EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Sunday, January 18, 2015

See you in hell!

The Rebel and Federal cavalry face off for the first time in a nameless skirmish. After 2 rounds of drawn  melee they saluted each other and rode off, still Blue Dragoons at heart.
(I did try keeping the yellow hat band on the Blue Dragoons but they looked so much like police officers that I repainted them dark blue.

It occurred to me yesterday (not for the first time but I think its worth noting when you notice the same thing repeatedly)  that grid based units have, or can have,  many similarities to single stand non-grid units. The immediate, more trivial, aspect of this observation was the recognition that if I have again, and I have, scrapped figure based combat for unit or element based combat, then once again it does not matter how many figures are in a unit as long as they fit in a grid area and I like the look.

For a while now I have been playing with 3 figure cavalry units on the grid and 8 figure ones off grid but last fall I upped my new units to 4 on the grid. I think it was the size of the bases on a few  of my figures that prompted  the idea of replacing each 4 figure unit with 2x3 figure units but I shook my head yesterday to clear it then painted up 1 more rebel light horseman while finishing a 4 man squadron of Blue Dragoons. At the same time I revisited the proposed 4x4 figure infantry units in favour of 2 x 6.

This has nothing, or little at worst, to do with rules, its about how many figures I want to paint and then cram onto the table when all is said and done. The largest Teaser games call for around a dozen cavalry and infantry scenario-units. Something like 16 cavalry and 48 infantry in 20 game-units , as proposed, makes for a nice compact force, easy(ish) to finish and then duplicate in various uniforms for various settings. Making it 24 cavalry and 128 infantry in 40 game-units on the same table would have meant longer games and squishing almost all units in whichever uniform into any large game which wasn't where I had decided to go. Phew! Another self inflicted bullet dodged.    


  1. The net effect seem to me to create quite large-scale battles with relatively few figures. If you have lots of figures anyhow, then you can conduct not only operations and campaigns but whole wars. All without doubling up on units.

    For me this is a consideration. When I build armies, I like units to have permanent names, as you have, rather than simply generic, unnamed units. The latter has the virtue of flexibility, but lacks the identity so essential to my mind of narrative and story. Even my DBM Byzantines were organised into formal units, though it is an element based rule set.

    Speaking of which, a friend many years ago, deciding that DBM was a board game played on an open table tried to convert it into a board game proper on a hex field. It didn't seem to work, but possibly we didn't give it a fair go. As my Dark Age armies are based for 15mm DBM, they seem eminently suited to the sort of grid treatment you have devised.

    This has to be investigated further!

    1. Yes, I agree on all points.

      My friend Ron and I have played DBA on a hex grid. The trick is to accept that the game will not be exactly the same and deciding how to handle the irreconcilable differences in advance. (Things like basewith and who is overlapping vs in contact etc.

  2. I have off and on been wondering what to do with my Byzantines...

  3. Thanks for sharing your thinking on wargames development. Once again you go where almost every other blogger fears to tred. One interesting thing is that I would have matched up the four figures in one to one combats and done a roll off. Your techniques of having the whole unit fight another whole unit seems more streamlined - and the battlefield still looks "cool."
    Nice job.

    1. I did fall back on the old ways for 2 games and there is an appeal to it but the whole unit approach does allow me more flexibility in how I build my units as well as fast.

  4. I certainly agree with you on unit to unit combat vs figure to figure. I think the fatal flaw in most commercial mass market rules systems, especially anything from Games Workshop, is that it bogs down into figure by figure death by multiple die rolls. This may be fascinating to young gamers. Older gamers, perhaps, are more comfortable with a higher degree of abstraction.
    I have an ongoing debate with myself about my SYW armies. For some reason I have it in mind that my cavalry units should all have twelve figures, the same (or slightly less) than my infantry units? But why, especially given the cost and painting time for 28mm lead cavalry? Given the vagaries of finding horses and keeping them healthy, most armies in the horse and musket period were likely grateful for whatever cavalry they could scrape up.

    1. SYW organization and numbers varied widely by nation. The Prussians maintain strong units equal in size to the infantry while the French and British tended to field small 2 squadron regiments barely 1/2 the size of an infantry battalion. A good reason for doing the Western campaigns!