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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Checking Back to Stay on Track

Looking back over past games this last week has been not only entertaining for me but useful as well. Having re-read some of the imagi-nation reports as I explore more of the geography, politics and history of the lands and paint up new troops (pictures tomorrow I should think), it feels like things are much easier to put together when all the ducks are lined up in one direction and all hauling the same way.

Some thoughts in random order:

1. I didn't have much time for most of '09 to worry about rules or background or scales so I just put troops out and played. The games seem to have been more fun for it.

2. Having put all those things aside, using the wrong scale of rules didn't seem to hurt the games at all, in fact using 1 set of rules and 1 organization  seemed to enhance the experience from a narrative and a suspension of belief POV. I had maintained  this as an objective, but I think I had, sort of, forgotten why.

3.  The more I looked at historical battles over the last 2 years, reading up on  the Sikh & Mexican American Wars and a few others, the more I felt I should be gaming at the "whole army" level. Rereading accounts of past games has reminded me that when I'm not thinking about it, not doing so doesn't decrease my enjoyment. Re-reading Charge! reminds me that it operates on the same principle.  Its interesting that Lawford's book on Battles for Wargamers book on Vitoria suggests Charge! Regiments as Divisions, if memory serves, with 1 company per brigade. For some reason, not worrying about scales and higher level organization seems to bother me less when playing fictional games. I'm thinking I can keep the fussing about scales and organization for those historical periods that I'm keeping such as War of 1812 and relegate big battles to 1/72nd ACW if I ever paint enough to do them.

4. One of the original strengths ( I think) of Hearts of Tin was its separation between decisive (relatively), mutual close range combat and indecisive (relatively), unilateral long range fire.   I have mentioned this several times, fairly recently too,  but have still managed to lose it again. The 3" melee zone is not the only way to achieve it, Charge! manages it quite nicely because of the way the volley fire works.  One of my little tests of a set of musket era rules is to see if it can duplicate the Plains of Abraham  and whether or not this sort of result is possible but unusual, impossible or probable if the situation is made generic. (After all, Montcalm probably knew it was a possible outcome but surely if he had believed that his attack had no chance then he wouldn't have made the attempt. One could argue that he over rated his own troops and under rated the enemy but one can also argue that one doesn't really know the temper of one's troops on the day until the dice have been thrown. )  Anyway, HofT used to allow for it as possible but not probable but at the moment it doesn't. Possible tweaks include going back to 2 different mechanisms for long range/skirmish fire and close range volleys   or just making close range volleys capable of breaking an equal enemy if you roll really, REALLY well.

So, another rules tweak is in order as above and the committee on organization of armies in Faraway and Oberhilse has been instructed to drop all this fuss about brigades and divisions and begin again keeping the principles of 1 unit per TT Teaser unit with the option to make use of sub-units as detachments. I am anticipating a  24 man battalion as standard (again) but 32 hasn't been completely ruled out.  Bigger battalions will allow me to return to 2 guns as a battery but due to finances, I will have to arm some batteries with obsolete 18thC guns for now.

Now back to finishing off Princess Charlotte's Dragoon Guards. Oh how they will shine! (on parade at least)



  1. An interesting post Ross. I often scale my battles up or down depending on the circumstances. It doesn't seem to do them any harm.

  2. Conrad, so do I. In practice it works, in theory it still bothers me sometimes when doing historicals. Beats me. Too much time thinking not enough playing and painting.

  3. Hi Ross

    Remember its the look, otherwise we would just use cardboard/wood/etc counters, sized for the historical unit.

    If you use 32 figure battalions vs 24 will the total number of figures on the tabletop increase, or will the total number of units decrease?

  4. Dave, its also about scale. With a 6" musket range, a 32 man unit, 2 deep on a 15mm per figure frontage, represents between 720 and 960 men depending on what you think effective long musket range is. A healthy battalion by any standard.

    If I stick with 1 unit = 1 unit then larger units mean more figures and the question is will 32 man units make the board too crowded? If I abandon that then smaller units might mean more units.

  5. I find I'm often drawn to 24 as a unit size, some kind of unexplained duodecimal attraction. I wouldn't feel any need for a brigade structure when doing TTs but I can see how that option might seem more compelling for historical games.

    I got confused (happens easily) reading para 4; can't quite see what the problem is. Does it mean you're thinking of separating close range fire from melee?

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  6. Duh, I should have read the new 21st October draft of Hearts of Tin before commenting.

    So still sticking to the Morschauser 3" zone but making it more decisive?

  7. Wargamer Dave, without getting Mystical, yes there is an attraction and fascination with 12 and 24 and the permutations and combinations that they allow. Not to mention the ease of showing various formations.

    Para 4 is a reflection of the previos draft having dropped the 3" melee zone and replacing it with a more traditional close range shooting factor. I had been experimenting with the old WRG 6=2 hits in favourable situations which provided the possibility of a decisive close range firefight but to work that really called for a change to the play sequence again to prevent a well timed and lucky attack from getting 2 volleys in before the defender can return fire (move 2nd win initiative and go 1st next turn).

    The old 3" rule just does it simpler and easier so I've brought it back, pretty much as it was apart from tweaking factors and presentation.

  8. Thanks, I've got it now; I hadn't noticed the 3" zone had disappeared. It does seem to be a very clean mechanism which takes out a lot of potential problems.