Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Taking that hill

I was planning to do a 2nd ACW game but Lentulus asked if the changes would suit my 40mm armies. I was pretty sure they would, after all, apart from a few details of wording, the rules are essentially the same as the pre-2012 rules except that the retreat for what I'm now calling Shaken units is automatic instead of a risk on the orders chart. However, it seemed wise to verify that before I went farther. I decided that I may as well test a small game to see if the bottom end was going to cause me issues.

I wasn't too happy last year when one small game took twice to set than it did to play so out of curiosity I timed both.   From the time I flipped open Scenarios for Wargames to choose something until the table was set and armies deployed took me 20 minutes. Since there is less fiddling and fewer choices made when cleaning up, I think 10 minutes will suffice for that. Mind you it is one of the simplest terrain layouts in the book.

The game itself took 90 minutes to play 12 turns to a decisive finish. The scenario (Dominant Hill) is a simple meeting engagement with 7 units a side so is right down there amongst the simplest, shortest games. I would consider an hour to be the minimum satisfying length so this passes on all these measurable bits.
The forces of Oberhilse and Faraway  meet in the shadow of Long Hill during one of the largely unrecorded border campaigns. For convenience I wrapped the road columns along the table edge so please imagine the troops marching along the edge to be off table.

The scenario is very straight forward, there is a critical road junction between a road passing through a series of small towns and a road leading over a difficult hill. Both armies are tasked with controlling the road junction and the road over the hill. They are given a  list from which to pick 7 units which they must arrange in order of march. I decided to only pick units on the new basing where possible which speeded up army selection tremendously.  Brigadier Zinn was given command of the Oberhilse force which consisted of a Brigade of 2 squadrons of Dragoons, a battery of field guns and a brigade of 4 infantry regiments including the Blue Guard. Brigadier Topper commanded the Queen's forces, a squadron of the Princess Charlotte Dragoons, a battery of field guns, a Brigade of 2 detachments of the Victoria Rifles and a Brigade of 3 regiments of infantry. The Blue army had 22 stands giving them an army morale of 8. The Red army had 20 stands giving them an army morale of 7.

The Queen's men moved first for the opening moves allowing the Rifles to occupy the mansion at the junction and the hill. They then surrendered the initiative for the rest of the game. Brigadier Zinn, realizing that he had a  force that was 1/3rd cavalry and without light infantry to capture a town and difficult hill, deployed his guns and cavalry  in the open and occupied the nearest village while he considered his options.

Somewhere around turn 5. One of the many nice things about the fixed bases is that they allow me to "occupy" my ceramic houses which means I won't need to replace them. The men may look a little silly perched on the roof but they get a good view from up there and don't fall off like singles did.

Zinn's initial plan was to threaten an infantry assault up the middle while the cavalry and artillery swept away the Queen's artillery and cavalry and threatened the flank and rear of her army. This went somewhat awry when some lucky rifle and artillery fire silenced the battery as it deployed. The gunners, obviously badly shaken were headed home when Zinn caught up with them at the board's edge and by his +1 alone rallied 1 gun keeping them on the table. While he was chasing the guns, he left the 1st Infantry to launch an attack. It promptly took 3 hits and fell back before something worse happened. Things weren't going well.

Across the table, the Queen's troops were feeling pretty smug until Brigadier Wavey decided that there was no sense sitting under artillery fire any longer and advanced. The PC Dragoons spurred forward to meet them, with an added bonus of being uphill. They must have been celebrating their recent promotion to Elite a little too vigorously last night though and they were chased off table by the Blue Dragoons who didn't even break stride. At the same time the Lafayette County Rifles pushed forward  along the hill with the bayonet and contrary to expectations, routed the Rifles who had stood to meet them. All of a sudden Red's Army morale was down to 3 and their guns were next in line for the Blue Dragoons.

The Queen's artillery stands firm.

The 2nd Squadron of Blue Dragoons wheeled and charged the Red guns which had limbered up and headed for a safer spot. These had just time to unlimber while the Buffs fired into the cavalry as they rode past. There was no time for the guns to fire until the dragoons were upon them but blast of a point blank canister was enough to send the Dragoons to the right about. (ie they scored a hit in melee and the Dragoons didn't). For now the situation was stabilized.

In the center there was nothing for it, the day would have to be decided by the infantry going toe to toe. The Blue Guards came forward and were hit by a devastating volley of musket fire supplemented by rifle fire from the Mansion. The remaining 3 stands reeled back while the 1st Infantry came forward again. After another furious exchange of volleys, the Green Tigers were starting to waver so Brigadier Stoneforte pulled them back behind the Uniake Fusiliers.

The Lafayette boys held the road over the hill, the infantry fight in the center was in the balance, the artillery was back on line, it seemed like the time to push the issue. The cavalry once again charged the guns and were sent reeling, shaken. The Blue Guards somewhat rallied, stormed forward  against the mansion at the crossroads. Both sides fought furiously and at the end of the day the Rifles were eliminated, though their Colonel escaped capture,  but the guards had been shaken again. Leaving 1 company to hold the Mansion, they fell back. Across the road, the Uniake Fusiliers pressed  forward with the bayonet routing the 1st Infantry while the Tigers wheeled to face the Lafeyettes and in a furious firefight, drove them off the hill, following to make sure they didn't rally.

If Red could just flip the initiative they could finish this but once again Blue won the toss. He rolled to rally the Guards, and also the 1st Infantry, Lafayette Volunteers and the Blue Dragoons. These last three were all shaken and perched at the table edge. All 7 stands failed their rally roll and retreated off table. The 2nd infantry, knowing that the enemy had been hard hit, threw caution to the wind and charged with the bayonet, hoping to rout the Uniakes and draw the battle. They charged hard and rocked the Fusiliers back but these held firm and shot them down.

Brigadier Zinn was forced to recall the Blue Guards, artillery and remaining Dragoons and fall back to report his failure to seize the road junction.

On turn 10 the Army Morale's were at Faraway 2, Oberhilse 6. Two turns later the count was Faraway 1, Oberhilse 0 (-3 actually!).  A game full of swings of fortune largely due to choices.

At the end of Turn 12, 1/2 the Oberhilse army retreated off table leaving the Queen's troops bloodied  and dazed but victorious. 

So much for the battle, how did the rules fare?

The main reason I had started fiddling with the rules last year was that I wanted to use single figures and made the error of  trying to adapt HofT instead of focusing on MacDuff which was designed for singles. This desire for singles had nothing to do with HofT,  just something that I needed to get out of my system one way or another. So it comes as no surprise to me that taking the core rules back to what had been working with 3-4 stand units should work again. Having just looked back through some archive versions, the biggest changes are that the control check has been simplified with less chance of units stalling though they still do it often enough, and that the rule for dealing with "1/2 strength" units now seems to work like intended/envisaged.

Looking back, I have to say that the greatest progress in the rules has come from letting go of two fears, fear of not showing historical detail and fear of results being too chunky,or drastic and unpredictable.

So did I change anything? Well, of course! I hadn't considered that my houses only hold 1 stand and these are by definition detachments and therefore treated as units. This in turn meant that any stray hit on any house would cause its  garrison to be shaken and evacuate. So on turn 3, I added a rider that infantry in square or garrison and artillery in forts aren't forced to retreat when shaken. They'll stand and die in place if their general asks it.  This in turn means that I'll have to retract the new rule on taking a panic test if infantry in square are defeated by cavalry as it won't work.I'll go back to just fighting another round. The various other changes make it less likely that a couple of lucky rolls will break the square so this should mean that it is difficult but possible.

I guess a solo play through of the convention game is now needed but I want to paint some more figures first so it'll be back to the ACW for the next HofT test but testing a Rough Wooing convention scenario may come first.

The NEW, IMPROVED? 6th Edition is now available from the link at left. The QRS is in the shop for repairs but will be back soon.



  1. An interesting action. The swings in fortune - you mentioned that this was due to choices. Good choices? Bad chioces? Gambles?

    I would suggest testing Rough Wooing. I need a break on HofT rule changes :)


  2. Sometimes calculated gambles but occasionally a bad decision (like the rifles on the hill not evading though you could call that a gamble, it was just one where the potential pay off was outweighed by the potential cost if it went horribly wrong which it did ), sometimes a choice of strategy, the Oberhilse attacks ended up being made all along the front, not strong enough in any one spot and 1/2 a regiment was tied up garrisoning houses that weren't really important (which I didn't think about until too late)

    Yeah, I need a break on changes too. the count down to go 5 games with absolutely no changes is on again.

  3. I just noticed that for 18th century games, troops in a fortified position are essentially invulnerable to shooting.

    The -2 when a 5+ is needed to hit means that the only way to hit them is to get artillery up to ridiculously close ranges.

    Did you realize this? Is it intended?

    -- Jeff

    1. Thanks Jeff, No when I went back to the old shooting chart, that -2 should have gone with it. That was an over sight.

      I'll have to go through and delete any reference to fortified. Forts are back to being cover and if they are not breached then they are also an obstacle. That's the old way.

      Its less granularity but its not worth mucking up the rest.

  4. Hi Ross,

    In response to Jeff's question, do you want the "Regardless of modifiers: a natural 6 always hits, a natural 1 always misses." line added to the shooting table?

    Or the modifiers could be to the NUMBER of dice thrown, not the VALUES of the die or the target numbers to cause a hit. This would work for both melee and shooting. It also gives one more wiggle room with modifiers. A +2 is huge modifier for six-sided dice results. Add 1 or 2 dice is not as drastic. In either case rolling all 6s or all 1s possible.

    Just a thought,


    1. Thanks Jim but no. That doesn't work for shooting, been there tried that. It was just an oversight when editing.

      Its the continual tug between when details don't fit without disrupting the pattern, does one disrupt the pattern or live with a bit less granularity. I tried dozens of variations in numbers of dice, fractions of hit and modifiers and scores. The old simple chart worked well for ages till I tried to add more granularity to go with the single figures and eventually found that the work of tracking the hits was tedious and the added bits also took some of the decisiveness out.

  5. Ross

    Speaking as a die-hard single figure gamer (at least in 28mm+), I have to say that you're making an excellent case for multi-figure stands.

    Dr V

    1. You like the guys on the roof top? or the speed of lay down and take up?

  6. "Taking That Hill"--makes me think of that famous conversation during the Oberhilse Civil War when Gen. Tremble went to Gen. Leep and complained about the inactivity of Gen. Yule: "Sir," I said, "Give me one 40mm brigade and I will take that hill. And he said nothing." Then I said to him, I said, "Sir, give me one 40mm regiment and I will take that hill. And he said nothing." Then, I was getting agitated you see, I told him, "Give one figure and I will take that hill. And he just stood there! I threw down my dice. You can hear them placing placing hasty entrenchments now. And in about 30 minutes many a good figure will be removed, taking...that...hill."

  7. Ah, you saw the movie they made about that, eh? ..hmm.. General Yule...I really should have a model of him on my table, I'll have to work on that.