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, July 30, 2012

Atlantican Warriors and The Nine Lives of Colonel MacDuff

To get my mind of ACW battles, I decided to paint up some more Atlantican warriors so that I can get on with some Toy Soldier games. A quick search revealed a need to do some casting but I did find two suitable bodies, 1 Prince August Skraeling, 1 Zinnbrigade 1900 Prussian. (who knew?). The first of these became one of the wild tribesmen from the interior. He has a trade blanket wrapped around one arm as a make  shift shield for close combat or to confuse enemy marksmen when darting from cover to cover, but has not yet acquired a musket. The other is a richer warrior from nearer the settlements who has a shirt as well as a musket. Both wear simple warpaint, mostly charcoal and grease.(and yes the Zinnbrigade Prussian pants are that tight.)

Looking at these lads and pondering game options for when I get a score or more done, I found myself wondering how well HofT will handle little groups of  5 or 6 which seems the natural way for these warriors to work, especially when raiding and ambushing. Will the 4 man fire groups be an issue? It also got me wondering how much I'll miss figure to figure melee for small actions and whether or not I could slot it in as an optional rule?  That's something that won't be answered until I try a game but I also found myself thinking how simple the ACW rules were that I had just used and how well they had worked; a lot like the early versions of HofT actually. Not that HofT is a complex set of rules but they try to cover so much now that I have trouble keeping them in mind (time for a Quick Reference Sheet) and during a game I am faced with minor unit tactical decisions as well as over all battle ones.  The two thoughts ran together and started me thinking about a simple set of skirmish rules or semi-skirmish rules for single figures which led me back to Macduff.  Since I had already done all the leg work for both approaches over the last 5 years, it only took a moment to jot down a one page version of a revised, simplified MacDuff.

The irony was immediately clear. I had started with an all purpose single figure game (MacDuff), then I had added a very simple element based game for battles (Morschuaser Meets MacDuff) while trying to simplify the main game. Then I transformed the simple battle set into a replacement all purpose game capable of being used with either single figures or stands (HofT), leading me to start work on a new simple element based game for battles to supplement the all purpose rules and to start thinking about a simple skirmish game.

So, the real question then is, am I really not able to make one set that works for all my horse & musket games? If that is the case, how many sets do I need, two or three? If one game isn't enough straight up, can I have a basic game with two variants that change the scale and shift the focus while keeping core mechanisms the same to make it easier to switch back and forth or should they be as different as possible? Oh my! Enough!

 The plan before I took that ACW battle detour was to try as big a CM scale battle as I can manage and also to play a small skirmish game. Before I forget how much I enjoyed the last 2 HofT games and waste more painting & casting time on fiddling with rules, I'd best get back on track and play those trial Hoft games. If they don't work, then it will be time to rethink the master plan.


  1. Ross,

    I know that you don't expect one set of rules to cover all of history. Different periods are best suited by rules based on those periods.

    So why are you looking for one set of rules to cover everything from man vs man to corps vs corps?

    It is just as okay to have scale-specific rules as it is to have period-specific rules.

    -- Jeff

  2. Jeff, the simple answer is I would like to find myown equivalent to the way Grant used The Wargame or Lawford & Young used Charge! so that I can fight all levels of a campaign with the same forces and the same rules (and same basing and organization). Its as much about attitude as the actual rules.

  3. Hi Ross, I get your point about the way The War Game and Charge! were used for all levels, but in neither case, as far as I can see, did the authors travel as far chronologically or geographically as you are inclined to do. Neither featured small bands of native irregulars nor, at the other end of the spectrum, did they do large historical battles without very heavy bathtubbing.

    I am inclined to agree with Jeff's point and, if one takes the current HofT to be occupying similar territory to The War Game and Charge!, I can see the case for a skirmish set to one side and on the other a more abstract set, perhaps hex or grid based, for the large historical battles.

    I understand the attraction of having the one set to fit all, and it seems a worthwhile endeavour, but I'm sceptical as to whether it is achievable. Maybe it's just that I like the current HofT a lot and fear that, if you try and stretch it too far towards either extreme, it'll break. Faint heart never won fair maid, however, and it's your call.

  4. As for covering a wide range of scale, Grant's route was the simplest: a 50-so infantry unit represents a company, a battalion or a whole brigade according to the size of the battle; ranges theoretically become totally out of scale in the 2 extreme cases, but in fact it works perfectly. Probably because all scales are interlinked, and time scale is fuzzy at best -a 'move' including a 'delay' from 10 minutes to 1 hour!

    As for the time range, I was perfectly happy with the WRG Ancient & Medieval 6th ed. which allowed to field any army between 3500 BC and 1500 AD, and later for 'pre-gunpowder' armies such as Victorian Zulus. For H&M the WRG set covered 1685-1835, but I agree that to reflect period tactics some restrictions (not total prohibition, but heavy disorder morale penalties if used 'unhistorically' ie. not justified by peculiar circumstances) have to be put on revolutionary / napoleonic formations (anti-cavalry square, attack column, skirmishers screens...) or troop types (horse artillery)... But no need of a different set of rules, just 'period characteristics' in the same way as many rules take into account 'national characteristics'.

    1. Those two things are what I have been working towards. They are old ideas and ones that I like. I just need to free my mind from the more literal constraints that have grown upon it.

  5. Steve, good points all. I'm quite prepared to accept that I might have use for 2 or 3 rule sets, especially a bigger battle set because it is an alternative to bath-tubbing. I was just mildly annoyed that I was dipping back into alternate rules BEFORE I had tried the larger bathtubbed HofT and the small skirmish using HofT. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm tinkering with rules to avoid painting!