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 1, 2016

Fierce but not very big or bloody

Apart from various distractions like leading yet another Martian host to defeat, being under the weather and reading Simon's Battle of the Catalaunian Fields (highly recommended btw, he's done a good job of sorting through the vague and conflicting evidence and assembling the most credible version yet of the campaign and battle, even if he did miss those fireball catapults -  see the Osprey site click), I made time to ponder not just rules but what sort of game I wanted to play. I just haven't reached a firm conclusion yet or cleared the table so I can play.

The first hurdle is to decide on what levels of action I wish to portray: battles or skirmishes? (Skirmish in the traditional military sense not modern wargame speak). In very rough terms, assuming roughly balanced numbers and no additions from the unpainted pool, I can field around 60 infantry, 24 archers and 24 cavalry per side. If I want to portray armies of 10 or 20 thousand men that puts me around 1 figure = 100 to 200 men or in other words, roughly DBA levels of representation. For a rearguard skirmish or similar that could go down to 10 or 20 men per figure while a real old school or toy soldier approach would ignore scales but maybe use only 1/2 the figures for the skirmish saving the rest for the big battle.  

Apart from scale there is the practical question of how many units and what size units. The Big Battle approach with so few figures suggests a Morschauser or DBA approach where each stand of 2 cavalry or 4 infantry was a unit with perhaps  3 dozen units grouped into "commands" or "wings".  Of course at the moment the figures are not on multifigure bases and most won't be going that route, at least not permanently. Luckily the light plastic figures work well with magnets. Still, I think I will take advantage of the horde of single figures and the shipping time for base bottoms and leave this as a future possibility.  

The lower level game would probably benefit from a smaller number of larger units but the diversity of the collection would make it difficult to go to much larger than 6 cavalry or archers and 12 infantry. This size unit would give me 4 cavalry, 2 archer and 5 infantry units per side.  If this is the maximum then some skirmish scenarios might call for barely 1/2 this number which means the units better have some longevity if the games are to have any interest.  

My current informal organization is in the middle with 4 cavalry or archers and 8 infantry which would render the troops into armies of 6 cavalry, 3 archer and 7 infantry units. This would favour a middle ground approach with a skirmish scenario having perhaps 6 to 8 units and a battle the full 15 units. The approach seems like such a sensible compromise that I am leery of adopting it! The final decision will have to take account of the exact number of each type of figure and it may well be that the rules will have to work with variable sizes of units.

Any of these options could make use of the Comitatus rules but since I enjoy tinkering with rules ideas I am working on an updated version of the Stout Hearts set I started on 2 years ago and then let slide. With a bit of luck a trial game will be played on Saturday or Sunday with just a few basic charts and ideas.

Currently it appears most likely that in the long run Prince Michael and friends will stay in King Arthur's Britain while the Huns/Tartars, Turks and some of the mounted knights will join the late 15thC/early16thC figures in a medieval fantasy setting. Still sometimes a game changes everything.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ross,
    Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts about things leading to war game design. How many times do relatively basic things like simply getting a count on our available figures get lost in the frenzy of getting the figures on the table top.
    A little healthy meta-cognition never hurt any hobby!