Tuesday, January 21, 2020

As the Dust Settles

This may sound over optimistic but after the last half decade of poking, prodding, experimenting and exploring, I think I may have just finally agreed with me and myself about what we want from the Square Brigadier.

 Well, until I get a brand new idea perhaps.

The rules are available here (click) .
The armies march on and deploy.
The game was a meeting engagement over random terrain with victory conditions being determined after laying it out.  (
Capture a road exit on the enemy's baseline while stopping him from grabbing one on your baseline.) Each side had 4 "Brigades" totalling 14 units. Some dicing resulted in Blue having 4 cavalry, 8 infantry and 2 guns while Red had 2 cavalry 10 infantry and 2 guns.
Anyway all of the old ideas have been tried in various combinations as well as every alternative or new idea that has come to me over the last 6 years and most had some merits and some faults but when push came to shove, every attempt to make the rules more detailed or flavourful, or gamey (sic) eventually failed when tested and I'm left pretty near where I started  and originally got so excited because despite past preferences, I had discovered that I now liked the feel of this quick simple set of rules where the tactical details were below the grain forcing me to focus on over all battle plans and when and where to pull back or push ahead and when and where to throw in what reserves I had managed to hold on to. 

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story:
The lines engage.

On the far side of the table, Blue's guns struggle to silence the Red gun while Red's infantry start pushing around Blue's right causing heavy losses to the Bluecoat Brigade. The center is a stand off. 

As Blue's losses grow and the sun sinks (along with the remaining stack of turn cards), Red sends his whole line forward with orders to "Attack!". 

The Grey Coat Brigade managed to hold back twice their numbers backed by artillery but on the far flank, Red's artillery and infantry forced back Blue's cavalry and artillery. In the end Red's cavalry swept forward routing the Blue cavalry and overrunning their artillery. 

Time to get back to some converting and painting.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

OK Enough Fun, Time To Get Back To Work

Yesterday Jeff, (http://armchaircommander.blogspot.com/) hosted a group of Nova Scotia wargamers for a 15mm  Nappy's Battle of Friedland game.  Hopefully he will be posting a Blog post including some of the great pics he posted on FB.

(Thanks for these pics Gary )
The Russian Right Wing commander trying to balance questionable command decisions with even more questionable die rolling. Luckily as many a Russian commander knows: "Quantity has a Quality of its own" and I errr..I mean..."he" eventually  crossed the streams and stormed the village on the hill with great loss despite the 5:1 odds.....(against my opponent ).
I will admit to a tinge of nostalgia at the sight of a table, loaded with 15mm troops yet not crowded, BUT, given that I needed to don reading glasses and peer closely to tell one unit from another, I'm not tempted to rebuild my 'lost' 15mm armies. Actually, I don't need to, apart from the horde of 15mm figures Jeff has painted, he has also acquired used figures from several different people including a bunch of my old 1799 Austrians and Russians, some of the latter which I have had the pleasure to command in battle again from time to time.

The rules are not really to my taste but by the end of this game, I was finally beginning to get a grip on them and enjoyed the battle despite several faux pas due largely to not yet having a sufficient understanding of the rules to properly assess risk. Of course, now that I'm getting a handle on the rules, the four NB Franco-Russian battles that Jeff had planned to fight are over! None the less, knowledge is never wasted and it was a good day in good company.

I even finally managed to play alongside the Fiery Monkey Boy at last!(see http://themonkeythatwalks.blogspot.com/2020/01/a-new-hope.html  for more pics and comments)  
FWIW The Russian Dragoons in Bicornes  are some of my old Battlehonours 1799 figures. In 15mm, the uniform anachronisms get a little lost in the crowd once you step back.

Meantime, at home, on a blustery snowy day, I've managed to clear some of the more drastic ideas from my head out and started to test the one page version of my 4" grid, 1 stand=a unit  version of the old Square Brigadier.

The game is a simple meeting engagement on random terrain with "brigades" arriving on random roads. Each side has a General, 14 single stand "companies" grouped into 4 brigades + 2 independent batteries on each side.   This is near to 1/2 the number of  units I have or intend to paint up.
Turn 4 is over and all troops are now present.

The game will resume Monday if the fates are gentle with a report to follow.

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Today I gave my brain a break and used my free time to get a few more units onto their bases and to do a bit more of touching up of the 4" grid.
The Rebel brigade has two units deployed (representing a typical 1870's heavy skirmish line with supports with 2 units formed in column in support.

I did run my brain over some rules ideas though, helped, as so often, by some of the thought stimulating comments on the last couple of posts. Thats one of the reasons I enjoy getting comments in addition to the confirmation that someone is indeed out their.

I'm almost ready for another test game but Saturday Jeff is running another group 15mm Nappy's battle and my old Cossacks will be expecting me!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Wheels Are Still Turning

I was stoked for the first game but with each stand being a unit, there were too many units on the table for the mechanisms to flow well and keep up interest and excitement in the game so something had to change.

#2: An old chestnut of a scenario and improvised basing but a brisk game. 
After rejecting various options as too "gamey" and abstract or too tedious, I remembered that I had at one point contemplated a system where 2 stand units occupied two adjacent 3" grid squares giving an easy way to reflect formations and frontages without complex or confusing rules or  excessive empty space to confuse me mid-game or distort the look of the thing.  The result feels much more "old school" than the Square Brigadier ever did but with all the convenience of a simple gridded game.

So far that is! Early days yet.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Of Form and Function

"Form follows Function" and "Function follows Form", two duelling design maxims and like most such bitter fights, both sides of the debate are right to some degree. This weekend I belatedly realized that this debate was at the heart of my seesaw problems without it having been consciously considered in that light.   Worse than that, solving the issues was going to require deciding on priorities, making careful, informed, choices and sticking with them. Oh NO!
"Sawmill Village" is an encounter scenario with victory resting on control of the crossroads town. Blue won the race to the town but wasn't aggressive enough to  take the whole thing before Red grabbed a foothold.
One of the advantages of writing a blog is that I have a decade of posts not only recounting games and showing pictures but snatches of design discussions of varying merit. Somethings come and go, some things get invented and reinvented and too often forgotten, and somethings just keep coming back if one looks.  One thing I seem to periodically take a run at is designing a game which has it all, large armies of big figures in big units which has all the detail of the most complex games but which fits easily on a small table and can be played in an hour or two even when tired or all day with a crowd of players.

I blame my Old School introduction and fondness for reading low level memoirs when I can find them but if I were ever to achieve that contrary goal, turning lead to gold should be easy as my next trick.
The armies are both up and battle plans have been decided on.
When I played the game I was going to write up on Saturday, I enjoyed it but something niggled so I played it again then again focusing more on how the game played rather than on enjoying the story that was unfolding on the table. I like the look of the slightly larger units in the 6" squares but when paying careful attention I soon realized that the table wasn't big enough (functionally) to give sufficient manoeuvre  room to make an interesting game and that while units were wide enough to fill a square, they were thin enough in line that several times I discovered that I had moved a unit adjacent to an enemy unit without seeing it and that the units that should have been resolving close combat were either ignoring each other or planning to open fire at range 2 when they were already at 1.

The use of multi-stand figures and large squares also gave me an irresistible urge to play with formations and other of the things that were supposed to be below the level of the game and as a result I was not really focusing on my intended role as "General" but rather on being Brigadier and Colonel focused on the various details more than on the over all battle. The practice belied the stated intent that the player was General not every officer on the table.

That was  when I decided to go back and review more than a hundred Square Brigadier posts and as expected I found certain themes, issues and debates cropping up again and again with every major deviation from the original game eventually failing and forcing a  reboot or a turn to Old School rules for a simple but lengthy, tiring, game of tactics which I soon tire of.

Blue has stuck to their plan in a passive sort of way, but Red has flip flopped with the usual result.
At least I understand now that my urge to mount units on a single base is not really driven by aesthetics or  convenience but as a way to remove the urge to fiddle with formations which despite my best intentions, always leads me to increased attention to all of those tactical details that the rules are supposed to "factor in" so that player must focus on being the general.  `

I also stumbled on a post from late 2017 when I was working on my Great War centennial game that expresses my conclusion that the six inch grid was a failure because the squares there were too few squares for manoeuvre, even after expanding my table enough to hamper movement through my room and for all the same reasons I mentioned above as well as a few others and that I needed to go back to smaller grid squares when I got back from Huzzah! Oops.

Thus it was that I got out my 5" grid cloth and laid out this game and with my Oerburg games in mind, reorganized my 54's to simulate old Square Brigadier style units with 4 infantry or 3 cavalry on a single base.

Having repulsed all of Red's attacks, Blue sits back contentedly as the sun sets and contemplates his report on how he boldly seized the important crossroad, throwing the Red forces back until an aide reminds him that actually, Red still holds a corner of the town. The Blue army had been too busy repelling attacks to ever launch one of their own. Oh........oh dear.
The 5" grid that Sunday's game was played on worked better and the troops gamely pretended to be fixed to a single base per unit with rules adjusted back to something very like the old Square Brigadier.  The corner markers for the four inch grid on the main table have mysteriously reappeared though and I plan to give them a go today, a tight fit for 54's and some terrain items but an expansive field with than twice as many squares as the six inch grid and room for more units as well as more manoeuvre.