Thursday, May 29, 2014
The problem came when I left the computer for a very thin section of the bookshelves, the Ottoman Turks. The more i think about it, the odder that is but there just doesn't seem to be that many useful books on the Ottoman army, especially during the 16th C when it was expanding so powerfully. Luckily several of the booklets I've had on the 18th/19th Century Ottomans included a fair amount on the early Turks, no doubt because they also had trouble finding things. A few years ago I eagerly bought a good solid book on the Jannisaries but it turned out to barely touch on military aspects and pretty much avoided anything about their campaigns. Anyway, eventually I remembered that I hadn't read Oman's chapters on the Ottomans for years and had usually rushed through them to get to "the good stuff".
This is where I started to get into trouble. I read and reread the bits on the siege and on the Ottomans generally and then found myself rereading the Italian Wars stuff. OK, its related, and I have a bunch of suitable figures already. It was when I found myself plotting out figure requirements for Spanish Colunnas, I stopped. Not saying I won't do big chunks of the Italian Wars in 40mm skirmish, siege and the big battles, but not this year. Back to figuring numbers and organization for a Turkish army, not to/mention rules. I have various problems with each of the pike and shot rules I've read or played over the years, especially for 40mm figures for games ranging from a skirmish to a sortie to a pitched battle and committed to my current basing. More on that another day.
In the meantime I have been reworking the prototype Azab. The original one had a bottom half that was too thick and puffy as well as a heavily bearded face that was too big, broad and flat. Its still not a great figure but its looking better. The beard will be replaced by a mustache since it seems to have been more common and its easier to add a beard from putty than to remove a cast on beard. After that two things are left to do, raise his arm and shoulder so that he is shooting upwards or deflecting hits from above while storming a fortress wall, and add a scimitar and better bow.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
|Elastolin Turks and Landsknechts.|
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
|Traffic Jam on the way to Fort MacDuff|
On Friday we hit the road again, arriving in Portland mid afternoon. We were expecting Rob Dean to be waiting but mother nature combined with what I see as typical airline efficiency to see him finally arrive about 7 hours later than anticipated with me waiting at the airport while he took the shuttle to the hotel. Ah well. All's well as ends well.
Gary had preregistered for a game, viking raid or pirates can't remember now which was Friday night, but Rob and I just did the rounds checking out what was going on then got deep into discussing joint plans.
|Escorting Maid Marion past a notorious band of outlaws, or at least that was the plan.|
Pausing for a second it was a real pleasure over the course of the weekend to see such a wide range of ages, interests and game styles and a number of female gamers as well as the masses of male ones. There is hope for the future of the hobby yet.
After a quick break for a bite and an eye break, I got setup for Drums Along the Mohawk. It turned out I did have the bigger table which was great. Since I had failed to get organized in time to stage a full multi-player test game in addition to the 2 player Google Hangout game on a 4x5 table, I was relying on past experience that it would all hang together with 8 players around a 9x6 table.
The game involved 3 parties of settlers fleeing toward a fort for refuge after being alerted to the approach of Loyalist and Indian raiding parties. The settlers (rebel/ patriot depending on your POV) each had 2 wagons each with 4 combatants and several noncombatants and 2 companies of 8 veteran militia/iregulars as escorts. Apart from the garrison and an artillery piece the fort had a company of rifles and one of infantry that could sortie once a convoy could be seen to be in trouble. There were 4 raiding parties, all of 3 "companies" of 8. Two were of Western or Wild Indians, one was a mix of Tories and Mohawks that had been expelled from the Valley, the last was comprised of Royal Highland Emigrants, many also from the valley and some Germans sent down from Montreal. The wagons had about 6 feet to travel. The raiders each had an area of about 2 feet of wooded table edge to enter on but rolled to bring troops on with the odds improving until automatic arrival on turn 6.
The Montreal column pressed the settlers hard and twice came within a hair's breadth of caturing the wagons Early on I regretted making the Grenadiers shock troops since it looked like they might over run the opposition with bayonet charge after bayonet charge without a pause for breath but while some ran, other farmers stood firm and shot straight, repulsing them and in the end the last surving grenadiers broke and ran. The jaegers were contained by the Rebel riflemen leaving the last 2 Highlanders to watch from a safe distance as the wagons rolled toward the fort. So much for the legendary luck of young gamers.
At the end of the day the fleeing settlers took heavy losses but 5 out of 6 wagons made it to safety with food for the winter and seeds for the spring planting. More importantly, I again had the pleasure of running a game with a great bunch of gamers, polite, fair minded, smart, companionable and every thing a GM could wish for. It was especially good to see some familiar faces, I hope to see some of them again next year.
|My undisciplined, low morale levies and Nobles try their best to look like Hussars and trained infantry.|
Saturday evening I managed to squeek into a game of Fire and Sword. This is another set of rules that I had wanted to check out but more than that Sienkewitz's (sp?) Trilogy has been one of my favorite works of literature and Pan Zagloba and Pan Yan heroes since I was introduced to With Fire and Sword by a Classics Illustrated Comic when I was knee high to something. Minifig Winged Hussars were amongst my first metal wargame figures.
The game was a fantastic spectacle with tons of colourful troops on wonderful terrain but there are much better photos on the web than any that I took with my smart phone. (Mind you I'm pretty happy with what I took. Really must add more light to my room. ) Check out the link below.
The rules were fine with a lot of conventional, well proven mechanics along with a few new twists. In many ways a classic OS approach where you just pretend you are commanding real troops, I'd happily play them again but doubt that I would buy a copy unless I didn't want to write my own. Over all it was an enjoyable evening of gaming with a great bunch of guys. Thanks and Kudos to the group that built and tested the game. I'll keep an eye out for what they do next year.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
At least google didn't shut me out of my log like they did the Steadfast Tin Soldier. For those like me who enjoy Tony's blog and for those who haven't yet discovered it, it can now be found at http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.ca .
Back to the game. While the Red Queen's cavalry was hammering at the Oberhilse Field Force, the rest of the Blue infantry was crossing farther downstream, right in front of the artillery. By the time Blue decided that the guns would have been much better employed on the far right flank, there was not enough time, space or orders available. In one of those odd quirks that make one wonder, the harder the Blue bridgehead was pounded, the worse the order dice got so that some of the Volunteers were lined up by the boats but effectively refusing to get in! Queenston Heights all over again! While they wavered, the Blue Guards and Green Tigers hammered each other. The Tigers blinked first after their Brigadier went down but the mere colour party of the Guards that was left had to be pulled out of the line anyway.
With the arrival of Red's 3rd column their attacks intensified. The Zouaves were finally worn down by a concentrated barrage and despite being reinforced by the remnant of the Guards, were driven out by a bayonet charge of the Royal Veterans. New cavalry regiments threw them selves onto the mass of Blue infantry in the center to pin them while the Royal Fusiliers drove back the handful of the 1st Infantry that was all that was left of the O.F.F or Zinn's Brigade. Suddenly it was over and what was left of the Blue army on Red's shore were rushing for the boats. (Army morale level was reached).
Any other comment will have to wait I have a wargame to attend to roughly 1,000 km and 1 country south of here.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
This game would have been an excellent candidate for a Newport Noodle article but the iron is no longer hot and I have had too much to do. Quite apart from taking advantage of Goldilocks weather before I go away, I am in the final stages of preparing the AWI game for Huzzah. Rebasing, a few extra figures painted, Quick Reference sheets and Chance Cards all done and packed. I just have to do my ground cloth and some briefing notes and of course pack incidentals like clothes and passport. Only 2 days and a wake up till departure.
So what follows has been typed in short spurts over 3 or 4 days and may be a bit more disjointed than intended.
|Princess Charlotte's Dragoons ride over yet another Oberhilse square, taking a stand of colours.|
|The 2nd Column arrives complete with scatter die equipped Rocket Battery.|
|The 1st Infantry begins its ordeal as Brigadier Zinn takes yet another wound.|
Thursday, May 8, 2014
There's been an almost unprecedented run of things like an entire day without rain, a broken kitchen drain for me to replace and umh 2 naval games at Ron's.
|The merchantmen in the foreground are 2d printed cutouts.|
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Of course now I can think of 1/2 dozen better ideas for MacDuff but its too late the change the game before Huzzah and keeping in mind my desire to reduce the breadth of my collecting and solo playing, I am officially retiring MacDuff after Huzzah. He has had his day. HofT no longer deals with the 18thC at all and after quashing an urge to do an 18th C version I have decided to stick with 1 set of 18thC rules: Charge!. More on that and the AWI and the 1775 Quebec campaign another time.
Meanwhile, here are some of the Bugbears that I have wrestled with over and over when trying to get Hearts of Tin (and MacDuff) working the way I want.
1. Extreme Events. These are the famous, rare things, like the British Guards supposedly routing the French Guards at Fontenoy with a single volley, the breaking of squares by cavalry, the panic of the Spanish right at Talevera by mistake. Ideally such things should be Rare but Possible. In a simple game that tends to become either Common or Not Possible. I cheated a bit with this one by narrowing the scope to the period 1812 to 1865 outside Europe, the one I am most interested, which coincidentally seems to have fewer of such things (or perhaps just that I haven't come across them) so I was able to largely avoid them.
The square issue is still there but since this was a period that saw several broken squares as well as cavalry repulsed by lines, I'm comfortable that cavalry vs infantry clashes will be interesting (nail biting) for both sides rather than predictable thus making an interesting gaming situation without being outside the examples shown by history. (Readers may note that I class the Charge of the Light Brigade as a command (player) error rather than a random event.)
2. Cover and other modifiers. Saving throws, die score modifiers, number of dice modifiers, casualty modifiers, tables, I've tried them all. They all have something to recommend them and something against them. They key is to give players a reason to take steps to reduce their troop's vulnerability, (occupying cover, dispersed order etc) while still making it worth while shooting at them. The 2 main methods are essentially to reduce the odds of a hit or to reduce the effects of the hits. Ideally they all give the same result on average but in practice some can result in extremes either way while the same is unfortunately true in history making issues with the more predictable methods. The trick is to allow defensive extremes without making them too common.
Off and on over the last 20 years my favorite method has been to use 1/2 casualties with no casualties being guaranteed. My only beef has been what to do with any fractions. My solution this time has been to leave it up to players, round them up, round them down, dice for them, carry them over. Do it differently each game. Just decide at the start and apply the same rule to every one. The result is that while your fire may be completely ineffective, it will more likely slowly wear them down. Withe the best dice in the world though, the cover will always benefit the defender.
3. More is easier. The main reason that I like slightly larger units isn't the look of them (that's No 2). Its because each hit is less critical. If a unit can absorb 20 hits it doesn't matter so much if it occasionally takes more than they "should", they will survive. But more needs more table space or smaller figures or at least a smaller footprint per figure. This has been at the heart of my basing dilemma over the last 5 years. The new 2 man bases are proving them selves wonderfully on the table. They give me the flexibility to skirmish and fit around terrain or mass in close order, allow me to remove casualties from the rear rank so that units get weaker instead of smaller until they regroup, are as stable and flexible as the wide ugly washers but are as compact as the 6 man bases I tried in 2009. So I can use my 20 man units on a table that will fit in my room.
4. Morale. I hate morale tests. They are hard to resist though as automatic results such as 1/2 strength = remove from table always seem to end up leaving historical situations violated (though see #1, extreme results, would Camerone be famous if fighting to the last man was common?). Simple morale tests though have the same extreme dangers as in 2. Units that fight to the last man too often or Guards that rout off table after being hit by a stray shot. One way I have tried to work around it have included things like ways to recover hits so a fixed break point wasn't a one way, inevitable end point. Once again larger units give a designer more room to wriggle in, you are less likely to lose all of a 12 man cavalry unit to one extremely lucky blast of long range small arms fire than you are a 4 man one. But its not just when units are removed from the table, its about units becoming ineffective without leaving the table which seems to have been the most common result historically. (To be fair re the 1/2 strength rule, while many of us remove Charge! units when they drop to half, they are technically just required to retire and have their capabilities severely cut). Its also about players not getting the same result from long range pot shots over time as from a decisive attack.
My current scheme is a variation on one I have used before. There is no automatic rout, units may fight to the last because losses include stragglers and soldiers still with the ranks but no longer fighting effectively which is why I like to maintain the frontage so that if attacked by a fresh unit, the worn one will have fewer dice spread over the same frontage. To allow easy morale distinction between the slow drain of long range fire vs the destructive moral effect of close range firefights I have reintroduced the old 3" "melee" zone. After a round of melee (which is mostly close range shooting but also includes charges into contact), instead of the automatic loss, I have included, yes, a morale test with a modifier for quality and for how badly you lost. The result is that a unit, especially an elite one could lose every round and still fight to the finish as long as they don't lose any 1 round too badly. Its not likely though. It is more likely that a unit that loses a round of the decisive close combat will retreat and might rout if it loses badly or has low morale. Hopefully this variation, the best yet, will work as well as some test tuns predict.
Meanwhile the game continues! (This unusual light has appeared in the sky over the last 2 days, something called a "sun" apparently so yard work and spring cleaning has been interfering!)
Friday, May 2, 2014
So there I was, trying again to get an existing set of toy soldier horse and musket rules to more accurately reflect my intentions. The basics are easy and habitual and I can scratch a playable quick reference on a scrap of paper in 3 minutes but beyond that, things nearly always tend to bog down quickly and then head for the ditch. Once again it seemed to me that if I could just figure out how to turn the horse around and have it pull the cart things would be easier.
A short list of wants and goals seemed like a good starting point.
A. The rules should be as simple and as easy to remember as possible. To aid this, current, successful, mechanisms which are already in my head should be used in preference to trying out new ideas.
B. I should be able to use them to game small historical actions, in scale, with an acceptable (subjective) level of historical believability and feel including the amount of ground covered, number of attacks made over the course of the battle, etc.
C. Despite B I want basic units of around 20 infantry, 10 cavalry and a gun with around 4 crew. The scale will have to work around this.
D. I want a typical game to have between 6 and 18 units per player.
E. While this is to be a stand alone game I want it to use as many common mechanisms as possible with the Square Brigadier and Gathering of Hosts as possible without subverting either rules. This is to make it easier to move between them.
F. Things should happen.
G. The rules are for me to play early and mid 19thC Horse and Musket games using an existing and soon to be expanding collection of 40mm figures. I am always pleased when someone is interested enough to try them out but I have spoiled several working rulesets try to anticipate what I or some other, unknown, person might think or want in the future.
H. I want the rules to visibly reflect the tactics used without getting fussy about the process or forcing the player to be Captsin and Colonel as well as General.
Right, that's probably too many things but I have the badics sketched out on paper as a sort of quick reference so I'll get back to playing and post a 1 page , Coles Notes version later. This time I intend to go back to including as many of tge explanations and dedign notes into the text as I can so the full document will be a while. I should probably find a new name but I like Hearts of Tin as a name fir a game aimed st glossy 40mm Toy Soldiers and having gone back to reread the original 2010 the basic concepts are still the same even though the details have changed.