Forces, Objectives and Deployment

If I can start here by repeating that this is how I play my games it will help you to remember that I’m suggesting that you play wargames your way. This means based on space in the house, budget, scale and whether it’s with painted figures or not, or even counters representing battalions.

My games are 28mm painted figures, set out on a table which is approximately 8’ x 3’ and the action tends to be played on a grid 6’ x 3’. My table is actually set up against the wall with a “sky” background for aesthetics. Naturally it means I’m playing it from one side only – and I can’t reach beyond 3’!

1914 Belgium – British lancers push forward


The forces do not need to be “equal”. What needs to be “equal” is the possibility of victory for either side. That’s not going to be easy and will require a bit of play testing.

I refer to the forces as multiple “units” of similar importance. Naturally they are very different, but if we have 10 units a side you would get the idea.

It is the objectives which shapes the balance of the game. For example if the objective of one side was to take a castle defended by the same number of forces it would be a little difficult!

As a result we need to construct forces based on a reasonable ratio. Once we understand the objectives and the force ratio we can then select the appropriate forces for each side.

Right – let’s have a look at objectives


The objectives require two key elements – a focal point (geographical) and a method of taking it / defending it / investigating it

As a result the objectives should be to “attack”, “defend” or “reconnoitre”.

We need to draw a card for both sides first. The outputs are as follows;

Attack / Defend – A single focal point is created in the defender’s area (see below)

Attack / Attack – A focal point is created in both player’s grid

Attack / Recon – A focal point is created in the Recon grid and in the centre of the table

Recon / Recon – A focal point is created at the centre of the table

Recon / Defend – A focal point is created in the defender’s grid

Defend / Defend – Congratulations you have drawn the game!

Example – Attack / Defend – By using a grid system you can identify a home (1) / neutral (2) / enemy (3) grid. Let’s suggest a 3 x 3 marked A to D and 1 to 3.

The defending force (you or AI) is identified as A3 to D3. I roll a dice to identify where the focal point will be (1 or 2 is A3 / 3 or 4 B3 / 5 or 6 C3). I roll a 2.

The next question is what the focal point will be? This is your game and will be determined by what you have, and indeed the period you are representing. Here I’ve decided the objective will be a bridge.

At this point I’ll remind you of the 10 units a side idea – hold that thought!

OK so if I’m attacking (and if we’re not looking at a skirmish game) I’d expect to have built up an attacking force to give me a fighting chance. So let’s stick with 10. However, as a defender I’m likely to take advantage of the task and position my forces where I can fire rather than move. As a result I’m going to remove some units. I could roll (say 1D3) or just decide in advance – so let’s say I remove 2.

Now we’ve got 10 v 8 however We haven’t done anything more with the terrain.

Here I give both forces a single terrain feature – and offer a further 1D3 more, but at a cost of units per feature if the feature is in the “neutral” sections. As a result in A2 I’ve added a river bend to close the area and for the attacking force I’ve added the road for improved mobility. I could either leave things as 10 / 8 or 9/7 as a result – just need to add common sense.

At this point I still haven’t which side I’ll be. And I also haven’t looked at the forces either.

The Forces

There are so many ways of interpreting forces I think it would be sensible to define the forces based on the period – allowing experts to go to town! At this point I will put notes of types of units which can then appear in games;

  1. Commanders – a must in every game even if a commander is the guy who “takes charge” of a team of troops drifting on a ship towards a pirate enemy!
  2. Officers – impacting the behaviour and condition of forces
  3. Infantry – Regular and Irregular
  4. Cavalry – Dragoons and Lancers
  5. Artillery
  6. Armour
  7. Air support
  8. Off board support
  9. Engineers
  10. Special forces

I’ve had to stop at 10! What must a force look like? For me it is shaped by the objectives and the terrain set out. Let’s work with the example. I’m going to take an English Civil War game – 7 AI defending units and 9 attacking.

Defending AI –

1 x Command

5 x Infantry (2 Pike and 3 Musket)

1 x Artillery


1 x Command

2 x Cavalry (1 x Dragoon and 1 x Regular)

6 x Infantry (2 x Pike and 4 Musket)

We now have the table, the forces and the objective. However how do we play the game?