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, July 23, 2017

19thC Command Module for Hearts of Tin

Under the premise "Strike while the iron is hot" I passed some time today sitting under a patio umbrella on a hot summer's afternoon, contemplating command rules for my ACW games.

Kinch's Charge sets out 4 years ago.

I've tried  various familiar techniques such as activation rolls or charts, card draws, command  point rolls, command radius, written orders, mapped movement and more and they all had something to contribute but yet didn't quite do it. They reduced player control but usually felt "game-y"  and often did a poor job of both modelling how things were done and reproducing typical historical battlefield behaviour. Even worse they often absorbed so much time and mental energy that the focus shifted from the battle to the game mechanics.

Colonel Lawford and Brigadier Young, who both had considerable experience of command in battle with all that entails, relied on a combination of simultaneous written orders and highly variable combat results to represent the uncertainty of battle. I'm not sure that either my reading or my life experience gives me a solid basis for saying they were wrong, especially at the battle rather than skirmish level. Certainly the Charge! games I have played in or run have seen some of the most unexpected command failures, errors and omissions as well as some notable moments of recognizing and seizing sudden opportunities that I have seen (not to mention misleading the enemy). Unfortunately the system does not lend itself well to solo games with 40 units on the table.

The impromptu ACW game that I played in May relied on variable length moves at Brigade level with provision for Division Commanders to try to push people a little. Overall I liked the effect but I want to go back to regiments as units and basically adapt my old Hearts of Tin rules.

Gratuitous copy of a picture from last summer's ACW game.

Before going On Grid I used to use variable length moves and I am going to go back there as well as using a turn initiative card deck with chance cards. Each regiment or formed brigade will roll its movement dice and complete its move before the next one rolls.

Here are a couple of the command ideas that I am contemplating.

a) Brigade move. Two or more regiments formed into a Brigade line or column with Brigadier attached will roll once for movement of the whole line which must then move together.

b) Generals have a short range at which they can boost the movement of one, two or three individual regiments by adding a die depending on their ability. These dice may alternately be used to boost morale or combat performance if not used to boost movement. Choices!

c) Getting a brigade formed up requires the guide regiment to stand still.

d) Once  a brigade is engaged (however that is defined, 3" for close combat but perhaps rifle range for command control purposes)  it should be difficult to coordinate a voluntary disengagement or a pursuit. If engaged at the start of a turn any retirement moves must be one regiment at a time and the unit must move the full amount rolled but may roll just 1 die if desired. If pursuing each regiment rolls and moves one at a time and must move the full amount as above unless storming a fortified position.

e) Generals who get involved in any way inside the engagement zone must be at risk somehow and there should be a delay before a replacement takes over.

Cobb's Farm from 2012. A game where the old C&C rules played their part. 

That's as far as I've gotten. The next step is to dig out an old version, check them over, adjust and try it all out.

Something New Played - 20mm Punic Wars!

On Saturday I joined 2 friends for a 20mm Ancients game using Sword & Spear. I cut my teeth on 20mm Ancients but its been a long time since I've seen a table full of them.

Newline metal and various plastic miniatures.
(and an old Garrison representing me)
This was my first exposure to the Sword & Spear rules. Like most rules, they had somethings that I liked and some that I was less keen on. As a game I had no quibbles at all. They are designed to keep both players actively engaged at all times and succeed well. One game is not enough to properly judge but in broad terms they did seem to encourage broadly historical deployments and battle plans. Most importantly it was a fun and engaged afternoon of social gaming.

My one quibble, and it may be that I've  missed some subtleties, is that, like most ancients rules, there was no feel of the primitive nature of most armies command control mechanisms or of rigidity and importance of battle lines/phalanxes. Yes, there were 'beyond command radius' penalties and a very limited group move option when not attacking, but I suspect that it would be hard to do a good reenactment of an historical battle without a lot of voluntary fudging. A rather timely reminder since I'm about to back up and refresh my own Shock era rules which, frankly, would deserve the same criticism.

Overview just before the first Shock.

Its a good thing that assembling the sort of well ordered, well painted armies that our host provided takes a lot of work because the sight of them was almost enough to give me an urge to go back there and do it right this time!  Obviously time to get the lads in Blue and Grey out to scratch the 20mm itch!

For more pictures and a report on the actual battle please see Jeff's Armchair Commander blog.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Time for a change

Well, I've reached an impasse with my Prince August collection and the new campaign.

I replayed the scenario with Charge! as written. It was an ok game but only lasted 5 turns so not many decisions to make. For reference, on an 6×4 table artillery could  fire 6 feet and cavalry charge 2 feet. My 2/3 strength infantry units were almost 2 ft wide and the Rosmark force only had 5 units including the battery of artillery.

Rather than continuing to spin my wheels over decisions about  rules, organisation and basing,  or make a hasty decision that I know is wrong, I'm just going to bring my  NQSYW Rosmark units up to scratch for now. This will involve bringing my "away' army at least up to proper establishment over the next year with a consistent style and with all cripples  and misfits pensioned off and replaced.  I can still draw detachments for fighting the occasional skirmish so nothing is lost. I'll delay any other decision until the British are released.

In the meantime, its time to get something different on both my painting desk and my gaming table .

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Different vs Better

Mid-summer is not the best season for testing wargame rules here, especially not with games designed to happily last a few hours. Its just too damned hot in my games room from around 10 until 6 and there are too many other things needing to be done. But after several days of one or two turns a day I'm done.
About 4 turns in. Reinforcements have arrived and been deployed on both sides and a bold cavalry charge has cleared off 1 unit of Rosmark light infantry. The big gun (which is the primary target for Rosish forces) has been manhandled out of the entrenchment and aimed at the enemy.  
The game was enjoyable in parts and frustrating in parts as I tried to sort out what I want from the game. This would be easier if I was starting from scratch but then I wouldn't be "here" if I were. (I'd be casting troops  in Shakos and gluing them on multi-figure stands)

Several things became abundantly clear however. The first, already known,  is that changing several key rule mechanisms several times during a game makes it  next to impossible to asses the game as a whole even while allowing a good comparison of the "feel" of each approach. The second, also known, is that while some mechanisms don't work, others are merely a choice between two valid approaches which deliver a different "feel" to the game.

A slightly earlier overview of the armies deploying.  
At times I wondered if I should just give up and play Charge! or seperate the two projects entirely but a large part of me wants this sort of rules for these figures and this campaign  and I want it to work on this table and without losing my compatibility for those joint convention games so the die is cast.

Late in the day the Grey Squadron of the Yellow Hussars are broken by an exceptionally stubborn bunch of Wild Geese.  Its a little hard to see but the Pandours brushed aside the Veteran militia without even breaking step. Only a halt by the Cautious Pandour Brigadier prolonged the game to 10 turns.
Luckily the game felt just right at points so I'm on the right road. A bit of history, a bit of storytelling and a bit of toy soldiering.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

MacDuff Meets Morschauser Again!

Well, I  tried but it never even made it to the tabletop.

It has long seemed to me that the number of times  that an attack was halted or a defence quickly broken by a single  long range volley or two are so rare or so low a percentage that they are best not catered to unless  using very complex rules. My efforts  yesterday were listing heavily towards complex to the point where their  character was lost.

A Skirmish for a Summer Sunday 

First I fell back on the 2015 version which only tested if below 50% but was still having trouble getting the balance right and found myself harking back to Morschauser's three inch melee zone which nicely  differentiated  between attrition by long ranged fire  and sudden death by close combat whether by volleys at 3" or my cold steel.

Then I found myself reviewing reasons  why I couldn't go there with a renewed MacDuff shorn of its rallying figures. They basically boiled  down to "because".

So it is that the game I have laid out is likely to feel more like an individual figure version of Morschauser Meets MacDuff than anything else. (Note: MMM was the precursor to Hearts of Tin)