EXCERPT 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, March 15, 2017

The Portable Ridge

Last Sunday I followed up the Square Brigadier game with several repeats using the Portable Wargame as part of my preparation for Huzzah!.
I'm not going to go over them in detail but just make a few observations about all of the games including the SB game and rules.

The 17th Lancers have now been updated with pith helmets and 1879 uniforms. I was tempted to repaint the horses as Chestnuts but left them as is for old times sake

 These, like my US cavalry, are converted from the Britain's Light Brigade that I was lucky enough to buy from Stuart Asquith around the turn of the century. They were the mainspring of my 54mm Colonial games and helped convert me to using glossy Toy Soldiers. Since my Crimean plans never got far I decided to convert them rather than let them go.
Since I had enjoyed the Sudden Death game at Ron's but was worried that my intended 6 unit OB would not be enough for a decent game, I started there. The game took about 25 minutes to play 5 out 15 turns which was a little quick but not bad for a walk up and try it event. It wasn't terribly satisfying though and I felt that a few more units might be needed to add some depth. I couldn't shake the feeling that the Sudden Death version reduces the player's tactical options and devalues reserves.

I decided to reset and try the standard roster system now that I realized that the exhaustion point was 1/3rd SPs rather than 1/2 units as I had wrongly played it in my favourite of the Zulu games. The game lasted about 9 or 10 turns and close to 40 minutes but it ended with only 1 unit destroyed and the nearly intact Canadians (unit wise) standing staring at the victory objective, daring the Yanks to come out from behind the hill and fight. It wasn't bad but it wasn't really satisfying either.

With the Canadians exhausted by long range fire then forced off the hill by an American counter attack, the Americans decline to step over the crest and be shot at. Since an exhausted force cannot attack, Game Over!

Since the best game yet had been the Zulu War game that used the standard Strength Points to determine when units got removed but wrongly based exhaustion on 50% of units destroyed, I reset and played again using that variation.

This time the game went 14 out of 15 turns after various turns of fortune with the Canadians hanging on desperately to a foothold on the hill which would have been a draw and the Americans only avoiding their own exhaustion point by pulling back badly damaged units until need brought them back in a risky but successful bid to clear the Canadians off the hill for a victory.

About half way through the third game. An American flanking counter attack combined with a pinning force is proving hard to deal with as casualties mount.

This mix of units being destroyed by Strength Point loss but Exhaustion being determined  by % unit losses isn't official but it produces the most enjoyable games for me since it allows players to make more "Command decisions" such as to choose to risk trading SPs to hold ground or to conserve strength by using reserves to replace frontline units that have taken heavy losses and also allows players to engage in more than one or two stiff fights so that is how I will run the games at Huzzah after explaining the published mechanisms.

As far the Square Brigadier, it (unsurprisingly) remains my game of choice for my small games at home. It has however taken a step back, away from Tin Army heresies and closer to its roots.

The Tin Army will continue on towards being a more convention battle game, essentially a gridded version of Hearts of Tin but the SB will remain more constrained and designed only for small stylized games, essentially my equivalent to Thomas' One Hour Wargame and doubtless often drawing on his collection of minimalist scenarios. I'm partway through updating the latest War of 1812 draft into a final 1812 to 1885 (non-European) version. Thankfully no new ideas or rules will be introduced, just a few intrusions purged and much (hopefully) clarity and completeness added in both Basic and Optional Advanced rules.

Could take awhile.

Next, time, back to the 16th Century.


  1. Interesting trial of rule changes with implications to a game feel, length and the decisions put on the player. Even misreading of rules can on occasion be helpful.

    1. Yes but it also shows how dangerous careless reading and assumptions can be. Being used to 50% from elsewhere abd having already read the Sudden Death version, I doubt that I did more than glance at the standard rule. Shame on me!

  2. Ross,
    Rules writing is a fascinating part of our Hobby- you can spend hours and days upon it- weeks and months in fact. I've had a go at it over several years and soon very much looking forward to devising a set of 15mm Rules for Middle Earth fantasy battles. I do like One-Page rules - and this is what I'll aim for. Cheers. KEV.

    1. Sometimes I like short and simple but sometimes I still like to get my teeth into something more substantial.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, easy headswap and repaint with an eye on the original Britain's version.

  4. This is brilliant stuff Ross - Proper Toy Soldiers! I would have to fight such games solo, since I would find it necessary to utter commands and bugle calls, and shout "bang" and all that. Great fun!

    1. Luckily I am too shy to do that even in private but I di enjoy seeing others get in the mood.

  5. Totally agree with MSFoy! Sadly, I doubt if any of my club would join in. Probably just stern glances to keep the noise down!! Solo for me as well.

    1. Thats sad, the guys I game with here and at conventions are wonderfully open minded. I do so much solo gaming now solely due to distance and having spare time during the work week.

  6. The club is great and a lovely bunch, but very serious about their wargaming, history, uniforms, rules and accuracy. They are very big on competition games. My regular opponent would love this, but we would have to keep the the bugle calls down!!

  7. Hi Ross,

    I am afraid that I need a link to the most recent Square Brigadier rules, Tin Army rules and Hearts of Tin rules. Figuring out how to find the most recent versions is confusing. Perhaps you could put links to the right of the articles under: Links to special features & my other blogs.

    I was hoping to see Dick Larson at this year's "Enfilade" convention, so that I could say "hello" for you. Alas, he was not there on the day I attended.

    Keep up the good work (good fun?)!

    Captain Nolan

    1. Cap'n There is no recent Square Brigadier rules, or Hearts of Tin or Tin Army. Well certainly not written up. I have been too distracted by other things such as getting ready for Huzzah and that is not likely to change. I do have a page for current rules links & downloads but its so badly out of date that I may take it down until the fall. I've also discovered that I rather need to go back through some 1200 blog posts to remove links to obsolete rules that aren't or shouldn't be available.

      For the next couple of months I will be focused primarily on writing up and playing the 20th anniversary edition of With MacDuff to the Frontier. Hopefully by Fall I'll get it all organized and not be ambushed and thrown off track again!

      Too bad you didn't see Dick. I hope he is doing well.

    2. OH. I see I already removed the link to the rules page!