Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Carnage & Glory II - Officers, Floating Morale & Friction

During the course of running my Napoleonic series of games over the last four years using Carnage & Glory II I have been fortunate to be able to call on the shared experience of a very active Yahoo Group and Nigel Marsh, the author of the rules.

Carnage and Glory II - Yahoo Group

This forum has provided a great platform to reduce my learning curve when using the rules, an important aspect for any rule-set but perhaps even more so when computer based.

In addition Nigel is always happy to share the detail of the concepts that underpin the way the software works and thus how players can get the most from the reports it generates throughout play.
In a previous post I shared a response given by Nigel explaining the basic principles behind the design concepts of the game which give a great insight to the how the rules work and some of the key benefits they offer.

Carnage & Glory II - What's it all about then?

I regularly discuss aspects of each and every game, copying discussions to file so I can refer to them alongside a rule check whenever I need to refresh my knowledge, but the beauty of C&G is that the system is very friendly to old slow brains like mine and play using it becomes intuitive in that you are encouraged to think like a Napoleonic commander not like a wargamer.

Napoleonic warfare in the 'Grand Manner', C&GII style
In a recent conversation following this last game of Talavera, I made mention of the interesting reports generated about officers and their misbehaviour or in some instances where they were suddenly offering great encouragement to their men. As you will see this is not just 'chrome' in the system accompanied by the period pictures that flash up on screen and are attached to this post but actually part of the moving feast of events generated during play and that if acted upon can influence subsequent outcomes.

In addition the pleasure of never really knowing which Spanish army has turned up in any particular game is generated by the concept of an ever changing 'floating morale' system that adds that element of surprise interlinked with the concept of treating your men in the best possible way to get them to perform to their best.

Of course as the senior Allied commander I was aware of these aspects but also caught up in the 'big picture' command decisions that require looking ahead by at least a couple of turns (half an hour in battle time) to try and assess where everyone needed to be then. What I wasn't doing was remembering how the combat calculation would work between the Guadix Militia and the II/4th Polish Regiment, which can very often characterise a paper based rule-set game.

This partly explains why I love playing Napoleonics using C&GII and particularly games in the 'Grand Manner' in that they encourage me to think and play at the appropriate command level focused on ordering my assets where and when I need them to be to hopefully (if I have looked after my men) do what I need them to do, without focusing on the rule mechanics.

Anyway enough waffle from me, I thought you might like to read the thinking straight from 'the horses mouth' or Nigel Marsh's to be precise outlining the principles that lay behind the aspects that arose during our last game.

The reactions of generals, during the end of turn phase, are based upon the characteristics that were input during the army list creation phase. Higher rated generals will tend to return positive reactions, whilst lower rated generals will tend to return negative reactions. Of course, there will always be those events that are unpredictable, and it's possible that Ruffin was either rated towards the lower end of the rating spectrum, or simply, unpredictably, 'had a bad turn'.

In terms of how these reactions affect the game, when you see a negative result for a general (typically reported as, 'conduct unbefitting'), every unit in that officers direct and immediate chain of command will take a loss to their individual morale levels. Ruffin was a division commander, so it's possible there were no 'units' under his immediate command (and those under his brigade commanders will not be affected), so the result may be less impactful, but players should definitely be more concerned when a brigade or regimental commander has a negative result.

The same is true, in reverse, for generals that receive positive results. Those generals that have a
'good turn', will positively affect the morale of each unit directly in their immediate chain of command, basically they receive an increase in morale.

Recently, I was playing a game and in turn eight or nine, my light cavalry commander had a moment of euphoria that cheered on his men. This was at the precise moment in the game that I was contemplating ordering a charge to take advantage of the plight of my opponent, and it couldn't have come at a better moment. I instantly had a visual of my brigade commander riding in front of his light cavalry regiments, urging them on to heroic feats, which evoked cheers of pride and resolution amongst the squadrons. And that's the whole point! I want my imagination to be stirred, I want the little lead boys to virtually come alive on the table-top. I want the system to help generate the narrative of a battle. In the same game, one of my generals was engaged in a melee, which resulted in a serious back wound. I thought, 'A back wound? What, was he running away? No wonder they lost that combat!'. Great narrative!

The rally screen with a list of units needing some command input
Regarding the performance of the Spanish, the predictability of unit performance is also difficult to judge, which is fundamental to the system. I constantly remind players prior to games that morale and fatigue are tracked on a floating scale. All units start with default ratings, fatigue is typically fresh (unless adjusted in the pregame sequence), and morale is based upon the experience and training of the individual unit as input during the army list creation phase. As a game progresses both morale and fatigue will be adjusted. I explain to players that every time a unit number is input or announced as reacting to something by the system this will tend to affect fatigue (either physical or mental), in some way. Typically, it means fatigue goes down. Similarly, in any turn where a unit is not called out, either by the player or GM (Game Master), fatigue may be recovered. In a similar fashion, morale will be affected, with the potential of going up or down. Sometimes it will spiral downwards as the impact of fatigue and fire and combat losses literally 'shock' a unit's morale. Those events are difficult to recover from, essentially, it's unit 'shell shock'. Unlike fatigue recovery, which is automatic, the only way to recover morale is during the rally phase and, sometimes, during the end of turn phase (when a brigade commander is currently attached to the unit).

Spanish at Bay - The indomitable Guadix Militia
These floating scales differentiate C&GII from most traditional rule systems. In traditional rules the complex tracking and accounting of these factors is virtually impossible to achieve without burying the players in complexity. The result, in terms of a C&GII game, is that units will tend to perform more unpredictably, because players tend to be unaware of the exact and precise levels of fatigue, morale and strength at any given point in the game. One Spanish infantry unit could have lost more fatigue, or a single point of morale (perhaps their commanding officer had a nervous breakdown), and that means that when tested they will react differently to the next unit, even though the player may perceive that they started identically in strength, morale and fatigue to the units brigaded with them. All of this complexity is achieved with no effort for the GM or players during the game, which in my mind is a good thing. Some gamers prefer these moments of unpredictability to be achieved by the roll of a dice, because it gives them a sense of control, and that's fine. However, in terms of a C&GII game, the intent has always been to shroud the player in the fog of war. A player has control, but in a limited capacity - friction is king.

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