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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Vive La Difference!

Finally, a few hours to catch my breath. I put some 25mm Medievals into a pan of water to soak prior to rebasing to 60mm standard bases and turned my attention to why the 6" squares were causing me grief over both rules and organization.

Part of it was fairly obvious, it changed the illusion. I just wasn't sure how, why or what to do about it. The thought came to me that the inner debate felt similar to an earlier one from the turn of the century about Volley & Bayonet (or Morschauser) 1 base is a unit vs a unit being a group of single figures vs a unit being a group of smaller stands or elements each with a few figures so I dug out some old photos to remind me of past gaming systems and what I liked about each and that helped. I also pulled out my 3" grid portable tabletop and tried a few things.

The answer I came up with is not definitive or well defined but it goes something like this:

a) When using 1 large base as a unit or a small grid with a few figures, the result is so abstract that the mind accepts it as a marker that represents the unit, much like a 2d game counter.

b) When using a larger number of figures the wargame unit begins to resemble the real thing even though much reduced. This leads the gamer to want to play with the figures to form lines or columns etc and to want more tactical details. The visible difference in distance of adjacent units which can anywhere from almost touching to being 10 or 11 inches apart  with no difference in how the rules treat them begins to bother a person like myself who has decades of expectations tucked into his head.

c) When using a grid with more squares or non-gridded rules with short unit frontages, the game invokes a larger scene and encourages one to think in sweeping panoramas as while a game with a few larger squares or larger units, is like zooming in and leads to an expectation of being able to see more detail of what is happening and why.

After some hard thinking and a bit of experimentation, I have decided that the easiest way to get what I want out of the late 19thC battle wargames is to either carry on with the original plan of subdividing my 6" squares into 4 quadrants which  may either be used simply as a 3" grid or as a way of subdividing squares to allow things like close or long range combat between adjacent areas, or to  ignore the grid and stick the 40mm figures onto large square bases with each being a unit. The subdivision has long been intended, is very little work and can be ignored later with no work at all. Rebasing is lots of work and if it fails is even more work to undo. Subdivided or smaller squares it is.

Next came the question of 1 set of rules or many. A very little experimentation and a review of December's Gettysburg exploration easily led to the conclusion that small squares with 2 stand 1/72nd or 4 figure 40mm units would easily allow the ACW game to proceed at around 200 yards per square with regiments as units for fighting division and corps sized battles while the same grid could be used at 100 yards per inch and 4 single figure companies as units for a lower level action with the large figures. How to fit boats on the grid or the train on the grid is a question for another day but if worst comes to worst and my imagination fails, the grid can be ignored or covered and a set of skirmish rules used with the same 40mm single figures.

So a summary of the main projects:
Prince Valiant: Modified Medieval Mayhem 40mm single figure Dark Age Comic Book skirmish
Gathering of Hosts: Modified Morschauser 25mm medieval figures with each 60mm base being a unit, grid optional.
Rough Wooing: Modified Morschauser 40mm 16thC figures each 60mm base is  a unit.
NQSYW: Charge! rules, 18thC no grid, 40 - 60 individual figure units.
AWI. MacDuff 40mm 8-12 single figure units
1812: Hearts of Tin. 40mm figures on bases 3-5 elements as a battalion.
ACW:  A modified Square Brigadier with 2 stands of 1/72 figures as a regiment on a grid (Now available as the Square Major General.)
Atlantica& WWI: The Square Brigadier  with 4x40 mm figures as a unit on a grid.
It'll be interesting to check back in 3 years and see if this holds up!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Coming Soon-ish

Nothing gets the hobby juices going like a good convention outing. I had a look at the summary of my  plans and collections of figures from April of last year and decided that it was close enough to be updated and used as the basis of an ongoing summary page so that is now available to the right or here: Roll Call

So much for the long term. What's up for the next few months?  In no particular order.

1. Gathering of Hosts Blog: Having settled on organization and basing and with rules well in hand I want to get 3 armies refurbished and ready to rumble, bases and all including some more new figures.

2. Atlantica/WW1  I  took a game that was working for me and by changing the look somehow also seem to have harmed the substance. I need to figure this out, (blog posts and test games) then choose which way to go for each of the late 19thC, WW1 & Colonial stuff. In the meantime I intend to keep painting figures.

3. Sculpting and casting. I NEED to get back on that horse, get some better putty and make some masters and some molds. A 19th C Faraway (Canadian style) infantry figure is 1st priority.

4. ACW. I need a decision on grid/no grid and regiment size then I want to fix up some command stands, fix the artillery a bit, mend some fences and build more, then, by July, play another game.

5. AWI. I want to bring these back to Huzzah next year so I have to decide what I am doing. I am tempted to reprise in 40mm my 2001 game based on Montgomery's assault on Quebec but I need to consider if the game will be interesting enough for the work put in and Quebec is long behind me. A Trois Rivieres "what if it hadn't gone so wrong" scenario has potential as I already have many of the troops I would need but again it is Quebec. The idea of setting a game in Nova Scotia or Maine attracts me. One option would be to take the example of the rebel siege of Fort Cumberland and expand it to do the siege and reiief of the fictional Fort MacDuff.  Nova Scotia rebels, Acadians, Malaseet and New Englanders vs  Loyalists and British and maybe some Brunswickers as long as we're tweaking history. Needs thought then action in terms of scenario, making terrain and making figures. I've already starting enhancing MacDuff. Adding more chrome where it helps, removing the stuff that slows without adding. Getting out has been good for me and for MacDuff.

6. Rough Wooing. I have a handful of 16thC figures I want to paint, maybe for a game in the fall or just to get them off the lead and plastic mountain.

That should keep me busy for a few months especially when the unplanned is added.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Home from Huzzah

Well, Huzzah,the Maine Historical Wargamers Association annual convention, has come and gone again and I am now back home after a stop to visit family. I was too busy to have done a proper survey but there was a wide variety of styles of games from the latest fads in historical miniature wargaming to old classics to innovative new games, historical, scifi, fantasy, board games and more. Here's a quick summary of my weekend.

One of the highlights for me this year was the appearance of a contingent of HAWKS from Maryland. (see Chris's report. - no idea how he did that camera trick where the hair on top of my head disappears.) The HAWKS are an active and creative group who put a lot into the hobby. I have known and gamed with them at conventions and by email since late last century and around 15 years ago they handed me a shirt and  kindly adopted me as sort of a foreign mascot.  For the last 4 years I have been unable to attend any of the big HMGS cons so this was a  welcome chance to reconnect with friends.

 Rob's 6mm fantasy armies on a printed game mat. Much more attractive than the handpainted one of the Chateaugay battlefield that I did in 1998 for my first appearance as a gamemaster at a US con. This one seems very durable but then my old one was refreshed and saw service at Huzzah last year so I guess it is durable too.

Friday afternoon was set aside for Rob Dean and myself to test out the basic rules for fantasy mass combat that we are adapting from Morscshauser's shock period rules. Rob's goal is a game using classic fantasy miniatures from the 1970's but for the test he brought along his much more portable case of 6mm HOTT fantasy figures and terrain and we lucked into an open table. We added a movement rule for flyers and assigned standard movement, armour and combat ratings for various non human units as seemed appropriate. We had no magic rules yet but Morschauser urged some form of objective beyond killing the enemy so we set a magician on the hill conjuring a spell to reduce the bad guys (elves and such) castle to rubble unless they (Rob and son Norman) could reduce the good guys (orcs and wolves and such) to below 50% before they suffered the same. Despite the small stature of the figures the action ranged across the whole table in a satisfying manner with my horse archers ending up behind the enemy's center. More on this soon on my Gathering of Hosts blog but the explosion that rocked the castle was very satisfying.

Friday night was our 1st Not Quite The Seven Years War (NQSYW) game of the weekend. CS Grant's Sawmill Village using Charge! and Prince August home cast 40mm home cast semiflat figures.
Friday night was the first of two Not Quite The Seven Years War (NQSYW) games that Rob and I hosted. We were a bit short on players but one of the good things about a group like the HAWKs is that there is almost always someone to step in to make up numbers sufficiently for the game to go on for those who have signed up.

HAWK Bill Acheson's Empire of the Petal Throne by Gaslight.  

Saturday morning it was my turn to help out as a NonPlayer Character running a native tribe hostile to strangers  in Bill Acheson's Empire of the Petal Throne game. I don't do a lot of this sort of gaming but it is fun to unwind and indulge every now and then, esp when it provides a chance to enjoy Bill's marvellous creativity and ingenuity when putting a game together.

Not Quite Fontenoy. Rob explaining Charge! to a full slate of players.

Saturday afternoon Rob & I ran another NQSYW game with the 40mm semiflats, Scenario 1 from Scenarios for Wargames or the rather-reminiscent-of-Fontenoy scenario. I won't clutter this post with dimly lit, fuzzy, cell phone snaps but I do have 1 or 2 more that will appear in a longer account of the battle on the NQSYW blog ere long. Suffice it to say that the game was a squeaker with a long lasting series of cavalry charges and counter charges and much shooting and storming of houses. As the light faded though, with both armies well battered, the Northern Alliance was still clinging to 2 of the objectives. 

The combined Rosmark Grenadier battalion ended the day bloodied but still in undisputed possession of the right hand town.  
Saturday night I had been scheduled to play in a new Firefly board game but was too tired and hungry and backed out in favour of dinner. Afterwards I filled in an empty chair in Eric Schlegel's 10mm ACW using the ACW version of Look Sarge No Charts.  I've seen various No Charts games being run over the years but never played so I was able to satisfy my curiosity as well as being useful and having some fun. I didn't take a picture so hopefully Chris will forgive me from borrowing one from his blog.

The 10mm figures are nice  but I needed my reading glasses and a close look to see the detail and read the unit stats printed on the bases.  (Picture by Chris Palmer)
Sunday was a relaxed day. I wasn't booked for anything so I wandered around the tables, dealers and flea market but concentrated on watching a Light Bobs game to see how it worked and hovering over Gary, my travelling companion, who was in his element playing in a 28mm Black Powder Waterloo, and offering  helpful comments like "Haven't you broken into Hugomont yet?"

At last it was all over and time to pack up and hit the road, already considering next year's game. Leading contender is a 40mm reprise of Montgomery's New Year's Eve assault on Quebec which I ran in 54mm at Cold Wars in 2001, but its early days yet.

Oh yes, the inevitable loot. Didn't do quite as well this year at not adding to the clutter at home. Rob & I traded some surplus figures and I think I came ahead on that one but this year I brought back more books than I managed to trade in: McDonald's Boer War in Postcards, Farwell's Great War in Africa, and Blanch's The Sabres of Paradise (19thC Russian in the Caucasus - I'm expecting to meet Flashman "Lick up the Honey"....) , a used copy of Season 4 Game of Thrones and a couple of fantasy figures from Foot Sore Miniatures (Its not my fault, they make marvelous miniatures),

Thank you to the organizers for all the hard work that goes into hosting an excellent convention like this and thank you to all the great gamers who played the games Rob & I put on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Spider and the Genius

This is the 5th or  6th time that I have worked on a set of "universal" horse and musket era wargame rules, all sub-periods and all sizes of game from skirmish to small battle. The topic of a universal rules structure or series of rules using the same mechanisms and scale rather than having a unique approach for each game has come up several times on this blog and can be traced back as far as my 1989 article in Wargames Illustrated 23. This current attempt is running into the same roadblock of it being more work than its worth.

According to the most common version of the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider, I should succeed on my 7th try but, on the other hand, there is Einstein's well known quip that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.

An enjoyable Hearts of Tin AWI game from 2012
While taking a break from the frustrating task of trying to distil a complex set of situations into a simple yet clear and reasonably complete set or series of wargame rules, I have been considering my current and projected collections of toy soldiers and slowing coming back to the opinion that there might be a distinct advantage to having each collection of soldiers organized to provide as different a gaming experience as possible.

And an archive shot of an enjoyable  non-Hearts of Tin AWI game from 2014
It all needs more thought but I am in final stages of preparing for a road trip to Huzzah and all is postponed until my return next week at which point I intend to post my projections  or plans for the rest of this year and beyond, amongst other things......