|Swedes with muskets circa 1660|
Tilly's Very Bad Day doesn't have a declared ground scale. Some may notice, however, that Horse have a Shooting Range of 2TUM and Pike+shot of 4TUM. As a TUM is half a base width and as bases represent brigades, it means that Horse can fire a distance equivalent to the frontage occupied by a Brigade and that Pike+shot units can fire a distance equivalent to the frontages of two brigades.
In correspondence TVBD author, Steven Thomas, explained: "Inside the game, there are several related mechanisms that interact. The key ones are shooting distance, normal movement, charge movement. The relationships between these are complex. We play tested a bunch of options."
The large ranges are, therefore, a compromise and a result of trial-and-error tests made during the development of the game mechanics. They can, to some extent, be justified on the grounds that a brigade base is not a solid body of men but rather 'an operational centre of gravity'. The actual units that it represents may be rattling around within its perimeter or spilling over its edges to approach enemy brigades doing the same thing. They may indeed come a lot closer to shoot at one another than appearances suggest, in which case the 2 TUM may to some extent reflect their reach as much as their range. This concept is inspired by Chris Pringle’s Bloody Big Battles! See his comment below for a full explanation.
(Cf Horse, Foot and Guns in which musket-equipped troops have ranges varying from 200 to 400 paces, the higher range representing an invisible skirmish screen notionally thrown out in advance of the visible parent unit.)
It would be a mistake, however, to push this rationalisation too far. At the end of the day we have to recognise that hobby wargames are games, not simulations, and we are kidding ourselves if we think any of them are ‘realistic’. They reference realism in the same way a novel might, but they are not real: they are games of chance with a military flavour.
And if you do try to create rules that are trudgingly ‘realistic’ you may also find that the small increments and lack of dynamism lead to a game-play that is arthritic.
Rather than simply leave things there, however, I thought it would be interesting to look at ground scales and ranges in other rules with which I am acquainted. The results are a mixed bag and I’m not really sure what conclusions to draw. Some hit the mark or make a reasonable attempt at realistic ranges, others certainly do not.
I’ve played most of these games with a range of other players and none of them have ever questioned the ground-scale or ranges. Nobody, of course, is going to question the length of a ‘normal move’ because it’s part and parcel of the game and we don’t specifically know what it represents, but if you are looking for holes in a game because you are looking for holes in a game, ranges are an easy target!
Altar of Freedom
I haven't played these rules yet but I'm very impressed by their approach. The ground scale is 1" = 150 yds. The bases are 60mm x 30mm and represent brigades.
There is ranged fire and close combat. However, the ranged fire represents only skirmish fire and the close combat principally represents point blank shooting. The skirmishing fire range is 2" inches so 300 yds, and may include the distance of the skirmishers from their parent unit as well as the range of their weapons.
This approach exactly captures the unique nature of battle during the American Civil War but I don’t think it’s applicable to other times and places.
It may also be noted that although the firing aspect and the close combat aspect may be defined differently from other rules, game play still includes these two aspects. As such, AoF is not radically different from other rule sets.
Bloody Big Battles!
Ground scale: 1 inch = 150-250 yards/metres. Smoothbore musket range is 3 inches which equals 450-750 yards/metres. (The Dreyse Needle Gun is given a range of 6” and the Chassepot 12”.)
BBB author, Chris Pringle, explains this approach in his comment below, a reaction to the original and misleading text in this section.
I accept Chris’s concept but have some reservations about the ratios between the respective ranges, a subject I might return to another time. As with TVBD, the outcomes at the macro level are, in my opinion, more important than strict simulation at the micro level.
Horse, Foot and Guns
Musket range is 200 paces if 'Musketeers' and 400p if certain other types, representing the reach of skirmishers. A pace is 30" so that means 166 yds and 332 yds respectively.
Impetus (first edition)
1U = 6-7 m. Unfortunately the U is sort of tied to the scale of figures used rather than the size of the bases. However, if you have 6-15mm figures on the suggested 8cm-wide bases, 1U is 1cm and your 8 cm base frontage will represent say 6.5 m x 8 = 52 m (about 57 yds).
Interestingly a heavy Infantry unit in Impetus represents 600-1200 men, roughly equal to a cohort or double cohort. Assuming that each cohort is eight lines deep, and that each legionary has a 1-yard frontage, one 480-man cohort would have a frontage of 60 yards (100 yards for the oversized first cohort). This from here. All of which goes to show that an Impetus HI unit is a fair match for a Roman cohort. Now on to ranges.
Ranges in Impetus typically go out 30U, about 195 m or 213 yards which seems long but not absurd.
The new, second, edition of Impetus uses measurement related to BW, a much more rational and increasingly universal approach for pre-Twentieth Century warfare.
No ground scale. Musket range is 4BW, equivalent to a unit’s frontage. If the unit is a battalion in two ranks it might have a frontage of 500/2 x 2’ which would be 500 feet or about 167 yds. However, Maurice uses bath-tubbing with no alteration to range so a unit could just as easily represent a brigade.
At battalion-level (my preference) Maurice is not a grand-tactical game. At brigade-level it is, but the numbers go out of the window.
Above all it is a game, and a very good one, not a pretence at simulation. It gets by because it splendidly captures an Eighteenth Century look and feel. And IMO that's more important than claiming some notional representation of accuracy in a small arms table.
Rules of Battle
Forgotten now, perhaps, but apart from DBA and HOTT I think Neil Graber's Rules of Battle was the best implementation of the DBX-style design ever achieved.
The ground scale is 1" = 500 ft. Each 40 mm by 20 mm Foot base represents 1000 men (and a frontage of 267 yds).
Apart from artillery there is no ranged shooting. All combat is point blank, i.e. base to base contact.
Of the rules reviewed here, Rules of Battle is the only one not to have ranged infantry fire.
Twilight of Divine Right
1BW = 150 m. Foot and dismounted dragoons have a range of 1/2BW = 75m. Ranged pistol fire at 1/4 BW is used and it is potentially a very small measurement. ToDR units consist of two bases so the ¼ BW measurement is actually only 1/8 of a unit’s frontage. This drives the need for bases (and a table) that are relatively large. In comparison with TVBD this set has realistic ranges but I find the small size problematical.
Irregular Wars is a much lower level game than the ones above, but I’ve included it for comparison. Bases represent companies of 125 men. It has a ground scale of 1U = 30 yds, and long range for most weapons is 6U or 180 yds. I suspect that the smaller the scale represented, the easier it is to avoid distortion without crippling a game.