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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recce: We have met the enemy and we are their's.

The game is afoot.
Some where around Turn 12.

Once again, the game was Reconnaisance in Force, the Grant TT from Battlegames Issue #14. The rules were the latest draft of Hearts of Tin with simplified morale rules and many restrictions lifted. This time the game was set in Northern Atlantica, near the territory of the Brethren, renown pirates of mixed European and Atlantican heritage. Not much research has been done yet on the history of North Atlantica so many things are unclear. As far as I can tell, both San Carlos and the The Faraway Trading Company are attempting to establish trading rights near the mouth of the Kapelle River. (See previous game) Given that San Carlos is a dependency of Oberhilse, it is not surprising that there seems little prospect of the two rivals co-operating.

The forces were as follows:
Faraway Trading Company:Larsens's Lancers, Regular Cavalry (9)
Director General's Bodyguard, Regular Cavalry (9)
FTC Voyagers, Irregular Lt Infantry. Muskets (9)
FTS Shannon Naval Landing Party, Lt Artillery with Rocket (6 gunners)

Queen's Troops (on loan to FTC)
Brigadier Stoneforte.
Green Tigers, Regular Infantry, musket (18)
Buffs, Regular Infantry, musket (18)

San Carlos
General Paz

Grenadiers, Regular Infantry, muskets, (18)

Coast Guard, Regular Cavalry, (9) (ahh so their nickname is really Paper Tigers, its all those Customs forms, I always wondered.)

The Brethern
White shirts (Sailors or as the FTC refers to them, Pirates), Irregular light infantry, muskets (9)

Villagers, Irregular light infantry, muskets (9)

Tribesmen, Irregular Impetuous Spearmen (18)

Light gun, (6)

Note on 40mm figures used: The cavalry are all conversions based on Zinnbrigade homecasts, Gen Paz is Irregular, the Queen's infantry are conversions of Scruby 1812, the Grenadiers are Zinnbrigade Napoleonic French, some of the natives are converted Prince August Skraelings, the rest are mostly original homecasts.

Having decided to try the card deck with activation by unit or Brigade Formation, I added 3 Jokers to trigger chance cards when drawn. Part way through I cut it to two but one would have been enough or the chance card deck could have been cut with No Event cards. Over the course of the game the following chance events happened:
  • Thunderstorm (turn ends, next turn movement and combat affected), 
  • Huzzah! (a +1 on melee dice) 
  • We Marched All Night (unscheduled reinforcement), 
  • Raging Torrent (no effect since there were no streams), 
  • They Couldn't Hit an Elephant (chance of random hit on General), 
  • Rising to the Occasion (new commander created) and 
  • Dysentry (unit suffers penalties). 

The cards were fun, added to the story and had a noticeable but not decisive impact, especially since all of the bad ones fell on the FTC.
I played the FTC forces and used a combination of common sense and the old method of dice throws to control the San Carlos forces. (for example: Coast Guard, 5,6 charge Lancers, 3,4 hold position, 1,2 redeploy to the other side of the village.)

The first dozen or more turns went quickly and uneventfully with the FTC seizing the vital crossroads and having massed 2 cavalry regiments to face a handful of skirmishers on one flank. The first chance card of the game had resulted in Inspector Black of the FTC showing up unannounced and joining Larsen's Lancers.
He led them forward in a stirring charge. They would have to face 2 dice of fire from the pirates but would have 4 dice in melee getting 1 hit for each 4 or 5 and 2 hits for each 6 plus a die for 4,5,6 from the Inspector. The Pirates would only have 2 dice needing 5 or 6 to get a hit. Odds were that the charge would rout the pirates and open up the San Carlos flank. As you can see in the picture, the pirates shot one lancer on the way in then dragged 2 more off their horses while the Lancers hit absolutely none though the Inspector, a civilian, got one. The Lancers rallied back.

You'd think this would give the Coast Guards something to think about but, as in their first appearance under that name, these lads are eager. I did roll for it: charge, hold or work around the flank but a 6 send them straight in. The odds were of a repulse but if they won, the flank was wide open and the Rocket battery at risk. Well, it was a repulse but the Tigers rolled up. Luckily for the Coast Guards, I forgot that shaken units rout if they lose a melee and I let the survivors ride back to eventually rally on the edge of the board. Despite the momentary set back by the Lancers, things seemed to be going the FTC's way. A sound deployment trumps luck.

Charge! Charge! Run Away! Run Away!

The DGBG was well placed in support so while the Lancers rallied, they rode down the Pirates, pursuing them to extinction. (Odds were that should have happened on the 2nd or 3rd round of pursuit but the DGBG, being what they are, tried never to kill more than 1 Pirate per round whenever possible). I had barely picked up the routed pirates when the chance card "We marched all night" came up for Black. There was only 1 Pirate/Atlantican/San Carlos unit left on the shelf and it was supposed to appear on a road if possible. So, a few inches away from the now rallying cavalry appeared a band of 18 sailors (Pirates) with melee weapons, looking for revenge.(almost smelled like a trap). The Bodyguard got lucky and moved first next turn, back peddling and rallying as quickly as possible but eventually they had to counter charge the angry pirates and were chopped up badly. In their inimitable way, they then threw a one for their rally Roll, four turns in a row, eventually straggling off the back of the table and out of the game.

Where the heck did these guys come from?

While the cavalry was hunting Pirates, the San Carlos Grenadiers, inspired by the diminishing numbers of their enemy and by a Huzzah chance card, stormed the buildings in front of them, routing the Voyagers. Undaunted by the repulse of their cavalry, the villagers pressed forward, sniping with effect at the Tigers. Behind them the Atlantican Spearmen massed, gathered from 3 different tribes, they were keen to defend their lands and launched them selves against the Tigers. Their odds of winning were no greater than the Tiger's had been but apparently righteous indignation counts. Several spearmen went down from musket fire as they charged in but in melee they smashed the Tigers and sent them reeling. Only the presence of the Buffs in the adjacent building (and the enemy frontal zone restriction rule) saved them from being over run. Instead, the crazed spearmen threw them selves against the village, trying to climb the walls in the teeth of a fierce musketry but eventually they had to fall back.
The FTC had suffered some heavy blows but all was not yet lost. Stoneforte rallied the Tigers while Inspector Black led the Lancers forward again. They rode through a hail of grape and smashed into the new band of pirates sending them reeling. They longed to pursue the pirates until they scattered but that gun could not be ignored (frontal zone rule again). Swinging slightly right, they rode over the gunners, cutting them down but a final blast of point blank grape knocked the Inspector from his horse and brought down 2 more Lancers. Shaken, the remaining lancers pulled back.

Never trust the dice!

The Voyagers were already suffering from the combined fire of the Villagers and the Grenadiers when a "friendly" rogue rocket slammed into the back of them. On its way, the rocket had zoomed low over the Brigadier, knocking his hat off. (I pulled the chance card "They couldn't hit an elephant" and there he was, right in between the rocket battery and where the rogue rocket landed. I rolled 2 on the risk die, just avoiding death.) You can't make this stuff up!)

The pirates, left to themselves, rallied and prepared to continue the fight.

In the center, the Buffs, jubilant after their repulse of the spearmen, had found a keg of rum. Before their officers could stop them, the men were in no fit state to hold off the combined remaining enemy units. (The chance card said Dysentry or other ailment, -1 to all rolls, rum seemed more likely in the circumstance.)

Bugler, sound retreat!

Technically the game was not yet lost but hope of winning was small and in a campaign context the probably losses were not worth the long shot of victory. Stoneforte ordered the retreat.


Next up Return to Crysler's Farm


  1. Excellent report. Lots of "color" and "character". Sounds like it was fun, too.

  2. Ross Mac,

    A real dingdong battle with lots of unforeseen events, fun, and action. You obviously enjoyed fighting this battle; that is very plain in the way you have written your report.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob, it was the sort of wargame/game/playing with toy soldiers that I picture when I think of fictional campaigns.

  3. A to-and-fro affair with matters remaining unsettled at the end. Almost a generating circumstance for further intrigues, schemes and actions. It shows, too, what exciting actions can be generated by no more than 70 figures a side. As usually, the setting (set-up) was worthy of the action.

    A card suggestion: In addition to 'They couldn't hit an elephant' card, a 'They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist-' card. A commander bites the dust (randomly selected, hit by a random flying object), and a replacement has to be found. Some penalty for control of units no longer in command; time taken for replacement rolled for (1,2 or 3 turns, maybe); if commander quality is a factor in the game, the new commander's quality has to be rolled for. I don't know... just a thought.

  4. Thanks Ion. That's essentially what this card is. The lower command ranks seem to die often enough without their own card but its a thought, especially since I need to increase the number of possible events or they'll become routine.

  5. Enjoyed the battle report a lot. I like your use of cards.

    1. Thanks Sean, nice for an old dog to find an old trick that is new.

  6. Wonderful battle report, Ross. I'll echo the statement that your write-up gives the impression that you truly enjoyed it.

    I've got some "chance cards" in some other rules around here. When I find them, I'll email them to you. (Sorry, no guarantees as to how soon that will be).

    Have any rule changes been posted lately?

    -- Jeff

    1. Thanks Jeff. I can see that I need to plan the card distribution out so that the extreme ones are rare and the minor ones more frequent. I did consider a look up chart for dice but the cards are more flexible, one could do specific cards and change the make up of the deck for each game, and are of course very traditional, at least since Monopoly! I am thinking about printing them on business cards.

      As for the rules, thanks to Google Drive, as soon as I save a change, it is automatically updated. A little confusing perhaps for someone who downloads when I am part way through an editing session but at least the dowload is always fresh.

      No rush on the cards, rest up! I suspect I'll be making up new ones on a regular basis and be always on the look out for ideas.

  7. Ross,

    I forgot to ask . . . how did you like using the "card activation"?

    This is something I think that I prefer (at least for smaller actions) . . . so how did you like it?

    -- Jeff

    1. I've always liked the card activation for small games with a small number of players, especially when it is a confused situation like an ambush or a meeting engagement.

      For multi-player games with 6 or 8 players a side, it requires a good GM to keep things moving for everyone.

      For bigger pitched battles I was thinking that it allowed a player to react too quickly to his enemy's moves but from a Game POV it keeps both players more involved and on their toes which is a good thing.

  8. A sanguinary day - God willing the next victory shall not be so dearly bought.

  9. Not the result I was expecting. We'll get the lads patched up quick enough.