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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

An Ether Wargame

Today I "Hungout" at  Rob's place  2,000 km away for a playtest of our Ambush scenario for Huzzah.

End Game. The ambushers will retire and the wagons will make it through.
Photo by Rob since I couldn't figure out how to do a screen capture on the new version of Google Hangouts.

We had a host of unrelated technical problems but we overcame them and managed a good play through and chat. We also tweaked the rules to help them run a little quicker and more decisively in aid of reaching a conclusion within out timeslot. The OB will also be tweaked a little.

One month to go!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Well, I did have my doubts BUT.....

It had to be tried.

The Grand Experiment grinds to a halt as the list of unresolved rules questions begins to grow exponentially.
I had previously  tried a similar approach using the Square Brigadier but this was going to be less abstract and enable me to fight reasonable recreations of small historical actions like the Battles of Ridgeway and Cut Knife Creek. It took nearly two turns for me to decide that if I added a lot of detail, dealt with all the grey areas  and made a bunch of markers to track unit status etc, it might turn into a reasonable wargame. It was never going to be the sort of fast easy game of toy soldiers that I was looking for though.

The armies have now been quickly but gently nudged back into their natural units, the rules adjusted and the battle resumed. 

Without pausing for second thought, I shuffled the units back into their usual 8 figure units (whatever they represent) . This gave each side 3 small Brigades each of 2 battalions, plus a small brigade of 2 cavalry squadrons and a battery. Too big for an historical Fenian Battle but just right for a Toy Solider game. 

I then quickly implemented the other set of movement and combat rules that I had  been planning to use when I set the game out then I  continued to play.
Fighting rages around North Farm.

At this moment, the rules are just a few scribbled notes flushed out by habit but the four page version will be written up in short order and expanded later.  What follows is a brief look at some of the mechanics.

Basically the game follows an old Don Featherstone sequence from Battles with Model Soldiers with a Card draw each turn (Don used a die roll)  to see who goes first that turn.  The turn them proceeds as follows:  1st player moves, 2nd player moves, 2nd player shoots, 1st player shoots, resolve charges and melee. One of the reasons I like this because the player going second MIGHT get a double move so the 1st player always has to keep that in mind. It is also balanced with the 2nd player having the advantage of first shot.

All situational die modifiers are as ruled by umpire or by consensus between players. (An idea I borrowed from a friend. It is simple and effective and reminds me of Kriegsspiel with an umpire.)

The battle lines are heavily engaged, The Fort Henry Guard is reserve, the only unit still formed for rapid marching rather than deployed for combat .

Shooting is 1 die per 2 figures (artillery counts the limber crew to give them 3 dice. Long range hits on 6, Medium 5,6, Close 4,5,6. +1 if unit is deemed to have an advantage (sharpshooter, enfilade etc), -1 if the unit is at a disadvantage (tgt in cover etc) 

Melee is the same process but  1d per figure for 5,6 then modified for advantages and disadvantages.

General Douglas had to intervene personally to reinforce his order to the cavalry to charge but Col. Denison's reluctance was justified when the attack up the hill into heavy carbine fire was repulsed with losses including the good Colonel himself.

Morale is checked if a unit takes shooting casualties of at least 25% of current strength or if it loses a melee or the situation requires it. 4,5,6 OK, 1,2,3 Halt no advance, 0 Retreat full move test to rally next turn. +1 If Elite or in an especially advantageous situation -1  if Militia or in a bad situation (eg flanked, isolated etc) , -1 @25% lost to date. +1 joined by an inspiring commander.

The Rebels are pressing the attack on the Farm. Heavy fire from William's Rebel Brigade which has turned the flank has reduced the 2nd Highlanders to 1/2 strength but these Veterans brace themselves  as the enemy closes in. Coming on top of the repulsed cavalry attack it looks bad for the Dominion.
Lastly I brought back a version of my old control check from the 1980's which has appeared in various formats ever since. An isolated unit or detached commander  must check when activated:
5,6 No retreat, take appropriate aggressive action
3,4 Act as player wishes
1,2 No Advance.
Modify for situation and Commander personality.

Never say die!
A  heavy fire from the Grenadiers has broken the the Elite Zouaves as the cavalry, having rallied, has returned to the charge. Eager to revenge their fallen leader they ride over the Rebel cavalry.  On the far flank the rebel 2nd Infantry is shattered by rifle fire from the Highlanders and the 3rd Brigade commander decides that he is not going to sacrifice his men in an assault on that farm.. As the sun sets, neither farm has fallen but the Rebels have lost 4 units out of 9 and are now outflanked and outnumbered. The Dominion has taken some heavy casualties but has not lost a unit. The field is theirs.

I'm already looking forward to the next game.

That this video was one of the musical selections played in the background might or might not have affected my Redcoats' performance in battle. I should really paint up a small band for each side shouldn't I?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Reconnaissance by Fire

Since my logical mind was having trouble figuring out exactly what my emotional mind was looking for,  I decided to try laying out the soldiers and more or less pushing them around to see what developed and let the rules take shape as I went. So far it seems to be working.
5 turns in, this encounter battle is starting to develop nicely. 
Here's what I have figured out so far. None of it is really new to me but it is a slightly different mix that seems to be developing.

A. The grid stays.

B.  I want the lowest level of unit to fit in a grid square and I want to keep the 4" grid so my basic 54mm "companies"/"squadrons" will be old Square Brigadier  units of  4 infantry or 3 cavalry because that fits regardless of pose.

C. I want a  hierarchical organization lie the original MacDuff where a group of companies  plus a commander forms a larger unit which in turn is formed of a commander plus a number of mid-level units. At this point, 2-4 "companies"  plus a Commander form a "Brigade" (battalions of detachments really brigaded in the old sense).

D. I miss having subordinate commanders with personalities and want to go back there, even if its just a simple Rash, Bold, Cautious sort of thing.

E. I want the player to be in control even if there are situations where things don't happen the way he wanted. So no activation rolls or card activation but commanders who are more than 3 squares away the general will take a control check each turn which might affect what they do. I have kept the turn initiative and chance card deck to shake things up a bit.

F. I want manoeuvre to be important so I have lengthened moves and kept ranges short.

G. I want the game to operate simultaneously at what are essentially different scales, like Charge! did with its 3 company battalions or The Wargame with 2 battalion Brigades and historical battles refought by a handful or battalions over a battlefield drawn up using a different scale than the rules so that the whole thing works.

Well, that's a start anyway and I'm liking the feel that is starting to emerge. Its going to need more than 2 sides of a piece of paper to describe but I expect to be able to play and post more over the weekend.