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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Something old, something new

Every time I break out my ACW lads I lament that I never got around to ordering some Generals, fences, artillery, Zouaves and  so on from Musket Miniatures before they shut down. I can make snake fences easily but post and rail fences are harder work so there I was surfing the net and wondering at the rarity and outrageous prices of HO "rustic" fences when POP! an add for the new Musket Miniature site. There isn't much in the way of info or pictures but I suspect perhaps someone bought the line. Well, say no more. Eight feet of cheap fencing and some sample figures are on their way!  I'll let you know what I think when I see them.   www.musketminiaturesandmodels.com

Game 2 Battle is joined.
My 1/72nd ACW lads have 2 distinct special places in my collection. First is the obvious nostalgia angle shared by many gamers of "a certain age". The second is that it is just about the only (no offence or denigration intended) "real" (sic) historical wargame left in my arsenal at the moment. By that I am partly referring to a certain degree of attention to scale and style of rules but mostly it's about the ability to refight actual historical battles in a non-abstract fashion. My remaining 1812 forces are close despite the choice of later style hats but there aren't enough left at the moment for anything but a very abstract game and that with borrowed troops.

Now there are some good reasons for this, I really enjoy quick, "game" heavy, fairly abstract, wargames. Quick to set up, engaging, perhaps even exciting on occasion, to play, quick to put away. Every now and then, however, its good to have a wargame that takes hours to research, plan and set up, and hours to play. Obviously the same figures can be used for both if they start as traditional wargame armies but I am determined to justify my reduced selection of scales and periods. Since these once big 20mm fellows are now my smallest figures, and are supported by very accessible research material, especially of my favourite eye witness kind, and fought over terrain that is familiar to me, they will carry the "historical" wargame banner for me.

This weekend's game was an impromptu affair designed by throwing an old cloth over the not yet cleared away bones of the last game and imagining what might be happening. It was probably inevitable that it would again be a clash between opposing Advance Guard divisions over controlling the high ground.  In each game, brigades rolled for time and place of entry making each game different.
I don't want to rebase my ACW armies or go to the "each 3 stand unit is a Brigade" level that I used for the 2014 Gettysburg game (click) or the 2013 Picket's Charge game (click) but cutting my units to 2 stands would allow me to easily fit a corps on my extended table so I tried it out. The rules were basically the ones used for last spring's ACW game in the pass clearance scenario. It worked ok but.........just didn't feel right and I realized that I don't want to paint up more flags or fiddle with the existing regiments, some of which have seen enough action now to make a name for themselves and be instantly recognizable. It also took 3 hours again for a medium size engagement and had the worse sin of getting tedious in parts. Too much rolling, not enough decision making.

Game 2. General Kinch was there Fustest with the Mostest but his attack was split and it stalled  as Yankee numbers continued to grow.
   On Sunday I reset and tried again using an alternate set of more OSW rules with a heavy dose of Featherstone but not his combat system since I have enough trouble tracking casualties as it is. Again it was "OK but".    This time, I couldn't quite put my finger on the problem, it just somehow didn't feel "right" and once again it had too few decision points and the combat system wasn't  "exciting" enough, no holding your breath on a big roll.
The battle was closing to a draw when suddenly it wasn't as the Confederate forces gave way.
BTW the top two pictures were taken using my smartphone, easy-peasey but never sharp, the bottom two were taken with my camera which is a pain in the ahem to use, tripod too big without being tall enough, no direct upload. Are the camera pictures any better? Seems to me that sometimes they are but usually they're not. (operator!) Are they worth the effort?
Please leave a comment if you have an opinion on the matter.
Finally. yesterday evening, after much thought, I went back to a simpler set based loosely on my earliest Morschauser inspired rules which are behind Hearts of Tin, The Square Brigadier and the Plastic Army of the Potomac, but less "game" oriented. That worked better and was more fun but was if anything too quick. Just needs some fine tuning and it should be my way forward for a full afternoon Corps game. I just need to out the effort into some better terrain and a quieter way to record hits. The pipe cleaners almost worked but they're too fat and tended to stick together. Maybe painted toothpicks or a different brand. Removing stands felt right too. It reduces frontages too quickly but gives that 'pit of the stomach' feeling as you strip away stands from a favourite unit or try to figure out how to plug the growing gaps, the emotional bit.

Next up Gorham's Skinny Rangers.





27 comments:

  1. IMO the pics are (best to least best) 1,4,3,2.

    I tired to be less helpful, but I couldn't manage it.

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    1. Actually that's very helpful since 1&4 are both phone pics.

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  2. Very nice pictures of the game, forces and terrain. A joy to look at!

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  3. Ross Mac,

    I always find myself coming back to wargames set in the mid-nineteenth century. There is something about them that is so appealing. Simple uniforms, technologically interesting weapons, and lots of small wars to choose from.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. It does have almost everything one could want from aerial observation, machine guns and ironclad steamships to speararmed hordes.

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  4. Nothing stirs the heart more than serried ranks of Airfix figures (plus a dash of those metal ones too)!

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    1. Especially the old metals. Worthy companions for the Airfix.

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  5. I liked all the pictures (and took in a blast from the past at your Gettysburg game). There is something about those Airfix armies that are so evocative of ... I'm not sure what really. They just look the part.

    My generals started out in life as Wagon Train mounted guys, mounted ACW artillery officers, cowboys and the occasional Airfix French Foreign Legion mounted officer with modified headgear. Close to 100% of my 700-odd Confederates are Airfix - about half a 23-figure Cavalry unit being Atlantic; and half a dozen smoothbore artillery being Airfix Napoleonic RHA guns. A rather higher proportion of my (1000+ strong) Union army are 'ring ins' - 4 regiments of Airfix French Foreign Legion figures (one painted as turbaned Zouaves), 2 of ESCI FFL (One painted like Wallace's 11th Indiana Zouaves), and one of ESCI ACW Union, plus a half-battalion (maybe a dozen figures) of green-clad ESCI Union as Berdan's sharpshooters. Smoothbore artillery are provided by the Airfix gun carriage with plastic tube gun barrels.

    I have stayed with my 27-figure infantry regiments (3 'command' plus 24 men) as standard, though there is some variation, and have recently reorganised my cavalry into 23-figure CSA regiments and 15-figure USA battalions.

    According to my usual practice, I keep my artillery strictly within bounds: 18 cannon for the Union, and 14 for the Confederacy, which ration is almost exactly similar to the artillery inventories of the combatants at Gettysburg. The temptation is to try Fire and Fury rule set, which I have come to like. But you need. So. Many. Cannon!

    Although these armies see far too little action, I would not part with them for anything.

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    1. I should have thrown in the link to the Picket's Charge game too. One of my favorites. Hard to believe it was 3 years ago.

      As for guns, with regiments as units I tend to represent batteries as units. If a gun represents a group of batteries, each gun should have a base the width of an infantry regiment. But F&F did have too many guns, with brigades as units they should probably have doubled up the guns at put them at division level. Looking at the scenarios though I think they wsnted the guns at the right spots on the battlefield.

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    2. I did experiment with 2-gun (CSA) and 3-gun (USA) batteries, but they really represented two batteries, as my gun ratio was 1 representing 4. Two of these 'double-shotted' batteries formed a more realistic sized artillery battalion. It was one of those awkward situations in which the ideal slotted exactly half-way between one method and the alternative.

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    3. Just had a quick look at your Pickett's Charge game. The final picture reminded me of a Gaines's Mill action I did once. My friend 'Jacko' had the Confederates (I had given him the choice). From memory (this being more than 20 years ago) he took a terrible pounding coming in, but managed to break in to right flank position. From there he gradually levered my guys out of their fortifications, so it went pretty much as historically.

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  6. Long time reader, so I kinda rember your pickets charge scenario. It was right when I first got into the hobby and provided inspiration for me! I can't help but wonder now, seeing how much you enjoyed that game, if usung the rules from that game and just treating each unit as a regiment would work? Also having spent numerus hours calling through your blog, you seem to have found quite a few ace rules wich you were extremely happy with. I wonder if you might just find some inspiration from some of you sets of classic hearts of tin, or the square brigadier. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks AL27, I'm glad to hear that you've been enjoying the blog.


      You are spot on about the value of looking back at past games and past versions. Sometimes I suspect though that certain games were good becausd of my mood or something rather than the rules per se. Othertimes I can figure out why a certain change was made, othertimes I wonder why and try an old rule again.

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  7. Very nice to see the AIRFIX Ross. My fist ever Toy Soldiers were 00/HO AIRFIX - the ACW - UNION INFANTRY in blue plastic...way back in the early 1960s- I use to make up a Parade on the floor boards of our Lounge Room with the Union Infantry all very neat and tidy - I later added the Union Artillery...boy, those were good times. In my late teens I wanted to buy dozens of packets of AIRFIX -ACW from our Local News Agency / Hobby Shop...enough to do GETTYSBURG...alas my dreams were grand and did not match my pocket...I revel in the fact that you have and do currently enjoy your AIRFIX Ross to the fullest. I'm very pleased for you indeed. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. My first Airfix were Rebs, also early 60's. We should have got together!

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    2. I'm sure Ross that we would have had a good game- your Rebs versus my Union. Ah- the 1960s...and AIRFIX...fun times. Regards. KEV.

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  8. Lovely to see your Airfix figures in action again. Mine disappeared some years ago being replaced by Laing 15mm. Pity about the casualty caps though... they really distract from the nostalgia.

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  9. Hi Ross:
    I always enjoy seeing your ACW collection in action. As Milord Archduke notes, they just look the part.
    I do ACW in 25mm (do we still say that or is 28mm now de rigeur) and I find that the larger scale doesn't really work for me at the divisional or corps level. I suspect it is just a matter of how the visual scale interacts with what my brain thinks is right. I have seen some splendid big big ACW games in 6mmm, which I might try if I live that long, but for now, regimental/brigade games in this period work for me.
    I may have some fencerails for you, we should talk offline.
    Cheers,
    Michael

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    1. Real 25's are much smaller than 28mm some of whom are bigger and bulkier than most old 30s but there is just such a huge spread from range to range that I just try to avoid the scale range altogether.

      I'm not fond of 6mm but I have seen some superb 10mm games, one by John Hill. I don't mind small say 20ish man battalions as long as there are a number of them on tbe table and terrain fudged to match. The problem for me with intermediate games say basic F&F with 27.5mm figures is the terrain usually looks right for the figures but wrong for the footprint and what they represent.

      At that point I'd be much happier going the Chadwick V&B route and using a stand of 4 54mm figures on a base as a Brigade on a map like board with obviously token terrain, maybe even a hex map. No attempt to make it look diorama like, more like a 3d boardgame.

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    2. Real 25's are much smaller than 28mm some of whom are bigger and bulkier than most old 30s but there is just such a huge spread from range to range that I just try to avoid the scale range altogether.

      I'm not fond of 6mm but I have seen some superb 10mm games, one by John Hill. I don't mind small say 20ish man battalions as long as there are a number of them on tbe table and terrain fudged to match. The problem for me with intermediate games say basic F&F with 27.5mm figures is the terrain usually looks right for the figures but wrong for the footprint and what they represent.

      At that point I'd be much happier going the Chadwick V&B route and using a stand of 4 54mm figures on a base as a Brigade on a map like board with obviously token terrain, maybe even a hex map. No attempt to make it look diorama like, more like a 3d boardgame.

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  10. Hi Ross,
    Pic 1 has a closer foreground than the other 3, making the other seem more like the distant units are in fairly equal focus with the foreground units. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the slight fuzziness of the background units gives them a sense of mass, reminiscent of the old contemporary prints (drawings or etchings) which were usually rendered to be less distinct in the distance.
    It reeeeally makes me wish I still had my old Arifix ACW armies.
    Regards,
    John

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    1. Well John, about 4 of these units belong to my 1983 Airfix Revival, another 6 or so came from a bequest, an ex-club's collection loking for a home, the other 14 or so were all painted within the last 5 years.

      You are right about pic 1. It was done that way for 3 reasons, I like the look and the ability to see some of the figures, it's easy since I can rest the camera on the table and the smartphone seems better at focusing vlose in mediocre light. I not to include too many though ad they tend to look alike and a bit ," any battle, any where"ish.
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  11. Well John, about 4 of these units belong to my 1983 Airfix Revival, another 6 or so came from a bequest, an ex-club's collection loking for a home, the other 14 or so were all painted within the last 5 years.

    You are right about pic 1. It was done that way for 3 reasons, I like the look and the ability to see some of the figures, it's easy since I can rest the camera on the table and the smartphone seems better at focusing vlose in mediocre light. I not to include too many though ad they tend to look alike and a bit ," any battle, any where"ish.

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  12. Lovely troops and, as others have said, a wonderful nostalgic sight. Many thanks for showing them off again! Best Regards, Matt

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