Sunday, February 17, 2013

Morale Modifiers, Worth the trouble?

Mexican Light Cavalry charge Crockett's Tennesseeans, who have taken
cover in broken ground...not a smart move given the even odds and cover.
      In the most recent issue of Wargames:  Soldier and Strategy, veteran wargamer and rules-writer, Richard Clarke discusses the evolution of trends in table-top gaming.  One of the examples he gives is morale modifiers and how the can change and slow down game-play.  Writes Clarke,

     "One of the worst examples...was a morale system which I encountered some years ago...To initiate my charge I had to take a morale test, I passed so then moved forward.  My opponent fired, so then I took another morale test to see if I could charge home.  I did.  So he now took a morale test to see if he stood.  He did, we fought, it was relatively inconclusive, so we both took a morale test to see what we did.  Five morale tests for one combat was, to my mind, daft, but worse, it served to totally remove us from any sense of an inspiring charge with l'arme blanche into the teeth of blazing muskets.  There was no heroism to be found there, only a succession of mundane mathematical calculations."[1]

The lancers make the morale role to charge, but their movement in restricted.  
The Tenneseeans' morale benefits from their easily defensible position and stand.
      Clarke brings up a good point.  Morale modifiers, cover modifiers, etc. and the caluclations they involve can turn a fun day for a young (pre-teen) general into a boring and anticlimactic one.  This was certainly demonstrated by a rule book I wrote for my son and I to wargame the Texian revolution and the indian wars and border raids of the early Republic period.

      The light cavalry unit would make a 2x D-6 morale role to charge the irregulars in cover within the rock formation.  Morale Modefiers (percentage of unit wounded/killed, leaders killed, cover, experience/discipline, etc.) will effect the outcome of the roll of the dice and consequently the outcome of the charge/melee combat.

      Crockett's Tenneseeans did take one casualty during the charge, but stand with his leadership MM and their cover MM.  The light cavalry fall back having taken two casualties.

The lancers take two casualties and fail their morale role.  Three morale rolls in one
assault.  This exemplifies what Clarke is addressing in his recent article.
    Clarke's point is to get the gamer to focus on command and the tactical situation, rather than have to worry about the technicalities and intricacies of the "rules".  Any ideas on a happy medium?  To paraphrase Clauswitz, Friction is constant in war...but how to retain friction and keep game play close to real time?

[1] Clarke, Richard.  "Up front", Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy, Issue 63, Karwansaray BV, Rotterdam, Netherlands, p.75.

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