Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Play it again Tsar

This morning I intended to reset my table for the battle of Chrysler's Farm to test the rules against a small historical battle that I've done in the past with success (Including using an early version of the rules). However, it occurred to me that  although I had included a nod to later 19thC  weapons, I hadn't actually tested them in a game. Refighting the scenario  in some remote corner of the world circa 1880 suddenly seemed like a good idea.

My 1880's Egyptians and British are largely gone in both 54mm & 25mm so I cast about  for alternatives. I had been starting to think about adapting HofT to the Russian Civil War instead of backdating rules from WWII so that got me thinking 1/72nd. If I had to kluge something, it might as well involve figures on bases. There aren't enough RCW figures yet but mixed with ACW figures I could fudge something vaguely Balkan or perhaps Baltic.  I was able to scrape up 24 infantry stands per side, mostly organised into 4 stand regiments. Worked ok for the defenders in blue but not the attackers in grey & brown, I decided to go with 3 stand regiments for Grey and call them all veteran to see what difference that would make. I also upgraded the  Grey artillery to "superior" rifled artillery. I fudged enough extra Blue stands to make a small unit of sharpshooter light infantry and balanced it with a machine gun battery. I was short on commanders so each side only got 2 brigades of infantry. All infantry have breechloading rifles, all guns are rifled field artillery.
Opening moves

The game opened briskly with Grey advancing under heavy fire and the cavalry moving towards a clash in the gap. A clash which destroyed  Blue's cavalry while leaving Grey's cavalry facing a line of infantry and artillery which eventually cut it to pieces. I was a little uncomfortable about the cavalry taking the losses without retiring once they were shaken but reminded myself that the general had had a chance to withdraw  them before they were shaken but chose to sacrifice them to stall the enemy and the remnants on the table represented, not steady ranks of cavalry standing calmly  in ranks while troop after troop is shot down in sequence but rather the decreasing effectiveness of a body of cavalry milling about, some perhaps returning fire ineffectively from the saddle, others probing and threatening while more and more are shot down or slipping away.     

The advance of the infantry under fire was as bloody as might be expected. The superior artillery was frightening in its effect. Their concentrated fire of one battery wiped out one of the Blue guns in 2 turns while the defending infantry suffered heavily despite being declared to be prone and thus in cover. Since there was no advantage to being veteran in a long range fire fight, I pushed the Grey infantry in. Despite the advantage of position and the deadliness of rifles at melee range,  numbers and quality told and the right hand regiment was destroyed. On the left, Grey only manages to attack with 1 shot up regiment and was repulsed.

The attack goes in.

Grey started moving up his artillery and renewed the attack on his right, capturing the ridge. All they had to do now was repulse the inevitable Blue counter attack. Deploying one regiment on the right to fire on the far ridge and supporting the attack with artillery fire, Blue stormed up the ridge and after a fierce struggle, took it and pursued swinging right to contact Grey's left hand brigade.  The left hand regiments came forward and poured rifle fire into Grey's right hand battery, wiping out a gun and forcing Grey to retire the 2nd one or lose it.
The counter attack.

A prolonged melee between 2 opposing regiments while the rest exchanged fire. The game hung in the balance but Grey's superior artillery tipped the scale and eventually Blue's last brigade was shaken by losses and the counter attack failed.

It took about an hour to play 8 turns to a conclusion, a bloody one but a conclusion none the less. The game had a very different feel to the musket game but it worked. When regiments got shot up, stray companies occasionally got left behind, clinging to a position, unable to shoot or attack but holding the ground. A serious attack would take them out but if the enemy was also badly shot up and didn't want to risk the attack, then a stale mate with the 2 sides taking cover until either fire took out the last opposition or reserves came up to push the attack forward.

Having full brigades of Veteran infantry is definitely an advantage and armed with breechloaders, they are deadly in close combat.  Wouldn't want to be a spearman charging breechloader armed infantry defending entrenchements!

I had an initial cringe at infantry not being able to fire and move and I briefly considered going back to 1/2 move and fire 1/2 but on reflection it still seems right. It is possible to drill troops to alternately fire and advance or retreat but it was notoriously hard to get troops to advance once they start shooting. Once the men started going prone it got even harder and in any event a long range fore by advancing troops doesn't seem to have been effective so one could consider it to be happening with no effect. In any event, it forces players to make a conscious decision to either engage in a prolonged firefight or advance. That rings more true than the way gamers tend to shoot any time they can even at reduced effect, It also means that troops under fire will tend to halt and return fire rather than pushing on, without having a special rule for it.
A Russian Civil War version of HofT game is now on my list, but I'm going to need more men, a LOT more men!


  1. Hi Ross,
    You didn't mention any switches in initiative this time. Last game you had mentioned that it didn't feel right at one point for the enemy to not be able to react between two consecutive turns. I've always wondered about that, having mostly fought Igo-Ugo rules. And I do mean fought them! but that's another story...

    I think you are on the right track with choosing to move or shoot, at least before semi-automatic weapons.

    Thanks for another interesting post.

  2. John, sorry, I wasn't clear in that last report. It was the removal of the die roll to see if infantry succeeded in forming square that I wasn't initially comfortable with, not the initiative flips.

    The flips are one of my favorite parts. I like to think of the initiative as one general, getting the drop on the other or getting "inside his loop". Issuing orders (below the grain on table), encouraging his subordinates ti keep up the pressure while the other fellow sucks his pencil, stares through a telescope and wonders what it all means and ponders if he should do anything about it.

    The reactions on the other hand, are unit commander stuff with no input form the general.