Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Life and Times of Brigadier Zinn

I know, they are just little metal or plastic figurines but some wargame figures just do seem to take on a character of their own. It may start with us embellishing stories,  attributing to them decisions made by us on their behalf or remarking on the way the dice seem to smile or frown upon certain characters or units but in the end does it matter how it started? Some little guys just seem to end up with a tale of their own.

Brigadier Zinn is one of those.

(For the curious, this famous officer is represented on my table top by a 40mm Zinnbrigade casting of a 1900 Prussian officer, suitably converted in 2007 and again this morning. His brigade was recruited principally from Historifig (Scruby) ACW figures now being restored) 

Brigadier Zinn in 1875  with a detachment of the Oberhilse 2nd Infantry.
Note that his hair and mustache have gone grey and he is wearing the new Republican uniform inspired by the dark blue of the old Republican Guard as well as one of the new small caps copied from Hougal volunteers.
There is no record of Brigadier Zinn's early career in the army but in "The Rattle of Dice: Memoirs of a Frontier Soldier" by General M. Ross Ret'd  (click here) he is mentioned as being the Major in charge of the Oberhilse Field Force artillery at the Battle of Blast Off Ridge in 1838. This was the opening battle of the Origawn War which lasted until 1845. There was a rapid expansion of the army and the  contribution of the artillery under his command during that battle must have been noted. In the days of the old Oligarchy, the notice of the Council was all that was needed and with a few months there is photographic evidence of him leading the Oberhilse Field Force's First Brigade at the Battle of Wye.  Soon the name of Brigadier Zinn appears in battle report after battle report, often credited with saving the day and even more famous for the number of wounds he has suffered at the head of his men.
Brigadier Zinn wearing the old uniform at the head of the OFF 1st Infantry in 1843.
Between the end of the Origawn War and the outbreak in 1875 of the Intervention, the first of a series of wars now known collectively as the Twenty Year's War, Oberhilse  went through a tumultuous time which included the over throw of  the Oligarchy and the Declaration of the Republic of Oberhilse. Brigadier Zinn was one of those military officers who did their duty and stayed out of politics. The result was that he maintained his position but lost favour with the new government and with favour, all chance of promotion. 

Thus it was that at the outbreak of War, mere months before his 50th birthday, he found himself  once again marching to battle at the head of the Oberhilse First Infantry Brigade.  "Hooray for Papa Zinn!" was the cry in the streets and in the papers.

PS. It has come to my attention that Brigadier Zinn had a son George who followed in his foot steps in the Oberhilse Artillery as can be seen here

"Hallo young George, come up for the races have you? Well, I suppose I should be calling you Lieutenant Zinn now shouldn't I? congratulations on graduating young man. and smartly turned out too. What's this nonsense in the papers about this so called service dress? Why, when your daddy and I campaigned in the Origawn Territory, we did so with boots properly blacked and brass shining. No batman worth his salt would have let it be otherwise."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Finishing Up. A Battle Report.

The sun was already high in the sky when General Turner stopped by Molly with her mule full of Mussels and Kegs of Rum. Satisfied that she was as good for the men as any Field Hospital, he pressed on up the hill and surveyed the Old Enemy. 

As the Royals prepared to storm the town a sudden pre-emptive strike by the 1st Infantry sent them reeling back.  The Light Horse have dismounted behind cover and their rifles have already inflicted a hit on the Dragoons. A rogue rocket that veered right came very near to inflicting another!
Red dots mark where Red suffered a loss, Blue's losses are marked by umhmm ..
Green.. dots)

Even without a balloon hanging over his head he was able to count 3 battalions of Blue infantry, Brigadier Zinn's Oberhilse Field Force no doubt, a handful of Greyclad Riflemen, a squadron of Dragoons, a squadron of those damned Frontier Mounted  Rifles, a stubborn and cantankerous bunch as ever was, and 2 guns, one of them a small popgun on a packhorse. Kegs of rum were a better load for a horse or mule. The ever present Travelling Medicine Show seemed to be setting up shop in behind.

Well, he had his own rifles supported by the Royals under Spye, the Young Buffs and Green Tigers under Stoneforte backed by a 9 pounder and then Nolan's cavalry Brigade, Princess Charlotte's Heavies and the King's damned Hussars on their massive horses. Heaviest damn hussars you could ever want. All nicely backed up by the gallant Faraway Trading Company Rocket Brigade, wonder who gets those if the rumours about the company being taken over by the Crown are true?

Zinn's bluecoats seem to be in town already, that could be a problem. No amount of musket fire is going to drive them out. This will have to be bayonet work.  Well, Tin Hearts all.

Best order Nolan to take the cavalry around the right while the infantry storms the town.

Blue's cavalry has been driven in with heavy losses but not broken but Blue's infantry still holds the town.

Well, this is no good, thought Turner, losses are mounting, all attacks on the town have been repulsed with loss and that damned strumpet is sending more men back to the tents drunk than she is returning them refreshed to battle. However, the original plan still looks the best and the enemy has also been hit hard. Its only Zinn that's holding the 1st Infantry to their work under the artillery fire. I'd half swear he's propping dead soldiers back up in the windows with their muskets.

So I'll order the Royals to march to the centre and then every one in! No holding back.
Its Neck or Nothing now!  (and hopefully that rascal Scott doesn't have any Blue Rabbits up his sleeves).

Lord Snooty looks on as the Blue Army breaks, a sight he has not often seen during his tour as Observer. 
Well, he didn't. General Zinn was wounded once again, look for where the fight is hardest and you will find him there, without him the trickle of wounded blue coming out of the corner Pharmacy became a flood. Across the street, the Buff's stormed first the Stone House and then the Restaurant while the Queen's cavalry once again proved that they earn their fancy uniforms the hard way.

Each side had an army morale of 8. Red lost 1 point for a unit below 1/2 and had been down another for an objective in enemy hands until they retook 2/3 of the town. Blue lost 6 points for 3 destroyed units, 2 more for units below 1/2 strength and another because Red held one of the objectives, the bridge. It was much closer than it looked though as 2 turns earlier the army morale difference was only 1.

While I was clearing the table after this game I belatedly remembered that ``the plan`` calls for this period to be dropped. Some of the figures will fall back into the 1812 collection (musket era), some will be held for a future Northern Indian campaign and others will join those who have already been modernized and rolled forward to the 1870's & 80's (Rifle era) but this was quite likely the last battle of the Origawn War that has raged for 7 years without the armies ever being completed! (?)

Just as well the Queen's troops won the last round, it'll make it easier to explain the later history.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Shelf.

I went up to clear the table this morning so I could use it as a work surface to repaint some dog training apparatus for Kathy. Somehow this seems to have involved putting some of my ceramic buildings on the table to see how they fit the 6" grid. What followed seemed almost beyond my control  ..........

After a year's rest, the Red Queen's troops march onto the table.
40mm homecast 1840's conversions.
Since it appeared that I was about to replay the scenario I figured I could at least change the armies and period. Its been a year since my 1830's/40's Atlantican troops were last on the table so it seemed like a good time to get them out.  The last thing I did with these was to reorg them into 18 man  battalions based as  3's and 6's. Not ideal but it worked with each 3 counting as 1  ie the equivalent of 6 figure battalions. I looked at other options but they all resulted in "large" battalions which would have needed to be matched by larger artillery and cavalry units to maintain the balance.

One of the things that is not immediately apparent during the transition from musket to rifled musket to breech loader and eventually magazine rifles is that while ranges went up a little for serious combat and a lot for skirmishing, casualties did not except during the introductory period of each change.  There appear to be 3 main factors. 

One is that despite increases in ammunution allotments, the men acquired the ability to shoot everything they had in very short periods of time and therefore the officers had to control (prevent) shooting except when most needed. When engaging in a low intensity exchange of fire, higher rates of fire mean less since neither is firing at anything full speed or they would run out. The ability to take cover more easily and that increased range are the main advantages of the improvements for skirmishers.

Another, closely related, is that not everyman is a marksmen, even if properly trained rather than being a 1/2 trained conscript. This means long range shooting was best left to a small number of sharpshooters while the rest saved their ammo for the short range firefight.

Lastly, tactics changed. A line went from a close order line on the position to be held with a thin screen of skirmishers to a thick line of skirmishers taking cover on the position with the rest in support under cover to the rear, ready to counter attack, reinforce, defend the flank etc. Dispersal and cover countered increased rates of fire, ranges and accuracy.

During periods of transition the side with the newer weapons would reap the benefits but eventually things would even out. A low level detail analog game would need to show this, a more abstract just needs to know if someone has an advantage and what the result was.

The point? Ever since "meeting" Morschauser my rules have tended to rely on differential advantages not absolute effect. This means the game today used the same rules but with shorter ranges, something that had its own effect on tactics.

But its late. A report on the game tomorrow.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back to the Table

There is nothing like sitting at a computer to update a set of wargame rules to confuse and confound an undisciplined mind and nothing like putting figures on the table and rolling some dice to clear it again.

I explored many paths over the last few days and restarted this game 3 times with changes in rules and organizations. Naturally I eventually found my way back to where I started 2 weeks ago but simplified (ie less tightly defined in some areas, better defined in others). Writing this up properly for all of the sub-periods including explanations is going to take a while and I expect time will be short for the next while so this post includes the 'back of a postcard rules' version that I used.

40mm 1885 Atlantica. Armies entered on the diagonal. Blue 2 cav, 2 guns, 5 infantry, Hospital. Red 2 cav, 2 guns, 1 gatling, 4 infantry, observation  balloon. Objectives are to control cross road and bridge. At mid point everything  is contested.

Back of a Blog Post Rules for late 19thC
(summarized from Hearts of Tin)

Distances are in undefined increments roughly equal to the width of a deployed infantry unit. I used  6" increments but it could as easily be 3" or squares or hexes.  The game was designed with 3-5 "companies" per unit with dice per company but here it is phrased per figure. Currently my 40mm Toy Soldier units are 8 infantry (4 companies), 6 cavalry (3 troops), or 1 gun and 4 crew (2 sections) but this is not a mandatory organization. For translating these units for Grant and Asquith scenarios if use 2 guns = scenario battery, 2 inf = scenario infantry unit, 1 cav=1 scenario cav unit. My 20mm units are 3 cav bases or 4 infantry bases each counting as 2 figures. At this period a deployed unit of infantry is assumed to have a firing or heavy skirmish line extended in front with close order supports under cover to the rear to refresh and reinforce the firing line as needed. Earlier the line is the main fighting formation with a thin screen so a few skirmishers can be stuck out for show but measure to the main unit and scoot the skirmishers when engaged.

Sequence. 1st Player rolls for number of orders the moves and shoots with all units in any sequence desired. Both  sides resolve combat between engaged units. Repeat reversing roles.

Orders: 1d6 @turn. 1 order per unit except order to Brigadier allows him to issue order to his units within range 2.  Order needed to move or stand up or form column. No order needed to shoot or deploy or go prone if deployed.

Move Distances: cavalry:4 and attack, deployed infantry:1 and shoot or attack, infantry column, mg: 1 and attack or 2, artillery:2.
+1 in column on road but may not attack.
Terrain. Define by scenario but base is move reduced to 1 or impassible

Engagement Range Moving to range 1 of enemy is an attack. Must halt or close and must resolve combat.

Shooting. Must be deployed and not engaged. Deployed Infantry may move 1 and shoot with 1/2 figures or may go prone and shoot but may not shoot and attack. Any unit may deploy or dismount and shoot.
Range and dice
Infantry & dismounted cav: 1d/4 figures Ranges: Rifles 3,  Carbine, musket 2
 Gatling 3 dice, range 4.
Artillery. 2 dice up to 1/2 range 1 die beyond.
Rifled artillery range 10, smooth bore range 6
Effect: @ 5,6 hits
-1  vs cover
+1  if superior firepower ( scenario defined)
+1 vs column or enfilade
Going to ground. Infantry with breechloaders which are deployed may go prone when fired at. They will count as in cover against shooting only but may not move. A prone unit takes a whole turn to stand up and may not shoot while doing so. Standing up requires an order. (Note Infantry with muskets may go prone but may not shoot while prone.)

Combat/Melee. All units within range 1 of enemy must roll. 1d per 2 figures.
5,6 hits.
-1 vs cover (Note: attacker may not claim cover on turn of attack.)
+1 if mounted cavalry attacking or attacked in the open or if regulars attacking irregulars or untrained troops or other advantage as defined for scenario.

Side losing more than inflicted retreats 1/2 move and may not move except to retreat and may not shoot next turn.
Winner may occupy ground. Mounted Cavalry may pursue and fight again. If drawn melee mounted cavalry must fall back 1/2,

Understrength. Units below 50% may not attack

Commanders. Move upto 4 if ordered + once per turn Commander not with unit may move without order to join a unit and steady it if it takes a hit. Must stay with unit till next turn. Roll 1 die: 5,6 hit cancelled, 1 =Commander removed and not replaced.  If General lost -1 to order dice for rest of game.

Special Units. Deployed hospital may receive 1 hit figure each turn. Next turn roll 1 die. 5,6 returns the figure to his unit. 1-4 he dies or is evacuated.
Observation Balloon aloft +1 to Orders Die.

Army Morale.  1 pt per unit.
-1 each unit below 1/2 strength but still on table
-2 each unit destroyed
- VP of each objective held by enemy.
At 0 must retreat.

With the day getting late and a drawn game looming despite a firm grip on the crossroads, Blue launched a series of cavalry charges to drive Red away from the bridge but mostly managed to wreck both cavalry brigades. Belatedly he brought up his artillery, the stars of the game for Blue. In no time heavy cavalry casualties forced Red to retreat. In the end Red lost 3 units destroyed with 3 more below 1/2 strength and Blue holding both objectives.  Blue only lost 1 unit with only 2 more below 1/2 strength thanks largely to a very efficient hospital. Once again it seems that in a small game an observation balloon is of minor value since there are usually enough orders while a hospital can be very useful. In large games the value reverses as orders are always short but the hospital gets overwhelmed.  

So, a storm is a teacup after all and all is well with the world again. The next cavalry unit is almost ready for varnish and more figures are waiting!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Drummer Beat Charge!

Its still not the best casting weather but Huzzah is rapidly approaching and my Irish Grenadiers needed a drummer before they marched.

The Grenadier Company of Rosmark's Irish Regiment drilling on their new washer bases.
40mm Prince August homecast.
Apologies for the picture quality, this one is on the lazy photographer and gloss varnish, not his equipment.

Casting a drummer and doing a head swap has been a task put off time and again until not needed. The drummer is from the new Prince August Prussian drummer. The Grenadiers are from the old Rosbach range. I almost set about painting the new washer bases green in my current fashion but luckily remembered that the rest of the army is finished this way so it would be all or nothing.

I would have liked to take a whole regiment of the new figures with me but I'm not set up for inside casting and this winter was brutal and prolonged. With only 2 weekends left to prepare and spring chores doubled, that won't happen now. There is a slim chance I might be able to finish a Grenadier company for a new regiment to bring in place of MacDuff's but its a low priority and not helped by casting problems last week. I could not get the officer's sword to cast, or the nco and the marching infantry mold kept leaking out the side. Nothing serious but it was too cold, too dark and too cluttered in the shed to spend the time required to figure out what the problem was and fix it. Once things warm up  a bit more I'll be able to open the doors up, tidy up my work area, get some lights set up again and go to work comfortably.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Collating Data

Its almost time for a new summary and plan of action post, but I'm not quite ready. I have been thinking about it and rereading old blog posts (and not just my own) to remind myself of this and that. I am pleased to find that a January 2011 post  still pretty much sums up my intent and goals even if the desired length of games has shortened.

For those not interested in plans it does contain a couple of pictures of 15mm and 54mm armies that were already gone by then.

One of the things that was contemplated over this last week was my surprising reaction to enjoying the 40mm Toy Soldier and 20mm ACW games. Eventually I decided it had to do with 2 main things, the illusion that a miniature game provides and an outbreak of Old School Nostalgia. Of course two of the things most likely to trigger nostalgia in me are Airfix ACW and shiny Victorian toy soldiers. This is same nostalgia that drove me to quickly write up the Rattle of Dice variant of Hearts of Tin a couple of years ago. Since I don't wish to destroy the Square Brigadier I am going to remove the offending projects from the Square Brigadier bucket and roll back the latest change deigned to allowed for bigger units and longer games. The WW1 game will stay as will the 20mm 1900 Colonial one, the Quebec game and possibly the RCW game. The goal will be easily stored games that are quick to set up, play, and pack up with the 1/72nd version being easily portable.

That will leave the 1885 Atlantica figures along the 1812 and in between collections trucking along allowing me to paint as many toy soldiers as I want and play simple, low sophistication games with the 1885 game in particular aiming more for that Victorian myth feel than gritty reality. Looking at the Rattle of Dice rules reminded me that they were basically a rewording of the core mechanisms of the original Hearts of Tin so that is the route I will take, a reworded Hearts of Tin written in terms of figures not "companies" or "stands".

I'm also going to give up the effort to convert to generic measurement units and call an inch an inch. I, and others, can convert easily enough to suit what ever scales or grids they wish to use. I will maintain a Common Denominator of 3 inch increments for all measurements to allow for easy conversion.  Since I still have trouble reading tape measures these days and don't want to try and mesh 16 x 40 mm figure units with a grid, I will be experimenting further with measuring batons painted with range/movement bands but no increments, a device similar to those recommended in several early sets of wargames.

Well, I need to get back to neglected chores, more on the weekend, hopefully including toys on the table. A summary of expected hobby doings, periods, rules and so on should follow next week.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Almost Holding the Pass

On Friday I made the trek to Halifax for a little socializing and a game. Ron had set up the Hold the Pass scenario ftom CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios set in Tunisia in 1943. We rolled for sides and I found myself defending with Yanks.

An ambush by infantry with mortars and a bazooka supported by artillery fire gave me an early lead. (That's me in the picture so thanks to Ron for the pics.)
The rules are slightly modified Memoir44. Apart from minor things like using the rolling terrain Ron lays out to determine sight lines the major differences are:

a) Command: Instead of zones we have HQ stands, two labelled left & right with a 3 hex command radius and an overall or Center commander with a 4 hex radius. After various experiments we have laid no other restrictions on them. They are treated as infantry needing an order or on the move card to move but having no combat dice.

b) Ranges. We found the original ranges did not let us take advantage of the rolling terrain so we doubled all ranges except close assault. Initially we also doubled movement for consistency but found that made the game too jerky so have left it alone and it plays well.

c) Tanks. Without wanting to get carried away we wanted a little more differentiation between say a Stuart and a Panther so after much experimentation we have simply defined tanks  as heavy (move 2,4 hits, range 4), medium (move 3, 3 hits, range 3) and light (move 4, 3 hits, range 2). Exceptions may have a lighter or heavier gun than usual such as a Churchill as Heavy Tank but range 3). This simplified version doesn't appear to address armour penetration, etc but in practice it works and the pay off of speed vs power with even the weakest having enough power to be useful makes each  type a reasonable unit useful for different purposes without getting into game balance issues.

An on rush of German armour soon reversed that.

d) Infantry without bazooka equivalent can only damage tanks by close assault although they can cause retreats (flags).

e) Artillery must have line of sight or have a spotter. The spotter can be any unit including a commander who is ordered, does not shoot and can see the target. The artillery must also be ordered.

I had to call on Airpower to balance things a bit but a Counter Attack by a Stuka left me in the hole again.

For this game I had 4 infantry, 1 mechanized infantry (elite, can move 2 and battle), 1 Priest SP artillery, 1 Sherman, 1 Stuart. My troops started in concealment. Ron had 2 panzer Grenadier, 2 stug, 2 Pzr4, 1 Tiger and 2 SP artillery. Ron's troops started off table and needed 'on the move cards' to enter.

 The break point for both was 5.

With all tanks destroyed on both sides and honours even st 4 a piece, Ron's Tank Destroyers were helpless against infantry in woods but without bazookas they were also safe from them. It became an ineffective artillery duel with the cards running out and then Ron pulled the Barrage card.....

In short, it was a nail biter of a game that went pretty much through the deck and down to the wire to a 5:4 victory for Ron. Exciting enough that we didn't notice that we played more than an hour past my usual departure time. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This and That and a Welcome

I still haven't had time to think the thoughts that I'll have to think before writing the posts on what makes some small games look or feel like bigger ones, or to summarize my plans and goals or anything else, in part because I got an email that threw an energetic wrench into my slowly simmering medieval/fantasy plans. All hush hush right now but something  will show up on my Gathering of Hosts blog ere long.

In the meantime, while digging in the cupboard under the eaves I came across a stack of boxes of Armourfast kits that my friend Ron bought in our BKC phase several years ago. We don't use many vehicles,  or figures, these days and Ron has been investing in die cast and pre assembled models these days so there is little call for plastic kits of SU tank destroyers or T34/76's and there they sit. But I found a box of motorcycles and decided to have a go.
Rough and Ready, hasty job on Armourfast 1/72 figures.
Ron will base them once I hand them over.
If I had but one word for this set "crappy" would be it! Never mind the figures, the very soft plastic was loaded with flash which even a brand new blade would not cut without fraying and despite the PSR report that they took glue well, I had trouble getting the arms to go on and stay.

The plan was to do all 3 but after finally finding the lost arm for the 4th time, I just did one. Then, since the detail was so vague, I trimmed the helmet on a 2nd one and did it in green and khaki hoping to pass it off as in Russian service to let me mark at least one unit as what Memoir calls elite infantry who may move 2 and still attack  in those advance guard games. (Ron almost always lets me play the allies).

Speaking of which, I had a peek at stats esp where people are connecting from and see that Russia and the Ukraine are now amongst the top 10 in terms of page visits.  I also see a few visits from China. 

Welcome to you all!  And to all others from around the world, Marvelous thing, the internet.

I am afraid I don't speak any languages but English, (and some very rusty Quebecois French and less Gaelic) or read any of the scripts (might learn a little bit of Chinese if my sister-in-law moves closer) but please do not let that stop you from leaving a comment to say hi or talk a bit about your hobby.
Either let the computer do its best to translate or give it your best shot in English. Don't worry about being  perfect or even "correct", I am easy to get along with, if I don't understand, I'll ask or if I appear to misunderstand I do not mind being corrected.

OK, based on hints, I think I'm off to Tunisia tomorrow to command some Yanks in a sticky situation, 1/72 on Hexon terrain using modified Memoir. Will I remember to take pictures or get caught up in the game again?

Monday, April 13, 2015

something old something new

Something sent as a sample,
Something blue

(and red and white).

Since its an OS figure painted toy soldier style,
 I allowed myself to use the box art from the
 first version Airfix FFL as a painting guide

Yes a 40mm Scruby French Foreign Légionnaire from Historifigs. Relax, he's not available yet. Mike included him in my last order as a sample of progress on the partial recovery of Scruby's 40mm Colonial range. No date or list yet but I'm sure a note to Mike expressing an interest in buying when they do arrive wouldn't be amiss.

More plans, toy soldiers and talk about rules to come over the nect week.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


This isn't exactly the blog post I was expecting to write but that's ok. Yesterday I found myself with time so I laid out the Reb army and replayed the game just to prove to myself that nothing would be different except the visuals and period and that the 6" grid game was no different than the 3" one apart from the scenery, the number of miniatures and the difficulty of reaching the middle squares. Oddly enough I tried the same thing last summer using my 1/72nd RCW troops but apparently forgot afterwards or didn't pay close enough attention.

 The game is set. The Rebs have stuck with an attack up the left assigning Brigadier Kinch with 4 regiments to tackle the job supported by Brigadier Featherstone's 3 regiments and 2 batteries on the ridge. The brigade of 3 cavalry regiments was assigned the job of holding the right as well as being a mobile reserve. The Yankees have a new plan. Attack up the right, use the cavalry as a mobile reserve. The game will last a maximum of 12 turns. The first side to lose 5 units will retreat. If after 12 turns the Yankees still have a bridgehead and the Rebs still hold the ridge then the battle will be a draw.
The sheer joy of seeing my ACW troops manoeuvring on the table made me smile but suddenly, as I struggled to remember that I wasn't supposed to be fiddling with wheeling lines and deploying skirmishers, I realized that I wasn't really playing a physically larger version of my Bob Cordery/Battly Cry inspired cardtable game at all. In fact it appears that my subconscious had been secretly agitating for a return to a more ..conventional? traditional? I'm not sure what the right term is, a game more like what I grew up playing. I have spent a fair amout of time yesterday evening and this morning, rereading old blog posts over the last couple of years and the struggle last fall as I tackled this late 19thC/early 20thC period is very obvious as  is my repeated return to some version of Hearts of Tin (nee Morschauser Meets MacDuff).

Turn 8 out of 12. The Reb attack on the right was held then destroyed by the Federal counter attack. The action was so intense and the result so dramatic that I forgot to take pictures. The Rebs have only lost 2 units completely but 3 infantry and 1 artillery are all down to a single stand with 1 or 2 hits left. The Yanks have only lost 1 unit with several having some losses but they only have 4 turns left.

Fair enough, There is a place in my hobby for a portable/cardtable game  but there is also a place for a gridded game designed to last a bit longer and show just a tiny bit more detail while still maintaining a fairly high level of abstraction. In other words I seem to have developed a style and might as well accept it.

This does not mean big changes to the rules I was using yesterday but it does mean some work on terminology and explaining things and including things I do which aren't in the rules officially, and slacking off on some things like the 1 unit = 1 grid area rule. This does nicely put me back 2 1/2 years (see Universal Soldier post) but with no time wasted as these things need to be not just thought about but tried and stress tested. "Morschauser Meets the Square Brigadier MacDuff and his Heart of Tin" is far too long a name for a set of rules but is either SB or HofT right or do I need a new name?  

 Turn 12. Federal infantry and mounted Cavalry have suffered heavy losses in a series of hasty piecemeal attacks but in their half of the last turn have finally driven the Rebs off one corner of the hill without  having captured it. If the Rebs can rally their 3 routing units then it a draw...nope 3 failed rallies! As night falls the Reb army's morale cracks.

Now what I had meant to write about were the topics of grid size vs figure height vs unit size and about more small units vs fewer larger units and some related topics but it will all have to wait till another day.  The expanded draft won't be ready for a few days as there is lots of explanation to add as well as a return to campaign charts with unit stats as per Hearts of Tin,  At least my armies aren't affected! They are doing now what I want them to do. Its just a matter of catching up on the paperwork.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another Perspective

My comments on the rules will have to wait, what free time I had today was spent refighting the last game. Hopefully those musings, explanations and comments will follow by Sunday.

In the meantime  I was curious about how the same rules and same scenario would feel with 20mm troops so I turned to the ACW.

The Union Army of the Kennetcook have thrown pontoon bridges over the river and seized a bridgehead but the Rebs are in place on the heights, penning them in.(1/72 plastic)

The units are still battalions with a strength 8 for infantry but they are now 4 stands each of 6 figures, in other words each stand equates to 2 toy soldiers in the last game. It won't be quite the same since the infantry are armed with rifled muskets and half the guns are smoothbore but the idea has always been that the rules should be able cover the 19thC with modules for various periods, even before I got ambushed by the grid idea.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bridgehead Battle

Somewhere in Atlantica c 1885
The new Oberhilse battery opens fire. Behind them the Blue Dragoons finally have their new field service uniforms. This does not seem to have helped against Faraway's artillery which has already knocked down both new troopers.
For those who have just joined us, this is a brief report on a Solo game played recently to test the current draft of my Square Brigadier rules. The toy soldiers are 40mm, largely a mix of homecast (Zinnbrigade & original), Scruby and Merten figures. The scenario is Bridgehead Breakout from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames. The table is 5ft x 6ft marked in 6" squares. The setting and armies are fictional. The battle is summarized in the picture captions.
A reprise of the pregame shot. Red has deployed with a Brigade Commander with 3 infantry and 2 cavalry units ready to attack Blue's right wing supported by the fire of 2 batteries. 3 more infantry are stretched across the front with 1 cavalry and 1 infantry in reserve. The right flank infantry unit is fortifying the farm buildings as a strongpoint. Blue's plan is to cross over as much infantry as possible covered by the fire of his 2 batteries. Once enough troops are available the plan is to break through the center.

Several turns in, Blue is struggling with command issues which are hampering his deployment into the bridgehead as well as his response to Red's attack.  In addition Blue has belatedly realized that his rear battery is poorly placed and out of range of everything except the farm. A long bombardment has begun.
Red's main concern so far is that its all going too smoothly and according to plan.

Red's Zouaves have taken the wood routing the Zouaves and driving back the Blue guard and artillery but the woods and river bank are making it hard to relieve the battered lead units and Blue's troops are pouring across the bridges. Briefly Blue considered using the fresh units to drive Red back from the bridge before attacking but decided to rely on the Bkue Guard to hold and launches an attack on the farmhouse and naval gun.

 As the Naval gunners began to fall to the enemy's rifles, Ross's Rifles advanced to support them. This brought them into range of the Blue artillery and if their gatling gun by the stone wall. Their khaki uniforms did not protect them from the hail of shrapnel and bullets.  It was going to be down to the cavalry to save the guns or die trying.


The next few turns saw a series of charges and countercharges. The 2nd/6th Blue infantry charged in on the farm and were held  but as they prepared to renew the fight the Red Lancers were suddenly upon them and rode them over. With their blood up the lancers swept forward and over the gatling and its escort (a jam at the critical moment perhaps?) Beside them Larsen's lancers met B Squadron of the Bluse Dragoons and drove them back with loss. Following up their success they plowed into the 1st/6th Infantry and drove them back, fleeing across the bridge before the survivors could be rallied. It was too much though and the remnants of the lancers were shot out of the saddle and forced out of the battle.
Across the field the Zouaves had suffered severe losses but were replaced by Redcoats who drove the remnant of the Blue Guards back over the bridge then repulsed  an attack over the bridge by Uhlans. Blue's guns were shifted across to the center but it was too little too late and a concentrated barrage on the bridgehead by Red's artillery forced Blue to cede the day and withdraw back over the river.   

Good fun was held by all (me, myself and I). Comments on rules and some excited thoughts on the next steps in this Atlantican affair to follow in a day or 2 along with some more new figures and a refight.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Back on the table, the battle rages.

Turn 6: Red is putting heavy pressure on the bridgehead but Blue's attack is finally getting underway.

One day, when I get the shelves organized and the room tidied, I will take close ups of the shelves on both sides of the room  with notes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Break Out!

Having decided that it was time for a larger game I turned to an old favourite that I have not played in several years: Bridgehead Breakout, Scenario 21 from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers.

Rivers and roads have again been added by applying painter's masking tape  and then painting it with cheap craft paints. The hills are left over bits of pine shelving (my previous room had nearly 3 times the length of shelves, mostly full of 54mm soldiers). At this point I am 90% conviced that the 6" squares are the right choice so if the snow ever melts and I can get my workshop together I will be trimming the random bits to multiples of 6" with straight edges as much as possible to aid stacking and building complex hill shapes. The off cuts and odd bits will be used to make more inside corner bits to round out the shapes and rounded one piece top contours.  Been wanting to do this for a couple of years now but had to decide on the grid size first. Takes a while to be sure.

Red army (Faraway and Hougal Rebel Alliance) with a General, 3 subordinates, 2 artillery units, 3 cavalry units and 7 infantry units is tasking with eliminating the Blue bridgehead. Blue (Oberhilse) with a General, 3 subordinate commanders, 2 artillery, 3 cavalry and 8 infantry is tasked with breaking out of the bridgehead. One of the artillery units and an infantry unit have  been broken up trading a gatling and 2 crew for 2 infantry supports.

The previous artillery units with 1 gun and 4 crew looked rather lost on the 6" squares, something that would have been ok with 2 units per area but that caused so many rules complications that I decided it wasn't worth it. Doubling the scenario units was still an option but a little calculation showed that it would leave no room for maneuver. Finally it occurred to me that now that I have a source of affordable guns, I could just add 2 guns per battery as called for in the scenarios and allow them to be split when needed, a common practice in Colonial warfare anyway.

Two gunners per gun just didn't satisfy visually though which set me back for a bit since I had based my unit structure on Morschauser's 4 infantry or 2 cavalry or gunners per "company" (base). These were doubled now to 8 and 4 but the principle remained as it had since 2003 when I did the first draft of Morschauser Meets MacDuff (later Hearts of Tin). Doubling everything again was just too crowded for the infantry. A 1:5 modifier showed promise but the infantry were still a bit crowded. Eventually I remembered that at one point I had been experimenting with Battlecry and using 4 infantry and 3 cavalry or gunners to a unit. Doubling that fit the grid and looks ok so that's what  I'm trying here, 8 infantry, 6 cavalry, 2 field or 1 heavy gun with 6 crew. The 4 figure cavalry had been a bit weak anyway.

Not sure when I'll actually play the game, possible tomorrow although an assault on a fortified ridgeline would be more appropriate for an Easter Monday game (Vimy?) or more likely the day after to give me time to paint a few more figures and just look at the table. In any case I anticipate needing 2-3 hours to myself to play to a conclusion.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Reform and Storm Again!

Over the past week I've been picking away at the rules getting farther and farther away from where I wanted to be so I put it away for a while. As so often that helped. When I came back I had identified a possible answer involving a theoretical rather than applied aspect.

Early on, the assault on the left hand redoubt has been repulsed but the right hand one was stolen before the garrison could tumble out of bed. The table looks a little empty but this is an early morning surprise attack by less than 1/3 of Red's theoretical field army.

The visible issue was partly that the areas looked empty but mostly that the figure/unit frontage/depth issues just weren't aligning properly, especially for artillery batteries who should easily fit 2 full batteries in an area and for early period infantry. Essentially, through most of the 19th C a battalion of around 500 men would normally occupy a width of around 150 yds (very roughly) with a skirmish screen in front of a formed body. Initially a thin screen with the main body doing the main fighting and an overall depth of less than 300 yards but eventually with the skirmish screen becoming heavier with the rest forming a series of reserves to reinforce the main fireline or to pass through to assault with the whole having a depth of as much as 500 yards to keep the reserve safe. My areas were now theoretically 300 yards since I started fiddling with the Great War.

Without going into detail I seemed to need to be able to handle having variable numbers of subunits in an area while tracking their unit status individually and figuring out which figures could shoot, etc. In other words a conventional game not really using the grid except as a built in ruler. Nothing wrong but not what I wanted. The only other solution I could see involved quartering my nice new 6" squares which seemed counter productive. All of the solutions seemed to favour doubling the size of my units but allowing them to split.

At last I hit on the right question. Why can't I go back to a theoretical 150 yard areas like the Square Brigadier used for years and bring back the old rules including support by adjacent units and ignore or rationalize scale variances as usual?  The only valid answers I could think of were that the heaviest rifled artillery would be able to shoot across the table and then some if  I enforced the scale uniformly and that a battle like Tel El Kebir would need either a bigger table or bathtubbing. Not much when you get down to it.

So I reset the rules and tidied them up, confirmed my commitment to my current organization of 8 infantry or 4 guners, cavalry or specialists as a "unit". Then I reset the table using a 1:1 game unit to scenario unit match rather than the 2:1 ratio used previously. Worked like a charm. Nine turns in just over an hour, lots of tension and swings of fortune for this one of the smallest scenarios.

Mid game. The Counter attack has begun but while the cavalry rallied and  ran amok in the open ground  and  the right redoubt was only narrowly saved after a 3 round melee, saved it was and Red eventually carried the day. 

Next up, a bigger scenario to see how the 1:1 unit ratio looks and plays with 12 to 16 units per side. The current draft of the Square Brigadier rules as played are available from the menu at right or here.