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A Tangled Mass: Skirmish Fire

Not a Menzel print, sadly, but these pandours from 1742 (by Knotel) do nicely.

Here are some very simple rules for skirmish fire between light infantry formations.  As with the previous rules for volley fire by line infantry regiments, The Young Master and I use saving throws for each hit scored.  You win some, you lose some as the saying goes.  Anyway, here is how we figure out individual aimed skirmish fire:


Skirmish Fire (D6 per figure firing)

Close Range -- 4, 5, or 6 hit

Long -- 5 or 6 hit


Saving Throws for Skirmish Fire (D6 per figure hit)

Close Range -- 5 or 6 save

Long  -- 4, 5, or 6 save


Probably not scientific, super realistic, or statistically sound but easy to remember, quick, and fun nevertheless. 

As Charles S. Grant has advised in his rules and writing, Young Master Paul and I do not include much light infantry in our small games here in The Grand Duchy since these troops were relatively few in number during the mid-18th century.  Although I have more light infantry type figures painted and based than needed, we usually command a single company each since, up to this point, our forces have been identical and fairly small.  

The main aim thus far has been to teach The Young Master a few simple wargaming concepts and get him playing the game rather than provide either a detailed history lesson, or a more realistic, uneven balance of forces.  So typically, we go for fairly balanced engagements much like the kind of how-to battles that the late Donald Featherstone used to illustrate his points in various early (now classic) titles on the subject.  Young Paul and I both hanker for larger battles, but time and cats are the mitigating factors.  He is a busy boy with much on his plate, so we do what we can right now.

Since most of my figures are on multiple bases at this point, we also keep track of casualties on separate order-roster sheets, based on those use by the Grants and Whitehouse and Foley, without removing them.  Neither do we bother determining which figures specifically have been killed.  Rather, we look at 'casualties' more in terms of overall attrition during an engagement until a morale check leads to a certain kind of reaction and possible attempts to recover from it.  

While they too occupy multiple bases, the Croats and jaegers in my armies are grouped in more ragged formation with fewer figures affixed to the bases, usually four or five as opposed to the bases of six or eight close order line infantry.

-- Stokes


Extrabio47 said…
I really like the simplicity, Stokes. “Beer and Pretzel” games - and rules - are my hands-down favorites, and these skirmish mechanics are perfect!

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you Bill! Much of the time, short, sweet, and simple are best. Certainly for games of toy soldiers. It's almost like my solo play as a boy with piles of green, blue, and gray plastic army men and tanks way back in the 1970s.

Best Regards,

Der Alte Fritz said…
I think that your probability of skirmishes getting a hit are extremely high. Knowing this, I’d want to have LOTS of light troops in a game using your rules.

I was using some skirmishers in my AWI games where they needed a 1 or 2 on a D10 to hit and it was like running into a machine gun. My solution was to limit the clump of skirmishers to no more than 4 figures as any more increased their significance to a level beyond what is reasonable.

Also, I’d get rid of short and long range for skirmishers, after all, they are skirmishing.

I’d also require skirmishers to automatically retire or fall back whenever formed troops advance towards them within a certain range.

My 2 cents worth…
Thank you, Jim! Good ideas to consider, and they would help simplify the rules even more, which is always a good thing.

Best Regards,

Mark Nichipor said…
I like your rules very much. They are simple and to the point. Forget learning complex rules and get on with playing the game.

I hope you do not mind borrowing them for my King Philips War skirmishes. Thank you again for posting these.
Not at all, Mark. Please do, and feel free to play around with and develop them to fit the sort of game you want.

Best Regards,


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