Saturday, June 30, 2012

Boer Cry? Battle Cree?

I've been pondering a "game" with fairly limited parameters for my old Britain's for a while now. Something where I wouldn't end up needing space, time and money for armies of 300  antique toy soldiers. The Portable Wargame has been a strong contender since its introduction but it occurred to me today that Battle Cry or rather, a variant of it might be a good contender for a Boer War toy soldier game. A 1st Boer War or maybe even a Riel Rebellion game, (I have a little box full of old Britain's Indians and a few Cowboys. waiting for repainting for just such a game.)

As can be seen above, 4 infantry, 3 cavalry or a gun and crew fit one of my 4" hexes. One could even do up customized cards, possibly different decks to allow each side different tactics. The Riel Rebellion provides some good solo scenarios where the Metis and Indians were often deployed  in hidden rifle pits and acted on the defensive apart from limited local counter attacks. Perfect for a Canadian player controlling his units and having Metis/Indian appearing as random events. Cut Knife Creek anyone? or Batoche?

   (picture linked to Wikipedia)

Something to ponder as I drive off to visit family on Monday.

July 1st tomorrow. Happy Canada Day to all.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The 25% Dis-Solution

"I ain't scared of no Injuns. Much."
The Yellow chits mark possible swamp areas, the Red one smark possible British or Indian units.

Earlier this week I snuck in an 1812 solo test game, a turn or 2 at a time in between other things. This time it was the "If you go down to the woods today" teaser from the Battlegames Teaser Volume #1 .

The slightly revised Rally/Morale Test is finally giving just the sorts of morale test results I've been tinkering towards for decades through 3 sets of rules. Needless to say it probably works best because its the simplest one of them all. I have accepted a greater degree of risk and finality than in the past but have also let go of numerous situational/troop modifiers.

However, having once again brought back a  "25% hits from shooting causes disorder" rule, it started giving me grief, again. The idea of this rule has always been to allow for some thing more than attrition as a result of shooting with the intent that it should be fairly rare unless the target has been weakened unless using modern weapons or being at very close range. In ideal circumstances this is what happens but there are serious loopholes. One is that small units, especially small units of skirmishers, are always at risk which was not the intent. Another is that since the current shooting rules do not allow most units to inflict more than 25%, a unit even 1 figure stronger is safe from the effect which bothers me.  I came every close to chucking the whole thing and going mad again but luckily calmer heads eventually prevailed. 

Its starting to look for scary for the Brits as the various 1/2 units of Indians get chased out of wood after wood.

Chucking the disorder rule was close until I remembered that I wanted it to allow for extension into the 1870's. After looking at various ways to increase close range and decrease long range firepower, I finally decided that the 2 hits on a 6 rule that I had been playing with was the easiest, most effective way to solve it without major shake ups. It doesn't answer all the anomalies but I can live with the ones it doesn't. While I was doing it I went back to my old, tried and true fire chart since the new one was more than I could keep in my head, one of my design goals.

As long as I was tinkering, the move or shoot wasn't really working for me either so I scrapped it again, this time in favour of fire after movement only. I also brought back reaction fire vs enemy movement (I suspect it was dropped by accident as I've always liked it and never had problems) rather than just to return enemy fire and have made all fire and consequences sequential rather then simultaneous so that there will not be any instances of 2 regular units routing each other with fire, something I have no precedence for.

Counting noses for Brigade morale hasn't been working too well for me, mostly because I am lazy with a decreasing short term memory rather than anything game wise. Given the small number of units I tend to play with, I've decided to bump any brigade morale to the optional rule section and instead just go with the good old units losing 50% become shaken and an army with 50% shaken or lost units must concede. Based on calculation crossed with past experience, the over all effect should be about the same but be easier to administer in the heat of action. For example in this game, the 1st Ohio would not have been shaken by the rout of the 3rd Ohio and the skirmishers, but the badly shot up 1/2 units of riflemen would not have been pushed so boldly forward to fight to the last man so the two would have balanced and the game would have ended at just the same point 2 turns later when the 4th US infantry was driven in.  

Tecumseh rallies the Braves and Gen, Ross rallies the Canadian light infantry and sends them around the flank against the American militia. 

The return to these mechanisms shouldn't have a major effect, looking at the game just played, the Indians were able to use the ambush rule to do just what the ordinary reaction rule allows, and the units were so small that even the occasional double hit would not have allowed 5 skirmishers to rout a 20 man battalion while the skirmishers were already at risk once they had taken a  hit or if facing 2 dice f fire and still will be. The shoot after moving might have moved the game ahead slightly faster and been a bit more exciting but I don't think it would have changed any outcomes.

It felt odd at first, not having to pass an order check but the result actually felt more historically plausible to me and as predicted, changes of initiative combined with terrain and troop density, not to mention player choices, provided plenty of friction.  OH yes, having played about 12 turns, I only managed 1 tied initiative meaning only 1 Chance Card. One which brought 2 Indians back to the ranks, a welcome reinforcement. More than 1 would have been welcome but I usually see more initiative ties than that so I will keep with that as it is an easily remembered trigger. The only alternative I could see me using would be to make a deck with 3/4 "No Event" cards so that one could be pulled every turn.

The American Militia gives way and many of them panic. Shortly  after the regulars confront each other and a wing of the British 49th Foot routs the US 4th Infantry with the bayonet, bringing the battle to an end.  A close run affair.

The revised rules are uploaded and the 5 game without modification counter has been reset.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taking a chance

Chance cards are as old as the first published rules of the modern era. Both Featherstone and Morschauser suggest their use as a way to spice up games. I have only rarely bothered to try and use them but while answering Prometheus's comment of the Non-Player Commander rules, it suddenly struck me as the best way to put the occasional spanner in the works.

Pas t experience tells me that I'll soon get tired of drawing No Effect cards so prefer a deck where every card means something but where they only happen  occasionally rather than a card being drawn every turn. Luckily that suits both activation methods. I have decided that a card will be drawn if there is a tied activation roll. If using card activation, it is merely a matter of slipping a Joker  or two into the deck.

To be honest, since I have NO intent of using the optional NPC disobeys order rules myself, I should probably pull the Order rules, leaving the characters in place and relegate command blunders to the cards, maybe adding some more specific ones. That is a system I probably will try out.

Now to make up a deck of cards or a look up table.

Here's what I've added to the optional rules:

1.      Chance Cards. This is an optional add on rule. Chance cards are an old way to introduce random or unusual events into a game.  I think it is a better way to handle disobedience or blunders by subordinates as well. Chance cards can be drawn up on a computer and printed on business cards, a look up table can be made, keyed to a deck of playing cards or dice rolled against it. I will suggest some possible cards but players should make up their own deck.
a.      If using the initiative system. Any time there is a tie when rolling initiative, the player who is moving next nominates the Brigade that he will activate then draws a Chance Card.
b.      If using card activation. Include one or more Jokers in the deck. When the Joker is drawn, draw another card, nominate which Brigade will be activated then draw a chance card. Reshuffle the deck before drawing again.
c.      Sample Chance Cards. These are only a few of the possibilities. The deck/table should be a mix of positive and negative events.  I would suggest a minimum of 12 cards, 20 or more would be better. Each card should be discarded once drawn but you may wish to include multiples of some events. Your imagination is the only limit to the number and nature of the events.
                                          i.     Blunder: The Brigade that has been activated blunders. If there is a GM, he decides what happens, if not allow the enemy player to issue it orders or use the Optional Non-player commander Initiative chart or any method you prefer to have that commander act not in accordance with the player’s wishes.
                                         ii.     Thunderstorm. A sudden, heavy storm stops the battle. The turn is over and any units that have not been activated lose the chance to be activated. In a turn limited game or if there are reinforcements, a turn is still used up. On the next turn, all combat is at a -1 die modifier and all movement is 1/2 speed. On the following turn, all returns to normal but a second thunderstorm will make the effects permanent. (or dust storm if in the desert, etc.)
                                       iii.     Ammo Shortage. The last unit to have fired has expended their ammo. Mark the unit as disordered. If they rally then they have been resupplied. If they become Broken, they have moved off table looking for resupply and count as lost.
                                       iv.     Huzzah! A wave of enthusiasm sweeps through the next brigade to be activated may add 1d6” to any move or add +1 to any Rally die or to each melee die if charging.
                                         v.     For Want of a Nail. A courier has been delayed. The Brigade that is being activated may not move but units may rally or shoot as normal and change facing or formation.
                                       vi.     We marched all night. An unexpected reinforcement arrives for the side that is activating a brigade. 1 independent unit of the player’s choice shows up at the player’s board edge where a road enters the table or at the next most suitable place if there is none.
                                      vii.     Raging Torrent. Heavy rainfall upstream has caused all rivers to rise and run fast. All fords are now dangerous and units crossing must roll for losses as per the terrain rules.
                                    viii.     They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant. The General of the side that is activating a Brigade has been targeted by a sniper or his command group has been hit by a stray shell or freindly fire. Roll 1 die. On a score of 1 the General, is wounded or dead and out of the game. His army will have to carry on without him.
                                       ix.     Rising to the Occasion. The active player may replace one lost Commander of any type. If none have been lost, he may add a Hero character to the unit of his choice.
                                         x.     Seizing the moment. The enemy suddenly grabs the initiative and may activate one of his brigades before the selected one is activated.
                                       xi.     Dysentery. One unit on the side that is active, chosen by the enemy, is struck by sickness. All shooting, melee and morale tests have an additional -1 modifier for the rest of the game.
                                      xii.     Never say die. The troops are inspired, stragglers and lightly wounded return to the ranks. The active player may remove a total of 1d6 hits from any combination of his units still on table.
                                    xiii.     I’ll try sir!  If any unit in the Brigade which has been activated charges this turn and draws the melee, they may immediately fight another round of melee instead of falling back.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Is he fortunate?

To my mind, any form of activation or similar rule is about the intermediate commanders in an army and how they interpret their orders and respond to enemy actions . The brigadiers in the size of games I usually play. Since the days when I played WRG 1685-1845, my rules have usually contained Bold, Rash, Cautious and some times Indecisive brigadiers and some form of control check. The simpler the rules got, the less convincing I found the personality affects so I hauled them out with the though of re-introducing them as an Optional rules. The problem of how to do so without having a completely different system has kept me from doing so. 

When I started looking at dropping any sort of order/control check, it occurred to me that this was the ideal time to write up the optional commander and command rules. So, I did. 

As long as the hood was open and I was tinkering with the Brigadier rules to harmonize with the loss of the orders test, I had another look at the morale rules.  On the whole I was happy with how they worked but I still wasn't quite happy with the practical side of multiple disorders and shaken brigades and the results of the rally test were a bit too predictable.  I have simplified them by having 2 disorders cause a temporary shaken status while making shaken a -2 die modifier instead of multiple  disorders being -1 each Thus also eliminates the need to check each shaken unit each turn to see if it needs another disorder which it will probably rally off, only to have it replaced (yawn).

Here's the Non Player Commander rules which I should test at some point but don't really intend to use myself. The complete updated rules are on line. Thanks to the new Google Drive, any future fiddling will be immediately uploaded unless I take steps to avoid it. I'll try to keep the link date updated once I have finished any fiddling.


1.      Non Player Commanders.  This is an additional rule. In all but the smallest of armies, a general depends on his subordinates for the execution of his plans.  Some subordinates are dependable, they understand the General’s orders when issued and comply even if they disagree and are often able to correctly interpret what he would have wished them to do if a situation arises that requires them to act without orders. Other subordinates are more difficult. Perhaps they may be too timid or too head strong to obey orders that they don’t agree with, may be unable to understand or may just be incompetent at carrying out their job. The best way to represent this is to have a player for each subordinate but that is not often possible. An active GM can be a good substitute but sometimes the best we can do is a die roll on a chart even though no simple chart will ever give us a realistic interpretation of the range of human failings. It is even less possible of representing a subordinate who is capable of brilliant performance and an imagination and daring beyond that of the wargamer.  If using a mix of Player and Non-player Commanders, player commanders always have their own competency and character and may decide for themselves how to handle their troops but may roll for courage if they wish a chance to be something other than average.
a.      Establishing Non-Player Characters. If using these rules, all Commanders must be named and their place in an army should be fixed including precedence. Their performance should be tracked from game to game and personalities and capabilities maintained or adjusted if they seem to develop their own tendencies. Unless playing a full fledged campaign with rules for replacing commanders, roll up a new personality and precedence when a wounded commander is replaced. Each commander is given a rating in each of three attributes: Competency, Character and Courage. Roll once for each attribute using 1 d6 unless the GM has rated historic commanders. Any combination is possible.
For example a Brigadier might be Dependable, Rash and Timid. He will normally obey orders but if left to himself might send his troops into rash charges while hiding in the back where it is safe.
Die Roll
Roll once for each attribute
b.      Courage.  This attribute does not affect orders, it deals with how inspiring a leader is and how much he is willing to risk himself.
Adds +2 when Rallying and hits on 3+ in melee but is wounded on 1 or 2.
As per the rules
Does not provide a melee bonus.
c.      If using Mission Orders. The best way to incorporate Commander non-player characters is to issue written Mission or Game orders telling the commander what his mission is. These should be written in plain language. For example: Hold the cross road. Attack the Central Hill. Move around the West Wood and attack the Bridge. Orders maybe issued directly by the General to a Brigadier if their figure’s bases are touching and in this case the  Brigadier will Obey. They may also be carried by an Aide de Camp (ADC) who begins in contact with the general and moves 1d6 feet per turn. A player may send as many orders as he has ADC’s but an ADC must return before a new order can be sent. Once the order has arrived, the next time that a Brigadier is activated, roll on the Obedience chart.  If he gets Obey Orders the player can move units as he feels best to accomplish the mission. If he gets “Use Initiative”, use the Initiative table to guide his actions. Some role playing will be required to get the most out of the system. If the player does not like the result, he may repeat the order or send a new one. If the situation changes drastically, a new roll should be made, for example if an enemy flank march arrives within 12” of the brigade. If no GM is available, go by consensus and common sense.
OBEDIENCE (Roll 2d6)
Use initiative
Obey orders
Use initiative
Obey orders
Use initiative
Obey orders

Must join a charge if any are ordered. Any line infantry or cavalry units which are in charge reach of enemy and are not in cover or defending an obstacle will be ordered to charge.  No units may retreat.
Will not order charges unless the enemy is disordered, shaken or presenting a flank. If ordered to retreat, will do so at 1/2 speed, facing the enemy.
May not join a unit in melee. Will not order charges. Must arrange his Brigade  with no gaps between units in the front line but with a reserve and facing all threats. All troops to be deployed.

d.      If not using Mission orders. If not using game or mission orders, roll for each Brigadier each turn when activated unless the General is within 12”.  A result of “Obey orders” allows the player to order units as he thinks best. A result of “use initiative” should be used as a guideline. Some role playing will be required to get the most out of the system.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Death of a Hero and other ways to fritter a weekend

Spinner says Grendel killed the Hero.

Spinner is our Whippet who has filled in as "big dog" for most of the decade since our last Wolfhound. The Hero in question was not a Geat but rather an HTC smart phone.  The tooth prints on the casing definitely indicate someone munched it, much the same as various remotes etc that have, on rare occasions, been  accidentally left over night on a coffee table in the family room. Spinner claims that a fog comes over the room, he falls into a deep sleep and when he wakes, well there it is, must have been Grendel.

Now to be fair, the phone isn't really dead, there's only one button not working, the "go back where you were" button and, anyway, the more than 2 years old phone has been having increasingly frustrating issues already. Not to mention  that the USB cord used for charging and uploading pictures is looking a little worn and may have shorted out the other day (I've been planning to replace it for a while...) which may explain the 3 goblins dancing across the phone when I tried to turn it on yesterday. They're gone now, mostly, but the "Not so smart phone", as I have come to call it, has now been relegated to e-reader and I spent a fair amount of time on Saturday downgrading my cellular plan and re-activating a nearly new Razr that was my wife's phone for several years. Luckily for me now, she hated it, rarely used it and replaced it as soon as possible. I loved mine and hers has the battery bought just before my well worn phone was retired to make way for a Hero.

Amazing how much time that all takes. In the end, I once again have a phone that actually works as a phone but will have to make do again without internet access everywhere I go.

Gratuitous shot of largely RAFM 25mm figures along with Corvus, Benassi, Minifig and Garrison.

However, I still found time to work on my Ancient rules (See Gathering Blog).  The main focus yesterday was command control and after exploring various carrot and stick options, the final decision was that the Initiative roll is all the Friction that I really need. Units (and commanders) can get caught short when there is a flip in sequence. Units don't arrive in time where they are being sent, allowing the enemy to exploit an opening or to pug a gap, other units might be caught in flank or not deployed properly and so on. Actually, the Order check can work against this providing a form of Double Jeopardy which has been a  bug bear for me for the last year or so.  Expect a ripple over Hoft sooner or later as Brigadiers perhaps go back to just allowing  coordinated groups of units as well as rallying and leading in combat.

I also found time to base up some super cheap HO trees (as in 16 for a $ + $5 shipping) from ebay. Shame, shame, shame on me. I am philosophically opposed to buying cheap plastic trees from China, probably made from radio active plastic by someone working 70 hour weeks for next to nothing. It was a moment of weakness and frustration. The trees are about what you would expect. It said Pine trees, they look more like some sort of Aspen or Poplar and are smaller than I would have liked, but a drive along our road showed me several very similar trees of both small and medium height so they've been based and added to my ACW collection. (Now to produce those 6 feet of wooden fences.)

Last but not least, I started work on making a mold of my forthcoming Scruby compatible 1812 British Officer. I had to stop though when his head came off. (I confess, its not my head, its a Scruby one so that he matches his men.) But I'll get that fixed and get back to him this week. His US counter part is slow to come out of an awkward growing stage but hopefully he'll be also be ready to take the plunge before long.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Cards, Pips and some practical thoughts on Command Control & friction.

When DBA's  PIP's command control system was first introduced via Slingshot, I was quite taken with it then with DBA itself and have tinkered with variations on the PIP idea at different times, even attempting to bolt it onto HofT once or twice. There are some aspects of the idea that don't appeal to me though and I'm not currently using it anywhere.

The Warmaster/BKC etc system of activation was also briefly of interest when I first encountered it but I never warmed to it thoroughly despite having been using some form of activation/command control roll for decades. In fact, BKC & Black Powder together got me re-visiting the whole topic of Command Control & Friction two years ago.

In light of all this, I was expecting to dislike if not outright hate the card activation system used in Memoir 44 and other Battlecry derivatives. The fact that I didn't has increased my respect for the game designer and has led me to do some pondering.

The first thing that comes to mind is that like the Pip system but unlike the Activation system, no matter how  bad your luck is, you can always do SOMETHING. Maybe not exactly what you wanted or needed and maybe you are going to have to more or less waste a card but not only do you have a selection of cards to choose from but the cards are designed in such a way that most allow you to activate one unit if you can't use use the card's prime purpose.

The second thing is that the cards don't just limit your ability to act, they give you bonuses that allow some units special capabilities for that turn. The Warmaster style of activation do this to some extent by allowing repeated activations but I find this just aggravates the jerkiness and rags or riches aspects of the system, two things that don't appeal to me though I can see that they do appeal to others.   PIPs don't usually have this enhancement quality although there some exceptions such as extra moves for some units in some circumstances. I'm not sure what it represents but it adds to the game enjoyment and uncertainty. For example in the last game, on the last turn, the card I played gave my units an extra die each when fighting. Without that, with the best dice in the world my troops could not have clinched the game. Even with slightly average dice they would not have done so, they needed both. 

The third  aspect is that having a hand of cards allows you do some planning, especially if you know the deck and have been paying attention to what has been played. All of the systems do this to some extent because you can maximize various aspects of PIP or Activation rolls but largely by paying attention to the order an formation of your army and the positioning on commanders, things Generals have to attend to. The cards do it in ways that don't relate to any battlefield activity at all except that a General has to be aware of circumstances and his deployment and how the two mesh. This card sharking aspect was what I really expected to hate. Only the well thought out nature of the deck, which seems to usually allow you to make it work with your plan with only minor adjustment, makes it work for me. 

So where is this going?

Well , I've been playing around with ideas for my RCW and Ancients games, both of which are now 1 stand=1 unit at the moment. I'm using the HofT C&C system with the Ancients right now and it works OK but more so for Heavy Infantry armies than ones of light troops who one end up rolling for almost every unit every turn which is tedious.  For that and the RCW game, a PIP system where spending an extra point on a unit/group could be used for special bonuses, 1 pt for a group to move double perhaps (Greeks at Marathon e.g.) or 1 pt to allow a special maneuver or a combat bonus for one stand/unit. 

Needs some thought. It definitely falls under the Game aspect but it could speed some things up while adding a bit more spice. I'm not planning to  reopen HofT to consider re-introducing PIPs by brigade again but having gotten over my snit against the artificial nature of the concept, I'm not opposed to the idea if it might be faster/easier/more fun than the current Order Check which is purely negative or neutral and which some people have trouble remembering.   Or possibly the order check could be modified slightly so that a 6 gave a bonus? hmmm. .

Thursday, June 21, 2012

St Marie de Sawmill

Back to Dubbiya Dubbiya Two again today and Memoir 44 Winter War. Ron nicely let me have the Yanks again for our play through of Chance Encounter aka: Sawmill Village.  The beginning was eerily familiar. There I was struggling to move my boys up the road, trying to keep my tank/infantry Combat Team together but the tanks got a little ahead. (The scenario says no deployment until enemy is spotted). Suddenly the quiet little French village ahead of us erupted in Panzers and my lead tank platoons were hit hard. Somehow, I'm not sure how, they survived and fought back.
Sgt Star in his Able company Sherman earning the Medal of Honor.

These 3 turns sort of set the pace for the game. Ron's dice were as cold as mine were hot. The Sherman above, despite having 2 hits, managed 5 tank hits on 6 dice, and a couple more the next turn. The other tank and a bazooka team helped finish off the lead tanks and a long shot from a bazooka caught the last as it took out the hero. Ron's men had seized the objective village so the score was 4:3 at this point in my favour.   

Phase 2 saw the American infantry trying to take the town back from the German Panzer Grenadiers who had seized it. I drove them out of one house but got thrown back by a counter attack. We both resupplied and then with 4 shots, I got 4 hits and followed up with a close assault which took out the 1/2 track, Game over.

It was a good game and felt anything but easy but it didn't seesaw as much as the previous game due to my lucky dice. I figure the boys had their dander up after the last fight.

After a break for lunch, we decided toi check out Ron's shiny new C&C  Ancients. The result was a resounding , "ennh, ok I guess  but not great". We will try again at some point, I suspect we might have a harder time lifting this game out of its context and a prolonged series of head on pitched battles doesn't appeal to either of us.

Monday, June 18, 2012

So far away they looked tiny

Actually, they were tiny as well as far away. Sunday night I plunked my butt  in a  comfy chair in my Games Room and let my mind and spirit travel the ether(net) to Lentulus's Games Room. The scenario was Wagon Train from Scenarios for Wargames, the figures were Pendraken 10mm 's, the rules were the current Hearts of Tin.   I commanded the wily Bravance ambushers or those that elected to show up, while Lentulus commanded the Drakenburg convoy. The lovely fortress in the back was built from stout cardboard about 20 years ago by David Wilson.

The view from my laptop. From 90 km away, those 10mm sure look small!

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to keep track of the action even with 10mm troops. Left to my own devices, I could not have distinguished the Mont Royal Regiment from the Longueil Regiment but I could tell the difference between horse and foot and once identified, I had no trouble tracking the movements of various units and was starting to get good at estimating distances.

As usual with this scenario, there were lots of ups and downs as units appeared at places inconvenient for one player or the other. Eventually though, my boys waltzed off for a good feast while the garrison went on 1/2 rations. Hopefully there will eventually be real pictures on one of Lentulus' blogs.

The evening did see all three grades of cavalry  getting a chance to do their thing. When my Cuirassiers crashed into the enemy Hussars and threw  9 dice looking for 3 or better, I had brief qualms about the cavalry changes but it all worked as advertised. Much the same applied when my Dragoons thundered down on a poor battalion  which had been caught by my infantry in march column and was trying to rally in what they thought was a peaceful little valley. Five ones on 9 dice can really take the sting out of a cavalry charge!  Still we pursued them and hacked some more before the hard core colour guard finally held my horsemen to a draw in one round. That's them by the tape measure, perched on the table edge, working on a big stack of disorder chits. That's my Dragoons in the lighter green space about to ride out of rifle shot of the enemy Jaegers just emerging from the wood.

Things learned:
Cavalry charges can be heart stopping things, capable of blowing the enemy away or whiffing and often the cavalry ends up  effectively blown either way. This is what I was trying for so, so far so good.

Counting noses to figure out how many dice to roll is a nuisance with even 20mm troops and is no easier with 10mm ones. The alternative would be to go back to everyone in the front 2 ranks but only 1/2 if caught in flank or rear but its a minor thing that would end up much the same, maybe 1 die more or less and I'm going to hold off till the 5 test games are complete.

Despite many proof readings, there are still errors. Somehow I accidentally deleted Irregular Cavalry from the list of -1 melee modifiers and was in a quandary as to whether "play the game as it lies" applied or "play them as intended". I opted for the latter otherwise Irregular cavalry would not only be super mobile but as good as any dragoons in combat and the deletion was not intended

The rules could stand even more duplication of rules in different places. At one point I was trying to only ever write something once but I've slowly started repeating things which apply to more than 1 section. For example, during set up it explains that march columns have no front, only flanks. In the melee rules it says
units hit in flank are disordered. Therefore march columns are disordered automatically if they are charged and don't manage to react. It would be easier if I just wrote that, rather than expecting in W*G fashion that people would make the connection between the 2. Lots of those sorts of things tucked away here and there.  I don't mind doing the work to clarify them, but not until I'm sure that they won't be changing weekly or even monthy.

OK, Its probably best for a short break from HofT so I can have a fresh mind for the next test game. I see Sassinid Persian and Greco-Bactrian troops forming on the table edges, I guess its time for some Gathering of Hosts.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Howdya like it now?

There were a lot of things I should probably have been doing today but while I am not technically a father, I tend to enough critters to qualify in my books and I had the afternoon to myself. I briefly thought about clearing off the table and getting the new cloth out but that seemed like a lot of work for an off the cuff play test so I just cleared the big fences and houses, dropped in an old log cabin and hauled out the ACW lads to try the proposed 20 man units. The scenario was a simple equal force encounter with victory being based on control of the road junction and ford. Each side had 2 brigades of infantry, each of 3 regiments as well as a battery with 6 gunners and an independent cavalry unit of 6 figures.

After a brief, inconclusive (and pointless) clash between opposing cavalry units, the armies deployed. The Confederates had been first on and kept the initiative through most of the game allowing them to seize the objectives, forcing the Federals to attack. 

After pouring fire into the village at the crossroads, the Yankees assaulted but were repulsed and, after the brigadier was hit,  routed. A second attack eventually succeeded in finally taking the village but a counter attack soon threw the Yankees back out, bringing the US 1st Brigade to shaken in the process. A 2nd regiment broke but the third one hung on for the rest of the game, keeping up a sporadic fire.

At this point, things looked bleak for the Federals, the Confederates now had the objectives and a superiority of forces. In other circumstances it might have been time to go home but the Civil War wasn't well known for giving up hopeless assaults at the first sign of trouble and the Rebel artillery was temporarily out of action having just limbered up to come forward. The Federals closed up to medium rifle range and opened up. There was no real reason for the Rebs to counter attack rather than sustain the firefight until the Yanks became shaken and went home but for some reason they thought they saw a chance to break them quickly and avoid the mutual blood bath. It almost worked, they sent 2 regiments reeling but didn't quite inflict enough damage, and then Brigadier Kinch went down.  The attack stalled, took heavy losses and fell back shaken. the battle of attrition was on.
It took several more turns of musket and cannon fire but the Yankees finally broke, a few hits before the Rebs would have. The Reb counter attack and some stubborn Yankee regiments had turned a sure thing into a near run thing!

Just a small, simple game taking about 2 hours but I liked the feel of the larger units and I liked the flow of the game which had a good feel. If I had triple the number of regiments,  it would make for a full day's game and might call for a turn limit. Brigade sizes for the early war seem to vary from 3 to 5 regiments. Three worked well but I may settle on four as a standard bringing me back to a Division of 12 regiments per side plus a Cavalry division and of course guns. That should be enough to keep me busy.  

So I'm going to go  ahead and reorganize the existing figures, painting more where needed to match existing poses and trying to make units distinct in some fashion. I'll also give each regiment a flag and a name now that the org is set. When Jerry surfaces again, if he wants to stick with our agreed on 3 stand units, I can just leave a few stands on the shelf.

On to Lentulus' 10mm tricorne lads for the 2nd game of the day and a look at heavy cavalry vs infantry.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Back Bigger and Better

I managed to squeeze in my 2nd AWI game over last night and today, a few turns at a time. While I was reorganizing the troops, removing the trees from their multi-tree bases (go ahead and snigger)  and doing the rules figuring already described,  a suspicion began to creep on me that I confirmed during play today. This is NOT really the rules that I was trying to write for the last three years, but the game WAS exactly the sort of game that I have been wanting to play for the last 10 years!   That's what happens when your initial design criteria is flawed. Never mind,  we seem to be there now.

One more technical note that I missed yesterday. During the Skype game with Lentulus I discovered with a mix of amusement and annoyance that I had created a sort of Morale Limbo where a unit with multiple Disorder markers might not rout but could never rally. Whether or not this makes sense historically it makes little sense in game terms. If it can't rally or fight, take it off. If its not going to come off, find some way for it to recover. I decided to do the latter and after some study decided to change the 1,2,3 result on the table so that a wavering unit may remove 1 and only 1 disorder marker and may fall back but may NOT shoot. Thus if you have 1 disorder marker, rallying is essentially automatic for all except Militia or Irregulars but may prevent shooting. With 2 disorders, not only is there a risk of breaking but recovery might take 2 turns. This way even with Shaken brigades, there is a chance to recover from disorder if the enemy gives you a quiet place to rally in.

Oh and about the trees, as I looked at the table, i realized that the tight clumps of trees glued to CD's was a good way to get the maximum number  of trees into the minimum amount of space but were nearly impassible to figures, left big open areas on the table and meant that some of the smaller trees were locked in to the biggest ones. Once back on single bases I was able to spread them out more evenly over the forest areas and move individual trees easily to make room. Just like in the old days. Oh well.

On to the game.

The approach marches are over and the shooting begins.

For this game, I rearranged the Americans in two 20 figure units of regular line infantry and two of militia as well as two 8 man light infantry units, 1 of rifles, 1 of militia with muskets. I again grouped the militia into 1 brigade and the Regulars into another Brigade. Technically the Regular Brigadier was also General but I played the Brigades as independent. Thinking about it afterwards, the light units should probably have been independent for a better historical flavour and as a more effective organization given that they were essentially operating independently. This was after all the American Revolution, not the French one. At the end of the day this gave the Americans 10 militia more than last time, 96 in all, 48 regular, 48 militia.

The British appeared with one unit of 16 Hessian grenadiers, one of 12 Highlanders, one of 8 Hessian Jaeger, one of 8 Loyalists and two of 8 Indian & Canadian Irregulars. Once again the Hessians and Highlanders formed one brigade and the Loyalists and Indians another. Again the Jaegers should probably not have been brigaded with the line infantry but with the lights. The numbers of line infantry were decided by what was painted. Over all the British were stronger by 8 Indians and 4 Highlanders compared to last game, 60 figures in all, 16 Elite, 28 regular, 16 militia.

Given the larger force, I let the British check for other fords (4,5,6 on 1 die for a unit wide section) and the Indians found one just North of the ford where the road crosses.

Once again, the Rebels rolled well and appeared before the British did. They coolly formed up along the road and sent their skirmishers forward. It felt right to be able to move and fire with the skirmishers again.
The American riflemen, keeping in mind that their main job was to prevent the enemy from slipping by, kept back to keep their options open and potted away for 5 or 6 from beyond the enemy's range. The Hessians however, eager to drive the enemy back and open an escape route closed right in and were rewarded with 2 hits disordering the Rebel militia. On the next turn these had to rally, being militia, on 5,6 they could rally and return fire, 2,3,4 they would rally but being unable to fire might choose to retreat to safer ground, or, on a 1 they might opt to take John's body home to Ma and head down for a drink at the tavern where they could tell stories about having fought the King's mercenaries eye to eye and traded fire with them. The day was turning hot so it was no surprise when a 1 came up. If he had thought  of it their brigadier might have been close enough join them and try again but the risk was probably not worth it at this point anyway.

 The light troops bicker while the line troops deploy.

Somewhat taken aback by the quick disappearance of the skirmishers, the militia commander was at a loss as to whether to attack before the British could consolidate or fall back behind the fence and take up a better defensive position. I ended up rolling for him: 1,2 Fallback, 3,4 dither, 5,6 attack. A 2 sent them scampering to cover with a detachment occupying the town. This left the Regular commander wondering if he should pursue his planned attack so I rolled for him too and the die accurately came up "dither" so I just closed up on the militia. The British took the opportunity to get formed up. A plan seemed to be developing to attack the left end of the militia with the Regulars while the light infantry worked around the enemy right. It seemed a good enough plan so I went with it.

The fighting spreads all along the line.

It didn't take long for the British plan to become evident. If the Rebels just stood there, the British would slide around them and be gone. (Victory being based on Brits leaving the table edge behind the Rebels, not on casualties or breaking armies except as a means to the end.) The drums beat and the entire line marched forward, well except for the Rifles who were trying hard not to be outflanked by Indians. Hesitant to launch bayonet charges on a fresh enemy after their die rolling in the last game, the British, finding them selves mostly within 6", opened up all along the line.  The Rebels returned fire with deadly effect. The brown coated Canadian regiment being particularly effective, scoring 5,5,6 or 3 hits on 5 dice against the Loyalist skirmishers disordering them. This gave me pause for thought as I was already worried that skirmishers were too vulnerable yet reluctant to rate them as equal to fortifications. Then I remembered that not only was this above average (though 2 hits would not be significantly so), skirmishers can move and fire again so they don't have hang around in danger zones and they once again have the option to hang back outside of 6" and fire with impunity, albeit for 6's only. Since the line infantry can't move and shoot, the skirmishers can hang back, wait for them to move into range then fire and scoot back out of range again. They need to be nimble, active and always thinking because if they don't they can be easily crushed. Scissors/paper/stone.

I pulled back the remaining Loyalists and eventually rallied them by the river.    
  Mini Cannae.

A fierce and prolonged firefight raged in the center but eventually the Highlanders began to lose and with an eye to the Brigade Morale, pulled back, hoping to prolong the fight, tie up the regulars and give the Hessians time to see off the militia. The Canadian Regiment, hoping to pin the Loyalists against the river pushed forward, apparently forgetting that it was fordable right there. In the woods, the riflemen had lost their firefight with the two Indian units, a mix of questionable vs good tactical decisions and some good shooting on the part of the Mohawks. The remaining Riflemen pulled back hoping to at least hold back the Indians until their morale broke.   Looking at the situation, British General decided that attrition and numbers were going to defeat him if he didn't play to his strengths and take some chances. Joining the Grenadiers he led them in a charge defeating the Avalon militia, wounding their commander and  then pursuing into the Belmont militia and defeating them.

The Avalon militia give way.

Between casualties and being defeated, the militia units each had 2 disorder markers. There was a 1/3rd chance that they would rout. The Avalon boys wavered but the Belmont men rolled a 6 and rallied. The grenadiers followed up with a 2nd charge and were held!  By now the Militia Brigade was shaken and additional disorders started landing on them. The Avalon lads had had enough and headed home but the Belmont Regiment, unable to rally under the fire of the Grenadiers, refused to flee either. Turn by turn they rallied one disorder and got another hit but they refused to give way and let the enemy march off.

In the center, the American commander suddenly woke up, pulled his men back and turned to hit the Hessians in the flank. The crisis was at hand, both British Brigades were still steady but both were only 2 or 3 hits from being shaken. It was once again time to do or die. Throwing the handful of Jaegers in the way of the advancing enemy line, the British Commander led the Grenadiers at the fence one more time. It was enough, the militia finally give way and after a steady trickle of casualties all day, two hits from rifle fire were enough to bring the Rebel Regular Brigade to 1/2 strength as well and force a general retreat. The road home was open to the British force.

The game hangs in the balance.

So there we are. I've had some really enjoyable games over the last year but few if any that felt so right without any stickling questions or doubts and with such a good mix of things happening as they should while still having moments of tension and excitement (more so if it hadn't been a solo game where one side was my historical favorite and the other a favoured wargame army that has only known 1 defeat in 10 years). Next up will be a game to test out the updated cavalry melee rules then something to get the ACW troops into play and an 1870 something troops  to test the rules for later weapons with truncation threatening failure.  

I was planning to add some more explanations and do more formatting  and start work on the design notes but I think I will just leave things be till I have played 5 games without touching a word. So the clarifications added to the LOS rules under shooting and to the charge reaction rules are the last.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More Boering Thoughts and other things

Having just re-read Marquis' Canada's Sons on Kopje and Veldt, which covers the experiences of the Canadian contingents sent to the Boer war, that war has been on my mind again. The book focuses on the Royal Canadian Regiment from recruiting to its arrival back home but also touches on the Canadian Mounted Rifles, Strathcona Horse and the 3 batteries of artillery. Unfortunately for me, from 2 angles, it focuses on the main actions from Paardeberg to the fall of Pretoria, only touching on the guerrilla war which the artillery and mounted troops were so active in. Unfortunate because it has drawn my attention back to the formal stages of the war with thousands of British atacking on a 30 mile front and unfortunate because it provides so little additional detail and examples of the smaller, more intimate actions of the guerrilla war. I have, however, been doing enough poking and prodding at this to decide that well I may be able to do some satisfactory 40mm Toy Soldier games inspired by the Riel Rebellion and "First" Boer War, the Second War is going to have to be a 20mm/1/72nd project and probably a very abstract one. Jacklex & Hat ought to be able to provide pretty much everything I need including ox wagons, 15 pdrs and 4.7" guns without shields. So hopefully they will both still be around next year when I get back to this.

Left Trident Jeger waiting for flocking, Right Sash&Saber Jaeger

One figure painted. Better than none and now the Hessians have a full 8 man unit of Jaegers. He's built a bit more like a grenadier than a light infantryman but he fits well enough and I figured the size difference would show less with a kneeling figure.

I think the AWI game is about to get another outing, this time with most units fielded as 20 line infantry as originally envisaged. Its not that there was anything wrong with the larger number of smaller units  but I'm not sure the added fuss really added anything but fuss. When I consider that my plan is to play mostly teasers and teaser type games, which often call for only a handful of units, there seems little point in designing rules that call for a lot of little units and then making translations. Yes, this is not the first time I have come to this conclusion, but I seem to keep forgetting.

A few of the ACW lads have been out too, playing with ranges and regimental sizes   (and scales -sshhhhh). Partly this is because I have also been reading Sherman's memoirs off and on as well as dipping into Battles & Leaders. All of which leads me back to thoughts of the standard game with larger Regiments as units (as in 4 or 5 stands vs 3)  which can double up as Brigade Units when playing using the CM scale. Given my 40mm wide bases, that would put my cm scale brigades  in the same ball park as Fire & Fury.

 While pondering these issues, I suddenly remembered a  possible solution to my close range/long range quandry when the bands were so narrow and the dilemma of having 1/2 a unit's fire zone either too deadly or completely useless.. In essence it involves 3 range bands instead of 2 with muskets having a 0" close range (ie in contact only) which nicely gives infantry a reason to hold fire, and most other units have a close range of 6" at which they currently get a +1. The medium range band is the same as the existing single range band. The long range fire can only hit close order targets and only on a 6. Since it robs troops of the right to move or to shoot later at a closer range, it probably won't be over used. That leaves the existing range bands and scores as is but replaces a die modifier which needs to be remembered by a range band. so cleans up that process a little too.

Thinking about game balance and troop type differentiation (as in rock vs paper vs scissors) and simplicity and game flow, I have relented and allowed skirmishers to move and fire and have slowed down field and siege artillery to give light guns a raison d'etre, and removed some lingering anal-ity from the artillery movement rules. It also got me fussing again over what size cavalry to use for game balance if I did use the 20 man line units. The 8 man ones currently seem too weak but 12 are too bulky in 40mm.

Lastly, I have been thinking again about desirable "game" attributes, one of which is excitement. In terms of the Memoir game this comes partly from 3 things, not knowing what your opponent will do next, (got that), uncertainty that you will be able to move the units you want (got that albeit in different format) and the uncertain nature of combat. I have that to some degree but not quite as much so I have been testing various situations to make sure that  some things, like a cavalry charge should be exciting with a chance of glorious victory, ignominious defeat or a waffle. It was almost there but I have gone back to try something I tried before and chickened out on because it was hard to predict the rare extremes. I've become convinced that as long as those extremes are rare, their existence is not a bad thing as they can get the adrenalin pumping. Oddly it has also meant replacing die modifiers with something simple. 1 die per charging cavalryman vs a +1. This means lower chance to hit but a higher possible number of hits. It also means 8 or 9 man cavalry units are  good match for a 20 man infantry unit. I love it when things start to mesh and flow.