Skirmishers

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BrettPT
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Skirmishers

Post by BrettPT » Sat May 03, 2014 8:06 pm

Units skirmishing in FoGN is an aspect worth re-looking at for version 1.1 in my view. It seems to me that skirmishing in FoGN may be a carry over from the ancients rule mechanisms which has very little application in the Napoleonic wars at the scale we are playing in FoGN. It is the one part of FoGN which for me is both unrealistic and, sometimes, cheesy.

For regular LC, I am unaware of any historical example of a regular LC regiment evading a charge. The rules for when a LC unit counts as a skirmisher and when it doesn't are reasonably complex and the game would be improved by simply doing away with Reg LC skirmishing altogether. If a LC unit doesn't want to be charged then it can always CMT to move back 1/2 speed in its turn.

For infantry skirmishers, it is similarly unusual (outside of early French) to find an entire regiment deployed in skirmish formation in the open, without supports. Doctrine across most armies was for a battalion to send forward some companies in skirmish formation while retaining the rest, formed up, as a reserve. If threatened or charged, the skirmishers would evade back to the supports. The entire regiment/brigade would not 'evade' like it does in FoGN, (unless it had been broken). It would not turn around at the end of the evade and immediately return to the fight.

A second issue with infantry skirmishers is their mobility. In more and more games, I am finding that LI engage in unrealistic skirmish 'dances' with opponents, moving sideways and dodging enemy arcs. In my Natcon game with Keith I spent an entire game with a unit of skirmishing Grenz sniping at a Cossack unit while skipping sideways out of his charge arc. The Cossacks would turn to line me up, I would skip again. Lots of fun but pretty ridiculous. I imagine it would have been very hard to keep control of your men and convey orders when they are skirmishing. Ordering complex lateral movements must have been almost impossible. It seems strange that in the rules it is easier to move a skirmish line 3MU sideways than it is to move formed up troops 1 base sideways.

A third issue with LI is their cost effectiveness. They typically cost the same as a line unit with a skirmish attachment, however shoot better and have all the advantages of skirmish formation.

Recommendations

Some or all of:

1. Simply remove skirmish as a formation option for all LI altogether, unless they are irregular, or listed as being in compulsory skirmish formation in their list.

2. Require a CMT for infantry units in skirmish formation to wheel (ie move other than directly forwards or directly backwards) and remove the option for them to go 1/2 move in any direction.

3. Rather than skirmish troops being better in terrain (ie using the 'white line' in the movement chart) have LI use the white line regardless of formation (it being assumed they instinctively use open order in terrain where required).

4. Drop the number of shooting dice for LI when formed up to 4/5 (small/large). This would make them shoot the same, and be more or less the same points, as a line unit with a skirmisher attachment. The LI would still have an advantage in the that they can move/shoot/fight better in terrain.

My major concern with the 4 above suggestions is that (1) may result in artillery becoming more powerful (as its nemesis, skirmishing LI, gets removed).
Perhaps an alternative to (1) may be to have regular skirmishing infantry form up into tactical when charged, rather than evade, taking a CT as they do so?

Thoughts?

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by KendallB » Sat May 03, 2014 11:45 pm

I agree with restricting skirmish formation to those that historically fought in looser swarms or are not numerous enough to warrant as regular light infantry. In Mark Urban's book "Rifles" he quotes the British army's opinion of their infantry's effectiveness right after the end of the war in 1814 (written in 1814) which stated that the veteran British infantry regiments fought as if they were light infantry (by this the author meant the Shorncliffe-trained light infantry). Many units would send out additional skirmishers and fight in a looser formation even in terrain. Nobody would want to see a British army, largely made up of infantry units in skirmish formation!

Personally I'd like to see the 1/2 move sideways remain but it should be a complex move if over 2MU from the enemy and N/A if within 2MU. Most infantry who must be in skirmish formation are either conscript or irregular. If they make their CMT with one die, good on them!

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by pugsville » Sun May 04, 2014 1:25 am

IT *IS* N/A if within 2MU of the enemy, Cavalry can also move up to 2MU from skirmishers failry easily, the lights cannot 'skip' around they can only retire directly backwards and skirmishers only hit cavalry on a 6 at close range ( 5 cavalry all circumstances other than charging -1 for skirmishers at close range ) Dont now how a unit of LI could hold a LC just move up to within 2MU and they will be in charge range no matter what they do (retire directly backwards is there only move) changing formation would require a CMT (enemy with 2MU changing formation)

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by Blathergut » Sun May 04, 2014 1:47 am

I don't know specific Napoleonic army/troop tactics to comment on the historical accuracy of how the game portrays light infantry, esp. in skirmish formation.

From a game perspective:

>I've never used LC in a single line so I wouldn't miss the ability. I don't have a problem with it in the game.

>It seems a bit odd for an entire regiment to skirmish but I can't speak to historical accuracy. As a game feature, I think it gives players more options and that is a good thing. I would keep it in.

>The sideways movement has never been a problem in any of our games. Your dancing away has not happened.

>It seems the cost of LI and its bonuses are a nice treat for the armies that have them. A bit of a perk for good troops. I don't know the reasoning behind why they get 5 dice but I wouldn't change it. (This coming from a French player. :wink: :wink:

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by KendallB » Sun May 04, 2014 2:29 am

pugsville wrote:IT *IS* N/A if within 2MU of the enemy
Yes, I know.

I was merely stating that to put over the full effect of what I think the skirmisher's sideways move should be both outside and within 2MU.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by Saxonian » Sun May 04, 2014 4:20 am

There are a couple of occasions I can think of where a unit of light infantry did break down entirely into skirmish order, but they were always (I think) in difficult terrain:
- a division of Davout's corps during the Battle of Eckmuhl 1809.
- units defending the left flank of the French army during Aspern-Essling 1809.
Both occasions involved fighting in wooded or marshy areas, and seem to have been a response to a particular tactical need.
The fact they are mentioned specifically leads me to think that this may not have been normal behaviour.

There is also the instance where some of the Old Guard infantry broke into skirmish (also Aspern-Essling) to shoot away the crews of the Austrian artillery who were effectively bombarding the French lines.
It is not clear if this was a few companies or an entire unit, however they seem to have been operating away from any formed troops as is not the normal theory for reformed troops in FOGN.

I agree that skirmishers do seem to have a remarkable ability to "dance" around, (though I say this as someone who runs an unreformed army with no light infantry whatsoever :wink: ) and the instance of a unit of infantry being in entirely skirmish formation in the open is not one that I can recall occurring.
I think Brett has some excellent suggestions, the only change to those I would suggest is that regular light infantry be allowed to be in entirely skirmish formation if they are occupying a rough or difficult area terrain feature.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by MikeHorah » Sun May 04, 2014 1:11 pm

First I should say that there should be no significant changes in the 2nd ed which should be about embodying the errata , accumulated clarifications and minor changes in a cleaner tidier , leaner, better presented and lower cost form. That should be the first priority. No one will have to get it to carry on playing but those who do not download errata sheets etc from this forum can benefit if they choose as well as those who do.

A V2.0 would incorporate more significant changes, by definition, in which I would include the kinds of things posited here, among others . But only after testing the combined effects of changes and specific feedback. Like FOG(AM), V2.0 it will render obsolete :evil: the first two editions and will potentially split the user base so no rushing this fence.

I do not agree that the application of “ evade “ has its origins in ancients rules ( FOG(AM) or any other).Not in my mind at any rate. :roll: It can be found in other Napoleonic rules.

On the evade and Light infantry issues I would say the following:

1. The option of the evade move for cavalry in single rank is intended to get round the “ reality dysfunction” of “ I Go You Go”. It should be possible for light cavalry so disposed – in a single line - to refuse battle if advanced upon by cavalry from a distance. But “I go you go” prevents that. And there is plenty of evidence in regulations for regular light cavalry throwing forward skirmishers, a bit like line infantry , which is one technique for keeping enemy cavalry at a distance and enabling a timely retirement move in good order. Calling it a skirmish line or an evade are probably the wrong terms to have used.

2. As I have already said elsewhere I think we may have over-egged the regular light infantry pudding . The description in this thread of how they operated is a fair one. Hence our recognition of that in a number of ways. What may be a provision too far is allowing them to deploy wholly in open order, in the open ,especially when some are not 100% light infantry but one Btn among 2 or 3. But they must be given a recognition of a formational advantage over line infantry – even reformed ones -and over those types wholly in open order that are “en debendade” – the French in 1792-95, Grenzers, Turks, Vendeans and Choans, Tyroleans, some Freicorps.

3. And the latter types, I am very clear about, must be able to “ dance” as one post so delightfully describes it :lol: . That was indeed what made them so frustrating for unreformed line infantry to confront and to get at and why left flank light infantry companies came in ,and regular light infantry, in many armies. Maybe again “evade” and “ skirmish” are the wrong terms to use in describing what should be their fluidity of movement enabling them to avoid close contact . So maybe require them to fall back against the advance of steady infantry even if with some flexibility as now.Some other Napoleonic rules do that for what they call skirmishers.

4. I hesitate to prescribe ( or indeed proscribe) specific changes for this as it needs to be looked at as a piece with the other light infantry provisions and different options tested for unintended consequences etc

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by SirGarnet » Mon May 05, 2014 7:21 am

Today "skirmishing" can mean everything from a scouting screen or probing force to fluid small unit tactics for a firefight. It is also well understood that "Evade" or "Fall back" may be is a retirement in more haste or less, possibly in good order at command and possibly in a desperate and disordered flight, but in any event seeking to avoid close action with an advancing adversary.

Skirmish dancing can represent some real battlefield phenomena - or it can involve geometric artifice. It is the latter I am wary of.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by MikeHorah » Mon May 05, 2014 8:25 am

MikeK wrote:Today "skirmishing" can mean everything from a scouting screen or probing force to fluid small unit tactics for a firefight. It is also well understood that "Evade" or "Fall back" may be is a retirement in more haste or less, possibly in good order at command and possibly in a desperate and disordered flight, but in any event seeking to avoid close action with an advancing adversary.

Skirmish dancing can represent some real battlefield phenomena - or it can involve geometric artifice. It is the latter I am wary of.
Indeed some us do see those differently today but am not sure if that may not sometimes be superimposing a contemporary or later understanding or interpretation on an earlier era. Sometimes the use of the actual terms used in an era may help clarify- or indeed helpfully obscure? :shock:


I do agree about the peril of " geometric artifice" in games which can bedevil wargaming not just with miniatures. It is to an extent unavoidable in some shape or form if only because we typically use one model, or base of models to represent many more men. In so doing we then implicitly create an artificial space and impose constraints on what they can or did do, or the opposite, allowing them to behave in way they could or did not.

So I am in favour of mitigating at least some of the consequences of this if that can be done ( not just in FOG(N) - but remembering it is still just a game and not a simulation and as any game model, it is a selective one . It needs to be asked whether a particular thing we allow or disallow actually makes any difference to the particular things we are trying to focus on and game . The best solution may be to simply leave out some things altogether as having no value or effect.

And "true" (sic) simulations can be unplayable outside the realms of an AI. :lol:

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by joaquin9 » Mon May 05, 2014 10:06 am

I think I have a problem with the Evade rule for Inf Skirmishers. Specifically, the first bullet of page 30. The last phrase states that "Units passed through take a Cohesion Test." This means that Evading skirmishers (which is a kind of "voluntary" or commanded action, not a panic result) can eventually disorder or even break friendly units. Is this right?
If we go to page 64 (Bursting Through Friends), the Cohesion Test is only required for being bursted through by "Broken or retiring", not by evading friends . That seems to make more sense to me.

Well, all the above is really a minor complain compared to my other surprise about light infantry. As the tables are written, a light inf unit at medium range (that is, a line of advanced skirmishers, with a couple of men every 4-10 meters) has a firepower similar to a formed unit at close range (double line of muskets firing shoulder to shoulder). How can that be explained? It is widely known that skirmishers fire was not at all comparable to a formed line. Other realistic rules I know reflect this, giving them a firepower 1/4 to 1/2 of that from a formed line. As the tables are written, Light units become a kind of "supermen", which seems not right to me.

Sorry, the fact is that I like so many things about this design, that I would like it to be perfect! :-)

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by viperofmilan » Wed May 07, 2014 4:43 pm

BrettPT wrote:Units skirmishing in FoGN is an aspect worth re-looking at for version 1.1 in my view. It seems to me that skirmishing in FoGN may be a carry over from the ancients rule mechanisms which has very little application in the Napoleonic wars at the scale we are playing in FoGN. It is the one part of FoGN which for me is both unrealistic and, sometimes, cheesy.

For regular LC, I am unaware of any historical example of a regular LC regiment evading a charge. The rules for when a LC unit counts as a skirmisher and when it doesn't are reasonably complex and the game would be improved by simply doing away with Reg LC skirmishing altogether. If a LC unit doesn't want to be charged then it can always CMT to move back 1/2 speed in its turn.

For infantry skirmishers, it is similarly unusual (outside of early French) to find an entire regiment deployed in skirmish formation in the open, without supports. Doctrine across most armies was for a battalion to send forward some companies in skirmish formation while retaining the rest, formed up, as a reserve. If threatened or charged, the skirmishers would evade back to the supports. The entire regiment/brigade would not 'evade' like it does in FoGN, (unless it had been broken). It would not turn around at the end of the evade and immediately return to the fight.

A second issue with infantry skirmishers is their mobility. In more and more games, I am finding that LI engage in unrealistic skirmish 'dances' with opponents, moving sideways and dodging enemy arcs. In my Natcon game with Keith I spent an entire game with a unit of skirmishing Grenz sniping at a Cossack unit while skipping sideways out of his charge arc. The Cossacks would turn to line me up, I would skip again. Lots of fun but pretty ridiculous. I imagine it would have been very hard to keep control of your men and convey orders when they are skirmishing. Ordering complex lateral movements must have been almost impossible. It seems strange that in the rules it is easier to move a skirmish line 3MU sideways than it is to move formed up troops 1 base sideways.

A third issue with LI is their cost effectiveness. They typically cost the same as a line unit with a skirmish attachment, however shoot better and have all the advantages of skirmish formation.

Recommendations

Some or all of:

1. Simply remove skirmish as a formation option for all LI altogether, unless they are irregular, or listed as being in compulsory skirmish formation in their list.

2. Require a CMT for infantry units in skirmish formation to wheel (ie move other than directly forwards or directly backwards) and remove the option for them to go 1/2 move in any direction.

3. Rather than skirmish troops being better in terrain (ie using the 'white line' in the movement chart) have LI use the white line regardless of formation (it being assumed they instinctively use open order in terrain where required).

4. Drop the number of shooting dice for LI when formed up to 4/5 (small/large). This would make them shoot the same, and be more or less the same points, as a line unit with a skirmisher attachment. The LI would still have an advantage in the that they can move/shoot/fight better in terrain.

My major concern with the 4 above suggestions is that (1) may result in artillery becoming more powerful (as its nemesis, skirmishing LI, gets removed).
Perhaps an alternative to (1) may be to have regular skirmishing infantry form up into tactical when charged, rather than evade, taking a CT as they do so?

Thoughts?
For the most part I agree entirely, though I might go even further. Many accounts I have read report that entire divisions of the French army (in the period 1805-1809 at least operated) as "light" infantry - i.e. moving through and fighting in bad going much more effectively than their opponents. I think doing away with skirmisher formation (for the most part, keeping those few documented occasions when it was used by entire regiment/brigade level formations) but permitting certain specific units in tactical formation certain movement and combat benefits in bad terrain might more accurately capture actual use in this period.

Kevin

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by hazelbark » Wed May 07, 2014 8:37 pm

joaquin9 wrote:
I think I have a problem with the Evade rule for Inf Skirmishers. Specifically, the first bullet of page 30. The last phrase states that "Units passed through take a Cohesion Test." This means that Evading skirmishers (which is a kind of "voluntary" or commanded action, not a panic result) can eventually disorder or even break friendly units. Is this right?
If we go to page 64 (Bursting Through Friends), the Cohesion Test is only required for being bursted through by "Broken or retiring", not by evading friends . That seems to make more sense to me.
When you consider that is it a force of some 2,000 men retiring through another 2,000 or so men in an abrupt manner responding to an enemy assault that is easy to imagine a mess.

Well, all the above is really a minor complain compared to my other surprise about light infantry. As the tables are written, a light inf unit at medium range (that is, a line of advanced skirmishers, with a couple of men every 4-10 meters) has a firepower similar to a formed unit at close range (double line of muskets firing shoulder to shoulder). How can that be explained? It is widely known that skirmishers fire was not at all comparable to a formed line. Other realistic rules I know reflect this, giving them a firepower 1/4 to 1/2 of that from a formed line. As the tables are written, Light units become a kind of "supermen", which seems not right to me.
First the firepower of lines exceed skirmishers in these rules.
The fire of lines at close range. 4 dice hitting on 4s is an average of 2 hits.
The fire of skirmishers 5 dice hitting on 5s is an average of 1.65 hits.

Historically everyone in this period felt serious distress when faced with a "cloud of tirailleurs" firing for a longer period of time. They were annoying and every nation felt they needed a counter to it. No one out shot skirmishers if they stayed still in lines. The English reverse slope and aggressive advance is the closest and in the accounts where they stood their they died in droves.

I think you are comparing the tactical exchange at say 50 yards with the grand tactical employment in the game.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by pugsville » Thu May 08, 2014 4:46 am

Close range fire is also much more potent, you don't break or drop two levels taking hits from outside close range. Skirmishers more likely to 'win' medium range exchanges, but it's more attributional than the more decisive close range exchange.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by joaquin9 » Sun May 18, 2014 10:09 am

Hazelbark: Thanks for your clarification. I hadn´t realised that Medium fire needs 5 or 6 to hit, while Close fire also hits with a 4. That partially solves the problem.

But some problems remain: With the current rules, your skirmish fire is going to cause the same amount of casualties to an Unreformed enemy than to a Reformed, Reformed + SK, or even Light Inf enemy. I understand that once all nations reformed their doctrine and started to send skirmishers sreens in front of their formed troops, the skirmish forces were mutually neutralised. Skirmishers only had an important effect against troops who didn´t have skirmishers, or whose skirmish line was overpowered by a significatively stronger skirmish line.

Here are my proposed solutions:
1) Simpler one: If both opposing units are Reformed at Medium range, both should receive a -POA due to the fact that they are really firing to an enemy skirmish line, not to a formed body of troops.
2) More realistic/slightly more complex: Just as above, but prior to resolving your fire, if your Medium fire dice allowance is higher than that of your enemy, you can try to push the enemy´s skirmish screen back with your skirmish screen. To determine if you succeed, you throw one die. If the result is equal or less than the difference between your fire dice allowance at Medium range and that of the enemy, your screen of skirmishers has prevailed, allowing you to use your fire without the -POA described in 1). This rule allows to reflect the gradation in the quality/quantity of different skirmishers, such as we read in accounts from many battles.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by hazelbark » Mon May 19, 2014 10:16 pm

I see where you are going and it comes down to what you want to model.

Having medium range fire against reformed hit on 6s really make medium range fire ineffective.

It depends on what you want to model for the game. Your simple one doesn't work for me, the complicated one adds another step.
Essentially how many steps do you want?
You added a step to see who wins. Then they roll and still may not get a result. Versus right now we see if we got a result all in one stage.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by Saxonian » Tue May 20, 2014 3:17 am

I should preface this comment by restating that I regularly use an unreformed army, and get very frustrated when I am shot at and I am unable to reply in any way :evil:

Close range fire for formed infantry is 2MU, which I assume represents the effective range of a musket.
Reformed infantry shoot out to medium range of 6MU. If reformed shoot at reformed, I assume this would represent each skirmish line being 2MU in advance of their parent unit, and shooting at each other at a range of 2MU - hence fewer dice, hitting on 5's.
If reformed shoot at unreformed, I assume (once again) that, as effective musket range is still 2MU, this represents the skirmish line being 4MU in advance of their parent formed unit - I can understand this, no enemy skirmish line so the skirmishers advance further.

If the above is not correct (a lot of assumptions there!!), please disregard what comes hereafter! :) :)

What frustrates me is that the unreformed unit has no ability to respond to this.
I have not read widely enough to know for sure if formed troops fired on skirmishers in an attempt to drive them off, but it seems reasonable. I stand fully prepared to be corrected on this.

The suggestion I would put forward is that unreformed infantry which have neither skirmish nor artillery attachment, be allowed to return fire on a reformed unit.
The idea I have is as follows:
- Unreformed infantry may return fire at medium range, at a unit which has fired at them, with 3/4 dice (small/large) hitting on 6's.
- During their own shooting phase, they must still fire second, and only at a unit which has fired on them.
The important point here is that this is return fire only - if the target cannot shoot at them (because of arc, etc) they cannot fire back.
It would give the unreformed troops at least some small chance to reduce the incoming fire, while preventing them having any "independent" medium range shooting.

Just a thought.....

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by Carriage » Tue May 20, 2014 5:33 am

Seems like a lot of work for not much gain, I like the current level of abstraction. I would guess that unreformed not being able to return fire is more a doctrinal thing. They'd just advance to close range.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by joaquin9 » Tue May 20, 2014 7:16 am

Carriage and Saxonian: Yes, I think it´s mainly a doctrinal thing: In true Frederickian style, formed troops shouldn´t worry at all by skirmishers, as that may break the order of your lines and be a waste of ammunition. The fact is, one of the main effects of frensh skirmishers against "old" armies was to disrupt, disorder and provoque early firing from the disconcerted formed troops. But as I have mentioned before, once the other armies created their own defensive screens of skirmishers, their mutual effect was neutralised.

Hazelbark: You say "Having medium range fire against reformed hit on 6s really make medium range fire ineffective."
Well, that´s the basic idea when both sides are using skirmish screens! To be truly effective, one screen must prevail over the other.
The current system ignores the effect of the adversary´s defensive screen.

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by SirGarnet » Tue May 20, 2014 8:35 am

Reading Nosworthy, provoking premature enemy fire - throwing away the previous first clean volley and degrading effectiveness with continue firing - was a prime purpose of skirmishing, though the critical role was to disrupt the enemy's fire effect and steadiness as an assault was going in.

On the other hand, "skirmishing" can also describe ill-drilled troops in disorder, firing at will rather than under control, so in that form it is a natural degradation of a regular formation.

Looking at the game, if medium range shooting provokes a player to advance his unreformed line to close range to shoot back, isn't that what should be happening?

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Re: Skirmishers

Post by hazelbark » Tue May 20, 2014 10:46 pm

Saxonian wrote: What frustrates me is that the unreformed unit has no ability to respond to this.
I have not read widely enough to know for sure if formed troops fired on skirmishers in an attempt to drive them off, but it seems reasonable. I stand fully prepared to be corrected on this.
So this (the rules) is very historical. You read especially the accounts of the revolutionary era. The unreformed troops, really felt they were getting murdered by the French skirmishers. The result was basically break and run, or close until the skirmishers fell back and firing lines mattered.

The same was true in later periods. The Austrians in particular. But also the English. That is why they hide behind ridges. Even at Waterloo the anglo-allies reported lots of problems as the French skirmishers took hold. The Russians used artillery fire power. The Prussians countered with skirmishers and attacked.

But throughout the period no one felt they could go toe-to-toe with the French skirmish screens. They all felt they needed solutions.

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