Numbers, Perceptions and War… The Importance of How Units *Think* They Are Doing vs Reality
Or “Wow, That Was Close Fred….Fred?….”
I have been doing quite a lot of intense reading on the ACW over the last few years, and it has increasingly struck me that many accounts of combat describe units either “…trading destructive volleys for an hour or two…” (inflicting significant casualties), or suddenly breaking in surprise at the first reverse (and then just as often recovering). This is *irrespective* of their green/veteran status?!
Well, FWIW I now believe that the common thread in these peculiar results is (partly) down to the unit’s *perception* of how things are going, or what the last exchange of fire did, rather than (directly) equating to the actual damage sustained. This is not achieved, for me, by the usual ‘morale throw’.
In game, terms, my prototype ACW brigade-level toy soldier rules for multi-corps actions now use the combat results (bucket of d6s but with a judicial reading of runes based on number distribution as well as high/low scores). I am using the most common score rolled (or ‘mode’) to set this ‘perception level’ as the bar for the subsequent morale test (by-the-by, the combat roll also includes key ‘special events’ like a commander being hit, ammo depletion etc etc). The unit experience is of course still a major factor in how it then responds, plus casualties etc, but this ‘perception level’ gives the kind of unpredictability which I’m after, and is achieved via the same roll, just read in different orientations…
I have started to use this mechanism – on paper of course, where my gaming exists now – in some skirmish games as well, and am even thinking of using it in a ‘general officer simulator’ style of game which seeks to reflect how the cmdr *thinks* things are going, even to the extent of ‘forgetting’ about certain units, leaving some without orders, not speaking to that guy who insulted my wife 8yrs ago (even if he does command the entire Right Wing)etc; all the usual. And anyone thinking this is fanciful stuff needs to read about Jeb Stuart and the Gettysburg campaign. He ‘sidelined’ two of his best but closest rival subordinates to border/support roles as he thought this would be The Last Campaign and stood a good chance of being the closing chapter in the history books. So he took at least two ‘also rans’ in their places with the inevitable results…….
It would also not be too difficult to see the impact of such a dimension on ‘public reaction’ back home, assuming of course you are in a period when that mattered (and depending on how wide ‘the public’ was, I suppose). To illustrate this, I would argue that the TET Offensive in VietNam 1968 was most successful in finally swinging the bulk of US home opinion away from support for the war – certainly it was a total f***-up for the North Vietnamese on the ground as they lost virtually 100% of their deep-cover agents, vast numbers of mainforce and local guerrillas, and substantial numbers of regulars + equipment.
Anyways, the modelling on paper has (almost) been fun; hope the idea has some merit for other developers, plus apologies if it is “…just that system we’ve done before…” in another guise.