Friday, February 28, 2020

Meanwhile, on the table top....

These days my body demands a break from the painting desk more often than it once did. There was work to be done but....


The heroes of the day: two companies of the Victoria Rifles which were posted in a wood were attacked by three Rebel companies and saw them off by the skin of their teeth. 

So, just a quick, simple, encounter over randomly generated terrain. Looked like a walk over until near the end  when the Rebel General woke up and it became close.

Back to painting on Saturday.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Slowly getting back to 'normal'

A bit of painting, a quick solo game, aced the Beef and Broccoli for supper, Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil with my closest canine friends.......that's  retirement!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

DadaDumdum DadaDumdum

OK not the best  rendition of the Game of Thrones intro music but it seemed like the best intro. Yes, on Saturday I got to experience the Song of Ice and Fire wargame. Its not my usual style but its good to stretch oneself now and then and to sample what the wider world is doing and besides, I enjoyed both books and tv series.

Tully Cavalry waiting for the battle to begin.

The figures are rather nice sculpts, somewhere around 32-35 mm by eye and the all the components seem well done. The rules are simple enough but like many a modern game, the complexity comes in the capabilities of the various units and characters and figuring out how to make best use of them. The basic principles of war still apply (maintain the aim, economy of force, etc) but like many contemporary games that I've sampled it seems to be more about making the best use of your units' special abilities and avoiding those of the enemy than basic tactics.
Many of the figures are new, some straight from previously unopened boxes that had just arrived. I suspect it might take a while to get them all painted but they fought well either was and there was a bit of that nostalgia for games with unpainted Airfix in the 60's.  

They've gone to great effort to up the feel of the various factions and the main characters of the series but like many contemporary games, it seems to be designed so that the common, ordinary, soldier is a rare  thing. Everybody is special in their own way. Its a bit like a WWII game with a German force with nothing but Tigers, 88's, 155mm artillery, Pzr Grenadiers and Falschirmjaegers.

Overall, it was a day well spent with friends, learning something new and  playing a tight, and at times exciting, game. Am I going to rush out and start buying? Nope, but I'd play again if that's what was on for the day.

Meanwhile, its back to the French Revolution!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

All At Sea

So, no, I haven't played my ACW game yet but I did get a game in with my friend Ron using his ships and Osprey's  Fighting Sail  adapted to a hex grid, an attempt by my French to breakout from blockade. Looked good at the end of turn 2 before the serious firing started. No real need to talk about the rest is there?

The big fuzzy things are 3 hex squalls, the DDay obstacles mark recently sunk frigates and yes, I did manage to eventually disentangle my two ships of line.........

I also made some progress on my French Rev forces for Huzzah. Actually more than this photo shows since they are now finished, details, touch ups, gloss varnish and bases painted, but this is the picture I have. 

Its hard when you're too busy playing and painting to finish a game but....

Monday, February 17, 2020

Recycle Reuse

Seemed a shame to clear the table after just one game.

The original game was played with Don's 30mm Spencer Smith ACW figures but my first wargame book was his Battles With Model Soldiers and the figures were Airfix ACW so........

Hobby time has been curtailed this last week and casting & converting has taken precendence.

If all goes well I'll get to play on Wednesday.

Friday, February 14, 2020

THERE is your enemy.

One down. Countless more to go!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

So, you want a revolution? Well.....

Things are heating up. Well, the melting pot got hot anyway and my new mould was tried out and now I've assembled a few prototypes.

Left to right, primed figures only:

Republican French:
Prince August SYW Prussian infantry with Modified Meisterzinn bicorne.
PA SYW Russian infantry with one of my original 'Tarleton' helmet heads.
General: PA SYW Dragoon officer w MM bicorne.

Emigre: Meisterzinn infantry with my original Roundhat.
British: PA SYW Prussian with gaiter tops filed off and MM bicorne.

Today was the first time I've  managed to get an entire Dragoon out of the new mould. I still can't get the officer's sword to cast but did get the dragoon's sword to come out and that's good enough. I only managed three useable dragoons plus three whole or salvageable officers so just need two more dragoons before the Scots Greys will be ready to join the queue. Its a pity they traded in their bearskins for bicornes for this campaign but then, I have a bicorne mould but none for a 1795 Scots Grey bearskin, so, just as well. 

Got some work to do! 


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

OK Back to Work!

Enough playing for now. May and Huzzah are fast approaching and my  Revolutionary War armies are not growing nearly fast enough. Converting each hat in particular is taking too long as well  as sometimes coming out second rate at best.

So I've fixed up a couple of my War of 1812 heads to match slightly larger figures better. While I was at it, since I hate working with metal moulds, I slightly modified a Meisterzinn infantry body to use as British with below the knee gaiters, and threw him in.

Tomorrow I'll see how I did. Hopefully I'll be able to spit out and paint the rest of the figures I need in fairly short order.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Battle for Light Rock Valley

Where to start? This game could have made a great Newport Noodle article or  made for a good long blow by blow post describing how the rules worked turn by turn and what affect they had on each player decision but that might have been as tedious to read as to write. So I'll quickly summarize the game in the picture captions while writing the post about the rules and how they worked in the game.

The scenario, which I picked as a nod to the origin of the turn sequence which came from one of the sample games in Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers, was, as identified by Cesar Paz in a comment, "Action in the Plattville Valley" from Don Featherstone's Wargames.

The Dominion (Red) Advance Guard under Brigadier Ross pushed quickly over the bridge while the main forces arrived at the end of  turn 3 (after a joker froze the 2 advance guards for turn 3). Alas for the young volunteers in the Dominion advance guard they were facing the crack shots and stubborn veterans of the oldest brigade in the Rebel (or Origawn Freestate) army. 
Both armies have been tasked with taking control of the valley. I decided this meant either controlling the bridge and the town and hills or more likely, breaking the enemy's morale and forcing him to retreat. 
Each side has 3 infantry Brigades, a cavalry brigade and 2 guns. (I also threw in a field hospital on each side though these weren't really ready to be seen in public at the moment, being in the process of being renovated.)  One infantry brigade on each side moves down the road on turn One. These troops can do what the player wants for turns Two and Three and at the end of turn Three all the remaining forces arrive anywhere on the baseline. The objective is to "control' the valley by the end of the gaming day without being more specific. I've gotten into the habit of playing 15 turns (thank you Mr Thomas) but with my usual initiative/chance card deck meaning that could be shortened by 1 turn for each joker which shows up, which one did today.

My brigades were each made up of 4 units plus a Brigadier, giving a total of 18 units per side with an army break point of 9 units lost. Once again it was just right. I got interrupted twice but the game took somewhere between 1.5 about 2 hours to play.
The firefight across the river raged for several turns but with Ross's Brigade down to half strength he felt compelled to order the remnants of his brigade to retreat  behind the cover of the ridge.
Two of the main ideas behind the rules were that they should focus on the General's decisions and the role of Brigade commanders, not the minutiae of battalion tactics and be grid friendly rather than grid dependent. The last part was easy since a few years ago I had made measuring sticks with 3" bands painted on for use with a set of rules calling for measurement in "lengths" so all measurements were made as multiples of "3" and thus 'one unit' of measurement can be 3", 3 cm., 1 grid area of any size and shape, or 1 "band" on one of my sticks.

The near abandonment of almost all unit tactical detail was harder, I don't think I'd have gotten there without having played Volley & Bayonet in the late '90's  followed not long after by Morschauser and then by all sorts of new designs especially the various gridded games from Bob Cordery's The Portable Wargame to Battlecry and its descendants and having recognized the possibility of including some simple rules to allow the effect or feel of such tactics without showing them or taking up too much time and attention away from the army commander.

The orders, of course, are essentially a variation of the original DBA command system which I plucked out of a pre-publication article in Slingshot in the early '80's and have used on and off since!

Basically I'm not sure there are any original ideas in here but it feels like a different blend to me and more important, so far, it seems to be providing the kind of game I've been looking for for most of the last two decades although my Morschauser Meets MacDuff/ later renamed Hearts of Tin set of rules was close, at least until I started upping the detail!   
"There's something wrong with our bloody troops today". All along the line the Rebel guns and infantry were dishing out more than they were taking. With heavy casualties, the Dominion infantry pulled back into dead ground while MacDuff's Highlanders were ordered forward to storm the town, held largely by dismounted cavalry , while the cavalry were ordered forward to threaten the enemy's guns. It must have been the powder smoke (or possibly a low Blue command roll followed by a flip in the initiative sequence)  but the Red cavalry manged to catch the enemy artillery in flank, rode over the first gun and into the second catching General Lannigan and his staff before they even knew they were in danger. (The Lifeguards dice were HOT! and I honestly did not see the danger coming at the start of the previous turn or I would have shifted him then, just in case! ) To make matters worse, Reds's artillery and the Grenadiers hit Grey's Brigade hard before the Grenadiers retired. In a flash the situation was changed. Blue's morale was now lower than Red's and they were going to have trouble with command. 
Its pretty unusual for me to make it through a play test without wanting to make changes but, perhaps because none of the  individual rules were completely new,   this time there was nothing I felt an itch to improve except that I realized I hadn't really specified what a unit or Brigadier without orders could do. For units its essentially that they can mount/dismount etc and change facing but I also had intended to allow them to retreat without orders from enemy within 3". For Brigadiers, I had intended that they could rearrange their brigades without orders, bring forward reserves, retire units near the break point, refuse a flank etc.. They will also have the right to withdraw if closely engaged as above, subject to possible courtmartial if things go badly of course. But I won't allow any heroic unordered attacks except perhaps as a Chance cards event. It was tempting to bring back a control test for out of command commanders but it had to be EITHER the single command roll OR a series of individual rolls. Past experience has shown that using both in the same game provides too much overhead and the control check tends to override the orders dice making it superfluous and that all the individual command rolls slow the game too much compared to the single one and require additional rules to encourage players to maintain multi-unit formations . 

Never say die! As next senior officer, General Byrd took command, pulled back his battered cavalry to hold the centre and be prepared to cover a retreat (ie don't get shot up worse and break army morale). This left the Highlanders in possession of half the village but they'd lost heavily while doing so and were in no shape to finish the job. Both armies were on the edge of breaking but Byrd wasn't one to settle for a draw if victory was even a remote possibility. He led his brigade forward to finish their attack. 

For the rest, I really enjoyed how the game played. It was best to think at least 2 turns ahead, be prepared to use high command rolls but to not count on getting them, nor to count on combat dice.  I was a little concerned early on that Blue would break Red's army by the 1/2 way mark given their hot shooting and Red's sudden inability to hit a barn door. However, with my Red hat on and a coffee break, I forced myself to give up a very promising, if rash and accidentally poorly supported attack,  and pull back while I desperately tried to stay alive and think of a new one.  Just at the danger point, Blue's dice failed him. All of a sudden he had trouble getting his brigades moving and while the firefight continued the losses soon started to even out. Still, Red was in a pickle, twice the number of units lost in the firefight and his artillery losing the duel, Blue's left was in cover and his right was already, if belatedly, moving forward to finish off the two already shot up brigades.

 Suddenly I noticed that Red's cavalry was within 2 moves of the flank of Blue's artillery and Blue's supports had moved away, some to pursue Red's retreating left, some to help defend the town. Blue could probably get some supports back or withdraw his guns but at least it would ease the pressure. Blue went first and a rolled a 1 for command! ARGHH. None of his infantry was able to come up and help although their fire helped by the artillery had almost silenced Red's batteries. Most of the cavalry was too far away to mount up and get back but he had one mounted unit in reserve. He ordered it to move to support the guns and turned one gun towards the open flank. Red moved his cavalry forward. Next turn, Red got first go. What!? Yup, ample orders, it was a long shot for the cavalry to wipe out the fresh batteries but better than nothing.

The trumpets sounded and the Gentlemen Pensioners in their cuirasses and plumed helmets trotted forward. The gun decided to hold fire while the other gun finished silencing one enemy gun. The cavalry picked up speed and the cannon fired........getting 1 hit on 4 dice.....the cavalry rolled, 4 hits! The gun was over run and the cavalry pursued into the flank of the second gun and over rode it as well. Then I noticed that Red's cavalry had had to ride over Blue's general during the pursuit. My rule there is that both sides' dice off and the commander escapes if he rolls a tie or higher. He rolled 1, they rolled 6! The "old fellers"  were having a good day!

Oh dear. Who said you can't surprise yourself? I didn't think the charge would work that well but if I had noticed the General there on the previous turn when I was trying to prepare for the charge, I would have moved him anyway, just to be safe!  So suddenly Blue was down 3 army morale points and had a -1 to his orders dice for the rest of the game. That was to became a problem for him. 

Red's field hospital had been working hard though and Ross's battered units and the Grenadiers were sufficiently  recovered to make it an even fight. Twice Byrd had to ride amongst his men and rally them to hold together as he reluctantly led them back, fighting every step of the way but at last it was managed as the sun set. A truce was arranged for the collection of the wounded while the two armies camped on their respective sides of the valley and contemplated their next move.  (In game terms, by turn 14/15, both armies were 1 unit loss away from breaking with several units only 1 hit from being broken. On each of those two last turns Red inflicted a hit on a Blue unit which  would have broken the unit and the army but each time Byrd rallied it: (5,6=cancel hit, 1=commander shot). Red was also down to being able to lose 2 units, lost one on turn 14 but none of turn 15 despite having several under fire and only 1 hit away from breaking. Any victory for either side would have been Pyrrhic at best. 

Well, balance in all things. Red's less than all out attack on the town led to near equal losses and ended with both sides hiding in 1/2 the town, sniping at the other side. The focus switched back where Blue's best chance was to pursue and break Red's worn brigades. Unfortunately for Blue, low command rolls with  a minus 1 on top and the need to manage the fight in the village meant that the pursuit was slow, the more so since the Blue units were battered so took advantage of a slightly more circuitous route to avoid artillery fire on their approach.  In the meantime Red's hospital finally started getting some of the early casualties back into the fight and by the time the firefight resumed, the sides were equal.  Red's men were firing more steadily now though and had artillery support. Eventually Blue's units started nearing their break point and he pulled back, going for the draw. Red pursued at first but didn't dare risk a charge with his battered units. He kept getting hits but was taking them too. Soon both armies were down to 1 hit and 2 hits respectively from their Army Morale point. There was momentary jubilation in Red's ranks when they got that last hit but the brigadier rode in and risked a rally roll: 5,6 = cancel 1 hit, 1=Commander dies. Hit saved, next turn Blue took another hit and again rallied it while Red lost a unit (Apparently Brigadier Ross is less charismtic!). That was it! A Bloody draw.

So, work has begun on the four or five page version of the rules, adding explanations as well as more unit types, irregulars, boats, trains, engineers, etc etc. All the usual. It will need more testing as well but so far I'm pretty happy with how closely they resemble in play the vision that has been trying to get out of my brain for years. Time and playing will tell.  

Friday, February 7, 2020

Teaser: Battle for the Light Rock Valley

The Origawn Freestate and Dominion of Faraway armies clash at the Light Rock River.

A full report will follow on Sunday morning.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Ma! They're at it agin!

An Old Scenario to try out the new rules again.

One Brigade? I've got a whole Division marching on and you're hitting me with one Brigade? Lovely.
The Battle for Light Rock Valley will continue tomorrow. 

Oh.... I guess we are gonna have a fight.

Monday, February 3, 2020

A Triumph of Persistence Over Good Sense?


What I have been searching for, for some years now, is essentially a game that has the simplicity, ease and speed of play of a stand=a unit games such as Morschauser, Volley & Bayonet, DBA, and the Portable Wargame but with just a little bit more tactical colour to feed the narrative (since I play at lower scales of game and am not terribly imaginative at interpreting game mechanisms into narrative).  I wasn't sure if or how reverting to one-stand-is-a-unit basing would help but once done it didn't take long to start remembering such games from early this century that I had enjoyed before first losing the simplicity by a return to the old multi-element unit and then becoming  fascinated by and converted to grids. (Both still useful and attractive options btw.)

The Bodyguard took a chance and got lucky, routing a unit of Grey infantry while the charge of the Mounted Rifles was repulsed by a dose of cannister.

Up until a few days ago, I wasn't really thinking about going off grid for this but my current Medieval/Fantasy rules were designed that way for compatibility with a friend and with our 16thC rules which are also  one stand units, no grid, rules.    So, when I set up the game that is currently on the table, I planned to use the grid but suddenly decided to do a new set of one page, off-grid, rules. The first go was OK but still without that colour, especially around charges while having too much unimportant detail that I had felt maybe ought to be shown.

The apparently Crack Grey gunners silenced a challenging Red battery and then continued to pound Red's cavalry. The opposing cavalry decided to play it safe and dismount for fire action until all of both armies was deployed. Red's infantry had started their assault with discouraging results.

I had recently taken another look at Neil Thomas and some of his rules philosophy. It suddenly seemed that maybe I needed to let go of a few of my habits, get drastic, and came up with something at a little bit different than what I've been doing for the last while but still familiar.

The firefight was loud and bloody for both sides but Grey's last reinforcement had arrived and the sun was sinking. It was time to gamble or go home. 

The end result was a fast paced game with the sorts of decisions I wanted to make and a minimum of fussy stuff, but with some brisk action that could have made a good story and a nail biter of an ending where a gamble against the odds paid off with a last minute do or die cavalry charge by Red sweeping away the shaken enemy while a desperate Blue infantry charge against a battered Red unit resulted in a routed unit of Blue's Zouaves and a wounded Brigadier, all in just over an action packed hour. A full size game with double the number of units should be easily handled in an afternoon without tedium.

Red's infantry had fought their way into the town and Grey's losses amongst his lead brigades had been heavy. He decided to pull back his nearly exhausted battery and sent in the newly arrived Zouave Brigade to retake the town and drive the enemy back.

I've sort of run out of names and this isn't really a direct development from any of my other games but since the Model Major General never gelled,  I've given myself permission to reuse the name.

NOW or NEVER! Red's army was nearing its breaking point but Blue looked to be even closer to breaking. There was not enough daylight left to be sure of breaking the enemy's morale  by fire alone. Red decided to gamble and ordered his infantry to hold in the village on against every counter attack and ordered the Bodyguard and Hussars to mount up and CHARGE!  This time, Fortune favoured the Brave. 

Here's the 2 sides of a page version as played in the illustrations.

Model Major General (2020 ed)
Wargame Rules QRS
2 Feb 2020 1st Draft

Turn Sequence. Determine Initiative
A Moves and declares charges, then B moves and declare charges 
B Fires then A Fires, 
A charges home or retreats then B charges home or retreats, resolve all charges.
Orders. Roll 1d=number of orders. -1 if General lost. (In large games roll by Division)
1 order needed to move a unit or a formed Brigade. (Brigadier+ a group of touching units. They do not need to stay touching.)

Infantry: 9” + 3” if in Brigade column 
Irregulars: 12”
Arty: 12” -6” to limber/unlimber
Cavalry: 18” mounted, -9” dismounted

Facing: Units may move any direction and face direction as desired unless charging.
Bkn gnd. (Fenced fields, open woods etc)  Cav, Arty, 1/2 speed.
Difficult Terrain. (Dense woods etc) Infantry and Pack animals only at 1/2 speed
Towns. Move by road only. 1/2 move for Inf or Dismounted cav to occupy buildings.
Road: Negates terrain.
Charges. Units may not move close than 1” to enemy during movement. A unit that declares a charge and moves to within 1” pins the target unit in place until the charge is resolved. A unit may only charge an enemy which is to its front when the charge is declared. A Pinned unit may choose to shoot during the fire phase OR hold fire until the Charge resolution phase OR if mounted cavalry or spearmen may countercharge
Interpenetration: Units may interpenetrate friends if they may clear them.

Shooting: Tgt must be in arc (45 degrees either side of ahead) and range with a clear line of fire.
Unit Dice Hit On Range
Inf  2 5,6 12”
Shpstr 1 4,5,6 18"
Dis Cav 2 5,6 9” 
Gatling 3 5,6 18”
Arty 2 4,5,6 36”
Difficult Target:  Suffer 1/2 casualties rounding up if artillery, cavalry, sharpshooters or in cover.

Charge Resolution.
4d per unit if charging or holding fire.
5,6 hits
+1 if Shock troops 
Inflict 1/2 casualties if charging enemy defending fortified position or cavalry charging over obstacle or into broken ground etc

Remove any Broken units. If still in contact infantry that charged may back up 1” or a full move. Mounted Cavalry will retreat a full move. If the target of a charge is eliminated the charging unit must occupy the ground and if cavalry may advance 3” and charge again with no response. There is no second pursuit.

Units take 4 hits +1 Vet/Elite, -1 Militia or Irregular
Commander Rally. Once per turn, at any point a unit takes hits, a Commander may join a unit within 3” and roll 1d6: 5,6 cancels 1 hit, 1=cdr is a casualty.
Hospital.  1d per turn, 5,6 = 1 unit recovers 1 hit
Army Morale = If 1/2 units broken must concede. Objectives may count as units for this.
Now to reset the table, prep a few more units and try a different scenario.     

Saturday, February 1, 2020

As long as I'm there...

I started to clear the table this morning but it seemed a shame to clear it after a single game so.......

Now that my 54's are back on their Volley & Bayonet/Morschauser style 3" unit bases, the grid is less useful than it was. I still had the measuring sticks I made a couple of years ago with brightly coloured 3" segments. It is easy to use and read in dim light even without glasses and also makes the grid less useful as long as all ranges and moves are in multiples of 3".

Since it's not quite a Square Brigadier game I quickly scribbled a one page variation but decided to experiment with getting a bit more radical and  leaving out  even more detail and removing more unit action options since I was going to be playing a Thomas scenario anyway. By and large it worked and a play through only took about an hour using roughly 1/2 the planned total number of units per side.  I think I want to bring back a bit more colour and more player decisions but its going to take some thought and experimentation.