Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SOMETIMES THE BAR GETS YOU

     Something that has always bugged me about Clash of Arms' Battles from the Age of Reason (BAR) is that it does not depict realistic unit frontages. In fact, it's the only game I know of whose units do not fit into the map hexes (and I don't mean physically). It's the strangest thing. It's not like the designer found 100-yard scale map hexes laying around and then had to find a use for them. Presumably, the game was designed from the ground up with its subject matter in mind. I mean, you have to believe that, right? The hexes could have been whatever the designer needed them to be to accommodate the majority of the units. And yet, the hexes are too friggin' small.
     But the units are intended to be "extended" into the next hex, you say. Yes, but then they're too large.
     Here's the ugly truth: A standard frontage for a 700-man Prussian infantry battalion is about 150 yards. The game only allows 100-yard and 200-yard unit frontages -- a Goldilocks compromise, either too small or too large. A true WTF moment in gaming.
     It makes it hard for me to want to play this thing. I mean, c'mon man, it's flawed at its very foundation. But here's the problem: I own Kolin, Fontenoy, Lobositz and Prague. The last three cost me over $200 and Kolin $40 (in 1996 money). I didn't fork over that kind of cash because I enjoy complaining about stuff. I am going to play these, dammit!
     But I'm not going to use Frederick's army to play some quasi-Napoleonic battle game. No sir. I've put on my mod hat and I'm going to work. Hopefully, what I come up with will be just right.

Step Up to the BAR, Boys!

     Alrighty, then....
      In my upcoming game of Lobositz, I plan on having each of my Prussian battalions occupy "2" hexes at all times. I put "2" in quotations marks because they're actually occupying a hex-and-a-half. The unit will exert 5 Strength Points in one hex and the remainder in the second (up to 5 more). In addition, any hex containing fewer than 5 SPs can be occupied up to that limit by SPs of another unit.
     The following picture shows how this will work. Basically, what you're looking at here are two battalions occupying 3 hexes (300 yards -- in essence 150 yards of frontage each). Unit 1 exerts 5 SPs in the hex to the left of the hexspine it straddles, and 2 more in the adjacent hex. Unit 2 is a mirror image. I'm allowing 5 SPs to fire out of a hex, so this arrangement depicts the Prussian infantry as they were intended to be used. The SPs in the three hexes are in a 5-4-5 arrangement, allowing for each unit's full firepower.




     Similarly, I'm allowing a maximum of 6 cavalry SPs to occupy a hex. Many of the Prussian cavalry are 8-SP units (400 men each), and they will be split, similarly to the infantry, 6-2. This will hopefully force the player to use his 18th-century armies according to the tactics of the day. Currently, the game encourages infantry and cavalry to run around the field in mini-attack columns, using only half their firepower and attacking everything in sight with cold steel. Not cool. (Look, a pun!) And definitely NOT the 18th-century battlefield.
     I'm anal about some things. This is one of them.

The Prussian deployment at Lobositz.
DIGITAL DER GROSSE
      I actually prefer playing this game on Vassal because of the unit labeling function. No big stacks of counters. You can see in the picture below how I've labeled my units. "3/5" indicates that the unit has 3 SPs in the hex to its left and 5 to the right. The hex with the greater number of SPs is always the hex occupied by the unit marker. That's the plan, anyway.

     Wouldn't it have been easier to just use 150-yard hexes, though? I mean, for crying' out loud! They could have cut the rulebook in half, for starters.
     Oh, well. You play the game you've been dealt. Time to get at it.

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