Sunday, 6 December 2009

'Rank and File': House Rules

I thought gamers using these rules might be interested in the house rules I am currently adopting. Assume the usual comments about them only representing my personal opinion and being subject to change as I play more games, etc etc. Bear in mind these house rules relate to the SYW period.

My Figure Ratios
1 stand = 125 men. 1 gun = 5 actual guns.
My 'standard' infantry battalion is 5 bases, which would make 625 men in a typical battalion. This seems to me reasonable for a battalion on campaign. Going by the ratios in the rules (see Appendix 3), you get one gun for 25 men, so an artillery base would represent 5 actual guns. You could actually make the figure ratio anything from 100 to 150 men represented by a base (or 4 - 6 guns per artillery base), and things would still work as far as my organisations are concerned. The ratio is the same for cavalry: a base represents around 125 cavalrymen.

Pass Through Morale Test
A unit that routs will normally do so directly away from the enemy. If a friendly unit is in its path, it may deviate by up to 45ยบ to avoid passing through, providing this does not bring it closer to any enemy unit.
If more than 1 stand of a routing unit does pass through a friendly unit, check morale of the unit being routed through using standard modifiers.
Retiring units or single stand units do not cause pass through morale tests. No matter what the cause of the morale test a unit will only have to test morale once in the morale phase.
This is my version of the optional rule published online by Mark in Supplement 2.

Movement: Prussian Drill
Prussian infantry may wheel up to 90 degrees. Prussian cavalry and infantry may oblique move. These abilities do not apply to green units.
This is designed to give the Prussians a slight edge to represent their higher level of drill.

Troop Quality and Firing
Veteran class +1 to firing dice; Green -1.
I think it is correct to give veteran class infantry a significant edge when firing, to represent their greater steadiness, experience of battle and higher level of confidence and training. In the same way green troops get a deduction to simulate their relative lack of training and their confusion and fear in battle. This house rule seems to me the simplest and most obvious way of representing this, and so far doesn't seem to unbalance things.

Dicing For Leader Quality
Prussian: 1, no bonus; 2,3,4,5, +1 bonus; 6, +2 bonus
Austrian: 1,2, no bonus; 3,4,5, +1 bonus; 6, +2 bonus
No re-rolls. When dicing for quality of the C-in-C, add one to the dice roll.
As I only use Austrian and Prussian troops, this is my simplified version of the rules concerning leader quality and bonuses presented on page 44 of the rules.

Green counter for unsteady: red for rout.
You have to mark it in some way. For the moment, small tiddlywinks will do the job.

Movement – use 1792-1848 rules.
These seem more correct to me. For example, if 12 pdrs are counted as heavy guns (which I believe is correct), then making them completely immobile in the game does not fit in with what I have read: the most famous example being the movement of Frederick's 12 pdr 'Brummers' at the battle of Leuthen. Similarly, I don't see any need to hamper the movement of the 6-9 pdrs which constitute the medium guns.
Capturing - Each gun captured during a game cancels one point from the number of army points you have lost. Captured guns can only be moved at manhandled speed.
Just a little extra rule to allow the capturing of guns if they are abandoned by crews fleeing a charge or moving away due to morale.
Light Smoothbore – Close = 8”. Medium = 16”. Long = 32”. Point blank 2”.
Medium Smoothbore - Close = 12”. Medium = 24”. Long = 48”. Point blank 3”.
Heavy Smoothbore - Close = 15”. Medium = 30”. Long = 60”. Point blank 4”.
Mark has said on the Yahoo group that the ranges of artillery were kept deliberately short to help with play balance. I prefer to lengthen them slightly to fit in more comfortably with the infantry firing range and to give back the reach that I think guns ought to have on the table. Mark has suggested shortening infantry musket range as an alternative, but I think the present range for infantry fire works well.
Penetrating Fire - Artillery fire may also affect units behind the original target unit, up to a maximum distance of 3" for light guns, 6” for medium guns and 12” for heavy guns (half this distance for units in hard cover/woods/fired at or from higher ground). Any such troops in the line of fire (normally taken to be through the centre of the target unit) and in range will be liable to hits as normal but with an additional -1 modifier.
An extra rule to represent those bouncing cannon balls.

When unsteady retire distance will be only 1D6” for infantry or 2D6” for cavalry in the SYW period.
I came to the conclusion that the 2D6 for infantry and 3D6 for cavalry made the game too fluid for the 18th century. Just my own view of how SYW battles worked.

Formation Changes
Whilst the unit overall may not move more than half a move, individual bases can move up to their maximum column move to create the new formation.
My view of how formation changes should work.

One Stand Left
Multi stand units reduced to a single stand are removed and count as lost.
This is connected with the changes to the Army Morale rules given below. Single stand units have no real fighting value (in particular as they are often unsteady as well), and I got fed up with them hanging around at the back of the battle keeping well out of the way, but stopping their army being deducted 2 points for a lost unit. So 1 base units are simply removed.

Army Morale
Calculate one quarter and one half of the army points, rounding up fractions. Check army points lost in the end phase of each move. In addition to normal deductions for lost units, deduct 1 army point for every multi-stand unit at or under half strength, and one army point for any unit currently routing. Army points may also be deducted for objectives lost to the enemy.
When an army loses one quarter of its army points it is wavering: effects are the same as for the Army Break Point in the original rules.
When it loses half of its army points, dice for army morale during the end phase on a 4, 5 or 6. Add one to army morale throw for exceptional C-in-C or if most remaining units are veteran. Deduct one for poor C-in-C or if most remaining units are green. If the roll is failed, the army is broken and retreats from the field. If the roll is passed, continue for that move but the roll must be repeated in the end phase of every subsequent move until it is failed and the game ends.
At the end of the game (because one side has broken or time has run out), a result may be established by comparing the army morale of the two sides. If it is the same (e.g. both unaffected, both wavering), then the game is drawn. If one side is unaffected and the other broken, then this can be called a major victory for the unaffected side. If one side is unaffected and the other wavering, or one side wavering whilst the other is broken, then a minor victory for the least affected side may be declared.
My response to the recent discussion on the Yahoo group. This is how I am currently playing it, in an attempt to get a conclusion to a game in the 3 hours which is the maximum I usually have available in the evening. Losing half your army before registering any sort of reaction just takes too long: indeed, losing this many troops would represent a massive and possibly unrealistic loss in a real formation. I believe it is reasonable to bring the onset of army morale forward to 25% losses, and that it is also reasonable to suppose that an army commander would react to reports of weak or routing units.
I would add, however, that this house rule is strongly connected to the size of the armies I use and the playing time I generally have available.

Any comments or disagreements about the above by current players of Rank and File would be warmly welcomed, and read with great interest.


Peter said...


I've only just received a copy of Rank and File, so I'm not really in a position to comment. It was actually thanks to you I got myself a copy of the rules.
I find your house rules well reasoned and thought out. On first glance -and also to my taste- I would go for halving musket ranges rather then increasing artillery ranges. But I think we exchanged ideas on this before. Of course I have to try out the rules myself first to experience what you are writing about.
Anyway, thanks for sharing your ideas. I think they will help me understand the rules better.


Keith Flint said...

Nice to hear from you Peter. I hope you find the rules to your taste. Look forward to seeing some reactions and/or battle reports on your blog.