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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sorting a Century and other housekeeping.

Ever since my spontaneous excursion into the Great War in 2014, a diversion from Plan made worse by my renewed determination to keep my 54's alive and active, I've been in a muddle  over what to do about the excessive number of collections covering the century from 1814 to 1914. We aren't talking about large numbers of figures but it was a final straw effect. Too many figures for my shelves and cupboards, too much for my head, too many choices to allow me to get into a proper mini-campaign or to finish anything. All of this made worse since there was considerable overlap.

I've done much thinking and some test games over the last year, including yesterday's game.  I've  re-purposed some troops, and I've re-homed two collections of 40mm troops and enough 54mm Arabs to disperse any thoughts of going back there. At last, I now have a new plan.
Hunh? What happened to the 4.7"? Well I decided to try an  impromptu 1860's version of the 1812 version of the Square Brigadier with 12 man battalions and so reset the table accordingly. 
Here's how my extended 19thC looks now.  

1. The War of 1812 in shiny 40mm. This is aimed squarely at small, one hour-ish Square Brigadier games with small battalions or detachments as units.  The goal is to be able to fight the main battles in Upper and Lower Canada.

2. Atlantica in Shiny 40mm. This will eventually be the long delayed mid 19thC Colonial campaign  against the northern native Atlantican state and its army. This will have "company" sized units which by themselves represent a detachment or skirmishers but up to four of which may be combined into a close order battalion. I've tried to avoid this as it is Gridded anathema but  I can't find  an acceptable way around the need for this sort of flexibility for this sort of campaign.

3. The American Civil War in 1/72nd. This is a battle game. At the moment units are 3 stand regiments but I might consider going to 5 stand brigades as units,  maybe, probably not though.

4. The Northwest Incident in shiny 54mm. This is aimed at small fictional  battles with company sized units in the age of breech loading rifles using a variant of the Square Brigadier aka the Tin Army.

5. The Great Atlantican War in shiny 40mm khaki. This is the sideshow which keeps threatening to become my main thing every time I touch it. It is set in the early years of the 20th Century and includes both conventional warfare between the Great(ish) Powers and Colonial games. It will use the same rules as the earlier Atlantica and the 54mm game with company sized units but with magazine rifles and machine guns.

Here's the game about 1/3 of the way through. It worked and kept me entertained and thinking for about 1.5 hours but... something was missing. It was interesting but not exciting, too incremental, reactive and artificial perhaps.  I'm not sure, might have just been me. 

Command control and detail again. For some time now I have been flip flopping between two mechanisms to make it harder for players to always have every unit moving as and when desired. Both work, both have downsides. This game was played using the "dice for unit's outside command radius" method. It works OK when I remember to apply it. At the moment it doesn't really emphasize the importance of maintaining multi unit formations though. I had hoped that the combat rules would be sufficient to encourage that and they mostly do, but not as well as the Order PIP system does. In some recent games I started each turn with a "place out of command chits" phase and that have helped me remember the rule at least. A smaller command radius for subordinate commanders might encourage tighter brigade formations.

I'm also still trying to put my finger on an illusive "something" with these Division sized battles. The command rules feel a bit too immediate, like an active brigadier controlling his direct reports rather than a Division Commander controlling his Brigades.  Short of written game orders or a team of players, I always find this hard to do simply, especially when playing solo. A Brigade posture rule perhaps with a delay in implementation of new orders? or maybe a change to command radius to only allow a Brigadier to control a group of contiguous units. No serious thought on this yet, just an observation.

I don't have a similar issue with the 'company as unit' games since the over all commander can be very hands on in life in such situations. Maybe its just that I'm tired of only having one hour type games but can't seem to get any game to last much longer on the small table top?

(ps, apparently I should have reread this post from May:
more-thoughts-on-command control )
Turn 15. Victory is decided by control of the pass. Red had been on the verge of taking one side of it before Blue's last line threw Red back. They've rallied but there was no time for another attack. There was just time for a last salvo by the heavy naval gun into the teetering Blue Guard. They broke. Blue had to rally either the Blue Guard or the Dragoons who had broken on their last turn in an ill advised attempt to over run the gun frontally. Neither rallied and the Blue General, now below 50% units still on table,  was forced to concede and retire from the field.

Markers. I used the little green dice to track hits again during this game and again they worked ok apart from their annoying habit of wandering away from their units or falling over to a wrong number. Some good quality tacky stuff could fix this except where there is no room on the bases. I was sorting out my various dice and marker containers today to take advantage of some improvements to my games room layout and had one of those "duhhh" moments. I like the psychological effect of the casualty caps but would prefer some less conspicuous rings. I'm also short on them when it comes to bigger battles. I have black ones that are just toooo HUGE to use except in emergency and I decided to shorten them to the same size as the red and white ones. I snipped a little ring off the end to shorten it and then noticed that that ring was just right. Fifteen minutes later I had no red or white casualty caps left but instead have three times as many small rings that are not nearly as overwhelming and stay put better. Only took me a couple of years.......


  1. If storage is part of the issue, then a different way of looking at streamlining might be to reduce the number of scales so that terrain is not such a space hogger. This of course will have a drastic effect on the figures in the same scale as the buildings that have taken the chop..... ouch!

    1. Already done that. All the 15's and 15mm terrain gone, 90% of the 54's and all of the 54mm terrain gone. Most of the 25's and terrain gone!
      I think I just need to tighten up a bit and make the smaller collections smaller!

  2. On the Command and control system, I too have tried the 'command radius' method. But I found it to fiddly and too artificial. It seems to me that much depends upon the size of battle being fought. A brigade-sized action might well require a greater dispersal of the brigade's units than would obtain in an army-level action.

    I am considering a PIP system in which the lowest level formation commander (brigade for my ACW, Corps commanders for my BB4ST Napoleonic) allocates orders according to the amount allowed by the PIP roll. Gotta go - I might come back to this...

    1. I think some form of group rule is key. It should be easy to move a properly formed brigade forward. The trick is getting it formed to start with or getting battalions to do different things at different times. Too many possible pips make them irrelevant.

  3. 'Group rule' yes. I was thinking in terms of the basic tactical units (regiment, battalion or battery in my ACW games) being in contact with units of the same formation (brigade, say) or within a short distance (1-inch, say) to a flank, or within, say, 4 inches directly behind (the centre of a rear rank unit being directly behind some part of front rank unit, say.

    With such a rule, I have in mind the units in line. What of the units in assault columns, say? Possibly the rule I have suggested is too prescriptive, and this is where command radius comes in. Units within command radius may all be issued with the same order, and this must be carried out in the same way, to include direction moved and facing. Exempting units from this group order might require an extra command pip from your command dice, and then you would have to decide whether that leaves it free to carry out some other order, or that this 'other order' would require an extra command pip on top of the exemption. I think the latter possibly too punitive.

    At any rate, given such a system, one might make the lowest formation command radius quite restricted, say, about the length of a tactical unit in line, with the centre, or command element, of the unit having to be within that radius to be under direct orders.

    What of units outside the command radius? two ideas occur to me: (1) messengers (ADCs) and/or (2) extra command pip cost for orders.

    Sending messages adds a complication to the game, but whether it adds anything more than a bally nuisance, I'm not sure. At any rate, to send such messengers requires a staff, though you might decide that rather than move the staff figure, the presence of him with the General permits the passing of messages.

    1. The message itself might be in the form of a command chit with some kind of symbol - and arrow for movement and facing, say. This could be capped and revealed the following turn, in the 'Orders Phase'.

      If the unit need to do something on its own initiative, this might be subject to a 'reaction test', rather than an order. An example might be to form square in the face of a cavalry threat or charge. Another instance might be that, in the absence of an order being in effect, the unit might take a 'reaction test' to see whether it simply stops, or carries on moving, or attacks something, or whatever.

      The second idea simply permits orders to be sent to units however distant, but for every 'command radius' distance outside 'CR' and extra command 'pip' is required. If the brigade commander's CR is 4", say, then to issue an order to unit whose centre (or command element) is 6" away requires 2 command 'pips'.

      All this still leaves open the question of higher formations. This really isn't a problem for my BB4ST Napoleonics, as there are really only two command levels involved, Army and Army Corps. The Army commander rolls as many dice as he has Corps commanders, and the allocates the dice scores. The Corps commanders issue orders within the limits just imposed. This is straight out of the DBx system, except that my Army commander doesn't have troops directly under his hand.

      But what about my ACW armies, which have formation (as opposed to unit) commands at brigade and division level and possibly Corps as well (on the Union side at least). I think there the Army commander would still roll dice for each Corps, say, and allocate for each, and from these orders are issued to Divisions, Brigades or regiments as the player chooses. Because even 6 command pips won't be too many to allocate among a Corps of three Divisions each comprising three Brigades, say, that will tend toward making group moves at formation level.

      I appreciate I've been a bit wordy - I've been thinking as I go. I also appreciate that for any of these ideas to work, some playtesting and refinement will be required. But I do hope something workable can emerge from these, as I plan to include something of the sort for my own rule sets!

    2. The more I think about this sort of system in a specific historical system, the less it seems to work for me as it is so far removed from how things happen and usually make it very difficult to recreate historical events.

      Take regiments within an ACW Brigade. The Brigadier doesn't often send a message to regiment X to go take that knoll. Instead, the Brigade falls in from camp to its position in the Brigade then just follows, with an advanced warning message via courier or a visit from the Brigadier or aide if he's lucky, as the Brigade moves keeping his position without having to know where he is headed unless he is the guide regiment. Orders are given by flag and drum and by word of command passed down the line which is why there is always a precautionary, a pause then the executive, giving time for the order to be passed and troops to get prepare. One of the senior officers in the regiment will always be watching for signs of an impending order. Only in emergencies or if detached will the regimental commander be making any decisions and usually emergencies come while engaged so should probably be considered part of combat resolution. Through all of this A Brigadier could be quite active moving anywhere along the Brigade in a fraction of a turn so essentially as long as he is "with" the Brigade he should be considered capable of being anywhere at any given moment which is essentially a command radius I suppose.

      Division to Brigade is a bit fuzzier to me. If the Brigade is detached with a mission that's one thing, or deploying off the march in which case the Division commander or an aide would normally deliver the order in person giving where to go and what the mission was. If part of a formed divisional attack ala Picket's Charge it would basically require a long time getting set up or to alter once launched.

      In any case, an order once given remains in force unless completed, cancelled or the unit/formation defeated by enemy action so there shouldn't be a need to keep reinforcing it though possible a change in orders as combat result or reaction to enemy move. Shako had some useful ideas for that at the division level.

      Something some old systems with written orders captured well until it all gets used in a competitive game between players with varying ideas about how things work. etc or a solo game where they could as easily be in one's head.