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 8, 2015

When is a door not a door?

Playing wargames on a grid is still a new thing to me, maybe 4 years. One of the issues that I've struggled with for some of the types of games that I like to play,is the whole very useful but periodically problematic notion that  1 hex/square=1 unit.

Now the notion of fixed units is not an entirely new thing for me. Going back to my early days with WRG 3rded Ancients there were unit integrity rules but the size was not fixed. The 1 base=1 unit approach  used in Volley & Bayonet, or DBA for that matter, led to some of the same issues of having to field large units as 2 game units or amalgamate 2 units into 1 game unit, never mind splitting a unit mid-game. There are strong advantages, especially for high level or large games but there is also inflexibility.

I have, however, also played games like Charge! (not to mention my own With MacDuff to the Frontier and Hearts of Tin) where units were companies but companies formed battalions and sometimes the battalion was the unit but sometimes a company could be detached and become a separate unit. Late last summer as I contemplated some Colonial games, I started trying to figure out a way to get that flexibility without giving up the grid. I had a glimmer or 2 but utterly failed at trying to explain how it worked when I tried to write the rules. It really didn't help that the military has a long history of using the same word for 2 different things. Look no farther than division = 2 French companies, or a collection of a dozen battalions plus artillery.  So, I fell back on Morschauser and Borg and carried on and it works.

Then I played Charge! again and again I marvelled at its simple intuitive approach that over comes so many issues by not regulating them in an effort to do something one way. Even the unit organizations in the book are mere suggestions as they point out and the rules work just fine with different ones. So I spent some time over the last few days trying to figure out a simple way to keep the squares and free up the organization. After inventing some interesting new organizations and basing schemes I woke up and remembered that I was still planing to use the structure I had been building with 4 x 4 man companies + 1 MG + Colonel as a Regiment.

A shot of an experiment with combining companies mid game from August. 

What I hope to test later this week is a structure where the Regiment is as many guys as you like (4x4 figures for my armies) plus a commander with the old saw that the regiment has to retire after 50% losses. I then state that whatever is in a square at a given point of time is a group and combat is resolved by groups. Individual figures retain their own characteristics for movement, combat morale and so on  which means combat had to be switched back to dice per figure rather than per unit but that adds colour anyway and I had been a bit disappointed to drop the old way for the dice by unit approach which I had done for convenience. Formations are defined by how many figures are in a grid. 4 infantry=extended, 5-8 = deployed (a shoulder to shoulder line 1 or 2 deep)  or a march column, 9+ =  a Mass and so on. A battalion in line will end up forming 2 adjacent groups but some early mucking about shows it nicely shows some of the disadvantages of maneuvering in line vs in a mass despite the lack of a special rule, which is how intuitive rules are supposed to work.

Whether it works or not remains to be seen but at least it will have a more Colonial/Toy Soldier feel.
The updated draft is published as a page, to  the right in desktop mode, scroll through pages in mobile mode.

Oh, and the answer to the old riddle as fans of the 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton),  might remember is of course " When its a jar".  (ajar=open a little, a jar = glass container)


  1. Love these soldiers. They look like some of my grandfather's.

    1. Thats one of the things I like about them too.

  2. Ross Mac,

    I can see why you are thinking along these lines, although it is not something that I have thought about trying myself. I will watch the development and play-testing of your new rules with interest.

    All the best,