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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

With MacDuff to the Sea

Some readers may be wondering what was so wrong with the MacDuff rules that I had to fiddle with them again. The short answer is nothing. The medium length answer is that  there just wasn't  enough of the original rules left in them, they had somehow lost too much of their inner MacDuff-ness as it were.  I had no intention of reverting to the original rules,  my tastes have changed too much, but I was hoping that returning to variable length moves and replacing the  limited, rather boring, often forgotten command check by something more subtle and intrinsic that I would regain something. I think it worked but more test games are needed before Huzzah! in May.
The opposing armies march on and engage.  When setting up the table I found a scrap of wall paper border that used to be behind a shelf display of toy soldiers and decided to prop it up. I was surprised at how it immediately affected the story line and added a sense of place and purpose to the game. Not a new idea but one to think on.

The scenario was pulled from Stuart Asquith's book on solo wargaming. Two opposing forces, different in detail but of balanced power, converge on a small town. Both sides are tasked with placing a garrison in the village and moving on with the rest of their force, to Backdrop Cove in this case. I set the game c1840 with units being 8 cavalry or light infantry, 16 infantry with musket or 1 gun with 5 crew, and deployed the following:

BLUE (Oberhilse)

General Scott and staff
Cavalry: Brigadier St. John
   Frontier Light Horse Irregular cavalry w rifles
   The Peipur Tigers) Militia cavalry.
    2nd Dragoons. Regular Cavalry (Detached)
Volunteer Brigade: Brigadier Grey
   Green Mountain Rifles. Light Infantry w rifle.
    Newton Volunteers. Militia
    Bangor Volunteers. Militia
    Lafayette Volunteers.  Regulars
Oberhilse Field Force.  Brigadier Zinn
    1st, 2nd 3rd Infantry
     Mountain Battery (light gun)

Lord Snooty, foreign observer and all round good egg watches as Scott rides over to urge the riflemen on.
RED (Faraway)
General Turner and staff
First Brigade: Brigadier Spye.
    Victoria Rifles light infantry w rifles
    Dover Fusiliers
    Royal Fusiliers Elite
    Foot Artillery
Cavalry: Brevet Brigadier Flowerdew
    Queen's Lancers
    Princess Charlotte Dragoons Elite
Second Brigade: Brigadier Stone
    Young Buffs
    Green Tigers
     Brooklyn Fusliers

Each side were initially given 1 card per commander plus an extra. Each card activates 1 commander with his units that are in command OR any 1 unit.  The rules do not require pre assignment of cards to commanders but I like to do that. This left 1 unassigned wild card which could be used for any unit, one out of control or perhaps a key one that was not yet activated. At first I liked this and I even started thinking about using it to allow a unit an extra move. Before long though it was obvious that it was too easy to activste units. I pulled the wild cards and went back to just 1 card per commander. The extra card could certainly be used in sone scenarios.
The Lafeyette Rifles ready for the enemy. Oberhilse has seized the village and their cavalry is heading on.

The game rolled along smoothly but I was surprised to realize how much I had missed the variable moves. Before long though I remembered one reason why I dropped them. The maximum moves were fine but on average the moves were too slow and basically ceased if any maneuver was carried out.  After a worrisome few moments I remembered that just before dropping variable moves I had been experimenting with a march bonus vs a maneuver or fire penalty.  I tried it and it answered handsomely,  just the ticket to resolve one of my oldest bugbears.

Another old issue was finding the balance between rolling fistfulls of dice for combat and having results that were either too predictable or too unpredictable. This is one of the issues that involve the delicate balance between representation of history,  game experience and visual impression, all subjective areas. Once again I had decided to try the double hits on a 6 but this time limited it to shooting. Worked like a charm.
The weapon ranges are still a problem for me with the 40s but I decided that  in this situation I'd rather look right and be wrong. I finally restored the original ranges and they felt right.


Next post I'll get into some of the nitty gritty of a hard fought seesaw battle.



2 comments:

  1. You probably have mentioned this somewhere, but what figures are those? I love the toy soldier style. Are they 40mm?

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    1. They are 40mm but they are quite a mix. Probably 2/3 are converted from Scruby 40mm ACW and War of 1812 ranges available from Historifigs (inc most of the regular infantry and 2 of the Blue cavalry units. All 3 red coated cavalry units (both sides) and the elite red unit are converted from Zinnbrigade homecast figures. The dark blue marching figures were a gift of originals. The volunteers and many of the foot officers are original homecast figures. I love the Scruby figures but Irregular and Spencer Smith (shiny toy soldier range) both offer good figures in a good but different toy style. The Historifig acw range is complete but tge the 1812 range which is hidden in an old news entry is just basic infantry ramk and file.

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