Monday, 4 June 2012

Fog Of War

You'd have trouble charging with cavalry here.
It's the Thames.
I have been idly flicking through Donald Featherstone's 'War Games Through The Ages - Volume 2: 1420-1783' (published in 1974) over the last day or so. One chapter which caught my eye is entitled 'The Fog Of War'.

In it he examines the effect of powder-smoke and dust on the battlefields of what he calls the 'Horse and Musket Period'. He says:

"The wargamer should view every action of the period as being fought, after the opening rounds had been fired, in a November fog with swirling, eddying clouds of smoke and dust blinding and choking friend and foe alike so that they intermingled, unable to distinguish ally from enemy, whilst targets disappeared in a cloud of smoke after each volley."

He then looks at ways in which the effects of this can be simulated in wargames and comes up with a mechanism involving infantry units acquiring a smokescreen of cotton-wool balls as they shoot and cavalry being able to charge longer distances to contact units hidden by such, with a risk of deviation. It even involves a special measuring stick, cut from dowel and painted in different zones. Very retro.

After reading the chapter I got to thinking - should the wargamer view every action of the period as Don describes it above? Is he correct in his assertion? And, if he is, do any games allow for this fog of war? Do the various rules for PIPs or initiative rolls or card-based activation cover it in an abstract, but sufficient way?

As my wife would say, what do you think?


  1. Like you wrote, PIPs, command rolls and the like are mechanics to help simulate that fog of war. Also, the results of combat rolls in which (f0r example) your top-of-the-line unit rolls a 1, while the refuse opposing it rolls a 6, can be explained as miscommunication leading to the rout of an elite unit by a green unit.

    1. But do these effects simulate the 'fog of war' described in the book; the deterioration of visibility on the battlefield caused by firing of gunpowder weapons?

    2. Indirectly, I think they do, along with all sorts of other unnamed factors. But if you're looking for a ruleset that specifically sets out to emulate the smoke-filled battlefield, I'm not sure. I think Two Hour Wargames' Muskets & Mohawks might, but I can't swear to it.

  2. This Very Ground, rules for FIW does this. It is tied in with the firing/reloading rules. I can't explain exactly, I don't actually have them.

  3. My next door neighbour was into Civil War reanactments. He told me that once they had a few cannons dotted around and once they went off the smoke caused mayhem and the NDN's troops got separated and marched off in different directions.

  4. Clarification; "This Very Ground" and "Muskets and Mohawks" both use "smoke" to represent volume of fire/need to reload, but not to represent concealment. The skirmish game Brink of Battle does - each black powder weapon that fires produces a smoke token that does provide concealment for a limited time.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...