Monday, April 14, 2014

and it cuts like a knife

Yesterday's forecast sun turned to rain and I retreated upstairs to play out the game which was laid out.
"Well drummer, we'll show those savages what for eh?"
To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much, quite apart from the minimalist terrain, simple situation and the dodgy condition of many of the more senior participants, the Square Brigadier wasn't written for skirmishes on the prairie. I wonder if I was secretly hoping it would fail?

Anyway, I soldiered on. The Cree (or is that Atlantican?) leader, not being a warchief,  was confined to camp but due to his extraordinary power over his people he was granted a +1 to his command rolls. He was able to muster a grand total of 6 sharp shooter units. The clumps of bushes on the table marked the line of a series of coulees or gullies filled with brush that were used by the Indians and Metis for cover during the campaign.

To reflect the inexperience and make shift nature of the opposition, the Canadian (or Faraway) Commander had no modifier and no subordinates to help control his 9 units: 7 infantry, 1 gun, 1 hospital wagon. I wanted a unit of mounted rifles but the bits and pieces I cast up 2 years ago are still bits and pieces. Officially this was a Reconnaissance in Force but secretly there were hopes of routing the hostiles.  I had meant to give command to Colonel Beaver in his spiffy white helmet but somehow General Centerville showed up in his plumed hat and took command without me noticing.
"So far so good, the boys are looking steady. Whatever is taking the rest so long to come up?"
The game started off well enough, it was a little tricky keeping the column together and moving on 1 orders die so eventually an advance guard was sent ahead the seize the high ground over looking the hostile camp and soon a brisk firefight was under way with honours even.

To my dismay the rules were actually doing a very good job. The Indians hiding in the brush could be driven back but not seriously hurt without closing in on them. The soldiers on the hill had to periodically pull back into dead ground because the return fire was so hot.  Just like the soldiers' experience during the NW Rebellion.

Then the gun deployed and had the punch to do serious damage, unfortunately, because of the terrain, the only way to bring fire to bear was to deploy on the edge of the hill where they were exposed to rifle fire. The gunners began to suffer but the Indians also began working around the flanks. Again, both things as happened during two of the historical engagements.

Also as in history, the battle became a long drawn out exchange with no decisive results on either side. Politics and the perceived need to avoid casualties was the deciding tactical factor on both sides.

"For Gosh Sake, BRING UP THE GUNS! We're being slaughtered up here."
By this time it was turn 24! With only a handful of units and 1 leader a side, the turns were flying by, sometimes  in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes but while there were some tense moments it was an interesting rather than an exciting game. 

There were also some small issues that I had noticed in the previous 2 games so I decided that 3 games was enough to allow a little tweaking. One was to modify the 'to hit' scores slightly, the other was to rule that troops cannot rally within 3 areas of visible enemy rather  than just not being adjacent. These means  that a commander has to pull units out of the line to rally them and by inference means he needs a reserve to plug the gaps. While the rules were opened I added a prone rule that I had been playing with, after all my Britain's collections does include prone figures! I also added a hospital rule since they were originally added to my other rules for my Britain's collection and I had been using it during this game. As always there were a few other clarifications and lapses dealt with. Then I got stuck back in.
"That's better they're retreating....or maybe going around our flank??? Look out back there!"
The tweaked rules did help to make things more decisive and slightly less dice dependent but it was also the situation coming to a head that made the last 10 turns the most exciting. The crucial bit didn't get sketched of course but you can  see the final result below. 

Luckily Buckmaker stopped the pursuit for political reasons but the morning papers back east are going to be grim. Its going to be hard to disguise this one as a victory once the casualty list comes out, 20 men dead, seriously wounded or missing out of a force of less than 300. At least they didn't lose the gun or the wagons, but they came damn close. Admittedly there were some casualties amongst the Indians but despite claims to the contrary the rebellion in this corner has not been dealt a fatal blow. (3 stands of Canadian troops eliminated vs 1 Cree, 50 men per stand today and roughly 25% of lost stands are killed, wounded or missing so just very slightly higher than the casualties in the historical action this game wasn't based on,...)
"Close up men! Load the wounded in the wagon. Save the guns! Drummer! Beat retreat!"
OK, I guess it was just as well I didn't bin the lot when I decided to restrict myself to 40mm. This was about the mimimum size of game but its pretty well all of my Indians. The original idea when they landed in my lap was to add an equal number of Metis to make a decent larger game. I also need some mounted troops, mounted rifles essentially.  Now the Royal Grenadiers didn't actually wear their bearskins in the field when they went west and none of the Highland units were sent so the gunners and Queen's Own Rifles are the only units that look right and even there, there is evidence that slouch hats were worn by many including regulars. Not a problem, print the legend and use what I got. I still have a small supply of pill box heads and molds for grenadiers and highlanders as well as for a mounted officer as well as a few Soldierpac castings and lots of broken figures for conversions. I could of course call on Dorset or London Bridge but I'm going to try to do this at 0 new dollars and I'm only looking at 12 x 4 infantry, 1 gun, 3 x 4 cavalry and maybe a gatling at some point. As much as I like the limber, it'll have to stay on the shelf, even after I get it fixed up. 

That still leaves a pile of 54mm metal on shelves and cupboards. This is going to take a firm hand to keep them in check! The main idea though, as I go through and assess, is to minimize  new casting, purchases and painting until all of the current projects are up to scratch  so if I have a 100 54's almost ready vs 4 40mm's for a new campaign, I'll go with the 54's. That should allow me to concentrate more on the somewhat stagnant Atlantican campaign which has been trying to decide whether or not to go 1880's. 

The updated rules are here. Hopefully they will be tested some more tomorrow with the 20mm lads, or the 54mm Zulus, or both.

 (btw the title of the post has nothing to do with Bryan Adam's song although it did feel so right)


  1. What's that, camels in Canada!? The Northwest frontier? Yukonistan?

    Sounds like a fun game. Too bad the rules are working so well.

    1. Yes major distraction.

      There have been a lot of immigrants but doesn't quite look right does it. I'm trying hard not to be tempted into recreating the old Emir of Wadi Foulyam's armies using different figures.

  2. Enjoyed your battle report, Ross. Not quite a glorious day for Canadian arms, eh ? Nice to see the 54mm's in action, I have a soft spot for those charging Highlanders which were my first ever box of Britains as a kid.

    1. Amongst my first metal Britain's as well though I only had 2. When I decided to buy some recast 15 years ago, my surviving had his rifle repaired, was repainted and promoted to sergeant.

  3. Sounds like a fun game indeed.I do so like the mounted general in picture number one.I will be interested to try your rule amendments out...

  4. Ross Mac,

    It sounds as if your rules have reached a point where they produce reasonably realistic results and yet are simple and quick to use. Can that be bettered?

    It was a very interesting battle report, and the sight of so many 54mm-scale traditional soldiers being used to fight a battle that did not use LITTLE WARS or FUNNY LITTLE WARS was truly inspiring.

    Here's to more of the same.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob, I'm still finding things to tweak as I try new troop types and situations but I'm very happy with them, and with the prospect of multiple mini-collections to choose a game from.