Last week I posted that my summer plan to learn the Règlement de l’An XXX ruleset for La Bataille was put on hold as I learned and explored the Battles from the Age of Reason series. One of the things that I really like about BAR, and La Bataille as well, is the way that the fire strength of a unit is determined during fire combat. Not only does the raw strength of a unit go into determining how much lead you’re throwing at your opponent but things like unit formation and national doctrine also play a role.
In order for an infantry unit to fire it must be in one of the following formations: Line, Attack Column, General Order, or Skirmish. Below are two units, the French Aubeterre Infantry Battalion on the left and the British Bligh’s Foot Battalion on the right. Both units are in a single-hex Line Formation as they are each placed in their hexes such they are facing a hex vertex as opposed to a hex side. Both units appear to be evenly matched, each having seven Strength Points, but appearances can be deceiving.
When an infantry unit wants to fire it first needs to determine the number of its Strength Points that are available. In this case both the British and French infantry battalions each have seven points total, however when a unit is in Line Formation the maximum number of Strength Points allowed to fire out of a hex is four. This number is then multiplied by the unit’s Fire Multiple which is a game specific number found on the Fire Combat Multiple & Range Chart included in each game.
From the chart above we can see that the French Fire Multiple at a one hex range is three, while the British Fire Multiple is four, giving final Fire Strengths of 12 and 16 respectively. This final Fire Strength is then compared to the defending unit’s Defense Value which is based solely on the terrain it occupies and has nothing to do with its Fire Strength. In this case both units are in Clear terrain so each has a Defense Value of ten. If the French unit were to attack Bligh’s Foot battalion the final odds column to use on the Fire CRT would be 1:1 (12/10). If Bligh’s Foot were to fire at the French the final odds column to use would be 1.5:1 (16/10). Not a huge advantage, but an advantage nonetheless.
You may be asking yourself what good is it to have seven Strength Points if your unit is limited to firing four out of a hex at a time? This is where one of my favorite aspects of the system comes into play. Infantry units above a certain size are not limited to single-hex Line Formations and can occupy two adjacent hexes at the same time allowing them to fire up to four Strength Points from each. The number of Strength Points necessary to form a multi-hex Line Formation is determined by the Infantry Line Formation Strength Point Chart (ILFSPC). The ILFSPC is divided into two columns, one for nationalities that have their infantry formed in three rank lines and one for nationalities that form up in four rank lines.
The number of ranks that a specific nationality uses is found in the game specific rules, and in the case of Fontenoy the French use four rank lines while the British use three. Looking at the ILFSPC we can determine that in order for the French to form a multi-hex Line Formation a unit must have a minimum of seven Strength Points which will then be divided between the two hexes with three SPs in the left hex and four in the right. The number of Strength Points which are then allowed to fire from each hex are given as two and three (the number in parentheses). The French unit that was only allowed to bring four Strength Points to bear when in a single-hex Line Formation can now bring a total of five. Not too bad, but not nearly as good as the British unit.
Looking at the ILFSPC we see that when the British unit forms a multi-hex Line Formation that its Strength Points are distributed exactly the same as the French unit, three SPs in the left hex and four in the right. The advantage of forming in three rank lines however allows the British unit to have all seven of its Strength Points contribute to it final Fire Strength.
Now that both units are in mult-hex Line Formation let’s recalculate their Fire Strengths. If the French unit were to fire at the British their available Strength Points would be five. This is then multiplied by their Fire Multiplier of three giving them a final Fire Strength of 15 a slight increase from 12 if they were to fire from a single-hex Line Formation. The British, however, are able to nearly double their fire strength from 16 all the way to 28 by taking to a multi-hex Line Formation.
Of course just having the ability to have units in different formations, both in single and multi-hex, adds quite a bit of detail to the rules. Things that would normally be pretty straight forward such as movement, stacking, and close combat need to have extra rules to deal with the different available formations. In the few weeks that I’ve spent with the system I’ve found that the extra detail is not overbearing or even that difficult to deal with and the payoff in play is certainly worth it. I just spend a lot of time reading and re-reading sections of the rules to try and get things right. It doesn’t hurt that the latest BAR game, Fontenoy, comes with a lot of useful charts that I always keep within easy reach.