Army balance in competitions

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martinvantol
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Army balance in competitions

Post by martinvantol » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:13 pm

Dear all ...
Just got back from the weekend at Reading, and felt I had to make a point about a troublesome trend in FOGR.
For some time Alasdair has been playing his favourite strategy of armies with minimum foot, a serious contingent of artillery and as much heavy cavalry as possible. Well done to him – he’s implemented a very clever strategy over the years, and played scrupulously fairly and in a very gentlemanly way.
But in recent times more players have been moving over to this strategy. The Reading comp this year had about half a dozen players with this kind of army.

So what’s my problem? Well, two problems really…
(a) I like to play a game that feels historically plausible. Although some limited actions occurred with mainly cavalry forces, these were smaller scale actions. I like to feel I’m playing something that replicates the big battles of the period (Lutzen, Breitenfeld, Rocroi etc). In those battles armies were 40-70% infantry (in the centre) and 20-40% cavalry (on the wings).
(b) It makes a really poor game for somebody with a historically balanced army. On Saturday afternoon I played The Don, who had a cavalry-max army. He was a pleasant and fair opponent, but I could see at set-up I had to get exceptionally lucky if I was to stand any chance at all. I didn’t, and so spent 3 hours scrabbling about trying to get a couple of points. Sorry Don, but it was for me a really dismal game – a long drawn-out and very inevitable defeat. I came back on Sunday resolved that if I was drawn against another army like that I was going to shake hands, accept whatever result the opponent gave me, and go and read the Sunday paper and look at the trade stands. Because that’s more fun.
(c) It’s ruining a really good game. FOGR is probably the best rule set I’ve played. It has a good balance between foot and horse (if armies are balanced) and between different types of foot (salvo, impact, warriors, tercios, superior 4+2s, reg guns etc – amongst the balanced armies you get an impressive variety). The rise of the cav-max army is destroying that variety.

Some people have made some points against this. So I’d like to have a go at answering some of those …
(a) “Cav-max armies are not that good” … well, I think Alasdair proved with his stunning competitive record that they are. Of the 4 players who shared the top 3 places at Reading this year, 3 of them had cav-max armies (Alasdair, Simon, Don). Two of those (Simon and Don) readily admitted they prefer balanced armies, but had to go with this approach because watching their poor bloody infantry chasing shadows round the table while they go down to inevitable defeat was just too dull. The one player who didn’t have a cav-max army (Tim) was lucky enough, I think, not to face a cav-max army.
(b) “You can counter it by playing an infantry-max army” … this is telling me I can deal with unhistorical armies by playing an unhistorical myself. I don’t buy this.
The reason why people can field these unbalanced armies, I believe, is that the army lists have been written to allow every army as much chance as possible in a totally open competition. For the same reason Duty & Glory armies have low minimums for cavalry. So they turn out with minimum cavalry and put down loads of terrain … again very unhistorical. (I’d love to see a D&G comp with balanced armies. It hasn’t happened yet.)

There are some easy fixes available, however. Competition organisers could stipulate some extra competition rules to ensure greater balance. Those restrictions could be as follows …
(a) A minimum % of an army’s battle groups have to be foot battle troops, and a minimum % have to be mounted battle troops; or
(b) There has to be a minimum number of foot battle troops in an army and a minimum number of mounted battle troops, or
(c) Players have to take everything in the starter army list, and then top up to the 800 or 900 points with discretionary stuff.
It sounds restrictive, but actually it should lead to greater variety of armies. Full freedom of list choice is worth nothing if it only means everybody comes with Later German Protestants in their cav-max variant.
We could give Alasdair a FOGR lifetime achievement award in recognition of how clever his strategy his strategy has been over recent years. I’m not being sarcastic! And I’d actually look forward to seeing how a clearly very capable player could come up with an alternative winning strategy.

As for myself, I’m currently looking at doing one of three things in future competitions …
(a) Turn up myself with Later German Protestants in their cav-max variant, and give some opponents a really dull and unhistorical game.
(b) Carry on coming with a reasonably balanced army and hope for enough decent games against people of similar mind set to make my weekend worthwhile. If I meet a cav-max army, I’ll shake hands, give them the game and at least I can go off and have a decent read.
(c) Go and play FOGN.

Interested in hearing what people think, and whether competition organisers are prepared to consider some additional restrictions for the sake of a better game.
All the best
Martin

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by ravenflight » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:36 pm

As a person who fairly regularly ran Vikings in FoG:AM, and when not running Vikings was running Hoplites, I sympathise. This problem hasn't made it over to THIS colonial settlement yet, but it may. To be honest, I don't think FoG:R is big enough for it to become a problem.

The problem arises from the wargaming extreme over emphasis on manoeuver. This is, of course, to make it more of a game and less of a sit down and roll dice... which really is what nearly every game should be.

I also sympathise with the 'historical battle' perspective, but only slightly. It's a game... and that's all it is. Unless of course you can cite a battle where the soldiers determined who got shot by the roll of the dice, and then who got ressurrected by the roll of another dice.

I think if you accept the 'only a game not a simulation' sort of mindset you may have more of a cant beat them join then attitude AND enjoy the games more.

If you wanted to justify it to yourself you COULD go with the "well, if Napoleon or Alexander had this ruleset as a guide to warfare, what would they do? Oh, they would go with a winning strategy" mindset. Afterall, we are ALL playing fantasy. Any thought that we're not is just an attempt at fooling ourselves.

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by donm2 » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:40 pm

Martin,

I whole heartily agree with you. I have struggled with my various irregular armies for sometime now, but decided I would fight fire with fire for Warfare.

I am more than happy to play with more balanced armies if the competitions force this, but if you want to challenge for places, them you may be forced down this route.

Don

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by quackstheking » Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:17 pm

Martin,

Very well put and I, for one, whole heartedly, 110%, agree with you!!!!

I loved FoGR when it first came out and in particular loved the spectacle of checkerboard P&S advancing across the table with Cavalry (horse) on the flanks. I too am disappointed (disillusioned?!) with the trend towards "gamey", extreme armies. I accept that that the way to beat horse heavy armies backed by guns and dragoons is an infantry heavy army (equally unhistorical) - the difference being that the cavalry army, if losing, will just disengage!! I agree with my namesake that the best way to beat them is join them and so far I have resisted(and will continue to do so).

Interestingly, what seems to be the best competition format, are the themes away from the archetypal P&S 1620-1650 period.

I too therefore WOULD like to see "normally structured" armies with minimum/maximum %ages for both foot and mounted. I accept the rules writers cannot address this, and competition organisers are unlikely to address this. Therefore, in the UK, in the core renaissance period, I see we have four choices:-

1) Stay as we are -( I believe the top 3 armies at Warfare were "extreme" horse armies) and therefore we move progressively to extreme non historical armies.
2) Expect the rule writers (never) or competition organisers (unlikely), to change the list structures to %age mins/maxs.
3) FoGR players move to other rule sets
4) accept mid table mediocrity (my preferred option).

My personal priorities - a great historical game (don't care whether I win or I lose as Mr Madaxeman will testify after this afternoons game!) and fun, fun, fun, fun! At the end of the day, It's a game of toy soldiers!!!!!

Don

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by Simpleton » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:58 am

When you say Cav Max armies can you give an example? I just ran the FOGR Tourney at Fall-In here in the states. We had a 700pt 15mm Open and a 700pt 25mm Trade and Treachery Theme. All the T&T armies were foot heavy. In the Open there were 6 players. 5 played 30 Years War armies which generally require three 6 man foot regiments at a minimum, and the winning player ran a 1505 Trastamara Spanish.

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by youngr » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:42 am

I agree also. I've decided to take a along break from FOGR singles and stick to doubles instead but only partly because of this killer army trend.

Richard

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by gibby » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:15 am

It is indeed a conundrum.

Personally I would like 2 things to happen.
No 3rd move for Battle troops.....So only Light Horse and Dragoons get the 3rd move.
Non Battle troops do not stop Marching but get the option to fall back in front of Marchers.

I must admit I liked the 3rd move because in the earlier days when we had a more traditional deployment it meant the Cavalry wings hitting ahead of the infantry fight and then potentially coming to the aid of the infantry fight.

So I guess for some, that period flavour we thought we had, has been replaced by the game.

I must admit though that Martin's idea of just giving the game to the opponent chuckled me.
I had the vision of the players using these "Game winning armies" meeting a number of say Traditionalists, all giving up the points such that the only game they actually got to play on the table was against each other.

I guess, i was lucky at the weekend with my Later Spanish, I met 2 Swedes a French and a Quing. I think all the initial deployments started with an infantry centre and horse on either wing. Might not have ended that way.
cheers
Jim

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:34 am

Simpleton wrote:When you say Cav Max armies can you give an example? I just ran the FOGR Tourney at Fall-In here in the states. We had a 700pt 15mm Open and a 700pt 25mm Trade and Treachery Theme. All the T&T armies were foot heavy. In the Open there were 6 players. 5 played 30 Years War armies which generally require three 6 man foot regiments at a minimum, and the winning player ran a 1505 Trastamara Spanish.

At 800AP you could end up with an army like this Later TYW German:

4 TC
4 BG of 4 Kurassiere, Horse, Heavily Armoured, Superior, -/Pi/Pi
1 BG of 4 Kurassiere, Horse, Armoured, Superior, -/Pi/Pi
2 BG of 4 Bandallier Reiter, Horse, Unarmoured, Average, Carbin/-/Pi
2 BG of 4 Dragoons, Dragoons, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/-
2 BG of 2 Artllery, Medium Artillery, Average, Medium Artillery/-/-
3 BG of 2 Commanded Shot, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/-
2 BG of 6 Infantry: 4 Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/- ; 2 Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average, -/Pike/Pike
Nik Gaukroger

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:42 am

quackstheking wrote:
Interestingly, what seems to be the best competition format, are the themes away from the archetypal P&S 1620-1650 period.

Quick question for you competition types - is Don's view quoted above the general consensus?
Nik Gaukroger

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by madaxeman » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:01 am

I think there is a lot of sense in what Martin says here, but having used a foot-heavy Swedish army (with some success) at Warfare I'm not sure the answer is as obvious or as binary as a blunt instrument of enforcing certain minima for foote.

I suspect that the problem with getting a "balanced" army on table, and being able to go toe to toe againstswiftly-redeploying mounted is that 800 points is simply not enough to allow you to have decent foote AND decent mounted in the same army. I therefore went this weekend for a cheap, wide but defensive mounted wing (2 Carbines, 2 commanded shotte and gunnes) and 5 Swedish Brigades, with 4 heavy gunnes to either support the mounted or force the enemy foote to come to me. I woudl have loved to have a second wing of 3 good units of superior determined horse and a Cuirassier, but frankly any less than that and they will simply get overwhelmed by an opponent stacking one wing with mounted.

If we went up to 900 or even 950 points it might allow you to do both foote and mounted..

There is also something I was thinking about terrain choices which seems to allow mounted armies too many chances to deploy open spaces, non-pieces or take off the defenders pieces as well - if we had more people, and more chance of terrain falling (and sticking) on flanks it might make a difference, and make balanced armies more credible too.
Last edited by madaxeman on Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:22 am

madaxeman wrote:I think there is a lot of sense in what Martin says here, but having used a foot-heavy Swedish army (with some success) at Warfare I'm not sure the answer is as obvious or as binary as a blunt instrument of enforcing certain minima for foote.

I suspect that the problem with getting a "balanced" army on table, and being able to go toe to toe againstswiftly-redeploying mounted is that 800 points is simply not enough to allow you to have decent foote AND decent mounted in the same army. I therefore went this weekend for a cheap, wide but defensive mounted wing (2 Carbines, 2 commanded shotte and gunnes) and 5 Swedish Brigades, with 4 heavy gunnes to either support the mounted or force the enemy foote to come to me. I woudl have loved to have a second wing of 3 good units of superior determined horse and a Cuirassier, but frankly any less than that and they will simply get overwhelmed by an opponent stacking one win with mounted.

If we went up to 900 or even 950 points it might allow you to do both foote and mounted..
This sounds a sensible analysis to me. Seems to me that Tim is suggesting that "balanced" armies at 800 points aren't in fact balanced fighting forces, but just have a more equal horse to foot ratio, and what would be more desirable are armies who are more balanced fighting forces overall - presumably the assumption then being that if you went horse or foot heavy you'd have to make more of a decision than maybe you do now (assuming that having a competitive army in a comp is the goal of course).

Personally I like the idea of playing with more toys on the table anyway and think that FoG:R wouldn't suffer any slowdown from adding another 100 points to the armies. It'd also be a pretty easy fix. I guess the way to judge how this might work is to ask what happens at doubles where 900 is the norm ...
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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by Simpleton » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:24 pm

nikgaukroger wrote:
Simpleton wrote:When you say Cav Max armies can you give an example? I just ran the FOGR Tourney at Fall-In here in the states. We had a 700pt 15mm Open and a 700pt 25mm Trade and Treachery Theme. All the T&T armies were foot heavy. In the Open there were 6 players. 5 played 30 Years War armies which generally require three 6 man foot regiments at a minimum, and the winning player ran a 1505 Trastamara Spanish.

At 800AP you could end up with an army like this Later TYW German:

4 TC
4 BG of 4 Kurassiere, Horse, Heavily Armoured, Superior, -/Pi/Pi
1 BG of 4 Kurassiere, Horse, Armoured, Superior, -/Pi/Pi
2 BG of 4 Bandallier Reiter, Horse, Unarmoured, Average, Carbin/-/Pi
2 BG of 4 Dragoons, Dragoons, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/-
2 BG of 2 Artllery, Medium Artillery, Average, Medium Artillery/-/-
3 BG of 2 Commanded Shot, Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/-
2 BG of 6 Infantry: 4 Medium Foot, Unarmoured, Average, Musket/-/- ; 2 Heavy Foot, Armoured, Average, -/Pike/Pike
So its not really the game at fault, but the army list that has too low a minimum for the foot regiments.

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by gibby » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:46 pm

Well you could say that, but I think what we are saying is it may not be as straight forward as 1 simple cause.

Definately , lists play a part.
It might just be the perfect storm.
* Lists are a bit loose
*We tend to play 800 points
*Half the table is unfriendly to foot when we play on 6 by 4's
* Cuirassier Superior are good value
*Triple horse moves means quick redeploying of mounted units
*It's relatively easy to skirmish a good proportion of the enemy's army if you don't want to fight.
Plus probably others.

cheers
Jim

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:15 pm

Simpleton wrote:
So its not really the game at fault, but the army list that has too low a minimum for the foot regiments.

A debatable point IMO.

One premise behind FoG is that games, and armies, can represent a whole range of battle sizes, and thus the lists need to be flexible enough to represent those*. In the (possibly) troublesome period identified above there were armies of a reasonably respectable size - a couple of thousand + , certainly well within the range FoG aims to cover - for which the above list would not be unreasonable (other than it would undoubtedly include too much artillery).

If, of course, you only want your games to represent the larger battles of the period (which I think is Martin's position) then indeed many (probably) of the lists will not constrain you to the sorts of rations between horse and foot that you might wish to see. In this case you may wish to adjust the list minima in some manner.



* FWIW even allowing for this I think, on reflection, that the FoG lists as a whole (well, AM and R; I know nothing of N) were written with too low a minimum points requirement. IIRC it is about 200 points of troops (excluding generals) and that limit should have been set higher. Hindsight is wonderful :shock:
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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:41 pm

quackstheking wrote: I too therefore WOULD like to see "normally structured" armies with minimum/maximum %ages for both foot and mounted. I accept the rules writers cannot address this, and competition organisers are unlikely to address this.
Whilst the authors are indeed constrained as to what they can do with the lists (alas), I don't see why it is unlikely that competition organisers would change their formats. Many of the comp organisers seem to ask the players what they would like to see if the comps, so surely if there is some sort of consensus that a given format is preferable that could be brought to their attention? Comp organisers (usually) want there to be as many players as possible attending and having a format which encourages that because the players have fun would seem to be a good way to go.
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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by alasdair2204 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:45 pm

HI everyone, my ramblings

My worry is very much over reacting to one tournament

all the other tournaments have always tended to be 90% infantry heavy and no one has complained, and I have worked hard to work out how to beat Pike and shot which are the best all round troops, and players have won with foot armies many times before, balanced armies can easily do well, I played Simon Clarke first game with a balanced Spanish Army (A mix of Cavalry, infantry and artillery) and lost 13 out of 15 and it could have easily gone the other way and I would have lost. Personally I think players could and should work out ways of beating mounted armies. At the recent Oxford Doubles we won with an all mounted army (near enough) and an all foot army (Buccaneer) came second. If this time next year its all mounted then maybe look at it but not after 1 tournament.

I think cavalry armies have been more dominant / obvious this year as for example the Southern League games have been 2hours 40 minutes which encourages mounted armies but disagree that they are dominating. The majority of armies played over the last few years have been balanced / infantry based and no one has complained that there is not enough mounted so don't know why it should work the other way.

One problem might be the Late German list as this is the most flexible of all the lists.

I think themes are one answer as for example the Southampton round was mostly foot due to the theme

I have always played mounted whatever the rules DBM, Tercio, George Gush, so for me its just what I enjoy so FOG R is no exception.
Just my rambling thoughts

cheers

Alasdair

Personally I think Pike & Shot are the best all round troop type, they shoot, can beat cavalry off but I just don't enjoy playing with them.

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by youngr » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:56 pm

For me I think the best answer is for Competition Organisers to vary the format; such as varying the table size, set terrain or limiting the lists permitted. Actually, I don't think we get this problem with early 16th century comps where we've all seen a good variety of lists.

Richard

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:57 pm

youngr wrote:For me I think the best answer is for Competition Organisers to vary the format; such as varying the table size, set terrain or limiting the lists permitted.
My impression is that for FoG:R comp organisers are pretty good at this already. If there is an issue with mounted heavy armies it probably exists regardless. Although I note that the TYW period has been specified a couple of times above as the one with the issue.
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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by timmy1 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:58 pm

Well here I am going to sound like a broken record. As Nik may remember, during the beta testing I went on ad nausium (sp?) about the standard size for games should be 900 points. I have stuck to that view ever since. 800 point armies tend to be too narrow for foot to thrive. Upping the game to 900 points without changing the list minima would fix some of that (and in my opinion produce a quicker game as there would be less girly foot skulking while waiting for their flanks to be covered - the boy Porter excepted).

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Re: Army balance in competitions

Post by timmy1 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:59 pm

Nik

Also have the issues with some eastern European armies (Alisdair usually being the culprit)

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