Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Battle of the Village Square

The last test game left me thirsting to play again but something smaller on different terrain with both sides on the move. All this snow shovelling has left me a bit tired and has eaten into my spare time so I wanted something to amuse me during breaks as well as testing the rules. Luckily this sort of tape and modular terrain lends itself to tampering and in no time at all I had  a cross road in the midst of fairly open, rolling terrain.
The armies approach. Red's cavalry has seized the town but supports are far behind while Blue is up and deployed.
Turning back the fictional clock again I broke out the reds and blues of an earlier day and set the game in the long disputed Origawn Territory, somewhat more settled now than when the original fighting took place in the 1850's (see Blast Off Ridge) but still disputed and thus not as heavily settled as it might be. Borrowing from Grant's Sawmill Village I gave each side a General plus their pick of 6 "units" with . a "unit" being 1 battery, 1 Squadron of Cavalry or 2 companies of infantry. A random choice could have been made but I wanted each side to have all three arms for play test purposes and I didn't want to borrow 1850's or 1905 figures. Blue has ample infantry and gun crews but only 1 gun and 1 cavalry squadron while Red has ample cavalry and gunners but only mountain guns and 6 companies of infantry including one slight cheat. So there I was: 2 cavalry, 1 mountain howitzer and 6 infantry vs 1 cavalry, 1 field gun and 8 infantry. The cavalry were all regular shock troops with carbines, the infantry regulars with modern rifle and bayonets. The army morale was arbitrarily set at 4 for each side with uncontested control of the town being worth 1. (In others words a side had to retreat if it lost a combination of 4 units and leaders or 3 units and leaders if the other side held the town).  

A pincer attack by Blue aims to delay Red's reserves while the Blue Guards close in on the White House.

There were 2 main things that I wanted to test. One was the current variation on the Orders system and the other was the reversion to 1/2 casualties with the old Rally rule. 

In particular I was curious about what range of commander to unit ratios would work. In the previous game there had been between 4 and 6 units per commander and it was about right given the dispersion that happened during the attack. In this case I was set to have 9 or 10 units with 1 commander. If individual orders were always needed then it was clearly inadequate but on the other hand each commander is capable of moving up to 27 units on a roll of 1 if they were properly formed with several units stacked in columns in a hopeless "+" battle formation or 10 or 12 units in a more reasonable but still tight formation. Once units get driven back, charge ahead, make a flanking move or need to rally, it gets trickier. 

This variation is how the rules had originally been envisaged and I am glad to be back to it but doubts lingered. I had toyed with regimental commanders for groups of 4 companies. These could only command adjacent units but in practice not only were they everywhere and plentiful enough to often risk themselves to bolster troops in combat but having mounted officers leading  charges seemed too romantic for even toy late 19thC soldiers and having them on foot meant they kept getting confused with company officers. If starting from scratch with the Colonels as the only officers it might have worked but I'm not cashiering all the existing Captains and replacing them with sergeants. That horse has bolted and is long gone.

As it turns out the old formula worked like a charm. Usually the Brigadiers were able to do what needed doing but several times there were not enough pips on the die and choices had to be made, press ahead with the attack, or regroup or let engaged units engage in a firefight while the general tries to rally troops  for a new attack. I think the new rule of thumb will be just 1 Brigadier for "armies" of up to 12 units. For larger forces, 1 Division General and up to 1 Brigadier per 6 units.    

The Blue Guards have stormed the White House, capturing or killing all of the defending lancers but find them selves in a firefight with some redcoats in the Warehouse. An attempt to capture the other white house has just been repulsed while the Blue Dragoons ran afoul of the Naval Brigade with their howitzer backed by rifle fire and have been driven back with loss.

It was surprisingly hard to get myself to play the rules as written without tinkering but I managed it with one small exception (allowing units to fall back while rallying) and with writing down a couple of unwritten rules that I stumbled across (eg the rules sort of implied that you couldn't charge through a town while claiming hard cover but didn't actually say you couldn't.) 

In the end I was glad that I stuck to my guns as everything worked as envisaged. The 1/2 casualties with defined rounding worked just right. Being in full cover makes it hard to wear a unit down. A unit in partial cover or extended and prone is as easy to hit as a formed unit but the maximum damage is limited to the same as troops in cover. With no variation in scores or number of dice, its all easy to track.  

Perhaps I should not have been surprised that it all worked since all the individual rules had been tested at various times, and the ensemble was a small variation of the tried and tested rules used from 2013 through the first half of 2014. Still one never knows till one tries.

The Blue Guards have been repulsed all along the line and Red is advancing to consolidate their hold on the town. Blue's General has run low on ideas and falls back on a long range firefight while he tries to rally his Brigade for another assault.

So, how did it go? Two thumbs up! It would have made a good report for the Newport Noodle but I wanted to talk a bit about the rules so maybe next time. Here is the short version.

Red won the toss and got 1st move. He rushed his cavalry ahead full steam trusting that he would roll high enough on the next turn to both seize the town and bring up supports.  He didn't. That left Blue having to choose between sending his cavalry ahead 1 vs 2 to try and drive the Red cavalry back before they could dismount and occupy the buildings or keep his force together for a concentrated attack. I decided to roll with a 5,6 indicating a rash attack but a 2 was rolled and so I applied a more cautious approach.

From there the game proceeded as per the photos with Blue's concentrated attack, supported with artillery while the Blue  Dragoons threatened the flank, succeeding in taking 1/4 of the town before being repulsed. An extended firefight ensued with Red eventually launching a limited counter attack  taking a 3rd quarter and driving Blue back then breaking their morale (3 units destroyed plus Red had the town but most of Blue's units were down to 1 or 2 figures). 

All in 12 turns played over perhaps an hour or a bit more over 4 or 5 short sessions. There were turns of fortune, choices to be made,  a clear result and  I got to use my new dismounted dragoon. Perfect.

End Game. Heavy fire from Red breaks up every attempt at another Blue assault and eventually they are forced to give up and retire. 
 At some point I'll see just how big a battle the rules can handle without me getting bored but this is the sort of small scenario I anticipate using for most impromptu games. Back to figures and terrain and background narrative. The armies are already about 1/2 of their full strength but I also want to get back to doing field hospitals, signallers, engineers, marching bands, civilians, staff officers and the like,  maybe 100 or so more figures plus a couple of guns, limbers and carts as well as tidying up the varied basing. 

Once spring comes around and I can access my table saw, I need to work on the hills to make them more flexible. I also want to build new houses and some farms to fit the grid. Ideally a house should take up 1/2 a square and be able to hold a unit rather than being solid. Also lots of hedges.

I'm still having fun with this!


  1. The test of any battle report is 'does it sound like the description of a real battle?' If is does - and this one certainly does - it must have been a great wargame to have taken part in.

    It sounds as if you are putting together a set of rules that produced a fun, fast-play game that also seems to reflect what we would have expected to happen in real life ... and that is no mean feat!

    I look forward to seeing where you are going to go next with this ... especially as I am following my own somewhat different approach to something similar.

    All the best,


    1. Bob it felt good that the game had the feel I have been aiming for both as a game and a wargame.

  2. Another great looking table - I love looking at your games. I read recently that snow shoveling is a huge cause of heart attacks so give it a miss and just play indoors with toy soldiers!!!

  3. A very sprightly action, and what a fine looking game. You have Anglo sympathies re the snow; a friend of mine from Windsor, Ontario, tells me that although it's not, supposedly, as bad as last year, it still seems awful - she's in 'Surviving February' mode.

    1. Cabin fever is setting in here but at least there is the consolation that the snow is several times the average and we are pushing the accumulated "snow on the ground" record.

  4. Enjoyed You write up of the Battle Ross- excellent 40mm Figures and Terrain- most enjoyable. We do not have Snow here - though in Winter it can get pretty cold- Yes, I guess Your looking forward to Spring now- Were on the last Day of Summer here and it is a humid 32deg C...Autumn will be more pleasant working in the Modelling/Gaming Shed. Regards. KEV.