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, April 23, 2014

Trial by Paint

Painting up the Hanoverian yesterday didn't help as much as I'd hoped though I did get a vibe that it wasn't right for Rosmark or the Maritime Provinces which are currently in rebellion. I was also a bit concerned that if I put all of the new units in the rebel army, I might be tempted to take it and not the Rosmark army south next year which would entail further political disruption outside my borders and leave old favorite units behind. The idea of an alliance is harder to see than previously, things have changed in Rosmark. A contingent for each side might be more likely.

I decided to paint up a British and a Hessian figure to continue to explore the possibilities. First, however, I reviewed the existing forces and was reminded that with 7 different coat colours amongst the 20 companies of infantry (inc grenadiers and lights), the most distinctive feature was that 1/2 of them have red small clothes and last year I tweaked the politics so that all the cavalry, infantry and artillery with red small clothes fought for the King.  (Since 3 rebel units happened to have started life as brown coated militia before they started to fight for Independence while the forces of the King, fighting to maintain Unification have red waistcoats giving them red bellies, I found myself humming "Burn the land, boil the sea, you can't take the skies from me" and muttering "Its not my fault" - those who don't understand that, just you never mind about it.)

The British troops in the late 1750's  were looking considerably tighter and trimmer than they did in the 1740's and while sometimes buttoning over their lapels with belt over the coat, especially in inclement weather, they often wore the coats open with the sword belt underneath. this made the Prussian infantryman a fair starting point. It was dead easy to trim the mustaches and pigtail and notch the cuffs on the English fellow to be, the Hessian didn't need any work. I didn't worry about details of equipment on either.

I did intend to give black gaiters to both  but by the time I got to gaiters the white undercoat on the gaiters looked good and I remembered that only light infantry wear black gaiters in the Rossish army. At this point the English soldier looked so appealing to me  that keeping in mind  that I don't have room for too many 40 figure regiments, I took a brush to yesterday's Hanoverian and transferred him. I couldn't bring myself to take a file to his painted face so I took a line from Britain's and declared what isn't painted doesn't exist and just painted over his mustache. Doesn't show up in poor light from a distance but I'll always be able to identify the first recruit.

This leaves the Hessians to represent the new National Guard of the Maritime Provinces.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hot Off The Press

The plan for today was to start organizing a full sized Oberhilse and Faraway MacDuff game but then the mail came, with a little box from Ireland.
One of the new PA Prussian figures painted up in a vaguely Hanoverian Toy Soldierish style.

The last time I started fussing about with figures for the NQSYW I found myself thinking again that just accepting the figures as early 18th C would make life easier. However, Lawford & Young's Charge! rules are explicitly stated to be aimed at the late 18thC despite the use of do many mid 18th Century figures ( which explains the attention paid to column attacks and skirmishers) .  This dove tails nicely with my preference for black gaiters, white or buff small clothes and tighter coats. It just doesn't mesh well with Prince August's previous offerings. Anyway I had decided to just finish off the last incomplete "regiment", and another squadron or 2 of cavalry and then let my semiflat armies rest on their laurels, coming out to fight a battle now and then. 

Then they announced their new multi head Seven Years War range and I thought I should support this, maybe I could paint up some Hessians.

L to R one of my pre Rosmark French figures, the new figure, one of the PA Rosbach range Prussians looking just a bit big & clunky.

I'll write more another time but lets just say the new molds are well done in a technical sense. It was easy to cast clean, complete figures straight away and the heads fit easily. The sample also painted up easily. I rather like this pose better than the old one. If you don't look at the feet, he might almost be recovering arms in preparation for firing a volley.

I need to do some background inventing before I go much farther, these guys look too prim for rebel regiments, the forth coming Russians should be better for that,  but I have some thoughts. Hessian types and mustacheless 1760 ish Brits in their " I wanna look more like a Prussian" phase are also possible role models as I work on the cover story for a Tabletop Enemy for Rosmark and a new player in the NQSYW, replacing the tired, travel scarred veterans of past fights.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Honing the Brigadier

General Eaton takes command.
(Airfix ACW meets Guardsman, Hat Russian meets Esci 24th Foot and Italeri ACW meet a paint conversion.)
When I decided to set about a definitive version of the Square Brigadier I was torn between 2 methods of determining how many dice to roll, both methods I had used in the past. One was to base the number of dice on the number of figures, the other was to have a fixed number which remained until the unit is eliminated. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. The number of dice of course affects not just the average effect but also the extreme ones. When combined with modifiers to the score and to the number of dice, the delicate balance can easily become either boring or too drastic.

The first two games gave me some qualms about my initial choice without clinching it. The Zulu game did. Initially I was tempted to dismiss it as out of scale and isolated but although it looked like a skirmish, if taken at face value it was on a similar scale to the battle of Gingindlovu so  I decided to pay attention. A quick fix made the situation worse and I began to worry and contemplate a drastic change but after more pondering I decided a small tweak was enough. The shooting dice are now fixed and the number of melee dice reduced to increase the odds that units will survive their first melee long enough to need to determine a winner.

As long as I had the rules open, there was another issue on my mind since answering some questions by Arthur 1815  and looking at a very promising draft he sent me of a version with divisions as units which has some interesting features added.  The Square Brigadier tries hard to gloss over what is happening at a lower level to allow the player to concentrate on managing the battle as a whole but long years of fiddling with unit formations, limbering and unlimbering guns and so forth has left its mark and these sorts of things were starting to creep back in. That's the business of unit commanders and non-player subordinates, not the over all commander and so an inspection was held to identify and banish as many such culprits as I could.

With that done I painted up some new Allied Commanders (haven't done many 1/72 head swaps in the last 30 years. Once I got started on these it was hard to stop myself from veering from toy soldier to model soldier mode but I held firm)  and a unit of Imperial Mounted Huntsmen, and set up a game.

The first attack is repulsed.
This game follows on from the last one with the 1st 2 rows being repeated from the last 2 on the other game.  The Hungoverians have fallen back and taken up defensive positions along a ridgeline by a vital crossroad. I meant to send away the mounted rifles and dig entrenchments but the new Allied commander arrived and launched his attack before entrenchments to fit the square grid could be constructed. I still meant to give the attackers an advantage in numbers but 1/2 way through realized that it was only 14 units to 12, a pretty narrow advantage. The game was frequently interrupted and did not involve much dramatic movement. Since the story is easily told and the score of pictures taken mediocre at best, I'll be quick.

The defenders set up their main position on the reverse slope of the hill with the artillery forward. Mounted rifles held either flank with volunteers and the Guard holding the vital crossroad. The attacker a planned a preliminary bombardment then an assault up the center by infantry with Guards in reserve and mounted troops protecting the flanks. It didn't take long to drive in the defending artillery but then there were no more targets. The infantry assault arrived unscathed but was shot apart when the assaulted over the crest and a cavalry sweep around the flank  fared no better. 

The defender looked pretty smug until they realized that they had no way to safely intervene and stop the attacker from rallying  in the dead ground. As the guns and Guards moved up, the 2nd assault went in and did better despite heavy casualties. The Guards pushed past and took the first part of the town. Continued fighting saw the destruction of several defending units and their General who had been holding his boys to their work. It was the perfect time for a counter attack but without an order die on the next turn it couldn't happen and then it was too late. 

A quick count showed that Blue had now failed its army morale after losing 3 units and a general but that gave no heed to the actual goal of holding the crossroad and I didn't feel like quitting so I tweaked the victory conditions and pressed on.  A counter attack on the Guards was repulsed but a second one drove them out and brought the Allied army to the brink of defeat. A final assault by the Imperial cavalry in the center as another infantry attack captured the contested building for good. As counter battery fire silenced the defending artillery on their right, the defending army morale broke. 

The Allied intervention will continue. The rules page has been updated to reflect the game as played. Now to go 3 games without changes.

Final Victory. After much slaughter the Initial Decision is confirmed, with great slaughter.

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)