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, March 11, 2013

Examples of Play for the Square Brigadier Pt 1

Some aspects of The Square Brigadier  (especially the "Give Ground" rule and the "to hit" score based on target class) are new to me in practice if not in theory but I've tried them enough now to like them. In fact, while the rules were intended to produce quick games on a small surface, I'm itching to see what happens if I put it on the full table with more units, with or without a grid. Will it break the game or make Hearts of Tin obsolete? That test lies in the future. In the meantime, since some of the mechanisms aren't all that common, I thought it might be of interest to go through a couple of turns of a stage managed game to show how some of the rules work in theory.

For this exercise I broke out the 20mm ACW troops . The example game will show a surprise attack by a small Confederate Division on a smaller Federal one. If I was playing on a larger table with more squares, I might have fielded the Division as a General + ADC plus 2-3 brigades each of a General (no adc) + 4-5 units of infantry. My board isn't big enough for that many units though so  instead the Brigadiers are assumed to be present and doing their thing without  being seen and the division is represented by a single General plus a number of infantry "units" which may in fact be 1 large or 2 small regiments.  Red chits mark disordered units until such time as I paint up casualty figures.

The Confederate "army" will have:
General Taleri. + ADC
1 Artillery battery with 1 Napoleon.
2 Elite infantry units with rifle. For proponents of the Rebel Yell and the ferocious southern charge, I gave these 2 units +1 die if attacking that turn.
3 Infantry with rifle

The Federal "army" will have
General Buford + ADC

2 batteries, 1 Rifled, 1 Napoleon.
6 Infantry units with rifle
2 Poor (Green) Infantry units with rifle

The Federal army will be set up facing South ready for an attack but the attack will come in from the woods to the West. The Confederates will have first move.

Turn 1 
The Rebs rolled for orders and got 6. The infantry was nicely formed in 2 groups and going straight ahead and so could be moved on 2 orders. Another order was used to march move the artillery up the road. The remaining 3 orders were stored by the ADC. The troops were then moved. The infantry had to halt upon leaving the broken ground. The artillery was in march column moving along the road and  thus able to move its full move +1. All units moved and thus cannot fire and there were no melees.

The Yankees now rolled and got 4 orders. The Federal commander had some problems. He could change direction with his line using 1 order but at 1 square per turn and units maintaining their relative positions, it would take a very long time.  He needed to move some of his regiments independently  but was a little short on orders. He used 1 point to make a "Brigade order" to the 2 left hand units, a separate order to a 3rd unit and an order to one of the batteries. The change direction left began by the end unit wheeling back (moving 1 square and turning) while the next turns and advances to maintain relative position. The 3rd unit moves 2 squares to come up almost in line and the left hand battery moves 2 squares and takes up a firing position. Again no units are eligible to fire.  

Turn 2. 

The Rebs have ample orders available again. The battery comes into action at range 3 with 2 dice needing a 3 or better to hit a Green (poor) infantry unit. They roll 2+3= 1 hit. The Reb infantry have 2 choices stand and fire with 1 die in hopes of disordering or pushing back the enemy or charge in with 2 dice hoping to disorder them and/or push them back breaking up the Yankee line and pursuing to make it hard to rally them. Since 2 units have a special charge bonus and they.are in a hurry to break some units before reinforcements arrive, they charge in. On the right 2 regiments are not yet in range and move forwards. The Yanks now check morale. one unit has a hit, it has 2 choices: stand and be disordered in melee with a good chance of routing or fall back a square. They choose to fall back letting the Rebs get a supporting die in the adjacent melee.

The 2 remaining Yankee units rolled their defensive fire, 2 dice each needing 5 or 6 to hit elites. All shots missed. The Rebs now rolled. The unit on the end scored 1 hit and the Yanks chose to give ground and the Rebs's chose not to follow up. In the center, The Rebs got 2 dice + a bonus "Rebel Yell" charge die + 1 for a supporting unit, that's 4 dice needing 3 or better to hit but all missed!

First Blood.

The game continued with the Rebs slowly pushing forward on the left and stalled on the right where the Rifled battery on the hill at the back was able to fire in support of their front line. Eventually a Reb   unit being fired on by artillery and rifle fire, took 2 hits. They could have cancelled one hit by falling back but they would still have been disordered and within range. They chose to stand  but failed to rally needing 4,5 or 6 to do so and chose to fall back. They were still in range though and on the next turn they again received 2 hits and were destroyed.

On the Reb left, charge after charge slowly drove the enemy back but the attackers also kept getting disordered and they were unable to break the enemy line despite the disparity in quality. At last one Green unit failed to rally and then received 2 hits and was broken.  For a moment, there was a hole.

Both Generals threw themselves into the fray  in hopes of getting more decisive combat results but soon after the Reb General was shot, just as the Yankees finally rolled plenty of orders and counter attacked all along the line.

By this time it was clear that I wasn't stage managing the die rolls  and the dice weren't co operating as closely as I had hoped to show the possibilities and the lighting was atrocious for pictures anyway so I called it a day.  I'll  do some more examples another time.


  1. It's always a problem when you're trying to set up an example game for a blog and then the dice don't co-operate. I did one a few months ago, and had time to do a few test runs in advance to check for balance and playability. It all looked great, but on the day the actual blogged/photographed battle was nothing like the tests :)

    1. Dice can be fickle, that's one reason I wasn't planning to actually play, just present situations and choose the rolls I wanted to illustrate the rule, but I lost my way :)

  2. Play-testing a rules or mechanism can be a risky business if you are doing it as part of a blog entry. For some reason the dice never, ever seem to 'co-operate' and thrown up extreme results OR produce such bland results that one wonders why one bothered.

    That said, it was nice little battle report to read, and cheered me up no end when i read it.

    All the best,


  3. Thanks Bob, it was meant to be a demonstration rather than a play test but once I started rolling dice rather than choosing numbers to show how things worked, I found myself starting to play. Hopefully it illustrated some of the ideas anyway.

  4. Well, one thing it demonstrated was you were having fun. Nothing wrong with that. :)