Thursday, 6 December 2018

Portable Shooting

In playing around with an ACW Portable Wargame setup I have been considering how to build in a little more depth with regard to how cover works. In the standard rules cover simply gives a -1 modifier to shooting or close combat, regardless of what it is. It would be possible to allow really strong fortifications to give a -2 modifier, but that's about as far as it could go. A shot normally only hits on a 5+ on a D6, So there's not a lot of leeway in terms of factor - an issue with the granularity of a D6 roll. What I wanted was three levels of cover - light (fences or just being uphill, which otherwise has no benefit in a purely shooting game), normal (woods or a settlement) or heavy (fortifications).

However once a shot hits there is a test to see if the target retreats or (in the version I'm playing with) is destroyed. In the basic game this is based on quality - it's 50/50 for a trained unit, with destruction being 66% for a green unit and only 33% for a veteran one (-1 and +1 to the roll, effectively). As recorded elsewhere in this blog I have used a method where the test for retreat/destruction is based on the unit's strength and quality. Units have a basic strength of  2 (Artillery), 3 (Cavalry) or 4 (Infantry), modified with a +1 if veteran and -1 if green. If you roll equal to or less than the modified strength the unit retreats, otherwise it is destroyed. I realised that there was scope for building the effects of cover into that test.

So here's what I'm currently working with. First roll to hit. You need a 5+ on a single D6.

+1 if at range 1 and shooting into the flank or rear of the target
+1 if the unit didn't move (cavalry or infantry)
+1 if artillery firing at the same square and target unit as its previous shot.

If the shot hits, then the target must roll to see what happens. Roll a D6

+2 if shaken (see below)
+1 if Green
-1 if Veteran
-1 if in light cover
-2 if in normal cover
-3 if in heavy cover

If the score is 0 or less then the unit stays where it is but becomes shaken.
If the score is less than the unit's base strength (2-4, depending on type), the unit retreats if it can.
If the score is more than the unit's strength then the unit is destroyed.

Adding the 'shaken' effect is the big change here. Simply use a marker of some kind. A unit which is already shaken simply stays shaken; there's no cumulative effect. If the unit is activated or retreats then the shaken status is immediately removed. Essentially the effect of being shaken is that further attacks on the unit are more likely to cause a retreat or destruction. So a unit in cover might need a couple of telling hits to oust them, and veteran units in fortifications will be exceptionally hard to shift.

Why add the shaken status at all? Well, I didn't want a shot that hits to result in any kind of 'No Effect' result. If you score a hit you should be rewarded with an advantageous result of some kind which you can then exploit. Shaken does this, even if you may have to plan how to exploit it carefully, or get lucky with your activation cards.

The nice thing with this mechanism is that modifiers can be applied either to the roll to hit or the roll for effect, depending on where you feel they are appropriate. For example I am thinking of penalising long-range artillery and infantry fire. Initially I thought a -1 to hit would work (and it still might), but a simple +1 on the effect would work too; the shot has the same chance of causing an effect, but the effect isn't as dangerous at longer range.

Anyway, I'm currently playing around with it and will see how it works out this weekend.


  1. I was going to suggest 'ignore light cover and uphill', but thinking about it, maybe the concealment and surprise factors might have some effect. I do know of several firefights in the Napoleonic and ACW wars in which the uphill side came off distinctly worse. Some might attribute it to weapons training, but I am inclined to disagree.

    I'll be interested to see how it goes: whether the factors add to the game, and how they play out.

  2. Good morning Kaptain,

    There is some sound thinking at work here old chap! I really like the idea of shaken for the reasons you mention and I will look forward to seeing how it plays out.

    All the best,


  3. I like the +1 for unit not moving. Nice work Kaptain !

    1. That's in the Portable Wargame already. In my ECW set I've flipped it to a -1 if you *do* move in order to make firing less effective.


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