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 8, 2017

The Plot and Plan Thicken

Not only did this game help me to decide some rules questions, it also helped me make some campaign  decisions.

A standard NQSYW Charge! infantry company is 16 privates, an officer, a sergeant and a drummer or 19 figures while a standard MacDuff infantry unit is between 8 and 12 figures although a full Charge! company would work if I was using smaller figures or a bigger table.  It occurred to me that by adding 1 extra officer per company each of my Charge! companies could provide 2 MacDuff companies of 10 figures. Each of my 2 company NQSYW regiments could thus provide a full 4 company MacDuff Regiment.

Thus it was that for the first go round with the scenario, the one in the teaser, each side had one battalion with 3 or 4 companies on a single card as well as individual light and artillery companies each on their own card. It was a pretty good game despite some rules blips that had to be settled, but as so often before when playing this sort of game, I occasionally got  confused about when a company was a unit and when a group of companies was a unit. Past attempts to not only write this up in a clear concise manner but to also apply the rules evenly during games has always been an issue. That is why I eventually gave in and dropped the battalion rules until the 20th Anniversary loomed.

Early in the dress rehearsal. 

So I reset and replayed the scenario with 12 figure units, each on their own card. The first game had been good but the second one was better. This was the game that I chose for the battle report.  But how did that organization compare to historical battles of the right size?

 I hit the books looking at historical scenarios of the right size such as Belle Famille (Niagara), Crysler's Farm and others. Sure enough, the evidence supports a tendency for detachments to be made before  a battle rather than during it and they don't usually rejoin during a game. More than that it seems not uncommon in small battles for battalions to be split before the battle while several small detachments might be combined. Excellent, the ground scale indicates that each of my companies really represents 2 or 3 real ones anyway. Anniversary edition or not, that whole multi-level unit thing can be dropped in favour of variable sized units.    I may end up losing the special Colour Party rules or at least modifying them.

Mid-game the lancers charged over the bridge breaking the Picquet which was down to nearly 1/2 strength but declined to pursue into the fresh Grenadiers.

BUT, how will this mesh with my NQSYW organization? Well, I could still go with 10 man companies if 19 is too big  but the more I think about it, I'm not likely to ever need to haul all of my NQSYW units to a convention game and the next one is probably at least 2 or 3 years anyway. So I will just paint 12 man MacDuff units now, probably in pairs, and worry about it later should the occasion arise.

The whole convention topic then led me to think about whether I would ever want to take a scenario set in this fictional campaign setting to a convention or would  I rather take it as a fictional scenario in an historical setting? I'd been looking at Danish and Saxon uniforms as a basis for a non-British army in red but since many of my NQSYW units are actually painted as historical units, the thought struck me that I might as well keep on doing it and leave my options open.

A push over the stream by a two companies of Pandours highlighted the question of whether or not the two companies counted as 1 unit or two for being broken. In the end the attack took so many hits it didn't matter and a last ditch charge by the 4 remaining lancers failed to retrieve the day.


So, the die is cast, the first unit from the new French moulds will be painted as the Swiss regiment Karrer from the Louisburg garrison as originally planned. The first unit of a new party to the war, the Maritime League, an alliance of minor trading states. (or not, a change from red and blue might be nice.)


14 comments:

  1. I feel we've had this discussion before, so take this as a reminder.

    Terry Wise published under the Athena Books imprint in 1981 a half-sized version of Charge!
    Regiments were C/O, Colour bearer and three companies of 1 officer, 1 drummer and 8 privates.
    Lights were C/O, adjutant and two companies of 1 officer, drummer & 6 privates.
    Cavalry-C/O,standard, trumpeteer and three squadrons of 1 officer & 4 troopers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes Stu, I'm sure we have but thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. On the matter of nomenclature, I think it is reasonable to make your own definitions anent your own game system. It seems to me your standard tactical body is a company, or something company-sized. If so, that is your unit - which is of course a squadron for cavalry. As batteries tend to be the artillery unit of choice in larger battles, perhaps the troop is more appropriate under your system.

    Anything substantially smaller - a platoon (foot), troop (horse) or section (artillery) might be considered under 'sub-units'. Bodies larger than company sized (battalions, legions, regiments and gun batteries might be given the appellation 'Formations' - admittedly a term more usually associated with brigades and larger bodies.

    I have found in the past that such definitions have helped clarify in my own mind what I am talking (often to myself) about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was my original thinking 20 years ago. But then I was just copying Lawford and Young and playing CS Grant teasers. I never expected to find myself using the rules to fight games based on small historical actions and hadn't done all that much reading into such affairs but that's what I ended up doing.

      While late 19th companies were sometimes used as tactical units, 18th and early 19th century companies were too small to be tactical units, nd were largely administrative. When a battalion formed for battle, it was divided into 4 (usually) equal 'divisions' heedless of the companies.

      During "colonial" wars where there were never enough troops away from the main armies, you often find local commanders before the battle, detaching companies to form adhoc bodies of troops for specific missions. It doesn't seem to happen very often during a battle, so there is good reason to just have variable sized wargame "units".

      However, that practical solution is just not as satisfying from either a certain OSW perspective or a certain toy soldier perspective so its going to take some though and some the final solution will have to include some verbose explaining to both myself and others.

      Delete
    2. Your comment about the practices of local commanders during colonial wars reminds me of the manner in which Col Whitmore organised his slender forces against Titokowaru in the late 1860s in New Zealand. By this time, the Imperial forces that had featured prominently in the Land wars in North Taranaki (1860-1) and the Waikato (1864), had been withdrawn, leaving the colonists reliant upon local militia and Maori allies.

      The colonial soldiery were organised into 'Divisions' of about 100 men apiece.
      https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/moturoa-battle-plan
      The numbers involved were very small on both sides - perhaps 250 Europeans and 70 Maori engaged on the Colonialists's side; a much smaller number, I believe, among Titokowaru's Maori supporters.

      From this I infer that Whitmore's 'army' was about the size of a small battalion: four 'Divisions' (numbered 1,2,3, and 6) of 'Armed constabulary', plus other bits and pieces of volunteers, with possibly a few Armstrong guns available (though for some reason not brought up for the Moturoa action).

      This seems to fit your comment anent variable sized units.

      Delete
  4. Your table looks better than ever (no .... change that to wonderful!) with the larger units.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Norm. Interesting that you should put it that way, this was the game with slightly smaller units (10 vs 12) but with an extra unit making the troop density a bit higher,

      Delete
    2. Having looked again, I think it is the combination of bigger units and being free form rather than gridded. Those figures have quite a lot of presence.

      Delete
    3. Norm, yes they do. They are also crowded into one small corner of the board. I'm going to play a smaller game then I'm going to see what happens when I fill the table!

      I mumbled a bit every time I had to circle the table to find one of the rulers but one does have more freedom with bigger units/figures when off grid. I think hexes give some of the same effect bit it won't happen at home.

      Delete
  5. As always your photos are lovely and dynamic. I am not enough of a student of the period to comment, except to say that I suspect the detached troop or squadron may have been the norm rather than the exception for much of the period, especially in North America, and that oft-seen wargames rules bonuses for Unit Integrity belong to modern games at the operational scale.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michael, its true that there were a lot of small detachments manning blockhouses and small forts but they rarely ventured out in any numbers. The rangers certainly did but even a large Ranger raid would only be 5 or 6 figures.

      Looking at battles like Braddocks ambush the troops certainly seemed disorganized but that was in a forest setting (note to self to include that thought). At other actions such as Belle Familee (relief attempt for Niagara, Chrysler's farm, etc where the 2 regular British regiment kept most of their companies in a battlion line but which each detached some to form separate detachments of 2 or 3 companies operating as a unit. This sort of thing doesn't usually seem to happen mid-battle though.

      I think the key apart from lack of open order training, was the lack of initiative training/experience for junior officers, thus the need for a higher rank to control them in battle.

      hmm Which seems to reinforce yesterday's decision to just go with variable sized units up to battalion size that can't make detachments mid-game except to do something like throw a garrison into a building.

      Delete
  6. What a fantastic river to cross, wonderful terrain and minis Ross!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Phil, the river is a quick and easy trick, a sort of trompe l'oeil to make a piece of masking tape look more than what it is.

      Delete
    2. "Trompe l’œil"...that's a word I can easily understand!

      Delete