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Posted on Jun 7, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Anatomy of a Game System

By Tom DeFranco

So far I described the three subsystems individually. There is a very intuitive sequence of play that only varies because a step may be skipped on some turns. Here goes:

Command Phase

1)Orders writing. The phasing player writes orders to subordinate leaders (usually corps commanders) within his allotment of command points for a turn given his command rating. At the start of most scenarios in the game system, most, if not all units have orders already.

2)Corps Attack Stoppage check. The phasing player uses the charts and a die roll to determine if his attacks continue. What initiates this check is whether the attacking unit was the recipient of small arms fire. The amount of casualties absorbed by the corps in the form of wrecked sub-units is checked against the corps commander’s command rating. The cross-section of the two on the chart results in a number needed on a dice roll to pass the test. (Envision any number of fruitless attacks that were made during the war and then halted because troops would not go "once more into the breach". Case in point: Confederate troops attacking the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh.)


3)Initiative order determination. As mentioned above, in case of an emergency (or opportunity) the phasing player might wish to seek initiative on the part of a corps or division leader. If snake eyes are rolled, your opponent writes your order for you. (Case in point: GK Warren, or Strong Vincent rerouting Vincent’s brigade to Little Round Top. In the case of a loose cannon, keep in mind Dan Sickles moving into Sherfy’s Peach Orchard.)

4)Delay reduction. The phasing player rolls to see whether or not received orders are finally accepted. Depending upon delay status, players either have a 1/3 chance or 1/6 chance of getting a corps moving. (Consider any number of attacks or other large unit movements and how long it takes a corps or division to get moving, from the time the order is received to distributing it to the subordinate commanders within the ordered unit. Think of how long it took Burnside to get moving at Antietam.)

5)New orders acceptance. Phasing player rolls to see if just delivered orders are immediately accepted, delayed or distorted. (The result is based on the roll of 2d6 with the sender’s and receiver’s ratings factored in as well as whether the order is complex or simple.)


Movement and Close Combat Phase

1)Straggler recovery marker placement. The phasing player places these markers as a reminder for later in the turn. There are rules for units to qualify to recover stragglers (more on these in a later article). This is the only way for units that become wrecked to recover some soft casualties and regain some fighting strength. (Picture a provost marshal rounding up stragglers and returning them to their rightful units once the unit is out of immediate danger.)

2)Movement and Close Combat. This is just what it means. You move your pieces and engage in any close combats of your choosing by moving into hexes occupied by your opponent at an extra cost for the occupied hex. Regarding close combat, let the attacker (the phasing player) beware. This decision is usually the result of desperation. A close combat into a given hex guarantees that someone will control that hex after the fight, usually at a severe cost in casualties for both sides. One should normally conduct such an assault out of desperation (you need that hex to win the game), or if one is certain that the opponent’s unit has already been weakened from casualties or adverse morale results, or if the attacking unit is blood lusted. All close combats are conducted and finished one at a time before ending this subphase. The Close Combat subsequence is as follows: defensive fire and apply the fire and straggler results to the attacking troops immediately, non-simultaneous offensive fire and apply fire and straggler results to defending units, the attacker makes his morale check (down six rows on the chart, unless blood lusted. If the attacker is forced to retreat because of the morale roll the close combat ends – the defender wins. If the attacker is blood lusted, he only rolls to determine if the attacking units remain in that state – thus he cannot lose because of an adverse morale result.), the defending unit makes his morale check (down four rows for being the defender in a close combat, unless bloodlusted. Blood lust has the same effect upon defenders as attackers. If the defender is forced to retreat, the attacker wins the close combat and the hex.), if both units survive their respective morale checks, the surviving strengths are figured and a chart is consulted to determine the winner of the hex. (The whole close combat experience should take no more than a minute or so to complete.)

3)Ammo Resupply. After movement is concluded, any units that had "low ammo" or "no ammo" (no ammo status occurs only in the RSS) markers applied to them may become resupplied. Note that because of scale, the rules for ammo recovery are more involved for the RSS, but for the brigade level games the supply wagons need to end movement no more than two hexes away from the affected combat unit.


Fire Combat Phase

1)Defensive Fire Subphase. The non-phasing player fires his units at the phasing player’s troops at his discretion. This is done, of course, within the confines of the Line of Sight rules, the formation of the firing unit(s) and other restrictions.

2)Offensive Fire Subphase. The phasing player follows suit using the same parameters as immediately above. This fire, the order in which it occurs, and the targets that the phasing player chooses, is completely independent of defensive fire above, with the single caveat that the fire is not considered to be simultaneous. The order of firing is completely intentional and exists to show an innate advantage that troops firing on the defensive had against troops on the move.

Notes on the Fire Phase:Because fire is not simultaneous, any adverse result inflicted upon the phasing player’s units are considered when returning fire. So, if a defensive fire caused a phasing unit to rout, the routed unit may not return fire. Along the same line, if a defensive fire caused a phasing unit to become disorganized, the offensive player fires that unit at half strength.

The fire phase, more than any other, requires the most frequent use of the games’ charts. During this phase there are upwards of 5 charts to consult. The first chart that one looks at is the Fire Point Determination Chart. In the CWB, (but not the RSS, which contains unit fire point multiples depending upon weapon type, a la The Great Battles of The American Civil War system, currently published by GMT) a unit’s firing strength is measured on an alpha basis. This strength at start appears both on the unit counter and on the loss charts. As each unit takes losses, it weakens gradually (which the owning player can tell by briefly looking at his loss charts at the unit’s status), if unevenly, so that a unit which starts at a strength of AA will weaken as it engages in combat down to an A, a B, a C and soon afterwards, extinction.

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