Using General Staff to Create a Simulation of the Battle of Isandlwana (January 22, 1879)

We recently asked you for your favorite 18th and 19th century (‘Age of Gunpowder’) battles to be included free for early backers of General Staff (see this link). We don’t want to spoil any surprises, but the Battle of Isandlwana was one of the top vote-getters.

Screen shot of the General Staff Scenario Design Module showing how to edit specific unit type versus unit type combat equations. In this example Blue Light Infantry (Zulu regiments) have been adjusted downward. Click to enlarge.

The Battle of Isandlwana is an especially challenging scenario to simulate because of the difference in technology (the British were armed with Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles while the Zulu warriors carried the traditional assegai iron spears and cow-hide shields). Yet, there are ‘Light Infantry’ unit types in both the Red and Blue forces, but clearly there is a very big difference between the Red (British) Light Infantry and the Blue (Zulu) Light Infantry units.

General Staff, which is based on the UMS Wargaming System, has the ability to adjust a unit’s combat firepower versus other unit types (see the above screen capture). In the above image we have set Blue’s Light Infantry (Zulu regiments) with a lower Attack Multiplier representing the Zulu troops lack of muskets and rifles. This matrix is available from the General Staff Scenario Design Module.

Screen capture of the British army Order of Battle for Isandlwana . Click to enlarge.

In the above screen capture from the General Staff Army Design Module we see a portion of the British Order of Battle at Isandlwana. The question is: what should Leadership, Morale and Efficiency be set for each of these units? How good were British commanders? What was the morale of native troops? How efficient were they? We would love to hear your comments.

Kickstarter Backers Will Receive Thirty Battle Scenarios With General Staff

We want to assemble a collection of the best and most desirable rewards for early backers of the General Staff Wargaming System on the upcoming Kickstarter campaign. We are looking at catalogs of embroidered caps and oxford shirts and bags. We’re looking at fancy pens. But, then we realized that the one reward that our Grognards would really like are thirty free battle scenarios!

One of the features that makes General Staff so unique is that it is not just a ‘single purpose’ wargame that ships with just one battle but, rather, it’s a wargaming system that facilities the creation of any map, 18th or 19th century armies and battle scenarios. So, after asking for your favorite battles, we have now assembled the list of top vote-getters of 337 votes cast. The first five are:

Nineteenth century map of Waterloo. Click to Enlarge.

It is certainly no surprise that Waterloo was the top vote-getter. It is also probably the battle that has most often appeared in a computer or board game. Indeed, Waterloo was featured in my first commercial computer wargame, UMS: The Universal Military Simulator way back in 1987. The question is: what can we do that is new and interesting? We may concentrate on the fighting around Hougomont or, perhaps, our AI will do something very unusual. Indeed, detailed analysis of Waterloo by my TIGER program (at 1000, 1430 and 1600 hours) indicated that the AI recognized that Wellington’s flanks were considered to be ‘unanchored’.  TIGER AI loves to pounce on anchored flanks.

Gettysburg, Day 1. From the Official Military Atlas of the American Civil War. Click to Enlarge.

Again, no surprise that Gettysburg was one of the top vote-getters. However, unlike Waterloo, Gettysburg was a series of smaller battles that combined over three days to became the epic battle in the history of the North American continent. The first day’s fight at Gettysburg was a very interesting affair involving Confederate infantry versus Union cavalry that was backed up, in just the nick of time, by Union infantry featuring the famous Iron Brigade.

Gettysburg July 2, 1863: the Battle for Little Round Top. From the Official Atlas of the American Civil War. Click to Enlarge.

On the second day of Gettysburg, Confederate commander, Robert E. Lee, attempted to batter the Union flanks; first the Union left flank that was anchored on Little Round Top. Confederate general Longstreet argued unsuccessfully for a sweeping envelopment maneuver. Many options and a varied terrain make for an interesting scenario.

Gettysburg July 2, 1863, Culp’s Hill. From the Official Military Atlas of the American Civil War. Click to Enlarge.

Day two at Gettysburg saw Lee now attempting to force the Union right which was anchored on Culp’s Hill. One of the many interesting personal stories of Gettysburg involves the death of the Culp brothers; one who fought for the Union and the other fought for the Confederacy and both died on the farm where they had grown up. The topography for this scenario should make for an interesting battle.

Battle of Borodino. Source unknown. Click to Enlarge.

Borodino was Napoleon’s Pyrrhic victory over the Russians that opened the road to Moscow but at an extraordinarily heavy cost. As commander of the French will you be able to win with fewer casualties? As the Russians will you be able to extract even a greater toll?

What 18th and 19th Century Battles Would You Like to Receive with General Staff?

We have decided to reward backers of General Staff on Kickstarter with thirty (yes, thirty!) battles / scenarios for the General Staff Wargaming System. They can be any battle, skirmish or detail of a battle (think the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg, for example). The only restrictions are they should be battles with a limit of about thirty units per side (the map just gets too crowded with more than 60 units running around) and there should be two superior levels of command (e. g. if we were to do Gettysburg there would be the  Army Commander and the Corps Commanders with divisions being the units represented on the map).

Let your imagination run wild! What battles, scenarios or skirmishes would you like to see? Please post in the comment section below, or use this handy Contact Us email form or write to me directly at Ezra [at]

Screen capture of a scenario using a map of Trenton and General Washington’s Continental Army. Click to enlarge.



Creating Victory Conditions in General Staff

The General Staff Wargaming System provides users with the tools to create scenarios of their own design. These scenarios can be historical battles or they can be ‘what if’ scenarios (e.g. what if Custer had brought Gatling guns to the Little Big Horn or what if Robert E. Lee fought Wellington). To determine the victor of these scenarios or battles we need to have a predetermined set of Victory Conditions. Below is a screen shot of the Edit Scenario Victory Conditions screen:

The Victory Point editing screen in the General Staff Scenario Editor. Click to enlarge.

And below is a screen shot of the self-checking error function for setting Victory Points:

General Staff automatically checks for impossible victory conditions. Click to enlarge.

The General Staff Wargaming System is designed to give maximum flexibility to the scenario designer. It fully supports creating scenarios from 18th and 19th century armies and any map.

How to Edit Unit Speeds in General Staff

We recently had a series of very spirited discussions about the speed of units in various formations and across different terrain types during the Napoleonic Era in the Facebook Wargaming groups. A number of people were very kind to forward documents, tables and charts that had estimates of unit speeds. But, one thing that quickly became apparent was there was quite a bit of disagreement about, “how fast could a unit march,” in the 19th century.

Furthermore, we hadn’t even begun to talk about battles that took place in bad weather (the battles of Stone’s River and Fort Donnelson during the American Civil War come to mind).

The solution, obviously, was to allow the user (the scenario designer) to have complete control over these values. Consequently, we’ve added a very easy to use utility to facilitate editing and displaying unit speeds in various formations across different terrains.

Below is a video we created that demonstrates these utilities: