Improving DSLB command structure

I have always thought that for Napoleonic era game to work properly, command structure should rely, not on arbitrary range between commander and troops, but rather messenger who can travel any distance, but to travel distance would take time. This would in turn delay in the execution of orders. An aspect that I really like in Signal Close Action.

Trouble is to find system where the relative accuracy of the command is achieved but without sacrificing gameplay. More often than not, simple systems that are fast to play have too simplified command, and the systems that revolve around exquisite command models are so hopelessly complex that it will take well over couple of hours to have game from start to finish.

I like the DSLB system because it is fast, quite eloquent and intuitive. Really, only aspect that I have any troubles with is the lack of higher echelon command – that is described as usual in a way to generals having arbitrary range, at which units receive benefits but no obligations. Other than that, any unit is entitled free hands to perform whatever is needed at any given time. Something that I detest.

However, because the system is build as it is, I thought that integrating rudimentary battle plan and communication links between generals is not that complicated. In brief, I thought following, that only affects the higher echelons of the command structure.

Player will need to have battle plan, and the plan needs to be communicated from CinC to subordinate commanders via couriers. Any overall order that CinC sends out by spending action need to reach subordinate commander at rate of 1L per turn [this of course indirectly implies also that commanders movement rates would need to be cut down to 1L per turn and that CinC would need to issue any orders as the first action], until recipient has spent action to read the order. After that any battalion, battery or squadron within normal command range has to start executing the new orders. Any units outside of the radius will follow previous orders, until subordinate commander has moved close enough [entire battalion within 1L range].

The catch is that CinC that is very good (Q3) has then much greater chance to dispatch orders than real plodder (Q5). Essentially, adding this layer does not change fundamentals of the game, but highlights the role of CinC and the other commanders. It also adds additional layer of decisions what commanders need to decide upon since there is cost in actions.

What comes to orders themselves, they can be freely worded, but must be obeyed fully. Order that cannot be complied with are ignored altogether and previous order is then followed. Guidelines would be that order must be simple and cannot contain if sentences, or other conditional structures. This relatively open order system also means that there is no obligation to micromanage battalion level decisions such as when to march in column, form a square etc. Orders would be similar to following if detailed: “March 3 battalions at once to the ridge line and defend it to last man. Remaining troops defend the farmhouse.” etc. Player would then have option to decide what three battalions of the brigade he intends to use for that purpose and which to use to defend the farmhouse.

One exception for original rules would be that CinC should be able to give direct orders to reserve when releasing them and attaching them nominally to another brigade. This means that the usually the most powerful units could be assigned to support breakthrough immediately.

Because DSLB is not about huge battles involving many divisions worth of troops, this rather light command addition is probably not going to make games any longer than normally. Of course I would need to run couple of small test games to figure out how well the idea works out.

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