Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Tin Brigadier Russian Ahead

Ahh The Labour Day Weekend. Summer's end (culturally at least), I should be out enjoying the fresh air but Kathy's off to a dogshow, rules are bouncing around my head and I've been wanting to give the 1/72 Russian Civil War lads an outing, partly for their own sake, partly to make sure whatever I do works for all of the period candidates and partly to separate the game from the shiny toy soldier look.

The Green Army is laid out ready to attack the Grey Army on their hill. An HQ, 1 sub commander, 4 infantry, 2 MG, 3 cavalry, 2 guns and a tank vs an HQ, 3 infantry, 1 MG, 3 cavalry and 2 guns.
I really must get some better lighting and figure out what's wrong with my camera!
Yesterday I sat down and started writing up an officious version of The Square Brigadier with multi-layer organizations, formations and tactics and soon realized this was not where I had wanted to go. So I stopped.

Late last night I stopped by to read about a skirmish in Carpet Valley in the Duchy of Tragardland  and  was reminded of where I had been headed.  Today I polished the Tin Brigadier up a bit, added a pin rule, amended it for use with or without a grid and tried it out with the RCW lads divided into Green and Grey forces since they're all a muddle. For sake of comparison I kept the same scenario but again, for sake of variety, rerolled the Programmed attacker options. The result was an engaging hour and a half cliff hanger where the attacker finally won a game, by the skin of his teeth.

The rules are not prescriptive and will happily allow you to either ignore historical OB's and scales or to use them if you want. I think it incorporates at least some aspect of just about every influence I have mentioned over the last 5 weeks as I have been working on rules for this venture!  I also think it resolves all my organizational dilemmas, probably because I used my existing organization as a starting point....., perhaps I am learning.

I'm a little stuck for a name since it isn't really the Square Brigadier though it replaces it, nor is it really a new Hearts of Tin though it is likely to replace that as well once I do a Horse and Musket variant.  I am tempted to stay with The Tin Brigadier since it has a nice ring and is a sort of homage to its predecessors but the player is as likely to be a Major General as a Brigadier so it may not be apt. Another contender is The Tin Army but I am wide open to suggestions.

Green's cavalry harassed Grey's right, pinning it in place and drawing off artillery fire without being destroyed while the remainder of the army concentrated on Grey's left, ignoring the center. A fierce Green cavalry charge is seen here driving in more than twice their numbers on Grey's left. Red markers indicate pinned units, little green dice are marking hits.

The Tin Brigadier
Oct 15 draft.3 of a simple set of Wargame rules for the late 19thC/early 20th C.
Ranges and moves are list as numbers. These can be squares, hexes, or increments of inches (eg 1=6" etc) or centimeters as selected but roughly equal to the frontage of an extended infantry unit.

Setup. A wargame army consists of a General Head Quarters (GHQ), up to 1 subordinate HQ per 8 units and as many units as desired. The units are intended to be battalion level but the rules may be used as is with units being companies for low level engagements. An average unit is intended to be around 8 infantry, 4 cavalry and guns, machine guns and vehicles  with 2, 3 or 4 crew but they may be any size that pleases you. If using multi-figure bases you may count noses or assign an arbitrary strength to each base. Qualifiers such as Superior/Inferior firepower, Shock troops, Elite/Stubborn or Poor morale are relative terms that may be used as desired. Other troop types and variations may be added as needed as well as carrying capacity of boats etc..

Hits represent fatigue, disorganization, stragglers, killed, wounded and prisoners and everything else that lowers the ability of a unit to fight. Each hit removes 1 figure. When a unit is reduced to 0 it is removed.

Sequence: igougo. Roll 1d6 for orders per commander. Move or shoot units and declare charges as desired (subject to the rules) and rally units, then test morale of enemy units that took hits from shooting, then resolve charges and pursuits.
Orders. An order is required to move, shoot, charge or do engineering. No order is required to defend against a charge. The Army HQ may store up to 6 unused orders. Other unused orders are lost. A subordinate commander may only order units within range 3. The Army HQ may order any unit. +1 to order die of Army HQ if observation balloon or spotter plane is available.

Infantry In Extended formation: move 2 or move 1 and shoot or charge.
Infantry Close Order:  Move 2 and charge or stand and shoot.
Cavalry move 4 and charge.  May dismount and shoot..
Artillery Move 3 if Light or Field, 4 if Horse Artillery, 2 if Heavy artillery.
MG: Move 1 or shoot.
Motor Machine Gun/Armoured Car: Move 4 or Move 2 and shoot.
Tank Move 1 and Shoot or Charge.
Train, Boat, Move 4 or Move 2 and shoot. Trains only move by rail, boats only by water.

Terrain: Reduces all moves to 1 if passable. Define by scenario.
Road If in road column add 1 to move and ignore other terrain but may not charge or shoot.

Units may advance or retreat at full speed and can wheel measuring the distance. If using a grid a wheel can be included when moving from one area to another but a wheel within an area counts as moving 1 area. Subtract 1 from a move to change formation, limber/unlimber, mount/dismount, or embark/disembark..

Shooting. Must have LOS to chosen target except indirect arty fire. Arc of fire 45 degrees either side.
Rifles: range 2. 5,6 hits  1 die per 2 extended or entrenched infantry or dismounted.
cavalry.  1 die per 4 close order  infantry. Round up remainders of ½ or more.
MG inc Motor MG range 3,  5,6 hits  3 dice per gun
Tank. range 1  5,6 hits  3 dice per tank
Deployed Artillery. Direct Fire: Light gun: 2d range 4, Medium Gun 3d range 6, Heavy gun 4d range 8. Indirect fire 1/2 dice at double direct range. Requires an order each turn (abstraction of need to observe fire, pass fire request etc). Howitzers may fire  over terrain and troops, other guns may not shoot over terrain or troops within 1 or at target with 1 of dead ground or over high hills.
+1 per die if superior firepower, marksmen,
-1 per die if inferior firepower
Double casualties vs close order or road column
1/2  effect vs entrenched or in cover. Round down.
Killing zone: Reroll misses vs next unit in line of fire within range 1 of original target.

Target Reaction. A unit which is in the open and takes 1 or more hits from shooting must test morale at the start of its next move. 4,5,6 pass. 1,2,3 fail. 0 Rout. +1 Elite -1 Poor. Fail = Extended infantry, deployed MG and engineers are pinned, others retreat a full move and are then pinned until they rally. A pinned unit may not advance or shoot and counts 1/2 in melee until it rallies.

Charges. The Defender may choose to shoot and remove enemy casualties and test for pins before melee or may fight in melee. In melee roll 1d per infantry or cavalry or crew figure, (x1/2 if pinned rounding up). 5,6 hits. +1 If Elite, +1 mounted shock cavalry -1 if Poor .
If a unit took more hits from melee and defensive fire than it inflicted it is defeated and must retreat a double move and must test morale as for shooting.  A unit that charged and won must advance and occupy the ground. Cavalry which charged and won may advance up to a full move and charge again. If it wins again it must occupy the ground but may not charge a 3rd time.  

Rallying. A unit which is pinned may rally if it does not move. No order is required.

Engineering.. An infantry unit with tools may entrench instead of all other activity. Roll 1d6  needing to accumulate 10 pts to entrench. Add 1 d6 if sappers are attached. Entrenchment is lost if unit moves. Engineers may similarly prepare a roadblock or clear a path through an obstacle needing 6 pts or mine and blow a bridge etc  by laying 1 d6 per turn to represent the charges. When the bridge is blown, roll all of the charges and add them needing a total of 6 to destroy a small one, 10 to blow a large one. Other tasks may be defined as needed.  .

Army Morale. Unless specified otherwise by the scenario, a player that has lost over ½ of his units either destroyed or forced to retreat off table must concede.

At this point Grey has inflicted more hits than it received and most Green units are close to destruction with only 1 being unscathed but Green's concentration pays off and within 3 turns Grey reaches its breakpoint with most remaining units intact.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Maintenance of the Aim

Darn that Grant Senior and his emphasis on scale when designing rules, especially since he was smart enough to bend ground scale and orders of battle when converting historical battles to wargames. Yes I've been confusing myself again over questions of scale and translating real orders of battle and unit organization into game units and scenarios and have been starting to lose sight of my Aim. A serious breach of the Principles of War(gaming).

To avoid serious risk to my sanity and to a set of rules that was working well,  I finished painting my in progress Indian unit and then came back with a clear mind. All better now.

MacDuff's Rifles. Original 40mm sepoys with converted Zinnbrigade officer.
The Scruby redcoats in the back row are for comparison. Based on B&W photos it would be more accurate to have slightly toned down contrast in shades of khaki between uniform, puttees and haversack, and no coloured fringe on the turban but they looked bland so I decided that a bit of heightened contrast and a touch of colour would add interest. 

Organizations varied by year and nation but in 1914 most countries had 4 companies to an infantry battalion and 12 regiments to a Division. The Charge! inspired organization I looked at a week ago fits this nicely and has a comfort feeling. It also matches the Over the Top Command Decision: rules to a Tee if I consider each figure as a Stand not that CD is my style of gaming. So why aren't I there? Well, firstly to do it right I'd have to build armies four times the size of those I intended and I'd have to rewrite my rules completely, which I have found myself unintentionally doing, almost daily.

OK then, why not just stay with the 4 figure units called for in the Square Brigadier? The rules are scaled that one square can comfortably hold a battalion if formed up or with 1/2 deployed in a firing line and 1/2 in reserve while 2 or more battalions can fit in as  a massed column. By 1914 though an extended battalion should be able to hold 2 squares while by the late Boer War up to 1914 the British occasionally extended enough for a battalion to hold 4 squares. At Mons some of the British battalions were holding a front of 5 or 6 squares by posting platoons at crossing points. This would call for either ignoring scale (the traditional and most practical manner) or changing the rules or organization. 

It was during the contemplation of all this that I discovered that I was really enjoying painting up these figures but that a few of each were enough and that the urge was strong to paint a variety of uniforms and troop types. By a sheer coincidence the figures on hand including OOP Scruby 1889 figures nicely organized themselves into 8 figure units including an officer. Just enough to satisfy the itch without becoming tedious and reminiscent of the units in Big Wars which was another attraction. But how to integrate this with the rules, scenario requirements and history?

The first part was easy, amend the rules to use figures rather than units for combat strength and then allow units to be split. The 2nd bit was only a poser because of a desire to maintain rules compatibility with my 1/72 Boer War/9 Years War and Russian Civil War armies. There is another little technical issue I have been shelving, how to base the figures. I was pretty much set on 15mm x 20mm individual  bases, but made of what and should the figure base be disguised to make it look like a toy soldier on a single base or be left like an OSW figure on unflocked base?  While using various figures to test the optics of different options I was reminded of how much I like the temporary 2 figure bases some of my 1812 lads are on. Ahah!  I know I find it amusing sometimes to knock over single toy soldiers for visual effect in pictures but if I consider the figures to be OSW wargame figures which the Scrubies were, having 2 figures per company base.would have a traditional look of a different kind, be easy to handle and would maintain rules compatibility by having 4 bases per unit. As a bonus it provides an easy way to work unit quality back in easily by allowing me to vary hits by stand like I used to do in Hearts of Tin. 

With around 100 figures per wargame army, all buttons are pushed and the addition of 2 or 3 armies per year very feasible. All the plans of the last 20 years coming together in a rush, just not quite the format I envisaged back then when assembling 54mm Volley & Bayonet armies. I need to get back to work on some 1914 British master figures.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Load of Baluchs

Now I remember the other reason I didn't cast up a unit of these for myself, the mold is damaged!  It was made using a soft rubber and in addition to a few small flaws when it was made, it has ripped in a few places and now has horrible flash. However, I now have 4 figures  cleaned up enough to serve as shiny toy soldiers and 4 more waiting. They were originally sculpted for the 1880's dress uniforms worn in Egypt so need a little touch up, tunics converted to the 1914 style pullover tunic and 50 round bandolier added.

I'm thinking about doing some dismounted Larsen's Lancers as well as a kneeling mountain gun crew using these heads on Zinnbrigade bodies with pants and tunics adjusted with putty and jackboots painted as puttees.
Homemade 40mm 1880's Baluchs from a damaged mould being updated for WWI.
I took some time yesterday to review all of the test games and rules thoughts and discussions. Sorting it all out I concluded that, despite various options which are attractive in some way, my original instinct was right and the best route forward for me is a slightly improved Square Brigadier which will allow me to build several small forces for games for various wars and campaigns from the late 19th and early 20th C. The tweaks suggested by the test games, discussions and alternate proposals have now been done and the Square Brigadier late 19th/early 20th Century version once again appears up top. 

Later this week I intend to try them out with some 1/72nd troops and then try a new scenario with the 40's once the Baluchs are ready.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fire for Effect!

At last I got to play my test game. Even better, it played like a charm. I forgot to stop for tea and nearly forgot to take any pictures.

Once again the game was Scenario 1 from Programmed Scenarios. Since it was a new grid and new rules I rerolled the attacker's instructions and got an attack on the left. Rather than write about the game it self and incidents like the valiant charge of Larson's Lancers who saved the position on the hill at the cost of 1/2 their number, I'll just write a bit about some of the rule choices I made when tweaking the Square Brigadier in the light of the last month's reading, discussions, mucking about on the table and thinking, and about how it all worked in practice

The first real crisis point. Despite heavy losses, the Blue Guard take the hill trenches, 1 man above being shaken. The Lancers and Naval Motor Machine Gun Battery prepare to counter attack. 

Orders. I've been trying to tweak the orders system for ages trying to make it easy to administer with a mix of choice and chance and just the right balance between not being able to do enough almost all the time and almost never being able to do enough. Its always been close but not quite right (hence the tweaking) but this variation which came out of my subconsious the other day worked just the way I envisaged it since day 1. Essentially I started the game with 1d6 of orders pre-rolled for each Brigadier and General. Instead of having a staff to hold orders, I allowed  all commanders to store unused orders but never to have more than 6 available. The catch is only Generals roll for more during a game,not Brigadiers. So the player is faced with choices, even if he starts with lots he can't squander them as replacements might come slowly, however,  if the existing orders and early replacements are channeled to the important points and some reserve kept, an attack can be launched. If there is an opening and can be pushed in otherwise ic can be left to engage in a firefight without need for orders which can then be used to push reserves forward and maybe rally units pulled out of the line while a new reserve of orders is built up for the next push. A long range bombardment also takes up orders so if there is going to be one, best hold the infantry back until just the right moment.

Unit Integrity. Using fixed units with fixed capabilities makes game design much easier which is why I initially borrowed it from Richard Borg's Battlecry. However, there are also difficulties, especially when doing historical games as units were not quite so fixed. I struggled with letting go of them since it made it so easy to do things like cover and special unit capabilities. However, the protracted pondering and small test games were in large part aimed at finding another way. I'm happy to say that once I stopped trying to limit myself to 4 man companies stuffed into 3" or 4" squares, stopped copying Battlecry, and stopped treating the toy soldiers as an "element", a new old method came fairly easily. I didn't end up even testing the Charge! inspired set draft but I held onto the idea of counting noses and added a decision to not force units to stay within a single square. Instead the unit may break into detachments like it could have years ago when playing a MacDuff game. Orders and combat results are now based on the contents of a square as an adhoc unit while maintaining a 50% battalion morale rule to avoid what appears to be a fight to the death. It was hard work getting my head there but it worked like a charm, The game had both a new feel and and old school feel at the same time, something familiar but also a bit of me. .    

But that's enough for tonight. (and anyway the 1st Episode of Outlander will be on in a few minutes. Hope it doesn't have me breaking out 40mm Jacobites tomorrow)
The end. An attack on the farm has been repulsed bloodily and while Red is near its break point, Blue's Infantry Brigades are broken and he has opted not to throw his small force of lancers and Jaegers into the machine gun fire.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Check Your Fire ! Check Check Check

After various interruptions this morning, I finally got the table set up by noon. 24 companies grouped into 6 battalions supported by guns and cavalry.

Blue fielded 12 scenario units. The largest scenarios call for 16 or more but already there were wall to wall  troops plus reserves on both sides. This is just what I didn't want to be doing. So I reset to 8 man battalions and decided to allow them to fight to the last man. (Casualties being deemed to included mostly morale failures anyway.) Then I looked again, bite the bullet, and spent the afternoon regridding the table to a 6" grid. This only gives me a 12 x 10 grid but that should be adequate and can be subdivided into 480 x 3" squares later if it isn't. I was going to persevere with a play test but time was up and anyway I am very unsure about the Charge! inspired version. I think a tweak to the Square Brigadier will be more what I really want. (Probably didn't help the cause that I took Bob Cordery's suggestion of rereading the 1885 Polemas Wargame. I'm not going dice free but I like the feel of the sample game described and oddly enough they use a very similar grid scale, units level and ranges as the Square Brigadier uses. 

The New Look.

Eight man battalions was not my starting point but I did want at least Brigade level games with a chance at Division level which would be 16 to 32 units at a company level. So, here we are. At least it will let me have identifiable units and a simpler command system vs having 32 companies on table. That will be especially good for the pre drab era armies. So, while waiting for the paint to dry so I could re-grid it, I did a little casting. After I did the Baluch unit for Richard Larsen, I never got around to doing one for myself. I now have 8 castings ready to be filed and primed. I'll probably go for khaki but the green and red that they wore in Egypt is still tempting.

Some of my Baluchs in Egypt. (Picture from the Scruby's in Action page above)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Charge! Option.

By 8 this morning it was clear that I wasn't going to get a game in. However by this evening I had leisure to consider rules. The options had sorted themselves into 2 options: the Morschauser/Borg inspired updated set that I have been kicking about with 4 man units on a square grid or a new English Old School style game inspired by Lawford and Young's Charge! with 16 man battalions.

The first game would be easy to gather and store armies for allowing me to do several periods but I fear it might lack depth for continued play. The second game might take me months if not years to complete at my current painting rates and will inevitably require mixed armies for larger games and be awkward to store as well as time consuming to set up and take down.

However I have the itch and have decided that before I decide to change direction from the series of smaller games, I should try a quick scratch game as well as playing an updated square brigadier before I make a final decision. To that end, here is the Charge! inspired game.

(Note: My earlier note on originality was not intended to imply that I was against making use of others' ideas but merely that I like to add my own twist or else just call them a variant.)    
A battalion of Zouaves charges.

The Tin Brigadier Take 2, The Charge Option.  Aug 22
Quick Reference Draft version:
Units 4 inf/3 cavalry/1 gun = company. 2-4 company+ MG+HQ make battalion
Extended Infantry (max 1 figure per inch, supports at least 4" back)

Sequence: Players take turns.Player does orders then moves OR shoots units and makes charges in any order.

Orders.. At start of turn roll 1d6 per HQ for initial orders. Players rolls 1d6 per turn for additional orders. An order is required to move, entrench or to fire artillery unless under fire. Battalion, Brigade and Division HQ can each store up to 6 orders. HQ can only issue orders to troops under its control. 

Movement. Infantry/MG: move 8". -4" if extended and in fire zone or if any in woods or town
Cavalry 16"  -4" to mount /dismount. +4" on road. Max 4" in bad going
Artillery 12" -4" to limber/unlimber Heavy artillery 8" Horse Artillery 16"..
Terrain effects by scenario for now.Takes whole move to clear barbed wire.

Shooting. Move OR shoot. Must have LOS except indirect arty fire. 
Casualty modifiers: Drop fractions after combining by battalion.
x 1/2 if tgt is entrenched or in cover or extended
x 2 if tgt in column or enfiladed

or 1d/figure.  4" 4,5,6 hits, 8" 5,6 hits, 12" 6 hits.  +1 if superior firepower, -1 inferior firepower
MG 1 die  8" score = hits. 16" 1/2 score = hits

Artillery.  1 die => range in 8" increments to hit.Once target is hit fire may be repeated without rolling to hit unless it moves more than 4".  If direct 1 die = casualty. If indirect 1/2 score. 
Heavy gun measure in 12" increments. ignore cover.
Howitzers may fire over terrain, other guns may not shoot over terrain within 12" or at target with 12" of intervening terrain or over high hills.

Charges Must begin adjacent. Pair off Max 2 vs 1. Use best die. 1 higher= loser push back, 2+higher=loser ko. .
+1 if shock troops or enemy are conscripts etc. Cavalry vs infantry die x2 before modifier. Side losing most retreat outside rifle shot and must rally or retreat on next turn. while rallying may not shoot and cavalry counts as infantry if charged..  .

a) An extended  company which takes any hits is pinned and may not move or shoot next turn or charge or clear wire.
b) Battalion which has lost over 1/2 of its figures must retreat 2 moves and may not advance for rest of game. . Elite retreat if over 2/3 losses. 

Entrenching. An infantry unit not under rifle fire may entrench. This requires an order to begin. Roll 1d6 per company needing to accumulate 10 pts to entrench. Add 1 d6 if sappers are attached. Entrenchment is lost if unit moves. Units without tools may not entrench.

Partway through the list.

I had time yesterday morning to think about that list and started to get some interesting ideas. Then I spent a tense 4 hours as a Roman defending a hill line against a horde of hairy Gauls,  (something for my Gathering of Hosts blog). By the time they retired discouraged, I could barely remember my thoughts of the morning!

The main thing which I have been trying to come to terms with, which is different from earlier and later wars, is the historical attempt to deal with magazine rifle and machine gun fire by attacking with infantry extended in long thin lines with wide spacing by advancing in groups alternately making  short leapfrog rushes or providing covering fire. Under heavy fire such lines could stall but with both sides taking cover, a desultory firefight could go on for hours. If a unit did manage to get close enough, a final rush could carry the position ........ or get shot to pieces.

In theory the old wrg system of rolling to hit then rolling again to convert a pin to a kill  should work but its a lot of rolling and when no one is moving the odds should be tediously low. I did consider having all units in the field of fire of an enemy to always be pinned and just roll to see if it managed to work forward and if it lost any figures but it just didn't feel right, especially with glossy toys.

Turning back to my existing mechanisms I decided to tweak something I experimented with a few weeks ago by treating a fire swept area as a sort of terrain effect. I looked at forms of reaction fire but the existing igo system with fire or move will work well enough.b

The idea is that an extended unit may only move 1/2  if it is in the line of fire and range of a deployed enemy unit.  If a unit moves and then takes hits it must roll higher than the number of hits  (+1 for elite etc) otherwise it falls back to where it was and may not try again  next turn.

Troops in column seemed to have been harder to stop but took horrendous casualties so they will suffer heavier, pissibly double casualties but do not have to test due to fire.

Stationary troops will not need to test  either. The only way to get them out will be to shoot them all or assault them. (Assuming as usual that wargame hits are not all dead and wounded.)

Hopefully a new test game will happen on Friday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We now return you to regular programming

I had hoped to play a test game today or at least make a decision on some things that I have been pondering but its been one of those sorts of days and tomorrow I am off to try C&C Ancients with 25mm figures.

So I'll just briefly mention a few of the uncertainties hanging over my table.

To grid or not grid. Part of me is attached to the idea of the glossies being used in a traditional ungridded environment but I'm still intrigued by the abstraction of the squares, the "game" feel and the impact that has on rules and a lingering fascination with terrain modules not indulged in since the early 80's. This is a pure matter of choice of flavour between equal but different options.

Retreats. The subject of when and why troops retreat has been of interest to me for a while (see question post and followup Post from Jan 2011). The crux for this venture is the question of when it should be the player's choice that troops retreat, when and how should the game decide it and when should it be shown by the destruction of units? I'm pretty much decided that I want the game to decide that one side has lost a close combat/melee and force a retreat and that I want units incapable of fighting to be removed rather than tracking them across the table but that leaves the question of Battlecry style retreats from flags and various versions of Giving Ground rule in Square Brigadier.

Scale and Size. One of the attractions of the grid is that I find it easier to abstract scale. My problem is that the more natural the game looks, the greater I want to make the ranges pushing artillery and reserves off table and also the larger I want the units to be. The question returns, is it better to have fewer large units or more small units and what is the optimum number.  I have been happy enough with Grant's teasers over the years to stick with 6 to 16, say a dozen on average.

Orders.  Closely allied to scale and style of game is whether all shooting should be played out or whether it should be assumed that troops with an enemy in view are firing without dramatic effect and ordered fire is somehow more significant, a concentration or increased voulume perhaps. This is tied to the delicate balance of being able to move/act with enough units without moving too many all the time, primarily from a gaming POV.  The question about why real armies don't often have everyone moving at the same time is different but related. Bringing back the distance penalty and either group moves or dice for subordinates are both possibilities.

Originality. I really wish this was not on the table at all but when I found myself  contemplating something that looked a lot like Memoir combat with DBA activation I felt somehow lazy and diminished yet an original bad idea is not superior to a good existing one and its getting dashed hard to find something that someone, somewhere hasn't already tried.

More on Thursday.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Little Cold War c 1965

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my last post. I apologize for not responding to each as usual and as they deserve but your words and shared experiences are all appreciated.

Not a great photo of an old photo but this is what my little cold war looked like going hot in the cold concrete bunker sometimes known as The Basement somewhere in the early 1960s. An attack on a missile base iir

Found this in one of the old photo albums and couldn't resist sharing here. Ground cloth, rivers, roads, fortifications, 2 sides and a scenario. I guess that makes it 50 years of wargaming?

Normal blog entries should resume in a few days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Of Beginnings and Endings

I have several times credited my grandfather for fostering my love of toy soldiers and history but since he died when I was quite young, much of the credit must go to his daughter, my mother. There may be a genetic element but since my brother got the musical side of him and little interest in toy soldiers there must be more. Definitely Mom went out of her way to get me the best toy soldiers she could on the clerk's salary that Dad brought home.

Some of what remains.
I still remember her dismay when she bought me my first castle st Christmas, a Marx Robin Hood play set, and discovered that the figures were unpainted and the walls were low with printed crenelations and no towers that figures could stand on. I still had fun with it and some of the figures, now painted took part in a game at Historicon a few years ago, but it was  nowhere near my brother's Crescent knights and his tall plastic castle with a drawbridge that worked (yes I still have his castle but I'm saving it for my grand nephew in hopes of diverting his attention from trucks!).

The following Christmas came the MiniMarx Knights and Vikings play set and while it was small (30mm) it was everything a boy could want, beautiful painted figures, working catapults, tall towers and years (ok decades) of fun.
An ad for the same.

And the point of all this? Well Mom was a wonderful person in many ways, fondly remembered by many for many reasons, and I am grateful for much, much, more than the books and toys and for the encouragement to do what I wanted and be what I wanted or change and adapt as I grew, decade after decade.

But this hobby has shaped my life and friendships and it stems from those early gifts of toys and children's history books and when we lay her to her final rest on Saturday, I will remember and honour and love her for that as well as the rest.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Defence of Pine Ridge: After thoughts and do over.

Yesterday I managed to play out an early 20th Century game using the proposed new rules. (You can date the game by the presence of guns with recoil mechanisms and shields crossed with the mix of drab and colourful uniforms. )  In order to field sufficient troops I had to resort to both the Atlantica and WWI collections. The mixture of Oberhilse Zouaves in red pants and Faraway Redcoats needs a bit of explaining but I'm still working on that. The Zouaves never did feel at home in the Oberhilse army,  doubtless they were raised amongst one of the ethnic minorities that have now declared independence from Oberhilse and are being supported by Faraway. Hence the war.  

Valleyfield Farm has fallen but the attack is losing steam. The Zouaves are going to need a new flag!
As all too often with my initial drafts, there were choices made that I was very unsure about. The prime debate centered on whether to follow Morchauser (and more recently Borg)  and have the figures on table represent the ability of the unit to fight thus meaning it would fight to the last since figures marked or removed as "hit" may be assumed to include dead, wounded, stragglers and all those still present but not functioning and thus able to be ignored. This was the way I had meant to go but the alternate, perhaps more common, convention that survivors should be seen to retreat from the fight and recent time spent rereading Charge! led to a moment of weakness in which I introduced a last minute 50% rule by unit as well as by "army". (Army as in one side of a wargame regardless of size.)

The basic unit of the game is a "company" of 8 infantry or 4 cavalry or 1 gun and crew, could easily be a bit bigger or smaller. Again being fresh from reviewing Charge! I began to group these into "regiments" of 3 companies although there were was such diversity that I only managed to group 3 companies on 1 side and 2 on the other (Blue Guards and Zouaves, other units being independent. The intention was to group them for order purposes only but with the last minute 50% rules, I included the regiment or independent company as the basis. At the last minute I also threw in the Giving Ground rule from  the Square Brigadier.

None of these things survived intact past turn 4. The issues were two fold. 

From a purely gaming perspective they muddied the waters, suggested several very gamey tactics and prolonged the game without adding depth or excitement, indeed they robbed some of the tension and elation since when taken together, it became extremely difficult to eliminate the last figure in a unit which was not the intent since the end of the game was determined by losing over 50% of units. 

The other thing is that some aspects tended to contradict historical evidence in ways that could only have been overcome by added complexity whose sole benefit would have been the optics of seeing the shattered remnants of units retreating. In particular, in the age of extended formations and concealment there are numerous instances of small numbers of men holding on and continuing the fight when the bulk of their unit has fallen back or been destroyed. Leaving aside questions of relative courage between the ages of man, I suspect that in the confusion of modern war with no formed ranks, flags and colourful uniforms, its hard for both sides to tell what's happening away from their immediate surroundings. The Morschauser/Borg approach seems to cover this better than methods designed for 18thC linear warfare. 

There seemed two choices: add complexity or remove the late additions. I removed them and amended the rules shortly after posting them Friday. Hopefully not many people were reading my blog late on a Friday night, I apologise to any who were.

A wider view of the game near the end. The red dots mark the advance of the Blue Guards.

The scenario was Scenario 1, Hill line Defense from Grant's Programmed Scenarios. I played the defenders (Blue in the book) using the red forces while Red (in the book) was played by Oberhilse or Blue, as a programmed opponent. (clear?) Luckily for me, my programmed enemy made some bad choices with his die rolls, leaving his left wing inactive despite several chances to change his mind as a reaction to my moves. This did make it hard to knock him below 50% so was not completely a bad idea. The attacking army had 3 cavalry, 5 infantry, 1 MG and 2 batteries. The defender had 2 cavalry, 4 infantry, 2 MGs and 1 battery. Not an overwhelming advantage for the attacker and made worse since I let the defenders dig in, partly because it was customary, partly to test the rules. I am more than a little short on mg's and to improvise a third one had to borrow the one I did up for my armoured train and stick it in the back of a motor car to form a very improvised motor MG which actually came in very handy. Not that I was intentionally stacking the odds in my favour.

The Blue Guards made a magnificent attack on the left flank. The red dots marking where they fell can be seen in the photo above. An attempt by a squadron of cavalry to over run the Motor Machine Gun didn't go well for them and that flank died down.

In the centre, the attacking artillery quickly found the range and silenced my gun. At the last minute I managed to limber up and retreat off table from where I used indirect fire. An attack by the new units in their drab uniforms took the center farm to my surprise and, aided by artillery fire, repulsed an attack by the Zouaves. It threatened to turn into a bit of a stand off with the infantry on both sides hunkered down under cover but the attacker's mission was to capture the ridge so they made one last attempt and that ended it.

The game was somewhat interrupted by various enjoyable family happenings and I did spend an inordinate amount of time sipping tea or coffee while just looking at the game, smiling and fiddling about but at the same time I kept sneaking up and rolling dice and ended each turn keen on starting the next so I am unsure  of how long it took to play in either time or turns. But it was not a long game.

One rules thing I struggled with was choice of combat resolution mechanism. I have gotten used to keeping the number of dice the same and varying the scores to hit but early tests had more anomalies than  I was comfortable with so I went for 50% reductions for cover and doubling fire against columns in the open (the Zouaves aren't likely to try that again!) but unlike Charge! I halved the dice not the results so that I would not have to fiddle with carry overs. It felt weird and I kept forgetting and occasionally caught myself halving dice as well as adjusting the to hit score. By the end of the game, I had to admit that the effect had been about what I aimed for but the more I thought about it, the more it lacked a sense of danger since no handful of 6's were going to negate an advantage. Keeping the original goal in mind, I reset and played again using the other combat system and the same battle plans.

This time I kept track of turns and time.  I also re-rolled  the attacker's reaction to me leaving a hole in my line and this time he threw in the cavalry, too late to make a difference I'm afraid but it was a nip and tuck game anyway that almost shifted to an offensive win on the last turn when a turning movement by a squadron of Uhlans came within a die roll of over running the defending HQ. The 2nd game ran for 11 turns and took roughly an hour to play. The quick version of the rules has been updated with both combat systems  and the full rules, using only the fixed number of dice, varying scores system will be ready in a week or so.

The end of the 2nd game. After holding the flank dismounted ,the DGBG mounts and rounds up  the survivors of the  maruading Uhlans who so nearly over ran the HQ before the Naval Motor Service came to the rescue.
I thought I was doing well with my last efforts but this is what I have really been looking for since I started first to buy and paint Soldierpac recasts of old 54mm Toy Soldiers as the turn of the Century approached and then to paint glossy 40mm late 19thC toy soldiers. The system is simple and robust enough to be adjusted, at very least, to suit from 1880 to 1920 but apart from my small 1914 Homage, I shall use it for fictional games with a mix of drab and colour.

The major question that remains to be answered is: "How many troops can I justify? What's the minimum for a game? What's the maximum I can make use of in a single army? And How many armies can I justify?"
Oh boy!!!!!!!  Better print some recruiting posters.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Winds of War stir a new Draft (Amended)

The ideas pot has now been seriously stirred. Over the last few days I have seriously considered a late 19th/early 20thC version of Charge! as well as a set based on Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers, Dick Larsen's rules for that inspirational 40mm Anglo-Egyptian game and of course good old MacDuff.

Apart from aiming for fast, simple and decisive, I'm hoping that the effect will be to emphasize player choices with quick success or failure and the ability to possibly recoup from failure and try again. Since my table is relatively small, I am keeping movement and ranges short so that rifle fire does not sweep the table. Long range fire is assumed to be happening without decisive effect and thus without being resolved or noted. This should allow the use of on table reserves. A side effect is that once troops enter the danger zone they will cross it rapidly meaning fire must be fairly deadly.

Following on from previous discussions morale will largely be integral. For a long time I have considered wargame casualties to represent a loss of fighting capability rather than a direct representation of killed and wounded and I am going to stick with that. For now all troops will be considered equal and I'll leave the question of how to handle inferior and superior quality units until I see how things go. Basic units are companies of 8 infantry, squadrons of 4 cavalry and batteries of 1 gun plus crew. Several of these plus an HQ can be grouped into a battalion equivalent.

Test game Oberhilse vs Faraway and Rebels circa 1905

Here is the Quick Reference version:

The Tin Brigadier
(Using combat option B)

Sequence: igougo. Roll 1d6 for orders. An order is required to move, rally, entrench or to use indirect artillery fire. HQ can store up to 6 orders. Battalion may activate on 1 order if BHQ present and all doing same thing.

Movement. Infantry: move 12" or move 1/2 and shoot/melee. +6" in column on road.
Cavalry 18"  May mount/dismount at end of turn.
Artillery 12" ending limbered. Heavy artillery 6" ending limbered.
MG 12" or shoot.
Occupy village 1/2 move.
Terrain effects by scenario for now.

Shooting. Must have LOS except indirect arty fire.
Double dice vs column in open
1/2  dice vs entrenched or in cover. Round down but minimum of 1.
Killing zone: Reroll misses vs next unit in line of fire within 6"

Rifles 12". 5,6 hits  1 die per 2 extended or entrenched infantry or dismounted cavalry.
MG 18",  4,5,6 hits  3 dice per gun

Artillery.  Arty must roll die equal to or more than range in feet to hit then roll for effect. Light gun 2 dice, -1 to acquire. Medium Gun 3 dice, Heavy gun 4 dice +1 to acquire. If target is acquired fire may be repeated without rerolling if there is LOS and target does not move more than 6". Indirect fire requires an order each turn (abstraction of need to pass fire request etc). Howitzers may fire over terrain, other guns may not shoot over terrain within 6" or at target with 6" of dead ground or over high hills.

Charges. Defender may choose to shoot and remove enemy casualties before melee or may fight in melee.

In melee 1d/2 infantry, dismounted cavalry, artillery, 1d/1 mtd cavalry on initial turn only. 4,5,6 hits.

If one side takes more than it inflicted, it immediately retreats a double move in disorder.  If tied, melee continues on next player turn  with no defensive fire. Active player may choose to retreat in good order instead of fighting.

Morale. A company forced to retreat in disorder may not advance or shoot until rallied by throwing 5,6. This requires an order. Unless specified otherwise by the scenario a side losing more than 1/2 of its companies/batteries/squadrons must concede.

Entrenching. An infantry unit not within 24" of visible enemy may entrench. This requires an order to begin. Roll 1d6 per company needing to accumulate 10 pts to entrench. Add 1 d6 if sappers are attached. Entrenchment is lost if unit moves. Units without tools may not entrench.

I'm gonna need more men!
Combat Option B

Roll 1 d/2 inf, 2 per gun 3 per MG. 6 hits fortified, 5,6 vs cover inc arty with gunshield, 4,5,6 extended in open, 3-6 column in open. Indirect fire arty must roll 1 d6 =>range in feet. Etc  
Melee 1 d/2 inf/gunner, 1d/cavalry. 4,5,6 hits.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Wisdom of the Young

That's The Brigadier Peter Young.

At the end of last week's post on early 20thC rules , I dropped in  a last minute comment about OS rules and player morale vs unit morale. It wasn't a planned comment that I had thought on, it seemed to come straight from my subconscious to the keyboard. Once aired however, it got me thinking and it got/me digging through my library. Not through history books but through wargaming books and it got me thinking again about morale but more on that in a later post.

One of the early additions to my wargaming library was the Knight's Battles for Wargamers book on Bull Run. I don't have it anymore alas, loaned to a non-wargaming friend that had expressed an interest but who I lost touch with. I do however have the Alma one and it appears that they all have the same introduction by Brigadier Young. He wrote various interesting and useful things in the introduction but there were two that are particularly relevant. One was his comment that:

"elaborate Morale rules are a waste of time. Morale is in the mind of the wargamer himself, for ultimately a war game is a duel between the two opposing generals themselves. Do not let them hide their deficiencies behind the alleged failings of their metal or plastic followers!"

The other occurred while discussing the range of battles that the series aimed to cover. He mentioned that he would like to see it expanded to cover some modern battles but that "...... it is not a bad idea when refighting these modern actions to fight them with the troops and the rules of the Napoleonic Age......." . This is indeed what Lawford & Young did in their book Charge! where the classic Battle of Sinttingbad was apparently inspired by the Battle of Sitang Bridge in Burma. I'm not going to suddenly decide to fight WW1 with my War of 1812 figures but it has given me ideas about the various late 19thC toy soldiers that I have or that I want to paint but haven't been able to figure out what to do with once painted.

Scruby infantry extended in front, Zinnbrigade Prussians painted red in march column and a Zinnbrigade mounted officer with a Scruby head. Scruby British artillery in the background. 

 As my WWI German "army" grows, I've been thinking about the opposition. For various reasons, despite the existence of a purchase option, my conclusion is that I HAVE to sculpt and cast Highlanders and British line infantry. Its now been 2 years since my last successful sculpt and mold project and even then the mold was so so. There has been some sculpting of masters, some of which I was ok with but the last mould was a complete bust. I could really use a successful mold but if so, I need to justify the cost and effort by casting more than a dozen figures. That encourages planning for a bigger game.
Scruby Jaegers/Marines from their Boxer Rebellion range painted in WWI graygreen.

I know that the sculpting and casting is going to take me more than a weekend and I can't start the war proper until the figures are cast and then painted but if I pay some heed to the Brigadier's advice and field some colourful figures, in red or blue, to brighten the table, I now have enough troops for a small test  of an alternate OSW style game which is where this started with a test game in 2011 .

Monday, August 4, 2014

Answering the call

100 years ago today (Aug 4) Britain declared that Canada was going to war with Germany. Canadians answered the call in their thousands but when the war was over  we took steps to ensure that only our own politicians would make that decision in future.  (Not that that has helped a whole lot.)

Meanwhile yet another call, a Google Hangout one this time, was answered with the result that foreign intervention, American this time, has disrupted my 1914 arms race by luring me into a 16th C wargame,  and he didn't even let me win!

My clever plan of rushing light troops forward to delay  his march until my superior numbers of pikemen could secure victory was foiled by one group being over run by obviously not very noble heavy cavalry while the remainder was shot to pieces by an equal number of the enemy whose crossbows appear to have been unaffected by the rain that must have dampened my powder. Luckily my inferior weight of horse was able to see off their opposite numbers leaving everyone on board tired and confused but happy to be there.

However, discipline and   a sense of purpose has triumphed and the 16thC castings that flooded out of the cupboard today have been shooed off to one side and the Scruby Jaegers are now, at long last, in the process of donning their uniforms.