EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Follow Up Edition: War by Sea, Air and Land!

New report from the expedition up the Newwaussie River

"As we descended a shot rang out..."

We have a new report for the Newaussie Expedition from Lt. V______ of the Faraway Trading Company Aeronautical Service.

"In all my years with the FTC Air Service we have never tried carrying troops into battle before. It wasn't easy but by gathering every balloon and stripping them down we managed to cram 2 platoons of Riflemen on board our small flotilla.  Luckily the balloons had first been introduced to carry a fair cargo of supplies as they went from trading post to trading post so the baskets were larger than normal.

The wind generally was light from the West which could have been a problem but we took off early and were able to catch a good onshore breeze which carried us right up to and around in behind the battery though we had to stay low to get the best effect. The vegetation was pretty thick but we caught glimpses of movement down near the native huts. It was a bit of shock as we started our descent to see a puff of smoke followed by the report of a musket. Evidently a long rifle and well aimed as the basket was soon riddled and several men wounded. We quickened our descent but as we neared the ground there was Boom from beyond the river and a cannon ball whistled past our ears. Soon we were on the ground and the Riflemen struggled to get clear while shot plowed through their ranks. As we fired our burners and started to rise again, I looked across at our sister ship and saw it swarmed by savages and 2 of their white spiritual advisers who seemed intent on smiting us harder than one would expect from men of God but its not the first time they have taken up arms against the Queen."

A fierce struggle around the balloons as the Buffs prepare to scale the cliffs in the teeth of the cannister.

" It was hard to abandon the soldiers in the midst of such confusion and danger but it was our duty to get the balloons safely away and stand by for orders. So it was that we hung back over the strait with a bird's eye view of the action. It was hard to see the details through the smoke at times but we could clearly see the savages leaping back down the hill and into the bush and we could see the red coated bodies strewn across the cliff face or limping back towards the boats while yet more men rushed ashore cheering. Suddenly the great gun above the cliff went silent. The surviving Riflemen had done their job!

The climax approaches.
"As we drifted across the river we were surprised to see the chain still in position. We had understood that a party was supposed to have it down by the time our assault was over. Something was obviously wrong and judging by the heavy billows of powder smoke on the bank around the chain, opposition had been stronger than expected. (Ed. Note: See the Early Edition)

To add spice to the soup we could make out a pirate brig working its way down river, a great gun booming from her bow. The shot was splashing all around the Reuse and occasionally smashing in to her. She had been pointed ashore to lend her gunfire to the landing party but we could see the water churning as she reversed her starboard wheel and spun to meet this new and more deadly threat. 

Atop the hill a fresh wave of pirates joined the savages and rushed upon the jumble of Tigers and Buffs but a volley or 2 and a loud ringing cheer as the bayonets came down soon sent them all packing. We could see the fort's gun opening up again and watched the redcoats falling back into dead ground.  The fort was on the far bank and without the flotilla, there was no way to ferry the troops across. All eyes turned on the duel between the Reuse and the Brig". 

The 20 year old steamer MacDuff coming into action for the first time since her refit. 
"It was a tremendous strain to hang in the sky unable to help but while we serve the company rather then her Majesty, we do our duty. Perhaps one day there will be a way for a balloon crew to join in the fight, maybe when Governor Lawrence's steam powered double balloon airship comes into service but that day we could just hang above watching the battle while keeping an eye on the signal flags. 

It seemed like an eternity that the two ships pounded at each other and we could see that the Reuse was taking a pounding. Why didn't she pull back? But we knew, Her Majesty's navy was not about to give way to a pirate brig. Suddenly we noticed the MacDuff swinging around and pushing up river to join the fight. We couldn't believe it! Her balsa wood hull must be 20 years old and since her recent refit, when her stern wheel was replaced by a new fangled screw, she didn't even carry a gun! All she had was an rocket tube from the landing party. Their gunner know his trade though. The first rocket went a bit wide, as they do, but the second landed plumb amidships and in seconds there were explosions and flames reaching up from her hull. Those lubberly pirates must have left gunpowder and tar and gawd knows what else lying about. In any event we could see them emulating rats as they dove from her decks and this disaster for their cause seems to have taken the starch out of the rest of the enemy. The fighting in the jungle faded away and as a party of Jacks rowed ashore and lowered the boom chain, smoke started to  rise from the fort as well." 
Archive print of the MacDuff when she was first commissioned 20 years ago.

So it would appear that our brave soldiers, seamen and  air-sailors have smoked that old Black Fox from another lair.  Is this the end of him or will he reappear where we least expect him? Is he a Black Fox? or a Black Cat with Nine Lives?
For those who have not seen plans for Governor Lawrence's proposed Steam Air Ship, these plans were published 3 years ago. The craft has yet to be seen in public., 

Monday, August 3, 2015

While we're waiting: The Setup.

Yesterday's game came about as a cross between an urge to get away from all these 20th Century test games and the urge to get a "Colonial" game on table. Now the term "colonial wargaming" has become rather a vague concept these days often including almost anything with exotic locales and asymmetrical warfare though usually set in the 19th or early 20th Century but also being the second home of fictional countries and wars.  My Colonial urge was originally to do with my interest in WW1 "sideshows" but the troops aren't ready for any of those campaigns so it is that we find ourselves in 1853 with a expedition of the Red Queen's troops on their way to stamp out another stronghold of the Brethren of the Coast, a collection of freebooters, independence minded Atlantican natives and refugees from the Blue River Rebellion.

The setting and the presence of so many singly based miniatures suggested MacDuff to the Frontier for rules, after all this is exactly the sort of game they were initially written for, but logistics and human frailty intervened. That is to say that with my current set up, nearly 1/3 of the table is beyond my easy reach and in order to avoid 1/2 crawling onto the table to lean way across it with sleeve or other body part collecting miscellaneous trees and figures along the way, I often have to resort to using a stick to reach across and push units in the dead zone, This is hard enough with fixed stands let alone groups of individuals, The other complication is that the combination of middle aged short sightedness with my particular type of Astigmatism makes multi-focal glasses near useless and combined with the dim lighting in this room makes it hard for me to read a ruler at arms length. This is one of the reasons I like the grid but an old fashion stick with coloured bands seems to work quite well. Add a dash of nostalgia for the games of the 2009 Game a Week project and a revised older form of Hearts of Tin seemed the way to go. Still working on converting rough notes to readable draft. 
The Flank Companies rush forward through the jungle to reinforce the Rifles.
(archive footage from yesterday's Noodle)
Usually when I play a solo game I just play both sides to the best of my ability, but every now and then as discussed occasionally over the last 2 years, I feel the urge to "play a game", to feel like "I" am trying to "win", to beat the system if not another player. I haven't settled on a constant method of doing that yet but I was in the mood to give it a go again.

I decided to play the attacking force with all the nice toys and let the Brethren be game controlled ambushers.  In the past I have used various hidden markers and blanks to add confusion to solo games but I wanted to revisit something I tried in a  game on my Gathering of Hosts blog.  What I did here was to set out what the total possible defending  force would be. Then I assigned certain units as garrison in the fort and as ships's crews and designated others as to where they might show up leaving a few that could be deployed anywhere using the Programmed Pirates scenario rule.

Programmed Pirates.
Each turn roll 1d6 per invading unit in the bush/jungle where visibility is limited. For each 1 or 2  (or an Infantry signal on a Battlecry die) place a Defender in cover within 3" of an attacking unit.  A 6 (or flag) activates a ship. Muskets units will shoot. Sword/spear units will charge.

Once deployed I used a combination of the HofT "out of command" roll and on rolling a die to choose between options where there was no obvious best move to control them. Hardly original ideas but they worked damn well!

Lets take a closer look at the incident reported in the recent Noodle edition, I had sent a single company of Rifles into the bush to open the chain that stretched across the river. Having had a dry spell on ambushers I should not have been so sanguine (hopeful) as this bit was about to get very sanguine (bloody) (Sorry, had my Browncoat on there for a minute).  Their first move was unopposed but they were soon ambushed by some very straight shooting ruffians who were joined by more the next turn. This was looking a little bleak so I rushed the combined flank companies ashore to reinforce them. With only a  1/3rd chance there were already an unlucky number of enemy at hand but the arrival of 2 companies just seemed to egg the dice on and on each of the next 2 turns 2 more units appeared in ambush. It was beginning to look like a well laid trap, especially since there was no room left in front so when the pikemen were put down they had to go on the flank. I still wasn't worried though since the pike guys aren't normally very tough, these guys sure knew where the 5's and 6's were in melee though. Even then it wouldn't have been a disaster if I had remembered that these were the collected Grenadiers with a combat bonus and an extra strength point but oh well, it was confusing with all the brush and the powder smoke.

A wider view.
BTW, destroyed units are normally considered to have received heavy casualties and morale loss not actually be all dead and wounded. Hence the survivor telling his tale. )
But I need to go help the editor with illustrations for the report on the thrilling, nail biting conclusion of the battle for tommorrow's edition of the Noodle.