Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Adventures of Prince Micheal: What the Raven Brought.

Once the tower was secured, a hasty council of war was held to discuss the next step. In light of the possibility that Helgin would hear of the capture earlier than planned, the ship was sent  to report to Duke Stephen while the new garrison set to work. The door was barricaded and obstacles were built across the ramp as a first line of defense.

Helgin must have reacted to the raven messenger without losing a minute and dawn brought the Saxon scouts. A few hours later came the tramp  of men, bellowing of oxen and the creak of wooden wheels. The garrison rushed to man the defences and braced themselves for battle.

Tomorrow: Helgin Strikes Back!

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Adventures of Prince Micheal: Episode 19


Long ago, when Duke Stephen maintained a garrison at the Storm Watch Beacon Tower, a younger Prince Micheal had often passed long summer days on the Rock, exploring every nook and cranny. In those days, there was a passageway from  a cave at the base of the Rock to a ledge on the sea side . One day, there had been a minor tremor and the ceiling of the passageway collapsed. With the land best by invasions and civil wars, the tower was abandoned soon after.  

Only recently, word had come that Earl Helgin had occupied the old tower.  Prince Micheal's scouts, sent to verify this news, had brought back word that the passageway appeared to have been cleared and put back into use.  This gave the Prince an idea and with the Duke's permission,  a stalwart party set to sea.

The advance party quickly climbed  to the ledge and then descended through the tunnel to the door that now blocked the passage. Swiftly it was unbolted as Micheal's party landed and rushed up from the shore dragging a heavy ram. 

Micheal's party had  crept  ashore unseen in the misty dawn but their luck couldn't hold. As they pulled themselves up onto the hilltop, the alarm sounded, followed swiftly by an arrow striking one of the party. With a loud cheer,  young Kenneth led the storming party forward, lugging the heavy ram as quickly as they could.

The ram was heavy and the enemy's aim true, but the Valdurian archers were sharp eyed as well and more than one defender who leant out too far was brought down. The door to the tower was beginning to yield under the blows of the ram but it had not yet given way when men-at-arms began to join the archers at the battlements.

As the door finally shattered, a loud cheer from below announced the arrival of the Duke's contingent at the wharf. The garrison must have been practicing for such an event though and the catapult on the tower heaved a huge rock, hitting the cog amidships with deadly precision. She did not sink but the seams began to leak and those who were not injured landed in double quick time.  

At last, the door gave way and the young Kenneth led the way up the stairs, cutting down the first  warrior to block his path.

Kenneth was soon reinforced by Micheal and an increasing number of soldiers, pushing forward onto the tower. Micheal himself was dealt a mighty blow by the Captain of the Tower which made his ears ring and blurred his vision momentarily. 

The enemy Captain pressed his advantage, striking Micheal's blocking sword hard, shattering it. Quickly recovering, Micheal stabbed forward with his broken blade, catching his enemy full on the face. When the enemy captain fell, all but a handful of his men threw down their arms.  The tower was once again under the Duke's command.  
Later that evening, the Captain of the Duke's men approached Micheal and after commending him on the success of his mission, asked where the Lady in green was, the one who had sent a Raven flapping eastward from the tower. Michael and Kenneth looked surprised, they had not seen any woman. A quick search showed that she had vanished, none knew where. This had to mean trouble! 

Next episode: Council of War

Note: After the last episode in this story I will post technical details of the game and discuss how the revised rules, did or didn't work. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Adventures of Prince Micheal: By the Light of the Moon.

The Saxon guards atop Storm Watch are uneasy as they peer through the  mist at the barely visible patches of moonlit sea.

Beneath them, where sea meets rock, stealthy figures pass noislessly from boat to rock and begin to climb. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Chew Slowly, Its the Good Stuff

 Its a good time for going slow and enjoying the journey.

Today, there was little hobby time, but I finally added a second Saxon catapult crew figure. The first one has been working the thing by himself for over a decade.
The new crewman (in yellow) is simply a swordsman with broken sword whose sword arm has been reversed and his shield removed. Not terribly clever but really quick. 

The day before was cold and a little damp, just right for pondering wargame rules. The original games had been played using Medieval Mayhem, pretty much as printed in Battlegames magazine. These rules did not have fixed units, only adhoc groups. 

Once I more than doubled the number of figures available to use, things changed and I moved to more conventional rules and scenarios with fixed units. This made the larger games easier to play but the narrative suffered and it was hard to do anything other than the same conventional scenarios that I was playing with my other collections. No wonder I stopped adding figures.

Over the last few days, I have hammered out a new version of Stout Hearts and Willing Swords, the rules I started developing for my Prince Valiant games in 2013 but only used a few times. Now I just have to work out the scenario, organize the forces and ..... play!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Course Correction

Its been a while since I took the time to relax and convert/paint a few figures  for the pleasure of it although that had been part of "the plan".  So, on Sunday, I decided it was time to put rules and games aside and  complete a couple of long overdue Elastolin Prince Valiant conversions.  I didn't worry about my wonky eyes, twitchy hand and so on, just let myself relax and enjoy the time.

Elastolin conversions. Each figure is composed from parts of 2 or 3 different figures.
(I'm probably going to matte these to match the rest rather than semi-glossing the whole collection but the jury is still out.)

I've also started reviewing my collections with an eye to enforcing my rule that each must provide  "a different kind of game" with all game types of interest being included.  So it is that Prince Micheal has been returned to a  simple skirmish game focusing on narrative as opposed to the battle game it had been turning itself into since the massive reinforcement arrived a few years ago. Excess figures will be shunted to the pool of figures that the new late medieval/fantasy 40mm game will draw upon.

"The Prince sent scouts to watch the tower and seek out any weaknesses."

Now I'm ready for battle. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Maintiens le Droit

Maintiens le Droit is the motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This has not been a day for playing games but a day of sorrow, and a day to honour Constable Heidi Stevenson, a veteran RCMP officer as well as a loved wife and mother of two with a reputation for being the best kind of friend, neighbour, and citizen when off duty.

Yesterday, she gave her life in the performance of her duty to uphold the law and protect the innocent. May she be long remembered with honour.
Constable Heidi Stevenson

It is also a day to mourn the loss of seventeen twenty two fellow Nova Scotians killed in a senseless rampage by one who should be erased from the pages of history.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Good to go.

The table is set and the scenario/storyline is coming together whenever I stop thinking about it.

Unfortunately, the weather looks good for the next couple of days so, duty calls. Its just as well though. I want to get the Prince Valiant guys out but I have some repairs to do and I want to refurbish and convert a few more figures.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Something New

Today's little project: turning a year old hunk of packing styrofoam into a cliff to hold a tower or coastal battery.
Trying it on for size,

I  have now finished carving  paths, adding a secret back entrance, patching holes, and adding a basecoat of grey.

Somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Tomorrow I should be able to shade and drybrush it, add some flock and generally get it ready to try out.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Taking the morning off from chores

Yeah, OK, and the afternoon as well but it was a cold damp spring day and.......

Just another little clash between Dominion and Rebels.

Wasn't a Lucky day for Red and if you're going to arrive late and make a frontal attack against an equal enemy force in cover, you really want to be a bit lucky to carry it off. 

Tomorrow I'm going to get back to the painting desk.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Responsible Social Wargaming in Practice

On Saturday I virtually visited Delaware for a game of A Gentleman's War with Rob Dean . We've been playing miniature games using video chats (click) since 2012  and they have been vital for planning and practicing our co-hosted convention games as well as for the enjoyment of time spent gaming with a friend.

My view before deployment
(which he zoomed in a bit and I blew up to full screen during the game).

This time Rob was hosting and the technical improvement in clarity and dependability vs 8 years ago would be amazing if we weren't accustomed to that sort of continual change and improvement in technology.

Rob has covered the game in two blog posts on his Sharp End of the Brush blog.

This one is an illustrated account of the battle (click).

This one is a commentary on the how and reflections from  players' perspective (click).

The game was a good one and he kept me in  a constant state of tension, aware of how quickly my line could collapse and of how little I had to counterattack with once I had committed my reserves. Fortunately for me I have played the scenario dozens of times in the last 40 years and it was his first go at it as a player and I have a little bit more experience with the rules as well.

My experience with the scenario is that despite the need for haste, it pays the attacker to deploy a good part of the army before attacking. The instinct of course is to throw units in as they come up but that has yet to work well for me though the last time I tried it, the game ended in an 11th hour Pyhrric victory for the attacker, so it can work.

I must say though, that in this game, Rob had some of the most consistently bad saving roles that I've ever witnessed!  I did help average out those odds though by hitting and saving with slightly above average success on my dice.

The next game will probably be a 16thC one. I really need to improve my setup before I host another game though, better lighting in my room at the very least, (which I hope to achieve by summer) but a better webcam would also be really good. <Update: actually, a quick tests suggests my LG smart phone might be up to it after all>

Now, I have a new glossy toy soldier Rebel limber that needs its baptism of fire so I need to think about a scenario.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mini-Campaign Final Game (Solo Miniature Wargaming Part 8 of 8)

For the final battle of my solo ACW mini-campaign I had originally intended to select six suitable meeting engagement scenarios from various sources and roll a die to choose which to fight. However, when the time came I decided I'd rather make one up based on the picture in my head of the campaign in progress. 

The Union cavalry attacks the Confederate cavalry holding the crucial hill as the main armies arrive.
Since the armies were manoeuvering, they must have been doing so for a purpose. The lost likely one was for the Yankees to seize an alternate road leading to a town or other feature that was their objective. The Confederates' goal would have been to block such a  move. That suggested another road running from North to South and the presence of an east/west road on the Federal side of the battlefield suggested to me that they had taken it to reach the road which would allow them to bypass the Confederate army. The absence of a similar route on the Rebel side of the table suggested that they had to fall back to pick up an alternate route and would thus have a longer way to go.  From there I just played around with a few hills and woods then laid out the three roads that figured in the plot line, and finally, some buildings for colour.   

The Federal cavalry has been repulsed  but the fighting intensifies across the field as Division after Division deploys and engages the enemy.
That done, I decided that there should be a blocking force to stop the Yanks from winning before the Rebs showed up. Cavalry seem the obvious choice of first units on table for both sides. From there, each turn I rolled a die for each side with a 1 being needed to a division to arrive on the first turn, 2 on the second and so on. To allow for the delay in reaching a crossroad to use, the Rebels did not begin dicing until turn 2. Once a division had arrived, I started back at 1 for the next one and so on.

Cesar's Zouaves have driven back the Reb cavalry but have suffered heavy losses in their assault.  The Union 1st Division have also been forced back and it is beginning to look like the Confederates will be able to hold.
Once the troops started arriving there was almost always an obvious need for them so I did very little dicing to choose where to commit troops as the battle ebbed back and forth. It was starting to look like the Rebs might hold on to force a campaign draw but suddenly, an advantageous counter attack by one of their  brigades went horribly wrong. The victorious Union brigade chose to follow up with a charge of their own, hoping that the Reb disorder would balance out their superior numbers. Fortune favours the brave and the Rebs retreated off table as the last Yankee division  crested the hill and secured the vital road.

The fighting sways too and fro as more brigades engage.
There was simply not enough time left in the day for the Confederate general to shift additional troops into position for a counter attack and even if there was there were ample Federal artillery and infantry moving up and closer than any counter attack force. It was time to save the army while it was still capable of fighting another day.
As more Union troops swarm up the hill, several Reb units break  and suddenly General Kinch is forced to order a general retreat along his line of communication while his army is still capable of further fighting. The campaign is lost but the war is not over.  
This completes this series of posts on my way of solo wargaming. To see them all, click the link called Solo, start with the oldest post then scroll forward. There's lots of other information out there including books, blogs and youtube videos and there is no better time to give it a try.  Feel free to ask questions in comments or email them to me at

On Saturday, Rob Dean and I will be trying another social distancing technique and fighting a Gentleman's Wargame via videochat.

Thursday, April 9, 2020


I can feel it in my bones..... 

There's gonna to be a battle here come morning.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Hurrying to the Battlefield

There's nothing like the first fine Spring days  to replace hobby time with yardwork in the sunshine.

Fresh off the painting desk.

But fear not, the final battle is near!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Mini-Campaign Game 2b (Solo Miniature Wargaming Part 7)

The odds looked pretty intimidating as I set out the 2 Reb divisions to hold back nearly twice their numbers but they had a good position to hold and General Taleri's Division was marching hard to the field.  (They started dicing on turn 4 needing a 6. +1 each turn. Once arrived they diced again: 1,2,3.4=the closest road which comes in on the Yankee flank,  5, 6= the longer march to reinforce the centre and the main Victory Point .  All based on my after the fact description of the first battle and what seemed to make for an interesting scenario ).

I thought about dicing for the Rebel deployment but I find that rational random deployments and battle plans are too rare and making a battleplan is one of my favourite bits. I decided to prepare for a head on assault while lightly holding the left figuring that it would take a while for the Yanks to come around that way and they might get hit in the rear if they tried it.

The field didn't look quite as favourable to the Federal army and there was that nagging worry about the missing Reb Division hitting the right flank just as the attack got stuck in. In the end I (as Federal commander, there enough random bits already ) decided to deploy half the artillery for a brief preparatory bombard followed by long range support and use the rest for close support of the attacking divisions.  I then put two divisions in the front line with two more in close support. I placed the cavalry on the right to keep an eye on the enemy and protect the flank, especially if Talieri's missing division should show up.

If the first Division could clear the Rebs out of the woods in the center of the battlefield, they could push through under cover while protecting the left wing's attack on the main Reb position astride the road. 

The main assault was actually going to come up the left, hoping to drive the Confederate forces off the road before their reinforcements could arrive. This would leave me an infantry division in reserve to handle developments.

Everything went well until the first line hit the Reb force in the wood, stalled then started breaking under a heavy fire from the stubborn defenders. Several units routed, disordering the reserves who refused to be rallied. The attack was renewed and eventually took the Eastern edge of the wood but Gray's Division was too worn to do more than hold their side of the wood unless his 3rd Brigade could be got in hand and brought forward (How many 1's can a unit throw in a row for activation??)

The main assault hit the Reb line, much of it hunkered down behind stone walls, and stalled. A close range firefight raged for 2 hours before the boys in Blue couldn't take it anymore. The 4th Division deployed, ready to renew the assault but now Taleri's Red Division was on the field. They had marched around and were now deploying behind the main Confederate position.

The day was only a little more than half done but the Federal army had taken heavy losses and was out of place. Much of the afternoon would be spent getting the army reorganized and set up for a either a renewed assault on the stone wall or else a flanking attack around and through the woods supported by massed artillery fire. With luck the victory could be won by nightfall but luck had not been on the Federal side so far this day.

The General discussed it with his staff. (5,6 renew the attack, probably leading to either a victory ending the campaign or else a loss leading to a draw and another battle and the possibility of the campaign being deemed a failure if the 3rd battle was lost, 1,2,3,4  pull back and invite the Rebs to attack and almost certainly leading to a draw.  If the Federal army could win or draw the last battle, they would win the campaign but if they lost it would end in a draw. The die came up 3. The Rebs didn't even bother rolling to risk a 2:3 dusk assault against all that artillery)

The next decision to be made was whether the armies would hold their ground and fight again in the morning (1,2,3)  or manoeuvre in hopes of gaining an advantage in the next battle. (4,5,6). Manoeuvre it was and so the table will be cleared and a meeting engagement will be selected for a Yankee win or draw in the mini-campaign.. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Changing The Rules Of The Game (Rules as played)

One of my tenets is that each of my various toy soldier collections should provide a different sort of game.  That could be a different time period, a different level of game or a different setting. For the last few years I have had a conflict with my 54mm Toy Soldier and 1/72 ACW collections were covering the same historical era and sometimes at the same level with Battalion level units.

I've been trying to push the 54's lower since they are largely used for a fictional setting based on historical campaigns with low level actions but I have also been making periodic efforts to change my ACW games to slightly larger battles. This current campaign is another try at that but the rules for the first fight were merely OK and not quite where I wanted to be.  So, I have taken another shot at it and so far it is encouraging.

Here is a copy of the initial version. (and yes they owe quite a bit to Fire & Fury but are much simpler and capable of being played 'heads up' without constant referral to charts and long lists of factors/modifiers.) 


Mini Campaign Battle Rules (Brigade Units Quick Ref: as played 10 April 2020 then retired)

Brigades: Groups of 2 to 8 infantry or cavalry stands. A General + 2-4 brigades form a Division Engaged: A unit within 3” of enemy may only shoot, move towards enemy that is engaging them or retreat. 
Hits: Infantry and cavalry lose a stand for every 2 hits. Artillery are removed when they have taken 4 hits. 
Shaken: Infantry and cavalry brigades are shaken when they have lost over 1/2 of their stands. Artillery are shaken when they have taken 3 hits.
Fresh: Unit has not lost any stands.  Artillery have not taken any hits.

Initiative: My usual card system or roll a die to see who goes first this turn. 
Movement: First player activates and moves units. 
Defensive Fire: Inactive player units may shoot or, if engaged, mounted cavalry, may charge. Offensive Fire: Active player units may shoot or, if engaged mounted cavalry, may charge.
Resolve Charges

Activation. First player activates units one at a time by rolling a die, checking the chart and then moving. Disordered units must test, others only need to test if the player wishes to move them.  Roll 1d6 +/- mods: +1 Gen within 6”, +1 Fresh or Vet/Elite unit, -1 Shaken, -1 Disordered.
 5,6+=Steady: Full move. Rally from disorder. 
 3,4= Cautious: 1/2 move. No charge. Rally from disorder. 
 1,2= Hesitant: No advance, No rally 
 0 or less = Broken. Retreat a full move in disorder, take 1/2 d6 hits from straggling. 

Movement. Infantry: 12”, Cavalry: 18” Mtd, 9” dismtd., Arty: 12” 
Manoeuvres. A unit which is within 6” of the front of an enemy unit may only advance directly towards it or retreat directly away. O/W units may face/move in any direction. It takes 1/2 move to change formation or pass through friends unless retreating in disorder but up to 2 stands may be refused or dropped back to pass through a defile without penalty. 
Charge! A charge is a move to within 3” of enemy. 
Terrain. Infantry moves 1/2 speed in difficult terrain, Cavalry and artillery move 1/2 speed in broken terrain only. Road +6” in column 1 wide. Ignore off road terrain. 

Combat. Target must be visible, in range and in frontal arc reaching out 45 degrees either side or ahead. Count front rank only, Disordered units roll 1/2 the normal number of dice. 
  Rifles: 5,6 hits 3” 1d/stand 6” 1d/2 stands 
  Carbine or Musket: 5,6 hits 3” 1d/stand 6” 1d/3 stands 
  Artillery: 5,6 hits 6” 3d/gun 24” 2d/gun 
  Attached General in charge combat: 1d 5,6=inflict 1 hit or cancel 1, 1=General wounded 
 Superior firepower: +1 superior firepower eg breechloaders, sharpshooters, heavy guns 
 Terrain: 1/2 effect vs cover or if charging over an obstacle or if mtd cav in woods.

Charge Resolution (within 3”)  Roll 1 die for each unit that fought in a charge. +1 for each hit inflicted on enemy. +1 if Elite/Veteran -1 if Shaken or Poor. Compare to opposing units. If lower retreat a half move in disorder, If less than 1/2  rout a full move in disorder and lose 1/2 d6 stragglers.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Coming Soon

To a screen near you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mini-Campaign Game 2a (Solo Miniature Wargaming Part 6)

The minicampaign is off to a good start. There was a clear victor in the first battle but neither army was wrecked.

My initial intent for the second game was to make a list of  six attack/defense scenarios including flank attack options but looking at the situation, one Confederate Divisions driven back down one road with the other two, with the Army Commander, retreating along a different road with a Union division in between them, I decided to just roll up a defensive position (dividing the table into sectors and rolling to see how many, if any, hills, woods etc were in each, adjusted to looj natrual to my eye) with the two roads which were available to the Union merging into one road  defended by the main confederate army.

I then added a cross road to allow the third division to rejoin from the flank. Both sides are aware that the other division is out there, marching to rejoin, but not when and not where it will reach the field. Will it appear down the road from the flank or has it marched to join from the Confederate rear?

Ideally I should have recorded precise losses before clearing the table and have had a rule for determining what percentage of losses could be recovered in between battles. However, one joy of solo gaming is that you can change and fudge things in between games if you want so I used a rough count of lost stands and careful perusal of battle photographs to get a good idea of how each division fared and went from there.

Ready to Receive the Enemy Assault
The goal for the Yankees is to drive back the Rebs and be in a position to pursue straight down the main road. This will lead to a rear guard action to allow the Rebs to try to save their train and army.

If the Confederates can hold with their army intact, and force the Federals to withdraw, they will win and a Federal rearguard action will follow.

Any other result will be a draw. In this case, there will either be a renewal of the fight in the morning or else the armies will break contact to regroup, followed by a meeting engagement to decide the campaign.  That decision will probably be diced for. 

The Calm Before the Storm.

While it is ideal to use one set of tabletop rules rules for a campaign, I was in the midst of planning a change for my ACW collection, a shift from an Old School approach with Regiments as units to using Brigades as units but I hadn't settled between several choices of rules and organization. My plan had been to stay off grid but with the smaller table and new 5" squares I couldn't resist trying them. It was ok but there were a number of minor issues and my three stand units had to be broken up. I decided to try the other leading alternative so this game will be fought with brigades composed of 6 stands when at full strength but without the grid.