Despite developing my own rules for the SYW period, I still maintain my interest in Black Powder, as these remain my favourite commercial set. My pal Steve J recently announced he was buying a copy for his own SYW gaming, so I have been been re-reading and generally revising the rules in anticipation of encounters to come. Fighting some battles with BP will provide a useful comparison with games played under my own rules.
One thing that caught my eye was the subject of Staff Ratings. The rules state that 'the same rating is usually applied to the whole army - so the General and Brigade Commanders all have the same staff rating' (p.11). I usually stick with this approach, except where an historical battle is being reproduced and Staff Ratings need to be matched to the abilities of real officers.
However, it did occur to me that some fun might be had by creating a variety of Staff Ratings within an army. This would hardly be ahistorical, as some variety in the ability of senior officers would be bound to occur. This was, after all, still an age when family connections and aristocratic pedigree counted for just as much as military experience and command ability. So I constructed a simple table to generate Staff Ratings from 5 to 10 for both the commanding general and brigade commanders.
|N.B. percentages give a basic idea of how likely each rating is, but add up |
to more than 100% as each was rounded up to the nearest whole percent.
This basic table I would use for Austria and Great Britain (don't forget this is the SYW in Europe). For other nations I would modify the dice roll as below:
The modifiers are of course subject to the condition that a Staff Rating can never be more than 10 or less than 5. Change them if you disagree with my conclusions.
There is a decision to be made about when to employ the table. One could set out the forces, then roll for each commander in turn and see what you get. This would probably guarantee both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Or, roll for Staff Ratings before deployment then allocate commanders to brigades, matching their abilities to your battle plan as far as possible. This latter might seem more historical, but remember that commanding generals couldn't always choose the brigade commanders they would prefer - as I have already mentioned, influence at court might count for more than military capabilities. A middle way might be to allocate brigade commanders to type of brigade (infantry, cavalry, artillery), then allow yourself to swap the commanders around after discovering their rating, but only between brigades of the same type.
You might also decide to leave the commanding general out of this process altogether and allocate him an historically typical Staff Rating. Personally, I think taking the chance on a random rating would be more fun. In BP, a low rated commanding general isn't a disaster, and the satisfaction of pulling off a victory with some dunce in command could be invigorating.
Nothing special about these ideas of course - any wargamer worth his or her salt could easily knock up something similar. But nevertheless I present them for your delectation and comments.