The other day on the Trench Offensive players group, a member asked - ‘If a person without a melee weapon should have disadvantage, when in melee combat’. I am paraphrasing, but it's an interesting concept and I would like to explore it and bring people along for the ride. This will help you understand my design thought process and rationale.
First, we should look at the concept from a Trench Offensive point of view - another member points out ‘soldiers are trained with a rifle with a bayonet, not a club or shovel’. This is something I think we can agree with. Fighting with a shovel or club would be more primal in nature.
The British infantry bayonet was a long, single edged short sword attached to the rifle. If we think of this outside of a trench and on a more open battlefield. This will have plenty of space to move around stabbing at the torso of the enemy. Men were made to feel confident with the weapon, either attached or not. The troops should feel at home with it. It was a stabbing weapon, but it could also slice, less so when attached to the rifle I would think.
In a trench, it would have been very different, the long length of the rifle, bayonet combined would have been difficult to use. Equally, some troops weren’t keen on the idea of killing someone with a blade. However, there are stories from High Wood, of a Scottish Private who was on the floor, moments from being killed by a shovel wielding German, seconds away from bringing it down on his head when a bayonet went straight through the back of the German soldier, killing them.
The last paragraph was a good example of how to use the bayonet. It's also quite good to illustrate just how close combat should be seen in wargames as a whole. While miniatures are in a line, they wouldn’t be in a real world setting. Movement is a key factor in all kinds of conflict.
Also, the original poster had said, ‘shorter weapons would be better in trenches but worse out of the trenches’. Their idea is a possible option. Give disadvantage status to the one with shorter weapons outside the trench and advantage inside the trench and vice versa for longer weapons. This is an interesting concept in itself. Personally, I think that could be a little harsh on the player controlling the shorter/longer weapon. Disadvantage would carry on to their melee defence roll and this could cause problems for game play. I haven’t play-tested the concept. I will need some time to check the maths.
Now when we designed the melee combat, we play-tested lots of different options. We agreed to add +1 to the melee attack roll, for miniatures with a melee weapon. This could be an ideal candidate for helping get the feel the original posters intent. If this was conditional on who had the correct length weapon for the area, and take it away or even having a -1 instead it would also affect the melee attack roll but not the melee defence. Once again, I haven’t play-tested it, other than the original concept from the book.
Would anyone like to play test these concepts? I would love to know your feelings on the subject. Is there something I have missed? I have included some links, to help you understand my mindset.