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

Friday, May 2, 2014

Turning the Cart around

So there I was, trying again to get an existing set of toy soldier horse and musket rules to more accurately reflect my intentions. The basics are easy and habitual and I can scratch a playable quick reference  on a scrap of paper in 3 minutes but beyond that, things nearly always  tend to  bog down quickly and then head for the ditch. Once again it seemed to me that if I could just figure out how to turn the horse around and have it pull the cart things would be easier.

A short list of wants and goals seemed like a good starting point.

A. The rules should be as simple and as easy to remember as possible. To aid this, current, successful, mechanisms which are already in my head  should be used in  preference to trying out new ideas.

B. I should be able to use them to game small historical actions, in scale,  with an acceptable (subjective) level of historical believability and feel including the amount of ground covered, number of attacks made over the course of the battle, etc.

C. Despite B I want basic units of around 20 infantry, 10 cavalry and a gun with around 4  crew. The scale will have to work around this.

D. I want a typical game to have between 6 and 18 units per player.

E. While this is to be a stand alone game I want it to use as many common mechanisms as possible with the Square Brigadier and Gathering of Hosts as possible without subverting either rules. This is to make it easier to move between them.

F. Things should happen.

G. The rules are for me to play early and mid 19thC  Horse and Musket games using an existing and soon to be expanding collection of 40mm figures. I am always pleased when someone is interested enough to try them out but I have spoiled several working rulesets try to anticipate what I or some other, unknown, person might think or want in the future.

H. I want the rules to visibly reflect the tactics used without getting fussy about the process or forcing the player to be Captsin and Colonel as well as General.

Right, that's probably too many things but I have the badics sketched out on paper as a sort of quick reference so I'll get back to playing and post a 1 page , Coles Notes version later. This time I intend to go back to including as many of tge explanations and dedign notes into the text as I can so the full document will be a while. I should probably find a new name but I like  Hearts of Tin as a name fir a game aimed st glossy 40mm Toy Soldiers and having gone back to reread the original 2010 the basic  concepts are still the same even though the details have changed.


  1. I'm confident you'll make good progress with this - you always seem to. If it were me, I would recognise that i had been in this situation a great many times, and that tinkering with (sorry, scientifically re-engineering) known rules is a major part of the fun - good for getting wrinkles out of the grey matter. The process is at least as important as the deliverable.

    Again, if it were me, I would worry that, because time runs out, I shall just stick back in some feature of the existing rules - virtually unchanged - because the game feels naked without it. Sometimes, like morale rules, this may be an element which I never liked much anyway, so the rules family's genetic weakness persists. Recently I have been pondering this process, and noticing that small tweaks never seem to achieve as much as some radically new approach (not that there have been many, but the point stands). I thought about starting the problem from the other end - good to have a short list of must-haves, but a list of things that I'm really fed up with is potentially useful, too. Why doesn't my present game work perfectly? Which bits have never really pleased me, but are still there because I forgot to get rid of them last time?

    All excellent fun - it would be awful if we succeeded. What would we do then?

    1. Good idea, a list of bugbears.

      I tried solitaire as an alternate activity but it turned out to be pretty similar: solve a problem you set out for yourself then reset and start over......

  2. A fine list certainly, just a couple of thoughts.

    Regarding G, as someone who does use your rules and very gratefully, I would say self-validation is crucial and of course please don't be distracted by trying to anticipate what others might want, but I appreciate that that is easier said than done, as I know my own efforts with rules (and also with aesthetics) are often skewed (sometimes just sub-consciously I suspect) by some sense of the presence of a gallery of sceptical fellow wargamers who need to be won over. I'm sure it's just a natural desire to be plausible, it's not some sort of paranoia :-)

    Given C, and then D (i.e. potentially up to 18 units per side), plus the use of 40mms, is there a risk of trying to fit a quart into a pint pot (table size)? I say that as someone who experiences a constant tension between what I'd like to do and what I actually can do, but I know from observation that you're more experienced and ingenious in addressing that conundrum.

    1. Re G I do find that sometimes that thinking "what will someone else make of this rule?" helps stop me from exploring some of my odder ideas too far.

      As for table size, this has of course been at the heart of the great basing dilema of the last 5 years. I am happy to report that with the current experimental 15mm frontage there are 17 Blue units on table with room for more on the 4x5 table. (8 Inf, 2 LI, 3 cav, 4 guns). As nice as a 5x9 might be once or twice a year, the projected return to 5x6 once the big room reorg is done should be quite adequate for my purposes.