Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Same Thing but Different

There I was, looking at the table and thinking, really I ought to play another test game, and it occurred to me that there was a similar incident at the very same location some 10 or 15 years earlier so away went the fieldgray and khaki and out came the red & blue. 
The Queen's Lancers sweep across the bridge routing some Frontier Rifles but are eventually thrown back by the Blue Dragoons after a hard fight.

That was last night. By the time I started to play this morning, I had had time to think a bit about things. There is a lot to be said  for the sequence of play used but also some weaknesses such as having to have some way to mark which units aren't eligible to shoot and the inability for friendly units to "shoot in" an assault. More important than these were the engrained habits of decades which lead me to want to shoot in "my turn" and which sometimes led me to forget to shoot with the other side. It didn't help that I picked up Little Wars as a bit of bedside reading and for the umpteenth time looked at Colonel Sykes' suggestions including the one about troops being able to fire or move, something that crops up often enough in old rules including some of my own and the first Featherstone rules I used. It is undeniable that troops did combine fire and movement over a period of time but usually ineffectively unless they stop to shoot then resume movement. If a turn represents 10 or 15 minutes this could be covered, as I have sometimes done in the past, by reducing both movement and fire effect but in a game of toy soldiers it still feels like firing on the move. Having to choose to do one or the other feels more like the real thing and leads timid players to halt and blaze away. I decided to go back to the active player shooting or moving on his turn and the other side only reacting with units that are being attacked at close quarters.

As both sides rushed troops on, the aging General Scott sent all of the line infantry over the secondary bridge in assault columns. They suffered heavily but pushed forward. Rifle and MG fire swept the Voltigeurs back, the Blue artillery was nearly wiped out by counter battery fire and the game looked just about won for Faraway. '
While I was settling that out I decided to reword the firing effects and to step up the lethality. The casualties in the last game were probably more appropriate but I decided higher risks would lead to a more exciting game and a quicker conclusion for the same size of game. I wasn't altogether happy with the way the automatic pinning for all units was working so I have decided to go back to allowing elite units to choose to take full casualties instead of being pinned. I'm also going to go back to having different numbers of hits per unit. 4 for elite, 3 for regulars, 2 for poor. This will reduce the instance of 1 man units launching desperate attacks.  Having decided that the player is, to some degree, every officer not just the General, I will also reinstate the give ground rule for cavalry and artillery that allows them to retreat under fire to reduce losses. This brings the rules back in line as a version of the Square Brigadier rather than something completely different. In any event, this game lasted less than 1/2 the time of its 3 predecessors and there were no tedious turns.

 The back of a postcard summary is below.
This time, Oberhilse had brought 17 units to attack Faraway's 12. I set the army morale at 6 for both sides with Farway losing 1 as long as  Oberhilse held the small bridge and 2 while they held the large one. With the morale standing at 4 for Faraway and 1 for Oberhilse I almost called the game but knowing that the changes included some volatility I pressed on. Two turns later with the score standing at 1 to 1 a desperate charge by the lancers on a machine gun ended the game. Just not the way they intended it to! 

The Back of a Postcard version of the Square Brigadier in the Age of Rifles.
as played on Jan 26 2015.

Sequence: Roll for initiative, A moves or fire or rallies units, Resolve Close Combat. Reverse and repeat.
Detached  If  Commander not within 6 of general or unit not within 3 of a Commander roll 1d6.
4,5,6 act as player desires
2,3 units may change facing and formation and shoot but may not move
1 units retreat a full move.
+1 if Elite, -1 if Poor, +1 for Commander (optional rate commander from -1 to +2)

Stacking and formations. No more than 2 units per area at any time. Front unit shoots/fights, rear unit supports. Speed is based on formation at start of turn. Deployed is unit ready to fight not road column. Infantry is extended if there is 1 deployed unit.

Move Infantry 1 if deployed, 2 in column, Cavalry 3 mounted, Artillery 2 or 3 limbered.
x2 column on road, x 1/2 if slowed by broken terrain, infantry & pack only 1/2 speed difficult terrain

Rally. Unit needing to rally may not move except to retreat and fights with 1/2 dice. If it does not move and is not adjacent to enemy it may rally. It may shoot and rally but does so with 1/2 dice.  

Shoot. Shoot if deployed. No move and shoot but may deploy/dismount and shoot. Roll 1d/2 rifles or 1 crewman  5,6 hits +1 if superior, -1 if inferior
1/2 dice over 1/2 range
1/2 dice if needing to rally
Suffer 1/2 casualties if in hard cover
Extended infantry suffer 1/2 casualties but go to ground and must rally, Elites may choose to take the casualties instead.
Cavalry and artillery may suffer 1/2 casualties if they immediately retreat a full move needing to rally.

Rifles 4, MG 4,  Lt Gun 8, Field gun 10, Heavy 12.
Indirect arty fire. May fire at unseen enemy if howitzer or if over 1/2 range but -1 to dice.

Close Combat. 1d/figure 5,6 hits  +1 shock troops charging -1 poor troops
Count all of first unit and 1/2 of supports.
Units needing to rally roll 1/2 dice
If attacked from front attacker rolls first unless countercharging, remove hits.
All other adjacent units then roll.
A unit with its supports that takes more hits in melee that it inflicted must retreat and must rally. Attacker must occupy the position if defender retreats. Cavalry which charged and destroyed enemy or forced it to retreat may attack again once. After all combat any mounted cavalry that charged must retreat and rally.

Commander May boost unit. If shot at or in melee. Roll 1 die. 4,5,6 1 hit cancelled 1=commander killed or wounded and removed.

Morale. Hits = loss of cohesion, fear, fatigue, ammo shortages etc as well as killed, wounded and missing. For 1/2 casualties either round down for a longer game, carry remainders for a shorter game or else dice for them (4,5,6 its a hit, 1,2,3 its a miss) . Units  are shaken when they take 3 hits, 4 if elite, 2 if poor. Retreat 1 full move may not shoot or fight in melee and will surrender if attacked but may be merged with another unit of the same regiment. Transfer strength points and lose 1 of the units.

Army Morale. Unless other victory conditions, Morale = 1/3 number of units. Lose 1 for each unit or commander lost. Others by scenario. When at 0, concede game.


  1. I'm surprised anyone lives near that bridge if there's a battle there every generation. :) My vague memories of fire and movement drills as a young infantryman was that there was a lot of gasping and jumping up and down and precious little shooting, at least, not effectual shooting, and that was with an FN (not that it worked all the time). I think the shoot or move rule for the Age of Rifles should be a hard law in all games.

  2. I seem to recall trying to do it after jogging on snowshoes through deep wet snow Involved even more chest heaving and erratic muzzle movements. Fun times, glad they're in the past.

  3. Hi Ross,
    we played a very large game of Brother Against brother last Friday night. In order to keep track of the units that did something in a turn we placed a colored "gem" behind the unit. Units that routed and needed a morale check were designated with a red "gem." It's simple and effective.

    1. I was doing something similar but I was getting more markers on the table than I like and was occasionally for getting which marker was which (4 types in play) Got that back down to 1.

      The effect on tactics was the real issue though.

  4. Hi Ross,

    Another thing I just remembered is that we were also experimenting with a what we call"half move/ fire." We penalize the firer a die pip when there's movement and fire but it does give you the ability to perhaps get close enough to charge in the next turn.


    1. Jerry I have been doing that but took it out as the result feels wrong for the period. No sense of groups providing cover for other groups as they dash forward. Is an illusion but so is a lot of miniatures. In my horse and musket rules they were framed to allow either the British tactic of holding your fire to the last minute (with a fire bonus in the game) or the French one of firing early and firing often (1/2 move and 1/2 dice in game terms). The 1st tactic was almost always most effective but very very few players had the nerve.