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, May 27, 2013

A Little Something While I'm Waiting.

My games room isn't quite back together again yet, I need to build a frame for my table which will now  sit atop a series of  non-contiguous book/scenery shelves, hang some pictures, put more stuff away, get rid of a lot more stuff and transfer my painting and modelling gear and organize it, but I needed a break.  A game upstairs is still a week or two away  so I grabbed a marker and some toys and headed downstairs.

 A minor border clash beyond the mountains in Northern Atlantica. Something to do with control of trading rights no doubt.

Having decided to try to modify   rather than replace my 3" gridded card table, I set about marking corner crosses without respect for the mottled squares. A thin brown marker would have been better but I didn't have one to hand and am sure I can soften the black crosses but they were certainly easier to see during the game.without detracting too much from the look. Given that board was not evenly divided by 4 in both directions, I ended up with the edge rows on 2 opposing sides being rectangles an inch deeper than wide. I figured this could be used to give a bit of extra depth when marching on but promptly forgot and marched on the other way.

Now, while dealing with the shambles upstairs, I did find time to think about the next series of games and to reread a number of magazine articles and snippets of books, not to mention going back to the Game a Week reports (see at left) where I played Hearts of Tin on a small table. Time well wasted as they say.  I decided that I wanted one of 2 things. One option is a traditional gridless wargame with very simple, intuitive rules, leaning rather Charge-ward. For the mid-19th Century I also wanted to make sure I had a "charge" option regardless of rules rather than just a close combat mechanism which meant in turn a chance of stopping it and a resolution all without a separate morale roll. I played about with some ideas which started looking more and more MacDuff like and then decided to drop it until the table was useable.

The second option was to take another go at a square gridded game tipping the hat more to Battlecry without the cards. If I had the dice I might have considered using them but I don't see the need to spend the money when there are other options. After considering a wide variety of options, I settled on something that is closer to the original Hearts of Tin  than I realized until I tried it. Essentially I made 6 figure "companies" and treated them like a stand which had X dice and could take Y casualties. I was going to go with 4 man companies as in the old days and allow 2 per area and I may try that but tonight  I opted for the 6 man units with 2 dice when shooting and able to take 4 hits. This just happens to be 1/2 of the proposed 12 man units for a non-gridded game. Movement was 2 squares if deployed, 3 in march column. Range was 2 squares. For the charges I went back to making the side with the most hits retreat.

Following on from previous experiments I decided to drop the diagonal movement and ranges. The main reason was to prevent movement between 2 impassible squares and to reduce the arc of fire. My argument is that  Pythagoras failed to account for the linear nature of horse and musket warfare and that in order to move on the diagonal a unit would have to wheel thus taking extra time. Laying out larger units of figures on larger squares last week made this very obvious, the only way for a unit to move into the diagonally adjacent square was to march through one or both of the orthogonally adjacent squares. When firing, a battalion in line can't fire obliquely sufficiently to hit something way off on the diagonal so they would have to wheel anyway, running over into another square or backing to the middle and thus extending the distance.

Anyway, I want a distinct "game" feel to this solo project so was going to use the Orders dice or Pips but having also thought about real life orders, etc, having been browsing passages from some memoirs I haven't reread in a while, and keeping in mind that this will be about skirmishes not battles, it didn't make as much sense as it does when ordering Regiments and Brigades so I opted for the initiative roll and a beyond command distance roll for detached units. I will have to go back and try tthe Pips though. One of the things I did change which won't work properly with the Pips, is that rather than the integrated firing and movement of the former, I reverted to a system I haven't used much in years, A moves and declares charges, B moves and declares charges, both sides shoot/react, resolve melees. This feels much closer to the old simultaneous move games and worked well. Oh, just occurred to me I could double up and use the same to determine Initiative and the number of orders available.  For the charges, I reverted to an old abandoned HofT rule whereby the side suffering the most hits will retreat.


The game was an encounter of patrols on random terrain. Each side had 3 companies of infantry, 1 troop of cavalry, a gun and a Force Commander. There were 3 terrain objectives, a ford and 2 villages. Blue ended up on the side containing 2 objectives but had to cross the river as it marched on with slowed things down. If one side should lose 1/2 their units they would have to forfeit the game,

A clash of cavalry early on left Red slightly ahead and they used that and their early concentration to develop a distinct lead despite unfriendly dice. Soon Blue was.on the ropes with 2 units destroyed and 3 only 1 hit away from destruction and only 1 objective. Red had 2 units 1 hit away from destruction but none destroyed and they controlled 2 objectives. I probably should have called it then but thanks to some manifestly biased dice, a few turn later Red had 2 units destroyed and 2 more 1 hit away and no leader as Blue finally lost their 3rd unit. If I counted leaders as units it was technically a draw, if not then a slim win  for red but it kept me engrossed for an hour so was a win for me.

The larger squares on the small table were a much better fit for the 40mm figures and will hold most of the scenery I use with the 40's and had enough room to maneuver so that was a good call. I should be able to double or even triple the number of units/companies used in this game. Its possible that I'll play a different style of game on the main table but if I apply the same size grid as planned, I could use the same armies and rules in both places but with bigger forces upstairs, scenarios with 3 company regiments for each scenario unit.I'll also be able to use the same scenery for both boards so can now push ahead with doing some specific buildings as well as hills cut to fit the grid.

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