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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Long Li takes the field.

Today was Canada Day, 148 years since Confederation.
 So did I do something patriotic? or did I paint toy soldiers representing a fictional army? 


 An Oerberg Garrison Gunner aims Long Li (Lee)
 Not everyone is aware that shortly before Faraway began to take an interest in Oerberg a prospector struck the richest vein of gold in Atlantican history. Initial evidence suggested that it was even bigger than the Featherstone Mountain find  that sparked the 1st Origawn War (see header photo and Blastoff Ridge page).

The gold is what has allowed Oerberg to arm and organize to resist foreign intervention but gold isn't diamonds so instead of buying the latest artillery from France and Germany they've had to rely on old equipment and cheap copies from Hong Kong. Long Li is one of these,  a somewhat smaller heavy gun inspired by the famed Creusot Long Tom but assembled in Hong Kong largely using parts obtained from famed international arms dealer, Louis Marx.

The only regular, trained and uniformed troops in Oerberg are the Mounted Police and Fortress Garrisons. After various trials of grey, tan and brown uniforms the latter was selected. The tender called for a warm yellowish brown colour obtained from local vegetable dyes but despite periodic inspections during manufacture, once delivered, the uniforms turned out to be the slightly darker, drab shade seen in the photo. There was talk of replacing the uniforms but it was decided that it would be wasteful and that the colour was sufficiently pleasing to the eye and certainly less conspicuous in the field than the red coats worn by the Queen's troops. The collar and trouser stripes indicate the arm of service. Yellow for mounted police,  red for artillery, light blue for infantry.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tin Army tested by fire

Its odd how some things just "feel" right. In the case of a set of wargame rules, an emotional response to the product of intellect and logic (however flawed). The oddness no doubt  merely reflects an inadequate awareness and analysis of said emotions even when they are acknowledged and considered during design.

For example, I have no idea why I find the "one base is a unit" thing so satisfying. I can conjure a dozen logical arguments for or against it but only guess at the real reasons why that attraction exists. One argument for them is that one can make interesting dioramas on each base. One can, and in the past I have done so, my 15mm Indians never really left the woods since every base had at least a bush or rock and fallen log if it didn't have a small tree to hide behind, but even with these plain, temporary bases the satisfaction persists. It might be thought to be ease of moving them about but really one 3 stand unit is no harder to move than three 1 stand units. Reason is denied or rather hidden, I'm sure it exists.

But on with the game.

An overview of the table as Red marches on. All hills are gentle. The rifle pits are deemed hidden until within rifle range. Units in woods etc are hidden until adjacent. Normally I would use some sort of blinds but I was under the weather and thus tired and just pretended I didn't know where they were and scouted all possible hiding places. Ostensibly Red does not know that the enemy is about to be heavily reinforced. To maintain some level of genuine surprise I rolled each turn for the arrival of reinforcements and didn't choose an arrival point until they did arrive. 
Having the mere idea of a punitive expedition as a start I made the scenario up as I laid out the terrain and sorted through what figures I had able to be used and pondered the back story which has changed  a bit from what I was expecting last fall. At that time I was contemplating a sort of Not Quite the Boer War  crossed with a bit of WWI in Africa or European intervention. However, having thrown some red coats into the first scenario to make up numbers made me think earlier and I was later reminded about the whole Not Quite the NorthWest Rebellion thing that also tempts me. I decided that I did not want to do both, certainly not at the same time nor did I want to make either campaign wait any longer. As an historical and military event the Boer War interests me but from a wargaming point of view its not recreating the history that is what engages me it is the switch from crowded battlefields fought over by similar armies to one of open veldt (or prairie) with periodic towns, rivers, etc, and the idea of a mobile, largely non-professional, army with modern weapons taking on a professional one successfully.  I consulted the geography and existing history of my imaginary land and came up with a modified back story and plan.

The Kapelle District is right next to Oerberg on the map, Kapelle is already listed as being the area where the remnants of the Brethern of the Coast retreated to after their defeat and where they mingled with the native tribes. It is also on record that the Faraway Trading  Company (FTC) backed by the Queen's troops followed and attempted to enforce her rule. Since their neighbour has already had a brush with Faraway, it seemed obvious to ally the two and so we find Oerberg sending an unofficial party of "volunteers" across the border. Allowing the President to lead the expedition in person was probably a mistake politically but I think he has achieved his goal of war. One change I envisage now is to increase the level of development of Oerberg including a slightly larger standing army, or at least some urban militia regiments and a slight move away from the very Boer-like look to.... well you'll see eventually.    Lets say a sort of Riel Rebellion meets the Boer War and Pancho Villa and more.  (I want to use those trucks and cars!)

The Rebels sprang an ambush with infantry and cavalry swarming the squadron of Larsen's Lancers which were scouting ahead. By dint of prodigious die rolling vs handfuls of 1s and 2s Larsen's survived. As they pulled back the MG opened up catching a group of spearmen in the open and decimating them with a roll of three 5's and 6's. Useful things machine guns!
The Faraway force consisted of a single Brigade consisting of a Commander, 4 cavalry, 6 infantry, a mountain gun, an MG and 2 supply wagons. The wagons have no combat ability but count as units for army morale giving Faraway 14 units or being able to suffer 5 losses. Since there is only one brigade the army will be defeated once it is exhausted. Their enemy was divided into 2 brigades. The tribesmen (name needed) under Blue Jacket had 1 cavalry, 2 mounted rifles, 3 rifles and 2 spearmen for a total of 8 units, exhaust point of 3.  Old Cords led 4 units of Oerberg Mounted Rifles and a light gun. or 5 units, exhaust point of 2.  

Faraway entered along the road making full infantry road speed while the cavalry scouted for ambushes. They triggered one but managed to do more harm than they took and the rebels were some what taken aback at the firepower of the machine gun. Their mounted troops spent most of the rest of the game trying to get at the wagons as the best way to cause the enemy to retreat. This had the side effect of drawing off 1/2 the Faraway troops to protect the wagons.

The attack on the town looked promising at first. Against my better judgement I let a squadron of lancers charge the rifle pits while waiting for the infantry and gun to come up. To my surprise they managed to drive the enemy out and lived to tell the tale and with the Dragoons coming up the scenario looked like it might have an early end. Then the Oerbergers showed up and a few turns later the town was cleared the Dragoons had lost a squadron and all of the Faraway cavalry was damaged. I pulled the cavalry back to rally and decided to try to wear the enemy down with long range fire. That wasn't going so well until Old Cords got cocky and sent one of his troops charging into the machine gun, forgetting that they were mounted rifles not cavalry and that the enemy was an mg until I rolled the dice. I offered to let him take the suicidal move back but he was too honest to accept and just pulled his unit off. That was when I decided I should count the troops and establish break points. Oerberg has lost 1 stand in the fight with the cavalry and this ill fated charge finished them off. 

It took a few more turns of manoeuvring and  praying for initiative and some close calls which almost tipped the scales but at the end of the day firepower won out and Bluejacket's braves were forced to retreat. Faraway lost 2 cavalry and 1 infantry unit but won the day.    

What? The end? Sorry. The turns flew by so fast and I was so wrapped in the game that I forgot to stop for pictures. Incidentally, Although only the 6" squares are marked I was counting in 3" squares, or quadrants if you will.
So, the rules? Well the fact that I was too wrapped in the game to take pictures probably sums it up well. There is nothing that I felt I would have to change but there were some last minute changes to the rules to simplify things that I think I will reverse not because they break the game but to improve the feel.

The first is that originally a unit that gave ground was supposed to have to spent its next turn halted. That would have meant a marker, a different marker from the "I've suffered a loss" marker. Since a unit loses a die if it moved there is a penalty for retaking the ground but there is no penalty for cavalry falling back and immediately charging again and nothing to stop a unit of riflemen from being driven out of cover only to reoccupy it before the enemy could advance. Time and time again. I'll restore the pin marker and penalty but make the retreat part optional for troops in cover to save wear and tear on my fingers and to avoid having to explain why they would run away rather than hide.

The second is that I abandoned my usual defensive fire rule for melee. The defender rolls first rule does the same thing for infantry and artillery but doesn't feel right for cavalry that is counter-charging. I'll just do the words once I figure out how to handle the give ground issue for simultaneous combat, maybe disallowing it for cavalry vs cavalry melees or making the defender choose first to reflect the advantage for cavalry of being the attacker in contemporary kriegspiel rules.

One other thing I'm contemplating, not because it doesn't work but just to be tidy is to change the cover penalty from a score to hit to a die reduction. It makes a difference but I haven't decided yet if the difference is good, bad or neutral. Being consistent  would be good though and easier to remember in the heat of battle as long as it doesn't harm the effect. Cumulative penalties for different things which might turn things from difficult to impossible is the real danger hence my occasional hedging of  a "but never less than 1" sort of rule.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Special Edition from the Kapelle District

Old Cords interferes in the Kapelle. War looms in the North!

Old Cords leads an Oerberg Commando across the border to aid rebels

Early report has been received  of an unexpected  action in the Kapelle District. In response to attacks on Her Majesty's surveying parties while carrying out their official duties, Colonel Marten was dispatched with a column of troops to being the rebels to justice. Upon approaching the village reported to be harbouring the culprits, our soldiers were met not only by armed rebels but by an armed column of Oerbergers led by Old Cords himself. After spirited engagement the Oerburgers were sent packing and the rebels punished.

Her Majesty's representative reports that the entire incident was resolved in most satisfactory manner in every sense but that war is sure to follow if Oerberg refuses to disown the act and surrender Old Cords for justice.

Her Majesty's forces on the march to bring rebel marauders to justice
More details will follow when available.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Kapelle Field Force marches again.

I know, its silly, but I'm all excited, like a kid at Christmas, getting ready for this test game tomorrow.
In the frontier town of Klarksville, the Kapelle Field Force, minus detachments in garrison and on the train, is drawn up for inspection. Behind them the armoured train is about to leave on its last patrol. Any correspondents who wish to accompany the train should be there by 4:30. 

Post It Version of the New Tin Army

May be played on grid or measure using base width or agreed upon "units"
Units take 2 hits and occupy 1 area except artillery occupy 2 adjacent units, 1 for the gun, 1 for train. Once a unit takes a 2nd hit it is assumed to be exhausted or routed etc and is removed from the board.

Sequence of play: Roll for initiative with winner choosing 1st or 2nd move that turn. +1 if aided by observation balloon or other advantage as per scenario. -2 If General lost.

Chance Cards. (Optional) Make up custom deck or use playing cards. Assign red to 1 side, black to the other. Cards apply to that player. Only face cards and Aces are effective, others are no effect. Decide maximum number of turns to play and pull that many cards for a game deck. When the deck has been played the game is over. If joker appears roll d6 and discard that number of cards from the deck. At the start of each turn pull 1 card before rolling for initiative. 
Sample chance effects: 
King. Roll d6 and that many units may add 1 to move this turn even if attacking.
Queen. Roll d6 and your enemy may choose that many units that must remain halted this turn.
Jack. Roll d6  and your enemy may choose that many units not occupying cover that must immediately retreat
Ace. A unit of unexpected reinforcements arrive or 1 destroyed unit is rallied and may be returned to service.  
Infantry Move 1 and shoot with 1 die or move 2
Cavalry Mounted move 4. Dismounted move 1 and shoot 1 die
Artillery Move 2. Horse artillery move 3
Terrain Max 1 unless native infantry. Some may be impassible to some troop types.
Road +1 to move but no shoot or attack.

Shooting. 2 dice per unit. +1 die for MG or for other rated superior. -1 die if inferior firepower
Ranges: Rifles 4, Carbine 3, MG 6, Arty Light 8, Field 12, Hvy 16  
5,6 hits and enemy in the open. 6 hits an enemy in cover Hit on 5,6
-1 vs cover
If there is a unit immediately behind target reroll misses vs second unit.

Melee. May not move adjacent unless attacking or ambushed. Must resolve melee if adjacent during melee phase. If adjacent to multiple enemy must split dice with a minimum of 1 against each enemy. If the number of enemies exceed the number of dice extra dice are granted to meet the minimum.
3 dice per unit in melee +1 die for each adjacent supporting unit able to shoot with clear line of fire to enemy and not itself in melee. 
+1 die if any of: MG or superior firepower defending against an attack this player turn,
mtd cav attacking in open. (ie not being attacked) or if Elite troops -1 die if inferior troops.

Defender rolls first and attacker may give ground ow attacker then rolls and defender may give ground. If defender gives ground mounted cavalry may pursue 1 area and roll again.
5,6 hits and enemy in the open. 6 hits an enemy in cover 
If Commander with unit in melee roll 1 die 4,5,6 = hit, 1=cdr killed

Give Ground. Each time a unit takes hits from one enemy unit, either shooting or melee, it may cancel 1 of the hits by retreating 1 area. A unit may give ground each time it is fired on by a different unit but only once in melee.
Rally. If Commander joins unit not engaged rally instead of move or shoot. 1 die 5 or 6 cancels hit. +1 Elite -1 Militia

Brigade Morale. A Brigade consists of a Commander 3 to 12 units. when 1/3 of the units are lost the Brigade is exhausted and may not shoot or attack but may defend itself in melee.
Army Morale. When all of the Brigades in an army are exhausted it must cede the battle and retire from the field.