Thursday, January 31, 2019

Intermission: MId-Winter Battle reports from the early years of the blog.

One of those weeks, not much to write about yet, so I've gone back in time:

31 Jan 2010: Bridge of Boats Battle Report.

and from 1 Feb 2011:
Part 1: Battle Report: Belmont Ridge

Part 2: The American Assault
(Link fixed)

Part 3: Finale

Sometimes its fun to look back now and then.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Once More to Battle With MacDuff

My MacDuff to the Frontier rules haven't hit the table very often since I became enamoured of grids and no figure removal but I intend to change that this year. Its been more than 20 years since the Courier published them and as one does, I started tweaking them years back and it all got out of hand. A couple of years ago I started trying to get them back closer to the original idea but at the same time trying to adjust things so I can use them for larger games in less time, especially at conventions, but I haven't really touched them in a year.

This scenario was a simple 2 equal and opposing forces are sent to capture the Stone Inn, at the same time.
About 5 turns in. Both forces are finally on table but Red (the Maritime Alliance) has seized the Inn. Opposing cavalry have clashed indecisively and Red has decided to switch his to the other flank and trust to his infantry to hold off Blue's cavalry beyond the inn.

A rules error by Red has resulted in his Grenadiers being driven out of the inn by amazingly destructive close range volleys by MacDuff's Grenadiers. Blue saw what looked like an opportunity and sent in his cavalry. The infantry held fire to the last minute and tore the Orleans regiment  to shreds! 

MacDuff's Grenadiers have seized the Inn. The Irish made a bad call (based on rules and the card draw sequence), fired at long range then advanced rather than advancing and holding fire only to have MacDuff's advance holding fire then pour in a deadly volley during the final fire phase then get first card on the next turn allowing them another deadly volley, breaking the Irish.  All looks good for Blue and dismal for Red, apart from Fitzjames's Horse on the flank. 

The combined fired of Red's artillery and Grenadiers has forced MacDuff's to fall back while the Red Horse has over run Blue's artillery. Given a breathing space, the Irish have rallied.

Red's infantry storms the Inn while a counter attack by the Orleans Cavalry is routed by Fitzjames' Horse. However, the Queen's regiment is finally engaging, if they can break Red's infantry while MacDuff's reform, the battle can still be won.

Nothing like a cavalry charge into the rear of a rallying infantry unit  to clear a battlefield. The Blue commander was forced to order a retreat while the Queen's Regiment was still capable of providing a rearguard. (In other words Blue's army break point was reached.)
A couple of quick lessons: there are some critical bits missing off the quick reference sheet and I am rusty enough that I should have had one in hand instead of working from memory with an occasional peek at my tablet.

I think I need to try a bigger game now.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

MacDuff Teaser

Spoiler Alert

New unit does good!

Battle report in the Sunday evening edition.

Friday, January 25, 2019

MacDuff Encounters The Not Quite Seven Years War

Huzzah! is coming!

Advance guards clash at the Stone Inn.

We have 'work' to do!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Then They Were Twelve.

On the weekend, I took advantage of a storm day to cast up 5 more charging figures plus a drummer from the 'new' Prussian range to complete 'A' Company of the 28th Regiment.

The Yellow facings look more yellow in real life.

Of course no sooner had I based the first six when I spotted the bags of flexible metal bases I had bought several years so I could put my Prince August figures onto a slightly narrower frontage and use magnetized movement stands. So I had to pop the others off the old washers and remount them but there we are.

A prototype Grenadier painted up a couple of years ago, back when I hoped PA would do British figures for the 7YW within my lifetime.

Now to do grenadiers and another company of line plus a battalion command group. I quite like this charging figure but I had trouble getting both raised foot and bayonet to cast at the same time and the gate connects to their back at a spot where it is hard to get a hack saw at it and even harder to get a file in to smooth it.

So, the next unit will be using the newer Prussian moulds, not sure yet which heads I'll use. As a bonus that'll make it easy to keep the 2 line companies sorted.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Small but Contentious Affair

One of the reasons I decided to play a small, simple scenario with the 54's today was that I wanted to test a few things. 
The Rebels deploy with artillery firing overhead from a low rise while the cavalry supports the left flank. 
The first thing was that I haven't been as happy as I wanted to be with the 6" grid. I had been reluctant to go to 6" as I worried that there weren't quite enough grid squares for many scenarios but I hadn't expected to find the units feeling lost in the 6" squares thus putting ideas in my head. Since I still have my 5" gridded cloth, I threw it on to the table. Unfortunately the 5" squares worked much better so there's some low priority work to be done.

The second, more important, thing is that the old urge for a more detailed and complex game had been starting to rear its head and half hearted attempts to compromise have been unsatisfactory. So, I decided  to make this an exercise of trying things on the table.

This of course made a detailed narrative a little hard since I occasionally replayed parts of some turns several times with slightly different rules to see how they felt so I'll let the pictures tell the official story while I stick with the technical stuff.
The Queen's Infantry occupy the houses around the crossroads supported by artillery and cavalry while the Grenadiers set out to capture the other junction.
The first and easiest matter was that of Command Control and "friction". Over the years I have tried out almost every possible system to incorporate these things but the only really satisfying approach was to play multi-player games. One of the easiest wrenches one can throw in is to use dice or cards to limit how many units a player can move each turn, especially if you provide ways for a general to make decisions that will help him to make things work if luck is against him and that's what I used to do. 

It didn't take  long to settle this. While activation systems can appear to mimic real life issues, they do so for the wrong reasons and change the way the player as commander makes decisions. One is forced to think in terms of game rules as much or more than military principles. I don't need artificial means of screwing up as a commander, I can do it all on my own, especially if combat results are hard to predict.

So that is settled, I've worried at this particular question with these rules like a dog with a bone for 5 years at least and I always come back to troops always attempting to carry out their orders unless they are on their own and relying on their unit commander's initiative. This works well enough especially if movement is limited and the support of friends beneficial.

The Rebels decide to attack the Crossroad with the Grey Brigade.
The second main issue and the most worrisome was the question of how much tactical detail detail to show. Philosophically, this system is supposed to look at the game from the Commander's POV and what's going on internally is the job of some unknown junior officer. The Commander only needs to know that the unit is carrying out orders and succeeding or that it is in trouble.

For some reason the bigger figures and the profusion of memoirs, eye witness accounts,  drill books and the like for this period combined with the low level of the actions fought make me want to show more details about what is going on. Every attempt to do so has run foul of one or more obstacles such as unintended consequences where the rules encourage the wrong tactics or the game becoming as tedious as the real thing where these small actions often included long stretches of long range fire where neither side did much damage.  Exciting to an inexperienced individual taking part in the real thing, less so to a hobbyist pushing toy soldiers about and rolling handfuls of dice with nothing happening.

One solution is to increase the complexity of the game yet more and strive for more accuracy with the intent of the result being an exercise rather than a game. Another which I like better these days is to dial back the detail and just concentrate on getting the right effect without worrying so much about what we aren't seeing.  That was always the intent of the Square Brigadier and its still the best approach for my goals and allows more units on the table for an ordinary game. 
The Rebel gunners are pounding the Royal battery which is struggling. Its time for the Grenadiers to clear the Blue infantry from the Stone House and end this.
The last thing is closely related and involves choices about combat resolution, how many dice to throw vs how many hits, whether or not units should deteriorate incrementally or not
done and whether or not I want my smallest units to be able to break down into even smaller detachments. Some of these things are just easier with BIG battalions on a big table and 12 hour games. Well, it was no real surprise to me that once I'd dealt with the other issues, this one came quickly to heel. In other words, the original system worked best esp since a tweak from a few years ago where I don't remove units when they take their small maximum   number of hits but allow them to keep retreating and trying to rally until they leave the table.

But luck is not with the Redcoats and when their Commander is shot leading a bayonet charge against the stone house they break. Outflanked and with battery and cavalry both shot to pieces, its time to pull back.
The one surprise that came to me is that a whole host of minor issues disappeared when I decided to drop the melee resolution rule. It felt very ...almost immoral (!) to do so since I am so accustomed to have a win/lose mechanism. However, since my "melee" includes close range firefights as well as charges with cold steel I needed to have the rules able to provide prolonged struggles as well as sudden routs but for the right reasons. Oddly, by taking the rule out and dropping the number of hits per unit back to the original while allowing broken units to rally, I get the same range of options without a special rule but with a more appropriate range of results on average.

So once again the watchword is: "Less is More".

I have done a quick rewrite of the short version of the rules which I will add in my list of rules but I need to check it over for missing bits and then expand it to explain things more  fully and add back in more  of the extras and special things that are missing from the quick version. This is a job that I've been avoiding until I resolved these issues to my satisfaction but its time. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

There's a Storm Coming!

No, I mean a real winter storm, snow, freezing rain, rain. Could be nasty......good time for a game.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Glossy Shire Regiment

I stole enough time today to paint up some new Prince August castings from old moulds.

The Maritime Alliance training a new regiment or....
This is a mould I've had my eye on for 20 years but having discovered how diverse the Prince August Rosbach range is with regard to size and style, I have been reluctant to order  one until I at least saw some pictures. Its been in my shopping cart a dozen time but when the total was consulted, this was one of the moulds that kept being trimmed 'for now'. 
..perhaps the 28th charging at Quebec.
Well, at last I saw some pictures and here the lads are. As suspected, they are perfectly serviceable as late 1750's/early 1760's British infantry wearing their coats over the waist belt as seen in some prints. There is no cuff slash but the later style of small cuff with slash is easily painted on well enough for glossy toy soldier style.

Monday, January 14, 2019


4 days without anything wargaming-ish to report on?
Can't last!

Meanwhile here's a print off my wall for your viewing pleasure.
Montcalm & Languedoc Regiment.
And a song to go with it.
(A favourite of my for over 1/2 a century)

Or two, this one is a relatively recent discovery.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The story of the Battle Beneath the Tower has now been posted on the Gathering of Hosts blog.

This solo game which was set  in a fictional setting that originated in the 1970's, includes some of the first metal wargaming figures that I ever painted as well as vintage figures painted more recently such as the Garrison knights shown above.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Table is Set.

The Black Tower stands guard over the Pass.

A snowy/rainy Wednesday should provide time to play.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Friction vs Competence: A Case Study from Real Life

Over the weekend I've had the dubious pleasure of revisiting the old question of  friction vs  commander's competence including his planning and preparation and his reaction to events. There were no toy soldiers involved but the relevance stands.
If this post looks boring, please check out this rather fun little New Year's Eve game from 5 years a go.

To set the scene, we live in a rural area and are dependent on a shallow well pump for our primary source of water. This means we need 4 things to work:  water in the ground, electricity, a working pump and pipes that don't leak.

The ground water is largely beyond our control but we know that a dry summer can lead to a lower water table and so we conserve water and reduce and spread out our usage to reduce the drain on the well and store extra and collect rainwater so that even if the well goes dry for a short time, we are prepared to carry on.

The supply of electricity is also beyond control but even though outages are rare and usually a matter of a few hours at worst, we are always prepared to live up to a week or more without it.

The pump and plumbing however, are all up to us. I am not a DIY (do it yourself) sort of person because I enjoy it but partly because that's how I was raised and partly because we have chosen to put our efforts into living well with minimal expenditures.

OK so much for background, here is the event.

When the pump recently began cycling more often than it should it was a sign that there was a maintenance issue to be dealt with before it became a crisis. (apart from our own consumption  my wife requires water to run her dog grooming business). A week or so ago I ran through the process to recharge the water pressure tank but with little effect. This meant one of 2 things either I hadn't done a good job (with my level of DIY skills, still a not uncommon situation though less so as I gain experience) or the pressure tank seal had a small leak which would eventually lead to failure. Now if a failure were to occur it would normally occur at the most awkward time possible so I decided to have another go at a time when I knew we could be off line for a day or two in worst case but also thought through my options should it not work. 

Still with me?

Well, the 2nd attempt led to failure so onto the back up plan. We have a spare pump that was connected to an old rain cistern which is no longer in use. I shifted the plumbing connections over, cursing over the assortment of hose sizes and jury rigging, mostly inherited and the awkward, damp, dark space. Eventually I was done, flipped the power on, there was a bit of a snap, the breaker tripped and it was then that my mind drifted to activation rolls and cards.

At this point  friction, even though foreseen had succeeded in  delaying me but not stopping me. I had a cunning plan up my sleeve. I started to connect the good pump to the good pressure tank. At that point my propane torch suddenly stopped working. What?!  I got out my spare, it roared into life but I couldn't control the flame. Yikes!! What the hell, I went for a 3rd.....hmm thought I had another one here somewhere....
Restoring the water was going to have to wait until the next day and activation rolls/cards were really on my mind!

It was to late to go buy a replacement so we had to make due with our back up water supplies which are wisely my wife's area of control and thus ample.  The next day I popped out bought a new torch and a shut off valve to isolate the well the next time I wanted to work on the pump and in no time we were up and running.

So, was this a series of bad activation rolls or card draws  beyond the general's influence or was it a combination of poor combat rolls backed by a failure by the general to have done better planning and preparation?

Skirmish on the border
Thanks for hanging in. Next up, its time to get some littler bows and spears out and onto the table for a game. A game at least once in 3 years or out you go!! 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Trying things on for size.

Looks like Prince August is coming to Huzzah but he's bringing MacDuff with him instead of Lawford and Young.

The details don't matter but there may be limited cargo capacity on the troop transports, not to mention the battlefields and MacDuff can get by with fewer men.

Rosmark Carabiniers and Maritime Federation Gensdarme and Hussar.

Seemed like a good time to try out the new Cuirassiers and to finally paint up some of the Rosbach range Heavy Hussars.

And the Horror movie version.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Kicking the AGW Tires at Sittingbad

Since Sittingbad was still set up on my table, I decided to get the Prince August homecasts out for my now customary last game of the year, then decided to try out the draft of A Gentleman's War again.

The cavalry clash early on.
Initially I deployed 2x12 inf/6 cavalry or light infantry units for each Charge! regiment in the original. It didn't take long to realize that I had botched the unit translation  considering how the activation works. Not being shy about jumping horses in midstream (or about mixing metaphors), I changed that to 1x18 figure infantry or 9 cavalry or light infantry for each Charge! unit. That worked well.
The whole Rosmark army is now on table but the player controlling them has been too slow and cautious.
Yes OK that was me but it was a matter of honest poor decisions while I learned not only the rules but how to make the best use of them.)   
Once again the rules worked well but while each rule is simple, there are a lot of them and the various tables will need a few games to memorize for those like me who have gotten used to much simpler games. The card play puts an interesting twist on top of the game and there was a time I would hated it but I'm a little easier on such things these days and they can be quite fun.

The Hold cards are not quite the same when you know and control both hands but they are too useful to skip. I think some of my friends here might enjoy playing the card playing aspect of the rules.

Playing this game also reminded me that playing a non-gridded, card activation  game like MacDuff or AGW, solo, on a 4x6 table, means ALOT of circling the table to move units or retrieve tapes or rulers.

The supplies have been evacuated and the Maritime army is well on its way to safety.
What's next? We'll have to wait and see. Time is running short on selecting a game to run at Huzzah next May so picking one and preparing for it needs to be my main focus until its ready.