Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GURPS Notes: Assorted Notes and a Simple exercise of Attrition

GURPS Mass Combat needs practice and rehearsals for the GM to get it right and so that the players also get the feel of the system. Much like GURPS combat, it may appear clunky at first but after 1-2 hours of playing you get the hang of it quickly. Includes tools (see bottom)

MC stands for Mass Combat, the page is the value after. 

GURPS Mass Combat is for Narrative

If you want it "Tactical" you need to get Pyramid 3/44 or gamble on my house rulings.


Tactical Combat vs Narrative Combat
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In a Tactical Mapped Scenario the recon units would have had the ability to choose who to fight, picking out scouts or archers in numbers that would give them a win even if both rolled averages. In a Narrative scenario you are fighting the Total forces regardless of your actual physical location - this is where the Narrative System break down.

Note that such small scale scenarios Horses can only be good for 2 hours or 8 turns before the need to switch in a realistic environment. The GM may be giving an HT+4 check every 15 minutes with a -1 for every turn for potential Injury.

Tactical Mass Combat vs Regular Mass Combat

A smaller force cannot beat a Larger force in Regular Mass Combat. This is because you cannot simulate or resolve for those times when a smaller force chooses when and where a battle should be and against how much of the enemy force. For that to happen, where the smaller force (lead by the PCs) would feint and lead the enemy force into a trap, you have adventures... but when it is at the scale of Squads then you have a problem. 

This is where Tactical mass Combat Excels at, when it picks at an army one piece at a time. When you harry them and you take advantage of their size. You can't do that with the regular rules. 

Significant Actions and Risk

You will only know how your players feel until they try it out. Some will feel that this method of resolution is unsatisfying.  This is because the PC hero has to raise a score of 5 (a 4% of success) to 10 (a 50% chance of success) to grant the Commander a plus 1 to his strategy roll, at the chance of the enemy rolling a 6 (10% success) to 9 (40%) chance to deal 2d-1 damage. Nothing "empowering" or reactive or pro-active from the player.
  • if players don't have options in significant actions then they cannot make a value judgment or strategic decision on what they should do
  • Tweaks to give the player multiple contests, where he expends or re-allocate resources/tactics and rolling 3-4 times against someone 3-4 times would be more satisfying. 

Training Time

Training cost and time (MC12) has a complication that may help the GM and creates a level of awareness for players regarding man power complications. This is that there is a limited number of trainers and anyone with Teaching and a level of experience is very valuable. Since skill 12 is good enough for intensive training (B293), a skill of 10 is enough for basic training. 

In the BPO industry, where training is very much mass produced, 15:1 or 1.5 elements per "trainer" is optimal in cost vs productivity. This metric is also found in many organizations. So an Element of Average units can train up to x10 to x15 as many elements if they are "converted" into squad leaders. This also means a Fief maintains as many as 1/10th the force they will need if they have to massively mobilize. Of course War comes with no 6 week notice. 

So when the call of arms comes, and the lord is "flatfooted" and his banners will need 2 mobilize his Squad of man-at-arms will train up to x10-15 as many men at Inferior quality! This is a separate activity as "re-readying" (see MC14). 

True Cost! Simplifying Expenses

When I do my calculations for maintenance and raising I consider all the costs that are a "must" and I call this the "true cost". What counts as a must depends on your "best practice" or setting doctrine.
  • Raising Cost, is always Inclusive of Raising Logistic Strength (MC13) - double Raising cost. 
  • Add Terrain Type modifier (MC10). Terrain modifiers is the equivalent of giving Recon to some units (it grants '+1 to recon tests and '+4 if everyone has the same terrain specialty; See MC29), and it Doubles TS for the purposes of Recon, Battle, and Superiority!  
    • because it adds a small bump in Raising cost but no additional cost to maintenance units "gaining" Terrain specializations would be common. In the end it adds as much time to train as their raising cost. Units that can spare that time can "gain" the terrain specialization. 
    • The closest to having a Bowmen with Recon is Woodland Bowmen.  
    • Practically many units will have woodland because of how much forest there was back in the day.
  • Maintenance inclusive of Logistics Maintenance - increase maintenance cost by x1.5 or CF+0.5
  • Plus budget for Force Loss. A Very Good commander will have about up to 10% loss per turn even if he manages to win. You may not be fighting many winning battles but you're bleeding a nick at a time. 
    • If you add 10% cost to raise to your maintenance cost you have 10% forces "Streaming" in or replacing your forces every month (x1.5+0.5 to maintenance). 20% additional cost to raise means 20% additional forces every month (x1.5+1.0 to maintenance). 
    • as an example Good Ave Light Cavalry is costs $30k to maintain. With the LS its $45, and with 20% replacement $75k per month! This adds 2 horsemen joining the ranks (squires being promoted or man-at-arms in training going to the front line). Personally I work with just 10% for a simple x2 maintenance cost. So my $48k horse archers would be at $96k.  
Where is Desperate Ground? You can say Sun Zi is an ass of a commander for intentionally putting his forces in desperate ground. Note that if you read the 9 situations he purposefully chooses to let his enemy surround his forces - so that they will fight more desperately. Its a dick move and I don't know how I'd feel about a commander who put me in that position but it was a time and era where commanders kept their own counsel and more than the usual intrigue happened among generals. In this case I would waive the 25% casualty and let the commander roll leadership to see if everyone can get as desperate as he is... if the commander chose less risky action it would be harder to do such a move and without loss of respect and trust for a commander.

Sample Scenario: Attrition Warfare


  • Note that I fixed this spreadsheet to have a Binary Toggle for Terrain Bonuses (a simple if statement). 
You will notice a force that will definitely crush the other. A fairly well rounded Force A with Archers and Scouts vs Well Equiped and Veteran Horse archers. Modifiers '+10 vs '+2! The spreadsheet I use is here, you will need to make more Sheets (I wish I could run this on my tablet while I run the game).

What should Force A do? Horsearchers excel in Skirmish and check out what happens in each strategy. In a Recon Test, assuming commanders are equal in competence,
  • Attack? The Horse Archer chooses Skirmish, he get '+2 and assuming you both roll 10 Force A has a MoS of 6 for 25%-5% casualties (2 men) for -1, while the force which won lose 5% (5 men). 
  • Indirect Attack? The Horse Archer chooses Skirmish, he get '+2 and assuming you both roll 10 Force A has a MoS of 3 doubled to 6 for 25%-5% casualties (2 men) for -4 and , while the force which won lose 5% (5 men). 
The best case scenario is the Good Good Horse Archers win the Recon Test. Assuming commanders of Intel Analysis of 12. The Gd Gd HA have a '+4 vs Force A. If the GGHA choose to fight in Trackless Woodland or Night Fighting in Plains they would have enough to achieve Ambush. In Ambush they can Raid. 
  • On a Raid against confused enemies they can have a '+1 to attack and the enemy must Rally or Full Retreat.  If both Roll 10, Force A would have rallied and inflicted some casualties at a Margin of 5 or 20% (2 horsemen) at the Raiding force, while the Raiding force deals -2 or 10% (10 men)
    • This worthwhile if you can target your losses. If the 10 men lost were Bowmen or Scouts then the 2 horsemen would have been worthwhile. 
  • On a Skirmish against confused enemies they can have no bonus to attack and the enemy must Rally or Full Retreat.  If both Roll 10, Force A would have rallied and inflicted some casualties at a Margin of 5 or 20-5% (1 horseman, -3 strategy penalty) at the Raiding force, while the Raiding force deals -2 or 10% (10 men). Next round the Skirmishers disappear into the night. 
    • This becomes more effective if you can "Target" your losses but skirmishes are opportunistic it really depends on the GM. 
  • You need an overwhelming Recon Advantage to do Raids. Your Forces has to be comparable and at a recon superiority. If the Horse Archers were Terrain specific and they were fighting in that terrain vs non-terrain units. Note that the Mongols, masters of logistics, would map out all enemy territory and trained in that. When armies assembled untrained levies, the mongols could easily mow them down. 
Some Personal Notes
You can have an army mostly composed of Light Infantry than to have one mostly with Heavy Infantry. Average Light Infantry is expensive, being paid wages equal to Heavy infantry and you get what you pay for - its either your heavy Infantry is actually Good Good Light Infantry (which is the case) or you use Poor Inferior Scouts. the other option is Heavy Infantry with woodland, and you can "lighten" their load out so that they an act as "scouts" with that '+4 to recon from being all woodland.  
Personally I'd rather work with a smaller Good Good light Infantry than having no scouts at all. If Infantry were to remove their armor and fight in loose formation then you would be Halving their effective without giving them the Recon trait - at least they can Move quickly (moving 5 hexes). 
Gd Gd Light Infantry would have x1.7 maintenance which is further multiplied by "True Cost" for 20% replacement - at $33.6k maintenance each element.  
In this scenario its too hard to win and on a Narrative scale I would be training Scouts especially if I'm defensive. I'd even spring for "Mounted Scouts" with cheap mounts just for the "mobility bonus" in Recon Tests. Later on, after enough experience they can trained as man-at-arms if there is enough gains to answer the horse logistics. 


Aid in resolving Scenarios - spreadsheet that helps calculate all the Superiority and Battle TS modifiers. Since in Tactical Combat it has more varied who you encounter this will help the GM out.
Create Low Tech Armies - This helps you build your armies with TRUE cost parameters.

So basically Running GURPS Mass Combat should be easier now.
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