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, April 18, 2014

Work, work work

It is sort of sad, 10 years ago this would have been fun not work. I can't wait to get back to some glossy toy soldiers.

I don't technically need these guys for Huzzah but they've been on my desk wearing a base coat on flesh and clothes for  2 years now and this could be the last chance for them to appear on a table in the foreseeable future.  Part of it may be that I've done Woodland Indians in 4 scales and the first time was the most fun and I enjoyed going to town on the warpaint. Those were mostly Freikorps 15's, very nice figures. these are Old Glory 40's. The 1 part figures are quite nice but the multipart ones are pretty bad and the separate powder belts and bags are awful and would be better scratch built on.

Anyhow 6 more to go but not this weekend. Tomorrow the 1/72nd  Nine Years War resumes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zulu Noon or A Playtester's Work is Never Done.

Compulsory  opening shot of  Zulu ceremonial dance involving  bare chested Zulu girl.
After the NW Rebellion game I was content with how the irregular riflemen were working (I need a better game term, sharpshooters isn't quite right, just simple.)  but the rules for spearmen hadn't been tested at all. It so happened that my eyes fell on the Zulu shelf and I thought, why not?  Some of the changes done on Sunday were as a result of some quick partial tests that showed that 2 units of Zulus could over run 1 unit of British pretty much every time, even if the Brits were defending a lager. Only if the dice were bad did it take 2 turns. So, a movement penalty for attacking was added meaning a charge would have to start within rifle range thus allowing at least 1 shot for the defender in open ground. I also allowed tried letting the British roll against each attacking unit. That seemed to work but I was uneasy. Only a game would see if there was reason.
Overview at the end of Turn 1.
I wanted something quick and not too big but not exactly the same. Some quick shuffling resulted in a wagon laager on a hill defended by a Colonel, a field gun and 4 companies of infantry with superior firepower against a Zulu Impi composed of a  General and four ibutho each with an Induna commander and 4 units one of which had rifles for a total of 12 units and 4 leaders vs the British 5 and 1. The wagon laager was deemed to be cover vs shooting and an obstacle in melee. The Zulu mission was to eliminate the British. The British mission was to defend to the last and they were immune to army morale.

The Left Horn probes and is repulsed.
 The game opened with the Zulu horns working around the British position covered by a smatter of ineffective shooting. Once they had moved in the open into charge range, Left Horn rolled a 1  for orders while the General rolled 3 allowing 2 instead of 4 units to charge in on the Gordon Highlanders who handily repulsed them.
The Right Horn makes a more committed attack and is repulsed more bloodily.
While the left horn fell back to rally covered by its snipers, the right horn charged in on the Victoria Rifles and were repulsed after causing a few casualties. Rallying was proving ineffective so the Old Man threw the Loins into the battle as well as sending both Horns back in with what they had left. 
They've broken in!
 The artillery and rifle fire managed to drive back part of the attack but not enough. Attacked on 2 sides at once  while the left worked around to the now unguarded rear, things were tense. The heaviest assault fell on the gun crew and despite inflicting grievous harm as the enemy closed, the last gunner was forced to flee into the square pursued by Zulu warriors. On the British turn  as reinforcements rushed across to fill gaps and the men faced back to back the battle continued. It was a bad time for the British across the table to roll a single 5 or 6 on something like 12 dice. On the next Zulu turn the Guards and Rifles were wiped out. As the Zulus closed in from 4 sides on the last remaining Ghurkas and Highlanders, I was tempted to close my eyes. Good thing I didn't or I'd have missed the swing in dice which resulted in 2 hits from the mass of Zulus, 1 canceled by Col Beaver, vs about 5 from not very many British dice.
"Not as many of them as there were before". "Nor of us sir!"
(Yes I know, wrong movie but that's what it felt like.)
Pheww!  OK I hadn't pictured a situation where 3 British units in 2 squares  fought 5 Zulu units in 4 squares, there were ALOT of dice flying around! It was fun and exciting but too much. I went back to 1 die per figure period rather than 1 vs each enemy but reduced the number of dice a 2nd unit gets. I'll have to play the scenario over but I think I can handle that. The 10 turn game took about maybe an hour to play.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Duty before Pleasure

OK this was not an onerous duty but while my mind is buzzing about other projects, Huzzah is only a month away and I have troops and terrain to get ready.

Today I did 3 of the Trident figures that I picked up last year at Huzzah. 1 armed woman and 2 more Loyalist rank and file.  I was a little confused at first by the frontierswoman until I realized that instead of a hunting musket with powder horn and ball, she has a military musket and an apron full of cartridges! This picture looked better when it was only an inch big on my phone rather than blown up to twice life size. They still need to be flocked.

Next up I need to finish a dozen Indians that have been 1/2 painted for a year or more so that I can release the Prince August Skraelings which are just right to go with the Scruby 1812 figures but too short and scrawny for the AWI Tridents and Sash & Saber.

Monday, April 14, 2014

and it cuts like a knife

Yesterday's forecast sun turned to rain and I retreated upstairs to play out the game which was laid out.
"Well drummer, we'll show those savages what for eh?"
To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much, quite apart from the minimalist terrain, simple situation and the dodgy condition of many of the more senior participants, the Square Brigadier wasn't written for skirmishes on the prairie. I wonder if I was secretly hoping it would fail?

Anyway, I soldiered on. The Cree (or is that Atlantican?) leader, not being a warchief,  was confined to camp but due to his extraordinary power over his people he was granted a +1 to his command rolls. He was able to muster a grand total of 6 sharp shooter units. The clumps of bushes on the table marked the line of a series of coulees or gullies filled with brush that were used by the Indians and Metis for cover during the campaign.

To reflect the inexperience and make shift nature of the opposition, the Canadian (or Faraway) Commander had no modifier and no subordinates to help control his 9 units: 7 infantry, 1 gun, 1 hospital wagon. I wanted a unit of mounted rifles but the bits and pieces I cast up 2 years ago are still bits and pieces. Officially this was a Reconnaissance in Force but secretly there were hopes of routing the hostiles.  I had meant to give command to Colonel Beaver in his spiffy white helmet but somehow General Centerville showed up in his plumed hat and took command without me noticing.
"So far so good, the boys are looking steady. Whatever is taking the rest so long to come up?"
The game started off well enough, it was a little tricky keeping the column together and moving on 1 orders die so eventually an advance guard was sent ahead the seize the high ground over looking the hostile camp and soon a brisk firefight was under way with honours even.

To my dismay the rules were actually doing a very good job. The Indians hiding in the brush could be driven back but not seriously hurt without closing in on them. The soldiers on the hill had to periodically pull back into dead ground because the return fire was so hot.  Just like the soldiers' experience during the NW Rebellion.

Then the gun deployed and had the punch to do serious damage, unfortunately, because of the terrain, the only way to bring fire to bear was to deploy on the edge of the hill where they were exposed to rifle fire. The gunners began to suffer but the Indians also began working around the flanks. Again, both things as happened during two of the historical engagements.

Also as in history, the battle became a long drawn out exchange with no decisive results on either side. Politics and the perceived need to avoid casualties was the deciding tactical factor on both sides.

"For Gosh Sake, BRING UP THE GUNS! We're being slaughtered up here."
By this time it was turn 24! With only a handful of units and 1 leader a side, the turns were flying by, sometimes  in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes but while there were some tense moments it was an interesting rather than an exciting game. 

There were also some small issues that I had noticed in the previous 2 games so I decided that 3 games was enough to allow a little tweaking. One was to modify the 'to hit' scores slightly, the other was to rule that troops cannot rally within 3 areas of visible enemy rather  than just not being adjacent. These means  that a commander has to pull units out of the line to rally them and by inference means he needs a reserve to plug the gaps. While the rules were opened I added a prone rule that I had been playing with, after all my Britain's collections does include prone figures! I also added a hospital rule since they were originally added to my other rules for my Britain's collection and I had been using it during this game. As always there were a few other clarifications and lapses dealt with. Then I got stuck back in.
"That's better they're retreating....or maybe going around our flank??? Look out back there!"
The tweaked rules did help to make things more decisive and slightly less dice dependent but it was also the situation coming to a head that made the last 10 turns the most exciting. The crucial bit didn't get sketched of course but you can  see the final result below. 

Luckily Buckmaker stopped the pursuit for political reasons but the morning papers back east are going to be grim. Its going to be hard to disguise this one as a victory once the casualty list comes out, 20 men dead, seriously wounded or missing out of a force of less than 300. At least they didn't lose the gun or the wagons, but they came damn close. Admittedly there were some casualties amongst the Indians but despite claims to the contrary the rebellion in this corner has not been dealt a fatal blow. (3 stands of Canadian troops eliminated vs 1 Cree, 50 men per stand today and roughly 25% of lost stands are killed, wounded or missing so just very slightly higher than the casualties in the historical action this game wasn't based on,...)
"Close up men! Load the wounded in the wagon. Save the guns! Drummer! Beat retreat!"
OK, I guess it was just as well I didn't bin the lot when I decided to restrict myself to 40mm. This was about the mimimum size of game but its pretty well all of my Indians. The original idea when they landed in my lap was to add an equal number of Metis to make a decent larger game. I also need some mounted troops, mounted rifles essentially.  Now the Royal Grenadiers didn't actually wear their bearskins in the field when they went west and none of the Highland units were sent so the gunners and Queen's Own Rifles are the only units that look right and even there, there is evidence that slouch hats were worn by many including regulars. Not a problem, print the legend and use what I got. I still have a small supply of pill box heads and molds for grenadiers and highlanders as well as for a mounted officer as well as a few Soldierpac castings and lots of broken figures for conversions. I could of course call on Dorset or London Bridge but I'm going to try to do this at 0 new dollars and I'm only looking at 12 x 4 infantry, 1 gun, 3 x 4 cavalry and maybe a gatling at some point. As much as I like the limber, it'll have to stay on the shelf, even after I get it fixed up. 

That still leaves a pile of 54mm metal on shelves and cupboards. This is going to take a firm hand to keep them in check! The main idea though, as I go through and assess, is to minimize  new casting, purchases and painting until all of the current projects are up to scratch  so if I have a 100 54's almost ready vs 4 40mm's for a new campaign, I'll go with the 54's. That should allow me to concentrate more on the somewhat stagnant Atlantican campaign which has been trying to decide whether or not to go 1880's. 

The updated rules are here. Hopefully they will be tested some more tomorrow with the 20mm lads, or the 54mm Zulus, or both.

 (btw the title of the post has nothing to do with Bryan Adam's song although it did feel so right)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Toy Brigadier

At least once a year I come up with yet another scheme to avoid ditching my old Britain's  without investing a lot of time and space. The Portable Wargame in particular seemed to offer possibilities when I refought Hook's Farm as a portable wargame with vintage figures. Now that I have Officially abandoned any pretense of going down to 1 scale of figure and terrain and 1 main project in favour of a series of small, simple, games in a box (or on a shelf) and since I had identified a shortage of projects in my list, it occurred to me that I might want to revisit the late Colonial 40mm Square Brigadier Atlantica campaign I was contemplating which stands at about 12 figures, and check out my selection of a couple of hundred painted, unpainted, refurbished and unfurbished  54mm Britain's and compatible figures for the same period. That  should give me more time to sculpt and paint 1812 and 1840's figures and maybe do something like bringing them up to sufficient strength to not have to borrow troops for every game
The Queen's soldiers approach a hill over looking the hostile camp.
Ideally most of these particular figures should have been stripped and repainted before being seen in public but with due respect to my elders (many of these are around 90 years of age) I decided to play a test now and paint later if it works.

Any resemblance between the approaching game and any historical event, living or dead, would be even more  fictional than newspaper accounts of Colonel Otter's battle at Cut Knife Hill in 1885.

 Chief Buckmaker decides that there is no time for his warriors to freshen their paint and  repair broken arms and so orders them to go forth and meet the enemy as they are.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dress Rehearsal

Huzzah is fast approaching and as of Friday morning my game consisted of a general idea and bits of existing troops and terrain. Rob Dean is going to be cohost and it is years since we last ran a MacDuff game . Taking the opportunity offered by Rob having a day off work we arranged a remote test game. 

An overview of the game about 1/2 way through.
The tablet is clamped in a vise and perched on some books beside the fort.

This was the first remote game where all I had was a 7" tablet and it took a while to figure out how to get something workable but Rob soldiered on  despite limited fuzzy views and abysmal luck with die rolls and event cards.  You can read his experience here and see what he could see here.

The Eastern settlers took most of the game to struggle a foot onto the board but they managed to eventually see off both Loyalists and Indians, largely due to hogging the good rolls, and were well on their way by the end.
I won't go into details even though the real thing will be slightly different on the larger table but I will try to take pictures this year. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the game, am looking forward to painting up a few more figures and rebasing some of the 4 man stands as individuals and feel much less enthusiastic about selling off the project (always happens when I play something.). Unless of course I get a good offer.........

The harrowing ordeal is almost over for the families.
Here the garrison has sortied out to see the Western settlers to safety.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looking Ahead

I decided it was time for a quick glimpse of what I think is ahead. This was going to include a bit about how I got to here and about the shock of realizing that the gap between a comfortable  "50 something" and a slightly less comfortable "70 something" has suddenly shrunken to a mere 11 years and a few months,  but 2 paragraphs in I just found it boring. The one useful reflection was that all of my current plans involve things I was already working on 11 years ago, even if some have changed shape a little on the way, so I see no reason to doubt gaming plans for the next decade.

Briefly here's what to expect from time to time over the next years:

(All pictures from blog archives  of games fought over the last 9 months)

1. The Five Kingdoms. Old School 25mm medieval/fantasy small battles. (Actually appearing on Gathering of Hosts). 3-4  games a year with occasional new or refurbished units.

2. Prince Michel. 40mm Elastolin Dark Ages skirmish inspired by Prince Valiant. 2-3 games a year, occasional new figure.

3. Rough Wooing. 40mm 16thC including a large group of original homecast as well as Elastolin and others.  The long awaited Turks are making noises again and should start appearing in numbers this year. 2-3 games a year with a con outing sometime in the next couple of years.

4. NQSYW  40mm home cast Prince August and Charge! New molds and thus new units on the way. 2-3 games a year + probably a convention outing next year.

5. War of 1812. 40mm Scruby + Original homecast. Hearts of Tin. Focused on actual battles and engagements but including the option to do a facsimile of 1837 Rebellion games and fictional scenarios. 1 - 3 games a year. New figures to be sculpted and units added. Existing  chunky figures to be sold.

6. Atlantica. 40mm Scruby and original home cast.Set in the (2nd or) 3rd quarter of the 19th C. A decision on the future form is pending. The top 3 options include:  single figure Colonial skirmish type games using MacDuff, Square Brigadier battles on a grid, or a Morschauser like battle game with 1 stand units. The 1st 2 options might actually be compatible in terms of figure use. 6 -8 games a year New figures to be sculpted and unit's added as well as terrain once  game style or styles decided on.

7. ACW . 1/72, mostly Airfix,  ACW battles using Hearts of Tin.
2-3 games year. A few cavalry and artillery to refurbish.

8. Nine Years War. 1/72  fictional late 19thC portable gridded game using Square Brigadier. As odd as it seems this started life in 1997 as a Volley & Bayonet game using recast Britain's 54's. Well, the period and unit sizes are the same and my first Airfix were toy soldiers in the original sense so not so far off. 10 - 15 games a year. A few units to add and terrain.

9. The Littal War. Post WWII 20mm fictional using 20thC Sq Brigadier. 1-3 games a year. Something so as to have at least 1 game with tanks.

That's only a game roughly every 2 weeks and thus leaving room for more of something or more painting. It also leaves 3 spots to bring it to 12 from new or existing projects not yet on the list.  What will they be? 30mm Quebec 1759? 25mm Montrose? 54mm Zulus?  Hmmm lots to choose from. Everything else from 54mm knights to 15mm ACW must go apart perhaps from some small shelf displays.

This includes my 40mm AWI, for sale once Huzzah is over. Email me or comment if you've seen something that might be of interest, gotta make room on the shelves, in the cupboard and on the table.