Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Adventures of Prince Micheal of Valdur: Episode 18


The old year was drawing to a close and Sir Gawaine was visiting Old Stones Keep, the holding of Sir Vincent and Lady Johanna.

The morning mists were just clearing and the common folk setting about their daily tasks when a horn sounded from a nearby wood. A lilting, almost insulting call, followed by a chorus of battle cries as Dearg Mor (Big Red), burst from the woods with a straggle of Picts at his heels.

To Arms! To Arms! The enemy is upon us!
"MY BULL!" bellowed Sir Vince, "He's after my Prize BULL!"  "TO HORSE!" "Gawaine, I beg of you to stay and guard the Lady Joan while I teach this barbarian a lesson". With that, the Lord of the Manor clattered down the stairs to arm for battle.

Some of the herdsmen in the field  drove the various groups of cattle back towards safety while others raced to head off the attackers and drive them back. Archers manned the tower and knocked their bows waiting for an enemy rash enough to come in range or try to storm the tower. The men in the village grabbed spear and shield and rushed to drive off the handful of raiders. 
Still partially covered by the morning mist, not to mention the arrival of Earl Helgin, the Picts drove off the Bull and  a few calves but the rest of the milch cows and Sir Vicent's  new Aurochs have already reached safety thanks to the speed and skill of the herdsmen. 
As the Picts rode off, Earl Helgin  with a band of Saxon raiders suddenly appeared and marched grimly towards the town. The herdsmen attempted a stand but were quickly scattered. They had bought time for the first of the tower garrison to arrive though.   After two attempts to storm the village and with the sound of galloping hooves heralding the approach of Sir Vincent, Helgin signalled a retreat. Sir Vincent had a beef (sic) with the Pictish Chief though and thundered past Helgin's shieldwall.

Twice Pict and Briton clashed and blood was spilled on both sides, but time had run out, the prize Bull was safely away. Sir Vincent called off the pursuit.
The Bull is driven off into the mist.
Note to self: clean the lens...)

Enough blood had been spilt for one year and the news was not all bad. The value of the Aurochs and cattle that had been saved were as great as that of the Bull and cow that had been stolen. There would be time later for retribution.

Happy New Year to All!
Hope you'll come back in the year ahead!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Have you herd what I herd?

Just a little teaser.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Same but Different

I think this little skirmish played 10 years ago might have been the first game for my nascent Prince Valiant collection. (See my Prince Valiant page for more)

In any event the majority of the games have used Medieval Mayhem, a set of rules written by Rob Dean (with some input from me) in 2002 and later published in Battlegames. Its still a viable choice but I've been playing around with other ideas, usually for more of an old  school "battle" set of rules but this is supposed to be my one "skirmish" game so I'm taking another run at it. My first thought was to go back to Mayhem but recently The Duke of Tragardland did a blog post about skirmish games on a map with irregularly shaped areas which suddenly reminded me of the one shot Privateer Raid game using irregular areas I did five years ago.  (Click here to see the rules)

I'd actually forgotten that this game was why I made my little wooden houses!

Reviewing that post got my brain cranking over so I've taken some ideas from that game and modified the to make a draft of a new Prince Valiant skirmish game on a grid for me to try with my old Elastolins for the last game of the year.

(If they work I'll share them! )

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A lot of Bull

Count Jehan shows Gawaine his prize bull and two recent additions to his herd, Aurochs! (Small Aurochs to be sure but still mighty beasts.)

Gawaine suggests he double the night watch since Saxon ships have been seen offshore.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Better Late Than Never

On Boxing Day morning, the convoy resumed its trek towards Fort Henry.  The occasional BOOM of the Fort's canon and Crack! Crack! of a rebel sharpshooter reassured that the fort was still held for the Queen.
As the column approached the little village of Presdelac, shots rang out
The steamer pressed forward under a hot fire while the relief column attacked vigorously on a broad front only to suffer heavy losses in a very short amount of time. General Ross was forced to call off the attack and fall back.
Overview of the table.
 After lunch and a discussion of tactics and the rules of war, the men were ready for another go. This time the approach was made more cautiously and improved tactics were used in accordance with the latest regulations. 
Fierce fighting. 
A coordinated attack on one flank of the village was successful while this time the steamer was able to push on under the heavy fire until they sighted the fort and were able to signal an order to sortie out.

Caught in the open between two fires, the Rebels are forced to pull back allowing the first wagons to reach the fort.

Thank you to all for the good wishes left in the comments of the previous post!

My apologies for the unexplained disappearances of all the close ups I took of the steamer running the gauntlet of fire from the cliffs.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve at Fort Henry in Atlantica

Hold on boys, Christmas dinner is on its way!

Merry Christmas to all my readers and their families and companions large and small. May there be food and drink, warmth and good cheer, and....TOYS!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch

Idle time approaches!  Hopefully the relief of the siege, well, blockade really, of Fort Henry is near. (See Dominion Day Train Tide and following post.)

In the meantime, amongst other things, I had a quick review of 2019's Toy Soldier games, then I looked at 2018's games. There were some good games in both years but only 1/2 as many games in 2019. It was hard not to question whether or not the decrease in number of games was due to the decision to go from 2 stand, 6 figure, units and the Square Brigadier rules to 8 individually based figure units using various proposed off grid rules which didn't last from game to game. 

I've decided that 2019 should end as 2018 did, with a  Square Brigadier Toy Soldier game. Designing the scenario is in progress.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Surprise Attack

"Those are Toy Soldiers Bigawd!" some General is supposed to have exclaimed. (or not)

Gratuitous close up of my homecast, original, US infantry 
(apart from the Zinnbrigade drummer.)

Yesterday I managed to finish fiddling with the rules (for now) and get a game on the table. Since, at this particular point, I was most interested in how it played as a game, I chose one of Thomas's One Hour scenarios, "Counter Attack". A scenario which I had previously played with other rules and enjoyed.

Since "Blue", is the attacker, approaching from the south, once again the colours matched the armies and seemed perfectly suited to the historical setting. In this case the British have one unit holding a critical bridge while the Americans have all of their 6 units gathered around a critical village on the southern table edge. On Turn 3 the other 5 British units arrive and have access to 2 secret fords across the river. Victory is achieved by holding both the village and the bridge at the end of 15 turns.
Somewhere around Turn 6 of 15. The British infantry are over the East ford and their Dragoons have switched from the West ford to the East.
Since I want to be able to use the rules to refight historical battles as well as play generic scenarios, my first revision was to adjust the ground scale to match the 1 unit=1 battalion=1 grid square equation. Unfortunately that didn't work very well on the table since effective musketry was only between adjacent units. This made it hard to make sensible adaptations of most generic scenarios and also made pretty much all tactics and unit types into vague die modifiers and unexplained special rules.

Not very intuitive at all or satisfying for a toy soldier game and waaay too quick for small games. It might work with 20-30 units a side but that's not my idea of a 'Game in a Box'. I went back a couple of steps, making constant scale subordinate to having significant, easily recognised, tactical choices. (Hopefully

The American left flank has been driven back and turned and their General has been hit by a stray shot slowing down their response to the threat.
There were 3 really major changes made from the previous editions.

The first change was that I resurrected rolling for the number of "Orders" available along with a group order capability. Apart from being a challenge for players when their nice neat battle plans come apart at the seams, risking Commanders in combat becomes a serious risk not to be taken lightly. As a bonus I found that it more or less removed the need to have a rule for units to rally or hold position after retreating and so on.  There almost never seemed to be enough orders available once the formations got knocked about and it soon became obvious that stopping periodically to reform your battlelines was usually a good idea rather than pressing on helter-skelter. Can't remember now why I removed it, whether it was because it was too obviously adapted from DBA or because I was experimenting with something else. Anyway I've brought it back and I'm glad I did.

The two biggest changes though, were the elimination of separate close combat system with the loser being forced to retire, and a change to the turn system so that now there are only 3 phases rather than the 6 I have had for years. Now the 1st player moves then the 2nd then both sides resolve all combat simultaneously. (Rather like one of the rules variants in the example games in Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers, now that I think of it.)

The effectiveness of long range fire has been reduced to reflect both prolonged skirmishing and the occasional indecisive long range firefight. The latter was the sort of thing the generals frowned upon as it expended ammo, fouled muskets and tired the men more than killing and injuring significant numbers of the enemy but sometimes it was better than having the men stand idle under fire.

With average die rolling and a default 15 turn game length, a unit of infantry with average die rolling would need around 18 turns of long range fire to break their enemy. That means its not really a good battle winning plan but it has its uses, especially in a game like the last scenario where an impassible river crossed by a single bridge separates the armies or when you are trying to tie up and weaken the enemy while waiting for reinforcements or a turning force.

I thought this might really change, if not spoil, the "feel" of the game but in practice it was quicker, kept both of my selves engaged  and somehow kept  the same basic overall feel of the game, only more so. As expected, units that were getting battered were often pulled back by the player (me) from close range fire, especially if they had 2nd move that turn, or were broken before they could pull back so the lack of a forced retreat wasn't really missed. What was diminished was the temptation to focus on low level details which shouldn't be the General's concern and weren't actually in the rules but only suggested for "feel" or "flavour".

Late in the day, the British General has been hit while leading the battered 89th Foot against the American artillery. They were nearly exhausted, only 1 hit from breaking but obviously they were so enraged at the loss of their beloved General that they over ran the battery and followed it up by driving the remnant of the American riflemen from the Stone House, breaking their army morale. (or perhaps they just suddenly got lucky with the dice ?)

The current Square Brigadier in the War of 1812 rules are available from the "Current Rules" page link in the side bar or from this link.

Hopefully the next test will confirm my satisfaction and not turn up some huge but hidden flaw but there is only one way to tell, play another game! The next 1812 game will be an Historical refight but it won't happen till the new year.

I've pretty much decided that Prince Valiant will get the traditional "Last Game of the Year" slot, usually played on New Year's Eve but I want to get my traditional Toy Soldiers on the table as well and the Christmas break is almost upon us. 2019 is not done yet!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The War of 1812 in a Box

In many ways, the War of 1812 makes an ideal setting for Old School wargames. Well, unless you want massed cavalry charges  and huge armies that is. However, like a lot of Old School games with single figures, the logistics of setting up and clearing away are considerable and the games themselves can take a full afternoon or evening to reach a conclusion so they are more of a "main event" than what Neil Thomas calls Practical.

A test of the Fort Meigs game I took to Huzzah! in 2013 using single figures and With MacDuff to the Frontier. 

Fair enough, but there is a time and place for almost everything and my plan calls for a mix of Practical and Impractical games. Since the War of 1812 lost out to the Not Quite Seven Years war as my Impractical Horse and Musket wargame it was elected to be one of what Stuart Asquith called "A Game in a Box": a small game, quick to layout, quick to play, quick to clear away and easily stored.

I have other collections that can do raids and ambushes but have somehow ended up short of collections that can be used to refight historical battles and the War of 1812 is ideal for historical refights, especially for Historical Battle Game in a Box mode, since the battles are relatively small and well balanced.  I already had The Square Brigadier for rules so I was all set. Until ..........

A OHW scenario test game which was enjoyable but too fast and virtually unwinnable for Blue given the mix of terrain and short ranges in the draft rules.
Actually I can't remember what combinations of things got me reconsidering the question of whether or not units frequently made short retreats during combat only to renew the attack in short order, especially during the War of 1812, nor can I remember just when I started considering that yoyo effect to be a traditional wargame thing. Reviewing various old rule sets and detailed accounts of several 1812 battles made me decide to revisit some of the Square Brigadier mechanisms.

The 3rd game. New OHW scenario, revised SB rules. Getting closer.
(and a victory for Blue!)

The first extreme make over led to a 20 minute game which would not satisfy on any front. A less drastic change was ok but not quite right so a new scenario and 3rd draft followed but I lacked the time  to blog any of it.

All reset for a test of the latest draft.
Now there is an even more promising version and a game just waiting to be played  and hopefully blogged soon after. If that works, a refight of an historical action will follow.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

More Than Just Marching.

The Americans are now rebased and I have a draft of a new set of rules which will allow me to refight historical War of 1812 battles within 1 to 2 hours including set up and take down.

Here they come again!

  I'll have more to say on this but its late.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

R and R (Reorganize & Refit)

The British half of the 1812 Reorganize and Refit has completed stage 1 with 5 infantry, 6 skirmisher and 1 artillery units being rebased and I took advantage of the lack of other urgent hobby 'todo' things to finally convert one stand of Light Infantry into Voltigeurs, and repainted the facings on 1/2 the 89th Foot from black to green thus rebadging them to the 49th Foot.   

Scruby British/Canadian Light Infantry with shakos carved up a bit to make fur caps and a quick change of clothes. (Yes, should have stripped them first but...)

I hemmed and hawed a bit but decided to let stand my decision to keep a few of my 1837 Rebellion British units in the OB despite their having slightly different hats. After all, there after all, there are more than enough stragglers from "done that" 1/2 finished 'projects' hiding  in the cupboard and some of them may as well come out and play since I'm not in the mood to paint yet more War of 1812 figures. This means the much needed squadron of light dragoons (which need headswaps) will again have to wait while my 1837 Heavy Dragoons provide  cavalry.

Early morning picture. My phone's camera needed more coffee.
2 stand infantry battalions or cavalry squadrons, 1 stand units for artillery and skirmishers.

Sometimes I sort of miss the days when converting and painting mini's was a joy rather than a chore and the prospect of adding more troops and more periods was exciting. These days I often feel more like a busy Quartermaster thinking "How the hell does he expect me to clothe, house and feed more men?".

 However, life goes on and things change. Hopefully the day will never come when pushing toy soldiers about,  making stories in my head and rolling dice pales!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Battle for the Ste Croix

 Word reached Brooklyn early on Saturday morning that the Americans had stolen a march and the Bangor Rifles were already across the bridge on the Ste Croix. General MacDonald send messengers to the garrisons at Newport Landing and Poplar Grove to march to the Ste Croix bridge on the Windsor Road and headed out himself with the two battalions he had with him.

After peppering the approaching British column, the Bangor Rifles moved to a flanking position in the woods just north of the road, leaving room for the rapidly approaching infantry to cross over and take up a defensive position across the bridge.  However, the British seized the initiative and while the first column  doubled down the road and blocked the road, a second column appeared from nowhere and hit the Rifles from the rear. They put up a fierce fight but were heavily outnumbered and surrounded. The survivors sullenly laid down their arms.

 As the two armies continued to bring up reinforcements, the leading elements engaged in a lengthy close range  firefight  across the narrow stream.
 The firefight was murderous at point blank range and periodically one side or the other would be forced back only to rally and return to the fight or be replaced by a fresh unit and the US infantry made occasional forlorn charges across the bridge.

At last General Wavey saw the British 89th fall back from the bridge and ordered the 7th New York Dragoons to charge over the bridge and force an opening for the remaining US infantry to exploit.

It was a stirring moment with the thunder of the hooves on the wooden bridge and glint of metal as the Dragoons raised their sabres and  cheered as they closed on the red line. The Royal Scots barred the way though and a rolling pointblank volley emptied numerous saddles. Some Dragoons managed to close briefly and bloody their sabres, but soon the survivors were forced to gallop back over the bridge in disorder.  Bravely they rallied though and returned to the charge only to be blasted again and this time they broke carrying away several battered infantry regiments in the rout.

General Wavy quickly improvised a rearguard but the British had taken too much of a pounding to pursue.

Both armies returned to camp and started preparing for the next battle.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Opening Scene

I'm getting closer!

Haven't had enough free time yet to play but I have managed to finally get the table set for a Saturday War of 1812 game.

I randomnly chose a One Hour Wargame getting a surprise river crossing from the South by Blue.  Wasn't hard to decide which army was going to be "Blue".

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Getting A Round Tuit

Not much hobby time recently but I decided that I needed a quick game today. A War of 1812 Square Brigadier game seemed about right.

About 2 years ago I decided that having done 1812 for 20 years in 54mm and 40mm at various level from skirmish games to refighting historical battles, I didn't want to continue as I had been doing but neither did I want to drop it. A few test games showed that a Square Brigadier version was just right for short, easy to set up and play, One Hour style games. More experiments showed that 2 stand, 12 figure infantry units on the 6" grid worked well for me. They could also supply 1 stand units for use on the 3" grid portable board.  All I had to do was rearrange my existing units and  rebase, touch up or add a few figures to fill out my existing 40mm British and American armies.

So there I was, starting to consider scenarios,  then I looked at the cluster of figures in three different basing systems with various organizations and a few figures needing repair.....oh......I had made the decision about what I needed to do to make my 1812 armies game ready at a minutes notice again, but..... I hadn't gotten around to it.

1 infantry, 2 light infantry, and 1 artillery unit waiting for the glue to dry.
Since basing doesn't matter in Square Brigadier I could have  played with the figures as was, but I decided to finally get a start on executing my decision. Tomorrow though, I plan to play a game  regardless.

A Square Brigadier game from Dec 2016 (click here for the battle report)