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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Late Arrivals

I admit it, it's been a long road to a far destination from where I set out 15 years ago, for my hobby as well as other aspects of life.  So it was satisfying this weekend to feel various things finally snuggling into to a comfy feeling of "home". No doubt this presages another tectonic shift in my life in due course but hopefully not for a few years. More to the point, in particular with regards to wargaming, after exploring a lot of possibilities and options by practical experimentation and trial as well as by endless musing and pondering, this is the first time in over a decade that I'm not only happy with the shape of things but understand why they work for me.  (Not saying I can explain why sensibly, but that's not today's job anyway.)

Back to Saturday's game. This was a 2nd run through of OHW Scenario 10: Late Arrivals. It was played on a 12 x 12 grid of 9cm squares so each square equated to a 3"x 3" grid on a map and by extension each 4" to 6" wide OHW unit was replaced by 2 x 1 grid area units, the 2" to 4" artillery being maintained as 1 gun. This gave Blue 6 x infantry, 4 x cavalry and 1 gun vs a Red force of 4 x infantry, 4 cavalry, 2 light infantry and 1 gun. I added 2 Brigadiers to each side. All infantry had rifled muskets, all cavalry could dismount with rifled carbines.

I, umh, was cleaning out my smart phone and accidentally deleted the early pics of the troops marching on but if you refer to the previous blogpost, Minnow appeared on Turn 5 as the first Blue Reinforcements marched on. Not much happened before that other than Blue pulling chance cards that allowed them to move Red unit's back while Red responded by rolling low numbers of orders to make it harder to recover from the confusion.

Anyway, smart phone + poor lighting and in a hurry didn't make for great photos so you're not missing much and an absorbing game meant that I missed too many turns worth of pictures to show the game unfolding. I hadn't actually expected much of this game so the result was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

Previously, on Turn 6 Red finally pulled a favourable chance card and used it to march Blue's infantry straight forward towards the wood without deploying. Since the town remained defended and the cavalry was coming, Blue went with it, formed line and attacked the fence. Eventually the attack was repulsed but it ate up most of Red's pitiful supply of orders, drew off Red's infantry and delayed the attack on the town. I might not have thought through the consequences of playing the card as well as I should have, it could have been used to move up my own infantry in hope's of boxing Blue's infantry into a congested mess in the streets of the town with nowhere to retreat to.  

The Tin Army rules that I was using are built around a ground scale of grid square = 150 yards, give or take 50 yards since these are toys, with a time scale in the vicinity of 10-20 minutes per turn on average over the course of a day. Units represented around 450 line infantry (give or take 150 based on ground scale etc) or 1/2 that number of light infantry or cavalry or a battery of 4 - 6 guns.  In other words the forces were in the neighbourhood, very roughly. of 2,000 to 4,000 men per side. A summary of rules will appear very soon followed by a post  discussing some of the ideas and maybe even why I chose this or that option over the other ones that I have tried. The full rules are going to take longer since I want to take the time to write them up properly. I started to do that last year for the original WW1 version but lost my handwritten notes and forgot. Won't happen again! This time its just a matter of expanding the existing sketchy late 19thC version.

The game assumes that line infantry are deploying a skirmish screen of up to 1/2 their strength (if supports are included as per SOP) up to 2 squares ahead  of their line which is acting as a reserve for the supports without the skirmishers and supports being shown. The screen will withdraw when appropriate such as during an assault by one side or the other. A marker figure could be used but in practice I found that that just crowded and confused the table top and instead have been assuming their presence.  Light Infantry are assumed to be either detachments or specialist sharpshooters will are all operating as skirmishers and close supports.

Around Turn 12 of 15. Blue's cavalry has arrived and after using a die to choose whether to reinforce the almost empty town or make a flank attack, has moved into town and largely dismounted. Red's infantry is taking serious losses but Blue's battered infantry is starting to break under pressure. Only 3 turns are left and Red is getting desperate.
A most important feature of the game is that it is based on the assumption that the player is the General trying to control the shape of the battle while subordinate Brigadiers and battalion commanders handle their troops using standard tactics without bothering the General. Whether they do a good job and get their troops in the right formation at the right time facing the right direction or not will be  reflected on how their units do in combat. Inevitably there is still some fiddling by the player since he is actually moving the troops but one of the reasons I like the 1 stand units is that it doesn't allow much of such fiddling by the player. This leaves him (or her, always implied) to decide things like when and where to attack, commit the reserves etc. This is a lonnnnng way from my OSW roots and I should acknowledge Frank Chadwick's influence here as well as Arty Conliffe in addition to such later influence as Joe Morschauser and Bob Cordery.

Turn 15! (Really must paint more Blue dismounted cavalry figures).  Blue is hanging on to the town but has lost  5 infantry and 2 cavalry units out of 11 units, more than 1/2, not to mention that Brigadier Zinn was nabbed when a unit he was leading was broken by an assault (upper left behind the Red artillery) compared to Red who has only lost 2 infantry and 1 cavalry unit, plus 2 Brigadiers wounded on the last 2 turns.  If one figures out Army morale by the Tin Army,  they started at 11 + 3 for objectives held - 7 lost units for 7/14 which is the bare minimum to hold. One more hit on the Blue Guard Lancers would have done it! 


  1. One of the things skirmishers do is locate and identify the enemy troop formations. Since you know exactly where they are in a miniatures game (most anyway), you can assume your skirmishers are doing their job in that respect.

    1. Good point! I need to take the presence or lack of skirmishers into consideration in exposing hidden unit markers, things like unescorted artillery or wagons being more prone to ambush. Some sort of detection range.

  2. Ross,

    What you've written really lights the path I need to take myself. I've been dithering around trying to decide how I want to use my stuff (probably around 1100 pounds of it by now), looking at scores of rules and organizational ideas that seem about right, but not quite. In part, I've held off deciding because it means I'll then be in a position to part with some (my wife insists A LOT) of my precious before we move to sunny Florida. I know it has to be done, though, as I probably won't live long enough to use it all--one of the really crappy aspects of turning 65 in a couple weeks. (My father always warned me not to get old. Did I listen? NO!)

    Anyway, I think I'm going to wind up pretty close to your own ultimate destination, so I will be watching your progress with great interest. (I note I should be relying more on my imagination throughout all this, but as Ringo said in Yellow Submarine, "I don't have an imagination.)

    Best regards,


    1. That is a tough challenge and no doubt. I sort of moved most of my stuff into 2 little space and then started selling, giving away etc. a bit at a time, then lost more of my space and periodically still find space and time more valuable than "stuff" and shed more.

      Wives sure do take up a lot of space.......

      and didn't time used to be infinite?

  3. I know that I've come to appreciate one-stand formations in pre-black powder games like Impetus. It also allows for some interesting modelling opportunities on the table.

    1. Agreed on both accounts. As glossy toy soldiers on their hmm 5th ? set of bases these were just plopped on but in years gone by I have had great fun esp in 15 & 25mm making mini dioramas.

  4. Sounds like you're really getting to where you want to with regards to rules and games. I like the idea of concentrating on the role of the overall commander. That's often what we really want to be in these games, and it can simplify a lot of the fiddly stuff (even abstract it right out).

    Of course, there are other types of games many people enjoy as well. The key, I think, is to do what you've done and identify what it is you want from your games as precisely as you can.

    1. Agreed. It also seems a good to me that if you are doing more than one "thing" then each should offer something different.

    2. Agreed. It also seems a good to me that if you are doing more than one "thing" then each should offer something different.