Sunday, September 30, 2012

Zulus and the ACW

The Zulus over run a field gun in the center. The situation is critical.
Its not easy to see but the nearly dry river bed is 2 hexon tiles deep.
Ron's Ral Partha Colonial figures and Hexon terrain

The Zulus and the ACW  aren't often linked but last Thursday I played my 3rd Colonial game using Battlecry. It still amazes me that the rules worked and that the game was so much fun. Upon reflection, I think the ease of translation is in part due to the level of abstraction in the game and the way in concentrates on basics not chrome. So, yes the Martini-Henry was a more efficient weapon than an Enfield or Springfield muzzle loading rifled musket but the tactics of an army of horse, foot and guns armed with one or the other weapon would differ in detail rather than principle. As for the poor Zulu's whose limited firepower is being ignored by us, their tactics are determined by their numbers and vulnerability. It requires no special game rules to make it best for them to mass behind cover, try to draw out the enemy by probing and feint attacks and then over whelm any weak spots.  

Despite local successes that almost overwhelmed the British, no target farms were over run before heavy casualties broke the Zulu morale. 

One of the interesting Tweaks required to deal with the large number of Zulus was how to determine  victory conditions given that the Zulus start with twice as many units. In this scenario the book called for 12  units against 9 which became 24 vs 9 (gulp). The British break point was set at the loss of 5 units with each of the farms being worth 1 unit if captured, the Zulu loss was set at double this since they had double the units. On his blog DC has questioned the use of a fixed break point.  My own view is that since the game is so abstract and we have no idea what a "hit" represents and since the combat results are so random that the amount of firepower that an army can withstand can not be reliably predicted, then the break point is not actually fixed. An additional test or moving target could be seen as a form of double jeopardy where one mechanism  counters the result of another. But that is just one gamer's opinion.

One last byproduct of the game. I have been considering whether to continue to use 3 stand ACW units or 4 stand ones. After my last post, I found myself contemplating how many figures (480 infantry alone) I will have to paint to bring my armies up to 32 regiments aside even with 3 stand units and how long this is likely to take (5+ years at the rate I have been adding ACW) You would think that this would encourage me to avoid the 4 stand option but in fact it has made a mid-point of 16 x 4 stand regiments a side an attractive option. Once I realized that this would make the armies Battlecry compatible, that cinched the matter. After regrouping where it looked right, 4 of my  Reb units will need a stand added and one of these is now done. Work on flags is in progress. That'll bring me back to 10 so 6 new units are needed to get to the goal for next year.

The question of flags raises another interesting topic. If I were recreating a particular battle, I would want the right units with the right number of men in each dressed in the right uniforms and carrying the right flags but I am doing a generic wargame army.  My current interest is in the early campaigns in the west but my instinct is to use the well known Battleflag, often wrongly called the Stars & Bars. In the west however, this was not widely carried until late in the war. Instead each of the various "armies" which came and went seemed to have its own special flags.

So, do I do generic units with bare flag poles and  give them a different flag and name for each game as some historical gamers suggest or do I pick an identity  for each unit but equip them as pleases me so that the battlefield will present the picture in my head? Well, for me, I may want to recreate various battles or parts of battles but mostly this is just  game  and I am willing to use the wrong units in a refight. Now that the organization question is settled, I can get serious about giving names to the units and commanders and I just may use flags as  a way to help tell my brigades apart.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules

"Of Hector and Minnow  and such great cats as these.
 But of all the world's great heroes, there's none that can compare
 With a tow, row, row, row, row, row,
to the Rosish Grenadiers."

The first platoon of Grenadiers, formed from some of the PA Rosbach  molds.

The first platoon of the King's Irish Grenadiers put their coats and pants on 18 months ago, their gaiters and hats yesterday. Hopefully they will never be asked to dress in a hurry.  Now to cast up 10 more plus a drummer and sergeant and a Mounted Colonel for the combined Grenadiers.

While savoring the last game and contemplating practical options, I've decided on a reduced, achievable short term goal. The basic Charge! structure for line infantry and grenadiers is a 60 figure Regiment composed of 3 identical companies. My ideal would be 8 of these per side plus light infantry, guns and cavalry which tops out at about 3,000 figures or about 10 times the number of figures I had on the table last weekend. I've known for a while that I'm never going to build that and haven't got room to play with it if I did, hence the various head scratching while I decide which alternative is the best for me.

The alternate structure in the book is a mixed regiment of 1 grenadier, 2 line and 1 light company, about 75 figures and this is my current target but only 4 full  regiments not 16 and then 2 "National"   battalions each of only 2 line companies. The "National" battalions will be formed by promoting the Pandours and the Brownstone Brigade which both deserved the honour (This involves adding 4 figures to each company plus a flag for the Regiment).

This will give me  a total of 4 Grenadier, 12 line and 4 light companies, ample for Civil Wars or to contribute contingents as needed for service with the Northern Alliance. When I get that done, then I can think some more about expansion and a larger table.

and now back to the song,( that's Hector at the top of the page btw ):

I understand that the song was so popular that some other countries made it as their own..

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hearts of Tin is back!

A large Confederate division of 4 brigades totalling 16 wargame regiments attacks 8 Yankee regiments. 

Taking advantage of some rain and feeling up to par, I finally managed to turn my attention back to rescuing Hearts of Tin. For me, the key was to keep the aim of the game as different from MacDuff as possible. 

I started out by replaying the same scenario as I used for Charge! but with my 1/72nd ACW troops. I used 2 x 3 stand regiments for each infantry or light infantry unit in the scenario, organized into 4 regiment brigades and scratched down some rules with ranges and moves loosely based on Featherstone and Morschauser, esssentially the first prototype of HofT with no command rules. . Every thing went fine till I got to the melee and wondered how to determine who won, then wondered if I needed to know. My mind went back to the Wargames Digest scenarios I had played with Morschauser's original rules and the question about melee winners which emerged. I decided to let standard morale rules handle it. In other words, regardless of how it was doing, a unit would stand and fight until it broke or the player pulled it back. To my great surprise it not only worked, it removed most of my worst headaches. However, the game lasted less than an hour using just about every ACW figure I had painted as well as some RCW figures filling in the back of the grey clad column. 

After some thought, I replaced the initiative roll with the Pips that I have been playing around with off and on (The Square Brigadier etc). In this case, I rolled for Division Commanders with 1 point being needed to move a Brigadier and any of his units within 6" of him, or 1 detached unit. I also increased the size of the units and reduced the number from 16 to 8. The 3" melee rules once again caused complications so I ditched that again as well. The rules now work very well but the game was still very quick.

Looking at scales, I use 1"=25 yards as a rule of thumb though 1"=30 yds would be more accurate. At that scale my 3 stand units have a 5" front indicating 450 men which is a pretty good average. A 4 stand unit is as large as I could reasonable go without increasing ranges.. 

Decision time, if I want to fight Brigade actions such as Belmont, I need larger regiments with each being a unit in all wargame senses but if I want to fight something up to a Corps sized action, I will need to use Brigades as basic units even if the regiments have an identity. The first choice is the road back to collision between HofT and MacDuff and questions as to why 1/72nd vs  40mm. So the choice is made, lots of small units, 1 scenario unit = 1x4 regiment brigade. A full sized scenario with Corps sized forces with some 40+ regiments per side will probably need a full day's gaming and some scenarios designed for small advance guards and wagon train escorts will be inappropriate but I always have the option of fielding each 3 stand regiment as a scenario unit and playing out those scenarios in under an hour.  If I want larger battles, I will need to go to the alternate CM scale and rearrange my units into 5 stand Brigades.

The only real question is, with 3 stand regiments, is there any reasonable, honourable, way to avoid giving  a flag to every 3rd stand?   I hate doing flags and I'll need to convert every one of the standard bearers!   I wonder if I get away with 1 flag per brigade?  .

The rules are once again posted at left.

One HofT version of Picket's Division at Gettysburg. Three Brigades each of 4 regiments of 4 stands. The line would stop at the crack in the table if using 3 stand regiments, leaving room for Pettigrew on the other half of the table. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wentworth Pass 4 : A long and bloody day.

In the old Rosmark army, there were two crack infantry units, MacDuff's Fusiliers, especially the Grenadier Company and the St. Lambert Volunteer Light Infantry. At Not Quite Lobositz, where Rosmark units first found themselves on opposite sides of the table, it was MacDuff 's that was given the task of driving the Volunteers from the Lobasch Hill and drive they did, inch by stubborn inch. It is perhaps interesting that  while even the Queen's Regiment rallied to the defence of the realm against the Raid on St. Michel, the Volunteers took no part in that campaign or in the retaliatory strike against Adelheim. Now MacDuff's and the Volunteers were pitted against each other again. 
MacDuff's Grenadier Company on the left, St. Lambert Volunteer Light Infantry on the right.

The Grenadiers were eager to go at the foe with the bayonet but their officers knew that the veteran light infantry was unlikely to be caught and so they relied on the iron discipline of the Grenadiers. Step by step they drove back the light infantry while platoon volleys rippled up and down the line. Fire and advance, reload, fire and advance, reload. The sergeants pushed the rear ranks forwards and closed the files as the 'pop pop' of aimed fire from the skirmishers took its toll. At last, the Volunteers couldn't take anymore  and their short dashes to the rear became a race for safety.   Wheeling left, the Grenadiers marched in support of the Pandours attack upon the Pensioners, the last barrier on this flank.

The green coated Staarborde Battery opens fire at last 

After the brief lull, the battle was renewed with vigour. On the plain, the Rosish artillery had been shifting position constantly, occasionally getting off a quick round before the enemy  pulled back behind the crest or friendly troops blocked the line of fire. At last they manhandled forward to get clear of the King's Brigade, just as a clear line of fire opened to the Queen's Regiment. Was the gap wide enough? It was, by the narrowest margin though some suspect that the gunners didn't really care if they bowled over a few white coats on the way. Could they get the guns into action quickly enough? Evens to move and fire, no problem for these well trained crews (the Queen's gunners failed to manage a fire and move all game), long canister range, 2's to hit, no problem, roll for effect, 2 dice, 8 hits. The Queen's Regiment, already pounded by the light infantry, the Irish and some earlier roundshot, had had enough. The pass was close at hand and they fell back through it (below 1/2 strength).

MacDuff's, now recovered from the tremendous volley that had hit them as they crested the hill, rushed down hill with the bayonet. Beyond them, the Yellow Hussars spurred forward in support but were met by General Darnly at the head of his 1/2 squadron of Carabiniers. A sure sign of desperate times when  a General draws sword in this age. The Hussars knew they were outmatched  by the weight of the Carabiniers but with the sharp sabres they cut down the General and his Kettle drummer and held the heavy cavalry. An audible sigh of relief went through the ranks of the militia, whether it was because the Hussars were held or that they were now free of the General's meddling has been a matter of debate in the taverns of St. Lambert.

(Aside: During my Middle School Period of wargaming, I was put off by the lack of any role for Generals in Charge! despite the presence of these being laid out. An interesting omission considering that the rules were written by senior officers with combat experience who were also historians and teachers at Military College.  Much later, after much learning, I can extrapolate that the authors intended for the player to BE the general and that, like with morale, he should not hide behind the failings of the little plastic or metal figures on the table. Also, that while individual subordinate officers are important, modern armies, and I include the 18thC here, had structure and that no one man is irreplaceable. If a Brigadier falls, the Brigade may be momentarily affected but it does not stop functioning, the machine carries on. Given that turns average out to about 1/2 hour, it is below the grain and swept with many other things into dice that help decide whether an attack succeeds and fails, It is design for effect.)

"The Brown Stone Brigade", the St. Lambert Militia earns a new nickname.

All that remained was for the Fusiliers to sweep away this one company of militia and the road would be open with time to make it through the pass by night fall. The Fusiliers had stormed breaches and batteries, and had captured cannons and colours from the veteran soldiers of the Pragmatic Coalition. It was a sure thing, a done deal, despite the heavy losses and steep climb, or was it? As the Fusiliers slipped and slid down the hill, all order lost, the Brown coat militia stood and fired like madmen, the flashes of their muskets close enough to burn the coats of the Fusiliers who could make no effective reply. Suddenly, like the turn of the tide, the flood of Blue clad soldiers, slowed, stopped and then suddenly retreated. Silence descended, such a thing was unknown! MacDuff's Fusiliers  were repulsed! Later Colonel Brown was heard describing the sturdy burghers, merchants and tradesmen of his militia as being "as sturdy as their Brownstone Houses" and so the proud militia adopted a new name, "The Brownstone Brigade".     

The Pandours storm the heights while the King's Brigade creeps onto the ridge.

All hope was lost of capturing the South Ridge before dark but the center appeared open and to the North, the Pandours were pressing the Pensioners. Keeping the new tactics in mind, the Pandours pressed forward at full speed, not stopping to fire. The old veterans stood steady in the ranks but they must have been aware of the gap on their right and the stream of wounded and stragglers heading toward the pass. As the Pandours approached to 3" they unleashed a ragged volley. Moments later the wild Pandours charged with savage cries. For a moment the Pensioners held, then those who could, broke and ran for the pass. The Ridge was captured and the way was open. While the Pandours reformed and looted their prisoners and the bodies of the slain, the Grenadiers rushed past them to seal the victory.

By now certainly the King's Brigade would have swept away the handful of infantry and gunners struggling to keep a gun in action, blocking the road. Surely? But where were they? Still parked in the pass, feebly file firing at long range with little effect. Colonel Arnold, their commander, later claimed  that the single contour hill had slowed him down too much and that in the gathering dusk, he had thought he was in close range but unable to reach the guns with a charge. Less kind voices muttered that the White coats who had served Queen at Not Quite Lobositz, alongside the St. Lambert Volunteers, the Queen's Brigade and the Pensioners who had been part of their Brigade then but now stood on the hill above them, had been unwilling to face the canister and reluctant to inflict damage on their former friends.  Moreover, it is noticed that despite several turns in cannister range, the Brigade emerged from the battle almost unscathed  and it is being suggested that Colonel Arnold intends to join the Queen and take the Brigade with him.

Night falls on the pass.

So as the sun set behind the mountains and darkness rapidly descended. The King's army made a camp on the hills they had stormed. The King ordered the bells rung to celebrate the victory in which his men had stormed and captured the ridge but it did not go unnoticed that while there was a somber mood in the King's camp, there was a jubilant  mood in the Queen's camp as new recruits flooded in. Patriots and loyal subjects had met the best of professional soldiers in battle and had held them all day.

(The victory conditions are just a bit vague if not contradictory. By the strictest of reading the Queen's troops had to still be holding the ridge on the last turn so technically the game was a marginal Pyrrhic victory for the King due primarily to getting 11 turns instead of 9 but on the other hand, the Queen's troops still blocked the road and none of the King's troops had actually exited despite the extra turns and they had suffered staggering losses and disorganization. I leave it to the historians to judge).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wentworth Pass 3 - Battle Begins

.It was in the fall of the 2nd year of King Michael's reign that Civil War once again awoke in Rosmark. The Council of Free Cities of the Maritime Provinces declared Independence from the Kingdom of Rosmark and invited the Dowager Queen to rule them as constitutional monarch. King Michael dispatched his army to bring them to heel. Needing time to muster the milita,  the Queen dispatched what troops she had to Wentworth Pass to hold back the Rosmark forces until dark.  

(Note: The scenario calls for the attacker to control the ridge and be able to advance past it with at least 2 units by the time limit which they suggest might be equal to the amount of time it would take to cross the table + 50%. In Charge!, infantry in column of 4's can move 15" per turn, I calculated 6 turns to march on, cross the 5 ft table and exit. Not liking a definite limit or a diced ending and being notoriously forgetful at ticking off turns, I made a deck of cards the first 8 in order, the next 5 shuffled with 1 being a joker which would indicate last turn. With hindsight, this may have been generous by a turn or 2, perhaps 7 + 4 would have been fairer but at any rate the game ended with turn 11.)    

The entrance to the pass is fairly open a few scattered woods amongst open moorland and then a ridge of steep hills with a narrow gap. Movement up or across the hills would slow troops by 1/2 but convey no other benefit. General Darnly commanded the Queen's forces. He sent the Volunteers out to find a suitable ambush position (Diced for once Rosish forces arrived, 1,2 wood on the left, 3,4 wood in the center, 5,6 somewhere on or behind the hills to be diced for later.)  Darnly placed a gun on the forward slope in the center, firing straight down the road. Behind the gun he posted the Queen's Regiment 40 strong all ranks, to the left in defile behind the hill, the Pensioners, 20 strong  and  on the right, also in defile, the St. Lambert Militia 32 all ranks. He took post in the center with 4 Carabiniers as an escort.

It was past noon when the Rosish forces arrived.  The light company of MacDuff's Regiment, 15 strong, led the way supported by a 9 man squadron of the Yellow Hussars. Behind them in column came MacDuff's Grenadiers, 19 strong, then the Irish and MacDuff's Fusiliers each 41 strong. The 2 guns of the Staarbord Battery followed, then the Pandours, Irregular infantry (militia) 32 strong and finally the King's Brigade, 41 strong. The veteran General MacDuff, honorary Colonel of the Fusiliers, was in command.

 The destruction of the Light Company. The red coated Irish form attack column in the rear.

MacDuff''s light company had spent the last 8 years as line infantry and it seemed their skirmishing skills could use some polishing. Pushing straight up the road, they came under artillery fire and responding by rushing forward. A duel at point blank range with a field gun and 3 times their number of infantry led to their swift annihilation. The Queen's Volunteers on the other hand, ambushed the Yellow Hussars and then threatened the flank of the main column, requiring the Grenadiers to be detached to deal with them.

The normal Rosish tactics call for a deployment into line to engage in a firefight with a reserve live to exploit success. Here, there was no time and the regiments were hurled forward at the ridge in column of companies. The Irish led the way, straight up the road. It was expected that the light infantry would protect them during their advance but in their absence, cut up first by grape and skirmish fire and then by musket volleys, it was clear that a column assault would fail. Hastily the Irish deployed into line while under a heavy fire.

To relieve the pressure and hopefully open a way for MacDuff's Fusiliers, the Yellow Hussars were sent against the militia on the flank.
 The militia fight surprisingly well. MacDuff's can be seen beginning their ascent in the background.

The Hussars, confident of victory, forced  their horses up the slope. The militia, determined to fight for their independence, wheeled one company in line to face them while the other waited for the Fusiliers to climb the hill. A disciplined volley brought down 1 Hussar (they rolled to fire at close range) and in the combat that followed, despite the Hussars doubling of their dice, they tied two of the combats. They would be driven from their position but would be intact. The Hussars pressed on for a second round. Again the militia fought well and when finally forced to surrender a prisoner and retreat, they had held the flank long enough and would be ready to fight again before the day was over.

 The fight in the center. In the back ground the Grenadiers may be seen slowly driving the Volunteers back, whittling their numbers. 

While the cavalry struggled on the flank, the Irish struggled to deploy under fire but were broken and forced to retire in disorder. MacDuff's Fusiliers with 40 veteran regulars against 15 militia pressed up the hill firing as they went but the aim of the militia was deadly while the Fusliers, winded by the climb shot wildly. .
On the left the Pensioners crest the hill and open fire on the Pandours while in the distance the Fusiliers crest the hill and prepare to charge down into the militia. 

With the repulse of the Irish there was a lull in the battle. Faced with deployment of the Rosish artillery, the Queen's troops fell back behind the hill and dressed their ranks while MacDuff brought up fresh regiments to hurl against the ridge. As the Fusiliers crested the ridge they were met by a fierce blast of musketry (boxcars on 1.5 dice giving 9 hits).  They were near the breaking point (50%+1)  but they were close enough that the enemy would not be able to fire again before they crossed bayonets (no firing  against a charge that started within 3", an important rule for columns to remember since defensive fire counts for winning or losing a melee)

The sun was low on the horizon, if this attack failed, was there time for another?  (to be continued)

Wentworth Pass 2: Simultaneous Solo Blues

One of the things I enjoy about Charge! is the way the simultaneous moves using written intentions introduces player vs player rather than player vs dice friction. There are all sorts of  ways around this when playing solo but none of them exactly reproduce that mental challenge of trying to guess what the enemy will do.

Some people just work out the best options, some dice for initiative and then just do each side in turn, like I do for HofT games, others play one side and program the "enemy" or dice for what each unit of the enemy will do, and I'm sure there are lots of other options.

Here is the situation at the start of turn 3. The defenders, underestimating the speed of the enemy advance  have left a gun forward without adequate support. (To be fair to them,  I planned to use 2/3rd distances but changed my mind on turn 2).

Up to this point. I had been dicing to see who would go first each turn with each side declaring charges before either moved. But here we see a typical dilemma. The Gun is about 14" from the closest skirmishers of MacDuff's  light company. These are close enough to be able to move 8 infantry to within close range of the gun and declare that they are firing, thus silencing the gun, or they could charge the gun. Behind the skirmishers is a squadron of Hussars which is close enough to charge through the light infantry into the gun. Neither enemy is close enough to pin the gun so it could choose to withdraw but a bold player might leave it in place and move up supports. To complicate things, if the Hussars charge but the gun retreats they will be at risk of being shot up either by infantry in front of them or from the light infantry that ambushed them from the wood last turn.

I was originally planning to dice for initiative and make alternate moves but it just lacked something. When I play Charge! against Lentulus. he seems much better at predicting what I will do than vice versa and with fairly open terrain and a force 1/2 the size of the attacker, this scenario seems slanted against the defence, so, I decided to make the attacker declare his intentions first, then I will decide on the best and 2nd best option for the defender, weight them and roll to choose. In this case the Hussars moved to the other flank, the light infantry came forward to silences the gun but it manhandled back 6" with an even chance to fire while the defending infantry moved forward and fired.  

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The next post will cover the set up, forces and opening moves.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Battle of Wentworth Pass - Teaser

The Dowager-Queen's Army waits. The Light Infantry on the tray at the back of the table aren't really there. They are secretly lurking in a wood elsewhere on table. Shhhhhh..

Scenario 1 from Wargames for All Ages by Stuart Asquith and Charles Grant. When push came to shove, despite rumors, the old King's & Royal Companies remained loyal so the Queen's army consists of: The Queen's Germans, Capt. Picard's Company of Pensioners, The St. Lambert Militia, the St. Lambert Volunteers Light Infantry and a gun of the Foot Artillery.  Having noticed once again that Army Commanders are allowed a cavalry escort, half a squadron of Carabiniers has been assigned to General Bothwell until a permanent escort is raised.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Imagineering can be hard work

There is an attraction to inventing history but there are times when it would be convenient if I had access to a Complete History of Rosmark. Unfortunately I haven't written it yet.

I was quite happy with the ideas that came to me yesterday and while they were on the right track wargaming wise, something didn't feel quite right imagi-histroically, so I went back and checked what records there are. I'm now starting to wonder if I have been subjected to misinformation if not propaganda as regards the support shown by the military to the Queen.

The last engagement between the two parties was the Siege of St. Lambert. During that battle, of the 10 Regular Infantry companies, 7 fought for the King including the Irish. Only 3 fought for the Queen, 3/10 being hardly what one could call  a strong majority. In fact, when we look closer,  nearly 1/2 her forces were composed of volunteers and local militia. So who is this Queen and if she is foreign where exactly is she from and who is fighting for her and why?  (An atlas of NQSYW Geography would be nice.)

The Second Company of the newly promoted Royal Irish Regiment. In front may be seen the sample Grenadier from last year, behind is a member of the original Irish Company. The rest of the first company will be getting new lace, belts and buttons added this weekend.

I noticed that the Queen is now being referred to as Dowager Queen rather  than Queen Regent. Presumably part of the Treaty of St. Lambert involved recognizing King Michael's right to the throne? So what else is there to fight about? Well the use of Dowager, implies property rights, and in the circumstance of a foreign bride, strongly suggests a Dowry. Ahhhh, now it becomes more clear. I think I was beginning to think of her as a Catherine, fighting to keep the throne of a foreign land but I suspect it is a case where St. Lambert and the surrounding coastal provinces along The River (so much we don't yet know, like the name of the river) were included as part of her dowry when she married old King Kohl, Michael's father by his first wife who died giving birth. The question then was of the terms of the Dowry and of the King's will. Are the Dowry lands a permanent part of Rosmark? or did they revert to independent status on the death of the old King?  While the lawyers argue, it seems that the question has been submitted for resolution by combat.

So how are the forces really arrayed?

King's Army:

MacDuff's Fusiliers: 1 grenadier, 2 line, 1 light company
Royal Irish: 1 grenadier, 2 line, 1 light company. (only the line being ready for service)
National Regiment 2 line companies  (being raised)
Pandours 2 militia or light infantry companies

Yellow Hussars 2 LC squadrons
Gendarmes 1 HC squadron
Fitzjames Horse 2 HC squadrons

4 guns
1 platoon of Sappers and Miners.

Queen's Army
(a little make shift and temporary at this point)

Queen's Guards 1 Grenadier (borrowed Hessians for now)
Queen's German Regiment: 2 line
Royal Regiment: 2 line
Pensioners 1 line
Voluntaires de St. Lambert 1 LC, 1 light infantry
Loyal Sharpshooters 2 light infantry
3 Militia Battalions (6 militia)  (borrowed AWI for now)

Carabiniers (2 HC)
Oreleans Cavalry (1 HC)

4 guns.

Neither of these lists are sufficient or permanent  but they will get me going and by mixing in some fully round AWI figures, will enable me to fight some 'at home'  battles sooner rather than later. .  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Insert Cartoon Light Bulb

How easy it is sometimes to over look what is right under your nose! I even thought 3/4 of the required thoughts last week but failed to make the right connections. But let me go back and explain.

My primary goal in expanding my collection of 18thC Prince August figures is to enable me to easily fight Charge! battles here at home while still maintaining and improving my contribution to the HAWKS shared Not Quite The Seven Years War project. In particular I want to be able to field easily recognizable regiments giving me morale units larger than 19 figures while adding the minimum number of new figures and "wasting" as few as possible of the existing ones, all while maintaining and building on an existing storyline and finding something different to paint.

The most straight forward approach seemed to be to just double my forces but then I either needed a substantially larger table, or a slightly larger table plus some radical basing changes which would have to be made compatible with the rest of the group's basing once a year.  A simpler approach urged itself of a minimal increase with the acceptance of games larger than now possible but smaller than envisaged. This stripped away some of the interesting uniform options but at least meant not too much boring repetition of similar uniforms.

There was another issue that I put aside. While it is sometimes easier to have symmetrical games, I like balanced but  asymmetrical ones,  especially when playing solo. This, apart from raggedy soldiers and striped trousers, is the main attraction of wargaming the French Revolution at a tactical level. Now for those who are not familiar with Charge!, it states that it was written for the latter part of the 18thC and elsewhere the authors admit that it is more Napoleonic than Frederician despite the use of primarily mid-18th Century toy soldiers. (The figures used do include Napoleonic artillery and Russian  Grenadier figures.)  Hence the prominent inclusion of skirmishers, column attacks and infantry squares.

An illustration from Charge! by Lawford & Young showing a column attack on a line.

Now I may do it in the heat of battle, but I have  a hard time planning to use my 1750's French units in column assaults screened by skirmishers so I was pondering an inclusion of some late 18thC figures in my larger expansion. At one point I also considered converting figures to Turks and allowing them to use such unorthodox tactics. While planning this expansion, I decided that a King, faced with a civil war in which most of the regular, largely mercenary, army supported the other side, might call upon the population and there was already some indication that some of  these resembled Croats and Pandours so I decided to raise some conventional line infantry dressed in the national style as the early Hungarian regiments were.  While answering a comment from Rob, it suddenly occurred to me that such hastily raised forces might not be well enough trained for linear warfare regardless of their patriotic enthusiasm. Some might well be accustomed to arms and border warfare and be capable light infantry but the rest might be no better than militia. Now in Charge! there are only two downsides to militia, they don't shoot as well as line troops and their units are smaller and thus more fragile. They fight just as well in melee and are thus ripe for being formed in columns and massed behind skirmishers until the time is ripe for a charge. Voila! There are some fresh  units for me in different uniforms and with different tactics, something to add spice to games.

But how to balance the games? I'm not a big fan of point systems, partly because when used with army lists for historical forces they so often lead to weird a-historical wargame armies and partly because in most systems, some troops are more worth their points than others. (In other words, all 1,000 point armies are equal but some are more equal than others.) There is no denying that points can be useful for games where organization or troop types and qualities vary though. Looking at the Charge!, in the Notes section, which I rarely consult, there is a point system based on the standard units which are recommend. These are 3 squadrons/companies of cavalry or infantry but 2 guns or companies of light infantry or militia. Dividing the totals by the number of companies gives us a rough company value which can the be rounded to get a unit value which we can then slot over to the Grant Teasers.

In scenarios such as Sawmill Village, a list of troops is offered for players to choose from with all units being equal. This is a bit different from the very first teaser where values are given for The Wargame units but it has worked for me. Since the Charge! points work out to 70 pts for a cavalry squadron of any kind, a gun, or a company of grenadiers of light infantry, we can call this "1 unit". A militia regiment is 65 pts for 32 figures, close enough to also be 1 unit, while line companies are 50 pts each, close enough to say 1 1/2 line infantry = 1 unit.This could be applied to the entire force for a side, for example Red has 7 units and can pick what they like, or it can be applied by arm so 2 cavalry, 4 infantry 1 gun and then the infantry portion broken down between line, grenadier and militia as desired. The companies can then be grouped into regiments as appropriate.

Here is a workable solution for me! One that will generate some excitement to paint as well as some games.

The Volunteers of St. Lambert screening an assault by the Crown Prince Pandours on the Dowager-Queen's foreign infantry. (70+65 pts vs 150 pts in Charge! terms or 1 infantry + 1 lt infantry vs 2 infantry in scenario terms)

Since the truce with the Dowager Queen appears to be about to break down,  King Michael has put out the call and the burghers, mountain clans and peasants have flocked to his call and are being armed and organized to support the always loyal MacDuff's against the Dowager's forces. I expect the first encounter on Saturday! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A funny thing happened on my way to the casting pot

Actually,I had a fairly productive session last weekend, a full company of infantry and 1/2 a company of grenadiers. Very few rejects, they came pouring (sic) out of the mold with muskets and feet intact. It was only during painting that I noticed that nearly 1/2 are a little vague about the facial features, a frequent issue I have when home casting, some combination of venting, choice of metal and temperature etc. It also suggests that I need better lighting where I cast so I notice these things. Luckily it seems that once painted and placed on the table en masse a slight vagueness to some noses doesn't seem to spoil the over all effect. However, while sorting molds, I had to handle a number of my Zinnbrigade molds and thought " must do some more of these". (uh oh)

 When I rebased my 1812 figures and decided to focus them on small actions, skirmishes in non-wargaming terms, I thought perhaps my fictional 18thC armies could take on the role of pitched battles with a table full of horse, foot and guns. With the proposed 15cm frontage, a 2 company, 40 figure battalion would take up less than 10" of space if the officers took post in a supernumery rank. This would allow me to field opposing armies including a total of 16 regiments! A plethora of uniforms to choose from or design!

Since that heady moment, a few questions have arisen. Some were practical such as the advisability of using my standard washers though this would expand the frontage of my units and limit the number of figuress that I can field, as well as the ease of casting and painting the Zinnbrigade figures compared to the Prince August figures, especially the Caroliner range. Others were game oriented  as I contemplated Charge!, written for the late 18thC with its columns and skirmishers, in other words my favorite 18thC period, the French Revolution, and my armies, dressed for the less flexible days of the linear warfare of the Austrian Succession. I also thought once again about the low probability that I would ever take even 16 infantry companies abroad let alone 32. Suddenly it seemed that perhaps I should just bring my armies up to 8 companies a side, enough for a game and look elsewhere for the big battles.

Of course this meant not adding 4 red coated National regiments to the King's army, in fact, given the existing regiments and the need for some Grenadiers, suddenly there seemed little maneuver room at all! So how to add national flavour, minimize both new painting and side lining of existing figures and at the same time maintain the story line of intermittent civil war between those who supported the foreign Queen Mother and nationalist support for the young King? Not for the first time my mind turned eastwards. I already had light infantry in Hungarian caps as well as uhlans, hussars and Pandours. Flipping open my Kannik to the Wars of Polish and Austrian Succession, I noticed for the first time in years the Hungarian Kokenyesd Regiment. Ahhhh yes, it was not until 1749 that the Hungarian line regiments were dressed in white coats and tricornes. Prior to that they wore felt or fur caps and bright colours, like the later Croat or Grenz light infantry. Perfect! Why shouldn't the native Rosish  units do the same?

Hopefully Greg won't mind me stealing  borrowing this image from his blog.

Now it also seems to me that I already have a surfeit of light troops for the period, so to save on painting, I am proposing to myself to elevate the Prince Michael Pandour Border Regiment from Militia/Light Infantry to line infantry. To be honest, they haven't exactly distinguished themselves as skirmishers anyway and it would only need 9 figures and a flag. This would only leave me 1 new regiment and 2 grenadier companies to raise. So, tall caps and bright trousers for the National Regiment, the only questions are red coats and blue pants or blue coats and red pants, and am I willing to convert 40 mitres to fur caps with a bag or shall I go for tall felt like caps such as I did for the Pandours in no time at all?  I did think about busbies for the Grenadiers at least but I think I will go for the sort of bearskins worn by MacDuff's Grenadiers which they will be brigaded with. I have a 1/2 company of Grenadiers in mitre 1/2 painted already so I think I will finish them for the Queen.

Once all that is done and my table expanded, I can contemplate whether I should add more exotic units or just go quietly back to the 19thC.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

I just got back from playing cards with the Natives in Africa

"Oh? Zulus?"

Well this time I did!  I'm hoping that old joke (zulus//d'you lose?) originated on Vaudeville so that I won't be forced to admit to being sufficiently familiar with the Monkees to be able to quote from "I'm going to buy me a dog". If not then let me point out that the records and portable record player belonged to my older sister.

Ron's Zulus massed at the start of the game, before they started scouting and probing. There are a few redcoats hidden the buildings on my side of the table.

Once again the game was at Ron's with his figures and terrain. The secnario was Number 2 from Scenarios for Wargames and the rules were Battlecry. The only modification was that the Zulus could move 2 and not battle or move 1 and battle. They had 4 dice if adjacent only and got 2 units for each scenario unit. A discussion of a limited shooting capabilities for the Zulus with implications for play balance is under way. The British got 1 unit per scenario unit or gun.

The effect of the large multi-tiered hills was a matter of debate for about 2/3 of the game before we settled on a reasonable compromise between rules and reason/looks. Played hell with the lines of fire of the Royal Artillery everytime it changed. The final solution was that we treated hill top hexes as hill hexes in the rules. Single height slope hexes are  not hills, double high or steep slope hexes are a movement obstacle but are not hill hexes. This means artillery on a hill can fire out over a slope hex with the additional range but not over other hill hexes, presumably these providing. some form of uneven or rough ground and a convex slope to justify their 1 die penalty and blockage of LOS. We did try other options but they were either too complicated tracking when a hex was one thing and when it wasn't or else they messed with the other rules too much.  To get good lines of fire from a high hill, the ground will have to be laid out with contiguous rows of slope tiles.

 The view on the Zulu right near the end of the game. Unseen are the dead horses on the slope or the scatter od red coated corpses.

My plan was fairly simple. I had 4 infantry companies, 2 guns and a cavalry squadron. I deployed 1 infantry to hold the fortified hilltop farm on my right, one in the village in my center and 1 on my right. The guns were deployed in the center for fire support backed by my cavalry with myself at their head. I was determined to hold my ground, not getting sucked in to an advance, and to scream for help at the first opportunity. Luckily I got a reinforcement card early on and got a 3rd battery.

The not getting sucked in bit lasted for several turns as the Zulu horns poked and scouted and prodded and tested my lines. Then I got a little impatient with the lack of range and/or LOS on my guns and determined to move them forward. Then I started to worry that by the time they got where they were going, it would be too late so I made poor use of a bombard card to bring my guns forward in hope of getting a shot off. Then I suddenly stopped drawing useful cards. Oops. Eventually I made a second error by allowing my hand to coax me into some foolish moves in hope of getting lucky. I moved the guns again to a position where they could fire from a safe distance the next time I had a card that allowed them to shoot that is, since I no longer had any, and backed them up with my cavalry  for whom I had all sorts of cards. Inevitably 2 things happened, I proceeded to draw card after card that I couln't use and Ron started using the Forced March and Assault cards that he had been hording to overwhelm the units that I had pushed forward. 

The field erupted with Zulus who overwhelmed the farm, caught my cavalry, then slaughtered my General.  My gun which never fired a shot all game was saved by my use of an out of ammo card which sent it back to my board edge just as it was surrounded but I could only afford to lose 1 more unit. I finally managed some  pay back but it didn't take long to overwhelm my last overextended  unit.  

  There will be Gentlemen disturbed by their morning papers.

More Colonials in 2 weeks I hope but meantime I have 19 fresh Prince August castings on my desk, cleaned and based, ready for priming and I have just been reminded that the Hungarian line infantry did not adopt the tricorne until 1749. Hmmmm. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Not Quite A Dilema

My very first Prince August 40mm homecast regiment was MacDuff's Fusiliers, raised especially for service in the HAWK's Not Quite The Seven Years War convention battles. Their first appearance in battle was in 2000 if memory serves and eventually they became a full, alternate or mixed Charge! regiment with grenadier, light and 2 line companies. At the time,  I expected this to be the limit of my contribution.

MacDuff's Fusiliers seen capturing the standard of the von Nordenhafen Regiment at the 2nd Battle of St. Stephen during the Raid on St. Michel at Cold Wars in 2010.

In 2003 as I was starting to play around with Joe Morschauser's rules and the first version of what became Hearts of Tin, I started in on another PA project, a scaled down Fontenoy with myself providing the French. 6 figures to a 60mm x 60mm base, 3 bases per battalion. 

By 2006 that project was dead and I started converting the 6 battalions, 2 squadrons, light infantry and guns  that I had raised to Charge! standards and starting adding more. All of a sudden, instead of one regiment of mercenaries for the NQSYW, I had unintentionally built one of the larger national contingents and had to change sides for play balance. Thus Rosmark was born! 

I now found myself with 10 companies from 7 different regiments and 9 squadrons from 6 regiments, apart from ample guns and some light troops. Half the troops were in French uniforms and the rest in various fictional ones loosely based on Saxon and Russian ones. I need to transform this to have a proper contingent to take to convention games as well as opposing armies for solo games at home.  

Two company regiments on 3 different basing options compare frontage.

The first question was "How many troops?". The answer to that seemed easy: enough units for Grant Teasers. That was going to be two companies/squadrons per scenario unit until I cut my table down. Now one looks like a better bet except that many scenarios only call for three or four infantry units which doesn't give much of a game. I decided to try reducing the frontage per figure and decided that that was do-able and would allow 2 companies per unit. The only problem is that my figures would be on a much narrower frontage than their opposition. Claims of being better drilled have not bought me much slack in the past but luckily that would be easily fixed by just spacing my troops out for Away battles. Another option would be to go with the same washers I am using for the 1812 & Atlantica troops. This would ease logistics and can be seen on the militia and Pandours in the background above. Not as compact as I would like but closer to standard and ample for the first while when I will only have less than 8 companies per side available anyway. By the time I have 32 companies painted up, perhaps I will have added that foot or two back on my table..

The next question was what to add and how to handle existing units. Currently, my "French" troops  have been serving in mixed "brigades" with three companies from three regiments.Very messy looking. In many ways the logical solution would have been to paint sixteen new Rosish battalions and then bring each of the French battalions up to two companies. The main hitch is that this was the 3rd time I had raised a War of Austrian Succession/SYW in America French Army (once in 30mm, once in 15mm) and I had had enough. After nearly two years of dithering, I took the plunge this week and started partially repainting existing units into matched pairs of non-French troops.

First up was Rosmark's Queen's Foreign Brigade. One of the units was a light blue clad German unit whose actual name I have forgotten and La Reine.They can be seen in the background in the first picture, the Germans in pale blue with red cuffs and white small clothes, La Reine in white with red cuffs, blue vest, white pants, both with silver hat lace and self coloured turnbacks.

After 2 years of waffling, 24 hours sufficed to turn them into a 2 battalion regiment in medium blue with red cuffs, turnbacks and small clothes and white hat lace.  As much as possible of the original paint was left as is so they are still a little tatty looking but they are veteran soldiers with many victories and few defeats under their belts. The regiment is now the Queen's Foreign Regiment.    

The amalgamated Queen's Foreign Regiment in the new uniform.

That gives me 6 battalions in blue. Next up will be to convert the King's battalion to Red and then cast up and paint 4 more Red coated companies with yellow or green facings. That will give me 6 blue coated companies and 6 red coated companies with 2 more in white as fillers. Then maneuvers can begin.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

After thoughts (and during thoughts)

My main impression of the last 2 games is that they were very much like the games I was playing with my 54's 10 and more years ago except that I was finishing them in a very reasonable time, and that they were pretty much what I am looking for, for this sort of scenario.

54mm British assault the last stronghold on the Emir of Wadi Foulyam somewhere around 2003 

How well they will work in a more straight forward encounter between two regular armies, remains to be tested.

Miscellaneous thoughts in more or less random order:

  • Card Activation.  They old card activation still works well for this sort of game. This may, or may not, be one thing that needs adjustment for larger, more regular battles. If so I can always re-instate the initiative roll option so that's not a worry.
  • Chance Cards. Once again I was very happy with how they worked. I used the same 10 mixed with 10 blanks (this time shuffled more thoroughly)  and it seemed about the right mix. I will need more cards to choose from eventually so I can tailor the deck for each campaign and even have scenario specific ones. During the 12 turns played, the Rebels pulled one blunder to play on the enemy which they were unable to do, and 5 blanks. The Government pulled 3 cards allowing them to recover d6 casualties (they rolled a 6 but only had 3 eligible since they couldn't use it on the unit that was wiped out),i to fight an immediate 2nd round if a charge drew the first round (which the Royal Veterans used to drive the Rebels out of town after they rolled spectacularly well during the 1st round), and brought them an extra unit of reinforcements. (They didn't see action but made the already shaky Rebel position helpless). The missing card is due to the joker being last card one turn so that neither side drew a chance card.
  • Morale. The original MacDuff rules stipulated that if a unit fell below 1/2 strength then it had one chance to recover enough hits to rise to 1/2 strength or it had to leave the board. Sometimes units rallied too well but over all it worked. Some years ago I began to fret because in the campaigns that I was most interested in, very few units ever seemed to "leave the board" as it were, especially if not escorted to the door by an enemy charge.  I tried various modificatons, morale tests and so on, fussed to try to make sure that shaken units wouldn't be combat worthy and finally settled on having them rout if they lost a melee or hang around being useless if not. Then I started fretting that I couldn't reproduce those instances where units did rout, I think it was looking at Dettingen that brought it back to mind. I decided to just leave well enough alone.  Halfway through the game, however, I realized that I had subconsciously gone back to the old way of doing things. Worse, it was working better than the new way I had been trying to bring in.  So, I paused the game, fixed the morale rule, and carried on. So it is once again possible to break an enemy unit by fire but you will need, overwhelming numbers, overwhelming luck or a long time. It will never be automatic to rout a unit in melee if you beat it, unless you  wipe it out, so best keep the pressure on. 
  • Melee. It was a bit of a shock to find several melee situations where the regulars were attacking rebels at even odds due to a bit of cover or where the Rebels were at a -2 disadvantage and won or tied a melee but no tweaks are needed as that risk made the game more exciting. No automatic victory for being the big bad Imperial power.
  • Risk To Commanders. As a matter of habit, when a commander was with a unit which took casualties, I rolled for him with a '1' being lethal. It was near the end of the game that I remembered that I had deleted the rule. Since the 4 occasions on which I had to test result in 3 '1's being rolled and 3 leaders put out of action, one might have thought the deletion justified but it felt right that there be risk so I quietly  slipped the rule back into place. I also noted that I consistently forgot about the +1 to the melee score for a commander fighting in the front rank, not that any of them survived the defensive fire. The mechanism is not consistent with how the rules normally work and I suspect I would constantly be forgetting it so I deleted it and gave commanders back their personal bonus so that they are more likely to win their own fight and contribute to winning in that fashion.     
  • Game length. I played the game in several short sessions due to family calls on my time  but it took about 12 turns and at least 2 hours if not more. That surprised me since it was such a small game but it was never boring so I'm ok with it.I'm not sure more troops would have added much playing time as a lot of time was spent planning, look at the game and taking pictures. I suspect that as a 2 player uninterrupted game the 12 turns would have gone faster.
Various memorable incidents or aspects of the game.

  • The Faraway reinforcements rolling the turn number or less on 2d6, showed up on turns 3 and 6. The Rebels rolling on 1 die showed up on turn 2, 5,5 and 6.  Fickle things dice!
  • When the Rebel pikemen stormed the barricade, the defenders were at +2. The rebels lost 1, won 1 and tied 1, drawing the melee.  On the next turn if the Regulars went first they could have brought up reinforcements but the rebels went first charged back in again +2 for the Regulars who lost both rolls. The pikes pursued into the York volunteers rushing to the rescue and fought them with +1 for the regulars in the open. The regulars won 1, tied 1 and lost 2! The rebels pursued again, having to attack the armory rather than catching the broken survivors becuase of the 8" proximity rule or ZOC. In this attack, the defenders were +3 and tied 1, lost 1 and won 2, barely winning the battle!  Tense moments, I was picturing the Government reinforcements trying to recapture the town.
  • When the cavalry came on, rebels in ambush fired at long range needing 6 to hit on either of 2 dice. They got a hit then rolled a 1 to also get the commander. The Cavalry couldn't go past the rebels but weren't allowed into the woods so they fell back to go around a little wood near the town but by then there were rebels in the town. The 8" ZOC of the 2 enemy units overlapped so the cavalry was not allowed to go though or to attack either unit unless they dismounted. It seemed harsh but reasonable. Irregular cavalry would have been allowed into the woods. 
  • Later, the skirmishers came out of the woods and took a pot shot, 1 group at close range needing a 5, the other at long range needing a 6. A 5 and a 6 showed up in the right order. 25% casualties and the cavalry was forced to halt. Next turn they charged and the skirmishers chose to stand. They needed 2 hits to stop the charge and would in all likely-hood be ridden down if they didn't.  Needing 5's to hit, they rolled 2!  The cavalry fell back and spent 3 turns rallying.  When they came back the skirmishers didn't wait, just ran for cover. Just for fun I threw the dice to see what would have happened, in the 'never happened' charge, they missed when they shot and were wiped out in melee. I had been worried that the mostly light infantry rebel army would have no chance against cavalry but then added lots of terrain. Worked quite nicely. 
Part of me wants to complete the plan and finish the rebellion with a last stand game, (not saying it won't break out again later!) but part of me wants to switch up and get a 1/72 ACW Hearts of Tin battle on the table since that side of things has been  neglected of late, or else an Ancients game. 

Tomorrow is a Battlecry Colonial game at Ron's so afterwards, we'll see what's up.

The first Faraway game c 2001, MacDuff & 54mm in Grant's Island Battle.
The 2 John's Daniel who were commanding are off screen and that's Sylvia in the corner.   

The Blue River Rebellion: Assault on Brooklyn



Following on their spirited resistance to Government Forces, the rebels seem to be growing in numbers and confidence. Their latest move was a raid to plunder the Brooklyn Armory. We have this report from an eye witness. 

The town awaits attack. The rebel advance guard can be seen on the Belmont Road at the top. to the left is the road to Newport and to the right, the road to New Dundee.

On Saturday night a dusty courier arrived with news of the march of a strong column of rebels on the armory here in Brooklyn. Concern if not consternation was widespread amongst the citizens and many loaded their most precious possessions and headed for the coast. Colonel MacEachern, the senior officer, was cool as cucumber and quickly set about putting the town in a state of defence despite the small number of men at his disposal. Fortunately the usual company of guards was supplemented by a detachment of York Volunteers who had arrived that afternoon and by a company of sappers that had accompanied the Colonel. Messengers were sent to Newport requesting immediate reinforcement and work was started on barricades on the major roads. It was as well that the work was so readilt undertaken for fairly early on Sunday the rebel skirmishers appeared, first on the Belmont road to the east and shortly thereafter, on a small farm lane to the north.  

 The first rebel charge is held, just. Two casualties aside.

The rebels pushed forward and opened fire which our troops manfully returned. The main body however hung back while the party to the north disappeared into a small wood. It was almost like the rebels were waiting for something. When dust clouds appeared on the road to Newport, we feared that they had worked around and cut us off. Soon, however, lookouts on the buildings called down that they could see the flashes of bright bronze helmets. It was the Princess's Dragoons riding to our rescue! Huzzah! We were not abandoned or forgotten! The aproach of the Dragoons was like a signal, down the Belmont road rushed a mob of rebels brandishing pikes and muskets, yelling like fiends. The Ordinance Guards stood manfully to their barricades though outnumbered four to one. Their volley cut a swathe though the rebel ranks but on they came. Soon it was pike and bayonet on the barricades with  fierce hand to hand combat between redcoat and rebel. For one horrible moment it seemed like the rebel tide would sweep over the redcoat breakwater  but then they pulled back, just a little, as if to gather breath. Then, with a roar,  they charged again!

 Up and over!

The redcoats stood to their posts to the last but the rebel tide swept up and over. Down main street it surged, right over a company of York Volunteers and down to the armory where it beat upon the door like a hurricane. Manned by the sappers, the doors held and eventually the tide faltered and then ebbed as the rebels ran back down the street leaving the bodies of their comrades to mark their path.


The first rebel assault may have been held, but the battle was not over. As the pikemen were rallied by their leader, mister, now General, George Black, their skirmishers came darting forward, taking over the  houses on the Eastern end of the town. In the distance we could see the Dragoons wheel in column of troops and trot forward towards the rallying pikemen, the famous Flowerdew riding ahead of them, flourishing his sword. Slowly the horror dawned on us, they couldn't see the rebels in the wood !  A sudden volley rang out and Flowerdew was thrown from his horse! The squadron was thrown into disorder and soon trotted back the way it had come leaving bodies strewn on the field behind them. From the wood came a line of skirmishers running for the northen end of the town, while yet more skirmishers filled the fields behind them, hardened woodsmen and hunters rather than farmers by the look of them.  Suddenly from the South came fresh musket fire!

The Southern Column storms the barricades.

It is perhaps typical of how the amateur nature of the rebel forces that the second attack should have only been delivered after the first had been repulsed, or maybe life's dice fell in our favour. In any event, the attack from the south followed much the same course as the one from  the east. Their skirmishers came forward, keeping up a hot fire. Initially, the barricades on the south were manned by a single company of the York Volunteers, the odds were 24 to 4 but the Volunteers stood firm. The first attack was met and thrown back but it had been close and casualties were heavy.

The second repulse of the Southern Column.

Luckily for us,  chance (cards) favour the brave and the rest of the Volunteers had rallied from their earlier defeat, even the wounded returning to the ranks and now rushed to the aid of their comrades, arriving in time to repulse the second Rebel charge. 

A fierce and accurate fire from the Hunters throws back the Dragoons.

From the north, the steady beat of a drum announced the arrival of the Royal Veterans. Despite their age, these veteran soldiers must have stepped lively to arrive so early in the day. As the Veterans neared the town, the Dragoons rode forward but again  a heavy but accurate fire threw them into confusion and they rallied back to a safe distance to reform.

As the Veterans marched into town, the rebel skirmishers seized the houses on the north side and poured  a hot fire into them. Wheeling sharply into line, the Veterans fired a crashing volley, lowered their bayonets and charged. Fierce hand to hand combat raged in the yards and alleys and at one moment, against all odds, it seemed like the Veterans might have to pull back but their officers urged them on (ed "I'll try sir" chance card) and they fell to their work again and chased the last rebels from the town. In the end, the Veterans could barely muster 1/2 their men but they had retaken the North-Western corner of the town and dispersed the Rebels who had held it.

The rebels had been badly shaken but Victory for them was still possible. Their columns reformed and stormed down the streets but without the numbers and vigour of the earlier assaults and all their attacks were thrown back easily. To the North, as the reformed Dragoons trotted purposefully forward towards the rebel skirmish line, confident that the eerily accurate shooting of the enemy could not be repeated a third time and that the enemy must flee into the woods or be cut down. Behind them a bugle call rang out and a column of Victoria Rifles trotted down the road and into view! How they came there when they had spent the last night at Belmont on the far side of the rebel lines was a mystery to us. They must have marched all night but their arrival turned the tide irrevocably.  

The final defeat of the rebels.

It was the last straw, the masses were dispersed and now the Rebel skirmishers faded back into the woods. In 15 minutes there were only the dead and dying, the broken glass and a wafting smell of smoke to show that they had ever been here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Preparing for the Gathering Storm

Spruce beer! Two bits! Officers of the Brooklyn Garrison refresh themselves. 

Its been a busy few days at Base Camp but most of my 1812 British, all of the Rebels and some of the Americans and 1837 troops are back on washers. I even invested $10 in another 2 lbs of washers which is about 200. Enough to finish the rest of the 1837, Oberhilse and American troops. I also re-tested an 8 man proto-movement stand  and it will still hold the troops at very steep angles (see a test of a 4 man stand 2 years ago).

There was a moment when I wavered and almost fell back on a larger establishment but after a break, common sense returned and I carried on. The new establishment for line infantry will be 2 officers including an ensign with a colour, a sergeant, 4 grenadiers and 9 privates. That's  a little light in privates  but as often as possible the unit will have 14 bayonets which is all that will matter. There will also be a drummer who won't count for combat or morale.

Once I had my fill of basing, I turned my mind to a scenario. I had been thinking of rebels trying to hold off government forces while they prepare a bridge for demolition but that felt too much like the last game, another delaying action. I decided to go for an attempt by rebels to seize a local militia armory including a 6-pounder canon. adlibbing, I put.together a village at a crossroads then surrounded it with fields and woods.  This was going to be a tough nut for the rebels, especially since reinforcements would include Dragoons which they would have little defence against if caught in the open. Best to keep government forces to a minumum, Here's what I ended up with:


On table, East Road

General Isaac Black
1 x 8 militia light infantry
1 x 16 militia infantry 1/2 pike, 1/2 musket

Arriving on a score of 1d6 <= the turn number, dice for arrival 1-4 South, 5,6 North.

Col. Pulanski
1 x 16 militia infantry with muskets
2 x 8 militia light infantry with muskets
1 x 8 veteran irregular light infantry with musket


In Belmont.

Col. R MacEachern, Engineer and OC Brooklyn Defence.
1 Company Sappers (1 x 4 sappers with musket)
1 Company Ordinence Corps (1x4 infantry with musket)
1 Battalion York Rangers (1 x 8 Lt Inf with muskets. split into 2 detachments)
3 Barricades. The Armoury counts as a fortified building and contains muskets, powder and at least one 6 pounder cannon barrel and carriage..

Arriving on the south-west road on a score of 2d6 <= turn number.

Col. Flowerdew
Princess Charlotte Dragoons (1x8 Elite Cavalry)

Brigadier Topper.
Royal Veterans (1 x 16 Infantry w muskets)

Battle Report tomorrow.

A big thank you to the officially anonymous person who arranged the gift  of the Sash & Saber Sutleress pictured above and the yet to be painted eccentric officers. Much appreciated. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Belated Post Game Rules Thoughts

When I re-assembled MacDuff, I didn't need to come up with any new rule ideas, I just sifted through the various versions picking the things that I liked best. I was fairly confident that the result would give a fine game, and it did, but I didn't expect the first draft to be perfect, and it wan't. By and large it was fairly small things that affected the flow of the game, or the player experience or affected the story line in ways that I wasn't happy with. In the past these aspects of a set of rules were part of the design criteria but at times they have taken a back seat to the historical aspects.  Rather than rush in, I decided to ponder each of the things that irked me or which I had arbitrarily over ruled during the game.

Here are the main ones:

Fire and Movement. For most of its existence, MacDuff has penalized troops that fired and moved.  In part this was instinctive reasoning (as in time spent shooting is not spent moving and vice versa), and  in part it was one of those "designed to encouraged certain historical tactics" things which didn't work  but largely it was habit acquired during years of playing games where this was the norm.

The downside of movement penalties is that they slow the progress of the game, making it longer  When we  look at the theoretical basis of fir and movement penalties which by necessity involve time and ground scales and interaction of active and inactive units, it become quickly obvious that the reasoning is largely bogus and the penalty if any should be much smaller than the 1/2 that  I was using, perhaps 10% or less. The real trouble was that troops that started firing tended to stall rather than pressing home an assaut. I have tried various ways to try to reproduce this with varying results, none of them worth the effort for a game. At the end of the day, either the attack will succeed or it won't.

The actual reason why I re-instated the fire and 1/2 move rule had  nothing to do with any of those original reasons though. It was to stop a player from leapfrogging 2 units through each other allowing each to fire, like the scene in John Wayne's the Alamo after the cattle raid, or in Zulu where they drive the Zulus out of the compound after the final attack. Works for skirmish lines in movies, not so much I think for close order troops on a battlefield. I had tried to come up with a simple  way to say "don't do this" but finally settled on 1/2 move to move pass through friends and 1/2 move to fire, thus making the two incompatible. I was caught off guard during the  game when I suddenly remembered that I had brought it back. I played the rest of the game way but didn't like it and have now removed the 1/2 move to shoot and rewritten the Passae of lines rule to essentially say that if you move through friends you can't shoot afterwards and if you shoot, you can't move through friends unless you are running away.

Rallying. I had carefully thought out the factors for rallying and in theory, they were and still are right. In the middle of the game, having absolutely no chance to rally a rebel unit because there was only 1 leader and he was on the other side of the board, just didn't feel right. One option would have been more leaders, another would have been to remember that there had been a late modification to the chart to give +1 if no enemy were in sight. What I did was to say "what the heck, get a guy back on a 6". Much easier, unlikely to allow militia  to recover consistently and a good story if they do roll a fist full of 6's not to mention feeling better as a player to have some chance. That led me to look at the factors again, several of them either almost always apply or almost never apply and the extra effort of trying to arrange/avoid them isn't worth the loss of ease of play. The chart has been stripped down so that the only modifiers are elite/militia and the presence of a General/band. So maybe some militia will rally and maybe some regulars will lose stragglers. Adds excitement.

Fortified Targets. I don't know if this was an oversight or I thought there was a reason but I had removed the extra protection for being fired at when you were fortified as opposed to in partial or improvised cover. I put it back mid game when the government troops came up against rebels in a fortified stone house..

Melee. I could tell there was something wrong with the melee, for one thing, while I had meant to make it more deadly and decisive that the original, it was now too deadly and decisive. I had a hard time pinning the reason down at first and then once I had, I had a hard time deciding which way to jump. The original melee was much closer to Charge!, when opposing figures diced off, they had to beat the enemy by more than 1 pip, (meaning more ties) and the over all result included the effects of defensive fire. On the other hand, I allowed an immediate 2nd round in case of a tie.

Once I had introduced the possibility  to stop a charge with defensive fire, it seemed too much to also allow it to count towards winning the melee. It had to be one or the other. The temptation was to go back to the old way but stopping a charge makes more sense to me than saying, for example, "those Zulus were repulsed by your fire but still manged to stab 4 of your guys".

Ok so what about the only having to beat by 1? Its certainly deadlier as well as easier to explain to new players, the problem seemed to be that the modifiers became magnified and having 2 rounds meant units were too easily wiped out. A +2 advantage was always good but the low side only had to beat the throw by 1 to tie and the high side had to at least tie the low side to win so it didn't lead to the same sort of mass slaughter that I saw last weekend.  This effect was enhanced by the 2nd round, in two cases, the rebels got lucky and tied a  melee  only to be slaughtered wholesale in the 2nd round as rear ranks came up. The simplest solution seemed to be to borrow from the current HofT and not allow an immediate 2nd round. So now the attacker falls back an inch, either side can charge on their next turn or stand back and shoot or run away for that matter. In any case, a tie will mean delay and a chance to survive another turn and maybe even be rescued.

Once I did that, it meant that all melees involved one side or both charging so I looked at which charge factors were really necessary if I didn't need to differentiate between impact and melee if you will. That led me to look again at the bonus for charging without firing which was always dodgy as there are some circumstances where that was the better tactic just like there were other cases where stopping to fire was wrong. That led me in turn to look at charging fortifications, one of the places where firing was bad. As the rules stood, grenadiers escalading a fortress without firing would be even odds against defending regulars and so on.  Rather than add yet more complicated factors, I decided to just drop it. Troops can't fire in the middle of a move or while in contact so to get a shot in, you'll have to march up close anyway. As for cavalry, I finally just added a ban on cavalry shooting and charging. So now the melee chart has fewer modifiers and there is only 1 round.

In game terms, none of these things would have made a big difference, perhaps delaying victory by a turn but I think the game is better for them. The updated rules are available at the left.

Word has it that Faraway troops will be back on Sunday to take another stab at suppressing the rebellion.