The Field of Fire rule was created because it was felt that units in close proximity, but not actually in contact with enemy units, shouldn’t be able to just sit there with impunity. That makes sense. Problems arose immediately once the matter was investigated more closely. Are we talking about small arms fire and battalion guns, or are we including skirmishers and such. If we are including skirmishers, then LOS shouldn’t be a factor since skirmishers could move into position regardless. Well, what about firing across a body of water, like an unfordable river? Skirmishers couldn’t cross that, so perhaps FoF should only count if the intervening terrain is impassable. The simple “Blocks can not enter a FoF without moving to contact” FoF rule was getting laden with clauses and exceptions.
I simply chose not to use it, and my games worked fine. Except I wasn’t really happy with the rules, so I had to fiddle. Most recently, I came up with the concept of Infantry Ranged Fire, which allowed infantry to fire just like artillery bombards, except with a range of only 1/3. This worked mostly because enemy blocks stayed out of Infantry Fire range. Recently, when playing Brandywine, it was used fairly often by troops firing at each other across Brandywine. A lot of units suffered one or even two hits, which is pretty major since Baggage Trains are rarely unpacked in this fast and frequently mobile battle. Infantry Ranged Fire with smoothbore muskets and no battalion guns shouldn’t be able to do that kind of damage from over 250 yards away. I liked Infantry Ranged Fire better than FoF, but not much better.
Back to the drawing board I went. I reasoned that I didn’t like FoF because it had the effect of forcing a player to move back a block that ran out of movement before actually making contact. This just seemed counterintuitive, to me. It felt wrong to have a unit stopping when in reality it should have been picking up the pace. Most combat started at range as the combatant closed, why can’t the rules reflect that! I decided to reverse the process and try a different rule:
If you end your move within 1/3 of an enemy unit (ignoring facing and LOS), you must immediately be moved into contact (as an Attacker or into Support) with the closest enemy unit.
If all enemy units within range are already contacted and supported, you may ignore this requirement.
This rule recognizes that once you end your move within 1/3 of an enemy unit, ranged fire and light troops are already becoming engaged, closing to contact just acknowledges this. Of course, if the enemy hasn’t moved yet, and subsequently moves away, then combat has has been avoided. Perhaps your intentions have been foiled, perhaps you were simply hoping to maneuver him out of position without resorting to costly combat.
I don’t bother measuring too exactly. You can spend all your time measuring down to the finest hair, only to have the map jostled, or suffer big meat hooks like mine, fumbling around with closely packed units. Even effective firing ranges aren’t exact. Among the variables can be visibility and powder quality. You do have to draw the line somewhere. The actual movement rates are there, and should be used as a guideline.
This rule should speed the game up even more with less measuring. Frequently, you may not be sure if you can close to contact, but it is more obvious whether or not you can get to within one third. I’m going to try this in my next video. You won’t be able to tell I’m using it, units will either be in contact, or more than a third away. I’m testing it to find out if anything seems not right. You can never be sure until you try it out.
Here is the game where I tried this out and immediately decided I didn’t like it!