Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Double Crossing.

It was cold, damp and breezy yesterday.  Not good weather for house painting or many other things but just fine weather for  playing with toy soldiers.

"Pour it on Boys!"
(Irregular Mtd Officer, Scruby Infantry, original homecast foot officers and militia, Prince August Indians when they appear. All 40mm except 42mm Irregular and Prince August figs))
I confess to having been reluctant to turn to MacDuff and bothered that this should be the case but I persevered since this is exactly the sort of game that it was designed for. Since  I didn't feel like running back and forth around the table I skipped the 1 card per unit/formation activation approach in favour of drawing for initiative. That was probably a mistake as was splitting the light companies into smaller units.
The game begins. The British mission is to seize and destroy the blockhouse and bridge.
The Americans  began with a company of militia in the blockhouse supported by a detachment of riflemen (1/2 company). The rest of the riflemen and 2 companies of Regulars, led by General Wavey, are just marching on  from the far corner of the table.

Closer to the camera, Colonel St.George is leading the 4 companies of the 104th foot, supported by a 6 pounder and 3 half-companies of Indians and militia, to take the blockhouse and destroy the bridge.

A scale of 1 figure = 5 men would have been appropriate for this sort of action, giving forces of 160 men vs 230 men, but the ground scale is at roughly 1"=10 yards meaning those numbers should really be doubled to 320 vs 460 making the engagement a bit larger than one would expect.

Numbers matter but sometimes the numbers on the dice matter more than the number of figures! 
Having decided not to try to batter down the blockhouse with a 6 pounder, the various skirmishers were detailed to see off the enemy riflemen on the flanks or at least keep them occupied while the 104th formed line and advanced straight at 'em.

The completely biased dice helped prolong things as the deadly American shooting balanced their inferior numbers for a while. Once their General went down though and the British finally started levelling their volleys better, the American Regulars were forced to retire with heavy losses. The British were then able to capture the blockhouse with the bayonet with time to spare.

So, a very small but two hour long game taking up barely 2/3 of the available turns. Despite some frustrations from the variable length moves and a few tense or frustrating moments of combat when the dice seemed to be playing favourites, on the whole, the game was OK  but not more. It wasn't the sort of game to inspire me to paint or play more of the same.

At last the American Regulars have had enough and Colonel St. George leads his tired men in a charge on the blockhouse. Just as well he did lead them in person or they'd not have made it.

The game reminded of all the things that I don't like about Solo MacDuff. One rolls an awful lot of dice, and spends a lot of time running back and forth around the table while the game takes a (relatively) long time to play with too much rolling of dice and too little thinking. The large number of dice also means usually average results despite the occasional upset. Most of these things fade away with two or more players as you are only rolling 1/2 the dice and have to try to figure out what your opponent is thinking as well as worrying about which unit will activate next.

It took a lot of reflection and some idle pushing of figures about and considering of options to sort things out. Basically, it isn't a matter of me needing to "fix" a set of rules that weren't designed to fill my current desire or of me "having" to try to reconstruct historical small actions as accurately as I can, scales and all. It's a matter of me allowing myself to play games of toy soldiers set in an historical rather than a fictional setting.

The Square Brigadier has proven a good choice for that sort of game for larger battles where a formed battalion will fit in one square but for lower level skirmishes I have yet to settle on a satisfactory rule to handle multi-square (or hex) battalions though treating adjacent 'companies' as separate, supporting units is probably the most practical approach if not fully satisfactory.

However, before the "Grid", and the  "Square Brigadier" or the "Portable Wargame", there was Hearts of Tin which was not grid based. I've been looking for a chance to re-incorporate these rules into my arsenal and this could be it!

Reset the table! Places everyone! 

Next post. Game two!


  1. Great terrain and figures!
    I hope General Wavey could recover and return soon to the battlefield.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Agreed! I never tire of examining the your terrain and figures via each blog post's photographs. Another wonderful game it looks like.

    Best Regards,


    1. Thanks Stokes, I have come to enjoy the while setting up the table and laying out the troops thing.

  3. Bloody, beautiful and intense!

  4. Ross Mac,

    The game might not have been as satisfying for you to fight as you might have hoped, but just reading your battle report and seeing your figures in action on your terrain gives your regular blog readers a real treat.

    I look forward to seeing how the re-fight goes.

    All the best,


    1. I think that having a live opponent would have made this game much more interesting.

  5. Great looking game though I empathise with your sentiments. Sometimes the best laid gaming plans seem to lead to a less than satisfying conclusion.

    1. The right tool for the job matters. Some rules seem to work better solo than others, for some people at least.

  6. Looks like fun (even if it wasn't as much fun as you hoped!).

    1. The first part was fun and the last part was OK, more important it reinforced the desire to follow this 1812 path some more.

  7. You're concerns reminded of the old canard, "A bad day fishing beats a good day at work" (replace fishing with playing with toy soldiers). I have done very little solo gaming, but what little I have done falls into similar lines (doing double duty sometimes overcomes other aspects of the experience). Always interesting to follow along!

    1. I only started solo gaming a few years ago .. hmm 2009.. ok less than 10 anyway. Different people like different things but I've found that certain types of rules and scenarios work better as solo games for me than other styles. Haven't got the particulars analysed and defined yet but I'm getting close to recognizing in advance.