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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mobilization Contiues

The first four Oerberg Riders have had their clothing and equipment updated. Dismounted Riders will follow then the other halves of these two squadrons.

I was going to put in before & after pictures but umh, well,  apparently, despite having appeared in many battle report photos, only one or two have had their portraits done. Oh well, what's done is done.

Anyway,  when I originally decided to go for the Shiny Toy Soldier look 10 years ago, this is more the look I wanted. At the time though, I had somehow managed to convince myself that my table was too small for anything but musket era battles in 40mm, hence the choice of the 1840's. 
The Constabulary has now acquired a PomPom gun crew who have retired from Oberhilse service and  light blue trousers and donned tan ones to fight for Oerberg. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meanwhile, back on the workdesk

Just before interrupting myself for last Saturday's game set in.........what is the current accepted term for Twightlight years of the Roman Empire? Anyway, I was about to start updating some more old figures.
Oerberg Militia preparing for battle.
These lads were recruited almost a decade ago (in my pre-blog 'MacDuff on the Web' days) as a unit of Irregular mounted rifle unit, for my aborted Oregon War. The figures are Scruby ACW cavalry, in shell jackets, most wearing slouch hats. I took advantage of the original alt-history setting to borrow inspiration from various attractive uniforms from the 1840's ranging from Cape Mounted Rifles  to Texas Rangers.

Since I have decided to jettison the 1840's I now need these favourite figures to blend into an early 20thC setting so I have set to with my renewed store of Greenstuff to lengthen jackets and add ammunition bandoleers.

A lick of paint and varnish plus some regulation 2 man bases and there will be 2 stands of Oerberg citizen soldiers from two different units. I need to replace a couple of broken horses before I update the next 4 figures.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

No Animals Were Injured

It was the King's County Tabletop Game Fall Game Day in Kingston NS today so I took the opportunity to run 40mm Elastolin Late Roman vs Barbarian game using Mildly Modified Medieval Mayhem rules.

The game was played for the fun of a game with friends,  but also to give me some practice for my upcoming Huzzah game which will be a larger multi-faction affair.  
Martin, Mike & Paul early on. The cards in the river mark sections that have been checked for fords but not yet revealed to the enemy. Face cards were fords, a Joker indicated a difficult ford. A short ode please for the brave Saxon warriors swept away....
This game was a 3 sided border skirmish in Northern Britain. Roman, Saxon and Pict all had different victory conditions.  The Romans had to evict all non-Romans from the Roman side of the river while minimizing losses. The Saxons had to establish a bridgehead , minimize losses and get rid of as many Romans as possible regardless of who did it. The Picts were out to bring home some beef on the hoof while minimizing losses.

Bonus points were earned by having your Commander engage in an heroic duel with an enemy Commander.

One of my little modifications was to give each player one die which could be used once to reroll a die for his commander including to reroll an enemy impact die on him. Two were used in the game, one failed, the other helped the Roman commander survive the first fatal blow against him........

The Climactic Moment.
As his Saxon allies waver, Dearg Mor finally lays low Count Martinus
(who stays down this time)
The short version is that we enjoyed the game. It took about 3 hours to play, had some ups and downs in fortune and the winner remained in doubt right up to the end. All in all then, it worked.

However,  the rules were designed for a narrow set of parameters with the intent of being able to read everything off the table as in looking at the table and being able to see what was what. That worked well with the 100 Years context with only a handful of figure types so that it was easy to tell knight from man-at-arms from archer and no units, just retinues.

In this game, with smaller, more fanciful, figures and about a dozen variations of troop type and 4 levels of morale, it was much harder for players to recognize who was what. It also felt odd to me for Roman infantry to drift from unit to unit and so on. The skirmishers and horse archers sort of worked without any special rules but at the same time they didn't really feel 'right'.

I'm also concerned because even with only 3 players I found myself taking rules  shortcuts and being very liberal as to what I allowed in order to keep the game flowing. I have no idea how Rob manages to keep so many single combats flowing with 6 or 8 players. I suspect this may be where having fewer troop types helps?

The end.
The Saxons are clinging to a bridgehead but have lost 50% including their Earl, and will no longer advance. The Romans have failed to evict the invaders and have lost their Count and nearly 1/2 their men. The Picts haven't captured any cows but songs will be written about Dearg Mor's victorious duel with the Count and only one warrior was lost so it was a good day for them. Besides they have to pass the 1/2 empty Saxon camp on their way home, might be a few surplus cows there now...... 

Anyway, my conclusions are that the Mayhem system could work OK for my game, but I would like something which flows faster, less time spent on combat resolution and identifiable units which stay together with separate characters.  Something like what I used  for a 54mm  Prince Valiant game at Cold Wars about 14 or so  years ago.

Needs some thought.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Over Two Years in the Making

Bit of trivia for the day. It seems the bugler who sounded the Charge for the Light Brigade at Balaklava was named William Brittain. Not the same spelling as the famous maker of Toy Soldiers but close enough to elicit a "Hunh! How about that.".
Oerberg Republican Constabulary galloping towards their assigned bases.

Just got to cut one more base and mount these lads up. I did some digging back through old posts and it seems they've been in the "to be done" pile since at least March of 2015. Practically new then!

I had a mental image of how they should look but couldn't quite remember what sparked it. The Blue and khaki smacked of Teddy Roosvelt and his Rough Riders so I looked them up and close but not quite right. Eventually I remembered a B&W lithograph in my old faithful, pages falling out old,  Boer War book. Sure  enough there they were, illustrations of the British South Africa Mounted Police, in action during the Matabele War  and Jameson's Raid. I must have imagined the colours at the time based on the B&W shading where the shirts were darker. As far as I can tell it is roughly right though in younger years I might have made an attempt to roll the sleeves up and open the neck.

Anyway eight had been bought to provide Mounted Police and ordinary Commandos for Oerberg so they've ended up in the right place.

Dismounted O.R.C's to follow along with non-uniformed Oerbergers ere too long.

Monday, October 9, 2017

What I meant to say.....

It didn't take long for me to realize that I had not been clear in my last post that I was celebrating having solved a longstanding puzzle to do with the background and history of the fictional world that I initially started work on nearly 20 years ago. However, I was too busy casting figures, modifying maps and imagineering (as Bill Protz says) to post again yesterday.

Thank you all for the well meant, and appreciated, suggestions.
Atlantican Guides. Grey sheepskin cap with red bag, black coat.  Zinnbrigade conversion.
(Any fleeting to resemblance to the winter uniform we wore at Military College in the '70's is merely nostalgic.) 

Meanwhile, I've been busy casting and converting some new units.

Sometime this month I will post an updated map and background page on the, so far, largely unknown northern half of Atlantica.  That will lead in turn to the real start of planning and preparing for the series of wars that started in 1895.

Hopefully, I will also write some more posts about my experience of imagining and developing a fictional background. I was  a little surprised that I've actually written very little on the idea of it since 2011! For a teeny bit more on the idea and some issues see the following 2011 posts:

Uncovering the history of places that never were.

More on discovering imaginary peoples

The original development c 2000 of what became known as Atlantica was documented on my old webpage: With MacDuff on the Web. One day I should recover the files from disk while (if) I still can.

Oerberg Republican Constabulary.Scruby ACW on Zinnbrigade horses.
Blue shirts, drab hats and pants.

But in the mean time, there are troops to paint!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

So where is he going with this then?

For a number of years now I've been trying and failing to get  a "Colonial" campaign going within the context of the shiny Toy Soldier Island of Atlantica. I've started on a couple of what seemed like good ideas which have all stalled.

There seem to have two major sorts of obstacle. The first comes when I just can't seem to get motivated to work on the sort of figures that fill out what seems like a good option.

The second comes when there  is some sort of clash between what I get from my reading about the original history and what I want from my games. For example, the Boer War appeals but the range of credible scenarios is very limited and one has to either accept the limitations or leave the inspiration far behind. Neither option is attractive in cases where both matter.
There is one sort of troops that I originally wanted to fit into Atlantica but later  erased as a different backstory developed, almost against my will. That was Cossacks! I also wanted to sort of Afghan-ish mountain tribes and some hint of an Indian Mutiny sort of 'thing' where trained native troops rebelled. All of this was of course to be set around the middle of the 19th Century and WWI was not on the radar. 

As the time frame moved forward I came up with a vague blend of ideas blending Boer War, and Mexican revolution themes. These ideas could work but then a chance discovery did me in and sent me right back to long ago to old dreams of Cossacks, trains and machine guns.  

At the time I was looking at Canadian involvement in WW1 and also reading what I could find about the various non-European campaigns when I came across Colonel Dunster's diary from the Baku expedition. The what? Where is Baku and why were British trops there, let alone a handful of Canadians? Well, its in the Caucasus and they were there to train soldiers, including Armenians, to fight the Turks. I might  have let it go but at the time there was talk of a Canadian expedition to the region to train Armenian soldiers 100 years later.

Now, I have no intention or interest in setting up an historical campaign in this twisted, multi-faction setting that involved not only the British vs the Turks during WW1 and the Russian Civil War but also a host of bitter racial and religious factions with all the bloodshed and cruelty that tends to unleash. 

However, its alien enough to me that I'm happy to invent my own fake-history and  I've always had a 'thing' for Cossacks and for hardy mountain tribesmen, and WWI and for armoured cars, trains, and .... well. Have a look at this Australian War Memorial movie. The B&W clip should start at a significant point with a certain piece of equipment which is painted a very light  grey  which is fairly close to the tropical uniforms and the surrounding terrain.  

Baku Armoured Car Clip

The whole clip is well worth watching though. Surprisingly  there are other videos on the Caucasus in WW1, not surprising most are not in English though often dubbed or subtitled. 

Meanwhile planning of forces is going hand to hand on work rolling the backstory back to when there were supposed to be free range Cossacks or Circassians in what has since become known as Atlantica. The shift to the
South Atantic has helped.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Preparing for the Fall Campaigning Season

"Yes, I know that I approved the order,  Willoughby, but still, I mean, it IS rather a bright yellow don't you think?"

"Never mind, it is very modern after all and as you say, in the Fall, the ripe grain fields can be quite yellow.   Should do very nicely. Well done........Now, explain to me again why you had them paint little targets on the side?."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Once More Unto the Bridge!

After a bit of experimenting with possible alternates, I jotted down some brief rules notes and reset the table.
Turn 2. One company of British skirmishers has been driven back by NY Riflemen and a chance card has halted the 104th but otherwise, things are going smoothly.
This time the fort was defended by a 2 company battalion of Miitia aided by an independent company of Riflemen. The reinforcement consisted of a 4 company battalion of Regulars and another company of riflemen all under the recovered General Wavey.

The British were now deployed as 2 separate companies of skirmishers, 1 each  of indians and sedentary militia skirmishers, a 6 pounder and the 5 company strong 104th Foot.

Each company was represented by 4 figures and could take 4 hits. For formed battalions, 1 company is removed for each 4 hits. Each company fights with 1 die  except artillery which get 2. A unit taking hits equal to the number of stands left after applying hits checks morale. Isolated units need to roll to move.
Near the end of the game. All is yet to play for but the British appear to have the upper hand.
The turns clicked over so quickly I forgot to take pictures.

The Indians quickly crossed over the river  and then refused to move for most of the rest of the game until finally they rushed forward, took 1 hit and fled back into the woods. Between control checks, 1 shot and a morale test they managed 10 x 1's and 2's out of 11 die rolls!

The British skirmishers eventually managed to gang up on the riflemen and see them off while the gun and militia slowly picked off the garrison until they could take no more and on turn 14 they decamped.

That left the clash of the regulars, 4 companies vs 5. At this point, I'd like to launch an official complaint. In both games I used the same dice for both sides and in both games the smaller American force outshot the British one! Hrmmph!

Anyway as the two forces battled it out the larger size of the British battalion kept it in the fight but then about turn 13, the 104th appeared to reel under a particularly heavy US volley so Col. St. George pushed forward into the ranks, took a deep breathe and was shot from the saddle.  The 104th didn't retreat but they refused to move forward and occupy the empty blockhouse. Leaving General Wavey the chance to re-occupy with the brave but battered regulars on the last turn of the game thus saving the day for American honour.

Same scenario, roughly the same small forces but this time instead of a slow, 2 hour game that was over on turn 10 of 15, I had a quick paced game lasting about 45 minutes with several turns of fortune and a squeeker of a last minute win.

It was the sort of game where one forgets to stop and take pictures.

The poor Brits though! Out of 15 Initiative cards there were 6 face cards drawn. Two red jacks allowing the US to freeze the 104th twice on their approach march, 2 jokers meaning there ended up only being 13 turns instead of 15, a black King allowing an American unit to both move and fire and a black Ace with a chance of Gen Wavey being hit by stray bullet which he survived. Bloody cards are almost as biased as the dice!

When I get the scribbled notes written up I will post them but there are figures to work on too!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Double Crossing.

It was cold, damp and breezy yesterday.  Not good weather for house painting or many other things but just fine weather for  playing with toy soldiers.

"Pour it on Boys!"
(Irregular Mtd Officer, Scruby Infantry, original homecast foot officers and militia, Prince August Indians when they appear. All 40mm except 42mm Irregular and Prince August figs))
I confess to having been reluctant to turn to MacDuff and bothered that this should be the case but I persevered since this is exactly the sort of game that it was designed for. Since  I didn't feel like running back and forth around the table I skipped the 1 card per unit/formation activation approach in favour of drawing for initiative. That was probably a mistake as was splitting the light companies into smaller units.
The game begins. The British mission is to seize and destroy the blockhouse and bridge.
The Americans  began with a company of militia in the blockhouse supported by a detachment of riflemen (1/2 company). The rest of the riflemen and 2 companies of Regulars, led by General Wavey, are just marching on  from the far corner of the table.

Closer to the camera, Colonel St.George is leading the 4 companies of the 104th foot, supported by a 6 pounder and 3 half-companies of Indians and militia, to take the blockhouse and destroy the bridge.

A scale of 1 figure = 5 men would have been appropriate for this sort of action, giving forces of 160 men vs 230 men, but the ground scale is at roughly 1"=10 yards meaning those numbers should really be doubled to 320 vs 460 making the engagement a bit larger than one would expect.

Numbers matter but sometimes the numbers on the dice matter more than the number of figures! 
Having decided not to try to batter down the blockhouse with a 6 pounder, the various skirmishers were detailed to see off the enemy riflemen on the flanks or at least keep them occupied while the 104th formed line and advanced straight at 'em.

The completely biased dice helped prolong things as the deadly American shooting balanced their inferior numbers for a while. Once their General went down though and the British finally started levelling their volleys better, the American Regulars were forced to retire with heavy losses. The British were then able to capture the blockhouse with the bayonet with time to spare.

So, a very small but two hour long game taking up barely 2/3 of the available turns. Despite some frustrations from the variable length moves and a few tense or frustrating moments of combat when the dice seemed to be playing favourites, on the whole, the game was OK  but not more. It wasn't the sort of game to inspire me to paint or play more of the same.

At last the American Regulars have had enough and Colonel St. George leads his tired men in a charge on the blockhouse. Just as well he did lead them in person or they'd not have made it.

The game reminded of all the things that I don't like about Solo MacDuff. One rolls an awful lot of dice, and spends a lot of time running back and forth around the table while the game takes a (relatively) long time to play with too much rolling of dice and too little thinking. The large number of dice also means usually average results despite the occasional upset. Most of these things fade away with two or more players as you are only rolling 1/2 the dice and have to try to figure out what your opponent is thinking as well as worrying about which unit will activate next.

It took a lot of reflection and some idle pushing of figures about and considering of options to sort things out. Basically, it isn't a matter of me needing to "fix" a set of rules that weren't designed to fill my current desire or of me "having" to try to reconstruct historical small actions as accurately as I can, scales and all. It's a matter of me allowing myself to play games of toy soldiers set in an historical rather than a fictional setting.

The Square Brigadier has proven a good choice for that sort of game for larger battles where a formed battalion will fit in one square but for lower level skirmishes I have yet to settle on a satisfactory rule to handle multi-square (or hex) battalions though treating adjacent 'companies' as separate, supporting units is probably the most practical approach if not fully satisfactory.

However, before the "Grid", and the  "Square Brigadier" or the "Portable Wargame", there was Hearts of Tin which was not grid based. I've been looking for a chance to re-incorporate these rules into my arsenal and this could be it!

Reset the table! Places everyone! 

Next post. Game two!