Monday, February 27, 2012

Filling in the Gap

Brigadier Zinn takes charge of the remaining Oberhilsian forces and occupies Rawdon Gap.

Various miscellaneous thoughts.

1. Multi-figure stands vs individual figures.  Some of you may have noticed that this game suddenly looked more like the one in the header than past ones. The bases are only 2" wide rather than 60mm but I'm back to my 2007 plan of 4 bases each with 6 infantry or 2 cavalry and happy with it. Going through various basing and rules options as well as styles and looks has been an interesting experience. I'm not sorry I took the trip but I'm glad I'm now in a position to make a final rather than tentative choice for this collection.

Oddly, it wasn't pushing the individual figures around the table that finally tipped me over the edge, it was how disorganized my troops got as casualties came off and how much time it took me to set up, the number of figures that got tipped on the floor as I tried to carry a tray and tilted it a few degrees as I turned and especially the amount of time wasted in cleaning up after a game, finding stray casualties mixed in with other units, tucked onto a convenient bookshelf, table or window ledge when they were removed in the heat of action or dropped on the floor and rolled under something or forgotten inside a house.  I'll try to leave my old Britain's on their own bases.

2. The table. As part of the Classic Toy Soldier thing,  I have been experimenting with contour hills on a flat table, all in bright green. Partly this is because I like the look but mostly because the single metal figures wouldn't stand on a cloth over hills (the plastic Elastolin Prince August figures on 1" bases do). The plan is to eventually finish up  the green table and a limited set of hills for use with the Britain's but to revert to my old format of cloth over hills for most games.  If nothing else, its much easier to model specific battlefields when what is forming the hills is hidden, and it doesn't take much room to store them.

However the cloth I usually use was made 15 years ago for the battle of Chateauguay, fought in a clearing in the woods in October 1812. Its time for a new one or rather a selection of new ones. Eventually I would like a Northern spring/early summer green farm hills cloth, a snowy winter cloth, a dusty hot plains cloth and maybe more for specific battlefields.

3. Campaign Casualties. As I was clearing away this afternoon, I couldn't help looking at all the hits on various units and thinking how the current campaign rule, written when I was taking off stands as soon as enough hits were inflicted, didn't reflect that. So I have adjusted it. I allowed each unit with hits to make a post battle rally rule then divided the remaining hits by the appropriate morale factor (2 for militia, 3 for regulars and 4 for elites), dropped fractions and removed that number of stands.  A little harsh on the already battered Oberhilse units but on the other hand most of the Faraway regiments lost a stand. 1/2 the missing stands will be returned for the 3rd game.

4. Deploying the hidden Blue units. One of the strengths of the position in the upcoming  scenario is that the defender can deploy reserves in dead ground. One of the problems with doing so solo is that either I know where I put them or the deployment is random. My usual solution to that is to deploy a dummy for each unit, shuffle the cards of each type (infantry, cavalry) and deploy them face down. Now I now where possible units are (I can see the cards) and I have some idea which might be cavalry or infantry but I don't know which ones are the blanks. Its not totally random but there is still some uncertainty.

5. Artillery and Hearts of Tin. This should have been #2, oh well. This is one of those "tempest in a teacup" issues.

  • I have a strong emotional attachment to 2 gun batteries thanks to Charge!
  • The HofT rules make a 2 gun battery close to the optimum organization for artillery, 1 gun by itself does not have adequate firepower and is too vulnerable to counter battery fire. (A single stand battery of regular artillery can't rally hits, a single hit can never be rallied and at 2 hits it has reached its break point and can't rally or shoot.)  It works well for battalion guns though, esp if they are counted as part of their parent unit for morale and using 1 gun batteries gives flexibility while allowing multiple batteries to concentrate their fire.
  • Using the number of guns recommended in the Grant/Asquith scenarios works when using HofT.
  • The frontage of historical batteries varied but seems to have been around 10 yards per gun or 60 yards for a 6 gun battery. This is a tight fit for ONE of my guns, making each gun a battery. I haven't settled on a base size for the guns, still trying to figure out the smallest size that will accommodate my largest gun and still allow the crew to take their proper posts. The current front runner is 3" by 3" or 4".
  • Looking at various historical orders of battle for the 1840's British and American armies, and doing Grant/Asquith scenarios with 1 regiment or 2 guns per unit but calling each gun a battery fits with the number of batteries and regiments in the historical OB's. (2 gun batteries would suit Russians fine.
  • The scenarios usually call for 2 or 4 guns, occasionally 3 batteries or 6 guns in Programmed Scenarios. If I field 2 guns as a battery, and want to use different types of artillery, mountainguns, heavy artillery or, for example, the FTC Horse Artillery Rocket battery,  then it usually becomes 1/2 or all of of the artillery in that game!
  • So despite the first point, it appears that I am going to have to accept that each gun is a battery, which, after all, is how Don Featherstone did it anyway. I may consider an option for a group of guns to share hits but will probably just call them all Elite so that they can take 2 hits and still cease fire to rally then come back into action.  
Tomorrow is supposed to be a snow day so I expect to play the 2nd game. Hopefully I have new batteries somewhere for my camera! 


  1. Ross Mac,

    You seem to have done a lot of thinking about where you are going next. What you have written makes lots of sense, and think that whatever you end up with will work for you and your circumstances.

    Good luck with converting your thoughts into actions.

    All the best,


  2. Cloth terrain is my prefered method, I think it is both realistic and practical. I have experimented to make it more variable, this is the description of the method I have used:
    Take a piece of cloth, larger than your board, a bed sheet or tablecloth will be good.
    Coat it with acrylic caulk/sealer.
    Paint it with a very diluted siena acrylic paint.
    Spray paint it with green enamel (you could use different tones)
    Sealed it with two coats of mat acrylic medium-barnish.
    At this stage you have a flexible-ondulable surface colored and texture to your porpouse. On this surface you can “draw” roads, rivers, swamps, woods, and ploughed fields with Chalks and Chalk pastels (not oil). Once the game ends, could be erase with a wet piece of cloth.
    Hills are made by putting under the cloth pieces of expanded polystyrene carved in the appropriated shape.
    The terrain is then complete with removable trees, buildings, bridges and fences.
    You will also need a baseboard, one inch expanded poliestirene will doo it . For small terrains (up to 2’x4’) you could reinforce the sides with paper tape, for larger ones you will need some sort of wood frame.

  3. Hi Cesar. My old cloth was spray painted apart from the river which was brushed on but has faded over the years. It was a 2 piece one designed to cover a 6x10 table. Now that I have a 5x6 I should be able to get 1 piece to fit.

    I was planning to just paint the new cloth but your suggestion to coat it with acrylic caulk is very interesting (sounds very messy!) I know people who have done this for road and river sections, I never thought about doing a whole cloth. I also know some one who glued flock to his cloth.

    Do you need to be careful how you store the coated cloth to avoid cracking?

    Something new to experiment with!

  4. The acrylic caulk is a paste which came in tubes, in some countries you have color options, but here in Argentina, there is only white. Fix the cloth to a rigid waterproof surface (to prevent wrap) and apply the acrylic caulk with a broad spatula as it came from the tube or with a broad brush (dilute the acrylic with water) to obtain a smooth finish. Let it dry and cure. It will not crack because it remain flexible.
    Some people apply fock on it before it gets dry, whith very good results (links:, but you could not modify this.
    That is why I prefer to draw the terrain features with chalk and chalk pastels. You could modify this endlessly.It is very important to seal the cloth once you have spray it with at least two coats of acrylic matt varnish, otherwise the enamel will came off when you erase the terrain features.
    You could see photos of my experiment here: have put to much texture on it).
    Regards, Cesar

  5. To store the finished terrain simply roll it using some 1 1/2" or 2" plastic tube as a guide.
    Here are some other usefull links:
    and a how to page:
    Regards, Cesar.

  6. Yes I am familiar with the caulking, my old house is covered in several colours of it! When I use it goes everywhere and gets on everything.
    A job for out side in summer I think.

    Thanks for the links. I remembered the War Artisan site once I saw it, I had checked it out a few years ago but had forgotten the details. I also had some memory of a site where the person bought painter's drop cloths and painted on their battlefields.

    Lots to think about. I may start with a small Portable Wargame cloth this summer.

    Thanks, Ross