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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Very Good! Now do it again.

Everyone has skills, interpreting maps has never been one of mine. I can understand on some intellectual plane what all the various squiggles are supposed to mean and can work out what they are supposed to tell me but it doesn't help. I just don't see it in my head. This is one reason why I avoid board and computer games and, ah, may not exactly excel at navigation.

Anyway, the bottom of the scenario map was quite busy so I ah... mumble .. started with the easy bits when I started laying down roads and rivers onto the board. This involves the tremendously difficult task of taking the stuff in one grid square on the map and copying it onto the equivalent grid square on the table. The one in the appropriate position, maintaining the appropriate orientation. It is probably related in some way to dyslexia....  anyway eventually it was all looking pretty good until I got to the busy bit near the bottom, around Seminary and McPherson Ridges. I started adding the hills and realized it wasn't going to fit! Huh?

I had a table grid square for each map grid square plus an extra row on each side. If I'm mapping one for one, how can it not fit? Let me add some of the starting units...Ahhhh.  Suddenly I grasped why my subconscious had sensed a problem. (I still can't figure out how my conscious mind didn't grasp the significance  of  what I had been looking at.) The 12" Fire & Fury squares in that busy section were not aligned as conveniently with the terrain as they were in most areas and in particular, the narrow ridges with a slight hollow between them, overlapped the grid lines and in any case were 1/2 the width of my wooden block hills.

Gettysburg 2nd try. Sort of works but extra room on the far edge, not enough on the near edge. 

I decided to make use of the spare row of squares and separate the ridges despite the slight distortion and it seemed to work ok. I went back to placing units and.....right. According to the map some opposing units are already sharing a 12" grid square which with an 8" musket range is only a minor bit of being committed since before the start, but it doesn't work with the proposed rules even if I could physically fit them in the same square!

Three options occurred to me: "Get over it and play", back up the time and have the Rebs move on table and into contact on turn 1 or rip up the masking tape rivers and roads and move everything up 1 row leaving 2 extra rows at the bottom and then roll back the time so the Rebs can start on table but out of contact.
But.but..sighhhh.... Rippppppp.

Reynolds to Buford in the bell tower: "Now can you hold John?" "I reckon I can."

OK, its not perfect but  it'll do and "There's the Devil to pay!".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hard Slogging

This is trickier than it seemed. Its amazing just how hard it is to abandon old habits of thought and expectations but things that work for more tactical games often don't work so well for higher level games. (and yes I 'knew' this going in but still.....) However, I am making progress!

To make my life easier and for clarity in the future, instead of hiding my work until after the game has been played, or posting twice daily versions so people can follow my progress and play the versions I have rejected,  I am updating the rules as originally posted on the 16th and will explain the changes and issues in separate posts.

As 2 of the 12 participating Divisions finish up today's rehearsals, the props department starts rolling out masking tape, paint and the like to turn the empty grid into the Gettysburg Battlefield.

One of the big issues has been trying to work in artillery bombardments when the distances are so short and time per period so long. Another has been trying to balance combat resolution to find a happy ground between instant vaporization and endless die rolling without result all while giving the defender a benefit. Lastly, because distances are so great, its been tricky finding an easy way to do pinning attacks vs all out assaults when both should really be done when adjacent.

I decided to give up relying on the play sequence to give the defence a bonus and switched to a modifier. This allowed me to play around with play sequences and get one mutual combat resolution per turn. Then I took a page from Bob Cordery and implemented a shared  Bombardment phase at the beginning of the turn but included infantry Skirmishing in the same phase.

So the current sequence is:
Roll for Initiative with winner choosing 1st or 2nd move.
Shared Bombardment & Skirmishing phase for units not adjacent to enemy.
A moves
B moves
Shared Combat resolution phase for adjacent enemy units.

I then modified the combat rules to give benefits to units that didn't move and penalties if disordered or attacking a terrain feature or entrenchment. Some quick mini-tests, Division vs Division, have been encouraging so I am back to plotting masking tape roads and rivers for a test game. I'm hoping that the 1st Day Scenario (or mid Day since it leaves out the early and late fighting)  can be resolved in about an hour. That would suggest that the whole 3 day battle could then be done in a day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gettysburg: OB and Rules Rethought and Reposted (and Updated)

Note: I really should stop blogging when I'm still recovering from the flu and short on time to boot!  The original post was not ready with rules ideas not fully thought through let alone tested. Then I accidently wiped it out. So, its basically gone, and this is a new post to replace it.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the very different scale from what I am used to. With one hour turns, 2,000 man "units" and  each square being over 700 yards, all tactical detail is out of place and artillery has to close in to what looks like medium rifle range to my Airfix guys. When I tried the layout on my flocked cardtable board, I only needed 2/3 of the small board and the area from Culps Hill to Little Round Top fit but it just looked wrong vs the size and density of the figures. I was tempted to give it up and go back to a Hearts of Tin derivative using 500 yds  per square (which is where the confusion came in yesterday) but I persevered and found that the portable board with fewer large squares is a better fit and gives the same general effect as the full table but  covering only 1/2 the battle field whereas the full table can hold all of it (with a bit of scrunching).

I'm not sure yet if I'll like the look or the rules despite some brief testing today but it will allow me to fit most of most large ACW battles of my table as a playable afternoon game which means, at the moment,  it will give me something different from my other collections and periods. Of course I still have the option of bathtubbing the battles using the Square Brigadier.

Scales and Organization.
Each Grid Area is a distance of around 500 to 750 yards varying by scenario and table size.
Each "unit" represents an average of 1,500 to 2,000 men or 20 guns depending on scale.
Units are grouped into Divisions with a Division Commander.
Divisions are commanded by a Corps Commander.

Rules Summary. as of 18 Dec 12:30 Atlantic
Initiative. At the start of each turn each side rolls a die. The high score may choose to go 1st or 2nd that turn. A tie uses the sequence from last turn. One side may be given a +1 for a given scenario.
Bombardment Phase. Both Player's resolve Artillery Bombardment and Skirmisher Fire.
1st Player Moves or Rallies units.
2nd Player Moves or Rallies units.
Combat Phase. Both Players resolve Combat between adjacent units.

Bombardment and Skirmish Fire.  Both player's may roll for the effect of artillery bombardment and skirmish fire by units which are not adjacent to an enemy then the hits are applied. Artillery which bombards may not move that turn.
Infantry and dismounted cavalry roll 1 die per unit at ranges up to 2.
Artillery rolls 2 dice against a target within 4 areas.
-1 die vs a target in cover.
Effect: Each 5,6 hits

Infantry 1 in woods or other bad going or if having fired skirmish fire this turn, 2 in open, 3 if column on road.
Artillery 1 in open woods or across ford or passable hill, 2 in open, 3 on road,
Cavalry 1 in open woods or across ford or if having fired skirmish fire this turn, 3 mounted in the open, 4 in column on road.
Must face corner or edge after move.
A unit must halt when moving adjacent to the enemy. A unit moving into an area containing an obstacle such as an abatis which is adjacent to the enemy becomes disordered.

Detached Units and Generals.
If a Division Commander is not within 6 areas and line of sight of his Corps Commander he must roll 4,5,6 to move. If a unit is not within 3 areas and line of sight of its Division Commander it must roll 4,5,6 to move.

Must be adjacent to an enemy. If there is an enemy sharing a side it must be the target. If there is no enemy sharing a side then an enemy sharing a corner may be fought. If there are 2 equal priority targets a unit may split dice.
All units roll a base of 3 dice.

+1 if unit did not move this turn
-1 die if the enemy is fortified
-1 die if disordered or flanked or if the enemy is defending a terrain obstacle, steep hill or cover.

Effect: Each 5,6 causes a hit.

Combat Resolution. Once all hits have taken effect, remove any units that are destroyed. Any unit that is adjacent to an enemy and suffered more hits than it took must retreat a full move in disorder. If, after retreats are carried out,  mounted cavalry are still adjacent to enemy they must retreat a full move in disorder.

Disorder. Disordered unit may not move except to retreat if adjacent to the enemy. A disordered unit which does not move may remove the disorder.

Morale. Regular units are removed after 4 hits, Elite after 5, Green after 3. A Division which has lost 1/2 of its units is demoralized and its units may not move adjacent to the enemy.

Order of Battle for The 1st Day at Gettysburg, adapted from Fire & Fury.
The scenario runs from 10:00 turn to 17:00 turn
or 8 turns.

CSA  (2 Corps Cdr, 4 Div Cdr, 15 inf units, 6 guns )

On Table (10:00)
Heth  Div Cdr
4 Infantry
2 Guns

12:00 Chambersberg Pike
AP Hill  Corps Cdr
Pender  Div Cdr
4 Infantry  (Deployed)
2 Guns

13:00 OakHill
Ewell Corps Cdr
Rodes Div Cdr
4 Infantry
1 Gun

14:00 Harrisburg Road
Early Div Cdr
3 Elite Infantry
1 Gun

USA  (2 Corps Cdr, 6 Div Cdr, 2 Cav, 10 Inf, 4 guns)

On Table (10:00)
Buford Div Cdr (May be ordered by Reynolds)
2 Cavalry
1 Gun

Reynolds  I Corps Cdr
Wadsworth Div Cdr
1 Elite Infantry
1 Infantry

Doubleday Div Cdr
2 Infantry
1 Gun

11:00  Emmitsburg Rd
Robinson Div Cdr
2 Infantry
1 Gun

11:00 Taneytown Rd
Schurz Div Cdr
2 Green Infantry

12:00 Emmitsburg Rd
Howard XI Corps Cdr
Barlow Div Cdr
2 Green Infantry
1 Gun
Von Steinwehr
2 Green Infantry
1 Gun

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rethinking Quick Gettysburg

Today I worked out the OB for my easy Gettysburg test game by modifying the OB   from the Fire & Fury scenario to a 500 men or 20 guns per stand instead of 200 men or 10 guns.

Heth's Division,
roughly 1/4 of the Reb army

Once done the total came to 86 infantry stands, 5 cavalry, 9 guns and 16 Corps and Division Generals or roughly 550 figures. This is about 2/3 of my painted 1/72 ACW but more Generals than I have. Doing the whole second day was going to need a couple of hundred figures from the Plastic Pile painted up, or splitting the battle into segments.

A quick test of the back of a tablet rules suggested that Heth's attack would take about 15 minutes to resolve, probably in a fairly random manner. I can live with quick and fandom results for a game that takes 20 minutes to set up and an hour to play but a game that will take an hour to set up and 1/2 hour to play and wants me to paint up a bunch more figures? That's not what I had in mind. Back to the drawing board.

I've been reluctant to let go of Brigades as units because of the iconic status of the Iron, Stonewall and other Brigades. However, keeping track of a dozen 2 and 3 stand brigades in similar uniforms on each side is not a task I look forward to.  It would be much easier though to just identify the Divisions and give them an appropriate number of stands using a convenient ratio perhaps 1:800 and not worry about brigades. Going with generic 1 grid square units worked well for Bull Run.  I'm also revisiting the rules from 2 years ago and pondering my Battle Cry dice.

Something will emerge!