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Subject: attack dice block loss ancients/napoleonics rss

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Todd Rewoldt
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I am sure you will get some more detailed answers shortly (or even while I am composing this rather simple answer ), but simply (relatively ) put the difference is that in Ancients the block loss represents a unit's ability to perform effectively on the field, and once it reaches 0, it doesn't represent that the entire unit has become casualties, rather that it is no longer an effective combat unit and will have no further impact on the field; whereas in Napoleonics, block loss not only indicates the unit's ability to impact the battlefield at all, but also the degree to which it impacts the battlefield, since with firearms and their increased potency at ranges numbers matter more than in hand to hand combat where only the frontlines of a particular unit are most effective.

EDIT: for what it's worth, I like that this difference is made between the games, and think each mechanic works well for the era being modeled.
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Wulf Corbett
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Ancient warfare was done at melee range - only the front rank or two actually able to contact the enemy. Even with pike phalanxes, only the first couple of ranks could actively attack, even if another couple of ranks could point their pikes in their general direction (any active attempt to aim at a target would whack their own men in the head!) It's relatively easy for a unit of men to drag fallen, wounded, or even unwilling men out of the front ranks and quickly replace them from the rear, without losing a cohesive front. I've even tried it myself in re-enactment & Live RolePlay battles, when the enemy are actually more likely to take a chance on attacking, than they would in a true life or death situation.

And, importantly, as only the front ranks were in melee range, only the front ranks could be wounded or killed...

As such, so long as enough men stood relatively unharmed and willing to maintain a continuous front, there would be no loss of melee strength. But as soon as that front rank was broken, they'd be scattered to the four winds. Therefore, it's reasonable for ancient units to survive with full melee capability right until that last moment, when there's no longer even a continuous line of men left.

In Napoleonic battles, units tended to have less depth anyway, because a greater fraction of them was expected to fire. And, most importantly, musket balls could reach far further into a unit than swords or even pikes...

Napoleonic ranged fire was... less than 100% accurate, and massed fire was needed to have much effect. Take out a portion of the muskets, or even just unnerve the men sufficiently, and effectiveness would quickly drop. You can't see a musket ball coming, and you can't defend against it.
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Dave Briggs
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What Wulf said above. Very good explanation Wulf.
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Robert Taylor-Smith
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To greatly simplify:

Linear tactics plus muskets plus volley fire meant every soldier, no matter how unskilled or unwilling, had a impact on the fight. Any troop losses resulted in a firepower (ie. fighting) loss. Muskets meant warriors didn't need great strength or years of training to be somewhat effective. Linear tactics with everyone doing the same thing at the same time in close quarters solved the morale problem of the unwilling and fearful not fighting. The parade tactics of the Napoleonic period were a highly effective way to get everyone fighting. Hence the fighting ability going down with each block loss.

Ancient or Medieval battles revolved around the highly skilled and/or motivated warriors with the best weapons. The rest could be described as spear catchers. Single units in C&C:A or Battlelore don't have a common scale, they can represent a few toughs or a horde of terrified levy. The effective fighters were generally the last to fall ('my kingdom for a horse'). Battles or more specifically close melee fighting was a one on one mess. The weak, fearful, and unskilled would generally be the first casualties in one way or another. They were pretty useless in killing the enemy but the unskilled did have a use in absorbing the enemy's time and strength and as a morale effect, for or against, the 'actual' fighters. A spear catching cheer leading mob of new recruits following a knight or hardened veteran. Thus C&C:A units are effective right up until the actual motivated warriors of the unit are taken down.

Once combat changed back to one requiring skilled individuals operating somewhat alone in a loose skirmish and not jammed together in parade formation the morale problem cropped up again. Thus the Memoir'44 and Battlecry games use the unit is fully effective till destroyed mechanic. U.S. military research during and after World War II found only a small percentage of troops in actual combat fired their weapons while many prioritized avoiding death and injury rather than fighting. Training since the early '60's has tried to overcome that fact.
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Dave Briggs
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toddrew wrote:
EDIT: for what it's worth, I like that this difference is made between the games, and think each mechanic works well for the era being modeled.


I agree. Gave you a thumbs up toddrew.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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I'd only disagree on one point. The most effective ancient armies did not rely on highly skilled & heroic individuals, but on parade-ground discipline & adherence to well-practiced tactical manoeuvres. The Macedonian Phalanx and the Roman Legion dominated the battlefield by training, discipline and practice, absorbing the individual into the mass.
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Robert Taylor-Smith
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
I'd only disagree on one point. The most effective ancient armies did not rely on highly skilled & heroic individuals, but on parade-ground discipline & adherence to well-practiced tactical manoeuvres. The Macedonian Phalanx and the Roman Legion dominated the battlefield by training, discipline and practice, absorbing the individual into the mass.


Well both examples are of highly trained, for the period, troops. It's not all that clear they are the 'most effective armies', more that the supporting political and economic systems were. The Roman legions suffered defeat time and again against smaller armies of more skilled warriors (Punic, Pyrrhus, Parthian, German, etc.) but because of the supporting background political system they could endure a defeat their opponents could not. Without good generalship the Macedonian battle system was pretty weak in a straight up fight (vs. Galatians, Roman, Parthian, Indian, etc.). Both military systems were routinely crushed by highly skilled but otherwise unorganized horse archer armies (Huns, Parthians).

There are many examples in both Roman and Macedonian battles of the heroic fighter turning the tide of a action. The Romans valued individual skill in arms (Gladiators) and the Republic armies separated troops by quality of weapons and skill. The whole Macedonian system was one of a mob with pikes or spears holding the mass of the enemy while the most effective fighting group (knights or Companions) going for the kill.
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Wulf Corbett
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They were indeed highly trained - but they were not, as you suggested above, a minority of highly trained warriors with a supporting majority of spear-catchers. They were trained as units, fought as units, and did not rely on individual efforts.
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Sami Kilpinen
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Good insight. This goes to explain why elite formations such as spartan hoplites or viking hirdmen not only fought better and more ferociously individually, MORE of them would actually be willingly fighting (if not all!) to full effect.

In fact, I wasn't sure if the dramatic firepower loss of Napoleonics was entirely justified (many Napoleonics rules only start imposing penalties only when the unit is shaken). With Napoleonics as well, morale deterioration was a more significant factor in stopping the unit from performing effectively than outright getting killed to a man.
 
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Shawn Garbett
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
so long as enough men stood relatively unharmed and willing to maintain a continuous front, there would be no loss of melee strength. But as soon as that front rank was broken, they'd be scattered to the four winds. Therefore, it's reasonable for ancient units to survive with full melee capability right until that last moment, when there's no longer even a continuous line of men left.


Overall well said. It's my understanding that most units morale would break long before total casualties. The estimate I heard was 1/3 casualties was enough to rout a unit.
 
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