Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two Points to Port

Well here we are, the last game of the old year has been played and I am at the start of a new Winter Campaign season.

A universal Hearts of Tin ancients game reported on the Gathering of Hosts blog.

I was going to do a retrospective but its all there in my blogs and I've delved enough. My eye is ahead now, on where I am going. As far as this blog is concerned, the course is fairly well charted and I think the worst shoals are behind.  

Hearts of Tin has had its rehashing and some testing and is ready for more testing. I need to do work more on the Unit Capability Charts, both adding more units and special rules to the existing ones and starting additional ones but only as I need to for myself or someone else or if something grabs my interest. I also need to write up the grid adaptations and work on document formatting and presentation but there is after all the time, thought and testing over the last 2 years, almost nothing new, just various old rules shaken up and re-assembled slightly differently with more emphasis on feeling right and being adaptable. The current draft available at right is ready to be browsed and if any brave souls decide to read them or even try them, I'm ready for questions and comments. I'llbe doing some posts discussing the rules and design decisions, factors and intentions over the next few weeks.

The armies and campaigns are pretty much set as well and I anticipate more time finishing figures and terrain for existing armies and working on scenarios and storylines and less time pondering basing and organization and rules.

For my Gathering of Hosts blog however, I feel tremours as the earth rumbles and prepares for the world to reshape itself. In some ways its  small thing but playing those 2 HOTT games at the Captain's B&B in 2011 seems to have awoken a dormant monster.

I have my 40mm Toy Soldier fictional or Imagi-Nation and various more or less historical  collections but I have no fantasy armies and haven't had in a long, lonng time. I've been looking for a way to keep my ancients going with as wide a focus and as little work as possible and suddenly it just seemed to be the way to go so what started as a pseudo-historical Lydian Campaign capable of being fielded as historical Greco-Persian Wars one but started turned into a fall of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdoms collection with fictional overtones is about to become a full fledged fictional campaign with fantasy overtones, a few magicians and monsters and the like. More Hyborian than anything else. To make it worse, as part of my efforts to shrink my collections and focus more narrowly, I am going to be looking for new homes for anything that doesn't fit into one of the 5 armies. But more on that over the next weeks on the other blog.

As Red Green puts it "If you can't be young, at least you can be immature!"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Comox Valley Crossroads

 With Christmas out of the way, I've finally cleared my table and played my first 40mm game since October. A chance to get out some of my favorite toy soldiers, a chance to try the new Universal Hearts of Tin and a chance to try the smaller units and shorter movement and ranges. Actually, it turns out that after some pretty radical proposals were partially tested I've ended up with some serious formatting changes and rather minor rule changes from the Cobb's Farm ACW game. More on the rules in the next day or so. The current draft is posted but there is a lot of work to do, checking for consistency, shifting things to the new layout/format, adding charts and period rules etc. The game below was actually played out of my head.  I'll announce when I consider them done once again but anyone is free to browse if curious.
  The first clash as the armies deploy, Director General's Body Guard (white plumes) against Frontier Light Horse.

In order to test the feel of the slightly reduced game (about 2/3) I wanted a scenario that would not fill the table but which would allow a goodly portion of the table to be used. A meeting engagement seemed the thing but I figured it was time for something other than Sawmill Village. Flipping through a couple of books, my eye fell on  Crossroads from Programmed Scenarios. Yes, the one Jeff used for the first battle in his Alpian campaign that I have been enjoying taking part in. I figured, alternate choice of maps, different era, away we go.  Both sides had 4 infantry, 2 light infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 artillery unit, totalling 12 infantry, 4 light infantry, 4 cavalry and 2 artillery "companies" or 22 in all. The infantry companies are 4 strong, the others 3 strong. Since I was using single figures, I used 1 for each strength point, if using  my 1/72nd ACW I would have just tracked hits with each stand being a "company". The Break Point or Army Morale level for both armies was 12 companies lost and game length was set to 20 turns.

Faraway (Red) rolled an approach on 2 roads and rolled an arrival time of turn 6 for both columns. They ended up with Larsen's Lancers, the Victoria Rifles, the Dover Fusiliers and General Turner coming in on the left and GGDG, Royal & Uniake Fusiliers and artillery on the right. Oberhilse rolled an arrival on 1 road on turn 3. Given that the table layout rolled up placed the crossroads slightly closer to them, they had no problem occupying the town before Faraway was even on the table.  

 The impending clash. 

After some preliminary scuffling by the cavalry in which the DGBG showed the Lancers how to take hits instead of giving them, the armies deployed and the Generals settled on their plans.

General Turner decided to screen the town and bombard it while sending his cavalry and the bulk of his infantry  to the right to cut off the town and force Blue to counter attack or accept a draw. A small force was sent left to circle the town from that direction. General Scott decided to hunker down and only counter attack where essential. He did, however, send the Green Mountain boys out on the right to  . skirmish with the Victoria Rifles.

The attack on the right didn't go so well. After letting the Bangor Rifles get away and sucking up some artillery fire, the red line rolled forward against the artillery and Oberhilse 2nd & 3rd Infantry. The artillery was driven back and almost destroyed but the Blue Infantry under Brigadier Zinn gave their Red counterparts a bloody nose.  The Uniake Fusiliers nearly captured the General Store but the whole Brigade was forced to retire or face destruction. At this point, it was about turn 17 and  Red had lost  8 companies to Blue's 3. The fat lady wasn't actually singing yet so Turner pulled back his line and sent in the Dover Fusiliers. With his army scattered and many companies badly shot up, Scott was unable to respond. By the start of Turn 20 Red held the Hotel and Stone House and both sides stood at 8 companies lost. Neck or nothing Scott sent his two remaining cavalry squadrons in against the Royals, upping the bodycount against Blue but not changing the result.. .
Red faces Blue across the street as the light begins to dim and the fighting dies down.

An encouraging game on all fronts. I liked the way the game fit the table, the flow of the game, how the rules worked given the tactics adopted and I liked the amended command control system. I was also strongly reminded of the HofT games in 2009 that had me putting all my other rules away. There is a strong temptation to reinforce and play again but I need to test the small board and I need to test the ancient/medieval version so the plan is to change the scenery  and troops and relocate to the Three Kingdoms 2,000 year ago.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Difficult Client

Its hard enough to design something  to please someone when you and they both know what they want. When they aren't sure what they want to start and then keep changing their mind it makes for a great deal of frustration all around, even when the person you are designing for is you!

Anyway, I've been experimenting with all the ease of design to be had from treating a unit as a unit regardless of numbers of figures or the basing scheme. It certainly makes design easier but especially for a toy soldier game lacks something in the "feel" department. So, I'm suddenly back peddling at full speed before tomorrow's test game.

 .   The stick is my replacement for a grid. It is marked in 3" lengths.
Musket range is 2 lengths, melee/close range combat is 1 length..

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yuletide Greetings

Merry Christmas
 Happy Winter Soltice 
to all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Little-er Wars

Its still a week, more or less, until the start of the winter campaigning season. The new wood stove is installed and other reno's done but there is still lots of wood to split along with pre-Christmas cleaning and baking and more cups of tea and snacks to be handed in to my wife while she grooms double the usual number of dogs. Then of course ere will be family time and a feast and the like to be enjoyed, but while being busy with these sorts of things during the last 2 months,  I have still found a little bit of time  for the 5 P's of wargaming. What? oh, well, Planning, Procuring, Painting, Playing and Posting. Its the planning bit that has occupied me most during these weeks.
 Faraway & Oberhilse go to war over the new playing field.

I think it was the recent release of the Little Britain's that suddenly brought this to the forefront of my thoughts again but over the last 2 years I have been increasingly aware that the OSW paradigm behind my much of my recent wargame planning bares little relationship to the majority of games that I actually play or to the armies I build. This discrepancy is one of the main factors behind my inability to settle on rules and organization or to send  time and effort on figures and terrain for  what is supposed to be my area of focus. What I need  is to examine the various issues at play over the next few weeks, decide on a new model  and come up with a revised, more detailed plan for 2013 with a few (not too many) measurable, achievable goals to get me on track as well as the usual  overall framework.
The view from the other side as the new Universal Hearts of Tin gets a mini-test.

The aspect of all this that I am looking at right now concerns unit sizes vs numbers of units and maneuvering room vs looks and rules. For the last 5 years I have been focusing on unit size primarily from the points of view of looks, tradition and rule mechanisms. Since the maximum table size is set, there is a limit to how many figures may be deployed and thus the number of units is inversely proportionate to their size so I occasionally checked relevant historical sources to make sure I could fit the required number of units if  choosing a larger size or that if using small units that there would be enough to provide a decent game under the proposed rules. I also kept in mind the narrative advantages of having a small number of identifiable units. Having finally made my choices, last October I played a game with about 3/4 of the maximum number of units that I planned to field. There was no room for maneuver. Maneuvering room has always been more important to me than a dioramic look  so I am surprised that I overlooked this aspect or rather that I had pushed it aside and ignored it.

Yawner's Farm, a small battle with wall to wall troops.
After playing a larger 1/72nd ACW game  with 4 times as many units but more maneuver room as well as playing several games of  a Colonial variant of BattleCry with 5 figure units and experimenting with various card table games this fall, I am starting  to rethink things. There is good precedent for  units of 12 or so figures going back at least as far as Captain Sachs not to mention WRG's 1685-1845 rules and Stuart Asquith's Big Wars. When I throw in things like Morschauser's 4 man Basic Units, DBA and so forth, there is also something to be said for the sort of organization I was proposing for a revival of my 54mm Britain's armies with 6 man units of 40mm figures organized into 18 man brigades or regiments depending on the war being played.

Cobb's Farm. The table felt so much bigger with smaller units (frontage wise).

A Grant scenario played with such a brigade as "unit" would crowd the table every bit as much as Yawner's Farm but it would be more the size of a major Sikh  War or Indian Mutiny battle (too big for War of 1812) and would allow me to paint up say 18 infantry regiments in 18 uniforms. The other attractive alternative would be using 12 man units as scenario units. That would mean the same number of units as currently planned but fewer figures, more room for the games and more time available to work on support units and special figures.

 After all the years spent trying  to decide if 20 men were too few for my 40mm Toy Soldier units, this isn't something to rush into. As you can see in the pictures I have been experimenting with 6 man card table games using the 40's, after all, if these are supposed to be my "main thing" why should they be confined to the main table upstairs if I expect a fair number of downstairs card table games? Of course, once the winter campaign season gets under way, it may turn out that I can get in several games each month upstairs after all which  would make it a moot point. Still, the question then arises of what sort of games I could play with 1/2 size  units and 1/2 sized movement and ranges on the 5'x6' table. It would be like quadrupling my playing area. The first step will be to try the 12 man units upstairs, grid free but with reduced scale, hopefully between Christmas and New Year's.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A short while later

The commander of the Blue Guard discuss some important matter with General Scott's aide while a trooper of the newly raised Republican Lancers does escort duty on a borrowed horse.

To my great surprise I found time today to paint up the sample figures. With once last wistful thought about red pants I settled in to paint the Guard Lancer in the dark & light blue worn by Oberhilse's other existing guard regiment, the artillery and the Dragoons. Three quarters of the way through I was quite happy with the result but hauled out some figures for comparisons. ARGGHH!  I had grabbed the wrong dark blue so now not only was my new Guard the only one in full dress but he had a rather purple-y  shade of blue tunic. I could hear the derogatory "purple belly" comments so set about to find the usual midnight blue and the result was just right. Just the right amount of pomp and lace for a Republic and he fits right into the existing army. 

The same from the rear.

This "Imagin-nation" Atlantica business is not where I started out for these 40mm Toy Soldiers.  The original idea started out almost 10 years ago as a 'what if' Schlieswig-Holstein War with Britain and Russia supporting the Danes. It floundered in large part due to some un-toylike fussing about details like the Zinnbrigade 1900 Prussians having helmets that were too small and pants that were too tight. 
I shelved it and started in on the Carlist Wars using the Zinnbrigade Napoleonic French as Spanish (the origin of the San Carlos Grenadiers). Having discovered Scruby 40mm ACW  I had bought some for conversion to Danes in the new field uniform but these were now surplus. Another long delayed project was the Indian Mutiny and on a whim I converted a few of the Scrubies Indian Mutiny British.  The thought of doing  all those Carlists and Mutineers from scratch not to mention painting so many figures that had only one plausible setting led me to scratch both of these projects. Since I also had a 40mm 1812 project, I began to consider making some use of its figures and terrain for an alternate history setting starting with US involvement in the Canadian Rebellions of 1837/38 and the so called Aroostock War and ending with the Oregon Crisis going hot followed by an Anglo-Mexican vs US war in California and the Pacific North West. This fit pretty much everyone in with a few detail changes and a bit of imagination and I still like the idea but I kept tripping over the real history. Hence the resurrection of an old completely fictional 54mm project Oberhilse and Faraway. This is now the Atlantican Wars, an attempt to rope all sorts of  lose ends together into 1 project that I can sink another 10 years into without taking up too much money and shelf space..

The original generic plan, stretching back to the late 90's called for 2 "European" armies, a Europeanized native army as well as a spear armed one and a "European" rebel army. Somehow I have gotten a bit lost as I have "gotten into" the fictional history and have accidental been contemplating something like 7 or 8 fictional armies set in various parts of Atlantica for what was supposed to be a compact affair where most troops had multiple uses. I persevered for the last two years because I planned to run an Aroostock game at a convention. That's done and I have no hankering to do it again so I can move on. Hence the re-think.

The Frontier Light Horse (FLH) gallops past in their usual style with their new Guidon. 

If I can I intend to restrict Oberhilse forces to the area south of the mountains. They were originally supposed to be of Danish origin, not American clones and I am going to follow up on an earlier resolution to soften the US-Mexican war look which tempts me to work on two more historical armies when I am supposed to be reducing and focusing. I still haven't decided how to do this but perhaps the addition of more non-Mexican War units will be sufficient without revisiting existing figures. At the same time I am going to proceed with a jump from the 1840's to the 1860's. Earlier Faraway conflicts may be revisited by calling on my 1812 & 1837 figures with less conflict of interest and duplication between historical and fictional collections.

The various Native forces will be amalgamated for wargame purposes and the  idea of a native regular army will be dropped although the  Irregulars will be beefed up by limited regular support, think Mahrattas, later Afghans or the Khaliffa's army rather than Sikhs or Mexicans.  The aim will be to use Oberhilse and Faraway for conventional games and Farway vs Atlanticans for asymmetrical Colonial games.

Last but not least a painted pony in almost every sense. I should probably have chosen a different shirt colour for the new rider but it'll all even out.

Now to revisit OB's, re-identify deficiencies and get back to casting and painting.

Variations on a theme

left to right,
native Atlantican lancer, Oberhilse Frontier Lancer, Republican Guard Lancer 
or a Prussian Hussar straight out of the Zinnbrigade mold.

Winter is fast approaching and with it, guilt free hobby time! Yesterday I found time to dig out some lancer castings done early last summer and get a start on them. The basic figure is a Zinnbrigade 1900 Prussian Hussar with lance. This is the same figure that I used for Larsens's Lancers. I have various ideas for them but would also like to do some straight out of the box, errr, well, mold. This lot was supposed to be all Atlanticans but since I've been waffling so heavily on the period, setting, style of warfare, unit sizes etc, not to mention uniforms and native costume, and since time is still short, I opted for a couple of samples.

The first is a native lancer on the hussar horse with big shabraque and no saddle or gear. The conflict here was between doing him in a civilized Mexican irregular lancer style or a more Apache-esque manner. I decided that the latter was more needed right now. About 1/2 of the pile of castings were crisp, the rest  were not good with loss of details and almost no face. I used some of these for the 2 conversions. trimming the hat on this one and adding hair, turban or head scarf and a new nose as well as the minimum required to turn the tunic to a cotton shirt.

The 2nd figure was not planned, apparently the Frontier Light Horse is adding a lancer squadron. It all started because I thought the Hussar might look good in braided  green jacket and  red pants, which then reminded me of a picture of a US Mexican Spy Company lancer in green and buff which in turn reminded me of my Frontier light horse, at least those in uniforms of some sort. The horse is one of my favorite range, the multi-pose charging British Dragoon horses. Anyway, I filed the tunic down to a stable jacket, swapped his head with one of my sailors, built the crown up a bit and added a feather. If I do more I will have to do some with open jacket's leggings, etc.  Doing militia lancers in chaps, ponchos and tall broad brimmed hats is going to be a fair amount of work  and I might be better off starting with the Napoleonic dragoon figure. This chap was easy enough though and will blend in with the Light Horse, although whether I have space in my Oberhilse OB for irregular lancers or whether he becomes just becomes a squadron guidon bearer remains to be seen. It depends in part on whether I go for 6, 10 or 12 man squadrons.

The last figure is cast as sold. I am finding opposing pulls between assembling these armies as consistent, planned armies much like I would if they were historical or trying to make it look like I assembled them like a collector of painted toy soldiers 100 years ago might have, assembling two armies by buying what I could find on the shelves in the store. (* A store that stocked every set that Britain's offered that is.)  A quick look through what was available provides plenty of inspiration. The urge was strong here  to go with one of the 1900 Prussian Hussar uniforms, the red coat being especially attractive for some reason but Faraway already has a unit of lancers and I want to avoid the red/blue battle report mix up issue where possible. Black tunics are still under consideration but I cast my net wider. Light blue with red pants was considered but rejected as too gaudy for Oberhilse. Green with red pants like Belgian Guides is still a possibility but I am leaning heavily towards a traditional Oberhilse look of dark blue tunic with yellow or red trim and light blue pants. I don't intend to do a whole unit of full dress dandies but will assign the Guard Lancers as an escort to the General.  It seemed obvious that he should go on the intended horse but the Generals he might escort are almost all on standing horses so I thought it best if the escort waits patiently instead of trotting off. I'll have to cast some up and maybe add some blanket rolls and the like.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In the Queue

I have long had a thing for signalers, radiomen, heliograph teams, semophore signallers and so on. It may be influence from my Dad having been in the RC Signal Corps, but I blame it in part on this picture.

I've been wanting to do my own version of this since the late 60's when I got Henry Harris's book at Expo 67 along with Vol 1 of Funken's  Le Costume et Les Armes des Soldats de Tous les Temps.

Years later I of course discovered that this was originally published in English as Model Soldiers

.Different cover, different language, same story and pictures.

When I discovered SoldierPac and found a copy of Andrew Rose's book, I began plotting to buy the parts needed to recreate the scene, 2 standing highland officer bodies, 1 kneeling highland officer, 3 feather bonnets, 1 set of binoculars, 1 set of arms from boy scout with semophore flags, 2 extra arms. Somehow though, the order kept getting pushed back, mostly because as always money and time were scarce, I wasn't a solo gamer at the time or an idle collector and we had just started into 54mm Ancients. Soldierpac ceased trading, I largely dropped from 54mm  to 40mm and the plan became to do my  own Highland signal team from scratch while doing an Oberhilse team (converted 3 years ago and still not painted!). . Welllllll, looking through the selection of bodies and arms and heads from the new Little Britain's range. Looks like I can get what I need to put together something similar to the picture but in 42mm..

I haven't found much (ok any) evidence for or against the British Army using wig wag flags in the 50's or 60's and the heliograph doesn't really come in until the days of khaki  but I can probably support the use of .redcoated signal teams in Faraway quite early on.

So, I'll put this back on my list, the longgggggggg list.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't you hate it when

you've been planning to do something and not quite gotten around to it and then....

remember that 54mm Dorset catalog and my determination to stick with my 40mm figures?  Well have a gander at:

lbb16 highlander charging 
New Spencer-Smith Shiny Toy Soldier Little Britain's 42mm Highlander body. Just like I was going to make except this one has better sculpting and better mold making.

 Anyone want to buy a spin caster and vulcanizer?

Sighhhhhhhhhh  .

Friday, December 7, 2012

Long ago and far away: The Alpian Wars

It just occurred to me that there may be some who don't follow Jeff's Saxe-Bearstein Blog and thus may be unaware that I have been taking part in a late 16thC PBEM mini-campaign.

The first battle between Murdock and myself has been fought out by solo by Jeff in accordance with our orders.  (Nothing quite sharpens your order writing like having some one else read and interpret them! ) Luckily I was able to send orders by email and didn't have to send a sailing ship  down the Bay of Fundy to the North Atlantic, down through the South Atlantic, around Cape Horn to the Pacific and up though the inside passage of Vancouver Island. Battle Reports can be found on the Alpian Wars blog.

You can also follow the thoughts of Duke Michael of Alpia on his blog.

Alpian troops taking Gun Hill from the vile Stagonians.

Thanks to Murdock for being a challenging opponent  (we are talking a game where victory hung in the balance down to the last set of melee rolls) and to Jeff for hosting a very enjoyable affair.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Scale Creep

There's nothing like a few  hours of highway driving in light traffic and good weather for growing good, small, ideas into monsters. Last Sunday I was thinking about a small project to let me use some existing toy soldiers  and unpainted castings, this morning I found myself confirming that between existing figures, molds and Dorset Toy Soldiers that I could build everything I would need for several campaigns and found myself double checking unit sizes in Big Wars and wondering if I should be planning armies so that two portable units made a big wars unit. It took finding the unpainted RHA limber horses bought nearly 15 years ago, a good head shake and grabbing a few 40's off the shelf to bring me back to reality. (The RHA limber would stretch about a foot once assembled, a little big for a 30" wide board.....)

Ivan, my first born. The first figure that I sculpted and cast from scratch. I only painted one since the 54mm Crimean project went on hold but it would be easy if dangerous to spit out 3 dozen.

One problem of course is that HG Wells and most boys of the day used what they had and didn't bother worrying about things like which ACW figures could be converted to Russo-Turkish War Russians  or whether or not Guards in Bearskins and tunics should be seen fighting enemies in Khaki or Crimean Era Russians whereas I'm still fighting decades of conditioning that games should at least have historical uniforms and plausible opponents. It didn't take long, especially after I once again started to browse Dorset's seductive lists, for this expanding idea of resurrecting 54mm armies to start duplicating campaigns I have in mind for my 40mm Faraway and Oberhilse armies. It never takes long to remind myself why I downsized but it seems that I do need reminding now and then. After all, I didn't stop because I couldn't get what I want or that I stopped wanting it, I merely recognized that I couldn't do everything and that slightly smaller fit my space better.

So, I have decided to clamp down on the sudden revival of the idea of adding a few hundred 54mm Toy Soldier armies, have reaffirmed my intention to refurbish existing figures and add as few new ones as possible to make a small Red vs Blue set up. To avoid serious thought about Crimean, Russo-Turkish, Plains War US or Boer War 54mm armies right now, I will stick to Red vs Blue using largely if not entirely British forces for both sides. (for now...)

Cavalry units will be 2 figures, infantry 4. I would prefer 3 and 6 but while they just fit, it is too crowded especially if there is any terrain, and there is no room for an attached commander.

Red's Army will consist of:  General with escort
Guards Brigade with Brigadier and 3 units (4 figures each):  Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Guards
Highland Brigade with Brigadier and 3 units, Black Watch, Gordon's and either Argyle's or Ross-shire's
Fusilier Brigade with Brigadier and 3 units, Royal, Scots and Welch Fusiliers (well I have extra Guardsmen which will be close enough for this even if the Bearskins aren't quite right)
Heavy Brigade: Brigadier and 2 units, Scots Greys and an as yet to be determined Dragoon or Life Guard Squadron. (These are all bare castings at the moment, waiting for conversion.)
Light Brigade: Brigadier and 2 units. To be determined. possibly 16th Lancers and NWMP
2 guns. The crews will be problematic to make it fit the red theme. The NWMP manned one gun in the
Riel Rebellion and that may be of use, the other may be manned by gunners in blue or by Guards.
1 MG
Pipe Band

Blue's Army will consist of a similar force but with:
Naval Brigade
Volunteer Brigade (composition and uniforms tbd possible grey )
Rifle Brigade  (only 2 units so far, 3rd tbd)
Hussar Brigade
Lancer Brigade
Royal Horse Artillery gun
Royal Foot Artillery gun
1 MG
Field Hospital

In the mean time, I have become increasingly unsure how often I will be able to play upstairs so I have decided to back down from my decision to try to keep card table and full table armies separate and will try a small 40mm Faraway and Oberhilse card table game this weekend before they fade from my mind.

40 mm figures trying out the first grid prototype in March 2011

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deja Vue Again

A little bit of deja vue. I'm setting off tomorrow to visit family and wish my mother a happy 92nd birthday. Just before going I've been trying to figure out whether or not I could fit my old Britain's onto my new card table gridded board for a stylized game. I suddenly remembered thinking about a Boer War Batttlecry game, looked up the post and found that it was 6 months ago, just before heading off to visit my sister on her birthday.

Toy Soldiers trying on the new board for size.

The urge towards Victorian British wargame figures, especially but not exclusively Colonial ones,  is deep seated in  me. In the days before I read Featherstone, Henry Harris had me converting my old toy soldiers into models and in addition to the few reference books I had at home, I used to grab every chance I could get to pop into the Black Watch of Canada museum during my army cadet days and make notes on uniforms to reproduce at home. Most of my military history books also centered on the British Army   No doubt due to my Mother's father's influence. Having Little Wars as my 2nd book on wargaming probably didn't help.

Picture lifted from eBay but this is the same one I have upstairs.
I wonder how many wargamers it spawned?

Its much easier to settle in to historical Colonial games if you don't start from a Little Wars/Toy Soldier background as there are no more bearskins and feather bonnets in the field by the 1860's, precious little pipeclay and too much asynchronous warfare. My 25mm and 54mm plastic Colonials were done in  more or less historical fashion even though often used in fictional games but my Britain's Toy Soldiers tend to stay true to their toy soldier heritage. I originally envisaged hundreds of toy soldiers marching across wide fields but hopefully that toy heritage, the illustrations of Morschauser's Britains marching across a grid as well as the memory of my Portable Wargame refight of Hook's Farm will allow me to accept and enjoy a fairly stylized game on a small grid. the idea being to keep the numbers and commitment of time and resources to a minimum.

Colonial mixed with Toy Soldier earlier this year.

My first instinct was to bring out the Nku  Khu again or break out my remaining Arabs but the board is too green for Arabs to be completely comfortable and I have an urge touch on the Little Wars aspect. The last two times I did Red vs Blue armies and will probably do that again but given what's ready to go, there is a strong temptation to do the Great Highland Rebellion of 1885 as a test game. If it does work, I want to do some houses that will fit the grid and be just tall enough to pass as toy scenery and hold a unit. If it works I want to make the most of what I have which include vintage highlanders, guards & sailors and Plains Indians, compatible plastic Zulus,  molds for a grenadier, zouave and US ACW troops and odds of sods of cavalry and artillery stretching from the Crimea to WWI. Most of the cavalry is of newer slightly larger style so that will take some thought and work or else money. A standard army will be composed of 8 or maybe 12 cavalry, 2 guns, 40 infantry plus general, brigadiers, a band and some pack animals.

Hook's Farm fought using the Portable Wargame on a 6" grid in March 2011.

This has been hovering in the background for years  so I am really hoping that it works so that I can organize and finish at least 2 opposing armies this winter.

Friday, November 30, 2012

NQSYWS: Pandours Trooping the Colours

The new colour is trooped so the rank and file can see it.

At last! Something has been painted!  I won't bore everyone with whines about  all the non-wargaming stuff that has been distracting me this fall. Lets just say was -10 Celsius outside last night and felt like my gaming/painting room wasn't much warmer. Winter is coming on apace but at last there is a glimmer of light and heat ahead!

Anyway, late last summer the War of Rosish Succession heated up. One of the outcomes of the Battle of Wentworth Pass was a decision to promote the Pandours from Militia/Light Infantry to Line Infantry by adding 8 privates and a Regimental Colour. That has now been done. In keeping with Rosish tradition, the flag consists of a coloured cross on a white background. (Yes I know Russian and Prussian types will be scratching their heads saying haven't you confused the field and the cross but no this is a black St. Windmill's cross on a white background.).

I just need to cast and paint 12 more Grenadiers and a company of light infantry and the Rosish infantry will be up to scratch. There is, however, some questioning of the decision to form a light company for the Irish regiment and wide spread support for a Light Company for the Pandours instead in recognition of their past service and their origins in the highlands of the frontier. This would not necessarily mean a change in overall numbers but would mean a departure from a standard 4 company organization if there wasn't. There is even support for more National regiments in traditional garb, possibly as a reaction to the heavy foreign influence under the late King.  

The 1st National Regiment (aka King Michael Pandours) form as a line battalion for the first time..

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Universal Soldiers

He's 42mm, he's 22mm,
he fights with missiles and with spears.

(With apologies to Buffy Ste Marie though in my defence HG Wells, does suggest in Little Wars that that playing with toys soldiers is better than sending real ones in to blow things up. and apologies to RAFM who have a set of ancient/medieval/renaissance rules called Universal Soldier)

During the 1980's I started working on a set of wargame rules which appeared in Wargames Illustrated Issue 23 July 1989.  (The one with the Foundry Guillotine on the cover.)  In the introduction I argued that despite the difficulties, there was merit in having a common basis for wargame rules in terms of time and distance scales and mechanisms regardless of which campaigns were being covered. Some might think this would blur the differences but I think it actually highlights them. For example if you play one set where  infantry moved 6" and bows fired 24" and then play another with different time and ground scales so that infantry also move 6" but cannon fire 24", then to a casual player who has not contemplated the theory behind the rules, cannon and bows are pretty much the same thing. The same is true if Chippewa and Waterloo use the same number of figures, the difference becomes less apparent.

There was more to the rules than that and I found it interesting when rereading the article to note that many of my stated design aims still stand. Its also interesting  to consider that while I have met several people who tried MacDuff as published in the Courier in 1997 (some more than once!) I  have yet to meet or hear from anyone who tried these rules (apart from  my long suffering wargame opponent who had to move to Saskatchewan to escape the constant changes).  I don't think I ever did all the versions  but we did play a 15thC and a WWII  version. I was probably influenced by Don Featherstone who seems to have done something similar as did Joe Morschauser although at the time I hadn't heard of him yet. Its bit heretical in some circles these days but I think the main differences over the years of history are in the development of weapons and organization. Minor unit tactics make some difference but I think  they are over shadowed by the bigger issues of human psychology, and a shared physical world. To put it an other way, drawing cards or rolling for activation dice, play sequences and so on are just game mechanisms. Changing the mechanism may change the feel but it doesn't necessarily reflect the history behind it.

Yes all right, the point is, I'm thinking about doing the same thing again. As it is I keep updating Gathering of Hosts and Hearts of Tin and various other experiments to "share best practices". It would save both effort and confusion to write a core set and then bolt on the applicable extra rules, troop and weapon types etc.. This is especially true if I am going to play various small games in many periods this winter. Using the same core mechanisms such as adding or subtracting numbers of dice as modifiers vs adding to or subtracting from the score of the dice  just makes life easier when switching back.

 I'm happy with the current Pips command rules since requiring an attached leader for group moves makes it easy to tweak the flexibility of various armies by varying both Generals and intermediate commanders. I'm also happy with the abstract hit/morale and shooting rules.

I'm waffling slightly on sequence of play and contact vs proximity melee. The actual melee roles etc are fine but while the recent test with no melee phase and adjacent area melee worked ok, it felt slightly wrong even with rifle era troops. I used Morschauser's 3" melee zone for years on a non-gridded tables, but it never felt right for cavalry and spear troops. I think I'll be happier with contact melee even with a grid. The only real issue would be for someone whose bases filled a grid completely but I'll let them worry abut that..

That leads to the question of movement and zones of control. The distances are fine and the wide historical time span is not an issue. The problem is that this is the bit where grid/no grid makes a difference. The questions are basically how easy is it for a close order unit to turn and reform as opposed to wheeling and how much of a threat is a unit which is neither ahead nor beside a unit. Strictly speaking this is not just a grid issue, its the difference between 1 stand units and multi stand or mass of individuals units. Its also where 90% of the fiddliness of off-grid games comes in.

Once I settle that, the core rules are pretty much in existence as are some of the period specifics  as its mostly a question of re arranging the existing Hearts of Tin rules and drawing from the Gathering of Hosts and Square Brigadier. No new ideas are being introduced. Not yet anyway!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Testing the new board.

Its  not finished yet, for one thing when I dab paint on it the darned stuff seems to take days to dry enough that a dry brush doesn't blend. I figured, may as well find out if the concept works before I put more time in.  I'm not quite sure exactly how the 25mm Medieval Scots managed to hijack the play test, there wasn't even a full moon (aka Macfarlane's Lantern in some quarters) but there we are.

The Important Bridge scenario from Wargames for All Ages, aka The Red Book.

Having two blogs may be one too many but here I am. The Gathering of Hosts was intended to be purely for Ancients, especially my Persians but to share the load all future Ancient and Medieval posts will go there. Not sure yet whether there is enough musket in pike and shot for it to stay here  or if the armour and pointy sticks will land it there.  Anyway there is a 2 line battle report there (the Scots lost) but I thought I would put some pictures of the board here.

 The existing bases aren't perfect but close enough for now. The crooked unit had just routed ending the game and was plopped back down again any old how for the shot.

Over all I am happy with how the board is coming and didn't have much issue with the few vague areas. I'm still pondering whether rivers should run in between 2 squares like I did in this game or through one. The former makes it clear which side of a river that a unit is on but doesn't really leave room for a unit on either bank and hides some of the shorter grid delineations.

The wide dark areas are waiting for some highlights or foliage to break them up a bit. I may add "water" to some of the unflocked areas. See here for some of my local inspiration for comparison these squares will normally be considered to be about 100 yds across or perhaps between 50 and 150 yds depending on the game.

A is an area where 2 different colours of green flock look differnet in a good light but fade into sameness in poor light.
B is a rather too straight run of gravel or crops,
I have already forgotten what I thought the issue was with C!  Oh well.

Oh and the stream is blue felt, the bright blue that shows, with streaks of darker blue to break it up. The edges were painted  in an earth tone and flocked with coarse foliage since I don't expect to have to put a house or hill on it.

Here the dark green lines which represent tall weeds, bushes etc, need to be broken up a bit. There are also a couple of squares of brown that don't appear to be delineated at all.

May I have the envelope please (updated Dec 6)

Its share your favorite sites season again apparently, this time in the form of the Liebster Blog accolade.  Thank you  to Tim from Megablitz and so much more and to Murdoch  and his Marauders for their nominations.  and also to AlFront and  WQ Robb

My first reaction to these sorts of things tends to be "I don't do chain letters"  but its well meant and while I do on occasion take time to browse other blog's lists of favorites this is a good way to share some that I enjoy and I've just been checking other people's nominees.

The rules appear to be to something like post the picture, say thanks and list 5 blogs I really like that have less than 200 followers and let the nominated ones know via a comment. Presumably those with more folowers, such as Bob Cordery's, are already well known. It also seems counter productive to point back to those who nominated me thereby forming a closed loop..

There is no other criteria for what makes a blog noteworthy so rather than any attempt at objectivity, I'm going to list five of the blogs that I follow where I almost always stop and go read new posts when they blip on my screen. This is not to say that there aren't others that I either "follow" or just periodically pop into  that aren't worthy or interesting and I have been hard put to identify why these ones ended up amongst the top favorites once the push and shoving was done. One theme seems to be that they tend to be amongst the gamers who are aware of what goes on in the hobby but who break their own path to some degree. (Any one who has trekked any distance through knee deep snow  can appreciate this.)  I think the hobby benefits from all those who spend hard earned cash supporting the companies and people who buy the latest models and buy and play the latest rules and so on but I think it also benefits from those who keep the old individualist spirit of the pioneers alive as well. (Hopefully I haven't just offended any of the people I'm about to nominate or any of those who were number 6 or higher on the list and didn't get mentioned.)

I have also favoured those who blog relatively regularly and those whose interests align most closely with my own, mostly, well sometimes in obscure ways.

Without further ado here are five of my favorites:

Corporal Trim's Castles of Tin blog. One of few where I go especially for the pictures and one of very few where looking at them gives me an urge to fix my painting setup, rearrange my schedule and make more time for painting.

Littlejohn's Lead Gardens  A willingness to try new stuff, improvise and experiment, a lot of ingenuity, some great looking terrain figures and battle reports.

Matt's  Airfix ACW Project (and its sister blog In the Grand Manner). One of the reasons I gave in to the urge to resurrect my own.

Mosstrooper's Tin Soldiering On. Real toy solidiers. 'Nuff said.

MS Foy's Prometheus in Aspic.  OK so a 25mm Napoleonic Peninsular campaign is not as obviously a common interest but trust me on this.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Biweekly Battlecry or Dying bravely for Queen and Country

Somewhere near the Nile a thin red line braces itself for the Mahdist onslaught.
All figures and terrain by Ron.

This week's game was Reinforcements On Table from Scenarios for Wargamers. This week we played along instead of across the grain. It wasn't until I looked for a "tactical hex" (ie one on the divider line which can be either at will) to place one of my guns on that I remembered that when playing this way, there are no tactical hexes. The evil demon that has been dogging me this month whispered in my ear and I placed the gun in a good position near the road without any thought to sectors. Ooops.  It can be hard to predict what cards will be drawn but it usually pays to assign more than 1 unit per sector if possible so that they can support each other and so that a run of cards can be used as well as possible. I had a run all right, a run of right sector cards having between 2 and 4 in my hand all game but only 1 unit to use them!   Each time I did use one, I got another one back!

Take back the gun men!

Initially the British inflicted some hits driving back several units which later rallied. Then a Mahdist assault took the left hand gun. A counter attack retook it but then was over whelmed. At this point three things were going wrong for my Brits, they were missing easy targets, the Mahdists were hitting with almost every die and my hand was loaded with cards that didn't allow me to bring up reinforcements or use any of my troops in the center where I was being attacked!   If I had deployed the gun 1 hex to the right it and the right hand infantry unit could have supported each other and at least have done some damage.

The Mahdist Cavalry attacks as reinforcements finally come up

As usually happens with the Battlecry family, things turned around and the Mahdists had a few quiet turns while I finally manged to get my boys moving.  Then the Mahdist cavalry swept around my flank leading to a long ultimately indecisive melee. The Rifle Brigade finally arrived and put paid to the Camelry, apart from their leader who will reappear. Unfortunately their ammo ran out and they decamped, just when things were stabilizing!

 As more British infantry approached the ridge line, the Mahdists dug in and started bringing up more troops. The Camel Jockey leader without a name circled around, picked up  a unit of spearmen and headed back into the fray in the center. Nearly cut off, he was forced to retreat then worked around to my right flank.

We had decided to play once through the deck and then play out our hands unless once side broke. As the game wound down I managed to get one unit back up on the hill, in position to earn a draw. Alas the Mahdist gun which had finally managed to work its way up onto the ridge fired with devastating effect followed by a charge by the Camelleer which wiped out my unit. I reached my break point and was evicted from the hill as the last card was played. Argghhhhh!  Not again! What will the papers say?

The Black Flag waves in triumph from the hilltop.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the camp

It was about 2 weeks ago now that Ron and I took Battlecry to the Sudan. (My Sudan collection got bored and cold and went off to sunny California a few years ago). The scenario selected was #9 Attack on a Camp from Scenarios for Wargamers. I drew the Brits and put the lads to sleep with a few Bengal Lancers on duty.

Ron's spiffy new dice get a spin as the vedettes gallop back to report the enemy's approach.
 Those dice are tempting.

As the camp was alerted I rolled the dice for each tent hex to see what it contained except that no artillery were allowed on the outskirts. Crossed swords indicated no military unit present while a flag allowed me to choose. Once no more of a certain troop type was left, that symbol would also bring nothing. This served instead of the morale test in the original Teaser and the vague mention of considering the effects of panic and confusion in the book version.  I did fairly well, getting all but one of my units. My mission was to withdraw over the bridge with my army intact.  

As the morning draws on, the enemy appear

The Faithful didn't seem to be as faithful as one might expect as they arrived late and hung around the back of the table.  Long before any native warriors attacked the camp I had my troops up, some entrenchments build around the perimeter and had a start on evacuating. For a while it looked like I might get off almost Scot-free. At last, in desperation, Ron put himself at the head of a unit and charged ahead. At first the outer entrenchment held but finally the last officer went down in a flurry of spears and dice.  Ron then led the survivors around and over a mountain gun.

 Last stand.

After some confused fighting, the Ansar were at last wiped out but a unit of Hadendowah finally showed up from the other side. Taking them in tow Ron went on another rampage through the camp
and finally charged over the bridge into the teeth of my artillery fire. Miraculously he survived but his followers didn't.
A bridge too can't say it.

At this point there was no hope of the main Mahdist force catching the remnant of my army or forcing the bridge and I was still one away from my break point. He played his last card, a sniper. One die, if it came up swords one of my officers was going down and the game was his. 1 chance in 6. It was inevitable really. He was kind and took a subordinate, not me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mk VI Wargaming Table Progress Report

Work is now underway on my permanent portable/family room game board. I meant to just paint it but somehow I found myself with glue and cans/jars/bags of flocking. The last time I flocked a board was in 1981 when I made a set of 2' x 2' geomorphic terrain boards.  

Some 1/72nd ACW troops trying out the new board.

Thinking about my old boards got me thinking about the various surfaces that I've played on at home over the years. I'm not going to list every variation, for one thing  I can't remember them all. For example when did I first get a felt cloth? At college? or after?  Unfortunately I have no pictures of any of my college games for reference, just a B&W snap of a game at the Montreal Club  probably 1975/76.

 (As an irrelevant aside; this game pitting my Valdurians vs Simon's Aquilonians was followed by a hasty shuffling of troops into a Carthaginian army to match the newly  released WRG lists brought by an American guest who went by the nickname of Crazy Norbert. He had a gorgeous Garrison Republican Roman army and handed me my head on a plate by a mix of good tactics, a minute knowledge of the finer points of the rules and a somewhat, lets say ruthless attitude. For example, there was a hill in this game that we had scattered lichen on for looks but treated as open. Once my cavalry entered it during the 2nd game my opponent insisted that it was rough ground regardless of how we had played it an hour earlier. Ouch!)  

In the beginning. The mountain in the background was part of a homemmade 1/72nd DDay playset my mother and brother made for me when I was a young kid. All I have left now is the beach.
.Pre table games played on the floor at my parents                                        1970-77  
Mk I   Temporary tables usually bare, ping pong preferred, later painted          1973 - 1978
Mk II   Flocked geomorphic terrain boards                                                   1980 - 1987
Mk III  Felt cloth over books on temporary surface                                       198? - 2009
Mk IV   painted permanent table                                                                  1997 - 2002, 2009+
Mk V    various painted cloths inc some gridded                                            1998 - 2012 +
Mk VI   flocked and gridded board.                                                              2012 +

France 1940, GHQ microarmour on my geomorphic boards 1981. Hills, roads and rivers built in.

After much debate, the new table will be 30" x 36" with a 10x12  grid of 3" squares. Since some of my  troops are on 40mm wide bases, I was seriously tempted to go with an 8 cm grid but since I was starting with a 36" x 36" board, I would have had to reduce the number of squares to 11 x 10. or 11 x 9. The latter was tempting as it would have had a central square but in the end I opted for the extra row of squares. Most of the troops that I plan on re-basing haven't been done yet so 1.5" bases will be the order of the day. I'll live with the mm discrepancy on existing bases or take a file to them if it really bothers me that they over hang slightly.

The 40mm 1812 guys kick the tires on the under construction board.  

This is still a work in progress but I think you can see the idea. The roads and streams will be felt or foam lay-on's, painted with flocked edges. Hills will be flocked shapes. The big table will probably be painted rather than flocked when I get to it as I've seriously depleted my stock of flock including a couple of bags abandoned by my brother-in-law and the warchest is empty. I'm also disappointed that the grass flock is not as bright a green as the fields that I drive past in summer.

There was supposed to be a frame underneath and a backdrop.Did I ever mention that I can be a bit impulsive?  Something for later than.

A closer look at the board and prototype road section.

I started to do strictly 3" squares but they looked too patchwork so I veered towards 6 inch squares subdivided into 3" ones. My plan was to do the main table in 6" squares but now I am thinking about the possibilities if use the subdivided method so that I can play on a table with the same 120 square grid using larger squares that will hold a 40mm wagon or limber but with the option to play with 4 times as many squares giving a larger field with 480 squares. 

As it is the small table will allow me to play most War of 1812 battles in 40mm using 6 man battalions. Not as impressive as 20 man battalions on the larger table but the combination of fewer figures, a grid and simple rules would make this just the sort of introductory game for non-gamers that I've been periodically writing about.