Thursday, August 30, 2012

Battlecry of the Single Handed Induna

Yesterday, thanks to a particular alignment of the planets and despite, or perhaps because of,  various communication failures Ron and I were joined by long time friend and wargame-opponent Peter Douglas aka The single handed Admiral who was in town on a family visit. There had been some scheduling issues, much uncertainty and some cancellations and when I left home for the hour long drive I wasn't actually  sure there was going to be a game.

I arrived expecting to try out the proposed final version of MacDuff but after looking at the hexon terrain, all set up for Grant's Two Sides of the River  and thinking back to the last couple of games, Ron and I got to talking and eventually I suggested giving Battlecry a go. The British were easy, we played them straight up but the Zulus were trickier. Ron has no rifled armed Zulus so we considered making them cavalry, fast with adjacent combat only but that brought up too many issues so we just treated them like infantry with adjacent combat only but gave them 2 units for each scenario unit of any kind.

At this point, Peter, who had had a last minute cancellation showed up and we decided to try an adaptation of the overlord multi-player system. In our lesser form with Grant's TTT being played straight up, each CinC could play 1 card and give one to his subordinate. (Peter being Chief Induna with Ron under him, myself playing the Brits with an NPC Brigadier. )

Forces were Brits: 8 infantry, 2 cavalry, 2 artillery & 3 Generals in all. Mission prevent the Zulus from bypassing (or destroying) my force and moving down river, Break point 6 units or generals. Zulus  24 infantry, 3 Generals, break point 12 units/generals.  I can tell you, when you're split up and spread out, on 2 sides of a river,  a horde of 24 Zulu units coming up one bank looks like a lot of Zulus!

The game started comfortably enough. My infantry and guns on the right opened up early. Throughout the game my troops had a distressing tendency to fire high  getting cavalry, artillery and command symbols instead of infantry. If the Zulus  had been riding horses they'd have been in trouble! Still, there was a constantly trickle of casualties as the Zulus came warily forward, the left horn working its way up in dead ground towards my flank. All of a sudden, my field gun ran low on ammo and had to pull back and then the Zulus made a series of rushes, over whelming several of my front rank units. It turned out the wily Zulu's had been playing "scout" cards which allow you limited action but also let you draw 2 cards and keep the best one. Then they unleashed their attack.

Things were looking bleak, almost 1/2 my army was still on the far bank and what was left on the near bank was now out numbered about 6 to 1! Never say die! An intrepid officer figure with sword and pistol, the last survivor of his company held the line seeing off attack after attack and sniping with deadly event until a  timely reinforcement of riflemen filled the gap (a good time to have drawn that card). As I rushed more troops over the bridge, the right horn of the Zulus (who had copied my reinforcement card) showed up on the far bank, forcing me to hold back a gun and infantry escort to deal with them.

There was now a bit of a lull in the fighting. The British pulled back slightly, sent the cavalry  to block the flanking move and tried to figure  out how to stop the Zulus from massing in the cover of the hill without having units overwhelmed. Finally as I personally led a squadron of Lancers over the bridge, the Zulus charged again. Another unit was overwhelmed and suddenly I was fighting for my life, surrounded by Zulus. Glancing at the table behind me I could see 4 units. If the 1st Zulu unit rolled 3 cavalry figures and the 2nd one rolled a saber, well the game was up. My luck held and though some of the lancers were cut down, we escaped. However, the whole in the line was huge and the left horn, massed on the hill, was starting to roll forward. In the nick of time some sailors dragged a Gatling gun forward (Another reinforcement card TG) and  opened up. With even more effect, the dead eye pistoleer captain came back up into the line. I think that lone officer did almost as much damage as the rest of my infantry added together! He will definitely be recommended for a VC!

There were a few more tense moments as the attack of the left horn was eventually held and then repulsed and  a limited counter attack shot up the loins but their attacks were not as fierce as the early ones while the resolve of the British rose as the day wore on (ie the combat dice took a turn in my favour on the last couple of moves giving me some narrow escapes that might have tipped the balance while allowing me to get 1/3 of my total "kills" on the last 2 turns) . With their Induna wounded and taken prisoner and 11  units shot down the Zulus finally gave up and retreated.  

MacDuff , wipes his brow after a close fought action.
(2 Frontier 25mm miniature, alone amongst Ron's Ral Partha's)

Once again Battlecry had provided an exciting game with a surprisingly good feel considering that we were playing out of period with almost no modification. The turns where the Forced March card allowed a group of Zulu units to move twice and attack were particularly scary and deadly.  After the game we did decide that next time we would let the Zulus move twice and not battle or move once and battle to get more the feel of their speed.  The sudden silencing of the artillery, just at a crucial moment was also just right (as much as I cursed it!). I'm going to have to add 1 of those to my Chance Deck!

The game took about 3 hours to play and we went through the deck 3 times if I remember rightly. the pace was furious and intense. I did take more pictures but the Bluetooth on my computer has packed it in and the only way left for me to transfer files from the old Motorolla is to text them to myself at a buck a shot and I doubt that the quality is worth it so this is what there is! .

The small units ( 4 figure "companies" in my mind) actually worked well for the Brits while the Zulus covered enough ground to look like a horde. During the turns where I had several units wiped out or reduced to 1 or 2 figures and had to hurriedly retire to avoid being surrounded and wiped out, it felt an awful lot like the scenes in Zulu Dawn! The number of small units and over all size and feel of the game brought back to mind some of my thoughts after playing the Portable Wargame about whether or not having more figures helps and about how many units are enough. I have this awful feeling that 8 man companies and MacDuff might not have been quite as exciting but I could be wrong. Cutting the number of units on each side in 1/2 in order to larger units, 12 or 20 men,  would almost certainly not have been as interesting. In any case I would cheerfully play a Colonial Battlecry game again and discussion has started in how to represent afghan units.

For the first face to face game (not counting our earlier Skype game) with Peter in about a dozen years, it was a good one with lots of excitements and ups and downs of fortune (and of course I won in the end, can't beat that!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A few ebooks that I've enjoyed

My primary reader is now A Sony which I am very happy with. Plays View from the Veranda  and the like when I'm not in the mood to read.

I did have a Kindle app on my smart phone but it died with my phone and the PC version seems to have gone with it to my dismay so there are a couple of interesting books whose details aren't easily found again..

The following free ebooks are some of the ones I have enjoyed. They are all available in epub or pdf but some are also available in Kindle.

Cavalry  by Lewis Edward Nolan

Memoirs of W T Sherman

Tin Army of the Potomac

Service with the French Army in Africa  by Philip Kearny

Adventures of the Connaught Rangers by William Gratton

Commentaries on the Punjab Campaign 1848-49 by A Lawrence.

The Mexican War by an English Soldier.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New Way of Blundering

I've been starting to put Hearts of Tin back to rights which has had me thinking command control. Card sequencing and chance cards don't seem to work as well for medium size battles as they do for skirmishes and I got tired of the constant activation or PIP die rolls I have used at times but I don't want to go the "everything always goes as planned" route either.

While putting MacDuff back together, I looked back at the original. There, I allowed automatic control within a given radius for the General and only tested those beyond. The trick there is remembering to check and in distinguishing between stray units and inept subordinate commanders. Fitting in blunders simply without getting too many is also tricky.

Having brought the deck of cards back out and having played some Richard Borg games this years, cards are in mins and the following popped into my head while taking my constitutional this morning.



Prepare a standard deck of cards. At the start of each turn, each player draws one card and keeps it hidden. The card will be discarded at the end of the turn.  If he he draws an Ace, he may play it on an enemy Brigade when it is activated unless that Brigade is within 12" of the General. One of the following options may be chosen:

A. Attack. If the player rolls a 6 he may order the enemy Brigade to launch an attack, on any other roll there is no effect. If successful, all infantry and cavalry must advance at least 1/2 move into their frontal area and must attack (charge) if there is a target. Artillery must shoot if there is a target.

B. Retreat. If the player rolls 5 or 6 he may order the enemy Brigade to retire a full move.

C. Hold. The player may order the enemy brigade to hold. Units may fire and may change facing or formation where they are. The brigadier may not move.


I did think about allowing players to hold a hand of 1 or 2 cards but decided that there were aspects of gaminess and reverse certainty to that which I didn't like

Thursday, August 23, 2012

MacDuff: The Final Return

Well, hopefully the final return. I spent the morning wrestling with formatting, and the rules are now available for download from the menu on the left or here

I have decided once again not to worry so much as to what others might like or how they might organize and base their troops. The subtitle says 19thC but since they cover muskets they will still work for the 18thC it merely reflects my intent to use them for 1812, 1840s and maybe 1870/80's.

After some wobbling, I decided to go back to the old melee, partly because it can be fun and I don't expect to have to deal with a lot of huge melees in my games, partly for the connection to the original rules and partly as another way to differentiate it from HofT.

I have maintained a version of the control chart for units not in command range of their Brigadier or General but have not gone back to variable moves.

The Emir's Single Handed Admiral fending off MacDuff around the turn of the century.
(Back in the day when tables were 6'x10' and figures were 54mm.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Enough silliness and game playing, back to planning

I have now had a couple of weeks away from the 19thC to mull over questions raised in June and July as well as over all hobby plans. I am somewhat embarrassed to find myself going over old ground and reversing decisions but to not do so would smack of "re-inforcing defeat".  

 Probably the biggest change  from where I was 5 years ago when I last settled on an over all plan is that I am officially dropping the idea that I should have one master period as a major focus for collecting and playing games with just a few minor side shows. Even if I did paint up the 2,000 figures all in one style that my 19thC toy soldier plans had called for,  I  do not see that I will ever have the room to deploy the armies I was envisaging. Its also obvious that such focus is not natural for me. Since, in practice, I have been alternately, and sometimes simultaneously, dabbling fingers in several pies, I am now accepting this practice as the plan.

After farther mulling the question of how many horse & musket rules sets I need to settle on, I have decided that the 2003 answer for horse and musket was right: two sets of my own + Charge!. MacDuff for single figure toy soldier games, Hearts of Tin for battles using elements. There has been much convergence and confusion between the two in my mind and on paper and I am in the process now of separating the essentials and figuring out what can/should be shared and what should be separate. MacDuff will look very much like the last HofT game I played with card activation etc. HofT will look alot like a flushed out version of the 1 page Tiny Hearts rules I threw onto the blog last month. A few years ago I tried to re-write HofT with a basic framework with period supplements, the same approach I had used with some extend in the 1980s and I may try that approach again with SYW, AWI and ACW modules all using the basic framework.   My ancient figures will need to remain flexible, able to handle various commercial sets for away games but I will keep working on the Gathering of Hosts for home play..  

Period Figures Rules
Greco Persian Wars OS 25mm GofH
40mm elements
This is staying mostly because it's already here and I suspect that I will inevitably want to stage a game again especially since I can fudge historical battles. I should at least add some Spartans though.
Syr Darya OS 25mm GofH
40mm elements
Pseudo-historical fiction campaign set in the chaos between the fall of the Graeco-Bactria Kingdoms and the rise of the Kushan Empire with a dose of the Hyborian Age and maybe even a hint of myth and magic eventually.  Could also use Comitatus despite being early. 
Prince Michael Elastolin
Single figures
In the past I have used Medieval Mayhem which was right level and enjoyed Comitatus but now have an urge to come up with something just for this. 
Scots wha hae OS 25mm ?
40mm elements
Meant for Hexed Basic impetus. Really putting together an English force for the sake of my Scots who've been waiting for 35 years. A side show.
Rough Wooing 40mm RW
60mm elements
Just odds and sodds to add until its time to get stuck into Turks. 
NQSYW 40mm Semiflat Charge!
single figures
Rosmark army needs to be expanded and split. After some diverting thoughts about painting new units as 1759 British I am going to stick with the plan of Russo-Saxon ish uniforms to avoid buying more molds. 
AWI 40mm Chunky HofT
A mix of 2" elements and single light troops. Part of group project using same basing. Indians shared with 1812 collection.
1812 40mm mixed MacDuff
Single figures
An historical project. The intent is to design around actions the size of Crysler's Farm but play games from small skirmishes up to Lundy's Lane or the Assault on Fort Erie with the latter being bath-tubbed to some extend and the former being whatever the inverse is. 
Atlantica 40mm toy soldier MacDuff
Single figures
I intend to press forward with the current plans, just accepting the practical limits but once the native armies are up to scratch I may eventually repaint the Oberhilse troops to look less Mexican-American War-ish as it confuses me sometimes. Possibly dark blue jackets would be enough or else white pants which would be easier to do. Seems only right to change uniforms 1/2 way through like so many historical armies have done. 
ACW 1/72 HofT,
40mm elements
Another historical-ish project. After flirting with the idea of refighting the big battles I have decided I'd rather stay smaller with regiments not brigades as the base unit but I'm thinking several divisions per side..
Nku Khuland 54mm toy soldier MacDuff
Single figures
Since I like my old Britain's, I've decided not to abandon this which was the original behind Atlantica. The plan is to not get too large and to be 1880's rather than 1840's/50's. Could conceivably be transformed into square grid toy soldier game but I doubt it.
RCW 1/72 ?
40mm elements
Possibly Portable Wargame or my own rules or a development of HofT, Definite side show as I don't know where I want it to go or what it should feel like.
Modern 1/72 MoMBat
30mm elements
1960's fictional. (That's "modern" to me!) A side show.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Know your Blogger

I'm generally an anti-social non-conforming old git and don't take part in nonsense like 20 questions but having read so many other's answers it seems only fair to put up my own :)

1.        Favourite Wargaming period and why?

Tough one, my desert island period would be the mid 16thC because it has just about everything ancient/medieval gaming has, pikemen, archers, knights in shining armour, hairy barbarians (aka Irish Kerne), horse archers and also canon and muskets as well as most of what Colonial games have with battles against Turks, Moors, Aztecs etc. However, I only play a couple of games a year so perhaps mid-19thC Horse&Musket/Colonial

 2.       Next period, money no object?

Money & space no object? Boer war in 40mm on 12 ft sand table, but with Scruby style figures and all the gear to go with them, most of the figures and equip,ment wil lof course have to be done from scratch to be compatible and complete. . Might settle for the Jacklex 20mm version.

3.       Favourite 5 films?

In no particular order: Conan (despite Arnie), Gladiator,Gettysburg, Master and Commander, , Shipping News,   Alamo (Hancock version), Rob Roy, 4 Feathers- Korda version   Is that 5 yet?

4.       Favourite 5 TV series?

Firefly, umhhh ok I'm stuck,....oh,  Dr Who taken as a whole, ...geez ok 1st season of Tour of Duty was good or the theme music was anyway, don't remember much else, Start Trek?, ummmhhh oh well close enough I'm padding anyway

5.       Favourite book and author? 
Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliffe  

6.       Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!! 

WT Sherman. Be a realist and get  the job done 

7.       Favourite Wargames rules? 
Final Version of MacDuff when it ever gets written  or else Charge!

8.       Favourite Sport and team? 

9.       If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?

Umm do I stay my age? Is it one use as in no return? Do I get my pick of Companion?

10.   Last meal on Death Row?

 If I could get the old Montreal-Napoli style peperoni pizza from the little place in St Jean in the 70's with too much cheese and bacon grease, hmm maybe a use for that time machine? otherwise a feed of Chinese, ginger beef, almond guy ding and so on.  no wait. BBQ wild boar with fresh bread and steamed veggies that were picked that day from an organic garden, and if that means waiting 9 months for the harvest, so be it.  All washed down with Propeller Special Bitter.

11.    Fantasy relationship and why?

Been there done that, not telling.

12.   If your life were a movie, who would play you?

Russel Crowe

13.   Favourite Comic  Superhero?

Does Prince Valiant count? 

14.   Favourite Military quote? 

Peccavi.   (Trans "I have sinned"(Scinde)  one up on Vini Vidi Vici  as a report if it were true and not a Punch cartoon. )

15.   Historical destination to visit?

The spot where the Eagle landed on the moon.

16.   Biggest Wargaming regret?

I try not to have regrets but at the time I regretted this on the 18 hour drive home.  Origins, 1980? or was it 81?  Blew the North American Ancients final in the last turn of voluntary overtime by making a stupid mistake on a charge declaration. Hasn't bothered me in decades though so possibly too many ill thought out fiddlings with MacDuff. 

17.   Favourite Fantasy job?
Owner/operator of a toy soldier/wargaming museum and holiday center/spa with unlimited budget for space, staff, travel and collection.

18.   Favourite Song, Top 5? 
Artists probably rather than songs, 50 would have been easier and more accurate..
Blue Rodeo 5 Days in May, Sarah McLaughlin Building a Mystery, Leslie Fish singing Kipling's The Centurion's Song, Stan Rogers Witch of the Westmorland, Joni Mitchel Case of You, Loreena Mckennit Highwayman..

19.   Favourite Wargaming Moment?

Oh there are so many. Perhaps the first time MacDuff's Fusiliers took the field  (semi-flat Prince August 40mm, my first homecasting of any kind) , Cold Wars, 2000?. A game of Charge!, the game hung in the balance, if they could charge and take out the North Polenburg artillery they would tip the scales handing NP one of its first defeats. They were 2 above 1/2 strength. They charged, the gun fired, cannister 1 d6 casualties straight up. One casualty!  HUZZAHHH!  

20.   The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
Prejudice & snobbishness. People making assumptions about other people's motives or capabilities or  reaching other conclusions without checking facts, or looking down on or disapproving what others do or like because its different.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On the Dark Side of the Silk Road: A Comitatus Game

After playing the 40mm TTTeaser with Comitatus, I wanted to try a more standard game. The problem was what figures to use?  My 25mm Late Roman army is long gone and while it would not have taken a lot of work to resurrect my Arthurian/Romano-British army, I never did get around to building an opposition for it. Scanning the shelves my eye fell on my slowly proceeding organization of a semi-historical (ok vaguely historically inspired might be more honest) campaign set around the fall of Alexandria Eschate some 200 or more years before the period covered by the rules. Didn't take much to fudge something like early Sassanids facing forces from Marakanda or perhaps the fading Kushan Empire.

The campaign is in the midst of a protracted process of experimenting with basing and rules so some units are on 80mm  bases, some on 40s and some, borrowed from the Greek & Persian Wars, on single bases. I was going to go with 80mm as a stand but decided that I would have too few units.  Each of the handful of 80mm bases then became 2 stands and I figured I'd deal with lost stands or formation issues if and when they occurred. 

Both sides fielded somewhere around 700 pts in a dozen or so units with a General and a Wing Commander. The "heavy" infantry levies on both sides were rated C grade for training while all other troops were B grade (experienced). I decided to make my life simpler by giving everyone average morale.  Since the table was all set up, I just removed a few woods and Hadrian's Wall, moved the roads and added a small village and well along the Silk Road. Control of the well was the ostensible objective of each army but destruction of the enemy was the best way to achieve that.
The Sassanid Cavalry wing: 1x2 light javelin cavalry, 1 x 2 heavy horse archer, 2x2 cataphract, 1 x 4 Comitatus including wing commander. Garrison figures in the front rank, RAFM and Minifig in the rear.
The Sassanid Infantry Wing. 2x4 skirmisher, 1 x 4 javelinmen, 1 x 3 archer, 1x2 Spearmen (C), 1x4 Spear& Bow (C), 2 elephants and the General with Heavy Horse Archer Comitatus. The general and Elephants are Hinchliffe, the rest Garrison.

The Marakanda cavalry wing. General with comitatus of 2 stands of armoured shock cavalry, 1 x 2 stands of shock cavalry, 1x2 heavy camelry archers and 3 x 4 horse archers. The Comitatus, which badly needs a touch up, was quickly formed from my second oldest metal wargameing figures, some Minfig Rohirrim bought in 1974 in the Wargame tent at Aldershot, during my not quite "Grand Tour" of Europe (youth hostels, Eurail and hitchhiking). The rest of the  figures are the usual mix of Garrison, Minifig and RAFM with a few Ral Partha. 
The Marakanda Infantry Wing. 1x4 Spearmen (C - Greek militia), 3 x 4 archers, 1 x 4 javelinmen, 1 elephant, Commander with shock cavalry comitatus.Again the same figure sources as above but with a few Rose Prestige, a few Benassi and a few Rospak plastics.
An over view around Turn 4

Both sides deployed with their infantry poised to dispute the village and central hill. The Persians were afraid that the enemy horse archers would envelope their flank so the initial plan was to hold the gap between a small wood and the infantry until the time was ripe for the reserve of cataphracts to shatter the enemy center. The Maracand plan, oddly enough, was to envelop the Persian right while having their infantry not rout and then finish the job by a fierce charge by the noble cavalry.

All started smoothly enough but by turn 2 it was obvious that the Persian light cavalry would be destroyed if it just held its ground, but an attempt to drive off the horse archers and gain a respite ended in their destruction anyway. There was little choice but to deploy the Cataphracts and press forward hoping to reach and destroy the Marakand nobles before the horse archers could wear down the Persian heavies. To reduce the effect of the Persian bow fire, the Maracand heavies spurred forward to meet them. When the factors were totalled, the effect of the commanders, dice that favoured the Persians and the accumulated DP's from movement and missile fire, the result was... a draw!  The two sides bashed each other in melee then pulled back. The camels tried thei luck on the Cataphracts but were thrown back as was a unit of horse archers that had bumped into some cataphracts when chasing the light cavalry. With most of each cavalry wing now out of command, both sides took several turns to rally and regroup.

Red chips indicate DP's or Death and Disorder markers.

On the other flank, the light troops had been dickering with each other while long range volleys of arrows flew back and forth. Eventually the Persian Satrap, fearful that his cavalry wing might not be as successful as planned, ordered the elephants forward, dragging the levies with them. (Probably not a good idea the elephants and light troops might have been a better combination for an attack.) At first it looked like the plan might work the Persian light troops drove off or routed most of the Marakand lights but then the mercenary javelinmen went haring off  in pursuit and the Marakand commander and his Comitatus surprised everyone by charging into the flanking unit of skirmishers and drove them off. As the lines closed, the disruption by bow fire grew worse on both sides, the Greek militia being backed by native archers firing overhead. At this point, the two commanders found themselves eye to eye and too close to pretend they hadn't seen each other. When the Marakand commander charged there was little option but to counter charge and the 2 leaders indulged in a duel before their respective forces. I'm not sure whether its the pink pants or finely curled beard but Rossius just doesn't do well at this sort of thing. Three rolls of the dice and he was toes up on the field and most of the levies were either running or trying to work up the courage to turn their back on the enemy  to run. The as yet un-named Marakand commander whistled up his elephant and chased the remnants of the Persian left from the field.    

Over on the Persian right the news of the fall of Rossius had not yet spread. The opposing heavy cavalry spurred together and again both sides held and a swirling melee resulted. Finally however, the Horse Archers who had been stubbornly refusing  to  come closer, seized the moment and all three units galloped forward smashing into the flanks and rear of the already tired Persian cavalry locked in combat with their opposite numbers.  It was all over.

So, Marakanda retains its hold on that section of the Silk Road............ for now!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Whiter Shade of Green - Problem solved

I did  a bit of poking about the net about that yellow cast on pictures thing and one site recommended including something white or if not white, then neutral in the pictures. It was on the internet so it "had to be true" but I decided to test it anyway.

Hunh! How about that? Who'd a thunk it?

No change to lighting or camera settings, just dropped a piece of paper on the table.. Used it all the way through the game, being as careful as possible to place the paper where I could crop it. Every time I skipped, the yellow came back. Hunh.....I'll be. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012




To Horse! The convoy is in trouble!

Since I had a shiny new copy of Comitatus in my hands, a game seemed in order. I still have the remnants of my 25mm Arthurian British  (cavalry from the 1970's, infantry from the 1990's); but they need some refurbishing and most of the opposition is still in ingot form beside some Prince August molds. The only dark age figures that I did have ready to go were my 40mm Elastolin Prince Valiant figures. These are based on 1" wide individual bases and normally I use them for  skirmish games but the numbers have been slowly growing and multi-figure elements are easily formed by grouping figures.  Three inches looked about right for javelin range and would match 3 figures deployed 1 deep. These in turn looked good, especially with 4 infantry stands deployed 2 deep.  

When trying out a set of rules, I like to use an old chestnut of a scenario to remove that as a variable. Casting about for some small, familiar and reasonable dark age skirmish-ish scenario, my mind went to Wagon Train from Scenarios for Wargames. Given the theoretical background of my Prince Michael games, it seemed only right to replace the fort with "The" Wall. Once the terrain was laid out, I started sorting figures into units. Two issues soon cropped up. I didn't have enough cavalry or Saxon & Pictish infantry.  After some poking and prodding, I decided to cut the units down to a 2" frontage with 3 or 4 heavy infantry or 2 light infantry and only  2 stands to a unit. I also transferred most of the Prince Michael's infantry to the Saxons and once again slipped two Huns into Dearg Mor's Pictish cavalry.  The final OB didn't exactly match the scenario but  I've played it enough over the last thirty (OMG!) years   to  feel comfortable with it. 

 Around Turn 3, the convoy takes the left hand fork while Preisages confronts Dearg Mor on the hill.

The next trick was to try out as many troop types as I could while keeping the storyline (serving here in lieu of actual history) intact. Preisages'  Alan mercenaries were obviously light horse archers but it was tempting to consider the "knights" as shock cavalry. I settled for more appropriate heavy javelin cavalry and also resisted the temptation to classify Count Hubert's regular infantry as "Roman", calling them B grade shieldwall infantry as a compromise.  Prince Michael's tribal infantry only rated C grade. The Pictish cavalry was a problem, when I have more, Dearg Mor's household will be heavy but I settled for one 2 stand light javelin cavalry Comitatus rather than 2 single stand units, 1 heavy and 1 light. All of the raiding infantry was classed as B grade for experience with the Picts having a mix of archers and javelin men (Ax in DBA speak) but with Helgin's warriors counting as Shock infantry. Six 40mm wagons and teams just take up too much space on my little table so I substituted  livestock and pack mules and counted the wagon as 2 stands for victory point purposes. 

If there had been a major fort on table as a destination, I'd probably have stationed Duke Stephen there as CinC but a gatehouse seemed like too minor a post so I placed him with the convoy and posted the young Tribune Johan in command of the gate and reinforcements but prohibited from leaving it so that the sortie from the fort would be largely uncontrolled.  At first I just included Prince Michael  with his spearmen but that just didn't feel right so made him a Contingent Commander with a 1 stand comitatus and a 1 stand unit as his sole command. Seemed about right for his character and past history. On the other side, Helgin was back as overall coalition commander  with his Comitatus and 2 units of shock infantry and 1 of archers with Dearg Mor as Contingent Commander for the Picts who were all light troops.  

Helgin and his Huscarls lurk in the woods.
All figures in all pictures are 40mm Elastolin figures, mostly repaired ones or built from kits 

To compensate Helgin for a slightly smaller than usual  force facing a  slightly larger than usual escort and to accomodate the generous movement scale that I had adopted for my small table, I dropped the possibility of some units not making it on and speeded up arrival time to a single die. To keep an element of suspense for myself, I diced for each off table unit at  the end of each turn. 

Rather unusually, the game started with Pictish light troops arriving at a reasonable spot, heading the convoy off from its destination. There was a tense moment as Dearg Mor, who had rolled a CP of 5 making him the most able and charismatic leader in the board, led his household in a charge on the mercenary horse archers who had their back to a wood. A counter charge seemed like a chancy option but evading looked even worse. Luckily, Preisages was up to his usual standard and beat the enemy's die roll by 6 to 1, tying the combat. Both sides fell back, rallied and met again with the mercenaries from the fort joining in from the flank. This time the dice were level and the horse archers were sent flying. Preisages men eventually rallying off table while the garrison troops rode back through the wall to rally in safety. Preisages still lived up to his reputation and as he rode back, Dearg Mor was left reeling in the saddle from a powerful blow to the head, still in the saddle but without his former energy. (2 CP's lost to a wound).

That's Dearg Mor on the roan in back, spear under hand, in red tunic with a horned helmet so poplar with the bad guys in this story. 
Dearg Mor brought his cavalry up short, breaking off pursuit and showing off his horsemen's mobility by doubling back to charge into the convoy, except Duke Stephen had managed to position a unit of infantry smack dab in his path. Unable to coax his light cavalry into a frontal charge on formed infantry, they showered them with javelins, almost shaking them but by then, the convoy was passed so Dearg led them back over the hill . (with hindsight, probably a mistake, another turn of javelin fire might have done the trick)

While the light cavalry swirled about the field, the Saxons had begun arriving ahead of the convoy from both sides of the table. Unable to influence his warriors from across the table, Helgin watched as they pressed boldly forward, threatening to charge headlong into the convoy except that  the single stand of garrison heavy cavalry caught everyone by surprise by galloping forward at maximum speed, losing all cohesion but catching the warband in the rear and, rolling up on the dice, scattering them to the winds.  Another crisis past.

Things were rapidly reaching a head. The Pictish infantry, more or less abandoned by their leader were milling about the rear of the convoy tying down most of the escort but not in position to interfere and in no mind to move anywhere till Prince Michael led his spearmen forward to chase them off the field of battle.  The Saxons were marching post haste towards the convoy with nothing in their way. Suddenly, through the dust came the Duke at the head of his Companions. With the  Duke leading the way, they crashed into the latest warband to arrive and broke it apart. 

Another warband scattered to the wind before the Saxons could mass into a formidable shield wall.

Now, with the enemy cavalry out of the way, Helgin pressed forward, sending Dearg Mor and his riders to hold off the Duke.   Nothing stood between his Hirdmen and the convoy. Drawing his sword, he led his household forward but as they closed in, a red coated archer stepped forward and seeing the tall winged figure, sent an arrow straight into his eye. (1 die of fire needing a 6 to hit the unit, then a 1 to hit the leader then a 1 to kill him! What are the odds?)   Furious, his huscarls, all thought of plunder lost in a rage for revenge, veered away from the hapless wagons and charged the nimble archers, chasing them  into the woods.  

At the top, the crisis looms while just off camera at the bottom, Prince Michael is in hot pursuit of the javelinmen.

Duke Stephen knew that his heavily armoured companions had small chance of catching the light Picts if they chose not to face them but he and Dearg had a history (and I wanted to try out the personal combat rules) so he rode forward bawling a challenge to his old foe. Despite his earlier wound, Dearg was not one to run and rode forward. The two leaders met before their men clashed and with 3 mighty blows Stephen smashed his foe to the ground. Stunned, Dearg's companions rode forward to rescue their fallen leader but were soon struck down or forced to flee. 

With the enemy left leaderless, there would be no trouble dispersing the remaining units and bringing the convoy though the gate.


This was an enjoyable nail biter of a game like most runs of this scenario but I'm not so sure it had been a  smart move putting my Elastolin's on the table. Its the largest force of Elastolins that I've mustered for 1 game and now  I can't think of why I would want to work on the 25's when I have another 50 or more Elastolins in the cupboard just waiting for conversion!   

Checking the Omens

Its been one of those weeks, hot muggy days, hotter than average for August, no real rain in ages so the only plants thriving in the garden are weeds and the well is on "E" and as usual more bills than money. Well, I tell myself, ever the optimist, things can always be worse. That's when I noticed that one of my tires was flat.

After an epic struggle I managed to wrestle the tire off and there, sticking out as plain as day, was a big honking screw. A SCREW !? SERIOUSLY? as is "you're screwed buddy"?  Is this cosmic trash talk or what passes for humour?  Watch for signs indeed. Well, I guess you shouldn't be here if you can't take a joke.

"Old man what do the signs say? Is it time to charge these Persians" "hmm uhh no, nooo, perhaps not the best time to charge right now sire, maybe check back in an hour".


Hopefully tonight I'll finally get this battle report posted.

Monday, August 13, 2012

True Colours

The Saxom Warlord Helgin and his Hirdmen lurk on the edge of a wood.

Technology! I love it, I hate it! In the picture above and the one immediately below, we see my table in almost its actual colours, maybe not quite as green as it is. Its no secret that I'm not a photography buff and its beginning to annoy me that only about 1 in 4 pictures comes out in these colours.  

 Fairly close to the real colour, just a bit faded..

 The rest come out with this garish yellow glow!

 Nothing like the real thing. 

Sometimes I can tone it down a bit with my free software but sometime I have to live with it or lump the pictures. I presume it has something to do with white balance though I'll be knitted if I can find a menu option or button to set it. Perhaps if I ever stumble across the manual again.....

I have tried turning off or on each of the various lights I use to see if one of them affects it but they don't. Then I thought it made a difference if I shot towards the window or away but it doesn't. .

Its a mystery to me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Oh who would walk the stony roads Of Merlin's time

"And keep the watch along the borderline?"

These 40mm Elastolin Romans  would!

Hmm thought there were at least 4 of the marching guys when I started them a couple of years ago.

Having called a truce to the re-arranging of my room, I cleaned up just enough to access my painting desk in its new location. In keeping with a desire to get a few things more finished and enjoy the diversification of my assemblage of figures (collection seems to imply organization and a plan), I dug out some Elastolin 40's that I started  for a game in 2009. The figures that weren't finished before the game, have lounged  1/2 done ever since. While I was at it, I re-armed a few originals with broken or missing arms (arms as in weapons but also actual arms).

These will be used in my Prince Valiant inspired games, forming the infantry contingent of Count Hubert, commander of the last Roman garrison on the wall. The games and armies owe as much to  Rosemary Sutcliffe and  Saxtorph's Warriors and Weapons  as they do to Hal Foster or the original Elastolin line, let alone actual history. Once again they have been painted in a simple, understated fashion but with more shading and detail than the originals.

Then I set up a game, but more on that later, much later..

Duke Stephen, Count Hubert's eldest son and field commander now has a banner. I was debating what emblem to paint on it when I realized that I hadn't sanded off the embossed one. 

For those not familiar with the reference of the post's title, I offer:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Battle Room Truce and a Review,

I have spent some time this week, tape in hand, imagination working over time, looking for a better room layout. At its most drastic this would involve demolishing a cupboard, moving most of the bookshelves and several shelves of minis as well as turning the table 90 degrees (including all of the under table storage and which requires dis-assembly ), possibly putting it up against the wall and adding a foot. Each of the 1/2 dozen proposals so far have bumped up against the inconvenient configuration of the room so I have taken the unlikely route of trying a very minor change and leaving any more drastic action till I prove or disprove the suitability of the new location of my painting desk and its ability to handle both sculpting, assembly and painting in one location. I have a sneaking suspicion that this might involve something called "discipline" and "cleaning up after myself" so hopes aren't high but the temperature is still above average and I'm ready to do a bit of painting in the cool of the mornings, not to mention wanting to release my table of its temporary duty as staging area for "stuff" while furniture and shelves are moved.  Its only a truce though and negotiations will continue.

As long as I'm tinkering with physical reorganization, I figured I may as well do some figurative housekeeping as well. There is no doubt that I have accumulated more periods, scales and possibilities than I can do justice to and at last, it is beginning to impact on my enjoyment of the hobby. I'm not planning to shed anything else at the moment, after all, ghosts of past collections shed over the last 5 years are still urging to be reborn into new bodies, but I am planning to increase power to the shields to protect me against new temptations.

Gratuitous archive picture of some 25mm hoplites from the Greek & Persian Wars which have again made the cut and remain active.

My last attempts to deal with the situation were based on a concept of consolidation, one scale, one set of rules and so on. That hasn't worked anywhere near as well as I had hoped, in fact it has provided additonal obstacles and set me back. This time, I am looking at increased specialization and differentiation as a  way forward.

In the short term this will require dropping the illusion that I am working towards single handedly staging an 8 player game on a 6x10 table but it should increase the likelihood of getting a 2-4 player game for my 5x6 done to a consistent finish, no stand in's, one basing system for each, matching terrain, rules and scenarios. Some of these figures have been marching to war for decades without that sense of completion. I intend it as a way point though, not an end point.Some of these collections are intended to be kept small, along the lines of a game in a box; others may grow as large as they like.

One is too small, one is tooooo BIG and one is jusssttt right!  I must choose wisely!
Another archive shot.

I'll do a full summary of the active collections in a separate post but I have it down to just over a dozen  in 3.5 scales (7 x 20/OS25mm, 6 x 40mm, 1 x 54mm)  with somewhere between 8 and 10 rule sets.  In each case, I can already stage a game with each of these, but in no case would that game be as polished or as complete as I would like.  That leaves remnants of my last 15mm collection (ACW), 2x 25/30mm (ECW/18thC) and 6x 54mm (ancient, medieval, AWI, 1812, ACW, 20thC)  inactive collections in the cupboard, all capable of being hauled out for a game if the occasion arose.  Ooh that's only 23 all together, that still leaves room for the Boer War to make an even two dozen!
The original 25mm Strathcona Brigade, consigned to indefinite storage in the  cupboard.
(That's original as in my sculpting and home casting)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aspern Off The Wall

A young crowd gathers at the Greenwood Sobey's Community  Room. 

It was a beautiful hot sunny summer's day today so it seemed natural to drive the hour down to Greenwood to play a game in the air conditioned Community Room at the Sobey's Supermarket. The event was to be Aspern-Essling in 15mm played with Grande Armee and at one point 7 gamers were on side. Life takes its toll as usual and we were four in the end. Valley Jeff (the Valley nickname being used o distinguish him from Yankee Jeff seen on the left above).  had organized the game and provided the troops (including a handful of my old Austrians). He was almost finished a run down on the rules when his cell went off, calling him to work for an hour or so.

Left on our own, we eyed the GA rulebook, did a quick consensus check  and  then I turned to the white board on the wall and quickly jotted down a back of a postcard set of rules based on the proposed 18thC rules posted last week but with some allowing for the Napoleonic setting and the  3" Brigade bases and what not. Not a perfect set of rules by all means but the dice flew, toy soldiers died valiantly in droves and five hours passed in a flash.

By the time Jeff returned,  Emperor Gary had nearly succeeded in driving the Imperial Guard through the middle of the Austrian army but the French flanks were on the verge of crumbling. Let me note here that Yankee Jeff & I, thinking without reason that it was Day 1, had agreed to mask the villages and strike the French center so things were not exactly going as planned.  We played another hour or so with the French staving off our best efforts to crack them. An army morale rule would have helped but I didn't think of it till it was time to convince the French that we had beat them. Both armies had suffered fearful losses but the French had lost more heavily than the Austrians and 1/2 of Aspern as well so it was close enough to the historical result to call it.

A good day of gaming all in all.     

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Echoes of Silence

Last Wednesday a TV went silent. Ordinarily I would consider this a matter of rejoicing.

This, however, was the small, old TV in my mother-in-law's sitting room and my wife had been waiting and planning for this moment. Quick as a wink, the slightly larger, slightly newer tv from the family room was moved over, the silent one was at the recycling depot and we had a newer, not quite obsolete yet,TV  that was yet a little bit bigger again, Two inches too big to fit where the old one came out of as it happened. And so it began.

The family room is just about back together in a less crowded, more comfortable configuration but it doesn't contain my painting desk anymore and my games room is in turmoil as I try to figure out how to re-integrate a painting desk and make it less congested at the same time.  Could be a while before the next Home Game or the next painted figures. Luckily  there are Away Games in the air.

From my Gathering Of Hosts blog, the last figures painted downstairs.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tiny Soldiers: An Elemental 18thC Diversion. (updated)

After further contemplation I decided that it would be best if I cut myself, and my various armies, a little slack  and not to try to force every army from 1/72nd AWI & ACW elements to 40mm & 54mm 19thC single Toy Soldiers to use the same rules. Since the name Hearts of Tin brings the glossy toy soldiers to my mind, I'm tempted to let the toy soldiers keep the name for the current rules though it might be more consistent (honest?) to transfer the name to the element based rules that they started as and rename the current game "With MacDuff To the Frontier 2012". Its just a name but I'll think on it and welcome comment on the topic.

Here is the proposed 18thC set for elements combining the best of the old Morschauser Meets MacDuff with the best of last years HofT experiments. These are aimed at my 1/72nd AWI armies which now live on the other side of the river and at certain 10mm armies of my acquaintance but since many of my 40mm AWI troops are still element based, I'll try to test them out with those.
  Tiny Soldiers
Ross Macfarlane 1 Aug 2012
Errata as of 7 Aug in Red. Any farther updates will appear in a download version.

A. Basics.  This is a simple set of rules for fighting mid-18th Century wargames. Troops should be based on stands or bases with a common frontage as agreed upon. 1 to 5 stands constitutes a unit. Chance cards may be used to introduce random events, General’s being wounded, weather, and so on.

Each army has a General who is in over all command. 
A Brigade consists of a Brigadier and as many units as is appropriate.(4 to 6 recommended)
Independent units such as reserve batteries may be commanded by the army general

A unit’s frontal zone is the area to its front extending 45 degrees to the left and right.

B. Sequence: This game is played in turns. Determine who goes first in any manner you choose. This stays the same for the whole game. The player going first becomes the active player and rolls his order dice, then moves and shoots any units then resolves charges. Repeat reversing roles.

C. Orders: During the order phase, roll 1 die per General and per Brigadier. The score on the die show how many Orders may be issued. A Brigadier may only order units in his brigade. The General can order any unit.(Acknowledgements due to DBA for the PIP idea)

Ø     1 order is required to move, shoot or rally 1 unit or a Formed Brigade and only 1 order can be issued to a unit or Formed Brigade each turn.  
Ø     No orders are needed to move a General or Brigadier.
Ø     If an order is being issued to a unit which is more than 24" away or if the unit belongs to  a Brigade which has lost 1/2 or more of its units then each order uses up to pips of the dice instead of 1.

A formed brigade consists of 2 or more adjacent units of the same brigade, side by side or in column 1 stand wide, 1 behind the other. Units moving as a formed brigade must maintain their relative positions while moving.

D. Troop Characteristics.
D. Troop Characteristics.

Troop Types
Range/To Hit
Melee Value
To Hit
     Line Infantry
     6” +3” in column
     6” 5,6
     4+   3
    Grenadiers (also Guards)
     6” +3” in column
     6” 5,6                      
     3+   4
    Light Infantry
    9” 5,6
     5+   2
    6” +3” in column
    6” 5,6
     5+   1
    6” 6
     4+   2
    Heavy Cavalry

     3+    5

      4+    4
    Hussars, etc
    6” 6
     5+    3
    Battalion Guns
    6” 4,5,6 18” 5,6
     5+    2
    6” limbered
    9” 4,5,6, 24” 5, 6
     4+    3
    Siege Guns
    3” limbered  
    6” 4,5,6  36” 5,6
     4+    3
    Generals & Brigadiers
     4+  N/A

D. Movement Restrictions.
v    Woods and steep or rough hills. Light Infantry and Irregulars move full speed, Infantry, battalion guns and Hussars move at 1/2 speed. Others may not enter.
v    Fordable Stream or obstacles. 1/2 turn to cross.
v    Roads. A road column or unit which begins on a road and moves its whole move by road may move double and ignore off road terrain but may not shoot or charge.
v    Direction. A unit may move in any direction and may about face unless it is within the frontal zone of an enemy unit within 6” or is charging. It may always wheel before moving, counting the distance moved and may always advance or retreat facing the enemy.
v    Formation. It costs a full turn to change between line and column or to limber or unlimber artillery and siege guns. Battalion guns only need to limber to use road movement.
v    Passage of Lines. A unit may move through friends if retreating or if one of the units are light infantry, hussars, or unlimbered battalion guns, artillery or siege guns.
v    Cavalry which dismounts is treated as infantry on the next turn. Dismounted cavalry which mounts is treated as cavalry on the next move. Not all cavalry is trained to fight dismounted.
v    Charges. A unit which charges must have the enemy at least partially in its frontal zone. If it is at least partially in the enemy’s frontal zone, it must charge the front of the enemy. A unit may not charge an enemy in terrain that it cannot enter. A unit may not shoot and charge as charge resolution includes the effects of shooting. Light Infantry and Hussars may retreat a full  move if charged but must rally on their next move.

E. Shooting. Light Infantry and battalion guns may move full then shoot. Other units may move or shoot. Roll 1 die per stand with a target in range in its frontal zone.
v    Each die which rolls the required score as per the troop chart inflicts 1 hit.
v      -1 from each die if firing at skirmishers, cavalry, artillery or troops in cover.
v     +1 to each die if firing at a column.
v    Siege Guns may destroy cover by rolling a 6 at a 6” range.
v    There must be a clear line of fire.

F. Charge Resolution. If in contact with the enemy after all movement and shooting is done, combat must be resolved. This represents close range shooting as well as attempts to close with cold steel.
v    Dice. If a unit is in line or deployed and in contact to its front only, roll 1 die per stand. If shaken or in contacted in the flank or rear or is limbered or in column then roll 1 die for the unit. Each die that rolls the required score on the unit chart inflicts a hit on the enemy.
v    Defensive Fire. Infantry and deployed artillery, siege guns and battalions guns which have been charged from the front this turn may roll their dice and apply the hits before the enemy rolls. In all other cases the dice are rolled and hits applied simultaneously.
vTo Hit: Each modified score of 4,5 or 6 inflicts 1 hit on the enemy.
v +1 to each die if higher melee value than the enemy (eg Grenadier vs Militia are +1) 
v    -1 from each die if the enemy is in cover
v    -1 from each die if the charger attacked through difficult terrain or across an obstacle.
v    Commanders in close combat. If a Brigadier or General joins a unit for charge resolution, it rolls an extra die without any modifiers, inflicting a hit if a 4,5 or 6 is rolled. If the die rolsl 1 the General or Brigadier is wounded and is removed from the game. A replacement will take over at the end of the player’s next turn. Place him as desired.
v    Deciding the Outcome. If one side took more hits than it inflicted it must about face and retreat a full move. It may not move or shoot until it has been ordered to Rally. Units which are unable to retreat, such as deployed artillery, are destroyed. If all of a cavalry unit's opponents are destroyed or forced to retreat then after all charges are resolved it may immediately make a charge move and resolve melee again but it may nor move or shoot again until its is rallied even if it wins. If it matters, the active player chooses the order of pursuit moves.

G. Morale. Hits are a mix of casualties, fatigue and a loss of cohesion.
Ø     Shaken. When a unit suffers 3 hits it becomes shaken. Each additional hit on a shaken unit will remove 1 stand.
Ø     Rallying. A unit may rally instead of shooting or moving A unit may never remove the last hit and lost stands are never recovered
Rally Chart
    Rally and remove 1 hit
    Retreat a full move, Take a hit from Stragglers. Rally again next turn.
Die Modiefiers
    Grenadiers or if General is Rallying unit
    Militia, Irregulars, Hussars
    Enemy visible within 12”

H. Victory.  In the absence of any other victory conditions, an army must retreat if over 1/2 of its units are shaken or have been destroyed or forced to retreat off table.