Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Force Suited to the Task

    A few weeks ago, Steve from the UK asked for some suggestions on generating random forces for his solo Napoleonic games. I usually play games based upon historical or campaign generated scenarios myself  but sometimes you don't want to work that hard. He happened to be asking with regard to Snappy Nappy, but there really isn't anything particularly unique about the rules in that regard. A modified version of my response, followed by an of the cuff suggestiion by the rules author, Russ Lockwood, follows. 

One simple way would be to take a standard deck of  52 playing cards plus 2 Jokers.

Assign one of you miniature units to each card for each army on a roster (each army will have its own listing). Spread them out across the suits.  Don't worry about the cards that have no units, just leave them as blank "nothing" until you paint up more troops, then fill them in as you go! Don't assign anything to the Jokers.

Decide roughly how many units you want on a side. Then roll a number of D6's (average score on a D6 is 3.5) for each army (doesn't have to be the same!). That is how many cards that army will draw from its deck. If you draw a card with no unit, tough luck, no troops for that card. If you draw a Joker, the next card drawn that is an actual unit will be a GUARD unit of that type. You can be fancier and say that if a card that represents a real unit is preceded by a card of the same suit, its rating is one HIGHER than usual; if it is preceded by a card of the same color but the other suit, it is rated one LOWER than usual.

There are many other methods, but this one is simple and fun, and may allow a bit of pre-game narrative to be developed. It is derived a bit from both the systems used in Brent Oman's "Theater of War" campaign rules, and the "Beat the Drum" force selection process from my own Band of Brothers rules (inspired by an idea by my co-author, Ken Baggaley). One advantage of this approach is you will never generate a force that has more units than you have already painted. The balance of forces may suggest scenario variants by itself. It is easily gussied up further.

Sample army roster for an army with 16 infantry, 8 cavalry, and 4 artillery painted:


1st line

1st Dragoon


2nd Line

2nd Dragoon
1st light

3rd line


2nd light

4th line
5th line

3rd light

6# Ft Batt
6th line

1st grenadier
1st Lt Cav
6# Horse Batt
7th line


2nd Lt Cav
12# Foot Batt
8th line
9th line

3rd Lt Cav
6# Foot Batt

10th line

4th Lt Cav
1st Cuirass.

11th line


2nd Cuirass.

12th line

For larger collections, one could also have each card draw be TWO units of that type, or even a Brigade or Division of that type. You could require the commands to be organized by suits... many possibilities!



Russ' proposal:

We usually set up historical battles/campaigns, so random was not in my thinking for the rules. The point system came about because some gamers wanted to pick their forces like in a tournament situation. But the top of my head...

As for number of units, take one 6 or 8 lber Artillery unit and one Light Cavalry unit, and then another d10 roll:
1-2 = 8 more units
3-4 = 9 more units
5-6-7 = 10 more units
8-9 = 11 more units
10 = 12 more units
Then for the "more units", a d10 roll for each
1-7 = Infantry
8 = Light Cavalry
9 = Heavy Cavalry
10 = Artillery
And if Artillery, roll a d10:
1 = 3/4 lber foot artillery
2-8 = 6/8 lber foot artillery
9 = 9/12 lber foot artillery
10 = 6/8 lber horse artillery
Finally, the type, roll d10 for each unit:
1 = Militia
2-3 = Conscript
4-5-6 = Seasoned
7-8 = Veteran
9 = Elite
10 = Guard

No doubt that for certain situations, you can add a +1 or -1 die modifer. For example, the French 1805 army was at its more or less peak, so might get a +1 for type, Spanish army may get a -1, etc. Some armies might get a +1 for size or a -1 for size...up to you.
This will likely generate some odd creations, as randomness sometimes does, but at least it's a start (of sorts). If this helps, let us all know how it works out.

The army I just created:
Rolled a 1 for size: one 6/8lb art, one light cav, and eight more units
Eight die rolls: 2, 10, 10, 9, 6, 1, 8, 7
Translates to:
4 Infantry units
1 Light Cav
1 Hvy Cav
2 Artillery
Add in the 1 Light Cav and 1 Art base..
4 Infantry units
2 Light Cav
1 Hvy Cav
3 Artillery
The artillery rolls are: 8 (6/8 lber foot), 10 (6/8 lber horse)
4 Infantry units
2 Light Cav
1 Hvy Cav
2 6/8lber foot Artillery
1 6/8lber horse Artillery
Rolling for type:
4 Infantry units 4, 1, 8, 2
2 Light Cav 1, 5
1 Hvy Cav 10
2 6/8lber foot Artillery 6, 4
1 6/8lber horse Artillery 1
(Well, that's quite the mixed bag)
Thus, generating:
1 Militia Inf
1 Conscript Inf
1 Seasoned Inf
1 Veteran Inf
1 Militia Light Cav
1 Seasoned Light Cav
1 Guard Hvy Cav
2 Seasoned 6/8lber foot Artillery
1 Militia 6/8lber horse Artillery
If there's a story behind this corp, it looks like a hastily-raised cavalry division attached to two rebuilt infantry divisions and stiffened up with a Guard brigade.
Now, generate your own corps and send it into battle with this one. Let us know the outcome!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Ray. Both are more or less of the cuff on each of our parts, but I thought worth sharing.

  2. I like both ideas for an off the cuff game.

    1. Thanks, Sean. Nothing too original, just some different twists to consider.