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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hard Choices

Its been another long stretch of deja vue in Atlantica as I tried to hone in and confirm the ground rules as it were for the coming winter.  Quite apart from the rather important matter of trying to settle on a final version of the Square Brigadier after 5 years of exploration, and deciding on which period to focus on,  there was the nagging but key question: "What's better,  more units per game or bigger units?".  This may seem like a simple matter but coming from a '70's POV, I am still adjusting emotionally to appearing to prefer a short game with a handful of small units to a long game on a large table full of miniatures. The middle ground is often the worst but the possibility needed conscious testing as did the selection of period. Four games and three versions of the rules were needed to reach some conclusions that can stand questioning.

Third attempt: 1880's, 8 figure infantry units, one per scenario unit.  This one isn't "it" either.
The first go was for the 1850's, 12 figure battalions in closed ranks with muzzle loading firearms. This was the game featured 3 posts ago. That game was OK but not more. It certainly wasn't inspirational instead it felt a bit 'been there done that' and offered little or nothing over a War of 1812 game.  

I sat down wrote a new version of the rules, advanced the game to the 1870's using 8 figure battalions deployed as skirmishers and supports or lines or columns depending on how the figures were arranged.  It was such a slog that I almost gave up on so afterwards I went back to re-re-read my May post on Command Control   and realized that after reading it last week, I had gone ahead and managed to almost exactly replicate everything that the post indicated was wrong in May. (shakes head in bewilderment).

I reset again going back to one of the oldest forms of the Square Brigadier: no command control just the initiative, chance cards and dice to bugger player's up, well plus their own choices. This time I used double the number of infantry units to reflect Grant's intro to Scenarios for Wargames in which he notes that infantry units should be twice the size of others so 4 "companies" grouped into battalions.   It was better, but the table was too small for the number of units and was a packed traffic jam with reserves queuing up for their chance to fight and all sense of battalion integrity was lost as was the sense of skirmishers with supports.  My reversion to an old option to move and shoot with penalties along with the well established but newer rear support meant that players didn't need to make many tough decisions.

I reset again with the right number of units but with 4 man units, there were just too many figures left on the shelf. Well, my WW1 armies had recently been reorganized from 4 man companies to 6 man companies so I swapped out the armies again. There weren't enough in khaki so I subbed in some in Red and called it 1904 in Atlantica. The armies looked so small that I briefly thought about upping the hits per unit to prolong the game but stopped myself.  Once again the small simple version without the various explicit support and pinning rules with fewer units on table was the winner.  The game required my attention and constant, often tough, decisions all the way through, some gambles paid off, others didn't  and the advantage swayed back and forth with Red coming soooooo close to winning, right up until Blue rallied 3 broken companies and then, thanks to a timely initiative flip, poured in such a hot rifle, mg and artillery fire that 3 Red companies broke and didn't rally, breaking Red's army morale somewhere around turn 13 of 15. Despite the small number of troops and simple situation, the game lasted nearly 2 hours and I didn't even notice.

Damn! Got wrapped up in the game and forgot to take pictures till nearly at the end.
The Oberhilse were "this" close to breaking but they rallied like fiends and hung on despite losing one side of the crucial pass. Faraway's troops on the other hand seemed impossible to rally. One theory is that the red coats made those units easy marks and they more of their hits were actual dead and wounded. Its just a theory though, could have been the dice.  

So much for rules. I need to bring the musket era rules back in to line but that decision is made so, same rules format and same small armies maxing out at about a reinforced Brigade. The periods were also clear.

I still want a simple, historical, card table miniatures game that I could pull out as an introduction for an interested non-wargamer. The War of 1812 remains my choice for this so this fall/winter I will put the work in to use the existing figures to make the required number of units, paint up the handful of still missing Dragoons, artillerymen etc, flock the bases and generally polish it up as the long intended "game in a box".  Since they are sufficiently close to ready and very compatible period-wise I will include a force of Brethren of the Coast privateers as allies (think Jean Lafitte) or as a force on their own.

It is also clear to me that I still only have the resources (mental, physical etc) for one main 40mm collection if I am to run a campaign and I still have the yen, re-awoken in 2014, to do an early 20th Century Colonial campaign with railways and mounted rifles. Since my old Britain's are once again my Poster Boys for the "Little Wars look", the way is clear to proceed in shiny but drab 40mm. Since there are still some 40mm troops in early 20th Century red and blue uniforms, I will set the theoretical date early enough to allow the possibility of a few troops in home service dress.

The sad but, for me, necessary part is that I am going to clear the shelves of all the fragments that don't fit with either of these options. This is partly to make room to properly display and easily access the armies that I will be using but also just to reduce temptation and distraction.  I don't intend to melt down or sell any of them yet (though I might if asked) , just put them out of sight until the Great Little War is built and fought out or until it goes on long enough to extinguish the desire to revisit old, abandoned business.

However, before all, October is "MacDuff Prepares for Fall In" month!  When I am as ready as possible for the Quebec 1759 and Detroit scenarios that Rob and I will be running,  I can play whatever I want again.


  1. A plan at least has emerged and one that logical roads have taken you to. I agree about putting things to one side into deep storage, rather than having 'sellers regret' later. I am making some gaming decisions and I seem to go around the same block of indecisiveness about four times a day .... against that background, nothing is leaving the collection until my mind becomes more settled.

  2. Decisions, decisions ! Beautiful figures as always and a fascinating description of your toy related thought processes. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ross Mac,

    It sounds as if you might have come up with a plan that will work for you ... and putting stuff into long-term storage makes a lot of sense.

    As I have commented before, my current Napoleonic project has basic units as follows:
    Infantry - 6 figures
    Cavalry - 4 figures
    Artillery - 2 figures

    When seen together, these ratios seem to work quite well, and I am thinking of rearranging my 15mm Colonial armies along the same lines ... just as long as I can resist trying out THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS!

    All the best,