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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

No, no, yes! Found It!

Yesterday morning the weather dawned sunny and warmish but by late afternoon snow and then rain was falling and I managed to retire upstairs and start the game. Once again the game could easily have been set in France 1914 if it wasn't for the shop signs. However, we'll call it Atlantica. At the end of November, Oberhilse forces blew a bridge over a major river dividing the forces. Once they were ready to launch a counter attack, they needed a way to cross back over so they stealthily launched a column to seize an unguarded crossing. Word got out as it usually does and an allied force rushed to intercept. The battle began as opposing forces entered the table from opposite corners. The Blue (Oberhilse) army, with a very small superiority in numbers and in weight of artillery, had to capture the main bridge to win, any bridge to draw.
General Henrison was once a general in the service of Oberhilse but he was forced to retire when it was decided that he was too chunky for modern fashion. A native of Hougal, he has answered the call to come out of retirement and take command of the rebel army or the Redcaps as the papers call them. He wears his old uniform but with a shiny, new, red kepi to show his allegiance. 
 The lead troops came on  to the table as "detached" or "out of command" troops and having to roll each turn to move. The result was that Red (Hougal & Faraway) threw infantry over the main bridge backed by an MG while the new Light Horse seized the Stone House crossroads blocking the path of any Blue forces crossing the farther, minor, bridge which was passable by infantry and cavalry only. The Blue advance guard came 1/2 way on then dithered for a short while before deciding to focus on an attack on the big bridge.
A brave dash by the Hussars might have restored the already flagging fortunes of the day but the wounded horses and men mark where they were caught in a crossfire by riflemen and machine gunners.
The first clash took place on the 3rd turn as some Oberhilse Hussars charged a thin line of riflemen. That was the end of the proposed rules. I mean they worked OK and got the right result but I hated the mechanisms, just not me and not what I was aiming for. The words of Peter Young came back to mind yet again: "Morale is in the mind of the wargamer himself, for ultimately a war game is a duel between the two opposing generals themselves. Do not let them hide their deficiencies behind the alleged failings of their metal or plastic followers!" .

That says it all really as far as the questions I was pondering last week, Fortunately I had been rereading the posts from last fall more carefully and had been able to remember where the rules had been headed and why I had decided to stop experimenting and start writing the full set, and I can now see how that effort went off the rails so quickly. Despite the grid, this isn't really a variant of the Square Brigadier.  Five minutes later I had a new draft which I'll summarize at the end of this post. The full rules will take longer but there won't be a two month's  hiatus this time (hopefully) or if there is, at least I'll have notes! 

At the height of the battle. Both sides have their full strength on board. Red's bridgehead has been wiped out but the cost to Blue was excessive. The green chits indicate each Blue hit, red chits mark Red's hits.
Like the two games in November, the game just flowed. I lost track of how many turns were played or how long it took because I was too busy playing as the turns clocked over one after the other.

The game can be followed reasonably well through the pictures. I had more but they were even blurrier than these. Apparently the tripod does help. Basically Blue decided to focus on the big bridge at the far end of the table and virtually ignore the secondary one. Red decided to hold both but to cross over the big one to give his troops space to fallback without losing the bridge to a lucky rush. There were flaws in Blue's attack but the dice were also in Red's favour at crisis points.

Blue decided to attack by the book with extended lines of riflemen to reduce casualties. It was working ok apart from the MG on his flank but with lines of extended troops, its hard for either side to gain local superiority and exercise any leverage. A slow battle of attrition results, usually to the defender's advantage. Blue did try a couple of rushes but could not roll a hit in melee regardless of odds.

At this point, the game began to drag a little with a slow fire fight unlikely to force a result any time soon. Since I had somehow changed victory conditions from an original intent for both sides to be trying to capture a bridgehead to Red only needing to hold, this meant a Red victory when time ran out or I got tired of rolling.  Rather than call the game or try to figure out how many turns I'd played and what the limit should be, I changed tactics for Blue. Bringing up what fresh and consolidated units I could muster, I started trying to rush the bridge with small assault columns. The result was predictable but not inevitable. They were forced by circumstances to go in piecemeal and were shot to pieces. Might have worked early on when they had an advantage in numbers if they had risked massing the units but it was too little, too late. At any rate, it soon ended the game!
Game's End. Blue hits its break point. 32 figures lost out of 64 while Red stands at 20 lost out of 56. I usually go by units but I hate stopping to recount losses near the end. This way, if I issue each side with markers equal to their breakpoint, when the bin is empty, the game will be over. I suppose lost unit markers ala Battlecry would do the same thing. Something to think about.
The Back of a Postcard version of the Tin Army rules (aka Tin Brigadier)

as played on Jan 24 2015.

Sequence: Roll for initiative, A moves/rallies, B fires, Melee, Reverse and repeat.
Detached: Commander not within 6 of General or Unit not within 3 of Commander
4,5,6 to move (affects all units if a commander) +1 if a commander, or independent, -1 if poor.
Move Infantry 2 or 1 and fire, Cavalry 3 mounted or 1 dismounted and fire, Artillery 2 or 3 limbered. 
x2 on road, x 1/2 if slowed by broken terrain, infantry only 1/2 speed difficult terrain
Shoot. 5,6 hits +1 if superior, -1 if inferior
1d/2 inf or 1 crew. x 1/2 if indirect arty. x 1/2 vs cover or difficult tgt
1/2 d if disordered.
Extended inf, deployed arty, cavalry are difficult target but are disordered if hit in the open.
Rifles 3, MG 4 Lt Gun 6, Field gun 8, Heavy 10. Indirect arty range x2
Melee. Defender rolls for shooting if eligible and removes hits then all others on both sides roll. Any unit in melee that takes more from shooting+melee retreats disordered.
1 d/figure 5,6 hits +1 if superior/shock -1 if inferior
1/2 dice vs obstacle, 1/2 dice if disordered
Commander with unit may try to inspire troops if shot at or in melee 5,6=cancel 1 hit, 1=killed.
(hits are morale, fatigue and cohesion as well as some casualties)
Modifiers are cumulative. (1/2 for range and 1/2 for cover = 1/4. Round up remainders of 1/2.


  1. Ross Mac,

    The battle seemed to zip along if your description is anything to go by ... and the rules look very interesting. I might even give them a try once my current Ironclad vs. Ironclad project is completed.

    All the best,


    1. Bob, the dogs' dinners were 45 minutes late because I lost track of time. They were not impressed!

  2. Another engrossing battle report, Ross. 20 of 56 stands lost, something of a Pyhrric victory, eh ?


    1. Steve, figures removed represent between 25% and 50% killed, wounded and missing. The rest is an abstract way of showing the effects of fatigue, fear, ammo shortages, officer and nco losses and so on. But yes, heavy casualties but not unusual for 1914.

  3. That is a great quotation from Brig. Young and is one that I should put on a plaque in my wargames room. It reminds me of something Liddell Hart said about the psychological (even spiritual) in combat: "Loss of hope, rather than loss of life, is the factor that really decides wars, battles, and even the smallest combats." Peter Young is a deficiency in my wargames education. I should remedy that. Where would you suggest that I start?

    1. That particular quote can be found in the introduction to any of the Knight's Battles for Wargamers series published in the 70s but if you aren't familar with Charge! By Col Lawford and Brigadier Young then your education is indeed lacking! The rules still give some of the best horse & musket games I've ever played both for enjoyment and feel but even better are the insights, philosophy and experience woven in and around the rules as part of a captivating and entertaining text. A reprint is available through John Curry's History of Wargaming Project.