Wednesday, July 23, 2014

For King and Country

War is a horrible thing really, full of suffering, death and destruction. Every once in a while I forget briefly why we've decided that its an ok subject for games. However, I don't feel like writing about it tonight so instead I'll share some thoughts on what I'll be doing with my new shiny toys.

Zinnbrigade Homecast Uhlans converted from parade to service dress. (I found a short memoir by an English nurse in Belgium in 1914 which includes mention of the Prussian Uhlans riding into town with the pennants on their lances, so, I'm good on that score) .  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try to integrate the washers with the figures' bases but in the meantime they're stable.

On the weekend I tried a version of the Square Brigadier using the Battlecry dice and my Nine Years War figures. The result was ok, a bit Boer War-ish wih added colour,  but once over, it sent me digging into my handful of WWI books and the web. This led me to 2 main conclusions:

  • I need more books! Especially about the nuts and bolts of tactics at the company & battalion level in early 1914 and about the functioning of brigades. Most of the dozen or more books I've read over the years were largely collections of individual memories and letters, books on specific campaigns or high level overviews and summaries, and mostly on the Canadians or on non-Western Front campaigns. 
  • A game at the brigade level of command, let alone higher, is likely to be one or more of tedious or large or quite abstract. (In case you're wondering, I've dismissed any idea of a game at lower levels because I want some level of General with authority to plan and a mix of units.)

Since I don't want to have to paint lots of figures before starting this venture  and don't want to track status on units or be making constant rolls to pin and rally while also tracking casualties, I'm looking at abstraction and compromise. 

The Nine Years War continues as the bigger table and revised rules are tested.

For example, I was originally looking at each 4 figure unit as a company for my WWI game. If I really want it to be a company it should be able to take multiple hits, be pinned or forced back and yet keep fighting, possibly all day. Making 3 or 4 stands a company would make that easier but then I'd need 3-4 times the troops and more space. If instead I just call 3 or 4 stands a battalion and don't worry about lower details then as long as 1 stand still has a figure left, the battalion is still in action and so on.

Another matter to consider is the grid size. My table expansion has given me a grid two and a quarter times the number of squares in my usual 120 square board. If I only field 12 to 20 stands then it will be a very empty field. The options are to increase force size, make the squares bigger or just use part of the board for some scenarios. For now the third option will do since it leaves the door open. Increased forces could be a possibility down the road, either more stands per battalion  or more battalions as would a change of scene to a less crowded area, the desert perhaps or East Africa? But that is getting ahead of ourselves. Brigade staff group next I think then gunners and jaegers.


  1. Great looking figures and interesting plans afoot..,

  2. Hi Ross:
    I love the Uhlans, especially their pennants as there is something iconic to the Guns of August about cavalry bravely riding forward with pennants streaming. As far as books go, early war memoirs might be a good place to start. From the German side, Walter Bloem's Retreat from Mons might be helpful, as it is written from an infantry company commander's perspective and describes the first months as kind of an extended running skirmish. For larger actions, Le Cateau might be a good one to study,
    Cheers, MIchael

    1. Thanks Michael. I was just about to start searching for books having hit a stumbling block on my usual sources since the Great War is too recent for copyright to have expired! No wonder I like the 19thC. Then I got sidetracked by a web site with hundreds more personal memoirs and letters, all brief of course. Just downloaded ebook versions of Bloem's book and one on Mons. Might as well go back and start at the beginning.

  3. I have this book:

    but haven't read it yet, though it may be of use to you.



    1. That looks good as well and nicely covers both of the wars I've been waiting to tackle. Even more, from a preview he appears to agree with my existing perception! Interesting that the canadian amazon site has the e-version for about 1/2 the UK price.

      Thanks for the tip.

  4. War is war, and toys are toys, and never the twain meet. Thank God! I think that most war gamers and toy soldier types are far from war like. As an ex-school master, I realised quite quickly in my job that it was the rugby/soccer/sports boys who went on to join the armed forces. Boys interested in toy soldierly things were usually pretty 'geeky' (to use a modernism), and rarely went for a soldier.

    1. Well, I went, but I came back after 9 years, didn't stay for seconds.

  5. Hi Ross

    Really like the uhlans.