Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ca ira! Ca ira! Ca ira!

Enough ACW for a bit. My latest Prince August moulds arrived and have been tested.

LtoR Meisterzinn in later bicorne, Zinnbrigade w 1792 bicorne from PA Prussian NCO mould, said PA mould being converted to artillery officer, PA gunner with same early bicorne.

(Juryrigged with plasticene to give me an idea what they might look like.)

It wasn't the best of conditions, hot and humid so that sweat was literally dripping off my forehead into the mould and occasionally the melting pot.
However, I managed to get enough bits to mock up some conversions and confirm that I'll be able to make some 1793 units that will look ok beside Meisterzinn.

Oh and the Dragoons look Great! Bicornes coming for them as well!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Habits Are Hard To Break

Once again I sat down, looked at the still unfinished 20 turn game on my table and thought: "I have not done what I thought I was doing. Instead, I've gone  even farther off course.".  Reset!

Simple scenario. Equal forces, 3 roads either side. Roll for entry point per division. Sieze an enemy road without losing any.

The original plan had been to write a ruleset with as little  regimental detail and as few artificial command mechanisms as I could but instead, with each tweak or rewrite I seemed to have slipped ever farther back down that well trodden road. So,  I opened up a blank document and began again.

I thought about what a revelation it had been 17 years ago when I first read Joe Morschauser and, after scoffing, tried playing his rules. Then I thought about how  much I had enjoyed, and been excited about, the games I had played using the very simple rules he inspired me to write. Rules which I had proceeded to regress until the rules were neither fast nor fun while convincing myself that I wasn't doing that at all. It comes I think from my early days, WRG and reading Charles Grant's books. The simpler Featherstone and Lawford and Young had been hastily put aside by the young man for more modern, detailed, scale conscious rules. Unlearning that approach has been a steep curve over the last years.

I reset the table, typed up a one page rules summary,  and started again.

Desperate Union counter attack repulsed with heavy losses.

This time I played 15 turns in about 3 hours and was able to declare a narrow Confederate minor victory. More than that, the advantage had swung back and forth but in the end it was player decisions not dice that decided the issue. (Mind you a last desperate Yankee charge might have come off against the odds if the dice had been kinder to them and turned the game to a draw.)

So here's the one page rules:

Ross Fast PLay ACW QRS

Determine initiative My usual card initiative deck

Sequence of Play

A moves or  shoots
Resolve charges (Oops missed this phase when I was typing)
B moves or shoots
Resolve charges
Generals, Cav, Horse Arty 18” 
Inf, Arty 12”  
If with 6” of enemy no sideways move
1/2 speed  if maneuvering (fall back, sidestep, pass through,  etc) 
1/2 speed across delaying terrain, inf only in thick woods, swamp, steep rocky hills etc
Roads negate off road terrain for columns

Shooting: Shoot straight ahead. Units may change facing, unlimer etc and shoot. 
Inf: 2d6 per unit  6” @5,6 hits    
Cav: 2d6 per dismounted  unit. 6” @5,6 hits 
Arty 2d6 per gun  12” @4,5,6 hits, 36” @5,6 hits  
-1 vs cover
Support. A unit may pass up to 1/2 hits to an infantry unit within 1” to flank or up to 3” to rear. 
Rally Men! A Cdr may join one unit within 6” each turn and roll 1d6: 5,6=cancel 1  hit, 1=Cdr dead  

Charge Resolution: Both sides roll  2d6 per unit in contact, 4,5,6 hits     
-1 if attacking cover or an obstacle or if charged in flank.
Follow Me! A Cdr may join a unit in contact. Roll 1d6 5,6 = inflict 1 hit or cancel 1. 1=dead
Apply hits then if neither removed side that took most hits retreats. Charger may occupy ground. If tied charger falls back 1” (cav may dismount) or full move. (Player choice)

Unit Morale. 
Inf take 4 hits, Cav/Arty take 3 hits
+1 if Elite (crack/Veteran etc)
-1 if Green (demoralized etc).

One of the Union roads is blocked by Rebs. Not really controlled by either but adding in the shattered Union 2nd Division enough for a technical victory.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Maintenance of the Aim or Adjusting the Plan.

A key Principle of War. Don't let  yourself be distracted by details or put the plan above the mission.

I brought my coffee upstairs this morning and looked at the table covered in disorder markers which tended to blend in with the units.  What was the Aim again?
Two turns later, with modified rules in play,  a Reb unit has  punched their way through the Yankee first line. Well, the rump of a Reb unit anyway.

I started by wondering if I really did need to bring back a disorder status after having once again managed to banish it as an explicit state.  At this stage of battle with a close range firefight raging, it was hard for officers to get troops to cease fire and move forward unless the enemy started to give way. On table, it would be quicker and easier to just treat everyone involved in a close range firefight as being "disordered" without any markers.

OK, so what about commanders and orders?

What was a Brigadier's job?
Essentially to coordinate his regiments and carry out the orders given him by his Division commander, to keep higher command informed and to risk his life  leading his men in action.

The last bit is covered by my usual rules for leaders in combat (not included here), the first bit is covered by requiring the brigadier to be present to make a group move. We don't really need to concern ourselves with him beyond those two things, especially if there are as many as 20 of them on the table at once as could happen in a large game.

What was a Division Commander's job?
Unless he is the highest officer on the field, his job is to implement his orders, use his judgement, keep higher command informed and coordinate his brigades and only in desperate situations to risk his life trying to lead troops in person. (Not that they weren't at risk of stray shells and bullets, not to mention snipers, regardless of where they were.)

Really this is the Player's job and ideally one should have a player for each Division Commander and higher but in a solo game, they are all me as is the Commanding Officer on each side.  If I stick with some sort of simpler activation/orders table then a modifier there is probably enough for now.

So  hits and stand removal. If I don't have a disorder result and don't really want to track hits or have units evaporate, what is my best option?  After much pondering and a bit of die rolling I think the easiest way to meet my criteria is to remove a stand for each 2 hits dropping remainders. (One could carry them over but...) Here is where I can use some of those marker figures again. Units may start the game with up to 3 markers each depending on unit quality. Each marker can be used once to make a saving throw or as an extra die in charge combat. This would give crack units a small edge, not need any immediate work from me, and help reduce clutter as the game goes on instead of increasing it.

Since the disorder is gone, I have replaced it with the assumption that at long range a combination of skirmisher and long range rifle fire are causing a trickle of casualties resulting in the urge to stop and fire despite orders and officers.

Overview from the other flank.

So now how do the stripped down core command and combat rules look now?

Active player rolls for each detached unit or formed brigade before moving it:
   5,6   Move Full
   3,4   Move 1/2
   1,2   No advance

+1@ if  Division or Corps General within 6"
+1 Full strength
-1 Within 12" of enemy

1 d6 per inf stand, 2d6 per arty stand.
Side moving shoots 1st unless charging. Apply hits
Side moving 2nd then shoots unless charging. Apply hits
Roll for all charging units and apply hits
Arc of fire per stand, fire at tgt closest to front. Target is unit. Allocate all dice against target before any are rolled at it.
Hit on 4,5,6 at point blank, 5,6 at close, 6 at long
-1 vs cover
Rifles: contact/6"/12"
Artillery: 6"/18"/36"

If at least 1 stand remaining, units taking more hits (not stand losses)  than  inflicted will retreat a full move and must reform next turn. If still in contact charger must fall back at least 1" and may retreat up to a full move and must do so if mounted cavalry. If defender eliminated or forced back, charging unit may occupy position.

Friday, July 26, 2019

OK So not really so Old School after all.

I confess, I was struggling. Things either worked but were too fiddly for me these days, or they were easy but didn't work for this size of game let alone larger ones, or just didn't work at all! Swapping the variable length move for a simple activation chart got the movement.. ummh.. moving?

Firefights proved a bit tougher since my mind was locked into various methods that had become standard but which failed the test one after another. (yes, I know, it was a 1/72nd nightmare with the dead rising only to be shot again, and again and again.)  Eventually, I realized that none of my usual tricks were going to give me what I wanted for my ACW battles.  I started thinking broader, trying some brand new things until one of them started to remind me vaguely of a game I used to enjoy playing.  A bit more thinking, exploring, trying and adjusting and suddenly and I had what I needed and wanted. No need for marker dice to follow units around tracking hits, no sudden death from firefights for average units but not endless firefights either.

Firy & Fury were the rules that got me back into ACW during the 90's. I always liked the system overall. It managed to combine what my orders, morale and fire charts did into just 2 tables: Maneuver Table and Firing. However, I have a strong dislike of non-cubic dice and the F&F tables had too many factors, rows and columns for my eyes and brain so that I always spent more time with my head buried in the QRS and counting on my fingers than I did looking at the table and planning my moves, and the games were longggg. Still a nod to them for the inspiration.

Anyway here's the real short gist of how this part of my game is shaping up.

Active player rolls for each unit or formed brigade before moving it:
   5,6   Rally. Act as ordered.
   3,4   Rally. May move 1/2 but no charge.
   1,2   Rally. No advance
    0     Fall back a full move

+1@ if own Brigadier or General within 6" 
+1 Elite

-1 Disordered
-1 @ stand lost
-1 Green or Poor troops

1 d6 per stand. Arc of fire per stand, fire at tgt closest to front. Target is unit. Allocate all dice against target before any are rolled at it.
Hit on 4,5,6 at close, 5,6 at medium, 6 at long
-1 vs cover
Rifles: 3"/6"/12"
Artillery: 12"/24"/36"

At least now I again have a use for those marker stands ( buglers etc)  that I did a few years back. Mind you I think I will paint the rims of their bases red to make them easier to spot, and paint up some of those prone, crawling and wounded figures that I've been meaning to do!

Oh and added bonus. having all moves and shooting in increments of 3" again lets me use my easy to read painted measuring sticks!

Now, charge resolution............hmmm

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Wargames can be hell

Finally, battle is joined.

I was a little disconcerted at first to find that various favoured mechanisms proved unsuitable for the task in hand. However, it  didn't take long to resurrect some even older mechanisms and the game is now flowing.

Is it on the right track? We'll see!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Those who cannot remember the past (Updated)

"Are condemned to repeat it"  (Attributed to George Santayana)

Unless of course they keep a blog and by clicking the ACW label they can check back over old versions and proposed versions of the rules, read accounts of wargames played including post game analysis, and contemplate old plans and conclusions and compare them with where I'm at now.

Is it just me or does the Butternut and Grey Minnow overlooking the Yankee cavalry remind anyone else of the ghost of Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank?

I've saved my self some trouble there over the last two days. In fact the nostalgia factor had me on the point of going back to where I was 5 or so years ago until I read why I changed my approach slightly. It wasn't because the rules weren't working ot that I didn't like them. It was because, although smaller than what I am planning, the games were too incremental and process focussed (as in too much die rolling and too few command decisions), took too long to reach a  conclusion, and without two handy back tables, "dead" stands were scattered around the room, (especially when I was absorbed in the action) so that cleaning up afterwards usually took longer than the game.

So, having remembered that my trials of rules where dice and hits are allocated and tracked by unit rather than by stand, I have done up a new 2 page version and am set to play......soon. The current basic draft of the  Plastic Army of the Potomac may be found here.

(but be warned, it is a work in progress )

OK 25 July version now being tested is this one: Alt Plastic Army

and for comparison: the original 2003 version of Morschauser Meets MacDuff

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp ("Here they come agin")

Its a hot, muggy, summer week, in excess of 30C in the shade, a wargamer could imagine himself in southern Pennsylvania in July 1863. 

From 2015
Too hot to work but with the heat pump, not too hot to play inside. Time to plan and set up  a  battle, not a skirmish but a battle with the table full of troops. Time to revisit the ACW.

Before I do though, I'm going to spend time doing some organizational work such as recording names of commanders and regiments, marking stands again to ID regiment and brigade for ease of set up and pack away. The Commanders and Regiments will not necessarily be given strictly historical names nor will they be restricted to fighting in the battles that their namesakes fought in. These are after all Wargame (or Toy) armies!

I'm also going to revisit my ACW rules given that the forces in hand are now expecting to be reinforced over the next few years. In preparation, I've been rereading old rules and old posts under the ACW label to review what I've tried, what I liked and didn't and so on and crossed that with some recent thinking about what I like and want.

What I have decided is:

  • I want something quick and easy to play which will allow me to eventually drop more than a 1,000 1/72nd figures on an extended table and play a battle to a conclusion within 4 or so hours or to play a small game in 2 hours.  
  • I want the ability to add a little bit more detail, character and variability in troop and commander capablity to the rules without losing the simplicity of play. 
  • It HAS to work with what I've got. NO unit reorg or rebasing!

The bottom line is that the I expect the result to be effectively a descendent of Hearts of Tin with the following general features:

a) Standard Units will be my existing 3 stand "Regiments" of infantry and cavalry and 1 stand artillery batteries. Larger and smaller units will be allowed.

b) Off grid. As convenient as the grid can be, it can also be inconvenient such as when maps and historical dispositions don't fit the grid or when the gridded table is being shared between collections with different scales, basing, organization and terrain. Standardization across my collection seemed to be the cure to the second issue but while I approved the theory, I hated the side effects on period feel when I attempted implementation. A selection of game mats would be an option but not one I want to rely on right now.

c) Initiative Card deck used to determine initiative, track turns and trigger Events when desired. (My usual these days.)

d) Variable Length Moves. Back to 2d6 infantry moves etc as in the days of MacDuff and Hearts of Tin. Simple and effective chaos.

e) Dice per stand to hit/miss. This is back to Hearts of Tin. As much as my brain approves of Charge or Featherstone style shooting dice where the number rolled is the number hit, I prefer the Morschauser/WRG 1685-1845 system of a handful of dice to hit or miss, possibly including the WRG '6 = 2 hits' for close range volleys. This may mean a simple 'shooting vs target' table rather than a list of die modifiers.

f) Mutual Charge/Melee resolution. As per Hearts of Tin, Square Brigadier etc

g) Simple Morale Check for heavy casualties, losing melee or trying to rally. The same one I've been using recently, with or without any period tweaks.

Looks simple enough when put like that.

 from 2016

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Out and make way

for the Bold Fenian Men!

Bold Fenian men have joined the Rebel Alliance.
There are two survivors of the original Fenian company raised some 20 years ago (the nco and the chap loading) but with an issues of  fancy new green coats and natty blue trousers for new recruit and old veteran alike the unit is now ready to take the field at the first opportunity.

"Pay them back woe for woe, give them back blow for blow
Out and make way for the Bold Fenian Men!"

Yes, I know,  I'm supposed to be working on 40mm French Revolution heads and moulds....... 

Work, work, work.........

Sunday, July 14, 2019


The King's County Tabletop and Boardgame Society holds a quarterly Tabletop Games day in Kentville NS and have always made our little group of wargamers welcome.

That's me in the X-Wing shortly before I grab the bonus weapon and......... get blown up! Again!

Kingcon was their first go at a weekend long convention so we happily accepted their invitation to take part.  My main contribution was to run some Old School miniatures games of the "One Hour, walk up, learn and play" sort. On Saturday morning I laid out Chrsyler's Farm (War of 1812) and a small Prince Valiant wagon train ambush. For my convenience I used a single ground cloth divided in half so I could run both games singlehandedly if there was enough interest. I really did intend to take a picture.....

The plan was to hang around for the afternoon and try some non-wargame games but 'stuff' came up and I had to head home early both afternoon. I got to chat with friends, acquaintances and some new faces and got in a couple of games anyway.

On Saturday, a couple of the gang did a quick run through of the Prince Valiant game. (Don't worry Paul, I won't mention that you failed to protect the wagons again..oops

A larger version of the scenario played last fall.
Today I just set up Chrysler's Farm and had 3 players who fought a tight battle which ended in a British defeat. Then a couple of us slid down to the other end of the table to play XWing, my 2nd go at the game.

The American Dragoons over ran the British gun and sealed the victory, not that it would have changed the end of the campaign.

Well it may not have been Historicon but it was a good way to spend a big chunk of the weekend and about 1,500 km closer. For a small town in the country,  I think they had a good turn out with a lot going on  far into the evenings on Friday and Saturday. Hopefully they do it again next year.

Now... where was I?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

An X (Year 10)

Once again I show the trait that led my PT sergeant to nickname me the Late Mr. Macfarlane. None the less, I am still here in the pink a year and 9 days after my "little incident" and have every hope and expectation of continuing to do so for at least another decade or so.

Since I haven't painted any 40mm Bleu's yet, (soon, soon) here's the traditional Scruby 22mm one again.

Looking back and ahead, this has been one of very few of my adult years in which there has been no major upheaval either at work (don't miss it) or home or hobby. The plan is: "Steady as she goes!"

The only hobby commitment I have is to show up at Huzzah with 12 40mm French Revolution units for A Gentleman's War. Two down, ten to go. I'm going to shoot for an average of two units a month to give me time to exercise them before they go into action. First task is to do a bicorne head and a new head mould for bicornes and round hats so I can start converting.

Should leave plenty of time for my 54mm Toy Soldiers, Some Doug Miller Landsnechts, and oh by the way, I don't "NEED" them BUT have you seen Hat's upcoming 1/72nd ACW command and marching infantry sets?

Actual command figures and proper marching ones in real uniforms with various hats (sic)? Oh my. One can always find room for more ACW figs right?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Getting Ready for the Weekend

No no, nothing to with carousing and the like. The first tabletop convention is happening in Kentville this weekend. So Nova Scotia gamers who happen to see this: COME help the hard working organizers to make it a success!

There will be every sort of board game from classic family to the latest releases, wargames both board and miniatures, scifi, fantasy, RPG, some of the popular recent wargame releases and even some classic old school historical miniatures. OK one anyway.
Hasty layout to try my latest, more old school, version of Crysler's Farm (War of 1812). Game to be test played on Thursday.

I was planning on being there as much as possible and try something new but domestic duties are going to limit me to Saturday and Sunday morning. If I can lure anyone in, I'll be offering one hour "walk up and try it" sessions  for 1 to 4 players. War of 1812 and Prince Valiant. If not I'll be busy anyway.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

How regimental traditions are made.

I have finally finished converting my 1775 Royal Highland Emigres to 1793 Black Watch.

Mostly this consisted of building the bonnet up into an early version of the feather bonnet, and repainting a few details.

Sources on details of Highland uniforms in the 1790s are scarce, vague or  contradictory. For example,  the feather bonnet developed during this decade but pictures vary from a few feathers to your common Napoleonic version. I decided to go with the latter since a trial version with just a few feathers didn't look quite right.

Then there was the red hackle or plume. When in doubt go with the legend they say and when I was a young lad in the Black Watch of Canada Cadet Corps, we were told that tradition has it that during the Duke of York's retreat to Holland, the Black Watch repulsed a charge by French Dragoons then plucked their blood soaked plumes and attached them to their bonnets.

Souvenirs from my days as Corps Sergeant Major before heading off to Military College in 1972.
(Hmm looking a little dusty there, where's my batman?)

Yeah ok that's the legend, all we really know is that the red hackle wasn't worn during the American Revolution but was worn during the Napoleonic wars.  That's good enough for me though. There are a couple of other details I umhhh decided to overlook lest I spoil the toyish look of the Miesterzinn figures that were used as a base for these conversions. Or maybe because I was lazy and someone would have to look closely and know their subject matter to spot the errors.

Now I have build 11 more for the 2nd unit and make a bicorne head and a better round hat, then make a mould and then start work on the rest of the armies. 10 months and 10 units to go.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Rebel Incursion in the Blue River Valley!

Dominion government blames Origawn Rebels for Blue River Incursion and urges calm.


Our correspondent Russell Williams has filed this report from Hastee Junction in the Blue River District.

It was late on the first when we rounded the bend and caught out first glance of Hastee Junction since we had passed through last fall to fight the Rebels. The optomists among us hoped we would take the lefthand track to pass through Brooklyn with perhaps a day's leave for those with family in that County but I felt sure that we would go right, up past Sloy Lake to take the Moose Bay Ferry.

There was a good crowd gathered at the station which was unusual but we put that down to Dominion Day celebrations. Our hopes were high that we would be allowed to disembark and join the celebrations before continuing on.  Those hopes were soon shattered by a storm of rifle bullets from the hills on both sides as well as from straight ahead.
The Regulars storm the hill while Mr. Williams sketches the action from the safety of the armoured wagon.  
At first we were bewildered, this was supposed to be safe territory. Was this a Rebel Cavalry raid? The heavy, accurate fire which was causing heavy casualties suggested something more. Regardless of who was firing, we fired back with a vengeance.  Eventually we were able to identify Kree warriors to our left, a party of Hunters as they are commonly called to our right and Voltiguers from the Origawn Rebel army to our front! This latter was a disturbing sight since they were raised largely from descendents of the Blue River Rebels who had fled to the Origawn. That they appeared to be accompanied by some sort of militia and led by someone with a striking resemblance to the Member for the riding was especially disturbing. The suggestion of an alliance between these three rebel groups was even more alarming!

Since the long range duel was getting us nowhere, and the naval gun in front of the train was ssuffering from the accurate fire of the Voltigeurs,  Brigadier Ross ordered the infantry to detrain and assault the hill to the right while the train backed out of rifle range.
The Sappers and Victoria Rifles go in with cold steel. 
After a fierce fight with heavy losses the hill was taken while the artillery fire scattered the militia holding the station. Forward came the Regulars but the Voltigeurs were faster and closer. From the cover of the buildings they cut down the first rush with deadly fire.  The remaining Regulars were ordered back to the train to support the naval gun and the Rifles and Sappers went in with the Brigadier at their head. 

The fall of the Brave Brigadier Ross.
Alas, the sharp eyes of the veteran Voltigeurs did not fail them. The Rifles and Voltigeurs suffered heavily and when a shot struck the unfortunate Brigadier, they broke to the rear. Their officers soon rallied them but a hasty council of war led to a decison to embark as many wounded as possible and retreat down the line to await reinforcements.

It was a bitter night but with wounds bound up and a squadron of the Bodyguard and a battery of artillery on hand, the combined force approached the Junction ready to fight. The enemy however was gone. To everyone's great relief the wounded, including the Brigadier,  had been left in the care of the local citizens as the rebels dispersed, leaving a sealed letter to be delivered to the Prime Minister. The locals claimed no knowledge of who any of the Rebels were but insisted that the Rebel had also suffered heavily and had been on the point of withdrawing when the final charge went in.

I have a feeling that the Blue River Valley has not seen the end of war.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Dominion Day Train Ride

July 1st is a National Day of Celebration in the Dominion of Faraway, the official anniversary of the transformation of the nominally independent Kingdom of Faraway effectively ruled by the Faraway Trading Company to a Consitutional Monarchy ruled by an elected Parliament.

Wars don't always allow for holidays though and the lead elements of Colonel Ross's brigade celebrated as well as they could crammed into open cattle cars on their way from the Origawn Territory to Brooklyn to join the Fort Henry Relief Force.

As they approached Little Junction in the Blue River District, a crowd was seen to be gathered around the station. A Dominion Day celebration?  Perhaps they were gathering to cheer the troop train as it passed?

Well, why not? The Blue River Rebellion  <link> was long past and the area is now part of the Dominion with representatives in parliament. There is no reason to suspect that these troubles in the Origawn and the North West have stirred old causes. Is there?
Up close there seem to be a lot of guns and grim faces in the crowd gathered around a roadblock by the station.