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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What to do with unemployed Colonels?

If I was less fond of my mounted toy soldier officers, toy soldier game design would be much easier and I could just go with one General per side for these small games.

For some time now I have been quite aware that too many commanders spoil the wargame command broth either by making it too easy to get everyone going or by adding too much overhead in the way of either artificial rules to hinder them from doing their job or excessive details and processes. If the player is the General then someone else (ie the game mechanics) should be doing those lower level jobs, and doing them competently most of the time, unless they are part of an army which is both untrained and inexperienced.

But if I only need one General, maybe with some aides for the look of things, what do I do with all these other mounted officers?

Recently my mind has started going back to all those magazine pictures of Peter Gilder inspired battalions with a mounted officer in the middle. Hard to do with four man units, hence my prolonged efforts to include rules for Colonels and Brigadiers. Even my proposed twelve figure units don't have room for a mounted officer but it occured to me yesterday that for the 1860's Anglo-American border war, a three stand 54mm battalion could accomodate a mounted officer, flag, musician, foot officer and sergeant along with twelve other ranks and look acceptable.

Mock up of two of the new battalions.

Unless I expand my table significantly the maximum number of figures per game has to stay roughly the same. This brings me back to needing a set of rules designed for a small number of long lasting units, in other words, the sort of games suggested by  One Hour Wargames, just not those rules since they are not to my taste.  This means fewer regimental uniforms will be represented but at least my Colonels will have a home that doesn't adversely affect the game.

Right now there are two approaches that seem attractive. One is to ditch the grid and look at various past versions of Hearts of Tin with three stand battalions.  The other is to drop down to a 3" grid with each stand being a unit and allow a Colonel to control 2 adjacent units then proceed with a version of the Square Brigadier. Both sets would probably go back to rolling an "Orders" die each turn, a system that has worked well in the past with a small number of units.

Since the basing and organization will be the same either way, I will proceed to paint and base figures and delay a decision on rules until I have enough battalions painted and based. The NorthWest campaign against the Indians and metis will continue to use one rank half- stands since all units are skirmishers. Initially some existing units will see double duty but, since the numbers are so low, I hope to eventually have all the Canadians wearing more appropriate uniforms.


  1. Promote them to General and pension them off?

    (Reading today's news it turns out the Royal Navy about 2 Admirals for each ship of war!)

  2. As much as I like grids - below a certain size, I feel they can cause as many problems of function as they solve. The 3" square in my humble opinion is too small for your chosen scale(s). Though I see the dilemma that that then causes!

    1. Well it does require a different approach. Each stand basically fills a square and a full dtrength unit occupies 3 adjacent squares. The effect is very similar to measuring in "lengths" equal to a basewidth on a non-gridded board. Terrain features would also need to have a multi square template with items like trees and buildings loose to be moved out of the way.

  3. I have off and on wondered what to do with 'Colonels' myself. Time was, I used the old school system of having a regimental/battalion command 'element' (by which I don't mean 'stand') separate from the main body of the unit. This was to represent the 'control' aspect of a unit.

    But I have since realised you could retain these ideas and yet dispense with the separate command HQ. Then the figures are simply 'double function' representing part of the firepower (qua 'figure') and being removed if an attenuation of the unit's control is called for.

    I made the switch for my Napoleonic armies to 24-figure instead of 27-figure units, with no separate HQ element. I'm thinking about it for my ACW armies. but there the switch is a little more difficult to contemplate. Apart from the 57 infantry (mostly 27-figure) regiments and 10 cavalry units (23CSA and 15USA figures each) it would imply more variably sized units, as I much prefer even numbers in a 2-rank line, and I don't have a single spare command figure to standardize on 24-figure units.

    But my ACW armies are fairly sizeable. At a figure ratio of 1:25, my 613 infantry, 92 cavalry and 63 gunners (14 guns) represents a Co0nfederate Army Corps of roughly 20,000 officers and men. My Union army is even larger (c900+90+78=1068) - somewhere in the region of 26-27,000 troops, all ranks.

    One must have brigade and Division commanders! Apart from anything else, one likes to have a species of 'dramatis personae' for the stories created on the table! What would happen to the dashing General Montgomery J. Klaxon (CSA), that 'beau sabreur' Humphrey Cammell (CSA), or the hard riding Brigadier-General, George Garfield Ryder (USA)?

    It seemed to me a while back, and I have noticed some rule sets do this also, that 'formation' commanders (brigades and up) served as a focal point for their commands, to ensure the units making up the formations worked with some common accord. Some sort of 'command radius' seemed in order. Units could be detached, but required an 'initiative test' to do something useful, the same sort of roll as my morale and reaction tests. In my own rule set, all commanders had a single number attached to represent their capacity - the same sort of numbers adhering to the units. Something like this:

    Unit: 5 = Veteran/Crack ; 4=Experienced/Battle hardened; 3=Green/Inexperienced:
    General Officer: 5 = Able/ Knows what he's about; 4 = Reliable/ Capable within limits; 3 = Out of his depth. Because I was using the Terrible Swift Sword command system, morale/reaction/initiative rolls needed to be low. However, I am rethinking the system so that high rolls are the ones you want. That is not hard to do: make the numbers represent 'Class': 1 = First class i=unit of commander... etc. But to pass you have to EXCEED the class rating.

    These factors also served to permit a general to intervene of a unit was getting knocked about. As losses in command and firepower mounted, a unit's rating would decrease. A general could attach himself to a unit and substitute his capability factor for the unit's current one, and attempt to rally the unit. This was valuable if a strong but green unit broke, and you needed to keep it on the field. But it could play merry hell with the overall control of the brigade, say.

    After a while I abandoned many of these ideas, but I'm think of reviving them for solo play.

    1. In larger games and in longer games, intermediate levels of command are easier to deal, especially if using a mddle school approach, trying to replicate the processes as well as outcomes. That said, I'm not as inclined towards having the player wear several hats as once as I used to be.

  4. I use individual 'personality' figures as Colonels for each of my regiments. If the Colonel gets shot it is a permanent minus from morale for the rest of the game. This gives a purpose to all those commanders I have painted. The only other option is to stay on half pay in the display cabinet!

    1. Now you mention it, most of these extra officers were originally painted as Colonels for 24 man battalions for skirmish games with companies as units.

  5. Those mock up battalions are what I do.
    I often do large Charles Grant battalions of 48, and put the officer, ie. the morale element, on one base. So a mounted officer counts as 2, and a mix of drummers, flags etc for the other 4 making the 6 the units morale starts with. but I can expand the 48 soldiers to 4 small battalions by making three other command bases. In this smaller grouping, the command base is just for looks and colour. The double base of an officer on horseback and 4 others just counts as two bases of 3.