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, June 28, 2010

Teaser #8: Mede me at the Pass

This game is the first in a mini-campaign for lazy gamers. At the moment I will not be laying out the full details but basically it will be a short series of linked tabletop teasers drawn from Battlegames Magazine. The armies involved are my pre-Achaemenid Mede army and their Lydia enemies, more about them can be found at http://gatheringofhosts.blogspot.com/ .

This battle takes place in a mountain pass (the mountains being off table, I don't have painted backdrops so please use your imagination). The ground is much cut up by small hills, clumps of woods and so forth and is split in 1/2 by a fordable stream. I was feeling distinctly under the weather when laying this game out  as well as feeling very aware that time was limited and accidently laid the stream off to one side rather than down the middle, I don't think it made a major difference to the game and anyway, no two passes are exactly alike! Several small bridges were replaced by fords that I declared to be open terrain.
Victory required seizing the 2 built up areas that dominate the main bridge and the center of the valley.
Turn 3, the armies draw near.
The 2 Napoleonic armies in the original are balanced forces, similar in size and fighting power but not exactly alike.A battalion of Grenz plus 7 infantry units, battalion guns and 5 cavalry vs Grenadiers, 6 infantry, 6 cavalry and a battery of guns. Having in mind roughly the size of game that I wanted, I decided not to exactly translate the Austrians and French to Medes and Lydians but settled on two similar, balanced but different forces of 36 cavalry and 120 infantry per side. The armies had to enter with all units in march column but spread out as desired. The rules in use were Warhammer Ancient Battles v1.5 with both armies using the Achaemenid Persian list (after all both ended up being part of that empire) but selecting different options. I didn't count points but just selected appropriate units as far as possible. All units were morale 7 apart from the Lydian lancers and the skirmishers. (you call 'em marines, I call em Uxians, Thracians etc)


ORDERS of BATTLE

MEDES

Army General Rossius in a light chariot.

3 regiments, each of 24 medium infantry armed with some combination of bows and thrusting spears and carrying large wicker shields capable of being used to form a wall of shields. The Hyrkanians (yellow caps), the Raffum regiment (white caps, shields white with black chevrons), The Ecbatana Garrison regiment (white caps, white shields with red bars),
1 regiment of 18 mercenary light infantry with bow and thrusting spear. The Uxians (bare chested), this unit should have been 24 strong but 6 new recruits were not ready to take the field.
2  companies of skirmishers, 6 with sling, 6 with javelin.
1 squadron of 3 heavy chariots. These I initially counted as equivalent  to 6 cavalry , only after the game did I realize that they should have counted as 12 and thus the Medes unintentionally got 6 free cavalry in place of their 6 missing light infantry. (The problem arose from having removed 2 horses from each model to make them look more like the old Funcken picture, then deciding that they really ought to be 4 horse chariots to avoid rules complications since 2 horse heavy chariots don't appear to be contemplated in the rules and are unlikely anyway. Only 1 of the 3 actually had 4 horses for the game and thus I violated a key principle for the campaign of only fielding units that are finished as what they are supposed to be. They will not be allowed on the field again until the horse issue is resolved!)
1 squadron of 6 mercenary Skythian horse archers,
1 squadrons of 6 Hyrcanian medium cavalry with bow and shield,
3 squadrons, each 6 strong, of the Raffum medium cavalry regiment armed with javelins, all carrying shields, 1 with light armour as well.

THE LYDIANS
General Aloettes, bearing the look if not the effect of an armoured lancer
1 wing of 12 Lydian lancers, elite armoured cavalry with thrusting spears
4 mercenary squadrons each  of 6 medium cavalry with javelins
1 regiment of 24 Phrygian spearmen with armour and shield.
1 regiment of Mercenary Greek infantry in heavy armour with large shields and spears, trained in phalanx
1 regiment of  Ionian Greek infantry as above but wearing light armour
1 regiment of Thracian light infantry levies with javelin, spear and shield
4 companies of skirmishers each 6 strong, 2 with bow, 1 of slingers, 1 of javelin men.

THE PLANS
The Medes deployed on the North West, their plan was to send the Hyrcanians and slingers over the ford to seize the far village, send the Ecbatana regiment to seize the near village and deploy the rest of the infantry to protect the flank and hopefully shoot up the Lydian cavalry. The Mede cavalry was to delay and harass the enemy but avoid getting into melee if possible. The chariots, being both slow and the only shock unit in the Mede army, formed a reserve by default.

The Lydian plan was similar with skirmishers backed by the Phyrgians being sent over the stream, the Greeks being sent to attck the near village with the light troops and cavalry movinga round on the flank, hoping to drive in the Mede cavalry. The lancers were to form a reserve.
Turn 4, the Hyrkanian cavalry suffers the 1st loss of the day to javelin fire.
THE BATTLE
Initially, the battle went according to the Mede's plan and they swiftly occupied the village across the stream and were sure to reach the other village 1st. Based on past experience and on the difficulty of assaulting buildings under the rules, they were confident of holding both. The Lydians on the other hand had to start scrambling as various weaknesses in their plan and deployment came to light. Their main reaction was to get aggressive with their cavalry. On the left, they pressed the Medes hard, gaining the initiative. In the center, the Lydian lancers, supported by light infantry and  archers  drove into the Uxians in an attempt to keep up the momentum. On paper, the odds were all against the completely unprotected infantry but they held firm.

On the right, the Phrygians, were directed to forget the ford and rush the near town and storm it. Since their equipment was only slightly heavier than the Medes, this was a bit of a long shot but they managed to get into the town before it was fully occupied and caught part of the Mede force in the streets. The melee was short and sharp and left the Phrygians ahead by 1. The Medes checked morale and threw boxcars! uh oh. Their rout move didn't take them far and I was envisaging this recently revised unit being destroyed and leaving the campaign, however, that would have left the Phrygians vulnerable in turn, especially as they would be dispersed from fighting amongst buildings and not formed up. I decided to try and hold them back and when they passed, I allowed them to occupy the buildings they had stormed as their after melee reform. Probably not technically correct but it felt right. (luckily I am used to normally being able to take this 'feels right' approach even when not playing solo) This was the Phrygians first taste of battle, the varnish being barely dry on them and I was well pleased with their performance.
The Lydian cavalry in melee across the line while the street fight is about to begin.
Things were looking up for the Lydians but their cavalry suffered from atrocious dice  and on the left, after a few tied melees, their units were destroyed one after the other. The Thracians rushed up to plug the gap but suffered heavily from enemy missile fire and then had to flee from a  chariot charge. In the center, the lancers declined to rally back and, after a gruelling melee  lasting 4 rounds, the Uxians finally broke. The lancers pursued and ran them down, then crashed into the chariot reserve. I thought being caught halted would weaken the chariots, and it did, but not nearly enough. In the melee which followed, I found out just how tough they were and with the casualties suffered in the long infantry fight, the lancers fell below 5 figures and were destroyed. (oddly enough, about 30 years ago at Origins, I blew the North American WRG Ancients Tournament by charging my Clibinari into the flank of a chariot unit rather than running down the enemy general. I was tired and thought I'd be clever and scare his chariots then be  intercepted by his general but my opponent was too clever for that. I've never felt the same about too clever moves or chariots since then.)

As the Medes regrouped and sent cavalry out to harrass the enemy rear,   it looked like they had it in the bag, all they had to do was take back 1 village.At long last though, the Greeks were deployed and up. While the Ionians watched the flank and rear, the mercenaries charged the Raffum regiment's shield barrier, at first the barrier held  but eventually a no hit round meant a dice off and the Medes lost. Their morale held but the wall was breached! On the next round, the heavily armoured Greeks slaughtered the Medes and drove them into flight, panicking the chariots but not able to catch and destroy the enemy.

Since I hadn't set a time limit and there is no army morale, I could have continued  but with nearly 1/2 of the units in each army destroyed or routed and with each side securely holding 1 town, I declared exhaustion and called it a draw. In campaign terms though, there is no doubting the Mede strategic victory, all of the Lydian cavalry, 1/2 of their total potential cavalry force and nearly all of the combat ready ones, have been destroyed compared with 1 regiment of auxiliary infantry for the Medes. (albeit a new and favoured unit). The impact of this drawn battle will be felt in the next game.
The fighting comes to a halt as both sides rally their infantry and count up the dead and wounded..
OBSERVATIONS

On the effects of campaign:

  1. I went into the game only really thinking of the campaign in terms of "gotta to try and win this one if we (sic) are going to win the campaign". However, once units started disappearing and it suddenly struck home that they weren't coming back for the next game regardless of how shiny they were or how much time had been spent painting them, then my outlook started to shift to "is the victory worth the candle?".
  2. There are two decisions made during the game that I question, would I have made the same decisons in a 2 player campaign?  The first was the decision to pass up eliminating the Mede infantry by risking the Phyrgians and the town. Almost certainly the town would have been lost on the next turn and the game with it but the Phrygians would probably have been able to flee from the charge and eventually rally somewhere to the rear. A strategic gain for a tactical loss, would it have been worth it?   Probably not but I will admit that I would have been dismayed to see the Ecbatana regiment eliminated on its first outing in that guise and even more dismayed to see my only Phrygian unit destroyed if it had rolled way down and been caught! 
  3. The second was the decision not to break off the Lydian lancers, I meant to but I could feel the infantry breaking and thought that I might be able to run down the chariots in my pursuit. (oops I know better now, first time the Mede chariots have taken the field) In other words, I did a Ponsonby and it cost me the unit permanently. 
  4. . For the Medes, who used their small cavalry units to maneuver, concentrate missile fire on chosen key points and avoid close combat, the small units worked well. On the other hand, for the Lydians who kept charging the enemy cavalry it was a disaster since any unit that accumulated 2 casualties was automatically broken if it lost a round of melee and without a decisive advantage, it was a throw of the dice to see which side was destroyed. That it was the Lydians each time who were broken was just bad luck, especially since they managed to hit 1 unit with 2 of their own, but relying on lucky dice is never a sound beginning strategy and should be left to final resorts. Something for the next campaign now.
On the Rules:
  1. The rules continued to work well despite the lack of command control limitations, the all or nothing morale and the lack of an army break point or similar. I am happy to envisage couriers galloping back and forth across the table while unit commanders use a certain degree of initiative, without explicit rules. esp in such a small action. I certainly seem capable of making blunders without a chart and if the initial  plan is wrong, given the difficulty of maneuvering undrilled infantry, there is only so much adjustment that is possible anyway. 
  2. I have only been able to use the shield wall a couple of times, never against the Greeks, but I have not been happy with the rule. This time it worked just right, in part due to the heavy armour of the Greeks which provided as good protection. At first there was a struggle at the barrier, then once the Greeks broke through it, the poor Medes didn't stand a chance.      
  3. WAB 2.0  I found myself searching the net last night for info on the new 2.0 version of the rules. As far as I can see, the changes are small  but important improvements. I might be tempted to spent $25 to get the revised  rules but at well over $100 Cdn to get a copy here, there is no way, especially given the constraints of early retirement and that the majority of my ancient games are likely to be solo. So, possibly I will take the casual comments on various blogs and forums and do my own version of the ones that seem most appealing using my best guess at what the actual changes are, or just stick with what works. An open question for now and one to discuss with those friends I do play the occasional ancients game with.  


The proud Phrygian spearmen


Once again I am disappointed in the picture quality. My gamesroom is the darkest, dingiest room in the house but I thought some extra light and my tripod would help. Depth of field is still far too shallow though. Interestingly, I wrote out the report then looked at the pictures and had to go back and revise the order in which some events happened!

Permanent Campaign Losses:
Medes: 1 squadron of  Hyrkanian cavalry ((routed late in the game by light infantry bow and javelin fire), the Uxian Light Infantry Regiment. (and almost 2 infantry regiments but fortune smiled on them and drawing new shields they will return)
Lydians: 4 squadrons of medium cavalry, 2 squadrons of Lydian lancers, a company of slingers and 1 of archers (not smart for 6 man skirmish units to fight missile duels with 24 man Mede infantry units).

The next game should be sometime this week.





 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Recycle, Re-use, Re-arm


I sympathize with Charles Stuart at the moment, Civil War looms and the war chest is empty and no hope of new funds in the near future. Luckily, apart from raising new regiments from scratch, I also have some  old veterans who have remained loyal and will answer the call.


 These take the form of some Minifigs bough back in the mid-70's when the change over from S-Range to Staid & Stout ranges was happening and they were among the last Minifigs I ever bought, but they fought well for me, not as ECW Scots but first as Valdurian pikemen and archers and then as late Medieval Scots, tucked away amongst Heritage, Garrison and various other figures. After carefully extracting these, the total remaining came to 1 mounted General (probably Rupert though I would have expected me to have ordered Montrose), 4 Scots cavalry including 2 hairy barbarians with bare arms and huge poleaxes, 20 Pikemen in neat kilts and helmets, 10 archers in formal dress and 1 brawny swordsmen.  I'm sure there used to be more of the latter as well as at least 1 with 2 handed claidhmore  but there we are and after all its been about 35 years and at most there are 2 or 3 missing. I suspect the cavalry and swordsmen were samples not followed up on. I also found 2 unpainted officers, a piper and a drummer that I acquired much later, from somewhere or other. 

Anyway, how to turn these into useful units? (without ordering more - the sensible solution)  First the cavalry, 4 men is not an imposing unit. If I wasn't going to buy more, I needed to fall back on the old ways and convert something, after searching the various unpainted, broken and/or orphaned boxes, I found just the ticket. A handful of left over PB Range Pictish cavalry. Ok, so not the first thing that popped into your mind, but there they are, same style of horse and body so they will fit in once dressed, and dressed in simple long sleeved, knee length tunic, it would be a snap to add boots, bonnets, gauntlets and plaid, as well as replacing broken spears. As an added bonus, its been ages since I set out to do a major conversion and I hugely enjoyed the process. I should probably have stripped the paint off first, but as it is I was able to leave the original painted faces. Now to do 4 more.

 The Picts had been a favoured unit of mine. They were raised one summer with one goal in mind, hunt down and destroy Simon's Elite, barbarian light cavalry unit known as the Goths. These fierce warriors who carried a huge dead (presumably) fly entombed in epoxy putty as a standard, never rolled less than +2 as I recall and had never been defeated. (These were in our pre-historic (literally) WRG 3rd edition days). I painted the Picts in as scruffy a fashion as I could manage, drilled them in wedge formation and sent them into battle where I was rewarded by seeing the Goths roll down and break. Sweet revenge!  So you can see it would give me pleasure to find a new place for some of those veterans, long without a proper home, to serve again.  (The rest are being refurbished as miscellaneous barbarian mercenaries for my Lydian army and will appear in due course in the4 Gathering of Hosts blog.)   

Next I turned my attention to my pike and bow unit. I don't think the kilted pike quite matched even the then current picture of Coventer Scots pike but I see that more of Montrose's highanders are now thought to have fought as pike and shot units rather than wild eyed swordsmen so close enough for me.  Pike and bow still doesn't sound right and after contemplating where to find suitable shot, I finally decided to re-arm some of the pikemen to make up a 1:1 pike/shot unit. The arquebus I made for my 40mm landsknechts was a little skinny and with a bit of trimming, makes a decent 25mm musket but I also tried turning a pike into a musket with putty. I like the borrowed musket best. A 24 man pike/shot regiment is a little small but acceptable in the circumstances. adding the officers and drummer to the shot wings, I only need to convert 8 pikemen to shot.
If I scrounge one other highlander, then I will also have a 12 man Highland bow unit. 

Old toy soldiers never die.    

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Small Start

Having pledged a regiment of 28mm ECW troops for a local campaign, I began the recruiting today. This is the smallest figure that I've sculpted so far. (by a head, the only other figure smaller than 40mm was a 30mm 1740's Cie Franche de la marine recruited into Alexander Keith's Regt.)

The other figure on the pedastal is a Hat 28mm plastic Voltigeur. The figure at the foot is one of my 40mm glossy toy soldiers, my usual sculpting size  and a good example of why I need to start using my vulcanizer and spin caster.

The plan at the moment, is to work a little more on the nude dolly and then drop cast it. The castings will then be modified and dressed as pikemen, musketeers and command and then spincast to produce my regiment.  Keith's at left was dropcast entirely and officers and artillery etc converted from the infantry castings (about 60 in total).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Circle The Wagons

I was supposed to spend all day on household and garden chores. Its hell being mostly retired. But SWMBO is away, its a grey day and my mind is in the woods. Not the ones that surround me, the ones surrounding the wagon road to Fort Belmont where the garrison is anxiously awaiting supplies.
So what the heck. The wagon train from Scenarios for Wargamers is another old chestnut suitable for testing rules since I know that any issues aren't scenario related. After all, I've played versions of this probably 50 times in at least 6 scales and 10 periods using a dozen or more rule sets.

Fort Belmont sitting on a low hill, was garrisoned by a gun and 2 companies of local militia who will not leave the walls but also has a force ready to sortie. A 2 company battalion of the Newport Blues, (continentals) and a 2 company battalion of Newport militia all of under the command of the cautious Colonel Slouch.

The convoy itself under General Ross contained 6 wagons, carts, flocks etc guarded by a company of irregular riflemen, 2 companies of militia light infantry, a 2 company battalion of the Canadian Regiment and a 2 company battalion of Avalon militia.

Lurking in the surrounding woods was Major Harrop of the Cobequid Rangers (acting as general) with 2 companies of veteran rangers from his regiment, a company of veteran Jaegers, a small battalion of Hessian Grenadiers, 2 companies of Acadian loyalist irregulars, a band  of  Beothuks and 2 bands of Miqma  warriors under their Chief Glooscap. These rolled 2 dice each turn until they entered, needing to score the turn number or less to arrive. They then rolled 1 die for point of entry. (purists will note that this is slightly different than the arrival rules in the scenario). The figures are a mix of Sash & Saber, Trident, Historifig, Frontrank, Prince August homecast and Irregular with a few War of 1812 figures filling in some gaps in the OB.

Things started peacefully enough with bands of indians and rangers sneaking up valleys and lurking in the corn but eventually the riflemen caught sight of some laggard Acadians and opened fire. Since the wagons were well onto the table, Glooscap led a band of warriors forward supported by a company of rangers. Seeing this, the Belmont Blues formed up through open the gates and marched forth. Imagine every one's surprise when a band of Beothuks rolled a 6 and emerged from the corn to unleash a volley of fire into their flank! Actually 2 bands of indians, the Jaegers and a company of rangers had all rolled "1" and arrived through the cornfield adjacent to the corn.

The fighting grew fierce as the Blues faced their enemy, driving them back with volleys of musket fire and as a general pop pop popping of skirmish fire grew along the whole flank and front of the convoy. But as Colonel Slouch went down, struck by a Jaeger's  bullet, the Blues suddenly had enough and fled into the fort leaving the Newport men to cover their retreat. These stood for a while, but under the hail of bullets, broke as well and retreated opening up a line of fire for the fort's 6 pounder to open up with canister.

Back at the convoy things seemed well in hand until a wild looking bunch of Acadians emerged from the woods behind the convoy and fired on the defenders just as the grenadiers emerged from behind a low ridge and rushed forward. Things were tense as the militia skirmishers broke before the grenadiers and these charged into the retreating wagons. Without hesitation, the Avalon battalion rushed forward, unleashing a ragged volley and charging into the confusion around the wagons. With a +2 on each die, the grenadiers were confident but after 2 rounds of melee and 3 grenadiers to show for 1 teamster, the grenadiers broke and ran back towards the ridge. On the other side, the Canadians advanced driving back the rangers.

As the sun sank in the sky, Major Harrop stirred himself, after rallying the Beothuk who had been broken by heavy and accurate long range fire from the fort, he led the rangers at a run towards the convoy. On the hill, as the number of warriors surrounding Glooscap grew less, he raised the Whoop and led them downhill in a fierce tomahawk charge which scattered the remaining rifles then pulled back onto the ridge to regroup. It was going to be hard to capture the wagons but with the rangers and the rallied Grenadiers blocking the way, odds looked good  that the convoy could be stopped from reaching the fort and forced to turn back. It was an illusion, the Jaegers, getting  over excited pressed in on the retreating militia and were broken by artillery, the rallied Blues sallied forth to drive off their previous tormentors, and the acadians trading shot for shot with their more numerous opponents finally had enough. 5 out of 9 units were routing with no hope of being rallied and Major Harrop had no choice but to signal for a general retreat. The children sheltering in Fort Belmont would have fresh milk tonight.    
The British broke on Turn 15 after a little over 3 hours of play and the game felt like the old MacDuff games that I have been remembering fondly. I used the card sequence which I find suits skirmishes well but I went back to the original idea of letting the commanders pick which unit to activate when the card is pulled. I had moved towards marking units names of the card thus adding more friction and reducing the command ability of players but there is enough of that already and giving the player's a choice makes for a better game I think. (what a surprise since it TSATF has used the method successfully for 3 decades now!) . I made one other change  mid-game. The original Colonial game had troops close to their general being able to automatically obey orders but the F&IW version had all units check always. I like the former for regulars but not for irregulars so on the fly I added being Irregular to the list of things that will make you take a control check. This made the Indians suitably unpredictable to their European general though Glooscap was normally able to use his influence to good effect on the band he was with.

A morning well wasted as they say. Now for the chores. Then I can get back to prepping those 7 rangers for painting, digging out some unpainted indians and militia not to mention molds and planning future units, make some more trees, dig out the better Barzso stockade to be painted................ so much to do!

Revised rules available at http://www.lochsloy.ca/wargames/macduff2010.doc

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Once More


Just finished the 2nd play through with the units the way I envisaged. The US this time had 3 cavalry units each 1 squadron strong, 1 independent, 2 under a Commander, 2 batteries each with a commander, 4 infantry battalions of 4 companies each with a commander and a rifle company commanded by one of the infantry commanders. The British were more diverse. On the left there was a commander with a gun in a redoubt and a company of rifles, in the center an infantry battalion with commander but with 2 detachments occupying buildings. the redoubts were manned by a battery and a 2 company battalion all under 1 commander but split into detachments, a gun and company manning each redoubt. the main town was held by a 2 company battalion under its own commander and in reserve was a 1 rocket horse artillery battery with commander and 2 squadrons of cavalry under a commander.

I set a time limit and watched the turns. A nail biter which almost ended early several times but the Americans kept pulling rabbits out of their hats, rallying incredibly well and winning key initiatives. By turn 19 they had firmly occupied the central town and had driven the British out of the town by the river but their army finally broke before the 4th infantry could consolidate after winning the firefight (themselves at 1 figure above being broken!)  The first 12 turns took about 3 hours and I would have called a convention game there. The last 7 turns which confirmed the outcome took almost 2 more hours due to interruptions and fatigue (more due to an upset stomach than the game itself though I need to finish basing and making up infantry trays).

After their performance in the last 3 games, I'm tempted to down grade the Governor General's Bodyguard to militia ('nuff said). The US 1st Infantry, however, are close to earning elite status for their ability to Rally and return to the fray. The US 1st & 2nd Dragoons performed credibly again, the later managing to tie a melee against nearly twice their numbers of Bengal Lancers and avoid going broken by doing so.

 The NY Dragoons, well, just try not to deploy cavalry beyond the general's control,  under a rash commander and in front of a battery of guns. (was there a man dismayed?)


Now I need to set up an ambush of a wagon train and play out a company only skirmish.
The rules as of 3pm Atlantic time http://www.lochsloy.ca/wargames/macduff2010.doc

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Less vs More

I know, I'm supposed to be marshaling Persians and Lydians, making trees, finishing the re-rebasing of the 1839 toys but having had a few hours, what I wanted to do and did was continue the exploration of MacDuff and of what it is I am really looking for. So out came an old chestnut, Scenario 1 from Scenarios for Wargamers, the "Fontenoy" scenario.


It didn't take long for some old conundrums raised their head. Oddly, they can pretty much all be summed up by the question: "less or more?".


  • Units:  Given that there are only so many figure that can fit comfortably on any given table without over crowding, is it better to have a few large units or a large number of smaller ones?
  • Turns: Is it better to have a few action packed turns or many turns in which things build up.
  • Complexity: Is it better to have more granularity and flavour even it it slows the game or to have less in order to speed things.

The original MacDuff tended towards "more". Lots of turns to get a resolution,  companies that were to some degree "units" grouped into biggish battalions with 4 levels of officer figures, each with their own role. In a small skirmish with a few companies per side, it was easy enough (and this was the sort of game it was designed for) but increasingly I wanted to play with as many battalions as I had originally used companies and now despite simple combat and movement rules, the complexity of tracking multiple levels became onerous and games took a long time, particularly since while individual companies could be broken fairly easily, a battalion was usually able to rally and come back again , often more than once if good quality and not vigorously pursued.   (which was intended ). Good for solo games or a couple of friends with a whole day and evening to kill but not so good for club or convention games.

So back to the game. Being for once in a leisurely mode with some assurance that for several days I could claim several hours a day as my own, and being a point of life change where I am determined to sort a few things out before I forge ahead, I heeded these questions as they arose.  The first was that of unit size. My 1812 units are largely organized in 8 man companies, 2 companies for lights, 3 for US and 4 for Brits. My 1839 units are variously organized for Charge!, for MacDuff or for Morschauser depending on exactly when they were raised.

Stepping back and looking at the scenarios I plan to make most use of, the guidelines are that infantry units are twice the size of cavalry and light infantry and batteries are 2 guns, which suggests that they were originally conceived for the Grant rules from The Wargame. Now, I now I don't have to conform but it amuses me to do so and it happens to fit my 1812 organization well (no accident). But, since the typical larger scenario calls for as many as 8 infantry, 2 light cavalry and 4 cavalry units plus 4 guns, that is some 288 infantry and 64 cavalry plus staff and on my 8 foot  table, that will line the table edge to edge with 2 lines of units in line. Cutting it in 1/2 is feasible, basically making a scenario unit 1 company (squadron) or cavalry or light infantry or 2 companies of infantry and then grouping them into battalions where appropriate. The larger armies will fill its side of the table but only once and  not all armies are that size and it does allow for a reserve.

Now how about the interplay of Army General, Brigadier, Colonel, Regiment, Captain and Company. Frankly, its a nice idea and reflects the reality of a hierarchical organization but its too much for a simple game.
What are some options?

  • Charge! allows the companies an existence but no role for Captains, Colonels, Brigadiers and Generals even though they exist,
  • The Wargame ignores companies but allows officers including the Colonel a Morale role and involves Brigadiers and the General in a system of written game orders changed by messengers, 
  • Many if not most newer rules ignore the companies and Colonels but give a role to the army commander and brigadiers.
What bits of this are important to me?

  • I want my units to have a consistent establishment, in other words I don't want a group of figures to be called  a "company" today and a "battalion" tomorrow, and I want to be able to field companies as units if playing a skirmish. For example, I want the grenadier company of the 41st foot to appear in an ambush today but all 4 (sic) companies of the 41st foot to appear as a unit in battle tomorrow. 
  • I want my Colonels to have a role to play and an identity (keeping campaigns in mind). It would be nice to have Captain's play a role in skirmishes but not get in the way during battles.
  • I don't want the General trying to personally over see 12 separate units without any sort of intermediate help.  (3 or 4 battalions seems to be average for a brigade though one can find them as small as 2 or as large as 6 or more.) But the difference between the role of General, Brigadier and Colonel must be both simple and distinct if I am to field both and I need to find a way to make the figures distinct for players who aren't familiar with the troops.  

What I tried is eliminating the Brigadiers and making the battalions larger. So in the scenario where it called for the attacker to have 8 infantry, 1 lt inf, 3 cavalry and 4 guns, I fielded  2 battalions each of 6 companies, 1 with 4 line and 1 light company, a 2 squadron cavalry regiment, an independent cavalry squadron, and 2 batteries each of 2 guns. Their less numerous opponant fielded 2 4 company regiments, a 2 squadron cavalry regiment, 4 1 gun batteries (only because 3 were assigned to 1 gun redoubts) and an independent rifle company. In effect, the Colonels were now acting as pseudo-Brigadiers and the organization of the battlions was rapidly approaching Charge! standard. Overall it worked and I enjoyed the game but the oversize regiments took an incredible amount of punishment but were fairly inflexible, the general effectively only having 3 infantry units. The fighting around the redoubts and buildings resulted in detached companies all over the place with confusion over who should or shouldn't be considered independent, especially when it came to being broken and rallying casualties.

It has conformed in my mind that the well tried 2 or 4 x8 organization that I adopted for 1812 works for me. I can now set that aside.  Not for the first time though, it occurs to me that what I really need is two variants of the same game, using the existing units and sahring the same movement, combat and morale rules. A "Skirmish" game where "units" are companies commanded by Captains and there are no Brigadiers but rather Colonels control their units as an extension of the "General"  and a "Battle" game where "units" are battalions (though capable of detaching companies in certain circumstances such as to form a skirmish line or occupy buildings) and where the Colonel becomes merely a unit commander and Brigadiers have a command role, extending the control of the General.

So what happened? Briefly on the left,  the out of command 4th infantry, 50 strong  advanced against the town under heavy artillery fire and were then charged by the British cavalry and driven back across the table, finally rallying on the edge when the 2nd NY dragoons  intervened to drive off their pursuers. The Dragoons, also out of command, unfortunately got carried away (6 on the control chart), charged the redoubts and were broken by doubled shotted guns.

In the center, concentrated artillery fire drove the British out of one house but an assault on the other by the 1st US met a flurry of bad dice and they were repulsed. The 3rd US occupied the other house, broke the Buffs with fire and began a fire fight with the closest redoubt, eventually driving the defenders back with the aid of the field guns. The 2nd Dragoons bypassed the rallying 1st Infantry and swept around the rear of the town, forcing the Buffs and RHA to scurry for cover but suffering heavily from enfilade fire from the 3rd redoubt and riflemen. They were finally broken by the rallied British cavalry even those these were also forced to retreat off table due to casualties despite winning the melee.

The final act was an assault by the rallied 1st Infantry on the 3rd redoubt and by the rallied 4th Infantry on the town. Both regiments were broken by fire just as they prepared to close the last few inches with the bayonet and the American army having 1/2 its units broken at the end of the turn was forced to concede even though several of these would most likely have rallied in a turn or 2. The British were a few figures away from the same state so a narrow, Pyhrric victory at best and a close game. The game was played in 4 or 5 separate sessions around chores over an evening and a day, probably no more than 4 or at most 5 hours in total though. I didn't count turns, it had to be close to 20. It occurred to me near the end  that while time might be a problem for a club or convention game, it was no problem for a solo one!    

Tonight I am going to reset using my "standard: units, tweak the rules as mentioned above into a battle and skirmish variant and over Sunday and possibly Monday, run through it again.
(note tweaked rules are here: http://www.lochsloy.ca/wargames/macduff2010.doc)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When in need, improvise

Yes, another diversion on the road to a Battlegame Magazine battle game of the month.  A group of us here have decided to undertake a 28mm ECW campaign, I need another scale and period like the proverbial hole in the head but I have agreed to supply a small force of vintage (as in 35 yr old 25mm highlanders and a regiment or 2 of foot.. While recruiting is underway, we have decided to play some test games to try out several sets of rules. The rules being put to the test today are "Victory Without Quarter" by Clarence Harrison. 

Jeff set up 2 small armies each tasked with capturing a knoll in that lay between them.

The Royalists had a brigade of cavalry containing a unit of Veteran Cuirassiers, 2 units of gallopers and a unit of dragoons,  a brigade of infantry with 3 units of pike & shot (1 raw) and a gun. Parliament fielded a brigade of cavalry including a unit of lancers (treated as gallopers) and  2 units of Trotters, a brigade of Infantry with 4 units of Pike & shot and a gun. All troops began the game off table. Normally field guns aren't allowed to move but we decided that they could move 6" a turn and would take a full move to deploy. Once deployed they could not move again. We decided to use the 25mm distances with the 15mm troops.

(wait a minute you say, if recruiting has just started, where did the troops come from? Well, Jeff's 15mm Waterloo armies provided cavalry and musketeers and my  15mm Pinkie Scots army paused on its march to eBay to provide pikemen. Does that explain the blurry pictures?

My plan was to send my cavalry ahead on the right to try and flank and/or delay his troops, seize a hedgeline  of my left with some infantry to hold that flank, use the gun to bombard the hill, and push the rest of my infantry up the right center to take the hill once the moment seemed auspicious. All of my infantry marched on deployed, the trotters came on in column to push ahead and alarm and distract the enemy as much as possible.  Jeff's plan appeared to be to rush the hill with everything, cavalry and gun on the right, infantry in the center. Most of his troops came on in column. Things were going relatively well until a chance card led to my lead Colonel suddenly having qualms about fighting his king and his regiment, being nonaligned politically but faithful to their leader, followed suit, about faced and opened fire on my troops!  It took 2 turns for me to overwhelm and destroy the turncoats, fortunately without further damage but I was now short a regiment..In the meantime, my whole infantry had stalled, leaving my cavalry to face the onrushing Royalists by them selves. 

My cavalry flanking attack started off well, pushing forward rapidly, the Green squadron was able to deploy into line and charge a Royalist infantry unit in march column, Unfortunately, these hastily formed a stand of pikes and bounced me. A firefight between muskey and pistol ensued which my brave tradesmen and tinkers survived by dint of some spectacular if illegal saving throws. (we missed that they only get saving throws at long range).

(The traitors get their's)

In the center, my lancers who had ridden up the hill to delay the enemy until the infantry arrived, were left on their own  during the little internal affair and were steam rollered by the Cuirassiers led by their Brigadier in person. Next time I'll take my chances with an evade! So now I'm down 2 units with another badly shot up and not so much as a casualty on the enemy to show. It looked bleak, I dont mind saying. But suddenly the Blue Squadron, moving from suportting the Greens, swung up towards the Cuirrassiers and unleashed what was expected to be a futile 4 dice worth of pistol shots. No arguing with 3  5's and a 6 though, the enmy Brigadier, still attached, went down and the Cuirassiers went shaken, when my gun opened up a moment later, they turned tail and ran! Wheeling around, my Blues over ran the enemy artillery which had just unlimbered on the hill then chased the enemy dragoons into a wood. Things were looking up.


On the left my cavalry took some fire but charged a shaken enemy cavalry regiment in the flank and dispersed them, pursuing into a regiment of infantry. The shock sent them back but they held and my cavalry were repulsed. The enemy  Cuirassiers  rallied and in the center, his infantry and 3rd cavalry seized the hill.. Both my remaining squadrons were 1hit away from dispersal. things looked grim.

My First infantry advanced onto the hill and after a brief exchange of fire which shook the enemy infantry,  charged in and stalled. I joined them in person and finally we drove the enemy back then routed him. My infantry then reformed and opened fire on the last fresh squadron of enemy horse. Two staggering volleys were poured in but the remainder held steady.Drawing heart, my Greens finally took the time to turn under the hail of bullets and then shaken, with 2 casualty markers, made their back behind my lines and rallied. On the left my Blues were finally shot to pieces before they could retire to safety. Still, having routed the cuirassiers, destroyed another squadron, captured a gun, driven off the dragoons and battered a pike regiment, they earned their keep. 

The climax was at hand, the center of attention swung back to the center as the enemy foot, freed from the threat of my cavalry, swung around and advanced to retake the hill. Unleashing the first volley, my lads stood firm and delivered a heavy blow shaking the enemy. Down came the pikes and with myself at the head they surged down the hill, dispersing the enemy foot and cutting down their Brigadier. As dusk fell the stragglers of the King's army fell back leaving the hill to Parliament.

A quick but exciting game with lots of ups and downs of fortune. We made a few goofs and had to make on the spot decisions when the rules seemed unclear, unlikely or just not there. For example, we decided that a stand of pikes is not required to pursue cavalry which it pushes back and since interpenetration is not mentioned, we allowed it which I initially supported then later thought was wrong.. As usual with card activation systems, esp those with a reshuffle card, the turn sequence sometimes favoured one side or the other and sometimes the deck seemed to be almost all Red cards, but by the end of the game this had evened out.. Perversely, I actually benefited both ways, early on when Jeff was moving most of his guys before I moved anything, we were in the approach phase it allowed me to tweak my planned moves to take his into account. Later on when I got a string of cards and some early reshuffles,  we were in the midst of combat and of crucially allowed me to steal a march and deliver some heavy blows. 

All in all, I thought it had a good feel for the period as well as being fun to play. Things also felt fairly intuitive or natural, which is good.  Two thumbs up from me.
 .

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Still Stalling - 40mm AWI Jaegers

Since I am having trouble locating the box full of Zinnbrigade molds that I need to get my 40mm Toy Soldier project back on the move, I have turned my attention to the rest of the backlog.  A group of us here started a 40mm AWI project a couple of years ago. Games have been thin on the ground since 1/2 the forces moved away but new recruiting is slowly getting under way. What we need are more line infantry. What I have just added are some Jaegers from Sash & Saber. Johnson's Greens are next with an eye on Oriskany.

A company of Jaegers skirmishes through the fields along the Belmont Rd.