Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

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

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recce at Newboyne

An illustration from a 1960's book on wargaming? or perhaps just a computer fiddled shot of my table. Odd how the river disappears. Green, Blue, who cares? Makes you wonder what you might have missed on old TV shows or pictures in magazines and books.

After the successful ACW game I decided to push on with the later 19thC Atlantican exploration. Clearing the table and resetting the scene was easy but then I was stuck. Still, one has to start somewhere and since I had been saying "Toy Soldier" and the figures were individually based, I broke out Big Wars by Stuart Asquith and Jack Alexander and laid out the table.

Some aspects looked right as I reread the rules which I had only played once about 15 years ago. Other aspects just didn't seem to fit the nebulous "something" that I had in mind, A 20" wide skirmish line of riflemen? No Brigadiers, no command mechanism, and artillery that looks nearly harmless?

The next obvious candidate was to break out MacDuff which was originally written for just this era although for British vs natives rather than well armed & disciplined foes. This is the game seen above with units of 12 infantry  or 6 skirmishers or cavalry. Rather alarmingly, the game began with the Queen's artillery landing a salvo on to the newly painted 6th Infantry causing 3 hits! YIKES! Enough to cause them to halt shaken. However the also newly painted Colonel Kelinck galloped over and steadied the troops allowing them to march on.

  Artist's impression of the 6th Infantry marching stolidly forward under fire. The incident actually occurred more than a foot to the rear.

So far so good, it was plain that this would work. Of course it was also clear that despite the increased firepower of the infantry, it was going to feel a lot like the 1840's games, enough  so as to make me wonder "why bother?".  There is a limit to how often I can replay a given scenario in a short time frame so I stopped right there to consider things.

Having just enjoyed the HofT ACW game, my mind went back to the dozen or so enjoyable 40mm HofT games from when I played through the Red Book, a game a week, (such as Scenario 5 Urban Area, Scenario 8 Vital Bridge , Scenario 15 Forlorn Hope and so on. After a few minutes spent quelling the urge to pop the washers off and restore the old 4 figure company bases which, after all, are still in the drawer and would reduce the unit foot print by more than 25%, I turned my attention back to the over all goals and attempted to identify the real issues.

The first goal, which is becoming more clear, is to give each period/scale/collection (I don't like the term "project" as it implies a finite goal vs an open process, amongst other things.) its own unique feel beyond the figures themselves.  For example, my 1/72 ACW are on 40mm wide bases with 3 or 4 being a regiment, the same as my Atlantican armies were originally except they were 40 or 50mm deep rather than 30mm. If I had stuck with that scheme when I realized that the planned armies wouldn't fit on the smaller table I was going to have to use and revised the armies instead, I might be doing ACW HofT with 40mm Scruby figures now but I like having at least one set of armies that does not dwarf the scenery or over crowd the table so the 1/72nd will stay for the foreseeable future.

MacDuff was written for large skirmishes and very small battles and regardless of how many figures are used, thats what the games feel like. Swapping muskets for rifles won't make the games feel different enough to make me want to build all new armies. I could just add some later uniforms but the smaller MacDuff games actually tend to be more fun than the large ones, especially if playing solo. (It might be a units per player thing.) I think I'm looking for something that doesn't feel like a large skirmish though, hence the temptation to go Hearts of Tin.

My card table game downstairs is also pending. I'm just not sure what I want to use it for. I am fairly certain now that I don't want it to be just a small version of an upstairs game using the same armies. So its back to some sort of distinctly grid-like game with its own unique terrain. I'm just not sure what.It might actually be best if I reduce the squares to 2" to give more options. In any event while I had considered the later 19thC toys for a gridded game, I don't see that happening in 40mm as I want room for a touch of VSF and its too hard squeezing big vehicles on a small grid.

So what was I picturing really? Eventually I thought again about that 2006 Morschauser/Shambattle game where I really fell in love with the glossy old toy style 40's and simple games.

Richard Larsen's game at Enfilade 2006. 

The rules were all of 1/2 a page but of course if there had been any explanation of anything at all they would have been at least a full page if not two.  The real point though wasn't the rules per se, it was that the focus of the game seemed to be lifted by the lack of detail and fussiness and the game felt like a much bigger battle than it was and over all battle plans trumped the doings of individual units. Despite the absence of "trays" for the 4 man "Basic Units" the influence of Morschauser shone through just as it does in Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame.  Maybe I'll dig Dick's 1/2 page rules out or, if not, at least see just how far down I can strip things down and still have fun.


  1. Not a rules man myself, so I'll restrict myself to the pictures! That first photo man, what heretofore unknown wargaming publication was is from? :^)

    Good to see the 6th acquitting themselves well under fire.


    1. I think it might have been from "Unfinished Wargames".

      I'm glad I gave the 6th a 2nd coat of varnish, seems to have helped.

  2. What is it with the gods of the wargames table? You just knew that the 6th would have a terrible baptism of fire! But they hung on - fine chaps!

    1. At least they're past it now. And they say pretty uniforms don't help!

  3. The 6th look very smart, great to see them on the table. I never tire of seeing photos of the Richard Larsen game, a beau ideal for me.

    As regards the card table games, I wouldn't myself be comfortable using 40s on such a small space, but I'm sure that's probably just narrow and conventional thinking.

    I feel the same about the word 'project'; I suppose 'period' has to do as an alternative, although it's not quite right.

  4. I think the card table is best served as something very abstract or very small. I seemed to enjoy the couple of 40mm games played on it but I'm having difficulty coming up with scenarios and am not sure its worth the effort. Without buying 10's I think some work on terrain/troops/rules could produce a workable 20mm game but probably something for next year.