Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Thoughts On 'See The Elephant'

The problem with throwing together your own rules is that you never stop thinking of ways of tinkering with them, always with a desire to improving them. What you get, of course, is not always what you desire; the tinkering doesn't improve, but actually damages the game.

And so it transpires, maybe, with 'See The Elephant'.

The rules I added in for troop quality are basically some I came up with a year ago for my Mexican Adventure games, and they seemed to work OK at the time. No troops fought better or worse than any others, but good quality troops were harder to score hits on and those of poor quality easier to damage. I bolted them into 'See The Elephant' as something worth keeping.

However the games I played over the weekend, in my pseudo-refight of Price's Missouri Raid, suggested that they may not be quite as perfect as I'd hoped. They may quality Cavalry rather too good. The problem is that there is a 50% chance of a single die roll inflicting a hit on an Infantry unit, and the rules for good quality troops effectively reduce this to 33%. The odds get more complex when you roll more than a single die, because quality only allows you to discard one die roll, but the principle holds. However Cavalry only have a basic 33% chance of being hit. True they make up for this by having fewer hits overall, but with the bonus for being good quality this drops to 17%. This makes the Veteran Cavalry I was using in a lot of the Missouri scenarios very hard to damage. I'd wondered about it at the time, but only worked out some of the numbers afterwards.

So I am wondering if I need to change the Good Quality bonus. I have considered, and even tested, alternative methods of inflicting casualties - in once case I came up with an idea which rewrote the entire combat mechanism from the ground up, but I quickly realised that was more flawed than the rule which inspired the rewrite.

I'm tempted now to actually go back to the original rule I used - that good quality troops get one more hit than other troops - so Elite Infantry take 5 hits and Elite Cavalry and Artillery take 4. With some kind of rally rules this may work.

As for rallying, one thing I have found with 'See The Elephant' is that games can sometimes turn on wild swings in activation rolls, with one army getting very few units actually doing anything for a couple of turns, whilst their opponent runs rings around them. I don't want the predictability of every unit acting every turn; for a start the combat is bloody enough with the limited activations that the game has. I have rules for rallying in the game, but a rallying unit must be activated and then do nothing. This rarely happens; it's generally better to shoot or attack, even when damaged, because the chances of rallying off a useful number of hits is pretty small. I have been looking at some method of free rallies, and today it came to me.

As before, a player rolls one D6 for every on-table unit. A die which scores 4 or more can be used to activate a single unit to move and/or fight. All units not activated get a rally attempt at the end of the turn, as described in the rules. This means that if you get a particularly poor set of rolls for activations there is a chance that some of the hits you've taken will be removed, rather than your units sitting around and getting shot to pieces, unable to respond or reply. 

Obviously this will keep units in the game slightly longer, and this may affect the game dynamics somewhat, but it's an idea I shall perhaps try out this weekend.

In summary:

(i) Veteran units take damage as normal, but can take one more hit than normal units of their type. Green units take one extra hit if any of the combat dice roll a '6'.

(ii) When rolling activation dice, those that score 4+are used to activate units, whilst the others are assigned to units that have not been activated, allowing them to make a rally attempt.

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