Friday, 20 September 2019

Ancient Sea Battles using the "Lost Battles" System: A Future Project?

My Initial Thoughts: A post to set things rolling!

I sent this into the Lost Battles forum a while back ...

"I am getting interested in wargaming ancient naval engagements. Has anybody tinkered/adapted Lost Battles for the naval side of things? Was thinking of Salamis in the first instance (my painting tray is filling up with Navwar triremes at the moment). I am currently reviewing the rules available but they seem to be predominately ship-on-ship which seems ponderous for large battles and I am not sure "bath-tubbing" them down will achieve what I am after. The closest I have come to "Fleet Rules" is David Manly's "Greek Fire and Roman Fury". Your thoughts as ever appreciated."
Responses: (Detailed) Suggestions from Patrick
Each unit would perforce be a squadron of ships, and around the time of Salamis this means triremes.  Hence units on both sides would be essentially similar, and we could take the Average Trireme as the basic unit.

Training and motivation of crews was usually higher than in some (particularly Achaemenid) land armies.  The three-layer Lost Battles morale system could still apply, but would Levy status ever be appropriate?  A look at the two Battles of Naupactus in the Peloponnesian War suggest that it might: Phormio's veterans achieved unexpected victories against one force twice their size and another four times their size.  The question is really whether the Athenian superiority is better represented by making their opponents Levy status or by assigning the Peloponnesians their historical abysmal level of command.

Provisionally, then, we might have Average Triremes (A*T) and Veteran Triremes (V*T).  Differences in the number and type of marines carried and/or the presence/absence of archers are probably not significant where the basic unit is a squadron of, say, 10 or 20 ships, but differences in tactical doctrine and procedure are, especially when reflected in construction.  Hence we could introduce Light and Heavy triremes, the former more effective at first contact and the latter in a continuing melee.

This would give us ALT, AHT, VLT and VHT; Average Light, Average Heavy, Veteran Light and (rarely) Veteran Heavy Triremes.  (We can worry about quinqueremes and the like later).

Unit Interactions
This would be the key to the whole system: how long does it take for a squadron of triremes to ram, board, sin and/or destroy the morale of another squadron of triremes?  Ten minutes?  An hour?  The Lost Battles combat system is designed to resolve cavalry fights quickly, infantry fights slowly (in the absence of a collapse of army morale), but is there any clue about which level of attrition applies to naval fights?

I would suggest that where one squadron catches another at a disadvantage (particularly in the flank), the fight can be over in minutes, whereas two squadrons locked together frontally might fight for hours.  Flanking is a lot more important in a naval fight than in a Lost Battles engagement because of the trireme's primary weapon: the ram.  Hence, in a frontal fight one might have a combat table similar to infantry vs infantry, but if attacking in flank the attacker would use a table similar to cavalry vs cavalry.

The next question is whether to include Spent status: is there such a thing as a spent squadron?  Or is a squadron either alive and effective or, for all practical purposes, eliminated?  We can probably justify Spent status for ships which have been engaged for some time and have tired crews, missing men and oars and perhaps a few hastily-plugged holes here and there.  This also allows us to fine-tune the treatment of rout, naval style.

Rout could be checked for by the Lost Battles rout/army morale/unit morale mechanism, with spent units having a -1 and veteran units a +1. A fresh unit which routs is Withdrawn for victory point (and campaign) purposes, while a spent unit which routs can be considered captured, which counts as Routed for victory point purposes on the basis that the cripples in the squadron will be taken.  Shattered (i.e. taking a hit while Spent) is Shattered, of course.

Fleet Command
Assuming we use a similar 5x4 grid, a similar command system might serve, with each collection of squadrons in the same tile/zone being considered a group and command points spent accordingly.  Generals (admirals) are probably best treated as Leaders, because their ability to move around on their own was limited (and if they did it would be very confusing to the squadrons they were with) so attaching them to a specific squadron seems merited.  The usual grades of Leader and their exemption allowances could still apply.

This can be tricky: I suggest this be related to unit scale, so that if each Average squadron consists of (say) five triremes, everyone has a move of 3, for ten triremes a move of 2 and twenty triremes a move of 1.  This takes account of the change in ground scale implicit in higher representation ratios.  Hence a fight like Naupactus can be quite mobile whereas a grand engagement like Salamis would proceed at a more stately pace.

Light Triremes would be allowed a free turn to flank as part of their move: this would to an extent represent their greater mobility.

Veteran trireme squadrons could employ two tactics against foes of lesser skill: from the front, diekplous (breakthrough); from the flank, periplous (envelopment).  Either requires a command bonus but confers +3 to that combat instead of +1.  A command bonus in other circumstances is still +1.

As touched on above, the basic Lost Battles morale rules could still work.  Veteran squadrons get +1, Spent squadrons -1 when checking morale.  Shattered squadrons count as Shattered; routed Fresh squadrons as Withdrawn and routed Spent squadrons as Captured (Routed).

This is an outline from first thoughts.  It may be something to build on or it may serve to demonstrate the impracticality of such a system.  There is one way to find out ...

Responses: More information from Aaron
"There have been a couple of threads on this in the past and there is a file in the files section that might be relevant.

I don't really have much of a clue myself (not for the first time!) but here are a couple of thread conversations you could perhaps follow up on as well:"

Responses: Positive thoughts from Michael!

"I've spent some time working on this in the past (as I've worked on a simple wargames system for Android devices, inspired by Lost Battles/Strategos), but unfortunately nothing worth sharing in writing.
Basically speaking, though, my conclusion was that there is no reason why the Lost Battles system shouldn't also work excellent for ancient sea battles. Units have some interesting dynamics - small ships vs galleys, "boarding" galleys vs ramming allows for those differences in forces that make battles interesting. No hilly terrain, obviously, but coastline squares provide some flank terrain that will affect gameplay similar to terrain in LB."

Responses: From the original rules author Phillip Sabin ...

"That is a fascinating idea, but the topics are very different and it would need a lot of research and creative thinking which I have no time for at present.  Do by all means pursue it yourself if desired."

So .. What next?
Time to pull the Navwar 1/1200 scale triremes out of the loft perhaps.

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