Saturday, September 24, 2011

Keeping things straight

One of the difficulties of trying to balance 2 (or 3) sets of rules ideas, is keeping the cross fertilization straight, especially when producing a final (knock knock) synthesis.

A key componant of Hearts of Tin was always the 3" melee borrowed from Morschauser. In theory this worked great, nicely breaking combat into indecisive, attritional long range fire and decisive combat whether close range volleys or bayonet/saber charges. For large battles with lots of units, I think I would keep it. In practice I tend to play a lower level than originally envisaged and the lack of distinction between walking up and trading volleys at close range, a preferred  18th/early 19thC tactic vs charging occasionally rubbed the wrong way, especially when explaining it to others.

This led to slightly increased complexity with separate rules for each within the melee mechanism and it worked great. It just looked odd and was all too easy to accidentally move into melee  without noticing for a turn and then having to adjust things one way or another. MacDuff always used traditional long range & close range fire and melees from charges only. A couple of times I started to shift that process over but other baggage always came with it and I never got the right feel.

There was  no 3" melee distance in the stripped down rules but neither was there a close range. It felt wrong for troops whose bayonets were touching to be unable to fire more effectively than those at extreme range but over all  I liked the feel and the other changes to morale, orders and no move and shoot had handled most of the difficulties so the latest draft of HofT dropped the 3" Melee again. I forgot to drop the idea of 2 types of attack though and all the factors that go with it and initially forgot to put close range factors in. This morning, I added in my usual close/long range rules so that rifles outshoot muskets between 3" and 6" which is the extreme musket range, but are less effective at 12" than they are at 6". I also fixed the melee to reflect that all charges are now bayonet charges since a close range firefight is covered by close range firing and the morale rules.

The net result should be cleaner rules that feel more natural.

The reorganization of 1812 figures is coming on a pace, (having displaced a planned solo test of Basic Impetus before Sunday's club Basic Impetus extravaganza).

My clunky 42mm  figures were all done for the 1812/1813 North Western campaigns so my plan is to leave them that one to them and all new Glossy 40mm toys will be dressed for the 1813 campaigns. For now, any big game will  need both together but small games may be able to have sytlistic integrity on 1 side at least. (and the clunkies are getting glossed varnished - Hah-HA!).

Both sides are being organized into 2 brigades each of 3 battalions of 3 companies with a Brigadier and 1 drummer. Each battalion has 1 flag. Why so few drummers? Initially I had included them in the ranks but that is just wrong, they should fall in behind the troops. So, I opted to bring units up to strength without them and used the drums sometimes as markers othertimes as window dressing. Right now their role is unclear but I foresee more coming when I run out of more urgent things, 1 per battalion would be ideal.

It is probably not an accident that the organization is very close to that of Charge! (16 all ranks vs 16 privates + officer, sergeant, drummer).  If I want to do a small skirmish and have it last more than 30 minutes, I can always choose to lower the scale to 1"=10 yards and double the ranges or use Charge! or MacDuff using each brigade as a battalion.

The Americans had all been organized as 4 x 24 man battalions so nicely split into 6 x 16 man battalions, 3 of Ohio volunteers and 3 of Regulars. No idea what I'll do with that many volunteers on top of the 16 Volunteer Riflemen but they'll soldier on for now. The new unit (2nd Ohio? Since it is formed by mixing the 1st & 3rd?) had a motley  mix of grey and brown hunting smocks. Realistic enough but keeping units sorted was in my mind and relying on painted base bottoms is my 2rd choice. So, last night I repainted them into a different shade of grey with grey trousers. Luckily they are very simple figures with little gear, and no facings.   I have 3 US regulars primed to take the places vacated by drummers and a crippled standard bearer so in a day or so both brigades will be up to strength. A 7th battalion of Scubies in 1814 uniform await.  The NY Dragoons can fill the cavalry slot as always and then I just need to paint a regular gun crew to go beside my volunteers and I'm done for now. An 8th battalion, a detachment of  Regular Riflemen and some Regular Dragoons will follow sometime down the road.

The British organization wasn't. The 41st foot was 36 strong so I now have the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 41st with a drummer left over as well as 3 figures transferred to the militia. (Luckily Gen Brock issued some surplus 41st Foot tunis to the Militia before the attack on Detroit so that fits!). There were actually 2 battalions of the 41st deployed to Canada but I don't think they ever fought shoulder to shoulder on the same field. They will now. I considered repainting facings but there are more important things, I'll mark the bases on these.

The Fencibles were intended to be 36 strong (3 x 12) but switched to 32 (4 x 8) part way through being painted. I just need to replace the drummer and they are good to go. One battalion will remain Fencibles, the other was going to become the 104th NB regiment until I double checked and it seems that they were never issued the authorized yellow facings but wore very pale buff instead. So they will become one of the Flank Battalions of Incorporated Militia. I'd like to mix up the facings on that one but since Yellow is not invalid, and the Fencibles are now all firing  and the Flank battalion all charging, I'll leave it be.
My green coated militia will stand after incorporating 4 discharged British regulars into their ranks as will my artillery. The 6th battalion is my 1837 Royal Scots which are short 4 men, 2 of who have yet to be cast. once that is looked after, I have enough Scruby Brits for at least 1 battalion of the 8th or Kings Regiment and may have enough figures for an 8th battalion (as opposed to The 8th Regiment) as well. the problem is  that last month, when informed that they weren't first on the painting list after all, they went off in a  Huff  and haven't been seen since. So perhaps I need to paint up some Provosts, then a more thorough search  of the cupboard should find them. (annoyingly, they were spotted just last week when I was looking for something else.. if I could only remember which cupboard......grr so much for organized chaos!)

Having reauthorized the 42mm figures for service again, I also have Indians and some Quebec and non-uniformed militia. That will just leave my Canadian Dragoons who need horses cast.  A previous prototype movement tray has been re-tested and approved for service. A weekend's work to saw up and assemble 16 more and paint them, ready for application of magnetic sheeting. I just may be ready to move on in January!  

Luckily I won't have to wait that long for a playtest of the revised draft of HofT. Within a week I should be ready for a play test on the lower end of things, the Battle of Mackinac. Four American battalions attack 1 British one (and a horde of Indians). In theory I should be able to set up such a small game, play to a conclusion and clean off the table again in under 2 hours, probably close to 1 if I don't dawdle. Later in the month I'll get as many troops as possible on table and see how that goes.

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