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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hearts of Tin - Debriefing

So what parts of the rules worked in the test game? Well, all of them. 

The Disorder, Shaken Brigade & Rally rules were a good and effective replacement for the previous Recover Casualties & Brigade/Army Morale rules. They did the job more effectively than the others and better than the various rally, shaken, break point and other abortive rules that I have attempted over the last 3 years. 

I didn't really miss going back to just one musket range, well apart from a tiny shiver of guilt now and then which was of course why I had introduced them anyway. Game wise I didn't miss it. So, another step back closer to the original and a better game. 

But there has to be something surely? Yes of course.

Things not as they should be. One of the constant dangers of too much fiddling in too short a time is that intended changes don't make it to print or isolated cross references get missed etc and I found several. Things like the rule for blind fire said treat the target as being in cover, well that came from an earlier fire chart when cover meant 6's to hit and that's what I meant so that's how we played it. The same with the rally chart which I thought I had updated to make retreat optional, but apparently the change had either not been saved or only made in my head, again we played it as intended. There were various  things like this that I have been combing for over the last few days.

Things that worked but weren't really needed. In the Disorder rule as initially proposed disorder was caused by 25% in one turn, meaning 25% or more, that somehow transformed itself into each 25% without going through the usual vetting, another danger during periods of unrest. It was a little hard on units but not unduly so, more importantly, it was a pain to track! (Lets see, they had 13 at the start of the turn they took 2 from this guy , 1 from over there,  and 2 in melee and now 1 in the pursuit, what am I up to? )  Generally, any unit that took 50% in 1 turn was in so much hurt that it really didn't matter so I have put that back the way it was meant. The change from 0 meaning Rout was also well meaning, laudable and a waste of time. It meant endless tracking of badly shot up units, too battered to be used, too stubborn to leave the table. Realistic? Probably? Did it add to the game, 3 1/2 hours in as I was getting tired? No. So pick 'em up if they score 0 is back in. Which means Militia might hang around all day or they might rout off table the first time they get beaten in melee or suffer 25%. Elite infantry need to garner 3 simultaneous disorders to have the same chance so expect them to hang around.

Another thing I threw in at the last minute was another attempt to give Fresh units a bonus. It seems like such a good idea to encourage infantry not to fire at long range and to encourage players to keep reserves. With 6 units it wasn't bad, tracking 10 enemy units was a bit more work   but thinking back to the last time I tried to track fresh ACW units and forward to a planned game where I would have to try and track the status on something like 36 little ACW units made me revisit whether or not it was crucial with the other changes. Is it?

Well, lets see. When it comes to holding fire, there may not seem to be a point if there is no bonus but what was the real point of doing so in History? Was it really because the muskets were clean and you might get a few extra hits? No, it was because if you held your fire until point blank range, the fire might be decisive, if you opened fire at long range it would encourage a lengthy firefight that would usually go on until both sides were wrecked. If you don't fire, he might come into decisive range. In game turns a charge though not a bayonet charge. 

In game terms, if you open fire at long range, you might get lucky and disorder your enemy, he might then rally and being unable to advance, open fire on you. He might do so anyway but if you are lets say Elite British infantry being attacked  by French infantry with militia mixed into the ranks, what you want is for them to close in to point blank so by holding fire you give him every incentive to do so then as  charge reaction you get to shoot and then melee with your +1 and he'll get an extra disorder for being repulsed as well as a good chance of 25% casualties and may actually rout instead of rallying.

What about reserves? Well, with no recovery of hits, units start getting worn pretty fast, losing combat dice and being easier to disorder. Units coming up from reserve at full strength have an immediate advantage without extra rules. 

OK ditch the fresh rule which will allow me to put back the sorely needed cavalry charge plus. I just couldn't fit it in with the Fresh bonus.

What else? Well, I'm tidying up the terrain rules, putting them back into Plain English, rules for woods, hills etc as opposed to Broken Ground vs Difficult ground etc.  I'm also going to rework the fire chart so it is in the same format as the melee chart. The idea was to build a chart with no modifiers, just find the right line. I almost had it with the fire chart but the melee chart ended up being about 12 lines long so I reverted one but not the other. I would like to be consistent so I'll put the fire chart back to a base score to hit with modifiers.

I have also been thinking about up scaled and down scaled games. When I tried giving ranges in yards with a plan of using different scales for different games, it just didn't work for me. My mind said move 12" not 8 today, 16 tomorrow because the theoretical scale changed. So its back to OSW and Grant & Lawford & Young, Sometimes an inch will be 100 yards or 150 or 200 or a figure 10 men or 20 or 50 and a turn 2 minutes or 20. Its all relative and so moves and ranges will remain constant in inches (or CM) and the theory behind them will morph. So now that a typical TT Teaser has been established as working,  its time to go up and down a level. A skirmish (or semi-skirmish to those whom skirmish means semi-role playing man to man combat) and an ACW game with more units. I want to do more work on ACW scenery and maybe a few more troops first so semi-skirmish it is. 

The Atlantica Colonial stuff isn't ready but having bought some more Tories recently has reminded me of my AWI collection which was meant for MacDuff but which has almost always fought under Hearts of Tin. This time around units will be 8 man companies and Brigades will be Battalions with the Colonel being the Commander, in fact, the old MacDuff Organization. 

Off we go then to Hants County. New York. Colonel Fraser is leading a raiding party of Tories and Hessians back from the Annapolis valley back towards Mount Uniake. As they come to Garland's Crossing, its obvious that the Rebels mean to block their way.   


  1. Interesting comments (as always). I'm looking forward to further playtests and a more polished version of the rules (I already have over a score of HoT downloads . . . some with major changes, most with minor . . . so I'll wait for now until they are more stable).

    -- Jeff

    1. Good decision Jeff. I've just about got the terrain settled and am poking at formatting and so forth which always ends up with stray off the cuff changes that need to pruned the day after. But the end is in sight.

  2. This is a tremendous amount of work - a real inspiration. Sound fellow!