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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Double the troops and double the fun

The Square Brigadier was originally designed assuming an average of 8 to 12 units per side so I wanted to try one of the One Hour scenarios with double forces on a larger table  counting each square as 3" on the scenario map. My portable tabletop is close enough to this in size but the outside temperatures were pushing a humid 30C again and I opted to stay out of the sun. I wasn't sure I would like the look of 60mm wide horse and musket  units on the 4" grid of my main table but there was only one way to find out.
Turn 7. Blue's reserve is finally free to react to the flank attack.
(Note the historically accurate use of a boat to transport game marker supplies......
The scenario I chose was number 19  which involves an attempt by Red to force a river crossing in the face of equal numbers. The catch is that half of Red's force has crossed up river while one third of Blue's force is in reserve. I rolled for sides with the British ending up Red while the Americans were Blue. (Handy)

 The scenario is certainly a plausible one for 1812. Since my table is rectangular I took advantage of the extra flanking squares to enhance the War of 1812 look by deploying a major river on one flank and woods as the baseline on the other. This look is not accidental by the way. The road networks were fairly primitive and the easiest way to move supplies was by boat so the settlers did and cleared the river bank forests for farmland first. In war armies moved by river as much as possible and fought over the adjacent cleared fields.

Rather than rolling once and doubling the result I find I get  better results rolling twice. This at least offers the possibility of an all arms force. The armies I rolled up were:
Blue: 7 infantry (6 Regular, 1 Militia), 1 Light infantry (Riflemen), 2 guns, 2 cavalry. (1 Dragoon, 1 Mounted Rifles)  2 infantry and the 2 cavalry were held in reserve and the rest deployed along the river to guard the 2 crossing points.

Red: 7 infantry, 3 light infantry, 2 guns.
I detailed 5 infantry and 1 light infantry as the flanking force using 2 infantry, 2 light infantry, and 2 guns  as the pinning force.

The Rifles have been driven back by a bayonet charge and the American flank is in disarray.
I actually played the game twice. The first game was played on Wednesday morning with the rules as played on Tuesday. The British General (not me, nope) decided to put all of his light infantry in the flanking force. They handled the woods well but lacked the punch to beat back the American line infantry so an indecisive long range musketry battle developed while across the river the only contribution the line infantry could add to the 1 on 1 artillery duel was to launch suicidal unsupported charges across the bridge and ford into a stronger American line. Despite a string of low command rolls and pitiful shooting, the Brits made some headway but it wasn't really close.

One thing that had worried me in the small game was how quickly units became ineffective in melee once they had taken 1  or 2 hits. It was a double penalty sort of thing which I had tried in the early versions years ago and then dropped. I have no idea why I brought it back but I canned it again partway through this game when I remembered that I was supposed to be doing it that way. I also revisited shooting ranges and scales. Given how well the game flowed, the sorts of scenarios I am likely to want to play and the number of troops already available, I decided to drop the scale a bit to around 50-75 yards per square giving me around 150 to 200 men per line infantry  base and allowing me to extend the ranges and have both long and medium ranges with fewer dice at long range. (Close range is included in melee)  This improved the feel of the game substantially.

With those changes in hand I reset the table and played again Wednesday evening. ( An advantage to having short games of just over an hour.)
The artillery and skirmisher duel across the bridge is heavy, prolonged and disappointing for Red who was overheard mid-game to mutter something very like "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody dice today"
This time around the British commander kept 2 light infantry units to support the artillery and sent 5 line infantry around the flank support by 1 light. That meant getting some line infantry through the wood. The rules allow a group of units to be moved on a order in the open but woods require an order per unit. As soon as the reinforcements arrived the General seemed to have a mental crisis and froze up rolling only 1 or 2 orders per turn. That meant instead of the intended flood of units hitting the flank of the American line supported by attacks from their front, there was a trickle of isolated units plus a formidable line of infantry advancing jerkily across the wide open spaces beyond the wood and far from the crucial river bank, all supported by a patter of ineffective long range fire. sigh........ The US commander was under no such handicap. His reserves flew across the battle field his cavalry hitting the poor British Infantry in flank and rear while whenever the action got close, the American troops would roll out buckets of 5's and 6's. I began to despair!

It couldn't last forever though and an American Achilles heel was found. They couldn't make a rally roll to save their lives, not even with their hotshot general attached. The only American unit that rallied well was the bloody Ohio militia in their tophats and grey smocks who came back for more, time and time again and held the bridge at the end of the day.   The British regulars also kept coming back for more, not nigh as many as there were before, but coming back.

Eventually the advantage in this sort of situation of having more infantry in place of light cavalry began to tell as did the British commander remembering that he could win either by routing his foe or by just driving him back at least 3 squares from each crossing. This led to a new focus and the Americans were forced back at the angle by the ford until at last, only 2 American units by the bridge remained within the critical zone and each of those could only take one  more hit.

Turn 15. Last turn.

If the British could get 1 more hit on the 2 units near the bridge or break any of 3 or 4 other battered units they would win a somewhat Pyrrhic victory. The Dice rolled....... the battery by the bridge was finally silenced and forced to retreat but the storm of grape and musket balls left the Ohio Militia standing firm and no units were left close enough to charge. Across the river, the British infantry pressed forward everywhere  and were thrown back or held everywhere. It was over.

The Americans were only  a hit away from their break point at the start of their turn but they weren't broken and  the bridge had been held.    (and presumably reinforcements were at hand) .
Hurrah boys Hurrah!

Time well spent this week. There is absolutely nothing new  in this edition of the Square Brigadier but the last 5 years have seen constant experimenting and testing of various combinations of ideas and this is the distilled essence. Not a perfect game but "My" game which is to say it runs the way I like it with the best elements of various of my past rules sets as well as many many borrowed and adapted ideas. I like the look and feel and the game play and find the results plausible historically.

This combination of rules and figure numbers and  basing is definitely the game for my  Northern Atlantican campaign once I add a few more troop types, siege rules and so on for those campaigns.

Imagining, planning and building the native armies can finally resume along with filling the last few gaps in my War of 1812 orders of battle. American artillery, British light dragoons and Quebec Militia are the highest priority for 1812, native infantry for Atlantica.


  1. Boy oh boy. These sound like really excellent games. I'm looking forward to seeing the revised rules and trying them out myself, Ross. Inspiring as always.

    1. Can't answer for how much of the excitement happens inside my imagination Will. The 1812 module is available from the "Scribblings" link on the blog home page.

  2. Like the Apple slogan - 'It just works'. The Neil Thomas rules and scenarios allow for a lot of tinkering, your report makes me want to go and give scenario 19 a spin next.

    On the subject of base v grid size, I am moving towards an 80mm unit frontage looks right in a 100mm (4") grid for pre-mechanised warfare.

    1. Norm, the more I adapt Neil's condensed scenarios to my way of doing things, the more I like them. They still give a good short game rather than a fuller game experience but sometimes that's just the ticket.

  3. An interesting Game Ross- pleased you have developed your Rules to a fine pitch. Regards. KEV.

  4. Ross Mac,

    You seem to really cracked it this time ... and the enjoyment you experienced just jumps off the page as I read your battle reports. Everything seems to have come together here; a great scenario, practical workable rules, effective terrain, excellent figures. I suspect that quite a few people would have loved to have been there and taken part ,.. I certainly would have been one of them!

    All the best,


    1. I can still fit a game board on a waterfront table next time you're in town.....

    2. Ross Mac,

      Now that is an invitation I would love to take up!

      One day, I hope ... One day ...

      All the best,


  5. Nice to have the continuity of focus on a project like this. I'd be far too afflicted by the Magpie.

    1. Focus? If I'd been focused I'd have been done 5 years ago! I flit constantly but I do have long term attachments and come back to things. It feels odd but I have finally started narrowing the range of my flitters.

  6. Another great game, Ross! I or one enjoy the look of all your games. They just have a certain something about them that appeals immensely.

    Best Regards,


  7. The terrain look very good! I especially like the river.
    Thanks for sharing Ross.