Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Further Thoughts on Simplicity in Practice: Encounter at Plattdorf

 In a recent post, I discussed Neil Thomas' Simplicity in Practice rules which were discussed in Battlegames 23.  Although I think these rules are a lot of fun and basically sound, I think that the close combat factors in it are very poorly calibrated, making "local superiority" as important as being "charged in the flank", for instance.  So I decided to modify these rules as follows:

"Each side rolls 3 additional dice for each of the following conditions that apply":
Attacking enemy flank or rear

"Each side rolls 2 additional dice for each of the following conditions that apply":
Defenders with terrain advantage (depending on strength of terrain)
Fewer DP than enemy unit
COI defending against COI with same number of DP
COI attacked frontally by HC, DG or LC
COI, HC, DG or LI attacking LI in open terrain
HC fighting DG or LC
DG fighting LC

"Each side rolls an additional die for each of the following conditions that apply":
More friendly than enemy units within 10 cm of melee
Defenders with terrain advantage (depending on strength of terrain)

I feel confident that this very minor rules change will take away unrealistic advantages to simply massing units and give a realistically better bonus to those units that manage to find a flank (which will pretty much give a certain victory unless the outflanked unit has some serious mitigating advantages).  To test out these changes, I had a go at the Henry Hyde-penned Don Featherstone tribute scenario "The Encounter at Plattdorf" from Miniature Wargames 366.

I won't give all the details of the scenario but the forces involved were:

5 Infantry Bns
1 Light Infantry Coy
1 Light Cavalry Regt
1 Artillery Bty

5 Infantry Bns
1 Light Infantry Coy
1 Light Cavalry Regt
1 Artillery Bty

The French were trying to take and hold the town of Plattdorf and the Grungrat ridge whilst the Austrians were trying to stop them as well as hold the bridge and the line of the Stierbach.


The French approached from the South, the Austrians from the North.  The objectives are mainly obvious, except that the French are looking to secure the high ground to the south of the river.

A close-up of the French advance guard - a light infantry company and a line infantry battalion

And from another angle (from above and west)

Arrival of the main body of each side was determind by dice rolls: the Austrians rolled rather better than the French and thus have more of their troops earlier, and more of them where they should be (on the road)

Notice that the advance guards have now seen each other; the Austrian grenzers are on the high ground to the west of the bridge

The French lead battalion has got rather the better of the musketry exchange by the bridge and their Austrian opponents are on the point of collapsing; but a bold advance by the Austrian light infantry and cavalry has enabled them to ambush the French

The Austrian cavalry charge and devastate the French light infantry, caught in the open.  This was the first test of my amendments: in the rules as written, the French light infantry should have had the advantage, entirely because the French units in the vicinity would negate the advantage of the Austrian cavalry catching skirmishers in the open just by virtue of being there.

Same position, from closer in

The Austrian cavalry takes casualties from French fire, but retains enough cohesion (just!) to charge the leading French battalion in the rear; Austrian skirmishers and French artillery exchange ineffective fire

The wider position; towards the West, Austrian infantry advance across the Stierbach; the Austrian cavalry retreats to regain its supports

The Austrian infantry has advanced and shooed the French Hussars from the Grungrat ridge; meanwhile the French infantry advance towards the bridge; both units are fresh but are facing two Austrian infantry units supported by artillery

Same position but here one can see the remaining Austrian infantry to the West, in the Plattwald: they are 'bickering' with the French garrison of the church on the hill (no casualties on either side); a more telling firefight is taking place between the Austrian infantry by the stream and the French garrison of the town

The French infantry assault on the bridge has failed and one of the French units has dispersed; the Austrian grenzers have seen off the French light infantry despite being under artillery fire too (the French light infantry were already extremely weak after being hit by the Austrian cavalry)

Position from behind the Austrian infantry defending the bridge (note the pile of casualties!)

Position around the village at the end of the game

Game Notes: A really fun game, with the Austrians turning out triumphant.  Having more of their forces arrive just a little earlier helped, as did the decision to boldly advance with the light infantry and cavalry.  I felt that the rule changes, deliberately kept to a minimum, did provide a better game by increasing the importance of tactics and decreasing the ability of "mass" to overcome this.  I am going to incorporate this as standard in future games.  I still think the mechanism might be refined a little further, but that will require more thought.
These rules, yet again, provided a very simple and easy game.  Although I often disagree with Neil Thomas' calibration of tactical effects, I love the simplicity of his designs.  They give good wargames without ever causing the "so what do we do now" moments of headache.   The scenario is a cracker too - simple but challenging - and I can definitely see myself having another go at this one soon.
One thing I would really like to is incorporate some features to make the rules a little more Napoleonic in feel.  Squares are the obvious answer, but I don't want to mess about with rebasing or, ideally markers.  I was thinking more of the way that he incorporates March Column: just include the effects without mucking about with showing the change of formation.  So I need to sit down and think about how to do this...


  1. To show the effect of squares, maybe something where an infantry unit gets a melee advantage against enemy cavalry, but only if there are no enemy infantry or cavalry units able to fire on it would work. Or, conversely, infantry and artillery get a bonus when shooting at enemy infantry if there is a friendly cavalry unit in a position to charge the target.

  2. Both very good ideas - thanks very much Kaptain Kobold!

  3. Having now played a game or two of SiP, I have put my ideas for representing squares into a blog post:

    I hope you find it useful.