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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Foreign Correspondent reports on Enemy Wargames

 Ral Partha Colonial Egyptian Officer gussied up as Rossi Pasha. 

As Rossi Pasha,. Governor of Hantsia,  reviews his forces, 1 regiment of Anatolian Sehkans, a regiment of Albanians, 1 field gun and 2 regiments of Syrian religious volunteers armed largely with spears, and ponders whether or not the French can be relied on to land troops to assist him against the Emperor, a courier arrives bearing an account of the Imperial enemy carrying out maneuvers barely an hour's march up river.

Prince August Polish Lancer converted to Turkish lancer.

The following report comes via Ron Porter and describes a solo play through of Scenario 8 from Programmed Scenarios, staged as maneuvers between a force of Austrians and English units. In brief, a defender has split his force to try  and guard both banks of a river. The enemy arrives with a goal of pushing past.

 If all goes well Rossi Pasha will get a chance to try his hand at the game tomorrow. and now in Ron's words:

Well here’s how it went.

Le Duc de Lorraine: 7 Line Infantry, 1 light infantry,1 Dragoon, 1 field gun, 1 howitzer, 1 commander. Total units 12, break at 7 destroyed (5 remaining)

Le Comte de Rhonne: 4 Line infantry (British), 2 Austrian Grenadiers, 1 light infantry, 2 Horse Grenadier, 1 Dragoon, 1 field gun, 1 howitzer, 1 commander. Total units 13, break at 7 destroyed (6 remaining).

Turn 1
Artillery: L’artillerie de Lorraine using counter battery fire the howitzer misses but the 12 pdr destroys the Rhonne howitzer. L’artillerie de Rhonne misses with both guns.

Le Duc rolls 10 action points and decides to provide fire support for the southern bank from the northern bank in case further Rhonners show up on the northern bank. 
Le Comte rolls 6 for activation points and moves directly ahead with the intention of capturing the bridge and preventing reinforcement of the southern bank by Le Duc’s forces. 

Turn 2
Artillery: L’artillerie de Lorraine 12 pdr destroys a British battalion on the southern road, while the howitzer pins the remaining enemy field piece. The Rhonner artillery manages to pin le Duc’s howitzer.

Le Comte rolls 7 activation points and continues his advance. 
Le Duc rolls 5 activation points and manages to destroy another British battalion with fire from the 2nd btn Pallavicni, while the Pandours on the southern hill destroy yet another battalion. 

Turn 3
Artillery: All of the artillery fire results in pins on the enemy artillery. The only artillery unit not pinned is the Lorrainer’s 12 pdr field gun.

The Conte manages to roll 6 activation points which he uses to order his cavalry forward within double move distance of the Austrian line while continuing the infantry advance. Pic08
Le Duc rolls 8 activation points continues his northern deployments and the musket fire results in the loss of the Austrian Grenadier battalion on the southern road. 

Turn 4
Artillery: More pinning back and forth.

Le Comte roll 5 activation points  he orders the Horse grenadiers and the Dragoons to charge the Los Rios battalions. The fight was split with one Horse Grenadier versus 1 line battalion, and the second Horse Grenadier and dragoons fighting the other. The first melee resulted in a 1 for the Horse Grenadiers and a 5 for the line infantry, so the battalion was destroyed and the HG advanced into their position. The second melee results in a 6 for the Horse Grenadiers and 5 for the battalion, which was a draw the cavalry fell back. I was unsure what to do with the Pandours, they were not the attackers so I did not take a minus on the Grenadiers. They were not the defender as the Grenadiers chose to attack the line battalion. 

Le Duc managed a 9 on the activation roll. The line and the Pandours each fired at the closet cavalry target. Both enemy cavalry units were pinned. Then the Line battalion took on the Dragoons in a close assault, the Los Rios battalion rolled a 6 while the dragoons rolled a 3. The Los Rios battalion was destroyed. I ignored the Horse Grenadier unit as it was not the attacker or the engaged unit. The Horse Grenadier unit closest to the artillery is showing as pinned, but that is out of sequence as it only gets pinned next turn by the artillery. 

Turn 5
Artillery: Lorraine pins the Horse Grenadiers while the Rhonner artillery misses the enemy howitzer but destroys the command stand that had moved up in support..

Le Comte rolls 5 activation points and his pinned cavalry charge towards every enemy in sight. The enemy howitzer, the enemy Dragoons and the enemy Croats on the hill. The Pandours also moved on the Croats in support and as they moved after the Horse Grenadiers they became the attacking unit. The artillery melee results in the dragoons being pushed back from a drawn melee! The Horse Grenadiers (rolled 1) taking out the enemy dragoons (rolled 6). The Croats (rolled 4) were destroyed after the Pandours (rolled 2) attacking with support of the Horse Grenadiers. 

At this point Le Duc de Lorraine decided to move his troops on the northern shore to the southern shore. Rolling 3 activation points he began their redeployment.

Turn 6
Artillery: The artillery fire was ineffective due to the increased smoke cover I guess

Le Conte de Rhonne rolled 6 activation points. This time unpinning both Horse Grenadier (used the unpin and move option) squadrons but allowing the pinned Dragoons to charge the howitzer again. The dragoons (rolled 5) managed to be destroyed by the howitzer (rolled 1) in melee. 

Lorraine gamely pushed on and occupied the bridge.

Turn 7
Artillery: The remaining Rhonner gun destroyed the Lorraine howitzer.

Le Duc de Lorraine rolled 2 activation points and pushed the infantry battalion over to the southern shore, and engaged the Horse Grenadiers. Both sides were 1 away from their break point. How would the struggle be settled? Would the brave Lorrainers manage to prevent the British advance? Would the courageous Rhonners finally push through? NO, nether would happen. The Lorraine infantry battalion rolled 3 while the Rhonner Horse Grenadiers rolled 1. Both units are destroyed, and both sides decide to return to camp! 

As the scenario mission is for the attacker to push through the enemy and exit towards the opposite table edge I am counting this as a minor victory for le Duc de Lorraine.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Let him who is not without Tin, Cast the first soldier.

From a homemade dolly, a Turk emerges.

and is 1/2 submerged in plasticine and then buried in RTV latex.

Once both 1/2s of the mold harden, a white metal mixture is poured in, and with a lick off paint become:.

A Ral Partha 19thC Egyptian gunner (who is about to time travel backward) for comparison . Wish I had had a mini-fig handy since that was what these lads were designed to look natural beside.

A nice glossy toy style seems appropriate for these. The last time I did Turks, in 15mm, I mixed in poses and variations and painted them in various colours but this time, I think I shall do the OSW thing with 1 pose and uniforms. Each unit different though.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Do Re Mi - Scaling the Portable Wargame

One of the things that attracts me to the Portable Wargame is its scalability. I've enjoyed short solo games with less than a dozen units on a card table and a longer opposed game with more than a dozen units on a medium sized table. I figured it was time to step it up so last night, I replayed the same scenario a 3rd time but with double the number of units.

The situation around Noon or turn 14. The American columns are crawling along on 1's, 2's and 3's.

When using the 3" hex mat, there are roughly 24 hexes along the long side of my table allowing up to 36 units, however, my planned 4" hex grid will only have 18 hexes allowing 27 units. The larger side in this scenario had 13 units including the commander  so doubled to 26 this nicely fit within the guidelines. A handy sort of thing to keep in mind when designing armies. There comes a point when miniature armies exceed the tabletop capacity. There is still a point to painting up different troop types, allowing variation in force composition but little point in painting up more of 1 thing than can be used unless planning a campaign or an expedition to Bigger Tableland.

Now having mentioned one sort of scaling and the idea of planning wargame forces, I also decided to have another look at ground and figure scales so I could "see what I was looking at". Nothing sucks the fun of a game like getting excessively concerned with time, ground and figure scales, they will almost always be wrong in one way or another, especially if the game works. Its still useful to know if you're gaming Sharpe and the chosen men or refighting Waterloo though.

One can argue ranges and whether or not units are at the leading edge of the hex they occupy or in the middle and so on but generally 1 hex to a 100 yards seems to be about right for the musket period. The late 19thC game would appear to me more like 150 yards or more. One hundred yards per hex  makes long range musket fire about 150 to 200 yards, field gun range 600 yds (low perhaps but it happens to match Grant's choice in his Napoleonic Wargaming book  as the range at which it was worth burning up ammunition)  and 1,000 yards for heavy guns which sounds right.  Now in 100 yards, one can fit very roughly 300 infantry in 2 ranks or 450 in 3 so a small battalion is 1 unit in 1 hex and a large 1 is 2 wings with each wing being one unit in 1 hex. Each gun would take up the space of 6-8 guns and cavalry would work out at about 200 per unit..

Having done a quick check, when using 4" hexes, the 150 yards per hex actually matches the Fire & Fury scale fairly well (600 yards to the foot in either case) so that if I still had a 6x8 ft table, I could translate their scenarios into PW ones fairly easily. Even without that, I should be eventually able to manage scaled down versions of Shiloh and 1st and 2nd Manasses amongst others. Pickets Charge will fit, even at 100 yds per hex!
Noon on the other side, the Canadian Cavalry has rushed to the battlefield, but can't quite figure out what to do about the enemy across the river so is just trying to stay out of the way of the guys with guns.

Having checked a couple of  War of 1812 battles, the larger ones will fit nicely on my 5x6 table with 2 or 3 stands per historical battalion.  There are a number though, that will just not be big enough to make a satisfying game. There are a couple of ways to handle this, one is to double the ranges and movement which would 1/2 the number of men per unit and allow sufficient units without changing the ratio of movement and shooting. I don't care much for fiddling with the rules in that manner though and I suspect that it might change the feel in other ways. A second option would be to use some sort of roster or divide each unit into 2 but again this means fiddling with rules. Yet another option, probably the best  is to ignore it, fudge the ground scale a little, assume large gaps in the line and just field more wargame units per historical battalion and not worry about it.

I still don't have my mind wrapped around what a command unit represents, I picture a mounted officer with  a few aides but since it has the fighting power of 2-300 men, it must include some sort of reserve  so I think I will count the command stands as infantry (or cavalry) when breaking down historical orders of battle into wargame units.     

Anyway, my mission now is to do a portable wargame order of battle and 5x6, 4"  hex map  of each of the War of 1812 battles that I might want to fight. This will allow me to finally decide just what troops I need.

Don't wait up.

OK back to the game at hand.

I figured 1 Command Unit was going to have trouble handling all those troops so I doubled those as well and divided the armies into Brigades, rolling activation dice for each Brigade separately. That sounded good and worked well enough in a way but 2 command units wasn't really enough (This brought to mind various discussions about why entire armies didn't just pick up and attack the enemy in the first hour and get it over with. This nicely recreated this without explaining it.) Looking at a handful of historical OB's it looks like 6 to 12 units per commander would be about right. These would be 1812 Brigades with battalions being 2 or 3 stands. Looking at the OB for Gettysburg in F&F,  this became a Confederate Division or Union Corps with each brigade being 2 to 4 units.

I also decided to add some flavor to the units. In my Morschauser variants, I tended to have 3 unit types: Militia, Average and Elite, largely differentiated by their close combat power and in some variations by their ability to rally. Ron and I tried the varying combat powers but since infantry have a higher value than Morschauser's units had, giving a bonus rapidly headed towards automatic hits so we brainstormed a bit and are each testing a new rule that allows Elite units to unpin and move or shoot if 2 activation points are spent. This reflects their superior training and morale and while it doesn't make them more likely to win a melee, it makes them much more likely to be able to cross the beaten zone and engage in melee. Since each 3: hex barely held 6 40mm figures and I was using my old MacDuff units, I gave the British 2 Grenadier companies.
I also gave the British a siege gun and a light gun on table with 2 field guns off table and gave the Americans a battery of 2 light guns and 1 of 2 field guns.

So far, all the benefits were on the side of the British so I allowed the Americans to field riflemen with a 3 hex range as light infantry. Light infantry are another experiment Ron and I are making. After various overly complex experiments, we have given these the same option to move twice as native Infantry do, to balance things, their Melee Power has been reduced by 1.
Pickaway County Rifles pick away at the British gun crews from a safe (relatively) distance.
Who the heck let these guys into the game anyway?

Unfortunately, not only did the game chew up my mold making time, but I snuck in on my way to bed to have a look at the game in progress as I had left it and found myself an hour later, just finishing up. So pictures and narrative are sparse at best.

      Take that you Yankee Invaders! Oops they've got friends.
Eventually, once all his gun crews and a big chunk of his infantry had been shot down by unsupported riflemen and artillery, the British commander woke up and ordered his Light Dragoons over the bridge. Their double move allowed them to charge from outside rifle range and while one was lost, the score was Cavalry 3 : Rifles 1 when the NY Dragoons belated galloped up.
Time for Tea 

At this point the British  had lost one commander and over 12 their units. American losses had been lighter and they now outnumbered the British by 2:1. Possibly the British could have held the bridge till nightfall, a mere 20 turns away, but mostly the cost would have been the destruction of the army so they pulled back while they still could.

It felt good to have a table full of troops and the rules handled the larger forces well. Actually for me the game  was better because the loss of any one unit to a single die roll was less important, especially if one had a reserve in hand to plug the gaps. I'd still be tempted to allow each unit 2 hits but if I did, I'd not have finished this game last night and I doubt that the end would have been any different. There was a pretty handful of activation dice to throw but I've gotten pretty good at translating d6 into activation points and have learned to use different dice to record the number of points available, especially when tired.  

With the activation dice split, between brigades, I ended up with part of each brigade moving forward to attack, and part hanging back.   Historically, in the War of 1812 at least, it seems to be more common  to have a 1 brigade move forward while the other holds back so I may share the activation dice next time.

The riflemen were a nasty shock, especially with the river being there so that it was hard to get close up to strike back at them. An historical enough problem though the proportion of riflemen was perhaps a bit high. My poor Grenadiers never really got the chance to demonstrate their eliteness, but I'm told they died in straight lines.

Tomorrow I may post a report from Ron on one of his 18thC renditions of this same scenario or I'll go into some thoughts on terrain, what I need to do and how I expect my table to look and function when all this is done. .

Friday, May 27, 2011

History repeating itself.

In various ways.

First and most obviously, I reset the table with 40mm Toy Soldiers and fought the scenario again with muskets.
I won't go through the whole game but the US (attacking) arrived on only 1 road and at the latest possible hour, 9:15. This lead their General to feel rushed and he made various tactical errors which led to artillery fire being blocked and to a series of piecemeal attacks going in.. (The British General also made a couple of bad calls but got away with them). I do have to report a bizarre sequence of events though. In the last game, the first shot of the game saw the defending artillery firing at maximum range and scoring a ko on an attacking infantry unit. It happened again. On the next turn, the defending artillery pinned its opposite number but was destroyed by the return fire, and yes, it happened again!  Its only 4 d6 die rolls but it felt just BIZARRE in a deja vue kinda way.  Skipping ahead, the American Dragoons got over the bridge for a few minutes but that was it and the tattered remnants of the Army of the Columbia had to retrace their steps towards Plattsburg.

A good game which took a little longer to play. Attacking with muskets is a lot harder. Needs planning and careful execution, lines of troops are best oddly enough. With a 2nd line in support if possible. The rules worked well, tactics flowing nicely from weapons. The only concern was with the rule that pinned troops go to ground. Made perfect sense with troops with magazine rifles but with smoothbore muzzle loaders, it just didn't feel right. Felt even less right once I realized I was better off NOT unpinning my defenders. Not sure what to recommend at this point, just excuse musket armed troops from lying down when pinned or find them a different penalty such as treating their targets as in cover to represent the reduced effect of their volleys as panic and disorder eats away at their discipline?

Secondly, it did not escape my eagle eye that 12 25mm figures on a 4" hex looked more "unit"ish than 6 40mm figures on a 3" hex. So I spent a little time contemplating basing again.

Just happening to have a wide selection of precut sample base sizes on hand, and remembering that I had originally mounted my 40mm AWI troops 6 to a 50mm square base. I broke some out to see. (no I didn't rebase any painted troops for a first test). Looks like a close fit, I'll have to wait until I get my template to see what works best. 

Not that all of my troops need to be based to fit on 4" hexes but nice to know one's options. Might come in handy when I get to India. Given a 2 hex musket range, a 600-700 British battalion in 2 ranks would be 2 hexes worth of troops, somewhere between 8 and 12 figures per hex. Meeannee would call for 8 "units" of infantry, probably 2 guns and 4 cavalry. Since the "native" opposition probably formed deeper than 2 ranks, one could put them at least 3 figures deep, if going for 8 British per hex then perhaps 12 natives helping to give that look of being out numbered. 

And last but not least, I picked up another dolly, broke it (accidentally) and glued it back together in an advancing pose and dressed as an Albanian (vaguely). There is still some detail to work on but with luck and perseverance (why oh why did the sun finally come out after 4 weeks of cold cloudy drizzle? Still one can't till all day, too strenuous.) I'll start on the mold tonight. If it works, I should be able to cast up 48 of each in no time. They look a little wobbly head doll-ish to me but I'm sure they'll fight well for all that.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Portable Cossack

I was planning to try another MacDuff game this week  but I've been discussing aspects of the 18thC Portable Wargame with Ron inbetween sculpting Turks and Albanians  (ok just 1 of each but they will be legion if the mold works). Neither Turks nor 4" hexes are ready but I had hexes on my mind so I put out the almost 4x6 Hotz mat.  I meant to get out my 1812 40mm guys but some how the mat looked more like the steppe in one of the seasons in between grass and snow, and anyway the 20's fit the 3" grid better than the 40's do. The 19thC version of the game was what was in my mind and since it has all the relevent bits apart from the odd armoured car, (easily imported from the 20thC game) thats what I used.

The scenario was Crossing Point from Programmed  Scenarios. This is essentially a small force defending a bridge with variable reinforcements. Between the variable maps and variable arrival times and locations for both sides, this scenario can swing between well balanced to no hope. To even things up, I chose the map, opting for a version where there is only 1 bridge and that located beside a small town. The defenders reinforcements come on close, the attackers come on about as far away as they can. Times are given in 15 minute intervals so I played each turn as 15 minutes.

The Whites began with 1 field gun, 2 rifle platoons and an HQ on table. The riflemen & HQ were posted in the houses while the gun deployed directly behind the bridge. One of the rifle platoons was in the leaad house so that any Reds crossing the bridge would have to attack it in its fortified position. Off table were an MG, 3 more infantry, another field gun and 2 squadrons of Cossacks. Reinforcements would arrive at 10:00 or later by rolling a 6 on 1 die. Each unit rolling independently.

The Reds had their own rolling to do and ended up with 1 infantry, an MG, a field gun and a cavalry squadron arriving at the closer point at 8:30 while the main body with 5 more infantry, an MG, a field gun, a cavalry squadron and the HQ arrived at 9 am on the farthest road.

The game proceeded quickly as the Reds pressed down the road. Finally at about 10:am the White field battery was able to open up, destroying a platoon of Red riflemen just as the first platoon of reinforcements arrived.
Opening shot of the game, Airfix 18pdr with Hat WW1 Russian crew, Pegasus log cabin.

Not to be out done, the 1st Red battery unlimbered and on the next turn silenced their White opponent while being pinned themselves. As troops on both sides continued to trickle towards the bridge from either side, they turned their guns on the first house and on the next turn they leveled it and the platoon inside (uhoh).

Is that 3 hexes? Holy C***
 As White scrambled  to move up the last of the original platoons, the Red Cavalry galloped over the bridge and into contact, swinging their sabers. This was the first test of battle for the Zvezda Regiment. Down went the dice...the red one turned up 6, a miss!, the white turned up 5, a miss! no wait +1 for the HQ which was adjacent, a HIT! The bridge was saved!

The moment of truth. Zvezda WW1 Russians shoot down some Orion Red Cavalry while a Hat command group steels their verves.

As more white troops poured onto the field, the Whites were up to 3 dice and rolled ..1 pip! Oh well, enough  for the jubilent infantry to occupy the lead house and make themselves cozy. For the rest of the game, the Red artillery shelled them but never managed worse than a pin.

As more White troops  rushed up, a fierce fire fight broke out across the river. Both sides took cover but first the 2nd Red gun was silenced (drat, too close again!)  and then the infantry was slowly eliminated until finally as the first Cossack rode onto the table, was pinned, and whipped their horses to cross  over the bridge and ride down that annoying Red machine gun, the reds dropped below 50%  and now being outnumbered, withdrew.    
Better dead than Red say the Whites. Stelitz, Hat and Zvezda Russians.

A brief but hotly contested game which could easily have gone either way. The latest tweaks to shooting and melee scores made a big difference and the game flowed well. Its hard to advance under fire but not impossible and assaults though dangerous can work if you line them up in your favor, or if you're lucky. The temptation was to reset the table and try again. Mind you, I found the game even more fun when I had a live opponent. Its more a case of the rules enabling the game than being the game.

** Post script
I was just reviewing thing and realized I made a slight, inconsequential for this game as it turns out, error. Since Bob extended rifle ranges by 1 hex, I assumed that MG range had also been extended by 1 so that they would out  range rifles. Not so, rifles and MG's are now the same range and the same firepower, and I just realized, there is no restriction on them attacking so since they have the highest combat value, they are the ideal shock troops. Not what I expected, I'll have to think about it (and toss it to Bob) but my initial thought would be to up their range to 4 hexes, the same as light artillery, and to reduce their close combat value so that one isn't tempted to use tripod mounted machine guns to spearhead a close assault. The longer range and the new pinning rules would make them hard to attack with infantry.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Ripple

I was very happy to get my old and new 30mm figures out for a game last week but really they were an uncomfortable match for Minifig 25's.  I expect to match them up again, but thoughts turned to the direction of "wouldn't it be nice to have a matching 25mm army designed around the portable wargame and Grant Teasers". (One of the pleasures had been that the scenario was useable "out of the box" with a unit being a unit.)  An army with 8 battalions each of 12 men plus a few 6 figure cavalry units is not a huge invetment of time and should be able to squeeze into less than 2 feet of shelf space. An allowable indulgance then.

It would be possible for me to produce a shortened version of les Compagnies Franches (aka Keith's) and to do something with some Prince August 25mm Waterloo models that were gifted to me. The thought of doing yet  another  1740's French army though was a non-starter (past ones having been done in 15mm, 25mm, 30mm and 40mm). Saxony or Piedmont both seemed like options as iir both changed sides during the 1740's but it didn't take long to realize that I don't really want to do ANY more tricornes, apart from finishing  off the last few Rosmark companies.

Since Ron has Austrians, Turks naturally came to mind. Now I have been wanting to do some Turks but was thinking 16thC in 42mm. That would be an army that might see use in some solo games and maybe once at a convention. It will probably still come but a little tester version  might be fun as long as it mostly costs time.

Looking at the Programmed Scenario book, if I shoot for some of the cavalry and light infantry heavy forces and we graciously allow the better Ottoman Infantry units to be European infantry with muskets and the poorer ones to be Native infantry with or without fire arms then something like 90 infantry and 25 cavalry plus a couple of guns should do. It shouldn't be difficult to modify PA Polish and French lancers into Turks. The small quantities wouldn't be worth a mold. A small offering of cash could maybe be spent on some Scruby 30yrs war Jannisaries and/or some Mamlukes.

Ok the object is 25mm opposition for Ron\s Austrians but once I have an 18thC Turkish army, well I've always wanted to do Napoleon in Egypt and started to do it once in 15mm and once in 54mm. Might make a handy, close enough, matched set of Portable Wargame armies.

So what about a bunch of  of musket armed infantry to start? Opinions seem to vary but I'm happy that some of the Jannisaries weren't wearing the traditional caps and that some local governors kept trained(ish)bodies of  local troops so a generic figure looking something like this might work:

On the right is one of the dollies that were created as a midpoint when making my ECW Scots last year. I held him up to a Minifig and marked off the desired height. He looked pretty stumpy and even after filing, poking and prodding, the anatomy is rather off but after an hour's work he's starting to look passable to me. (I think part of the top heaviness is the angle of the camera but I'll double check that). Actually he's beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to a sample Peter Laing 15mm figure I once had. hmm Oh well, I did rather like Peter's Egyptian Campaign range and meant to buy more.  Hopefully tomorrow I can finish him up and with luck by the end of the weekend I'll have the mold made and the first dozen ready for painting.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Virile Videos

or perhaps that ought to be viral.

I greatly enjoyed the  Marcus Hinton video posted on  the Vintage Wargaming site.  (My wife remains resistant to the suggestion that she don a uniform coat and play a wargame with me.). btw, not the same thing at all but  does anyone remember who made those 54mm Winsome Warrriors models in the 70's. Sanderson? Phoenix? Wonder what happened to the one I painted up?

Then I enjoyed the Charles Creed collection video on the Prometheus in Aspic blog, and remembering the Peter Cushing Little Wars video which was circulating last year,  I spent a few minutes trawling the British Pathe site and was pleased to find these:

1931 Video of D.C Murray (who?) with his collection of Britain's and Hyde spread out in various parades and battles on his lawn. The flaming La Haye Sainte is a little scary so viewer discretion is advised.


and for all the Funny Little Wars enthusiasts (you need to watch this right to the end), I particularly like the horse artillery.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

More old Gridded Games

Its been years since I first came across the gridded medieval wargame, Siege of Bodenburg posted by Thor on his Armymen webpage but I've just come across this Franco-Prussian War gridded wargame designed by  Henry Bodenstedt in the mid 60's, also posted by Thor:


Friday, May 20, 2011

Post script: Some additional considerations and assessments

I figures I might as well cost out my options. Seems like I have made an inconvenient choice of table size. Both Hotz and Hexon cater to a basically 4x6 surface. A double order would have covered my old 6x8 but 6x5 will leave me with excess material. Luckily this can provide hills. (The felt can be glued onto wood or foam to match the table.)

Options (prices include estimate in Canadian Dollars:

 a) Hotz felt mat. Roughly $100 for the mats and $20 or so for shipping: $120
Can be used the day of delivery with some work done to add hills etc later.

b) Naked Hexon tiles to be painted by me on arrival. Postage is the killer here but it levels out so that scraping to order extra now makes sense. So 2 basic sets plus some singles or maybe slopes,  $190 + $60 for shipping for about $250. Spending 300 would make sense.  These would come naked and I would have to paint etc to taste.

c) Litko Stencil:  Roughly $40 including postage (esp if I order more bases at the same time). I would then have to apply the stencil and cut the hills from existing scrap and materials that I have on hand. Definitely the cheapest option and also the most environmentally friendly as I would be using existing material including alot of wood. Also the most labor intensive option but the most flexible going forward.

I also drew up a 4" hex to play with and it will (just) hold a 4.7" gun and will comfortably hold a Britain's field gun so the 54's are no issue. Some experimenting with ancients  indicates that if facing the corner so that the ranks line up, a series of 60mm wide units doesn't look that bad. Some of my troops include a proportion of singles still and these can form up 80mm or even 100 mm wide and look just fine. 

Its beginning to feel like going straight to the 100mm hex grid is the most sensible solution for me. Now to be extravagant or sensible? Must go discuss this with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and consult the Regimental  Conscience Officer again. A stencil might provide "hours of entertainment" and be guilt free to boot!


Musings on simplicity, grids, units and terrain

Not all games should be the same. There, I've said it. So why is it that every time I experience a good idea in practice I seem to get this urge to make everything conform?   Ah well, time to go lie down in a dark room for a while.

I talked about simplicity for years and was engaged by discovering Morschauser  but as I've said many times, it wasn't really until I took a hand in Dick Larsen's Morschauser/Shambattle game that I discovered what it really meant. Its been a struggle of decades of conventional wisdom vs the light of conversion ever since.
Tom launches a counter attack at Enfilade. I don't think Richard's pose is a response as GM.

The simplicity of Bob's Portable Wargame, is one of the really attractive features. Like Dick's game, it captures the broad strokes but allows players to focus on tactics in the general sense and on the principles of war. Sometimes this means a sacrifice of period detail and the temptation is ever present to start adding things in. The ability of the rules to accept modification is another strength but doing so calls for great caution or the very simplicity that was the original merit soon becomes lost. The trick is to figure out which bits are really crucial for the period, (and here one generally needs to look past conventional wisdom and public perception to avoid unnecessary clutter which often works in counter-intuitive ways) or which add critical flavour.  The addition of squares for LittleJohn's 100 days outing is a prime example of how to do this. He might have added a brand new mechanism for cavalry against squares but that would have added complexity, or he might have adjusted the combat strengths on the assumption that infantry  would normally form square so the tactic could be "factored in" without bothering the player but that would have left out the iconic image of the British squares at Waterloo and lessened the appeal. Instead he made a simple tweak using existing mechanisms and came up with a simple solution which appears to work well. 

A simple basic framework, easily customized for specific situations, that's been my ideal for decades.

Grids of one sort or another can be a tools to enable simplicity. Simple games can also be designed without grids while grids can also be used as a tool to enable some sorts of complications.  It can be hard sometimes to separate two different aspects of a game which each contribute something, like grids and simplicity. 


Its always easier starting from scratch and without outside constraints.  One could, for example, if adopting a hex grid, mount one's troops on hex shaped bases.  However, past experience has shown me that 
introducing brilliant ( ie wierd) new basing systems is ok if you are just pleasing yourself but they tend to leave one's armies playing against themselves.  

In the gridded games that I've played so far, I've been able to arrange things so that 1 unit and only 1 unit fit into one grid space and only 1 grid space.  I've also played in situations where adjacent units might support each other but where they were not linked in any fashion.  Portraying  say, a Roman Manipular Legion vs a Macedonian Phalanx starts to add interesting questions. The Maniples are easy, regardless of proper numbers and proportions, each grid area of Romans is a unit and works independently as usual. The Phalanx is trickier, to get the right feel, adjacent units need to feel tightly locked together. A series of traditional 25mm ancients on 60mm x 40mm bases deployed in a honey comb pattern with each centered in a 100mm wide hex, is just not going to look right, even if the rules work ok.  A 60 mm  wide square grid would work but you might be the only person with such a grid. Here's where starting with fresh organization and basing options would be a big help (as would  getting clever).

It also gets tricky if one wants to play a game where a "unit" doesn't fit into 1 grid area, perhaps a battalion if using big figures or a small grid. Easy enough with squares but tricky with hexes or off-set squares if one wants to avoid staggered lines or columns. Nothing that ingenuity or force of will can't over come, but a challenge. 

One of the reasons these things are mulling about in my mind is that much of my terrain is over tired and in need of replacement but I've been holding off, not only until I had time and space, but also until I made up my minds on scales and on what sort of games I want to play over the next 10-30 years. Since I've been dabbling with grids over the last year, it makes sense to include that aspect in my planning. 

The following factors need to be considered:

a) not all of my games will be gridded but some will be,
b) its easy to play a non-gridded game on a subtly gridded playing surface,  it is much harder to play a gridded game on a non-gridded surface so if the basic table is not gridded then I need to be able to overlay a grid including onto hills and woods,

c) since only 1 of my regular opponents uses a grid, there are benefits to using a matching grid,

d) there may be benefits to having more than 1 grid option but I don't have room for more than 1 set of hills so if I have one grid or no grid on the basic table surface, other grids will have to be supplied on a cloth which can be laid over hills. In the past, such terrain has worked better with multi-figure bases than individual figures, and even better with 25mm and smaller troops. 1/72nd plastic on multi-figure bases are ideal. There can also be an issue sometimes as to exactly where the hill starts but if anything the grid should help that.

e) I don't have room for a lot of duplicate of buildings so each scale and period must be adaptable to any grid that I am likely to use for that size and period. 

I haven't made a final decision yet but the 2 main options are:

A Square Grid.

1) Laying a 5" square grid onto my painted board and carrying on with plans to cut some spare 1" boards into vertical sided contours based around a 5"grid. 
Like this, sort of, but finished to match the table, and with rounded hill corners.  

This will give me a grid of 168 squares (12 x 14) which can be easily ignored if not using the grid. This size will hold my 54mm units, 4 stands of 40mm 16thC or 25mm ancient troops, or a 3 stand regiment of 1/72nd ACW troops in line ( or a 9 stand Brigade if massed into a massed attack column).

2) Each grid square will be marked into quarters to allow a grid of  672 squares for RCW & WWII games with 1 stand per square or for 40mm skirmish games. This will be done with a smaller cross of a different colour.

3) When funds are available, a Hotz mat with 4" hexes will be purchased. Initially the cloth could be laid over hills but eventually as funds allow, Hexon hills could be added. There will be a contrast between hills and mat but it is workable.
Lentulus's set up with Hexon hills on an ungridded Hotz mat. 

Eventually a full Hexon terrain system could be added and used for plain or hex games and a squared cloth be placed over top if a square grid was desired.


B. Buy a Litko spray stencil and lay a 4" hex grid on my table and make my own hills and river etc using the stencil as a guide. I would still have the option of adding Hexon terrain. 

Now to mull over that and ponder the question of ancient warfare again. I don't anticipate much action until after Historicon unless I have a really good run on ebay.  We'll see how the War-chest survives that expedition. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 6 sides of death

Today's game was Scenario 4 from C. S. Grant's Programmed Scenario book, played out on Ron's hexon tiles and using  the just in time Hex based version of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame. Ron and I discussed some of the issues with using a set of 19th C rules with our 18thC armies but decided to make an absolute minimum of changes before playing and leave the rest for discussion post game.

The 1st thing we did was to adjust the Combat Power to allow us to field Elite Grenadiers and Heavy cavalry. Since the melee values were already so high, we dropped the value for Line Infantry and Medium cavalry to 4 and left the Grenadiers and Heavies at 5.

The 2nd thing was to add in Light Infantry. We started off copying the native infantry stats, allowing them to move twice and dropping their combat value to one less than regular infantry, in our case, 3. After some discussion we modified this to allowing them an action plus an extra move if a second activation point was played. Thus they could shoot them move or move then shoot or move twice but not shoot twice.

Oh yes and we had one of those DOH! moments when looking at Bob's translation of the arcs from square to hex. We both had an unstated, unquestioned assumption that one could have units face a hex side OR have them face an angle. The thought that one could allow either was one of those obvious better ideas that we had never considered.

So, thus armed we tackled the scenario, dicieng for sides then dicing to choose which army list we would use. For once translation was easy, one  scenario unit was one game unit, simple. Essentially the scenario involved a smaller force try to stop  a larger force from moving up a valley and exiting the table. The victory "specified" that the defender had to inflict significant delay without taking excessive casualties and suggested that the players or GM would have to assess the situation when the game ended. We decided to help ourselves a bit and establish a guideline. If there had been no enemy and I always rolled sufficient activation points,   I calculated that it would take me 10 turns to march a unit across the table by road and 20 turns to march the majority of my force off the far side. From this I suggested that if, after 20 turns, I was not in a position to exit without opposition then that was a serious delay. For excessive casualties we agreed that under these rules, a loss of more than 50% of one's units was excessive.

My force had to be divided into 4 parts, an advance, 2 flank guards and a main body. Each of which might arrive at a different time. As it turned out I rolled the maximum delay on each body. So, I began with 2 units of light infantry and a cavalry unit on table. A turn later one cavalry unit appeared 4 hexes away to the left and right and 5 turns after that my main body finally showed up, 6 infantry, 2 foot artillery guns and my general.
When my advance guard deployed, I could see 4 infantry and 2 guns deployed on a steep hill at the far end of the table, 2 cavalry units on a closer hill with a light infantry unit lurking in some woods and another farther down the table.

The Voluntaires de St. Croix get to see the elephant, or some Dragoons anyway, then get to go back in the box and have a break.

With no general on table, 1 was rolling 1 die at first then 2. Ron had 5 dice. He used them to swoop down with his cavalry and hit my advance guard hard, arranging 2 on 1 combats until 1 got lucky and took out his horse grenadiers. At last, my main body arrived  and Ron pulled his advance guard back.

(The hills looked more hill like in person, they are well camouflaged in the picture)

There was a short pause while I pushed up the road.

The view from the Austrian side.

 and learned how to keep track of how to keep track of how many activation dice to throw without counting my units each turn.
1 drummer or staff officer for each 3 units + 1 for the general. Recount when I lose a unit to see if a drummer needs to be removed. Here we see 5 markers indicating 5 dice.

Using the road to maximum advantage, I pushed a gun and infantry up the table, while Ron's Croats occupied a village 1/2 way up the valley. I deployed my gun in a position to blast him out and moved infantry to hit him from several directions at once. My gun pinned his infantry then his Croats blew my gunners to kingdom come. (not to self, don't get the gun so close).  An assault by 3 infantry units then went in and was repulsed. Finally the a battalion of Keith's regiment deployed and blasted the pesky enemy skirmishers out of their stronghold.  

As I shook my battered line out and advanced on the next village, Von Ron waved his hat and the White line rolled down the hill, manhandling the field guns forward to the edge of the hill.  Caught trying to rush down the road in a column of battalions,  my infantry  suffered from artillery fire with overshoots landing on the battalion in behind. A bold cavalry charge surprisingly was shot apart by Keith's.

I quickly shook the rest of my infantry into line but soon lost another battalion to artillery fire. Into the gap came Ron's infantry and seizing the initiative, they charged in, 3 on 1.

It was Turn 20 and I had lost 2 cavalry, a  gun, a light infantry and 3 infantry. I was down to 50% and had barely made it 1/2 way down the table

So what did we think. Hands down it was a very enjoyable game. We played 20 turns in about 3 hours and reached a definite conclusion. The activation and drastic combat presented challenges but nothing that felt like these were more important than our command decisions.   In each case, it was the players' choices that had the most impact which was very  satisfying, even though many of my decisions were less than happy while many of Ron's were masterly.

The hexes were excellent. They provided the benefits of a grid with ease of measuring, determining arcs, front, flank etc and removal of fiddliness, but without the artificial no-go zones of the squares, especially if allowing free choice of side or angle.  I may have to experiment with allowing diagonal movement on squares.

There were a few issues with the feel for an 18th Century game,  especially around how the melees worked and about how flank attacks were no more effective than frontal attacks despite the troops close order linear formations and ponderous drill.  We also felt that the Grenadiers didn't have sufficient advantage since they would be pinned as easily as anyone else and if they did get into melee, it was still most likely that both units would be destroyed.  After some discussion and some manouvering about on the table we decided on the following (or rather my interpretation  of what we decided).

In order to represent the effect of being armed with smooth bore muskets, and of the close order, linear formations the following rule changes will be made:

1. All infantry and cavalry combat values will be reduced by 1. (4 for infantry and cavalry, 3 for native infantry)
2. Any shooting or melee against Grenadiers or Heavy Cavalry will be at -1 to the die roll.
3. A unit which moves adjacent to the front of an enemy unit must halt and face it. If there is a choice they may decide which one to face. The defending unit does not move.
4. During the melee phase, every unit on both sides which has one or more an enemy adjacent to its front will roll a combat attack against an enemy unit. If there are several, it may choose.  The player move moved his units into contact is the attacker and will retreat if all enemy have not been eliminated or may advance if the unit they attacked is destroyed.
(for example, if a defending unit is facing a hex side and is supported by an adjacent friend and the enemy attacks with 3 units, the 3 units may all attack the 1 unit or 2 may attack 1 and the 3rd unit attack the 2nd unit but in either case, the 2nd unit may also fight back, so 3 dice vs 2. This compares with the current system where the attacker would roll 1 die and the defender would roll 1die at -2 for 2 extra adjacent attackers while the 2nd defending unit is ignored).  In the case of a flank attack, the attacking unit would roll but the defender would not. If the attacker failed to destroy the defender then it would be a tied melee  and the attacker would fall back. If there was a 2nd defending unit, behind and to the side, the attacker would have to turn and attack it instead.

These, as yet untested, melee changes will  encourage and reward 18thC deployed in 2 lines with an emphasis on maintaining formation.

The artillery may be a bit too mobile for the 18thC but Ron & I didn't discuss that and I don't see an easy simple solution which isn't excessively onerous.

Just for fun, I did some calculation, a battalion fills a hex and musket range is 2 hexes. On can argue things but that makes a hex somewhere around 100 -120 yards across.  The scenario gave the arrival times in 10 minute intervals so I suggested we call each turn 10 minutes. This means the 20 turns that we played  in just over 3 hours represented 200 minutes, or, just over 3 hours. An infantry unit was able to march 12 hexes or 1,200 yards an hour by road. A little short perhaps but if the table was long enough a day's march would be about right. Interesting.

So, all in all, a good day of gaming. My only real problem is that I found myself browsing a catalogue of Hexon tiles and wondering how to raise enough money to cover my 5x6 table, short of getting a job!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Portable Grenadier

and now for something completely different.

Last week, Ron and I were going to get the 20mm RCW troops onto the table using either BKCII or Bob Cordery's Postable Wargame. However, I got the flu and cancelled. Left to his own devices, Ron broke out his 25mm Minifig SYW Austrians, based for Volley & Bayonet, and used them to try out Bob's rules. Then the dasterdly fellow sent me pictures.
(Hopefully Ron won't mind me sharing a picture of his troops, 25mm Minifigs....)

 These, of course, brought to memory some glorious games from the late 90's when my motley force of 1/72nd, 25mm, 28mm and 30mm French fought them using Age of Reason, then Koenig Krieg, Shako and finally Volley and Bayonet.     The 20mm figures (Lauzon's Legion and various Hessians) now live at Jerry's house, the 25's and 28's have been sold, but the 30mm figures, a mix of some old Spanish made figures, my very 1st metal wargame figures, bought back in 1973 to use with Charge! and my own home-grown Alexander Keith's Regiment remained. 

They were in pretty tatty shape however, many cardboard bases the worse for wear and in various basing modes since only my 1/72nd, 25mm and 28mm troops had made it onto V&B bases. So I started re- basing (sigh). Only green paint as a finish as time was short but it draws them all  together.  

I was also feeling, ....uncomfortable I guess, because all of Ron's troops were old 25's and none of mine were any more, I was also short on light troops, not a big problem for the period but I happed to have a box of Hat 28mm Voltigeurs in the cupboard. Lovely, elegant figures, couldn't resist a box even though I had absolutely no use for them. A few minutes of trimming, an hour with the paint brush and I had a dozen chasseurs wearing a Hungarian crossed with Voluntaires de Flandres, inspired Chasseurs.  I meant to do 2 units, 6 men each but then I noticed in the pictures that Ron's Grenz were in 4 man groups so suddenly I had 3 light units. I can live with that.

Those are Dark Forest Green coats, honest. Hat 28mm hard plastic.

The last time Keith's Regiment fought, at the Battle of Wollmitz in Saxe Bearstein, (btw a most enjoyable day that was, great bunch of guys and Jeff was an excellent host  read an account here) they were on single bases. Magnetic, true, but annoying and not nearly as closely packed as Ron's lads. So I rebased them too. Six figures on each 40mm x 40mm base, 2 of these making a roughly 3"x1.5" V&B base.

In front, some Old Glory command figures, behind them,  my own original 30mm figures (homecast), Keith's regiment and Les Compagnies Franches de la Marine. 

I know that the Portable Game was not intended for 18thC Warfare, or a hex surface, but I have every confidence that we will enjoy ourselves and the game will perform well with minimal adjustments
Some of my (large) 30mm Spanish made troops, 1759 British Grenadiers converted to French. These were commissioned for the Museum on the Plains of Abraham and I have seen the diorama there. (Years ago, I don't know if it still exists)  I came across a model soldier shop selling off surplus stock of them and bought enough for 4 Charge! Regiments for each side in 1973. The French got painted as did the Highlanders, artillery and a handful of Saxon Cuirrassiers converted from mounted officers before the project petered out as I turned to ancients and then to 15mm.  I think they got in 1 brief skirmish before finally getting to see action in the mid-90's to my great surprise.