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, October 8, 2011

Reinforcing Success

With rapidly improving weather conditions forecast for this Thanksgiving Long Weekend  (for those of us North of the Border) and a long pre-winter 'Toodoo' list, it started to look like Saturday morning might be my only reasonable shot at playing another game so I set aside the work bench items and rolled some dice. Since it was mostly the same troops on the same battlefield, I didn't bother taking a lot of pictures  or writing up a full report.

At the end of day, Red still holds the town and Blue's attack over the ford has been repulsed although neither side is broken.

I managed 2 gaming sessions with a break in the middle for canine and elder care and to tend the wood stove. Despite good intentions, I didn't keep a close enough eye on the clock but the 10 turns played took up somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. A little longer than I expected but it didn't drag at all and was about right  for what I would normally be looking for if I had a friend over for a game.

The organizational change was largely irrelevant given the tweak to the morale rules. Either would work equally well. Some experimentation has shown that Brigades composed 3 x 12 strong battalions would actually work as scenario units for many scenarios but after some thought on scales and things, I have decided to stick with the 16 and 8 configuration. For non-historical games I may well go for 2 battalion brigades as standard scenario units but for historical games, non-standard units of any size will now work again so an OB can be reproduced reasonably easily.

The morale tweaks I made seemed minor to me and as far as I can tell, they didn't affect or change the outcome of today's game. What they did seem to do, was to allow me to fit as much action into 10 turns as took me nearly 20 turns the day before.
When I wrote MacDuff to the Frontier in the mid-90's, I had been doing alot of re-reading of Lawford & Young's Charge! as well as getting tired of abstract, convoluted or complex rules (not all the same thing). One of the things I copied was to have "regiments" composed of several "companies" and the only specific morale rule was that units that took 50% casualties had to retreat. The main tweak I added was that units could try and recover lost figures by rallying. The assumption was that most of the "hits" were all the things that go into a loss of cohesion, dead, wounded, stragglers, men who had fired off their ramrods, men who had "helped the wounded to the rear", men who were just plain tired or scared or who when the officers and nco's started to fall, began to think for themselves, usually thoughts of home and Gretchen. The rallying represented these being sorted out and brought back under discipline.

When I encountered Morschauser early this century and based a set of rules on his using several stands grouped together into a battalion as the basic unit, I allowed a different but reminiscent casualty  rally roll and a Brigade morale rule. It sort of worked but the way I worked the rally rules and brigade morale with the multi-figure stands didn't work all that well and for 8 years I've been tweaking all aspects of the rules. What occurred to me yesterday, was that for the last several years,  I have been trying to track both battalion morale and brigade morale and the two have been interfering with each other, cheesy tactics became a threat and organization became too important and also threatened to turn gamey. By going back to the Charge! assumption that units will fight to the best of their ability, perhaps being forced by melee to retreat temporarily, until the Brigade as a whole has taken enough Stick, when every one goes home, it resolved all these issues. Keeping but tweaking the Rally rule allows the Player-General to try and prevent collapse, if his opponent lets him.

This was what I have been aiming at since 2003 and finally I seem to be there. Once a brigade is committed it is all or nothing. Holding back a small reserve or  keeping the brigade battery safe won't help. The only thing that will stop the brigade from being slowly ground down to destruction is if a player can pull it back to a safe place and spend several turns rallying. This requires either a reserve to cover it, or a co-operative enemy. It pays to pursue the enemy and driving his Brigades over the edge. If a Brigade wants to reduce its risk, it must hold back a large enough reserve to impair its offensive ability but an Anglo-Indian Brigade of the Sikh War can follow historical precedent and throw its British battalion head first at any obstacle, taking as many casualties as you like while the sepoys hold back a little unless things look good. Because armies are deemed to functioning as long as they have any fresh brigades, the army commander can benefit from a reserve, held back for one last throw if the enemy looks shaky or used to cover a retreat in a campaign game.

On the other flank, while the first attack was once again beaten back, the opposing cavalry brigades were both broken. An artillery barrage broke the Red infantry and this time, when Blue's Dragoons (in dark blue) were committed from reserve Red's Reserve Cavalry (also in Dark Blue but with snazzy silver helmets with white plumes))  was chased off table, leaving Blue with 2 fully functional brigades ready to march off to commit havoc with a 3rd Brigade breaking off the attack to hurry over an join them.

SO! The rules, basing and organizing debates are at an end for the foreseeable future and I can get on with a more important question. When doing historical games, uniforms are determined by history, all one has to do is select the appropriate ones. If doing fictional Red vs Blue games, should I allow Red coated cavalry units in Blue's army and Blue coated ones in Red's army?

The update rules are available from google docs through the link at the left.    

.  .  

Sometime I can be so thick, it scares me.


  1. I liked your thoughts on reserves. Are there rumblings on the horizon for your Indian project?

  2. hmm Rumblings yes, like a man who has just eaten too much, too spicy, curry.

    I was just looking at Indian regular cavalry regiments in their French Grey uniforms and thinking how similar they look to my US infantry.

    The plan for quite awhile has been that multiple armies should offer significantly different scenario/game options so either Mahrattas/Gwalior or 1840's Afghans will follow when my current in progress armies have reached basic completion.