EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Working an Angle

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't played a gridded game at home since early May.  I was thinking about just going gridfree for a while, especially for my upcoming "more Old School" Horse & Musket games,  but between my constant search for brightly coloured  but periodically invisible measuring sticks and tapes during the last couple of home games and some recent blogposts on various sites about miniatures on grids and rules (including the Man of Tin Blog where it seems that I can no longer leave a comment, hopefully a technical issue...) got me thinking about my grid again  as did accidentally grabbing one of my old multi-hex-hills leftover from 5 or so years ago.

One of my main issues, (not one that I saw being discussed) has to do with linear, close order, battle lines facing each other  across the diagonal grain of a square gridded table.

A fuzzy shot of just such a situation as that described below on a 6" grid with 2 stand units. Note that the two Grenadier units are technically adjacent as are the two Blue units which are opposing them with a refused flank.
Based loosely on an unnamed historical battle not involving British toy soldiers.)

Lets say you have Blue defending a ridge that runs North-South against an attack by Red coming from the West. All is fine and dandy. Then more Red troops appear in the North-West corner and Blue reinforcements moving up from the South-East corner have to rush forward to form a refused flank on a NorthWest to SouthWest line to meet them.  If all movement and facing are ordinal, instead of two opposing parallel battlelines at an angle to the grid, you get a series of steps which each side having their flanks exposed to attack from either one direction or the other. If one adds some complexity to zone of control rules to allow one unit to cover you might be able to swing it but it will at the very least look odd.

Another example of armies manoeuvring oddly in right angles.  There is no way for the Tigers to face both enemy units. 

My original reaction to this was to allow units to face the diagonal and this works ok but while I was happy with my small units shooting either way when facing a corner of a 3" square, it looks wrong or at least odd with a wide battalion in line all firing at a 45 degree angle on a 6" square.
It also would seem wrong for the Young Buffs in the picture below to ignore the Volunteer directly in their front across the diagonal to all fire at a slant at the Wolves which are technically at the same range. That sort of thing would call for some very careful wording or a strong sense of proper vs allowed.

It was primarily these diagonal issues that had me pondering drawing hexes on a cloth.

Oh and should that Royal's column be able to move through that gap between the deployed lines? It looks wide enough if the enemy weren't there to receive them. I might just start allowing columns to move on the diagonal.
 However, I think that these matters of diagonally adjacent units, target priority, and split firing units can all be handled by a combination of the use of multi-stand units with combat dice by stand and some slight rule amendments using definitions such as "Adjoining" (sharing one corner), "Adjacent" (sharing an edge), and "Engaged" (adjacent to the front of an enemy stand) .

It won't completely solve the diagonal multi-battalion battle line issue, but it should get me closer.

Here the 3 stand Tigers have refused a flank by turning one Stand and it is clear that one stand could fire at the Volunteers if the Wolves hadn't attacked while only the other 2 are available to fight the the Wolves who fortunely for the Tigers only have 2 stands in uniform so far. If the Wolves fell back 1 square then the Tigers could shoot 1 stand at the Volunteers and 2 stands at the Wolves. 

Hopefully on Monday I can give it a whirl on the existing 6" grid and then I can get back to terrain making and painting.


  1. In the matter of diagonals, I seem to recall discussing this with you about 18 month ago:
    I didn't really follow up on that as I was mot then thinking a going down the gridded wargames track. I've had reason to revisit the notion since.

    I've been looking at Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames (I now have a copy of both his PW books) and looking to adapt my own Byzantine Army of c950-1050AD and its opponents (Bulgars and Georgians{Abasgians}) to the system. Your current posting has got me rethinking about this.

    The PW square-grid system measures moves and shooting by orthogonals only. It would not add very much complexity in my view to add diagonals. Talking specifically of 'Ancients', movement varies from 1 'step' (artillery), 2 (heavy infantry) to 3 and 4 for more mobile troops. Weapon ranges are 2 or 3 except for the artillery, which is 6 squares.

    The effect of this is that that the movement allowances and ranges themselves still form a square, but set at 45-degrees from the grid orientation. A a square lozenge if you like.

    It occurs to me that you could add 'and a half' to diagonal moves and ranges, with the fraction dropped when you reach the target square. For example, my heavy horse, movement allowed 3 squares, moves one orthogonal (1), one diagonal (2 and a half). It can move one more orthogonal (3 and a half) but not one more diagonal (4).

    I'd also suggest that the unit ends the move facing the direction it was moving. Otherwise a unit 1. can begin the move with a 45-degree turn or 180-degrees 2. Turn 45-degrees when stepping INTO a cell at the beginning of the step; 3. Count a 90=degree turn as a full 1-square step

    Where things get really tricky is shooting. But that can be resolved in the Cordery system by ignoring the adjacent squares for shooting - that's close combat country - and limiting shooting to the orthogonals adjacent to the orthogonal line of facing, or the diagonals CORNER-TO-CORNER adjacent to the diagonal line of facing. In the latter case I'd be inclined to exclude the nearest two outside diagonal squares.

    I'll write this all up on my blog, with diagrams to make the thing a bit easier to follow.

    1. All well and good but the angle is a point with no width and 150 us line of infantry cannot pass through a point with no width so it must pass through either the square ahead by wheeling then wheeling back or by forming column then moving either ahead through the next square or by the flank through the flanking square then ahead and redeploying. Either way it must be able to move through one of the intervening squares so the terrain must be passable and if there are friendly troops present a passage of lines must be performed. Either way any nearby enemy must make the manouvre impractical. Its just a question of framing the wording to be simple but clear.
      Given the complexity of the move I'd make it double for lines.

    2. Hmm that was supposed to be 150 man wife not 15 us??

    3. I am not 100% sure I really understand your point about 'passing through a point'. True, the corner of a square is a zero-dimensional point, but the fudge is that grid movements are 'quantised', not 'continuous'. Were it not what is meant to be happening, I might say that during the course of a move, the unit 'teleports' from one square to the next, as does not pass through a point or a line. Probably a better way to express it is that the diagonally moving unit passes through two square sides that form the angle, not the point of the angle. But that is supposing I really 'get' your argument. I'm not sure I do.

      However, in my recent 'photo op' game to liven up my blog posting on this topic, I ran into the very problem you point out. If a unit facing north has a friend a square 1 back and 1 to the right, but none immediately to the right, what is to stop an evilly disposed enemy to come charhing in onto the flank? DBM solves this (to some extent) by a sort of 'zone of control' to the unit's front that linits the enemy's options.

      Perhaps the method here might be similar:
      1. When moving adjacent to an enemy, a unit must turn, if necessary, to face that enemy.
      2. If such a move takes it adjacent to two or more enemies, then
      2a. If already face to face with enemy, then no further move is made
      2b. Otherwise it must make such a turn as to place it, if it can, face to face with an enemy; or
      2c. If all enemies adjacent are presenting a flank or rear to the moving unit, the moving unit stays facing the direction in which it moves.

      The effect of this is for the echelonned unit to draw off the attempted flank attack.

      Now, I THINK that the PW rule set permits units that are contacted front and flank to retreat if they take a 'non-casualty' hit. But there is much to be said for the DBM system, which does not. There an element taking a 'recoil' result is instead 'destroyed'. That makes flanks rather delicate, but echelloned units (elements) are fairly effective deterrents.

      Incidentally, in that rule system, the player whose turn it is determines the order in which the various combats - element by element - take place, restricted only by all shooting preceding all close combat. That can be an important consideration!

    4. 2c ought to have included somewhere in it '... OR makes the minimum turn to place it facing an enemy unit'.

    5. Ion my point about the point was that if both edges are blocked by troops or terrain they should not be allowed to move along the diagonal.

      I already have rules for a ZOC that forces units to stop and engage in combat, and that force a unit to fight one that is facing it rather than ignoring it to attack a flank. I also have a rule that they may only move to attack a unit that is to its front when activated. All ported over from my non gridded game.

  2. Ross, could the outflanked unit first be turned to face the threat, but instead of staying in it's current square it is allowed to then immediately fall directly back into the square of its adjacent friendly unit, so that that square now has two units in it and between them both, they cover two of the squares sides without either exposing their flanks at the point where the two units actually contact each other.

    Each unit would then still only be engaging 1 enemy each (so they have not gained an advantage in that regard because they do not get facing advantages of facing into two sides), the line has visually contracted to meet the threat and if either of the two units is defeated, the other is in serious trouble and the rewards of conducting a brilliant manoeuver to get flank position will be realised, while not being automatic in the first place.

    As added flavour, the threatened flank unit could initially take a proficiency test first and if it passes it manages to get into the other units square and form up all nice and tidy and without disorder and if it fails, it simply pulls back 1 square instead and the attacker makes what they can of the chaos that their excellent manoeuver has brought about.

    I feel that an army outflanked should have much to worry about, without having the certainty of tidy solutions to automatically fix the threat. An outflanked forced should feel the potential danger of the whole force giving up their position of defensive advantage by making a considered withdrawal.

    I say this being not properly familiar with the rules, so it may simply not work or even be attractive to your design intention.

  3. Thinking more about this, and to avoid the two units per square issue, when the unit changes facing to meet the threat, it stays in its own square, but is pulled right back, to that the units rear baseline sits on the square edge, so it LOOKS like it is joined to its friendly adjacent unit and in that position, neither of the two units are considered to have exposed flanks where the two units meet. It is rather like your turning of the unit to face two directions, but instead it doesn't visually look like it can be attacked through two faces.

    I shouldn't be doing this as soon as I wake up .... not at least without coffee first :-)

    1. Hi Norm, thanks for your thoughts. I can see this morning that I wandered off course with the photos and got caught up in the one on one or two on one issues rather than my intention of two battles line of 6 or 12 or 40 units facing each other at an angle to the grid. In some cases this could be fixed by rotating the grid on the table by 45 degrees, in other cases the armies may be converging and parts of the battle line will always be an an angle other than 90 degrees. parts of the air.

      I did actually think about playing with the position of units inside the square but not all of my units leave room to do that and it only affects the optics anyway. (Rats!)

  4. Hello Ross
    Very sorry - I have no idea why the comment section is not working for you to leave comments on my blog. Other comments from other bloggers seem to be getting through and I do get 'contact' emails too. Puzzled.
    If anyone else has this problem please let me know at manoftinblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

    1. It was a puzzle to me too Mark. If it was once I would think "fluke" but its been several times on different posts on different days. On my next try I'm going to note which machine I'm using in case that makes a difference.

    2. Hi Ross,

      I like the look of the diagonal troops in line. I like the look of the refused flank formation too.

    3. Jeff, I'm thinking about allowing both.