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, July 11, 2014

The Large and the Small of it

One of my main criteria for a set of rules for my glossy toy soldiers is the ability to handle every size and scope of game or scenario that I can envisage playing. HofT was not originally envisaged as being suitable for small war skirmishes and engagements but to my surprise during the 2009 scenario a week project, it served admirably. The games were short but fun and engaging.

The set up from behind Faraway Trading Company lines. The same set up was used in both games.
Obviously I also need to get back to finishing renovations and tidying.


Finding myself with an unexpected hour or so yesterday, I quickly set up a version of a scenario that was published in the Courier as part of the original With MacDuff to the Frontier rules. One side consists of 2 villages which contain an objective (arms, money, rebel leader etc) represented by Aces shuffled into a stack of cards, in  this case 13. Each turn a card is discarded. When the "Imperial" force captures a town, he gets all remaining cards. If he captures both aces, he wins. It is technically possible for the Imperial player to lose on the first turn but neither side knows till the end. The scenario can vary in length and number of units as desired but has equal forces with the attacker being regulars and the defender local irregulars, usually with inferior weapons though I appear to have ended up with well armed ones.

The forces chosen for this game were 6 units each of 1 stand and 1 commander per side. Two irregular light cavalry and 4 irregular light infantry on 1 side, 4 regular cavalry, 1 Horse Artillery rocket battery and 1 stand of regular rifle armed light infantry. (Note the habitual mismatch of terminology to rules, hence the need for the return of  specific army data sheets with unit characteristics.)

While I was pondering answers to questions and comments on the previous test game, I had 2 disturbing thoughts which joined some doubts that I had during the playtest but had not had a chance to thoroughly explore. The first was that things were starting to get too complicated and detail or process vs effect oriented again, the antithesus of what the rules were meant to be and of they way they have been whenever they have worked the best. The second was that the hit points were beginning to sound like DP or disorder/disruption points, a very credible and effective idea by Alan Callahan borrowed to good effect by Simon Macdowall and which I like in theory and hate in practice. (Partly for practical reasons and partly because they make the army commander responsible for the unit commander and sergeant major's jobs). Its been tried and rejected for HofT at least twice already. The other doubts had to do with abolishing the traditional HofT melee resolution, not for the first time, and the recurring doubt about absolute reductions for cover vs probability reductions already discussed a while back.

Despite all, I proceeded with the rules as written. To keep this post shortish, the first game was played through to a reasonable conclusion with a draw due to a final desperate charge, the only really aggressive or risky move of the game. Both sides played very defensively, stopping to rally every hit whenever possible. This was probably realistic but dull and it probably cost the Faraway commander his chance of a decisive win since by the time he made it to one village there were few cards left and no chance to take the 2nd one. The melees were, well, odd and unsastisfying. With so few dice and no possible result for cavalry other than rout by number of hits or draw, they were mostly stalemates or mutual annhilation. The larger game had had the same stalemate feel but due to numbers, no annhilations. Over all the command rules worked well except that with the sole commander being both Brigadier and General things got confusing and a bit wierd and it soon became evident that the letter of what was written was not what I had originally intended which was that a formed group of units should easier to control.

Overall it was a bare pass. I could use the rules to do this sort of game if I needed a resolution for a full campaign, but it wasn't sufficiently exciting or fun to be played for its own sake.

In a mad rush to get the last card 2 squadrons of Lancers storm the village which was hastily downgraded to broken ground when I realized that I don't yet have dismounted lancers

I reset and after some thought, fixed the very minor tweak to the Brigade order system since I was fiddling the ditched the whole shaken and rallying thing for the Nth time. Instead, stands come off as hits accumulate and units get weaker.  But I still wanted a brake on units and have long been trying to figure out out to come up with something like the rallying rules in Charge!.  So I did the previously unthought of and basically stole them except I just now realized that I missed the bit about a bigger penalty for losing. I'll fix that. At the same time I restored the usual win/lose melee rules (lacking the usual special cases which will need to be added back) and lastly, I had been trying to decide whether to use a shooting system based on the one in Square Brigadier or use the one I ended up trying which worked OK in most situations. Since I wasn't enthusiastic about it and was making changes anyway I decided to give the other system a chance. At this point my time was up but I overruled life and came back up after supper to play again, at least for a turn or two.

The Lancers seaarch the burning ruins of the farm while the rest of the force presses the remaining natives.


This time the pace was faster, things happened and the differences between troop types and tactical options seemed clearer. The regular cavalry soon became a serious threat but started to be worn down by a trickle of casualties, some gotten while winning melees, others from fire by infantry in cover while the cavalry was rallying. The rallying ate up time and made it tempting to use reserve squadrons to keep up the pace but hovering enemy made that seem rash. At last the irregulars were up against the edge of the table with only 1 hit remaining. In went the charge against enemy plus general and up they came with 3 x6's. OUCH!  Both sides wiped out. OH well, It was balanced by a sudden burst of accuracy by the rockets which cleared one village. Alas it was already emptied of all signs of wrong doing as was the other one by the time it was searched.  This had been been a fast paced and exciting game though. Now to try it with larger forces. Sunday is the target.

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