This is one of the seasons of the year when hobby time is reduced due to higher priorities, gardening, yardwork, repairs and renovations and so on, so things are effectively stalled here. My room is only 1/2 back to rights, I need to sculpt new Faraway units before I can add them, I'm not quite sure what I want the games to look/feel like apart from the individual toy soldier part (ACW battle? Colonial skirmish? Franco-Prussian bloodbath? etc). To avoid complete stagnation, I decided to look and see what I can do in short bits of time to keep things going and maintain morale. I don't really NEED more Oberhilse troops at the moment, but I've had a Zinnbrigade marching Prussian for years now and had yet to vent his rifle and paint some up. Seemed as good a place to start as any. But what did the Oberhilse uniform of the day look like?
I briefly considered various colours such as grey or blue and drab but decided that the traditional dark & light blue was still best. Grabbing the figures who had tested various drab or blue with drab uniforms last year I started experimenting. First up was the 1890's American dress uniform with white facing patches but something about it just looked too 1900 parade ground-ish. I flipped through books looking at various Italian, Austrian, South American and other countries who wore either dark/light blue combo's or spiked helmets.
Oberhilse uniform trials.
Switching gears I acknowledged that I would like to be able to include some ACW troops into the Oberhilse forces and that I would prefer something more 1860's-ish than 1880's-ish. I tried a plain ACW style blue sack coat with plain light blue trousers and black leather belts but the dressy helmet looked out of place. I then started playing with shapes and types of facings.
The existing Blue Guards wear red facings and piping with slashed cuffs but red is supposed to be the Oberhilse artillery colour. It is just possible the the uniforms were originally meant for the Prussian army but the official story is that initially the artillery was the only regular forces maintained by Oberhilse and technically the Blue Guard was the artillery guard not the republican guard, Fusiliers in British terms.
So light blue facings for line units and since facings and trousers looked plain, I added white piping. I also decided to see what a felt helmet would look like instead of leather, after all both British and US forces went this route with blue felt helmets. Soon the figure started to look right, a bit like an 1880's British toy soldier but in blue.
I was curious about the possibilities of converting the spiked helmets to sun helmets so I lopped the spike off another figure and did him in white helmet and puttees. I liked the result but he definitely looks later, skirmish lines rather than closed ranks. He also looks more like a British artilleryman in Egypt than an Oberhilse soldier fighting Atlantican tribesmen. I picture the latter in slouch hats. So I'll tuck him away for future possibilities.
So now I have 8 marching figures cast up, one under way as a sample, the rest waiting to be cleaned up and de-sprued. I still need to decide if I want to go more Little Wars-ish with long lines of riflemen taking cover or stay more ACW ish but I can press on with painting when I have a few minutes. I think I'll go with the black leather helmet though, just to keep them looking not too early or too British/American. The latter point is becoming important as I think it will be easier to make terrain if I'm not too concerned with getting a consistent 1860's North American look.
Once I get my table up, it'll be time to test sub-eras. If, as looks likely, I end up with lots of breechloaders, I'll need to think about the effects and look closer at some sort of pinning rules and take a good look at timing of fire vs movement to make sure I capture the difficulties of moving forward under heavy fire. It may call for a change to reaction fire or be worked into pin rules.
Under the Square Brigadier where a unit is a unit and there are no guarantees of getting any hits, I might rule that any hits pin a unit. Units deployed as skirmishers and supports would still suffer 1/2 casualties but a single hit which is rounded down and dropped would still pin. A whole turn would be required to rally thus allowing the unit to be shot at before it moves again.
Using Hearts of Tin where there are more stands and thus more dice and more hits, I might need to work on a basis of 1 hit per stand to pin or perhaps hits = morale will pin (2 for militia etc). In MacDuff 25% causes a unit to be shaken but it lifts automatically at the end of the turn. Either that needs to change or perhaps stopping and going prone when fired on needs to be put in as a reaction for some units.
or something else.
This question also affects the look and organization of the toys. 24 figures in 2 close order ranks is not going to look right for 1870 despite any claim that it represents skirmishers and supports, 12 in 1 rank for deployed troops might work, 2 ranks for close order or 3x4 for column..
Lastly a shout out to Henry Hyde for the June 2013 issue of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames, one of the top issues yet of either magazine (IMO), and to Bill Haggert for a great article on history and game design. There's more good stuff in the issue but I haven't finished reading yet!
Bill's article is a response of sorts to my article in the last Battlegames and is spot on. Unfortunately, while people have picked up and commented on various points in my article, it seems like pretty well no-one noticed that my main point was intended to be about gamers being encouraged/allowed to explore the history themselves. Even I have trouble recognizing that when I go back and reread so it seems I need to revisit and practice my college writing skills before the next article. Luckily there is inspiration and encouragement to do it!