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

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Eve of Deduction

All quiet in  Testor Vale
After a day of dragging myself through various chores, the table is, at last, set for my series of test games. Ian's comment about separate tables had put me in mind of the Major-General's trick of using terrain to divide and expand his table. I didn't go so far as to produce a range of 2d cardboard mountains but I did introduce a wooded ridge running down the center line between the two villages. This will be deemed impassible except to troops in column following the trail through the gap at 1/2 speed. Other than that, we see the hamlet of Righton to the right, the village of Lieuten  to the left and the town of Centerville in the foreground. I love my ceramic Christmas village houses but they are dashed inconvenient being solid and most will be slowly replaced this year. In the meantime, each has a small stone wall enclosure attached and troops in these yards are considered to be defending the building.  Another reason for me to add some more home made buildings is that I have no small 1 story cottages, log cabins or small story and a half shingled farmhouses like the one I live in, or barns for that matter. I came close to using my Pegasus Russian houses since they are almost tall enough and have a good, practical footprint, just the thing for small  hamlets like we have here but they don't fit well beside the ceramic buildings and I didn't have enough to go with just them.  Making some more buildings will give me another chance to experiment with compression. When I made the stone house, I made sure it could handle the 60mm square bases  I use for Rough Wooing and originally used for Morschauser Meets MacDuff.  Since these will be in a 19thC  North American style, there will be no need to accomodate my 16th troops so I can shrink the foot print a little as well as making them shorter.

The Oberhilse Field Force arrives. The company of the 3rd Infantry, in the middle, is demonstarting the advantages of the proposed new 15mm per file frontage.

Its odd the tricks that one's mind plays. Since MacDuff to the Frontier was originally written for 25mm Colonial games, was later adapted to the French & Indian Wars, and had the "company" as the basic unit, I tend to think of it as a semi-skirmish game, like TS&TF. It never really was though.

The rules were heavily influenced by Charge! including the organization of 2-4 "companies" per regiment. In fact few of my regiments made it past 2 companies as I preferred  to paint a variety of uniforms. My 1860's 54mm British army, for example, included 3 different Highland Regiments, 1 Guards, 1 company each of Rifles, Ghurkas and Guides, a Baluch Sepoy regiment, and 1 lonely line infantry.   In an effort to honour the idea, I started shrinking my company size from the original 12 to 8 and sometimes 6. In practice, the Regiment was my basic unit with companies being detached when necessary.

Ignoring the local militia and supporting arms, this scenario calls for 9 attacking infantry units against  3 defenders. For a game using 12 man companies as the scenario unit, going back to the original 3 companies per regiment seemed like a good fit so I initially laid out the troops this way. The Oberhilse Field Force had been raised in 20 or 24 man units, so I mixed them. This gave me a Brigade of attackers consisting of 3 infantry regiments each of 3 companies, along with attached cavalry and artillery while the defender's reinforcements would consist of a single regiment of infantry plus cavalry and a gun. Sounds nice and tidy but looking at it on the table, it just didn't feel right. Since the rules are set up to encourage the use of battalions as units, I had effectively dropped down from 9 maneuver units to 3.

Despite my respect for Lawford & Young and my positive personal experience of Charge! which tells me that using 3 companies to represent 10 works  if you don't think about it, I keep thinking about it when doing my 19thC armies! (For some reason it doesn't bother me for the NQSYW.)  Four "companies" could represent grand divisions but 3 has no viable theoretical counter part, it merely works from a practical POV. Worse, I realized that while I am interested in some small historical engagements where having the company as a wargame unit would seem to make sense, in all but a few cases, the companies did not act independently as units. Dropping down to  2 "wings" of 12 men makes sense  to me especially since many of my troops are already organized into 24 man units. So, after some quick reshuffling, the Oberhilse Field Force will represent the 7 line and 2 light infantry units called for by the scenario by 9 companies (wings really) grouped into 4 regiments plus an independent rifle company or 5 maneuver units forming 2 small brigades of infantry. Throw in a brigade of cavalry and supporting artillery and we have a Division as an invading force. We're back to this being comparable in a size with at least 8 of the US invasions into Canada during the War of 1812 (albeit with more cavalry) although fielding a 24 man battalion per scenario unit would be closer still.

This basically eliminates the intended semi-skirmish game without a shot being fired. Instead, we have Featherston-ish battalions of 24 officers and men (vs 22) which can operate as 2 halves when necessary.  It would appear that this just may be my comfort zone. Hopefully  the first shots will be fired tomorrow.


  1. I would miss the ceramic buildings, which have featured in many a fine photo, but I can see the benefit of a more rural style of architecture and the opportunity to place figures more easily.

    24-man units dividable into two wings sounds highly plausible. Would the cavalry units be half that size, i.e. 12-strong?

    I look forward to reading the reports.

  2. There is much to be said for smaller buildings. I generally use houses at least one scale smaller than the toys. That's a very impressive Wargames room, by the way!

  3. The games room is looking pretty good.

  4. Looking forward to the action.

    I like your war room - organization with a look of clutter. Nothing personal, mine I define as total chaos. I probably have twice the room size, with a 5x6 ft table, probably no more toys (figures, books, etc) yet no organization. I can never find anything, and the battlefield is always covered so I'm always putting of playing a game :(

  5. Ross,

    Thank you for the chance to have a nose in your wargames room. What's the furry thing on the lamp and the certificate on the wall?

  6. Dave W, I can't imagine that all of the ceramic buildings would go, certainly not the Toy Shoppe!
    I think of them as having typical Oberhilse/Faraway Urban Architecture. They'll appear when I need a large town if nothing else. I'm hoping that any new buildings will fit well enough to allow mixing and matching.

  7. Its a work in progress Tim. I'm slowly trying to work towards comfort and utility making up for the reduction in square footage from my old room. There's just a few details left to attend to, at current rates, i anticipate completion in a year or so.

  8. Lentulus, your chair is waiting :)

  9. Dave I probably shouldn't admit this publicly but its not about organization, its about Illusion. I spent 2 hours clearing the table off so I could play a game and try to avoid showing the messiest bits in pictures :)

  10. Conrad, you are welcome, if I ever get the whole thing tidied and organized at once, I'll do a tour. The furry thing was a present from my sister years ago. Can't say anymore in case Rabbit Dave is reading.

    The certificate is one of my few solo Pour Encourager Les Autres awards from Cold Wars (most are games co-hosted with Rob Dean). That one was for a 54mm Prince Valiant game. I planned for 8 players, but with a 9am Saturday start time, I was wondering how few I needed to play. Ended up with 16 players due to the first 8 volunteering to share their commands with friends or strangers. It was a fun game with lots of competing interests, secret deals and a little fighting to boot. I'm afraid the Prince ended up being held for ransom.

  11. A photo tour of the games room sounds like a good idea. I'll do the same once I reduce the mess to manageable levels...