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, October 31, 2014

Its Not Over Yet

Thank goodness November is upon us. The winterizing, repairs and renovations are almost done or at least it'll soon be too late if they're not, and that means more Toy Soldier time is coming. Feels like ages since I added any new figures or equipment, of course some desk time has also been spent touching up old 54mm figures ready for sale or disposal in some form.

Oberhilse Staff officers examine their new secret weapon, a Heavy Howitzer, fresh off the boat from Hong Kong
I had to call the last game before it was officially done as I needed to use my table as a painting surfaces for bits of trim shelves etc for renovations in the none toy soldier world. To be honest though, it was already over really, all the reserves had been committed, no one had been helplessly over run, it was just a question of grinding till one side had finally had enough.

That bothered me a bit. Don't get me wrong, faced with an opponent I tend to be one of the "rally 2 men and a dog for a last stand" type (See Barker's Purple Primer aka Airfix Guide to Ancient Wargaming)  but left to myself, well, it helps if there's some sort of limit. One you can actually reach. Its even better if its something you don't have to track continuously since I often forget to do so.

The only mechanism at present is a default one in the absence of scenario specific conditions,  50% unit loss, way too high but is 30% or 25% really better when there are 24 units per side?   Of course part of the problem is that I've made it damned hard to destroy units because I don't like seeing them blown away by a few stray dice so a prudent general will pull back damaged units to save them from being destroyed. Ah. I think I detect an internal conflict of interest.

So I revisited all the rejected morale rules, end of game rules, drastic kill quick rules and so on and then looked at the 1/2 empty table and thought about this being the equivalent of an average to large Grant Teaser and about 1/2 what the table could hold and about the small games I want to play. Then I stopped everything.

Sometimes the problem is just the scenario or timing. In this case I didn't have time to focus on the game but had been sneaking in turns once or twice a day for a week and had not set hard and fast victory conditions. Would a 50%+1 victory suffice for the either or both sides? For the defender? Probably since they could dig in and hold if even a few reinforcements arrived. For the attacker? .No, unless they have big reserves close at hand to exploit. Do they? I don't know, I didn't get that far.   It was an impromptu affair to see how things ran.

I was bothered by the small amount of the table used though. I had played with longer moves or with larger but fewer squares which made each move feel longer and I can see that with things as they are, I would probably end up always fighting in a corner. I had already noted in August that going to company units would effectively mean a scale change but I was dragging my feet so as to fit the big guns on table for that Divisional game I'm not going to play. Time to bump up movement and ranges and play a smaller scenario again, one with clear victory conditions other than casualties. Sunday is supposed to be cold and rainy, maybe even a flurry. I think I've earned a day off.  


  1. Ross Mac,

    I like the new howitzer! A great addition to your growing army.

    Trying to find a way to end a battle is problematic. Like you I have struggled with this problem, and have experimented with various ways to solve it ... and have yet find a totally satisfactory solution. I hope that you manage it ... and if you do, I will have no reservation in copying it!

    All the best,


    1. Yeah, not bad for a cut up dollar store oversized ripoff of the Crescent 18pdr.
      I'm pleased with how it turned out.

      If I find an answer to the question, you'll read it here

  2. I must repeat the comments, this howitzer is really impressive!

  3. Some interesting issues you raise here, Ross. It is an issue that I have often thought about off and on these last nearly 40 years. Personally, I still go with the 50% rule, but in a two-player game there is nothing to stop (and everything to recommend) pulling out of a losing proposition before that threshold is reached. At that, in a campaign context, that 50% loss actually represents 33% casualties, as 'stragglers' amounting to a third of those losses return to the colours during the 24-hour post battle period (half if your army wins the battle, but then you won't have lost more than 49%). Incidentally, I have had battles in which both sides lost 50%. I count both sides as having lost.

    Overall I break down the losses this way: The winning army gets half its losses back. The other half are a total loss (dead and hospitalised wounded). The half return to the colours (stragglers, and those with minor contusions, lacerations or concussions that aren't bad enough to remove the fellows from their units). Losing armies get a third back, and the 17% difference (between 33 and 50%) are taken as POW and must be caged, and/or exchanged at some future point.

    So an Army of 200 figures takes a shellacking and contrives to lose 111 figures, and the remaining 89 with the colours make off under cover of darkness. Overnight the stragglers and strays wander in: 37 figures, which brings the army up to 126 figures. Total loss is 74 figures, 37% of the army overall. Meanwhile, the victorious army, sweeping the twilit battlefield, pick up 18 figures by way of prisoners, which are escorted (the escort being purely notional) off to some sort of holding pen and thence in subsequent days to whatever accommodations have been allocated to these poor wights.

    Speaking of prisoner exchanges, I am very tempted to insist in all my campaigns that all belligerents carry such commissions or cartels. This will help - along with whatever recruitment programmes you have going - to offset the attritional problems associated with war game campaigns.

  4. Otherwise, so far I have tended to apply the 50% rule at unit level and army level only. Many armies don't have any intermediate formation organisation, but suppose one does? In my 'Corsican Ogre' rule set mode, my French army comprises Divisions and Corps formations. Ought the 50% rule apply to them? With what effect? One of my Army Corps comprises 11 regiments in two Divisions. Suppose the larger of the two Divisions loses the 50% and is forced to retreat, its efficiency and staying power fatally compromised. Should that apply to the Corps as a whole? I'm disinclined to apply the system in quite so punitive a fashion. If losses over the Corps as a whole reach 50%, then, yes, the whole Corps has been defeated. But if the 50% applies only to the Division, then at least the Corps Commander can retain control of the remaining Division and decide whether to continue the battle, or use it to cover the other's retreat. Incidentally, only figures lost count towards the morale effects. A defeated formation does not count its whole numerical strength as lost: merely the figures no longer 'on table'.

    Even supposing the Corps losses have reached over 50%, but one of its Divisions still retains more than half its original strength, I would apply to the Corps as a whole the onus of leaving the field or at least breaking off the action, but the 'intact' Division retains its morale, control and efficiency whereby it can present a front to any pursuing enemy and cover the withdrawal.

    I have never quite made up my mind about this intermediate effect, partly because one would have more to do to monitor losses at each level. Units are easy to note. The Army as a whole one tends not to enquire into status until around the 40-45% level, when one begins to feel the threshold must be getting fairly close. It gets a whole lot more complicated when intermediate formations are taken into account. But how about this: the count is mandatory if and only if the opponent asks for one to be made (and then both sides are counted). Otherwise the count is voluntary.

    Finally, what happens when one's fighting troops get reinforced during the battle. My attitude is that the 50% Army Morale break point is immediately adjusted according. Ist Division, fighting alone 100 strong, has been reduced to 60 figures - 10 figures from having to quit the field. Then 2nd Division, of equal strength, arrives. The total overall 'Army strength' goes from the original 100 to 200, and the 'Army break point' to 100 figures. Ten further figures lost will still cause 1st Division to quite the fight, but 2nd Division can stick around until it, too reaches its 50-figure break point. The army as a whole will have retained its battlefield presence until then.
    The effect is as one might expect; help has arrived; the lads feel a lot happier about prospects.

    1. That intermediate level is where I'm stuck at the moment since the battles I initially looked at involved Battalions and Brigades which were part of Divisions and Corps fighting under central control over a front of miles, so my table is just a slice. It seems fairly rare for trained troops to be driven off the field although local sub units get driven back by particular attacks and whole brigades might withdraw at night. Just not used to this 20thC stuff yet!

  5. Don't like arbitrary rules, but in a one off situation they are often needed. They represent the factors that lead a real general to preserve his forces for future conflicts.

    Just a thought. Even in a campaign battle, there is a tendency to leave it too long before you accept a battle is lost. OK, try somehing like this. Retreat on 10% losses, you get 75% of your 'dead' back. Wait until 50% losses you get 50% of your dead back. Wait until 75% losses, you get none of your 'dead' back.

    Obviously these figures are not chosen by me for any particular reason - the principle is the important point. The longer you wait to pull out, the more catastophic the final defeat - which seems reasonable to me.

    1. Tying it into a campaign would help but what I seem to be on the cusp of is the dort of blood baths which actually occurred in WW1. For some readon I was exoecting that. Ancients are so much easier!