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, April 3, 2015

Reform and Storm Again!

Over the past week I've been picking away at the rules getting farther and farther away from where I wanted to be so I put it away for a while. As so often that helped. When I came back I had identified a possible answer involving a theoretical rather than applied aspect.

Early on, the assault on the left hand redoubt has been repulsed but the right hand one was stolen before the garrison could tumble out of bed. The table looks a little empty but this is an early morning surprise attack by less than 1/3 of Red's theoretical field army.

The visible issue was partly that the areas looked empty but mostly that the figure/unit frontage/depth issues just weren't aligning properly, especially for artillery batteries who should easily fit 2 full batteries in an area and for early period infantry. Essentially, through most of the 19th C a battalion of around 500 men would normally occupy a width of around 150 yds (very roughly) with a skirmish screen in front of a formed body. Initially a thin screen with the main body doing the main fighting and an overall depth of less than 300 yards but eventually with the skirmish screen becoming heavier with the rest forming a series of reserves to reinforce the main fireline or to pass through to assault with the whole having a depth of as much as 500 yards to keep the reserve safe. My areas were now theoretically 300 yards since I started fiddling with the Great War.

Without going into detail I seemed to need to be able to handle having variable numbers of subunits in an area while tracking their unit status individually and figuring out which figures could shoot, etc. In other words a conventional game not really using the grid except as a built in ruler. Nothing wrong but not what I wanted. The only other solution I could see involved quartering my nice new 6" squares which seemed counter productive. All of the solutions seemed to favour doubling the size of my units but allowing them to split.

At last I hit on the right question. Why can't I go back to a theoretical 150 yard areas like the Square Brigadier used for years and bring back the old rules including support by adjacent units and ignore or rationalize scale variances as usual?  The only valid answers I could think of were that the heaviest rifled artillery would be able to shoot across the table and then some if  I enforced the scale uniformly and that a battle like Tel El Kebir would need either a bigger table or bathtubbing. Not much when you get down to it.

So I reset the rules and tidied them up, confirmed my commitment to my current organization of 8 infantry or 4 guners, cavalry or specialists as a "unit". Then I reset the table using a 1:1 game unit to scenario unit match rather than the 2:1 ratio used previously. Worked like a charm. Nine turns in just over an hour, lots of tension and swings of fortune for this one of the smallest scenarios.

Mid game. The Counter attack has begun but while the cavalry rallied and  ran amok in the open ground  and  the right redoubt was only narrowly saved after a 3 round melee, saved it was and Red eventually carried the day. 

Next up, a bigger scenario to see how the 1:1 unit ratio looks and plays with 12 to 16 units per side. The current draft of the Square Brigadier rules as played are available from the menu at right or here.


  1. Hi Ross,

    This may seem like a silly request, but for those of us who come and go, would you please state what the goal of your rules hunt/evolution is. I'm confused. At one point I thought it was one ruleset for each period, then I thought it was one ruleset for all periods. The 40mm and 54mm size thing also leaves me lost. I thought I had the ancient/medieval area down, but I went away for a while, came back, and don't know what the objective is.

    What size figures? 20mm? 25mm? 40mm? 54mm?
    What size battlefield in feet and inches?
    What kind of units, individual figures or figures on bases?
    What kind of casualty removal? Figures or bases or whole units?
    What eras are you aiming at? Ancients say 3000BC to 500 AD, Undefined medieval say 500Ad to 1500AD? Horse and Musket say 1500-1850? Colonial say 1850-1900-ish. WWI? These years listed are just some number to get me in the ballpark.
    What kind of opponent, solo, 2 player, multi-player, convention-whoever shows up kind of game?
    What kind of rules, simple and fast, detailed and slow. Some indeterminate place in between?
    What kind of on-battlefield grid, if any? Squares? Hexes? No grid?
    Bookkeeping? Chits? Orders? Detailed unit tracking? None at all?
    Of the many home-grown rules you mention, which ones are written down and playable?
    Which ruleset is the latest shiniest one of interest?

    Personally, I have given up on published rules and have made a very DBA-ish system that I use for all periods. A general set of rules that I tweak slightly for each period that interest me. It is square grid based system. It uses a handful of dice for unit activation. It uses as few markers as possible. The "system" is very simple. I am happy with it, but it is not for everyone. And I don't really care if it is or not. I am not publishing it. I hand it out to my local gaming buddies who want to try the games out. I have an Ancient version, Medieval version (they are basically the same), a very specific War of the Roses version. I am working on a "Lace War' version, 1650-ish to 1750-ish. Maybe a specific ECW version later on. I only try to make myself happy. If I am not happy with my rules, what's the point of making them.

    So, please give me a summary of what you are doing? Clear up my confusion. I would like to clearly understand where your rules are heading so I pilfer ideas from them! Maybe others are confused also. Maybe it just me. That would be no surprise. Anyway, just a silly request from a intermittent follower of your blogs and rules.

    Life is Good,


  2. Hi Jim, good to hear from you, its been a while! The short answer is that its about the journey, not the destination. As long as I am entertained and my brain gets exercised I'm on track. To expand a little on that, any ruleset posted as a download on the side is playable. I won't call them finished because when I get a new idea from somewhere I like to experiment, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

    For the rest its been 2 years or more since my last summary of goals, periods etc and I have been thinking that I'm overdue for an updated one, for my own sake as well as for readers. I'll work on it.

  3. Hi Ross,

    Thanks for the quick response. It works for me. Back to lurking.

    Life is Good,