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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Falllllll OUT!

Its a pity that the title "There and Back Again" has already been taken but yes I am once again "Home from the War(games)".

I'll skip over the travelogue except to say that it was a lonnnng drive with enjoyable stopovers with friends and an even longer drive home without the visiting. The convention itself was excellent, most enjoyable and almost worth the travel.  For those who are hoping for detailed accounts of games seen or played and awesome pictures, SORRY. Just more poorly lit cell phone snaps and few brief accounts low on details plus a few very brief observations filtered through the various games and long hours of driving. (For the curious, about 24 hours road time each way spread over 3 uneven days and that feels about like what it sounds like if you are also a person who is not fond of driving and Hates the periods of heavy traffic ).  OK lets skip to Day 1.

Fall In 2016 Day 1.

My Highlanders land on the north shore south of Quebec. These figures are my conversions of various Meisterzinn castings which were moulded and cast for us by John McEwan of Reviresco, somewhere around 2000.

Friday started with a walk about and visit to the dealer hall where I snagged a clearance sale on about a dozen 40mm 17thC Drabant Russian and Polish infantry. No, I won't be building an army around them, just adding them in as more Hungarian or other European levies in my 16thC Ottoman army-to-be which uses a Morschauser inspired unit organization of 4 infantry or 2 cavalry to a base. Imagination coupled with wilful ignorance allows such travesties and they are such beautiful castings, too beautiful to be passed up.  Later at the flea market an attempt to buy a used Osprey on Pavia from a friend turned into a gifting of said book which is pretty darned good no matter how you look at it.

There was, as usual, a vast assortment of games in various styles, periods and scales, bother historical and fantasy/scifi. Some showed daunting levels of talent and dedication with regards to figures and terrain, some were pleasingly basic of the "you too can easily do this and have fun.." type but most were  somewhere in between. Rules ranged from common published ones through new or old but uncommon ones through the gamut to homegrown rules while the games varied from well thought out scenarios tbrough semi role playing or straight forward punch ups to organized competitions and anything else. I always find the variety refreshing and well, reassuring,

By 2pm it was time for my first game as player.
Lil Britain's and Irregular 40mm Toy Soldiers . A gallant charge on my battery was narrowly repulsed by my RHA gunners who bravely stood to their guns and refused to take shelter with the infantry. (OK There was a 5/6 chance they were going to be over run but I mean very fashionable busbies and lace vs old fashioned metal helmets,  was there any doubt?)
 This was my preregistered game, a 40mm Toy Soldier game run by Howard Whitehouse using a simple but effective, fun set of rules which he is developing. I was one of three British players in a fairly straight forward encounter with our aim being to prevent the foreigners from being able to march farther up the road. Since neither of my teammates wanted to take the prime command I took it and we agreed to a general plan and fairly equitable distribution of force. I figured the centre was no place for cavalry in the 1880's so placed 2 light regiments on the left hoping they could exploit an open area while detailing some heavies to the right. The guns, infantry and guns were spread across the front.

Rather than having fixed turns the game runs in a continuous loop with actions triggered by the turn of a card with Jokers triggering chance effects and end of turn things including shuffling. To keep the game going each pair of players had a deck with the occasional cross-deck interactions being handled as they came up. This kept the game running smoothly and the players constantly acting with little or no respite for players to take a breather and look around so I had but vague impressions of what was happening on either flank except when the boundaries between sectors wavered. I did notice the gallant but futile charge of our light cavalry very few of whom ran away and eventually noticed that near the end of the game, the British troops on my left had been replaced by French ones. Luckily by then I had pretty much cleared my front and was able to shift forces. I also noticed when there were no enemy between my riflemen and the gun shelling our right wing and took that one out before taking out the gun shelling me.   Still, all in all, I was relieved when the rest of the French army decided to retire against the General's wishes.

Wonderful toy soldiers, great game master and fellow players, fun game, everything a convention game should be.
The end.  In my imagination a few stragglers from the Fusiliers are still guarding the flank of my gun until the Highlanders and some Engineers arrive.
Once Howard's game was done I had to hotfoot back to the HAWK's room to help Rob set up our game. This was based loosely on an historical event during the siege of Quebec in 1759. In an effort to draw Montcalm out Wolfe sent raiding parties up and down the river, burning farms and destroying or disrupting the flow of supplies bound for Quebec. In this particular case they had information about a warehouse and one raid had already been repulsed. The French began with a handful of militia on hand with reinforcements of picked units, Indians and regulars arriving on table.

We ran the game previously in 2005 but that seemed like a long time ago now and my partial tests had taken place as solo games on a table less than 1/2 the size of this one. It had also been 2 1/2 years since the last time I had GM'd this sort of multi-player game so I was feeling just a little bit rusty and apprehensive as the start time approached.   Its always a bit tense waiting to see if you have a quorum but between preregisters and walk ups we filled all eight spots.

Pregame. Picked units of militia and a company of Colony Troops arrive. Three units of Rob's Irregular Miniatures.

This may sound odd but I was so busy with managing the flow and resolving rules questions that I have only a vague idea of how the game went other than that, as usual, the advantage seemed to ebb and flow from side to side. When we finally ran out of time the British were occupying the target but were too hard pressed by the defenders to have managed to identify and destroy the stores cache. Losses were heavy on both sides but I called it a winning draw for the British since they held the objective and were not so hard pressed that they couldn't have fired the building before withdrawing. It was certainly a relief that the players seem to have enjoyed the game on the whole.
The bulk of the troops were conversions of homecast Prince August or Meisterzinn figures. About 1/3rd were done by Chris Palmer with the rest being Rob's. Only the Highlanders and boat's crew were mine.  Here Gage's Light Infantry are Rob's work while the Royal Americans were done by Chris.

The next game came Saturday morning. This was based on the Battle of Bloody Creek during Pontiac's Rebellion. The previous day's toy soldier game had gotten me thinking about play sequencing and while I didn't want to go that far I decided to unilaterally change the sequence slightly between games.

In Friday's games each player on a side activated one unit each time a card was drawn. That was actually a new idea I hadn't tried before the game. I had also introduced a new "final fire phase" which allowed units that had held fire to fire at the end of the turn if their fire had not been triggered by enemy actions. That was contrary to the original rule and muddled the play sequence a little. In addition, the original rally when activated rule which allowed player's to slowly accumulate hits before rallying had been replaced  by a rule requiring rallying at the end of every turn to avoid having to drag 'hits' around from turn to turn. Melee's had always been fought at the end of turn which was contrary to every other combat.

What I decided was to activate 1 player or "command" per card and have those active units conclude their action, any enemy reaction, melee and rallying right away. To my mind this not only fit my idea of how the game was meant to work but was smoother and felt more natural as the game played out so this will be the new standard.

Roger's Rangers and a company of Grenadiers form the advance guard. Rangers by Chris, Grenadiers by Rob.
The British mission was to make a night march across the board to Pontiac's camp and attack it. The historical action developed around two key things: the Indians got word of the attack and the camp had actually been abandoned months ago. The game began with reduced visibility which increased as the day went on. possibly more quickly than it should. Once the British Advance Guard had fought their way through to the clearing they were informed that there was no camp and that their new mission was to get as many men as possible back to the fort.

The Indians had been told that their sole mission was to kill as many British as possible, that they would receive reinforcements through out the game and that their own "casualties" did not matter (most casualties being assumed to be warriors who had slipped away rather than actual dead or seriously wounded).  What I didn't explain, on purpose, was that their losses were the main source of reinforcements, I wanted to encourage bold attacks but not not suicidal ones. Despite repeating the victory conditions several times, I don't think I ever made it clear enough to the players as most of them were quite cautious through out the game in typical Indian fashion, unlike Pontiac's men on the day who seemed to have displayed unusually aggressive and persistent tactics on the day. This wasn't a problem when we first brought the scenario out about a decade ago but if we ever bring it out for a third time, I will have to prepare a better briefing.


The set up prior to the hidden Indian units being placed.

As it was, the British were still hard pressed but not as hard pressed as on the day. The players handled the mid game change of orders well with only minimal delay for it to sink in and have them react effectively. One of my favourite moments came here as the remnants of the Advance Guard came stampeding back past the main column with a brief order from the senior commander to "cover me". Almost instantly a chance card was pulled resulting in a bayonet charge by said new rearguard. Perfect, though random, timing.    

We didn't quite play to the end of the gaming session as it seemed pretty clear that the British were going to be able to escape with the bulk of their units intact. If I'm not mistaken, the rangers of the advance guard were the only unit routed. All in all, despite some occasionally heavy casualties, the British did much better than they did on the day. To my mind this was largely due to not having been pressed closely and kept under close range fire as they were in the actual engagement however, it may also be because the British were too crowded without enough gaps for the Indians to infiltrate through. Using eight figure units instead of 12 for the British line units might have been a better idea. This would have made each unit more vulnerable to losses as well as making it easier for the Indians to find gaps. Extending the hours of darkness would also have helped encourage close in fighting. Something to keep in mind should we ever run the scenario again.

The end of the game.  Rogers himself and his oft rallied Rangers were still holding the road open as they did on the day. (These are Rob's rangers and this unit are Irregulars).  The gunboat has arrived to provide cover fire.
I was hoping to get away mid morning on Sunday after a round of goodbyes and a last sweep of the dealer hall and flea market so all that remained of Fall In for me  was to find a game to play Saturday night. There were some interesting ones to consider but in several cases beautiful looking games in periods of interest used rules I knew I didn't like. Luckily there was a spot open in Roy Jones' Sword & The Flame game set in German South East Africa. Tick! Tick!  It turned out to be a good choice and a very enjoyable game despite our utter failure to secure victory over the Herero freedom fighters.

25mm The Sword and The Flame German South West Africa game. A good relaxing way to end a convention.

So now its back to "what next?"  In the near future there are some Mounties and friends waiting as well as the re-awakened desire to add a 12 -16 figure battalion, late 19th Century, Toy Soldier game (thank you Howard). Mostly though I want to do more with my enlarged collection of Elastolin figures.

Huzzah in May is fast approaching and while it is likely to be 5 or more years before I make the long haul again, Huzzah is an easy drive and gives me everything I need in a con, esp if my partner in crime can make it. The traffic on Sunday was too heavy, hour after wearing hour, for me to think about future games but on Monday I was cruising north on easy roads and ideas, obstacles, memories and inspirations kept surfacing of their own free will  until a thought (no doubt fed by having flipped through the Pavia book and talked about the 2005 Haddington game) popped into my head: "Prince Valiant and the Relief of Haddington 2 - with magic and maybe some monsters."  In other words a reworking of our successful 2005 historical game in a different setting using my Elastolin collection. Needs a bit of work but that might just be where I'm headed.

19 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a good time , looking forward to seeing 'Prince Valiant' again , Tony

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  2. Your game looks wonderful Ross!
    Great terrain and troops. I especially like the small boat and its crew.
    Thank you very much for sharing this inspiring images.

    Regards.

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  4. "a person who is not fond of driving and Hates the periods of heavy traffic" - that's me.

    Looks like the actual convention was fun though. :)

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    1. If only the railway connections were better.....

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  5. Thanks for sharing with us what you did and saw. Strangely enough I am currently reading an account of the siege of Haddington...

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    1. Ah well, you need to look up my article in an early issue of Battlegames then!

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  6. A most impressive landing table, beautiful pictures!

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  7. Blimey, toy soldier heaven. Thanks.

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  8. Ross Mac,

    It sounds as if the driving was worth it in the end. I like the look of Howard's rules ... and having seen your pictures and read your battle report, I'm even more impressed.

    Your own games seem to have gone well, and it sounds as if you a,ready have the planning for your future convention games well in hand.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. The latter bit is an illusion, no more than a vague idea I'm afraid.

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  9. That sounds like a wonderful way to spend some time.

    I look forward to seeing what you do with the toy soldier game.

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    1. It was. Good to reconnect with friends and see so many approaches.

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