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 Post subject: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:42 am 
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Do folks feel that meleeing in the game occurs too often compared with the historical battles?

Should there perhaps be restrictions on meleeing, such as requiring a leader? Or a morale test that needs to be passed for a unit to be able to melee?

Should defending units get a special fire bonus when meleed?

Or is meleeing handled adequately already and there's no need to change anything?

Brig. Gen. Rich White
III Corps ANV


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:20 am 
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I agree with Rich that it is too easy to melee under the current rules. Barring a lucky pre-melee defensive fire that disrupts the attacker, any unit from the highest quality right down to E morale and Max Fatigue units will happily melee a defender no matter the strength of the position. While we all marvel at units that were willing to 'melee' during real battles, the fact is, there are also instances during the civil war where units refused to move to close quarters with the enemy. While its certainly possible that a 'C' morale unit will be willing to melee at some point in the game, what happens when fatigue lowers that morale to 'E' or 'F'? Will that unit still be willing to melee with defenders on the same terms as a fresh 'C' morale unit? I don't think so...

I therefore think a reasonable optional rule would be one of the following: 1) A general morale check on all units before a melee phase (at present all units 'can melee' except the disrupted and routed ones) that will determine which units have passed the check and can melee, or 2) Individual morale checks for each unit trying to melee. Perhaps the second option is best because it can account for individual bonuses such as meleeing a unit enfilade or meleeing a strong versus weak position. Obviously leadership can play a big role in the process. If a melee is critical, then maybe a leader had better 'lead' the attack himself especially if the units sent forward are low moral units. Leaders obviously might either give the units a bonus or perhaps a unit will follow their leader instinctively. High morale units will naturally have an edge passing the checks, but shouldn't they?

Finally, the morale checks serve the purpose of bringing some realism to the casaulty rates. In a long game, it is possible for a player to push units to max fatigue, turn those units into a battering ram, and then just hurl them at the other player. Yes, they probably have negative modifiers that reduce the power of the attack, but they will also cause morale checks on the other side after every melee. I've actually seen this happen in a couple of games and it results in an army that will fight itself to the last man and casaulty rates that are off the scale. In my view, while the current rules might favor playability or entertainment, I would prefer the option to tilt the game a little more towards realism.

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Cast Iron Division
VI Corps, AofS


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:10 am 
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And there is the column melee debate.

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3rd Brigade
Second Division
VIII Corps
AotS
"Everything will be alright in the end, if it's not alright, it's not the end"


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:38 pm 
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I think players can choose to melee too much in their gameplay and that's it. I don't think I've ever lost a battle because my opponent meleed his way to victory. I've been very frustrated by what I feel is unecessary losses from an opponent meleeing too freely but I don't think there is any real game advantage to be gained from the practice?

Much is too easy or unrealistic in the games. Meleeing is far too easy but I don't feel any need to see it changed at all. A house rule should be agreed to avoid column melee under some circumstances but that is all.

The games are designed to reflect what is theoretically possible but most players can gain far more than was historically likely using this system.

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Brigadier-General Jim Wilkes.
2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, XX Corps.
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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:15 pm 
I have also seen players lose by using the melee too much. To even hope of winning you need at least 2:1 odds. 3:1 odds are even better but you can still lose. You must have 8:1 odds to be absolutely guaranteed, mathematically, to win the melee. The fatigue penalty for losing a melee can be astronomical sometimes as well. If you do catch your opponent in an open field and on his heels than melee away, sir! But if he is behind breastworks... best to outflank or to call up the big guns.


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:56 pm 
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I do not think we need more rules! Unless you plan a melee just right or use it at best moment, meleeing usually is much too costly. This can be decided on by the opponents that are battling before the game starts.

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1st Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division,
III Corps, Army of North Virginia


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:49 am 
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My opinion is that melee is too easy and way too common in these games. Most engagements were fire-fights and not masses of hand to hand combat. Usually the two sides traded fire until one side gave way or broke and ran away. Getting a unit to “charge” was not the automatic thing that it is in our games. I agree with General Virts that the current system is more for ease of playability than for realism.

I don’t agree that melee should require a leader. The unrepresented regimental officers would be sufficient to lead the unit into any melee. The leaders represented in the game can be committed to bring their bonus in to play for those key situations.

I prefer the idea of a morale check for the units involved in a melee. The attacking units would make a morale check as they attempt to melee. Any unit failing the morale check becomes disrupted and unable to melee. The defending units should also be required to make a morale check when they are being subjected to a melee attack. If the defenders fail the morale check they are retreated one hex and disordered, plus the attacker advances into the vacated hex.

I don’t think the defender should get any special fire bonus when meleed but defensive firepower is definitely underrated. My preference would be to see defensive fire increased to full effectiveness rather than giving a special bonus applied during melee. I do think these games favor the attacker with defensive fire effectiveness being halved. I like the Full Melee Defensive Fire optional rule for the single reason that it allows an opportunity for fully effective fire against a charging enemy. The weapons and tactics of the era strongly favored the defender but the games seem to do the opposite?

I don’t think a unit should be able to melee from column formation but that horse has been beaten to death here so no need to go any further.

I really enjoy the games and don’t want my comments to be taken as complaints. I appreciate all the time and work that John Tiller and the others have put into this series. This series is the best thing going for Civil War gaming, so many thanks from me.

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Captain Mac Moore
1st Brigade / 2nd Division "Corcoran's Legion" / VIII Corps
Army of the Shenandoah


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:15 am 
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I'm not sure that it would be a good idea to actually prevent melee from column formation because there are situations (eg. crossing bridges) where it's necessary to use this formation. Also there may be instances where column melees, or something resembling column melees, actually occurred.

But perhaps there should be a penalty for units that use road movement and then melee in column, since there's no distinction between march column and Napoleonic-style assault column.

I certainly agree with those folks that say that it's possible to lose by meleeing too much!

Maybe the excessive casualties - often far higher than in the historical battles - could be reduced by making some of the losses (possibly as much as 50%) "stragglers" that will gradually return to the unit once it's been pulled back out of the firing line to rest?

Brig. Gen. Rich White
III Corps ANV


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:35 am 
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Because of the way the system works under HPS melee is the primary offensive weapon. When properly used it always wins. The key word is "properly". I have seen many players lose battles by meleeing but it always because of technique. Why I say it is the primary offensive weapon is that it causes the defender twice the normal casualties as rifle fire and force it to undergo a route check when it loses plus always is disrupted whether you win or lose. Why I say it "always wins" is you have total control over where to apply it. With some simple math you can come as close to assuring that you will win as one can in a game. Since the rule of thumb is have better than 3:1 before you do it all you have to do is look for a weak stack to break a line. The defender has no counter other than having enough men to line the map with 500+ stacks.

Why it isn't representive of CW combat: Rarely did real melees take place on the battlefield. Usually one side or the other lost its nerve long before their was any contact. The result was that most loses were due to stragglers when the unit that lost its nerve tried to reform. A better representation of this type of fighting would be a system that simulated the ebb and flow of attacking units as they attempted to approach an enemy line. Generally they would at some point lose their forward momentum and exchange fire for a while before falling back or getting pinned in place. Those who manage to close usually saw the enemy line fall back to new positions in the rear rather than get into a hand to hand fight.

My wishes on the subject which are highly unlikely to occur unless JT decide to rewrite the whole game engine is that the old Pin/Disorder/Route system be implemented. An attacking unit would be undergoing morale checks every step (hex) of the way and at any time it could fall appart in a Pin/Disorder/Route. Disorder could result in an immediate retreat as well. And Route of course would retreat. If you ever got adjacent to the enemy then they would undergo a morale check that could result in either Disorder or Route and retreat in both cases. This would turn the battle into a pushing contest as lines advance or fall back due to pressure on them. Few close range fire fights would take place because one side or the other would be forced to fall back.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:37 pm 
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I don't really have a problem with melee in the HPS system.

First of all, the defender enjoys a built-in advantage in that the random number applied to the strength of the defender is between 50 and 200, while that applied to the strength of the attacker is between 25 and 125. I think I figured out awhile back that to have a 50% chance of success the ratio of attacker to defender would have to be 5:3. This is before you figure in modifiers for upslope and breastworks. And it is no guarantee of success, only of an even chance.

Then you have the fact that the attacker loses men to a defender firing at full strength while the attacker has a choice of a 10% bonus in melee or firing at half strength, often at a defender enjoying protection in woods, towns, upslope or behind something.
And this is in phase play, where the defender doesn't enjoy a final protective fire against the attacker that can ruin the attacker's calculations by disrupting a unit. Also, if the attacker masses 1000 men in a stack, he is subject to the density modifier. Of course the attacker could attack from several smaller stacks, but many times that will often make his weakened stacks vulnerable to a counterattack. Also in single turn, that final protective fire is shot at each hex from which an attacker comes. And, the attacker will have more men disrupted than the defender, barring a defender routing and disrupting adjacent units that weren't involved in the melee.

Then you have the problem of a unit as small as a single man blocking movement of as many as a thousand. John Wayne wasn't around at the time of the Civil War, Hollywood notwithstanding.

Another thing to consider is that the distance from center of hex to center of hex is 120 yds. While a melee may be said to represent hand to hand combat, I say it represents any attempt to take from a defender a piece of terrain, and that was usually accomplished without direct physical contact. Additional casualties represent point blank fire such as that experienced by Iverson's Brigade at Gettysburg, or soldiers who couldn't run fast enough to get away, such as General Archer at the same battle.

I think something needs to be done to get leaders to expose themselves more, but I don't think requiring them to lead melees is the answer. In the HPS games, a competent commander will normally lose very few leaders, because the rules discourage their exposure. I think most will agree that the command value of a leader in these games is greater than his value as a leader in melee.

In my gaming experience, melees are fairly rare except where the attacker enjoys a clear superiority, such as a routed unit, a much smaller defending force or the rare flank attack. Any attacker who butts his head too often against a competent defender is asking for trouble.

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Forrest's Cavalry Corps
AoWest/CSA


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:46 am 
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What you said is true if one melee's with equal numbers. And, melee in HPS does represent more than hand to hand fighting which justifies its higher losses. But when executed "properly" it is an overwhelming attack because the attacher has almost complete control of the success of the attack. Any line that can't field 500 man continuous stacks can be easily broken by melee. Turn based play has been improved by the new optional rule for automatic defensive fire against meleeing units but it is just adds slight to the cost.

Once an attacker has accumulated sufficient force for a localized offensive which means at least 2:1 odds they can use the game's total control over movement to create the necessary odds to win. Since the attacker has more men he can selectively choose weaker hexes for his melees and use only part of his force to hold the others in place. Turn based play makes this easier since auto defensive fire on non-meleeing units is almost of no consequence. The ideal is to pick an enemy unit with three adjacent empty hexes you can move into. Depending on what is adjacent supporting the enemy unit I move 500 to 1000 man stacks into all three adjacent hexes. This gives you plenty of filler if someone gets disrupted. If the defender doesn't have good terrain for fire protection I fire the three stacks at him to reduce him futher, otherwise go for the 10% bonus of not firing. I usually target a unit weaker then 400 men so fire can reduce him to closer to 300 and my intended 3:1 odds. But it usually isn't hard to find stacks of 300 who can be further reduced by fire so you can get 4:1 or better odds. It's close to 90% success with very large kill ratios. You create a route and with luck more routes as the unit retreats.

Where all this diverges from Civil War tactics is that it was rare that an army could create this kind of concentration. The Mule Shoe is one of the few times it occured. In most battles the contact was between two rank lines which were almost always equal in strength because of the density of a two rank line. If one side had few troops it showed up not as a local superiority but as exposed flanks. Head on attacks almost were never successful except where dangling flanks could be exploited.

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General Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
AoT II/1/3 (CSA)


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:01 pm 
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For those not familiar with General Whitehead's references to the "Mule Shoe", here is a web page that attempts to explain it.

http://www.civilwarbattlefields.us/spot ... _shoe.html

I agree that an attacker can mass against a weak point in the defender's line, but maintain that in doing so, he exposes himself to possible isolation and counterattack. In most scenarios I play the attacker doesn't enjoy such a superiority of numbers that he can steamroll the opposition without putting elements of his own command at risk. Those that do probably get played by me but once.

But that brings up other weaknesses in the HPS system; a lack of realism in stacking and command and control.

Looking in Gottfried's book Maps of Gettysburg, we see Pender's Division of roughly 5000 men covering a frontage of about 1400 yards. This comes to a little over 400 men/120 yds. This was probably the maximum number of men who could fire on that frontage. But with HPS 1000 men can fire from a 120 yd hex at full effect.

I remember Frost and Norris modified some Talonsoft scenarios by changing max stacking to 400 men. I played a couple of those scenarios, and I can recall very little melee. That was, of course, a different melee system.

By command and control, I mean the ability to instantaneously issue orders to disparate stacks to converge on a particular hex. Historically, it took a lot of time to formulate a plan and then communicate it down the chain of command. In fact, the 360-yd span of control of a brigade commander sounds awfully optimistic to me. Coordination was extremely difficult, especially in a situation constantly changing.

I think these things are more responsible for unrealistic casualties than excessive melee ever was.

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MG Mike Mihalik
Forrest's Cavalry Corps
AoWest/CSA


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:08 am 
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Reduced stacking is certainly a feasible way of making it harder for the attacker to concentrate overwhelming force.

I also like the idea of units getting "pinned", like in the Squad Battles series (so it should be possible to port this feature across), but maybe pinned units should still be able to fall back.

A morale check for every time a unit moves in proximity to the enemy or comes under fire might also be useful. I don't really like the fact that only defending units are prone to routing.


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:45 am 
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If you reduce stacking doesn't that open up a whole other problem where some units are 800, 900, 1000. These would have to be made smaller, or are you talking about the number of units per hex.

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3rd Brigade
Second Division
VIII Corps
AotS
"Everything will be alright in the end, if it's not alright, it's not the end"


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 Post subject: Re: Meleeing
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:16 am 
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David Groce wrote:
If you reduce stacking doesn't that open up a whole other problem where some units are 800, 900, 1000. These would have to be made smaller, or are you talking about the number of units per hex.


In the Frost-Norris scenarios, large regiments were divided into "battalions" such that no unit exceeded 400 men.

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MG Mike Mihalik
Forrest's Cavalry Corps
AoWest/CSA


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