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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Canada Day

From Coast


HMCS Ottawa in Hudson's Bay off Chesterfield Inlet NWT in 1977.
Northern Coast and as close as I've been to the Arctic Ocean.


 to Coast


HMCS Ottawa in Halifax Harbour 1977,
Atlantic Coast.


 to Coast

Fisguard Lighthouse, Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria BC. 1978
Pacific coast.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Take the Hill!

Right, back to the game. I deployed the four companies of French Regulars as a battalion in line on the hill and placed the militia skirmishers in the fields and woods on the right leaving the woods on the left to guard themselves. Switching sides I decided to lead with the Highlanders and Grenadiers. Looking at the French position and considering the limited number of turns and the advantage of my Grenadiers I decided against any attempt to flank the enemy and instead deployed the Highlanders on the left to  hold off any attempt by the militia to flank the attack and deployed the rest of the army in line for a frontal assault.

I then diced for the reaction of the French player. First for the militia. 5,6 advance aggressively against the British flank. 3,4 wait in position but shift left to flank an attack on the centre as it goes in. 1,2 Hold until something changes. The result was a 5 and the militia moved to attack the flank. For the main line I rolled for hold or preemptive attack and got hold.

Game 1, Turn 3 The Highlanders are in dead ground on the reverse slope while the main force deploys and the French regulars wait patiently.
It didn't take long for the old confusion about when a battalion is a battalion for movement to arise as companies deployed from column and moved to join the battalion line and by Turn 4 I scrapped the revived battalion movement part. Shortly after the fighting started, with some companies engaged while others were out of range, I also scrapped the revived battalion morale/combat rules. OK that confirms the 2014 decision.

Practicality wins over Pedantry.
      
As the first assault goes in the fighting is fierce and bloody but the French line holds.
In many games the Chance cards have little effect but in this game the poor British got walloped by them. For starters, 2 of the 12 cards  I drew turned out to be Jokers which skip a turn thus shortening the game. This might indicate a later start than planned, a heavy rain shower or just some indecision but the turn limit went from generous to extremely tight! Then, just as the British Grenadiers were lined up ready to fire their First Volley at close range and then charge, a Red Jack popped up allowing the French to pick a unit to freeze. No moving and no shooting except to return fire if fired upon. They chose the Grenadiers and chose to fire their first volley first. The firing rippled up and down the line and several companies of Irish followed up with the bayonet. On the far left the company in summer dress blew huge holes in the Irish ranks and stood firm in the ensuing melee sending them reeling. In the centre the line held but casualties were heavy.

As the British rallied their repulsed troops and prepared to send in the Grenadiers and the last fresh company of Irish, the cards again favoured the French and they got the initiative. Their losses had also been heavy but the sun was low in the sky (well the  the activation deck was low). The French pulled their line back beyond close range and closed in towards the centre. The British followed up and drove the line back in disorder but on the French commander risked his life to rally his men and when the last turn ended the battered remnant of the French line still stood across the road. Victory to the French!

One French company is almost wiped out but the sole survivor rallies defiantly atop the hill. The British line sorts the survivors while the Black Watch is hard pressed to hold the skirmishers from the rear of the army. 
On the whole the game was quick and enjoyable, so  a success, though I was surprised that such a small, simple game still lasted 1.5 hours.  Apart from having restored the ability to fire then move or move and then hold fire to be used as a reaction only, and a small tweak to the morale test, the rules once more back to the 2014 QRS version. I decided to reset using 12 man companies and the same battle plan to see how that would compare. After hauling out a few more figures, the French defended with 3 x 12 line infantry and 2x8 militia skirmishers. The British attacked with 2x12 Elite infantry and 3x12 line infantry. This gave both sides fewer units but slightly more men with the British gaining more despite now having the same number of units as the French. I also reshuffled the cards and drew a new activation deck.
 
Game 2. The British line forms and advances under a heavy but ineffective long range fire.
I kept the same battle plans but the smaller number of larger units made the whole thing seem clearer and easier to manage. The British line looked much more impressive once formed and the Highlanders could cover just enough extra ground to let them be a bit more aggressive on the flank. The first turns passed more quickly and the British had enough time to line up the attack, pausing where necessary in hopes of moving second on the turn that he closed into close range so as to let the card initiative determine who got the first volley. With no second line, the attack was liable to be all or nothing for both sides. A little nerve racking.

As French player, I decided to open fire at long range hoping to wear the British down while they formed. It didn't work quite as well as planned. Actually, across the board the French shooting dice were abysmal for most of the game. On the flank, the larger Highland unit was bolder than last game and drove the militia back with heavy losses.
The charge of the Irish Grenadiers
This time, the critical initiative went to the British. The Grenadiers fired a deadly volley and charged! The French replied rather unsteadily and ran. Towards the centre the line was steadier and held but with the Grenadiers on their flank had no choice but to pull back. An attempt to bring the militia over to attack the flank of the British line went awry when they rolled low for movement. The single unit that was left was quickly chased off by the Highlanders.  There were still 4 turns left when the second British charge went in, sweeping the hill. 

This was a simpler, slightly larger but faster, game and more exciting to boot since the fate of each unit counted. I'm back to proof reading and preparing for more test games. I need something with cavalry and I need to play more rifle era games and something with some spear armed charging native warriors. Next month I should also set up the extension and try the largest game that I can fit to see how that goes. 

Work, work, work but I'm happy to do it. 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Clearing a roadblock

Once I had settled that I didn't need spend any cash to make an expansion module for my table, it was time to put it away and get back to work on writing and testing the 20th Anniversary edition of MacDuff. During the week I had retrieved the full 2013 draft and updated it. While doing so I fell victim to the temptation to put in some of the older ideas again. Today, it was time to test them out.

Game 1 hangs in the balance.


I have been thinking mostly about the usual sort of ambushes and raids but the rules were originally conceived for playing Grant Teasers. It looks like I can expect a full Grant scenario  to last three or four hours but I was in the mood for something quick so I settled for something plain and small. Must be the One Hour influence. Lacking an appropriate historical inspiration I went for a simple blocking position with the French astride a road which the British had to move up. I gave the British Advance Guard twelve turns to clear the road.

One of the things I eliminated last year was the  rule around allowing close order companies to form up as a  battalion and then use the battalion as the movement and morale unit still tracking hits by company. Its a simple idea buts its always ended up causing confusion in practice especially at a convention game where  there may be 6 or 8 players who don't know the rules and where identically dressed 8 man companies easily get mixed up. It gets especially complicated when only a part of a battalion is engaged. Anyway I decided to try it again.

The French had a battalion of 4x8 companies of regular infantry and 2 units of 8 militia light infantry. The British marched on in column on the road with an Elite Advance Guard Battalion with a company of 8 Highlanders and 2x8 Grenadiers followed by a battalion of 4x8 line infantry.  

I shuffled the deck and......but that's tomorrow's post.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Go Deep or Go wide?

There was never really a serious chance that I would revert to a permanent table large enough to make the room awkward for day to day purposes but having set it up triggered some interesting reactions and presents a choice that needs serious thought before I act.

Once I had the extension propped up in place to make a 5'x6' table, I placed some troops on it and started trying to picturing  a bigger game. Would it look better with bigger units or more of them?  Its only 50% more area but that was my first instinct, more figures! It didn't take long to remember that I'm still in the mood to try to finish a few smaller projects and master the art of smaller games, even with big figures.

So, what exactly do I want to do with the extra square footage?

For starters my existing Not Quite Seven Years War forces could use the extra width to give room for an infantry line with cavalry wings.  Oddly enough my smallest figures, the 1/72nd ACW, can also use the extra width  should I deploy full armies.

Other than that the main use would be for scenarios that would benefit from manouver room without resorting to off table reserves and flank marches or for games such as ambushes of a convoy with the short sides being the entry and exit points. I turned my attention back to how I could add the extra bit which is a light, 1/4", composite board with wood veneer. It'll need a frame like the main table and either a hinge or else some sort of support.

However, when I remade the 4'x5' tabletop last winter I included a way to slide inserts into the end to support an extension on the end to make a 4'x6' or 4'x7' table. It looked very wide and narrow when I tried it and it wouldn't add any depth to scenarios, reinforcements would have to stay off table and ranges remain short, but the battlelines, or the trip for a convoy, could be even longer or the flanks be even more in the air. It would also make the transition from small table to large fairly painless and remove the urge to fiddle with ranges, movement rates and unit sizes. As a bonus it would only take 1 saw cut, everything else is done. It would also be a matter of seconds to install or remove the extension. Its j6st not a shape I'm used to.

I'm going to have to do some trials before I decide.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wide Open Spaces

"Room to make the big mistakes"

I set out this morning to finally make space in the woodshed/workshop/storage dump  for another cord of firewood. As I was shifting valuable flotsam and jetsam I spied an unexpected item which appeared to be a remnant of  the stuff my table surface is made of.  I hauled it out and OMGoogle! it was the 2x5ft expansion to my old 5x7 table that I had had to remove last June! Having failed to locate it last fall I  figured that I had cannabilised it but Not So!

Bringing it swiftly into the house I thought, "Here's what I need to make my table 4x6 which should be plenty big".  Just to be bold I propped it up to see what 4x7 looked like. Lonnnnng and narrow, very narrow, much narrower than it looks at 4x5, which just goes to show how easily the eye is fooled.

Then I thought the table is 5 wide, the piece is 5 wide, I could....no...maybe...well just to see.... ARGHHHHHHH! I practically got a sort of vertigo! Such open spaces! How many troops and how much scenery would it take to fill this beast?

The 40's don't look as big on a 5x6.


OK, breathe Ross!  This is the same table you were using this time last year!


So now the question is, do I make it into an extension for soecial games? or do I give  up the day to day space that I've been enjoying and remake a permanent 5x6 table? I seemed to recall that always felt odd playing a small game in one corner of the table.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Some things are just like you remember.

Last night I played the scenario using the old melee and rally rolls. It was like I remembered. Exciting, chaotic, atmospheric, fiddly where terrain intervened and often indecisive as the game dragged on.

The Grenadiers and Highlanders halt at long range to return fire before plunging into the ford.
The scenario was inspired by an incident that occurred during the British advance from  Fort Lawrence to attack Fort Beausejour in 1755. A marshy creek lay in between the two forts with only one place where the guns could cross. A small party of French Colonial troops, Acadian militia and allied First Nations defended a small redoubt and the stream to either side.  There was no attempt here to recreate units, numbers or terrain, just the vague idea. The French had a unit of regulars, a gun, 2 bands of Indians and 2 units of Acadian Irregulars. The British had 2 units of Elite infantry, 4 units of infantry, a gun and a unit of Rangers.

I allowed the British to search the stream for other fords passable to infantry of which one was eventually found on their left. The bushes along the stream blocked line of sight and provided concealment but not cover. The British plan was to scout their left with a company of rangers, plant the gun anywhere where it had something to shoot at without being in the way, and hey diddle diddle with the redcoats right up the road and over the redoubt.  Their first assault was repulsed but they rallied, came back and stormed the redoubt only to be thrown back out by a counter attack by the original garrison after it rallied.

The Grenadiers and Black Watch take a pounding from cannister and point blank musketry and are repulsed
One of the things about MacDuff that was inspired by Charge! is that the combat system has a very wide spread of possible results due to the way the dice are used. A player can optimize his chances but he can't guarantee anything and thus needs to be prepared to handle almost anything. Unlike Charge! though, movement is also less than 100% predictable.  In this game, the French Colonial troops were extremely gifted with the dice rolling close to 60% 5's and 6's in combat, but especially when rallying. Using the same dice the Grenadiers and Highlanders managed   to average out the results by concentrating on 3's and below.

For a while I wondered if the game was even winnable but the British General got smarter and sent the Irish to clear out the militia on either side while moving his artillery up to pound the redoubt. The militia proved to be stubborn but less effective and were eventually seen off. The provincials on the left flank tied up one group of Indians while the other refused all hints, orders and pleas for them to leave the impassible section they were guarding and move to the centre.   By this time the British elites had been repulsed and rallied yet again but the redoubt was outflanked on both sides. A final all out assault took it and I ruled the game over before the Colonial troops could try for another unlikely rally.

Three hours had passed.

The British begin to make headway.
So, what I had feared rather than what I had hoped for. Everything worked as well as I remembered and took as long.  A string of incredible rallies is extremely frustrating with this system because the units sometimes come back barely weakened as opposed to the new version where they may fight to the last man but get weaker and weaker even if they do. The figure to figure melee was fine in open ground and didn't take much longer to resolve. Where it got frustrating was around the redoubt because there was no way to line figures up due to the lumpy terrain piece and I had to resort to just counting the figures and figuring out how many separate opposed dice rolls to make. The newer system is easier and can be every bit as unpredictable as I found out in the second game..
The 2nd game draws near the end. The remaining Grenadiers have finally agreed to move forward again while the last 2 Highlanders are still attempting to hold the captured redoubt, hoping the Irish will save them. Across the river, the Indians have heeded the call and are about to close in on the center.  
This morning I reset and replayed the game making the same choices as far as possible but using the 2016 version with a morale check instead of 50% understrength  rule with rally rolls, and with dice per unit for hits for melee rather than comparing rolls.  The game was still exciting with some unexpected results and swings of fortune. For example, the unfortunate Grenadiers who rolled 6 dice for 4+ giving 0 hits from a point blank first volley followed shortly afterwards by 6 Elite melee dice giving the same result followed by a 1 on morale after the defending Colonial infantry troops slaughtered them, or the bold militia who repulsed 3 charges against their breastwork.  It was also very close with the British suffering such heavy losses that they were nearing their army morale point when the French broke instead.

So, both games were exciting and close and gave a similar result given similar command decisions. The biggest difference was that the first game took three hours and was beginning to feel never ending while the 2nd game was over in less than 2 hours with an increasing feeling of desperation on the part of the British commander.  Oh, and I didn't need to drag casualties with me whether lying down or dunce capped. Sometimes you shouldn't go back.

Onwards it is!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stepping Bravely Back

Since Rob & I are planning to run a couple of 40mm F&I games at Fall In! in November, I need to get to work on that 20th Anniversary Final Edition of MacDuff and test it as much as I can over the next 4 months.  Seemed like a good time to get back to Acadia.

Both of the last two games worked well and had a good feel but there were a few things that I needed to think  about leading to the following conclusions:

  1. The games were small but are almost as large for this style of gaming as my 5'x4' table can handle.
  2. That was actually ok with me. Obviously the last 5 years have left a mark. The games were enjoyable, took a good length of time to play and I no longer feel uneasy about the possibility of one day having painted all I need of something.
  3. Although the games were fun and worked, I missed a few of what I considered key elements of the original rules including man to man melees, no morale tests and rallying back casualties or trying to anyway. In a conversation with Rob last week he brought up the rallying as well so I decided to revisit a few of the items dropped from the rules to consider if they should be brought back or not


The main issue with the old rally rules was that they tended to prolong a game, not so much by the time taken up by rallying but because it made it hard to get rid of units, especially if the player was hot with his rally dice.  Possibly having a fixed game length might help keep games moving along.

The man to man combat was a minor issue when terrain and figure crowding made it hard to track who was fighting who. It became more of an issue when I wanted to play bigger games and use multifigure stands but if I'm back to individuals and smaller games it might be ok.

There's only one way to tell.

A test game is already on the table, waiting for the sun to sink a little lower.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Greying of the Hobby??

Well there I was today, sitting in at a multi-player game  of C&C Ancients, with a mix of veteran, experienced and novice wargamers, and did I look around and mutter "I was 'gamin 'fore any of you young whippersnappers wuz even born?". No, I did not. But I can see that when I get old the temptation will be there.

 C&C Battle of Beneventum

The hobby is dying "they" say, its only the old guys that keep it going. Well, I didn't have any hand in organizing the venue or running this game, didn't contribute a single figure or tree, just a bum in a seat as the expression goes, at least for a while.  The game day was an open affair staged by a Kentville group with a focus on card and board games of all sorts and it was Jeff of the armchaircommander.blogspot.ca blog (in the hat below) who got organized, put out notice (hence my appearance) and set up the game with his 25mm figures and terrain including a home made hex cloth (btw that's his youngest son Eric with the class hair above, a tribute to the 1st nations customs iir  ).  Only 1 greybeard present in a full slate of 8 players.

I think we're doing ok.
Jeff  in pregame GM mode.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Owner of a Lonely Heart(s of Tin)

I've been busy playing a game and painting figures for my Gathering of Hosts blog but I figured it was time for a wee break and time for something here. While trying to decide what to play this weekend I found myself thinking about Hearts of Tin so broke it out for a look and update. So far so good but as soon as I dropped a few units on the table I realized that I had committed a basic error. I started fixing without properly diagnosing what the real problem was. So I spent some time going through old blog posts and archived copies or various editions.

2005. A 15mm French Revolution wargame using Morschauser Meets MacDuff just before it was renamed Hearts of Tin. (Note all  the red hit markers).

Unfortunately I have a 4 year gap in my archives stretching from 2005 to 2010, the period when MMM turned into HofT but essentially the original rules were fast, furious and BLOODY! In other words suitable for a not very serious multi-player game with a table full of figures. The early Hearts of Tin calmed things down a little but was still fast and simple. By the time I got to the 2010 edition that I have, much if the zip had been taken out and the rules were getting farther by the day from their origins. The latest versions that I have are barely related to the original rules.

That leads me to a different question: Do I actually want to recreate the game as it was in early 2009 when I played through the Red Book or am I actually trying to do something completely different in which case I should go ahead, bite the bullet and retire the name. 

That's too big a question for this weekend. There are only three of my collections open for an equivalent set of rules at the moment, the war of 1812 and the ACW and mid19thC Faraway. All of these use a battalion/regiment unit composed of multiple bases. Its a matter of deciding what sort of game I want for each of these and whether or not I want different rules for each.  

Maybe another MacDuff game then........ 


One of the earliest public outings for Morschauser Meets MacDuff.
A 54mm War of 1812 game c 2004.




Friday, June 10, 2016

There's The Beef

This would have been a good game for a narrative blog report but the campaign is a long way from starting and I haven't sat down to decide on character and place names or a storyline and do want to think and write about rule mechanisms. With that in mind I will stick to my now customary practice and use the picture captions to discuss the events of this generic skirmish, somewhere, somewhen.

The game was a minor variation of the Scenarios for Wargames version of Grant's wagon train scenario. Since troops were short and cavalry largely inappropriate I fielded a Commander, 1 cavalry troop, 2 infantry companies and 1 sharpshooter detachment to guard 2 carts and a (small) herd of cattle. The fort was garrisoned by a gun and 2 infantry units one of which had to stay in the fort. The Metis and Indians fielded 2 commanders and 7 bands of sharpshooters. In all 36 Canadian infantry plus a handful of cavalry and a gun against 28 Metis and Indians.  Not a very big game.

The Black Watch in action. Protect the beef and the beer!
With MacDuff to the Frontier was originally written for mid 19th Century Colonial games but for over a decade the vast majority of MacDuff games have used versions of the  French & Indian War variant so I was curious if not downright anxious as to how the current combined version would work for the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.

Having initially set out units for the Square Brigadier I had to scramble to prepare for MacDuff and ended up with insufficient figures, apart from Redcoats of which there is an excess even if most are historically inappropriate. I had to replace the irregular mounted rifles with hussars and field the rebels and the Sharpshooters as 4 man units which the rules weren't designed to handle. This meant that every hit on these units would cause a morale check but in the end it worked ok given the sharpshooter bonus. Once I get more Cree and some Metis painted up I may try 6 man units for this period but will probably just build up 8 man units.

Turn 3. The convoy is all on board and 4 bands of rebels are on table.  The 1st band of rebels, all in their first action, open fire from the flank . Taken by surprise A Coy of the Black Watch wavers but is steadied by Col. MacDuff and returns fire. The Cree pullback into the woods in disorder and wait until the convoy has moved past.
Since I had been focused on the AWI and War of 1812 I hadn't included breechloading rifles on the quick reference sheet. In the original rules they essentially had twice the firepower of muzzleloaders. Rather than double the number of dice I intended to treat extended infantry  or skirmishers as standard targets and double the effect against formed units. As it happens I forgot and just used the basic firing rules with rifle ranges. This meant constantly dealing with 1/2 casualties but the casualties levels were about right so I may just fallback on treating muzzleloading rifles as inferior at this point in time and breech loaders as superior in earlier games.

Turn 4. The Hussars move forward but are fired on and come tumbling back into cover. The Metis manouver around the flank of B company and open fire


At the last minute I decided to change the rule that said roll 1/2 the number of dice at long range to inflict 1/2 casualties at long range. The idea was to be consistent which is often a good thing. Since all units were skirmishing that meant long range fire was at 1/4 effect. I was able to handle that but when I had a target that was receiving fire from one enemy at close range and another at long range, I had to roll the dice separately and remember to add 1/2 the hits from one lot to 1/4 the hits from the other and suddenly rolling less dice at long range made sense since I could just roll them together and apply the same modifiers.

The small size of many of the units meant that there were fewer dice but each hit was more important.  Suddenly deciding whether to round up, round down, carry over or dice for halves made a big difference. I think that this is one of the areas where I will list options and say pick the one that works best for you for the particular game. The more units and figures on the table, the less it matters.

Turn 6. The convoy slowly creeps up the steep hill while under fire from all directions. A company of Fusiliers has sortied from the Fort and the gun has open up in support. Feels a bit sticky for the convoy as losses mount and more rebels appear. 

Another down side of the small units was that if there had been any melees there would have been very few dice on either side and I suspect a tendency towards draws. My intention is to return to the traditional figure vs figure melees with an optional mass melee rule for when two formed battalions clash.

The Fusiliers supported by the gun wreak havic amongst one band of Cree caught in the open, the survivor flees into the woods. The young band who first opened fire blazes away but without the influence of the Chief refuse to close with the convoy.
One thing I noticed early on was that I had imported the commander rally from Hearts of Tin but that it didn't really fit and wasn't what I was doing. I had also added back in unit leaders as useful for colour and narrative at this level. Their sole value is to allow a unit to automatically follow orders if within 12" of a higher commander but I will probably add a negative modifier to the morale test if all officers and nco's are lost.

The current morale rule replaced the original system of removing figures and trying to rally back stragglers with an eye to a fixed 50% morale rule. Once again it did the job with much less fuss and bother but in both this and the earlier game I kept rolling to rally disordered troops rather than it being automatic. I might not change that since there is an element of double jeopardy but I might as it adds uncertainty and may speed a conclusion.

The first oxteam reaches level ground, the driver whips them up to race for the fort and rolls snake eyes for movement!
The biggest problem with the game was that as soon as it was done I wanted to play again or at least paint more figures for this campaign, something I'm not supposed to be doing this year. I really need to get started on a full, up to date, rules edition though and need to put the musket era stuff through the wringer as Rob and I are tentatively planning to run two F&IW MacDuff games at Fall In 2016 in Lancaster PA in November.  One of those games calls for me to make some terrain items and I also need to work on fine tuning the massed fantasy battles rules which will make the 3rd Fall In game. Sighhh work work work.

Charge! The highlanders get frustrated, fix bayonets and charge sending the Cree heading for cover only to be cut down by handfuls of 5's and 6's as they pause in the open to fire at the redcoats. (ie they failed to roll high enough to make it to cover). The rebels have now hit over 50% shaken or destroyed and retreat.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Coming On In The Old Way

When I was painting up the rest of the Cree warriors I was thinking about the possibility of using the quick set of rules I did for the 54mm attack on an Arab village last January.  Once I had the table set and started laying out terrain and troops I changed my mind and set up for the Square Brigadier which had worked well last December. It looked ok but...... it just wasn't what I had in mind and anyway that's what I'm using for the later 19th C Atlantica games. I started thinking about MacDuff but was there room and did I have enough toy soldiers for the scenario?

No, there wasn't and I didn't but I had an idea. The Grant scenarios were designed for cavalry and light units to be 1/2 the size of line infantry units. What if I cut my infantry down to 8 figures then split my 8 figure light or Irregular units into 4 man units? Would that work with the rules?

The crackle of rifle fire announces the imminent arrival of another convoy at Fort MacDuff.
(ok moving the table didn't help my phone take better pictures but I'll break my camera out for the next game.)
    Yes it did and a report will follow ere long.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pause for the Cause

Its been a hard slog and I'm not done yet but I have broken the back of rearranging my room and have decided to pause for a much needed game.
House cleaning at Fort MacDuff. 
For the last month I have been contemplating the congestion and various possible solutions but in the end I could see no useful option that did not involve taking down the sorting and packing station that I had set up last year when I had a need to earn a few dollars by selling off some figures. That has passed but I've been dragging my heels because it was a lot of work to set up and I anticipated it being nearly as much to take it down and disperse it.

There were three main goals:

  1. Reduce congestion when moving around the room and make room to have more than 1 guest over for gaming.  
  2. Make room for a bigger table for special occasion
  3. Get the table away from the window to make it easier to take pictures on bright days, esp as the sun is going down. 

Reducing the clutter would also be good but that's phase 2.
Looking North
As luck would have it my sister phoned a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted Mom's old kitchen table, our grandmother's before her I believe. It is a grand old round table with lion's feet dating back to around the turn of the 20th Century. This was more than a decade before my maternal grandparents left England so it probably came with the old farmhouse they ended up with in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. (about 40 km from the Fenian Raid "battle" of Eccles Hill. )  Well, the table I grew up eating at is now lodged in the kitchen of our old farmhouse and the table I bought for my first apartment in 1977 is now ensconced in my game room.

While the table would be, and has been in decades past,  suitable on its own for a small game, especially in 15mm or smaller, its not big enough for a standard game with big figures. However, with a protective cloth it is big enough to set a wargame table top on.  In the pictures I have used my current top now removed from its legs. I have experimented and it can be set up either way (esp once I finish moving the last bits like the filing cabinet with CD player on it). This means that on special occasions I could set up a 5x8 again. I don't expect to but do plan to set myself up with an 8x4 for special occasions leaving the 4x5 for ordinary days. There is room behind the long bookcase to stash the gaming top. Take the leaves out and the small round table slides easily on the floor and leaves ample room for a cot should I have overnight company willing to rough it in the midst of armies.

Looking South.
(goodness only been 8 years since I painted the floor and it already needs doing again)

The two main immediate chores that remain are sorting a few odds  and ends of furniture and finding somewhere to tuck all the stray figures, scenery, and various bits and bobs,  Later will come redecorating, paint, pictures etc.

But first, a game, tomorrow afternoon I hope.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

While I'm rearranging the furniture

the lads took some exercise outdoors. Pity that there was neither time nor close cropped ground for a battle.

Beating around the bush.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Young braves cast in the mold of their ancestor

Yes, yes, this was supposed to wait until next year but I'm waiting for the new PA French Infantry moulds and I have been thinking about MacDuff and about my old Toy Soldiers and I want to play a game, but I promised myself I would fix some of the broken and chipped Indians before they appeared on the table again. Sooooo.......

The new and the repainted.
There are a few of my Britain's Indians that came from my own childhood collection. One of those was a one armed chief (or heroic warrior?) in a tight feather bonnet. I figured that as long as I was fixing him I might as well make an ordinary warrior running forward crouching with a rifle since that was what I needed most. I thought about adding a blanket to complete the description of the Cree advancing at Cut Knife Creek but decided that it was too limiting. By doing him in long hair and fringed shirt as shown above, he would be easy to convert to a bearded Metis in wide brimmed hat. 
My casting box with bottom 1/2 done..
I calculated that I had just enough putty left for one mould. I'm still a little uncertain about the putty vs traditional liquid rtv but if I could get a good mould, it is fast and I'm not exactly the patient type. Screwing up my courage (insert thought bubble of $$$ flying out the window) I mixed the first 1/2 and set to. At first I thought I hadn't mixed enough for the size of mould that I was planning and quickly adjusted the moveable blocks. Then I realized that it was an illusion and I actually had too much but it was already gelling so too late to readjust ($#^$#@$#@) . So I persevered, let it set 10 minutes, applied mould release gel. and mixed up a 2nd, smaller  batch, and applied it.    

One tip that I picked up too late last time, is that the putty does best if a bit of pressure is applied so that when it expands as it sets, it is forced tight up against the master. My box has a lid that can be screwed tight to apply just this sort of pressure so I dug out the top and used it. Seems to have worked thus far but I was pessimistic at best at the likelihood of a usable mould.
  
Waiting for the vault to reopen.
I had garden chores to attend to so I let the mould sit and cure while I worked. When I cracked it open, the mold release goop had mostly worked but I had trouble prying the two halves apart. Eventually I managed it without damage to the mould although the master lost his feather and dropped his rifle in the process. I wasn't too sure about what I found. Apart from one arm being buried, I like to have two fairly even, level, halves. In this case due to my initial miscalculation and the fact that one of the masters arms wasn't in line with his body, the mould look like a thick wedge with a thin lid.  Still, there was no point in not trying it.
A slippery slope.
The rubber is very soft and I'm not sure how long it will go without tearing but once vented the new mould  quickly produced 6 new warriors, no problems. This putty stuff may be alright after all!  Quick and easy. 
So, there are now a dozen repaired figures on the painting desk (mostly broken rifles with new barrels)  and brand new castings waiting in the wings. Can a game be far behind?

At Top, left to right: Another broken original, the modified broken figure, a new casting. 

In the meantime, I have been able to find out more about the Cyprus Hills Secret. Its not exactly what I thought but it would certainly have been a big scandal had it gotten out.  Some readers may be glad to know that the Government of the United States was not involved but that is all for a future post.
Security Guard of the Cyprus Hills Land and Transport Company.
Miniature Molds copy of an I/R original.