The fine art of running away

29 01 2012

Last time we talked rules, I mentioned the distinct possibility that troops getting shot at could eventually get sick of it and start running for their lives.  This occurs when a unit that had previously been ok with standing their ground fails what is known as a morale check due to enemy fire.  This brings up an interesting notion.  When running for one’s life, is it really possible to run far enough?  When do you stop?  Nearest ditch?  When you get back home to Ohio?  Never?

Troops in battle would run towards the rear (ideally behind their own troops so they would be screened) putting real distance between them and danger.  Distance is the best cover after all.  At the battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run if you are a closet southerner) the union troops fled from the battlefield all the way back to Washington D.C.  The retreat took several days and was a national disgrace known as the “the Great Skedaddle”. Much was learned from that fiasco including the necessity  keeping reserves on hand to provide a position that could be used to rally troops while  still on the battlefield.

From a game perspective fleeing is an odd notion.  It’s compulsive movement that occurs despite unit/officer skill.  Up till now moving troops is a very deliberate act requiring an officer to employ skill to issue orders.  Furthermore, we have already stated that routing units can’t be issued orders, the exception being the ever popular “stop being routed you knuckleheads” order… (which I’m not explaining yet!).    We need fleeing to occur at random times and we need fleeing to happen despite the units will.

Is now a good time to panic?

The bag o’ destiny is the keeper of all things timing.  It dictates the order in which game events occur and it might as well tell us when we should do our running.  To this end I have created some Flight Check markers that are the same shape and size as the generals activation chits.

Flight Check Chit

I figure that units probably run for their life faster than they march, or even quick time, into battle so I put two of these bad boys into the bag o’ destiny along with the general markers.  That way each turn units will have to check for flight twice and therefore will move twice as fast as regular units not running for their lives.  Play testing may reveal that I am an idiot and this is too much or not enough.

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During the game, whenever a Flight Check token is drawn, all routing units will check to see if they flee.  There is not mechanic for delaying this check.  It occurs immediately and simultaneously.

Flights are also triggered if an enemy unit gets within 4” of a routing unit or is shot at at any range.  When triggered by movement, flight will be checked  before the moving unit gets to shoot.

Flight checks

Once a flight check token is drawn, all routing units make skill checks to see if they must flee.  To make a flight check, units make a skill roll using the following modifiers:

  • -1 shaken (negative morale is negative morale modifier. FUN!)
  • -2 if routed (More FUN!)
  • -1 per stand lost
  • -1 if flanked (any of the shooting units can not be shot at)
  • +1 partial cover (fence or tress)
  • +2 full cover (building or works)
  • -1 if disordered (Which it is… its routing.  Sorry)
  • + 1 for each foot the unit is away from the nearest enemy unit

Two fun things about the list above. 

  1. Being disordered is a –1 modifier.  This makes since as far as it goes BUT there is NO WAY for a routing unit to NOT be disordered.  I could restate this rule to say that being disorded is NOT a –1 but you need a ‘5’ instead of a ‘4’.  I could also leave it out all together and make it easier to not run away.  I choose to state it this way because it that makes this list of modifiers REALLY similar to the morale check modifiers.  That leads us to thing #2.
  2. This list is IDENTICAL to the morale check list with one teensy exception; I get a +1 for every foot I am from an enemy.  This means that units become less likely to run the further they are from the enemy.

As always, when making a skill role, a unit uses 3 dice modified by –1 dice if the unit is green and +1 if the unit is elite.

Units can elect to automatically flee when a check occurs.  This can be done either because the unit would be better off moved or because the units controller dislikes math.  Either way, Flight is always an option.

What happens when a unit flees

Two things happen when a unit flees; It gets smaller and it gets closer to safety.  Let’s do smaller first.

Each unit that flees takes two straggler hits.  These are the groovy yellow inner tube hits that a unit picks up when it quick times or routes.  A straggler check (a roll for effect using the table above minus the distance modifier) may be made to see if these can be avoided (each success reduces stragglers by 1) or you could just take the two hits like a man and avoid doing some math here because by this point the unit is pretty screwed.  A routing unit that is missing one stand and has no cover will need to roll ‘8’ with its skill check (base of 4, -2 routing, –1 disordered, –1 for one stand)

Remember, when a brigade is activated, each unit in the brigade loses one straggler hit automatically.  This models soldiers that are separated from their unit with the serious intent of rejoining it.

The unit next moves 150% of its regular move “to the rear”.  Infantry in disorder have an 8” move so they would flee 12”.  This move should be toward something that would look like a good place to hide, would provide cover, is not towards enemy units, already has friendly fleeing units, has formed friendly units, or in general looks like a road back to Washington D.C.  There really is a role playing element here that you can’t capture in a rule.  The flee-er should pick a spot he can reach and his opponent should say “Yeah… I would totes hide in that barn too”.  Either that or he should point out a better barn.  The thing to avoid is using flight to redeploy units.

Oh… in addition to running and taking straggler hits, its customary amongst seasoned wargamers to quote Bill Paxton while running away.

Bill Paxton reflecting on his situation

Units that flee off the table, by convention, are removed from the game.  The stands lost are counted as casualties for scenario victory point purposes.  Another reasonable outcome is that they count as half casualties (given that they aren’t really dead.)  I would probably do the latter.  It is also OK to keep track of the number of inches the unit flees of the table keep track of it elsewhere.

Units that lose all their soldiers to straggling aren’t eliminated.  They are tracked like there are still units on the table but the do NOT collect extra straggler hits.  The regiment on the table doesn’t so much represent the mass of soldiers on the table but rather the point at which they will eventually begin to reform.

Example of fleeing

Consider the following example…

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The 47th Indiana has been blown up.  They have already routed and are now hiding in the woods pretty close to one of their artillery units.  They were once a 4 stand regiment and now down the the last figure on their command stand.  A Flight Check chit has been drawn and its now time to see if time to run for our lives.

Let’s see 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 2 = 9 for routing

9 + 1 = 10 for being disordered

10 – 1 = 9 for being in the woods (partial cover).

You can’t see the confederates in the picture but they are less than a foot away.  Bummer. 

A 9 is a big number to reach fro with a six sided die.  Let’s see how that turned out!

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So…. 47th Indiana is a Veteran unit… so they get 3 dice.  Their general must have been about to through away a dice because it looks like he lent then one of this command dice (for a bonus fourth dice).  We roll and we get a 1, 1, 3, 6!.  That six has a 50% of actually being a 7.  We roll a 4… bingo… it’s a 7.  Now we have a 50% chance of that 7 being an 8.  We roll a 5 and its now an 8.  Now we have a 50/50 of being 9.  We roll another 5 so we get 9!

Ok.  Reality check.  The odds of me getting a die to roll a ’6’ is 16%.  The odds of rolling a ‘6’ and winning 3 coin tosses is 2%.  Nice long odds but not relevant given we rolled 4 dice.  Let’s flip the scenario so we can work out the odds of failing this roll with all four dice.

The odds of NOT rolling a ‘9’ is 98%.  The odds of me NOT rolling a ‘9’ on 4 dice is  92% (98% x 98% x 98% x 98%).  That means the odds of me succeeding is 8%.

OK.  So… given that the enemy is so close still and I’ve got no figures left to shoot with, I had no business trying to not flee.  I need to get the hell back to D.C.  Doubly so given that I can’t take more straggler hits!  Let’s say we just forget I rolled those dice and I run for the hills.

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I am supposed to be running 12” to the rear.  I have some latitude on where I can run so I check to see if I can make it to some cover.  I see a patch of woods that looks perfect for running into and hiding.  I will have to cross two fences (each with a 1” movement penalty) and about 1” of woods to go through which costs me 2” inches of movement.  That means I move 9” linear inches.  There.  Much better.

By the way…  I took these picks in my first ever play test so the situation above was not so hypothetical.  The unit above got itself into a proper pickle prior to breaking and I managed to get a good photo.  This is the unit just before deciding to leave.

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I love the casualty markers!