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, October 28, 2014

Bringing Back The Brigadier

I've been too busy with renovations and other domestic affairs for any painting or casting  but there was still time to ponder and posit.  Despite the success of last week's game,  I decided that I still wasn't happy on the question of command control and organization, neither from a game nor a historical perspective. The organizations did not match any historical ones and the game lacked the extra player-challenge I look for in a solo game.

To keep this short and avoid chewing my cabbage twice (as they say) suffice it to say that I decided  to confirm the system whereby a Colonel plus 4 companies, each of 4 figures, forms a battalion as proposed in August in the Charge! Option post.  I had resisted for fear of forcing myself to build and play a double sized, Division level Western Front game with a table crammed with soldiers  from edge to edge. It sounds like a tedious bloodbath but I'll cross that bridge if I ever come to it. Might work as a club or convention game someday but in the meantime, this level should work better for those Sideshow Campaigns and quite well for the more open warfare of the early months.
Early in the test game, 3 Oberhilse battalions, 1 extended as it advances on the town using fire and movement, the closer one advancing in company columns and and on the hill in the background a massed battalion moving up to support the guns and threaten the enemy's reinforcement. A 4th battalion has barely marched on in a long road column and is just off screen.

Coincidentally, this will  give me 2 to 6 sub commanders with as many or more independent batteries, squadrons and so on or a very manageable number of "direct reports" for the Square Brigadier with some minor jigging. Having merged the old SB and new proposed rules a replay of the scenario is in progress, a turn here, 2 turns there, and going even better with more tension and decision making to increase engagement. It also has a better German attack plan using more fire support but that's another matter.

Slightly later in the game. The town is now disputed but the Queen's soldiers are flooding on to the table.

The current draft is available above as the Tin Brigadier. They still need various odd ball rules drafted in for boats, ambushes and so on as well as pages of explanations and examples.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Tin Army: Trial by Dice

Quiet reigns over the wargames table now but last night it was a different story.

Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-clic. Clic? Merde!
My Irregular Miniatures Mitrailleuse finally gets painted and committed to battle, briefly.
Earlier this week the armies of the fictional states of Atlantica put the newest rules draft through its paces. 
My long term intent is to have the possibility of historical  Great War games as a bonus option, but to focus on my fictional setting of Atlantica in the early 20th Century with a mix of drab and colourful uniforms. So, that is where I set the game. Having tried some small games recently I decide to try the largest game I could  without drafting in too many musket armed soldiers. 

I intended to go in to some details on rules, organization and future plans but this post has stalled long enough so I'll cover all that over the next week and just briefly present the battle. 

The initial force was a Rebel Brigade with 4 companies of infantry and an MG (An Irregular mitrailleuse actually which I bought, hmm 10 years ago maybe? and painted up for the occasion). Two companies garrisoned the small town on the road up which reinforcements were expected while the rest held the main town and vital cross road.  Coming to their defence, once the dice allowed it, were, a Brigade of cavalry with horse artillery attached, a Brigade in Khaki with 4 companies, an MG and a light gun, and a Brigade in Red with 6 companies and a battery.

Oberhilse marched on with a mixed Brigade with 2 cavalry and 2 infantry and 2 Brigades each with 8 infantry, an MG and a battery. There was supposed to be a heavy artillery battery but it never showed. (ie didn't get finished in time). 
The Khaki Brigade blocks the advance of the Blues with their bodies while the Red Brigade rushes to the rescue.
The initial Oberhilse plan was to storm the main objective with the Grey Brigade while the cavalry  rode around it on the right and cut the road and the Blue Brigade struck up the middle threatening the secondary objective without attacking it but cutting the road and flanking the main objective. The main attack went in perhaps too hastily with no fire support and got a bloody nose. Taking out the new mitrailleuse was almost the only success to show for losing over 1/3rd of the brigade.

As the artillery came up and the Blue Brigade moved in on the flank, the Rebels rolled low enough to bring on the Faraway Cavalry. They galloped up, deployed the gun and 2 dismounted squadrons to hold the attack up the middle while 2 more squadrons galloped on to hold back the Oberhilse cavalry. The Oberhilse infantry had lagged so it was 2 vs 2 with no really good reason for Faraway to risk a fight when the enemy posed no immediate threat. But Faraway's cavalry generally doesn't need a good reason and the dice backed them up.  The dice continued to favour and Khaki clad infantry columns were now racing onto the table and up the road to replace the dismounted squadrons who shifted over. The flank was cleared! 
The crisis of the battle. Despite heavy casualties the Hougal Rebel Zouaves are still holding out but Oberhilse is reorganizing for a second, better supported, assault. Faraway's cavalry brigade has driven back the Oberhilse advance guard but has not yet routed them and has suffered heavily in making their counter attack. The Khaki Brigade has arrived and stopped a Blue attempt to cut the allies in half but has been nearly wiped out in the process. Will the Red Brigade be enough to hold Oberhilse's final assault? 
Having reorganized and brought up artillery and machine guns, Oberhilse attacked again. Once again the rebels held but this time the defenders also took heavy casualties as did the Faraway infantry holding the road. Only the arrival of the Red Brigade stabilized the situation. 

A hard slog now began with heavy losses on both side. Eventually Oberhilse managed to shift 1/2 the Blue Brigade over and pushed half way through the town but that was it. Their reserves were shot and there were not enough men for another push. Their only hope was to break the enemy's will in a battle of attrition. Faraway also lacked the manpower to take back the town  but lost more trying anyway. 

At this point the slight advantage in artillery began to be felt. The Faraway General also noted that his cavalry was in much better shape and he pushed forward a dismounted attack on their opposite number, backed by a mounted reserve. The victory wasn't cheap but it was the Oberhilse cavalry brigade which gave way opening up the flank. Shattered companies were brought into line but they crumbled and the Oberhilse commander was forced to retreat under the cover of his guns.
Yes, yes it was. Barely.
Oberhilse overran half the town but at a terrible cost and the  fire of 3 Faraway batteries decimated the reserves and supports forcing the attack to be called off.

Bottom line, a good game! A real squeeker with turns of fortune. Just the sort of thing I have aiming for in look and feel. 

I took the opportunity to test various rule options as I played but ended up coming back, with added confidence,  to something close to what my initial choices had been. The current draft is available as a page above under Tin Army but be warned, it is a rough outline of a work in progress, with no explanations and lots missing. Experimentation is over though and this is the frame work that the full rules will be built upon. More on that another day. Now, I need to get going on cobbling together limbers and guns, terrain to make  and , well, lots to do!