Where have all the Heroes gone?
by Simon Norburn
Sharpe and Harps from Chiltern
What is a hero? Why is this figure applauded, praised, rewarded and emulated. Perhaps the film, "The enemy at the Gates," can supply an answer. It is Stalingrad, the battle for the city is at its peak. Soviet forces are being fed into the mincer to be ground into the pap of battle. Every other man gets a rifle, the alternates a single clip of ammunition.
As might be guessed, the attack is a complete failure - the remnants are machine gunned by NKVD troops for falling back. One commissar attempting to carry a vital load of propaganda leaflets has the people's car shot from beneath him. Taking cover in a dry fountain he sees a target; an enemy of both the people and the state.
The commissar attempts to shoot the German Captain he sees taking a shower and fails abysmally. He has obviously never used a rifle before. The sole survivor of the slaughter, one Valery Zeitsev takes the rifle from him, kills the Captain with a single shot and 4 other Germans with an additional 4 shots.
Cut to the peasant Nikita Kruschev - the man who eventually became General Secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Socialist Republics. He storms ashore onto the west bank of Stalingrad, takes personal command of the situation, instructs the General in charge to blow his brains out for failing and calls an immediate meeting of all of the political officers.
"How can we stop the retreats?"
Various suggestions extolling the virtues of shooting Generals and their Chiefs of Staff, arresting and deporting their families, increasing the level of state terror and such other sensible manoeuvres are made by the assembled toadies and worthies.
"Done all that!"
"Then give them hope" is interjected by the Commissar above. "Show them they can win. Give them Heroes!"
Hero of the Soviet Union from Paul Colfer
And thus starts Zeitsev's rise to fame and glory. Now let us consider a typical battle as a wargame. Your inferior or D class militia beat off an attack by good troops. They throw three up, the good troops 2 down. Surely this is a Hero leading the troops. Yet what happens? No hero is generated, the players grin or grimace at the luck and carry on regardless. There is no roll model <g> for the next time those troops are in combat - there is no leader benefit, there is no paean for the victorious, glorious, gorious leader.
So what should be done. Well first of all we have to decide what corresponds to an Heroic act. This should be expressed in game terms that are easy to check. There should be a good chance of a Hero per side being generated - indeed it may be agreed that one or both sides start the game with a Hero.
Obviously in reality more than one Hero may be generated per side in a battle but excessive Heroics will lead to a game of Heroes, not a wargame so I suggest limiting each side to either 1 or no heroes.
Then we have to decide what a Hero can do. Well what do Heroes do? Sadly they die gloriously. Indeed the Victoria Cross association is very concerned that all of its new members seem to be eligible to join only posthumously. So the first thing to do is to find out if our Hero is still alive in the turn that he is created.
It is no good simply calculating the percentage casualties and applying this risk to the Hero - by the very nature of the beast he will be hands red and raw, among the gore. So let us assign an arbitrary risk to this paragon of Military Virtue - in a Hero creating event there is a 50% chance that his glory is only noticed post demise. Roll a 1,2 or 3 and like the dragonfly his was a transitory experience twixt heaven and hell.
But with a 4,5 or 6 and a mighty flourish of his (enter appropriate weaponry for the period) he is here to stay. Now what can this military paradigm do? He can enthuse, he can inspire, he can awe.
What could this mean on the table.
Enthusing is a morale boosting process -
One unit may be enthused per turn. The process lasts through an agreed number of morale checks. If a unit fails a moral test it has its failure raised by one level - thus a halt becomes an OK, a retire becomes a halt, a retreat becomes a retire. There is no risk to the Hero in doing this. Heroes may not perform any other action in the move in which they enthuse troops.
Inspiring is taking your place in the front rank. Troops that are inspired may not throw down on their dice rolls in melee - they roll until a neutral or positive result is obtained. (In fire based periods Inspiration may instead be the ignoring of all suppressed morale results.) Of course our hero is not immune from risk - in a melee the good old 50% chance strikes again - in a firefight he has 3* the percentage risk of being killed. Only one unit may be inspired per turn and no other action may be taken by the Hero.
Gamling from Games Workshop
Aweing is the effect of terrifying the enemy as they come to you. It has similar risks to Inspiring and all units meleeing the unit the Hero is with are awed. They may not roll plus dice on the melee, rolling again until a neutral or negative result is obtained.
By the way, when they were filming "The Greatest Story Ever Told", John Wayne was the Roman Centurion tasked with crucifying Christ. He dutifully said his line - "Truly this is the Son of God"
"No John, say it with AWE" was the director's instruction. His response -
"Aw, Truly this is the Son of God".
And on that happy note I shall depart to contemplate my Heroes and their Heroics.
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