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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

First Blood

There is nothing like having the troops hit the tabletop to help sort things out.

I've been a little under the weather  health-wise over the last week as well as having lots of yardwork to do so I didn't manage to finish painting the last batch of new figures until yesterday morning and didn't manage to play a game. However, I did manage to  look at some (a LOT actually) of my old blog posts, mostly battle reports  and rules ideas (a LOT of posts), as well as revisiting some old books while pondering just what sort of games I want to play.

The Nordmark Naval Regiment marches onto its first battlefield. 

The answer was some fast flowing Old School games with a handful of battalions and squadrons. Something Tabletop Teaser-ish with more "General" than 'Sergeant Major" and with most of the friction coming from the enemy, the combat dice and the player's mistakes.  That confirmed my earlier decision to break out Hearts of Tin (HofT).

I was momentarily perplexed by how Charge! companies of 19 infantry, 15 light infantry or 9 cavalry would fit HofT but eventually remembered that my French units were originally based 6 infantry or 3 cavalry or light infantry to a 60mm square base for the initial version of HofT. It was about 10 years ago now that I ripped them off their multi-figure stands and put them on washers or flexsteel bases to go onto magnetic stands. Patient lads! Anyway, that leaves me with an unused drummer for each infantry unit but I have an idea......

Having realized  that I'm in the mood for some traditional Old School type games I decided to do a straight encounter between opposing forces each having a Cavalry squadron, a light infantry battalion, 3 infantry battalions and a gun.
Turn 4. The Maritime Federation gets there first with the most thanks in part to a chance card which stalled the Rosmark road column for a turn. 
 Each side was able to bring on one unit per turn with a goal of controlling the town at nightfall. The game ended after 15 turns or if one side was forced to retreat by losing over 1/2 of its stands.

The Maritime Federation got the jump and aided by chance cards, occupied the town and then just had to repulse a series of attacks until just before dark when  Rosmark's casualties forced the Rosish general to order a retreat.

My new regiment, christened the Nordmark Naval Regiment, was steady in its first fight and repulsed several attacks, taking a casualty in the course of extended bombardment, musketry and fierce hand to hand fighting. Yes, "a" single casualty, lucky with dice apparently.

There were several fierce cavalry charges, much shooting and several assaults but the Rosmark forces never came close to evicting the Federation from the town and suffered three times the casualties. On turn 13 of 15, with Rosish forces on the brink of morale failure, I called it.

Not only was it an auspicious start for the Maritime Regiment, it was also just the sort of game I had in mind, the kind that makes me look forward to playing more including the occasional big one. I'm starting to think again about cutting my table down to 4x5 again and getting a second board of the same size so I can set up a 5x8 for special occasions.
Mid-game as the Queen's Foreigners prepare to assault. I was having real lighting issues and gave up trying to get use-able pictures of the rest.
Before you ask, No, I don't have a written version of the rules, I went by memory and improvised when needed.
However, if I'd had a postcard:

Improvised Rules
I used a card deck for initiative (Red Federation/Black Rosmark) with the usual chance cards included. Units not within 12" of the General had to test when activated.
Movement was 12" if column or light infantry, 6" in line, 18" for cavalry. 1/2 move to change formation etc. Light infantry may move and shoot.
All units except artillery were 3 stands strong and able to take hits equal to the figures (3 or 6). Firing was 1 die per stand for infantry with a range of 12", 2 for artillery with a range of 36". 6's hit troops in cover, 5,6 hit cavalry, artillery and skirmishers in the open, 4,5,6 hit line infantry in the open.
Melee and close range firefights (3") gave line infantry and cavalry 2 dice with both sides fighting and cavalry adding +1 per die if charging. A side in melee that took more hits than inflicted and at least 1 per stand  had to retreat in disorder and spend a turn reforming.

I need to get working on those magnetic stands, writing a good copy of the rules, working on the maps, backstory, personalities, and..oh my.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Volleys in the Valley

This past week has been as slow hobbywise as the lack of posts suggests, however, I perked up today.
  This morning I finished painting the last 1/3 of my new Red coated, allied Northern Maritime regiment which has a vague resemblance to Lally's Irish.  This afternoon I nipped down to Kentville to join in a 6 player Epic Battle Cry Bull Run game.
Jeff's 15mm ACW on his homemade hex mat.
There are no formations in Battle Cry but that didn't stop me.
Fast and bloody. The details of the rules may seem questionable at times but the result today was close enough to historical and it was fun.
Longtime friend and fellow Atlantic Simulation Society member Paul in official Blue Shirt which was mandated dress for the two of us today, and Jeff of the Armchair Commander blog

The question now is "Will my new Red regiment see any Elephants on Sunday?". I certainly hope so!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

One for the Gaffer

OK so I'm not technically a Dad, but I look after a pack of hounds as well as a couple of cats and a bird, soooo...... I took some time for a quick Father's Day game.

Despite my best camera instincts, this shot is surprisingly true to the actual colours on the table.

My original idea was to do a big MacDuff game but there were other things (chore type things) and I didn't want to mess with any campaign backstories. I also didn't feel like playing MacDuff which is a different matter. 

Anyway, the lads from Faraway and Oberhilse are always up for a brawl. Since the OHW wargame scenario was still 3/4 set up, I just went with that, with a terrain tweak, and improvised rules as I went, sort of a retro-single figure version of Hearts of Tin: variable moves, turn initiative, detached unit command roll, firing by individuals, and a return to a morale roll for under strength units.  
Mid game. One attack on the house has been repulsed, the next will succeed but too little too late at too high a price.
Pity there were no War Correspondents present.
It all kinda worked pretty well and entertained me. I occasionally missed  the grid for measuring but enjoyed the flexibility of no grid. 

Lots to think about.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meanwhile, bubbling away in the back ground.

After a thorough examination of various organizational and rules options for this upcoming campaign, I have decided that the optimal choice is to conform with my existing Charge! units and work the rules and scenarios around that organization.
A skirmish from 2012 (click for report)
I envisage most games being skirmishes, like the most recent game , and the "Anything to Declare"  New Year's Eve 2012 game (shown above), with around six units and detachments  per side, with the occasional pitched battle game, like the 2012 Wentworth Pass game (shown below). having double or even triple that.

The Battle of Wentworth Pass from 2912.

To be more specific, each of my Charge! Regiments which are formed by two 19 figure "Companies" plus an HQ group will form a "Brigade" with two 18 figure "Battalions" plus an HQ  including the colours and drummers. I will also allow small detachments for garrisons, wagon escorts and the like. For light infantry, I plan to add three command figures to each Charge! company and field them as two nine figure detachments. These are of course paper strengths.

The Old King's Brigade, 15 year veterans of many a stricken tabletop,  using temporary movement trays. 
With an organization and level of scenario in hand I turned back to revisit rules options. After much rereading of old battle reports and old rules and much pondering about the desired "feel" for this campaign I have forced myself to narrow it down to two choices:
  • Use Lawford and Young's "Charge!" 
  • Update the 20th Anniversary edition of "With MacDuff to The Frontier" to include explicit "Skirmish" and "Battle" options as I was considering in 2014. 
Luckily, since these rules will both work with my organization and basing, the choice may be made game by game  according to my mood and the scenario.

Flexibility is good.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

From There to Here

It has long been obvious that, as in most things in life, when painting miniatures I tend to follow my instinct without much discipline or attention to various schools of technique. I'm usually happy with the results but I'm sometimes at a loss to explain what my "technique" is.

If caught off guard I might mutter something about Old School but having recently gone back to check some old school books, well, it isn't really, but its not Middle or New school either. Its just.. "what I do".  So, I decided today to  have a "look-see" in an attempt to trace the roots and to take a few shots of today's batch.

Sound Assembly!

My first step was to look through several of my early wargaming books. There, right at the beginning of my wargaming life, was Don Featherstone's 'Battles With Model Soldiers' which taught me to glue a bunch of figures to a stick, something I still do most of the time, as well as teaching me what Jack Scruby called "sloppy undercoat, careful over coat", which is to say, slop on the main colour being more concerned with not missing any spots than with straying over the line. The next colour will take care of the edges when it is carefully applied to the smaller area.

Then I have a vague memory of a Heritage/Hinchliffe catalogue painting guide in the mid-70's which recommended an overall dark wash. I no longer have the catalogue and don't remember exactly what it recommended but it was shortly after my one trip to the UK where I'd had a chance to see Peter Gilder's Huns in action and it was the start of a long habit of burnt umber washes as the last step before varnishing.

But that's about it for wargaming influences. I can remember being impressed by my friend Eric Ritchie's painting 25mm ancients by a series of washes over white, but that's a technique that doesn't allow errors and I'm all about errors and do-overs, so I never got far with it. Similarly I tried black under coat and building up solid colours to build depth in the 80's but though I was happy enough with a few characters and a few units in both 15mm and 25mm, I found the process tedious  and the end product still felt dark to me no matter how bright the highlights might be. I went back to my old ways.

Sloppy main colour over white craft acrylic paint used as primer. 
However,  I was a painter and a converter of Model Soldiers for display before I was a wargamer.

I still have my battered copy of Peter Blum's "Model Soldier Manual" from the early 70's. Although I haven't looked at the booklet much in decades, that's because the basics were well absorbed. While I don't attempt the sort of detail that a teen age me attempted on 54's, and don't do as much shading and highlighting as I used to do even 10 years ago, the basics of my technique are all  there, white undercoat, base colours then shading blended in .

Awaiting the shading process but my brand of stripped down glossy toy solderish style will only include some shading on the flesh, around the belts, the folds and under sides of arms etc of the coat and small clothes.
I'm told that a well pointed brush is essential to a good paint job and from my limited experience with pointy brushes I'm sure it's true but, alas,  I wreck them  too quickly to find out for sure. So this 1 brush did everything except the white under coat.

The final influence was much more recent but just as important, Shep Paine's "Making and Painting Scale Figures".  At least it feels very recent but it would appear that 25 or so years have slipped past since I picked up a copy. How did that happen?

Anyway, there was nothing really new about painting in it really, it was from his sculpting tips that I learned the most. He did have several observations on shading that went a level up from Peter Blum and he commented on the advantages of separate washes for different parts of Wargame figures instead of a single dark wash. As he points out it is a quick technique so doing several doesn't take up a lot more time but it really improves the look when wash style shading ties in with the colour being shaded. He was right. So, for this lot the flesh was shaded with a very thin flesh + burnt sienna, the coat with a red+burnt umber, etc. Not washes though, these craft paints don't run well enough without an additive so I use older techniques of applying a dark shade then adding a bit of water and running the edges out a bit to blend them in with the base.

Shaded, glossed, and fallen in with the first batch of recruits. 
Last but not least, one of the best tips I ever got came about 20 years ago from Al Fisher on the Yahoo Littlewars group: "Don't look at where your brush has been, look at where it is going".
It sounds odd but I've been taught the same thing in drawing with a pencil. In other words, if you are looking at your  brush tip, its too late, its already there and left paint behind. If you look a little bit ahead of the brush to where you want it to go and trust yourself, your hand and eye will guide the brush from where it is to where you want it to go leaving a line behind it, just where you wanted it and less halting and wavy that if you'd been  looking at it. But you need to keep moving your focus point as the brush moves until you reach the end.  I still catch myself NOT doing it and have to correct myself.

Never to late to learn and experiment.