Automated and Weighted Objectives in Miniature Wargames

Victory Determination in Wargames

Terrain objectives on the battlefield of Lobositz.

The battlefield at Lobositz, with Prussian and Austrian troops engaged in battle. The action occured during an online re-fight of the 1757 Bohemian Campaign. Letters on the map were added later to illustrate the concept of weighted objectives.

Likely Objectives

Prominent Hill (A)
Prominent Ridge Line (M)
Town or Village (B – F)
River Crossing (K)
Road Junction (G)
Sunken Road (L)
Rough Ground (H)

A typical battlefield may have upwards of 50 eligible victory point areas, many of them double objectives like G-K, a road junction immediately adjacent to a river crossing, or triple objectives like road junctions inside towns on prominent ridge lines. Even if many victory point areas exist, they need not all be accounted for individually. For the purpose of the battle simulation, we shall consider only 10 terrain locations, preferably the most prominent and strategically important ones. Prior to deployment, the players shuffle a set of 10 VP markers and distribute them face down on the battlefield. The players roll dice to determine who may place the first marker, then they take turns placing markers until all 10 of them are on the table.

This part of the process is very enjoyable, because it makes players appreciate the terrain more fully than they otherwise would. Usually, this is the negotiable part of the game, as both sides work together to identify the 10 most likely terrain objectives. Certain methods of marker placement will develop over time, but one important rule is that neither player may place markers inside his or her own deployment area. However, if a defending player has had time to occupy and study the terrain, 7 of the 10 markers must be placed inside his deployment area. If VP markers are bunched unrealistically close together, the battle will turn into a slugging match right at the focal point. If markers are spread widely apart, units may have to fight in isolation in order to capture as many markers as possible.

Marking the Terrain

VP markers should be round, to differentiate them from the more numerous variable terrain markers, and they may be terrained uniformly to blend in with the tabletop surface. However, if these markers are terrained in such a way that they can be identified by the player who made them, the actual marker denominations must be shuffled to avoid any unfair spying. The umpire might use adhesive labels to change the VP denomination of each terrain piece used, or keep a hidden VP log if the markers are open and just numbered 1 through 10.

Weighted Objectives

The umpire or scenario designer informs the players that the sum of all victory point markers on the table equals 100 %, and that posession of the majority of these points is an important victory condition. Victory point areas are weighted, because markers of different denominations are used in the game:

  • 1 VP marked 30 % – Primary Objective
  • 1 VP marked 20 % – Secondary Objective
  • 1 VP marked 15 % – Tertiary Objective
  • 7 VPs marked 5 % each – Minor Objectives

Players may examine VP markers only if a friendly infantry or cavalry unit occupies the marker location or is immediately adjacent to it. The last player who examined a VP marker is considered to be in control of it, even if the unit which occupied the marker has since moved on. Defending players who have occupied the battlefield for a period of 10 daylight hours prior to battle, may examine all VP markers inside their own deployment area. VP markers occupied by enemy units may not be examined until the position is taken. VP markers are never contested, they belong to the side which occupied them last, even if a unit which occupies a marker is currently attacked in melee.

Victory Determination

Most wargame rules have troop point value tables or dedicated victory point tables which may be used to compute victory based on casualties incurred. Unfortunately, many of these tables are needlessly complicated, and players tend to ingore them for that reason. It is important to remember that battlefield casualties of the defeated side were remarkably similar within any given period in history, ranging from near annihilation in ancient and medieval times, to an average of 35 % loser casualties during the 30 Years’ War, and little over 20 % loser casualties from the Seven Years’ War onward.

Keeping in mind that 50 % of wargame casualties are typically considered to be stragglers and other temporary casualties, it becomes immediately apparent, that 40 % tabletop casualties mark the critical point at which an 18th, 19th or 20th Century wargamer may have to concede defeat of his army. A defeated army must withdraw from the battlefield, some of its units in full flight while others maintain good order in the ranks. The concept of situational morale may be applied to army withdrawals, rear-guard actions, and other critical events.

Withdrawal Test

Any player, friendly or enemy, may challenge the commander-in-chief to perform an army withdrawal test at any time in the game. The withdrawal test is legitimate if the challenged army has incurred a minimum of 40 % casualties.

  1. Note original army strength at the beginning of battle
  2. Count current army strength at the time of the withdrawal test, not including routed units, off-table reserves, and units which have left the table for any reason.
  3. Current Strength
    --------------------- = Residual Strength Percentage (RS%)
    Original Strength

    Proceed with the withdrawal test if the RS% equals 0.60 or less.
  4. Count all VP percentages (VP%) currently controlled by the army
  5. RS% * VP% = Withdrawal Factor
  6. Roll 2D10 percentage dice. If the dice result exceeds the withdrawal factor, the army begins to withdraw next turn, and the opponent is the victor. No further tests are required.

Example: An army originally joined battle with 235 stands of infantry, cavalry, and artillery on or off the table. Current effective strength is 138 stands, not counting a unit with 7 routed stands, and an off-table reserve formation of another 20 stands. 138 divided by 235 equals 59 %, indicating that the withdrawal test is legitimate. The army controls 5 VP markers with a combined VP value of 60 %. The withdrawal factor is 35 % (0.59 × 0.60). The commander-in-chief happens to roll 28 on 2D10, meaning that his army need not withdraw this time, but it may have to test again later.

Subsequent Testing: An army, legitimately required to check for withdrawal, and which passes the test, does not test again until it captures or loses another VP marker, or if the army commander or one of the corps commanders is captured or otherwise incapacitated.

Exception: An army cannot be challenged to perform a withdrawal test in the game turn that the army commander or one of the corps commanders is attached to a formation engaged in melee. The exception persists if the unit is victorious in melee and the army or corps commander remains attached to call a charge again next round. This action is a desperate measure which puts higher echelon commanders at risk, and the troops would reward it by staying put until the heroic event is resolved.

Penalties: An overanxious player who calls for a withdrawal test prematurely, i.e. before the strength of the challenged army has fallen below 60 %, deducts a negative modifier of 20 percentage points from the Withdrawal Factor the first time his army is required to test for withdrawal legitimately. This is a cumulative penalty, it applies every time a player calls for a withdrawal test prematurely, even against his own army. Players are not allowed to count friendly or enemy stands during battle. Players need to use intuitive judgement to decide if a withdrawal test is called for or not, and only then may the challenged army be counted.

Miniature Wargaming