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.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Nothing a New Coat of Paint Couldn't Cure

Sometimes any answer is better than none. At least I discovered what I meant in April about the 6" Grid having to go despite its good points!
Here is the game laid out on the 6" grid with 4 stand infantry units and 2 single gun batteries sharing a square.  If you look at the left hand side of the Union line, where it bends, you will see  two of the issues. Firstly even with a weak defender there is no room for a proper outflanking move. Secondly the Blue unit on the brown field and the Grey unit on the hill are parallel and almost touching at the corner, in other words almost 1 beside the other but are able to blaze away at each other. Legal but looks wrong. 
The game was OK after I got the fiddling done to make it look and feel better and last a couple of hours. But I could have played the same game on my portable board with 1 stand units in an hour and it would have been as interesting or probably more since this took longer to accomplish less and still looked odd because of the large but shallow units and short ranges.

After various failed experiments I allowed diagonal facing with a maximum of 1/2 the unit shooting out of each of the two faces. I also ended up using the Hearts of Tine combat mechanism with 4 hits per stand but without using the rally rules. 
 In some cases my difficulties were largely visual or at least, the large grid and unit sizes made them more noticeable, while others were scale related. To make the game less of a Brigade skirmish I stuck with a 50 yards to the inch scale at 300 yds per square. This meant that virtually all infantry combat was between adjacent squares apart from the fire of skirmish screens. It also meant that single artillery batteries were an issue but forcing them to work as 2 battery Brigades would be a problem if doing an historical scenario.

However, if the visual aspects of the game don't matter, why use miniatures? After various experiments I managed a vague special artillery stacking rule for massed or attached batteries and fiddled with the positioning of individual stands within the squares.

Another small issue was more visual than actual. If you look at the next picture the white house in the lower left fills 1 quarter of a square. Should the square be open or is it all built up. I kept treating it one way for one unit but another way for another unit depending on where I actually placed the figures so had to rearrange the  terrain midgame to make it more obvious to myself what sort of terrain it was. That should have been noticed and dealt with during set-up, probably by removing the house.

The real deal breaker however, was the small number of grid squares. The table just didn't hold enough squares to field the force levels I wanted while still showing at least a little bit of the tactical feel and having room to manoeuvre. That was the point of the post just before I got wrapped up In Huzzah! last April. While the current table was fine for small quick actions I needed a bigger table for larger, longer actions or those with more manoeuvring. Since there is no room for a physically larger table I needed a larger virtual table. A table with more but smaller squares!  I had hoped that the 3" would work but  it only works for a small selection of my armies.

The end of a long but not bad game, a narrow, skin of the teeth last turn minor victory for the Federal army.
After a fair amount of pondering, especially about 4 inch hexes, I did a review of the forces that will be using the grid. It was a jolt if not quite a shock to realize that all of my armies whose units would not fit on a 4" grid have been redesignated as Non-Gridded for other reasons. After some careful checking, all of my grid friendly armies have units that will fit comfortably on a 4" grid.

I still have work to do but the 4" grid has been restored once again and feels much better. 
So after an hour or so of dabbing paint, I am back to where I was several years ago with more than twice as many grid squares to manoeuvre on than I had this morning. (216 sq vs 96)  Luckily, all my houses etc were designed to fit inside a 4" grid square, as were my 3 stand ACW units and my 4" wide Atlantica and War of 1812 units. A single 60mm wide stand of Toy Soldiers will also fit nicely.

A little voice whispers that I really ought to play another ACW game for comparison but I have an urge to see Shiny Red Toy Soldiers in action.


  1. A very interesting posting, Ross. For my gridded war games I have opted for the 4-inch squares at the outset, but that was for a board smaller than my 6ftx4ft table! My 10x10 board would only by a fudge have accommodated 7x7 6-inch squares. I'm also looking at hex-grids 50mm or 2" across the faces for my 15mm Mediaevals.

    I think, though, that the aesthetic problems you mentioned are probably more apparent at the table than they are in your photos. I didn't notice until you pointed out the corner-corner proximity of the opposing units. From vaguely similar war games situations, though, I have a feeling that it would look wrong if the units can't engage in combat, and wrong if they can! I'm imagining the latter case in which each man in the unit is in some danger of having the dude to his flank sticking his rifle muzzle in his ear. That is probably the main reason for my exploring ideas to make the squares in effect eight sided, but without the 'Chebyshev' effect.

    I noticed in the above action that the game at least began 'along' the table. I formed the impression from the rest that this was something of a fighting withdrawal, which does indicate such an orientation. In my recent (still going but on hold) Stonewall in the valley campaign some actions were fought along the table, some across. It depended on the situation which orientation it was to be.

    My point is that battle 'across the table' are more likely to offer the space for an envelopment or deep flank attack. Even then, in my own battles, that space has usually to be fought for, unless it is something of 'The Prussians have arrived' situation.

    The diagonal situation seems be solvable not so much by emending the game mechanics to allow diagonal facing, but within your existing game mechanics. Assuming IGoUGo phases, suppose the Union (IGo) moves up to the adjacent diagonal. Having arrived there they can't shoot, but they probably won't want to get into a shooting match anyhow until they are good and properly athwart the Rebel line. This is a threatened envelopment, that the Rebs (UGo) must deal with.

    There are four ways (five if you count 'do nothing'):
    1. Slide across to block the passage, then shoot;
    2. Retire a square then shoot at 2-square range;
    3. Turn part of the unit towards the threatened flank;
    4. Advance a square, and turn to enfilade the enemy line.

    I don't reckon these methods are as 'game mechanicky' as they might seem.

    I appreciate I am not saying anything you don't already know (and please pardon my prolixity). But what I am suggesting thereby, is that an anomalous situation on the table might not be quite as 'wrong' as it looks.

    1. My first gridded board was 4" hexes followed by 4" squares. So this is a return after experiments using fewer but larger units.

      The game was actually about holding an L shaped ridge for 15 turns. It was held for 13.

      The diagonal wasn't a big problem, merely looked odd. The problem was that to make the game more than a clash between two brigades I had to increase the ground scale making each bigger than usual wargame regiment stand in for 2 and meaning that at range 2 (1 diagonal or 2 straight) opposing unit's skirmish lines are engaged while all firefights are adjacent only with no easy differentiation between firefight and charge. Just wasn't the feel I was looking for.

      Having a larger number of grid squares once again gives me an easy way to choose small game or medium and gives me more than twice the playing area in practical terms. Like switching from inches to cm.

  2. Hi Ross,
    As I've often said what distinguishes your blog from others is your ability to explain your thinking about game ideas. it was interesting to read the decision making that led you back to 4" squares as opposed to the 6" squares you used before.

  3. Ross Mac,

    Over the past few weeks I've been getting a load of Heroscape hexes painted, and one reason I have been doing so is because I can get more 'space' (i.e. hexes) in the same area as that occupied by my 6 x 8 Hexon II grid. The Heroscape hexes are 4cm from face-to-face and the Hexon II hexes are 10cm face-to-face.

    The figures work out as follows. Using Heroscape I can lay out a grid of 192 hexes in the space occupied by 48 Hexon II hexes. My Heroscape grid has four time as many hexes, and although it restricts the size of figure I can use, it gives me more 'space' to play with ... and on.

    Àll the best,