Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Return To Crysler's Farm - Set Up

Why? A legitimate question.  I did play the battle 5 times last year with 3 different rule sets but that's the point really. It has become a bit of a benchmark for gauging how well rules work. Its also a well balanced, TT Teaser sized historical battle in a period that I have troops for.

It might not be obvious from the glossy toy soldiers and the prevalence of fictional wargame campaigns/armies on my blog but there is still a part of me that wants to maintain at least the capability of staging historical battles of some sort. Partly this is because of my interest in the historical side of the hobby, including the actual history hidden behind fictional settings, but I suspect it also a desire for some whiff of "legitimacy" as if there were something wrong with  playing non-historical wargames.

Recently I took a good look at the possibility of doing a Battle Cry or Portable Wargame version of the war with 4 or 6  man units on a hex grid.  My reluctant conclusion was that such a thing would probably be play tested once and never seen again unless perhaps it was done as a very portable game in a box using 20mm plastics and actual Battlecry components including maps and terrain tiles.

Luckily, having decided that my fictional games will work just fine with many fewer figures  than my original plans called for, it seems there is still room for a compatible 1812 project capable of covering any of the battles on the Canadian or Western Campaigns. The question was if the latest (last? maybe?) version of the Hearts of Tin rules work as well as I anticipated for the War of 1812?

(Not to mention that I was so excited after the last game that I couldn't wait to play another.)

 Starting positions.

In keeping with my new resolution to put the "Game" back into Wargame, I made some changes to the OB used in past games, especially the most accurate one, that used in Feb 2011.  This time, using a ground scale of 1"=25 yards and 1 figure ~ 20 men, I took the historical numbers by Brigade, divided by 20 and rounded it off to proposed standard wargame units (18 inf, 9 lt inf or cav) except that I reduced the 150 cavalry slightly  to 6 figures rather than rounding up to 9. Whether this was to reflect the number of horses withdrawn to help pull guns, to avoid over stating their potential or merely an error, I can't say. The 18 line infantry and 9 cavalry were inspired by Charge! organizations but it occurs to me belatedly that I don't really need to conform to Charge! and that counting figures is  much (MUCH) easier on my brain when units are in multiples of 10. 

After the game last year I speculated that it might have been more accurate to downgrade the tired, sick US soldiers than upgrade the British ones but, since the American soldiers fought well, I didn't go there.

With a bit of fudging this gave me the following OB:

General: Col Morrison.
49th Ft (played by the 41st) 18 Elite Infantry (Sash & Saber)
89th Ft (in person) 18 Elite Infantry. (Scruby)
Flank Companies and Fencibles (49th+militia) 9 Elite Light Infantry (Sash & Saber)
Voltigeurs and Mohawks (played by 7 militia + 2 Mohawks) 9 Elite Light Infantry + Commander (Maj Heriot) (Perry + Prince August conversions)
Canadian Light Dragoons (played by GGBG) 1 Regular Cavalry figure. (Zinnbrigade conversion)
1 field gun with 3 crew (Zinnbrigade conversion w S&S gun)
1 gunboat with heavy gun and 4 crew. Due to the height of the banks all  fire from the gun boats counted as obscured. (S&S conversions)

To reflect the poor performance of Boyd, he was not represented on the table.
1st Brigade: Brigadier Cole + 1 x 18 Infantry (John Bertolini's original figures)
3rd Brigade, Brigadier Covington + 2 x 18 Infantry (S&S conversions + Scruby)
4th Brigade, Brigadier Swartout + 2 x 18 Infantry (S&S conversions plus my own originals)
2nd Dragoons 6 Regular Cavalry (Played by NY Dragoons) (Zinnbrigade conversions)
Artillery section: Field gun with 2 gunners (Zinnbrigade conversion w PA gun)
Remainder of battery: Field gun with 4 gunners showing up mid-battle. (Zinnbrigade conversion w PA gun)

Each Brigade had one  flag as a morale marker which I removed if the Brigade became shaken.
I gave each unit a drummer/bugler which I placed in front of the unit at the start of each turn and placed behind it when the unit was activated to help me remember. I actually owe this idea indirectly to Bluebear Jeff who uses the position of the colour bearers to indicate morale status.

In order   to place an additional strain on players, more from a "making the game fun" angle than from " increasing the friction to make it more "realistic"" angle, but accomplishing both imo, instead of an unlimited card deck, I placed 1 card per 2 units plus 1 per commander. This means that unless a player formed his brigades so that several units could be activated as one,  he would not be able to activate every unit every turn. Worked like a charm.  

For chance cards I included one joker but since it would show up almost every turn (every turn that it wasn't the last card). I watered down the actual chance card deck by including 2 (black) No Event cards for each event card. This worked really well. (as in "oh gawd what now?" "phew! black card, move along|)

Last but not least, I decided to not make any attempt to match turns played to historical time frames. As it turns out though, I played 10 turns which is close to the theoretical scale of average of 4 turns per hour. Even better, a goal since the 1980's has been to have wargames last the same amount of time as the original battle and at about 3 1/2 hours, this was pretty close. 

Turn 1. The gun boat opens fire as the Americans emerge from the woods, the cavalry scout has started back peddling to safety and the Voltigeurs and Indians are mixing it up the US 4th Brigade in the woods.

Tomorrow, the game itself. Gotta go do a happy dance and then some chores.   


  1. Thanks Cesar, same old stuff. I still need to repair more trees but having removed the trees from their group bases, I can make the woods look a little less empty.

  2. I must agree with Cesar. Your terrain DOES always look good, Ross. I should have mentioned it more often.

    *grin* . . . as I was reading your "drummer/bugler" technique I did recognize it even before you credited me. I'm glad that it works for you.

    As a general rule I try to keep "extraneous" materials from cluttering up the dioramic look of the table top . . . so I use items that don't look out-of-place.

    Now to wait for the battle report.

    -- Jeff

    PS, I see that there is yet another updated version of "Hearts of Tin" (i.e., July 15) for me (and others) to download.

  3. Dear Battle,
    Your games look spendidly historic! Must be the terrain and the single-based "old school," figures. Quite enjoy your 1812 projects, thank you.

  4. Jolly good show - having fewer cards seems a very simple and elegant way of incentivising players to act by brigade, without having to have specific rules forcing it.