Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reading can be dangerous

In between the various renovation jobs, I have been dipping into my book shelf, 1st a reread of Sita Ram's memoirs followed by a light weight book called Impossible Victories with  chapter on the Relief of Lucknow, a silly impulse purchase made a few years ago, it being so rare to find anything relevant on a local bookshelf though this one will soon appear on the shelves of a local used book store.

So what's dangerous about these? I just wish the brief battle descriptions in both books didn't read so much like a game of Charge!. I mean I just put all that single figure stuff to rest, again. Of course the smaller table means smaller armies, so......... NO.

Tomorrow I am going to declare a day off from working on grooming shop, house and yard and will dedicate myself to getting my games room back into some form of order, get a painting desk re-established and put the area around the shrivelled remains of my wargames table into order, including the playing surface that I am sure exists somewhere under the piles of boxes and books.  I am determined on a minor, improvised, play test of the Fire & Stone siege rules but what I need is a "storm through the city streets" game of HofT, just to check and reassure myself.

The 1st company of the 1st Foot, Royal Scots, finally based and flocked, varnish gleaming under a blazingly bright March sun.  

Speaking of my cut down table, did I mention that I came across an online copy of Jack Scruby's All About Wargames published in 1957? and that it recommends a 6 ft x 8 ft table? or a reduction in figure size?  Oh well its also big on encouraging ingenuity and improvisation and an attitude of being able to make anything work.  It was uploaded by the ever helpful Thor and is available here.  A few things have changed since I was 2 (why didn't my parents buy me a copy of this? I'd have learned how to read even faster!), more things haven't really.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Field Battery Raised

In anticipation of a summer campaign, the exchequer approved the raising of new batteries for the defence of Rosmark. Here we see the newly raised and equipped Staarborde  Battery (foreground) undergoing training alongside the Royal Marine Artillery's veteran  Port Battery  (background).
 The Port Battery specializes in the attack and defence of fortifications but is also trained to operate as foot artillery in the field when needed.

The Staarborde battery can be seen wearing the newly authorized green uniform with red cuffs that has been approved for Rosmark's foot artillery.

In a burst of patriotism, the citizens of St. Michel are in the process of raising a volunteer battery for service. These will be clothed and equipped as a regular foot battery but will be equipped with 6 pounder guns.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Looking ahead

The first draft of Hearts of Tin v2011 has now been uploaded to google docs.  Its been proofread by me a couple of times but I'm fairly sure that there are more typos,  orphaned rules that don't fit and other awkward bits to be found.

However, I'm ready to think about what my Indian and John Company forces will look like then pick a tentative initial scenario to work towards. Rather ironically, although the possibility of conventional pitched battles was one of the arguments for going to India in the first place, that's not really where I want my focus. Instead, I expect the majority of games to be raids and ambushes on one side, followed by punitive expeditions on the other. There are good arguments that could be made for using single figures and a version of MacDuff for these games but one of my aims is to standardize my 40mm 1830/40's armies, 1 basing system, 1 organization and 1 set of rules. Experiments have shown that HofT can provide an interesting game with a handful of small units as well as being able to handle as many troops as I can crowd onto my table.

The trick will be to suspend attention to consistency of scale and organization. For various reasons, I have decided that 3 bases each of 6 figures will constitute a regiment and 3 of these will make a British brigade (1 European, 2 Sepoy). If I ever go to refight the larger battles of the Sikh War,  I will field one such brigade for each division that took part. For the small actions however, I will call each stand a company and treat the 3 stands as a detachment or even field each company as a unit for the smallest skirmishes.        

The other side is a bit trickier. Here I need to be able to emulate 3 different armies (Scinde/Gwalior, Afghan, and Sikh)  as well as be able to provide enough irregular forces for the smaller games. The Sikh infantry in their red cold weather uniforms are too distinctive and anyway lead to two opposing "red" armies. If fielded in their white hot weather uniforms, they don't look so different from matchlock men or European trained pultans of the Mahratta princes. Irregulars from all these armies are close enough for my purposes, so here  lies my path. For cavalry I shall rely purely on hordes of irregulars and for now will avoid Sikh artillery. If I want to do more than draw inspiration from the Sikh Wars, I can re-address the question later.

Numbers are an issue,  given appropriate ratings, the British will be able to deal with 3 or more times their numbers but I'm not sure my table can. One option is to use different figure ratios, making the assumption that the French trained native Indian forces would be drawn up in 3 ranks and the matchlock men even deeper so that each stand would represent between 50% and 100% more men.  In purely gaming terms, being outnumbered 2 to 1 for an "even" game should look and play ok. The question is, should there be larger units or more of them? I had inclined towards the first as being harder to maneuver, and maneuver is one of the weak points of most Indian armies. With the change in rules to using activation points however, having more units with fewer commanders does an even better job of portraying the challenge faced by the generals of the Native Princes. So, standard units it is, just more of them with best being regular and the worst equipped irregulars being rated as militia.

Now what about a scenario?  Keeping the later NW Frontier in mind as well as earlier campaigns, and having just re-read Sita Ram Pande's chapter on the Ghurka War, I picture this whole campaign being kicked off by various raids into John Company Territory which call for a reprisal, a punitive expedition. An ambush as the column makes its way through a pass, perhaps an ambush of a convoy and then an assault on a hillfort. My 54mm fort is gone so I have the opportunity now to build a new, 40mm one.  I have enough Queen's troops but need to raise some sepoys and of course, I poor lone matchlock man won't make much of an opposition.  Plenty to do over the next 8 months!


Friday, March 25, 2011

One from the Archives: Morschauser Meets MacDuff

 While writing up a troop capability chart for HofT, I was reminded of my 1st kick at the Morschauser inspired rules can. I thought these might be some interest to some readers.  (A word file is available if anyone wants it.)  I had some very enjoyable games with these, no doubt that's why I felt the need to change them so much? Interesting to compare these with the nearly finished 2011 version of Hearts of Tin see how far the rules have come, or not. 
Toy Soldier Horse and Musket Wargame Rules
31 Jan 2003
It has been less than 2 years since I first encountered Joseph Morschauser's How to Play Wargames in Miniature published in 1962, less than 10 years before I went from playing with toy soldiers to playing wargames. An amazing oversight since this is one of the earliest publications on miniature wargames for adults. All of the wargame rules of that era that I was familiar were of British origins and were based on the use of single figures. In some cases movement stands were recommended or troops could be mounted in multiples as long as some singles were left to "make change" but always it was a case of "counting noses" as I liked to put it. It was years before I encountered the idea of stands or elements as the basis of combat (Simon MacDowell's "Deus Veault" being the first I encountered). After years of increasingly sophisticated rules and various basing systems I was attracted back to my roots and abandoning my multi figure bases and complex morale rules, I developed "With MacDuff To the Frontier" as a set of large skirmish/small battle rules drawing heavily on those simplistic early British sets that had been my introduction to gaming. The reults have provided me with many enjoyable and some memorable games but I found that as the size of the games grew, it became next to impossible to reach a conclusion in an evening and I began to cast about for a comparable bigger battle set of rules. It was at this point I was introduced to Joseph Morschauser.
These rules approach things very differently from the traditional British games. Troops are mounted more or less as decorations onto bases which are embued with various combat and movement capabilities. The resulting games are fast and bloody (in the original, all melees continue immediately until 1 side is eliminated) and very generic but surprisingly (to me at least) do tend to reward sound military principles such as concentration, surprise and so on. They also seem to be flexible enough to provide the basis of a game as complex or as simple as one desires. After laying out the basic rules Morschauser suggests some advanced rules and encourages gamers to adapt the rules to suit their own taste. In this spirit, I have attempted to keep as much of the original rules as possible while allowing for a little of the additional sophistication to which I have become accustomed over the last 30 years. Hopefully I have struck a balance that will allow an enjoyable fast paced game with just a bit more historical period flavour while maintaining at least some of the feel of those early days but I also encourage players to add to or subtract from the rules to suit themselves only reminding them of his stricture: Be sure to advise your opponant of any rule changes before the game begins!

A. Preparing for battle.
1. Unit Organisation. These rules are designed to work, not with individual soldiers, but with stands of troops referred to as companies. Each stand represents about 50 to 150 infantry, 1/2 that number of light infantry or cavalry, 2-4 guns with their crews and equipment or a general and his staff. Each company has a number of strength points. Generally when fighting a die is rolled for each strength point and 1 strength point is eliminated for each hit. When a company is reduced to 0 strength, it is removed from play. Theoretically the strength of a stand is not related to the number of figures glued to it but that does make a handy way of differentiating. The stands may be of any size but should be the same size on both sides. For my 42mm armies, I am using 60mm by 60mm squares with 4-6 infantry, 2-3 cavalry or 1 gun and crew. For my 54's I have stubbornly kept the same frontage and just increased the depth as needed for guns and cavalry. (3"x3" bases are recommended)
Companies may be further organised into regiments up to 5 companies strong and can further be assigned to the command of a general. In the basic game that really doesn't mean anything but in the advanced rules regiments and brigade and divison commanders are given a role to play.

2. Scales. Morschauser did not give any scale to his rules and indeed after laying out a structure of 5 companies to a regiment proceeds to propose armies of 6 regiments to fight the great battles of history. Based on his weapon ranges I have determined that aground scale of between 1"=15 yds up to 1"=25 yds would work. From this I have determined the number of men per stand. I do not, however, intend to be bound for this, but rather, in the tradition of earlier days am prepared to refight the great battles of history with greatly reduced armies or skirmishes with too many men present. For large battles it might be best to treat each regiment as a brigade and each brigade as a division. In that case you may want to paint each companies as a seperate historical unit.
3. Troop Types. The following basic troops are defined (note this is expanded from the original). More variations are added in the advanced section.
a. Line Infantry: The bulk of most armies composed of men armed with muskets or rifles fighting in line, column or square.
b. Light Infantry: Infantry operating in looser fashion, capable of fighting in rough terrain. Could be irregulars in swarms or trained skirmishers with supports. Although some troops were capable of fighting in either close or open order, for this game, the choice to be infantry or light infantry must be made before the start of the game. eg a Napoleonic brigade will often be fielded as a mix of Infantry and Light Infantry companies.
c. Heavy Cavalry: Shock cavalry relying on cold steel or close range fire.
d. Light Cavalry: Most other cavalry, operating in loose formations or with skirmishers and sometimes using firearms at long range.
e. Artillery: The bulk of most nations artillery using guns from 6pdrs to 12 pdrs.
i. Engineer: Pioneers and the like trained to doengineering tasks.
j. Baggage: Wagons etc

4. Troop Capabilities:


 Hits On

Line Infantry
Musket 6"

Rifle 18”

Light Infantry
Musket 12"
5, 6

Rifle 18”



Light Cavalry
Carbine 6”

Cannister: 12"

Shot/Shell 36”

Musket 6”

Rifle 18"


5. Sequence of play: Once the battlefield has been set up, armies chosen etc and deployed as the scenario or game calls for, the 2 opposing commanders dice off with the higher one choosing to move first or second. this sequence lasts for the entire game unless both players agree to dice again each turn.
During each turn, each company may move and fight as per the rules. Each company or group of companies resolves any shooting, melee and movement before going on to the next group.
1. Movement. A company may pivot any number of times per turn and may move up to its maximum move. Terrain may modify the distance moved.
2. Movement and combat. A company may move and then shoot or shoot and then move. A unit which shoots then moves may not charge. A unit which melees then moves cannot then shoot. A unit in melee range cannot shoot. Artillery which makes a road move cannot shoot.
3. Charges. A charge is any move to within 3" of an enemy company. Artillery, engineers and wagons cannot charge. Once a company moves within 3" of the enemy it must either halt or move towards that enemy. It must then initiate melee. To count as a flank attack, a company must be completely behind the front of the company it is attacking, before it comes within 3". A unit cannot conduct long range shooting then charge.

4. Shooting. .Shooting represents long range fire. Close range fire is included in the melee factor. A unit within 3" of the enemy must resolve melee rather than shooting. Roll 1 die per strength point and consult the unit capability chart to see if any hits were scored. Terrain and advanced troop qualities may effect the score to hit. A unit which is in melee cannot be targeted by shooting.
5. Line of Sight. Normally all shooting is line of sight. ie there must not be terrain or enemy or freindly troops in between the firer and the target. Howitzers may fire over freindly units or into the middle of a wood using shell only but only hit on a 6. Artillery on a hill may fire shot and shell only over freindly troops on lower ground if these are closer to the firing unit than to the target.
6. Melee. A melee is combat between units within 3" of each other. A unit must charge to move within 3" (see above). If it does so it must attack an enemy unit, once the combat is resolved it may not move again. If a unit begins its move within 3" of enemy, it must attack but after the combat is resolved it may retreat or if there are no enemy left within 3" it may advance but it may not charge a fresh enemy or shoot. For each strength point on each side, roll 1 die. If attacked from behind the flank use the rear melee value. If the score is equal to or less than the units melee value, 1 hit is placed on the enemy it is meleeing. The unit being attacked fights back simultaneously. Add 1 to a company's Melee value if a Bold or Rash general has attached himself. A unit may only initiate 1 round of combat each turn but may fight back as often as it is attacked. If both sides inflict the same number of hits on each other then then melee is drawn, otherwise the unit which took the most hits must immediately retreat a full move.
1. Roads. If a company begins its move on a road, it may add 50% to its move as long as the move is entirely along the road.
2. Woods. Artillery, wagons and cavalry may not enter woods. If any part of a Line Infantry company's move is through woods then its total move for that turn is restricted to 6".
No unit may shoot through woods. A unit on the edge can shoot and be shot at but subtract 1 from the scores that hit when shooting at units in woods. A unit which can enter a wood may melee attack a unit in the wood but 1 is subtracted from its melee value.
3. Hills. Gentle hills do not affect movement. Troops climbing steep hills move 1 contour per turn when climbing or descending. Troops behind a hill or on the reverse slope cannot be fired at. Units attacking uphill reduce their melee value by 1.
4. Streams and Rivers. Unfordable rivers may only be crossed by boats or bridge. When crossing fordable streams and rivers, a company must halt when it enters the water and cannot shoot. On the next turn it may move normally. If a unit is forced to melee against a unit on the bank, lower its melee value by 1.
5. Towns. Only line and light infantry can enter a town except to pass through on a road. If any part of their move is off road in a town, then their entire move is restricted to 6"
No unit may shoot through a town. Infantry on the edge of a town may fire out and be shot at but subtract 2 from the score to hit of the unit firing at them. . A unit which can enter a town may melee attack a unit in the town but 1 is subtracted from its melee value. When artillery hits a town, roll an extra die, if that die is 6 then the town has caught fire. All troops must leave the town on their next move. The town will burn for the rest of the game.
6. Fortifications. Earthworks are treated like towns except that artillery may be placed in them and they do not catch fire. High walls cannot be attacked unless storming parties are equipped with ladders in which case the attacking unit uses its flank value until it moves onto the wall or unless the wall is breached. A breach may only be created by a heavy gun or by an engineer blowing in a gate or by exploding a mine (must be laid before the game starts). To create the breach a heavy gun must be within 12" and roll a 6. The engineer must move into contact, survive a round of melee then roll a 4,5 or 6. Troops attacking a breach subtract 1 from their melee value.
7. Other terrain. Other terrain features should be defined by the game organiser. for example, most marshes are impassable but might be defined as crossable by light infantry. A high cornfield may block line of sight until trampled by units moving through. Low walls, fences and the like may restrict a units move to 6". Normally light infantry are not slowed by walls and the like. If a wall provides substantial cover then reduce the score required to hit by 1 when shooting at a unit taking cover and reduce the melee value of attackers by 1. An obstacle like an abatis might reduce an attacking company's melee value by 1.
A game should have specific objectives for each side and some form of time limit. This will prevent an endless fight to the finish. If desired or if playing a quick pick up game then the first side to lose 1/2 of its companies loses the game and must retreat.
1. Formed Regiments. If 2 or more stands of a line infantry or heavy cavalry regiment are touching, this is considered a formed regiment. All of the companies move together, take any morale or command tests as 1 and may distribute hits from shooting.
2. Command Control. All regiments and independant companies must be assigned to the command of a general. As each independant/detached company or formed battalion attempts to move , roll 1 die. A general may add or sutract 1 to the die for units under his command within 12" and in his line of sight.
5,6 Impetuous troops must charge unless in fortifications. Cautious troops may not charge. Otherwise obey orders.
3,4 Obey orders
1,2 No advance. The unit may shoot and if within melee range must melee attack as normal. If a formed regiment in column, companies in the rear may be brought up into line.
Personality. All player generals are bold. For others roll 1 die the first time it needs to be known. 6=Rash: must add, 5=Indecisive: does not modify the dice, 3,4 Bold: may add or subtract, 1,2 =Cautious, may only subtract.
3. Morale. At the start of a turn, if a general has lost 1/2 of the companies in his brigade, then each remaining company or formed regiment must roll a die. (Note this test is only taken once per brigade)
5,6 About face and move off the board by the most direct path while avoiding enemy, not shoot or charge but will defend if meleed.
3,4 Obey orders,
1,2 Retreat 1 move. (This uses the units move for that turn.)
4. Rallying Troops. Many of the casulties suffered in combat will be stragglers, men helping wonded to the rear, battle shock and the like. If at the start of a turn, a company or formed regiment is not within melee distance of any enemy and is joined by its brigadier or a higher general then roll 1 die. If the result is 5 or 6 the unit is rallied, remove 1/2 of the hits from those companies present. Round fractions down. This does not stop a unit from moving or fighting this turn.
Modifiers: Charismatic general +1, Elite or stubborn troops +1, Militia -1
5. Risk to generals. A general may only be shot at if he is the closest target. If a general attaches himself to a unit which fights in melee. 1 enemy die should be rolled against him.
6. Infantry squares. If 2 or more infantry companies are in base to base contact back to back or back to side and do not move then they are forming a square and do not have a flank. Cavalry attacking a square use their flank value.
7. Aditional Troop types.
a) Elite troops such as as Guards and converged Grenadiers have their frontal and flank melee values increased by 1. Melee value may never be higher than 5. Light infantry designated as sharpshooter units hit on 4,5 or 6.
b) Militia and poor troops should have their melee value reduced by 1. Melee value is never less than 1.
c) Inferior firepower. When playing transition games where one side had superior firepower (eg Crimea), reduce the weaker side's to hit roll to 6 only.
d) Battalion guns. Light manhandled guns that were sometimes used to accompany infantry only have a 24" range and 1 strength point. they move 9" per turn.
e) Horse artillery. Moves 24" a turn.
f) Early Artillery. Artillery without military drivers may not move and shoot during the same turn.
g) Heavy Artillery. Moves 6" per turn. Has 3 strength points. When firing at towns only reduce the hit score by 1 instead of 2.
h) Howitzers. May fire overhead as per line of sight rules. Maximum range is 24"
i) Rifled Artillery. Long range is 48" Cannister hits on 3,4,5,6
j.) Special troops: Players should feel free to design new troop variations to suit the campaign they are fighting. For example Jacobite Highlanders: Treat as light infantry but melee factor of 4 if charging, hit on a 6 when shooting. Early 19th century Egyptian Fellahin: Light infantry with no shooting capability, only close combat.
k.) Engineering. Certain tasks such as building or destroying bridges require a stand of engineers and a wagon with supplies. Rules will need to be drawn up for the particular task.
l.) Impetuous troops. Troops designated as impetuous are likely to charge without orders.
m.) Cautious troops. Troops designated as cautious may refuse to charge.
n.) Stubborn troops. Stubborn troops will rally more easily.
8. Pursuit. This is an exception to the normal only 1 attack rule. If a cavalry unit charges and eliminates its opponant or forces it to retreat, then the cavalry may advance 3" and melee another unit.

Plunging into a new period, one toe at a time

Lone Star 58mm plastic Afghans drop on a rock on home cast Highlanders, possibly Scruby based?

Thanks primarily  to G.A. Henty and Classics Illustrated version of King of the Khyber Rifles, I was at least aware of British involvement in India but it didn't catch my imagination  the way that Africa, especially South Africa did.  Perhaps it was the lack of a personal connection or national connection?  Even the advent of Flashman didn't really change that.

When I first dabbled in Colonial Wargaming in a small way, it was with Mikes Model's 15mm British & Boers and then Esci's 1/72nd British & Zulus. By the time I got more serious and pitched in to Frontier, Minifig and Ral Partha 25's, it was the Sudan and Egypt, thanks at least in part to Peter Guilder. It wasn't until I upscaled again to 54mm that I started to look at India. My idea was to build a British Toy Soldier army that could do battle around the world against various types of enemies, European regulars, tribal spearmen, irregular sharpshooting guerrillas etc. Since I wanted Guards in Bearskins, the Crimea seemed like a good starting point and the Great Mutiny like a natural 2nd theater of operations. I started hitting the books.

CTA 54mm plastic Napoleonic British infantry converted for 1840's service in South Africa

Confusion over styles of figures and the lack of availability of affordable soldiers of the types I most wanted led the project to drag somewhat while my gathering British forces were largely pitched against CTA Zulus, homecast Arabs and various Turks & Egyptians.

With the decision to Right Size (sic) everything at 40mm, I had to start over without ever having made it to India but by now I had acquired a small library of  30 some odd books on wars in Indian between 1800 and 1860, including many memoirs.  

  MacDuff and his men winkle the Emir out of yet another lair.

So why India rather than Africa? Why the 1840?s and why fictional?

I still intend to do South Africa, but South Africa only offers asymmetrical warfare, clashes with largely spear armed natives or with mounted riflemen. Interesting, but with endless but limited (in a certain sense) gaming options. India allows for conventional warfare against all arms armies with disciplined infantry and sieges of imposing fortifications as well as scope for small operations against irregular enemies and hill forts. North Africa and the Middle east do the same but with limited scope in this time period (basically Napier's dabbling in Lebanon), and I've already been to the Sudan in 2 scales and don't intend to go back.

As mentioned above, my initial plan was to focus on the 1850's and 60's, the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, the 8th Xhosa War and the slightly later Fenian Raids closer to home. There were 2 main reasons behind my decidion to look for an earlier time period, neither very sound ones. The first was that I decided it would be easier to fit musket era battles on a tabletop than a rifle era game, (I can't remember why but I was wrong). The second was that I had always wanted to do some British troops in wide topped shakos. Since I also liked Havelocks, the 1830's & 40's was perfect!

More than that, there was a wider choice of potential campaigns, The 1st Afghan, Scinde, Gwalior and 1st & 2nd Sikh Wars, three Xhosa Wars, the first clashes with the Boers, the Canadian Rebellions, two war scares with the US (Aroostock & Oregon not to mention possible intervention in Mexico and Texas) and to end it off, if I really wanted a European angle, I could always draw Britain into the Belgian, Polish or Schleswig-Holstein Questions not to mention the Carlist Wars and of course, many of the troops are ready for the early campaigns in the Crimea. The long peace was a busy time for small wars.
RA in South Africa in the 1840's. Ok No actually they are in Nova Scotia. If anyone is interested in some 54mm plastic South African British infantry and artillery just let me know. There was no interest on ebay last year.

So, there are plenty of historical campaigns that one could pick as the basis for a project, the problem only comes when you want to do them all and in the right uniforms. One could just fudge it, and I doubtless will, changing names to protect the innocent, but just as easy and fun in a different way to draw  on inspiration and examples from all these historical campaigns as well as others from just outside the period, and then fight it out with 2 or 3 sets of armies instead of 10.

All that remained was just the right sort of rules. After all, the trick is getting the flavour of the many small expeditions while giving a nod to the famous battles. I had the ideal set on hand when I started, With MacDuff to the Frontier,  but the big battles took too long and moving large forces of single figures started to pale. Once I started fiddling to fix things, the rules stopped doing anything as well as I wanted and I had lost my sense of what it was that I wanted from the game.  Having moved to the 1840's, the temptation to adapt Charge! was strong, but practice showed me Charge! is less entertaining as a solo game and there was still the issue of all those single figures. Either compromises were in order, or a different approach. Enter Morschauser and the struggle to bring Hearts of Tin to fruition.

I hear drums in the hills.  

Richard Larsen's 40mm Scruby Native  cavalry. I'm hoping to get some of these one day.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meanwhile back on the North West frontier.

Blogspot won't let me upload the picture I took of the freshly painted Rosmark gun crew, presumably because the bases aren't flocked. But, as long as the casting pot and paint brushes were in use, I decided to finally get add the first trial figure to a long awaited project and luckily it seems that blogspot has no objection to fuzzy pictures.   

The figure I painted goes back to 2006 when I sculpted and cast a Baluch sepoy for service in Egypt  in 1881. 
. Here they are capturing the enemy citadel in Dick Larsen's version of Shambattle played using a set of Morschauser inspired rules.  

The long awaited project is my toy soldier version of the 1st Afghan War, Conquest of Scinde and Gwalior and the two Sikh Wars, all rolled into one fictional and ongoing campaign. I am planning to sculpt some of the figures and hope to get some of the old Scruby colonial miniatures as well, but I haven;t started yet. To kickstart the whole thing, I decided to see if my Baluch could be transformed into a  reasonable toy soldier version of a Mahratta infantryman. Not quite right but close enough for me to incorporate a unit. The pose is a little steady and the mold has developed real flaws so what I'll probably do is cast up a score of figures, paint some and do head swaps onto various other figures to come up with an undisciplined, ragged looking  bunch. They're a little big compared to the bulk of the figure's I'll be using but not unreasonably so.   .  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rosmark Artillery

As the 2011  NQSYW campaign season (sometimes called Historicon) approaches, it seemed like the right time to finally start raising some native Rosmark infantry. However, intelligence reports indicate that a fortress is being constructed. After reading the siege rules (a Charge! supplement really) at the back of Duffy's Fire & Stone, the council has decided that more artillery is needed most urgently. Today I broke out the melting pot and got a start..  

When I was a young lad of 17 away at military college, there were several books that I turned to, one was Charge! another was Blandford's Military Uniforms by Kannick. The two came  together nicely when I got my first 30mm wargame miniatures. On one side were the French regiments from Quebec 1759, on the other was the start of an eclectic mix of my favorite uniforms from Kannick's book.

I've decided that this favorite old battery will be the inspiration for Rosmark's standard artillery. Hopefully I can produce a gun and crew per week for the next 2 months without interfering with the production of other units.

An open letter toScoeffen-Buschhagen and various other Robber States


To the rulers of Scoeffen-Buschhagen, Wachovian, Vieganburg, Fredonia, Stanzback-Anwatch and Saxe Kirchdorf.

It has now been a year since your armies assisted by various mercenaries and brigands invaded our fair land without provocation and did great damage to the good citizens of St. Michel and especially to those of St. Stephen.  We are still waiting for an apology and suitable compensation for damage done including the interruption of an evening of Whist held by the officer's of the Queen's Brigade. 

If suitable compensation is not forthcoming by the end of June this year, be warned that the Kingdom of Rosmark will consider itself justified in seeking such compensation by force of arms. We do however forgive Wachovia from this debt as their soldiers have paid in blood. 

From King Michael I of Rosmark

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tiny Hearts

 Vive Le Ross!

Yesterday I headed into Halifax for a game with long time friend Les. With great indulgence he agreed to subject his 10mm Pendraken armies to yet another version of Hearts of Tin(y). We set up some woods and a village, rolled for a random number of units, pulled armies out of the tins, organized them and set to on a 3'x4' table using cm instead of inches.

Once again, I commanded the forces of Bravance  (or Bravant as the Bearcats and Dragons like to call it) while Les commanded the Drakenburg forces.   I formed 2 brigades, an Advance Guard composed of 1 unit each of irregular Hussars, militia light infantry and elite grenadiers, a cavalry brigade with a Heavy and a Line regiment and an infantry brigade with 4 battalions and a battery of 2 guns. I established a line between some woods and the village with my infantry advanced the light troops and cavalry on my left and sent the Hussars on a raid around the enemy rear. Les had selected a brigade with 2 cuisassier and 1 dragoon regiments and a brigade composed of a battery of 2 guns, an elite grenadier battalion and 2 or 3 battalions of infantry.

The game progressed smoothly with my Hussars sweeping around a wood slightly ahead of the Dragoon regiment which had been dispatched to deal with them. On the crucial turn, I won the initiative and charged Les's battery in flank and rear while surprising his general before he could scamper for cover. As it turns out my irregulars just weren't up to the task and a drawn melee saw them slink away with their prize.  The Hussars spent the rest of the day dancing back just out of reach of the Dragoons, sending off the odd carbine shot to no effect and rifling the pockets of their captive.  (the motto of these black Hussars is "Dance like a Bee, sting like a Butterfly".)

In the center the infantry came forward supported by cavalry with Les's troops severely handicapped by the loss of his General. At last I managed to advance into range with my Grenadiers, flip the initiative and get the first shot off,  a resounding 2 hits which  I followed up with a charge by my entire cavalry brigade. The Drakenberg grenadiers, somewhat shaken, whiffed and were ridden over apart form a few survivors (ok a lot of survivors) scampering for cover. My cavalry pursued onward and crashed into the Cuirassiers. The intitial rolls came up a tie but we each had a brigadier attached. I rolled first, "6", a hit! Then Les rolled "1" Wounded and captured!  (see header picture). A brisk little 2 hour game, probably 12 or more turns. Time for another!  
It appears to have been misty as the 2nd game began.
Quickly relocating the village and adding a road grid, we each selected 12 units (counting brigadiers) with orders to seize the crossroads. Both sides had to march on along a road running through woods. I kept my advance guard, added a cavalry regiment and traded my infantry for 2 battalions of Swiss. Les fielded the Stutz-Baerkatz with an advanceguard with Hussars and light infantry, a cavalry brigade of mixed cuirassiers and dragoons, an infantry brigade with Grenadiers, 2 infantry battalions, a howitzer and a battalion gun (which we quickly agreed on rules for) .

We both led with our advance guards but Les supported these with his cavalry while I trailed with mine, figuring that they would catch up. I managed to trip up a bit with my cavalry brigadier separated from most of his units by the woods and thus having trouble issuing orders (double pips needed).  Les's cavalry on the other hand, rode rather agressively into my advance, driving back my Hussars and light infantry before being bounced by the grenadiers. I managed to deploy my infantry and guns but then had to fend off a flank attack by those pesky hussars. For the rest of the game my guns and infantry held a gap between the town and a wood, taking pot shots at his cavalry and slowly whittling them down but completely pinned by the threat.

In the center, that left my light infantry and grenadiers to hold the town against all comers. Driving away my light infantry again, Les opened up on the town with skirmishers, then grenadiers and eventually his artillery (which he managed to drag up from the rear faster than I did my cavalry! Helps to have commanders in the right spot). The first shot by his light infantry did the trick though, my fancily dressed Brigadier was too fancily dressed and some sharpshooter brought him down.

My grenadiers held off one assault  but casualties were mounting fast and eventually the Bearcats sent in their grenadiers with cold steel and the end was inevitable.

 Two closely fought and very enjoyable games. Just the sort of thing Hearts of Tin was meant to do. A pitched battle with 3 times the forces would probably have taken about the same time. The games reminded me of how Morschauser Meets MacDuff games felt, back in 2003/2004, before I decided to fix it.

I had a big smile driving home.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Now that the smoke has cleared.

I think that the operation has been a success but having decided to aim for Option 2, I seemed to have ended with Option 1 + 3/4 of Option 2.  In other words, the game played tonight was more like yet another version of Hearts of Tin so I'll still need the Portable Game for Cardtable & Toy Soldier games.

The difficulties of a variable format game are not insurmountable but look like they will need considerable work. The biggest one is how to handle "units" of varying size and/or the ability to "stack" units if using a big grid. My intention for today was to treat each stand as a unit and have rules that allow units of the same regiment to co-ordinate their activities. Explaining that and making sure its the best option is going to take considerable effort. It will also mean roughly 1 base sized squares/hexes and thus not a replacement for the 6" square grid that I used for Hook's Farm. So I opted to go with standard units for now but there is no reason why units of various sizes can't be used. It'll be how they get dealt with if using  grid that needs thought and testing.

Luckily Hook's Farm was in theory an early 20thC game and thus does not need to conform to HofT. I can also see myself using Bob's late 19thC game with my 54mm Nku Khu warriors (Zulus)  and their Red Coated foes). All of which gives me reason to hang on to some forces of old, small style 54's. (Whew! A lot of time, money and past fun not down the drain after all!). In effect, a replacement for the original Colonial MacDuff which is just plain bizarre, but I'll take it.

In the mean time, I have made use of some ideas from Bob's game and also used the experience and resulting  mulling about rules to make a faster, more dramatic game that is closer to my old Morschauser Meets MacDuff with the stuff that didn't work taken out and some better parts added in.

In summary,

  • activation dice by Brigade have replaced orders and variable length moves and a command control chart. The activation dice make the player choose what he can and can't do as opposed to the movement dice and control chart which told him what was going to happen. While sufficient points allow the player to attempt what he wants, he usually doesn't have enough to do everything. 
  • pre-move artillery bombardment phase. I used to have one of these in one version of my 15mm old horse & musket rules but haven't used the concept in years. In works well, allows arty to attempt to soften up the enemy before an attack or try to break up an impending enemy attack.  
  •  Allowing some units to have a 2nd move. Here I took one of Bob's ideas from the 19thC/Colonial version and took it a bit farther. This adds a lot of texture as well as resource management issues. It also nicely allows light infantry to fire then move, for columns to be useful for maneuvering etc and provides the penalties for close terrain all under 1 mechanism. Without having an actual movement penalty for line infantry, the rules make arduous and slow to try to move a brigade through woods.
  • Reduced hits. By reducing the number of hits per stand, the game is more decisive, faster to reach a conclusion and more dramatic.
  • Rallying. To remove hits and after melee. Worked great. I struggled to get the rally right for years, eventually dropping it but this finally seems right. Sometimes units can take the time to remove single hits, sometimes they lose a stand before they get the chance, sometimes the Brigade just can't get enough pips. A brigade pushing an attack, eventually has to stop and sort itself out.  
  • Revised melee. Same basic concept as MMM and older versions of HofT but with the slight revisions and the lower dice and lower hits per stand it all works better.
There were some unwritten rules and 1 or 2 rules that I changed on the fly that I will go back and  amend on the draft. Meanwhile here a very short report on the test battle. I lost track of how many turns I played, but they flew by and it was probably somewhere between 15 and 20 in 2 hours and a bit.

. The American rearguard clings to the edge of town as the General Scott orders his last Brigadier to withdraw.

Chance Encounter at Cordery Square, Oregon Territory. Those familiar with CS Grant's scenarios and Teasers will doubtless recognize the Sawmill Village or Chance Encounter scenario. I began with 2 equal forces of regular troops, British & American from the 1840's. Each side had a General, 3 brigadiers, 2 cavalry, 5 infantry, 1 light infantry riflemen, 2 batteries. (one British battery was rocket horse artillery.)

The game began with a cavalry clash East of the town which ended with the   US forces taking a licking, partly due to having suffered some accurate rocket fire before the clash. The Lancers threw back the Mounted Rifles then pursued into the Dragoons only to be thrown back. The GG Bodyguard then intervened to drive back the US Dragoons. The US cavalry fell back to the Western side of the town to act as a blocking force. Faced by growing forces of infantry infiltrating through the town and woods, the British cavalry also moved west.

While the cavalry clash was taking place, the US were able to seize the town and sent their light infantry through the woods. In part they got there first because they started slightly closer but mostly it was a matter of getting the initiative and good activation rolls when they needed it and on pushing their lead infantry. (On one of these turns the British general and 2 Infantry Brigadiers all rolled 1 pip each.) However, the US General had used most or all of his pips on pushing his lead forces forward and into the houses. (since he couldn't see into the town and occupying a house costs an extra pip, he needed 3 to get a unit into a house but having gotten to town, the Brigadier had trouble mustering 2 on his own to get units into the houses!). This meant his 2nd brigade was slow to move up and ended up diverting to cover the right  when the cavalry was driven in. The artillery had to move west of the town to get a shot and was very late getting into action. The British on the other hand, deployed early with both infantry Brigades and artillery in a concentration against the town. After pouring in fire to  wear down the defenders, they began sending in infantry assaults with cold steel which eventually took the lead houses but since they couldn't  occupy them without engaging the next   house in melee, they kept getting ejected.  The US forces lacked the strength to reoccupy the first row of houses so it was a bit of a stand off.

 On the flank an artillery duel ended with the total destruction of one US battery. The British cavalry was slow to come up but eventually they pushed in and once again supported by artillery finished off the US Cavalry. At this point a rocket finally landed on one of the rear houses and took down the 1st Brigade Commander. The first brigade was now down to 1 leaderless regiment and the 2nd Brigade had started moving into town but was also starting to take losses. With only 1 brigade commander, 1 gun and 10 stands of infantry left to face 3 brigade commanders, a gun +  rocket, 15 stands of infantry and 3 of cavalry, it was time to retreat.