Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Close Combat Results - Forced Movement

After a long gaming hiatus and an ACW game looming on the horizon for the weekend, thoughts turn toward wargame mechanisms to pass the time while away from the paints.  Today's conundrum?  Forced Movement as a result of Close Combat and how to treat it in wargame design.

Force Movement is a term I use for mandatory (as opposed to voluntary) movement for either the attacker or defender as a result of Close Combat.  Close Combat I consider primarily as short range firefights with the possibility of sharp, yet quick crossing of bayonets while one side attempts to encourage the opponent to give up his position.  For this exercise consider the following:

The Red Force has one BMU (Basic Maneuver Unit) in primary contact with Blue Force's Primary  BMU.  Each Primary BMU has one Adjacent BMU and one Tandem BMU in supporting positions.  Both supports can participate in the Close Combat in a secondary role.  Diagram A illustrates the initial situation with Red Primary attacking Blue Primary.  Let's make this a horse and musket era game with each BMU representing a battalion.

Say Red wins the Close Combat.  Red Primary advances while Blue Primary falls back as shown in Diagram B.  What actions should the Adjacent and Tandem BMUs of each force be mandated?  Two options are considered.

One option is to regulate that only the Primary and Tandem BMUs conduct forced movement as shown in Diagram C.  Red Tandem could remain in place but a tandem, rear supporting BMU advancing to accompany the Primary seems reasonable.  In this situation, Adjacent support does not advance.  Similarly, Blue Tandem could be passed through by Blue Primary on its fallback to the rear but pushing Blue Tandem back as Blue Primary withdraws seems reasonable.  Blue Adjacent, while not falling back with the Primary, wheels to avoid exposing a flank.

The second option considered is Forced Movement having each Primary BMU and both Tandem and Adjacent supports conducting mandatory movements following the conclusion of Close Combat.  Diagram D illustrates the result of all of Red's BMUs advancing while all of Blue's BMUs fall back following a successful attack by Red upon Blue.

Of the two options presented, only the reaction of Adjacent BMUs differs.  Should a differentiation exist between how Tandem and Adjacent supporting BMUs are treated?  Should Adjacent supports actively engage in Forced Movement at the conclusion of Close Combat or should Adjacent supports remain passive?  Should Red Tandem remain passive as well and not tag along with Red Primary?  Should Blue Tandem be passed through by Blue Primary suffering perhaps disorder, morale check, or something else?  Should Forced Movement depend upon whether the BMU is in an Attacker or Defender role?

I have my own notions but would enjoy reader input and feedback.  My two options could be dismissed altogether and a third option (or more) might surface.       


  1. This is an interesting problem.
    Most wargames rules give benefits to attacker/defender for supporting units in a melee. One could argue that these benefits are probably morale, in the sense that A/D know they are not alone. Or, one could argue that supporting troops have a physical influence on the melee, though I could only see this in your example with the Adjacent unit. I don't see how the Tandem unit could support a fight physically.
    The results of Forced Movement in your examples may assume a greater degree of command and control on the battlefield than the horse and musket period allow for A. Would Tandem and Adjacent units have clear orders to advance with Primary in the event of a clear victory that has pushed D back and would they be tactically able to obey those orders? I would say yes, as it seems unlikely that they would just stand around and watch A Primary advance away from them. However, in the smoke and confusion, their advances might not be perfectly coordinated with A Primary and they might not move forward promptly. Therefore, perhaps allow A Tandem and Adjacent half of the move allowance that Primary gets in the Advance? After all, melee results are going to mess up battlelines, that is a natural expectation of friction.
    As for D Primary, it depends on the result of the melee. If they are giving ground grudgingly, then I would expect D Tandem to give ground in response. However, if D Primary takes a sharply adverse result, then I would expect them to turn about and burst through D Tandem, possibly imposing a morale check and disruption result on D Tandem. Certainly after an adverse result, I would expect D Primary to be facing away from A Primary, and would need a turn to rally and turn about at the very least.
    In my ACW re-enacting experience, I found that when my unit experimented with skedaddling to the rear, it was very difficult to push through formed friendly troops to the rear. Also, one can ask, what situational awareness do D Tandem and Adjacent have of the melee result? The first they will know of an adverse result is when D Pmy is trying to push through them. Hopefully D Tdm and D Adj will have time to adjust their stance and facing, maybe not.
    My two cents worth.

    1. Excellent advancement of the discussion, Padre!

      For the Tandem BMU, my thought is that a supporting Tandem would be vital in reinforcing the Primary to replace casualties and those in the front line too fatigued to continue. consider the Tandem as a ready replacement pool for the Primary. Under those assumptions, a Tandem support would be better placed to physically assist the Primary and augment the decision point.

      Your observation about the variable reaction of the supporting units based on the fate the Primary, is a good one. Push backs, withdrawals, and orderly retreats by the Primary would allow a Tandem support to react similarly. An uncontrolled rout by the Primary could interpenetrate the supporting Tandem BMU causing disorder, disruption, or morale check leaving the Tandem support now in a vulnerable position against the victorious opponent. Push back or interpenetration of the Tandem support is another interesting topic.

      Your two cents are worth quite a fortune!


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