Monday, October 31, 2011

Incident at N'haro Pass -Prologue

Sunday was a wild Nor'Easter with rain and wind (Thankfully the US got most of the snow for once, thanks for not passing that on guys ) and my wife was off to a dog show, so I decided I had both time and energy for a quick game. My first instinct was to set up a Portable Wargame but then thought perhaps it was time to try out those HOTT armies, especially since some volunteers had swum the Atlantic to join the Woodland Horde and need to be given some airtime. But, having spend all that time painting and mapping, reloading old battle reports, and discussing the history of Atlantica (yes I believe the name is now Official) I was in the mood to get it all on the table. I had just finished  2 Horse Guards and for some reason the escort for the Princess Zenobii popped into my mind. (See Steve's Table Top Teaser Blog for the August 1979 Teaser ).
The Buffs or Belmont Fusiliers display their new colours.
The "wild" Northern half of the island seemed like an obvious setting but I wasn't ready and  why would there be Horse Guards up there anyway. This meant that rather than bandits or rebels, the ambushers would include regular Oberhilse troops and that meant I needed to work on a back story..

The last time I played this scenario, (oh thats freaky, I just looked up the last game and it was played on the 30th Oct last year! That was pure accident, I wonder if its about to become a tradition?) I used the old cloth over hills approach but this time  I wanted to see what I could do with the pile of ex-shelves and off cuts that I intend to turn into proper Toy Soldier hills, flat ones that the little lads can stand on. I used the layout from the version of the teaser that was included in Scenarios for Wargames but adjusted the troops closer to the original scenario. I pondered having 2 of the brush areas closest to the road be within melee range of the road allowing a close ambush but ended up making them within musket range but not melee range.

The Princess Charlotte Heavy Horse now 10 strong with guidon.

The next question was,  who was riding in the coach that justified sending out a party of Horse Guards into a wild enough place that they could be ambushed  by Oberhilse troops? Scanning the shelves, my eye fell on the Sash & Sabre ACW Officer and female dance partner. S&S have done some great figures, but this pair is my favorite. Now these two have a history. Two years ago, Lord Dennis C Walts, described as "an important officer of the Faraway Trading Company fleet", and his wife Vee Enna  Walts, were kidnapped by pirates. It seems that since his release was negotiated (2 rescue attempts having failed),  Lord Dennis has become Director General of the Faraway Trading Company and has decided to tour the territory that he is now responsible for. It is probably not a coincidence that he is a close friend of Duke Peter, 1/2 brother to the Queen, but in any case, he invited the Duke to accompany him on his tour. The tour included the Origawn Territory which lies in between  Oberhilse and Faraway and is disputed, having been the site of many a past battle.  Since the two countries have been at peace for 2 years, it was deemed safe enough but a contingent of Faraway troops including some Household Guards were added to the usual escort of Director General Bodyguards  and some armed Voyagers. Unfortunately, news of the procession reached Brigadier Zinn in command of the OFF garrison in Hueblee and he decided that this might be an opportunity to force the issue of sovereignty over the Origawn Territory.

So, in ambush were the Frontier Light Horse (Elite Irregular Cavalry), the OFF 2nd Infantry (line infantry with muskets), the Bangor Rifles (light infantry with rifles) and the Origawn Volunteers (irregular light infantry with rifles).  In order to add some uncertainty, I assigned a card to each unit and added an equal number of dummy cards. I took the 4 light infantry cards, shuffled them and then dealt 1 to each of 4 suitable ambush positions. I did the same with line infantry and cavalry. The cards would be exposed if spotted by a Faraway unit or if it tried to fire. Not ideal since unit positions were given away more easily than they would have been using map moves and 2 players, but it did allow me to play the column, knowing where enemy units might be, but not able to tell for sure where all the units were or weren't for sure till about 1/3rd of the way through the game by which time it was too late!

The Green Tigers (Wye Fusiliers) deploy. 

The convoy moved on with the Director General's Bodyguard leading (Cavalry with rifled carbines), then the Wye Regiment (aka The Green Tigersline infantry with muskets) then the coach containing the dignataries, escorted by a Corporal and private of the Royal Horse Guards (Elite Heavy Cavalry) followed by a wagon full of valuable papers and gold escorted by Voyageurs (Irregular light infantry with muskets) , then the Belmont Regiment (aka The Buffs, line infantry with muskets) and last of all, the Princess Charlotte Heavy Horse (aka The Black Horse, Heavy Cavalry).  All units entered in march column on the road and had to stay on road until the enemy were spotted. The vehicles had to stay on road at all times.

The rules were Hearts of Tin. This is not the sort of game that they were designed for but rereading the game a week reports where I did use them for low level games reminded me that they had worked well. In fact, now that I've gotten back to individual figures and nudged the rules to work with them, I feel like I may be at the point I have sought for years of going from thinking in terms of regiments and scales when playing to just thinking in terms of so many toy soldiers.  
Turn 2, the column has moved second, diced and spotted the hidden enemy at musket range.  First shot will depend on who wins the initiative. This shot shows how much work has to be done on the hills to get that natural, all fits together look.
 Tomorrow I will indulge myself and publish the report on the engagement as published in the Newport Noodle in 1841.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ambushed Again!

Lord Walts dismounts at the sudden sound of gunfire as a messenger from the Director Generals'Bodyguard rushes up. 
 Boy, working sure cuts in to one's hobby time. Even unpaid work on one's own house and property!  Its not that I'm crazy about cold, ice and snow but I'm looking forward to winter. Once all my winterizing is done, hopefully by the end of November, I intend to have an orgy of gaming! In the meantime, what time I have had, has mostly gone  into some casting and painting.

We have already seen the first 8 Princess Charlotte Heavy Horse appear. Well, I had actually pledged myself to cast, assemble and paint up 12 cavalry, so I cast 4 more and put them together. I was on the verge of declaring a general upgrade to 24 man infantry units and 12 man light infantry or cavalry, but I decided to look at my existing units. 3 of my existing units were raised to a 24 man standard, the rest were down to either Charge! or Morschauser standards or 9-10 cavalry or 18-20 Infantry (discounting drummers).  Between upgrading existing  units and finishing incomplete ones, I was looking at doing nearly 100 men and horses before I could touch any new units. Given the marginal difference, I decided to settle on the Morschauser  10 or 20, if that proves unsatisfactory, I can always expand at some point in future but soon I should be able to start on the natives armies from the North.

 So what about the 11th & 12th cavalry castings? After some brief experiments with a spare bearskin head and some putty, I decided that the Royal Horse Guards wore a brass helmet with bearskin crest. Two of them can be seen on the far side of the coach in the picture above.

In addition to having added 1 and 1/5 cavalry regiments, I have switched the coats on the FTC Bodyguard and added a mounted corporal to bring them up to strength, added an infantry Brigadier, 4 artillery crew with 4 more 1/2 done, and have added colours to 2 of the infantry regiments. These poor lads have been waiting 5 years for a flag, the question is which flag or flags? Two British colours? or 1 Faraway colour? Since I have gotten settled back into fictional mode and enjoying it more and more, I decided on new colours. These will seen more clearly on the next day or so as I finally get a game in, one  of the original table Top Teasers.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Armies of Atlantica: Part 2 - The Oberhilse Free State

It is common to see references to Oberhilse as a Republic throughout the 19th Century. In part this is because we are used to thinking of Oberhilse after the 1849 constitution but mostly it is because so many of the accounts originated from visitors to Faraway where they absorbed the local view that any state that wasn't a monarchy, must, by default, be a republic. Oligarchy is probably a better description of Oberhilse Free State in 1841. Technically, the Council of Elders which ruled Oberhilse was elected by all citizens, which is to say, male land owners either descended from the original settlers or granted citizen ship. Since, by the 1830's  Outlanders, those not holding citizenship despite owning land and paying taxes,  constituted over 75% of the population, in fact the government was in the hands of a small number of "Old Families",
Oberhilse Volunteers: (Left to right) Peipur Tigers, San Carlos Grenadiers, Frontier Light Horse in short jacket and hunting short, local volunteer and Bangor Rifles.

In theory, the defence of Oberhilse rested on an armed populace. One citizen in 5 was obliged to maintain arms in good order and know how to use them. Since the militia laws also didn't apply to Outlanders, this system had become obsolete by the 1830's. In its place was a system not so different from neighboring Faraway. There were three components:

1. The Council Guard (later the Republican Guard and often referred to that way). This was much smaller than in Faraway and consisted of a troop of largely ceremonial Horse Guards, a battalion of Grenadiers of the Council and the Guard Jaegers. These were all drawn from the ranks of the Militia, it being seen as the duty of all the Old Families to contribute as least 1 son for a 3 year stint in the Jaegers. Outlanders were not eligible to serve in the Guard prior to 1849. The Jaegers, better known as the Blue Guard were the only component of the guard to see frequent field service..

2. The Volunteers. To fill the deficiencies, volunteer regiments were raised when needed. Most of these were raised primarily from Outlanders at the start of a campaign and the expense was born by the government. Some however, were true volunteer units, amateur soldiers who assembled and trained in peacetime at their own expense while other short term regiments were raised and paid for by wealthy citizens as a patriotic gesture, (especially if seeking a seat on the Council). Occasionally  units were recruited overseas with many of the soldiers tending to settle and become Outlanders when the regiment was disbanded.  Faraway tended to regard these as mercenaries rather than volunteers. Similarly, the regiments raised in Hougal or San Carlos technically served Oberhilse as Volunteers rather than as allies.

 3. The Oberhilse Field Force (O.F.F.). Legally, this was just another volunteer formation but since it was kept in arms from 1836 until the establishment of the Republican Army in 1849, it was a regular standing army in all but name. The O.F.F.  consisted of 2 regiments of Dragoons, 6 regiments of infantry, and 2 batteries of artillery as well as a small technical staff.

While there were no national uniform regulations prior to 1849, blue coats had been traditional for all arms since the mid 18th century and the cut of uniforms  tended to follow international fashion. Due to close commercial and social ties and heavy immigration, American influence is often evident.

Oberhilse Regulars: (left to right) OFF Artillery, Guard Jaeger (Blue Guard), Dragoon, Infantry Officer and private.

1. The Blue Guard. Battle prints and Toy Soldiers depicting the Guard Jaeger almost inevitably portray the famous 1849 uniform regardless of what era is supposedly being depicted.  Since their inception, the Jaeger have worn a leather helmet but prior to 1849 it was not the helmet of Prussian design, worn with either plume or spike but rather one based on American Revolution Light Infantry Caps. With an eye towards economy, the horsehair crest was changed in 1831 to allow it to be removed. The difference between this cap with its small brass comb and the later spiked helmet is of great interest to uniform enthusiasts but of no interest to the general public. Likewise the double breasted, thigh length frock coat is quite different than the shorter single breasted 1849 tunic but again the distinct is minor and the more familiar later uniform is what the public expects. Cynics might also suggest that the market being small, repainting Prussian Toy Soldiers in Oberhilse colours makes more business sense than commissioning a more accurate model that the public isn't familiar with.

 2. The Volunteers. Considering how many units have been raised only to be disbanded  within a year or two, all uniformed at the whim of the Colonel, or of the volunteers themselves, it is not really possible to lay down firm guidelines for how units looked. Some of the more famous units include the red coated Peipur Tigers in their Tarleton helmets, the Bangor Rifles in Grey fatigue uniforms and the Frontier Light Horse in round or slouch hats and either short jackets or deer skin hunting shirts. The uniforms of the Grenadiers of San Carlos are typical of that widely worn in the 1820's, a shako, blue coat and white pants, though in their case, they hung onto to it until the 1850's.

3. The Oberhilse Field Force. (OFF) Officially all ranks were issued both a full dress uniform consisting of a shako, dark blue coatee and light blue trousers as well as a fatigue uniform consisting of a soft dark blue peaked cap and a short shell jacket, light blue for infantry and artillery, dark blue for cavalry.  The evidence suggests that dress uniforms were never issued and were only seen at social events, being worn by officers who provided their own. Officers frequently also provided their own dark blue frock coats as an alternative to the shell jacket. Once again, it is not hard to find illustrations and toy soldiers  showing the OFF Artillery in 1849 full dress but purporting to represent them in earlier wars..



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Armies of Atlantica: Part 1 - Faraway


The army of the Red Queen consists of 4 main components  The Household Troops, The District Troops, The Militia and the Faraway Trading Company (FTC) Troops.

In theory, Faraway's only permanent forces are the Household regiments but in practice many of the District troops have been embodied for years and are regulars in all but name while the FTC troops have fought side by side with the Queens troops for so long that its easy to forget they are essentially allies. not subjects.

There is a great deal of regimental variation in uniform and due to measures of economy, old style uniforms often continue to be issued, in some cases until the new pattern is itself obsolete and of course the Volunteers wear uniforms of their own choosing. There is also a tendency for District troops to wear locally acquired campaign dress items. However, some broad trends can be ascertained.

Cavalry: The Household Cavalry are all dressed in scarlet coatees with regimental facings, regimental headdress and dark blue booted overalls with a yellow stripe. The Queen's Hussars were an exception to this, wearing a scarlet pelisse and dark blue dolman. Supposedly a regiment of light cavalry, the Queen's uncle who was Colonel in Chief had selected the heaviest riders and mounted them on large horses, larger than the average Atlantica draft horse. Horses of this size are not bred anywhere in Atlantica and had to be imported at great expense. After the heavy losses suffered outside Thriegy in 1839, the need to rebuild the army meant that economies had to be implemented and the Hussars were disbanded.

The FTC Bodyguard were initially issued a short blue shell jacket with white facings, blue pants with a white stripe, hussar boots and a white metal helmet. Since the onset of the wars with Oberhilse, there have been several instances of mistaken identity since the Oberhilse cavalry also wears short dark blue stable jackets and plumed helmets though they normally wear peaked forage  caps on active service. As a result, the blue jackets have been replaced by red ones faced white.

Artillery. The artillery has always worn dark blue with red facings and this was adopted by the FTC troop of horse artillery although with their own flair: brass helmets with red plumes, knees boots and lots of lace. The traditional white trousers worn by the Faraway artillery have recently been replaced by dark blue for use on campaign along with the introduction of a dark blue shell jacket. The Royal Artillery replaced their white trousers with light blue during the peace of 1840/41 which led to an outcry due to the prevalence of light blue trousers in the Oberhilse army.

Infantry. Apart from the various rifle corps who wear a dark green uniform,  all Faraway infantry wear red coats with regimental facings. For full dress, and often in the field, this is a coatee, short tailed in the line, long tailed in the Household regiments, dark grey trousers with a red stripe and a shako apart from the Grenadiers who wear a bearskin cap. A broad topped shako had been originally been worn but a lighter straight sided one has been introduced. In the field, a short shell jacket and loose dark blue trousers are usually worn along with some form of forage cap, often covered with a white curtain in summer. When engaged in prolonged periods of bush fighting, it is not unknown for all sorts of improvised and adapted uniforms to appear.

Generally Volunteer units follow the  example set by Royal or District units but there are exceptions such as the New Dundee Highlanders, raised and equipped by Lord Bykirk at his own expense and recruited largely from Scottish immigrants, including many recruited abroad with promises of land grants from his estates in and about New Dundee. This regiment wears the full splendor of Victorian Highland regiments.

Here is a list of known regiments as of 1841. Those regiments marked in Bold type have seen service within the last 3 years. Those marked in Italic text are said to be incapable of taking the field until major recruitment, equipping and training take place,

The Household or Royal troops consist of 2 regiments of heavy cavalry, 1 battery of horse artillery, 1 battery of foot artillery and 2 regiments of infantry. The small staff of technical officers is also attached to the household. Oddly, despite the endemic border clashes, only the Royal Fusiliers and Royal Foot Artillery have been seen in the field in living memory and that only recently. This may explain some of the occasional mis-identification of units in various battle reports.

 The Household Regiments are:
  • Royal Horse Guards  (heavy cavalry, scarlet coatees, faced blue, and bearskin caps)
  • Princess Charlotte's Heavy Horse nicknamed the "Black Horse".
    (heavy cavalry, scarlet coatees, faced black, brass helmets)
  • Queen's Lancers (medium cavalry, scarlet coatees faced blue, lancer caps, lances)
  • Royal Horse Artillery (braided scarlet hussar jackets, (it is unclear if this is the pelisse or a dolman)  fur busbies)
  • Royal Foot Artillery (Dark blue coatees, faced red, broad shako, light blue pants)
  • Royal Grendiers (scarlet coatees faced blue, bearskin caps)
  • Royal Fusiliers (scarlet coatees, faced blue, broad shakos)
Left to Right, Household Troops: Princess Charlotte Heavy Horse, Royal Artillery, Royal Grenadiers, Royal Fusiliers.

    The district troops consist of artillery regiments and artillery batteries based in the 5 districts. Each has a depot and a permanent cadre but are only embodied for local service when needed by calling for volunteers from the militia. The artillery is normally kept in garrison but the infantry has seen constant service and the meaning of "local" has been stretched to include anywhere in South Atlantica.  The regiments have many local nicknames but the following are the offical names.
    The District Regiments are:

    Victoria Rifles (Dark green, armed with rifles)
    Belmont Fusiliers ("The Buffs" red faced buff)
    Wye Fusiliers ("Green Tigers" red faced green)
    Dover Fusiliers (red faced yellow)
    Uniake Fusiliers ( red faced yellow)

    A, B, C and D batteries are based in Dover, Uniake, Lawfordton and Wye respectively.

    Left to right, District Troops: Artillery, Victoria Rifles, Buffs, Green Tigers, Dover Fusiliers, Uniake Fusiliers


    All subjects are liable for service in the militia when called up. Lots are drawn for 5 years of service and those chosen are mustered once every 6 months. Little faith is placed in the militia but various volunteer units have been raised and some have done good service. In the central districts these Volunteers provide their own arms and uniforms and while they are sometimes looked down upon as Social Clubs for the rich, they train regularly and perform ceremonial and aid to the civil power duties. In some cases uniforms and weapons are provided by wealthy Colonels while in other cases individuals provide their own, On the frontier, volunteer companies are more likely to be non-uniformed volunteer light infantry raised amongst hunters and trappers, rivermen  and other woodsmen. Similar marine companies have also been raised on the coast from fishermen and sailors. There is no good record of these volunteer companies as yet.


    The FTC originally raised small bodies of armed men as guards for their trading posts and raised bodies of auxiliaries from friendly tribes as needed. As their interests and the area that they administered grew leading to increased conflict with various native tribes, they found themselves needing a larger force capable of a powerful, rapid response to threats. A regiment of mounted infantry was raised to serve as a combination police and armed force. This became the Director General's Bodyguard. A mounted rocket battery and a regiment of native lancers were eventually added. Once conflict with Oberhilse over the Rahdon gold fields became inevitable, the FTC troops found themselves acting primarily as auxiliaries to the Queen's forces.
    The FTC still operates on its own north of the mountains but the details of these operations have not been well researched yet.

    • Director General's Bodyguard (Medium cavalry, Originally dark blue faced white later changed to red faced white, white metal helmets. In theory they were to be armed with rifled carbines but I have not been able to confirm that this was ever done)
    • Larsen's Lancers (Green faced red, turbans, lancers, light cavalry)
    • Horse Artillery. (Blue jackets faced red, brass helmets with red plumes, armed with rockets or 6 pounders.)
    • Voyagers. These are various bodies of armed company "servants", hunters, traders, boatmen and the like. There is no official uniform but things such as coats are often provided by the company leanding an air of uniformity. Typical dress is a woolen cap and either a loose woolen shirt or blanket coat depending on the weather. 
    • Aeronautical Corps. The FTC has been experimenting with a balloon corps to keep its trading stations  linked together and well informed.
    • Native Auxiliaries. These are raised from allied tribes as and when needed.
    Left to right: FTC Troops: Director General's Bodyguard, mounted and dismounted, Horse Artillery, Voyager, Larsen's Lancers, native auxilliary of the Saskwatchay tribe.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    The Red Queen Prepares for War(games)

    ``C`` Battery of the Royal Faraway Artillery prepares to go on campaign. 

    Thank you to all who took the time and trouble to vote in the poll, make comments or email me. Polls are of course open to interpretation so one could say that 5 people favoured a uniform with dark blue coat and 5 favoured a uniform with dark blue pants (though they were probably plumping for the red coats). Many of the comments provided some good, useful thoughts and when I came across the archival footage which reminded me that bu the 1850`s, the Farway artillery took the field in dark blue shell jackets and dark blue trousers, all trimmed in red, well, that sealed it.

    For those who were wondering what the fuss was, the following picture shows 3 artillerymen. Which 2 look like they come from the same side?

    The question now is what to do with my 1837 Royal Artillery. One option is to leave them on the shelf until I decide to do an historical Canadian Rebellion game, which seems like kind of a waste. I could draft them into the Oberhilse army along with all the other light blue trouser guys and  claim that any pictures of them fighting on the side of Faraway are merely artists error. I could repaint their trousers dark blue and not worry about it since I'm not all that likely to refight thehistorical rebellion as opposed to borrowing ideas for a fictional game.  Or I could rely on the service dress batteries for day to day action and save the full dress one for the rare occasions that I need to field 3 batteries.

     In the mean time, the question of Heavy Cavalry has been addressed. A unit has been planned for years but all that has been painted up are light cavalry which has resulted in the Director General's Bodyguard often being deployed in that role. In recognition of their service, the Queen is taking them on as Dragoon Guards and they will be issued new red coats but maintaining their white facings. A brand new regiment  regiment has also been raised with the Queen's daughter as Colonel in Chief.

     Princess Charlotte Heavy Horse .

    This clears the way to raise a unit of Lancers, a unit of Mounted Rifles and a unit of Horse Guards.

     As an aside, the danger of drinking tea late at night.

    After last night's post, instead of going to bed as intended, I sat up tweaking HofT and have uploaded the result. The more I looked at how to include the possibility of a short, decisive  close range firefight without making a short decisive long range fire possibly as deadly and while not allowing defenders to be mowed down by a frontal assault without a chance to defend themselves, all without reverting to my old 3" "melee" zone, the more changes I could see that I needed to make. I've been down this road before so just went back to what worked. Morcschauser's 3" melee zone has been re-instated but with last years differentiation between a charge and a fire fight.

    At the same time, the old struggle between using die modifiers ala WRG and Grant or 1/2 casualties as per von Reiswitz and Lawford & Young resurfaced. I have seesawed between these (and saving throws) for at least 15 years. There are anomolies both ways. The 1/2 is cruder but effective. the die modifiers need to be very carefully modulated to get the right result. The issue is that lowering the odds does not change the possible maximum and minimum number of hits unless other measures are also taken. halving does both but with small numbers and rounding becomes no hit or little or no difference and unless one is handy with math is hard to tweak. (eg sharpshooters add a quarter before halving) . I also prefer to use one or the other, not both, so I have reverted to the original idea of assigning a "to hit" number to each unit rather than having ageneric number with + and - based on quality etc.  This allows easy tweaking of troops so is a bter way to go really.

    The result is available at left but a play test is probably a week away.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Checking Back to Stay on Track

    Looking back over past games this last week has been not only entertaining for me but useful as well. Having re-read some of the imagi-nation reports as I explore more of the geography, politics and history of the lands and paint up new troops (pictures tomorrow I should think), it feels like things are much easier to put together when all the ducks are lined up in one direction and all hauling the same way.

    Some thoughts in random order:

    1. I didn't have much time for most of '09 to worry about rules or background or scales so I just put troops out and played. The games seem to have been more fun for it.

    2. Having put all those things aside, using the wrong scale of rules didn't seem to hurt the games at all, in fact using 1 set of rules and 1 organization  seemed to enhance the experience from a narrative and a suspension of belief POV. I had maintained  this as an objective, but I think I had, sort of, forgotten why.

    3.  The more I looked at historical battles over the last 2 years, reading up on  the Sikh & Mexican American Wars and a few others, the more I felt I should be gaming at the "whole army" level. Rereading accounts of past games has reminded me that when I'm not thinking about it, not doing so doesn't decrease my enjoyment. Re-reading Charge! reminds me that it operates on the same principle.  Its interesting that Lawford's book on Battles for Wargamers book on Vitoria suggests Charge! Regiments as Divisions, if memory serves, with 1 company per brigade. For some reason, not worrying about scales and higher level organization seems to bother me less when playing fictional games. I'm thinking I can keep the fussing about scales and organization for those historical periods that I'm keeping such as War of 1812 and relegate big battles to 1/72nd ACW if I ever paint enough to do them.

    4. One of the original strengths ( I think) of Hearts of Tin was its separation between decisive (relatively), mutual close range combat and indecisive (relatively), unilateral long range fire.   I have mentioned this several times, fairly recently too,  but have still managed to lose it again. The 3" melee zone is not the only way to achieve it, Charge! manages it quite nicely because of the way the volley fire works.  One of my little tests of a set of musket era rules is to see if it can duplicate the Plains of Abraham  and whether or not this sort of result is possible but unusual, impossible or probable if the situation is made generic. (After all, Montcalm probably knew it was a possible outcome but surely if he had believed that his attack had no chance then he wouldn't have made the attempt. One could argue that he over rated his own troops and under rated the enemy but one can also argue that one doesn't really know the temper of one's troops on the day until the dice have been thrown. )  Anyway, HofT used to allow for it as possible but not probable but at the moment it doesn't. Possible tweaks include going back to 2 different mechanisms for long range/skirmish fire and close range volleys   or just making close range volleys capable of breaking an equal enemy if you roll really, REALLY well.

    So, another rules tweak is in order as above and the committee on organization of armies in Faraway and Oberhilse has been instructed to drop all this fuss about brigades and divisions and begin again keeping the principles of 1 unit per TT Teaser unit with the option to make use of sub-units as detachments. I am anticipating a  24 man battalion as standard (again) but 32 hasn't been completely ruled out.  Bigger battalions will allow me to return to 2 guns as a battery but due to finances, I will have to arm some batteries with obsolete 18thC guns for now.

    Now back to finishing off Princess Charlotte's Dragoon Guards. Oh how they will shine! (on parade at least)


    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Love's Labour not Lost: Battle of the Week reloaded

    I have finally finished reloading all 52 battle reports from my Game a Week project. They can now be read at

    For those readers not familiar with this project, in November 2008, I decided that I wasn't playing enough games. As an attempt to remedy that, I decided to play all 52 scenarios in Stuart Asquith and CS Grant's book: Scenarios for All Ages (aka the little red book), with a friend if I could, solo if not. More than that, I decided to play them in order, and as close as possible to 1 a week, and to then post a very brief report on my webpage. In the end, it took me 60 weeks to play 34 solo games, 15 face to face games and 3 Play-by-Email mini-campaigns, in 11 periods.

    When I started, I had only played a handful of solo games in my 35 or so years of wargaming but by the time I was done, I had come to enjoy them for their own sake. Oddly, in addition to these games, I ended up playing twice as many other games as I had in any of the preceding 3 or 4 years.

    Since the webpage is now gone, I decided to transfer the reports to a blog.

    Here is a copy of the report of one of my favorite games from this project:

    31 Mar 2009 Scenario 15: Forlorn Hope (1)

    This game was played solo using 40mm 19thC armies and Hearts of Tin.

    I'm still gathering forces and working on the background for my Red vs Blue campaign so technically haven't started yet but it seems to be developing a storyline all by itself. After the surprise appearance of Pirates as Blue allies in #11, an attack on a fortified city suggested a punitive expedition by Red, so instead of trenches and breaches its a surprise attack from the jungle at 1st light: the escalade of Freeport. The pirates had 1 unit spread out along the wall in detached companies with a heavy battery in the stone tower guarding the log boom blocking the river. A 2nd unit was asleep in town as well as the Grenadiers of San Carlos who had volunteered their services to defend the town. I counted the pirates as Veteran Militia. Apparently there are some religious issues as 2 armed Franciscans were serving as aides to Captain Mulrooney, the Pirate chief.

    Red had 2 storming parties, one with 3 ladder parties, all grenadiers, and a company of rifles led by Brigadier Macfarlane, the other with 2 companies of grenadiers, a company of rifles and an Engineer with petard, all under the command of Brigadier Grey. The back up force under General Turner comprised the Rocket Troop, FTC Horse Artillery and 2 battalions of foot as well as the gunboat FTCS Recycle with a heavy mortar.

    Grey's party managed to creep within 6" of the gate before the alarm was sounded but the laddermen, no doubt slowed by their burden, were not even 1/2 way from the edge of the jungle. As the alarm went up the rocket troop galloped forward and opened fire as the Recycle steamed into view. In short order, the surprisingly accurate rocket and mortar fire had silenced the Tower Battery (accurate if not counting a rogue rocket that just missed the Tigers!). Meanwhile Gray's grenadiers charged forward and engaged in a desperate close range firefight with the defenders while the Engineer struggled with his charges (tied melee) but at last the fuse was lit, the door blown open and the forlorn hope entered. Now where were the relief's?

    There had been some confusion in the jungle and the Tigers were not even 1/2 way there so Grey sent 1 company to seize the rampart above the gate while the other held the door itself. Over on the wall, the 3 ladders went up but resistance was surprisingly fierce and 2 of the 3 parties were thrown back. The 3rd company was undaunted and clung to a narrow foothold.

    The Buffs were quickly at hand and started feeding men up the ladders into the fight under a withering flanking fire. Macfarlane spotted an empty stretch of rampart and led the closest ladder party to it to effect a lodging, eventually reinforced by riflemen and some Buffs. Inside, fierce and bloody fighting reigned as the pirates and San Carlos Grenadiers struggled to evict the enemy but eventually, despite local, temporary victories, their casualties were too high and they fled back through the town, leaving it to its fate.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    From the Archives: A battle from the future of Faraway & Oberhilse

    It occurred to me this morning, that I have archival material from the future of Faraway that show what the uniforms will look like in 1861. Doesn't mean that there can't have been a major shift in the 1840's, just look at the fashion havoc wrought by King William IV in 1832 with his attempt to put all British units into red. (I note that the artillery and Rifles escaped that one) .

    Obviously, there are some factual errors in the following background blurb, for example, there is no mention of the hereditary Queen or the FTC and Faraway is described as a break away republic. I think we can guess the source of that information. This does call for more research as to whether Faraway did indeed become a Republic in 1849 or perhaps a Constitutional Monarchy?  

    In the mean time, here is the first battle report ever written about a battle in Faraway. I believe it was  first published in 2001 after a wargame fought during a visit of good friends from Virginia. I have left it intact and not attempted to correct details where they differ from what is now accepted as fact. The miniatures are 54mm, the rules used were With MacDuff to the Frontier. The scenarios is the Island Battle from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers. Note the artillerymen in the first picture, this is the only clue as to their dress as they do not appear in the battle. I believe that the New Dundee Highlanders may have been formed in 1842 so perhaps we will see it in action again within the year. 



    Oberhilse & Faraway

    I'm always on the look out for less well known campaigns to recreate so I was pleased recently to come across a Charlesburg University Press publication:  "Russell's Dispatches from Oberhilse and Faraway: A European View  of the Border War 1861-1863" . Up until then I hadn't realised that William Russell had covered this little known conflict but this book is a wealth of information and has become my main source of information for a new wargames campaign.


    I won't bore everyone with a long history but I figure a short intro as to the origins of the border war are in order for those who aren't familiar with this area. Leaving aside the question of whether or not St. Brendan visited the island on one of his voyages, we can pass on to mention that the Danish Vikings were the first to settle in what is now known as Oberhilse and that despite various charters from the Stewart's to their supporters (I have a copy of one such granting lands to Black Angus MacFarlane and there may be some validity to the claim that the name Faraway commonly applied to the Western Shore dates back to the MacFarlane grant), generally Denmark's title to the region was not disputed.The discovery of gold in the Rawdon Hills in 1821 led to  an influx of Irish, Scottish and American immigrants and in 1849, discontent with lack of civic rights for "outlanders" led to a revolt and the establishment of the Republic of Faraway. Denmark of course had her hands full with the Shleiswig-Holstein War and when Great Britain recognized the break away republic and pledged support, Denmark gave in and granted them independance with sovereignty over the Western half of the mainland.


    Hardcore nationalists in Oberhilse felt betrayed by this settlement and never accepted it. When they were quietly approached by members of the newly formed Fenian organisation who felt that seizing Faraway would provide a good base for their campaign for irish independance, they gladly took the opportunity to strike a blow at the hated British and allowed armed camps to be formed along the border and on some of the islands just off the coast of Faraway. From here the Fenians proceeded to raise and arm troops while sending agents across the border to forment dissent amongst the large Irish population. The Faraway goverment reacted by appealing to Britain for aid and in August of 1859 a small expeditionary  force arrived and a joint operation was launched against the Fenian camp on what is now known as Rebel Island.

    This operation was the basis for the first wargame in my campaign. If you want a well written, colourful, account of  the battles and skirmishes of this war, "The thick blue mass tipped with lead" and so forth, I refer you to Russell's dispatches. My own account of our wargames will cover the forces and set up with just a brief description of the highlights. Following the usage of the time, I will refer to the British and Faraway forces as "Red", the Danish and Oberhilse forces as "Blue" and pure Fenian forces as "Green". 


    Dundee Highlanders marching past Governor General & Lady Beaverbrook on their way to embark for Rebel Island. 

    Red Army

    OC:  Brigadier Daniel Johns (John Daniels Jr.)
    2ic: Colonel H MacDuff (Ross Macfarlane)

    • Ft Henry Guards (Officer, colour, drummer, 7 bayonets)
    • Ft Henry Guards  (Officer, colour, drummer, 7 bayonets)
    • 11th Hussars (Officer, trumpeter, 4 sabres)
    • 17th lancers (Officer, 5 lances)
    • Naval brigade  (Officer, 9 ratings,  field gun and rocket)
    • Scots Fusilier Guards (Officer, colours, drummer, 5 bayonets)
    • Grenadier Guards (Officer, Drummer, 6 bayonets)
    • New Dundee Highlanders  (Officer, Piper, 8 bayonets)
    • Lawfordton University College Rifles (Officer, 5 bayonets)
    All troops were regular with all but E,H & I being steady. The cavalry was impetuous, the Rifles are Light Infantry. All infantry was armed with muzzle loading rifles.

    Pandora leading her Volunteers into action on Bighil Heights.

    Green Army

    OC:  General Jack Daniels (John Daniels )

    • McAlpine's Fusiliers (Officer, colours, 8 bayonets)
    • O'Reilly's Regiment (Officer, colours, 8 bayonets)
    • O'Carroll's Chasseurs (Officer, 5 sharpshooters)
    • Harper's Battery (Officer, 4 gunners, field gun)
    • Farrel's Fenian Dragoons (Officer, Bugler, 4 Light Horse)
    Colonel "Annie" Pandora (Pandora Daniels )
    • New Waterford Volunteers (Officer, 9 irregulars)
    • Tipperary Tigers (Officer, 9 Irregulars)
    A,B,C were regular light infantry, C were also sharpshooters,  E was irregular light horse, F&G were irregular light infantry. All troops were armed with muzzle loading rifles.

    Rebel island as seen from a hot air balloon as the action begins.
     The general layout of the island can be gathered from the accompanying photos.  Red had a choice of  3 beaches, one to the East, one to the Southwest, 1 right under the guns of Ft. Daniels. There were sufficient boats to land the troops in 5 waves,  the waves appearing every 4th turn. The waves were selected as laid out above. Gen Jack Daniel's men were encamped in an earthwork on the Western end of the island, Pandora and her Volunteers in billets in New Waterford and the Tipperary Tigers billeted in Farmton in the south.
    The game began with the Dragoons departing for their daily patrol of the island heading east from Fort Daniels through New Waterford, while the 1st wave came ashore at Souwest beach, hidden by a screen of trees and the lower slopes of  Bigill Heights.

    The fight begins.
    The Buildup 
    By the time the Dragoons stopped to chat with local inhabitants, frolicked on East Beach and finally topped the crest looking down onto Souwest beach, the first 3 waves of Red troops were ashore and running out of dead ground to hide in. At the same time as a courier was sent galloping back through Farmton and over the saddle, sounding the alarm "The British are coming, The British are coming" (sad but true),  an alert sentry in Ft Daniel spotted the first company of Fort Henry Guards emerging from the woods and sounded the alarm.
    Bluecoats spilled  from the fort forming a skirmish line along the creek and up into the hills while the gunners quickly (2 6's in a row) wheeled the gun from its position overlooking North Beach to face the attackers. Brigadier Littlejohn ordered the cavalry to sweep away the enemy skirmishers as the rattle of musketry disturbed the morning's peace.

    The Hussars chase after the scattering sharpshooters.
    Garry Owen Hail!  
    Hearing the bugles ring out from behind the musket smoke, the Fenian skirmish line fired one last hasty volley and scrambled back towards the fort or up the grassy slopes of Bighil Heights. Incredibly one of those bullets, flying high, reached back and plucked the unfortunate Brigadier Littlejohn from the saddle. As his aides gathered round the stricken general,  the 11th Hussars emerged through  the lingering smoke and seeing only the sharpshooters climbing the slopes, spurred after them.
    Despite the uneven, rabbit hole strewn hillside, the Hussars caught up with the fleeing Fenians and laid nearly 1/2 of them low in a running fight . Seeing Pandora and her Volunteers emerge from behind the crest to cover the sharpshooters, the Hussars spurred forward yet again but a burst of musketry from the volunteers and cannon fire from the fort tore into them  and sent the dazed remnants staggering back to the beach where they spent the rest of the day tending to wounded men and blown horses.

    Irregulars firing from cover.
    As the hussars retreated, the 17th lancers spurred forward, but, falling foul of the rabbit holes, they too were gunned down , only Col. Flashinpan and 1 trooper making it back down the slopes to the beach where they hastily re-embarked.

    Come Out and Fight!
    As the cavalry charged to glory, MacDuff took  command as best  he could. The Naval Brigade was now up and he ordered them to bombard the fort  while a company of Scots Fusilier Guards moved up into line. After a sharp exchange of fire, the Fenian gunners were driven away from their guns and  the British infantry which had been standing under a peppering long range fire from the fort and from the slopes of Bighil Heights, prepared to advance.

    HMS Invisible  covers the retreat.
    On  the right, a company of Fort Henry Guards reinforced by another of Grenadiers was trading fire with the Tigers and dismounted Dragoons. Despite the steady conduct of both companies it was soon seen that standing in close order  trading fire with an equal number of  skirmishers was not going to win the day. (esp when rolling fistfuls of ones )

    Beating up their men's muskets, the British officers ordered bayonets fixed and led them forward into a withering blast of musket fire which laid low the colour party and 1/2 of both companies. The red coated soldiers fell back, rallied and advanced into another furious hail of fire then broke and ran covered by a handful of Grenadiers.

    Billy Russell covers the retreat in a different manner.
    Thank Gawd for the Navy.  
    The last wave of troops was not quite up yet and  the command was badly scattered with only 2 companies in the main battleline but with the enemy artillery silenced, it was now or never if an assault was going to go in.  Slowly the Red line moved forward under a hail of  rifle fire from the fort. Then, suddenly  a blaze of fire came from the flank where Pandora and her crack shot volunteers had crept forward along the slopes into close range. In an instant the British line was a bloody shambles  and reluctantly MacDuff ordered a retreat to the boats covered by the Dundee Highlanders and the boys of the College Rifles.

    For a moment it looked like the Fenians would press their advantage but then like a deux-ex-machina, HMS Invisible appeared bristling with guns, and the Fenians crept back to cover. (Actually it was deux-ex-machina, it was bad enough the British got drubbed in the opening battle (very traditional wot?) I wasn't about to allow them to be annhilated !) .

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    A Royal Commission on Artillery Uniforms

    "14 October 1841. In light of reports that the new Foot Artillery uniform was a source of confusion during the late war, Her Majesty desires that the Directors study the matter and provide recommendations for a new pattern of uniform for Her Majesty's Foot Artillery."

    So, there it is, a directive to work on the matter at hand. I think it was copying the contemporary British use of light blue trousers that clinched the matter and made them look too much like the enemy.

    Where did the fad for light blue trousers come from anyway? I think one or 2 Minor German principalities wore them late in the Napoleonic Wars but by the 1830's & 40's they are being worn by Danes, Saxons, various Italian states, the US, British artillery and light cavalry and others. Usually combined with dark blue coats apart from the Danes before they switched, and the Saxons whose use of Medium/Dark Green and light blue is really eye catching.  I think some US units still wear them in ceremonial dress don't they?

    Anyway, I thought I would have a quick look at correlation of foot artillery to infantry coat colours in various states of the 1840's

    Nation Foot Coat Artillery Coat
    France, Prussian, Hesse, Hanover, Spain,
    USA, Mexico, Argentina, Sardinia, Norway, Sweden
    Dark Blue Dark Blue
    Russia, Saxony, Nassau Green Green
    Denmark (pre 1848 changes)Red Red
    Bavaria Medium Blue Dark Blue
    Britain Red Dark Blue
    Austria White Brown

    It seems that having the same coat colour for infantry and foot artillery was by and far the most common practice.. The shortage of red coated artillery then, is due to the scarcity of red as a standard infantry coat colour. The Austrian use of brown is an interesting and unique variation which recalls the AWI Rhode Island artillery. I think it is too distinct to steal, however.

    The two goals are to
    a) have an artillery uniform that is easily identifiable as belong to the Red army rather than the Blue army,
    b) to choose an easily believable uniform.

    Given the political history of Faraway at this point in time (late 1841), it is unlikely that they would be copying any Danish traditions but since they are not a British colony, slavish copying of British practice is not necessarily to be expected either. At this time, I see two easy and plausible chouces that might fulfil the goals.

    1. Keep the existing Dark Blue coats but replace the pale blue trousers which are also worn by the enemy, with Red ones. On campaign, coatees and shakos would be replaced by shell jackets and white cap covers with havelocks. The result would not look British or match any historical armies though it might suggest French or Spanish influence.

    2. Issue the same sort of red shell jackets and dark blue pants as are worn by most Faraway infantry units.

    Perhaps a poll might help the Directors to make a recommendation to the Queen,

    Mock-ups of the proposed new Red Army artillery uniforms.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Slip Sliding Down the Slippery Slope or imagining armies and uniforms

    It was probably inevitable that I would end up here since the day the package arrived containing Little Wars and Charge! with their fictional countries and armies.

    It was while clearing the table after the last game that I found myself contemplating HG Well's Red and Blue armies and looking at the mix of uniforms on my table. To the uninitiated, one might well expect the red coated cavalry to be on the same side as the red infantry and the artillery in dark blue jackets and light blue pants to be on the same side as the cavalry and infantry in dark blue jackets and light blue pants. Well enough for historical games or even fictional games where one has selected  a particular historical army as a model and such diversity is found in the historical prototype. It can also be useful, even in a fictional setting, to have a unit or 2 that one can trot out on occasion, especially where one wants to introduce the possibility of mistaken identity. For fictional toy soldier armies, however, there is a lot to be said for a strong national identity so that anyone looking at the game can easily tell which side is which. For this the 19thC French, Prussian, Russian or Federal American armies provide a better model than the British Army, especially if the various Volunteer and Yeoman units are considered. In HG Well's case, its hard to be sure by looking at somewhat blurry B&W   pictures, but he seems to have pitted Household Cavalry, Heavy Dragoons, Guards, Fusiliers, Highlanders and Line infantry in serge  vs Horse Guards, Lancers, Hussars, khaki  clad infantry, marines and all manner of foreigners to form 2 distinct Red and Blue (or Not Red to be more accurate) Armies..
    A scene from last winter's Portable Wargame refight of Hook's Farm

    To date, whether I have been dabbling my toes in plausible Alternate History such as the Oregon Crisis gone hot or fiddling with imaginary countries, the armies have been essentially  contemporary British and US troops, with the odd unit out of place. As long as this remains the case, I fear that the armies will remain stand-ins rather than taking on their own character and that it will be impossible to separate Faraway from the British Empire which will complicate matters and hamper my freedom of imagination.

    It seems to me that if I were to break up the historical national armies, add more non-British  and non-American uniforms and even some made up ones, then it might be easier for the armies to begin to develop their own identities. In the unlikely case that I introduce a non-historical or at least non-horse and musket wargamer  to my game, it will also be easier for them to grasp the two armies. With the decision to stay with individual figures, it will also be easy enough to provide alternate colour parties with either fictional or historical flags so that units could be borrowed for a public historical game if needs be. There are a few units, such as the Director General's Body Guard, which have developed a history over the last 4 years and thus will have to be retained as is or else be subjected to that common historical ritual, the issue of new pattern uniforms but by and large its mostly about going forward. I think I will also indulge myself and use this major shake up and expansion to jump forward to October 1851.  This is around the era that I was originally planning to set the campaign (based then on the 3 Years or Schlieswig Holstein War). This will allow me to  choose to introduce more rifles if desired as well as make increased use of technology, such as steam engines, more plausible.
    Mark I Prototype Oberhilse Army

    I haven't made a final decision on the as yet unnamed Northern Native Kingdom but regulars are likely to use unbleached/white cotton  uniforms in the field, with or without a poncho. Dress uniforms might be a dark yellow or a yellowy-brown with guards possibly in pale purple. The style of these uniforms has not been determined, possibly a zouave style jacket or vest,. we'll see, A high percentage of the army will be non-uniformed irregulars.

    Oberhilse .is as it always has been, the Blue army with Infantry, cavalry and artillery all in Dark Blue coatees  and shakos for Full Dress, bearskins for the Grenadier Guards, but with light blue or grey shell jackets and caps in the field when appropriate. Tunics and spiked hats have been introduced into the guard and may spread. The Red Coated Peipur "Tiger" Dragoons will probably be retired to the War of 1812 where they came from but kept as an optional Volunteer Unit if a surprise/confusion unit is needed. Oberhilse is most likely to include contingents of non-uniformed "European" volunteers.
    A 2008 shot of Red Army artillery and cavalry. The only thing Red about them is the General's coatee , the lancers penents and the Horse Artillery plumes and facings!

    Faraway of course, is the Red Army. The infantry will remain Red with rifle units in dark green, coatees and shakos for full dress, shell jackets and caps sometimes worn in the field. The artillery however, is about to abandon dark blue and adopt red or possibly green jackets. except for the FTC Horse Artillery Rocket Battery. This unit's historical uniforms are so unlikely that I think they would loose all credibility if repainted red or green so their red plumes will have to proclaim their allegiance. At least they are unlikely to be confused with any enemy unit. Depending on how painting goes over the future, the full dress Horse Artillery uniforms may be saved for special occasions and a more modern service dress adopted in the field. For some years now, I have been planning to add red coated, helmeted dragoons and they are next on my list. For now the DGBG will keep their dark blue uniforms but they may be issued red jackets at some point in thr future. More light cavalry in green are also planned, maintaining the "light troops in green" motif set by the Rifles and Larsen's Lancers.  Non-uniformed units in the Faraway  army are most likely to be native allies.  .

    2008 Mark II Oberhilse Army.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    More discovering Imagionary Peoples and Places.

    Last summer I talked a bit about resuming my exploration of a fictional setting for my toy soldier campaigns. All the usual reasons that one sees in various OS books apply, the ability to fight wargames based on various historical campaigns without building an unlimited number of armies, the removal of national prejudice and political/morality issues that might surround militarily interesting historical campaigns and so on. However, the more I indulge in this business of creating a fictional land, the more interesting it becomes as an exercise in its own right.

    I'm not a linguist, despite having managed to rate as functionally bilingual in French in my younger days, which  meant no more than being able to read tolerably well and to carry on basic conversations if the other person spoke slowly and listened thoughtfully, and having picked up a smattering of Scots Gaelic a few years ago. So don't expect an explosion of colourful invented languages and names. I'm not a sociologist or economist either so expect no more than the merest scattering of background such as the average dull witted tourist might pick up on a whirlwind tour. Oh and it may be a long time before the facts uncovered appear anywhere, collected and presented in a coherent fashion. Instead, snippets will appear here and there as they occur to me or as it becomes relevant to a game, partly because I tend to write what I am thinking about with little filtering and partly because I benefit from milking comments. Right, off we go then.

    Last night I sat down with pen and graph paper (couldn't find a pencil which I would have preferred), dice and an early copy of BG and drew the basic map of the Northern 1/2 of Neuland. (suggestions for a better name for this island are welcome, both possible native ones, mangled or not and European ones given original discovery/settlement  by Danes and Scots.) The first order of business was to establish the coastline, a topic not actually covered in Henry's Faltanian Succession cartography article. Not being able to remember how I did the first 1/2 other than that when I drew the 1st map, 5 or so years after the cretion of Neuland, I used Henry's article as a guide. I finally decided to start in 1 corner and veer left on a 1,2, go straight on  a 3,4 or veer right on a 5,6, intervening only if it got really silly. There are a few saw tooth stretches of coast that I may  soften a bit but over all it worked well. Once or twice I completed a circle which then became an island and I backed up to create a strait. There were also some interesting peninsulas. All to the good. Next mountain/hilly areas and woods. Here I was a little nervous since I had an idea already of the effect of backwards (sic and apologies to all the Southern Hemisphere readers out there) prevailing winds and mountains on locations of deserts and jungle, but I let the dice go and they didn't let me down. .The biggest area of jungle is on the East coast esp on a low lying peninsula just before a small mountain range. The interior and west coast are either steppe or scattered light woods. For cities, the dice co-operated again, landing a couple on large bays and one at the confluence of 2 rivers. There are lots of details to add over the next weeks but those will be done on the computer rather than by hand. Once I get the map scanned in, I'll share the work in progress.

    Adding history, culture and peoples is going to be longer and harder (ie more fun) but the rough outline has been there since before I began. (It really does feel like discovering rather than inventing). As I have said before, I do not wish to copy too closely any real precedent but neither do I wish to stray too far from actual history. With this in mind I have been refreshing myself lightly on various European vs non-European contact in North & South America, South Africa and India. A patient, wise man would spend a year or 2 doing this more deeply but instead I am relying primarily on suggestion from browsing and instinct drawing largely on what I have already ingested in the past. These last few weeks were somewhat shocking to me when I realized just how little I actually knew of the history and peoples of South America, especially prior to the 19thC. Something to be remedied in future but to be honest, at the moment, too deep a knowledge is almost not good as it makes it harder to not copy any one history. Besides various details have already been published in the past on With MacDuff on the Web and I need to be as consistent as possible as I explore this land..

    So, having said all that, what do I have so far?

    1. The original inhabitants of the island arrived "when the earth was young" when the great warrior Mithiqual crossed the ocean on the back of a giant Crocodile, the descendants of which  can still be found on its eastern shores. He fell in love with a beautiful young seal and she came ashore, married him and became the mother of the People. (ok so some of this may be myth)

    2. The bulk of the native inhabitants that inhabit the island are of the same racial origins and show strong cultural similarities on both sides of the Tsentral Mountains despite regional differences. South of the mountains, in the areas partially settled by Europeans, most of the population were largely hunter/gatherers or fisher folk with only small settlements of farmers living in stockaded villages. One of the semi-nomadic Southern Tribal groups, the Saskwatchay is composed of taller than usual men and was originally reported as a race of Giants. (modern research shows that they are only 3-4 mm taller than the average toy soldier but with a corresponding increase in bulk. Fierce-some opponents in hand to hand combat for sure.)

     North of the mountains the situation was similar in the center and the west but with increased agriculture and larger, more numerous towns. . The climate being drier and less wooded, adobe was used for both houses and fortifications. It seems that originally these typically had thatched roofs but as the climate changed and became drier several centuries ago, flat roofs became more common and with the introduction and rapid spread of firearms into the endemic tribal warfare of raid and counter raid,  rooftop parapets  became common, turning every farmstead into a small fortress.

    3. In the jungles of the North-East Coast, is a population of jungle/coast dwelling people, off shore fishermen who have been accused of practicing ritual cannibalism. These appear to be of different, though possibly related, race from the rest of the island natives and have comparatively primitive technology and social organization.

    4. Most of the native population lived in tribal groups associated into loose confederacies at best but there were three exceptions. In the south-west, the area now known as Faraway,  was ruled by an hereditary line of Queens. These still reign in theory though the Faraway Trading Company Board of Directors is the defacto government. In the  North there are a series of independent, petty kings in the interior who occasionally form significant alliances and in the North West where there are actual native cities that have been in existence since before the 1st European contact, there is an hereditary King who rules a large chunk of the Northern half of the island.

    5. In the south, traditional costume was largely made of animal skins but increasingly blankets and other woven clothing were acquired by trade with the North and with the South-West. A mix of European and native styles is increasingly popular. In the north, cotton and wool fabrics are widely used. In hot weather a simple skirt and head scarf were once common wear but now loose trousers are widely worn. Brightly coloured blankets and ponchos are still popular as are head scarves but the latter are sometimes large enough to count as a turban while broad brimmed straw or felt hats, copied from the Europeans have become popular.

    6. Horse were introduced by Europeans but spread widely as did the custom of riding. Cattle and sheep are also raised domestically.

    7. Finally, the subject of the European history of what is now Neuland, has been touched on previously but briefly, the earliest settlers were Danish Vikings, probably around ad 900 or 1000. They settled along the Hilse River in South-Eastern Neuland and over the years this area has been heavily settled by Europeans from various countries with cities spreading up and down the coast.. This settlement was largely one of conquest and occupation rather than co-habitation. Recently, this settlement pattern has begun to expand north of the mountains.  The Faraway Trading Company (FTC) holds a charter from James VII of Scotland  which grants them many rights. As mentioned above they have turned this into defacto control of the Western coast of the Southern half of the island while maintaining the semblance of a native realm. This means that there has been much greater interaction and co-operation between Europeans and the natives but there has been some influx of farmers as well as many tradesmen and a tendency towards assimilation or European-ization.

    The question of economic and political control of the remaining native areas of the Island has been the source of various wars and is likely to be so again..

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Organizing an Army Part 2: The World Turned Upside Down

    Since I'm not starting from scratch, I need to decide how what I have in the way of  glossy 40mm 19thC toy soldiers fits into an already existing if fuzzy  fictional setting. Apart from 1 unit of Alamo era Mexicans, most of the units are dressed for either the War of 1812 (I'm including the pirates and non-uniformed militia here), the Mexican-American War and India in the 1830's, some units in cold weather gear and shakos, fit for Afghanistan, the rest in hot weather gear for a march on Gwalior, Scinde or the Sikhs.

    Interestingly, the contemporary Sikh and the Mexican-American wars both seem like almost ideal historical wargame campaigns with smaller, efficient "European" armies  marching into a hostile environment  (hostile in the sense of supply and movement being difficult as well as politically) to beat larger but less efficient armies with a core of troops fighting in European manner supported by irregular light cavalry operating against supply lines.   Both have one key problem, despite the numbers and some close calls, the odds are heavily stacked against the historical losers and one needs to make major alternate history changes to the upper echelons of the command in both armies to get them in with a chance.  Well, that's one of the things that wargaming is about right?

    There are a couple of other little niggly problems which constrain me from doing either as historical projects. For starters, I don't care much for the 1848 Mexican uniforms  or the newest interpretation of the Sikh uniforms  with that odd little mini-turban. Then there is the problem that the Sikh Wars were fought between 2 armies dressed primarily in Red while the other was fought between 2 armies in Blue. WHAT were they THINKING?  Well, that's one of the things that Fictional Worlds were invented for.

    None of this really helps, what I need is to know a bit more about my fictional island. When I first drew the map, I had very little information. I knew Faraway was on the West Coast and Oberhilse was on the East Coast, that  there were mountains in the North and that while the climate around the main settlements was  mild, further inland, winters could be harsh.  Since there were stories about Danish Viking settlements in Oberhilse I made the assumption that it was in the North Atlantic, probably quite far north since it obviously hadn't attracted major colonization efforts. When I later discovered that there was an ancient Native kingdom  on the other side of the mountains and that the climate there tended towards hot, I became confused. Eventually I decided that I must have been wrong and that the mountains were actually in the south, so I flipped the map and rewrote the labels.

    Then I started wondering just where in the North Atlantic this island was that part of it was very warm but which had escaped heavy colonization except in a  few small pockets, and in particular how it had escaped significant Spanish attention since it was beginning to look like it must have been close to their longitude. I also wondered what other foreign influences might have played a role beyond the mountains. I picked up my globe and idly spun  it while I contemplated this conundrum. Suddenly the truth sank in, if I hadn't spent  my whole life in the Northern Hemisphere I might have picked up on it sooner. Neuland is in the Atlantic alright, but NOT the North Atlantic! It must lie quite far south, somewhere about 4,000 km East of the Falklands/Malvinas, not really on the way to anywhere else, especially if you control the Cape of Good Hope.
    A Neverwaussi Spearman with typical square cane shield and throwing spear. About 1/3 of warriors usually carry trade flintlocks but the rest make do with spears, hatchets, warclubs and machetes. A few can still use the traditional slings but unless stealth is required, muskets are preferred.

    So its time to turn the map around again so that the mountains and the warm air are indeed North of Faraway & Oberhilse. Then I need to find out more about the native kingdoms north of the mountains.  Right now all that I know are that the Neverwaussi are a riverine and coastal tribal people who fish and trade, that there is a different race that inhabits the eastern jungles, that there is an organized kingdom on the dry Western plains with a standing army  and that Arab slavers used to visit the North and East coasts. It seems that the Faraway Trading Company is on good terms with the various native rulers and supplies arms and training staff for their armies but that Oberhilse has been pushing colonies North of the mountains, a process recently sped up by the discovery of diamond mine in the North-Eastern mountains. Since Faraway and Oberhilse are already Trading Rivals and accustomed to fighting each other, their wars look likely to spill over into a new theater before long.

    Could take awhile to get all the names fixed.....

    Organizing an Army

    Like many another Autocrat who has come to power with absolute right over the life and death of his subjects and control of the army, I find my power over my armies of Toy Soldiers less absolute than one would expect. Once the bands have played, the soldiers have paraded by and cheered and the senior officers have pledged their allegiance, I find myself not starting from scratch to build an ideal army according to my reveries but dealing with an existing infrastructure, a limited treasury, shortages of barracks and men and the enemy pressing at the gates.

    Yesterday Mr. Kinch  kindly (is that the right word?)   enquired when I was going to get off my bloody ass (or words to that affect)  and do some of those Indian armies and games that I have been teasing about for at least a year if not 3 or 10. My thoughtless reply of "as soon as I tidy up  this mob" (or words to that effect) were thoughtless optimism engendered by years of dreaming and several running feet of books but in the cold light of day as I marshalled brigades on the table to try out translations of TT Teasers into 40mm HofT games, it became obvious that little has changed since July and my response began to seem almost disingenuous.

    Its been interesting contrasting Brigade organization for various historical actions, primarily  from India or North America, versus what might work for various Table Top Teasers. The most common Brigade sizes for the early 19thC campaigns that I have looked at are 2 to 4 battalions per brigade with 3 being common. In India, this is often 1 European and 2 Sepoy battalions. I had been working most of my calculations around fitting the largest TT Teaser type scenarios onto my table. These rarely go higher than 8 line infantry "units" plus light troops, cavalry and artillery but as I went through today, I was rudely reminded that 3 to 5 units are more common. At one 16 man battalion per scenario unit, that's a small army and a quick game.

    If I went with a brigade per unit using 3 battalions as a brigade, it would all fit on my old table. Oh....Brigades of 3x12 man battalions might actually fit but I found myself at the brink of a steep and slippery slope as I started re-contemplating scales, battalion sizes and weapon ranges and the possibilities of harmonizing units and ranges to a 4" grid. Been there, don't want to go back with this lot.

    The old Grant standard of 2 regiments per brigade, might would work, unless I was fielding  an early/mid 19thC British Indian army with its 2:1 ratio.  Of course, there is no reason why units have to map to either Battalions or Brigades and what I have often done in past, especially when using MacDuff or Charge! is do double the number of scenario units to determine how many companies to field and then group the companies as seems best. But somehow a 1:1 mapping of units to units seems satisfying for reasons that elude me.

    Of course, if I am basing all this on fictional lands then one odd historical precedent is less relevant and convenient 2 battalion brigades become more attractive again. Building Sikh, Gwalior or 1st Afghan War forces seem less attractive and a not really Mexico version grows more attractive, offering similar gaming opportunities. Of course, originally, my interest was the Indian Mutiny and it has just occurred to me that the balance of 1 European to 2 Sepoy units doesn't apply  there, but, Highlanders do. Hmm.
    My first stab at turning Scruby 40mm ACW into British Infantry. So easy. Then I decided to go back to the pre-tunic era and had to file down the tunics on both US and British forces. So hard! Until the 1812 figures were released.  Sadly, as hard as it was to muster the moral fiber,  the above figures were modified to 1840's uniforms.


    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Reinforcing Success

    With rapidly improving weather conditions forecast for this Thanksgiving Long Weekend  (for those of us North of the Border) and a long pre-winter 'Toodoo' list, it started to look like Saturday morning might be my only reasonable shot at playing another game so I set aside the work bench items and rolled some dice. Since it was mostly the same troops on the same battlefield, I didn't bother taking a lot of pictures  or writing up a full report.

    At the end of day, Red still holds the town and Blue's attack over the ford has been repulsed although neither side is broken.

    I managed 2 gaming sessions with a break in the middle for canine and elder care and to tend the wood stove. Despite good intentions, I didn't keep a close enough eye on the clock but the 10 turns played took up somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. A little longer than I expected but it didn't drag at all and was about right  for what I would normally be looking for if I had a friend over for a game.

    The organizational change was largely irrelevant given the tweak to the morale rules. Either would work equally well. Some experimentation has shown that Brigades composed 3 x 12 strong battalions would actually work as scenario units for many scenarios but after some thought on scales and things, I have decided to stick with the 16 and 8 configuration. For non-historical games I may well go for 2 battalion brigades as standard scenario units but for historical games, non-standard units of any size will now work again so an OB can be reproduced reasonably easily.

    The morale tweaks I made seemed minor to me and as far as I can tell, they didn't affect or change the outcome of today's game. What they did seem to do, was to allow me to fit as much action into 10 turns as took me nearly 20 turns the day before.
    When I wrote MacDuff to the Frontier in the mid-90's, I had been doing alot of re-reading of Lawford & Young's Charge! as well as getting tired of abstract, convoluted or complex rules (not all the same thing). One of the things I copied was to have "regiments" composed of several "companies" and the only specific morale rule was that units that took 50% casualties had to retreat. The main tweak I added was that units could try and recover lost figures by rallying. The assumption was that most of the "hits" were all the things that go into a loss of cohesion, dead, wounded, stragglers, men who had fired off their ramrods, men who had "helped the wounded to the rear", men who were just plain tired or scared or who when the officers and nco's started to fall, began to think for themselves, usually thoughts of home and Gretchen. The rallying represented these being sorted out and brought back under discipline.

    When I encountered Morschauser early this century and based a set of rules on his using several stands grouped together into a battalion as the basic unit, I allowed a different but reminiscent casualty  rally roll and a Brigade morale rule. It sort of worked but the way I worked the rally rules and brigade morale with the multi-figure stands didn't work all that well and for 8 years I've been tweaking all aspects of the rules. What occurred to me yesterday, was that for the last several years,  I have been trying to track both battalion morale and brigade morale and the two have been interfering with each other, cheesy tactics became a threat and organization became too important and also threatened to turn gamey. By going back to the Charge! assumption that units will fight to the best of their ability, perhaps being forced by melee to retreat temporarily, until the Brigade as a whole has taken enough Stick, when every one goes home, it resolved all these issues. Keeping but tweaking the Rally rule allows the Player-General to try and prevent collapse, if his opponent lets him.

    This was what I have been aiming at since 2003 and finally I seem to be there. Once a brigade is committed it is all or nothing. Holding back a small reserve or  keeping the brigade battery safe won't help. The only thing that will stop the brigade from being slowly ground down to destruction is if a player can pull it back to a safe place and spend several turns rallying. This requires either a reserve to cover it, or a co-operative enemy. It pays to pursue the enemy and driving his Brigades over the edge. If a Brigade wants to reduce its risk, it must hold back a large enough reserve to impair its offensive ability but an Anglo-Indian Brigade of the Sikh War can follow historical precedent and throw its British battalion head first at any obstacle, taking as many casualties as you like while the sepoys hold back a little unless things look good. Because armies are deemed to functioning as long as they have any fresh brigades, the army commander can benefit from a reserve, held back for one last throw if the enemy looks shaky or used to cover a retreat in a campaign game.

    On the other flank, while the first attack was once again beaten back, the opposing cavalry brigades were both broken. An artillery barrage broke the Red infantry and this time, when Blue's Dragoons (in dark blue) were committed from reserve Red's Reserve Cavalry (also in Dark Blue but with snazzy silver helmets with white plumes))  was chased off table, leaving Blue with 2 fully functional brigades ready to march off to commit havoc with a 3rd Brigade breaking off the attack to hurry over an join them.

    SO! The rules, basing and organizing debates are at an end for the foreseeable future and I can get on with a more important question. When doing historical games, uniforms are determined by history, all one has to do is select the appropriate ones. If doing fictional Red vs Blue games, should I allow Red coated cavalry units in Blue's army and Blue coated ones in Red's army?

    The update rules are available from google docs through the link at the left.    

    .  .  

    Sometime I can be so thick, it scares me.