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, April 4, 2011

The Siege of St. Lambert : Setup

The day began simply enough. Having failed on Saturday to finish the rearrangement of furniture and shelves around the newly shortened table, like a Great War bombardment, the plan moved on towards the production of a 2d cardboard mock up of a possible trace of an 18th C wargame fortress. This was to be followed by a test of the rules in the back of Duffy's Fire and Stone. 

Now I have a fairly weak imagination so a 2D mock up didn't cut it for long, especially once I laid out a few soldiers and guns to test whether or not battalions would hold four guns, each  with their crew of 5. So I dug out some scraps of wood  and raided the bastions and then decided the covered way needed to come up. For years I have recycled those little wooden Moroccan orange crates as storage units and scrap bits for building so I soon had a very abrupt glacis and low covered way. The mitre box was just downstairs so I tried a few cuts so the angles would fit together.  I'm not the one who will be making the actual fortress to be used in July (TG)  so after making some observations and taking a few cellphone snaps, I was ready for phase II. Almost.    

A mock up, just to get an idea of how a wargame fortress might fit onto a table.

A mock up like this didn't seem like a very appealing setting for a game and in any event, it didn't seem "right' to just pitch NQSYW troops on the table without knowing who was fighting who and why. I mean, its not like I could later pretend it didn't happen, is it?

Last week on the spur of the moment, I had postulated a revolt in the city of St. Lambert so I thought a bit more about this and hauled out  my all purpose GW castle that for a dozen years has served as everything from a 54mm Roman fort to the walls of Quebec. As I fiddled  with the covered way, I decided  on earthworks being used to modernize the old city walls and it started to come together. Not having a glacis to match the angles on the earthworks but wanting something to raise it all up, I threw ut some of the off cuts of shelving that I used for the Hook's Farm game and intend to shape into hills once the room settle down and I know what I have left over to work with.

I wanted some form of ravelin in front of the gate so postulated a later attempt to modernize the defenses, some scraps of 1" pine and some toy stone walls did the trick.

The wall looked altogether too regular  and the towers just didn't stand in well enough for bastions but there was that old Hudson & Allan Keep which I had picked up cheap from an Armati opponent at Cold Wars '97.  It doesn't quite fit the GW walls due to the flare at the base (hence the  very noticeable gap) but it looks right. I think I may notch the tower slightly to allow the wall to fit, once refinished, the resulting gap will be passed off as a sewer outlet when serving as a stand alone tower, something for Prince Valiant to use to break in perhaps?

The King's force  sap forward.

Proper fortress guns have been on my to-do list for years, just waiting for me to settle on a period and scale. So instead my usaul make shift clutter of an old Britain's AWI gun (that still fires though weakly),  2 souvenir guns and 3 Barszo guns. None of them are quite right and all but the Britain's need paint but all will serve for now. (There seems to be an improved version of the Barszo gun which may be my solution once I'm solvent again, its that or make one and cast it, I can't afford a full roster of nice 40mm kits.)

Time to consider the besiegers. I had already used many of my sap pieces for the earthworks outside the fort so didn't want to use more. I have some BMC Yorktown battery pieces on hand for the siege batteries as they move forward but the scraps of 1x3 and 2x4 that were left and they just didn't fit. Then I remembered the Barszo New Orleans cotton bale field works. Perhaps wool bales had been used in Rosmark in the previous century?

At this point, it occurred to me that this might have worked better on my now defunct 6x8 table, (The Historicon game will be played on a 6x10) or if I still had my 15mm WAS armies and the vauban style fortress that Dave Wilson left with me but this is my chosen path so I best be able to make it work.  I had deployed the city wall across a 5 foot end, maximizing the distance to the first trenches but still this is barely over 4 feet. I considered doing the first turn on paper with an exchange of fire at 6 feet but decided that it wasn't worth worrying about and shall proceed from this aggressive 1st parallel. It would be good if this game, somewhat smaller than the planned convention one, could be wrapped up with 3 houts of playing time. On to troops.

Charge calls for a minimum gun crew of 4 figures including at least 2 real artillerymen as well as at least 1 officer for 3 guns. Duffy pares this down to an artillery officer and 4 infantrymen per gun with no penalty for untrained gun crews. As I began to allocate militia to help man the guns, it was obvious that I was no where near 2 gunners per gun. I decided to modifiy Duffy's variation to 5 crew per gun of which at least 1 has to be a real artilleryman plus an officer for 3 guns. The defence musters 6 guns plus a mortar, manned by the personnel of 1 field battery and a full battalion of militia. the attackers 9 guns plus 3 mortars (ok 1 huge mortar and 2 howitzers) manned by 2 field batteries and 2 companies of infantry. Not quite the recommended 2:1 but what can you do? As it is there aren't quite enough gunners or room for that many pieces so some are in reserve. The available infantry consists of 1 company of grenadiers, 9 of line, 3 light and 2 militia, nicely dividing into 5 and 10 giving the roughly the recommended ratio for the attackers.

The game was now laid out but my "playtime" was about used up, as I surveyed the table, the tan of the unpainted wood glared at me. Silly to paint it until I know what I'm going to do with it, and I need to cut more angles, and....ok. I quickly gave a wash of Walnut paint onto the eathworks/saps and a bit of grey onto the face of the redoubt. Hardly a finished look but less jarring.

Next post, a short history of the fictional who and why and an order of battle then reports as I find time to play.
The garrison reserve gathers by the mortar to defend the open gate and the tower gap as the enemy saps start to creep across the plain. (hmm must fix those broken gate hinges .....)

5 comments:

  1. Ross Mac,

    For what you term a 'mock up' your fortress and its defences look pretty good to me. All right, a bit of paint and flock might make it look a bit better ... but to my mind it looks impressive as it is.

    Good luck with your seige.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  2. It's shaping up well Ross - would maritime guns do for fortress guns?

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  3. Thanks Bob but I'm afraid that the camera lies. It shows better in the photos I didn't pst but there are no actual walls to the bastions or ravelins let alone parapets anywhere ( or to be more accurate only 1 face of 1 bastion has a make shift wall ) , hence the resort to medieval walls for the play test.

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  4. Conrad, yes, actually I'm pretty sure all of my guns are sold as naval guns. There are some good ones easily available for anywhere from $5 to $20 apiece.

    What I'm going to need though are guns for an Indian hill fort.

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  5. Makeshift, yes; but a lot of warfare involves makeshifts. As such, they can look the more interesting. I like it already!

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