Continuing from part one.
Close combat in wargames should first and foremost be fun and simple with no boring score-keeping. But for my own rules I also want the fighting to feel real. For realism’s sake the player takes on the role of the company’s captain by issuing orders to units. For fun’s sake the player also gets to control the flavour of close combat. No, it isn’t realistic that the player can control units without giving them orders — but it is realistic that if faced with choices a unit will do what is best for its survival.
In video games the AI takes care of this, but since that isn’t possible on the tabletop the player provides the intelligence. Do note that the player get to step in as “AI” only when there is little to no conflict of interest between the unit and the captain (the character that the player controls). When acting as AI the player cannot make units do suicidal actions. All actions that are for ‘the greater good’ will need to be triggered by orders. So in short, the captain orders units to fight but the unit decides how to fight.
Depending on circumstances a unit can perform close combat using one of its four abilities. All units will have weak and strong abilities but sometimes it might be beneficial to use a weak ability just because if it is applied successfully a special action will be unlocked. I’ve seen others call this type of special action a “stunt”, so that’s the term I’ll go with. A stunt could for instance be applied to your own unit, like faked flight, or applied to the opposing unit, like broken shields. Different units have different stunts depending on their training and equipment.
I’m not going to go into the abilities and stuff at this point, but I do want to show some videos of actual fighting to give an idea of why I want units to be able to fight in different ways and to be able to unlock various stunts. None of the videos can off course contain actual ancient or medieval fighting but they do illustrate various aspects of close combat.
First some group fights with blunt weapons
Huge gang fight. The groups assemble in rather dense clusters. After clashing the lines eventually pivot and then a few guys start retreating which causes a chain reaction of mass flight. This is similar but smaller scale. In this fight you can see how the winning side has an advantage of greater stability from the start.
This is just a drill showing riot police shifting between different forms of open and close order formations. In the beginning you clearly see how they have several rows densely packed to stop the momentum of the attackers. They are in this instance supported columnwise by reserves. In other drills they support eachother by rows.
Second group fight with stabbings and slashings
Six guys defend room from scores of blade wielding attackers. This shows how the narrow passage into the room of the “victims” gives the victims leverage to use their agility against the mass of opponents. The guy that is first attacked, the one with the meat cleaver is all over the place and then they manage to push and stab the attackers out of the room. From there on they can use their open formation against the close formation of the opponents by pelting them with office equipment. It does help that the victims have a couple of guys that are really courageous while the attackers seem to have only one guy that is really into the fight (the one that started attacking the guy that pulled out the cleaver). The big boss man slips away without making much contact at all.
Although it definitely looks like people get stabbed and hacked noone is taken out immediately. Rather, they try to hit eachother until one side has had enough and disengages en masse.
I find that these videos illustrate that people are not that easily taken out of group fights one by one. Rather, wounds, real and imagined, amass until those bravest on one side have been cowed to the point that those least eager to fight can start the flight. It seems that the less deadly the force employed, or the more courageous the participants, the more people will have stayed in the fight long enough to be knocked down (or pretended to be knocked down) and unable to join the flight.
The videos also illustrate that there is a time and place for close order combat relying on stability and mass, and loose order skirmishing relying on movement. And at least the video with the drill illustrates what can be done with superior ability to coordinate your forces.
I can also recommend watching some “Battle of the Nations” vidoes of Russia against some opponent. For instance, if the opponents form up too tightly the Russians just open up their own formation so they can surround them and take them out one by one.
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