Showing posts with label mexican revolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mexican revolution. Show all posts

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

SAEaE - Possible Changes

I have been reading exchanges various recent posts on Bob Cordery's 'Wargaming Miscellany'  and David Crook's 'A Wargaming Odyssey' about how to better reflect both quality and numbers in the simple 'Memoir of Battle' games they have been pioneering. I have some reservations at present about the effects being too extreme in a game with low granularity in terms of the ability to change factors, but I shall follow the discussion and read the playtests and see what comes out of it.

It got me thinking about my own 'Struggle Against Everything and Everybody' (SAEaE) rules for the Mexican Revolution. These are based on one of Bob's sets, so changes and ideas proposed for them are potentially applicable. Having a few games of it under my belt (or bandolier) now I wondered if it could stand a few tweaks on similar lines to those proposed by Bob and David.

One issue I am thinking about at present is the relationship between a unit's strength and its combat capabilities. At present the 'Memoir of Battle' rules that Bob and David are trying use strength to reflect how many 'hits' a unit can take, with adjustments for quality - an infantry unit has a strength of 4, for example, but an elite unit may have a strength of 5 and a poor one a strength of 3. Their combat capability - how many dice they roll to score hits - is, however, unaffected by the strength. An infantry unit always rolls 4 dice, whether it is a full strength elite unit with 6 hits, or a poor unit close to breaking, with only 1 strength left. The Morschauser system, on which SAEaE is based gives units a strength, but that also dictates how many dice they roll when in combat; as a unit takes casualties it's fire-power decreases.

I am beginning to wonder if both methods are a little extreme. The first has units fighting at full strength until they are destroyed. The second has units degrading very rapidly as they take casualties, and their fire-power going down by a significant percentage.

In reality, such as it is, units generally don't fight to the last man; at about 15-20% casualties they are ready to give up. High casualty rates tend to happen when lots of units give up at once and the army routs, but for most games we play that's the aftermath, not part of the game itself. So for an infantry unit with an (arbitrary) strength of 4, each 'hit' doesn't represent 25% of the unit being put out of action; it may only represent a 5% loss. To this end there is something to be said for the Memoir method of fire-power being relatively unaffected by casualties; each hit doesn't represent 25% of a unit's fire-power being lost.

Morale is a different matter. If we assume a 4 strength unit 'breaks', and is lost, when all four points are lost, and that this represents a loss of about 20% of its strength. Each hit could, potentially, be degrading its morale by 25%.

So, how can I apply this theoretical (and probably inaccurate) rambling in SAEaE? When cobbling it together I pondered which method to go for - Memoir or Morschauser. I went for Morschauser, partially because the saving roll mechanism gave me more flexibility in terms of applying terrain and range factors in the game. The discussion above leads me to the idea that I could use a mix of both systems.

In SAEaE I differentiate between shooting and close combat., using slightly different mechanisms. Even at one square range a unit can choose to sit tight and shoot, or charge in with sabre, machete or bayonet*. The former is a low risk strategy, which may take time to bear fruit, whilst the latter offers a big win at the risk that you could suffer if things go badly. My assumption is that shooting is based very much on the actual strength of a unit - how many guns it can bring to bear - whereas close combat is based on morale - a unit's willingness to charge against its target's willingness to stand in the face of a determined attack.

So here's what I will try.

Units still have a base strength value. This directly equates to their fire-power - the number of dice they roll when shooting. This doesn't vary significantly with casualties. It's also used as an initial measure of the unit's willingness to fight. This value does go down as the unit takes 'hits'.

So instead of Strength units will have Firepower and Morale. These start with the same base values; 4 for Infantry, 3 for Cavalry, Artillery and Machine Guns. Elite units add 1 to Morale (only), Poor units subtract 1.

Firing: A unit rolls dice equal to its Firepower. If a unit has taken any hits, subtract one from the number of dice.

Close combat: A unit rolls dice equal to its Morale value.

Hits: Hits are taken on the units Morale value only. When it reaches zero the unit is removed.

Example. A Poor infantry unit has a base strength of 4. It's Firepower is 4 and its Morale value is 3. When it shoots it rolls 4 dice, but in close combat it only rolls 3. It takes 2 hits. When firing it now rolls 3 dice - a base of 4 with a -1 modifier for having taken hits. In close combat, though, it only rolls 1 dice; a base morale of 3, -2 for the hits. One more hit will destroy the unit.

I will try this out in the next couple of games, and see how it works.
*But not lance. Apparently the Mexican Revolution didn't see much in the way of lancers.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Battle Of Cuautla

In May 1911 Mexico was aflame with revolution. In the north troops under Madero and Villa were winning a series of victories that were forcing the president and dictator of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, to consider his position. In the south Emilio Zapata was also in rebellion. He realised that unless he held major towns in the area he would have little to bargain with at the end of the fighting, so attacked the fortified and garrisoned city of Cuautla. He had 4,000 troops, ill-equipped and unused to the kind of fighting required to take a city by assault. The city was defended by between 350-400 men of the elite Fifth Regiment of the Federal army.

The stage was set for six days of terrible battle, which left the Fifth Regiment decimated and Zapata in control of the city. The battle was fought at close range, with machete and bayonet in many cases, and saw the use of gasoline to burn the Federal troops out of their positions.

I decided to base a  game of 'Struggle Against Everything And Everybody' around this battle, pitting a force of Zapatista rebels against a series of Federal defence lines in the close confines of a city. Rather than fire I decided to allow the attackers to use dynamite; Pancho Villa's troops used this weapon in a similar assault at Ciudad Juarez, blasting from house to house to avoid artillery fire.

I used a very small grid for this game, 5 squares wide by 10 deep (so 15cm x 30cm), with an 11th row holding two objective squares - The Plaza. Ten Zapatista infantry units, with inferior firearms, had twelve turns to take both objectives at the other end of the board. The Federal defenders were determined randomly; the first time a Zapatista unit came within view of each of rows three, five, seven and nine, their occupancy would be determined, with most of the defenders being infantry but the option for machine guns or even artillery. The Plaza was defended by two infantry units, with an artillery unit in the gap between the two objectives.

This was the setup. The first five Zapatista units started on row one, with their places being taken by the remaining five units as they advanced:


Buildings were from the Junior General site. The two buildings with pink roofs were the result of a printer ink malfunction, but it seemed a shame to waste them.

Here's a close-up of the Zapatistas about to begin their assault:


And here's the Plaza. The buildings in front of it are almost certainly defended by Federal troops:


The position at the end of the second turn. The Zapatistas had captured some of the third row by this point, and were starting to fire upon troops defending the next line:


Zapatistas use dynamite to remove a troublesome machine-gun position:


The third line of Federal defence was under attack by the end of the fourth turn:


Not long afterwards the first Zapatista unit reached a position where they could attack the Plaza:


Meanwhile a single Federal unit was still holding out on their first defence line, delaying a couple of Zapatista units:


The high-water mark of the Zapatista attack. Their units were attacking the last line that stood between them and the Plaza, but mounting casualties took their toll and blunted the assault. Any units which broke through and got within range of the Plaza itself were picked off by concentrated fire from the defenders and the artillery. The left flank had done well, having met little resistance, and the centre hadn't had too bad a fight, but the right flank had been held up by two particularly stubborn defenders:


Some of the stubborn defenders on the right - the uniforms are those of the Rurales; I used them because I'd run out of Federals:


The final assaults break on the Federal defences; there were still a few Zapatista units by this stage, but most of them only had one hit left:


The end. The last Zapatista unit made a stand under heavy Federal fire until it was wiped out:


The Zapatista casualty pile at the end of turn 11. Their surviving unit had one hit left and had only advanced as far as the third row:


This was a tense, vicious game, made all the more interesting by the tight, restricted board. The rules held up well.

I will probably try it again with the same set-up, but it's possible that I had the frequency with which Federal units appeared too high, making their numbers a little high. Technically the Zapatistas should be able to concentrate their forces against each defence line, defeating the Federals in detail, but the ticking clock means they can't rely on this as a tactic; they have to push forward with speed.

The Federal defence was helped by two stubborn units on one flank who refused to die, and also their good fortune with initiative; they won it on the majority of turns, allowing them to inflict heavy casualties before that turn's assaults came in.

I'll probably use the dynamite rules again (the Zapatistas had four tokens each of which would give them a bonus in a single close-range firefight or a close assault against a building or allow them to ignore the movement effects of a building). If I wanted to simulate their use of gasoline I might allow them to, once per game, attack every unit in a given row of the board with, say, four dice, ignoring cover. We'll see.

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Battle Of Tijuana

It's my birthday today. I've had a good present haul, of course, some of it in useful hard-cash form and some of it of relevance to this blog. Here's the items of relevance:


Two new games (courtesy of my brother) - one a RPG and another a set of miniatures rules I've been keen to try for a while. The small black object in the corner is a lens attachment for my iPhone; it gives me wide-angle, macro and fish-eye capability, all of which I will find useful.

This afternoon I played through another Mexican Revolution game, using the latest draft of my 'Struggle Against Everything And Everybody' rules. I based my game around the 1911 battle for Tijuana. Tijuana is in Baja California, right against the border with the USA. In 1911 the Federal garrison of about 200 was attacked by a force of 200 Magonistas,
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