Monday, December 18, 2017

Weak Flank: Comments and a short version of the HofT rules.

Just a few comments on Saturday's game and the long promised 2017 updated Hearts of Tin rules, or, the short version anyway without the definitions, options, explanations and additional troop types, terrain details, engineering, etc etc.

Just a reminder of what it looked like after a couple of turns.
The game was the Weak Flank scenario from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios. I played the Defender and, based on a cross between the job in hand and the available troops, selected a list with 2 cavalry units, 7 infantry 1 light infantry and 2 batteries.  When I quailed at the thought of reducing my existing battalions to 2 stand units I had decided to reduce the number  of battalions per brigade to a Grantian 2 vs my habitual 3 (based on their Charge! origins). What can I say, I forgot. So my army had 2 infantry brigades each of 3 battalions and supported by a battery, plus an independent battalion, a brigade of 2 cavalry and a light infantry unit split into 2 detachments.

After checking the instructions, I placed the light infantry as a flank guard, posted behind a marsh as per a die roll. The Cavalry were given the left flank and one infantry Brigade was posted on the right while the other took the centre. Each had an attached battery.

Now, a proper deployment of the time would normally have seen each brigade in a single line with a separate brigade forming a 2nd line. Well, the table was not long enough for my brigades to form in a single line but too long to be covered by 1 Brigade, so,  I put one Battalion of each Brigade  in reserve with the independent battalion in army reserve as per the deployment roll. 

For the Attackers, I rolled up a plan of using 1/2 the army to press directly on the near flank while the other half manoeuvred to pin the centre and far flank. Since there were woods and a marshy bit on the left I put all of the light infantry there, put the cavalry on the right and sent in the infantry, 2 brigades deep in the centre with artillery to either side.   About  1/2 way through I had to make a second die roll to see if the plan was modified and this directed me to send the light troops on my left backed by any reserve around that flank of the enemy line since it was still holding.

The first couple of turns were a bit rocky as I had proposed a return to the original 4,5,6 to hit rule which I had dropped a few years ago since it was too bloody. It soon became obvious that it was still too bloody and I quietly dropped the 4 apart from sharpshooters etc.

I also realized mid-game that when doling out the light infantry, all single figures, mostly on sabots, I had meant to deploy 3 figures on a wide base as a "stand" with 2 per unit, capable of acting as independent units but having only small sabots on hand which were crowded with 3 figures, I placed them in pairs with 4 figures then immediately forgot that each pair of sabots was 1 "stand". So, in effect, I doubled the number of light  infantry.

Oh well, at least all of these things applied to both sides.

Apart from that, it all went very well indeed. A tense game with some swings of fortune, some good tactical decisions and a few "shouldn't ha' done that"  moments. I had set my now usual 15 turn limit and while it was looking very iffy for Rosmark's attack by around turn 10, the order change allowing a left hook by the light troops who now outnumbered the defending light troops by 3:1 threatened to reverse the fortunes of the day. The additional pressure here and the weight of artillery fire had the  Alliance starting to feel uneasy but the Rosmark Chasseurs suddenly seemed to run out of bullets while the Alliance ones finally found the range.  A desperate all out assault by the Rosmark infantry almost turned the tide at the last moment but the battered remnant of the Old Brigade held and the Yellow Hussars twice refused an order to charge up the hill despite the success of an earlier charge, which had pushed back the white coats and overran a battery of guns, and the moment passed.

I fully expected to miss the grid but the combination of larger, based, units and my painted measuring sticks in 3" increments was every bit as easy and managed a better ratio of weapon range to unit frontage without having to resort to 2 grid area wide units or doing away with all non-skirmisher musketry.

The new version of Orders, something I have been tinkering with since the 1980's, finally worked the way I have wanted it to. Try, try and try again!

What's coming next is still a surprise. To me  that is. There is no "Ready for Paint" pool to draw on right now, just a choice between cast and assemble some new figures, cobble a partial unit out the various bits boxes or refurbish(yawwn) something, and I have yet to prepare a heated spot for winter casting. 

But it's -16C outside and there are various chores, mostly outside, which I suddenly don't feel like doing today, so, there is time for... well..something.
Link to current version of Hearts of Tin rules.
(Note: the following summary will not be updated but the link above will remain attached to the current version as it is updated and filled out.)


17 December 2017 
(Abbreviated Version)

Basic: Units are 3 stands of infantry or cavalry, 2 stands of artillery or skirmishers or train. Light infantry and artillery may be split into 1/2 units. Single stands may be fielded as outposts or garrisons. Measurements are in “lengths” as selected for figure and table size. Standard units are 2 lengths wide in line.

Initiative Deck. The game is designed to be played using a standard deck of cards to decide who goes first each turn and as “Chance Cards” which are amongst the oldest methods for adding a little uncertainty to wargames. Shuffle an ordinary card deck including the jokers then draw as many cards as the maximum number of turns to be played to make the game deck. Assign Black to one Side and Red to the other. At the start of each turn draw the top card. The colour indicates which player will go first that turn.  If it is a face card then a “Chance Event” has happened to that player. If it is a Joker the turn is over and another card must be drawn. When the last card is played, the game is over.

King: Getting the Jump. The player may choose one unit that may move or shoot or rally before the turn starts. The units may act again as normal during the turn.
Queen: Angel of Mercy. The player may remove 1 hit from a unit.
Jack: Confusion. The enemy may nominate one brigade or detached unit and issue it a valid order, rolling with a -2 to the die but ignoring all normal modifiers. If successful the unit may not be given a different order that turn but if it fails the unit may be ordered as normal.
Ace. They couldn’t hit an Elephant. Pick one of your enemy’s commanders who is within range of one of your units and roll 1 die. On a score of 1 that commander is hit by a sniper or stray shot and is removed.
Joker. Where does the time go? The turn is over. Pull the next card. The turn counts as having been played for things like the arrival of reinforcements and the end of the game but not for things like mining a bridge.

Sequence: Active player issues Orders then moves OR shoots OR rallies units. Then resolve melee.

Command Control: 
Generals and Brigadiers. The General cannot be everywhere at once but may intervene where it is important. He may move at light cavalry speed to attach to a Brigade or independent unit at the start of the orders phase. 

Brigades are 2-4 units plus Brigadier. Brigades and Independent units require an order to move or attack or to change their destination. Units in a Brigade must stay within 1 move of their Brigadier or within a base width a unit of their Brigade which is within command.

Orders are:
  • Hold. May be assumed automatically when some orders fail or cannot be executed or may be ordered to stop a movement or attack before it is complete. Needs 2+. If failed continue previous order.
  • Move. Needs die roll of 2+ Must have specific destination. If no route specified move by direct route. May not move within 1 length of enemy and the brigade will revert to Hold if the way is blocked. If it fails the roll go on Hold orders. When destination is reached go on Hold orders. If not playing solo it is useful to write down the destination and path if any. 
  • Attack. Needs roll of 4+ unless already on Prepare to Attack. Must specify target of the attack. Normally a terrain feature or position. Move directly towards the specified target and attack. If fail go on Prepare to Attack orders for next turn. Brigade/Unit may form to face enemy then must move forward. Artillery and Train units may not be given an Attack order.
+1 if the General is attached. He must remain with the Brigade/Unit till next turn.
-1 if General is attached to a different Brigade/Unit or is more than 6 lengths away or has no line of sight to Brigade/Unit or has been lost.
-1 if the Brigadier has been lost.

-2 if Brigade has lost 1/2 or more of stands and is being ordered to Attack.

Measure farthest point moved. Change facing as required.

Heavy Cavalry: 4 lengths.
Light Cavalry: 6 lengths
Infantry: 2 lengths in line, 3 in column.
Skirmishers: 3 lengths
Foot Artillery: 2 lengths
Light Artillery: 3 lengths
Horse Artillery: 4 lengths

Terrain. Generally each length across a minor obstacle or through broken terrain such as light woods counts as 2 except that skirmishers do not pay a penalty. Major obstacles and very Difficult terrain such as dense forest or buildings may only be crossed by infantry, light cavalry, pack artillery and pack train moving 1 length per turn or by skirmishers or by units moving in column on a road. Some terrain may provide cover. Some terrain may be impassable or have special effects. The nature of terrain features should be determined before the game begins whether all the players are informed or not.

Shooting:  Units within 1 length of enemy must resolve melee not shooting Test morale if stand lost.

Roll 1 die per stand. 5,6 hits. Artillery within 1/2 range roll 2 dice per stand.
  • Infantry: 2 lengths
  • Skirmishers: 3 lengths.
  • Light Artillery: 6 lengths
  • Artillery: 8 lengths
  • Die modifiers:
    +1 if Sharpshooters or other superior firepower
    +1 if artillery if shooting at column, square or enfilading.
    -1 vs skirmishers, cavalry or artillery

Combat.2 dice per stand of infantry, cavalry or artillery within 1 length of enemy to front.
1 die for other stands including light infantry
5,6 hits. Where there is a choice of targets player may allocate dice as desired before rolling.
Die modifiers:
+1 Heavy Cavalry, Grenadiers or other Shock troops,
-1 enemy defending hill, obstacle or cover.

Commanders in combat
. A Brigadier or attached General may choose to join a unit in combat. This decision may be made after the dice are rolled. He rolls 1 die. On a score of 4,5,6 the commander may inflict an extra hit on the enemy OR cancel 1 hit on his unit. On a score of 1 the General is hit and is removed from the game. It is presumed that someone will step up to take command but for game purposes there will be a -1 modifier to orders rolls for the rest of the game and the replacement has no effect on combat.

Combat Resolution. Any unit which suffered more hits than it inflicted will fall 1 move and must rally on its next turn unless in square fighting cavalry. Test morale for every unit which lost a stand. If units remain in combat range test morale for any unit which lost a stand. If units still remain in combat range fight another round of combat. If units still remain in contact the attack must retreat.

Pursuit. If cavalry attacks and forces all of its opponents to retreat on the initial turn of combat, it may advance up to 2 lengths and attack the same or a different unit.

Morale. Hits represent loss of morale, fatigue ammo shortages, disorder and so on as well as casualties. Infantry removes 1 stand for each 4 hits, other units lose 1 for each 3 hits. Elite units may take 1 more hit per stand, Poor units take 1 less.

A unit must test morale whenever a stand is lost.

  • 4,5,6 Steady
  • 1,2,3 Fall back a full move immediately, must Rally next turn. If desired it may defer the Rally and retreat a full move instead but it must rally or retreat before it may be given an order. 
  • 0 Rout.
  • Modifiers:
    +1 Elite
    -1 Militia or Irregular
    -1 if Brigade at or below 1/2 strength in stands.

Rally. A unit which lost a round of melee, failed a morale test or is on Hold Orders may Rally by standing still while adjusting its formation and facing as desired.

If a unit which is rallying has hits carried over it may attempt to recover 1 by rolling 4,5,6 on 1 die. 
Hits cannot be recovered from stands which have been removed.

  •  +1 General attached


  1. I love the photograph at the top of this post!

    Best Regards,


  2. The first photo gives a lovely sweeping line that you would not get from the grid (and that is coming from a grid fan).

    1. You can get close with lots of units on a hex grid on a largish table but its hard to do on a small table.

  3. Thanks for posting these. The discussion of two vs three battalions in a brigade should always be resolved in favor of three or even more battalions reflecting what was usual throughout the period, IMHO. The posting of the rules is definitely a gift to all of us in the Season Of Giving!
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!

    1. All things being equal, 4 battalions would be even better​ for 18thC European battles but 6 Battalions​ take up 3 feet on my 4*6 table. Even if fighting across the table that barely leaves room for artilley and a bit of cavalry . If fighting up rather across the table there is no room for cavalry. My old 15mm battalions took up much less space!

      I would like to have enough Brigades to have a center, left wing and right wing so that means 3 infantry Brigades for each line. I figure if 18 toy soldiers can represent 400-500 men, 2 battalions can represent 4!