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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hasty Report Before I Move On

The slightly revised board has now been blooded (metaphorically).
Faraway's Composite Colonial Battalion prepares to advance on Asquith Junction.
(Note to self: Best make dismounted cavalry figures a priority)
The scenario was the first one in Stuart Asquith's most recent Solo Wargaming book.)
The main driving force for the various experiments has been my shiny new early 20th Century armies. (Well less than 3 years old which counts as new compared to decades for most of the rest.) I'll leave it to the pictures and captions to give an oh so brief summary of the game. Alas I was too wrapped up in the game to take notes let alone more pictures and the speed of play and number of tense moments and turns of fortune were too many to easily recall in order and make sense of in narrative form after two days lapse.

To save suspense, the 4 man company units on the small grid worked as well as I remembered and after some initial tinkering the game was just right for my vision of what the campaigns and battles of the Great Atlantican War of 1901 might have been like.
An overview early on: Larsen's Lancers have raced ahead to block the vital road exit while the Colonial Battalion prepares to assault the town backed by the 4.7". The Select Militia Volunteers in their Red tunics have barely arrived but will bypass the town and move on to the relief of Maybefaking.  Across the table Oerberg Mounted Rifles and Infantry have seized the town while the heavy gun and two battalions of Oberhilse "Volunteers" march around to seize the road exit. 
It took a few turns of trying and tweaking rules mechanics and so on before I managed to re-find that lower level "Colonial" action feel  but by 1/2 way through the game the feel was there. It was only when the game was over that I realized that I had subconsciously re-written the notes into the Square Brigadier, which is where this whole thing started anyway and rules which have given me many very enjoyable Solo games.    

Uncounted turns later (Literally, there was no time limit and I forgot to track the number of turns or the time spent gaming, merely noting partway through the complaints of a pack of hounds whose dinners were late.) the town is firmly in Faraway's hands but the exit is held by Oerberg's foreign volunteers. At this point Oerberg has lost 5 infantry, a machine gun and 2 cavalry or 8 out of 17 units while Faraway has only lost 3 out of 14 units. However, many Faraway units are near exhaustion and attack could  easily lead to heavy casualties and break their morale. It looks like stalemate.
Unless, just maybe.......
There was one new mechanism though. Ever since I dropped the order dice idea there has been a bit much order and predictability for a Colonial skirmish. Having gotten in some MacDuff games last year, not to mention a game of Howard Whitehouse's Gentlemans War at Fall In, I have started playing around with card activation again. It was slightly more work than straight Igo-ugo  but also more fun and (I think) better reflects the diminished control of Colonial warfare with small bodies of widely spread troops without radios.

Suddenly an alert subaltern reports that the enemy commander and the Oerberg artillery have been left alone on the ridge beyond the town, in easy reach of Faraway bayonets. The Baluch companies take over garrison duties and 4 companies of infantry sally out. The enemy general managed to leap in his motorcar and speed to safety but the gun is captured despite heavy casualties from point blank fire as the attack went in. With such heavy losses and no guns (not to mention an Army Morale of 0) any chance of taking Maybefaking  has gone. The order goes out to retreat off to the South East and the road is clear for a relief force to push on down the road while leaving a garrison to hold the Junction.

Now comes the task of once again writing a full version of the rules with notes, something I haven't done for a few years while all this questioning and exploring has been going on.  I've made some notes but that proper, double checked copy will have to wait. Its just over a month until Huzzah and I need to focus on getting both our 40mm 16thC game and my 54mm Portable Wargame event ready and looking as good and providing as enjoyable as possible a playing experience as I can manage for those who choose to sign up and play.


  1. "The scenario was the first one in Stuart Asquith's most recent Solo Wargaming book."

    Which book was that? Nice game, by the way - your visual style isn't quite the thing for me, but it's distinctive and good-looking.

    1. Thanks Anon. The book is
      The Partizan Press Guide To Solo Wargaming, A Revised Guide by Stuart Asquith. 2006. Its a fairly thin text if you taken the large number of completely unrelated colour pages and contains nothing revolutionary or new but if one were new to Solo gaming it would I think) set you on the path and give you the tools and encouragement to get you started, which is the point. It also contains a handful of simple scenarios which could as easily be 2 or more player games, something that is always handy.

    2. Ross, how would you rate Asquith's Solo Wargaming book against Featherstone's classic Solo Wargaming?

    3. That is a tough call. I love Don's book (just lost 20 minutes by hauling it off the shelf for a refresher) but while it is longer, most of it is directed to campaign and prebattle moves, snippets of fast play rules from various solo gamers and reminders not to cheat and let your favourite units win(!). There is a short mention of a random deployment scheme and a bit about chance cards but as for actually playing there is little apart from occasional remarks about being able to take your time to consider the best move for each side. Stuart's book covers most of that plus a reasonable description of what I find a key tool in solo gaming: defining 2 or 3 options for a unit or commander at critical points, weighting them then rolling to choose one. And it does have a variety of scenarios for those not used to them including some mention of how a solo gamer might tackle them. Probably Stuart's book is ahead by a nose but they are both worth having.

    4. Those comments about defining options goes for campaigns as well. That has been pretty much how I have carried out the map moves for both sides in my 'Stonewall in the Valley' narrative. The tricky bit is that I have to come up with two reasonably good options for the CSA, as which they have chosen is determined by USA response upon 'contact'.

      In the latest battle (Bartonsville) I programmed the Union (counter) attack (no options) but diced for Confederate arrival times and locations (1D6 for turns 1 through 6). That they arrived pretty spread across the front and steadily throughout the morning was the way they worked out.

  2. Ross,
    Lots going on there for you Ross with the Summer months approaching - a good time for tidying up everything and getting everything ship-shape for Huzzah. Cheers. KEV.

    1. Its a long way to summer yet Kev. We usually consider old Vicky's birthday to signal the start but that is often a bit optimistic. The way things ate going I expect to still see a few patches of snow in the shade come May.

  3. I like the look of your subdivided six inch squares.

    1. Thanks, me too. It has the functionality but looks more like a conventional wargame table than a chess board.

  4. Ross Mac,

    It really does look as if everything is coming together. Small - but not too small - units on a tabletop that is both functional and good to look at. (The grid is particularly effective.) it gives me something to emulate.

    All the best,


    1. Bob, wait'll you see the next post with Portable Wargame Zulus on the revised board! (Done with another slight activation twist and a few hmms as I continue to explore.)

  5. I look forward to seeing an 18th century battle on your 3" squares!

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Well, the 18th C is top of my list for late May/June but don't hold your breath on a gridded game. Might happen it would mean figuring out how to do a multi-square line facing a corner of the table either by clever wording and use of diagonals or by stepped lines.