Thursday, December 27, 2012

Campaign Casualties

Doctor Larrey was the first real battlefield surgeon general.
Working on the Campaign of Nations, we have encountered the discussion regarding recovery of disrupted and wounded units.

Reference works by Chandler and Quarrie
This subject has been examined before, by one Bruce Quarrie:

Far more men, normally, are wounded than killed on the field of battle, for the obvious reason that an incapacitating hit is not necessarily fatal.  This is point one.  Point two is that there are a higher proportion of serious and fatal injuries from cannon fire than any other single cause, musket fire coming second and wounds from melees third (both infantry and cavalry).  Point three is that casualties inflicted by musket and cannon fire on cavalry need to be divided in about 40:60 proportions between the men and their horses, horses presenting the larger targets and hence being more vulnerable.  And finally, though less important, it must not be forgotten that heavy cavalry cuirasses and brass helmets did play a significant role in reducing the incidence of serious casualties from both small-arms fire and sabre thrusts.
~ Bruce Quarrie, Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature, Second ed., p. 108

I would also add the further point that since Bruce's rules take careful accounting of each and every 'casting casualty' his system lends itself well to simply counting the numbers and doing some math.  The primary systems that I have been using for game-simulation of conflicts do not have such a precise accounting.  For SHAKO, when 1/3 of a line unit is gone then the unit 'flees' from the field and is counted as lost - yet truly only about 1/3 of the men would be in any sort of wound situation.  With Fast Play Grand Armee, there are even greater abstractions, where each 'casting' is representative of some 500 men. and after a hard fought melee a whole brigade may be wiped out, yet any student of this period will certainly concede that a 15 minute action in close quarters will not kill off 3000-5000 men, it most certainly may render a whole brigade as disrupted with the men scattered all over the field or the riderless horses stampeding in all directions - it will not mean that the brigade could not be 'reconstituted' from its own survivors along with those of other brigades.  This is generally covered in the playing rules for dealing with mufti-day battles.

The following figures are somewhat empirical, but are based on actual casualty returns, where available.
Infantry casualties from artillery fire -- 50 per cent dead or fatally wounded, 40 per cent seriously wounded, ten percent slightly wounded.
Infantry casualties from musket fire -- 40 per cent dead or fatally wounded, 40 per cent seriously wounded, 20 percent slightly wounded.
Infantry casualties from melees -- 30 per cent dead or fatally wounded, 40 per cent seriously wounded, 30 per cent slightly wounded.

Cavalry casualties from artillery fire -- 60 per cent horses killed or wounded, 40 per cent men (including cuirassiers); of the men injured fatalities and wound categories as for infantry; ten per cent of the horses will recover.
Cavalry casualties from musket fire -- 50 per cent horses killed or wounded, 50 per cent men; of the men injured, fatalities and wound categories as for infantry, except that cuirassiers only suffer 33-1/3 per cent killed, 33-1/3 per cent seriously wounded and 33-1/3 per cent slightly wounded; 15 per cent of the horses will recover.
Cavalry casualties from melees -- ten percent horses willed or wounded, 90 per cent men; of the men injured, fatalities and wound categories as for infantry except that cuirassiers score 25 per cent dead, 35 per cent seriously wounded and 40 per cent slightly wounded.
Artillery crew as for infantry.
Casualties on personality figures as for cavalry.
~ Bruce Quarrie, Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature, Second ed., p. 108 

Now Bruce's system works well if you are using a game system that calculates accurately the casualties.  When using some of the more 'game' or 'abstract' aspects of the systems we are using then use of such precision will break down - to the same extent that the game designer broke down the precise reality into the game abstractions.

From the recent "Battle at Potsdam" game I have concluded that the Saxon brigades that engaged the Prussians first were able to route out of the battle area across the Spree before 4th Corps began to cut off escape.  Meaning that 2 of the 4 brigades (or 50%) were going to be reforming in the next day.  The major Saxon (French) losses were all the Saxon cannon - two full stands of them! Some 30 guns lost!

For the Prussians I was more generous, as most of their casualties had come in Landwher units.  The main loss was of the two Line brigades, only one was going to come back.


Rafael Pardo said...

A good subject when you are playing a campaign. I used the Quarrie's method some years ago and the main drawbacks was the need to note the source of casualties: artillery, melee and so. I played solo but it was something boring!

MurdocK said...

Thanks Rafa,

Yes I am also not keen on constantly tracking all the hits ... indeed such an action in FPGA or SHAKO would be a wasted effort for the precise numbers are not even discussed in those systems. To do all that extra book-keeping was something done in games played in the 1970's I am suspecting.

For our campaign game we are still in discussion about this issue.

For my own plans on this subject, I am proposing to keep some 'track' of how a majority of casualties came, who controlled the battlefield at the end of the battle and the means/ability of egress for those escaping the battlefield.

So not so much a 'precise' numbers game, however I think it might be good to examine what I am doing when I am coming up with my 'survivors' list.

Base number surviving 50%. Why? Well most units in FPGA or SHAKO are dispersed at 30% casualties (from any source - artillery, musketry, melee) then, of the remainder, they are likely to desert or be taken prisoner, thus reducing to 50%.

Keeping the battlefield gains 10-15% (depending on how 'hot' the conflict - if there are lots of casualties with certain units then they may not get this bonus)

Terrain on the retreat path.
River: -20% for the last units hit
Woods: -10% for the side that does not hold the field +10% returning for the side that does hold the field as the troops will have a tendency to 'cling to cover'.
Built up area: -20% for the side that does not hold the field, +30% for the side that does, I rate it this high as there is a combination of factors the town will act as cover like the woods and often has the hospital supports for the army co-located, thus increasing the prisoners taken and the ability to have lightly wounded troops return.

Special circumstances in the battle also have an effect on these sort of numbers, as a river that cannot be crossed which has been cut off by he battle will see up to 90% losses by the losing side as their troops will simply surrender. Any casualty counts over 60% also leads to a 2% drop of the winning side per 5% of the losing side over 60%; this is due to the need for sentries and guards for the prisoners.

While not totally inclusive of all potential issues this is something of a start to this important campaign consideration.

Archduke Piccolo said...

I still prefer figure removal for casualties over other systems, mainly as battle bookkeeping is kept to a minimum (i.e. zero). Campaign bookkeeping is of course an entirely other matter.

For campaigns I sort of divide losses into sixths. Two sixths are lost for the duration of the campaign - dead and permanently incapacitated. Two sixths return to the colours overnight, having 'straggled' for this or that reason during the course of the day. Some of these might be fairly trivial wounds that might count as a casualty but don't require the soldier to leave the ranks.

The middle sixths are the interesting ones. The battle winner gets half these back and loses the other half. This other half might be injured enough to keep them out of the action for some time - a month, say. The loser also finds one of the middle sixths lost for a period of time. But the other sixth is carried off by the victors as prisoners of war.

POWs have the effect of a hedge against campaign attrition, as they can be exchanged for prisoners lost. So far in my Ulrichstein campaign, the forces backing the Bishop have given up 11 figures as POW; the rebels 4.

In general I have tended to halve cavalry casualties (which for my purposes is near enough 40-60),
but an alternative method is to roll as many dice as there are nominal casualties, and count the number of 'even' scores and the number of 'odd' scores and take the greater as the total loss.

For instance, the cavalry take 6 'casualties' at the standard rate. Rather than halve them, roll 6 dice. Suppose we rolled 1,1,3,4,5,6. There are 2 even scores, but 4 odd ones, so 4 cavalry (man and/or horse) are lost. One could make this system a deal more complex to approach more realistic numbers and ratios, but I prefer to keep things fairly simple, whilst retaining the similar sorts of considerations that might confront an army commander or his staff.

MurdocK said...

I like the 1/6ths simplicity.

What could you do with a system that does not take in 'accurate' casting other precise casualty counting?