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, April 23, 2017

Rough Wooing in the Valley

Yesterday I packed up troops and terrain and made the 45 minute trip to Kentville to the Table Top Games day where I set up a version of the game that Rob Dean and I will be running  at Huzzah in Portland next month. The scenario was the same Stuart Asquith one that I played twice earlier this month. The goal for both sides is to garrison the town and exit a force off the far end of the table by road.

The French march on as the game gets underway.
The stand-in Scots barely glimpsed to the left are technically off table at this point.
 Since I didn't have Rob's troops or terrain I fudged things with what I had on hand, throwing in some Scots and so on. I was hoping to have at least four of the lads show up for the duration but life intervenes and some couldn't stay for the whole game while others couldn't come at all. However, I managed to pressgang a passing gamer  who paused by the table for a few seconds too long. He (Greg? Garry? Damn I am bad at names...) turned into an agreeable companion and an able commander for the English (hopefully we'll be able to entice him to join us for more games) and so we had at least four players at one point and two players for long enough for me to get a good feel for the rules and scenario which would have been enough to declare the event a success. Better yet though, Martin was able to stay an extra hour or so and put up with me filling in as both GM and player for the last hour to reach a reasonable conclusion after about three and a half hours in all.

I didn't have room for all the troops to start on table nor did I have a spare side table so please visualize the troops lined up along the board edges  as actually marching down the roads from off table. 
The English were fast off the mark and very aggressive. Their forlorn hope managed to drive off their French equivalent and bottle up the main French force for a good while. A unit of Landsknechts in English pay made their way through the open woods aided by good movement dice and By the time they fell back and rejoined the main English force, nearly half the French infantry had been drawn off to face them. Thanks to the sacrifice of the Forlorn Hope, English archers had already made it to the town while their cavalry and more infantry were well on the way to bypassing it on their way to the exit.

Battle is joined.
The pictures got foggier as the battle went on. I'd like to think this was the effect of gun smoke and the angle of the sun shining into a dark room but I suspect a trip to the snack table for a handful of chips (
crisps for those from the Old Country) may have had an inadvertent, but deleterious, effect on my smartphone lens.
The French had two choices at this point, try to race the English to the exit, a long shot, or try to catch them from behind, crush the rear guard and force the main body to turn back or lose the town. Their General chose the latter. The card sequence and dice had helped the English at first but these things rarely last and the French were able to drive into the middle of the English army. When the large block of Swiss rolled into a small group of Billmen, French expectations were high. Eleven dice for 5 or 6.....0 hits! 4 English dice for 4,5,6 came back  with  3 hits!  A stand off and tied melee since the French took fewer hits than they had stands but not what was expected! (the Swiss mercenaries in 1544 were not quite up to their fathers' reputation.) The English billmen pulled back and let the archers and artillery pound the pikes. A combination of card sequencing, an opportune/inopportune turn ending Joker and more high movement dice allowed the Landsknechts in English pay to run up in time to hit the French in the flank as the bills rushed back in from the front.   The Scots avenged  them and broke the Germans but this left the French General with one slightly worn pike unit and a few stands of heavy cavalry with no swordsmen or halberdiers and very few arquebusiers to storm the town while the English still had two formidible regiments of bills and bows backed by cavalry. There had been some rather tense moments for the English though and the French attack could well have changed the outcome.

Gratuitous shot of the English as their advance guard of light horse, bowmen and sword and buckler men prepares to deploy and go into action early on. 
I won't speak for the players but as GM and rules writer I was pleased at how the game went. This was the first outing for the buffed up rules which have not been out much in the last decade. During this period I have tortured them in various ways to try and get a smoother, faster game without losing too much of the original flavour. In that time they took several false trails but have come back close to where they began but streamlined a little in organization, stripped of some fiddly-ness, and with a few small twists such as the inclusion of a few Chance cards.

Dusk sets in. A couple of turns before the end. The opposing cavalry are manoeuvring to gain an advantage, speed vs weight. Beyond the town the English Landsknechts are about to crash into the obviously second rate Swiss hired by the French.
The game also gave me a chance to spot a few order of battle weaknesses with the French being weaker than intended in firepower and in troops able to take and hold a town (no job for pikemen). All things easily fixed for May. Another lesson of the test is that I need to clarify what is a an acceptable garrison  and what makes a sufficient force leaving the table. I think I will also force Shaken "Regiments" to leave the table rather than having restricted options. These things will help keep the game length inside the convention time limit and make it easier to call it at the end.

Bring on Huzzah!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bit of a Mess Really

If the shortage of blog posts recently suggests that I've not had much time for wargaming this week, well its actually more like I haven't had much time for wargaming this last week.
Hurry up lot, onto those bases, green up and get ready to board the transports!
Now not much is not none but there has been no actual wargaming, nor any new units added. 

There is a game coming up tomorrow though and I have managed a quick reference sheet for     the buffed up and reborn Rough Wooing 16thC rules
(If you're new to the internet Click back there on the coloured hyper links see the QRS and rules.)

I've also managed to finally rebase the last of my Scots from thin-ish card to regulation thick-ish masonite, not the fancy laser cut ones with bevelled edges, I had to saw these up frommold salvaged wallboard. I also made an hour to speed paint a few more Elastolins to round out my pike and shot forces to 22 pike and  10 shot.  Hopefully in the morning I'll have time to finish dry brushing the new bases and pack it all up for transport and be on the road a little after noon.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Done

I now have my 54mm portable playing field done.

Somedays I just can't get sufficient light for my smart phone.
In life it is actually possible to see the grid lines.

The cloth itself is the reverse of a Hotz hex mat with some paint dabbed on and over painted with gridlines. Due to a ......clerical error, aka brain fart, this mat has a grid of 15x11 3" squares instead of the intended 15x12 squares. Don't ask! I was planning to slip hills under the grid but the flocked hills from my original but warped portable board match well enough in texture and colour that I will use them.

The other 1/2 of the mat will be used hex side up for Russian Civil War games so that both can be on offer at the same time.

I did a quick test of a new scenario, hopefully better for a learning game. Eight British stands with Commander are tasked with holding a hill line for 12 turns against 18 stands of Zulus. To help them out the British are classed as "Disciplined" (ie Elite) while the Zulus are classed as "Brave" as in would rather die than retreat (ie Poor). A Sudden Death game was nerve wracking but very fast ending in a close game with a clear British victory. A game using the basic strength point rules lasted considerable longer but lacked tension until near the end where it looked like the British might eke out a draw. It was only after the game that I realized that I had screwed up and made the British melee every unit that they were in contact with on their own turn forgetting that this was optional. Oops might have turned the game to a British victory.

However, the Portable Game is going away for a couple of weeks now while I work on the main event, the Friday Night 16thC game that Rob and I will be co-hosting. We could run it tomorrow if we had to but apart from fixing up some broken figures and hopefully adding a few more and fine tuning a series of Orders of Battle depending on how many (if any!) players sign up, I need to make a quick reference rules summary to hand out so that is Job One in time for a multi-player local test game next Saturday.

Archive shot of an earlier solo test game.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting Back To The 14 Square Wood

Its been a busy few days but I grabbed a minute to cut some bases, dab some paint on them and glue a bit of shrubbery around the edge.
Woods with trees....

Each block is divided into either two or four 3" squares. There is a line of bushes along one outside edge of each quadrant to make it easy to slide bases of 54mm troops in but still make it obvious that this is some sort of terrain piece. The trees have been left loose to make it easier to pack and to accommodate the placement of troops during a game.

....and without trees.
The squares are only indicated by brown areas but its easy to see which quadrant units are in.
Next big chore is to make a matching portable ground cloth to take to Huzzah!.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Just Out of Refit

Amongst the collection of Veteran Britain's I acquired some years ago was a contingent of a dozen or so sailors. I had promised to cherish and enjoy them so for years was reluctant to refinish them but really, what sailor wants to appear for inspection, or battle, in rags? So, having started with the Gordon's I progressed to the Royal Navy.

The Landing Party of the HMS Belmont. Lt.Cdr Burrell is stationed with the rocket battery while Lt. Howie leads the riflemen. (Hmm from this angle these guys look a bit Herbie-ish.)
Oh yes, the rocket is a cut down one from Barzso's New Orleans set.
I decided to start with enough for the game at hand, the rocket battery and a stand of riflemen. That would leave me some figures to crew the gunboat whose plans have not yet been approved and enough for a second stand of riflemen in future. More importantly that left me original figures to use as a guide when painting. Except for the officers so I decided to take close ups for reference before stripping the paint.

I've never been a big Stripper. Too impatient and my wife is extremely sensitive to chemicals but I found a product called Natura Safe Strip which is non-toxic, low odour,  environmentally friendly and fast acting. Brush it on and 30 minutes later the enamel was ready to be brushed/rubbed/washed off. My newer acrylics took about 45 minutes. Sometimes a 2nd coat on tough spots is needed but I didn't care if there were a few spots here and there under a toy soldier finish, I just like to see the hidden detail emerge from under the thick glossy enamel after 90 years.  I think I'll be ready to do more stripping in future!

Three broken figures become one repaired and one brand new figure.
Providing a crewman for the rocket was a puzzler at first, I really didn't want to start carving up
perfectly good, scarce figures. After some poking and thinking I came up with a running sailor with a broken rifle, another broken off his stand at the ankle and one of many kneeling guards with a broken rifle. A few minutes with a saw, some stripping, some putty and glue and the still running sailor had a new arm with full rifle and I had a kneeling crewman.

Couldn't resist finishing the job today. The paint job isn't a perfect match, sometime mixing the acrylics on hand could only come close to matching the original colour after 90 years of fading and sometimes I chose to add something (like painting the bayonet scabbards) but its close enough to please me.

I did get one surprise though. The men all have light red-brown hair but the officers have black beards. As I started to paint I thought...no..surely not.... so I looked at the picture taken from behind and YUP red hair, black beard! They've been on my shelf all this century and I never noticed? I suppose that means it works but not on my ship! One officer got black hair and beard, the other burnt sienna. I set him down on the desk and OMG it was Doug!  (A wargaming friend  from my Navy Days and after.)  Doug was a career officer, Naval Engineer with a background in astro-physics  and an interest in Space so the rocket battery seemed like a reasonable place to put his 1879 counterpart.  (Sure as hell wasn't going to let him near my cavalry but that's another story!)  Maybe a 54mm hot air balloon should follow.

At any rate the refurbishing has been a great deal of fun and they can now appear on public display as a credit to their ship.