Home Forums General Game Design Morale mechanics

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  • #169698
    Spurious
    Participant

    Continuing my brain-stimulating efforts by engaging in game design, I’ve been pondering morale rules of late as I’ve been trying something that isn’t just a flat test to see if stuff runs away when taking casualties.

    Currently my approach is Morale is that is essentially a unit’s hit points (as opposed to raw numbers of people), but as they drop the unit becomes harder to get to do things and weakens their abilities. Everything starts out more or less the same (though events before battle/commanders might have an influence on that), with big and small units both having the same rating. And the ability to (if not fighting) to rally and regenerate points. Though with the risk that if a unit moves backwards in order to disengage properly it might well interpret that as a sign to retreat and rout. For context a unit in this case is about 300-800 samurai, retainers and ashigaru.

    What’s some good systems you’ve seen/written for doing this? Someone’s got to have done what I’ve done significantly better already 😛 And beyond that, for further study is there anything you’d recommend in particular for reading about the effects of a unit’s morale state beyond occasional anecdotes? I’m thinking there’s probably a big list of factors that affect a unit’s continued will to engage in battle that have been collated out there…

    #169730
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I reckon this needs different rules for different times of history; “morale” worked differently in the pre-cordite era from the way it does now.

    Rules will also be a bit different from one level of command to another.

    trying something that isn’t just a flat test to see if stuff runs away when taking casualties.

    As a general rule, casualties happen because of morale failures, rather than morale failures happening because of casualties. The idea that morale breaks because of some specific number of casualties is a wargamerism of long standing, backed by practically no historical evidence.

    For context a unit in this case is about 300-800 samurai, retainers and ashigaru.

    This also brings up the need for the rules to be culturally appropriate. Having no knowledge of Japanese military history before 1904, I’m immensely badly place to comment, but I imagine that ideas of feudal loyalty would pay a large part, including news of the fate of senior leaders. That also strikes me as quite a small number of people, and I imagine their morale would be largely contingent on the apparent support they were receiving from their parent unit.

    All the best,

    John.

    #169731
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Double post. Vanished avatar. WIHIH?

    #169732
    Jim Webster
    Participant

    I tend to link morale to a lot of things.
    So actually how well troops move across a battlefield have an element of morale to it. In periods where you formed up in deep dressed ranks, it was often to boost the morale.

    Similarly it may impact on their firing, so veteran troops might react better to being under fire, perhaps firing less but more effectively so they don’t give their positions away as readily.

    With a unit like you describe, 300-800 samurai, retainers and ashigaru, I’d suggest that going forward would be based on the morale of the Samurai. Similarly when firing and the early part of a fight, the presence of the Samurai should bolster the morale so that the troops perform to their best.
    But it’s when things go wrong, when there are casualties, or the unit gets strung out or has to fall back, the ashigaru might regard the Samurai as an ‘expendable rearguard’ who could cover their retreat.
    It does depend on the relationship between the three groups in the unit. If the retainers are people whose families have been in the service of the samurai for generations then they’ll cling more to the samurai than troops who were effectively hired in week before the battle

     

    https://jimssfnovelsandwargamerules.wordpress.com/

    #169750
    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    I was always rather proud of the morale mechanism in “Warring Empires”, subsequently adapted to become “Principles of War”. It relies on units having strength points. The best might be as strong as 16. Whenever a morale test was required, the unit would roll D20, with results IIRC:

    Less than or equal to SP: unaffected.

    Up to SPx2: halted.

    Up to SPx3: retire a move.

    >SPx3: destroyed.

    The cunning part is that the base SP got modified by up to +3 for various types of cover. Thus, even feeble or battered units unfit for attack could have their morale bolstered enough to hold in place in some kind of defensive position for a while. (There may have been one or two other mods, I forget, it’s been a while.)

    This was for a ruleset for 19th-century warfare, but judicious use of suitable modifiers could probably adapt it for other periods too.

    #169767
    Spurious
    Participant

    As a general rule, casualties happen because of morale failures, rather than morale failures happening because of casualties. The idea that morale breaks because of some specific number of casualties is a wargamerism of long standing, backed by practically no historical evidence.

    This was actually a thing that really bothered me, all this reading of battles and finding that casualties are commonly only single digit percentages before units break lead me to looking into how to represent deterioration of combat ability of these large units through other methods.

    With a unit like you describe, 300-800 samurai, retainers and ashigaru, I’d suggest that going forward would be based on the morale of the Samurai. Similarly when firing and the early part of a fight, the presence of the Samurai should bolster the morale so that the troops perform to their best.

    My bad; I should have covered that this is a single combined arms unit, a combination of pikemen, archers& gunners and with samurai as both heavy infantry and cavalry in small groupings within that. Command is typically from the center of the formation. There’s not much in the way of tracking individual components beyond rating if there’s more or less of them than an expected average.

    Which rambling sort of leads me to a thought:
    Are morale effects highly dependent on when the disruption is received? As in is it worth separating out the effects of casualties and disruption from missile attacks from those during a close combat engagement?
    I suspect that shooting alone won’t break a unit (at such a point in time that I’m working on anyway) unless there’s some fairly extreme circumstances involved such as the unit under attack being trapped in a position where it can’t fight back, but close combat reliably should see one side break and run eventually.
    Or is this a case of perhaps less of the immediate effects and rather the potential of  reorganization following the event, where there’s space and time to do so (potentially) when under missile attack versus the shock action of a unit in close combat?

     

    #169770
    Benjamin Cato
    Participant

    If actual combat casualties before morale collapses are very low, maybe do not measure the effect of combat as lost figures or strength points, but rather in the effect on morale.

    So continuous fire on a unit would not remove any figures but just reduce its morale until in decides it has had enough and moves backward – either one move or several.

    Same for close combat where there is a lot of pushing and shoving but not too much sword cuts. Eventually one side will start to pull back, if the other side follows up that is when there is likely to be the most casualties. If they don’t follow up then the loser just retreats one move.

    The above all assumes pre 20th century warfare.

    Just a thought.

    #170943
    TerrainShed
    Participant

    If actual combat casualties before morale collapses are very low, maybe do not measure the effect of combat as lost figures or strength points, but rather in the effect on morale.

    “A good enough hit destroys the tank or kills the soldier” according to many sets of cordite-era rules and the figure is removed or destroyed marker put on the tank and morale level is usually reduced accordingly.
    I prefer to think of ‘good hits’ causing combat ineffectiveness with a permanent inability to function/return fire (“casualties”) being directly connected to unit ability to follow orders (“morale”). An easy way to represent this in a game is to simply remove the figures or put an explosion marker on the AFV. If not removed then should said “casualties” fire at a penalty otherwise the unit is still at full strength?

    ‘Average hits’ maybe should only cause a temporary inability to return fire and temporary morale drop (“suppression/pinning/neutralisation”).

    Enjoy your gardening

    Les & Alison

    #171173
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    For one of of my own rulesets, I use the following:

    When a unit takes a hit, a chip is drawn from a bag. The color of the chip indicates loss in capabilties. E.g. green chipslimit movement: first green chip halves it, 2nd green chip halts it. Red chips do the same for firing, and yellow chips for rally. Orange chips are resolved immediately and mean a retreat for one move. Chips stay with the unit, but a unit can also take a rally action, trying to remove chips. Whenever a unit has 3 chips of the same color, it is eliminated.

    So, a unit gradually declines in capabilities. It is possible that a unit cannot move, cannot fire, and cannot rally, but is still on the field. A CinC always has the power to remove a chip from a unit when nearby, so in theory it is possible for a badly hit unit to fully recover.

    I don’t count casualties or remove figures from the table.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #171174
    Jim Webster
    Participant

    Interesting mechanism, Phil

    https://jimssfnovelsandwargamerules.wordpress.com/

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