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, April 8, 2013

Weeding, Pruning and Grafting - Wargame Style

Another run through of the meeting engagement but with double the number of units.

I really didn't feel like working yesterday. The smart thing would have been to run another play test and that's what I meant to do. Instead I spent several hours updating the Square Brigadier, pruning fiddly rules that I would probably never use or which could be added for a specific game.

An example would be facing and the ability to change it, especially for poorly  trained troops. Yes they did have a hard time maneuvering but was it that they couldn't maneuver at all or that they fell into disorder more easily while doing so and took longer? If the latter, a simple reduction in the number of hits they can take relative to better trained troops is not the same thing but just might be sufficient since the goals is to show that better trained troops are more likely to defeat poorly trained ones. If both sides are poorly trained, does it matter so much? It really means that each turn takes more time since I've never found any non-game examples of opposing units not being able to find some way to get to grips with each other.

Time and interaction is of course the  essence, especially with alternate turns and a possible flip of initiative.  The actions of the General come with significant delay between making a decision and executing it but the reactions of a unit commander to what is happening on the spot would tend to come much faster. One option is to have complex reaction rules which cross the rapidly changing situation with the training and experience of the troops and officers involved and their need to conform to orders. Another is to let the General decide on an overall plan and let the dice decide if his troops managed their part properly or not. There were lots of these clumsy attempts to include as many minor bits as possible and make players work for it but like weeds in a garden and old growth, they choke the good bits. Its a struggle to keep them in check but doing so puts the focus back on the contest between General's plans and wills and away from the details and processes and encourages a more exciting game.

Scale is another issue that I am struggling with when using a Grid. I do keep trying to remember that things are an abstraction but its way too easy to get hung up. Its easier as you go down levels. If each  grid area was 50 yards, I could pretty much handle things though I would still need to be more clever at handling the nuances simply. The trick is that many units then would occupy 2 or 3 grid areas which is a no-no or have to be split into sub units with rules to allow them to act together and anyway, the resulting battlefield wouldn't be big enough theoretically for some of the battles I want to fight.

If I bump the grid up to 200 or so yards that works better but oh gosh, all musket fire is between adjacent areas! I did play with having attacking units cross the border between areas and move into contact. Works ok with some basing and large areas but not so well where a base pretty much fills a grid area.  It also awakens another issue, We all know that rifled muskets had a longer effective range than smoothbore muskets but I'm having trouble finding an examples where troops with rifles stood and shot down musket armed troops without any return fire. The trick seems to be that rifles were rarely used at extreme ranges by massed troops and that  muskets had a range much greater than their accuracy encouraged them to be used at so troops just blazed back anyway. In game terms, with one range band and a grid, it seems better to make the rifles more effective rather than longer ranged. It all levels out at decisive or melee ranges any way. Chassepots vs Needle Guns may be a different issue.

The original Morschauser Meets MacDuff  did actually handle it this way and while I was looking for something more systematic, I think its probably the route to go so I've been looking back and grafting the older system back into the gridded game as well as the reduction of hits against cover such as used in last weeks simple game rather than the in the chance to hit.

 A later shot, just before things got a little bit better and then very much worse for the Queen's troops.

The diagonals are still being a problem for me. I am seriously thinking about admitting defeat and following Bob Cordery's foot steps and rule that all measurement and movement be through the sides. It would also be easier if I dealt only with squares or only with hexes, especially when it comes to adjacent units and melee but I have both and want to use both so I will persevere. The resulting games won't be precisely the same but as long as they both work in their own way I'll be satisfied.

So, more juggling to merge old choices in new ways and then another test.

** Square Brigadier is now updated and is available at left. **

Apparently last night's game wasn't exciting enough to keep Spinner (Whippet) and Aunt Delilah (or Diedi for short, eldest and smallest of the Italian Greyhounds) awake. She's what they call "Blue" so you think she'd be cheering. 


  1. On the subject of diagonal movement on a square grid, I believe some systems like D&D use an altenating 1-2-1-2 system, so that moving a single square diagonally counts as one, but two squares diagonally would count as three and three as four, etc. (Or one could have it the other way around, with the first costing two and the second costing three.)

    1. I did think about that but the main problem has to be writing a simple rule to prevent units sliding/fighting through a non-existant gap between 2 units. I think I've got it.

  2. All batreps are better with pet pictures. And that's all I've got, really. Wish there was something more profound I could add.

    1. Some days a wave is as good or better than wisdom.

  3. Ross, while it won't work with your current battle cloth, a solution that you might want to consider is to use an "alternate square" cloth.

    Think of a chessboard where every other row is off-set by half-a-square to the side. I don't recall the exact figure but it closely approximates hex movement in terms of distances.

    Sketch such a "grid" out on butcher paper (or similar) and give it a try.

    -- Jeff

    1. Thanks Jeff. I've had that recommended to me. My main concern is that I often lay the battle end to end rather than side to side or fight on a diagonal. The offset grid looks very different when fighting the wrong way on it. I think my current tweak handles it to my satisfaction but I'll keep it in mind.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I call it the brick pattern. The squares are still squares, but each other row is offset by half a square side. All it is is a dummy's hex grid - something that I tried out over 20 years ago when I decided that drawing out a hex grid was. So. Goddam. Tedious. You don't have problems with diagonal movement; and the 'footprint' of potential destinations, being vahuely hexagonal, approximates a circle better than orthogonal movement does.

      In an earlier posting on this topic (the rule set itself) I suggested that (diagonal move) = (orthogonal) x 1.5. This system drops odd half-moves, netter approximates a circular footprint, but has the downside of having to remember how it works (partially, but not completely solved by counting out loud.

      I have considered doubling the move allowance and doubling the expenditure as well: orthogonal moves cost 2 MP; diagonal 3 MP. Movement allowances for each troop type is then doubled. The effect is precisely the same, including dropping left over single MPs, but makes counting easier by leaving out fractions. I'm a pretty decent sort of mental arithmetician myself, but I know how the mathematical faculty can become dulled in the heat of battle!


    4. Thanks Ion. I don't have a problem with the distance on the diagonal, actually I'd quite like the diagonal range to be shorter since a narrow head can't handle one of Bob's arc diagrams that get around it. My real issue is primarily of fighting on the diagonal or not and finding the right language to prevent moving on the diagonal between 2 units or terrain that a unit couldn't enter.

      I have looked at the brick pattern, like hexes, the issues depend on which which way you are going, with the columns or against them or diagonally. Going one way you can move in a straight line but can't form a straight battle line. Going the other you can form a battle line but units have to skate back and forth as they advance.

      I just looked at firing arcs as well. Assuming a 90 degree arc, if facing 2 squares with a range of 3 you can hit 9 squares. If you turn 90 degrees and face 1 square you can target 15 squares and fire at a unit that might actually be beside you.

      But I appreciate the info on them and the suggestions.

  4. Regarding dogs: I think it was George Carlin who once asked, "What would a dog do on his day off? Not loaf around and sleep; that's what he does when he's on duty..."