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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Men Who Would Play Colonial Games

Ron had recently picked up a copy of The Men who would be Kings so we gave it a whirl today.  The setting was along the Nile with 24 points of British facing a similar force of Arabs. We went with the first scenario which sees two forces passing each other with orders to pass on and victory going to the side which exits the most troops.

We did tweak the rules by the minimum to fit it to the grid. All it took was to use the suggested 1/2 strength units for skirmishes and divide all distances by 3 rounding off to the nearest number of hexes.

I generally am not fond...ok ok detest activation systems, especially any where the first failure ends a player's turn so I had my doubts. Luckily, these do what I've often muttered about over  coffee or beer and activation failure is for that unit only. In addition most units have an automatic action suitable for their troop type. These two things go a long way towards redemption for this silly business of activation rolls.

The game actually played pretty well with our respective battle plans working. My plan was to leave an expendable blocking force of shooting units which were hard for  me to move while rushing everyone else past him then either head for the far board edge or try to swarm individual units while avoiding fire if he gave me an opening.

I was seriously worried at one part, one of my cavalry units was blown away and 2 of my spear units and my last cavalry unit were facing 3 British infantry units with modern firearms supported what was left of his cavalry. Just as I was bracing for a run towards the far edge, Ron threw his mental dice and decided to march on rather than fight.  I could have let him go, run with my fast units and maybe my rearguard might have done enough damage with shooting  for a narrow win but my gun was finally in range and managed a hit on his already battered cavalry and I had 3 units in reach of the remainder. I turned around and gave chase.
Well if the other side is all killed I have still have some units left I should be able to get more troops off and win yes?
All in all it was an enjoyable, not very serious afternoon of gaming. I suspect we'll play again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Holding Action

As long as I was thinking about skinny Tricorne armies, I figured I might as well get'em out and brush up the rules.

In our world, nearly a year has passed since the Rossish flank attack but for the toys, it was only yesterday.  Today, a Duchy rearguard has been tasked with delaying the Rossish pursuit.

With a bit of luck I'll get to play on Thursday.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cheap Cuirassiers for Christmas

Well Cuirassiers for any occasion really, the point is Prince August is having a one day 50% off sale and I have been thinking about buying  their new set of Cuirassiers moulds for myself for Christmas.

Image from the Prince August website
(Hopefully they won't mind me advertising on their behalf)
So if you are thinking about trying homecasting or want to expand your selection of moulds, October 15 is a good day to do it.

Image from Lace Wars in Tin blog.
(umh...Steve, can I use your picture?)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Now, where was I?

This has been a long, busy week with little time for hobby thoughts beyond a couple of blog posts. However, I did manage a few minutes here and there to ponder things. Luckily, for completely different reasons, I also found myself thinking about Howard Whitehouse's forthcoming Gentleman's War.

Hard to believe that its been two years since this Gentleman's War game at Fall In.
Now Gentleman's War is a well thought out game which I wholeheartedly endorse but its not a "simple gridded game". It has the right attitude though which is very similar to the attitude I had when I decided to resurrect my 54's and use them with the Square Brigadier.

Beef and beer for the boys game

So, yes, the answer is to just stop worrying about organizations, command levels, whether or not ranges correlate with theoretical unit frontages  or any of that sort of detail, put the theoretical stuff aside for another time  and just play the games and have fun. 

The latest version: The Square Brigadier 2018

Crossroads: Day Two game.

Its supposed to rain on Tuesday, maybe I can squeeze a game in then.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Cabin Divided

The last miniatures game from last week saw Paul's old Minifig ECW troops take the field. The ECW has never quite been one of my "periods" though I have on occasion read a bit on campaigns and battles and painted troops in 15mm, 25mm and 54mm and played the occasional game with mostly other people's armies.

Note on images: The bright, clear, pictures are Rob's, the dark, fuzzy ones are mine.
My handful of Minifig Scots took a vote and marched off to join Paul's Scottish army. Here they are spearheading the counterattack.

None the less, when Paul recovered his old ECW armies along with a horde of Scots to which I added my own handful, we needed some rules so I did a one pager last Spring and we used a slightly improved version of those. Like most one pager's they are woefully inadequate for "accurate simulation" but provided a decisive game in a few hours with enough high level period flavour  for my superficial knowledge.
They are available here: Ross's One Page ECW.
The battle begins.  
The scenario was inspired by an historical one but inspired by is as close as it gets. There was no attempt to recreate any historical action. 

The Royalist army under Paul and Mike had an extra cavalry unit, one of which was Elite, all of which were "shock" cavalry with a charge bonus but lower staying power. 

The Allied army under Rob and Anthony had an extra Infantry unit, an Elite unit of Scots pike and shot as fate would have it (Well I painted them 40+ years ago and they're carrying my clan badge and battle cry aren't they - no prejudice involved!), as well as a unit of Cuirassiers.
Another shot as the game gets under way.
Parliament was allowed to send a handful of units to occupy the hill in the middle of the table before the battle began. Victory would go to the side which managed to break the enemy army's morale before night fall in 15 turns.

We were a little short of English cavalry so these bareheaded Scots were deemed sufficiently Cavalier to fight for the King.

Parliamentary foot, disordered by heavy casualties and 2 hits from destruction.
The battle began with an exchange of artillery fire followed by a lengthy period of musketry while the cavalry supported by dragoons and detached shot and Highlanders probed on the flanks and tried to get the enemy off balance or mislead him.

The climax approaches!
At last Parliament had enough of an advantage in the infantry fight to pull back their hardest hit unit, replace it with a fresh reserve and launch an all out assault.

Casualties were heavy on both sides and the Elite Scots looked about to be overwhelmed and flanked.

Finally the Royalists brought on their Elite cavalry reserve  and launched an all out cavalry attack on the right.

But........ those old Scots are tough and handfuls of 1's and 2's won't over awe Roundhead cavalry, though they were amazed at how many such dice the Royalists could throw.  There were a lot of severely battered allied units at the end but even more broken Royalist ones.
The end of the game or near it. Rob is behind the camera, that's Anthony on the left, 3 victories on his first visit to the Maritimes, Paul, the eldest, is standing, Mike is seated behind the remnants of his cavalry and then there's the old geezer who wandered in and kept telling people what they could and couldn't do. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Friday Night Shopping: Visigoth Style

On Friday I set up the cottage dining table for an old favourite Grant scenario that I usually call The Wagon Train. Almost all the minis are from various Elastolin 4cm ranges but most have been painted and many converted by me.

Here is a link to my rules which we used: "Castle Dangerous".

(All photos by Rob Hingley except as otherwise noted.) Rob commanded the Escort, Paul the Castle garrison, Mike the Huns and Anthony the Visigoths.
Through the morning mists comes a glimpse of Hope!

"The lowing oxcarts wind slowly o'er the lea"
(from Graze Elegy Written in a Country Farmyard)
Then suddenly, some rowdy Sons of a Hun appear. The escorts deploy!

The castle gates open. Here come the cavalry!

"Huns to the front of me, Visigoths to the rear,
here I am, stuck in the middle with ewe."
Sorry but it was that sort of evening)

The last of the Hun cavalry managed to sack the lead wagon before being chased off the table and now the Visigoth Hearthguard emerge from the woods in which they have been lurking for the whole game to the consternation of everyone, including the King of the Visigoths himself who was on the far side of the table with his archers and warriors. Can they seize a second, game winning, wagon before it pulls away and the Elite Roman infantry moves up?

That night in the Visigoth camp, the warriors ate heartily.
One more game to report on.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Where the Train Derailed.

While I'm waiting to see what photos of last week's games become available to me, I'll get back to the matter at hand.

I was very clear in my head when I resurrected my Britain's toy soldiers: I wanted to play the sort of raids, ambushes and frontier warfare that MacDuff had been designed for. MacDuff called for more toy soldiers and a bigger table though so I turned to The Square Brigadier and it was working just fine. So how did I end up suddenly try to write rules for  multi-brigade pitched battles?

A 2005 MacDuff game when my table was bigger.
Its interesting how even small, casual ideas can unintentionally derail a plan. In this case I can track it back to the notion of painting up armies that looked like they could have been built in the 1950's by selecting boxed sets of painted toy soldiers from what was available at a fictional local department store.

The idea was that I could paint what I felt like and have a variety of uniforms without having to do a dozen or more of each and running out of room on my table.  It would then be up to my imagination  to explain how such a disparate group of units fit together.

Battle of Brioche from last year: an expedition to secure supplies. There was a slight mismatch between grid size and base width hence 1 stand units.

What has happened is that the logical part of my brain (its small and often defective but its there somewhere) translated "a group of units in different uniforms" into "a group of battalions" rather than "an early ACW composite volunteer regiment with individual company uniforms". From there it was a small step to promote "The Brigadier" into the "Major General" and away we went charging off up the wrong valley and starting to think about pitched battles using 54's instead of 20's.

The Opening Engagement of the Origawn Rebellion, when units were still companies and the whole "army" was one big, happy, Brigade.

Luckily this is easily rectified by recalling the Square Brigadier and getting the narrative back on track.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Party's Over

Well another wargaming getaway has gone by.
Compulsory vacation picture: Sunrise from the cottage deck. (and yes I screwed up on the panorama process)
A report on the two miniatures games will follow  when I get my hands on more of the photos taken by others.

Like this 25mm ECW picture snitched from Rob.

and when all the good food, wine and beer have settled and my brain stops thinking about the Senior Wargamers' Cottage Commune and chuckling and eye rolling at the jokes and the gaming incidents, and just plain glowing with the pleasure of time spent with old friends and new.

For now I'll leave you the quip of the weekend which came during a Viking Invasion board game.
Mike: "It takes a Pillage to Raze a Church"
Photo by Paul.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

On the menu

I'm off to a 2 day course for Museum volunteers being held in Hubbards on the Atlantic coast. By happy circumstance, Rob Hingley (Captain's Blog)  is on vacation at a nearby beachside cottage.

The same cottage where I spent a delightful two days last year, socializing and wargaming. Last year we played a 1/72nd ACW game.

and some Portable Russian Civil War games.

This year, we are extending the civil war theme and going to old metal with Paul's Minifig ECW collection with a few of my Scots volunteers.

A game with Paul's figures last fall.

but there may be some other games as well, the available options including but not limited to an Elastolin Romans vs Barbarians game.

Hmm, maybe I should turn the planned game into a Roman Civil War.....

Back in a few days.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Take Aim!

Its a pity the 1860's British army drill book didn't have  "take aim" and "fire!" commands. Instead, when ordered to "Present" the soldiers were to lift the rifle from "Ready" (waist high pointing at the enemy) to the shoulder, aim carefully but quickly, fire and return to "Ready" on their own time.

It was really too dark and dimly lit for taking pictures at my desk down in the wreck room but the figures are painted and glossed, their bases have a base coat of green which needs to dry for several days before getting dry-brushed (the sawdust soaks up paint like crazy and takes forever to dry properly) and I thought they deserved a quick Sunday morning post at least.

As with the first unit of Fort Henry Guard recasts, I have painted them as 1870-ish Canadian militia rather than Ft Henry Guard (cuffs, shako plate, colour of buttons and the cuff pattern if you were wondering). As painted these figures would be just right as my old unit, then the 5th Battalion (Royal Light Infantry) from Montreal but I already have these in their later guise as the Black Watch of Canada. Due to petty prejudices I am reluctant to field more Ontario units if I can avoid it and so these will represent New Brunswick's York County Regiment from around Fredericton where my brother and two additional generations of his offspring live. At least its familiar ground and the first Fenian fiasco was aimed at New Brunswick after all. That settled I can ship them off to Atlantica.

I have various non-wargaming commitments over the next two weeks as well as a few nights away visiting and wargaming with old long time friends. Once that is done these lads will see action.

Of course, having stripped down the rules so I can fight pitched battles with every unit I can physically cram onto the table, I've remembered that that isn't what I wanted to do with this collection. I have other armies for that. Instead, I want games which encourage a good narrative, like a MacDuff To the Frontier or a Sword & the Flame game but played on the grid if possible or at very least using elements rather than individual figures. I need to reread some of the past Square Brigadier game reports that seem to have produced that sort of game and try to figure "why" and "how".

This is a picture from the 1st NorthWest Rebellion game played in April 2014. The one that got me thinking about all this.
2014 game report: "and-it-cuts-like-knife"

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Slow and Unsteady Beats Stalled

As predicted, there has not been a lot of time or energy for hobby stuff this week but not a lot is not nothing and I was getting very tired of see a handful of bits and pieces of Ft Henry Guard on my desk waiting for the missing bodies and heads to be cast.

The problem is that I don't do well at small rushed bits of time, quality control tends to suffer shall we say. So, a bit of rough metal here and a mould fault there that got missed until priming, a head swap that ended up a bit wonky...
The 2nd company of the Ft Henry Guard
is beginning to be identifiable.
Thank goodness Toy Soldiers are more forgiving than fine models. A few extra coats of thick paint before the details are added can work wonders. The final coats of gloss varnish will do the rest.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

and the answer is...

My gut usually knows when something is right or wrong but my brain can be slow to get from wrong to right. I understood well enough that what worked for a quick game with a handful of units was not working as well for a larger, longer game.

My first guess was that maybe I was after something more traditional and something "more". I just wasn't sure exactly what sort of traditional  or what "more" meant so during the dribs and drabs of time I've had this week I scoured various old favourite rules and scenario books as well as past versions of my own rules and doodled with various drastic changes, none of which made it to the table.

My floor lamp died today so the pictures are even worse than usual.
Today it dawned on me that the rules had been slipping back into focusing the Tabletop General's attention on unit details. They were also allowing too many opportunities to micromanage risk and allowing careful management to assure obedience to orders subject only to combat results and carelessness.

So, the first main step was to remove the various ways that had crept in to keep units in the game. Now, to be fair, in most of the sorts of small wars engagements in the era that my Toy Soldier games are set in, during most battles, most units survived the day  despite heavy losses. Battles like Little Big Horn,  Isandlwana, and Maiwand, were exceptions which is what made them so famous as catastrophes. However, removing units is much more dramatic and fun and simpler in a game than any of the alternative ways of tracking an army's capability to keep fighting.

Somewhere around turn 10 of 15. A flanking counterattack by Rebel cavalry has shattered the  Highlanders and nearly turned the tables but the Queen's gunners had their range. 
So, for the umpteenth time, I removed the various overt rules designed to reflect the tactical value of close support etc in favour of removing units after a standard number of hits which in turn increases the value of local supports and reserves to react to flanking moves and to plug gaps.

Then I reinstated my old Orders Dice system inspired by DBA's pips system.  This works by rolling 1d6 to determine how many formed Brigades and detached units may move this turn. Unused orders may be stored to top up the next die roll. I kept the turn tracking and chance card deck but only for those two tasks.

I also once again replaced any rally rules with upping the number of hits each unit can take and allowing 2 battered units to merge at the cost of taking a step closer to army morale collapse.

The combat and other rules remain very close to  what I have been using for the last few years.

Calling the resulting rules "The Square Brigadier" didn't feel right since the player is obviously intended to normally be a Divisional Commander or equivalent and I want to still have a small, quick game for the war of 1812 so I'll leave that be. There is proof reading and expanding of explanations to be done but I am happy to finally have a set of rules to carry the name:   The Model Major General which I've been wanting to use.

A trial, medium sized, game was needed, it was a rainy day and the table was still set up so I reset, swapping sides. The result was a squeaker of a two hour game with a dramatic finish with my attention focused on overall tactics.
Turn 15, the setting sun casts long shadows as the Rebel's finally break.

It looks like a busy couple of weeks ahead with some away games in view but hopefully I can get some more toy soldiers painted up before I get sidetracked into the 16thC again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First you get bigger THEN you get faster.

So, I set up a quick game, the OHW of CS Grant's Flank Attack from Scenarios for Wargames. It took about 1/2 an hour to play and was OK for a quick diversion but not terribly satisfying.

Quick and Easy. VERY quick.
I decided to leave the table up and on the weekend I doubled the forces and had a slightly longer, even less interesting game which I almost abandoned.

Game 2, Same scenario, twice the units, and a long firefight with little thought or excitement.

My instinct was to beef the rules up and add even more detail, complexity and "historical reality" to my fictional toy soldier wargames. Umhh.... that's not where this was supposed to be going.

Game 3. Fast and furious.
One of the things that finally occurred to me is that a number of the current rules were designed primarily to prolong the game while others were added to try to make various tactical practices overt rather than assumed to be happening without being shown which was the original idea. Others were inspired by various other published rules and I can only guess at why they were originally designed the way they were and question why I think them them a good idea in my own context. The result was going back 2 years to the drastic War of 1812 rewrite that I was quite happy with and start again. Then they needed testing of course.

Game 3: Same moment from a different angle.
I meant to play the game in a few days time but somehow I'm already 1/3rd of the way through and was late for evening chores.   Luckily, the soldiers are patient even if I'm not. The game will continue.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sea Trials

There's ALOT of housekeeping left to do but the heavy lifting is done so I set up a game. (No, it doesn't look any different but it doesn't wobble anymore.)

I wanted to play a BIG battle, but I won't have time for a few days and anyway I need to convert and paint a few more units first. Instead,  I've set up the OHW Flank Attack Scenario with 6 units aside.  Not sure I will able to make this one last an hour but we'll see.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


For the last 2 days my hobby time has been spent tearing my jury rigged table apart, adjusting the framework, nailing it all securely together, (There are somewhere around 8 fragments of my 2009 table joined together in jigsaw fashion)  and then rearranging things so it will sit on a sturdy base which is equally supported at the same height on all sides. (Which apparently requires moving every !#@#$@$#@ book and bookshelf I own).

Normal service should resume by the end of the weekend.

In the meantime, here is a rather vague picture of a test game using Huns and other riffraff to stand in as Turks as preparations for Huzzah 2019 gain momentum.
Meanwhile, please feel free to browse through the 1,500  or so posts made during the last 8 years. There is a list of labels below...no lower...lower still way waaaay down, (many a bit too vague I admit) to help choose past topics. Here's 200 and some odd battle report posts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Propose, Assess, Adjust

One of the advantages of the non-rigid scale style of Old School wargaming is that you can use a moderate collection of figures to fight everything from a skirmish to a major battle without getting hung up on ground, time and figure scales. However, if designing your own games, this means you are on your own for determining the optimum organization, you can't just pick up an OB and divide by the appropriate figure to man/gun ratio. This is why I found myself reassessing my artillery set up.

I've been a bit concerned that my artillery is somewhat less effective than it should be for the 1870's. The question is do I tweak the rules or add more guns. Now, its always tempting to go back to 2 gun batteries as in Charge! and on a 6" grid I could do it even in 54mm, if I REALLY wanted to.

Both Featherstone and Morschauser both used one gun batteries and they have been working for me so I decided to stay with that but to give the batteries a larger presence on the table, hence the return to a 4 man crew as in my Colonial MacDuff days and the move to a bigger base. It didn't look quite right to me and the blog comments only tended to reinforce that opinion so I've been experimenting with other options.
Two standard batteries.

The first thought that came to mind was that after the last game I had started thinking about having an Artillery Commander rather than parcelling out the guns and the officer with binoculars seemed to fit the bill.  I do like my commanders to be mounted though and now I have the ability to give a mounted artillery officer binoculars (queue 'a mental image of 'Gettysburg' and Porter Alexander receiving his orders).

Then I experimented with having batteries composed of 2 guns each with 2 crew. That could work but any terrain of any kind would be an issue and 2 figures did look lonely but 3 gunners and a gun does appears to work. It was going to take time to get the Parrot mould I want and then cast up an extra 4 guns and there is work on the house to be done this fall meaning extra calls on my time and money.

In the end I have decided to stick with my 3"x4" bases with 3 crew. This will leave the option of a 2 gun Grand Battery as a dense target but also allow me to increase the number of batteries on the table should I choose to go that route. The number of figures won't match the number of hits the stand can take (unless I adjust that) but that is just a "nice to have", not a necessity.

Two batteries formed as a Grand Battery in a single open terrain grid square.

Of course this means I now have one extra gunner left over so I will HAVE to paint up some more gunners and maybe buy that gun mould after all. Now, about limbers.......

Saturday, September 8, 2018

On the worktable

I've decided to bring the Rebel gun crews up to my old standard of an officer and 3 gunners for field guns. In this case it meant adding a rammer and a kneeling officer with glasses both of which were apparently available in Britain's original Confederate artillery sets.

I really need to clean up my desk. Immediately behind are the start of B Company of the Ft Henry Regiment.
The reversion to 4 man gun crews has given me a small poser.  I used to base the gunners individually but these days I have been mounting 2 gunners on a base. I can fit 4 figures on a reasonable base if three stand behind the gun but both the kneeling officer and the rammer need to be off to the side so either I need a REALLY big base or I'll have to leave the officer separate. Its not an important question but I'm in the mood for consistency.