I recently swapped my copy of Slack Chowder (TM) for this glorious 20mm vehicle. I think I got the better deal…
It is however pertinent also (in a most non-linear way) to my favourite part of Slack Chowder; the glorious mechanic that is …activation, and thereby determining who is in command.
Now, historical accounts seem to have a single underlying theme – that of ‘command focus’. There are examples (Aughrim 1691, Boyne 1690, Brandywine 1777 etc.) i.e. that the commander must focus on certain elements of the battle, and ignore others.
|'Please move us guv ...no but seriously!'|
|Be ready to obey my orders...(if you roll low enough).|
So in the pic above, moving a unit (brigade or singular) is pivotal to what I want to do …but I can’t do everything in most modern games.
How activation works in Slack Chowder:
How activation works in Slack Chowder:
- Play an older style game where I can move anything. This rapidly becomes chess.
- The Maurice Method – I have cards that allow me to either focus on their content which allow me to ‘do special stuff’ or I use their point values to activate things. The further away, the more points, and I have limited resource of cards. I can do stuff at the far end of the battlefield if I really, really need to, but it’s easier to do something near my command focus. I have to manage where I need to be (what? Like a real commander?) This is genius design. I HAVE CHOICES.
- The Field of Battle method. Fate is dictated by card draws – move, shoot, rally, morale, one unit move etc. My command level dictates the content of my deck. If I pull a move card – an opposed odd/even roll dictates whether I get a short bad move or a long, good 'maneuver' – with all variations in between. It reflects me issuing the command but troops are reticent to do ‘exactly’ what I say (St Ruth at Aughrim, Gates at Saratoga). As my morale takes hits, my army starts to whither. It gives the feel of a big battle, and a classic historical story. Again, I may have a unit that doesn’t want to move at all – but that tends to be rare. I HAVE CHOICES.
- The Volley and Bayonet method. More traditional, but as my division takes hits, its ability to stay in command withers until the division is exhausted. Works very well. So my units don’t like to move as people die, but I can force them to do it until they break. I HAVE CHOICES.
- A method I like from Ivan Sorenson’s ‘Hammer’ rules. A dice roll (can be adjusted depending on circumstances/command) dictates how many units you can move – but you choose those units – this makes the decision as to where the fire might be hottest – yours. I appreciate this ain’t Horse and Musket – but nice and simple idea. I HAVE CHOICES.
- The Slack Chowder method (and something similar kinda appears in a few blue books too).
Ok, so I really need to move unit A, and I need to hold B and C, with an option to move D.
My commander is near D – with Maurice, FoB, V&B and Hammer – I can always do something with the critical elements in the line.
Here’s what happens in the Slack (or could happen):
Commander is an ‘8’.
- A Brigade rolls an 11 – just shy of a ‘stupid table’ roll.
- A does nothing this turn worth a damn. (Does he fire?…can’t remember…can’t care).
- I roll a 2 for B and he can do lots of movement. I don’t want to move B.
- I roll a 7 for C – I could do a little…but don’t want to.
- I need to move D then – good – still a chance. I roll a 9 and plead with the referee that the second dice was cocked and can I get re-roll. He hits me with the hardback book.
- Just who the heck is in command here? – says the C in C, who finally arrives with an eventually activated escort unit (as opposed to a unit of escorts – which is an entirely different thing)???
- Ah yes, the Rules and the 2D6 with the nice bell curve; they’re in charge.
- I still have choices, but ebay charges commission…
An ‘8’ commander in Slack has a 28% chance of doing nothing (2d6 bell) …the worst d8 commander in FoB has a 13% chance of doing nothing. in terms of movement at least – but this is mitigated by how the card draw mechanic works.
|'Why aren't they moving ffs?'|
Aha! you say.
Just make all the commanders '10's. But then they only have a 8-9% chance of failing, which makes the system relatively invalid anyway. I hope this doesn't make the design some sort of fudge...
|Tell me my army's mobility is not based on the probability of a 2d6 bell curve. But, I want to flatten the curve!!!|
...and the source of Da Diddly Qua Qua