EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting Stubborn

I don't believe in regrets. "There is no way back through the waters of Lethe". One just learns what one can from life's experiences but its sometimes easier said than done. Especially so when contemplating things like having mixed fictional (Atlantica),  historical (War of 1812) and pseudo-historical (Arrostock to Oregon) campaigns into a confused quagmire.  Last year I started the process of sorting things out, a process which will see the end of the Aroostock-Oregon project with it being swallowed  into Atlantica and with the War of 1812 standing alone as an occasional,  largely shelf-bound and convention oriented, historical, project. But perversely, I am knee deep in it all now as I try to bring this game to fruition. Since this was primarily an exercise and  I hadn't figured out characters, or settings or even which reality it is set in, Atlantica or America, I shall merely describe the armies as Red and Blue for today. 
Once again I laid out the defenders, (Red in this case) first and then let the Attacker (Blue henceforth) make his plan. Unlike the previous game, Blue had a numerical advantage in infantry and guns and the armies contained Elite and Militia units as well as Regulars. 

Red began by deploying his 1st brigade, composed of 1 unit of stands of riflemen (light infantry), 1 unit of elite line infantry and 1 of regular line infantry, on his right. The infantry was deployed along a fence and stone wall bordering a field. Its early in the year but the weather has been unusually dry and warm so while there are no crops, neither is the field muddy enough to be an obstacle. The Rifles were on the far right, partly amongst a copse and hedge line. The hedge is not the formal sort seen in Europe nor the ornamental type but merely an area where a thin line of alders, saplings, bushes and the occasional tree have been allowed to grow along the edge of a field, often along a brook or drainage ditch.  It will interfere with line of sight but does not provide cover. 

Red's 2nd brigade was posted from the stone house to the left. A 2nd unit of rifles as well as some Irregular light infantry were posted in some woods and in a copse on a hill with a battery on a lower shoulder of the hill then a battalion of line infantry. The final battalion of infantry detached its grenadiers to hold the house and then formed a central reserve. The detached grenadiers might have been deemed Elite if I had thought of it. 

Finally a cavalry brigade with one squadron each of Heavy (Dragoon) and Regular or Medium Cavalry (Hussars) were posted along the main road in the center. The mission of Red was to prevent Blue from seizing control of the road leading off behind their position (the West). Red had 28 stands with an army morale of 10.

After studying the situation from Blue's side, I determined that an attack up the center was unlikely to succeed. I proposed two plans, an all out attack up the left supported by a secondary attack up the middle or an attack up both flanks with a reserve that could go either way. The dice chose the latter option. Blue deployed a Brigade of Regulars to attack on the left, 3 battalions each of 4 stands, a 2 stand unit of light infantry riflemen and a mountain gun. These were formed in line along a lateral road to deceive the enemy and ordered to form a  road column, advance rapidly up the side road and redeploy to flank the enemy line. (They can be seen deploying above  under a Brigadier looking remarkably like Brigadier Zinn of Oberhilse. Red decided to pull back rather than trying to counter attack before Blue could deploy.

In the center I posted a battery of field guns and on the left a Brigade composed of 2 battalions of regulars, a unit of militia light infantry and a steam powered contraption armed with light guns. These were ordered to pin the enemy left. The line infantry deployed as skirmishers and supports. In reserve in the center was a Brigade of 2 squadrons of Cavalry and a Brigade containing a 4 stand unit of Elite infantry and 3 stand Militia unit.  Over all Blue had 39 stands with an army morale of 13

Blue's artillery deployed at long range on the hill and at first seemed frustratingly ineffective, however, eventually the odd hit would go on Red's infantry and with the penalty for being under fire, trying to remove hits was as hard as placing them and also forced Red to choose between rallying and maneuvering. Red's riflemen proved surprisingly hard to dislodge. After driving back Blue's rifles, they fell back just far enough to force Blue to deploy a battalion to try and clear the wood. Not willing to launch an unsupported bayonet charge, and stalling on some command rolls to boot, they ended up engaging in a lengthy but indecisive firefight. By the time another a battalion moved past the first, (reversing the order of the brigade line fwiw), and deployed to add its weight of fire, routing the skirmishers who had been too stubborn to retreat in time (yet another 1 on a control check held them in place, neither retreating nor rallying), Red was in position to meet Blue's attack head on and Blue's right was getting into trouble.

Initially Blue's attack up the left was more successful than anticipated, possibly fatally so as it sucked the troops forward.  Red's riflemen were quickly shaken and driven back and a gap opened in the line. Luckily for Red, the reserve infantry had already been brought across to support the guns and were now sent to plug the hole. As Blue advanced into close canister range, Red's dice heated up and soon all 3 Blue units were shaken or on the verge of it. One unit was threatening the guns however  and the heavy cavalry was sent forward, paying the movement and combat penalties for passing through the battery and forcing Blue's shaky infantry into square. The charge was repulsed but initiative favoured Red for once and close range canister soon shattered the square and drove it back.

  With his militia heading full speed for the table edge and his 2 regular units retreating shaken, Blue's right flank and center were wide open just as his attack from his left was hitting home. It was time to commit the reserve, but where and how? The Elite infantry, backed by militia were sent straight up the center to hit the end of Red's first Brigade while pinning part of the second brigade. To hopefully take out the guns, still carrying 1 hit, and to stall any counter attack until the main attack crushed Red's line, the Dragoons were sent in on the right. One squadron charging, one in reserve. Odds are that they would suffer but silence or  capture the battery. They might have too if the battery hadn't stood firm, shaking the cavalry with defensive fire on the way in then blowing them away in melee for no loss. In went the 2nd squadron which managed to shake/silence the battery but having been shaken itself by fire again, lost a stand and its brigadier in melee leading to a draw and was forced to fall back. Red's Dragoons, now rallied charged through the guns again and swept them away, over running the army commander and an infantry Brigadier as they went.

So what about the other flank where red's infantry faced twice their numbers? It was a glorious stand! Time and again Blue's musketry riddle Red's line with hits and time and again Red's stubborn infantry rallied under fire. The Elite bonus proved invaluable. At last Red's line infantry gave way but rallied when joined by Red's General. For two turns the Elite infantry in the center stood in a concave line surround by an arc of three blue units. At last it was too much and Blue poured enough hits in to take out 2 stands. Red voluntarily pulled them back behind the now rallied line infantry and the Elites rallied in safety.

In the center, the Blue Elites had stalled in front of the stone house. They would have been better getting stuck in except that in the not unlikely event of their being repulsed, there was no one to cover their retreat or the flank of the 1st Brigade so there was nothing for them to do but stand and trade fire with the Stone House and its supporting infantry and hope that the defenders would eventually fail.

Blue still had the advantage of numbers but back on his right flank, the Steam Battery had been forced to retreat by artillery fire and Red's Hussars had charged through the guns in turn and hit the militia as they deployed to take its place. These fought surprisingly well and though shaken, held the Hussars. Red's infantry soon dispersed them though and at the same time, the Red Dragoons, now rallied from their pursuit managed to catch the last of Blues's shaken infantry in the flank as it tried to rally and it was all up. Including lost Brigadiers and the General, Blue's army morale was at -5, having lost 6 stands on the last turn. Red still stood at 6 despite the heavy fighting.

The stubborn, against the odds, rallying of the Red infantry and artillery proved decisive.

This was the 2nd game with absolutely no change and the 5th since the return to the earlier system, the only change since having been to move the retreat of shaken units to their activation rather than at the end of the move. This game, with armies organized in table top teaser fashion, had 1/2 the units of the previous game though nearly as many stands and the result was a different feel with individual units mattering more than whole brigades but an equally good and at times exciting game. Its nearly time to remove the word "Draft" but I need to see if I can manage to add some notes and clarifications where questions have made it clear that there are still some little things where there are unclear or unwritten, all without accidently changing any rules in the process!

Incidently, I started the game using the card activation which felt right but which involved me chasing around the table to flip cards since the battle was active all over the table. On about turn Four, I switched to the Initiative system of dicing by sides. It also worked well but involved less circling the table. Don't get me wrong, walking around the table is probably good for me, if I cleared more space, I could probably even jog, but I was tired and a bit sore and I was happy that both methods still work.

The other issue I encountered is administrative really. I was constantly running out of markers, both hit markers and "having fired" markers (aka "smoke"). Not that I didn't have plenty but despite having laid out several supply depots around the table (as long as I was being lazy and it was a holiday after all), it seemed like every time I needed to mark a unit, I had to circle the room looking for camoflaged markers. That was the one nice thing about knocking figures over!  When I first started using markers a few years back, I added an under table shelf to my then table with containers loaded with 2-3 times as many as I would ever need and that worked reasonably well. With a cloth over the table, its hard to access under table drawers or shelves but I will have to work on a more permanent system of marker & smoke supply depots around the room, hanging from walls or surrounding tables.   These will have to be big enough to hold the casualty markers of the appropriate size and era which I intend to eventually use in place of red chits.


  1. This reads like it was a very exciting game, Ross.

    As to markers, have you considered putting the casualty chits in a shirt pocket? That way they'd be with you.

    -- Jeff

    1. Jeff, Interesting idea. They wouldn't fit in a shirt pocket but one of those carpenter's aprons/waist pouches (don't know the proper term) with the pockets for nails might be an option. never thought of that.

  2. A very entertaining batrep. I noticed the steam battery in the third photo. Was this its debut in battle?

    1. Thanks. This was its 2nd outing, the first being http://gameofmonth.blogspot.ca/2012/03/back-up-neverwaussie.html

      I think it got one shot off in that game and then got over run.

  3. A great report and, you were right, the tabble is better and better. A real pleasure! I'l come back soon...

  4. Ross: your Faraway-Oberhilse 40mm soldiers and cloth terrain are my favourites. I have enjoyed very much this report. Thank you very much for sharing.
    How much time have this game taken?

  5. Thanks Cesar. There'll be more to come and some new additions come summer. I'm not sure how long the game took, I ended up playing it in several sessions. Probably 2 hours+, maybe 3.

  6. That is a good news, I will wait anxiously for those additions.
    Regards, Cesar.