Friday, March 29, 2019

Wargaming the AWI, Past and Present

One of those weeks. Didn't get much hobby time but I did manage to grab the 2nd last spot in Alan Coughlin's (  54mm AWI game at Huzzah!. {Whew!)

The last survivors of my 2001 54mm AWI armies. (Well, them and a score of friends< I really need to find them a new home where they can get some TLC and exercise)
This brings back fond memories of March 2001 when two friends and I were headed down to Cold Wars in Lancaster PA where I was scheduled to run two 54mm AWI games. One was a LittleWars Yahoo group "bring your own figures" Battle of Hubbarton, the other was Montgomery's New Year's Eve assault on Quebec, complete with town, walls and cliffs. The cliffs were cardboard boxes full of troops and buildings etc which were emptied and covered by a couple of Christmas village snow cloths.  I only had a little hatchback for three men, two 54m armies and the city of Quebec so, whoever rode in the backseat on that 20 hour drive had to sit with a box full of troops on his lap. 

On the day before we were due to leave a sudden, unexpected, heavy, snowstorm was predicted to hit on the next day. I got hold of Tom and gave him 30  minutes to pack while I loaded the car. Together we drove around the Dalhousie campus where Bruce was adding another Master's to his credentials. Luckily we spotted him, grabbed him, gave him 10 minutes to pack. We hit my Mom's place outside Fredericton just after midnight, grabbed a few hours sleep and headed out again. We made it to the outskirts of Portland before hubcap deep snow on the Interstate forced us  into a motel. In the morning the road ahead was clear and by noon we were at the Toy Soldier Museum in Pennsylvania and stripped down to our tshirts. The road behind was closed for two days! Called that one right and we had a great long weekend.

Hard to believe that I don't have even a single picture of that game, not even of the practice ones. Thank goodness for smartphones these days.

MacDuff at Huzzah 2014 when my carts were new, built for this game and my long gone 40mm AWI collection. (20mm, 40mm and 54mm AWI armies have all come and gone, maybe I should do a PA semiflat one, just a small one.....)

I did manage to fix a broken part one of my old carts this week but not to touch up the paint or replace the missing draft horse. Still its the weekend, rife with possibilities.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Ready to Roll

The latest addition to my convoy is now table ready.

The carts are surplus Irregular Miniatures that Rob passed to  me a couple of years ago. I replaced the wheels with Prince August ones for a more 18thC look and used PA draft horses.

I had thought of having the drivers walk along side but had never really noticed the scale difference, especially for the larger HE and new 7YW figures. The sight of a driver pointing across a draft horse's back made it look more like a draft pony. So I took late 19thC seated drivers from Zinnbrigade and Irregular, gave them new heads and painted them in waistcoats.

The loads are 1/35 sandbags and are removable as are the drivers.

Pack mules are next and anything else will just give me more options to choose from.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

All I Ask is a Tall Ship

And a hex to steer her by.

I'd hoped to have the two carts on my painting table done but the drivers aren't quite finished.

So instead, here are some gratuitous shots of Thursday's game at Ron's. Nothing like having to beat to windward through a narrow channel to reach open sea to face a stronger English fleet.

It was an interesting and fun game but we ran out of time not long after we got to grips. Next time we're going to count each hex as 2".

Monday, March 18, 2019

Go on, have another!

I wasn't going to replay this scenario.
The Queen's Grenadiers easily repulsed the first Rosmark attack.  

Actually, it wasn't until after I had cleared away the troops and the buildings on Friday that I decided that I was in the mood for another game. After a pause to consider options, I decided to reset and play the same scenario using the alternate activation method of just pulling one card to determine who goes first each turn. 
The Maritime Alliance chose to swap the Light Infantry unit for some Grenadiers and put its full weight into the left hook. Rosmark kept the same force but led the attack with infantry this time. The result was the same.
Rosmark decided to leave the village unoccupied and put all of their infantry into the field. The Alliance responded by sending the Grenadiers and mercenaries  over the right hand ford leaving the artillery and cavalry to hold the bridge. 

A charge by the King Michael Carabiniers hit the Grenadiers whose powder had been soaked in the river (their story) and sent them flying back over the ford.

On the other flank the 2nd Carabiniers crashed into the flank of the Queen's Regiment but inspired by the Brigadier's bravery these veterans held together as best they could and went at the enemy like 5's and 6's.  Still the cavalry and the long musket duel had taken their toll and the Maritime advance on their left has been halted. The attack on their right was still in progress but there was faint hope of it taking the town before dark.

The game was beginning to look like a draw but there was just time for Rosmark to make one more attack on the bridge. It depended on luck and timing (aka initiative).  

The Rosish gun was taken as the sun set but the Carabiniers still stood between the mercenaries and the town. The issue was to be decided at the bridge.

Rosmark was revenged.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Build me a Convoy!

Our Saturday game at Huzzah calls for 10 wagons, carts, carriages etc. I decided to see what I have on hand at the moment.

I have work to do!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

MacDuff Counter Attacks

The scenario I chose to play was "Counterattack" from Thomas' One Hour Wargames. The rules were the updated version of With MacDuff to the Frontier. Prince August's series of homecasting moulds  provided the armies.
The Nordmark Naval Regiment stands alone.
The scenario gives "Red"(Maritime Alliance) 1 unit to hold the bridge with 5 more units arriving on turn 3. "Blue" (Rosmark) has 6 units on his baseline. Unknown to Blue (Theoretically - this is where Solo play often requires a bit  of dual personality or at least roleplay.) there are 2 fords, one near each board edge. The winner is the side that holds both bridge and town at the end.

Rather than roll on the 6 unit chart, I prefer to roll twice on the 3 unit chart. That way, there is at least a chance of having an all arms force.

In the event, Blue rolled up 3 infantry, 2 cavalry, and 1 gun while Red rolled up 3 infantry, 1 light infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 gun.

After what felt like an eternity of artillery bombardment, cavalry charges and musket volleys, the Nordmark Naval Regiment was relieved to see the rest of the Alliance forces arrive.
For the last few years MacDuff has offered a choice of activation methods. The new one that works best for straightforward battles is a simple initiative card draw or die roll to see who goes first each turn. The original one which was designed for the confused situations found in frontier skirmishes involved card activation by single units or groups of units under a commander.  I opted for the latter.

The battered Naval Regiment has pulled back into reserve while the Alliance cavalry has met a Rossish cavalry charge and smashed it.

The main thing I wanted to do was to test my newest attempt to get my rally rules working smoothly. The rally rule has caused me  the most problems over the years while also doing exactly what I wanted it to do. At its most basic, the idea back in 1995 was that  not all "hits" were dead and wounded but included all those things that lower a unit's efficiency from men who have frozen up or been temporarily stunned, to disorder and confusion in the ranks to temporary ammo shortages  and so on. Therefore I allowed units to try to recover casualties when the unit rallied. I got a lot of push back from people who could only see wargame casualties as dead and wounded  but that wasn't the problem.

The problem was twofold. One issue was the logistics of tracking an increasing trail of bodies while waiting for a unit to rally and needing to differentiate between those who failed their rally and were out of the game and those who were still waiting for their chance. The second, more important issue, was that successful rally rolls prolonged the game, 5 hours was not unusual for larger games but having to make a decision about who won when time ran out was even more common.

After some fierce fighting the Rosmark forces have been flanked and driven back with heavy losses.
I won't bother trying to list all of the ways I tried to resolve the issues to my satisfaction but eventually I almost gave up altogether. Having a rally phase at the end of each turn simplified the logistics and rolling once for each pair of 'casualties' kept the recover rate reasonable but since rallying and reforming the ranks were tied together in my mind this meant that disorder was almost meaningless as  it was often removed before the enemy could take advantage and almost always removed before it affected the unit's own actions.
An attack by the Rossish reserve regiment has driven the Alliance cavalry back over the ford but Rosmark has taken many more casualties and half of their units have been driven from the field.

Recently, an obvious solution finally occurred to me. All I had to do was separate "reforming", which is an action which is done instead of shooting or moving, from "rallying" which has to do with morale and losses and can be done at the end of each turn and can be at the end of a turn without taking much away from the game.

The Garrison of Smalltown make a brave stand to give the army a chance to escape.

This was the first MacDuff game using the new approach though I used it successfully last week in my non-MacDuff 54mm game. It worked again in this game.  Its not perfect, and sometimes the end of turn rally seems little different from a traditional saving throw made immediately when the hits are taken but if a unit takes hits early in a turn, the difference can be critical  and from a purely "game mechanic" perspective, it works and is close enough to the original idea for me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Meanwhile, somewhere in Rosmark

I found myself at loose ends this afternoon............

So there we were, MacDuff, Prince August, Thomas and I, so of course, the table was soon set and a game underway.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Portable War of 1812.

I have found over the years that in many ways I am a "bear of very little brain". To be more precise, I am one of those who learns to do better by doing than by just reading or being told something (as long as I have read or been told what I need to know before trying).

Anyway, one learns to cope but the process often involves "do overs" and I've learned not to judge rules in particular without at least three games with analysis in between. Two games is however, enough to report on.

PNW Game 1.  Not having a ground scale to work with, I used the frontages of the armies as a basis for scaling map to table. For the 1st game I decided (against my better judgement) to use the single deck activation option.

The US had 7 infantry units, the 2 small regiments in the 1st Brigade being amalgamated for game purposes, a unit of light cavalry and an artillery unit not yet on table. The army counted 33 SP's if you leave out the Commander which I did since I was not allowing him to use any of the commander bonuses as previously mentioned. This gave them an exhaustion point of 11.

The British had 2 infantry battalions and a bunch of detachments which is where it got tricky. I ended up putting 2 Elite rifle units for the Voltigeurs and Mohawks and another for the combined flank companies and Canadians in the gully and a 3 SP infantry unit for the detachment from the 89th Foot. They also had a gun and an off table gunboat. In retrospect I should probably have reduced the SP's  of the detachments and Voltigeurs 1 more each. I also should have counted the offtable gunboat as firing indirect unless the target was right on the riverbank. At any rate that gave the British 22 SP's and an EP of 8. (I didn't count the gunboat)

I then proceeded to deploy the troops historically and follow the original plans as long as possible.

This was the point where I discovered that I was having trouble remembering all the details of the rules (as simple as they are, the rules are still more complicated, or at least detailed, than any I've played in ages). In particular, after all these years I have trouble remembering that units roll to hit themselves in melee. (Ok that's a deliberately contrary way of putting it.) I decided to rename the melee roll as a Saving Throw and that made enough sense that I was able to remember.

What surprised me though was that I hadn't really appreciated how deadly shooting was. A stationary infantry line has a roughly 85% chance of scoring a hit against a target in the open. Even in woods it has a 2/3 chance of hitting dispersed riflemen who have a 1/6 chance to reply effectively. It took me to the last turn to realize that the riflemen could form line in the woods and thus shoot better with no lose in manoeuvrability in the woods. This seemed superficially wrong so I rationalized it as the line representing a unit with a proportion of men skirmishing with the rest in support to the rear.

Since the US forces historically seem to have begun in column with a screen of skirmishers I deployed them in column. In game terms this was as slow as the line but less effective. Even when the columns charged the faux riflemen, the charge bonus was only against line not dispersed. In the ensuing melees the Americans rolled low and suffered heavy SP losses as they pushed the Voltigeurs back. These latter, being Elite, usually rolled up and happily gave ground to avoid losses. So far the result was reasonably historical if a bit too deadly.

In the plain, the US infantry was suffering from deadly artillery fire and struggling to cross the gullies under fire (I treated crossing the gullies as fording a river). By the time they struggled into small arms range of the main British line it was all over. They had lost their 11 SP's. Since the British had no strategic need to drive the Americans back, the battle was over. The US had drawn 80% of the activation cards and suffered 80% of the casualties.

I stopped to review the game then decided to shrink the battlefield slightly, add the extra SPs for the general, change the activation method to rolling for initiative and replay the game with a better understanding of the rules.

The resulting game was quite interesting and enjoyable although the US again did not manage to come anywhere as near to success as they did on the day and their artillery barely made it onto the table. I think the British might need to have their SP's weakened a bit as well as reducing the firepower of the gunboat. A new battleplan for the US might also help.

I'd like to try out the Corps game using fictional armies but those troops are still out of service  and I have other things I want to do so it'll have to wait.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Teaser: Portable Napoleonic Wargame Played

Against the odds I got the new 1/2 unit painted AND managed a Portable Napoleonic game today.

Game report and thoughts will follow.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Time for Every Other Purpose

There is nothing like deciding to do some particular hobby thing to make free time shrink. However, some progress has been made and tomorrow (knock knock)  looks like a day off for me.
Furbishing and refurbishing in progress.
Of course, finding time and light and quiet for painting is harder some days than time for thinking about rules etc. For example I can do the latter, but not the former, when having couch time with a couple of hounds.

This means I've had another read through the rules and have realized that I had missed a few things and need to rethink one or two things.

The first is that I was imagining more rules about the "riflemen" unit type than actually exist. For example, I was imagining a fire benefit beyond range, melee penalties beyond reduced SP and better ability to move and shoot in woods. So, in order for my musket armed light infantry to be of much use, I am going to have to treat them as Riflemen straight up. Luckily, officially there were no US rifle units present at Crysler's Farm so I don't need to represent their superior accuracy or their reduced melee ability for this game. I find it odd that my Mohawk warriors and Voltigeurs don't move through woods better than line infantry but I can live with it.

I'm not quite sure what to make about the rules for shooting in and out of woods except to be sure that I am misunderstanding something. As written, a unit must be on the edge of a wood to fire out which is fine. However, a unit not in the woods can fire at a unit which is not on the edge, a unit which cannot shoot back!  Well, maybe in woods elsewhere but not the kind of woods we have, you can't see 10 feet into the woods around here from a position outside of the woods. Visibility does open up a little once you get past the thick underbrush on the edges so the 2 square range inside woods is fine, especially since it means there is an option for  a firefight in woods.  I think I'm just going to add a house rule that says troops outside a wood may only fire at a unit on the edge. Tit for tat.

The artillery effectiveness seems a bit too severe for fighting in America, far too easy to get to a point of automatic hits for my taste. For now I'm going to play them as is but the British will have to consolidate their guns and all fire from the gunboats will treated as more than 2 squares.

Lastly there are the Commanders, the rules allow them to make a very significant contribution to shooting and melee and there are situations where this would be appropriate. At Crysler's Farm though, the British were very ably commanded by the Colonel of the 89th but he seems to have been too busy commanding to engage in any heroics. On the other side the US Brigadiers seem to have been fairly active but the acting commander also seems to have had his hands full just trying to get through the day. So, for this battle only, I am not going to represent the Brigade commanders and will prohibit the "army" commanders from joining any units.

Right! First priority for Saturday is get the table cleared and reset and finish getting the small armies table ready. I'm hoping to play in the afternoon but if not I'll at least get set up for a Sunday game.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A change is as good as a rest.

It feels like time to give some of my other figures an outing.

Last May I made a mould of a War of 1812 master figure that I had worked on off and on for several years, cast a dozen, and painted one sample. The rest have been in the painting queue ever since.

Recently Bob Cordery presented me with a copy of his new Portable Napoleonic Wargame and I've been waiting to give them an outing. The War of 1812 is about as close as my remaining collections get to Napoleonic so it seems like time to paint up some more Americans then give it a go.

Having read the rules over again, I am going to make two changes for the War of 1812.

The first is that while the British made good use of light troops, they had no rifle armed troops in Canada. I have decided to treat British light infantry, and native warriors as riflemen but with a range of 2 but to give real riflemen a bonus when shooting at other skirmishers.

The second change is due to there being no evidence of infantry in North America forming square when charged by cavalry. At Crysler's Farm, when the American Dragoons charged the flank of the British 49th Foot, these merely refused their flank and repulsed them with volleys of musketry.

Actually, there has been quite a bit written in the last few decades about cavalry vs infantry in the Napoleonic Wars indicating that squares were neither quite as universally employed as thought in the mid20thC nor quite as universally successful once you get away from the British experience. But I'll leave the European experience alone for now and for just the War of 1812 I will remove the square rules including the bonus for cavalry in melee with infantry not in square.

I'm looking forward to fighting Crysler's Farm using the PNW but first I have some figures to paint.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bring Up The Guns!

Meanwhile, back at Fort Belmont, work continues.
3" Ordinance Rifle vs 9pdr RML
BMC vs BMC/AIP conversion
I really like my antique Britains' guns but I only have two and they aren't easy to come by around here. When one does pop up online they tend to be beyond my current budget. To remedy my shortage of guns I indulged in an AIP sale to buy a couple of Boer War guns even though they are somewhat later my selected period.

My whole painted 54mm artillery park from BMC ACW guns to Boer War Britains' Boer War era 15 pdr RBL and AIP's version of the same gun now masquerading as the earlier 9pdr Armstrong  RBL, and a BMC/AIP hybrid 9pdr RML plus, of course, AIP's Gatling. 
 My rebels needed some ACW guns but all that was left of my score or so  of plastic ACW guns and limbers were a couple of limber horses but the armies went to a good cause (the HAWKS armies for kids initiative) so I don't regret their departure.

I contemplated buying the Miniature Moulds Parrott mould but I also needed more limbers and it occurred to me that one can still get cheap bags of BMC guns and limbers.

Got some work to do here.

Once I had the set of 6 guns and 6 horse-less limbers in hand, I realized I could slightly modify two of the gun carriages to hold the spare AIP RML barrels to kluge a 9 pdr RML on a simple wooden carriage such as those used in Canada.

Hmm, now that I've painted four more guns I suppose I should add another crew for each side as well as doing the limbers, only token two horse teams I'm afraid, the table's not big enough for more.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

We Are Free Men!

Today saw a gathering of 10 wargamers of various sorts gathered from Halifax, the South Shore and the Valley for a day of companiable conversation, die rolling, and the slaughter of toy soldiers and cardboard counters.
Gary's Romans to the left, Jeff's Celts to the right.

At our table Jeff and Brent from the Greenwood Wargamers, Paul, Les and I of the venerable Atlantic Simulation Society founded back in the late 70's, and Gary, another veteran gamer who like the rest appears in his share of my blog posts, played a miniatures version of Epic C&C Ancients.

The scenario was inspired by the last battle of Boudicca's Revolt and I must say that we freedom loving Britons gave the Romans a tough fight. We held the Romans at bay and gave as good as we got to the last turn at which point their gods came to their aid and suddenly we died bravely in droves.

I'm looking forward to this becoming a regular monthly event. (Apart from the dying bit.)

Friday, March 1, 2019

For King and Country and the Prize.

Winter is easing and I made the first trek of the year into Halifax for a game with Ron.

We picked up where we left off with Osprey's naval rules and the grid. We spend a fair amount of time experimenting with trying to get as close to the off grid game without losing the benefits of clarity and simplicity that the hex grid brings.

The main issues centered around using 2" moves with 30 degree turns and 8 point wind on a grid of 4" hexes with 6 points and 60 degree angles. Doubling all moves and gun ranges would have simplifies things but robbed us of all manouevring room.

Eventually we settled on a satisfactory compromise and the game proceeded full speed ahead. We allowed ships making a single 2" move to straddle a gridline, (ie 1/2 in each hex) but to only be able to turn when reaching the centre after moving forward and to only make turns of 60 or 120 degrees . We also settled on a fire arc based on the grid pattern.

The game proceeded under full speed allowing us to focus on seamanship and tactics.

Alas the time ran out just after my brilliant manouvres had placed me in just the right spot and aspect to benefit from a sudden windshift at just the right time.  As it was I had managed to sink a ship of the line and a frigate in exchange for minor damage.

The Garrison Brewery used to use bottlecaps with a cannon stamped on them. Ron has hoarded these for years waiting for a use for thrm. Here they are marking ships that have fired.

Once you've put yourself alongside an enemy and run out the guns,  sometimes luck is all the skill you need.

I do like the game though. It reminds me of long ago days  on the West Coast, sailing Whalers and also of  Officer of the Watch  manouvres on the bridge of one of the ex-sweepers we trained on and later on a destroyer.