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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Little-er Wars

Its still a week, more or less, until the start of the winter campaigning season. The new wood stove is installed and other reno's done but there is still lots of wood to split along with pre-Christmas cleaning and baking and more cups of tea and snacks to be handed in to my wife while she grooms double the usual number of dogs. Then of course ere will be family time and a feast and the like to be enjoyed, but while being busy with these sorts of things during the last 2 months,  I have still found a little bit of time  for the 5 P's of wargaming. What? oh, well, Planning, Procuring, Painting, Playing and Posting. Its the planning bit that has occupied me most during these weeks.
 Faraway & Oberhilse go to war over the new playing field.

I think it was the recent release of the Little Britain's that suddenly brought this to the forefront of my thoughts again but over the last 2 years I have been increasingly aware that the OSW paradigm behind my much of my recent wargame planning bares little relationship to the majority of games that I actually play or to the armies I build. This discrepancy is one of the main factors behind my inability to settle on rules and organization or to send  time and effort on figures and terrain for  what is supposed to be my area of focus. What I need  is to examine the various issues at play over the next few weeks, decide on a new model  and come up with a revised, more detailed plan for 2013 with a few (not too many) measurable, achievable goals to get me on track as well as the usual  overall framework.
The view from the other side as the new Universal Hearts of Tin gets a mini-test.

The aspect of all this that I am looking at right now concerns unit sizes vs numbers of units and maneuvering room vs looks and rules. For the last 5 years I have been focusing on unit size primarily from the points of view of looks, tradition and rule mechanisms. Since the maximum table size is set, there is a limit to how many figures may be deployed and thus the number of units is inversely proportionate to their size so I occasionally checked relevant historical sources to make sure I could fit the required number of units if  choosing a larger size or that if using small units that there would be enough to provide a decent game under the proposed rules. I also kept in mind the narrative advantages of having a small number of identifiable units. Having finally made my choices, last October I played a game with about 3/4 of the maximum number of units that I planned to field. There was no room for maneuver. Maneuvering room has always been more important to me than a dioramic look  so I am surprised that I overlooked this aspect or rather that I had pushed it aside and ignored it.

Yawner's Farm, a small battle with wall to wall troops.
After playing a larger 1/72nd ACW game  with 4 times as many units but more maneuver room as well as playing several games of  a Colonial variant of BattleCry with 5 figure units and experimenting with various card table games this fall, I am starting  to rethink things. There is good precedent for  units of 12 or so figures going back at least as far as Captain Sachs not to mention WRG's 1685-1845 rules and Stuart Asquith's Big Wars. When I throw in things like Morschauser's 4 man Basic Units, DBA and so forth, there is also something to be said for the sort of organization I was proposing for a revival of my 54mm Britain's armies with 6 man units of 40mm figures organized into 18 man brigades or regiments depending on the war being played.


Cobb's Farm. The table felt so much bigger with smaller units (frontage wise).

A Grant scenario played with such a brigade as "unit" would crowd the table every bit as much as Yawner's Farm but it would be more the size of a major Sikh  War or Indian Mutiny battle (too big for War of 1812) and would allow me to paint up say 18 infantry regiments in 18 uniforms. The other attractive alternative would be using 12 man units as scenario units. That would mean the same number of units as currently planned but fewer figures, more room for the games and more time available to work on support units and special figures.

 After all the years spent trying  to decide if 20 men were too few for my 40mm Toy Soldier units, this isn't something to rush into. As you can see in the pictures I have been experimenting with 6 man card table games using the 40's, after all, if these are supposed to be my "main thing" why should they be confined to the main table upstairs if I expect a fair number of downstairs card table games? Of course, once the winter campaign season gets under way, it may turn out that I can get in several games each month upstairs after all which  would make it a moot point. Still, the question then arises of what sort of games I could play with 1/2 size  units and 1/2 sized movement and ranges on the 5'x6' table. It would be like quadrupling my playing area. The first step will be to try the 12 man units upstairs, grid free but with reduced scale, hopefully between Christmas and New Year's.


16 comments:

  1. Always a delight to check out your games, Whatever size units you decide on they'll look superb.
    Merry Xmas.

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  2. Ross,

    For a comparison, the current "Bellevue Hills" game is being played lengthwise on a 5' wide table.

    3-stand Pike & Shot units have an 18cm frontage; 2-stand foot units are 12cm wide; and 2-stand mounted units have a 16cm frontage.

    Your Alpians had 11 units plus 2 artillery pieces to start the battle; Stagonia had less. Each side has lost 2 units and has a third routing . . . so you can judge from the photos what space those take up on a 5' wide table (by 10 1/2' long)and use that to think about sizes for your table.

    Happy Solstice & Merry Christmas too.


    -- Jeff

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    1. Thanks Jeff. My table size is fixed now, I'm just thinking about smaller units, shorter ranges and shorter moves to make it feel bigger for some games.

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    2. and a merry Christmas to you and your wife as well,

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  3. Hi Ross - some delightful pictures in this post, I love that observation balloon! I have enjoyed following your recent posts and can fully understand your thinking behind the smaller unit size concept. I'll be following along next year of course.

    Seasons Greetings,

    Lee.

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    1. Thanks Lee, glad you're along. Season's greeting to you as well.

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  4. Ross I love your Faraway-Oberhilse 40mm collection, so is good know you have plans for it.
    The new terrain looks very good and the bases of the figures match very,very well with it.
    A very nice and inspiring post, thank you very much for sharing.
    Regards, Cesar.

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    1. Thanks Cesar. I seem to have given up the search for a new basing style so hopefully they will all match soon which will make choosing a table finish easier.

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    2. The new terrain finish looks quite good. How have you made it?

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    3. That is my smaller portable playing board. It is just Woodland Scenic flocking glued in patches onto a painted board and then touched up to form a grid. It is the same flocking as I use for my figures but it used up about 5 years worth of flocking and is only 1/4 of the size of my normal table. I am going to try to match the colours when I repaint my table this year.

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  5. I have leaned more and more towards down-sizing units over the years. For slow painters like me, or for those with limited time or space for example, I maintain small can be good and fun. Of course, there is the "look" of the thing, and large units do look more dioramic (if that's a word). Still, my experience (and observations gleaned from various blogs) has shown me that as few as 6 or even 4 figures per unit can be quite fun, too.

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    1. Spell check doesn't think its a word but I stick by it as opposed to diorama-like. If the rules are figure based, there is a game aspect to smaller units but if the rules are unit based, its all about looks vs space. I have often planned larger units but only occasionally finished any bigger than 24.

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  6. Ross Mac,

    Almost all my units are small ones as it gives me the opportunity to field lots of small armies and fight battles on a smallish tabletop. It also makes the creation of an army a quick and simple - and cheap - project. I will follow your progress with great interest as I suspect that where you lead I may well end up following.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Bob I think that has been mostly the other way around as the gridded board shows!

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  7. A Merry Christmas to you and yours

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