EXCERPT 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

Friday, October 25, 2013

One Rule to Ring Them All

Well maybe not all, maybe not even most but well, anyway, I hit the wall on the rebasing. 18 Federal Regiments have been sorted, tweaked and rebased and about 6 more are waiting but I need to start stealing bases from dismounted cavalry and in order to make coherent units, I'll have to do touch ups on a few. Since and average game will see 8-12 regiments a side. I think its time I work on cavalry and artillery before I tackle the rest of the infantry. But first a game!  of something, something not ACW, not till the guns and cavalry are done!

However, once I laid out the Reb army in its new configuration of 19 regiments, each of 3 stands of 6 +2 markers on a slightly less than 4" frontage,  I realized that I  had again side stepped the old question. How do I make this collection provide something different?

Various possibilities have occurred to me over the last few years but the main three were:

a) Since the figures are smaller, I can play fit more on the table and can thus either play bigger battles using the same or different rules or use bigger units make the figures fit better into the terrain.

b) Use them for a different style of rule or game whether a high level game such as Volley & Bayonet allowing me to play entire army level actions on the table or just a different style from my 40mm games, an element or unit based game vs a figure based game.

c) Use them for purely historical scenarios as opposed to generic or fictional ones.

Well C was a non-starter and after some thought about the types of scenarios and some experimentation, I decided I had no real hankering to play solo games with a handful of 50-60 man units, nor did I wish to act as army commander worrying about politics and logistics and manouvering corps and divisions while some form of AI resolved  combat, at least not on a regular basis. I can always re-purpose troops when I get the urge to play something at that level. It seems I am quite comfortable at the traditional, intermediate level I am at. So that left me with a comparable size of unit but more of them to play either historical or generic scenarios and the last sticking point of whether or not to use different rules to manage the game.

The obvious choice for the  1/72nd ACW was Hearts of Tin  which was conceived of for just such a game with 20-30 regiments  a side. My hope was to push the 40's back down into company sized units as originally envisaged for MacDuff but that hasn't happened.  If the games were going to be at the same level, I figured that at least the rules approach could be different. One element based or since that wasn't different enough, unit based with the other drawing on  Featherstone/Charge! traditions of counting figures.

I have no theoretical difficulty with the unit based approach, in fact it is probably a more correct interpretation historically, I do use it in other periods  and I see it as the best way to approach gridded games with a small unit footprint. Call it conditioning, but with a table full of figures,I just enjoy the traditional figure approach and find it more intuitive. Added to this is my usual desire to use the best and to try out the latest ideas and its no real surprise that HofT and MacDuff kept converging despite effort to make them different for the sake of being different.

A complete waste of time so I've given up and spent valuable time reworking rules when I could have been sorting and gluing and painting. Now I again have one set of Horse & Musket rules to do every thing I need them to do for both 1/72nd and 40mm figures for skirmishes and small battles (Division equivalent up to small cops sized) . It is as close to the simplicity and intuitiveness of Rattle of Dice as I could manage and should be able to handle games ranging from short games with less than 100 figures up to 1,000 figure games lasting all day. It will mean using some form of markers when not using single figures but I've gotten used to that now.

In theory a 1/2 scale game could be played on the card table and of course I can always just grab a few stands or figures but I have enough small projects that I do not intend to ever let grow big enough to need the full table and I think there will be enough of those designed for the grid to keep it booked rather than playing the same games upstairs and down.

I'm not sure if the rules should be called a new edition of Hearts of Tin or of With MacDuff to the Frontier since there are elements of both but for now they are listed under MacDuff.  My goal now is to clear the table and play at least 1 upstairs and 1 downstairs game this weekend and to paint some figures!


  1. Ross, the ACW is not one of my periods and I'm not all that familiar with it . . . but the single aspect of it that struck me in my casual look at it was very strong personalities for many generals. Indeed an awful lot of them seemed to have followed their own heads instead of their orders.

    Perhaps that is something that you could incorporate to "make it different".

    -- Jeff

  2. Not sure my reading supports that Jeff, at least not at the Brigade level with the Division commander just a shout away. I think the use of more units with a smaller foot print should make the games feel different enough.