Monday, 26 November 2012

Portable Close Combat

I have said a couple of times that I'm not happy with the close combat rules in the Portable Wargame, and was trying to come up with an alternative.

Well, I think I have something I'm happy with, or at least which will provide a base to work from. It uses the same 'to hit' mechanisms as the rest of the game, so scores in the area of being easy to use, and I think it gives reasonable and fair results, within the overall limits imposed by the nature of the Portable Wargame itself. It does assume that, in the Portable Wargame, units in adjacent squares shoot at each other normally, and that close combat is an extra option initiated after firing takes place.

The only proviso I will make is that were written for use in my ACW games; they would almost certainly need a little modification for other eras and conflicts.

So ...

Portable Close Combat - Alternative Version

The phasing player (the Attacker) can initiate close combat with any unit which has an enemy (Defender)  unit to its front, except:

 - Artillery may not initiate close combat.
 - Infantry or dismounted cavalry may not initiate close combat with mounted cavalry.
 - Unaccompanied commanders cannot initiate close combat

A defending unit can have more than one close combat initiated against it. An attacking unit can only initiate close combat against one unit.

Resolve each combat in turn. The units involved roll to hit one opposing unit. A defending unit must roll to hit the unit to its front if there is one, otherwise it can roll to hit any attacking unit.

An unaccompanied commander is automatically hit if close combat is initiated against him.

The order in which units roll to hit is as follows:

 - A unit attacking the defender's flank or rear
 - Defending infantry, artillery or dismounted cavalry
 - Any attacking unit
 - Defending cavalry

If more than one unit is in a given level of priority then the owner decides which one rolls to hit first.

A hit is scored on a 5 or 6. Apply the following modifiers to the roll:

-1 to attacker's roll is defender is in cover or favourable terrain (uphill, behind works or in other cover)
+1 if commander is in square or adjacent.
+1 if attacking enemy flank or rear
-1 if enemy unit attacking own flank or rear.
+1 if cavalry in open terrain rolling to hit unit with no cover/favourable ground bonus.
+1 if artillery fighting to its front
+1 if opponent is artillery

If a hit is scored then resolve it immediately.

If the defending unit retreats or is destroyed then the attacker may choose to advance into the square they occupied. They do not initiate another close combat after this, though.

The aim is to give a frontally assaulted defender an edge (bearing in mind that the attacking units get to shoot after movement but before they initiate combat). Artillery is dangerous to attack frontally, but vulnerable if the attacker isn't driven back. Flanks are very vulnerable. Cavalry are good in open ground, especially against a flank, or against opposing cavalry.

The wording certainly needs simplifying (I'm certain that some of the statements are redundant), but I think there's a germ of an idea there.

Example 1

A regular Union infantry unit is facing a poor Confederate one. The Confederates are behind hasty works, and the Union have a commander behind them:

It is the Union's turn. They fire at the Confederates, needing a 5 or more to hit (they get +1 for the commander and -1 for the Confederates being in cover. They roll a '3' and miss.

The Union player now initiates close combat - the Union boys fix bayonets and charge!

The defending Confederate infantry rolls to hit first. They need a basic 5+ to hit. They roll a '4' and miss.

The attacking Union infantry now rolls. They need a basic 5+ to hit, but get +1 for the commander and -1 for the defender being in cover. They roll a '5' - a hit!

The Confederate player rolls the effect of the hit - being poor troops a -14 will see them routed, whilst a 5-6 is a retreat. They roll a '6', and fall back one square. The Union player advances into the works, and the combat ends.

Example 2

It is the Confederate player's turn. They have advanced three regular infantry units adjacent to a Union line. They have also hit the flank of the line with a unit of mounted cavalry, and one of the infantry units has a commander in the square behind it. The Union line, from left to right in the picture, consists of a mounted cavalry unit, an infantry unit, an artillery unit and finally some dismounted cavalry. They are all regular.

The Confederates fire, and miss. They now move onto close combats.

The Confederate cavalry initiate a close combat with the flank of the dismounted Union cavalry.

The left-most Confederate infantry cannot initiate close combat with the mounted cavalry to its front. The other two Confederate infantry units can initiate close combat with the Union infantry and artillery.

Each combat is resolved in turn.

Starting from the Confederate left, infantry face infantry. The defending Union roll to hit first, needing a 5 or 6 to hit; there are no modifiers. They roll a '5' and score a hit. The Confederates roll the effect - a '1' means their unit is routed. The attack fails.

Next in line a Confederate infantry unit faces Union artillery. The defending artillery fires first. The basic roll to hit is 5 or more, but defending artillery with an enemy to the front gets a +1, so a 4 or more will hit. They roll a '1' and fail to halt the Confederate advance. Now the Confederates roll. They need a basic 5+, but get +1 for the commander in their rear and also a +1 for rolling to hit artillery. A '4' is a hit. The artillery rolls to see what effect the hit has. A '6' means that they retreat. The Confederate infantry can choose to occupy their position, and do so.

Finally the Confederate cavalry attack on the flank of the dismounted Union cavalry is resolved. Units attacking a flank or rear roll to hit first. The Confederates need a basic 5+ to hit, but get +1 for attacking a flank and another +1 for being cavalry in the open - a 3+ will hit. They roll a '4' and the Union troops take a hit. They roll a '1' for the effect, take to their horses and flee the field. the Confederates move to occupy their square.

If, in the final combat, the Confederate cavalry had rolled a '1' or '2' their attack would have missed. The dismounted Union cavalry would have then made a roll to hit, needing a basic 5+, but with a -1 because they are being attacked in the flank or rear.

Example 3

This Union infantry is in trouble. It is being attacked frontally by a Confederate infantry unit with an attached commander, and in the flank by a dismounted cavalry unit. It is, however, in a wood.

Once again we will assume the Confederate firing has no effect.

The Confederates initiate close combat with both of their units. The order in which rolls to hit are made is: Confederate dismounted cavalry, the Union infantry, the Confederate infantry. the Union infantry must attempt to roll to hit the Confederates to its front.

So, first the Confederate cavalry rolls. They need a basic 5+, get +1 for attacking a flank, but a -1 because the Union troops are in cover. They roll a '2' and miss.

Now the Union troops fight. Their basic 5+ is modified with a -1 because an enemy is attacking their flank or rear; it's something of a distraction. But they come good and roll a '6'! Both the Confederate infantry and the commander must roll for the effect of the hit. I treat commanders as elite units. The infantry roll a '5' and retreat one square. The commander is less fortunate - he rolls a '1 and is killed or captured. The combat is over. On the Union player's turn the infantry will turn to face the cavalry to their flank, will shoot at it and can choose to initiate close combat against it.

I hope that these examples help. Comments and questions are, of course, welcome.


  1. Kaptain Kobold,

    Interestingly your positive/negative factor scores are not that dissimilar from the ones I have used in my latest draft. You are a bit more prescriptive than I have been in the order in which units roll to hit but in the context of the sort of fighting you are recreating it makes absolute sense.

    You have taken the Portable Wargame concept forward with the work you have done on the Close Combat mechanism you have developed.

    All the best,


  2. Thanks for the comments.

    I felt the order in which combats are rolled was a key concept. What it does is ensure that only one unit actually gets hit in the combat; I wasn't entirely convinced by the current system in which both units involved can potentially retreat or rout.

    One thing I haven't quite resolved is that dismounted cavalry and infantry are identical in close combat. I'd like to give the infantry an edge (bayonets and larger units), but the granularity of the game means that a +1 is probably a bit much.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...