Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chippewa Charge!

Change of topic!

I've been a bit troubled about my War of 1812 collection ever since I found myself with two stylistically incompatible types of figures, various sets of rules and no lasting consensus on the sort of game I want to play. When one adds in a shortage of space and a desire to focus painting and playing on the late 19th century, its no wonder I've been contemplating selling off the chunkies. At first I hesitated until I painted 200 replacements but once I decided that I could do a portable style wargame with what I had left after selling the chunkies only one thing really stopped me. Nostalgia.  After all, this was a collection I began when I bought this old farmhouse 10 years ago and prepared for premature retirement. The 3rd Ohio was one of my first units of original figures and the figures have appeared in Battlegames magazine and (mislabelled as 25mm) in Stuart Asquith's Guide to the War of 1812.

Back when the figures were new and bright. Homemade US shakos on Sash & Sabre British with the blanket rolls removed. Prince August Indians lurk.(photo by e tenebris lux)

There is a long way to go but I am finally making a tiny bit of headway of reorganizing and making better use of space, and I think I have made enough room for another shelf which should cover me for a few years worth of additions. So, I took another look. Leaving aside figures, I also don't want to get distracted by rules. In fact I am trying to reduce the number of sets I use.  One set I am committed to using, is Charge!, which is used for the Not Quite the Seven Years War games. The authors state several times that it was designed for the late 18th Century and Napoleonic wars so it ought to fit.

My first thought was to field 1812 Battalions as Charge! companies but for the smaller battles this is too few units and too inflexible. My existing armies were originally designed for 2-4 x 8 man companies with regimental command groups and since the rules state that the examples are just suggestions I decided to give it a try using my original units making roughly 1/2 sized Charge! units.

Somewhere in Upper Canada in 1814. The Glengarries have beaten the odds and repulsed the New York Dragoons while the main battle lines pummel each other with musketry and cannister.
The rules weren't meant for the War of 1812 so I had to give some thought to how to adapt the war to the rules and vice versa.

The first question was light infantry, especially, US Rifles, Kentuckians, Glengarries and Voltigeurs, not to mention Indians. The knee jerk reaction is that they should all be different with varying capabilities and morale but in practice, while the US Rifles certainly had a reputation for accuracy, in battle they all seemed to have fulfilled their role well and  I know I'll play more generic games than historical recreations. I decided to treat them all as standard Charge! light infantry with 2 exceptions. First, irregulars such as Indians and US volunteers, Kentuckians etc fight as militia if they try to form up. The second is that the Indians will   do morale by company not by regiment.

The next question was what to do with Militia and varying qualities of Regulars. The Charge! militia is particularly weak but will serve for local forces called out in emergencies and for reluctant units forced to cross the border.  The only differentiation of regulars in Charge! is that Grenadiers shoot better. I can't see that as the right bonus for the British but may use it sparingly for crack troops on both sides. Rather than muck about inventing minor tweaks and destroying the elegance, I am going to treat all other regulars, fencibles, volunteers, and embodied militia as line infantry. But, there's a twist, a unit becomes understrength and has to retreat when it had lost more than 1/2 of its original strength, including supernumeries. A standard unit will be exactly 1/2 the size of an original Charge! unit or 3 x 8 man companies + 6 officers, drummers etc. The number of supernumeries can be increased or decreased to make units less or more resilient to enemy fire without changing its own fire ability. Local or demoralized units could also also be shorted a company to weaken them.  

Last man standing. The 1st Ohio finally breaks bringing the game to a close. It occurred to me that some sort of pre-set victory condition other than mutual annihilation might have been good but it was a close game with some nerve racking turns of fate.
So, it worked even better than anticipated (O Ye of Little Faith!)  Not surprising since the rules have always worked well. Perhaps not for those who want screw ups that they aren't responsible for  but I make enough mistakes of my own to add friction, For example, it just didn't sink in that since the British left was advanced, they would be in range sooner and thus just ordering the whole line to advance full speed would give the British left a free first shot against the US right. Only the fact that the US rolled consistently better for shooting allowed them to recover from that to come within a hair of winning.  

Once a game is going the little guys don't really clash too badly with the big guys and its good to have a  table ready army and a trusted set of rules, especially one which I didn't write and won't tamper with because I use them in a group project. There I am, a collection rescued!

There are more figures that should or could be added, especially mounted officers, drummers and Generals, and a few others here and there.  My Scruby Americans need another 6 figures, the British Scrubies need to go back on washers for uniformity and stability, but nothing major and its all ready for small scenarios right away and only 200 or so more figures needed should I wish to fight the biggest battles and have a choice of uniforms. But that is for a possible future, for now what I have works and I can rest easy and get back to 1899.

A Sergeant of the 41st grabs the colours of the 3rd Ohio at the end of that ambush battle some 8 years ago. Gary, who commanded them, used the shot as a screen saver for weeks afterwards.
(photo by e tenebris lux) 


  1. An interesting and enjoyable post with loads to look forward to.

  2. A splendid, and bloody, charge!

    1. I like to think that most of the missing figures will be back by morning. :)

  3. 'Charge' is one of my top 5 sets of rules , Tony

  4. Thanks Stu, I was aware from a magazine article by Stuart that he hsd done something or other along those lines. I appreciate your offer but my number one concern is that I don't do anything that will confuse me when I'm co-GMing a convention game using the original rules so I'd just as soon not know right now! Anyway after examining the figures on hand and what would have to be added, I have decided to can the 1/2 sized units after all.

  5. I just discovered that this Athena edition of Charge! exists, and am looking for it. (Charge was my first and still favorite ruleset.) Might I trouble you for the rules?

  6. Hi Jennifer, Alas, I'm aware of the Athena version but have never seen it in the flesh.
    If you're looking for any amendments, I don't think I changed any rules from the original, only made smaller units, and ended up not pursuing it because I realized I was trying to do more things than I could handle. Given that it was terminated so quickly, I doubt that I kept any drafts or notes from 6 years ago, but I'll have a look.

    (Incidently, while I started with Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers, Charge! was my second book and helped get me through my first year on military college in 72/73 even though I didn't get to play a game till the next year.)