Saturday, 23 January 2016

"It's getting a bit Chile" - first trial game

Thursday evening saw the first play test of the Pacific War rules. I was ably assisted by Chris A and Phil. For this early war battle I had the combined Peruvian & Bolivian forces attacking the Chileans holding a crest line. I played the Chileans as the defence is fairly passive in this type of scenario.

Here's the massed forces of the Alliance. Bolivians to the right as we look at them.

Here's one of my new haciendas from Irregular Miniatures, guarded by some Chilean infantry.

And out for their first airing the 1st Cuirassiers of the Bolivian Army.

An opening salvo from the Peruvian guns inflicts a Disorder marker on the unit opposite. You should be able to make out the smoke from the gun and the white disorder marker.

The Chilean artillery returned fire and caused a lot of damage. First indication I may have got this bit of the rules slightly wrong.

This was evidenced also by the Peruvians pounding one of the haciendas, which seemed to provide little shelter.

Yup. Artillery probably too powerful. Notes were made on my print out of the rules. That's why the photo record is incomplete. I spent a lot of time making notes.

See, there's a gap where the Cuirassiers are duffed up by some scruffy Chilean dragoons, and Phil had to deploy the Colorados (the guys in red) to protect his flank.

Elsewhere Chris had one brigade that had adopted modern Open Order tactics and was so making better progress.

However, being in Open Order makes for a tempting target for a cavalry charge. The cavalry got thoroughly trashed. Mostly because the units are half the size of the infantry. Time for a rethink there as well.

Out on the left we had a cavalry clash too. I won this one, which created a problem later.

With the cavalry driven off the firing into the hacienda caused a small conflagration.

With the cavalry in retreat the Peruvians closed the distance and drove the defenders out with heavy, close range fire.

I followed up after winning the cavalry melee on the left and then was caught by a fresh unit and broken. This rather exposed my left flank. Shouldn't have been greedy.

In the middle the Peruvians continued their advance, and started to bring up their artillery. I had withdrawn my guns at this point as they were causing too much damage and I wasn't going to be able to play test some of the other rules.

We had another cavalry tussle on the right...

...which I won, having shot off the Colorados from the ridge line.

The Peruvians drove on in the middle and captured the well.

On the left I got completely flanked and was charged in the rear by the Peruvian cavalry. Not sure about this. I think I might restrict cavalry to flat ground only.

Of course this is sour grapes as my unit was broken immediately.

In the centre the Peruvians were held off from the hills I was occupying by sustained rifle fire. This bit looked fine

Alas my left had collapsed completely, so we called it a night.

The core mechanisms being tested held up well enough. I need to run through the numbers to make sure I've got the values spot on but the D8>D6>D4 mechanism discussed previously worked well, and the disorder process tied well with the formations. The players followed this really quickly, which is good, as I've sometimes had problems here.

As I said before there are lots of rules still to add in, but the central engine looks good. Very pleased with progress so far.

As a footnote I should say something else about the formations. In conversations with the late Paddy Griffith he, and others, were of the view that if we are playing army commanders we shouldn't trouble ourselves with giving orders for formations at battalion level as that's the job of battalion commanders. Generally I think that's right, but in this case there's sufficient evidence of formations being decreed from on high and people possibly getting it wrong that I think this is an important part of the rules.


  1. Looks like it is coming along nicely. The need to de-power the artillery became pretty obvious, but I would think that the results of a frontal cavalry charge on rifle armed infantry were pretty much historical. Were there occasions in the War of the Pacific where cavalry did charge home on infantry, and if there were, what were the morale conditions of the infantry at the time?

    1. The thing with the artillery is that there was just too much of it. However seeing as I've bought the figures I need to half what they represent so I can still use it all.

      The cavalry result charging the infantry in the open is probably about right. Need to go back and double check. Mostly there's little account of cavalry charging anything, so adjustments needed there as well.

  2. Paddy certainly had a point, but as wargamers we'd much rather think we know how to do it properly! (And it’s more fun.) However one way to reflect b*ggeration factor might be to have some kind of D8/D6/D4 roll to change formation/facing. It may have been ordained from on high the the infantry will advance in "guerilla inglesa", and that same on high might later see the enemy cavalry closing from the flank, but does the battalion commander spot the same danger from his position, or dare to change his orders on his own initiative?

    1. On second thoughts, that creates too many unreasonable restrictions if you're trying to manoeuvre round a flank or just developing a gap in the enemy's line. Perhaps allow all changes of formation/facing, but impose an extra disorder penalty for a failed "command roll". Maybe you need a roll on a d8 (-1 step for each level of disorder) of 2+ to change formation/facing, and 3+ to change facing if it's a formation with supports, which will find a change of axis far more difficult as it is so deep and dispersed. If a unit is fresh it is likely to make any such change without a penalty. As it becomes more disordered (loss of officers and NCO's, general disorientation) it is more likely to fall further into disruption and panic if you try anything complicated.

      Anyway do you want to risk making a sweeping outflanking move, perhaps requiring a couple of formation and facing changes, with already-blown cavalry? The answer should be "not unless you're desperate"; that's why you keep a fresh mounted reserve if possible.

      All-in-all it may introduce more complication than you really want or need, but the thought experiment was fun (and I am up far too early on a Sunday morning!).

    2. Currently I'm running without any such restrictions on formation change as I want to firm up the firing / melee systems first.

      There's temptation to have a roll of a die to enable formation change. If you said 4+ to change and dropped a die level with disorder then it would get more and more difficult to change. My main idea in this area is to have officer character cards with restrictions on the orders/formations they can give, what they roll to remove disorder and so on.

      I have a theory of finite complexity for rules sets. For example if you want really detailed combat rules you have to take complexity out from somewhere else or the game will grind to a halt.

      One rule the players did not use is the ability to avoid a disorganisation marker by halting. I may need to make this more attractive to encourage them to use it.