Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Melee (and the Lack There Of) On The Horse and Musket Battlefield

This bit of mechanics was written for what has been published as Muskets and Mohawks and Rifles and Rebels. While it did not make it to the final cut I still think this method of resolving charges both speeds play and leads to a more historically plausible outcome.

On those occasions when melee does indeed occur, just use the melee rules as published.

So give them a try if you like.                                  

Melee On The Horse and Musket Battlefield

Or hand to hand combat made easy!

Although very popular in fiction, hand to hand combat has always been one of the most stressful of the battle experience. Both Indians and Europeans were loath to meet hand to hand for perhaps different reasons.

For the Indian, any unnecessary risks taken in battle could mean one less man to support his village, and family left destitute without a hunter to provide for them.

For the European, the advent and spread of firearms technology made the need for hand to hand combat, or melee much less central to battlefield success then it had been say 300 years earlier.
Both these factors combined to make melee a much more morale oriented contest than one of brute strength and cunning.

In Muskets and Mohawks 2 we use a method dubbed The Universal Charge Table to resolve attempts to close with and disperse an enemy unit.

As you will see, in most cases there is no melee at all with one side or the other foregoing that final step into the maelstrom of hand to hand combat.

Use this table to resolve all movement to contact.

Follow these steps:

1.     Leader tests to Motivate charging group.
2.     Charging group tests for Fast Move (optional). Charging group must have sufficient movement to close to 6” from the target group. Otherwise move charging figures straight towards target group and carry on with turn.
3.     Moving group closes to 6” from target group.
4.     Both players roll 2d6   for their groups.
5.     Charging group counts its successes and subtracts target group’s successes to get Charge total.
6.     Consult charge modifiers and adjust Charge total up or down accordingly.
7.     Find the Charge Table entry most closely corresponding to the Charge Total and apply the results.

Charge Modifiers

Charger is:

Target is:

Formed or Deeper**
Formed or Deeper
Cavalry or Artillery
In Cover
Charge Flank/Rear
Entire infantry group unloaded
Outnumbered 2:1 or more
Outnumbered 2:1 or more

** A unit is Deeper if it is:
  • Facing a Formed enemy.
  • Itself Formed.
  • Has more ranks than its enemy.
If any one of these conditions is not met, the unit is not Deeper.

Universal Charge Table

2 or more
Target Leaves the Battlefield
Infantry in open facing Infantry Retire.
Otherwise Melee ensues
Fire fight.
Charger Baulks
-2 or less
Charger Leaves the Battlefield

Charge Table Results:

Charger/Attacker Leaves the Battlefield: 
Group is removed from play. When target is removed, charger continues moving directly forward until it has moved the full distance determined in step 1.
 If the Charger Leaves the Battlefield, any Target cavalry will move forward one normal move. If any movement caused by Running Away brings two opposed groups within 1” of one another, both groups take a Charge Test counting the moving group as the Charger.

Melee Ensues: 
Move charging group to contact with target group. All prone figures involved immediately stand up. Enemy figures in base to base contact now conduct a round of melee. Where multiple melees are involved the charging player may execute the combats in an order of his or her choosing.

Fire Fight:  
Charger remains stopped at 6” from Target. Target may now fire (volley/gun) or test to fire (all else). The charge has faltered and any reactions caused by defender fire are carried out as usual.

Charger Baulks:   
Charging foot return to their position at the start of the charge, and may not be in base contact with one another. Charging cavalry will veer left (1-3) or right (4-6) for the remainder of their move, avoiding contact with enemy figures. Cavalry will end this move not in base contact with one another.

This information is also available as a pdf, with a detailed example, as well as an embarrassing typo, in the files section of the Two Hour Wargames Yahoo Group here.


  1. Interesting mechanic. Thanks for sharing it Bob. I considered similar things in UM008 USE ME Wild West for Native Americans.

    H2H combat is very macho and readily done in wargaming but indeed in real life it is avoided. Cold Steel is not welcome it seems in real war.