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

Friday, August 17, 2018

There are men coming down from the valleys.

The Black Fox is recruiting  again!
New recruits from Skrubee Province,
the paint on them barely dry.

There is word of a valuable shipment of arms and gold being moved through the Whoulden Hills and a call to gather to the Fox and strike a blow against the Redcoats.

A band of the Black Fox's Freedom Fighters.


Chris de Berg's Revolution Trilogy on Youtube.

At the double

For today's experiment, Ron and I played our non-fixed zone version of Memoir using double all distances.


It is very difficult for Ron to recreate the terrain on Grant's maps using Hexon unless he uses the whole table but the scenarios get distorted if using Memoir ranges and movement rates.

This wasn't the first try but its been a while and in previous tries we didn't go all out and double close assault range etc. This time we screwed up our nerves and went all the way.

It worked like a charm!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

They'd never expect me to try that again......

This is, I think, my third try at trying to mesh a gridded game where "a unit is a unit is a unit" and small matters of formation and the like are "below the grain" with an Old School approach where the figures matter, players can play with formations etc., and you count noses when resolving combat. The final conclusion in each case is that it can be done but the resulting game is not as good as either style of game on its own.

Note the new street barricades to indicate that the town block is prepared for defence.

The hybrid game actually worked OK but it was quickly obvious that to make it work, I would need to make the rules much more detailed and do custom made terrain, and, more importantly, counter to my intention, the added detail was a distraction from the General's POV rather than being a "fun" addition.

Game 3 getting under way with hybrid rules.

So, I paused the game, put the rules back more or less to the War of 1812 version used for the 2016 New Year's Eve game and then modernized them in that spirit, keeping a few innovations from the Great War rules. Then I resumed the game with the renewed Square Brigadier.

The Gentlemen Pensioners support Fort Henry guard just before the break.For some reason it wasn't a good day for sharp pictures. 
That worked well which was no surprise and I enjoyed the simpler game more, partly because it was quicker and easier, but mostly because I was freed from that attention to the minor details of  how the units were trying to carry out their orders and could focus on directing the army.

At the end of  turn 12 out of 15. Red has captured one bridge and is about to attack the other from both sides leaving the Zouaves still holding on in their original post. "To the Last Round!" However, Blue has now lost 6 out of 9 units and has to concede.  
Its a relief to put this question to bed at last. If I get another urge to adapt an Old School game to the grid, I can fit 24 man ACW regiments or 18 figure semi-flat SYW units in my 6" grid squares and break out Featherstone or Charge!, just converting movement and ranges to numbers of grid squares. I could also just skip the grid anytime I want but the fact that it doesn't happen very often is significant.

Anyway, what I to do now is to cast and paint more units for both armies!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Optical Delusions

For me at least, the look of a table including figures and terrain affects my expectations.

An overview of the first game in progress. The Zouaves, seeing action for the first time, held their post to the last man, delaying the Government forces long enough for reinforcements to arrive and secure the town.
(To my great annoyance most of 6" squares that had been clearly delineated were covered by buildings and roads or were under hills  leading to delay and frustration.)

I can come up with any sort of theoretically sound rule but if it doesn't look "right" during a game I can easily go off track in an attempt to bring the rule into line with the visuals.  The larger the grid areas the more the visuals can play with one's mind. As an example, a firefight on the diagonal never bothered me when using 4 figure units on a 4" grid but did bother me when using 16 figure units on a 6" grid. In theory there was no difference but the large units on a larger grid just didn't  look right and it took me a while to get my head around it.

Buildings that only occupy half of a square have the been the big issue this week though a pointless effort to replicate the exact terrain on the map for a CS Grant scenario without much regard to how my rules work provides an example of another trap.

The 2nd game getting under way. The Government forces have a new, more effective, battle plan and some dice with 5's and 6's on them.

The result has been some enjoyable hours of thinking up and testing some variant rules as well as flirting with a return to off grid gaming. Two solo games have now been played using different proposed variants of the Square Brigadier once again exploring ideas such as attempting to differentiate between point blank firefights and bayonet charges in traditional fashion as opposed to the Square Brigadier which rolls both into one mechanism since the details of an attack are deemed to be the business of subordinates.   Both worked but neither was as good as the original approach.

Now the successful 2016 version has had some minor tweaking such as having troops in a town be either on the road passing through the town or, if infantry, occupying the houses. With the 6" squares now back on my table, most of my buildings can hold a unit but still leave enough space for a stretch of road. For the handful of buildings I still occasionally use that cannot hold troops, some form of marker will be needed. (I should note that each square represents an area roughly 150 yards across so a square with a length of road and a model building usually represents a big chunk of a town block.)
The Second game. Rebel reinforcements have been slow to arrive and casualties have been heavy. On the next turn the Lifeguards will charge, break the remaining enemy cavalry and seize the bridge then in town another infantry unit is destroyed bring the Rebel Army Morale to the break point on the 2nd last turn.
(Note: Most of my current buildings only hold 1 stand but that is enough to mark a unit as defending the buildings in that block.)

So, on the next day that I am free and the temperature in my games room is bearable, I'll rerun the game a third time using the updated traditional Square Brigadier. At the moment honours are even at one win each so the last one will count for the campaign.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Interlude

Its been a busy couple of social summer days and so blogging has lagged.

So, instead of a battle report, here are those Transylvanians, ready for action. I confess that I started finding all the detail and shading (which used to be the fun bits) tedious and decided that ready or not, I was done! Shiny toy soldiers are just so much more fun these days. 

Hopefully, when I finally get to writing a proper blog post,  I'll still be able to remember what happened during the fight for the bridges.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hold the bridges! (Preview)

I was surprised yesterday that I didn't immediately recognize the scenario. I have vague memories of playing it before, decades ago in 15mm and sometime in the last decade as a WWII scenario at Ron's but obviously I haven't played it recently enough, or often enough, to identify it with a quick glance at the terrain as I can with most of my favourites.

So, today I set a solo game up to give it a whirl.

Brigadier MacDuff leads the pursuit of the retreating Rebels.
This is obviously not a one hour wargame as it took me over an hour to set the terrain up!
(and yes, that is the bare, painted, table top with the experimental, off set, 4" squares restored to 6" squares 9 deep by 12 wide)



Wednesday, August 1, 2018

More Not Quite Memoir

I finally made it back to Ron's today to continue our experiments with adapting Memoir to CS Grant scenarios on an 18 hexes x 18 hexes tabletop.
A German Assault card used primarily to bring reinforcements forward, is about to be counter attacked followed by an initiative flip and an all arms assault which will take out both German tanks and a unit of militia.
After the last game we decided to go back to using the cards but since many of the Grant scenarios are not zone-friendly we decided to just choose a location each turn to mark as the centre of which ever zone or zones we wanted. The Centre cards would have a radius of 3 hexes while the left and right had a radius of 2.

The ranges and movement was left as per the rules but for each Grant scenario unit we placed 2 memoir units. To spice things up we drew an ordinary playing card each turn to determine who had the initiative and got to go first that turn (Red for the Reds).

The game played well but after a dozen turns and maybe 3 hours, we were barely half through the game and had barely half our units on table.

An earlier overview shot. I entered along the road with the mission of capturing the 2 bridges. Ron started off with some units defending the town and others arriving later at various randomly selected turns at 1 of 3 randomly selected  roads.


After much debate we decided that we would go back to double ranges and double movement   except that close assault  still requires being adjacent. In addition, we decided to expand the zone size by 1 to allow more units to be activated by the cards affecting "all units in Sector X" etc.. This should allow us to often activate more units per turn.

Next game, (hopefully) in 2 weeks.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Doldrums

Between social and community events and the summer heat there has been only a little wargaming related activity here in the last week.


Work has finally begun on my 16th Century Turkish army. Strictly speaking, these Drabant 40mm figures are 17thC Poles and Muscovites but once painted they will serve my Turks well enough as earlier Walachian, Transylvanian, or similar subjects or allies regardless of details.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tramp, tramp, tramp


General Kinch consults his staff as his 2nd Division marches to the battlefield.

Well, its hot out and the table was all set up and ...well, what did you expect? I was going to squeeze a Charge! game in but its been nearly a year since the ACW  boys have been out. I still have a hungering to use the little guys to fight bigger battles than my bigger figures do,  (There's an equation in there somewhere.) so I revisited my plans to use 6ish stand Brigades as units and decided to rewrite the rules a bit to include some Featherstonian influences which somehow turned into Charge! influences, not to mention OTR and BOFF. At any rate the revised rules look like this: a Plastic Army of the Potomic.

The Yankees storm the hill with 2:1 odds while detaching a Division to hold up Reb reinforcements.
In a nutshell, variable length moves with a command roll if not "in command". The Side with initiative moves first, then the other, then shooting is simultaneous then charges are resolved. Broken units may be rallied and recover up to 1/2 stands if successful. Very quick and easy, not a lot of low level detail but lots of room for special unit rules and  similar sorts of tinkering.

OK, the first attack did not succeed as well as the Yankee commander had hoped but Reb casualties had been heavy and their reinforcements have not broken through the Zouave roadblock yet
At first I thought it was too fast and deadly but lo and behold it was turn 13 out of 15 when the Rebs morale broke and had been a ding dong fight lasting at least an hour if not more. I think that I will be able to use more figures now should I paint them up.
Second try was a charm and the inevitable counter attack was repulsed. The Rebs are done for today.
OK, back to the painting desk!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Never Mind said the Duke.

I'm trying to control myself with the growing 54mm armies and not fight all of the possible games before I get small, basic, opposing armies painted, based and organized right down to names. I also have to get a start on my 16thC Turkish forces for Huzzah 2019 so figured a game would help provide inspiration there.

Which is why we find ourselves looking at this One Hour Game scenario  loosely inspired by CS Grant's  Reinforcements on Table.

The main bodies of both armies are, technically, just off table at the start.
I rolled up the armies placing 2 stands per scenario unit then grouping them into Rough Wooing units. Due to the small size of the armies I counted each army as a single "Regiment"  or "Battle". I laid out a 4'x4' battle field, treating the extra foot on each end as "off table".

The French.
The French had an advance unit on the hill with 2 stands of pike and 2 of shot. Entering the table from the rear on turn two was a 2 stand unit of Gendarmes including the Commander and a unit with 4 pike and 2 shot.

The Imperial forces at the edge of the playing field.

The Imperials, entering the board on turn one, had a unit with 2 stands of Lancers including the Commander, a unit with 2 stands of mounted arquebusiers and a unit of Landsknechts with 2 shot and 6 pike.

Not over yet.

The Imperial infantry tried to storm the steep hill but despite 2:1 odds, 3:1 in pikes they were eventually repelled. In the meantime, the light horse rode forward to try to delay the reinforcements but the French Gendarmes went through them like a hot knife then pursued into the Lancers almost routing them.

The Imperial army has been repulsed and is on the point of breaking.

By turn 7 of 15,  it was all over.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

There's a battle brewing

A different time, a different place.....


The French advance guard wonders how close the Emperor's troops are and what the morning will bring?


Looming out of the morning mist..........

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Newly Gazetted

This would have been a good day for a game but apart from being a little  under the weather,  I have  promised  myself that  I would get basic armies table ready  before  getting  serious about playing this campaign. 

Brigadier Gray.
I have plenty other scales and periods to pick from but somehow I found myself converting and painting a commander for the Grey Brigade.


General Lannigan discusses plans with his newest Brigadier


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bring up the guns!

Last fall I was "this" close to buying a Parrot Rifle mould from Miniature Moulds when Armies In Plastic announced a sale and I jumped. This week I finally put them together and added a second gun crew to the Rebel army.

The newly raised Red Cap Horse Artillery with their muzzle loading rifled field gun closest to the camera. 


The AIP guns come with a choice of barrels, an 1859 Armstrong 12pdr RBL  or the 1871 9 pdr RML. The models are pretty good for what they are apart from the barrels being a little too short but beside the Britains' guns, which are spring powered, firing, toy models of 2nd Boer War era 15pdr RBL's, the barrels look puny! I had been torn about which side would get metal guns and which plastic but the difference led me to decided to issue the lighter (literally)  guns to the Horse Artillery on both sides.

The Queen's troop trying out their new, lighter, breech loader.
Can a battle be far behind?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Modern Old Toy Soldier Style Zouaves

The transition is complete and the Rebels have now raised a battalion of Zouaves.

My "New Toy Soldier" Papal Zouaves facing some original Old Toy Soldier examples of the Soldierpac casting I used as a basis for the master.

 The differences between modern toy soldiers and antiques can be  small enough and not really important except to antique enthusiasts but to be honest, its the old style sculpting and attitude crossed with the modern toy soldier style painting that I love.

This may not have be the worst mould I've ever made but it certainly isn't my best. While I was cleaning up the castings I found numerous little flaws. Some were the result of sloppy work on the conversion which I was in too much of a hurry to catch let alone fix. Others are due to flaws with the mould which were at least partly due to the way I laid it out. If my intention had been to paint up detailed models, I would have been sunk but luckily, the toy style is more tolerant of small flaws in detail.

Gratuitous 2nd shot.
(It was one of those bad day for photos.
)

 Now they just need to learn how to stay in formation and not fall over by going through Base Training and they will be ready for battle.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Crossroad: Day Two.

Order, counter order? At any rate, these things happen, the Rebels fell back while the Government forces reoccupied their old positions and had to be attacked again.

 "Here they come again!"
There were two main changes to the rules since the first game. 

First I ditched all the new Brigade and Army morale rules, reinstated my usual 50% unit loss Army Morale rule, and I brought back an improved version of a risk of panic rule that I had experimented with a few from a few years ago but hadn't adopted.  

In essence each time an infantry unit breaks nearby infantry units that see it roll a die with a chance that they will take a hit representing an increase in fear as well as possible straggling. This allows infantry to ignore the comings and goings of cavalry and sharpshooters. The roll is affected by the usual morale grade modifiers so an army of raw recruits or similar will be more susceptible to panic. 


I opted to repeat the battle plans for both sides. 
The second, smaller change was a correction to an oversight. I had been tinkering with various ways to represent what various scenario unit lists call "light infantry" in order to give them special characteristics but it was the least of my concerns. It became clear in the last game that my final choice had produced a super troop that could go toe to toe with line infantry with barely any "light" characteristics beyond the ability to move more quickly through difficult terrain and no weakness beyond being able to take 1/3 fewer hits. I decided to fix this by making them clearly "sharpshooters". I extended their range and let them keep their +1 for shooting  but dropped them to a single die instead of 2. When in the open they also share cavalry's reluctance to stand toe to toe in close combat. 

I also discovered that the flash on this smartphone actually helps.

The Rebel cavalry managed to drive back but not rout the Hussars who did equal damage on them but they had been under accurate fire from the  Sharpshooters in the Stonehouse and  were soon driven from the field.  On the other flank, the Rebel Sharpshooters had been quickly driven from the woods now that the Highlanders remembered that it wasn't a fortification.
The view from the other side.



Casualties have been heavy on both sides but there is a hole in the Government line and the Rebels are shifting their freshest units to the front to push the attack. 

Again, the view from the other side. Note the routing Blue unit which has just shaken the Grey's a bit, causing them to take a hit. 

2 turns later, the Rebels have taken the wall and it was beginning to look like another Rebel victory until fire from the battery and the Highlanders broke another unit while the Queen's commanders were holding their battered units in the line by sheer force of character (and good die rolls).

As another unit breaks the panic spreads and the Greys join the rout as does another battered unit on the farside of the wall. Suddenly the Rebel army is below half strength and must retreat. 

 This simple scenario lasted about 10 turns and took under 1/2 hour to play not counting set up and take down. Plenty of scope for bigger games with more forces on table, more complex scenarios and more time lost in the game. But, I need to paint and base more troops first!




Friday, July 13, 2018

Crossroad: First Assault

Its been a busy day so this is going to be a very quick look at the first game which was played last week.
Rebels: A brigade with 3 infantry, a brigade with 2 infantry and a light infantry, plus a battery and a unit of cavalry.
Government: A brigade with 2 infantry and a light infantry deployed along the ridge supported by a gun and by a unit of Hussars in support on the base road. A second brigade will march on table from the wall when they roll d6 less than the turn number. 
The scenario was an impromptu one. I wanted to have the Origawn Rebels attacking but I don't have enough troops ready for a large attacking force so settled on a reinforcement scenario.
Turn 2. The Rebel right is pushing ahead hoping to cut the road before reinforcements arrive. His left has advanced and engaged in a firefight while the cavalry carries out a flanking movement. A rather rash charge by the Hussars has just been bloodily repulsed. 
The Rebel cavalry has suffered heavily by fire from the house and a charge by the Hussars but they have forced the Fusiliers to move back from the wall to protect the gun, allowing Rebels to close on the wall. Across the road the Rebel light infantry is more than holding its own against two units of Highlanders though in part this was because I forgot that the woods provide protection against shooting and cavalry charges but not against infantry charges.

Minnow takes command. By the time the Fusiliers had dealt with the cavalry, the Ft Henry Guard and Victoria Rifles had both been broken. Under this version of the rules, the Brigade was now shaken and not allowed to move towards the enemy and was penalized if shooting or in melee.
Each side has now lost 2 infantry units but the Government has a shaken Brigade because both units were lost from the same brigade. Since the brigades on both sides were intermingled this felt more than a little unfair. Mind you, having lost their gun and the stone wall on the crest of the hill, the Government's hopes are a bit forlorn. On the next turn the Fusiliers  were broken and the Queen's forces were forced to retreat from the field.



Tomorrow the replay and a bit on the rules tweaks and how they affected the game.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Brigadier goes down to the Crossroads

That felt good!
Waiting for the 1st shot.
I spent a fair amount of time yesterday trying to figure out what I thought I wanted and tweaking the rules again, then managed a quick game last night. During the game I continued to tweak and un-tweak the rules as the effect of the changes became clearer as did my poor mental expression of what I wanted. The game wasn't bad but it still wasn't 'there' though. Some processes were clumsy or ineffective while others had unfortunate side effects on my decisions as a player.

The intent with these rules has always been "for effect" but decades of habit  keep trying to bring me back to focus on detail and "how" rather that accepting what seem like abstract rules which seem to have the right effect on player choices and game results almost despite everything. The actual combat and movement rules never seemed to be a serious problem. Where I have had the most problems is trying to come up with simple but effective rules to reflect issues of command control and the interaction of friendly units, especially in terms of moral and physical support and the risk of spreading panic as the battleline starts to give way.

So, in the evening I re-tweaked the rules, removing several cherished ones as well as most of the new ones. I also brought back a few rules I had tried at various times but abandoned either because the rules as a whole were getting too unwieldy or because some rules ended up working against each other rather than with each other as planned or because I mistook which rule was having which effect on my actions. This morning I played again and....it worked!

It didn't just work though, it had that mysterious "feel" which I have had such trouble identifying to myself and the result was that without any rules to explicitly mandate it, I found myself forming and maintaining my battle lines and not leaving isolated units hanging without a good reason. In addition, with both sides having been battered pretty badly and short of reserves, one side suddenly collapsed. (You'll have to wait for the report for details.)

The 2nd Battle Rages.
 The basic framework is still obviously a gridded development of my 2003 Morschauser Meets MacDuff rules, using the same key concepts, but it works and will work for something more than a  small game and it will be easy to add new troop types and weapons when needed.

These small games took about 1 hour to play and I would expect a full game with say triple the number of units to be able to be played in an afternoon or full evening.

Its finally time to start again to write a full version of The Square Brigadier complete with all the extras, engineering, combined ops and so on which I haven't really had since my Hearts of Tin days.

Here is a link to the "2 sides of a page" version.

Hopefully I'll get the battle report written before I forget what happened!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Enough Already!

Well, I'm not done sorting and arranging figures and books or figuring where to store the rest of the surplus or "needs work" figures but I'm done!
The Elastolin Prince Valiant and Viking figures can go  at it day and night now.
On the far side of the room are the 16th Century and Prince Valiant shelves. I had to leave space for my gathering Turkish army on the middle shelf and that hasn't really left any room for the Romans but then I didn't really want a Roman army, they just kept sneaking into various lots of other figures until there was an army's worth. They are  probably prime candidates for resale.

Zoomed out view of the still-being-stocked and sorted North Wall figure and book shelves.

But, for now, its time to clear my mind of plans and problems, clear the jetsam from my table and get a game set up.