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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Forward the Guns!

An Indian Mountain Battery ready to take the field in Africa, the Middle East or wherever they are needed..

These are homecast Zinnbrigade Prussian artillery men with my sepoy heads. The mule is from. Irregular. I'm pretty sure no gunners in 1914 wore Blue puttees but I like 'em. Now I need a name. I dislike using historical unit names if I'm going to use them in campaigns that they never fought in.

The gun is a 90 year old toy that came with a mixed bag of 54's from the original owner's widow a decade ago. Its a little crude in places yet the carriage has the typical lines of rivets. I'm not sure about its make or what it was intended to be. It was certainly too small for the 54's. Last week I noticed a 40mm gunner standing beside it and thought "40mm toy soldier mountain gun"!

The grey paint is in rough shape but I am undecided about repainting a 90 year old veteran even if it has no monetary value.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Tin Brigadier Russian Ahead

Ahh The Labour Day Weekend. Summer's end (culturally at least), I should be out enjoying the fresh air but Kathy's off to a dogshow, rules are bouncing around my head and I've been wanting to give the 1/72 Russian Civil War lads an outing, partly for their own sake, partly to make sure whatever I do works for all of the period candidates and partly to separate the game from the shiny toy soldier look.

The Green Army is laid out ready to attack the Grey Army on their hill. An HQ, 1 sub commander, 4 infantry, 2 MG, 3 cavalry, 2 guns and a tank vs an HQ, 3 infantry, 1 MG, 3 cavalry and 2 guns.
I really must get some better lighting and figure out what's wrong with my camera!
Yesterday I sat down and started writing up an officious version of The Square Brigadier with multi-layer organizations, formations and tactics and soon realized this was not where I had wanted to go. So I stopped.

Late last night I stopped by to read about a skirmish in Carpet Valley in the Duchy of Tragardland  and  was reminded of where I had been headed.  Today I polished the Tin Brigadier up a bit, added a pin rule, amended it for use with or without a grid and tried it out with the RCW lads divided into Green and Grey forces since they're all a muddle. For sake of comparison I kept the same scenario but again, for sake of variety, rerolled the Programmed attacker options. The result was an engaging hour and a half cliff hanger where the attacker finally won a game, by the skin of his teeth.

The rules are not prescriptive and will happily allow you to either ignore historical OB's and scales or to use them if you want. I think it incorporates at least some aspect of just about every influence I have mentioned over the last 5 weeks as I have been working on rules for this venture!  I also think it resolves all my organizational dilemmas, probably because I used my existing organization as a starting point....., perhaps I am learning.

I'm a little stuck for a name since it isn't really the Square Brigadier though it replaces it, nor is it really a new Hearts of Tin though it is likely to replace that as well once I do a Horse and Musket variant.  I am tempted to stay with The Tin Brigadier since it has a nice ring and is a sort of homage to its predecessors but the player is as likely to be a Major General as a Brigadier so it may not be apt. Another contender is The Tin Army but I am wide open to suggestions.

Green's cavalry harassed Grey's right, pinning it in place and drawing off artillery fire without being destroyed while the remainder of the army concentrated on Grey's left, ignoring the center. A fierce Green cavalry charge is seen here driving in more than twice their numbers on Grey's left. Red markers indicate pinned units, little green dice are marking hits.

The Tin Brigadier
Aug 31 draft.2 of a simple set of Wargame rules for the late 19thC/early 20th C.
Ranges and moves are list as numbers. These can be squares, hexes, or increments of inches (eg 1=6" etc) or centimeters as selected but roughly equal to the frontage of an extended infantry unit.

Setup. A wargame army consists of a General Head Quarters (GHQ), up to 1 subordinate HQ per 8 units and as many units as desired. The units are intended to be battalion level but the rules may be used as is with units being companies for low level engagements. An average unit is intended to be around 8 infantry, 4 cavalry and guns, machine guns and vehicles  with 2, 3 or 4 crew but they may be any size that pleases you. If using multi-figure bases you may count noses or assign an arbitrary strength to each base. Qualifiers such as Superior/Inferior firepower, Shock troops, Elite/Stubborn or Poor morale are relative terms that may be used as desired. Other troop types and variations may be added as needed as well as carrying capacity of boats etc..

Hits represent fatigue, disorganization, stragglers, killed, wounded and prisoners and everything else that lowers the ability of a unit to fight. Each hit removes 1 figure. When a unit is reduced to 0 it is removed.

Sequence: igougo. Roll 1d6 for orders per commander. Move or shoot units and declare charges as desired (subject to the rules) and rally units, then test morale of enemy units that took hits from shooting, then resolve charges and pursuits.
Orders. An order is required to move, do engineering or to use indirect artillery fire. The Army HQ may store up to 6 unused orders. Other unused orders are lost. A subordinate commander may only order units within range 3. The Army HQ may order any unit. +1 to orders if observation balloon or spotter plane is available of in HQ has good observation point of enemy.

Infantry In Extended formation: move 2 or move 1 and shoot or charge.
Infantry Close Order:  Move 2 and charge or stand and shoot.
Cavalry move 4 and charge.  May dismount and shoot..
Artillery Move 3 if Light or Field, 4 if Horse Artillery, 2 if Heavy artillery.
MG: Move 2 or shoot.
Motor Machine Gun/Armoured Car: Move 4 or Move 2 and shoot.
Tank Move 1 and Shoot or Charge.
Train, Boat, Move 4 or Move 2 and shoot. Trains only move by rail, boats only by water.

Terrain: Reduces all moves to 1 if passable. Define by scenario.
Road If in road column add 1 to move and ignore other terrain but may not charge or shoot.

Units may advance or retreat at full speed and can wheel measuring the distance. If using a grid a wheel can be included when moving from one area to another but a wheel within an area counts as moving 1 area. Subtract 1 from a move to change formation, limber/unlimber, mount/dismount, or embark/disembark..

Shooting. Must have LOS to chosen target except indirect arty fire. Arc of fire 45 degrees either side.
Rifles: range 2. 5,6 hits  1 die per 2 extended or entrenched infantry or dismounted.
cavalry.  1 die per 4 close order  infantry. Round up remainders of ½ or more.
MG inc Motor MG range 3,  5,6 hits  3 dice per gun
Tank. range 1  5,6 hits  3 dice per tank
Deployed Artillery. Direct Fire: Light gun: 2d range 4, Medium Gun 3d range 6, Heavy gun 4d range 8. Indirect fire 1/2 dice at double direct range. Requires an order each turn (abstraction of need to observe fire, pass fire request etc). Howitzers may fire  over terrain and troops, other guns may not shoot over terrain or troops within 1 or at target with 1 of dead ground or over high hills.
+1 per die if superior firepower, marksmen,
-1 per die if inferior firepower
Double casualties vs close order or road column
1/2  effect vs entrenched or in cover. Round down.
Killing zone: Reroll misses vs next unit in line of fire within range 1 of original target.

Target Reaction. A unit which is in the open and takes 1 or more hits from shooting must test morale. 4,5,6 pass. 1,2,3 Extended infantry, deployed MG and engineers are pinned, others retreat a full move and are then pinned until they rally. A pinned unit may not advance or shoot or and counts 1/2 in melee until it rallies..

Charges. The Defender may choose to shoot and remove enemy casualties and test for pins before melee or may fight in melee. In melee roll 1d/2 infantry or cavalry, 1 d per gun or MG, cavalry roll double dice if fighting any but other cavalry (x1/2 if pinned rounding up). 4,5,6 hits. +1 If Elite or Shock, -1 if Poor  Shock troops roll double the normal number of dice. Poor or demoralized troops suffer double the number of hits rolled.
If a unit took more hits from melee and defensive fire than it inflicted it is defeated and must check morale. 1,2,3 the unit routs and is removed. 4,5,6 the unit retreat a full move and then is pinned as for shooting.  A unit that charged and won must advance and occupy the ground. Cavalry which charged and won may advance up to a full move and charge again. If it wins again it must occupy the ground but may not charge a 3rd time.  

Rallying. A unit which is pinned may rally if it does not move. No order is required.

Engineering.. An infantry unit with tools may entrench instead of all other activity. Roll 1d6  needing to accumulate 10 pts to entrench. Add 1 d6 if sappers are attached. Entrenchment is lost if unit moves. Engineers may similarly prepare a roadblock or clear a path through an obstacle needing 6 pts or mine and blow a bridge etc  by laying 1 d6 per turn to represent the charges. When the bridge is blown, roll all of the charges and add them needing a total of 6 to destroy a small one, 10 to blow a large one. Other tasks may be defined as needed.  .

Army Morale. Unless specified otherwise by the scenario, a player that has lost over ½ of his units either destroyed or forced to retreat off table must concede.

At this point Grey has inflicted more hits than it received and most Green units are close to destruction with only 1 being unscathed but Green's concentration pays off and within 3 turns Grey reaches its breakpoint with most remaining units intact.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Maintenance of the Aim

Darn that Grant Senior and his emphasis on scale when designing rules, especially since he was smart enough to bend ground scale and orders of battle when converting historical battles to wargames. Yes I've been confusing myself again over questions of scale and translating real orders of battle and unit organization into game units and scenarios and have been starting to lose sight of my Aim. A serious breach of the Principles of War(gaming).

To avoid serious risk to my sanity and to a set of rules that was working well,  I finished painting my in progress Indian unit and then came back with a clear mind. All better now.

MacDuff's Rifles. Original 40mm sepoys with converted Zinnbrigade officer.
The Scruby redcoats in the back row are for comparison. Based on B&W photos it would be more accurate to have slightly toned down contrast in shades of khaki between uniform, puttees and haversack, and no coloured fringe on the turban but they looked bland so I decided that a bit of heightened contrast and a touch of colour would add interest. 

Organizations varied by year and nation but in 1914 most countries had 4 companies to an infantry battalion and 12 regiments to a Division. The Charge! inspired organization I looked at a week ago fits this nicely and has a comfort feeling. It also matches the Over the Top Command Decision: rules to a Tee if I consider each figure as a Stand not that CD is my style of gaming. So why aren't I there? Well, firstly to do it right I'd have to build armies four times the size of those I intended and I'd have to rewrite my rules completely, which I have found myself unintentionally doing, almost daily.

OK then, why not just stay with the 4 figure units called for in the Square Brigadier? The rules are scaled that one square can comfortably hold a battalion if formed up or with 1/2 deployed in a firing line and 1/2 in reserve while 2 or more battalions can fit in as  a massed column. By 1914 though an extended battalion should be able to hold 2 squares while by the late Boer War up to 1914 the British occasionally extended enough for a battalion to hold 4 squares. At Mons some of the British battalions were holding a front of 5 or 6 squares by posting platoons at crossing points. This would call for either ignoring scale (the traditional and most practical manner) or changing the rules or organization. 

It was during the contemplation of all this that I discovered that I was really enjoying painting up these figures but that a few of each were enough and that the urge was strong to paint a variety of uniforms and troop types. By a sheer coincidence the figures on hand including OOP Scruby 1889 figures nicely organized themselves into 8 figure units including an officer. Just enough to satisfy the itch without becoming tedious and reminiscent of the units in Big Wars which was another attraction. But how to integrate this with the rules, scenario requirements and history?

The first part was easy, amend the rules to use figures rather than units for combat strength and then allow units to be split. The 2nd bit was only a poser because of a desire to maintain rules compatibility with my 1/72 Boer War/9 Years War and Russian Civil War armies. There is another little technical issue I have been shelving, how to base the figures. I was pretty much set on 15mm x 20mm individual  bases, but made of what and should the figure base be disguised to make it look like a toy soldier on a single base or be left like an OSW figure on unflocked base?  While using various figures to test the optics of different options I was reminded of how much I like the temporary 2 figure bases some of my 1812 lads are on. Ahah!  I know I find it amusing sometimes to knock over single toy soldiers for visual effect in pictures but if I consider the figures to be OSW wargame figures which the Scrubies were, having 2 figures per company base.would have a traditional look of a different kind, be easy to handle and would maintain rules compatibility by having 4 bases per unit. As a bonus it provides an easy way to work unit quality back in easily by allowing me to vary hits by stand like I used to do in Hearts of Tin. 

With around 100 figures per wargame army, all buttons are pushed and the addition of 2 or 3 armies per year very feasible. All the plans of the last 20 years coming together in a rush, just not quite the format I envisaged back then when assembling 54mm Volley & Bayonet armies. I need to get back to work on some 1914 British master figures.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Load of Baluchs

Now I remember the other reason I didn't cast up a unit of these for myself, the mold is damaged!  It was made using a soft rubber and in addition to a few small flaws when it was made, it has ripped in a few places and now has horrible flash. However, I now have 4 figures  cleaned up enough to serve as shiny toy soldiers and 4 more waiting. They were originally sculpted for the 1880's dress uniforms worn in Egypt so need a little touch up, tunics converted to the 1914 style pullover tunic and 50 round bandolier added.

I'm thinking about doing some dismounted Larsen's Lancers as well as a kneeling mountain gun crew using these heads on Zinnbrigade bodies with pants and tunics adjusted with putty and jackboots painted as puttees.
Homemade 40mm 1880's Baluchs from a damaged mould being updated for WWI.
I took some time yesterday to review all of the test games and rules thoughts and discussions. Sorting it all out I concluded that, despite various options which are attractive in some way, my original instinct was right and the best route forward for me is a slightly improved Square Brigadier which will allow me to build several small forces for games for various wars and campaigns from the late 19th and early 20th C. The tweaks suggested by the test games, discussions and alternate proposals have now been done and the Square Brigadier late 19th/early 20th Century version once again appears up top. 

Later this week I intend to try them out with some 1/72nd troops and then try a new scenario with the 40's once the Baluchs are ready.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fire for Effect!

At last I got to play my test game. Even better, it played like a charm. I forgot to stop for tea and nearly forgot to take any pictures.

Once again the game was Scenario 1 from Programmed Scenarios. Since it was a new grid and new rules I rerolled the attacker's instructions and got an attack on the left. Rather than write about the game it self and incidents like the valiant charge of Larson's Lancers who saved the position on the hill at the cost of 1/2 their number, I'll just write a bit about some of the rule choices I made when tweaking the Square Brigadier in the light of the last month's reading, discussions, mucking about on the table and thinking, and about how it all worked in practice

The first real crisis point. Despite heavy losses, the Blue Guard take the hill trenches, 1 man above being shaken. The Lancers and Naval Motor Machine Gun Battery prepare to counter attack. 

Orders. I've been trying to tweak the orders system for ages trying to make it easy to administer with a mix of choice and chance and just the right balance between not being able to do enough almost all the time and almost never being able to do enough. Its always been close but not quite right (hence the tweaking) but this variation which came out of my subconsious the other day worked just the way I envisaged it since day 1. Essentially I started the game with 1d6 of orders pre-rolled for each Brigadier and General. Instead of having a staff to hold orders, I allowed  all commanders to store unused orders but never to have more than 6 available. The catch is only Generals roll for more during a game,not Brigadiers. So the player is faced with choices, even if he starts with lots he can't squander them as replacements might come slowly, however,  if the existing orders and early replacements are channeled to the important points and some reserve kept, an attack can be launched. If there is an opening and can be pushed in otherwise ic can be left to engage in a firefight without need for orders which can then be used to push reserves forward and maybe rally units pulled out of the line while a new reserve of orders is built up for the next push. A long range bombardment also takes up orders so if there is going to be one, best hold the infantry back until just the right moment.

Unit Integrity. Using fixed units with fixed capabilities makes game design much easier which is why I initially borrowed it from Richard Borg's Battlecry. However, there are also difficulties, especially when doing historical games as units were not quite so fixed. I struggled with letting go of them since it made it so easy to do things like cover and special unit capabilities. However, the protracted pondering and small test games were in large part aimed at finding another way. I'm happy to say that once I stopped trying to limit myself to 4 man companies stuffed into 3" or 4" squares, stopped copying Battlecry, and stopped treating the toy soldiers as an "element", a new old method came fairly easily. I didn't end up even testing the Charge! inspired set draft but I held onto the idea of counting noses and added a decision to not force units to stay within a single square. Instead the unit may break into detachments like it could have years ago when playing a MacDuff game. Orders and combat results are now based on the contents of a square as an adhoc unit while maintaining a 50% battalion morale rule to avoid what appears to be a fight to the death. It was hard work getting my head there but it worked like a charm, The game had both a new feel and and old school feel at the same time, something familiar but also a bit of me. .    

But that's enough for tonight. (and anyway the 1st Episode of Outlander will be on in a few minutes. Hope it doesn't have me breaking out 40mm Jacobites tomorrow)
The end. An attack on the farm has been repulsed bloodily and while Red is near its break point, Blue's Infantry Brigades are broken and he has opted not to throw his small force of lancers and Jaegers into the machine gun fire.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Check Your Fire ! Check Check Check

After various interruptions this morning, I finally got the table set up by noon. 24 companies grouped into 6 battalions supported by guns and cavalry.

Blue fielded 12 scenario units. The largest scenarios call for 16 or more but already there were wall to wall  troops plus reserves on both sides. This is just what I didn't want to be doing. So I reset to 8 man battalions and decided to allow them to fight to the last man. (Casualties being deemed to included mostly morale failures anyway.) Then I looked again, bite the bullet, and spent the afternoon regridding the table to a 6" grid. This only gives me a 12 x 10 grid but that should be adequate and can be subdivided into 480 x 3" squares later if it isn't. I was going to persevere with a play test but time was up and anyway I am very unsure about the Charge! inspired version. I think a tweak to the Square Brigadier will be more what I really want. (Probably didn't help the cause that I took Bob Cordery's suggestion of rereading the 1885 Polemas Wargame. I'm not going dice free but I like the feel of the sample game described and oddly enough they use a very similar grid scale, units level and ranges as the Square Brigadier uses. 

The New Look.

Eight man battalions was not my starting point but I did want at least Brigade level games with a chance at Division level which would be 16 to 32 units at a company level. So, here we are. At least it will let me have identifiable units and a simpler command system vs having 32 companies on table. That will be especially good for the pre drab era armies. So, while waiting for the paint to dry so I could re-grid it, I did a little casting. After I did the Baluch unit for Richard Larsen, I never got around to doing one for myself. I now have 8 castings ready to be filed and primed. I'll probably go for khaki but the green and red that they wore in Egypt is still tempting.

Some of my Baluchs in Egypt. (Picture from the Scruby's in Action page above)