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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Double the troops and double the fun

The Square Brigadier was originally designed assuming an average of 8 to 12 units per side so I wanted to try one of the One Hour scenarios with double forces on a larger table  counting each square as 3" on the scenario map. My portable tabletop is close enough to this in size but the outside temperatures were pushing a humid 30C again and I opted to stay out of the sun. I wasn't sure I would like the look of 60mm wide horse and musket  units on the 4" grid of my main table but there was only one way to find out.
Turn 7. Blue's reserve is finally free to react to the flank attack.
(Note the historically accurate use of a boat to transport game marker supplies......
The scenario I chose was number 19  which involves an attempt by Red to force a river crossing in the face of equal numbers. The catch is that half of Red's force has crossed up river while one third of Blue's force is in reserve. I rolled for sides with the British ending up Red while the Americans were Blue. (Handy)

 The scenario is certainly a plausible one for 1812. Since my table is rectangular I took advantage of the extra flanking squares to enhance the War of 1812 look by deploying a major river on one flank and woods as the baseline on the other. This look is not accidental by the way. The road networks were fairly primitive and the easiest way to move supplies was by boat so the settlers did and cleared the river bank forests for farmland first. In war armies moved by river as much as possible and fought over the adjacent cleared fields.

Rather than rolling once and doubling the result I find I get  better results rolling twice. This at least offers the possibility of an all arms force. The armies I rolled up were:
Blue: 7 infantry (6 Regular, 1 Militia), 1 Light infantry (Riflemen), 2 guns, 2 cavalry. (1 Dragoon, 1 Mounted Rifles)  2 infantry and the 2 cavalry were held in reserve and the rest deployed along the river to guard the 2 crossing points.

Red: 7 infantry, 3 light infantry, 2 guns.
I detailed 5 infantry and 1 light infantry as the flanking force using 2 infantry, 2 light infantry, and 2 guns  as the pinning force.

The Rifles have been driven back by a bayonet charge and the American flank is in disarray.
I actually played the game twice. The first game was played on Wednesday morning with the rules as played on Tuesday. The British General (not me, nope) decided to put all of his light infantry in the flanking force. They handled the woods well but lacked the punch to beat back the American line infantry so an indecisive long range musketry battle developed while across the river the only contribution the line infantry could add to the 1 on 1 artillery duel was to launch suicidal unsupported charges across the bridge and ford into a stronger American line. Despite a string of low command rolls and pitiful shooting, the Brits made some headway but it wasn't really close.

One thing that had worried me in the small game was how quickly units became ineffective in melee once they had taken 1  or 2 hits. It was a double penalty sort of thing which I had tried in the early versions years ago and then dropped. I have no idea why I brought it back but I canned it again partway through this game when I remembered that I was supposed to be doing it that way. I also revisited shooting ranges and scales. Given how well the game flowed, the sorts of scenarios I am likely to want to play and the number of troops already available, I decided to drop the scale a bit to around 50-75 yards per square giving me around 150 to 200 men per line infantry  base and allowing me to extend the ranges and have both long and medium ranges with fewer dice at long range. (Close range is included in melee)  This improved the feel of the game substantially.

With those changes in hand I reset the table and played again Wednesday evening. ( An advantage to having short games of just over an hour.)
The artillery and skirmisher duel across the bridge is heavy, prolonged and disappointing for Red who was overheard mid-game to mutter something very like "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody dice today"
This time around the British commander kept 2 light infantry units to support the artillery and sent 5 line infantry around the flank support by 1 light. That meant getting some line infantry through the wood. The rules allow a group of units to be moved on a order in the open but woods require an order per unit. As soon as the reinforcements arrived the General seemed to have a mental crisis and froze up rolling only 1 or 2 orders per turn. That meant instead of the intended flood of units hitting the flank of the American line supported by attacks from their front, there was a trickle of isolated units plus a formidable line of infantry advancing jerkily across the wide open spaces beyond the wood and far from the crucial river bank, all supported by a patter of ineffective long range fire. sigh........ The US commander was under no such handicap. His reserves flew across the battle field his cavalry hitting the poor British Infantry in flank and rear while whenever the action got close, the American troops would roll out buckets of 5's and 6's. I began to despair!

It couldn't last forever though and an American Achilles heel was found. They couldn't make a rally roll to save their lives, not even with their hotshot general attached. The only American unit that rallied well was the bloody Ohio militia in their tophats and grey smocks who came back for more, time and time again and held the bridge at the end of the day.   The British regulars also kept coming back for more, not nigh as many as there were before, but coming back.

Eventually the advantage in this sort of situation of having more infantry in place of light cavalry began to tell as did the British commander remembering that he could win either by routing his foe or by just driving him back at least 3 squares from each crossing. This led to a new focus and the Americans were forced back at the angle by the ford until at last, only 2 American units by the bridge remained within the critical zone and each of those could only take one  more hit.

Turn 15. Last turn.

If the British could get 1 more hit on the 2 units near the bridge or break any of 3 or 4 other battered units they would win a somewhat Pyrrhic victory. The Dice rolled....... the battery by the bridge was finally silenced and forced to retreat but the storm of grape and musket balls left the Ohio Militia standing firm and no units were left close enough to charge. Across the river, the British infantry pressed forward everywhere  and were thrown back or held everywhere. It was over.

The Americans were only  a hit away from their break point at the start of their turn but they weren't broken and  the bridge had been held.    (and presumably reinforcements were at hand) .
Hurrah boys Hurrah!

Time well spent this week. There is absolutely nothing new  in this edition of the Square Brigadier but the last 5 years have seen constant experimenting and testing of various combinations of ideas and this is the distilled essence. Not a perfect game but "My" game which is to say it runs the way I like it with the best elements of various of my past rules sets as well as many many borrowed and adapted ideas. I like the look and feel and the game play and find the results plausible hidtorically.

This combination of rules and figure numbers and  basing is definitely the game for my  Northern Atlantican campaign once I add a few more troop types, siege rules and so on for those campaigns.

Imagining, planning and building the native armies can finally resume along with filling the last few gaps in my War of 1812 orders of battle. American artillery, British light dragoons and Quebec Militia are the highest priority for 1812, native infantry for Atlantica.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Garden Encounter 1814

The plan for today did not actually including cutting two dozen bases, re-basing 150 or so figures and playing an outside One Hour Wargame scenario using The Square Brigadier.  That's what happened though.
The New York Dragoons get cocky and are repulsed but the 104th Foot are doomed anyway.
It was such a perfect summer's day that I decided to take the day off house and garden chores. Somehow that ended up with me, an offcut of 1/4" board from a previous reduction in my wargame table and my bandsaw. In no time at all I had a stack of bases already painted green. Since the 1812 figures had only been lightly tacked on temporary bases it took no time at all to pop them off and re glue them in their original 8 man companies. I touched up the edges and decided that flocking could wait.

So there I was with the 20 odd stands needed for Crysler's farm and beautiful sunshine streaming in through the window. I didn't really feel like another refight of Crysler's so decided to grab One Hour Wargames and move the Square Brigadier outside. I intended to still use the 10x12 as close to Thomas's 3ftx3ft  table if considering each square equivalent to 3" allowimng me to field 2 stands per scenario unit but saw my 9x9 travelling mat and decided to grab it and use 1 base per unit just to see if that would work.
The setting: my shady corner between the woodpile and the Lilacs (and other assorted bushes).
Not terribly good lighting for photos at 6 in the evening.
Th scenario was an advance guard clash over a hill in the middle of the table. One unit per side on table and the rest dicing for arrival. Since it was supposed to be Canada in 1814 I added a strip of woods along one edge and assumed an off table river on the other. Rolling for the armies gave me:
Americans: 4 infantry, 1 riflemen, 1 cavalry. British: 4 infantry, 1 light infantry, 1 artillery.

The game started off with the advantage swinging back and forth but slowly started to swing towards the British and then suddenly the American line collapsed.

To my surprise the game went 12 out of 15 turns and lasted 1/2 hour excluding set up and take down. Using the larger board with 12 stands instead of 6 would probably have given a full hour of play but for a quickie it was just fine as it was.
As dusk sets in (OK I'm shading the table with my body) the American forces rout leaving the British in possession of the hill.
In summary: Bases: Check, Rules: Check, Grid: Check, Ability to handle scenarios: Check.
All systems go!

The rules as played are available here (click)

For those with an interest in history, this game is a direct descendent of this 2011 portable 1812 wargame (click) using my adaptation (click) of Bob Cordery's portable wagame.

Getting Squared Away


Well, I just accidently over wrote the blog post I stayed up last night to finish. Luckily there was nothing important because I'm not going to rewrite it! (Bloody tablet with its small blodfy screen and tiny buttons and my fat fingers and blurry eyes! )

British infantry deployed as 3 game units representing 100 to 300 men each depending on the scenario rather than as 1 multisquare battalion or 3 x 400 men battalions

The important point was that I have finally gotten back to my plan to turn the War of 1812 back into a Square Brigadier campaign capable of being played on my main table or on my  cardtable grid, including out on the patio table.

Crysler’s Farm mock up.
A draft Square Brigadier in the War of 1812 has been written and as soon as I cut some more bases and get everything glued down flocked and painted, I'll give it a go. I need a bit more editing on the rules but they should be posted by tomorrow. No innovations but more focused.