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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Plans and Contact

"They" do say that the one never survives the other for long.

The first of several gratuitous shots of Toy Soldiers in battle.
I did play the game in the teaser shots with a handful of 6 figure units on each side. Of course, I tweaked the rules to suit having fewer but larger units. The resulting game was pretty good with an 11th hour victory but I was too busy playing to remember to take pictures. Worse, it brought my mind back to my uncertainties about  certain aspects of the then current version of my Tin Army/Square Brigadier rules which I've been honing for my WW1 game.

There was only one real option then, reset and play a game with my standard organization and rules. The shorter ranges and so on of an 1870's game would have some effect on the feel but already armies were fighting primarily with firing lines and supports so the game mechanics would remain relevant.

Game 2. Back to normal, let the game begin again! 
The resulting half a game was OK BUT all of my concerns showed up. Basically rules that were supposed to help bring out the feel of units having trouble advancing under fire while making the players feel like they were in charge and not just trying to survive the dice were driving the game off track. I realized part way through that as a player my attention was focused on company commander decisions, not Brigadier/Force Commander ones and that the rules supposedly designed to encourage typical brigade formations and tactics were resulting in some very questionable game tactics.

Gratuitous shot from game 2 or maybe 3...

I knew the basics of the rules were sound  so it had to be the combined effect of misdirected intent and the particular implementation of various sub-rules that I have been fiddling with. Several hours later I had a revised version of the rules, sufficiently more Tin Army than Square Brigadier and for the same reason that the two both exist.

In essence the re-revised rules removed various low level tactical choices such as "go pinned or suck it up and press on" from the player and automated them, leaving the player to fight his whole force rather than focusing too much on individual units in isolation. I also followed the old Tin Army versions and again removed the old Square Brigadier rally rules while at the same time stopping the risk of a unit being quickly swept away by long range fire. (Close range fighting, say under 150 yards, is as deadly as ever.) This is enhanced by the retention of a modified support rule to reflect the stress placed on the value of support in so many low level battle accounts.

As hoped, the third game flowed better, the armies maintained battalion formations because they worked, not because they had to. As player I had fewer unit level decisions to make and this kept my eye on the over all battle while keeping me constantly scared!

Game 3.  From tied but on the cusp of a US victory on turn 12 of 15 to sudden US collapse followed by a Canadian victory on turn 14. 

Of course, whether this is all in my head or not will have to wait for the next multi-player game.






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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Another day, Another River Crossing

At last, the books for my wife's grooming shop are done and our tax stuff (technical term there) submitted with 2 weeks to go!  Time to play.
I still have some figure painting, terrain construction and play testing to do for  Huzzah but I just wanted to play a simple game, no strings attached. So, I broke open One Hour  Wargames and selected a River Crossing scenario that I don't remember playing. (Note: I may have played it but since I don't remember without checking its close enough.)  Then I turned to my shelves to pick a period and armies: 54mm traditional toy soldiers or 40mm semi-flat 18th C?

Or maybe one game of each.......
Somewhere in the Red River Valley. 
Well, its all set up but... I'm out of time! Tomorrow then.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Veterans Clash in the Valley

Wargame Armies and projects come and the go but sometimes they come back!  So it was with Paul's 25mm Minifig ECW army  which he painted in the 1970's. As it happens, they not only came back to him after the demise of our friend Joseph a few years ago, but they came with extra units from various sources including a contingent of Scots both painted and unpainted.

When the quarterly public Table Top Gaming day came up in Kingston in the Annapolis Valley, Paul volunteered to get them table ready if I provided rules and a scenario. Jeff with his much more recent 28mm ECW hordes, which he uses with either Baroque or Victory Without Quarter, was unavailable so I decided to write a one page, quick play set suitable for the occasion.

After much sorting and rebasing to a common standard, Paul was able to field 11 regiments of Pike and Shot, each 18 strong, 1 unit of 12 highlanders, 9 squadrons of cavalry including 1 of cuirassiers, 2 of Scots and 2 of dragoons, each 6 strong, and 6 guns. I still had one unit of Scots pike, 2 of highlanders and a squadron of cavalry. Paul had 2 mounted Generals and I had 2 left over cavalrymen which were quickly promoted. Another commander per army would have been useful.

Given the mix of troops available I decided to go with a scenario inspired by some of Montrose's victories and secretly added 2 more units of medieval Highlanders without mentioning it to Paul.

The Covenanters rush onto the table hoping to sweep away the tiny holding force before it could be reinforced.
In order to set the scene properly I found myself obliged to brief Paul and Martin with what they were supposed to believe  which is that their rapid approach march had surprised the enemy and that they would be reinforced  as the game went on so speed was of the essence. Their deployment was an area 1 foot deep and two feet wide centred on the road.

The truth, of course, was that those reinforcements were already on table, lurking in ambush on the flanks.

Paul puts on his Battle Face.
It took a little longer than I had hoped for us to get sorted out and started but eventually we got there. 

Paul commanded the left of the  Covenant force with the bulk of the infantry and artillery while Martin took the left with most of the cavalry.


Brent, not worried at all by the apparent 3:1 odds.
Brent was given command of the on table portion of the Royalists. While I had the luxury of beginning as a non-playing GM, at least until some of Martin's Dragoons stumbled into a stray unit of Highlanders lurking in some woods.

The red dots mark 'out of command' units that must make an initiative roll before moving.
Since Martin decided to send his cavalry sweeping around the flank, it didn't take long to find the lurking Highlanders. I figured that would give the whole thing away but apparently it didn't. It did slow down that flank though and twice the Highlanders managed to catch a unit in flank as it tried to march past the wood. 

The Scots cavalry get impatient
As Brent watched the flood of cavalry approaching his sole unit, he decided to launch a preemptive strike. He had a theoretical shock bonus on the initial round but the dice were not kind to him.


Confusion reigns!
One of my units of Highlanders had been inspired to support our cavalry by charging into the flank of another enemy cavalry unit and they fared much better. Luckily, the Dragoons resisted the urge to intervene (failed initiative) while the Highlanders swiftly fell back to cover and resumed sniping.
The battle rages across the table. 
On the other side of the field I watched the enemy continue to rush everyone forward without throwing out a flank guard. I'm still not sure why I initially flung only one unit of Highlanders into the open flank but it was very nearly a disastrous decision. Luck was with me however and eventually the enemy broke, leaving my two units to spend most of the rest of the game trying to rally sufficiently to resume the attack. 
The Crunch approaches!
Thus far the Royalist forces had given slightly better than they had taken but the day was yet young and the Covenant forces had pressed on, sublimely indifferent to the any threat to their flanks. Now they were about to assail the main position with more than 2:1 odds, infantry in front and cavalry to the flank.  The battle was a long way from decided.

ALAS! At this point in the game, Brent had to leave and the cameraman got involved in heavy hand to hand fighting all along the line.

In short the assaults on the ridge were held, both against the infantry to the front and the cavalry to the flank. Casualties were heavy on both sides though and the Royalist infantry were very glad to see their cavalry reserve rolling up over the hill on their left flank and into the flank  of the attacking enemy supported by a final swarm of Highlanders.

My old Valdurian Horse still has it!
When the end came, it came swiftly.  The sole unit of Covenant Horse on their right had been prepared for an attack over the hill and put up a fight but were eventually swarmed by Highlanders as well as the cavalry.

The pikemen in the centre however had been hotly engaged in a firefight to the front when the Royalist cavalry not only hit them in flank but rolled up on the dice and went through them like a hot knife. As the Royalist foot  began to advance down off the hill, the whole Covenant centre started to break.

The left wing  Covenant foot attempted to turn and move to reinforce the centre but the Dragoons again refused to come forward and cover their open flank and again my Highlanders could not restrain themselves.

The whole army dissolved in rout.
Late in the day the Covenant right and centre broke and the battle was suddenly over. The Royalist army had suffered terribly though and one more turn might have seen them break before the flank attack could have the desired effect.
So ended the first wargame for Paul's revived Minifig ECW armies but it won't be the last.

It took us about a little over an hour to  get organized, chat about this and that, set up the table and sort the troops. The game itself took about three hours to play about 10 of 15 possible turns and was close and hard fought. As a bonus we just may have enticed a suitable recruit to join us in a future game or two.

All in all a Saturday well spent!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Post-game Teaser

Just back from the game in Kingston, NS.
 For now I'll just say it was an enjoyable day out and a close game.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Whiling Away a Rainy Day

It was a dark and stormy morning with lots of wind and rain and no electricity. By 8 am all was back to normal but the mood was set and I did not feel like doing housework, or bookwork or even working on stuff for Huzzah!. I cleared my table and was on the point of flipping open OHW  and grabbing some 54mm toy soldiers when it occurred to me that I could fudge a test game of the new one page ECW rules using my 16th C lads.

The Scots prepare to defend against a horde of invading foreigners, doubtless in English pay. 
 The Scots ended up with 2 units of cavalry, 2 of pike and shot, 2 of highlanders and a heavy gun. The "English" brought a unit of Cuirassiers, 1 of cavalry, 1 of Dragoons, 3 pike and shot and a light gun. The invaders only had a slight advantage in "power" if not numbers  so the onus to attack was placed on them. If the game was a tie the Scots would win.
The English Dragoons pushed forward to "amuse" the Highlanders and attacked with the Cuirassiers while the rest marched forward at best speed. 
The Scots horse were tougher than they looked and the opposing cavalry destroyed each other as fighting units. In the centre the opposing infantry are pushing their pikes and the Highlanders on the left have decided that they can take the enemy pike now that the artillery and Scots musketeers have filled them full of 6's. 


The last few Highlanders on the left have fallen back to let the Scots pike take over but the central block of Scots have broken for the rear. Its time for a final, deciding cavalry brawl with both Generals in the front rank while the Highlanders on the right are bored with this futile shooting business. 

The Dragoons have scattered but the Scots General is down, his cavalry broken and his artillery captured.
"Back tae the hills"!
I found a couple of minor oopsies which I have fixed: Heavy guns were supposed to have +1 per die for superior firepower, not +1 die, isolated units were supposed to dice to see if they could move and there were originally 4 dice per unit in melee to heighten tension so I have restored that.

All in all though, it worked as intended. As with all one page set of rules, there were lots of bits of detail and flavour missing but I think the essentials worked and they should be easy to pick up. Tomorrows game will see about twice the number of units and 2-4 players. Bring it on.

Monday, April 9, 2018

"By the sea we will gather for the fight"

This coming Saturday is the next Table Top Games Day in Kentville and Paul is busy refurbishing a host of old Minifig ECW figures.

I've pledged a scenario and a set of quick play, easy to pickup, rules but I figured I should wake up my own contingent of Minifig Scots.

Serving since the mid 1970's under a Macfarlane battle flag with officers in my first ever attempt at painting a Macfarlane tartan.
(I'd never seen the real thing at the time) 
The pikemen, archers and a few of the cavalry date from my college days, some of the very few, new, chunky style, Minifigs I ever bought. When the style changed, I changed to Garrison! The musketeers and lancers conversions from my revival of this forces in 2010/11. (check the ECW label for more). The Highland contingent  has been swollen by a contingent from the collection of the late John C Robertson sent along by Tim (see Megablitz blog)

The whole contingent, such as it is.
They're only outnumbered 10:1, shouldn't be a problem.
The one page rules can be found here (click) but be warned, Saturday's game will be their first play test.

For those who are wondering about the post title (I know, I know, not strictly relevant but...):


Friday, April 6, 2018

Meanwhile, behind the scenes

Sometimes even being retired doesn't provide enough time. However work goes on behind the scenes.

"The Plowman homeward plods his weary way." 
(leaving the fields 1/2 plowed, the lazy sod!)
I had been pondering an expedition to find a new piece of cloth for a wargame battlemat for Huzzah! but its just not going to happen. This old rag will have to do despite being a foot short and having a few  slips of the pen from when I quickly drew on a 5" test grid a few years ago.

The initial plan for Huzzah! had been to be just drop sand roads and woods templates onto the table as part of set up but that's a nuisance to get right in a hurry at a Con. An easy, fast, setup alternative that I've used a few times in the last 20 years is to paint the scenario terrain onto the mat and just plonk down trees, houses, etc onto the marked template on the day. That work is now in progress.

Early days yet, but in my head, it already reminds me of the play mats in the old  Marx Mini-Masterpiece Boxed Sets.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

SPECIAL EDITION: THE FOX IS IN THE HENNS


Report on the  Expedition to Greater Henn Island

During the two years that followed the Air, Land and Sea Expedition up the Neverwaussie River, the North-East of Atlantica had been very quiet and coastal trade had flourished. Recently, however, there had been increasing reports of criminal attacks on shipping and coastal settlements in the area and Her Majesty ordered her government to deal with the matter.  Intelligence  reports indicated that an abandoned town on Greater Henn Island had been reoccupied and was being used as a base for the Brethren of the Coast. An expedition was hastily assembled and dispatched by sea.
The Brethren  lurking in ambush in a patch of jungle.
By the time our force of 6 battalions of infantry including 2 companies of light infantry, 2 companies of Victoria Rifles, a Naval 18 pounder and the Faraway Trading Company Rocket Battery had landed, the morning was well advanced.

Having scouted the enemy positions which appeared  to consist primarily of an earth and wood redoubt on a low hill,  General Turner sent Brigadier Stoneforte with the Rifles, Green Tigers and Buffs across a ford on our left while  Brigadier Spye with two battalions of the Brooklyn Fusiliers was to cross a bridge near the ruined town. The Naval artillery and Rocket battery were to deploy in the middle and pound the redoubt to rubble. The Royal Fusiliers formed our reserve.

A balloon's eye view of the battlefield.
As the Fusiliers approached the abandoned town they were met by a deadly volley of musketry. It soon became clear that the Brethren had allies! The presence of White coated regulars pointed to support from the neighbouring Kingdom of Kyuquat but even more alarming was the presence of a body of determined men in a ragtag assortment of Oberhilsian uniforms.

Our first attack was repulsed but the men rallied handily and the bridge was soon taken. A gruelling street fight followed and it took most of the day to clear the town and move forward to assault the redoubt.

On our left flank, the Rifles pressed forward to engage enemy snipers in a patch of jungle while the main columns marched rapidly to assail the redoubt.  Suddenly a band of ragged pirates armed with cutlasses, axes and clubs burst out of the jungle  onto the flank of the lead column. Taken by surprise the Tigers broke and ran, a sight even more surprising than the appearance of the enemy. They bolted back through the Buffs and swept them away as well. 
In the foreground, street fighting rages but in the distance the red columns have skirted the wood and are approaching the redoubt.
With their usual elan, the Rocket Troop galloped forward and deployed. Soon rockets were wooshing up into the air making a tremendous display of modern warfare as their smoke trails wove intricate patterns in the sky. The answering roar from the redoubt showed that the enemy had dismounted some of their heaviest naval guns to arm the redoubt and they knew the range! It seems they also had a furnance and a red hot shot landing square on an ammunition cart caused a huge explosion. The surviving members of the rocket battery were obliged to fall back until a new supply of rockets could be landed. The Naval gunners dragged their guns forward and took up the duel. They were alone and in the open but they knew their business and soon silenced the pirate battery. 
The final assault
At last, the town and jungle had been cleared, the Buffs and Tigers rallied and all was ready for the final assault. A bugle rang out and from both flanks our soldiers rushed forward with a cheer, bayonets gleaming as the last rays of the setting sun hit them.

The last handful of Oberhilse volunteers put up a tough fight but they were too few and soon swept aside. The main body of Brethren fought fiercely but even they started to waver but that old Black Fox  was there and held them to their work. Our men had to fall back briefly and when they renewed the assault, the enemy had gone. 

Darkness comes fast in these parts once the sun drops below the horizon and to chase these devils into the jungle in the dark is madness.  We'll probably never know why they stood to meet us or why they fought so hard to hold us there. Was this only a rearguard to cover the evacuation of stores and treasure? or perhaps to give a larger allied force time to manoeuvre?

In any event, we collected our dead and wounded and retired to the fleet while we tried to convince ourselves that this was a victory because we had eventually taken the ground and driven them off. In truth though, it felt more like they had left of their own free will when their job was done. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Diversion

I'm not used to being this focused on one period and one scenario and I felt like it was time for a break. Something quick and simple and different, then I could get back to "work".

I had a vague image in my head of a mid-18thC NQSYW petite guerre scenario, an ambush perhaps,  but since I wanted something quick and easy I turned to Thomas's One Hour Wargames.
The Wolf Regiment and Freedom Legion Volunteers prepare to defend the ruins of a once busy town.

OK, this wasn't what I had in mind but when I flipped the book open I found myself looking at the last scenario. This is an example of a Last Stand and one of the few scenarios in the book that I hadn't tried yet.


I could tell you how the game went but I believe that a reporter from the Newport Noodle was present with the Red Queen's troops so we can expect the Noodle to publish a report ere long.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hotchkisses

Another hurdle overcome, sort of.
The Zouaves and Chasseurs now have an MG each.

I thought making Maxims was stretching my scratch building skills until I turned to the French army's Hotchkiss machne guns.
Thank you  whoever I borrowed this picture of a Hotchkiss from. 
Rather than a big fat water filled sleeve with a  big breech section and tripod,  the air cooled Hotchkiss has a thin barrel with another thin cylinder (gas?) underneath, with a big complex base connecting the gun to a tripod.

The tricky bit was the thinness of the barrel and other cylinder and the scarcity of materials, tools and techniques on hand for me to work with. After rejecting various fiddly possibilities which, in the unlikely event that they were successful,  would have been very fragile on the table, I finally remembered that I still had some sprues of 1/35th WWII bits in the cupboard including some air cooled German light machine guns and some ammo boxes. 
A very crude portrayal of the pedestal and there are no fins but....
Oddly, despite being 1/35 item used with 1/43rd-ish figures, they look a bit too short and thin to my eye but they'll do.

The Zouaves are now ready for battle.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Meeting a Tiger in the Woods

On Thursday Ron and I had another go at WWII and a Grant Teaser.


The scenario came from Scenarios for Wargames. A force, Canadian as it happened, is fixing a bridge over a river. Across the river the main road runs through a dense patch of woods so an advance party has been posted to block any German counter attack. There is a secondary bridge and ford off to one side. The Canadians have to hold the main bridge and deny any bridgehead to the Germans.

A Tiger, always a Tiger!
 For rules we used the Airfix Battles rules but not the action deck. Instead, for reasons I can't  really remember but which may have had something to do with wanting a simple Old School feel, we decided to just determine initiative with a card draw then each act with 4 units then determine initiative again. We agreed to alternately activate 1 unit each with the possibility of an initiative flip allowing the sort of double move the Airfix card system gives but promptly forgot and went 4 then 4. 

The result of a flip giving a double turn had some of the effect of the missing tactical cards but next time we might just use the original card system. We'll see when the time comes.

Please imagine various knocked out German tanks as well as a pile of bodies near the far end of the bridge!
The scenario called for a light cavalry unit to be broken into 4 patrols to advance along secret forest paths. Given the card stats crossed with available models, this became 4 35T tanks using an Sdsomethingorother stats card. My brain knew this but eyes saw my force being attacked by 5 German tanks! It wasn't until the first one was blown up by a Piat that I relaxed a little.

The rest of his force included a Tiger, a platoon of Pzr Grenadiers in a halftrack, a pair of antitank guns and a long line of trucks carrying infantry.

My defenders consisted of 3 infantry platoons, some engineers, a 6 pdr, a 25 pdr using the stats of a German 75mm PAK since that was the only card on hand with HE and AT capability, a Bren Carrier and a Churchill w 75mm gun and generous stats.  We definitely need to start making our own unit stats for Ron's stuff that's not covered.
End of the day. Crossing Held!
It seemed highly unlikely to me that any of my guys were going to survive but one must do what one can. What can I say, I got lucky. Lucky as in my Churchill was damned lucky both when shooting and when shot at and lucky as in none of my many tactical errors had a serious impact while Ron made one or two small decisions and one error (as in unlimbering 1 hex short) that cost him dearly because my tank got lucky!

All in all it was a very enjoyable, intense, 4 hours of pushing toys around the table, rolling dice, and pitting wits against "the foe". 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Aux armes, citoyens, Formez vos batteries!

I decided that my WWI French force deserved its own artillery.


I have two more Crescent WW1 18 pdrs in hand but while the Germans are making do with the same somehow it just did not seem right to make the French do the same. None the less,  I did not have a 75 to give them.

I decided to check the cupboard and this is what I found:


What I found was a cheap copy of a Marx howitzer, a surplus Sash & Sabre Napoleonic cannon, and some cardboard, later replaced by some thin plywood.

Oddly enough my childhood Marx  Miniature Masterpiece Over The Top WW1 playset included  a 25mm version of this same howitzer for the French.

Anyway, putting these bits together gave me this:


As an accurate model its a disgrace, as a toy gun, I rather like it and so do "mes enfants"!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Maintaining the Aim

There are many things to think about when preparing to run a participation game at a convention but the primary aim  MUST be to provide an enjoyable experience for the gamers who have committed their money and time to sign up and play. 

Sunday's game using the Tin Army variant of the Square Brigadier.
From my experience, there are some key elements to keep in mind for a multi-player game with strict time limits where the players will be unfamiliar with the rules. It must be possible for gamers to pick up enough from the briefing to be able to make a battle plan  and make reasonable tactical decisions and be able to play fast enough to reach a conclusion before the time is up. Beyond that players should each have enough of a force to keep them busy without being overwhelmed and should have the opportunity to make small decisions throughout the game rather than just being woken up periodically to roll some dice. Its also best if the game is somewhat interactive so they stay focused on the game during the enemy's turn rather than wandering off to see what's happening elsewhere.  I also prefer to avoid all or nothing situations or rules where one or two unlucky die rolls can put a player out of the game early on. 
Another midgame shot.  The Allies are feeling confident of another victory but the day is not yet over.
The game on Saturday was OK but I didn't feel like it would deliver what I described above. I let it stew awhile and decided to try again with changing the sequence of play to A moves, B fires, resolve melee while stripping out some of the finicky bits as well as bringing back the option to cancel a hit by "going to ground" (ie "pinned"). These are all part of the 2014 Square Brigadier variant that I called "the Tin Army".

So much for rules, I also fiddled with the OB's to provide 4 clear commands on each side, each with  a battalion or equivalent. Artillery was shared out with the hope that players will negotiate the best use for it in the absence of an on table player CinC. 

End of the game, the Germans have seized the outlying farm but their attempts to go further were blocked by the armoured car and artillery. 
The result was a game that flowed much better and was interactive all the way through. It also saw repeated German attacks being repulsed while allied losses grew until finally, some of  the gaps couldn't be filled. A final push followed by a weak 11th hour counterattack saw the game end with the Germans ahead by 3 VP's to 2.

End of game on the far flank. 

This was the first time the Germans had even come close and it was close. I liked the flow and I think the rules will be easy for people to grasp. I'm comfortable that I can take this to Huzzah so now I can focus on adding some missing figures and working on terrain before another play through in late April or early May, hopefully with live guinea pigs again.

Link to the Tin Army variant of the Square Brigadier