Home Forums General Game Design Sources for Historical Movement Rates Reply To: Sources for Historical Movement Rates


It is up to the individual end consumer of any set of rules to decide the level of knowledge they want demonstrated. If they wish a detailed breakdown of exactly which data was used, and which discarded, and require this verified, then probably better to produce a new set themselves.


Well, I’m back from a long weekend carousing.  I agree, it is up to the individual gamer to decide, absolutely. It is also up to the designer.  The difference is the designer creates a new set of rules doing that detailed breakdown to whatever level they chose.  It is the designer who is the only one who could verify all this…for the consumer. If they are claiming there is some connection between historical evidence and the game, it is something they should be able to do…they’ve already done it to produce the game.

A few designers do that already. Rich Clarke of TooFatLardies has a 7 part series on how Chain of Command and historical evidence/tactics etc. match up.   It states at in the middle fo the page and goes up from there.    http://toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/    Other designers simply argue against even attempting it, saying it is impossible, no one cares, it isn’t important…etc. while claiming they have made those connections…

I always bear in mind the basic advice given to me many years ago by someone who has spent his entire career in military statistical analysis. That is: Who are your sources, not just what they have written. The victor or the vanquished? The meticulous planner or the risk taker?  The person or their biographer? For personal or national propaganda versus historic record?

The who is definitely important… but with enough sources, statistically speaking, the who of the source will either fade into the background [all sources ending up giving very much the same information on the same issue] or those differences statistically begin to be significant [the meticulous planner gives a far different response than the risk taker], in which case you have to do more work to produce an average.  Again, that is why I used three sets of sources to compare when determining an average : Battlefield reports, Military men’s estimates, and then what troops practiced.

Add to that the simple variants common with all battle accounts:
Are the troops well rested, fed, led and motivated as they will move faster by default than those that are tired, hungry, poorly commanded and disgruntled?
How accurate is the recording of distance?
How accurate is the recording of time elapsed?
How accurate was the data received by messenger or signal?
When those variables can be fully quantified and adjusted for each data set, only then can there be grounds to claim a valid statistical average that is more than just an educated guess. Insist on a tighter acceptable range for the speed, the more suspect the answer.

Of course. All important considerations.  So, what do you do when you can’t determine all those variables because the sources are two hundred years old or unavailable for analysis?  That is a very common problem for simulation designers in all fields. [and historians for that matter… ]  One method is what I gave above, but it is only one of many.

If a games designer chooses an average rate of movement that plays okay for me in a game that gives an enjoyable representation of a certain period of history from my personal perspective and level of knowledge, then for me it’s a successful product.

Of course, what gamer would want it any other way?  The question here is what perspective, level of knowledge is the designer after and the what, how and why of portraying that history.

One issue that seems to recur in your comments is seeking the “average” movement rate of troops in actual events to base the design of rules around.

Just to be clear, I am not basing a set of rules on an average movement rate. Certainly not any more than other rules sets.  That was an assertion from Bob J.

Of course military commanders had/have an understanding of what their units are capable of, not just on how far they can march or advance. But the question is within what level of detail we are trying to replicate at a tactical level, how we define the boundary between operational and tactical, and if so whether the historic sources that we have access to, provide us with evidence at that level.

If the a unit’s capabilities change with the level of representation, I suppose that would be important to include.  That understanding is important in portraying command because those ‘averages’, the commander’s understanding of what unit could do, what the basis for all planning, before the battle or during it in the moment.  “What can be done?”  Commanders made decisions, sent the units out and THEN things happened. Then commanders had to deal with the results.  To many games have the variables occurring first and then the player makes decisions based after the variables have occurred.  The player roles a die and finds out that he can only issue three commands this turn because of screw-ups etc., so what’s he going to do  now? In the real world, the commander issues five commands an only three got through.  Games that have a wide variation in movement basically forces the player to be an opportunist with his own troops, not a planner or even an estimator.  Many say that Napoleon was an ‘opportunist’, but that was in respect to the enemy’s movements, not his own troops’.

An average is just that, around which any variations hover.  Having those averages match what battle reports, AND military men AND what speeds were practiced provides the players with a similar consideration in scale to the actual commanders… which is one of the goals of a wargame, right?

Thanks for your comments. We do agree in many places. The issue is what history and how to portray it with the game designer’s tools:  the game mechanics.

Best regards,  Bill