burns' Civil War series and it is often in the background when I am working on game related things. One idea that stood out this time was the contrast in approach and effectiveness between Generals McClellan and Grant.

McClellan - a general who was liked, some say loved, by his troops and who trained and supplied his troops to create an effective force, but a general who often seemed paralyzed by his fears about what his enemy was about to do. In part this may be the fog of war combined with the inflated estimates of the enemy he received from Pinkerton, but in large part he seemed to lack an aggressive instinct and a desire to attack and to vigorously follow up attacks and harry a retreating foe. As Patton said in his famous speech, "Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing."

Grant, in contrast, had the aggressive instinct. "The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

"I'm smarter than Grant; I know more about organization, supply and administration and about everything else than he does; but I'll tell you where he beats me and he beats the world. he don't care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell."
- General Phillip Sheridan, assessing his friend and superior US Grant

Now one aspect of the Honor+Intrigue system that I repeatedly admire and enjoy is the way that Chris Rutkowsky uses multiple Qualities in H+I for actions. This is most visible in the combat system, where all four Qualities: Might, Daring, Savvy, and Flair, act as modifiers for different combat maneuvers. This means that there is no one perfect stat nor is there a dump stat. This same idea can be applied to generalship, or more generally to military command whether on land or sea.

First let's look at what mechanics H+I includes for generalship. I’ll examine these in the order in the rules, so first, Ship Combat.

Ship Combat Abilities & Careers

Unlike heroes, ships do not have Combat Abilities or Careers of their own. Instead, they rely on the officer in charge of a particular task. So when a ship fires its guns, the Master Gunner will add his Sailor Career (or Pirate) to the ship’s Guns roll. If the ship is maneuvering, the Helmsman would add his Career rank to the ship’s Sails roll, etc. While most jobs use their Sailor Career, the ship’s Surgeon uses the Physician Career, and the ship’s Carpenter (or Sailmaker) uses the Craftsman Career to make rolls.
Initiative: The Captain of each ship rolls 1d6+Career to determine initiative, with the ship’s Crew Quality used to break ties.
Boarding is used when the attackers want to take the opposing ship or its cargo as a prize, rather than simply sink her. Boarding parties are led by the First Mate, who rolls Crew + Career vs. the enemy Captain’s Career. Success means that they have managed to board (or remain aboard) the enemy vessel. If a boarding party can stay aboard an enemy vessel for 3 rounds, the boarded ship must make a morale roll by rolling Crew + Captain’s Career vs. a moderate (-0) difficulty. Failure indicates the crew surrenders; success means they fight on, but must roll again each round at an increasing difficulty.
Repel Boarders: A ship that has been boarded will want to repel the boarders. This is done by rolling Crew + Captain’s Career vs. First Mate’s Career of the boarding party. Success indicates the boarders are repelled off the ship.

Summary of Ship Combat:

·         Initiative: 1d6+Career
·         Attack: Career+Crew
·         Resist Attack: -Career from enemy total

Next, I’ll look at Mass Combat for land-based battles.

Military Combat or Land-based Battles

Army Rating (AR): Each side in a battle is given an “Army Rating” comparing their strengths to the enemy army. If one side is weaker in one aspect, write nothing. This deficit is reflected as a bonus to the other side. So if one army has a Bonus in a category, the other army will have nothing in that category. The exception is “Commander” which simply uses the Commander’s rank in the Soldier Career as a bonus.
Moderately Better
Much Better

Moderately Larger
Much Larger
No Advantage
Excellent Position
Much Better

Add the Commander’s Soldier Career rank as a bonus

Resolving Battlefield Combat

Victory Points: Winning and losing a battle is kept track of using an abstract term, “Victory Points”. Each side begins a battle with 0 Victory Points. If the number is positive, it means the PCs’ side is winning. If the number is negative, the PCs; side is losing. If their side reaches 10 Victory Points, they have won the battle; the enemy retreats or surrenders. If the PCs’ side has -10 Victory Points, it means their side has lost the battle, and their army retreats or surrenders.
The Roll: Each Battlefield Round, one of the PCs rolls for their side in the battle. The roll is 2d6 + Their Army Rating minus their Opponent’s Army Rating. Take the result and subtract 7, keeping a negative result if necessary. This is how many Victory Points their side achieves this Battlefield Round, and is added to their running total of Victory Points. This is repeated each round until the army has 10 or -10 Victory Points, and the battle ends.

Summary of Land Battles:

·         AR = Modifiers+Career
·         Victory Points = 2d6+attacker AR – Defender AR –7

Comparing both Sea and Land battles we see that the Qualities of the leader does not effect the battle. This is contrary to the observations at the beginning about the personalities of McClellan and Grant. So here is an alternate way of managing battles. Rather than using Career by itself for everything we could divide the activities of the commander into three main areas.

Leadership: Flair+[Soldier/Sailor/Pirate]–Enhance troops morale, rally them from a rout, motivate them to follow. Leadership includes attempting to persuade with words and, especially in the early modern period, leading by example.
Strategy: Savvy+[Soldier/Sailor/Pirate]—Choose your ground, set an ambush, arrange formations, plan an attack. Strategy, is predominantly an intellectual exercise and does not require a personal presence or leading from the front.
Determination: Daring+[Soldier/Sailor/Pirate]—Lead from the front, order a charge, hold ground in the face of a much superior force, make a last stand, or lead a forlorn hope. Determination is predominantly courage, guts, and stubbornness. It usually requires leading by example or sharing the same danger and fate as one's men.

By intent, there is some ambiguity between the three areas and it is the GM's call as to which area PC is acting within. Some situations may call for more than one roll or a single roll may be used with a 

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