EXCERPT 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

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Belmont Ridge - Postscript

The game was played primarily as a test, a test of rules, proposed table size, figure basing and organization, but it turned out to be the most enjoyable game that I've played in some time.

Rules:  Despite the unplanned stubbornness of Shaken units, I was really happy with the rules. Once again the increased, simplified movement rolled by brigade rather than by unit, really picked up the pace of the game and helped focus the player's view on his battle plan rather then the details of each unit.  This is one of the things that I really liked about Charge! and now without copying it, I have something  that achieves almost the same thing if perhaps less elegantly.

The adoption of a requirement to win melees by 2 has also continued to prove itself. Needing something more than a mildly lucky roll  makes losing feel like a defeat and removes the need for a separate morale check to determine the level of defeat. Something which speeds up the game and makes it flow easier rather than having 2 rules work against each other. The reduction in scores to hit has had the intended result of making the results less sure,  the average still happens most often but extreme results are a little more likely adding to tension and drama. It also means that forlorn hopes and desperate gambles can be taken knowing that success is unlikely but possible.

 Hopefully I haven't broken anything with mid & post game tweaks designed primarily to fix the shaken thing without adding too many convolutions but which always cause collateral changes!   Reason for another game perhaps?

Table. For this game I used some ex-shelves/prospective new hills  to wall off a 5x7 area. The 5 foot width has already established its supremecy, primarily because I can reach the middle without strain, so the question was: "is the loss of a foot of room area justified by the extension of the board from 6 ft to 5 ft". If I had played this game on a 5x6, I would have essentially had to remove the town from the table, or perhaps reduce it to a pair of houses on the edge (vs 4) or make some table edge flat/backdrop houses  and to have moved the American start line back to the edge so that most units would have marched on.   Slightly more work and less visually appealing but the game itself wouldn't have been affected. The jury is still out but 5x7 is definitely the maximum and 5x6 is still ahead by a nose as it will leave room for a comfy chair and a quiet corner for reading.

Bases & Organization. Slam dunk. I knew in 2009 that the 4 man bases were right for me. The initial impetus to change them was a desire to cram more troops on the table so I crammed 8 figures on a 60mm base vs 4 figures on a 40mm wide base. But while the 8 man stands looked OK in line, they don't make convincing march columns and accumulate a frightening number of casualty markers unless I decided to dispense with those.  Having managed to convince myself that big old Charge! style units  was what I really needed, I slid back to single bases. Very flexible but even with movement stands and magnets, I suffered lots of toppling and awkwardness, especially as my troops often find themselves fighting in rugged parts of the world.

I also realized that I didn't really want to face casting and painting a 1,000 40mm figures for one project. The push to have larger and more units wasn't really coming from inside, it was influenced by paying attention to what others were doing.   I like my 20 man units.  Five 4 man bases may seem a bit awkward for attack columns but they allow the colours to go in the middle of a line and I like the tie back to Morschauser.  The new 2" sq bases are a little bigger than the original 40mm x 40mm ones but they allow for any pose of infantry and will hold 2 cavalry on a common frontage with 4 infantry which has certain advantages for game design. In short, it works for me.

The 2 regiment brigades also worked from a gaming POV and it pays to homage to Featherstone and Grant. My regiments are a bit big for many campaigns when you look at the frontage they cover, about 750 men each so the manpower per brigade is about right. If doing an historical battle in a serious way, the current rules would work just as well with several smaller regiments.  Finally I am in a position to draw up an Order of Battle for Aroostock to Oregon as well as the associated Gwalior/Sikh Wars project.


  1. The option for a comfy chair is a vital one and one I am taking into account when planning my own games room. I'm curious about this Gwalior campaign, are efforts already in motion?

  2. The Gwalior/Scinde/1st Afghan War/Sikh War project is why all of my non-1812 units so far are wearing cap covers. It got delayed until I sorted out organization and rules and until I had tie to sculpt all of the "native: units and cast them. The contemporary North American stuff happened first becuase I had a stack of these Scruby ACW figures on hand.....

    Original inspiration of course included:
    "Through the Sikh War" http://www.jmcremps.com/images/15308_WEB.jpg

  3. Sounds like it's all coming together very nicely, bravo.