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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mighty Pretty But kin they fight?

One of the things my 1/72nd ACW armies lack is Zouaves. I've been dragging my feet about ordering some but suddenly long time blog reader Cesar emailed some pictures of some castings he had just made of a  1/72nd ACW Zouave conversion and would I like some?  Would I!!!!.

Well, they arrived yesterday (good postal service from Argentina!) and having looked at these exquisite jewels of a figure, perfectly cast, applied my usual patience, and ......I now have one regiment primed and a sample of each of the 2 proposed regiments painted.

 No question, they are pretty, but I have a feeling they will also be able to fight.

1/72nd ACW Zouaves cast by Cesar, painted by me.
Cesar will be known to Yahoo OS Wargaming  members and in addition to leaving comments here, he has also contributed  a guest post dispatches-from-field .  If you click that link in addition to his battle report, there is a link to some online photo albums with pictures of  Cesar's figures in various scales.

The generosity of my fellow enthusiasts never ceases to impress me.

Muchas gracias mi amigo

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Altered state

It was a terrifying sight, off balance, awkward, legs all over the place and a little loose in the joints, but tall and menancing none the less as it strode over young trees and houses alike.
1/72nd Martians invade Russia
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm not a modeller. I lack the precision, planning and above all else PATIENCE!  Still, now that I had opened the bag after 10 or so years, I figured it was best to build quickly before I lost any vital bits. Why were there so many bits!!? 

For a non-modeller, this Reviresco Martian was a frightening sight!
The instructions were a bit brief and cryptic, full of references to things like "hydro cylinder" rather than Part G, but from the couple of chats I've had with John McEwen  I got the impression that he likes to do things right and he likes intelligent, imaginative customers. Well, in this case all he had was me but eventually by sorting the various bits  and comparing them to the photographs it all began to make sense. Its actually a cleverly designed kit and actually pretty simple. The extra bits are mostly because the 3 telescoping legs are 6 aluminum tubes. That means all the joints, rings and hydraulics have to be cast separately and assembled. This does add strength and lots of flexibility for posing the tripod. 

 I set to with sub assemblies.

That's when I hit the next two snags. To get a nice tidy model takes some planning, foresight, a touch of visualization and some engineering skills to get the angles right, none of which things were available. This minor complexity largely exists because the model is designed to be flexible so you can put it together and pose it the way you want, You can very the height and positioning of the articulated legs almost infinitely. This is where a decision to either fit  this 28mm model to my 40mm troops or my 1/72nd troops would have been handy. I decided to go for adaptable or at worst decide later. 1/2 way through I remembered that I also wanted to fit it into a 4" hex footprint. If I went for shortest configuration and static pose with narrow foot position, I could have done it if I was careful but it might have been a bit unstable unless fixed to a heavy base, in any case I discovered that that bird had already flown.  

Meanwhile 40mm Martians have landed in England.
When it comes to me building models,my ability to improvise around my other shortcomings is what usually makes or breaks things. In this case it was my impatience and the drying time of 3 minute epoxy that caused a little grief. (If I had ever learned to get super glue to adhere to non-flesh items there are places where it might have been useful in tandem if the bottle hadn't been empty.) In other words, the plan had been to be patient and hold everything exactly in place until it was well set but I had trouble determining correct final angles and so had to undo some stuff (not easy with epoxy and soft metal)  while in either cases, long after I thought the epxoy had set, the weight of the metal caused things propped up in a corner while I got the next bit ready had a tendency to shift and droop.

In the end it didn't matter so much because I realized  I had been working towards a very static pose with all legs even and everything lined up, at rest. So, part way through I started aiming for an active pose with the head swiveling around and the articulated legs all at different angles as it lurches across the countryside. I left the lowered legs loose though as I was unsure about the best final height. For 1/72nd the lowest position is high enough for me but with the 40mm lads I wasn't sure and I wasn't sure if my experiments at allowing the model to have dynamic height would hold up once completed. A field test was needed.

The conclusion, regardless of the scale height, the lowered level is just fine for me especially since the fully assembled model is too heavy to stay in the upper position without pins or glue.
Thanks to telescoping aluminium legs it could actually be this high.

That left painting. The reference material is vague at best but I decided to either do it a dull monochrome metal or go all sexy with brass trim. OK wasn't much of a struggle.

HG variously describes the Martians as yellowy grey or brown and worm like with some mention of pink and with piercing dark eyes. Now WE all know Martians are green so I compromised and did the pilot a sort of  greenish brown fading to greeny flesh on the tentacles and with nice glistening dark brown eyes with vertical black iris and lighter highlights but you'll have to take my word for it since once I glued the  pilot into the cockpit and then glued the windshield on, you can't really see him any more! Oh well. He's still there.
I suppose I should have taken a picture of the dark eyed, many tentacled, pilot before gluing the windshield in place. 
What next? Will he see battle? Probably, possible against Ron's 25mm Colonials if he's not tooo BIG to go next to his plastic ones, possibly in Atlantic or maybe he'll just watch. But putting him together was more fun than I would care to admit.

Friday, September 25, 2015

We interrupt this blog for this flash report....

Yes, the Martians have landed at Ron's house. These are from the All Quite on the Martian Front range by well who ever makes it. Nice models and the game was fun despite the rule booklet's occasional lapses into unintelligible English and skewed points (which we ignored).

I'm not sure yet how much depth it has but we will play again. I might even finally build the Reviresco Martian Tripod that I bought 10 years ago.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Buffet Wargame

A bit from this dish, a bit from that and, oh, one of those...

I have 5 stalled or abandoned wargame plans involving my early to mid 19thC toy soldiers, all centering on India or Mexico. Apart from the short lived Anglo-Mexican-US affair, they were all to be straight up historical affairs for which no toy soldiers in my preferred style and price range existed except for some reasonable conversion fodder. (yes there are 3 or 4 suitable ranges outside my price range but luckily I don't like the style, poses etc the way I love the Scruby and Zinnbrigade figures).

One of the few alt history Anglo-Mexican vs US battles. 
An OSW game from 2011.

Figures weren't the problem though, like 9 out of 10 historical campaigns they each had a major flaw. What I wanted was a horse and musket campaign in a "colonial" setting (ie hot dusty with flat roof adobe buildings as a break from trees and rail fences) with opposing all arms armies in different coloured uniforms. Both capable of putting up a good fight but with one side having mostly better armed, better trained, better commanded soldiers while the other having brave but less well armed and led regulars backed by numerous irregulars.

The Sikh wars and Indian Mutiny were both high on my list but even disregarding  the  new discovery that most Sikhs may have worn a funny little knob of cloth instead of  "real" Sikh turbans such as we've been familiar with since  the Mutiny (or War of Independence), there is no getting around that despite irregulars and possible white summer dress, in the major battles most of both sides were dressed in red. The Mutiny starts off the same apart from native cavalry in light blue but then soon both armies present the sort of motley, no two units dressed alike look that is a joy to model and paint, and one day I hope to get back to it. A major problem here, apart from having to make most of the figures from scratch, was that for much of the time, both sides were short of cavalry and while the mutineers were brave enough they seem to have had real problems manoevering. Actually that's rather useful for a programmed enemy so another reason for me to revist the mutiny  once the coffers have refilled and Mike at Historifigs gets the old Sruby natives back into production.

That brings us back to Mexico. The 1847/48 war has some interesting battles and campaigns and battles and while the Americans were a bit light on cavalry it was there and acquitted itself well.  At least both sides weren't in  red, instead they were both in blue! OK the American infantry is in a lighter blue but if I'm looking for Red vs Blue games, this isn't it. Beyond that, I don't like the new Mexican uniforms and the probable forage cap and frock is even less toy soldiery.  Now,  the Alamo Mexicans are perfect for what I want and the Texans are great as auxiliaries but they didn't have an all arms uniformed army and the battles, while famous, were not even medium sized.
 Trying it on for size a few weeks ago.

Which brings me to Faraway and Kyuquot, the native state that has not yet made its appearance. Initially I was going to use those Scruby natives and have been trying to come up with an explanation for the turbans and have been pondering fezzes vs shakos for the regulars. Last week I was looking at the Zinnbrigade molds again and pondering the still unexplained, mysterious San Carlos grenadiers who often appear backing up the Brethren and various Atlantican natives when it finally occurred to me that it may be a simple error caused by officials and reporters mishearing the native name as a mispronounced Spanish one and the regiment might actually be the Tsankawlas Regiment and that Oberhilse might have trading and diplomatic ties to the northern kingdom while Faraway might have bumped into it in an increasingly confrontational manner as it expanded its commercial and political hegemony north of the mountains during the 1830's and 40's.

The final piece of this "what do I do with all these already painted figures and vague wargaming ideas" puzzle came from my renewed interest in a project with single base units and having a 40mm army level battle game. My early work on both Indian and Mexican campaigns suggested suitability for a classic OSW approach of using the same collection for skirmishes and bathtubbed battles, but I have several of those  already and one of my goals is to avoid duplicating wargame potential such as having similar collections separated mostly by their hat choices.

A little bit of experimentation and research has shown me that I could fit a number of Sikh, Indian Mutiny and Mexican American War battles on to my table at roughly an inch=100 yards which would call for a 2" to 3" battalion frontage with 18 or so infantry battalions per side plus guns and cavalry. Just the thing. A new 8 figure native regular battalion has already been cast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

First Batch

My first batch of Prince August Prussians has now been painted as Brunswick Regiment Von Riedesel. I wanted to start by painting the figures as cast. It shouldn't be hard to file off the tops of the gaiters should I get the urge to paint a company in striped overalls. 
The newly painted Brunswickers pretending to encounter American rebels. All figures from PA molds
Next up will be a look at the plan going ahead in light of my renewed determination to have each part of the collection offer something different over and above uniforms.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

For Death or a Promotion.

This wasn't exactly the sort of thing I meant when I said "skirmish" game but in some ways it probably was subconsciously. To be honest I just don't "get" semi-roleplaying games where each figure has individual stats and capabilities. A lack of imagination perhaps or  of empathy. 
In any event I scribbled out some quick rules and started planning a rebellion game with a road block, convoy and ambushers, mabe 20 figures all told. Then I suddenly remembered an escalade game in Stuart Asquith's useful Solo Wargaming book that I wanted to try. Simple rules, 60 figures attacking 20. Enough figures to make a game without getting too personal but not so many as to make moving tedious. Actually, just the sort of skirmish that MacDuff had been written for originally, before it started to have pretensions of battles. hmmm.
About 1/2 way through, the center column has taken heavy losses from artillery fire but the other 2 are in good shape.
Despite some misgivings I decided to play the game straight up, almost. The rules suggest 6" moves, 3" if firing, 4" if a couple carrying a ladder, 2" for 1 man dragging one. I was leery of the move and shoot since there is no modifier for cover  and I could see the whole attack force advancing at 1/2 speed, muskets blazing. I also wanted to use a range stick with 3" increments, so I disallowed moving and firing and averaged all ladder moves to 3".

Fort Nonaimio defended by 10 Tsanquarlasse regulars, 10 local levies and 2 guns being attacked by 60 Faraway and FTC regulars with 6 ladders.
As suspected, the 6 turns it took to get into musket range were fast but a bit tedious. The next 6 while the ladders closed were busier with a lot of shooting, but, there were hardly any defenders left for melee which is where the drama is in the rules. None the less, I pushed an officer up the first ladder and fought the melee. The next turn 3 more ladders went up for a total of 4. One was cleared and cast down but the others brought 4 figures up and after the officer carrying the flag was cut down, the 5 attackers in the fort outnumbered the remaining defenders and it was over.

First attacker up the ladder won his melee handily and climbed over the wall. Promotion it is!
Not bad but I think a simple benefit to cover and faster ladder move would have made the game more exciting. I was going to rerun it with MacDuff but I had memories of an exciting Hearts of Tin escalade of a Pirate stronghold back in 2009 so I reset and tried HofT with each stand bring a unit due to the confused nature of an assault on a fort. 2 guns and 3 infantry vs 12 infantry and 3 sharpshooters. Took 1/2 the time to set up and take down, the approach took 1/4 of the time and the assault twice as long but was twice as exciting with units being thrown back, rallying and coming back for more. Eventually Redcoats broke in twice but each time were thrown out by a counterattack or shot down in the courtyard by defenders who had rallied in the barracks.

After 3 assaults, with both sides only 1 or 2 hits from breaking, Faraway's break in is wiped out and with over 50% of units broken the commander is forced to call off the assault.

It would be convenient though if I could cast up and paint SYW French & British as well as AWI Brunswicker and Rebel militia for my NQSYW armies and have them double for MacDuff games when off duty, so.......I should try MacDuff tomorrow, I mean, after all, the table is still set up........

Friday, September 18, 2015

When all else fails, try logic.

Military history is full of examples of soldiers being resistant to change, the old uniforms, old weapons and old tactics have served well, so why change just because this new weapon shoots farther or faster or that men are getting sick because the dress uniforms don't hold up in the field. You'd think some one who has spent so much time reading history and playing with toy soldiers wouldn't fall into the same traps even though there is no threat to life or liberty from failure to do so. The evidence however suggests that despite an openness to trying new things, this Gamer is as set in my ways  as any old General.

The Raid on St. Michel at Cold Wars 2010, this is what my mind wants to think of as a "typical" wargame.

I was able to analyse and determine that a small table would best suit my situation and that smaller games could provide ample entertainment for myself and that I need to reduce my remaining horde of miniatures in order to maximize my enjoyment of them by having space to display them and easy access to them when its their turn to play. All very rational, so what do I appear to have been doing? Yes looking for ways to play the biggest games possible with as many big figures  as I can cram onto the table. Riiiiight.........time to revist the swamp and look at the drainage again.

This little AWI cardtable game from last year is about as untraditional as you can get but each of the 5 games played were fun and challenging and it still dealt with the historical issues quite well.
Various thoughts in no particular order:

Painting on the Hessians is going well. (Brunswickers actually, I've been using the common American use of the name as including all German troops in British pay during the Revolution.) However, I'd forgotten how much I hate painting mid to late 18th uniforms with white crossbelts over narrow coloured lapels. Give me earlier closed coats and buff belts or tunics, preferably with black belts but even with white. No wonder I was plumping for ACW as the next PA series instead of SYW!.

Before having rediscovered that however, I did some math to help get a handle on the monetary cost benefit of under utilized moulds. Basically, to produce a 19 figure Charge! company + 1 member of the regimental staff to bring us to an even 20, costs in very round numbers $60Cdn for 3 molds inc shipping and exchange or $3Cdn a figure. ( or rather the command figures are $10@ while the privates are $1 -very rounded to the nearest dollar) I didn't have a 10 year old stockpile of ingots, it would be a bit more.

In comparison a bag of 20 Sash & Saber figures would the same $3Cdn, 20 Trident a bit more and 20 Scruby's a bit less. But if I cast 2 companies, there is no increase in total cost (until I use up my stock pile) and the cost per figure is halved. In other words, if I do at least 1 Charge! company or a MacDuff battalion then the molds are effectively paid for in comparison to having bought castings from some one else. If I double that I'm ahead. So no more guilt over not having cast at least 100 figures from each mold!

Last night I started reviewing posts from the last 5 years dealing with the subject of portable games and the potential I saw in them, a potential I have only partially reaped. Subconsciously I seem to have been slowly trying to increase the number of figures I can use in each one which might be a form of sabotage on the part of the traditionalist old gamer in me.  I need to revisit this to see if more of the sideshows can be kept small by combining limited numbers of units and by limiting foot print either by compressing  basing or by reducing numbers of figures and moving back towards the abstract visual for those games.

Oddly enough this enjoyable 2011 Hook's Farm game, using old 54mm Britain's and  Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame,  was played on an 8 x 8 grid and thus could be re-played on my current table.

In the interest of trying to have each part of the collection offering something different above and beyond uniforms and tactics, I also need to revisit skirmish games with a small number of figures. Prince Valiant is supposed to be carrying this banner but has been slowly growing towards small battles and I don't really have a musket or modern version at the moment, Something to think about and explore before I decide which way to jump.

Well that's enough rationality for now.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Casting Out Temptation

I don't do this sort of thing in order to make people mutter, roll their eyes or have fits, honest. It's just that 1759 Brit was putting evil thoughts in my head and I'm not good at resisting Temptation.

A new batch of PA Hessians primed and ready.(PA Prussians technically).
Pay no attention to the red coated lad.

But let me go back a bit. Rather surprisingly I did manage to get enough cleanup and rearranging done to get a casting corner set up again and so I cast a small batch of Prussians for use as Hessians as well as some Zinnbrigade fellows in shako since I vaguely remembered feeling that I should cast more of them. The officer's sword was still giving me trouble so I drilled through the tip to the outside and that did the trick. I have to say that these new PA molds do cast up easily.

But what to do with them? Every time I looked at that 1759 Brit conversion I would get an overwhelming urge to do the Plains of Abraham and Louisburg, not to mention Fort Beausejour, something not helped by me looking at the summer uniform Russians who would make such good Compagnies Franches. But to go that route would be just wrong, esp right now. Not only have I had and sold off 15mm armies and still have the 1/2 finished 30mm ones I started in '73, but PA is expecting to add British molds to their catalog. So to stop the evil voices in my head, I grabbed the tempter and a paintbrush and turned him into a more or less regulation 1770 Brit.  Not nearly as attractive but more useful and less dangerous right now.

I turned my mind back to the other options. The simplest, most logical and least likely option would be to paint up a Charge! regiment of Hessians, mounted on washers and capable of being used for either NQSYW or AWI games. Since I'm undecided I am going to paint these 8 up and just leave them on their native bases for now. The idea of massed HofT 18thC armies is probably out though. I have a good start on just such early/mid 19th Century armies and in a fictional setting only the uniforms would set them apart.

A gratuitous shot of the climax of the 1/2 distance Charge! game. The King's Carabiners sweep over the Rebel guns clinching a victory.
The reduced range and movement Charge! game worked well but scalewise even a single company was wide for a battalion compared to musket ranges. With a front of 15mm per figure they would be about right though. In any case, with 3 companies (1 Grenadier) , 1 squadron and a battery vs 2 companies, 2 squadrons and a battery, the game was too small for regimental morale so I used the companies as units.
It was too small a force for 2 guns though, they dominated the field.

 Since I was championing the King's forces in this game it was a bit annoying (in a good, tension/excitement way) that the Rebels kept pulling chestnuts out of the fire and it was still a toss up after 9 turns. The last Royal gun managed a hit at long range though and finally broke the Rebel cavalry allowing the Royal cavalry to ride down the Rebel guns from the flank and ending the game. The Royals were on the edge themselves and a 3rd cavalry melee and a few more hits from the Rebel guns might have reversed the decision.
What the end looked like elsewhere.

Before I make any decisions game wise or shelfspace wise (the 2 critical elements) I really ought to talk myself into playing a low density, single figure, skirmishy sort of game, in theory the table would be a good size for that as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Something old something new

Time to change things up a little. I haven't been painting many figures recently and I miss it.  Partly the drought is because I've been trying to figure out where I'm going and what to paint but the bigger problem is a shortage of figures to paint.

Almost any progress on the 1914/Colonial/Little Wars front requires me to decide on exactly what I want to make and then sculpt it and make molds. So, I'm turning to the molds I do have on hand and that has led me to my new Prince August molds, over a year old and only 4 test figures cast and painted.

Bob Cordery recently posted about his souvenir from the FLW Waterloo which brought to mind one of my favorite souvenirs: a pin from Bob Beattie's 2005 original Morschauser game using 54mm Britain's. (I don't count the Best of Show plaque as a souvenir).

Oddly enough, from 2003 most of my Prince August castings were based and organized for my first set of Morchauser based rules. At that time only MacDuff's Fusiliers were organized to take part in the HAWK's NQSYW games. That has changed of course and all of my semi-flats are based and organized for Charge! though I don't have room to field them all at home and have more than I ever take to a convention game. Since I got the new PA molds, I've been uncertain what to do with them. My first instinct was to raise new NQSYW units in uniforms of a different, more modern style than the others more as a matter of principle than in hopes of using them. My 2nd thought was to use some of the Prussians as Hessians along side my chunky AWI British but I've already started selling all but a handful of my AWI figures..

A 2004 photo of my 1740's French army based for Morshauser Meets MacDuff (MMM) before they joined the armies of Rosmark and the NQSYW.
I confess that what follows may not be completely disassociated with having been admiring the V&B based flats on the 'My Seven Years War Blog', not that I'm suddenly going to take up artistic painting styles but it does bring to mind my original vision for MMM and offers a possible new venture for me, one with few obstacles and conundrums to overcome. A quick bit of experimentation shows that 8  PA infantry or 3 cavalry will fit on a 60x60mm base and 2 such bases will fit in a square. I have no desire to fight AWI battles or the real Seven Years War but I still miss my old 15mm French Revolution armies and columns screened by skirmishers. If I were to do a NQTFR (so to speak) using  late SYW to early FR uniforms (the pretty versions not the ragged ones) using the new PA molds, put them on bases for easy handling and gaming, I would have the right sort of mix of infantry, cavalry, guns and skirmishers to fit the Table Top Teasers (and Charge! for that matter)  and my reduced table.   

2014 prototype British and Hessian. Those glossy toy style British uniforms with red small clothes and white gaiters are attractive hmmm

The current plan is to get my wood/work shed beat back into shape tomorrow and do some casting and then some painting. But, in the meantime, I have a Charge! game on the table using 1/2 distances and companies as units.
An old chestnut for OSW gamers

Monday, September 14, 2015

While others

have been manfully pushing thousand's of toy soldiers across vast grassy fields in the company of friends....

see also

I have been sitting  by myself with a handful of toys on a jumped up cardtable in a dingy backroom on a rainy day, draft rules and pen in hand .....

The good news is that all aspects are coming together with nothing wasted after a year of pleasant if occasionally frustrating exploration and experimentation. Rules, comments and plans later this week.

But if toy soldiers in grass or on small gridded boards don't do it for you, there is always this magical game from Scheck  played outside (on a table) last July. Can't believe it slipped past me at the time.

Admit it now, in our heads, don't  we all imagine that our games look like this? Even the simple bare bones ones? Wishful thinking my friends! There is hard work and genius behind such magic.
Go look at some more. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Morale, Mêlée and Mores

That battles are confusing, scary things seems to be accepted by most wargamers. but there is less consensus on how that should be handled in a wargame.  The particular aspect of the question that I am once again looking at is "melee" or the outcome of a "charge" if you will (keeping in mind that memoirs from the horse and musket era often describe any advance to close range as a charge.)

When I was a young lad it was simple, the side that took the most casualties lost. Whether they actually lost because they took more casualties or took more casualties because they lost was a question that only arose later when I started reading more widely but habits had already been established by then so like so many things instinct battles with intellect when I approach this matter.
A gratuitous picture of Faraway troops in Northern Atlantica under attack by Tsankarlasse troops. (A mystery solved but not yet revealed). The game has confirmed my plan to use the same rules for my 20mm ACW and Faraway's "colonial" 1850's wars.  

In January of 2011 I was taken aback when I played a game of original Morschauser and was reminded that all melees (3" distance between units) were immediately fought until 1 side or both were destroyed.  It took a while to realize that, with one stand units, if you looked at a group of stands it was possible after a series of melees that player's might find themselves wanting to pullback surviving units to regroup. So, I went looking for examples of units pulling back with or without orders and for examples of units "rallying"  and launching a 2nd or 3rd attack or making another stand. It didn't long to find examples of units being ordered to retreat before they were destroyed and of troops breaking and running but even more examples where there is no explicit evidence of how and why an attack failed. Answers to the second question are harder to find. It seems like units that are ordered back are usually capable of another effort after a break though it is unlikely to suceed unless something has changed. When troops break, they can often be halted and reformed but the process seems likely to take hours at best so for most game purposes, one could consider the unit destroyed or rendered ineffective for the remainder of the day at least.

Recently I've been playing around with a medieval/fantasy game based on Morschauser's rules in which I have modified the melee rules to limit them to one round per player turn. I have declined to introduce a win/lose mechanism so essentially unless one side pulls back voluntarily on their own turn, you win or you die (eventually). I'm thinking of bringing that construct forward.

There is a closely related issue which is the effect of long range fire, especially by skirmishers and artillery but also long range volleys. There is no question that it causes casualties and can degrade units' combat ability but exactly how and to what degree is less clear. Certainly the absolute number of casualties from such fire was usually low and the instances of units being destroyed or routed by such fire are rare, usually including both a lengthy period of time and overwhelming firepower.

As Grant Senior pointed out in The Wargame one advantage of large units with 50 or so figures is that you can cater for losses as little as 2%. With a 4 man unit 25% is the minimum and it only takes 4 such "hits" to destroy a unit. One answer is a "disorder" status or similar which indicates that the unit is weakened temorarily over and above the physical casualties. Well enough. But what does it mean and should it get progressively worse?  As far as I can tell, while units sometimes indulged in long range firefights its hard to be sure whether these were attacks that were halted before they began or if they should be treated as indecisive combats (ie within my 4" (150 to 200 yds) decisive combat range.

I have been experimenting for the nth time with using a disorder combat result for shooting and in melee but have been allowing the disorder to stop attacks. In melee (again this includes firefights) it would probably be fair to say that both sides should suffer from disorder almost automatically in which case it could just be built in rather than being a possible result. One alternative that I am reconsidering is to revert to something closer to the old Hearts of Tin approach with multiple stands per unit each capable of several hits with combat strength being dependent on numbers of stands rather than a Battlecry/DBA approach which I have being experimenting with where a unit's combat value remains constant until it is destroyed. There is a lot to be said for the latter from a purely gaming aspect  but the other system seems to give a better "feel" even if the results mightly be broadly similar. When playing  a cardtable or portable game with 1 stand units the equivalent would be relating numbers of dice to remaing figures or "hits".

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Go around

If I had wanted an example of one of the sorts of games I have in mind for the future, this would be a good one to use.

The board all laid out with troops, terrain, turn/chance deck and victory markers. This was around turn 3. Work on terrain and the 4" grid continues although the game could have been as easily played using a ruler for them as can still read such things.
This scenario (#4 in CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames) is about a force defending an island which is the only (known) crossing point on a river. The defenders have 3 infantry, 1 light infantry, 3 guns (or 1 1/2 battery) and 2 cavalry units. Units are treated as equal value in those scenarios where players are allowed to pick from a list  but infantry are defined to be twice as big as cavalry or light infantry and the map for this scenario agrees so I placed 2 of my units for each infantry unit. Hopefully the speed or extra range of the others makes up at least some of the difference valuewise but I may want to add some other bonuses. I had 2 choices for the artillery, 1 game battery for each scenario gun or else 1 1/2 batteries. I decided to field a battery with only 1 stand instead of 2 for the 1/2 battery.  The defenders were deployed as per the scenario map.

The attackers have 3 cavalry units spread out in a recce screen and 5(ie 10) infantry, 1 light infantry and 2 batteries (4 guns) to be deployed as desired with a central zone covering about 2/3 the width of the table. Their goal isn't to capture the island or the bridges but rather to exit as many units as possible off the far side of the table.

The point of course is that the attacker's cavalry screen finds a  previously unknown ford that bypasses the island. Once the defender realizes that the attacker can bypass his position, all hell breaks loose.

This is actually a gratuitous shot taken at the same time as the lead one but it might be easier to see the 3 stand units each with a marker figure, and the 4" grid. The roads and river are masking tape.
I wanted to use the rules as written so with heart in hand I shuffled and drew 18 cards. Red for Rebs, Black for Bluebellies. Over the course of the game 3 black event cards came up and no red ones. That seemed a bit unfair and I wondered if I should have selected the cards but there were 4 cards yet to draw when the game ended do I turned them over and....3 of them were Red event cards. Luck of the draw then!

The aim of the game was for the attacker to get troops off the table but I didn't want to ignore losses. After a bit of pondering I set the breakpoint at 6 units lost for each side (1 more than 1/2 for the Rebs, 1 less for the Yanks) but counted each Yankee unit thst exited the far side of the table as equal to a unit lost for the Rebs. Since I have a copy of Battlecry I broke out their victory tokens as markers.

Every thing went swimmingly for the first few turns until I stopped to check a rule and noticed that they weren't written exactly as I was playing them.  I had left the cover modifier the way I used to do it rather than updating it to match how I usually do it now but had changed the fire and movement rule to how it was in the old Square Brigadier even though I have being playing it the Tin Army way. I debated whether I should switch how I was playing to match the written rules and maybe even restart or, since I was happy with how the game felt, just update the rules to match what I was actually doing so I wouldn't need to remember changes. I opted for the latter so last week's post containing the rules has been updated to match how I played the game.
I meant to take more pictures, honest, but with turns flying by at an average of 5 minutes per player turn the game was almost over before I remembered. Here an assault over the bridge has just been repulsed on or about turn 12.
The initial  Federal plan was to threaten the main bridge and assault the second bridge, bypassing the town but both bridges were hard to storm in face of rifle and artillery fire, some of it from cover. Once the ford was discovered the reserve brigade and cavalry were send around the flank while the Rebs struggled to withdraw troops to face them, not helped by a chance card that froze one of their brigades for a turn.

I meant for long range fire to be fairly innocuous and it was. It tended to slow units and decrease their effectiveness rather than destroying them but casualties did slowly rise. Close combat on the other hand, was deadly and hard to predict. Despite thinning the island's defenders to a light infantry unit and 1 2 stand regiment of infantry, both in cover, the Feds never suceeded in grabbing 1 tiny toe hold on the far end and suffered losses of 2 or 3 stands for each one they inflicted.

One the other hand, once their cavalry had galloped across the ford followed by a hard marching column of infantry and dupported by a battery firing from the flank, well... since they got there "fustest with the mostest" it was the Rebs that had to try to shift them while they marched troops across behind the holding screen and off the table.
 A desperate gamble that almost paid off. The second charge by the Kentucky  Cavalry and they rolled up, enough to break their opponent and pursue through to block the ford! Too bad for them but their Yankee oponents also rolled up so it became a tied melee with 1 stand left on each side meaning the cavalry had to rally back, right into the line of fire of sharpshooters and a battery of artillery.

Final score 6 vs 3 for the Yanks, 3 Reb units destroyed and 3 Yankee units exited. 15 turns, 2 hours and lots of tense moments and enough swings of fortune that it could easily have ended the other way.

This is the first game in which I have used the quality bonus markers since the Gettysburg game last December when I introduced them. Once again they did the trick allowing a fresh unit to overcome the disorder of a single hit in order to attack on their turn, allowing it to win or tie a melee or sometimes, doing nothing at all!

I have a feeling the Blue and the Grey will be appearing more often over the next year.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Teaser: If you can't go through...

This morning I played out Scenario 4 on the newly reduced table (40" x 60" or 10 x 15 squares) using the ACW boys again.

Battle report tomorrow. In the meantime I think the last I played this scenario was in 2011: la-batalla-del-cantina-de-rosie

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Plastic Army of the Potomac (updated)

Well, ok not a great name but the Tin Army of the Potomac was already taken and anyway these are mostly plastic so I thought I try it on for size. So far The Tin Army in the Civil War is leading contender since the rules are a development of  earlier The Tin Army drafts rather than a variation of either the Square Brigadier or Hearts of Tin. (and yes I know there have been many civil wars.)
The new command stands are ready to go. I need a name for the union commander though.

Tin Army in the Civil War
(@ Ross Macfarlane 7 Sept 2015)

This is a simple set of wargame rules aimed at Division or Corps sized battles. They assume that low level tactics are being handled by regimental officers and their Brigadiers and by the dice. The game may be played on grid with 1 unit per grid area otherwise all distances are roughly equal to the frontage of a deployed infantry unit or roughly 150 yards. Units within that distance  and directly in front of, behind or beside each other are deemed to be adjacent. Turns represent a variable length of time and overlap the previous and following enemy turns. 12 to 15 turns each is a good medium length game with a simple scenario and a dozen or so units per side.

Units. (reworked to fit any basing ) Units may take a base of 3  hits if infantry, 2 if cavalry, artillery or sharpshooters. +1 if experienced or regulars, +2 if Elite or equivalent. Hit which are taken show a unit's loss of cohesion and effectiveness including but not limited to casualties, ammunition depletion, stragglers, oficer losses, fatigue and so on.

For simplicity all artillery units are treated as if they were a mix of smoothbore and rifled guns for the ACW. If they wish players may add their own more detailed rules for special units such as the Lightning Brigade and for particular batteries.

Unit Quality Bonus.reworked to fit any basing  Units which were rated as experienced etc or Elite and which receive just a disorder unit ftom shooting may take a hit instead of the disorder.  Units rated as Shock units receive a combat bonus. Units may be rated as superior firepower if they are markedly more effective than other units whether due to equipment or training.

Sequence of play. Players take turns. Decide who is going first by any acceptable means. First a player moves or resolves skirmisher and artillery fire with each of his units then removes disorder from units not adjacent to the enemy then both sides resolve combat between adjacent units. Optional Rule. If this is too predictable for you then after both sides have taken a turn then each play rolls a die with the high score choosing to go first or second for the next set of turns, ties mean keep the same sequence.

Chance Cards. (Optional) Make up a custom deck with chance cards and blanks or use playing cards. Assign red to the Confederates, black to the Union. Decide the maximum number of pairs of player turns, shuffle then pull that many cards to make a game deck. At the start of each pair of player turn, pull 1 card. Face cards and Aces are effective for the side with that colour, other cards are no effect. When the deck has been played the game is over.
Sample chance effects:

  • King. Choose 1 Brigade of either side that is not in cover. It must immediately advance a full move or as far as they can without violating movement rules. It may not move again on its turn but may shoot.
  • Queen. Choose 1 Brigade of either side that must immediately retreat a full move or as far as they can without violating movement rules. It may not move again on its turn but may shoot. this turn.
  • Jack. Choose 1 Brigade of either side that must remain halted this turn.
  • Ace. A unit of unexpected reinforcements arrives on that side's baseline. If no fresh units are available upto 3 hits may be removed.
  • Joker. If a joker appears roll d6 and discard that number of cards from the deck. 

Command Control. Each army has 1 General and may have 1 a Brigadier for every 3 to 6 infantry and cavalry units. Brigadiers only effect units assigned to their command at the start of the game. The General commands all units. At the start of a turn if a unit is not visible to and within 3 areas of its Brigadier or the General it may not move unless it rolls 4,5 or 6 on 1 die.

Infantry, Sharphooters Move 2 or shoot
Cavalry Move 3 mounted or dismount and move 1 or shoot.
Artillery Move 2 or shoot. Horse artillery move 3 or shoot.
Terrain. Max 1 unless sharpshooters. Some may be impassible to some troop types.
Road column +1 to move but may not attack.

Attacking. A unit which moves adjacent to an enemy must halt and resolve combat. This is an attack. A unit which shoots may not attack. Artillery may not move adjacent to an enemy.

Passage of Lines.  A unit which is not attacking may pass through a friendly unit but may not end its move stacked with it. A retreating unit which reaches supports may have extra movement to pass through them.

Disorder. Disorder is a combat result. A unit which is disordered  may shoot or fight with a penalty and may retreat but may not attack. A unit which is not adjacent to any enemy will recover from disorder on its turn after all moving and shooting is done.

Skirmisher and artillery fire. (includes occasional long range volley fire) Some units may not move and shoot but any unit may change facing or deploy or dismount and shoot. A unit adjacent to an enemy may not shoot or be shot at but must resolve combat instead. A unit which shoots may not then move adjacent to an enemy. There must be a clear line of fire 1 unit wide between a firing unit's front and its target.
Infantry 2
Sharpshooters 3
Artillery Range 6 If there is a unit immediately behind target reroll misses vs second unit. If all smoothbores range 4.

Roll a base of 2 dice per unit.  
-1 die per unit if disordered
-1 die vs cover
  • 5, 6 hits
  • +1 to @die if arty at range 2 or any unit rated superior firepower.
  • -1 to @ die if muskets or muzzle loading carbines
Effect. The first hit on a unit disorders it. Each additional hit causes the loss of a stand.

Combat. Combat represents close range firefights as well as charges.  All units which are adjacent to an enemy must resolve combat during each combat phase. Units are assumed to react locally to face the enemy etc with the degree of success being shown by the dice.
Combat is resolved between 1 pair of units at a time with the active player deciding the order as he goes. Each active unit fights only once unless eligible to pursue. Defending units fight back as often as they are attacked. If a unit of deployed infantry, artillery, sharpshooters or dismounted cavalry was attacked from the front this turn then it rolls its dice and applies hits before the attacking unit rolls. In all other situations both sides roll at the same time.
Roll 3 dice per unit
Lose 1 die if disordered or attacking over an obstacle or up  a steep hill.
Lose 1 die if the enemy is in cover.

  • 5,6 hits 
  • +1 per die if shock troops
  • Units defending cover cancel 1 hit. 
If a Brigadier or General is attached to a unit in combat roll 1 die 4,5,6 = inflict 1 hit if attacking or cancel 1 hit if defending. 1= killed or wounded. If a General or Brigadier is ever alone and adjacent to an enemy unit both sides immediately roll 1 die. If the officer rolls equal or greater than the enemy he moves away up to a full move other wise he is captured. The enemy unit may continue its move if able to.

Result. The first hit on a unit disorders it. If already disordered each additional hit causes the loss of 1 stand. If neither side is destroyed and one side took more hits then it must retreat in disorder. If it is a tie the attacker must recoil a full move if mounted cavalry. If both sides would be destroyed then the units are each left in disorder with 1 stand  but the result is based on the total number of hits.

Pursuit. If mounted cavalry attacked this turn and the enemy was destroyed or forced to retreat then they advance onto the defeated unit's position and may attack another adjacent enemy but may not pursue again. If infantry attacked this turn and won they must advance onto the area that they attacked.

Army Morale. Each side is given a morale level, usually equal to between 1/2 or less of its original number of units plus the value of any objectives held. This is reduced by 1 for each unit or commander lost and by the assigned values of objectives taken or achieved by the enemy.