Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 3

This is part three of my read-through of the Chainmail rules. The first two installments can be found here and here.

This time, we're into the turn sequence for the game. The rules present two different possibilities for the turn sequence, a move/countermove system and a simultaneous movement system.

In the former, the turn breaks down as follows:
  1. Both players roll a die. The player with the higher score chooses to go first or second.
  2. First player moves, performs split fires, and takes pass-through fire.
  3. The second player moves, performs split fire, and takes pass-through fire.
  4. Artillery fire is resolved by both sides.
  5. Missile fire is resolved by both sides.
  6. Melee is resolved.
In the simultaneous movement system, the turn breaks down this way:

  1. Both commanders write orders for their units. Orders must specify direction of movement and facing.
  2. Both sides move half their movement.
  3. All split fire and pass-through fire are resolved for both sides simultaneously.
  4. Once move-based fire is resolved, unobstructed troops complete the other half of their movement.
  5. Artillery fire is resolved by both sides.
  6. Missile fire is resolved by both sides.
  7. Melee is resolved.
The first sequence is similar to the typical “you go, I go” turn sequence that Warhammer and most other miniatures games use, except that movement happens in sequence and combat is always resolved simultaneously. It also differs from Warhammer and others because you roll to see who moves first every turn. Each commander has the option every turn of deciding to take the initiative or wait and respond to what their opponent is doing with their movement.

The second sequence eliminates the possibility of immediate response to your opponent's actions during the turn. It forces commanders to really think ahead and plan what their troops should do for a particular turn. I like the idea of this system, as it automatically introduces some uncertainty and “fog of war” possibilities into the game. The only downside to it is recording all of the orders and making sure that they make sense and are executed appropriately. I can definitely imagine situations that would cause problems using written orders, and I would only play with this system with people that I trust not to nit-pick things to death. Otherwise, I can see a lot of arguments happening.

The one thing I love about both systems is that combat is always resolved simultaneously. You still have the typical “move-shoot-fight-recover” breakdown, but all of the fighting happens for both sides at the same time. You can't have half your force wiped out before they get to act unless you move poorly and subject yourself to fire in the movement portion of the turn. I can accept that exception, because it's based on something I do and not on the arbitrary basis of having rolled higher on a single die roll. In a lot of games, you are at an impressive disadvantage simply by having lost the die roll to see who gets to move first. Both of these systems mitigate this.


  1. Written orders are usually done in a very general manner. Something like "Rifle Brigade to fire if within range, otherwise advance left flank." They are almost never super specific like you would expect if you wrote down what you were doing with a unit in Warammer.

    They are meant to convey the actual conduct of orders through messengers from a field commander to a unit commander. The indivdual unit commander interprets the letter of the orders based upon present conditions.

    Some rule sets allow for misinterpretation, messenger death/interception, and morale rolls prior to order execution. Most Civil War and Napoleonic wargames commonly used this sort of turn and it is very fun, especially if different commanders have different leadership values to modify these rolls.

    I suspect that their inclusion here is due to the familiarity that gamers would have had with other periods of wargaming.

  2. Eventually I plan to try out all of the different options in the rules in some sample games, and this is one of the options I most have my eye on. I'm familiar with a lot of historical games that use orders and simultaneous movement systems, but I've never had the chance to play them. I think it will make for some interesting gaming and a lot of different tactical considerations than I'm used to with alternating turn-based games.